Pilot Exhibition

A pilot exhibition titled “The Labyrinth of the Nineties” is a first step towards the establishment of the “Museum of the Nineties” as a regional center for reconciliation, education, and future cooperation The exhibition aims to encourage a fresh look at the decade that transformed the lives of millions of people in this region (and globally) and whose repercussions we feel today, perhaps more than ever. It is the result of two years of research, collaboration, and joint work of individuals, experts, activists, and partner organizations from across the former Yugoslav region.

The question is whether as individuals and as societies we have come out of the labyrinth into which we fell in the early 1990s. Since the end of the wars, the post-Yugoslav political elites have consistently worked on spreading hate speech, especially when commemorating the anniversaries of traumatic events, with almost complete disregard for the lives and well-being of ordinary citizens. Instead of dealing with the war’s disastrous consequences, the conflict has been kept alive in people’s minds.

“The Labyrinth of the Nineties” is a reaction to policies that prioritize ethnonationalism and chauvinism over social justice, myths over human life, and violence above everyday solidarity. We invite visitors to wander freely through this labyrinth, and to look at this traumatic period from several perspectives, particularly from the perspective of those people whose lives were destroyed in a single day, those who were against the war, those who had to flee their homes, and those who were deceived by all sides.

No exhibition can fully encapsulate a decade in human history. It is certainly the case with the 1990s, which left a lasting impact on our region. This pilot exhibition is conceived as a cluster of fragments without a predetermined plan or instructions. We encourage visitors to complement this exhibition in their minds with what they believe is missing, what should be displayed, and what we must yet come to terms with. Only by collectively reflecting on the recent past can we gain a deeper understanding of our present and envision a different future.

The exhibition will be open to visitors from June 15 to July 14, 2023, in Space Miljenko Dereta,” Dobračina 55, Belgrade, every Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 14h to 20h.

Titanic postage stamp (1992)

Yugoslav Pošta Telegraf Telefon (PTT) issued a stamp in 1992 commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking on April 15, 1912. The stamp shows a painting by Radomir Bojanić depicting the Titanic’s last moments. At the bottom is the name of the country that issued the stamp. It was counting its final days.

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Zagreb, 1990

Photo: Emil Vas

On Sunday, May 13, 1990, Football Club Dinamo from Zagreb and Football Club Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) from Belgrade met at the Maksimir stadium in Zagreb. The match was played just a few days after Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) emerged victorious in the first multi-party elections, defeating the reformed communists. The game was quickly interrupted, as clashes broke out between fans of Zvezda (Delije)—then led by Željko Ražnatović Arkan, the future commander of the paramilitary Serbian Volunteer Guard—and Dinamo (Bad Blue Boys), who openly supported nationalist HDZ.

Only a handful of police officers unsuccessfully attempted to quell the violence. The photograph depicts the moment when Dinamo captain Zvonimir Boban assaults Refik Ahmetović. Boban’s action made him a national hero in Croatia, but he was expelled from the Yugoslav national team, which a month later, under the guidance of Ivica Osim, participated in its last World Cup in Italy. It is commonly believed that the war began at Maksimir due to the nationalist nature of the clashes and the open expression of interethnic hatred. About a hundred spectators and police officers were injured. There were no fatalities.

Dinamo and Crvena Zvezda met at Maksimir once again, for the last time, on May 18, 1991, after the armed conflicts in Croatia had already begun. The match was played without incident. Dinamo triumphed with a 3:2 tally. Eleven days after this match, Red Star won the European championship.

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The Five-pointed Star

Belgrade, 1997

Photo: Srđan Ilić

Exhibit: from the collection of the Museum of Yugoslavia

After three months of mass demonstrations (November 1996 – February 1997), Slobodan Milošević and his regime accepted the results of the local elections. The opposition took over the city government in Belgrade on February 21, 1997, and Zoran Đinđić, the president of the Democratic Party and one of the leaders of the opposition, became the mayor. The first action taken by the newly elected mayor was to remove the five-pointed star from the roof of the Belgrade City Assembly. This symbolic gesture was supposed to mark the victory and announce the overthrow of Slobodan Milošević, often called “the last communist dictator”. Three alpinists were employed to carry out the removal of the communist symbol. One of them signalled its removal to the audience by displaying “three fingers,” a national symbol popularized in the early 1990s by Vuk Drašković, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement. The star was given to Zoran Đinđić, who donated it personally to the Museum “25 May”  (now the Museum of Yugoslavia).

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War Symbols

Even before the dissolution of Yugoslavia, new military and paramilitary formations began to emerge. Alongside the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), the Territorial Defence in Slovenia launched independent action in 1990 and played a crucial role in the 10-day conflict in Slovenia (June—July 1991). The National Guard Corps (ZNG, also known as Zenge) was established in Zagreb on April 20, 1991, by Franjo Tuđman’s decree, and the first ZNG brigades were presented to the public at the NK Zagreb stadium on May 28, 1991. As a result of the dissolution of Yugoslavia the JNA ceased to exist and new armed forces were formed, including the Army of Yugoslavia (for Serbia and Montenegro), the Croatian Army, the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Army of the Republic of Macedonia. In addition, various paramilitary and military formations appeared, including the Army of the Republika Srpska Krajina and the Croatian Defence Forces (HOS) in Croatia, the Army of the Republika Srpska, the Croatian Defence Council, the HOS, and the military formations of the Autonomous Province of West Bosnia in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Liberation Army of Kosovo (KLA or UÇK). These were followed by some party and private armed groups, including the “White Eagles” of the Serbian Radical Party, the aforementioned HOS of the Croatian Party of Rights, the “Serbian Volunteer Guard” or the Tigers of Željko Ranatović Arkan, as well as the “Patriotic League” and the “Green Berets” associated with the Bosnian Muslim “Party of Democratic Action.” These armed formations and organizations used ethnic, national, and even religious symbols, as well as symbols of the defeated collaborationist forces (Ustasha and Chetniks) from World War II. Numerous commanders and members of these armies and paramilitary groups have been accused of inhuman treatment, crimes against humanity, and genocide; some have been tried and convicted.

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Piramidalna šetnja

Photo: Imre Sabo

One of the ways to finance wars was the introduction of pyramid schemes in Serbia. This involved   extracting money from numerous Serbian citizens through two banks, Dafiment Bank, founded by Dafina Milanović and Jugoskandik founded by Jezdimir Vasiljević. Both banks were based on the model of promising unrealistically high-interest rates on invested money (10-15% on foreign currency and 160% on dinars). During the severe economic crises and inflation in Serbia, many people invested their savings in these banks to gain additional profits. According to the conclusions of the National Bank of Serbia’s Commission, Dafiment Bank had 163,025 depositors, while Jugoskandik had roughly 55,000 Collectively, individuals deposited a total of about 325 million euros in these institutions. Both banks declared bankruptcy after barely two years, while depositors lost their savings.

The photo shows a line of citizens waiting in front of Dafiment Bank on Trg Republike in Belgrade.

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Wars and sanctions have bolstered organized crime, often in collaboration with official institutions. Under these circumstances, criminal clans strengthened, with the Voždovac clan becoming the most notorious in Belgrade during the 1990s. In addition, numerous criminals joined paramilitary units responsible for multiple war atrocities. The most famous among them in Serbia were Đorđe Božović Giška and Željko Ražnatović Arkan; in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mladen Naletilić Tuta, commander of the Retaliatory Battalion of the Croatian Defense Council, as well as HVO officer in Central Bosnia Vinko Žuljević Klica; and on the Bosniak side, Ramiz Delalić Ćelo, Mušan Topalović Caco and Jusuf Prazina Juka.

In the 1990s, criminals became part of public life, serving as role models for young men and promoting a particular way of life, attire, and vernacular. Openly carrying weapons was part of this “style”. The movies The Wounds (Rane) by Srđan Dragojević and See You in the Obituary (Vidimo se u čitulji) by Janko Baljak illustrate vividly the atmosphere in Serbia during those years.

The basic model of the Beretta 92 pistol, designed in Italy in 1975, and its numerous variants and copies, became part of numerous national armies and police forces. Its popularity among Latin American cartels and Balkan criminals remains high.

Sarajevo’s Newlyweds

Photo: Danilo Krstanović

Sanela and Emir Klarić married in besieged Sarajevo in 1995. In the photograph, the newlyweds are walking down Kulovićeva Street. In the backdrop we see the canvas spread between the buildings for protection from sniper fire from the adjacent hills. The portrait of the happy newlyweds has come to represent Sarajevo’s resistance, optimism, and trust in a brighter future. It is now regarded as one of the most significant photos in the history of war photography. Sanela and Emir have two daughters and are still married.

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Man with Dog (Fear)

Photo: Pavo Urban

Pavo Urban (1969-1991) was a Dubrovnik-born photographer. On December 6, 1991, the JNA, Serbian volunteers, and Montenegrin reservists launched one of their fiercest attacks on the besieged city of Dubrovnik, severely bombing its core. Urban courageously documented the bombardments and its consequences. These photographs are considered as some the most significant documents of the war. In the heart of Dubrovnik, near Orlando’s column, he captured his final photograph moments before being killed by shrapnel.

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Feral Tribune

Feral Tribune was one of Croatia’s most well-known anti-war and anti-nationalist independent media newspapers. Three young journalists, Viktor Ivančić, Predrag Lucić, and Boris Dežulović (“Viva Ludež”), founded Feral in 1984 as a satirical supplement to Nedjeljna Dalmacija. In 1993, following the takeover of Slobodna Dalmacija by a regime-friendly tycoon, Miroslav Kutle, they founded Feral Tribune. This independent, satirical weekly gained a worldwide reputation as a courageous media outlet that opposed nationalism, corruption, and the political manipulations of Franjo Tudjman’s regime. Feral Tribune was one of the few media entities that reported openly on war crimes and human rights violations. Their journalists were frequently subjected to threats, assaults, lawsuits, and censorship, but they continued to work fearlessly. Feral Tribune closed in 2008.

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The Women in Black

Photo: Goranka Matić

Women in Black is a feminist and peace movement that started organising anti-war protests in October 1991. For more than 30 years, the organization, led by Staša Zajović, has openly responded to all types of violence in the former Yugoslavia and Serbia by staging its recognizable protest gatherings with black banners. They consistently remind the public of committed war crimes and their victims, arguing for the inclusion of women in the peacebuilding process, violence prevention, and reconciliation. The organization also helps women victims of war rape and other types of sexual assault in their fight for justice and dignity. Women in Black are also well-known for publicly condemning war criminals and demanding their punishment, for which they are frequently physically attacked.

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Theatre under Siege

Photo: Paul Lowe

From the very first days of the siege, culture became an essential resistance instrument of the citizens of Sarajevo. Performances, concerts, film screenings, and literary forums were organized daily, with the participation of many citizens who risked their lives to attend them. In May 1992, a group of theater workers founded the Sarajevo War Theater (SARTR), which still exists today.

In the photograph, we see the cast of Waiting for Godot directed by renowned American writer and theorist Susan Sontag in 1993 in besieged Sarajevo. Today, the square in front of the National Theater in Sarajevo is named after her.

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Authors: Dubravka Stojanović, Igor Štiks and Dejan Ubović

Collaborators: Sanja Radović and Ana Radaković

Design: Dražen Grubišić and Željka Zrnić

Production: Jasmina Petković

Graphic design: Marko Prokić

Graffiti: Ljudmila Stratimirović

Project team: Quentin Rumeau and Aleksandra Đorđević; media/PR: Jelena Pavlović; proofreading (for Serbian): Jelena Nidžović; proofreading: Andrijana Aničić



The exhibition is part of the initiative “Museum of the Nineties – Regional Centre for Reconciliation, Education and Future Cooperation”. It has been produced in collaboration with Kulturni centar GRAD. The initial concept was designed by Snježana Milivojević, Dubravka Stojanović, Igor Štiks and Dejan Ubović.

We are grateful to the Museum of Yugoslavia, the art collective Kiosk, Mediacenter Sarajevo, Women in black, Sarajevo Graphics Group at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the University of Sarajevo, the magazine Prishtina Insight, Organisation Gariwo from Sarajevo, Građanske inicijative, and Prostor Miljenko Dereta.

With special thanks to Svetlana Broz, Slavenka Drakulić, Marina Dokmanović, Ivan Đorđević, Boro Kontić, Goranka Matić, Bojan Mijatović, Rade Mirić, Bob Milošević, Nikola Necić, Dominique Hautbergue, Selma Rizvić, Dragan Srdić, Nemanja Stjepanović, Jelena Stević, Maja Stojanović, Marija Šošić, Aleksandra Tomanić, Tatomir Toroman, Nikola Ubović, Mitja Velikonja, and Staša Zajović.

The exhibition has been supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Embassy of Switzerland in Serbia, the European Fund for the Balkans, the Embassy of Sweden in Serbia, and the Delegation of the European Union in the Republic of Serbia.