|We first visited Bosnia in 1953-54, only eight years after World
War II. The country was still in the process of healing the wounds
of war, the German invasion and especially the bitter results
of civil war. A new socialist government was about to embark on
an ambitious program of modernization that would transform the
countryside and the cities. By the 1980s Yugoslavia had a status
which had begun to approach that of Western Europe. But in 1954
the dominant image in much of Bosnia was that of a traditional
Traveling in the Bosnian countryside in 1986 I was impressed that many of the markers separating rural and urban in housing, architecture, dress and hand-crafted technology had almost disappeared. In the 1950s the anthropologist noted these markers of status and ethnicity as dominant. The people themselves, however, were then most concerned about escaping from poverty. Questions of national identification, apart from the obvious matter of religious observance, were not discussed. The authoritarian socialist government decreed a policy of "brotherhood and unity" and those who dissented attracted the attention of the police. While the foreigner might have found the society picturesque, villagers were universally anxious to "climb out of the mud." This meant education for their children and salaried work.
The struggle over ethnic cleansing has meant not only reciprocal destruction of cultural monuments, but also the partial obliteration of a half century of "socialist construction" including factories, communal facilities, and the large amount of private home construction in both countryside and city. This private enterprise was financed by the wages of the new industrial workers and by those who remitted earnings from employment in Western Europe. These large, multi-storied, homes were built by extended families and meant to last for generations.
These photos show the sociocultural context from which the process of modernization was launched.