Recent "end of history" of Balkan "tribes" has turned world attention once again to this spot at the tail of Europe. Three – four hundred thousand (or even more) people killed in Bosnia, tens thousand in Croatia and not yet established number of people killed in Kosovo, call for an examination what could be behind these tribes’ mind (if anything apart from hatred) and what drives them to such unseen atrocities. Also, another question is: Is Milosevic cause all of these problems in recent history or he is just instrument for the third attempt to establish and execute the century long dream about "Great Serbia"; consequently what wold be happening after him?
This compilation of historical facts will try to answer these questions and to support thesis that Milosevic is only executor of the "DREAM" and that "Slobo (Milosevic) will be still after Slobo", unless Serbian people and the Church turn their attention to the future and prosperity.
Geographical and geopolitical location of the Balkan Peninsula
Geographically and geopolitically, the Balkans are a part of a European peninsula, on the shores of the Mediterranean. This makes them a part of the Mediterranean world. The Balkans’ historical destiny seems to be reflected in the dualism between being a "border" and a "crossroad," in the sense that civilizations, peoples, cultures, religions, and politics all meet in the region, but they run affront, as well. The Mediterranean region is between Europe and the Middle East. Europe has been marked by military and political conflicts between the West and the Ottoman Empire in late Middle Ages, and a history of conflict between Christianity and Islam. Judaism, Christianity (Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity), and Islam, along with all the great ideologies of the twentieth century have meet in this part of the world. In this area, the largest number of wars in the history of mankind has been fought. Only after the Second World War, forty wars have broken out in the region.
Balkan Ethnic Groups
Current events in the Balkans are better understood by studying the origins of the people who inhabit the region. "Knowledge of the area's national and ethnic groups is fundamental to Balkan history: they are the alphabet, the periodic table," according to Steven W. Sowards. The Balkans have been inhabited since prehistoric times. but today's ethnic groups descend from Indo-European migrants or ethnic groups who arrived in historical times.
The Albanians, or more accurately their ancestors the Illyrians,
"appeared" in the western Balkans around 1200 BC. In 1200 BC,
people in the Western Balkans took up the cultural practices that we call
"Illyrian". Some new people probably entered the area, and some
of the old population probably remained.
The Slavs reached the Balkans during the waves of "barbarian" invasions at the end of the Roman Empire. The South Slav (Yugo-Slav) groups which became the Slovenes, Croatians, Serbians, Montenegrian and Bulgarians entered the Balkans from the north between 500 and 700 AD. They settled in an arc from the head of the Adriatic, south and east to the Black Sea. These groups were divided into tribes before they arrived, but there was little variation from one group to its neighbours. The hard and fast distinctions among them, especially in languages, are largely a product of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The Slovenes arrived first, in the 500s AD. Slovene resembles
Slovak in some ways, and is quite distinct from Serbo-Croatian. Two
million Slovenes live in the northwest corner of the former Republic of
Yugoslavia. Austrian and Italian influences have created a Central
European culture and Slovenes are chiefly Roman Catholic.
Croatia reached its medieval peak under Tomislav in the 900s, but the
kings were still weak relative to the nobility. In 1102 AD a coalition of
nobles made a deal with the Hungarian king, whose remote power was more
attractive than the nearby king's authority. Thereafter Croatia existed as
a feudal state under the kings of Hungary.
In Macedonia, the disparate parts of the population are distinguished by their language. In Bosnia, the defining element of ethnic identity has been religion. Bosnians are divided according to their Catholic, Orthodox or Muslim heritage. Bosnians of all faiths are not necessarily devout or even active believers. Nevertheless, a family’s historical connection with one religion or another defines its ethnicity.
This fact tends to conceal the uniform historical population from which all three modern groups are drawn. The mass of Bosnian Muslims are not Turks or Albanians, not migrants to the Balkans from some Middle Eastern country. They are Slavic speakers whose ancestors converted to Islam in the years after the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia in the 1400s. After the Kings of Hungary became the Kings of Croatia in 1102, Bosnia drifted out of the direct control of Hungary, and had rulers of its own. To further their claims over Bosnia, the Hungarians persuaded the Pope that the Bosnians were heretics, and Catholic crusaders unsuccessfully invaded the country in the middle of the 1200s. As a result, the Bosnian Church severed its ties to Rome, but apparently retained its basically Catholic rituals and theology. A separate Bosnian Church endured for some 200 years, finally fading away just before the Ottoman conquest.
Some historians have identified the medieval Bosnian Church with a schismatic, dualist heresy with ties to the Manichees, and attached to it the label "Bogomil." However, recent scholarship has failed to supply strong evidence that Bosnians were heretics, or dualists, or called Bogomils: the original reports apparently derive from justifications for the politically motivated crusades of the 1240s. (See Internet articles about Bosnian Identity).
There are also 1 million Slavic-speaking Macedonians in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, whose ethnic affiliation (Serbian, Macedonian or Bulgarian) is the subject of intense debate. Macedonia was occupied at the same time as Bulgaria by south Slavs, and the dialect resembles Bulgarian more than Serbian.
Most of the ethnic groups mentioned are identified with states (the Macedonians and Bosnians being exceptions until recently). A few other groups have had a presence since medieval times which has not lead to enduring political entities (Gypsies, Jewish, Germans, Turks). They are nevertheless for this discussion less important.
The nineteenth century -
In 1800, the Balkans were divided between two dynastic empires Ottoman and austro-Hungarian—a century later we find independent states built on the national principle: Serbia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, followed shortly by Albania and Hungary.
The basic outlines of nineteenth century Serbian politics were clear as early as 1805 when Karageorge clashed with his Council, leading first unrest which lasted from 1804-1815. After this period and a lot of personal clashes between Karageorge and Milos Obrenovic, later took over the power and lead Serbia towards the mid of century with more political uncertainty and inside upheavals than before.
The rest of the century brought an even wider expansion of political participation in Serbia and a politics that can only be called nationalistic, for better or for worse.
Serbian nationalism from the "Nacertanije" to the Civil War
In 1843, Ilija Garasanin became Minister of Internal Affairs in the government of a new Serbian prince. Alexander Karageorgevic (the son of the rebel Karageorge) had just replaced Michael Obrenovic, the son of Milos Obrenovic, Serbia’s first ruling prince. Garasanin was the son of a prosperous merchant, and a leader in the Constitutionalist Party, who became the pivotal figure by laying foundations of the Great Serbian policy of unification, which remained axiomatic among the conservative political circles and individuals in Serbia until, with more or less hidden character, the present time.
In 1844 Garasanin sent a secret Memorandum to Alexander, usually refered to by its Serbo-Croatian designation as the "Nacertanije" (or Outline/Program), which was suggested to him by Frantisek A. Zach (1807-1892) a Moravian enthusiastic of Slavic Reciprocity to Habsburg and Russian influence, who suggested the Plan in hope that it will aid the Polish independence movement. But though Garasanin clearly adopted the new conception of Serbia linguistic nationhood, he rejected Zach’s ideas of harmony and cooperation with others South Slavic movements. In addition, where Zach wrote of the "South Slavic State" or "South Slavs" Garasanin regularly turned these phrases to "Serbia State" or simply "Serbs". (Ivo Banac, The National Question in Yugoslavia, Cornell University Press, 1984)
In this document, Garasanin followed Zach’s "glorification" of medieval Serbia and speculated on a revival of Serbia’s fortunes. He recognized that Serbian expansion implied not only the destruction of the Ottoman Empire in Europe, but Serbian conflict with the Austrian Empire, which was likely to replace Turkey as the region’s dominant power. Garasanin called Austria "the eternal enemy of a Serbian state."
Garasanin went on to list potential territories for future Serbian rule. Of primary interest were Bosnia-Hercegovina, Montenegro, and northern Albania, all Turkish possessions with Serbian inhabitants. Albania was also important because it offered an outlet to the sea, a necessity to prevent an Austrian stranglehold over Serbian foreign trade. Garasanin was also interested in Serbs living in Banat, Backa and the Vojvodina (districts across the Danube from Belgrade, in southern Hungary). For pragmatic reasons, Garasanin argued against any early effort to unite with these areas, because they belonged to Austria, a state better able than Turkey to resist Serbia. The same caution applied to Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia. Garasanin wanted more information about the Croatian lands, although he clearly thought of them as inhabited by related South Slavs who should have some relationship with Serbia. The Slavs of Bulgaria also deserved less immediate attention in his estimate, because the Ottoman grip was stronger there, and Russia was likely to oppose an expansion of Serbia into the eastern Balkans, so close to Istanbul. Garasanin had sympathy for the Slavic Czechs, but recognized that they were not South Slavs; he expressed no interest in a joint political future.
The Nacertanije is remarkable as the first elaboration of themes which drive Serbian politics even today. Garasanin identified the core areas of Serbian interest, recognized the ambiguous relationship of Serbs to Croats (at a time when other Slavic thinkers in the Illyrianist and Yugo-Slavs in Croatia did not), and accepted the inevitable conflict of interest between Austrian state interests and those of Serbia.
First attempt to establish Great Serbia – Nacertanie I
Deferring their rival claims in Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria agreed to cooperate in defiance of the Great Powers, then made plans to throw the Turks out of Europe. In 1912, all four states declared war on Turkey and rapidly liberated Macedonia and much of Thrace in the First Balkan War. Serbian and Greek troops divided Macedonia between themselves: when Bulgaria demanded a share, Greece, Serbia and Romania fought the Second Balkan War in 1913 in order to keep the spoils. Serbia increased in size by 82 percent, the greatest single step so far toward Garasanin’s Great Serbian vision in the Nacertanije. Serbian attention now turned north toward Austrian-ruled Bosnia, Croatia and Banat.( Steven W. Sowards)
South Slav nationalism was not confined only to Serbia. Croats shared a conviction that Serbs and Croats should work together for their mutual benefit (i.e. to establish Great Croatia and Serbia).
South Slav nationalism in Croatia was based in these ideas, and also on the historic constitutional rights of medieval Croatia. Croatians felt no need to defer to Serbs in pursuit of their national rights. Until this time, successful Magyar tactics of "divide and rule" had isolated the various ethnic minorities, but in 1905 a coalition of Serb and Croat politicians issueed the so-called "Fiume Resolutions." Calling for autonomy and language rights, the program also asserted that Croats and Serbs were a single people. This display of unity alarmed ruling circles not until the end of World War I did Croatian-style Yugoslavism briefly dictate the direction of South Slav nationalism.
Second attempt – Nacertanie II
Once World War I began, Serbia was in a contradictory position. For the first time, little Serbia had major Great Power allies (Britain, Russia, France and later Italy and the U.S.) and a realistic chance to defeat Austria-Hungary. However, Serbia was defeated on the battlefield by 1915: the army and the government fled over the mountains of Albania and spent the rest of the war in exile.
This battlefield defeat and the success of Yugo-Slav agitation by Croats, both in the United States and within the Habsburg Monarchy made the Croats "Yugoslav Committee" into an attractive ally for Serbia and in July 1917 Pasic and the Committee issued the so-called Corfu Declaration, which laid plans for a post war state: Yugoslavia would be a united Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, under the Karageorgevic dynasty. By the same Corfu Declaration Macedonia, Bosnia, Sanjak, and Montenegro were incorporated/occupied, consequently dismantling the Montenegrin Church and other minorities’ identities.
There would be common citizenship for Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the rest ethnic groups were minority and not mentioned in the Declaration or Constitutional documents. The country would be a parliamentary monarchy with a single unified chamber of representative elected by direct, secret ballot.
The preamble stated that Serbs, Croats and Slovenes were "the same by blood [and] by language," and for the first time, the Pasic ministry used the term Yugo-Slav. The balance between Serbian centralism and Croatian federalism was left unresolved, pending a constitutional convention.
However, each step in establishing the post-war state showed that Croatian federalists were going to be disappointed. "Yugoslavia" was rejected as the official name of the country in favour of the "Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes." A more serious blow fell in 1921, when a national assembly adopted a centralist constitution based on that of pre-war Serbia. Unchallenged, it was perhaps inevitable that the Serbs would dominate the new state. In the next 22 years, every Prime Minister was a Serb, and most other Cabinet ministers as well. In 1938, 161 of 165 generals were Serbs. Serbs dominated the foreign service, the state banks, and state patronage jobs, and ran the country to suit Serbian interests.( Steven W. Sowards)
The ideology of Pan-Serbianism, to which King Nikola and most of his people subscribed to an eminent degree, left all the passes to Montenegro unguarded and open to Great Serbian penetration in aftermath of Balkan and WWI. (I. Banac, 1984, The National Question in Yugoslavia, Cornell University Press, pp: 280-1). In addition, Nikola’s great ambition, that encountered to this defeat, was to be accepted in the courts of Europe. Nikola managed to marry off most of his daughters to some of the most illustious royal and princely houses of Europe. (Two of his elder daughters Milica and Stana, were married to two Romanov grand princes; Ana was married to a Battenberg, and Jelena to Victor Emmanuel III, the king of Italy). Although these marriages established Nikola as "father-in-law of Europe" the marriage of his oldest daughter Zorka, to Petar Karadjordjevic in 1883 was the most fateful of all and forfeited him his throne and state. In 1903 Petar, and his children left Cetinje after death of Zorka were no longer exiles but Serbia’s new royal family, who dedicated moreover to clear expansionist aims that boded no good for Montenegro’s security or even its separate identity. All the way through Balkan and WWI Serbian agents were clearly involved in conspiracy to overturn Montenegro throne, church and its independence. After a decade and half of intrigues, unrest, turmoil and strategic outmaneuvers, King Nikola was forced to defeat and went into exile leaving country into hands of Serbian protegees - "the Podgorica Assembly" and annexed by Serbia. (Banac, I., 1984, op. cit.)
In the aftermath of the Balkan Wars, Sanjak was incorporated into two states - Serbia and Montenegro - and in the aftermath of the First World War it became a part of the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The emigration of the Bosniak population began at about the same time. In April and June 1914 16,500 Bosniaks embarked ships in the port of Bar and moved to Turkey from the Montenegrian part of Sandzak, and 40, 000 left the Serbian part.
The emigration of the Bosniak-Muslim population continued after the establishment of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The Memorandum of the Sanjak Bosniaks-Muslims adopted towards the end of 1919 stresses that since that state came into being 194 Bosniak villages were pillaged in the southern part of Sanjak, 1,300 Bosniaks killed. The emigration gained further momentum after the massacre of Bosniaks-Muslims in Sahovici, Pavino Polje and Gancarevo on 11 November 1924. Part of the entire population from the Grancarevo village went to the other side of the river Lim to Korita plain (Pester’s Height) from where they continued to emigrate to other parts of the "Old Yugoslavia" – Macedonia, Kosovo and Turkey, as well.
The Bosniak/Sanjak emigration was encouraged by the Yugoslav and Turkish governments. They had several written and verbal agreements to that effect after the First and Second World Wars. The latest in the series of "gentleman's agreements" between the two countries was signed in 1954. Its implementation was entrusted to a state commission, comprising, among others, Aleksandar Rankovic, Krste Crvenkovski and Svetislav Stefanovic. A. Rankovic was also the chief executor of a weapon-collection campaign in Sanjak, during which repressive methods were used against Bosniaks-Muslims and Kosovars. In the mid-Fifties, according to the Council for Migrant Affairs, almost 200,000 Bosniaks-Muslims emmigrated from Sanjak, Kosovo and Macedonia to Turkey.
The ethnic picture of Sandzak has changed with the new emigration wave, as well which began with the outbreak of the Yugoslav crisis and the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Sanjak’s Home Page).
Third Attempt to establish Greater Serbia and
Croatia – Civil War
In Yugoslavia, the result of 1989 "Berlin Wall Revolution" has not been the creation of progressive, Western-oriented reform regimes but instead the revival of old-fashioned regimes (often led by former Communists)that they were pursuing traditional nationalist agendas, often at the cost of suppressing democratic practices and human rights.
Tensions built up slowly before and during the year of revolution in 1989. Old issues such as federalism had no more been resolved in socialist than in royal Yugoslavia; there were North-South tensions based on cultural and economic factors, and the overall economy was stagnant.
Yugoslavia’s awkward constitutional arrangements were one factor leading to trouble. As a concession to critics of the Serbian centralism of the 1930s, post-1945 Yugoslavia had six republics (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro) in a federal relationship, plus two autonomous regions within Serbia (each of them intended to safeguard minority rights, for Albanians in Kosovo, and Hungarians in Vojvodina).
However, dismantling Yugoslavia began in the face of small-scale dissent and criticism in 1966.
In Croatia, the period after 1966 saw revived discussion of Croatian nationalism. This movement began among students, but by 1971 figures inside the Communist Party were circulating proposals for the secession of Croatia. At this point Tito stepped in: offending organizations were suppressed and several people went to jail. One of them was Franjo Tudjman, the future President of Croatia, he was a Partisan veteran, a Communist and a general, who had left the Party in the 1960s to become an academic and a Croatian nationalist. Among his publications were indictments of human rights violations by the party and the state, but his writings also included defences of the wartime Ustashe fascist regime.
Not only did Croatian separatism flourish, but Great Serb nationalism re-emerged from the mid-60s. Situations of this kind fuelled Serbian radicalism among intellectuals. In 1985, the Serbian Academy of Sciences wrote a memorandum (Nacertanie III) which strongly criticised Tito and the Communist state for anti-Serb policies, noting that 30 years of Communism had left Serbia poorer than the north. The report also condemned "genocidal" anti-Serb policies in Kosovo, where the 10 percent Serb minority was said to be oppressed by the Albanian majority. The Academy offered the idea of a Serb state as a solution.
The idea of a Serb state soon was adopted by Slobodan Milosevic. Milosevic. By making a patriotic, pro-Serbian speech on the battle site of Kosovo in 1987, Milosevic deprived the opposition of nationalism as a tool, and made it his own. By using mass rallies that verged on mob scenes, he coerced the Party apparatus in Montenegro and Voyvodina into installing his allies as leaders, then curtailed autonomy in Kosovo and Vojvodina.
This was the position at the beginning of 1990, with new leadership in place across Yugoslavia, and the country beginning to slide into disunity and war.
Will Slobo be still after Slobo?
To sum up this elaboration, the answer on the above question is: Until Serbian people realise that in today’s world the Great Serbia is a dream, Slobo will be around for some time, perhaps not with that name but with the same politics and the same means for the same aim – to establish the Great Serbia dream.
In addition, until Serbian Orthodox Church stops to encourage atrocities for that dream and until helps their people to realise that the "Great Serbia" is a past "Garasanin will be around".
Will be today’s oppositions helping to establish a modern Serbia which would turn to future? Most of opposition parties and leaders all along were supporting the "Memorandum for the Great Serbia" and discredited themselves, besides, by glorifying Serbian "justifiable war against islamisation of Europe" (Zoran Djindjic, V. Seselj, etc.) and "by drinking plum brandy in surroundings hills with war criminal R. Karadzic and sometimes firing on Sarajevo just for fun". Even more, some of the opposition leaders (V. Draskovic, "Noz" - Knife) with their writings inspired killings and slaughtering in Bosnia, much earlier than Milosevic came to power.
The real opposition, the real modern Serbs are dispersed over the world as a part of Milosevic’s politics. They are unfortunately still, minors and their voice is much better heard outside of Serbia than in, where they are "traitors" (like giant opponent from the very first day of Milosevic’s regime – Zivoslav Miloradovic, etc).
Conclusion - The ethnification of
To conclude this article and to support our thesis that "Slobo
will be still here even after Slobo" we will use part of the
Stavljanin, D. article "The ethniification of politics: A case study
– Serbia" (Montenegro Journal of Foreign
Policy No. 3-4/1998).
"A political system whose central focus is ethnicity as a value
in its own right, in which ethnification is a tool which secures and
fortifies the power of the elite, it is not likely to enable social
transition in the democratic sense. As a matter of fact, transition
becomes systematically hindered because the authoritarian ethnocentrism
prevents the promotion of a pro-active civil political culture. The logic
of ethnicity leads to the atomisation of society, which consequently
narrows the space for organised interest-based activities. On the other
hand, permanent majorities and minorities where such logic assumes, create
an obstacle to the vital democratic principle of constant change and
articulation of majorities and minorities. In a society contaminated with
ethnic identities, equality is possible only in the relations of national
Nationally structured are an ideal means to avoid responsibility,
the basis of every democratic society. Such a community insecurely
balances between anarchy and dictatorship. A majority of the people sense
the gravity of their situation, particularly in economic terms. Therefore,
it is essential to observe the causes in order to envisage the prospects
of overcoming such circumstances. Within the existing framework of events,
the economic difficulties are seen as an "objective" consequence
of the sanctions, and the loss of territories, particularly in Croatia, as
a result of "unreasonable decisions" of local Serbian leaders
and "unfair" treatment on the part of the world masters. In such
a position, from the point of view of the Serbian propaganda apparatus,
"owing to" the political wisdom of president Milosevic, Serbia
and the Serbian people managed to achieve the "optimal solution"
and "defend" their national interests. Some even insist that
there are also "good points" to the embargo.
This is not only a question of manipulation but also of the fact
that Milosevic was representing the interests of majority, primarily
workers and the lower professional and vocational structures, who were the
inevitable and ultimate losers of the transitional changes. Although he
might not have convinced everyone they were Serbs before everything else
(the workers), he at least managed to secure their jobs even in the period
of sanctions. Creating a make-believe social security, Milosevic covered
up the true economic poverty of millions of people. This mechanism is
somehow still operating. While the state is watching over their work
positions saving them for some better times, many of them support
themselves through black marketeering and tax delinquency. The government
decided to tolerate it, thus making a silent agreement between the
"top" and the "bottom". It is no wonder the poorest
social groups make up the most powerful voting machine of the ruling
power. "A general idea and perception of Serbianship implies more or
less a notion of a heavenly people, rather than of an earthly people
characterized by laziness, carelessness and worship of the German
mark" (Vladimir Ilic).
Combining the left-oriented social demagogy of equality and common
wealth with nationalism, Milosevic managed to win the support of the
majority. They continue to accept the present in fear of the uncertain
future. Also, the failure of the opposition coalition "Together"
created a view with the public majority that "all politicians were
the same", in a word, egoistic, vain and corrupt. The nation was
overwhelmed by apathy, a feeling that they were not controlling their
lives, that nothing depended on them, a total confusion of values,
disorientation and a sense of powerless rage".
The ethnification of politics does not produce disastrous effects only while its creators are in power. The grave consequences linger on even after the staff changes, i.e. after changes in the ruling structure. A policy whose principle value and criterion is ethnicity, which suppresses all social potential and development. When another replaces such a regime, the society looks like a stunted tree, unable to find answers to the challenges of a new time, and thus becomes susceptible to all sorts of authoritarian and totalitarian".
Hazbo Skoko, 1999.