Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia: The Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s

Born in nationalist dreams that sparked the First World War and saw its destruction in the civil wars of the 1990s, Yugoslavia embodied the hopes and horrors of the 20th century, and foreshadowed our current time. According to David Brooks, “[Yugoslavia’s] civil war in the 1990s was the most important event of that [decade]” because “[i]t prefigured what has come since: the return of ethnic separatism, the rise of authoritarian populism, the retreat of liberal democracy, the elevation of a warrior ethos that reduces politics to friend/enemy, zero-sum conflicts.” This trip will explore the origin and consequences of the forces Brooks highlights, forces made all the more complicated by the different narratives the region’s ethnic and religious groups possess of Yugoslavia’s complex past.

Traveling in conjunction with St. Mark’s school, students will come to appreciate the forces that molded this past, and how that past shapes the identity and policies of those now living in the region. They will examine Yugoslavia’s history in Croatia (places such as, but not limited to: Zagreb, the Jasenovac concentration camp, Vukovar, and the Dalmatian Coast, including Korcula Island and Dubrovnik), Bosnia (places such as, but not limited to: Sarajevo, Srebrenica, and Mostar), and Serbia (places such as, but not limited to: Belgrade) by visiting museums, touring sites of memory, and meeting with many experts, participants, and witnesses to the war of the 1990’s. Along the way, students will also enjoy the region’s natural beauty and ancient cities.

This program is open to all current 9th, 10th and 11th grade students with a preference towards students who have a demonstrated interest in history. All interested students are encouraged to apply by October 29. Financial aid is available for all trips with priority for students who have not previously received aid for a Deerfield trip.

Preliminary Itinerary:*

Day 1 – Departure from Boston to Zagreb, Croatia

Day 2 – Day 4: Zagreb, Croatia

  • Trip arrival and orientation
  • Detailed introduction to Yugoslav history and meeting with local experts to understand the Croatian perspective on the breakup of Yugoslavia.
  • Guided tour of tunnels under the city and the Bombing Memorial Exhibit

Day 5 – Day 6: Belgrade, Serbia

  • Drive to Belgrade via Vukovar and Jasenovic
  • Visit Jasenovac concentration camp, where the Croatian fascist regime imprisoned and killed thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma, and political dissenters during WWII
  • Visit battle sites in Vukovar, where the war between Croatia and Serbian-dominated Yugoslav forces broke out in 1991, and meet with witnesses to the conflict
  • Explore Serbian identity and history in Belgrade with local experts
  • Learn about the Kosovo War and visit the sites where NATO forces bombed Belgrade in 1999.

Day 7 – Day 9: Sarajevo, Bosnia

  • Drive to Sarajevo via Srebrenica, site of the genocide of 1995, where we will meet survivors
  • Walking tour of Sarajevo and its history, including sites of the siege of Sarajevo that lasted from 1992 to 1995
  • Afternoon meetings with different organizations (UN Association, other non-profits involved during the War)
  • Meeting with Bosniak Veterans
  • Visit to the Tunnel Museum and War Childhood Museum

Day 10 – Mostar, Bosnia

  • Drive to Mostar
  • Visit WWII Battle Sites
  • Meet with locals to explore the war between Croats and Bosniaks in 1993 and 1994

Day 11 – Day 12: Korcula, Croatia

  • Depart Mostar for the Dalmatian coast
  • Stop for lunch in the small (divided) city of Stolac
  • Travel via road and ferry along Dalmatian coast
  • Visit local villages and enjoy the natural beauty of the Dalmatian coast

Day 13 – Dubrovnik, Croatia

  • Morning ferry to Dubrovnik, UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Tour city, including cable car ride high above the city
  • Visit Homeland War Museum
  • Dinner in the old town and trip closing

Day 14 – Fly back to U.S. based airport

*This itinerary is subject to change

Program Notes:

  • Please note: This trip will likely conflict with the June 8 ACT (depending on final flight schedules). Students traveling will not have the opportunity to take this test.
  • Families are responsible for transporting their students to and from a U.S. based airport to begin the trip and to their home destination for the remainder of the summer.
  • During this trip, students will stay in hotels, inns, and hostels. Meals will be shared at hotels, restaurants, and picnics.

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