A campaign promoting peace and unity marks the 100th anniversary of the Balkan Wars with a concert series.
By Biljana Lajmanovska for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 10/09/12
A series of concerts to promote peace and unity includes performers from nine Balkan countries. [Biljana Lajmanovska/SETimes]
Turkish Radio Television (TRT) kicked off of a concert series in Skopje last week marking the 100-year-anniversary of the Balkan Wars. Under the theme "From Balkan Wars to Balkan Peace," the project's goal is to stress the value of peace as well as to point out the strong ties between Turkey and the rest of the Balkan countries.
After almost six months of preparation, the launch of the series brought together performers from nine Balkan countries -- united through music, love for country and peace -- on the same stage with a shared philharmonic orchestra.
The first concert included traditional music performances by singers including Macedonia's Esma Redzepova, Albania's Irma Libohova, Bosnia and Herzegovina's (BiH) Hanka Paldum, Serbia's Ksenija Mijatovic and Turkey's Suzan Kardes.
"This project aims to elaborate on the war theme in a way that contributes to a peaceful environment," Sezai Karatas, TRT broadcast co-ordinator for the project, told SETimes.
He said that Turkey is in a unique geographical and historical position to boost ties with, and among, the Balkan countries.
The Balkan Wars took place in 1912 and 1913. In the First Balkan War, countries from the region managed to break free from the ruling Ottoman Empire of Turkey. In the Second Balkan War, the Balkan countries fought among themselves over the subsequent division of territories.
Karatas said that the show in Skopje was a success, and noted that the concert series continued in other countries, including a pop music concert in BiH on Saturday (September 8th).
"We did not want to 'export' those artists from Turkey, but instead to find and invite them from their countries to show that all people throughout the region can gather around a specific goal and that they are all friends, despite the harmful memory from Balkan wars," Karatas said.
The performers said that through co-operation, they can help to promote better understanding among Balkan nations.
"I have always been talking about and demanding peace. The Balkans should be opened and we should stop fighting each other," Esma Redzepova, a Roma music star from Macedonia, told SETimes.
"This is a very positive festival that … teaches us to find our own peace," she said. "The music can play a huge role in this."
"There's nothing that can unite Balkan nations better than music and songs," Albanian singer Irma Libohova told SETimes. "The music knows no boundaries and can overcome any obstacle."
The memories of the Balkan wars still remain strong, especially in Macedonia, whose territory was divided during the Second Balkan War. Still, the general consensus of citizens is that it is high time to "give peace a chance."
Tanja Stoilovska, 56, who came to the concert with her daughter, said that even though the two enjoyed the music together, that they were most attracted by the message it delivered.
"We have to find strength to leave the bloodshed behind us and to finally turn to the future," she told SETimes.
Amir Selami, 28, said that younger generations also strive for peace.
"In times of war, we can’t hope for progress or for economy. We, the young people, we desire not to be witnesses of Balkan conflicts for the first time in history," he said.
Historian Boban Petrovski from the Faculty of Philosophy in Skopje agrees. "The Balkan history in the past 100 years proves that every generation here passes through a war. There isn’t a single conflict in Europe in the past century that has skipped the Balkan Peninsula," he told SETimes.
According to Petrovski, the reason for this lies in the similarity of the Balkans to the Caucasus region.
"Different nations live here in a small geographic area, increasing the potential for conflict. That is the reason why we have difficulty escaping the stereotype of an extremely turbulent region," he said.
He said that it appears that the forces aimed at peaceful resolution of conflicts have finally started to prevail in the Balkan countries.
Related events in the campaign will include additional concerts, exhibits, workshops, and documentary film screenings on the same theme which will take place throughout the region during the next several months.
SETimes correspondent Menekse Tokyay in Istanbul contributed to this article.