The Serbs and Serbia
On the territory of ex-Yugoslavia, no single ethnic group had an absolute majority but the Serbs have been the most numerous nation having a simple majority. According to the 1981 census, the Serbs counted 36,8%, the Croats 19,8% followed by the Muslims (today Bosniaks) counted 8,9%. Bosnia-Herzegovina, as “Yugoslavia Minor”, had the following ethnic composition before the destruction of Yugoslavia according to the 1991 census: the Muslims 43,7%, the Serbs 31,3%, the Croats 17,3%, and the Yugoslav and others 7,0%.
The Serbs wanted to have control over the territory either in Croatia or in Bosnia-Herzegovina which was mainly inhabited by the Serbs. The Croats wanted the same for themselves in Bosnia-Herzegovina, while only Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslims (today Bosniaks), wanted the whole territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In order to achieve this territorial goal, the (Muslim) Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina started getting military and diplomatic support from the USA. Secret flights were started to arrive at the airport in Tuzla (a city in central Bosnia populated mainly by the Muslims). The USA started to approve of delivering weapons and other war material to Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslims who have been as well as supported by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and some other Muslim countries from the Middle East.
US President Bill Clinton later admitted in the book that America did not enforce the UN arms embargo on Yugoslavia. And that is not all. It was offered to Alija Izetbegović with the help of the Arab-Islamic mujaheddin fighters. The Serbs on the other hand relied only on aid from Serbia which was under heavy international sanctions. As the Yugoslav army was the 4th biggest in Europe (before 1991), the West was doing everything to stop Belgrade from helping and protecting the Serbs across the Drina River. As a consequence, in May 1992, overwhelming international sanctions were imposed on what was left from greater Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro within the borders of shorter Yugoslavia – the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). By October 1993, 90% of Yugoslavia’s domestic medicines production stopped. The average daily intake of calories fell by 28% compared with 1990. And 1.5 million people were classified as undernourished. Two months later over 60% of the Yugoslavia workforce was unemployed. The markets and stores were close to empty. As usual, sanctions hit the ordinary people on the lowest social ladder. People on the top social strata benefit from the sanctions. And it went further to the criminal economy when criminals became kings. Who was responsible for it?
The Serbian people were betrayed by Dafina Milanović and Jezda Vasiljević who were heads of the two pyramidal banks and being, of course, in very close relations with the regime of Slobodan Milošević. Dafina’s speech in the advertisement: “ I repeatedly say that we are smart people, I have decided that all these who live from my Dafiment Bank will continue to live.” Jezda’s speech in the advertisement: “People, do you want a better life, do you want a job? Would you like to have pensions on the time? Would you like your own foreign currency deposit? I can make this reality”. For themselves of course, because both Jezda and Dafina got the hell out of the country with people’s money. The economic tragedy triggered by the sanctions was reaching its peak in mid-1993.
Slobodan Milošević came into power in Serbia in 1987. The big anniversary was coming up. Serbs were marking 600 anniversary of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, the core of their historical culture and statehood. S. Milošević took the stage and gave the speech on the place of the battle (Gazimestan) on June 28th, 1989 which the Serbopfobic Westerners purposely described as the nationalistic call to war.
However, that was the core of this “nationalistic” and “warmongering” speech:
“Yugoslavia is a multiethnic society and its survival depends on the complete equality of all nations that live within it. The crisis that has struck Yugoslavia led to ethnic, but also social, cultural, religious, and many other less important divisions. The bridging between the differences will soften the effects of these rifts.”
The Croats and Croatia
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman during WWII served as a colonel in the communist-led Partisans, rising to the rank of general after 1945 when he as well as became a Ph.D. in history and being appointed as a director of the Institute for the History of the Worker’s Movement in Zagreb. He became in the 1960s and the 1970s a prominent Croatian dissident figure (being imprisoned as a nationalist) until he became elected President of the Republic of Croatia in May 1990. F. Tudjman created self-concept as the Father of Croatia and Croats projecting such ideological concept by imitating another Croat – dictator of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito. For instance, his Tito-like poses before the camera for which he in some occasions worn white military uniforms like those worn by Broz or the way in which he treated the people – ready to listen to advice, but always looking down from the balcony as Tito was doing.
It can be argued that F. Tudjman’s self-concept of a Messiah of Croatia and Croats became quite a significant reason among others why both the political process and system in Croatia were corrupted in the 1990s. About the Croatian war-time leader, Franjo Tudjman, is given such public speech in Zagreb by his top-party fellow in 1991, of course, with full approval by Tudjman himself:
“On this day Christ triumphantly came to Jerusalem greeted by the people as a messiah. Today, the capital of Croatia resembles Jerusalem as Franjo Tudjman has come to his people!”
In his mind, it was Tudjman himself who could best be trusted to know what should be done, especially in wartime as he was an experienced and professional military officer, what was in Croatia’s best interest, and where the rules should be bent. Tudjman was basically behaving with the Croats as the father in the family with the children setting the rules for them which were not valid and respected either for himself or/and for his closest political fellows. In other words, F. Tudjman, as Father of Croatia and all Croats, could preside over the political system in which he and his inner circle could be exempt from the general rules and laws which had been applied to other (ordinary) citizens.
In the 1990s, when F. Tudjman was Croatia’s President, his political party in power – the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) – apparently raised most of its funding by using the policy of racketeering schemes in which Government contractors would be paid only in return for a substantial financial contribution to HDZ’s budget. If we are speaking more about the funding of the HDZ, there were as well other sources of corruption which included the fact that Croatia’s political parties derived some 75% of their funding from state subsidies but distributed according to a disbursement schedule determined by the ruling HDZ party. Besides, it was the non-existence of law providing for public disclosure of such disbursement.
Tudjman had complete control over key ministries like the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Interior (police) followed by control over the information services. Some of his power was formal and institutionalized by the law but some were informal, even personal. He totally dominated the HDZ – a party which he established in 1989.
When the Croatian federal unit was constituted in 1945 it was agreed that the Serbian and Croatian people are equal, constituent factors. Croatia was proclaimed as a national state (republic) of both Croats and Serbs. The constituent factor means that no one against the will of the other can decide on his status without his consent, no matter how one is abundant over another. This meant that the change of the status of the Croatian federal unit without the consent of the Serbs (or Croats) was impossible. However, it happened in Croatia when ultra-nationalist Franjo Tudjman came to power with his Serbophobic HDZ. F. Tudjman changed the Croatian Constitution on December 22nd, 1990 (the Christmas Constitution) with a unilateral act, and the Serbian people under that Constitution were no longer constituent factor but only a national minority. Although the percentage of ethnic Serbs in Croatia was higher than the percentage of ethnic Albanians in Serbia, no Serbian autonomy in Croatia was ever considered like Kosovo Albanians enjoyed it since 1945.
The HDZ Government in Croatia continued with different restrictions for Serbs. In 1990, there were immediately after the elections introduced different discriminatory measures against the Serbs. The Serbian members of the police, in areas with Serbian majority, was being fired and replaced with the ethnic and loyal Croats, the Serbs were asked to sign statements of loyalty to the new Government, or the Latin became the only official script followed by renaming the official Croatian-Serbian language into only Croatian. There have been many threats to Serbs in Croatia before the civil war started: For example, various extremists, including the members and supporters of the ruling HDZ party publically have been announcing that the time had come to finish the genocide on Serbs where the Nazifascist Ustasi stopped in May 1945. Serbian Orthodox churches, houses, or shops were attacked. Extremely scared by neo-fascist F. Tudjman’s regime and its paramilitary forces, the Serbs began to arm themselves. S. Milošević supported them by sending weapons and the first open armed clashes started in the fall of 1990. Nevertheless, to maintain Croats and Serbs integrated in Yugoslavia after such events were practically impossible. It was only the question of which way Yugoslavia will end.
The destruction of Yugoslavia and Kosovo
The process of destruction of Yugoslavia ran clearly against Serbian interests for several reasons:
- Because it would leave a very high percentage of the Serbian population within the borders of newly independent states, which was a problem because of the lack of basic human and ethnic rights in the new fiercely nationalistic framework.
- Because they would be degraded to the status of an ethnic minority instead of the constituent nation and, therefore, in the course of time either assimilated or politically put on the very margins of society.
- Because the spreading of violence practically suspended the rights of those opposed to local Serbophobic nationalism.
These were the real reasons why Serbs sought to resist the dismantling of Yugoslavia and why they were positioned on a collision course with the West, which had decided to recognize the independence of Slovenia and Croatia in 1991 and Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992.
This part of the intervention in the process of Yugoslavia’s destruction was so successful in 1991−1995 that the West (the USA, NATO, the EU) just had to replicate it in Kosovo in 1998−1999.
Kosovo (Kosovo-Metohija in Serbian) is a different case compared to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina for two different reasons: 1) It was a province within one of the federal units (Serbia); and 2) Because the Albanians in Yugoslavia were not a constituent nation but an ethnic minority. In this sense, they had basically the same status as other ethnic minorities in Yugoslavia (Hungarians, Rumanians, Slovaks, etc.) and in other European countries like the Hungarians in Rumania, Slovakia, and Serbia; the Austrians in Italy (Tyrol); the Slovenians in Austria, etc.
Serbia must not be an exception or a precedent-setting case regarding the Albanian minority within its international borders. Kosovo is not only the cradle of Serbian statehood and culture. Kosovo represents 15% of the territory of Serbia, a democratic state with a right to territorial integrity as any other Member State of the United Nations Organization.
Basically, the Kosovo issue was generated by a combination of several factors like territory, ethnicity, or history. Before the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, Kosovo had been the center of the Serbian medieval state (Kosovo was conquered by the Ottomans in 1455). Several centuries of Ottoman domination (till 1912) caused the forced partial migration of the Serbs from Kosovo, which was settled by neighboring ethnic Albanians from North Albanian in line with the Ottoman policy of rewarding the only Balkan nation—the Albanians—who adopted Islam en masse.
Thus, began the demographic change on the territory of Kosovo. After the withdrawal of the Ottomans from the Balkans and the restoration of the Balkan states during the 1912−1913 Balkan Wars, including Serbia and newly proclaimed Albania on November 28th, 1912, East Kosovo stayed within the borders of Serbia while West Kosovo was annexed by Montenegro. Such a situation was changed only in WWII, during the Nazi occupation of Serbia, when the biggest part of Kosovo was occupied by Italy and annexed to Albania in 1941 under the sponsorship of B. Mussolini’s Italy. Following the post-war restoration of the country under J. B. Tito, Kosovo was re-incorporated into Yugoslavia as part of the territory of Serbia.
However, Serbia was the only Yugoslav federal republic in which (two) autonomous provinces were established: Vojvodina in the north (where there was a sizable Hungarian ethnic minority) and Kosovo in the south (with a substantial Albanian ethnic minority).
As far as demography is concerned, in 1948 Kosovo had a total population of around 728,000 (63.7% Albanian, 27.3% Serb); in 1961 the total population had risen to 963,988 (67% Albanian, 27,4% Serb). However, the census of 1971 shows a sharp rise in total population (1,243,693), a rise in the percentage of Albanians (73.7%), and a decrease in the percentage of Serbs (20.9%). This tendency continued more intensively in the 1970s and the 1980s. Therefore, in 1981, the total population was 1,584,441 (77.4% Albanians compared to 14.9% Serbs) and in 1991 the total population was 1,956,196 (81.6% Albanians compared to 11% Serbs). This demographic change could be explained by the closed and rather conservative traditional culture of the Muslim Albanians, their resistance to modernization and integration (especially in rural environments), the fact that Kosovo inherited a situation of economic underdevelopment, the very high birthrate among Muslim Albanians (enhanced by conservative religious-cultural patterns) and the illegal influx of the Albanian immigrants from North Albania (after the upgrading of Kosovo autonomy in 1974 when the Kosovo province, in fact, became a sovereign republic within Yugoslavia together with the Vojvodina province).
To be continued