The Youth in the Balkans and their Cultures of Communication, Non-Communication, and their Notions of Reconciliation

Ⓒ Elisa Satjukow





What makes young people in Southeastern Europe unique? First and foremost, they form an extraordinary generation due to their common burdens – their shared experiences of war often accompanied by flight during their childhoods, and their shared experiences of growing up in political and economic instability in the artificially constructed region of the „Western Balkans“. „Western Balkans“ refers to former Yugoslavia without Croatia and Slovenia, adding Albania.
It is a matter of fact that generations form their very own (sub)cultures to communicate and constitute the essentials and the appearance of “their” generation, even if their cultures of communication separate young people on the basis of their inherited world views and systems of beliefs, probably as a result of the wars. However, we claim that there is a common baseline concerning their past, hence we refer to the young people of Southeastern Europe as members of the Balkan Youth.

Members of the Balkan Youth in our case are young adults between ages fifteen and thirty-five years and live in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North-Macedonia and Serbia. According to previous research of the Franz Vranitzky Chair for European Studies, the Balkan Youth can be divided into two main generations: The “Children of the Balkan Wars” on the one hand, and the “Post-War Youth” on the other. The first group was born before or during the wars and shares experiences of war, violence, and/or flight. The latter generation was born in a period dictated by the burden of the aftermath of the wars. We argue that those two generations have experienced different childhoods, but have still built strong ties due to parent-and-child or older-and-younger-siblings’ relationships, as well as similar every-day-life challenges such as education, (un)employment, financial (in)dependence. Employing oral history and life-story interviews, we research the historical, socio-economic, religious, and international contexts they live and lived in, as well as their attitudes towards the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s and the European idea. Our cooperation partner, the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) is operating in the „Western Balkans“ and organizes exchange programs for the Balkan Youth. RYCO is therefore an excellent partner for gaining access to interview partners. We aim to point out the cultures of communication, non-communication, as well as the notions of reconciliation of the members of the Balkan Youth, which are revealing their common and divided memory as well as their transferred, historical, and inherited narratives.

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence


Key terms
Cultures of Communication and Non-Communication
Yugoslav Wars
Oral History
Memory Studies
Southeastern Europe
„Western Balkans“