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The Siege of Sarajevo and the American Civil War

Produced by Karalee Wong Nakatsuka, First Avenue Middle School, 1996


This unit will follow the American Civil War unit. I will use the Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo Frontline video. Students will compare and contrast this video and the situation in Sarajevo with what they have already learned about the American Civil War. They will identify many similarities: brother vs. brother/ neighbor vs. neighbor, etc. and also see that civil war is not unique to the United States, but that they are still experienced by countries today. They will see the personal side to civil war as they hear the words of the different family members involved. This unit will also expand their knowledge and understanding of the situation in Bosnia as they relate this situation to their prior knowledge of the American Civil War. As they are proceeding through this unit in history, they will also be making connections with the video in their English class - first through their study of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and secondly by examining the issues of genocide, ethnic-cleansing during World War II and in this region as seen in the Diary of Anne Frank and in Zlata's Diary.


  1. Students will understand that civil wars continue to occur in present day, worldwide.
  2. Students will better understand the crisis in Bosnia.
  3. Students will use their prior knowledge of the American Civil War to compare/contrast this event with the siege of Sarajevo.
  4. Students will learn how civil wars affect individuals, families, and communities, not only countries.
  5. Students will compare/contrast Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet with Frontline's.
  6. Students will compare/contrast Zlata's Diary with the Diary of Anne Frank.
  7. Students will learn about issues of genocide/ethnic cleansing, etc. as seen in World War II and in Bosnia.


Day 1

Students will review the characteristics of the American Civil War. Teacher will explain that civil wars continue to happen today - ask class for examples. Teacher will give brief background of the conflict in Bosnia (the video explains this conflict as the story unfolds). Begin video.

As students watch video, they will jot down their reactions as well as complete a "t chart" comparing and contrasting the Sarajevo and the American Civil Wars (identify at least four similarities and four differences).

Day 2:

Finish video. Students finish "t chart" and record impressions of video.

Day 3:

Class discusses chart and impressions of video, also compare and contrast Sarajevo's Romeo and Juliet's feelings to the feelings of that society, etc.

Class breaks up into cooperative groups of four people. Each group will be assigned one character in the video in order to prepare a profile of that person. Each group of four will be given an "open mind" sheet (empty head) and will be instructed to record all of the information they know/can infer about their individual on this sheet. Each group should discuss their feelings, possible reasons behind their actions, etc. After the open mind is completed, each group will brainstorm at least 5 questions which they would ask each of the characters in the video.

Characters (I haven't attained the video yet, so I'm not sure of all of the names and the spelling.): Botchco (Romeo), ? (Juliet), Botchco's mother Ciello (gangster), Botchco's friend/business partner, "Juliet's" mother, "Juliet's" father, "Juliet's" sister, grandmother.

Day 4:

One student from each group will put on their name tag and stand/take a seat at the front of the room. They will be on the "hot seat" as part of a panel of the characters from this video. The teacher will act as facilitator. This discussion could be run like one of the popular talk shows today, etc. to make it even more interesting and fun for the students. The rest of the class will be the audience and will ask each of the members of the panel their questions.

For homework, students will write a letter to one of the characters in the video and give them advice about what they should do about the war and their own personal situation in Sarajevo. In their letter, they need to give at least one example from the American Civil War to explain their advice as well as to refer to at least two things they have learned about the situation in Bosnia.

Day 5:

Students will discuss and share their letter with a partner. Students will also volunteer to share letter with the whole class. Class will discuss students' letters and advice given. Class will debrief and discuss what they have learned from this unit. This unit will conclude with students writing an essay comparing and contrasting the American Civil War with the war in Bosnia. They will name and explain at least two examples of how these wars are similar and also name and explain at least two examples of how these wars are different.

Content and resources from the institute that will be integrated include: a) Sarajevo's Romeo and Juliet Frontline video b) information from Professor Barisa Krekic's lecture on 8/6/96: "The Balkan Crisis and its Historical background" c) Bosnia-Herzegovina map and information


  1. map of Bosnia-Herzegovina
  2. open mind sheet
  3. t- chart


Discussion questions:

  • How are these two civil wars similar?
  • How are these two civil wars different?
  • How do civil wars affect communities, families, individuals?
  • What advice would you give to Botchco?
  • What advice would you give to "Juliet?"
  • Why did the neighbors treat Botchco so poorly after he had been so kind?
  • What would you tell the soldiers who were firing on Sarajevo?
  • What would you tell the people living inside Sarajevo?
  • How would you solve the conflict in Bosnia?


Two specific strategies to be used to assess the level of success toward my objectives would be to 1) evaluate the letter to a character that they will write looking for connections they make between the two civil wars and the rationale behind the advice they give to their character and 2) evaluate the essay and the examples cited as well as the explanation. Students' t-charts will also be evaluated for examples of similarities and differences between the wars. Students will also be informally evaluated by their participation with answers and observations in class discussion throughout this unit.

Center for European and Eurasian Studies