The growth of nationalism followed the collapse of communism and growing economic recession.
'As socialism came to an end in Europe, the Communist leadership in Yugoslavia feared loosing power through democratization, so they used ethnic nationalism to manipulate people and create a popular base for their continuing control. Ethnic nationalism was constructed on a highly imagined communities inhabited by people whose identities that had little to do with accurate history, geography or real attributes.'
Hughes, D. (1999) 'Women in Black against the War in Yugoslavia' Feminista 3/1
Stasa Zajovic in Birth, Nationalism and War (Women in Black 13 January, 1995) also points out that it is common in periods of economic depression for women to be encouraged to turn back to "home and family" - justifies layoffs of female workers and reduced need for welfare spending.
This began in the Soviet Union in the period of economic restructuring and marketization and was a common pattern across Eastern Europe after the collapse of Communism.
Bracewell links the patriarchal values of nationalism with a reaction against the ideology of gender equality within Communism.
‘The reaction (against Communism) has been in many cases a complete reversal, a return to the “traditional values” of partriarchal society, in which women’s role lies primarily in the private sphere of domesticity and motherhood. Nationalist ideology has reinforced this tendency by using mother as symbols of the nation, and by emphasizing women’s responsibility for the biological and cultural reproduction of the nation.’
Bracewell, W. (1996) "Women, Motherhood, and Contemporary Serbian Nationalism." Women's Studies International Forum 19 p. 25.
Albanese points out that nationalism in the Balkans involved glorification of the past, revival of religious traditions & rise of conservative right wing ideologies.
For example, President of the Republic, Slobodan Milosevic, declared at Kosovo Polje in 1989, "If we are not very good at working, we are excellent at fighting".
He had chosen a place that is both the legendary "cradle of the Serbian people" and the site of a great collective defeat, to proclaim that the offended honour of the fatherland would be revenged by military raids.
"We must not forget that once we used to be an army -- large, brave and proud. Now, six centuries later, we are once again fighting and more battles are ahead".
Cited in Albanese P. (2001) 'Nationalism, War, and Archaization of Gender Relations in the Balkans' Violence Against Women, 7/9, p. 1000
A stated desire to return to some aspects of traditional gender roles is part of this phenomenon - often expressed in terms of a moral renewal.
For example, Zajovic tells us about the 1990 programme of the Serbian Renewal Movement - called for "the restoration of the family, the return to tradition, ensuring conditions for an honest living. The Serbian Renewal Movement will place its capabilities at the service of the renewal of the Serbian character, striving for the flourishing of those virtues of the Serbian man that will soon become part of the Serbian moral code".
Also at Kosovo Polje, the cult of the heroic Mother Jugovic, the mother who offered all of her sons to die in war, was born. The cult revived as the war got underway, with nationalists demanding that maternity hospitals become recruitment centres.
"For each Serbian soldier who fell in Slovenia, Serbian mothers must give birth to a hundred new soldiers".
Cited in Zajovic, S. (1995) Birth, Nationalism and War Women in Black 13 January.
1. Introduction / 2. Context / 3. Chronology / 4. Women as Symbols / 5. Women as Reproducers / 6. Women as Keepers of the Home / 7. Limited Autonomy / 8. Women in Armed Groups / 9. Women Civilians / 10. Women's Bodies as Territory / 11. Militarization of Society / 12. Reading