When a fire breaks out in the Bosnian city of Mostar, Sabit Golos, a veteran firefighter, knows that he does not have to worry unless the flames take hold on the Muslim side of what, from 1992 until 1994, was the front line in a vicious ethnic conflict.
That is because Mostar, though long at peace, has two separate fire brigades, one made up mostly of Muslims like Mr. Golos, who are responsible for putting out fires on the east side of the old front line and a second one staffed by Catholic Croats who douse flames on the other side.
The line vanished long ago as a boundary between warring communities and does not officially exist. But it lives on in the mind, an emblem of the ethnonationalist fissures that paralyze Mostar and the whole of Bosnia.
As Europe and the United States struggle with the rise of ethnic nationalism as a divisive force, Bosnia’s divisions offer a dark lesson in how, once cleaved apart by fear and fighting, communities can stay splintered long after many people have forgotten what it was that pushed them apart. [Continue reading…]