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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 1 .


Minority Rights in Yugoslavia
Jan Briza

London: Minority Rights Group, 2000
34pp. Pb.: 6.70; ISBN 1-897693-08-7.



Minority Rights in Yugoslavia is another in a series of reports from Minority Rights Group International, an organization devoted to securing "rights for ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities worldwide." This small report (only 32 large pages!) provides exhaustive coverage of minorities in Yugoslavia. Particular attention is paid to key multi-ethnic regions of Yugoslavia - the well-known conflict zone in Kosovo/a, but also the less publicized regions of Sandzak and Vojvodina, as well as Montenegro.

What drives the text in each of the main sections is the separation between de jure and de facto rights for minorities. For each region, a detailed account of the rights of each minority group - in law and in implementation - is given, with special attention paid to education, official use of the language and alphabet, political life, cultural life and the media, and economic life. I learned a great deal about less prominent minority groups in Yugoslavia such as Roma, Bulgarians, Vlachs, Macedonians, and even Germans - a very nice touch. Each section is packed with facts and figures about each minority group, though the figures are quite often, not surprisingly, outdated and suspect, as Briza readily acknowledges.

The report closes with a series of recommendations, first to the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and then to the international community. These recommendations in themselves are not surprising, ranging from respecting human rights standards and strengthening the independent media for the FRY government to strengthening civil society for the international community. What is surprising, though, is the disconnect between these recommendations and the rest of the text. No systematic attempt to make connections is made. Instead, the recommendations seem quite separated from the remainder of the work.

For readers looking for an in-depth argument linking minority situations to policy recommendations, Minority Rights in Yugoslavia is not the right choice. However, Minority Rights in Yugoslavia is an excellent report for understanding the distribution of ethnic minority groups in Yugoslavia and the issues they face. In contrast to the political framing of this information, these distributions and issues are unlikely to have already changed with the new administration in Yugoslavia.



L. Kendall Palmer
Department of Sociology




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