A romantic song has captivated audiences across the Balkans, the Middle East and as far away as Japan. But despite its themes of love and longing, it has been hijacked by nationalists determined to make political mischief out of a search for its origins.
In the Balkans, the Ottoman Empire is gone but not forgotten. Many of the citizens of republics in southeastern Europe long for the past to return, a nostalgia that has not gone unnoticed in Turkey. For years, politicians have sought to mobilize this post-imperial memory for their own purposes.
The Swedish Academy’s embrace of Handke comes at a time when far-right movements worldwide have also seized elements of 1990s Serbian nationalism as fuel for violent fantasies from Utøya, Norway, to Christchurch, New Zealand.
Political opportunists can thrive on the penchant of people to long for the old authoritarian system and forget its dark sides. Many Libyans increasingly look back at the stability of the Gadhafi years with some nostalgia, even if they fervently supported the 2011 revolution.
Where did the notorious Wagner Group come from, and why has Vladimir Putin relied so heavily on Russian mercenaries in the last decade? Ruslan Trad argues it’s because they’re good for business, and they have a proven track record — from Soviet-occupied Afghanistan.
The turn toward paranoid identity politics and demographic fetishism among ostensibly center-right parties on both sides of the Atlantic readily comports to the ideological discourses developed by Serb nationalists during the 1980s and 1990s.