Psychology in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia

Dinka Corkalo Biruski, Ivan Jerkovic, Marija Zotovic and Igor Krnectic with the lastest in our international series.
Psychology in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia Dinka Corkalo Biruski, Ivan Jerkovic, Marija Zotovic and Igor Krnetic with the latest in our international series. The first Yugoslavia (‘land of the southern Slavs’), was established at the end of the First World War as one of the major results of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. The united territory was inhabited by several major ethnic groups. The successful anti-fascist struggle against the Nazi occupation, led by Josip Broz Tito, initiated this second Yugoslavia as only the second socialist state in the world. Although Tito maintained strong personal power and federal institutions, Yugoslavia was far more benign than many communist regimes. In fact, his ‘bottom up’ socialist policies led to an expensive split with the Soviet Union and exclusion from the Soviet economic system.

Psychology in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia

Dinka Corkalo Biruski, Ivan Jerkovic, Marija Zotovic and Igor Krnetic with the latest in our international series.

The first Yugoslavia (‘land of the southern Slavs’), was established at the end of the First World War as one of the major results of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. The united territory was inhabited by several major ethnic groups.
The successful anti-fascist struggle against the Nazi occupation, led by Josip Broz Tito, initiated this second Yugoslavia as only the second socialist state in the world. Although Tito maintained strong personal power and federal institutions, Yugoslavia was far more benign than many communist regimes. In fact, his ‘bottom up’ socialist policies led to an expensive split with the Soviet Union and exclusion from the Soviet economic system.
Tito managed the ethnic issue by giving fairly significant authority to the six republics (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia) and within Serbia, to two autonomous regions, Vojvodina in the north, and Kosovo in the south-east. A rare study of ethnicity (Pantic, 1999, quoted in Biro et al., 2004) conducted late in communist times suggested that ethnic relationships, measured by social distance, were surprisingly good, perhaps reflecting communist prosocial values, even if the totalitarian environment caused some response bias.
After early rapid growth, the 1970s saw economic stagnation, and the 1980s escalating decline as individual worker councils jostled for better wages and greater shares of the decreasing investment cake. With inflation at 300 per cent in 1989, five of the republics began to declare independence, beginning with Slovenia and Croatia in 1990/1991. The serious economic hardships and major disagreements about the destabilised federation’s future ensured fertile ground for the imminent war when, supported by the Federal Yugoslav army, Milosevic instigated Europe’s biggest bloodshed since WWII. As is well-known, ethnic minorities fled as atrocities were committed by all sides. After the violent breakdown, all successor states have continued their own development, although with great differences of pace and style due to war and social transition processes.

Croatia: The Zagreb Psychological School
The first known use of the term ‘psychology’ anywhere was by the 15th century Croatian philosopher, Marko Marulic (1450-1542), in the title of his work Psichiologia de Rationae Animae Humanae (Marinkovic, 1992).
The first psychological laboratory in the Balkans was established in Zagreb in 1920 by Ramiro Bujas (1879-1959). In 1929 it became the new university department, one of Europe’s first to have full departmental status. Wundt had widespread influence in central Europe, but Bujas opposed both Austrian-style psychology as ‘knowledge of the soul’ and Wundt’s controlled introspectionism, and promoted psychology as the study of ‘psychocortical processes’. His theory of sensation (Bujas, 1927) as a dynamic, adaptive system that balances organismic and environmental factors can comfortably be discussed as
a forerunner of modern computational approaches. He also conducted early research into the galvanic skin response, including its criminological application (Bujas, 1931). He also studied and taught vocational guidance and the development of diagnostic instruments, using and teaching others to use these in the Zagreb Vocational Guidance Centre which he founded in 1931.
From the early 1940s, Bujas’s son, Zoran (1910-2003), continued with much of the above, including ground-breaking studies of work and fatigue (e.g. Bujas & Petz, 1959), for which he developed a comprehensive and very influential interdisciplinary research program, (Sverko, 1999). He worked on psychophysical scaling techniques, for example he modified and improved Stevens’s procedure of magnitude estimation (Bujas & Szabo, 1972) and introduced the method of perception of the form of stimulus-intensity increment in time (Bujas et al, 1999). He also worked on intelligence tests, including a modification of Raven’s Matrices. Other research included the psychophysiology of sensation, specifically taste and olfactory discrimination: in 1979 he established the Laboratory for Sensory Psychophysiology in the Croatian Academy of Sciences, where he continued to work well into his retirement. Bujas’s research was prolific, and his strong empirical and experimental orientation generated the ethos that soon became known as Zagreb Psychological School.
This rigorous empirical and experimental approach has remained, with the Zagreb department still one of the strongest in the Balkans. In the 1970s, psychophysiology was absolutely dominant, and significant research continued in school psychology, and in measurement of human ability (Corkalo, 2004). Although clinical psychology started later and was more modest, some aspects were in practice earlier e.g. the first neuropsychology laboratory in former Yugoslavia was founded in Zagreb in 1973 (Marinkovic, 1992). Work psychology in the 1970s and 1980s mainly focused on fatigue and ergonomics, accidents and selection. Related research today is more oriented towards organisational aspects, work values and the new transition phenomena such as unemployment and its psychological consequences. 

Psychology in Serbia
In Belgrade, on the other hand, early interest was in developmental, educational, and clinical psychology. When the Psychological Area (a sub-department of philosophy) opened in 1927, psychoanalysis was in full swing. The Area’s first head, Stevanovic, applied Wundt’s controlled introspection to the study of concept development under F. Aveling at Kings College, London. Influenced by Spearman, Stevanovic also researched the structure of intelligence, in 1930 publishing the Belgrade standardisation of the Binet, and supporting his argument for environmental causes of individual differences via urban/rural parallel norms.
In spite of this consistency with Marxism, the new communist regime closed the Belgrade Area from 1945-1950 on explicitly ideological grounds, and thereafter Stevanovic was allowed only to teach psychology to trainee teachers, a fate which lasted decades longer for most psychologists in several other Soviet states.
Thereafter, Belgrade psychologists continued to research and train in clinical, developmental and educational psychology. A 1976 Federal Yugoslavia law required every school to employ both a pedagogical adviser and a psychologist, and this give statutory legitimacy to the latter subject.
Regarding clinical psychology, it is especially interesting that (in spite of weak safeguards for confidentiality) practice and training for relationship-based therapy continued in Belgrade. Relevant research reflected on psychotherapists’ own possible prejudices (e.g. Vlajkovic et al., 1980), and similar work continues today, with well-rooted explorations of relationship-based therapy, e.g. personal construct theory, some in co-operation with Britain (Stojnov & Butt, 2002).
Psycholinguistics also remains strong in the Belgrade department through A. Kostic’s application of information theory to the morphology of the highly inflected Serbian language. This work is also in cooperation with a British team (del Prado et al., 2004). It is worth noting that Stevanovic’s London research was the first of several important projects involving cooperation between Yugoslav and British psychologists.
In contrast with earlier times, psychophysics is now well-represented, for example studies of brightness and movement (e.g. Torodic, 2005).

Psychology in Bosnia and Herzegovina
In 1989, the Department of Psychology opened in the Philosophy Faculty of Sarajevo University. The departments in Banja Luka and East Sarajevo, Republic of Srpska, quickly followed, and in 2005 the department in Mostar, Federation of B&H was opened.
Before this, the only psychology training was a joint pedagogy/psychology BA, taught in the Pedagogy Faculty. Although repression of psychology was not as extreme as in Romania, many see this late start as due to the Communist Party’s suspicion of psychologists’ abilities to effect personal change, and the belief that they supported political reform. Even the pedagogy/psychology services established under the 1976 law were very skeleton. In fact, those pedagogy/psychology graduates are still not recognised as psychologists by any psychological association in any successor state including Bosnia, nor are they allowed to use psychological instruments.
Thus the real development of Bosnian psychology started only in the 1990s, and immediately met the huge crisis of clinical work with acutely traumatised refugees, victims of atrocities, and other war-related PTSD. So Bosnian scientific research, which frequently concerns consequences of war, started to develop at the same time as clinical practice (see Krnetic & Pasic, 2004; Powell & Durakovic-Belko, 2002).

Psychologists and the 90s wars
Psychologists and their communities in all successor states have confronted crises, often of grave proportions, due to the wars of independence. All have developed responses, monitored many of them, and cascaded them to colleagues, community leaders and volunteers. The total volume of work is so vast, we can only mention some that is distinct to particular departments.
Consistent with the Zagreb department’s strong empirical tradition, a new, comprehensive model of psychosocial assistance to refugees was developed, based on stress and coping theory and mobilisation of the local community. This resulted in comprehensive psychological interventions, and new models and theoretical insights about psychosocial help, post-trauma recovery, and social reconstruction processes (see Ajdukovic, 1999).
University and practising psychologists in Serbia were at the forefront of the various waves of dissident movement against the Milosevic regime. Among many examples, their work includes that at the UNHCR-supported International Aid Network Centre for Trauma and Torture Victims in Belgrade, which continues to record and treat victims of state tolerated torture, and more recently victims of police brutality (Spiric et al., 2004). In Novi Sad, clinical psychologists monitored war effects, including of the NATO air strikes, and the often overlooked effects of traumatised refugees on families in host areas (Kapor Stanulovic & Zotovic, 2001). Many psychologists recorded war effects and community rebuilding after war, and work collaboratively in dealing with war consequences (e.g. Stover & Weinstein, 2004).
Finally, among many internationally supported projects in Bosnia, the Sarajevo-based CLIPSEE project (Clinical Psychology in South-East Europe), was managed from Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich by British-trained Steve Powell. Along with many psychologists, CLIPSEE also crossed the new state borders as it fed clinical psychology instruments and skills to psychologists from all successor states, and supported research via workshops and its web resource (www.psih.org). Editors on the website credibly claim that ‘there were never as many investigations of the influence of war on civilian populations, especially children, as in the republics of Former Yugoslavia since …1991’ (Powell & Durakovic-Belko, 2002).

Psychology today: training and regulation
In former Yugoslavia, the traditional 4-year first degree in general psychology licensed practice in any specialist area. An optional 2-year specialist qualification followed, then at least 3 years to PhD. Now however, legislation requiring conformity with the European Union’s Bologna process is in place in Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia.
In Bosnia legislation awaits inter-ethnic agreement regarding minority language access. In Serbia, there are worries that the very open market will damage quality of teaching applicants, but the 2005 law does require full accreditation of all university courses. Among the Serbian departments, that at Novi Sad has made most progress, and the new approved curriculum beginning September 2006 will meet all Bologna requirements (including both research project and practical experience, and rigorous attention to quality assurance).
Regulation of practising psychologists presents serious issues, due to legislative queues in the new states, lack of previous ties between specialism of practice and specialism of training, and sheer degree of human need in the post-war turbulence. In Croatia, the Law of Psychological Practice (2003) is now in place. In Serbia, and in the Serbian part of Bosnia (Republic of Srpska), Laws of Psychological Practice are under discussion between professionals and ministers. The Macedonian Psychological Chamber, which has regulatory powers, was approved by Parliament in 2005.

The challenge
Psychologists in the newly formed countries face significant challenges. First of all, considerable challenges remain from the 1990s’ war violence. There are also challenges associated with the transition to democracy and the market economy, often these being linked with issues regarding economic hardship. Psychologists give a good example of establishing international collaboration and intense scientific and professional co-operation. We expect that this co-operation will continue to grow.

- Dinka Corkalo Biruski is an associate professor in the Psychology Department, University of Zagreb, Croatia. E-mail: [email protected].

- Ivan Jerkovic and Marija Zotovic are assistant professors at the University of Novi Sad, Serbia. E-mail: [email protected].

- Igor Krnetic is a lecturer in the Psychology Department, University of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
E-mail: [email protected].

Weblinks
British and East European Psychology Group: www.bwwpg.org.uk
Serbian Psychological Society: www.dps.org.yu
Psychological Society of Republic of Srpska, Bosnia: www.drustvo-psihologa.rs.ba
Croatian Psychological Society: www.psihologija.hr
Macedonian Psychological Chamber: www.fzf.ukim.edu.mk/psihologija/opsto.htm
Slovenian Psychological Society: www2.arnes.si/%7edpsih/main.htm

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