When the civil war in Ukraine started, the question that arised is whether there are similarities between Ukrainian and Yugoslavian civil wars. So let’s compare these two countries, one that is falling apart – Ukraine and the other one that doesn’t exist anymore – Yugoslavia.
Yugoslavia was a multinational country with different national and ethnic groups coexisting together and two dominant nations Serbs and Croats. Ukraine is also quite a diverse country with Ukrainians, Russians (around 20% of Ukrainian population) and few minorities (Rusyns, Romanians, Hungarians) living together. Once the Yugoslavia collapsed, in a newly created ex-Yugoslav republic Croatia and Bosnia, Serbs lost its status of a constitutional nation and become a national minority heavily discriminated and harassed by new nationalistic governments. On the other side after the fall of Soviet Union, Ukrainian leadership, especially newly installed NATO puppet regime, didn’t allow to use Russian language as an official one and Russian minority was discriminated in order to build new anti-Russian Ukrainian identity.
Even though it is not obvious at a first sight, it is important to realise that there is a strong religious aspect of Ukrainian civil war. This is something that is similar to civil war in Yugoslavia that also involved a religious conflict. Three sides that were fighting in ex-Yugoslav wars belonged to different religions. Serbs are Orthodox Christians, Croatians – Catholics and Bosnian Muslims and Albanians are Muslims. There is a similar pattern in Ukrainian civil war. Although many of them formally belong to the same nation – Ukrainian one, many Ukrainians belong to different denominations of Christianity. Novorossia forces belong to Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC –MP), while most of the Ukrainian forces belong to the unrecognised schismatic “Ukrainian orthodox church” led by ex-KGB agent Filaret, Ukrainian Greek-catholic church and Catholic church. History between Vatican and Orthodox Christians in both Balkans and Ukraine is tragic. During XXVII century Orthodox population in the West of the Ukraine was forcefully converted into union with the Rome. The same tragedy happened in the Balkans during the last five centuries. For example, during Second World War Vatican manage to forcefully convert more than 400.000 Orthodox Serbs to Catholicism and more that 100.000 was “peacefully integrated” during the last civil war. In Croatia, Bosnia and Serbian Kosovo more than of 500 Orthodox churches were destroyed many of them dating from as early as XII century. The same planned destruction of Orthodox churches is unveiling in the Ukrainian conflict. Ukrainian forces consider canonical UOC–MP as a Russian nationalistic church and Putin religious force. That’s the reason Ukrainian paramilitaries are destroying Orthodox churches and killing orthodox priests because they want to forcefully install their denominations of Christianity in traditionally Orthodox Eastern Ukraine. Don’t forget the statement of Brzezinski that after eliminating communism the major threat to the West is Christian Orthodoxy. Samuel Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilisations?” comes to one’s mind with his theory that people’s cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world.
During civil war in Yugoslavia, the West has armed Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Albanians together with a help of some Muslim countries (in particular Saudi Arabia and Iran), but it was also heavily engaged in anti-Serbian propaganda by demonising Serbs in the Western media. There are many racist quotes for Western politicians about Serbs. For example ambassador of UNESCO and famous actor Peter Ustinov called Serbs subhuman, the same name Ukrainian Prime minister Yatsenyuk used to describe “Russian terrorists” in Ukraine. Also Hollywood contribution to serbophobia campaign was not insignificant – portraying Serbs as bad guys in Hollywood movies. One would say this is why the West always considered Serbs as “little Russians from Balkan” having in mind their common Slavic roots, Orthodox religion and civilisation. The similar demonization and russophobia is unveiling now in Ukraine where Russia, Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) and Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) forces are characterised by the Western media as Russian terrorists, the Asiatic hordes of Russia, killers and aggressors. In both conflicts the side the West favours claims to be making a “civilisational choice” for Europe and the West against the “dark barbarian East” supposedly represented by the other side. Fortunately, this time many Western citizens don’t take Western mainstream media propaganda for granted as they did in 90’s and they are new alternative media who are breaking the monopoly of Western media in the world.
Double standards regarding the right for self-determination.
While the West, especially USA and Germany, encouraged collapse of Yugoslavia and separation and creation of Croatian and Bosnian state along communist administrative borders, the right for self-determination was denied to Serbs in their majority populated areas. It is important to notice that borders of the Ex-Yugoslav republic were administrative one, they were not the historical one and they were drown by communists who consider that the biggest problem of Yugoslavia before the Second World War was Serbian domination. In addition, Croatian and Bosnian separation was also blatant violation of the Yugoslavian constitution, but the West completely ignored this fact than. However nowadays, we hear hypocritical Western politicians reminding us that the referendum in the Crimea and the Donbas was not according to the Ukrainian constitution. What about Western hypocrisy and illegal NATO aggression in 1999 against Serbia and occupation of Serbian Kosovo where they install NATO puppet state ruled by Albanian war criminals and drug dealers? Since Serbs in artificially created Croatia and Bosnia were formally denied the right to self-determination, they created Republic of Srpska and Republic of Serbian Krajina. The same self-determination process is happening now in Ukraine with the creation of LPR and DPR and their unification into Novorossiya. It is worth noticing that the West is not only denying people of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea the right for self-determination, it is also dismissing any prospect of genuine autonomy and federalisation within Ukraine.
The plan in both civil wars is the same, namely, ethnic cleansing of territories populated by an undesired population. Even though the Western propaganda accused Serbs to be “Butchers of the Balkans”, both Croatia and NATO occupied Kosovo were cleansed out of Serbs. Croats and Albanians succeeded in it, Bosnian Muslims – did not. In 1995, during Croatian punitive military operation Storm, they manage to cleanse Republic of Serbian Krajina. Today Serbs constitute less that 3% of Croatian population and this was official goal stated by Croatian president Tudjman. Serbian population was reduced by more than 70% in the aftermath of the war. Kosovo was also cleansed for Serbs with more that 250.000 Serbs fled and only 120.000 managed to stay. They are still heavily discriminated and persecuted. Ethnic cleansing of Russian and pro-Russian Ukrainian population is the exact plan of the Kiev regime. That’s the reason we are seeing numerous reports of indiscriminate shelling, killing civilians and bombing civilian infrastructure including hospitals, power plants, coals, water-processing plants etc. More than one million Ukrainian citizens (registered and unregistered refuges) fled to Russia from the Kiev’ regime and this represents the biggest exodus of Europeans since the Second World War. Kiev’s plan is only to keep few million loyalists and continue using vast resources of Donbas. Let’s not forget that the Ukrainian volunteers are promised free land if Ukraine wins the war in Donbas. It is Ukrainian version of Nazi “Lebensraum”.
Both Yugoslavia and Ukraine were never fully functional states and cohesive societies. They can be considered to some extent as “artificial countries”. After collapse of Soviet Union and Yugoslavia both Ukraine and some of the ex-Yugoslav republics (Croatia, Bosnia) were created within the administrative borders drown by communities than never reflected historical borders between the nations. After the Second World War Yugoslavia only survived under the authoritarian communist rule. Ukraine as a state never existed in current borders and never had any tradition of statehood. It was unsuccessful geopolitical experiment that never really worked out. It included unsuccessful effort to create strong unifying anti-Russian Ukrainian identity and to unite together people of different languages, nations and religions. Furthermore, Ukrainian economy never recovered from the fall of Soviet Union. Ukrainian political “elite” had 24 years to create a functional state and society and they miserably failed in it. Ukrainian state apparatus tried to built unity through promotion of Ukrainian nationalism via educational system and media but it never really succeeded in it. The West/East divide in Ukrainian society is just too big. That’s the reason it was doomed to fail from the beginning, especially from the moment when pro-Western puppet regime took over the power by coup d’etat and adopted even more extreme West Ukrainian anti-Russian paradigm and views as official doctrine.
Myth about foreign military aggression.
During Croatian and Bosnian civil wars both Croats and Muslims claimed that this is not a genuine civil war but Serbian aggression on their countries in order to create “Great Serbia”. The facts speak differently with 95% of soldiers on the ground being local Serbs fighting for their homeland and newly created republics – Republic of Srpska and Republic of Serbian Krajina. The similar thing is happening in Ukraine with LPR and DPR. However, according to Ukrainian and Western propaganda, this is no civil war; it is just “crazy Putin” trying to revive dream of Great Russian Empire or Soviet Union 2.0 by invading Ukraine. Western and Ukrainian propagandists want to depict the conflict as a war between Ukraine and Russia and not Ukrainian war against its own citizens.
Both Ukraine and Yugoslavia enormously suffered under domestic Nazi collaborators. Prewar Yugoslavia was destroyed by Croatian Nazis and Bosnian Muslim Nazi SS Handschar division who managed to kill 1.1 million Serbs, 200.000 Jews and 150.000 Roma people during the Second World War. Even Hitler, disgusted by the level of Croatian monstrous atrocities reported by a Nazi diplomat in Croatia, said: “I have also told the Poglavnik (Croatian Nazi leader Pavelic) that one cannot exterminate such a minority: it is simply too large!” On the other side Ukrainian Nazi collaborators, both Ukrainian Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician) and Bandera nationalist paramilitary killed around 100 000 Polish civilians, dozens of thousands of Jews, Russians and pro-Russian Ukrainians. It is irony that today Polish support Ukrainian fascists, the very same that adore Bandera and his genocide against Polish people in Western Ukraine. Center of today’s extreme Ukrainian nationalism the city of Lviv was before the Second World War a center of Polish and Jewish culture with 50% of population being Polish and 30% Jewish. Both Ukrainian and Croatian nationalists and fascists were and are inspired by their grandfathers who fought for Nazi Germany and establishment of Nazi puppet states.
Damir Marinovic is the Serbian international affairs analyst.