The Greater Serbian Ideology

The case of Serbia raises the question of the responsibility of intellectuals in a particularly drastic way. The spectacle of intellectuals succumbing to uncritical and, eventually, utterly unrestrained patriotism and even jingoism is by no means rare, in particular in our century, when Julien Benda rightly characterized as one of "intellectual organization of political hatreds" (Benda 1955:21). But Serbia's war on Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and now Kosova, is not just another unjust war. It is rather a systematic onslaught of a large and well-equipped army and police force, together with assorted militias, on the civilian population of these countries, which initially had hardly any armed forces to speak of. The aim of this onslaught was - in the case of Kosova is - to conquer all or most of their territories, "cleanse" them of their non-Serb inhabitants and of all traces of their history and culture, settle them by Serbs, and annex them to Serbia. In the course of this war, the Serbs have perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide, that had not been seen in Europe since World War II.

Moreover, the nature of the Greater Serbian ideology is such that these crimes have not been committed by individuals and groups acting on their own, in contravention of the official policies. War crimes of the latter sort are committed in virtually any war; some have been perpetrated by the Croats, Muslims, and possibly Kosovars, too. The Serbs, unlike their foes, have committed their crimes systematically and on a mass scale, in the course of carrying out orders and implementing the grand national program. The explanation of this apparently baffling fact is simple. Almost all other types of expansionist nationalism and pan-movements are after other peoples' lands, abut are willing to annex them together with their inhabitants. The fate of native inhabitants is never enviable, but it is neither extermination nor expulsion. The Greater Serbian nationalism, on the other hand, calls for the setting up of a greatly expanded and at the same time, "ethnically homogeneous" nation state. This is to be accomplished in an ethnically extremely mixed part of the world. The sole way of accomplishing this is by conquerings other peoples' lands and "ethnically cleansing" them by genocide and mass expulsion, the way the Serbs have been acting since 1991. That is why the Greater Serbian nationalism, if unchecked, ends up in "ethnic cleansing," and in the twentieth-century European context can be compared only to that of the Nazis.

Interestingly enough, some of the prominent Greater Serbian thinkers have been quite straightforward about this. The import of their ideology is spelled out in the titles of some of its basic texts: "Until Extermination, Yours [i.e. the Croats'] or Ours" by Nikola Stojanovic, "The Expulsion of Albanians" by Vasa Cubrilovic, "Homogeneous Serbia" by Stevan Moljevic (Grmek 1993). These titles announce the ideas advanced in the texts quite accurately. As early as 1902, Nikola Stojanovic depicted Croats as neither a people nor a tribe in their own right, but a mere shapeless mass that lacks a culture or language of its own and has always been ruled by others. Their hisotry is now entering its final stage, a fateful conflict with the superior, freedom-loving and state-building Serbs. "This battle must be fought `until extermination, ours or yours.' One side must succumb. The Croats will be the losing side; that is guaranteed by the fact that they are less numerous [than the Serbs], by their geographic position, by the fact that everywhere they live mixed with Serbs, and by the process of general evolution, in which the Serbs embody the idea of progress" (Stojanovic in Grmek 1993:61).

In 1973m Vasa Cubrilovic called for ridding Kosova of its Albanian population in order to settle it by Serbs. He praised the successful "cleansing" of Serbia proper of all "foreign elements," carried out by earlier governments (Cubrilovic in Grmek 1993:111), but pointed out the limited results of Serbian colonization of Kosova and argued that "the only way ... is the use of brutal force by organized state authorities" (Cubrilovic in Grmek 1993:113). He went on to present an elaborate blueprint for expulsion by systematic state terrorism supplemented by legal and economic pressure. There was no need to worry about public opinion abroad: "if Germany can expel tens of thousands of Jews, while Russia transfers millions from one end of the continent to another, the expulsion of a few hundred thousand Albanians will not cause a world war" (Cubrilovic in Grmek 1993:114).

Writing in June 1941 in German-occupied Belgrade, Stevan Moljevic argued that "the Serbs' first and fundamental duty" was the setting up of a Serbian state "uniting all Serbs and all lands where Serbs live" (Mojevic in Grmek 1993:128 & 131). This Greater and ethnically "homogeneous" Serbia was to include all lands where any Serbs lived, together with whatever additional territories they might want for economic, strategic, or other reasons. That added up to almost 70% what had been Yugoslavia, a third of Albania, and large chunks of Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary. This was mandated by the Serbs' "historic mission," which was hegemony in Yugoslavia and throughout the Balkans (Mojevic in Grmek 1993:130).

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