The core of nationhood is a collective project of selective forgetting and remembering

 Precisely because national storylines are so powerful, it matters hugely whether they are — for lack of a better word — healthy or unhealthy. 

Following the breakup of Yugoslavia (a state with weak narratives), its various communities went their separate ways, armed with new stories. Some chose to “remember” traumas and humiliations from centuries earlier to justify hatred in their own time. 

Leaders like Slobodan Milosevic harped on the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, in which Ottoman Muslims vanquished Serbian forces. Milosevic used that narrative to seek “vengeance” — that is, to commit atrocities — against Kosovar Albanians and others. 

China has its own variant of a revenge narrative, in which scholars espy a problematic mixture of inferiority and superiority complexes. It’s called the Century of Humiliation, and refers to the period between the First Opium War and the Maoist Revolution, when Britain and other Western powers corrupted and disgraced the Middle Kingdom. 

Andreas Kluth Bloomberg 21 maj 2023

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