Der endlose Krieg in Bosnien und Herzegowina sowie in Teilen des serbisch besetzen Kroatien sollte uns an Moltke erinnern, der am 14. Mai 1890, in der Reichstagssitzung, gesagt hat: „Wenn ein Krieg zum Ausbruch kommt, so ist seine Dauer und sein Ende nicht abzusehen... Es kann siebenjähriger, es kann auch ein dreißigjähriger Krieg werden.” Wer hätte es glauben können, dass die Logik des Krieges in Kroatien, und später auch in Bosnien und Herzegowina, trotz einer Menge internationaler „Sachverständiger“ und „Experten“, immer wieder ein neues Kapitel des Grauens öffnen würde? Die Maastricht-Politiker und die Diplomaten der Vereinten Nationen scheinen so mit komplexen Verhältnissen des mitteleuropäischen und südosteuropäischen Multikultur-Mosaiks überfordert zu sein, so dass das Schlagwort „Balkansyndrom“ oft als ein nettes Alibi für ihr eigenes Nichtstun benutzt wird.
Seltsamerweise gibt es drei Jahre nach dam Zerfall des hybriden Zwangsstaates keine klare Definition der Ursache dieses Krieges, der Motive des Aggressors beziehungsweise Lebensinteressen des Opfers und einer möglichen Losung des Konflikts. Paradoxerweise wandelt sich der Krieg, der 1991 als klassische Aggression Serbiens gegen Kroatien und Slowenien begann, zu einem „Missverständnis-Krieg“, nicht nur zwischen den Kriegsparteien in Bosnien, sondern auch inmitten der Vermittler der Europäischen Gemeinschaft und der Vereinten Nationen. Vielleicht wäre es notwendig, den rechten Staatsrechtler Carl Schmitt zu zitieren oder den linken Exguerrillero Régis Debray zu lesen, um zu verstehen, dass deren wohlmeinender juristischer Formalismus wenig zur raschen Beendigung des Krieges beigetragen hat. Die selbst verursachte Paralyse der Weltvermittler im dauernden Balkanchaos erzeugt natürlich das inoffizielle und weitverbreitete Klischee, dass „alle Seiten in Bosnien und Herzegowina die Verantwortung für den Krieg tagen“ – seinen es die einstigen Opfer, Kroaten und Muslime, seien es die einstigen Aggressoren, die Serben. Doch manche Einzelheiten bedürfen eines größeren methodologischen Kontextes, um diese endlose Tragödie im Herzen Europas zu verstehen, besonders heute, nach der neuesten Vereinbarung Serbiens und Kroatiens in Genf über eine mögliche zwischenstaatliche Anerkennung.
Auf der einen Seite drängten internationale Vermittler und manche westliche Meinungsmacher Kroatien und dessen Oberhaupt Dr. Franjo Tudjman zu endlosen Verhandlungen mit dem Serben Slobodan Milosevic. Auf der anderen Seite verdächtigen immer wieder manche Politiker und Meinungsmacher Tudjman wegen seiner angeblichen geheimen Vereinbarung mit Milosevic auf Kosten der bosnischen Muslime. Die Aufteilung Bosniens und der Herzegowina zwischen Kroatien und Serbien war nicht im geopolitischen Interesse Kroatiens. Wäre dies der Wunsch der kroatischen Regierung gewesen; hätte Kroatien nie als erstes Land der Welt die Souveränität Bosnien und der Herzegowina anerkannt. Hätte Kroatien die Herzegowina annektiert, wäre der serbische Eroberungsappetit in Bosnien und in den angrenzenden serbisch besetzten Gebieten Kroatiens such auf eine gewisse Weise legitimiert worden. Es sollte ein Anliegen der Vermittler der Europäischen Gemeinschaft sowie der Vereinten Nationen sein, das künftige Staatsgefüge Bosnien und Herzegowina zu präzisieren – so schnell wie möglich. Es ist eine Ironie, dass jede neue Resolution der Vereinten Nationen völkerrechtlich die vorhergehende Resolution aufzuheben scheint.
Auf dem Terrain der Tagespolitik suchen jetzt die einstigen Opfer des Krieges in Bosnien beziehungsweise die bosnischen Muslime einen Ersatz für ihre durch die Serben verursachten territorialen Verluste. Da die internationale Gemeinschaft vor zwei Jahren nicht imstande war, die serbischen Aggression einzudämmen und den Krieg zu stoppen, wenden sich jetzt die Muslimkämpfer gegen ihre einstigen kroatischen Helfer und Verbündeten. Zweifellos ist es für die Muslime viel leichter, relativ wenige bosnische Kroaten zu bekämpfen, als die zahlreichen und gut befestigten serbischen Stellungen in Bosnien zurückzuerobern. Die Kroatien in Bosnien und der Herzegowina haben 40 Prozent der Gebiete verloren, in denen sie seit hundert Jahren gewohnt haben. Seltsamerweise haben Massaker an kroatischen Zivilisten in den bosnischen Ortschaften Kiseljak, Maljine, Doljani, Uzdol, Krizancevo, und so weiter, die von muslimischen Militärverbänden verübt wurden, kein großes Echo in der Welt heraufbeschworen.
Um die surreale Situation in Bosnien zu verstehen, sollte man sich auch vor Augen halten, dass Kroatien heute mehr als 150 000 muslimische Flüchtlinge aus Bosnien versorgt und beherbergt, deren männliche Angehörige aller Wahrscheinlichkeit nach gegen Kroaten in Bosnien kämpfen – ganz zu schweigen von der halben Million aus serbisch besetzten Gebieten vertriebenen Kroaten, für die gesorgt werden muss. Was sollte Kroatien eigentlich tun angesichts der Bosnien-Frage, Flüchtlingsfrage und nicht zuletzt der sogenannten Krajina-Frage? Seit drei Jahren wiederholt Präsident Tudjman, dass der Krieg ausschließlich mit friedlichen Mitteln und mit Hilfe der Vermittler der Vereinten Nationen und der Europäischen Gemeinschaft beendet werden soll. Für seinen guten Willen und seine Kooperationsbereitschaft erntete Kroatien Vorwürfe und Kriminalisierungen. Sollte es auf das falsche Pferd gesetzt haben, als es sein Anliegen der demokratischen Selbstbestimmung dem Westen anvertraute?
Professor Dr. Tomislav Sunic
Informationsabteilung des Außenministeriums, Zagreb, Kroatien
L’interminable guerre en Bosnie-Herzégovine et dans les régions de Croatie occupées par les Serbes voit actuellement se multiplier des souffrances affreuses. En même temps, la situation devient de plus en plus confuse, voire totalement incompréhensible, pour les observateurs extérieurs. Trois ans après l’éclatement violent de l’état hybride yougoslave, les organisations internationales ne semblent être d’accord ni sure les causes du conflit, ni sur les motifs de l’agresseur, ni sur les intérêts des victimes. Le formalisme juridique de l’ONU et les volte-face des médiateurs ajoutent encore à cette obscurité. Finalement, l’idée se répand que « toutes les parties sont responsables » du conflit, qu’il s’agisse des victimes ou de leurs agresseurs. On serait tenté de citer le juriste allemand Carl Schmitt, ou les travaux de Régis Debray pour comprendre pourquoi l’indécision de la classe politique européenne n’a pas contribué à la résolution rapide du conflit. Cette interprétation pessimiste du conflit nécessite au moins de mettre quelques détails en perspective, surtout après la récente déclaration de Genève sur une éventuelle reconnaissance mutuelle entre la Serbie et la Croatie. D’un côté, maints médiateurs internationaux, ainsi que quelques journalistes mal informés, exigent que le président croate Franjo Tudjman se livre à d’interminables tête à tête avec son homologue serbe, Slobodan Milosevic. De l’autre, maints politiciens et journalistes soupçonnent en même temps Tudjman d’utiliser ses rencontres avec Milosevic pour « comploter » secrètement contre les musulmans bosniaques. Le partage de la Bosnie-Herzégovine entre la Serbie et la Croatie n’a jamais été dans les intérêts géopolitiques de la Croatie. Si la Croatie avait voulu le dépeçage de la Bosnie-Herzégovine, elle n’aurait jamais été le premier pays dans le monde à avoir reconnu la souveraineté de ce pays. De plus, l’annexion des régions de la Herzégovine peuplées par une majorité de Croates n’aurait pas manqué de légitimer du même coup les appétits serbes dans les régions occupées de Croatie. C’est donc à l’ONU et à la CEE de définir leur rôle et de préciser aussi vite que possible les structures étatiques de la Bosnie-Herzégovine future. Or, l’ironie macabre de ce conflit veut que jusqu'à présent, chaque nouvelle résolution prise par l’ONU du point de vue du droit international ait annulé la précédente. Sur le terrain, les premières victimes de la guerre en Bosnie-Herzégovine, à savoir les musulmans bosniaques, cherchent aujourd’hui un ersatz de territoire pour compenser celui qui a été conquis par les envahisseurs serbes. Vu que la communauté internationale à peu fait pour endiguer l’agression serbe, les musulmans se retournent donc logiquement contre leurs anciens alliés croates. Il leur est en effet beaucoup plus facile de combattre les faibles positions croates en Bosnie centrale, que de recapture leurs positions conquises par les Serbes. Ceux qui doivent en payer les frais sont encore une fois les Croates bosniaques qui ont déjà perdu au cours de la dernière année 40% de leur territoire au profit des milices musulmanes. Les massacres de civils croates qui furent perpétrés par les milices musulmanes dans les villages croates Doljani, Krizancevo, Maljine et Uzdol, échappent curieusement à l’œil des divers medias étrangers. Pour saisir le caractère surréel de la situation en Bosnie-Herzégovine, on pourrait faire remarquer que la Croatie se charge actuellement de plus de 150 000 réfugiés musulmans bosniaques, lointains cousins de ceux qui combattent les Croates bosniaques ! Faut-il par ailleurs rappeler que la Croatie doit également s’occuper d’un demi-million de réfugiés croates chassées de leur foyer par les agresseurs serbes ? Que peut donc faire la Croatie à elle seule ? Depuis trois ans, le président Franjo Tudjman ne cesse de répéter que la guerre en Croatie et en Bosnie-Herzégovine doit être résolue par les moyes pacifiques et avec l’aide de l’ONU et de la CEE. En raison de volonté de coopération, la Croatie n’a pas manqué d’être l’objet de critiques diverses. Stigmatisée autrefois comme pays « fascinant », elle risque aujourd’hui d’être cataloguée comme pais « antimusulmans ». A-t-elle donc misé sur le mauvais cheval quand elle a confié ses aspirations démocratiques à l’Occident ?
Ministère des Affaires étrangères
Département de la Culture
Die Demonstrationen der serbischen Intellektuellen und Oppositionsparteien gegen Slobodan Milosevic, so lobenswert sie sein mögen, kommen leider zu spät. Die serbische Akademie der Kunst und Wissenschaft, die heute die Proteste anführt, hat eine sehr fragwürdige Geschichte. Die Akademie hat 1986 ein Memorandum entworfen, in dem die bekannten serbischen Akademiker die Schaffung Groß-Serbiens sowie die „ethnische Reinigung“ Kosovos empfahlen. Die serbische orthodoxe Kirche hat trotz ihrer neugefundenen Protesthaltung jahrzehntelang Stillschweigen und ein niedriges Profil vorgezogen. Sie hat nie die Repression gegen die Kosovo-Albaner verurteilt, und letztes Jahr hat sie mit keinem einzigen Wort die Invasion der jugoslawischen Armee in Kroatien kritisiert. Auch prominente serbische Intellektuelle waren fast alle stumm, als die jugoslawische Armee Dubrovnik bombardierte und Vukovar dem Erdboden gleichmachte. Der Wunsch der serbischen politischen und intellektuellen Klasse, alle serbischbesiedelten Gebiete in den Nachbarrepubliken Groß-Serbien einzuverleiben, kann gegenteilige Konsequenzen auch für die Serben haben. Wenn Serbien konsequent seine eigenen territorialen Ansprüche juridisch und historisch legitimieren will, sollte es auch Kosovo an Albanien, sowie einen Teil der Vojvodina an Ungarn übergeben. Mit ihrem Wahnwunsch, Groß-Serbien zu errichten, könnten alle Serben leicht in Klein-Serbien landen. Der Fall Jugoslawien weigt, dass die Multikulturutopien, wo immer sie sein mögen, nur mit Gewalt entstehen und bestehen können. Vielleicht lernt Amerika nach den Ereignissen in Los Angeles, das die Pathologie Jugoslawiens auch im eigenen Hause lauern kann. Vielleicht lernen das multikulturelle Marseille und Berlin etwas vom Kriege in Bosnien und Herzegowina.
Some members of the international community, along with some foreign media representatives, have recently criticised Croatia for its alleged mistreatment of Bosnian Muslims. Several details need to be put into perspective in order to comprehend this never-ending Balkan drama: 1. Croatia was the first country in Europe to recognise the sovereignty of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Given the important geopolitical position of this neighbouring state, it is in the paramount interest of Croatia to respect the integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In fact, it is Mr. Izetbegovic, not the Croats, who has just recently signed the de facto partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina in his agreement with the Serb side. On her part, Croatia has also strongly urged all Bosnian Croat military units to allow free safe passage to all United Nations humanitarian convoys. 2. On the one hand of the international community, along with some journalists, is constantly pushing Croatia’s President Franjo Tudjman to endlessly negotiate with Serbia’s leader Slobodan Milosevic: on the other, it accuses Tudjman of setting secret deals with Milosevic. The carve-up of Bosnia-Herzegovina into three distinct and separate states is not in the security interest of Croatia, given that the disappearance of Bosnia-Herzegovina would automatically legitimise Serbian territorial appetites and Serb illicit territorial acquisitions in neighbouring Croatia. 3. And in whose interest is it to keep this terrible conflict going on in neighbouring Bosnia? Contrary to many false assumptions, the Muslim side and its leader, President Alija Izetbegovic, are not so keen to see the conflict come to an end. The Muslim side must recompense its earlier territorial losses to the Serb aggressor by making now impossible demands to the much weaker Bosnian Croats. Ironically, instead of turning their anger on the real Serbian military threat, Bosnia’s Muslims prefer taking on Bosnia’s Croats, while at the same time portraying themselves as the only hapless victims in the Balkan conflict. As a grotesque irony of this conflict, neighbouring Croatia is currently housing more than 170,000 Muslim refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose number has recently increased by over 50,000 Croats fleeing the Muslim military advances in central Bosnia-Herzegovina. 4. Apparently, many well-meaning European Community observers, as well as many foreign journalists, do not face insurmountable difficulties visiting Muslim areas and prisoners under Croatian control in southern Bosnia-Herzegovina, including the Croatian-held town of Mostar. Yet, they appear unable to make their way to over 150,000 Croats in central Bosnia, who have been encircled and shelled for several months by the Bosnian Muslim forces. 5. The Serb-held territories in Croatia are nominally under the UN jurisdiction. Yet the UN forces seldom attempt to stop the Serbian fighters from shelling nearby Croat towns and villages. Aside from dispensing much needed humanitarian aid, the UN forces in the Serb-occupied regions of Croatia should start finally implementing the numerous UN resolutions, and help the Croat government restore its full sovereignty within its internationally recognised borders. The Croatian government is doing its utmost to bring the bloody and complex Balkan conflict to an end. Yet, without strong and more forceful measures on the part of the UN and the EC, the conflict will only spread throughout the Balkans. To accuse the Croatian government of being equally responsible for this drama is an elegant to shrug off the UN and EC paralysis and failure to define the real aggressor. Instead of dealing with symptoms of the Balkan disease, the international community must first and foremost define the origin and cause of the disease, and treat the disease accordingly. Should they continue to fail, the stage will soon be set for more terrible conflicts to occur.
Foreign Media Advisor
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Your editorial, "Croatia’s Sellout," July 10, seemed t o have been prompted more by your desire for evenhandedness than by the desire to objectively analyze the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Unlike Serbia, Croatia recognized the sovereignty, independence, and inviolability of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In contrast to Serbian Army offensive actions in Bosnia, Croat troops are conducting defensive actions. The Bosnian government has repeatedly asked for international help. Consequently the republic of Croatia has lent support to refugees in Croatia. Does anybody expect Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina to preach pacifism – only to be routed and slaughtered, and later to be bewailed by vicarious United Nations world-improvers? Last year, when the Yugoslav Army attacked Croatia, Croats learned that the best way their new state can obtain recognition and deal with the aggressor is through military resistance. The decision by the Croats in Herzegovina to set up their own administrative region within Herzegovina must be put in perspective. This decision by no means suggests that Croats are carving up Bosnian territory. There has been no "secret" deal between Serbia and Croatia – as Serbian continuous shelling of Croat towns both in Herzegovina and Croatia demonstrates. By contrast, not a single town in Serbia has so far been attacked by Croat troops.
Tomislav Sunic, Ph.D. Huntingdon, Pa. Professor of Political Science Juniata College
In the wake of the joint declaration in Geneva between President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia and Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, some foreign journalists have jumped to the conclusion that such an agreement amounts to the creation of some sort of alliance against the Bosnian Muslims. Nothing could be further from the truth. The joint declaration is a small but important step in the possible normalization of relations between Serbia and Croatia. This breakthrough paves the way, we hope, for mutual recognition of internationally recognized borders. It may seem ironic that Croatia, a victim of Serbian aggression, is the first country to begin normalizing relations with Serbia, or what is left of Yugoslavia. This decision was not solely Croatia’s choice, but also that of the international community. Croatia and President Tudjman are doing their utmost to help restore peace in this part of Europe. Nonetheless, Croatia’s decision to sign this declaration in no way means that Croatia will abandon efforts to bring about a lasting peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the contrary, Croatia has been more than forthcoming with the Bosnian Muslims on the future structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also bear in mind that Croatia is accommodating more than 150,000 Muslim Bosnian refugees, for whom most of the cost is covered by the Croatian government. Croatia and President Tudjman do not hold all the cards for peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnian Serbs still control 70 percent of Bosnia’s territory, while it is the Bosnian Croats who have lost a considerable amount of territory to the Muslim forces since the breakup of their alliance.
Head of Department of Culture Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Zagreb, Croatia, Feb. 1, 1994.
The causes of the never-ending war in the Balkans could plausibly be attributed to [the] excessive legalism of international organizations, including the United Nations. Despite noble efforts to end the three-year-old conflict in the Balkans, the U.N., as well as other international actors, is still unable to speak with one voice. It is worth recalling that in 1991, when Yugoslavia began to fall apart, the republic of Croatia expected the European Community and the United Nations to accept its bid for independence, hoping that its recognition would stave off the looming Serbian military threat. In the absence of prompt international recognition, and due to its lack of firepower, Croatia could not put up credible deterrence against a Serbian land grab. Croatia had to wait six long months before it was finally recognized by all European Community members, and several more months before it finally joined the U.N. club. Meanwhile, it lost 27 percent of its territory to the invading “Yugoslav” Army and local Serb insurgents. Ironically, it was Serbia that, while trying to salvage Yugoslavia by force also destroyed it by force. While despairing whether or not the “premature” recognition of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, prompted by the Balkan bloodshed, one might also raise the question whether France, England, and America should have “prematurely” helped create, in 1919, the artificial Yugoslav state. The principles of “brotherhood and unity,” which were subsequently imposed by force on the Yugoslav constituent peoples in Josip Broz Tito’s Communist Yugoslavia could hardly mask profound cultural differences among diverse Yugoslav ethnic groups. In the former Yugoslavia, each ethnic group pretended to love another ethnic group, while secretly thinking of how to part company and go its own way. Had the international community been aware of this state of mind among the former Yugoslav constituent ethnic groups, much of the present chaos and inter-ethnic hatred could have been avoided. Over the past two years, the U.N. and other international actors have passed numerous resolutions calling on the Serbs to stop their aggression on neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today, as the surreal Balkan drama becomes more and more unbearable to Western prime-time viewers, some foreign observers are calling for the creation of a war crimes tribunal for those Balkan warlords suspected of committing war crimes. Yet the idea of the international war crimes tribunal, noble as it sounds, cannot be taken seriously. While Serb leaders Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic are often being portrayed as “war criminals,” pressing them to attend multilateral talks with their Croat and Muslim counterparts, under the U.N. auspices, only provided legitimacy to the Serbian “ethnic cleansing.” The legal options of Croatia, the first victim of Serbian aggression, have been difficult since the day of Yugoslavia’s break-up. On the one hand, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman is expected to negotiate with his Serbian counterpart Slobodan Milosevic. On the other, he is suspected by some foreign observers of cutting secret deals with Mr. Milosevic. The war in the former Yugoslavia, which began in 1991 as a limited war of Serbian aggression against unarmed Croatia, has now turned into protracted no-war-no-peace stalemate, with ominous consequences for all of Europe. The well-meaning indecisiveness of the U.N., followed by the lack of consensus among world powers, may only be the first chapter in this bloody European drama.
Tomislav Sunic is an official in Croatia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Zagreb.
The race for victim status in Bosnia-Herzegovina appears to be over. The Serbs, as the main aggressors and initial perpetrators of “ethnic cleansing” hardly qualify. The international press has obviously decided that the Croats do not qualify either, despite the fact that the Bosnian Croats have lost considerable territory to the Moslems since the break-up of their alliance. The Moslems seem to have realised, after months of hope, that the international community is unwilling to help them take on their real enemies, the Serbs. Consequently, they have turned on their former allies, the Croats. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the lines between the Croats and Moslems have moved exclusively in the Moslem’s favour, resulting in more than 100,000 Croatian refugees and displaced persons from Bosnia-Herzegovina. While the Press and international organisations have free access to Moslem fighters in Croat POW camps – thanks to the vigorous intervention of Croatia’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Mate Granic – the fate of thousands of Croats in similar Moslem camps remains unknown. The current goals of the Moslem side have been made clear by their spokesman, Chuck Sudetic, recently quoted in the New York Times: “The international community will recognise our right to the territories we win. The international community has said in no uncertain terms that it is ready to legitimise the acquisition of territory by force, and that’s the way it will be in the future.” He went on to state that while the Serbs were too strong to fight against, the Croats were weak. Unfortunately, it is this recent Moslem calculation which has precipitated Croat-Moslem fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina, no Croatian aggression. Fighting between Moslems and the Croats would never have erupted had the international community reacted promptly to early Serbian aggression against both of those communities. Maybe by the time this conflict spreads throughout the Balkans, Europe and the world will finally figure out who the real culprit is.
Foreign Media Adviser
One must agree with Georges Sorel that political myths have a long and durable life. For 74 years the Yugoslav state drew its legitimacy from the spirit of Versailles and Yalta, as well as from the Serb-inspired pan-Slavic mythology. By carefully manipulating the history of their constituent peoples while glorifying their own, Yugoslav leaders managed to convince the world that Yugoslavia was a “model multiethnic state.” Many global-minded pundits in the West followed suit and made a nice career preaching the virtues of the Yugoslav multi-ethnic pot. By tirelessly vaunting the Yugoslav model, scores of starry-eyed Western academics gave, both pedagogically and psychologically, additional legitimacy to artificial Yugoslavia. In 1991, faced with massive geopolitical tremors, stretching from Siberia to Spain, the Yugoslav mythology began cracking up, and with it, its multiethnic mystique. The sudden beginning of the democratization of Yugoslavia led, naturally, to the country’s demise, the bloody postscript to which is yet to unfold.
Nothing seemed easier for the European Community and the United Nations than to describe the 1991 Serbian aggression against Croatia as a Serbo-Croat tribal war. At the beginning of the conflict, France, America, and a gallery of faceless U.N. mediators shrugged off Serbian territorial appetites by calling them the result of an ancient Serbo-Croat balkanesque feud. After all, why would big powers have to intervene in an area of Europe that, according to their definition of international law, offered no precise definition of the aggressor vs. the victim? The paralysis of the United Nations and European Community was seen by the Serbs as a green light to salvage Yugoslavia by force – even if that meant destroying it by force. As self-declared victims of hard times and soft former allies, the Serbs are today angry at France and America. These two countries once offered them Yugoslavia – only to strip them of it today. In retrospect, the good guys appear to be those who define the international system, which in 1993, unlike in 1919 and 1945, does not well suit the Serbs. By detour, we could refer to Edward Carr’s dictum that before we study history we must first study the historian – if we are to decide who to side with in the Balkans. Historically, the “Greater Serbia” mythology has functioned only by wallowing in victimology – even as Serbs victimized the Other. In the latest spasm of this endless victimology, Serbs are today heaping their anger for the collapse of Yugoslavia on everybody: The Vatican, Muslims, the CIA, the Fourth Reich, and, of course, always available nearby Croats.
All the rest seems to be distance history now. In 1990, on the eve of Yugoslavia’s breakup, the majority of Catholic Slovenes and Croats favored the transformation of centralized Serb-dominated Yugoslavia into a confederal state. Serbian communist leader Slobodan Milosevic flatly refused the idea of a confederal Yugoslavia for fear that Serbia would lose its historic Yugoslav mandate, which it had received at Versailles in 1919 and inherited at Potsdam in 1945. When in 1991 Slovenes and Croats voted in defiance for a complete divorce from Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav Army launched a large-scale invasion against Slovenian and Croat “fascist separatists.” As the war began to rage, so did the inflated word fascism become an expedient metaphor for the Western Media. It was hurled by everybody at everybody – and it therefore hit nobody. The Serbs see themselves as fighting the just war against resurgent fascist papal Croatia and Islamic fundamentalism. The Western media, by contrast, is portraying Serb president Slobodan Milosevic as the fascist butcher of the Balkans, bent on ethnic cleansing. Yet, old dogs cannot learn new tricks. Milosevic is still a communist apparatchik, and the party he presides over is still euphemistically called the Socialist Party of Serbia. Unquestionably, the roots of the present conflict in what in the past tense used to be Yugoslavia are grounded in recent history, which by now has turned into self-serving mythology. During World War II Serbia suffered under fascism but like all European countries also experimented with fascism. Serbia experienced its own share of killing and suffering just like Croatia, or, for that matter, any other country in Europe. World War II and post-war sufferings of Muslims, Albanians, ethnic Germans, and Hungarians at the hands of the Yugoslav communists still appear to evade the contemporary media comparisons. Serbia’s less glorious World War II past was for year swept under the red carpet of oblivion, first by Yugoslav communist clerics and then by contemporary Serbian hagiographers. The welfare of Bosnia and Herzegovina has now ceased to be a war of Serb-Croat Muslim memories; it had turned into a surreal war for respective numbers of casualties and endlessly increasing national trigonometries. Since 1945, Yugoslavia’s politicians, the Serb Christian Orthodox Church, and a number of Serb intellectuals have steadily inflated Serbian World War II casualties, which portray Serbs as victims of inborn Croatian and German fascism. The president of Croatia, former partisan general and historian Franjo Tudjman, is intensely hated in Serbia because his World War II body counts fly in the face of Serbian victimology. Before becoming president of Croatia, Tudjman tried to demolish Serbian and communist historiography by deflating the number of Serbian World War II dead from the official 700,000 to a very modest 70,000. Predictably, his excursion into historicism regarding Serbian mythical martyrdom unleashed Serbia’s wrath. Faced with a sudden Croatian attack on her mythology, Serbia launched, in 1991, a military counterattack against separatist Croatia. Political reality may change, but mythical surreality must remain untainted by any profanity. Tudjman’s books and statements also led to an outcry among Western liberal opinion-makers, who were quick to dub him an anti-Semitic revisionist. The real problem with Tudjman is not so much his substance, but rather his awkward Centro-European schwerfällig style. Unlike the Serb Slobodan Milosevic, who is a slick Byzantine con man with an excellent knowledge of English and the ability to fool “prime-time” Westerners, the Croat Tudjman, just like all Central European politicians, stutters and mutters. Small wonder therefore that he could not quickly sell the Croat cause to the video-political world of Washington and Paris.
To grasp Serbian anger at Croatia and the West one should read the 19th-Century Serbian satirist Radoje Domanovic. Domanovic described the Royal house in Serbia as the sire of endless Byzantine persecution complexes coupled with pan-Slavic zeal to convert Catholicism and Muslim Slavs. Serbian Royal hallucinations, stretching from the House of Karadjordjevic all the way down to the House of Milosevic, are still visible in Belgrade today. Every Serb is made to believe tat a conspiratorial West, along with an Islamic East, is plotting to enslave the Serb people. Croats, by contrast, see Bosnia’s Muslims as stupid, neolith, stray-away Croats who need to be re-converted to Croatian national consciousness. In Croatian popular jokes, Bosnia’s Muslims are endlessly portrayed as species with bizarre lovemaking conduct and strange toilet habits.
The more secular European Community and United Nations also border on mythical melodrama. Their vicarious humanism manifests itself in occasional drops of culinary diplomacy, as well as in the presence of “peace-keeping-forces” in a country torn by violent war. U.N. Samaritans lecture against Serbian ethnic cleansing, forgetting that ethnic cleansing is only the post-modern spin-off of the cujus regio ejus religio of all countries in the making. Ethnic cleansing did not start with Milosevic and his likes; it began with communist Tito, who either killed or expelled a half-million ethnic Germans and Hungarians from early Yugoslavia. Tito only practiced in chorus the art of other East European communists, which resulted in the largest German Völkerwanderung in history: from the Balkans to the Baltics, from Königsberg to Karlovac. The Croatian exodus from Vukovar last year and the agony of Dubrovnik under Serbian bombs, followed today by death on the installment plan in Sarajevo, are only the continuation the funeral march that began at Bleiburg and Breslau in 1945…and that is finishing in Bosnia in 1993. Forty years after Tito’s ethnic cleansing, Milosevic miscalculated: he grotesquely followed in his predecessor’s suit, and he grotesquely failed. During its brief communist interregnum, Tito’s Yugoslavia offered the foreign visitor bizarre features, which only the morbid satirical painter, the 17th-Cetury Jacques Callot, could have captured. In one of the Callot’s pictures, showing the Thirty Years War in Europe, one sees a scene of boundless popular revelry near a tree decorated with dozens of hanged men. Similarly, Titoist Yugoslavia could for years boast of the largest number of nudist beaches in Europe, but also of the largest prison population per capita in Eastern Europe. Just like in permissive Amsterdam, one could freely light up a joint in the centre of Belgrade or Zagreb, but one could also easily end up, for a minor “political incorrectness,” in a real communist joint. Yugoslav conviviality allowed everybody everything – provided one did not touch the infallibility of the mythical Tito. For 40 years, Yugoslav communist vocabulary dubbed every Croat a “fascist” if he ventured to evoke his national ancestry. In Yugoslavia, as everywhere else in Eastern Europe, one could display national sentiments and unfurl his flag only behind closed family doors or in the open soccer field. A number of Serbians ended up in Tito’s prisons too. Cut into three parts, Voivodina in the north, Kosovo in the south, and Serbia proper in the middle, Greater Serbia was a myth that Tito was well able to keep under his control. In turn, however, Tito rewarded the Serbs with leverage in the two most important nerves of the Yugoslav government: high diplomacy and the Yugoslav army. The targets of Serb rage are not just the proverbial Croat Nazis and Muslims fundamentalists. All other neighboring nations, ethnic groups, and minorities are being put in the category of fascist world conspirators. Ironically, Croats and Serbs probably hate each other most because they resemble each other. Is it not true that racism is always directed at the Other, who physiologically and morphologically, always represents the travesty of the Same? One does not discriminate against beasts; one discriminates against his likes. Following the logic of the cursed Other, a great number of Serbs, both in Serbia and Bosnia, are deeply convinced that ethnic cleansing is the rightful way to pursue a noble struggle against Croatian fascism and Muslim fundamentalism, for which all military means and tools are morally justifiable. The destruction of Croatian Catholic churches and Muslim mosques, the killing of thousands of non-Serbs, bears witness to the never-ending logic of the worse. Tomorrow, times may change and political constellations may alter. Who will prevent tomorrow’s Albanians or nearby Hungarians from similar mythical aggrandizements and ethnic cleansing of Serbs? Permanent peace has never meant much in Europe; peace has always been seen by the Other as punitive. Alas, European laws of the tragic are timeless, and their meaning lies only in the bowels of wild geese, or in the rhymes of the Greek chorus… The Serbian government does not deserve all the blame for the carnage in the Balkans. Western governments, particularly the Unites States and France, preached for decades the “Unity and integrity” of Yugoslavia, as if Yugoslavia could be held together by some French decree or State Department ukase. The U.S. State Department (and especially its year-long chief apparatchik Lawrence Eagleburger), with its decades-long support of “Yugoslavia’s integrity,” gave a decent alibi to Serbia’s war of aggression. Hybrid Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, two virulently anti-German countries, fit geopolitically into the NATO doctrine of “double containment”: on the one hand, they contained the Red Bear in the East; on the other, they contained the mythical and unpredictable German in the West. Small wonder, therefore, that nobody in Washington or at Quai d’Orsay was ecstatic with the sudden unification of; nobody was too ecstatic with the sudden disintegration of Yugoslavia, either. In the supreme irony of history, this time around it is not the proverbial “ugly German” who is destroying the Versailles architecture. This time, the Versailles architecture is falling apart due to its surreal Potemkin Hollywood-like façade. Woodrow Wilson and his progeny have suffered a serious defeat in Europe. The whole holy story of the Balkans has just begun to unravel. The Serbian leadership in Belgrade shows great concern for Serbs living in Croatia and Bosnia, but ignores the rights of the swelling tide of Albanians within its own house. Albanians in Serbia, like the Palestinians, have perfectly learned an ancient wisdom, which Christian Europe forgot long ago: demography is the continuation of politics by other, more enjoyable means. Any cohabitation in the Balkans, any brand of federalism or “power-sharing,” which Western pundits preach until their dying breath, is out of the question. Endless wars seem to be the only answer. At some point, some outsider from a distant galaxy may reassemble buts and pieces of scattered Berlin Wall and fence off different versions of the ethnic truth here. Multi-ethnic countries are like prisons, in which citizen-inmates communicate with the Other only after each is granted his own territorial imperative. Crammed into one promiscuous cell, all hell breaks loose. Short of a giant mine field separating Serbs and Croats today, or Poles and Russians tomorrow, Europe will be entering another chapter of the Hundred Years War. When different historical destinies clash, when different national mythologies collide, and when different geopolitical tectonic plates start rattling under Eurasia, then the myth of a united Europe will sound like a titanic joke. Today is the turn of ex-Yugoslavians to live the violent beauty of their congested multiethnic laboratory. Tomorrow it may be the turn of multiracial Marseilles, Frankfurt, or Brussels. The West is moving full-speed ahead into its own Yugoslav pathology. Last year’s events in sunny Los Angeles have shown that no paradigm, no academic model, no formula, and no single truth can supply an answer for our multicultural future. The multicultural daydream functions nicely in soft, sunny, “cool” consumer society; with the first heavy clouds it spells chaos of unbelievable proportions. Emile Cioran was right when he wrote that if we knew what the future holds for us, we would immediately strangle our children.
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.