Don’t Forget, Remember and Warn!’

From Planet 252

by Richard Mills

Richard Mills explores surprising parallels between Wales and Bosnia: from centuries of conquest, working-class activism and the drowning of communities for infrastructure, to majestic bridges and collective commemoration of loss; and why this matters in terms of our common European history.

Even the landscape takes on a different quality if you are one of those who remembers. The scenery is then never separate from the history of the place, from the feeling for the lives that have been lived there.
Ned Thomas, The Welsh Extremist (1971)

In one sense, our annual family visit to stay with relatives in the hills above Bethesda is the perfect opportunity to take a break from the demands of academia. The mountainous grazing lands of north Wales present a stark contrast to the vast agricultural plains that encircle the University of East Anglia, my workplace on the other side of Britain. More importantly, the rich history and culture of Gwynedd is a world away from the former Yugoslavia, the short-lived country which is the subject of my research. And yet, the natural – and manmade – landscapes of Wales perpetually remind me of the Balkans. The often overt resemblance between the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina on the one hand and Wales on the other is particularly striking: sparsely populated rugged uplands, post-industrial cities, lush green valleys, medieval fortifications clinging to bare rockfaces, bustling market towns bisected by fast-flowing rivers… The intricate stonework and sweeping arches of bridges which have served Llanrwst, Rhuddlan, and other Welsh towns for centuries unfailingly call to mind their contemporaries over a thousand miles away, including the Ottoman-era masterpiece at Višegrad that inspired Ivo Andrić’s Nobel Prize winning novel, The Bridge on the Drina.1

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About the author

Richard Mills is an associate professor in modern European history at the University of East Anglia. He is author of The Politics of Football in Yugoslavia: Sport, Nationalism, and the State (London, 2018).