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The key to understanding the Yugoslav crisis is uderstanding Yugoslavia's people and their history. The following are points worth remembering about Yugoslavia and her people. Courtesy of the Serbian Unity Congress. Complied in 1993.



1. Serbs and Croats came to the Balkans from Eastern Europe in the sixth century A.D. They ultimately formed small duchies - the Serbs under the nominal suzerainty of the Byzantines; the Croats under the Franks and Venetians.

2. Croatia never had a full-fledged independent state. Their kings agreed to be Papal vasals (King Tomislav 925 AD) and Gregory VII (King Zvonimir, 1076) in return for absolute fealty and fixed yearly tribute. Croatia ceased to exist as a separate political entity after signing the Pacta Conventa with Hungary in 1102 and Austria in 1527. Until the end of World War I in 1918, the Croats lived in separate semi-autonomous and semi-feudal provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

3. Serbs had several fully independent kingdoms between 1159 and 1345 that combined to form a large empire between 1345 and 1389. This empire was defeated by the Turks in 1389 at the Battle of Kosovo-Metohija. Serbia then became a small semi-independent tributary state (despotate) until it was abolished entirely by the Turks in 1459. Serbs overthrew Turkish rule in 1804, reconquered Kosovo-Metohija during the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), and built a modern democratic state of free land-holding peasants.

4. The Serbs living in Krajina came to their present domicile in two waves. The first group, now settled in Dalmatia, came from Kosovo-Metohija-Metohija in 1347-1355 at the invitation of Dowager Princess Jelena Subic. The princess built several Orthodox monasteries, churches and schools for them. The Serbs in the northern part of Krajina (Lika and Slavonija) came between 1460 and 1490, fleeing from advancing Turks. They were settled on feudal fiefs which at the time were completely abandoned by their Austrian and Hungarian lords and Croat serfs. The original land-patents given to the Serbs by Austrians refer to these lands as "desertum primum et secundum". These Serbs were given the status of free peasants in return for military service against the Turks. Their "Military Border" was under direct control of Vienna and independent of the Austrian governors of Croatia.

5. Serbia lost 25 percent of its total population and 56 percent of its adult male population during the Balkan Wars and World War I. (To put these figures into perspective, it is helpful to know that casualties reported from both sides participating in America's Civil War totaled two percent of the population). Serbia fought with the Allies in both World War I and World War II.

6. The idea of South Slavic unity (Yugoslavism) originated among Croats. It began as a literary movement in 1850, when at a meeting in Vienna three Croat writers, I. Kukuljevic, F. Miklosic and I. Mazuranic, invited two Serbian linguistic reformers, V. Karadzic and F. Danicic, to sign an "Agreement on Common Literary Language," whereby their reforms would become the basis for the Serbo-Croatian literary language. This remained an intellectual idea with slight popular support among Serbs and virtually none among Croats who resisted giving up their orthography.

7. "Yugoslavism" was transformed into a political idea during World War I by three Croatian deputies of the Austro-Hungarian Parliament, A. Trumbulic, F. Supilo and J. Smodlaka. They were Dalmatians, and as such, were alarmed by the Allied London Treaty of 1915 which assigned parts of Dalmatia to Italy as a prize for joining the war against the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Since the same treaty gave parts of Slovenia to Italy, the Croat deputies invited some Slovenian colleagues to approach the Allied Kingdom of Serbia with the plea to include all of Croatia and Slovenia in its claims as a war prize under the slogan of a "South Slav State," based on ethnic and linguistic kinship with Serbs. Thus, Serbia was to use its enormous war-prestige to thwart the Italian claims upon the South Slavic lands which at the time were enemy territory. This is how the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was formed in 1918.

8. In 1929, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes changed its name to Yugoslavia.

9. Under the attack by the Axis powers in April 1941, Yugoslavia fell. Yugoslavia was completely encircled by the Nazi war machine countries of albania, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria.

10. Serbia's Colonel (later General) Draza Mihailovic and his Chetniks formed the first guerilla resistance to Hitler in all of Europe, but Serbs paid dearly for resisting the German army of occupation, as reprisals were set of 100 Serbs shot for every German killed and 50 Serbs executed for every German wounded.

11. On April 10, 1941, the illegal Croat fascist party (Ustashe) proclaimed the Independent State of Croatia. Its policy, as articulated by its minister of education, was to kill one part of all Serbs living in Croatia, push one part over the border and convert the last part to Catholicism. The Independent State of Croatia was a full-fledged Axis co-belligerent, officially at war with all Allies. (It declared war on the United States on December 12, 1941).

12. World War II Croatia had more men under arms proportionately than any other Axis state. It had 160,000 regulars (Domobrani); 75,00 Fascist militia (Ustashe); and 15,000 police auxiliaries (Oruznici and Redarstvo). In addition to its own units, Croatia provided more volunteers for the German Army than anyone else in Axis Europe: five full-strength divisions, three Wehrmacht (369th, 373rd, 392nd) and two Waffen SS (13th and 23rd), plus a "Croat Legion" of 7,000 volunteers serving under German command at the Russian front, and an anti-aircraft unit of 500 men serving in Austria. These units were officered by Germans and wore German uniforms and insignia, but all had the Croat national "chessboard" emblem on the sleeve of their jackets, the same emblem the new Croat Republic is using, the same emblem which Serbs in Krajina fear.

13. The Croatian Ustashe operated numerous extermination camps, including the one at Jasenovac, which was the third largest death camp in all of Wartime Europe. According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, 77% of all Jews, more than 500,000 Serbs and 20,000 Gypsies living in Croatia were annihilated by the Ustashe during World War II. When Herman Neubacher was the high ranking Austrian Nazi serving as special German envoy for Southeast Europe he wrote, "When the leaders of Ustashas boast to have slaughtered one million Orthodox Serbs, that in my opinion is self-glorifying exaggeration. On the basis of reports I had received, I estimate the number of defenseless Serbs who were slaughtered at three-quarters of a million."

14. During World War II, the newly formed Albanian fascist militia in western Kosovo-Metohija brutally expelled 70,000 Serbs and brought in about an equal number of non Serbian speaking Albanians from Albania. In northeastern Kosovo-Metohija, Serbs were left undisturbed until 1944, when the 21st SS "Skanderberg Division" began operating in the area. Manned by Albanian volunteers from Kosovo-Metohija, the division massacred thousands of Serbs and forced others to flee to German-occupied Serbia.

15. Most historians claim about 15 percent of the Serbian population was killed during World War II. Some revisionists claim this figure was closer to seven percent, but these are often the same revisionists who state Croatia suffered the worsdurin g World War II without clarifying that the genocide in Croatia was conducted by Croatians and Muslims against Serbians, Jews and Gypsies. Approximately 200,000 Serb Orthodox Christians were forcibly converted to Roman Catholicism during World War II.

16. Unlike Germany and Austria, Croatia never apologized for its war crimes.

17. Yugoslavia's interior borders have no basis in history. They were drawn up secretly by five members of the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party in 1943. Serbs were not represented at this AVNOJ meeting because Serbia was, at that time, under the control of Mihailovic's guerrillas.

18. One of the first acts of Josip Broz Tito, who was half Croatian and half Slovenian, was to pass a law March 6, 1945 prohibiting Serbs who were expelled from Kosovo-Metohija from returning to their homelands. The act voided all land-deeds made during the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, but not those made under Axis occupation. Tito then kept the borders to Albania open from 1945 to 1948, allowing another 115,000 Albanians to move into Kosovo-Metohija. From the Albanian-controlled provincial government of Kosovo-Metohija, the Albanian immigrants in Kosovo-Metohija received cash subsidies, welfare and child support payments equal to twice the average Yugoslav wage - the bulk of it financed by the Republic of Serbia.

19. The decision to allow the "Albanization" of Kosovo-Metohija was made by three Politburo members: Tito, Bakaric and Kardelj (all Croatians and Slovenians). Edvard Kardelj remarked at the time that the decision must not be publicized because "it would give powerful arguments to Serbian bourgeoisie and Dra,a Mihailovi) who would accuse us of breaking up Yugoslavia."

20. In a meeting February 23, 1967, Tito and Kardelj called in the communist leaders of Kosovo-Metohija and told them "All you need to undo Rankovi)'s injustices and have your way in Kosovo-Metohija is to bring up your share of (Communist) party membership." Following this, Kosovo-Metohija Albanians joined the communist party in droves, took over the provincial assembly, government, courts, police, schools, and public enterprises and launched a systematic terror over non-Albanians including Serbs, Moslem Turks and Gypsies. Thousands of the oppressed fled to Serbia.

21. In 1974, Kosovo-Metohija was made a full-fledged sovereign state of the Republic of Serbia by Yugoslavia's communist government in yet another effort to dilute Serbia's representation. As a result of numerous terrorist acts perpetrated against Serbs, and the law that was in effect from 1945-1990 that forbade Serbs from returning to Kosovo-Metohija, the population in Kosovo-Metohija-Metohija today is more than 85% Albanian.

22. Metohija literally translates to "monastery land given by the feudal lord." Because Kosovo-Metohija-Metohija is regarded as the cradle of Serbian civilization and is the site of numerous monasteries which have been classified by UNESCO as international treasures, Serbians have an obvious bond to the area. These same monasteries and their trove of artistic treasures have been desecrated and destroyed in an attempt by the Kosovo-Metohija Albanians to eradicate proof of Serbian history in the area.

23. Tito controlled Yugoslavia from 1944 until his death in 1980. He carved Yugoslavia into six republics and two autonomous provinces as a means of diluting the strength of the majority Serbian population. The republics and provinces rotated the governance of Yugoslavia, so that little Slovenia, with only eight percent of Yugoslavia population, actually controlled the presidency as often as the 40 percent Serbian Majority.

24. Slovenia and Croatia are often called more prosperous states than Serbia, without any explanation as to how this imbalance occurred. Tito moved factories and industry to Slovenia and Croatia at the expense of Yugoslavia's other republics.

25. Much of the current fear felt by Serbs living in Krajina, Banija, Western Srem and Slavonia, the hotly contested areas within Croatia's Tito-drawn internal borders, dates to the genocide conducted against Serbs, Jews and Gypsies living in those territories. This genocide was conducted by the Croatian and Muslim Ustashe who ruled the Independent State of Croatia during World War II. This fear has been revived by the following events which occurred over the last two years:

a) When Croatia declared its independence June 25, 1991, its leaders resurrected the same chessboard insignia for its flag that had been worn by the Ustasha during World War II. This would be the same to Serbs, as Jews seeing their neighbors sport German swastika armbands.

b) Reports of discriminatory taxation and job dismissals of Serbs because they were not ethnically pure Croatians increased dramatically in 1991.

c) Non-Croats were asked to sign loyalty oaths to the Croatian government, not to the state, which had just demanded its independence from a nation voluntarily formed 73 years before.

d) Serbians have lived in Krajina, Western Srem, Banija and Slavonia since their ancestors settled the territories more than 500 years ago. After hearing of Croatia's intention to hold a referendum to vote on secession from Yugoslavia, Serbs in Krajina conducted their own referendum on May 14, 1991. They voted for autonomy from Croatia if Croatia voted to secede from Yugoslavia. This referendum was not acknowledged as legitimate by the Croatian government, yet Croatia expected its referendum on secession held five days later, on May 19th, to be recognized by the Yugoslav federal government and other governments of the world.

26. Croatia demands the right to self determination, yet denies this right to Serbs in Krajina, Banija, Western Srem and Slavonia.

27. The Croats and Slovenes who want to secede insist that Yugoslavia's external borders can be changed. Yet, they also insist that Yugoslavia's arbitrarily drawn internal borders that were never democratically verified or internationally recognized cannot be changed.

28. To fully comprehend the difference between Serbs living in Croatia's Krajina, Western Srem and Slavonia, and the ethnic Albanian minority living in Kosovo-Metohija, it must be realized that Serbs in Krajina, Western Srem and Slavonia are not requesting to separate from Yugoslavia, but rather requesting that they remain an integral part of it. Croatia was only an independent nation prior to 1102 and between the years of 1941-1945, when it was a Nazi regime. Serbs were invited to live in the Krajina, Western Srem and Slavonia territories. They were not squatters. They are only asking that they remain a part of Yugoslavia because they do not feel safe in an independent state of Croatia, which, by its very constitution, declares them an ethnic minority and has already discriminated against them, and in view of recent history, they have precious little reason to trust promises made by the Croat government, having seen what it really intends to do only months ago.

29. In addition to Kosovo-Metohija being the cradle of Serbian civilization, it is, even as an autonomous province, part of Serbia. Kosovo-Metohija was a part of Serbian State prior to the formation of Yugoslavia and prior to the formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

30. Yugoslavia's current internal borders strand well over 30 percent of the Serbian population outside Serbia proper. These Serbs are still being deprived of the cultural, ethnic and religious rights that should exist in any democracy.

31. Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina are a religious, but not an ethnic community. Despite much guesswork as to their origins, it is a fact that most of them are muslimized Slavs, once christians who changed their faith in order to avoid being second-class citizens in the Ottoman Empire, and to avoid paying taxes reserved for all non-muslims. Hence, they are justly called "Muslim Slavs".

32. The Bosnian problem all too often disregards the following easily verifiable facts:

a) Ethnic Serbs represent 39% of the total population;

b) Ethnic Serbs own as private property some 60% of the land in Bosnia-Herzegovina (according to official land books, registers and census data, 1981/1991) This raises an interesting question: if it is known that land is traditionally passed on from father to son, and if Serbs own some 60% of the land, how is it they are merely 39% of the population? It must be remembers that most ethnic Serbs killed in WWII came from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, which also provided the worst of Croatian Ustashi, the butchers of WWII;

c) Bosnian Serbs and the Serbian government right from the start kept claiming that a premature recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina as an independent state would cause bloodshed. The EEC went on nevertheless, the US followed suit, and bloodshed there was, for many reasons, yet now, the Serbs are blamed for the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina; d) Both groups of Serbs also stated from the outset that the only way to negotiate a lasting and stable peace was to reach an agreement between all three ethnic groups in Bosnia, yet it is only the Serbs who are blamed for the war there;

d) The fact that several right-wing muslim countries, such as Libya and Saudi Arabia, are involved in the conflict in Bosnia is also kept as subdued as possible, despite a half-admission of Libya (their ambassador in Belgrade admitted to millions of dollars in aid, allegedly for a steel plant and stated that if this aid was used otherwise, it had nothing to do with Libya). These countries provided money and arms, yet Serbia is blamed;

e) The fact that even in his early writings, the Bosnian muslim president Alija Izetbegovic, claimed that a muslim state must be formed in Bosnia, and that no muslim state can tolerate any other religion, putting Islam above one and all (see his book: "The Islamic Declaration", Sarajevo 1971/1991) means nothing to the Western countries, who blame Serbia for everything;

f) The fact that Croatia in May 1992 had over 30,000 armed men (108th, 109th, 117th, 126th, etc divisions), with 80 and 120 mm mortars and tanks, recognizing and enforcing only Croatian laws in Bosnia seems to mean nothing to Western countries; the Serbs are blamed for everything.

33. The same is true of most Muslims living in the Serbian province called Sandzak. They too are of the same ethnic origin as the Serbs, but as opposed to Bosnia-Herzegovina (where current muslims originate from both Serbs and Croats), their origins are almost entirely Serbian.

34. Only the Albanians are a really different ethnic group, with their own roots, which are as yet not quite clear historically (some say they originate from the Illiryans, the original inhabitants of the Balkans, while others say they draw their roots mostly from the Turks).

35. During the war, the majority of ethnic Albanians collaborated with ethier the Italians or the Germans; it was then that the exodus of Serbs was perpetrated, under the auspices of the Germans, in order to bribe the Albanians with Serbian land and an ethnically pure region.

36. After the war, Tito's communist government passed several laws 1945-1947, forbidding Serbs to return to Kosovo-Metohija, in effect giving their land to Albanians. Moreover, in his dream of a Balkan federation encompassing Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania, Tito allowed many Albanians from Albania to settle on Kosovo-Metohija. This process continued well into the seventies, and to this day, there is an unknown number of non-Yugoslav citizens living on Kosovo-Metohija.

37. Most of the dirty work in illegally Albanizing Kosovo was perpetrated under the auspices of one Fadil Hoxa, Tito's close associate, who pushed many effectively illegal and anti-constitutional acts through by declaring loyalty to Tito and suggesting that it was necessary to satisfy the needs of the Albanian people in land. In return, he mobilized Albanian masses into the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.

38. All those who dared question this policy were quickly removed, and often persecuted. This includes the greatest living Serbian writer, Dobrica /osi), who questioned the democratic spirit of such acts. In the meanwhile, federal and much more so republican funds were set up for the development of Kosovo. The money was used but no accounting or justification was ever given in Tito's days. The Serbs were poressured to leave, and at the same time, the unaccounted funds served to weaken Serbia, which began to lag behind in development, in good part due to disproportionally large sums set aside for the development of Kosovo.

39. After Tito's death, the Albanians increased their persecution of the Serbian minority on Kosovo, with much assistance from Slovenia and Croatia, which used the Albanians to weaken Serbia. Yet, in 1992, after being recognized, both Croatia and Slovenia simply pass on to others refugees of Muslim origin, let alone Albanians. Yet, in June 1992, Croatia declares that it will deport over 100,000 ethnic Albanians, appropriating their property without reimbursement; Croat authorities refuse to grant these people citizenship.

40. The Kosovo Albanians had every opportunity to use their democratic rights, equal but no longer greater to the rights of any other citizen of Serbia. In view of the fact that the development funds were put under strict control, the false standard of living, for years lulling the Albanians, necessarily had to decline to its more realistic levels. Local nationalist parties used this fact to indoctrinate ethnic Albanians that there was a special war waged against them by Serbia.

41. The fact that ethnic Albanians boycotted the elections held in Serbia in 1991 is not a question of their being or not being allowed to vote, but of the fact that Albanian parties decided not to run in the elections. This was and is their privilege (and a completely legal act), but offers no ground for blaming Serbia; some Serbian oppositon parties also boycotted the elections, while others took part in them.

42. In 1992, when the world public outcry for the rights of ethnic Albanians was at its peak, in Pristine (the capital of the province of Kosovo), over 20 magazines and daily papers are being published and freely sold on Albanian throughout Serbia; all legal documents are on both Serbian and Albanian; most political parties are operating quite freely and completely legally if they applied for registration, etc. Schools, which are allegedly closed to ethnic Albanians, are in fact wide open, but they can no longer use curriculums and books directly imported from Albania; instead, the local Albanian authorities must produce their own curriculum and adjust it to the country they are effectively in, Yugoslavia, not forgetting their own ethnic specifics.

End quote.


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Last revised: April 25, 2004