Robert Greenberg, Dean of Arts, College of Auckland
The world was excited by the information final week that NASA’s Perseverance rover had successfully landed in a Martian crater. The rover will now set about gathering samples from what scientists say was an historical lake fed by a river. The identify of this unique Martian crater is Jezero.
As a South Slavic linguist, I instantly recognised the phrase. In a number of former Yugoslav international locations, together with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia, “jezero” (pronounced “yeh-zeh-ro,” with the stress on the primary syllable) means lake. Honest sufficient — however why a Balkan lake on Mars?
The duty of offering names for locations of curiosity on Mars falls to the Worldwide Astronomical Union (IAU). They apparently named the Martian crater Jezero in 2007, properly earlier than earthlings had paid any consideration.
I later found the identify was not, in reality, meant merely as a generic “lake,” however refers to a selected village known as Jezero. With a inhabitants round 500, it’s positioned in western Republika Srpska, the Serb-dominated a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is vitally close to a river-fed lake known as Veliko Plivsko Jezero, or Nice Plivsko Lake.
Well-known on Mars
In response to the Balkan Insight information service, the mayor of Jezero first discovered of NASA’s plans in a letter from the US ambassador in Bosnia and Herzegovina, informing her the village and its identify had been to be honored by the spacecraft touchdown within the Jezero crater.
The villagers apparently first dismissed this as fake news. However, to their later amazement, individuals all around the world have now been studying to pronounce Jezero correctly.
The touchdown was broadcast dwell on the village’s solely college, with the Balkan Perception reporter describing the villagers as “star-struck” and justifiably happy with their connection to the mission.
There was additionally cautious optimism in regards to the prosperity that may circulate from vacationers discovering their sleepy hamlet (not less than after the pandemic). Well-known on Mars, may Jezero be celebrated on Earth as properly?
The choice to be averted, one hopes, is that a minor Balkan battle breaks out over language and designated names. Each one of many former Yugoslav international locations can declare the phrase “jezero” of their respective dictionaries. And any traveller to the Balkans is aware of the area is wealthy with lakes.
However just one village carries this generic phrase as its identify. Was it politically advisable for one village within the Serb-dominated entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina to be singled out? For a lot of, this a part of the nation continues to be related to the nationalism and ethnic cleaning of the Bosnian war within the 1990s.
How would the members of different communities within the nation — Bosniaks (the nation’s Muslim inhabitants) and Croats — reply? Might they help the Serbs of Jezero receiving such optimistic media protection?
As my guide in regards to the break-up of the Serbo-Croatian language explored, language rifts within the Balkans are endemic and have lengthy been each a symptom of ethnic animosity and a trigger for inflaming it.
Will individuals quibble over whether or not the crater is called for the village or for its close by lake, or any lake throughout the area? Or ought to all who say “jezero” really feel proud the phrase is now within the world lexicon?
House and time
Throughout the time of Tito’s rule in Yugoslavia, such issues wouldn’t have been as contentious, since many individuals believed the dominant widespread language of the nation was Serbo-Croatian.
Ethno-nationalism was forbidden and folks principally bought alongside. Nonetheless, for the reason that violent break-up of Yugoslavia, individuals within the newly unbiased states now communicate separate languages: Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian.
Learn extra: Remembering Srebrenica, more than 20 years on
Over time, audio system of the 4 languages have slowly drifted aside, however all of them agree a lake is known as “jezero”. Additional problems come up with peoples and governments even additional afield. The Slovenes and Czechs additionally say “jezero,” and the Macedonian and Bulgarian kind is the virtually similar “ezero”.
Any similarity between the panorama round Jezero in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the crater with the identical identify on Mars might finish with the identify. And I doubt the scientists at NASA or the IAU ever thought of the potential implications of utilizing a typical phrase shared by so many countries to call an essential web site on Mars.
However, as we all know, phrases have energy. It might be a disgrace if a distant, silent crater on one other planet prompted envy and resentment right here on Earth. Up to now, nonetheless, the political scenario within the Balkans stays virtually as calm as that on Mars, and that’s trigger for hope.
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