THE PRESENT CONFLICT ON THE BALKANS
1. Former Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia was formed in 1918 as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, under the rule of Serbian king. It dissipated shortly after the beginning of World War II, and was reestablished under the communist rule in 1945. It fell apart in June 1991.
At the time of its final death (1990-1991), Yugoslavia had one party (communist), two alphabets (latin for Slovenes and Croats and cyrillic for Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians), two autonomous provinces (Voivodina and Kosovo, both in Serbia), three major religions - Greek Orthodox (Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians), Catholic (Croats, Slovenes and some Albanians) and Moslem (Moslems of Slavic origin in Bosnia and Herzegovina, parts of Serbia and Montenegro, and some Albanians), four official languages (Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian and Macedonian), five constitutive nations (Croats, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Slovenes and Serbians) and six republic (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia).
The country was situated on the east Adriatic coast comprising 255,800 sqkm, and some 22 million inhabitants: 8.1 Serbs, 4.5 Croats, 1.5 Albanians, 1.7 Slovenes, 1.2 Macedonians and 1.9 Moslems (recognized as a separate nationality). There were also people who considered themselves Yugoslavs (mostly in Bosnia and Herzegovina), Hungarians (Voivodina), etc. Different nationalities lived in mixed communities; some 2.5 million Serbs and 1.2 million Croats lived outside the respective republics.
According to the Constitution of 1974, Yugoslavia was a federation with the six republics having defined borders, own parliaments, governments, constitutions and administration and considerable autonomy in all aspects of life.
1.1. Yugoslavia between Two World Wars (1918-1941)
At the end of the World War I, Serbs found themselves on the winning and Croats and Slovenes on the loosing side. Having been under foreign rule for centuries, Croats and Slovenes cherished Yugoslavia as a federation with their Slavic brothers. In contrast, Serbs saw it as the materialization of the long lasting dream of uniting "all Serbian lands" in one state (1). Thus, Serbian oppression of the non-Serbian nations started openly from the beginning, and the non-Serbian peoples resisted and resented Serbs throughout Yugoslavia's existence. All army, diplomacy, police, administration and important business posts were occupied by Serbs. Macedonians were considered South Serbs and forced to change their last names, and Montenegrins were considered Serbs and lost their kingdom and the autonomy of their church.
Being most numerous after Serbs and having the longest political tradition, sense of statehood and strong culture and economy, Croats resisted such opression the most. After Serbian assassination of Croatian leader Stjepan RadiŠ in Yugoslav parliament in 1928, the so called Ustasha movement was formed, with idea of armed overthrow of the Serbian rule. Several hundred men left the country and for more than a decade practiced for the armed conflict. At that time they had nothing to do with fascism; actually, the party was started by Josip Frank, a Croatian of Jewish origin.
The Serbian oppression resulted in thousands of murders, crowded prisons and immense emigration. Croatian resistance and mature political leadership (successors of late S. RadiŠ) reached an agreement with Belgrade for Croatian autonomy within Yugoslavia in 1939. Croatian state ("Banovina") comprised the present-day Croatia and parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina inhabited with Croatian majority - almost exactly the provinces assigned to Croats by the Vance-Owen Plan of 1993. Serbs in Croatia, precisely in those parts occupied in the war of 1991, and later named "Serbian Republic of Krajina" (around town of Knin), refused to recognize Croatian autonomy and started an upraise. The World War II reached Yugoslavia in April 1941 and the problem was neglected.
1.2. The World War II (1941-1945)
German, Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian troops conquered Yugoslavia in 11 days. King fled the country. German regime offered Croatian leader, Dr. Vladko Ma~ek, to proclaim free Croatian state allied with the Third Reich. Ma~ek refused (and was arrested). The offer was gladly accepted by Ustashas whose 400 men were brought to Zagreb from Italy in Italian trucks - to take over the country. Independent State of Croatia was thus established in April 1941, as an ally of Nazi Germany. It comprised the whole Bosnia and Herzegovina but lost Dalmatia to Italy.
Similar puppet state was formed in Serbia, led by fascist Milan NediŠ, and in Slovenia (Rupel). All three regimes behaved identically to Petain's regime in France (and all other occupied European countries): racial laws were passed and prosecution of Jews started immediately.
The resistance to fascist regime begun in Croatia in June 1941, by Croatian antifascists dominated by communists. Tito led the communists and proclaimed resistance to Germans on the order by Stalin. During summer of 1941, the upraise commenced also in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Serbs of Knin again refused to recognize Ustasha's Croatia and attacked neighboring Croatian villages committing numerous crimes and atrocities. The situation was exactly the same as will be 50 years later (1991); the difference was that Ustasha regime retaliated in the same manner - and the circle of violence spread on both sides to the truly tragic extent.
Tito's attempt to start an antifascist resistance in Serbia failed by the autumn 1941, because Serbs mostly opted for Chetniks, troops loyal to their king. Chetniks openly collaborated with Nazis in fighting Tito's partisans, and persecuted Croats, Moslems and Jews the same way Ustashas persecuted Serbs, Gypsies and Jews. Especially great atrocities Chetniks committed against Moslems of Bosnia and Herzegovina; this will yield to the end result that, in relative terms, Moslem losses in the war surpassed Jewish.
Throughout the war, there were some 30,000 Ustasha soldiers, whereas antifascist Croatian movement comprised total of 200,000 soldiers. To flee from Ustasha prosecution, many Serbs of Croatia joined Croatian partisans, many of them after first fighting as Chetniks. They will later take the power in Croatia and be used to distort the whole picture: Croats will be blamed for having been Ustashas and Serbs praised to resist Germans. Overall, the truth was just the opposite.
At the end of the war, Ustasha soldiers, together with Home Guard and various Croatian nationalists, many with their families, retreated from Zagreb to north-west, trying to surrender to the Allies. The estimates differ and still wait for a thorough research, but it appears that some 300,000 people were captured on Slovenian border with Austria, near the town of Bleiburg, and most of them slaughtered (estimates differ, from 40,000, by F. Tu|man, to 200,000, by most survivors, ref. 2). The slaughter was performed by Tito's troops, now dominated by Serbian officers who switched from Chetniks to partisans.
One of the greatest disputes of these times is Ustasha concentration camp of Jasenovac. Serbs generally claim that at least 700,000 Serbians were killed there. Croatian (e.g., contemporary president and formerly a communist historian, F. Tu|man) and several independent sources (e.g., Montenegrin Ko~oviŠ, Slovenian @erjaviŠ, ref. 2) estimate Jasenovac victims from 20,000 (Jewish) to 50,000 (Tu|man). The estimates should be considered scientific (forensic) question, not a propaganda (mis)use of innocent victims. With this respect, renounced Serbian claim appears a gross exaggregation, because the total number of victims in Yugoslavia was estimated to approximately one million.
1.3. Tito's Yugoslavia (1945-1991)
With respect to dissatisfaction of non-Serbian peoples with Yugoslavia of 1918-1941, Tito's state appeared a considerable improvement. Croats and Slovenes got their nation states, as well as Montenegrins and Macedonians who were recognized as nations. Bosnia and Herzegovina was proclaimed a sixth republic for historic reasons (Turkish conquests) and because the area was a true mixture of nations. Albanians were assigned the autonomous province of Kosovo and Hungarians and Croats left in Serbia the autonomous province of Voivodina.
If the borders of the republics are worth mentioning, Croatia lost the land to Serbia (East Srijem), Montenegro (Boka Kotorska) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (Neum). It should be noted that throughout the events of 90s, Croatia never claimed these lands, and thus they have never been the cause of the war.
Still, Serbian domination continued, this time using the communist ideology and merciless methods which was actually worse than before the war. Leading Croatian communists, milder in political and stronger in national convictions were put away by murdering (Andrija Hebrang) or political neutralization. Croatian national aspirations were inadvertently associated with fascism and Ustashas and severely prosecuted. Central government, important posts, military and police were all in hands of Serbs. Croatian history was distorted (especially with respect to the World War II), language put under pressure to unify with Serbian (it was called Serbo-Croatian), Croatia economically devastated and the land gradually populated with Serbs.
In 1970-1971, moderate Croatian communists, intellectuals and people tried to gain more independence from Belgrade, but soon were brutally prevented, with many being tried, imprisoned or forced to emigrate ("Croatian Spring").
2. Why the Country Disintegrated
The fall of communism found Yugoslavia nationally, politically and economically already dissociated. In order to survive, the country had to transform either into some kind of confederacy or get under an absolutistic rule.
Croats were not a priory secessionist, but were determined to regain their national, cultural and economic rights. Croatian communists were more moderate and ready for free elections. Croats believed in confederacy, because the total freedom has been unthinkable for almost nine centuries.
Macedonians live in the midst of Serbs who consider them South Serbs, Greeks, who believe that the country is a taken-away part of Greece with Slavic minority, Bulgarians who believe Macedonians are Bulgarians and Albanians who make 23% population of the country. They knew that any change could put an end to their existence. Still, mostly due to economic troubles, they also wanted free elections and fall of communism.
Montenegrins have been bitterly divided since the loss of their kingdom (for Yugoslavia of 1918). Some consider themselves (best) Serbs, while some cherish Montenegrian history, bravery, nationality and tradition of statehood. Pro-Serbian fraction, also hard-core communist, was stronger and finally won.
Both Croats and Serbs claim Moslems of Bosnia and Herzegovina being essentially of their origin. Studying of history, migrations and present pattern of settlement of three peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina should provide a clearcut answer, but this would require another study. Regardless of their origin, Moslems feel neither Croats nor Serbs but love to be a nation of Moslems. This should be respected.
History and especially history-based myths are much more important to Serbs than to Croats. That is why Serbs intensely hate Moslems - they believe those are Serbs who changed religion for the worst (Serbian) enemy (Turks), and - should be exterminated. This (seemingly too strong) statement can easily be found in Serbian poetry, political programs and - historic behavior (extermination of Moslems in Serbia, atrocities of the World War II, present war). Croats believe Moslems are "lost sheep", "natural allies" and pet them, hoping to get rid of Serbian domination together some day. Thus, Moslems feared disintegration of Yugoslavia because they could only come under Serbs who would exterminate them or under Croats who would assimilate them.
Serbs did not want either free elections or disintegration of Yugoslavia. For them, Yugoslavia functioned as Great Serbia - of which they have dreamt for 150 years. They dominated Yugoslavia; things were going on well for the country was increasingly becoming more Serbian. Through military, diplomatic and administrative matters, Serbs dominated whole Croatia (let alone Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina), but also did a good job in far-north, very Catholic, very-western Slovenia. The only trouble was Kosovo: by spreading themselves west, Serbs started loosing the East: with extremely high birth rate, Albanians suddenly emerged as 90% of population of Kosovo - sacred Serbian land (unfortunately, Serbs have too many "sacred" lands: Bosnia, Dubrovnik, Krajina, East and also West Slavonia, let alone Macedonia, Montenegro...).
Aroused artificially and on purpose (by Kosovo) or not, it was actually Serbian nationalism that started disintegrating Yugoslavia after Tito (died 1980). Serbs first went for Kosovo and easily got it (international community did essentially nothing to protect human rights of Albanians), then for Voivodina, and then Montenegro. With MiloševiŠ they felt strong and just. Croatia and especially Slovenia resented, whereas Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia kept quiet hoping to survive unnoticed.
Instead of being scared by raging Serbian nationalism of MiloševiŠ times (1987-present), Slovenes made it clear they will get out of the country of the kind depicted by MiloševiŠ. Most westernized, with insignificant Serbian minority, Slovenes judged their chances good. Soon they proved right.
2.7. Albanians (Kosovo)
After numerous unrests and clashes with Serbian police, Albanians quieted either by this very police or by promises by the international factors that their question will be solved after the tougher ones (Croatia, Bosnia) are done with. In any case, they did not (mis)use the wars in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to regain their autonomy within Serbia or - as they probably wish - join Albania Proper.
3. Free Elections 1990
Most civilized, moderate and least numerous, Slovenian and Croatian communists allowed (actually organized) peaceful and generally fair free election which they lost. There was not a single elections-related incident of any kind.
In Serbia, MiloševiŠ's communists changed the name and symbols and convincingly won. There were rumors that the victory was a fake, but two subsequent elections confirmed the first result. Only, in 1993, far-right wing (Chetniks) gained some 30% votes and became a powerful parliamentary party.
4. Between Free Elections and the War
This period of time is unjustly neglected by the world's analysts. A full year passed between the change of governments in Slovenia and Croatia (spring 1990) and Serbian attack on them (early summer 1991).
During this year, Slovenian and Croatian governments did all possible to negotiate with Serbians more freedom WITHIN Yugoslavia. A form of confederacy was offered; however, it was not only rejected but Serbs pressed for a more centralistic state.
Now, out of chains of communism (under which slogans all national aspirations could easily be considered contrarevolutionary), Slovenes and Croats predicted when they will have enough and will declare independence. Serbs threatened they will fight disintegration of the state by arms. And so in June 1991 they all did what they promised.
5. Serbian Aggression against Slovenia 1991
Being practical, after the declaration of independence, Slovenes went to change flags at the border with Austria. Yugoslav Federal Army (YFA), actually under Serbian control, went to stop them. Moderate 5-day fighting ended up with cease-fire imposed by the EC, and soon later, by withdrawal of the YFA from Slovenia. Slovenia was free and gone. But this was only a play "Serbs love Yugoslavia". Next were the countries for which Serbians really thought were their land.
6. Serbian Aggression against Croatia 1991-present
The scenario was elaborate and well-planned. First the unrest of Serbian population in Croatia (12% of inhabitants before the war): breaking the traffic through Serb-dominated areas. At that time (summer 1990), Croatia had no soldiers and no arms, only 12,000 policemen of which 8,000 were Serbs. A weak attempt of Croatian (Tu|man) government to cope with the traffic blockade was immediately suppressed by the YFA.
Thus, local Serbs went further: strengthened by volunteers (Chetniks) pouring from Serbia Proper, they started capturing police stations in "their" areas. It was easy, for Serbs were exclusive policemen there. Zagreb raged but kept nice face for the YFA was watching. It was still Yugoslavia, negotiations of all kinds in full swing and Croatia full of YFA garrisons, tanks and all kinds of YFA secret services.
On Easter 1991, Serbs captured police station on Plitvice, too close to Zagreb and with too few Serbs around. Croatian police went to free the station but was a) ambushed by Serbian terrorists and b) turned back by YFA tanks. On May 2, similar event happened in Borovo Selo, near Vukovar. This time, however, Croatian police suffered heavy losses (12 dead) and that day is considered the beginning of the war. In June came the declaration of independence, in July Slovenian war and in August open aggression on Croatia.
Vukovar, Dubrovnik and many other places were sieged, until finally recognized (December 15, 1991) and UN- and EC-mediated effective cease-fire was imposed, Croatia lost some 20,000 lives and 23% of its territory.
Although, owing to heroic Croatian defenders, Serbs did not quite get as far as they planned (line Virovitica-Karlovac-Karlobag, which they call "western border of Great Serbia", ref. 1), Croatian territorial losses actually mutilated Dalmatia (800,000 inhabitants), leaving it without traffic connection with the rest of the country, without electricity supply, and without tourism. Later, this will be the major Croatian concern.
7. War against Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1991-present
In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH), free elections produced national parties, Moslem, Serbian and Croatian. Each won within the respective ethnic group. With respect to the inevitable reorganization of Yugoslavia, BH Serbs refused to discuss any of its aspects except the strengthening of Belgrade power. They did not accept referendum on the fate of the republic but organized their own proclaiming (at that time potential) Serbian Republic of BH. Moslems and Croats both voted for independence. Being together a majority, they convincingly scored the absolute victory. Serbian paramilitaries and YFA then attacked Sarajevo and other areas.
7.1. The First Phase: Serbs against Croats (September 1991)
Serbian aggression against BH Croats commenced much earlier than that against Moslems, already in September 1991, with the destruction of Croatian village Ravno in East Herzegovina. The event passed unnoticed: BH Moslem leadership feared standing up for Croats (albeit their citizens) and nobody listened to Croats, for at that time they cried in vain for Vukovar and Dubrovnik.
In April 1992, a full month before Sarajevo siege, YFA marched on Kupres, another Croatian area in Middle Bosnia. Here lay the core of Moslem-Croatian conflict to come: Croats never forgave Moslem (IzetbegoviŠ)-run Sarajevo government for remaining silent while they, BH citizens, were slaughtered by the YFA and Serbian paramilitaries.
7.2. Serbs against Croats and Moslems (April 1992)
Moslems were completely unprepared for the oncoming war politically and strategically. This was soon paid with heavy losses in lives and territories.
Having had a clearcut experience from Croatia and all possible help from there, BH Croats defended themselves (and their Moslem neighbors) as well as possible: they lost some of the territories to Serbs but, in general, managed to defend most of them. Unfortunately, albeit more than twice as numerous, Moslem population in general did not join them. For example, the town of Mostar (later one of the major Moslem-Croat disputes) was liberated under most difficult circumstances, by about 6,000 soldiers. Moslems made less than 1,000, although in Mostar they had the same proportion of inhabitants as Croats.
7.3. Moslem-Croatian Conflict (April 1993)
Moslems, with 44% share of BH population were soon pressed on some 5% of BH territory. Large areas were cleansed through killing, raping, burning, etc. done by Serbian troops. Moslems fled to Croatian parts of BH and Croatia Proper. The World did not help - as IzetbegoviŠ naively hoped - and the Moslems decided to grab Croat-held territories for themselves. Croats, who had already developed a contempt for Moslem disorganization and weak defense against Serbs, now definitely learned Moslems did not want to be Croats and promptly accepted them as enemies.
Moslems started with ambushes and small-group attacks and Croats, feeling superior, retaliated eagerly. The clashes grew larger. Relying on their number, Moslems fought openly and with plan. Probably backed by Serbian agents and foreign secret services, Moslems captured some 40% of territory hitherto held by Croats. Through various types of retaliations, Croats were soon dragged into misuse of humanitarian aid, prison camps and other breaches of humanitarian rules in the war. Seen by the international community as the ultimate victims of the war in BH, Moslems succeeded to get out uncriticised and Croats gained an adverse image.
8. The Culprits
Although in this kind of conflict analysis of guilt of certain ethnic groups and states may look futile, the equalization of guilt as applied by the international community was even worse. It is true that all sides committed all kinds od misconduct, but the differences are essential with respect to the extent and strategic use of the deeds.
8.1. Serbs and Serbia
There is absolutely no doubt that the war in former Yugoslavia was based in 150 years-old Serbian dream of Great Serbia. This dream was early transformed into a defined operational strategy (1) and materialized through first and second Balkan Wars, World Wars I and II and the present war. It was also fulfilled in peace times, which were used to cleanse occupied areas of non-Serbian population.
All Serbian political documents and, unfortunately, all past and present parties, consider all land east of the line Karlobag-Karlovac-Virovitica (deeply in Croatia, 30 miles from Zagreb) Serbian lands. Of course, they are not, but this does not help people living east of the line. The directions of Serbian attacks in this war clearly confirm this statement. Serbia did not manage to get all it wanted, but came rather close to it. The future will show if it will stay persistently with this plan, all until it is definitely defeated at the battlefield.
All other happenings were mere consequences of this plan, particularly because it openly contains all known (and here applied) methods of ethnic cleansing (3).
8.2. Croatia and Croats
Croats did not hide they wanted to get out of Yugoslavia(s). Generations strived for the freedom and the yearning for independence is rooted in every Croatian soul regardless of its political belief. The case of Croatian communists, formerly very much pro-Yugoslavian, but who unanimously stayed with Tu|man in this war, shows this the best.
8.2.1. Croatia and Its Serbs
Blackened by century-long Serbian propaganda, especially after the World War II, Croats were first accused of prosecuting communists after the free elections. This did not occur. Then Serbs of Croatia screamed that they would be prosecuted but were never able to produce any data with this respect. Of course, there were incidents of all kinds but, in general, with respect to the official politics, amount of incidents and general feelings among the citizens of Croatia, Serbs were not prosecuted but protected in every respect. The best example for this is the hard data: In 1991 Croatia had 4.7 million inhabitants, 530,000 Serbs included. Occupied areas (so called "Krajinas") comprised roughly 125,000 Serbs (and somewhat more Croats!), which makes some 25% of Serb, and 3% of total population of Croatia!. Thus, if Serbs were prosecuted in Croatia, what happened to three fourths of them living in free parts of Croatia? They are still there, living and working as they had always. If they are not persecuted, why would Serbs of Krajina be?
Serbs of Krajinas are not endangered by Croatian government. They are just used by Belgrade as the cause of marching for the borders of Great Serbia. As has been stated above, even in Krajinas, in 1991, before ethnic cleansing, Croats outnumbered Serbs.
On the other hand, Serbs of Krajinas have the right to fear Croats, even in an irrational way (e.g., due to their memories of the Ustasha regime). If that is so, they should seek all protection and guarantees of the international community - which they received through the UN-troops which arrived (with Croatian approval) to the respective areas. But the war continues, why? Because the problem is not in security and protection but in Serbs refusing to accept Croatia as the state they live in. They proclaimed "Serbian Republic of Krajina" and try to negotiate with Croatian government as a neighboring state. If they only seeked the protection, why would they attack Maslenica Bridge, the only land route to Dalmatia? Closer look would show that they attack it because they consider the area of the bridge Serbian land, where Croatian administration should never return.
8.2.2. Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina
Croatian politics in BH was the most criticized part of Croatian politics in this war. This is wrong: irrespective of numerous technical faults, this politics was sound, fair and consistent. It had been proclaimed by Tu|man even before the free elections of 1990: "We accept BH an independent and complete state. But a considerable part of Croatian people live there and, if their interests will be endangered (by Serbs), we will protect them."
Truly, throughout Serbian and later Moslem aggression, Croatia helped Croats of BH with all means. But it never questioned the existence of BH as a state: BH was first recognized by Croatia, the first ambassador received was Croatian, it accepted almost a million Moslem refugees and supported all peace plans offered by the international community. Croats of BH first and immediately signed Vance-Owen plan and also Owen-Stoltenberg plan. The facts speak for themselves.
Moslems are guilty for being unable to see and decide what will happen to them. They could not choose the side and were left alone. Probably, deep in their hearts they hoped to maintain centralized BH in which they will dominate due to their most numerous and fastest growing population.
8.4. International Community
It is disliked and accused for various misconducts by all warring sides, as well as by its own members. Truly, the international community (IC) is guilty of everything - if it is envisioned, with the organizations and mechanisms at hand (UN, EC, WEU, NATO), as an absolute and perfect judge. But it is not; it is a mixture of all sorts of interests, people and abilities. The IC did not do a single wrong or dishonest move. It meant well with all it did or intended to do. However, the IC is also an organization of humans, which means lazy, corrupted, byrocratical and hypocritical beings. Simply, the world did not want to bloody its hands in former Yugoslavia; with huge Serbian army and clearcut plans on one side, and small, ill-known nations on the other, the result could not be different. That is why the peoples of former Yugoslavia rightly consider the IC guilty, hypocritical and cruel, and the IC rightly considers these people Balkan savages.
The final judgement depends on what the IC thinks of itself; the high standards of human rights are nice and honorable, and easy to apply to the case of homeless in New York; but when it came to tough question of genocide and conquest on Balkans, the IC badly failed. Its own standards should decide how good or how bad it was.
Everybody accused media and media accused everybody. The question of guilt here is a simple one.
8.5.1. International Media
In principle, western media do not lie. And - they did not in this case (irrespective of numerous small mistakes). However, the problem is in the very character, aim, goal of the media: they automatically preselect information, due to their basic goal: selling the news. Thus, for media, good merchandise is - bad, catastrophic, shocking news. In this way, they unintentionally distorted the picture and actually did a harm to proper understanding of the problem(s).
8.5.2. Serbian Media
Serbian media are highly professional and completely faithful to Great Serbia case. They lied whenever necessary, without any morality or bounds of any kind.
8.5.3. Croatian Media
They did not lie but hid the unpleasant information thus ending as unreliable as Serbian ones.
Both countries being in war, their media cannot be blamed for their faults: any would do so. Still, all contributed to the confusion, hatred and - common tragedy.
8.5.4. Moslem Media
They contained all setbacks of Serbian and Croatian media. They were too weak to have any significance.
9. The Future
The future is difficult to predict, but some things can be seen relatively clearly.
Croatia is well of. It survived the war, got its precious freedom and has a perspective: tourism, industry and agriculture. Technical intelligentsia is abundant, population civilized and, most important, the level of hatred is low.
Having no imperialistic ambitions, Croatia will have to stand the problem of reintegration of occupied parts and survival of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both can mean more wars, more lives and more poverty. It will not yield on any of two issues and thus may loose everything. However, Croatia and Croatian government are not to be underestimated: they won the freedom against all odds, survived without hunger, lead a moderate politics, protect democracy and show signs of recovery in every respect.
9.2. Bosnia and Herzegovina
BH will disappear. International community did not protect it strongly enough, Moslems skillfully enough, Serbs are against it and Croats will easily give up.
Unfortunately, the international community recognized and accepted the martial defeat of Moslems. As it usually goes, martial defeat meant also the political one. Thus, Moslem republic in BH, even if formed, will not survive. This is not for geographic, not even for political reasons: Moslem population will not be able to survive in an independent state for it is not mature, educated and ready for it. Sooner or later, it will go to either Serbia or Croatia, probably partitioned. Those who go to Serbs will become extinct, and those who go to Croats will survive as Croats. Later, this will cause religious wars in Croatia.
Through this war Serbs of BH achieved what they wanted: creation and joining the Great Serbia. At the first glance, for Serbs this may look a good thing but it is not. Serbia will have its own problems and Serbs of BH will remain a faraway poor province of a poor country. The land is unfertile and population uneducated. Surrounded by hostile Croats and Moslems, Serbs of Bosnia have a rather dim future. Finally, when they learn about better life, they will leave the area.
Croats of BH lost all what they could: population (29% since 1948) and land (a complete unique culture!), with Owen-Stoltenberg plan cutting their territories to 17% of BH, and international respect (through the conflict with Moslems).
In disintegrating BH, they will join Croatia, and then desert the mountainous and poor country.
Cynically speaking, Bosnia and Herzegovina is bound to be deserted of its inhabitants. Some day it will be a national park, good for bear hunting. With respect to its history, this may be a logical outcome.
If not seriously protected by the international factors, Macedonia will be divided by Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Albania. Many inhabitants (all who feel distinctly Macedonian) will be exterminated. The end will start soon, with the war for Kosovo.
With respect to the picture the international community painted for itself in Balkan affairs so far, the chances for Macedonia and Macedonians are dim.
Montenegrins are severely divided around the question of their Serbhood. Pro-Serbian fraction is stronger and, naturally, backed by Serbia. So, first they are bound for an interior bloodshed and then disappearance within Serbia.
(It is difficult to understand how a proud nation, with great tradition and own kingdom ended up denying itself without any significant pressure from outside.)
Serbia presently believes it has won the war and did a great job in forming Great Serbia. For Serbian criteria (land and blood) it did succeed, but the notion is still quite wrong.
First, the conflict with Croats is not over. Serbs despise Croats as cowards, which is wrong, and despise the importance of civilization level for martial affairs, which is even more wrong. Croatia recovered from the bottom of its destiny and, albeit still weaker than Serbia, will not easily be defeated. For Serbia, until Croatia is defeated the job is not done (the western border of Great Serbia). Since Croatia holds Serbian key to the west, Serbia will have to choose between normalization of relationships with Croatia (which it will not) or turn east. It will turn east. Thus, in the far future, Russia will do to Serbia what Serbia is doing to Montenegro.
Croatia apart, Serbs have to deal with BH Moslems. They hate them to the level of believing in a sacred extinction. This, on the other hand, will not be easy, especially if Moslems get a better leadership, general idea what they want and judgement what they can. Another war, another genocide.
Croats and Moslems apart, some day in the near future Serbia will have to bite the sore apple of Kosovo. Naturally, Serbs consider Kosovo the most sacred of all their sacred lands (they really do, it should not be underestimated), and they will fight for it by all means, preferably tanks. There they would need another genocide because Albanians make 90% of Kosovars. Besides, Albanians are not to be underestimated either: they hate Serbs not less than Serbs hate them, they are brave and have Albanian state behind their back. If they get some time to increase their cultural level, Serbia may get plainly defeated. On the other hand, if Albanians catch up with European civilization, they will loose the major advantage they used so far: high population growth.
Not so much known, the problem of Voivodina, with many Hungarians, will also soon come into the open. Hungary is recovering from communist wounds, and will stand up for human rights of Hungarians in Voivodina. Inasmuch as Serbia will not yield on this issue, here it can really be defeated.
If winning, Serbia will turn to old accounts with Bulgarians. MiloševiŠ's regime will always need war.
Even without MiloševiŠ, Serbia will pay for its deeds, as all do. First, the country is poor and underdeveloped. People are scarce for the area occupied. Minorities are numerous and hostile. Communism is strong and church weak. Intellectuals have already emigrated. Bosnian Serbs will be an additional burden; the north-Bosnian corridor so fiercely fought for is the symbol of economic catastrophe to come. The survival will depend on the maintenance of armed conflicts, looting and black market. However, as an economic system, this cannot last long.
The war in former Yugoslavia was started and maintained by Serbian imperialistic politics. It offers a dim future for most people of the area, Serbian people at the first place. The problem can be solved either by martial defeat of Serbia by its neighbors or by cultural change within Serbia brought about by the international community. Inasmuch as both factors hitherto proved weak, the agony will continue.
Matko MarušiŠ, M.D., Ph.D.
1. Beljo A. (Editor) Greater Serbia: From ideology to aggression. Zagreb: Croatian Information Center, 1992.
2. Vuk-PavloviŠ S. Letter to the Editor. Foreign Affairs 1993;72(No. 4):192.
3. Lang S, MarušiŠ M. Peace, human rights and war: The painful Balkan lessons. International Minds 1993, in press.
Published in the International Minds, under title "The dream of Great Serbia: Waking to the reality", 1994;5:10-2.