Last year marked the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, which is a long period of global peace, regardless of many local conflicts that have taken place in the meantime. During this period, despite several serious crises, direct military clashes of great powers were avoided, which could have dragged humanity into a new world war. Also, one of the reasons for maintaining world stability are the arsenals of nuclear weapons on various sides, which usage would lead to an overall cataclysm. The result is known in advance, and that is defeat on all sides.
At the end of 1918, the World War I, or the Great War, ended, which according to some estimates took more than 40 million lives. Two great alliances clashed, one known as the Entente, originally composed of Great Britain, France, and the Russian Empire, and the other, the Axis Powers, which was made up of the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. The Entente was later joined by some other countries, but the most important of them were the United States of America and the Kingdom of Italy, while the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Bulgaria joined the Axis Powers. Although the immediate trigger for the start of war was the assassination of the Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo on July 28, 1914, there were many actual reasons and they had much deeper roots.
Among many causes for the outbreak of World War I, the two are particularly important. Based on these two reasons, lessons can be learned for current relations in the world, especially in the Balkans, where everything started. One of those causes was the an unequal economic development of the blocs, and the other was the a rise of expansionist nationalism as a new ideology of the 19th century. Japan, Italy, and Germany were behind in positioning their states as great powers, while the Britain and France were in its expansion. Such a condition created visible differences that started to drag the world into the conflict. At the same time, on the soil of multiethnic empires, such as the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary, the rise of nationalism created political frictions and instability. In the broader European area, state borders in many regions were not identical with ethnic borders, which is the case even today. Alongside with these processes, freedom of press and democratization were developing, putting ordinary citizens in greater focus and creating preconditions for easier manipulation of the masses.
At the end, the world order could not endure, so its collapse began. The Balkans, where different influences were touching each other, was the initial capsule that triggered the domino effect. The end of the World War One brought a complete change in geopolitical relations, the disappearance of the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and German empires, and the consolidation of the domination of Great Britain, France and the United States.
If the history is teacher of life, as the Latin saying states, then there are obvious parallels that can be drawn between the present and the events of a hundred years ago. We live in a time of accelerated globalization fueled by freedom of expression through social networks and mass media. In contrast, it revives nationalism that seeks to stop the birth of a new age. Tensions arose between these two poles of globalization and nationalism, since conservative forces around the globe have a difficulty to accept new reality. Each information is processed in different way, and each person gained the ability to say whatnot and put it on the air. No one is able to control the content of the posts that are placed, nor the reaction they provoke. Therefore, it is more difficult to control actions which are resulting from such information exchange. We live a time of informational chaos where it is difficult to distinguish truth from untruth, which creates a suitable ground for various manipulations.
What is the effect of such a condition in real life? Nationalist and fascist forces across the globe use facilitated access to the media and social platforms to strengthen their influence. This is especially evident in the Balkans because nationalism and fascism have not been defeated. Contrary, war crimes and their perpetrators are glorified, genocide is denied and the verdicts of international and domestic courts are not respected. There are no consequences for those who talk with hatred and intolerance about others, since they enjoy strong political support. A similar evil that has twice devastated Europe in the last century is active again creating the preconditions for new conflicts. It is especially disturbing that there is no concrete plan and determination on how to stop it.
At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, such processes eroded the hitherto inviolable empires. In the 21st century, the seed of the same idea have come to life creating a serious threat to peace and stability. Comparing the development of the media then and now, two similar phenomena are visible. At the end of the 19th century with expansion of press, citizens were better informed, while in the first two decades of this century, social networks took absolute dominance in the exchange of information without almost any censorship. In the 19th century, the difference in economic development between the blocks deepened. Today, Russia is lagging behind the United States and EU, China is expanding, and everyone wants influence in the Balkans in their own way.
The Balkan countries urgently need the implementation of European democratic values as well as proclaimed human rights and freedoms. The overwhelming majority of citizens in the countries of the region, which are still outside the borders of the European Union, support EU integration. At the same time, the Balkan countries outside the European Union represent a testing ground for nationalists that threaten to destabilize the whole of Europe. The integration into the Euro-Atlantic family of states will establish lasting stability for the entire continent. Ensuring the strong support of the United States and the European Union this can be achieved in a short time, otherwise any delay can bring unpredictable consequences.