Tag Archives: Yugoslavia

Post-Bratstvo i Jedinstvo

10 Apr

License plates are little, mundane slabs of metal or plastic that generally serve two purposes – to identify vehicles, and to promote a culture. I find them fascinating.

We just returned from a phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime 3-generational tour of the former Yugoslavia, from where my parents emigrated in the 60s. Since breaking up in 1991, these countries have gone from waging war against each other to varying degrees of recovery. Slovenia is in the EU, and Croatia will join this July. Bosnia and Hercegovina is almost perpetually in political / ethnic crisis, while Serbia and Montenegro have just recently gone their separate ways, having dissolved their confederation. Macedonia is plugging away, nestled between the Serbia-Kosovo conflict and the Greek economic crisis. 

The title of this post is the slogan of the former League of Communists of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – Tito and his successors promoted “Brotherhood and Unity” among the Southern Slavic peoples, who were united after World War I under Serbian rule and then fought each other mercilessly during the second World War. Perhaps it was always doomed to fail, as the Yugoslav nations had distinctly dissimilar backgrounds – Slovenes and Croats were under the Austrians and/or Hungarians for centuries. The Serbs, Macedonians, Kosovars, and Bosnians under Ottoman rule. Serbs and Croats essentially share a language, but the Serbian Orthodox Christian heritage didn’t always mesh with Croatian Catholicism, and while the former writes in Cyrillic, the latter uses the Latin alphabet. Small differences that, with the right spark, can result in inexplicable cruelty and violence. 

I have a similar fascination with international frontiers. It seems astonishing to me sometimes to think how an arbitrary, imaginary line on a mountaintop or the middle of a creek can so starkly separate two distinct languages, histories, religions, and cultures. 

During our trip, I cataloged the plates I saw that represented a once-united country. The only ones I didn’t see were Kosovo’s (although I saw several new and old-style Albanian plates, which were unheard-of when I was a kid and Albania was Europe’s North Korea.) 

Only Slovenia can display the blue Euroband with the gold stars of the EU. All the rest, except Croatia, have a blue area for the Euroband without the stars, but with the country’s international vehicle registration code. (Slovenia = SLO, Croatia = HR, Bosnia and Herzegovina = BIH, Montenegro = MNE, Serbia = SRB, Macedonia = MK, Kosovo = RKS – note that Kosovo used to be a province of Yugoslavia and then Serbia, and the two countries have not yet resolved their dispute over Kosovo’s independence). Croatia has no Euroband, but left room for it to the left of the regional code that precedes the Croatian coat of arms (shown here is PU for Pula). 

A lot of blood was shed to get to this point, where there now exist seven independent and sovereign republics where once there was one federal entity. The irony, it seems, is that they all seek to enter a troubled European confederation where the movement of people and goods would once again be completely without frontier or limit. 

Karadzic

22 Jul

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Here’s what the Butcher of Sarajevo looks like nowadays.

Rumor has it the Wendt Foundation is paying him $1,000,000 to fight a casino in downtown Buffalo.

But seriously,

Karadzic used false documents with the name Dragan Dabic,” said Rasim Ljajic, the minister in charge of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

He had been posing as a doctor of alternative medicine, sporting long hair, a beard and glasses to hide his face.

A picture shown to reporters showed an unrecognisable Karadzic, markedly thin, with a long white beard and flowing hair. Serbian officials said he was walking freely around town and earned money from practising medicine.

They said they could not divulge more details because it might jeopardise efforts to arrest two other war crime suspects on the run.

Practicing alternative medicine, more specifically.

Karadzic “was questioned overnight, his identity was established and he was given the indictment” of the ICTY, Mr Vukcevic said.

“An examining magistrate, I am aware, has already brought a decision that all conditions have been met for his transfer to The Hague.”

Political leaders in Europe and the US congratulated the Serbian government on managing to detain Karadzic after 13 years on the run.

Richard Holbrooke, the US diplomat who brokered the Dayton Peace Agreement for Bosnia in 1995, described his arrest as “a historic day”.

He said: “One of the worst men in the world, the Osama bin Laden of Europe, has finally been captured.

“A major, major thug has been removed from the public scene.”

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, described his capture as “good news”, saying it would “pave the way for a brighter, European future for Serbia and the region”.

Mr Holbrooke said it was “significant” that the Serbian authorities had succeeded where Nato had failed.

The White House also congratulated the Serbian government on the arrest.

“The timing of the arrest, only days after the commemoration of the massacre of over 7,000 Bosnians committed in Srebrenica, is particularly appropriate, as there is no better tribute to the victims of the war’s atrocities than bringing their perpetrators to justice,” the White House Press Secretary said.

Karadzic was reportedly arrested just after 11pm, after police swarmed the exclusive central Belgrade neighbourhood of Vracar, one of the city’s oldest

UPDATE: Apparently, Karadzic was quite open about his alternative medicine bullshit. He appeared at several symposia:

Karadzic’s pseudonym was “Dragan David Dabi?”.

Here’s his business card:

And, courtesy of this blog, here is a link to Karadzic’s business’ website, which features the “David Wellbeing Program”.

At the bottom of the webpage is the email address: dddavid@psy-help-energy.com. That is Karadzic’s private email address.

Monday

21 Jul

Two events that seemed unthinkable on Friday, occurred on Monday.

1. Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF and opposition MDC executed a “memorandum of understanding” with an eye towards national unity and reconciliation. No word on whether Bass Pro is interested.

2. Radovan Karadži?, who is a truly bad guy, has been captured without incident in Serbia and will soon be on his way to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague. You know when people arbitrarily throw around the Hitler comparatives with respect to any manner of politics with which they disagree? Karadži? and his military cohort, Ratko Mladi? targeted civilians, shelled and sniped Sarajevo for 43 months, set up concentration camps, and committed the Srebrenica massacre. Serbia has a brand-new government, and this is a bold move to help hasten Serbia’s re-integration to modern Europe. Alas, Mladi? remains at large.

Wilding

21 Feb

That’s the word this Serbian paper used to describe the rioting in Belgrade today. One person was killed, and over 150 injured.

I haven’t seen it used seriously since this.

Serbia Overreacts

21 Feb

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Let us all pause and permit Serb nationalists to have their temper tantrum over the newly declared independent Kosovo.

This will all subside, and soon Serbia will realize that it’s better off hitching its wagon to the EU, rather than Putin. The battered Serbian economy will be better off for not subsidizing a province that is hostile to it, and the Kosovars will be better off permitted to chart their own course, and not one directed from Belgrade.

If the union of the South Slavs was an artificial construct that was doomed to failure, the incorporation of a non-Slavic province was even more so.

The 90s were replete with wars and murders based on medieval hatreds. This final explosion of anachronistic Serbian nationalism will run its course.

(The header image shows Serbian President Vojislav Kostunica as a fictional contestant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”. The question is “Kosovo is…” Mr. Kostunica has selected “Serbia”, echoing the protesters’ calls of “Kosovo je Srbija”. The correct answer, flashing green, is “independent”)

Kosovo Declares Independence. Again.

18 Feb

Kosovo actually declared independence in 1990. As Wikipedia explains,

Albanians organized a peaceful separatist movement. State institutions and elections were boycotted and separate Albanian schools and political institutions were established. On July 2, 1990 Kosovo Parliament declared Kosovo an independent country, the Republic of Kosovo, this was only recognized by Albania. In September of that year, the parliament, meeting in secrecy in the town of Kaçanik, adopted the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo. Two years later, in 1992, the parliament organized an unofficial referendum which was observed by international organizations but was not recognized internationally. With an 80% turnout, 98% voted for Kosovo to be independent.

Kosovo’s declaration of independence has been inevitable since the late 70s and early 80s, when riots first broke out in Prishtina, protesting oppression at the hands of the then-communist Belgrade authorities. A post-Titoist power struggle was ultimately filled in Serbia by Slobodan Milosevic, who appealed to long-dormant Serbian nationalism and sense of primacy in the region. As Milosevic abolished the Titoist autonomy for Kosovo, and stirred anti-Albanianism among the local Kosovar Serb population, the Kosovar Albanians – now 90% of the population – fought back with their own brand of nationalist extremism.

But that didn’t happen until the late 90s; not until after Dayton.

After the settlement of the wars to Serbia’s west in Dayton, Ohio, Milosevic was able to use all the power of the Serbian state and independent militias towards the South, engaging in the type of ethnic cleansing there that they had conducted in Bosnia and Croatia 8 years earlier. Well over a million Albanian refugees escaped to Albania or Macedonia, creating a massive, almost unprecedented post-WWII European refugee crisis. (edit)

This time, however, the West had had enough of this war criminal’s shenanigans, and repelled the Serbian onslaught with a 78-day air war.

On the subject of Kosovo, caution and negotiation is most necessary. This inevitable step – and a plebiscite on joining with Albania proper is probably coming down the pike – is a result of hundreds of years’ worth of social engineering dating to the mass conversion of Orthodox Christians to Islam due to the discriminatory taxation policies of the Ottoman empire, right up to the west’s border-drawing in the post-Ottoman, post-Hapsburg era. This was aggravated by ethnic clashes during World War II, Communist oppression, and ethnic provocations by both sides.

Excluding the former Soviet Union, Kosovo represents the last of the European post-Communist struggles, and represents a continuation of a thread that Milosevic began in 1987 to destroy Yugoslavia and consolidate his power. In the process, he created a national socialist kleptocracy that enriched itself at its people’s expense, and started or aggravated wars for territorial gain. When Yugoslav republics and provinces clamored within Yugoslavia’s legal system for increased autonomy and confederation, Milosevic refused, demanded further centralization, and hastened the breakup of that country. He was truly the monster everyone made him out to be. Seriously – even worse.

Don’t permit the politically gullible and ignorant to try and convince you that this is a massive struggle of Muslims against Christians, or al Qaeda west, or that the aggressors are the victims and vice-versa. Like Bosnians, Kosovars are among the most westernized and secular Muslims in the world.

While Prishtina celebrates and Belgrade riots, I hope that a fifth Balkan war since 1990 can be averted and cooler heads can prevail, as they did when Montenegro did the same thing in 2006. Belgrade is concerned about a 10% Serbian minority in Kosovo, and obviously its safety and rights must be guaranteed, the issue is a highly emotional one for Serbs because the Serb Kingdom was defeated by the Ottomans at Kosovo Polje in the year 1389; that field is considered to be the heart of the Serbian nation. 2007 is far different from 1389. It’s also much different from 1945, 1964, 1987, 1989, and 1999.

Frankly, I think a fascist Putinist Russia is much scarier than an independent Kosovo, which has a per capita GNP lower than Rwanda’s.