In his interesting piece, “Misreading Yugoslavia” (July 8), Dejan Kovacevic, emphasizes the ethnic roots of the Yugoslav crisis but seems oblivious to huge ideological differences between the Yugoslav republics.
Communist-dominated Serbia and Montenegro are the two republics that are least interested in large-scale market reforms for fear of losing control over the federal bureaucracy and army. Although the records of Slovenia and Croatia are far from perfect, these republics have made bold steps in the direction of market reforms and safeguarding the rights of their minorities.
Kovacevic’s allegations that 700,000 ethnic Serbs were killed by Fascist Croats during World War II are reminiscent of the decades-old Yugoslav propaganda whose purpose was to discredit Croatia’s claims for an independent homeland.
World War II in Yugoslavia was a messy affair, involving a dozen different factionsm each with an impressive record of butchery. Of course, with the dissolution of communism, some of these exaggerated war casualties are bound to come under close scrutiny. In the long run, neither side in Yugoslavia will benefit from manipulating their war dead.
Kovacevic should have also looked at the record of 45 years of Communist Yugoslavia in which Serbs played a dominant role in the secret police, federal bureaucracy and the army. Although Serbs make up 37 percent of the Yugoslav population, 76 percent of Yugoslav army officers are of Serbian origin. In independent-minded Croatia, at least until last year, Serbs made up a staggering 67 percent of the police force. Lastly, it is unwarranted to blame Croatia or Slovenia for the breakup of Yugoslavia, as some recent news reports have suggested. Ironically, the most expedient destroyers of Yugoslavia have been the Serbian leadership, under Slobodan Milosevic, and the federal army – both of which have had a hard time adjusting to changes in Eastern Europe. As long as the threat of the federal army looms large on the Yugoslav horizon, any meaningful dialogue between the Yugoslav republics is doomed to fail.
Editor’s note: The writer is an assistant professor of political science at Juniata College.
Tomislav Sunic, Yugoslavia, is an assistant professor of government who teaches European politics, the politics of the Soviet Union, and theories of international politics at Juniata College. He is a graduate of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Zagreb, Yugoslavia. His book, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right, was published in 1990.