Belfast, Mitrovica, Mostar: Simultaneously similar and different, Gordian knots and possible solutions outside the established framework

Category: Blog


Coexistence, cooperation, and contacts between people in Belfast, Mitrovica, and Mostar - this is the topic of Ivan Gusic's research published in the book "Contesting Peace in the Postwar City. Belfast, Mitrovica, and Mostar".

This interdisciplinary book explores how neighbors in post-conflict cities are often "intimate enemies" and that post-conflict cities that tend to be in a post-conflict status quo influence the broader socio-political context and represent Gordian knots in the peace process.

At the same time, this book reveals hints of critical voices trying to bridge the antagonistic divisions that pervade the post-war cities.

"Challenging peace in the post-war city. Belfast, Mitrovica and Mostar "is a sociological and anthropological study and touches on political science, geography, international relations, and urban planning.

While researching and living in all three cities, Gusic said they are pretty similar and very different.

"Belfast is the most divided of the three. Belfast has kilometers of walls up to 12 meters high, and on every kilometer, two gates open in the morning and close in the evening ... "- explained Gusic.

For Mitrovica, on the other hand, he says that it is calmer and that people are moving more across the Ibar, explaining that this does not mean that the divisions in Mitrovica are the least but that the situation is getting better.

"Now that I came after 6-7 years, I was surprised how calmer it is. It seems calmer for someone who came from outside and that Serbian could be heard more in the south and Albanian in the North. Mostar is like Mostar, neither up nor down. In essence, Bosnia's future is much more uncertain than Kosovo's. Belfast is much worse, "Gusic said, explaining that since Brexit, the situation has become even more complicated when it comes to Belfast.

"Since 2016, there has been a lot more violence in Belfast, more fires, shootings, and the police have a lot more work to do," he said.

Answering the question of whether the divisions and tensions in all three cities are more imaginary or real, Gusic explains that he would answer both:

"In a way, there are a lot of imaginary things. For example, in Mostar, many people do not cross the boulevard where the front was during the war and where the division is now. If you're a tourist, you'll never understand... And in many of these cities situation is like that. On the other hand, you can't go where you want in Belfast, and schools are divided, administration, etc. Finally, that is changing - up and down ".

"Every city is divided in different ways. The problem is that these cities are post-war, but the socio-political situation has not been settled yet. It is unknown what the future will be like, whose Mitrovica is, whose Mostar is, whose Belfast is. Those things have not been determined, and there are some conflicts. I can be calm for a long time, but until the fundamental problems are solved, there will always be some risks... "- explained Gusic,

Answering how much language affects divisions, i.e., communication, Gusic said in the context of the examples of Mostar and Belfast that language is important but that it does not matter if communities use the same language but do not want to communicate.

"After all, language is a way of communication, but you need to want to communicate to use that way of communication. People don't want to communicate in Belfast, so it doesn't matter that they speak the same language. "If you want to communicate, you will find a way," he said.

The "ambiguity" of these cities also affects possible solutions - there are no easy solutions. The unique situation requires cooperation between peace research and urban studies, but post-war cities also have "significant transcendent potential."

Gusic's book "Contesting Peace in the Postwar City. Belfast, Mitrovica, and Mostar," published in 2020, is in English. In the middle of March, he presented his book at the Private Cultural Center "Aquarius" in North Mitrovica.