THE YUGOSLAV CRISIS AND THE UNITED STATES:
So what is Yugoslavia: a fatally flawed edifice from its inception, or an old dream turned sour? It is a bit of both, but let us first establish what it isn't. There are frequent claims - both within "the Land of South Slavs" and by less well informed observers abroad - that Yugoslavia has been an artificial and unnatural state all along, a sort of mini-Soviet Union, created for the benefit of the majority nation. While this view may appear alluring, especially because of the attractive Soviet parallel, it is based on an inaccurate and misleading picture.
It is a matter of historical record that the roots of the movement for South Slav unity were to be found among all constituent nations of Yugoslavia long before the new state was created. This movement was especially strong in mid-nineteenth-century Croatia, among the intelligentsia. It found an articulate advocate in a Roman Catholic bishop, Josip Juraj Strossmayer. Even the Habsburg general who is now celebrated as a Croatian national hero, ban Josip Jelacic, asserted that both Serbs and Croats were essentially one people (1848). In those days, the rationale for South Slav unity - cultural, socio-economic, linguistic - seemed no less valid than that which guided Germans and Italians on their road to unification under Bismarck or Mazzini. The legacy of nineteenth-century "Yugoslavism," romantic and confined to intellectual elites as it was, cannot be overlooked or totally eradicated.
When the unification finally came, after World War I, it was probably a half-century overdue: the process of separate cultural development and articulation of separate national identities among the South Slavs had been almost completed. Yugoslavia came into being as a nineteenth-century dream which fitted rather uneasily into the realities of post-1918 Europe.
In Serbia, which had renewed its independence a century earlier, the Yugoslav idea was not universally admired. Indeed, it was argued that the acceptance of the Yugoslav solution was not in line with the pragmatically defined national interest of the Kingdom, which emerged as one of the victorious powers from the Great War.
During that war, the Allies had offered Serbia considerable territorial enlargement (Vojvodina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, parts of today's Croatia...) - in effect the creation of a Great Serbia, which would have covered some two-thirds of today's Yugoslav territory. The Entente powers envisaged this solution as a reward for Serbia's considerable contribution to the Allied cause 1914-1918, during which it lost a quarter of its population. A major portion of the Adriatic Coast was thereby assigned to Italy.
During those four years, young Croatians and Slovenes fought on the side of the Central Powers, most as Austrio-Hungarian conscripts, some as volunteers. As the Entente victory appeared increasingly imminent, several exiled Croatian and Slovene politicians started an intense lobbying action with the Government of Serbia and in Allied capitals, in favor of a single South Slav state on the ruins of Austria-Hungary. Not surprisingly, they were apprehensive of ending the war on the losing side, and being left to the tender mercies of their much more powerful and expansionist neighbours, such as Italy. They saw in the Yugoslav option a way to avoid this undesirable outcome, and endeavored to overcome doubts and reservations of Serbian Prime Minister Pasic and others.
An agreement between the "Yugoslav Committee" and the Government of Serbia was eventually reached at the Island of Corfu in 1917, envisaging a unitary state under the Serbian dynasty of Karageorgevich. As a leading Croatian politician, Dr. Ante Trumbich, declared at the time:
Serbia proved ready to sacrifice her state individuality in order that one common state of all Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes might be created. She thus has the absolute right to be called the Yugoslav Piedmont.The leading political force in Zagreb from 1903 until the end of the Great War, the Croat-Serb Coalition was in the forefront of this pro-Yugoslav activity within the Habsburg lands of Croatia and Slavonia. Both partners in this alliance were regarded as an integral part of Croatia's body-politic, and as legitimate participants in any decision-making about the province's future.
Slovene and Croat representatives arrived in Belgrade on December 1, 1918, to press for immediate unification with Serbia, which was duly effected. They may have been defending their particular national interests in that way, it is nevertheless significant that their action came months before the victorious allies convened in Versailles. The new state, far from being a "Versailles creation," offered Croats and Slovenes an opportunity to preserve their territorial and linguistic integrity, and gave Serbs a chance finally to come under one state roof. The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, as it was originally called, was created on the basis of President Wilson's *Fourteen Points*, the U.S. government was accordingly among the first to recognize it.
Historical record thus contradicts the myth of Yugoslavia's "artificial creation." Its constituent nations voluntarily entered the union, on the basis of an overwhelming mandate of elected representatives in formerly Austro-Hungarian South Slav lands.
The new state was beset by huge problems from the beginning, from the legacy of war and destruction to the animosity of several of its neighbors whose territorial appetites went unsatisfied in Versailles. The unsettled national question proved much more serious. It is sometimes claimed today that between 1919 and 1941, Yugoslavia was dominated by Serbs, while other nationalities were oppressed. While arguments exist to support such a claim, a comprehensive look reveals a more complex story than it may seem at first.
Denunciation of "great-Serbian oppression" was a favorite theme as early as 1919 of both the Croat separatist movement and of Moscow-controlled Yugoslav communists. From the earliest days, both groups were adamantly opposed to the Yugoslav state, for different reasons, but with similar methods and vocabulary. The former refused to take part in the Constituent Assembly, the latter refused to recognize the Constitution of 1921. This even resulted in an unholy alliance between Croatian politicians and the Communist International in the heyday of Lenin's drive to export the Bolshevik Revolution. (A similar community of interests was forged between the extreme Croatian proto-Fascist fringe and the Communist Party of Yugoslavia a decade later, in the early 1930's.)
Between the wars, Yugoslavia was a state desperately in search of a viable political system. Most Serbs sought to turn it into a relatively centralized, unitary state, the model for which corresponded to their pre-1914 experience. Many Croats brought into the new union all the reflexes and obstructionist modes of political discourse inherited from the days of Austria-Hungary. Without any tradition of independent statehood in modern times, Croatian politicians tended to perceive ANY state as an entity external to themselves and their perception of the Croats' national interest, therefore as antagonistic and intrinsically untrustworthy.
The mood of mistrust and increasing antagonism was facilitated by many mistakes made by the Serb political establishment, where one could find both insensitivity and lack of understanding of the other side's apprehensions and aspirations. Clashing self-perceptions were involved, resulting in an unprecedented degree of animosity. Two decades of gradual estrangement among Yugoslavs, primarily defined through the Serb-Croat problem, came to dominate the political life of the "First Yugoslavia."
Nevertheless, even this "Serb-dominated" state was constantly in search of a *modus vivendi* with the Croats. In August 1939, when an agreement was finally reached, Croatia's political establishment expressed satisfaction with the extensive autonomy granted thereby. The undisputed leader of the Croat people at that time, Dr. Vladko Macek, signed the agreement which opened with the following statement: "Yugoslavia is the best guarantee of the independence and progress of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes."
By that time, the clouds of war were already gathering around Yugoslavia. In March 1941, in the darkest hour for all friends of liberty in Europe, thousands of Serbs took to the streets of Belgrade and other cities in support of a pro-Allied coup d'etat. Hitler's subsequent rage resulted in a ferocious Axis attack and the destruction of the country. Being on the Allied side even when "pragmatic self-interest" dictated otherwise was to cost Serbia yet another crop of its youth, for the second time in a generation's lifetime.
On the eve of German attack, the Croatian leader, Macek, rejected all German offers of power in a future independent Croatia. He, too, was a "devastated man" when the attack came. There was one group, however, which greeted the arrival of the *Wehrmacht* with unconcealed delight- Croatian separatists, the most sinister of whom - the *Ustasa* movement headed by Ante Pavelic - were duly installed in power by the victorious Germans and Italians.
The present Serb-Croat conflict cannot be properly understood or evaluated without some reference to the policy of genocide perpetrated by Croatian Quislings, the Ustasas, against Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies during the Second World War. There is a wealth of authentic documents on Ustasa atrocities from German, Italian, and Allied sources. Axis field commanders often complained that the Croats anti-Serb zeal was providing guerrilla formations with a steady pool of recruits. The trauma which the Serbs experienced in Croatian extermination camps and under the knives of Croatian regular units and irregular bands is only vaguely discernible from the following entry in the latest *Britannica*:
In Croatia the indigenous fascist regime set about a policy of "racial purification" that went beyond even Nazi practices. Minority groups such as Jews and Gypsies were to be eliminated, as were the Serbs: it was declared that one-third of the Serbian population would be deported, one-third converted to Roman Catholicism, and.one-third liquidated [...] Ustasa bands terrorized the countryside. The partial collaboration of the Catholic clergy in these practices continues to be a component of Serb-Croat suspicion. (Macropedia, Vol. 29, 1991, p. 1111)A similar assessment is offered by the *Encyclopaedia Americana*, which stresses that the Ustasa regime organized a campaign of forced annihilation and conversion of the Serbian Orthodox - resulting in chaos and civil war. Similar verdicts came from Croatian democrats and anti-fascists, too. The late Dr. Branko Peselj, a prominent Croat pre-war politician and Macek's personal aide, and in his emigre days an attorney in Washington D.C. for forty years prior to his death in 1990, testified that Pavelic's Ustasas intended to eliminate *all* Serbs in areas they controlled. In this they almost succeeded, deploying means even more cruel - and no less efficient - than those used in Auschwitz and Babi Yar. Exact numbers are still disputed - according to German contemporary estimates, several hundred thousand Serb civilians were slain. But more important than an exact number is the fact that, in "Independent Croatia," there was no rational correlation between a Serb's behavior or values and the state's attitude towards him.
People outside Yugoslavia may have some difficulty comprehending the unwavering determination of Serbs not to live under a sovereign Croat government. Those Serbs, it should be remembered, have this *genocide within living memory* as a salient feature of their outlook. Hundreds of thousands perished, and there is hardly a Serb in Croatia who does not have a family member or an ancestor among the victims.
The Serbs fears are certainly not allayed by the people who rule Croatia today, uncompromising nationalists who not only minimize the number of victims, or even deny that atrocities have taken place, but who also readily admit that the Quisling-ruled Croatia "reflected those centuries-old aspirations of the Croat people" (Croatia's President Franjo Tudjman, 1990). It is worthy of mention that this so-called Independent State of Croatia declared war on the United States and Great Britain in December 1941, and that thousands of its volunteers took an active part in the struggle for Hitler's "New Europe" in places as far apart as Stalingrad and Trieste.
The roots of Yugoslavia's current crisis are primarily to be found in the legacy of Marshal Josip Broz Tito's autocratic brand of communism. Mistakenly hailed by the West for decades as a "different" kind of communist, Tito had devised in his lifetime a political system designed to perpetuate his personal power by keeping Yugoslavia's national Party hierarchies permanently at odds with each other. Apprehensive of all real or potential rivals to the point of paranoia, Tito devised an unworkable decision-making system which made him a permanent giant among dwarfs. In his aftermath, this system also assured Yugoslavia's slide into civil war.
Tito began his Yugoslav career as an agent of Stalin's Comintern. This ambitious Croatian locksmith converted to communism, Austrian veteran of the Great War, was given a mandate by Moscow during World War II to give shape to the "new" Yugoslavia. He was able to do so due to his victory in a multi-cornered civil war which raged in Yugoslavia from 1941 until 1945. This was primarily a *civil war*: most victims were killed by OTHER Yugoslavs, and most parties were vying for power after the end of the global conflict. For all his rhetoric of "national liberation," Tito's self-avowed main enemy was the pro-Western resistance movement of General Draza Mihailovic's Cetniks, abandoned by the British in 1943 because "Tito was killing more Germans."
Serbian nationalists today claim that Tito's "solution" of 1945 was an inherently anti-Serb affair, the result of a grand communist conspiracy against the nation which proved most reluctant in embracing the five-pointed red star. This is an exaggeration. Admittedly, anti-Serb overtones of the Commintern's pre-war slogans were amply reflected in the assumptions on which the second, communist Yugoslavia was based. But the primary motive was to keep all players equally weak, to prevent any single party being strong enough to threaten the dynamics of Tito's rule. As the Serbs happened to be more numerous and, historically, more "stubborn" (Tito's words) than the rest, they had to be circumscribed in territory and political influence.
There were ultimately no "winners" in Tito's one-man state: all were losers except the dictator and his *nomenklatura*. It is nevertheless evident that the Serb nation was treated by him with particularly vindictive disdain. To keep them (as well as everyone else) at bay, Tito introduced the policy of "brotherhood and unity," a typical communist set of slogans about the overcoming of national differences through the common experience of anti-Fascist struggle and post-war "construction of socialism." This was meant to strengthen the Party's control and keep nationalist passions at bay.
The chief practical consequence of such approach, however, was a massive official coverup of Ustasa war crimes against the Serbs, all in the name of ideological peace and new order. Everything was supposed to be "forgiven and forgotten," and any reminder of the unhealed wounds was labeled a nationalist provocation. Consequently, the process of de-Nazification never took place in Yugoslavia. This is a paramount factor of contemporary politics in Croatia, which has emerged as the hotbed of instability in post- Titoist Yugoslavia. Tito's edifice had been untenable and thoroughly flawed from the beginning, but tragedies and mistakes from the past threaten to repeat themselves on its ruins.
The most pernicious practical aspect of Tito's legacy concerns internal boundaries. To be precise, the problem concerns the discrepancy between administrative boundaries of federal units within Yugoslavia, and ethnic demarcation lines between the constituent nations of Yugoslavia. Internal boundaries between Yugoslav federal units were arbitrarily established by the communist Partisan leadership in 1943, at a meeting of the communist-controlled provisional legislature organized by Tito. The decision was presented to this forum in a ready-made form, not open to questions and debate. It received its final touches in 1945, in an equally "democratic" manner. Those boundaries are still in force today.
While national communist parties of Croatia and Slovenia were duly represented at the 1943 gathering, the Serbs fighting on Tito's side - the only group denied the "privilege" of having a national communist party at that time - were not. It is far from certain whether even pro-communist Serbs would have agreed to Tito's project of the territorial division of Yugoslavia, were it not for his assurances that the boundaries were irrelevant anyway. It was claimed that they would be treated merely as administrative lines between federal units, under the same state roof.
It was thus that the boundaries between the six republics were subsequently presented to the public at large. Of course, no debate was ever allowed, although some questions could be legitimately asked. For instance, just over one percent of all inhabitants of the Republic of Serbia are Croatian, while in 1948 - even after the Ustasa genocide - the Serbs accounted for 17 percent of the population of the Republic of Croatia. Ethnically senseless, those boundaries have no basis in history either, even less in law. They have never been subjected to a popular plebiscite, let alone to the due process of negotiation, signature and ratification by the democratically elected representatives of the peoples affected by them.
One consequence of Tito's project was to split the Serbs into four federal units, leaving one-third of them outside the confines of "Serbia-proper." Furthermore, within Serbia itself, two autonomous provinces were created, thus diminishing that republic's coherence even further. No other federal republic in Yugoslavia had autonomous provinces carved out of its land, although the same set of ethnic, historical, cultural, and geographic principles would have dictated the granting of the same autonomous status to Istria with Quarnero and Dalmatia, to name but two obvious candidates.
Subsequently, Tito's peculiar brand of federalism was enthroned. It was inherently unstable: Serbs, with 40 percent of the total population, had one-eighth influence. This provided the basis for an eventual resurrection of Serbian nationalism, which came in the late 1980's with Slobodan Milosevic. For all his demagoguery and populism, Milosevic could not have succeeded had he not relied on a deep, well-grounded sense of dissatisfaction and *Angst* present among a majority of Serbs of all social classes. It is now becoming obvious that they have never accepted the legitimacy of these boundaries, even as administrative lines. Any attempt to turn them into international frontiers would eliminate the grounds for a constructive dialogue with them, or for a peaceful and just resolution of the Yugoslav crisis.
Yugoslavia's internal boundaries are a legacy of Stalin's Comintern, which inspired them, and of Tito's autocratic communism, which enforced them. Now that both those creations are mercifully defunct, it would be a supreme irony for the democratic community of nations to treat their flawed legacy as legally binding or legitimate. It is highly significant that in Croatia the ruling team seeks to preserve one - and only one! - part of the Yugoslav legacy: the boundaries. It is hardly surprising that the Serbs refuse to accept this, as it would imply the abandonment of hundreds of thousands of their compatriots to an uncertain future under Croatia's ultra-nationalist regime, a regime deeply imbued with the chauvinistic mysticism of blood and soil.
Yugoslavia's Constitution of 1974 codified Tito's unworkable system of collective decision-making, his concept of "workers' self-management" once so dear to Western left-wing intellectuals, and his internal division of the country. This document is now defunct. Unilateral actions of Yugoslavia's separatist forces, relying on the policy of *fait accompli*, assured that no legally codified framework can be enforced at the moment. Unfortunately, in some Yugoslav republics this document imbued with Titoist ideology was replaced over the past year by constitutions which elevate the Nation to the status of the highest good.
The new Croatian constitution, proclaimed in December 1990, is a case in point. Croatia was thereby defined as the nation-state of the Croat people, in the best tradition of national romanticism, thus reducing the Serbs there to the status of a mere national minority. Of course, a rational and civilized solution would have been to devise constitutional arrangements which always treat the *citizen* as the key subject. It is from him, the free individual, that the collective rights of Yugoslavia's constituent nations ought to spring.
These nations accordingly need to be recognized as entities which transcend the boundaries between constituent republics. To take an example which is the source of considerable controversy right now, parts of the Serb nation have been inhabiting many areas of the federal republic of Croatia for centuries. Today they have a simple majority in about a third of its territory, even after the tremendous loss of life under the Ustasas during World War II. The Serbs' right to these lands was recognized in the ONLY international agreement dealing with this issue - the London Treaty of 1915, signed by the major Allied powers. As far back as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Serbs' rights there were codified in numerous charters by Habsburg monarchs, who sought to reward Serb warriors for their services to the Crown. Besides neither ethnic, nor legal, there are also no historical grounds for Yugoslavia's constituent nations to be split up by the arbitrarily drawn boundaries between administrative units.
It is an established legal precedent and an accepted principle of international law that a secessionist entity cannot take with it geographically compact regions inhabited by a majority opposed to secession. There are two clear historical parallels to illustrate this.
In 1920, Ireland was a much more coherent cultural, historical and political entity than, say, Croatia ever will be. And yet, Ireland had to be partitioned when the Irish Free State came into being. The Loyalist population of Ulster's Six Counties could not be denied *their* right to self-determination when the Nationalists in the South exercised theirs.
In a similar vein, in 1861, a majority of the inhabitants of what is now West Virginia refused to be taken out of the Union by Richmond when Virginia opted for secession anc joined the Confederacy. The West Virginians' right to remain loyal to the Union was duly recognized when they were granted statehood by the United States in 1863. In the same way, the Serbs of Krajina do not want to deny the right to Croats to self-determination, but justifiably and reasonably, they demand the same right for themselves.
The shape of Yugoslavia's eventual "divorce" ought to reflect the nature of its "marriage" in 1915. Yugoslavia came into being with the approval of the international community 25 a voluntary union of its three "constituent peoples": Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Prior to 1918, only Serbia and Montenegro were sovereign states: the rest of today's Yugoslavia (including the two secessionist republics of Slovenia and Croatia) were fully incorporated into Austria-Hungary. They joined Serbia in union as peoples, not as "states." The right to secession remains vested in the constituent peoples of Yugoslavia (as distinct from national minorities), and evidently not in some self-proclaimed "states" which came into being over seventy years later.
Ideally, the will of the constituent peoples would be expressed validly by the convening of a constituent assembly of all Yugoslavs, where the shape of the future relationship among the founder-nations could be resolved. Elections to this body would need to be supervised by international observers. The problem just might be reduced to the status of a clean slate, and - it is hoped - a constructive new beginning.
From all of the above, it follows that no recognition of the unilaterally proclaimed "states" within Yugoslavia should be contemplated by the democratic community of nations. Besides other arguments, in the particular case of Croatia, some basic requirements of the Stimson Doctrine are not satisfied: effective control of the "would-be" state's territory, absence of outstanding territorial disputes, and consensus regarding recognition among the majority of the community of nations.
Furthermore, recognition of Croatia on the basis of the territoriality of Yugoslavia's old administrative units would imply a denial of the right of Serbs and others within Yugoslavia to devise a new kind of union in those parts of the country where they have a clear majority. Such action would also ignore or deny international legal criteria, precedents, and principles. It would give comfort to the perpetrators of unilateral policy of *faits accomplis*, who evidently have reason to fear a genuinely democratic solution of the Yugoslav imbroglio.
Such a solution must be based on a comprehensive application of the Helsinki Accords and the Hague Conventions, both in terms of borders and respect for individual and collective rights. Yugoslavia's external borders are not an issue. A solution must proceed from the reality that a majority of Croats and Slovenes wish to secede, and that a majority of Macedonians seek at least a nominal sovereignty within a loose Yugoslav framework.
There is no obstacle to the Slovenes' wish for self-determination, or to the Macedonians' desire to determine their own future. As for Croatia, the preceding arguments indicate that the community of nations has to approach the issue with patience and readiness to confront intransigence on both sides. Even from a purely pragmatic viewpoint, apart from any legal, historical, or moral arguments, it is not in the best interest of this or any other well-meaning government to follow the clarion call of separatist lobbies for unilateral recognition of Croatia's independence. Such a move would create grave new problems without resolving any of the old ones.
The optimal solution would dictate a cooling-down period, followed by the convening of a constituent assembly of all Yugoslavs, to be freely elected under international supervision. If no election to the constituent assembly could be realistically arranged, then at least there ought to be an internationally supervised plebiscite on who wants to stay with whom. It should take the local borough as the smallest collective entity. All sides ought to declare in advance their adherence to the principle that the democratically expressed will of the people would be inviolable; but even this course requires the acceptance of a flexible attitude towards Yugoslavia's internal boundaries as a *conditio sine qua non* of any peaceful solution.
In terms of human rights, the situation is far from satisfactory in most parts of Yugoslavia. In Serbia, the government of President Slobodan Milosevic has conducted itself unsatisfactorily on many fronts: its control of the media, its attitude towards student protests in March 1991, and its unwillingness to allow the normal functioning of truly democratic, pluralist political life in what used to be the only democracy in the Balkans early in this century. Even its democratic credentials are suspect, in view of serious allegations that the first post-war free election in Serbia, in December 1990, was less than completely fair...
Equally melancholy is the situation in Croatia. The authoritarian policy of its president, Dr. Tudjman, has turned most media into propaganda outlets of the ruling separatist coalition. Western observers and diplomats have repeatedly stressed that the terms of public debate are much freer even in Milosevic's Serbia than in Tudjman's "young democracy." Much more serious than the issue of media freedom, however, is the systematic abuse of the human rights of Serbs in Croatia (cf. *Time*, September 30, 1991). This policy was initiated already by the former communist regime in Croatia, as witnessed in July 1989, when scores of Serbs were arrested simply because they attended a commemoration outside an Orthodox church near the city of Knin.
More systematic persecution of Serbs in Croatia came after the electoral victory of the separatists in that republic in the spring of 1990. There are well-documented cases of thousands of Serbs fired from their jobs in a totally arbitrary manner, or forced to sign humiliating "declarations of loyalty" to the new government in Zagreb. They were denied the right to use their Cyrillic script, and - significantly - they were prevented from setting up their own schools, where their children would be shielded from at least some of the excesses of anti-Serb propaganda which now permeaces Croatian textbooks. Even a year ago, all this induced U.S. Ambassador in Belgrade Warren Zimmerman to express his concern about the position of Serbs in Croatia to the authorities in Zagreb.
Events of 1990 were but a prelude to the present state of affairs in Croatia. The Serbs describe it as anti-Serb state terror, which is hardly an exaggeration. Distribution of arms to "reliable Croats" in the villages, members of the ruling Croatian Democratic Alliance (HDZ), turned every nook and cranny of the republic of Croatia with a Serb population into an anti-Serb open season: nocturnal shootings, hate slogans spray-painted on houses, and threatening telephone calls in the middle of the night became the order of the day. Eventually, over one-hundred-thousand Serb people living within the boundaries of the federal republic of Croatia, mainly women, children, and old people, had to abandon their homes and seek refuge in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro.
It is sad, but unsurprising, that the government in Zagreb has failed the test of true democracy. Dr. Tudjman is a former communist general, faithful to Tito's memory even to this day. His government has been and still is composed of many former communists who went from Titoist orthodoxy to chauvinist obscurantism without stopping anywhere in between. They are hostages of simplistic solutions, unable to appreciate the complexity and subtlety of the political process in a democracy, and unable to escape the clutches of collectivism - in its Marxist or in its nationalist guise.
At the present time, no government of a Yugoslav republic may claim the distinction of being truly democratic. A sober appraisal of the situation cautions us against facile divisions of Yugoslavia into "pro-Western", democratic, and "neo-communist" authoritarian parts. It is hardly disputable that Serbia's president, Slobodan Milosevic, has strong authoritarian tendencies; but that republic's constitution at least allows the possibility of a fundamental change with his eventual departure from the helm. Croatia, on the other hand, cannot entertain such hope: it is constitutionally defined as the "nation-state of the Croat people", and the "embodiment of its centuries-old striving for statehood." Such a definition is in a way understandable, emerging as it does within the context of a small, underdeveloped, and insecure central-east European nationalism. It fits rather uneasily, however, into the concept of an increasingly united Europe that seeks to liberate itself from this kind of nationalist hangover.
Much has been said about human rights violations in the Serbian province of Kosovo. However, while the focus is on the present position of ethnic Albanians there, not much is said about the predicament of some tens of thousands of Kosovo Serbs who were forced to leave the province under the Albanians' pressure and intimidation. An objective, balanced approach requires both aspects to be taken into account. Most analysts fail to draw the distinction between the problem of human rights in Kosovo, and the problem of Albanian separatism there. Do minority rights entail the right to set up a state structure with an inherent right of secession?
The media in most democratic countries are quite properly making this distinction in the treatment of other similar problems (Sinn Fein in Ulster, Basques in Spain, Corsicans in France, South Tyrol Germans in Italy, etc). The inescapable fact is that the ethnic Albanian "intifada" in Kosovo is primarily a separatist movement. As David Binder, a prominent editor known for his sympathies for the Albanians' cause, wrote in The New York Times on February 8, 1991:
Albanian advocates here dream of an ethnic Albanian republic in Kosovo that could one day unite with Albania. They say they dare not express this longing in public for fear of angering the leadership of Serbia.Ethnic Albanians do have a majority in the province of Kosovo, but this province is historically, geographically, and economically an integral part of Serbia. In the same way, there is a Hispanic majority in southern Florida and in many parts of the Southwest, but those areas are in every other respect an integral part of the United States. Within Serbia, ethnic Albanians are a minority. Their present status is definitely unsatisfactory, and the Serbian authorities need to find ways of initiating a dialogue with them. They should, indeed, enjoy full minority rights - but those rights do not include the right to secession and independent statehood. If they did, then the same could be demanded by Mexicans in southern Texas, or Cubans in southern Florida, or Germans in South Tyrol, or Hungarians in Transylvania. And yet, it is easy to imagine how the American public would react if the hypothetical advocates of a fifty-first, Latino state openly plotted secession from the Union and merger with a foreign country!
No country in history has ever voluntarily surrendered its territory to satisfy separatist demands of an ethnic minority. In 1938, to their lasting discredit, Britain and France coerced Czechoslovakia to surrender Sudettenland to Hitler, following months of agitation by the German minority there. Seven years later, those regions were reintegrated into Czechoslovakia, and millions of Sudetten Germans were expelled. "Final solutions" give rise to final reactions, which are ultimately in neither side's interest.
The problem of Kosovo cannot and should not be linked to the resolving of Yugoslavia's fundamental crisis, which concerns Serbs and Croats. Before defining a position on Kosovo, a foreign observer should take into account not only the plight of ethnic Albanians there, but also that province's role as the cradle of Serbian statehood and culture, and the fact that the indigenous Serb population of Kosovo - settled there continuously for over eleven centuries - has been *halved* over the past fifty years. Again, Manechean, black-and-white perceptions are neither accurate, nor helpful.
The chief interest of the democratic community of nations, and of this country in particular, is to promote and maintain stability in the area of Central and Eastern Europe in the aftermath of communism's collapse. An unconsolidated, conflict-ridden hot spot in the Balkans does not serve such an interest. Quite apart from the intrinsic moral, legal and historical aspects of the problem, a pragmatically perceived American interest dictates a solution which would take due account of every Yugoslav nation's aspirations.
In this country's media and government circles, there is a perceptible imbalance in this respect, to the Serbs' detriment. This is the result of insufficient information and superficial analysis; it should be supplanted by a comprehensive evaluation of all aspects of the Yugoslav crisis. Even from a purely pragmatic point, more caution should be exercised: more numerous than Croats, Kosovo Albanians, and Slovenes put together, the Serbs are an unavoidable factor in any Balkan equation. If a "solution" were to be imposed on them that would amputate large chunks of their territory and leave millions of their co-nationals under uncertain and hostile foreign rule, the world would have to face a new time bomb and instability in the Balkans for generations to come.
Leaders of nations come and go, but nations are here to stay. If our or any other government was not happy with the election of Dr. Kurt Waldheim as Austria's president, it nevertheless refrained from identifying Austrians as such with him, or calling them "neo-Nazi." In the same vein, if we dislike Serbia's president Milosevic, it would be irresponsible and short-sighted to allow such antipathy to determine our policy towards the entire Serb nation. That nation had been a faithful ally of the United States and the freedom-loving nations in both world wars. It cannot and should not be "wished away."
A "Yugoslav" policy of our Government needs to be devised that would be principled, coherent, and consistent. Then it would not be easily swayed by lobbies and groups whose primary allegiance is with other nations and other causes. Such a policy should be based on those principles which have succeeded everywhere, that is, on the best traditions of law, ethics, and politics of Western liberal democracy.
Assistant Secretary of State Janet Mullins stated in late 1990:
We do not believe that there can be Yugoslav unity without democracy, nor do we believe that there is likely to be democracy in individual Yugoslav republics unless the people of Yugoslavia can, through a process of dialogue, maintain some degree of unity.A lot has happened since. It is becoming clear that, that "unity" to which she referred may only be recreated, after all that has come to pass in Yugoslavia, within some future European framework. But the first step for all Yugoslavs on the long road to a united Europe is to seek satisfaction of the greatest part of legitimate aspirations of the greatest number of Yugoslavs. This would imply acceptance of the following guiding principles:
(a) The rights of both Serbs and Croats can be respected if the right to self-determination of the constituent peoples of Yugoslavia is upheld by all parties. This includes the right of the Croatian (or any other constituent) nation to leave Yugoslavia, and the right of Serbs (and others) to remain, if they so wish.Once these objectives are defined and agreed upon, a set of treaties regulating future relations between the new states on the one hand, and Yugoslavia on the other, can be worked out, with international supervision and guarantees. One can only hope that this would mark the beginning of the end of Yugoslavia's "heart of darkness" in the heart of today's Europe. End quote.
(b) There must be a flexible attitude towards the question of existing administrative boundaries among constituent federal units.
(c) A mechanism should be put in place to ensure the protection of the civil, national, and other rights of all Yugoslavs, including those who acquire minority status after final settlement (if this settlement entails separation).
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Last revised: February 7, 2004