Professor Raju G. C. Thomas:
Nations, States, and Secession:
|(Raju G. C. Thomas is professor of political science at Marquette University and codirector of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette University's joint Center for International Studies.)
Among its many other facets, the Yugoslav conflict is a problem of nations demanding the right to self-determination arrayed against states insisting on their territorial integrity and sovereignty.(1) Should the right of "national selfdetermination" extend to the point where the state itself may disintegrate? The Indian answer to this question has been uncompromising since the partition of British India into India and Pakistan in 1947: no more "Pakistans" would be accepted. India itself, however, conveniently aided the breakup of Pakistan in 1971, arguing that 10 million mainly Hindu Bengali refugees driven into India from the former East Pakistan gave it the justification to "liberate" Bangladesh. In Africa, the Organization of African Unity rejected the lbos' right to national self-determination through the creation of an independent Biafran state and came down firmly on the side of Nigeria's right to preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty. The Yugoslav issue was resolved differently. Here the international community chose to support the right to national self-determination of Slovenes, Croats, Muslims, and Slav Macedonians.
Although the Yugoslav problem began as one of the right of national selfdetermination among its several internal "nations," subsequently it became a conflict of contested boundaries among newly created states and of new disgruntled and/or fearful minorities within these states. Thus, the creation of new states out of old multiethnic states generates newer problems of selfdetermination and sovereignty and of contested boundaries and dissident minorities. The Yugoslav situation reflects the dilemma of whether to recognize the rights of nations over those of states, or vice versa. It also raises two other questions: what are or should be the criteria for recognizing new states, and what are or should be the criteria for determining the legitimate successor state to the old state after disintegration? Did Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) fulfill the various criteria of nations and states?(2) Was it legal and appropriate to unseat the remnant Yugoslavia consisting of Serbia and Montenegro at the United Nations on the grounds that it was not the successor state?
Arabs may be considered a nation based on language, culture, a shared historical experience, and to a lesser extent race and religion. The Gulf Arabs are somewhat racially different from the Arabs of North Africa, and there are Christian Arabs who are religious minorities in predominantly Muslim Arab Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, and Egypt. However, the Arab nation is spread over several states. The Arab problem is that panArab unification, which rests with the Arab states themselves, remains elusive. The Jewish problem is different. If the main criteria of the Jewish nation are religion and common historical memories of having emerged from the Promised Land (and not the Hebrew language), then much of the Jewish nation lies scattered outside Israel. Judaism constituted the basis for the creation of Israel, but Judaism has not been able to unite all the Jews into one state. There are several Arab nation-states, and there is a single Jewish nation-state, but none of these states is all-inclusive of the Arab and Jewish nations.
Thus, fitting a nation into an all-encompassing single territorial state-resulting in the nation-state-has been problematic in the rest of the world. The attempt to do this by various nationalities in the former Yugoslavia has proved to be disastrous. Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Slav Muslims, Albanians, and Slav Macedonians may be considered separate nations in the narrow sense. However, even after the breakup of Yugoslavia, they still do not fit neatly into pure or all-inclusive nation-states. Out of Yugoslavia, only Slovenia emerged as the closest to a nation-state. Croatia, Bosnia, FYROM, and the remnant Yugoslavia remained multiethnic states of varying degrees.
In a broad sense, a nation may be defined as any group of people who perceive themselves to be a nation based on a shared commitment to political institutions and values and who perceive a common political destiny, for example, Americans, Swiss, and most Nigerians and Indians. All of the peoples of the former multiethnic Yugoslavia (and multiethnic Bosnia) could be considered a nation in the broad sense if they believed in such common political institutions and values and a common political destiny. However, they do not in the 1990s, and it is questionable whether they ever did. Having made Yugoslavia in 1918, the making of "Yugoslavians" has not proved to be a successful endeavor. Whereas at one time "Greater Serbia," "Greater Croatia, " and a "Greater Slav Muslim State" were all found within the larger South Slav state, the breakup of Yugoslavia has split them into different states. Serbs are found in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and FYROM; Croats are found in Croatia and Bosnia; and Slav Muslims are found in Bosnia and the Sanjak region of Serbia.
The disintegration of Yugoslavia implied that its former internal boundaries, which posed no restrictions on the movement of ethnic groups, had suddenly become international frontiers creating and trapping new minorities within new states, although they did not wish to be part of these states. Thus, for example, Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia who thought they were citizens of Yugoslavia suddenly found that the old state had literally vanished from under their feet. They became unwilling citizens of new states. Serbs did not choose to migrate to the new Croatia and Bosnia. They were already there as part of the old Yugoslavia. Attempts by Serbs now to remain together are being resisted by the new states of Croatia and Bosnia and by the international community.
This raises the question of whether "nations" should have the right to secede" from a sovereign state under the principle of national self-determination. In the more liberal interpretation of freedom, subject ethnic groups within a state are considered to have the right to hold referendums to determine whether to remain part of the state or to secede from it. This right of national self-determination is, however, mentioned only obliquely and in passing reference in Article 1 (2) of the United Nations Charter, which reads: "To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace:' Articles 73 to 91 essentially deal with "Non-Self-Governing Territories" and the "Trusteeship System" but have nothing to do with granting self-determination to peoples within existing sovereign independent states. The 1970 Declaration on Friendly Relations elaborated on the UN Charter and went beyond to declare that the principle did not apply only to colonial territories but gave to "all peoples ... the right freely to determine without external interference, their political status "(6) The principle was emphasized in Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, passed in 1976 and ratified by 113 states by the end of 1991. However, the rights of minorities to self-determination, according to this covenant, did not include the right to secede. It implied the right of peoples in all states "to free, fair and open participation in the democratic process of governance freely chosen by each state,"(7) The 1990 meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in Copenhagen went far in affirming democratic and human rights of peoples but did not go so far as to endorse the right to secede, except vaguely under the most extreme conditions.
Arguments have been advanced for and against the right of secession on moral grounds.(8) Secession may be morally justified to protect liberty; to escape severe economic exploitation; to preserve one's culture when it is in danger of being eliminated; to serve as an instrument of self-defense against state-organized violence against the ethnic group; and to rectify an unjustified or illegal annexation. It may also be justified because there is inherent merit in the right of ethnic groups to exercise self-determination. Conversely, secession may be opposed on moral grounds to protect the legitimate expectations of the rest of the people, which may be jeopardized by the secession of one group; to provide self-defense if secession makes the remnant state economically nonviable; to protect the principle of majority rule, which may be jeopardized if those who do not agree are allowed to secede; to preserve a state in which there has been no serious political or civil violation of the minority group; to prevent anarchy through the domino effect, whereby the entire state may unravel; to prevent the seceding territory from wrongfully bolting with the -heavy central government investments in the region; and to ensure that the haves who simply wish to separate themselves from the have-nots for no other reason than that they are rich and the rest are poor do not do so.
Even if the morality of such principles is self-evident in theory, application in particular cases can become messy. Some of the criteria above may be applied with favorable and nonviolent outcomes in some regions but not in others, even if the grievances and moral arguments are the same. The problem in the case of the former Yugoslavia is that the moral justification for secession was questionable even by the above criteria compared to other arts of the world where secessions have been denied. Some logical explanation must be provided as to why the principle of the right to secede was applied selectively to Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia but not (for example) to Tibet, Kashmir, and Kurdistan.
Ultimately, power and ability prevailed in the former Yugoslavia. Those states that secede are those that have the independent power to do so (e.g., Ireland); that are assisted by external powers (e.g., Bangladesh); that are voluntarily allowed to do so by the union (e.g., Singapore and Slovakia); or that are able to do so because the federal authorities have become too weak to resist them (e.g., the ex-Soviet republics and Eritrea). The initial support to the secessionists in Slovenia and Croatia by a German-led Europe backed later by the United States made the difference in allowing these two Yugoslav republics to secede. Morality and justice were less relevant in determining the outcome.
From the standpoint of equity and fairness, two related questions may be asked. If the principle of national self-determination, meaning "the right to secede from a state," could be granted to Slovenes, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and "Macedonians," then why cannot the same principle be granted to the Serbs of the newly recognized states of Croatia and Bosnia? And if the Serbs demand this right, then why should not the Albanians of Kosovo demand the same right? If national self-determination extending to the right to secede is the new overriding norm of world politics today, then surely it must also be granted to new minorities created by state secessions.
Except for Slovenia, conformity to the objective characteristics of statehood as defined by the Montevideo Convention varied in the rest of the new states that emerged out of Yugoslavia. Slav-Catholic Croats may constitute a nation, but the state of Croatia does not control the Serbs of the Krajina region. Krajina represents 25 percent of Croatia, and the Serbs who occupy and control this territory constitute about 12 percent of the population. The loyalty of the remaining Serbs elsewhere in the country remains questionable, and early official Croat efforts to deprive them of Croatian citizenship make the status of Serbs in Croatia ambiguous.
Bosnia does not fulfill any of the narrow or broad definitions of a nation, nor does it fulfill the criteria of a state. Bosnia is multiethnic, and until April 1994 its population of Muslims, Serbs, and Croats did not accept common political institutions or a common political destiny. In April 1994, Croats and Muslims agreed to join together in a single Bosnian state. The boundaries of Bosnia are contested by the Serbs and were contested at one time by the Croats. Bosnia does not have a stable population, and the Bosnian government is not in control of all its territory. Yet the independence and sovereignty of the largely Muslim-led Bosnian government has been recognized by the rest of the world. Although the Muslim-led government is conducting its external affairs and is accepted as a sovereign state by the rest of the world, it has no control over its internal affairs. Meanwhile, the status of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia remains uncertain. It has a functioning government and fulfills the characteristics of a state but has an explosive mix of ethnic "Macedonians," Albanians, Serbs, and Bulgarians that could cause it to disintegrate.
The violent and successful struggle for Bangladesh by the Bengalis of East Pakistan in 1971 (aided by the Indian army) and the unsuccessful violent struggles by the Kurds of Iraq and Turkey for a Kurdistan, by the Kashmiris of India for an independent Kashmir, and by the Tamils of Sri Lanka for a Tamil Ealam represent examples of nations demanding states arising from ethnic grievances and feelings of exploitation. Demands for an independent Khalistan by the Sikhs of India and for an independent Basque state by the Basques of Spain represent examples where relatively more prosperous ethnic groups demand statehood because they feel that the existing state restricts their ability to achieve even greater prosperity. Such efforts to break out of the existing state then lead to suppression and feelings of exploitation. The demand for an independent state of Slovakia from Czechoslovakia represents a case in which a nation felt that only through statehood could it fulfill national aspirations. And the declarations of independence by Central Asian republics represent cases of Tajik, Uzbek, Kirghiz, Turkmen, and Azeris breaking away from the old Soviet Union mainly because this trend had already been set in motion by Georgia, the Baltic republics, Ukraine, and Moldova.
The desire of Croatia and especially Slovenia to break away from Yugoslavia had much to do with their belief that their prosperity was being restricted by the less prosperous republics of the multiethnic state. In the case of Croatia, there was also a sense of exploitation by a Serb-dominated state and a longstanding belief that the Croatian sense of nation could be fulfilled only through Croatian statehood. This Croatian dissatisfaction may be traced to the beginnings of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes under a Serbian monarchy. Initial decisions by Bosnian Muslims and "Macedonians" to break away from Yugoslavia would appear to be one of following the trend of Slovenia and Croatia, a case of secessions breeding secessions. The demands for independence by the Albanians of Kosovo arise from their sense of exploitation by the Serbs. Following the disintegration of Yugoslavia, declarations of independence by the Serb minorities of Croatia and Bosnia have arisen from their belief, right or wrong, that they would be in grave danger in territories that were once part of the Nazi puppet Independent State of Croatia (which included present-day Croatia and Bosnia) during World War II.
The nationalities of the former Yugoslavia all want their own states in which they would be the majority.(11) No nationality in Yugoslavia now wishes to be a minority in one of the others' states. To begin with, the Croats, Slovenes, and Bosnian Muslims of the former Yugoslavia all wanted states where they would be a majority. Subsequently, the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia, the Albanians of Serbia and Macedonia, and the Sanjak Muslims of Serbia have all expressed their intentions-usually violently-not to live as minorities in the new or remnant states. The Yugoslav problem appears to be a microcosm of the potential conflict agenda of the post-Cold War era. Many nations are determined to achieve statehood, which they perceive as their right. On the other hand, sovereign states and central governments are determined to maintain their territorial integrity and political unity.
Between the end of colonial empires after the Second World War and the breakup of both Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union in 1991, only one new state had emerged from an existing sovereign state. This was Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, which broke away from Pakistan after a violent yearlong struggle in 1971. (The separation of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965, two years after Malaysian independence, may be viewed as part of the emergence of new states after the end of empire.) Since the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia split voluntarily in 1992 into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and Eritrea broke free from Ethiopia in 1993, following a ten-year armed struggle.
There is no rhyme or reason to the existence of large and/or powerful states such as the United States, China, India, and Nigeria, on the one hand, and small and/or weak states such as Luxembourg, Malta, Benin, Togo, and Jamaica, on the other. Most states are not nation-states in the sense of encompassing exclusively one ethnic group, and most nations have not achieved (or sought) statehood. One study has indicated that there may be at least eight thousand distinct ethnic groups in the world, based on language and culture.(12) But there were only 165 states in the world, before the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Along with the "velvet divorce" between the Czech and Slovak parts of Czechoslovakia in 1992 and the emergence of an independent Eritrea from Ethiopia in 1993, 19 other new states were added to the membership of the United Nations between 1991 and 1993 because of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.
This raises a question: Why should (and did) the world recognize the independence of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and FYROM out of Yugoslavia when independence movements have raged for decades among Tibetans, Kurds, Kashmiris, Tamils, Basques, and East Timorese, to mention just a few?
In the case of Yugoslavia, the argument usually advanced for the recognition of Croatia and Slovenia was that the old state was already disintegrating; the West, led by Germany, was merely acknowledging the reality in the region; and the concept of Yugoslavia born after World War I was now over. In retrospect, the effort to establish a South Slav state of different ethnic groups would appear to be a mistake from the beginning. Moreover, following the collapse of communism in Europe, and amidst the new euphoria and expectations of democracy and freedom, the appropriate principle to apply to the formerly Communist countries of Europe was national self-determination and not the territorial integrity of the state. In opting for the self-determination principle, Europe had in fact abandoned the 1975 Helsinki Accords, which had guaranteed the prevailing borders of Europe.
The principle that the Western powers applied to Yugoslavia was the reverse of their position on lbo demands for a Biafra independent of Nigeria in the late 1960s. The minority lbo tribe is mainly Roman Catholic, while the majority Hausa and Yoruba tribes are mainly Muslim. Like the Slovenes and Croats, the Ibos of Biafra were relatively more prosperous than much of the rest of Nigeria, and like the Slovenes and Croats, the lbos complained of having to pay heavier taxes to the federal treasury to prop up the rest of the country.(13) Following a unilateral declaration of independence by the Catholic lbos of Biafra from Muslim majority Nigeria, the Nigerian federal forces proceeded to wage a long war to crush the secessionist forces. During the war, between 1967 and 1970, nearly a million Ibos died, many from starvation as the war disrupted food production and supplies. Apart from Gabon, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Tanzania, and Haiti, the major powers of Europe, and the Organization of African Unity declared that the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Nigeria took precedence over the right of the lbos to national self-determination.
Similarly, the West and the rest of the world have implicitly or explicitly rejected the demands by Kurds, Tibetans, Tamils, Kashmiris, Sikhs, Moros, Shans, and several other ethnic groups for independence from states within which they are now confined. Long struggles for independence by these nations have not been recognized. In the case of the Turkish Cypriots, who broke free from the Greek majority independent state in 1974 with the help of Turkish forces from Turkey, the West refused to recognize what was clearly a de facto and functioning independent state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The situation here was not unlike that of the creation of Bangladesh, which was recognized by the rest of the world community. Bangladesh broke free from Pakistan in the vanguard of a massive Indian military invasion. Bangladesh might not have achieved statehood otherwise for a very long time.
The problems raised by the crisis in the former Yugoslavia generally provide no clues as to whether or when to recognize new states and governments, since the guidelines of the Montevideo Convention were discarded by the international community. These guidelines were intended to recognize the reality, rather than judge the morality, of particular situations. Thus, Kashmir, Tibet, Khalistan, Tamil Ealam, and Kurdistan have not been recognized probably because they do not fulfill all the criteria of the convention. The issue is not whether Kashmiris, Tibetans, Sikhs, Tamils, and Kurds deserve independence but whether they are able to exercise sovereignty in the face of powerful opposition from the state or states within which they are still located.
When Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, no such territorial and boundary changes in their internal republics were allowed by the international community. The post-Soviet boundaries of Russia were particularly puzzling, because the boundaries of Russia had fluctuated over the centuries. One postdisintegration analysis of the Soviet Union stated, "Because Russia became an empire before the Russians consolidated as a nation, the psychological limits of the state and of the Russian identity have always been problematic. Russia has always been a premodern empire with a center and a periphery."(17) Another analyst pointed out, "The Russian state has never existed within its current borders."(18) The origins of the Russian state are found in Ukraine around Kiev and date from the ninth century. The distinctions among the Orthodox Christian peoples of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus are not all that great. Certainly, the differences are much less than those among other ethnic groups such as the Chechins and Tatars seeking secession from Russia.
The rationale for the emergence of independent states from the Soviet Union with its prevailing 1991 boundaries was that there existed fifteen republics within the former Soviet Union, whether or not the boundaries or continued existence of these fifteen republics made sense. The reason that Russian-majority Crimea was a part of independent Ukraine after 1991 is that Khrushchev decided to transfer Crimea to the Ukrainian republic in 1954. The reason that Armenian-majority Nagorno-Karabakh became part of independent Azerbaijan instead of Armenia is that Stalin decided to transfer it from Armenia to Azerbaijan in 1922. In all of these cases, the territorial boundaries of seceding states were determined by the internal boundaries that had prevailed just prior to secession, whether these boundaries were fair or not. So long as the Soviet Union remained one state, these internal boundary questions among its republics were not burning issues, nor was the question whether there ought to be more than just fifteen republics for the USSR's more than one hundred nationalities. However, they become matters of life and death when the state disintegrates, especially where there exist historical memories of conflict or persecution by the new ethnic majorities or minorities. Such is the case between Armenia and Turkic Azerbaijan. Similarly, centuries of oppression under the Muslim Turks, and the mass killings of Serbs by the Croatian Ustashe during World War 11, became critical factors when the internal boundaries of the former Yugoslavia became the international frontiers of Croatia and Bosnia.
The frontier issue is the crux of the problem. The argument is often made that when Marshall Tito drew the internal boundaries of Yugoslavia toward the close of the Second World War, he was merely adhering to historical boundaries. Therefore, Tito's internal boundaries should be maintained, and Serbian claims denying such rigid and unchangeable boundaries are simply distortions intended to justify Serbian aggression. There are two problems with such arguments. First, the current political status or the boundaries of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were not constant for centuries. Until their emergence as independent states in 1991 and 1992, they were subordinate provinces within a larger independent state or within preceding empires. Within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in Dalmatia in particular, Krajina and Slavonia were not always integral parts of Croatia, which was mainly concentrated around Zagreb. Bosnia-Herzegovina was switched from the Ottoman Empire to the Austrian Empire in 1878. Bosnia was not recognized as a separate province in the unitary state of Yugoslavia under the Serbian monarchy during the interwar years. It was collapsed into the Ustashe Croatian state during the Second World War under the Nazis. Macedonia and Montenegro were considered part of the Serbian nation in the interwar years. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia used to be south Serbia. Vojvodina was under the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later became part of Serbia.
There are few states in the world today whose past boundaries have been constant; many have no past boundaries at all. No ethnic logic prevails in the boundaries of African states except the colonial legacy. At the time of British India's independence, there existed several large British Indian provinces proper and more than 580 autonomous Indian princely states ruled by maharajahs and nawabs. After independence, the new Indian government changed all those internal boundaries such that virtually none of the old "historical" boundaries remained. The important question, therefore, is whether, when provinces secede from a sovereign state, internal boundaries should automatically become external boundaries.
Second, whether internal boundaries are historical or not, the perpetuation of internal borders when provinces secede is not justified. As in any marriage, when divorce takes place all common property must be renegotiated. There are some real dangers in accepting the territorial principles applied in allowing various internal republics of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia to secede without changes in boundaries. The central governments of states dominated by ethnic majorities will be motivated to set up highly centralized political systems in the future based purely on administrative district boundaries, thus preventing autonomous self-government for provinces. That would aggravate ethnic dissatisfaction, secessionist pressures, and internal conflict. Alternatively, there could be an escalation in conflict between ethnic majorities and minorities for the creation of more internal states or republics along ethnic lines in case the multiethnic state disintegrates in the future. If the independent government chooses to create internal states and boundaries based on language, it will be confronted with several new demands for more internal states. In the northeastern corner of India, the situation went out of control. Several tribal states of fewer than 2 million people were created in the northeastern sector alone, whereas the largest state in India has a population of 140 million. Since then there have been continual ethnic demands for new states based on ethnic divisions in the northeast of India, all of which have at one time or another sought to secede from India.
Perhaps the solution to the Yugoslav problem was confederalism. But the Slovenian and Croatian offer of confederalism in 1990 was seen by the Serbian leadership as a preliminary step toward eventual secession based on the internal boundaries of Yugoslavia established under Tito. This would have made it more difficult politically, militarily, and legally to change what had become long-standing quasi-international boundaries. Serbian efforts to encompass as many Serbs as possible in the remnant Yugoslavia would have been forever prevented through the negotiated process of delayed disintegration. A similar problem may be seen in the case of the Indian subcontinent. In order to avoid the partition of British India, the British presented in 1945 the Cabinet Mission Plan, which proposed a confederal India of three parts: two Muslim-majority units in the west and east and a large Hindu-majority unit in the middle. This plan was accepted by the Muslim leader, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and Mahatma Gandhi but rejected by Jawaharal Nehru. The Cabinet Mission Plan was seen by some Hindu leaders as gradual partition, in which case Pakistan ultimately would have obtained all of the undivided Punjab and Bengal provinces as well as Assam and the rest of northeastern India if it did eventually decide to secede. Thus, a Pakistan breaking away from the confederation proposed by the British Cabinet Mission Plan would have gained a much larger territory. Whether this was Nehru's intention or not, rejection of the plan and the acceptance of partition of British India in 1947 allowed India to negotiate the partitions of Punjab and Bengal and the retention of Hindu-majority Assam.
There is as yet no evidence that confederalism resolves ethnic demands for secession from a federation. Confederalism as a solution to outright secessionist demands did not work in the case of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which emerged after the breakup of the Soviet Union. It was merely a giant step toward dissolution based on the prevailing internal boundaries of the former Soviet republics without allowing for territorial adjustments. Thus, as noted above, Russian-majority Crimea and Armenian-majority Nagorno-Karabakh remain part of independent Ukraine and Azerbaijan today. While it may be possible to move from several sovereign states to a single confederal state and even to federalism, as in the case of the European Union, moving from federalism to confederalism appears to be a step in the opposite direction, toward state disintegration.
The proportionality principle of land to people was not taken into consideration during the partition of India in 1947. The population density of India then and now is twice that of Pakistan. In 1974, when Turkey invaded Cyprus, it carved out 40 percent of the island for the Turkish Cypriot minority of 18 percent. The Turkish army ethnically cleansed two hundred thousand Greek Cypriots from this area, creating an ethnically pure Turkish Cypriot state called the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The two hundred thousand Greeks driven out of there represented almost 30 percent of the island's total population of seven hundred thousand. Turkey subsequently settled about eighty thousand Turks from the Anatolia mountains of the mainland in the new northern Cyprus republic.
One Serbian claim is that Serbs constituted the overall pluralistic majority in Bosnia-Herzegovina before 1940, as demonstrated in the 1910 Austrian census. That census showed the following percentage distribution of population and "servile" (land) tenures: Orthodox, 43.5 percent and 74.0 percent; Muslim, 32.4 percent and 4.6 percent; and Catholic, 22.8 percent and 21.4 percent. (Others made up the final 1.3 percent of the population.)(19) The distribution of Serbs, Croats, and Muslims in Bosnia has clearly undergone substantial transformation since then. Serbs are now 32 percent of the population, Muslims 44 percent, and Croats 18 percent. Serbs argue that this change was not due entirely to higher birthrates among Muslims but to the loss of Serbian lives during the First and, especially, Second World Wars, when they were targeted for extermination in Bosnia by the Ustashe, composed of Croats and Muslims.
What is even more significant is that Serbs, as mainly farmers and peasants, owned or occupied 74 percent of the land in 1910. They claim that before the outbreak of hostilities in Bosnia in 1992, they owned or occupied 65 percent of the land, although this land had several pockets of more valuable industrialized cities where the more elite Muslims were a majority. This distribution of Serbs in the country and Muslims in the city caused the human explosion in Bosnia. Territorial demarcation according to ethnicity became impossible except through violent ethnic cleansing. Carving out a Greater Serbia to encompass the Serbian diaspora of Bosnia and Croatia within the old Yugoslavia could have been done no other way except by punching corridors through Muslim-majority areas and laying siege to Muslim-majority cities.(20) The creation of a territorially contiguous Jewish-majority state of Israel out of Palestine called for the ethnic cleansing of about a million Palestinians. This was essentially the potential problem underlying Sikh demands in Indian Punjab for an independent Sikh state of Khalistan where Sikhs are the overwhelming majority in the countryside while Hindus are the majority in nearly all of the cities. If Hindu Punjabis were to refuse to be part of a Sikh state, a Bosnialike situation might have developed in an independent Khalistan.
Irrespective of whether internal boundaries are historical, there are precedents stating that when a region or province inhabited by a particular nation secedes, boundaries are renegotiated. Indeed, if Yugoslavia's international boundaries could be taken apart through unilateral declarations of independence followed by immediate Western recognition, then why not regions within the internal boundaries of Yugoslavia that now constitute the international frontiers of new states? If the territorial integrity of states is no longer to be upheld, then any state may be subject to dismantling, especially if ethnic groups are able to establish de facto states by whatever means. One of the basic Western inconsistencies on Yugoslavia was that it discarded the principles laid down under the 1975 Helsinki Accords: "The participating states will respect the territorial integrity of each of the participating states. Accordingly, they will refrain from any action ... against the territorial integrity, political independence, or the unity of any participating state."(21)
International policy in the former Yugoslavia on the question of Serbian aggression following the breakup of the state was different from virtually all other such situations in the world. In the hasty recognition of Slovenia and Croatia, even the Yugoslav army's long-standing presence in Slovenia was considered to be Serbian aggression. In reality, the Yugoslav army suddenly found itself trapped in its barracks on "alien" Slovenian soil and was immediately declared an aggressor-an army that had not moved or fired a single shot. Since there were few Serbs in Slovenia, the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army units there were seeking ways to get out of Slovenia. Strangely, this phenomena was portrayed by American politicians and the media as a case of brave and good Slovenes who stood up to the military might of the evil Serbs, an example that should have been followed by good Croats and Muslims-if only the arms embargo could be lifted. Surely, the Yugoslav army, if it had chosen to do so, could have crushed Slovenia's secession within a month. Indeed, the power of the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army was such that it could have crushed all the secessionist movements by Slovenes, Croats, Muslims, and "Macedonians" in due course-the standard response elsewhere in the world, including the United States. But it was prevented by Western political pressures, cries of human rights violations, and the threat of Western military intervention.
The classification of the war in Bosnia as one of "Serbian aggression" makes even less sense, since the war in Bosnia is being fought largely by Bosnian Serbs who have lived there for centuries. True, supplies were coming from Serbia, and there have been members of the Yugoslav army and other militia from Serbia fighting on the side of the Bosnian Serb forces. However, it is commonplace for various sides in civil wars to gain such supplies from sympathetic outside powers. And invariably outside forces get involved. The American Civil War in the 1860s and the Spanish civil war in the 1930s were no exceptions in this respect. Civil wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan had the great powers directly or indirectly involved, making them international wars by proxy. The civil war between Greeks and Turks in Cyprus in the 1970s drew the Turkish armed forces directly into the conflict in 1974, resulting in the division of Cyprus. The Indian military intervened with tremendous force during Pakistan's civil war in its eastern province in 1971. The problem of distinguishing between altruistic actions of military intervention and prejudicial actions in favor of one side in the civil war becomes difficult. Clearly, Turkish military intervention in Cyprus and Indian military intervention in East Pakistan also carried self-serving political objectives.(22)
It would appear inevitable that large numbers of Croatian forces from the newly independent state of Croatia would be involved on the side of the Bosnian Croats in the war in Bosnia against Serbs and, at one time, against Muslims. And as in civil wars nearly everywhere, outside forces became involved. Sizable numbers of Muslim Mujahideen from Iran and other Arab lands, Pakistan, and Afghanistan were also involved in the fighting in Bosnia. Perhaps this was inevitable and justifiable, because the Bosnian Serbs possessed overwhelming military advantage. The Bosnian Serbs' ability to obtain a relatively superior military machine was partly due to the fact that they were once a dominant part of the Yugoslav army, and many of the armament factories and military storage depots were located in Bosnia, which the Serbs seized. Undoubtedly, the war in Bosnia was an uneven war between Serbs and Muslims, but do wars have to be among equal military forces to be classified as civil wars instead of wars of aggression?
Related to the problem of aggression is the question of Serbian irredentism, Serbian efforts to create a Greater Serbia. Irredentism occurs when a country seeks to annex parts of neighboring countries because the particular ethnic group of the first country inhabits parts of these other countries, or because that ethnic group believes that during historical times some of these areas were once part of their country or their empire. Irredentist policies and actions may be seen in Germany's claim to parts of Poland and Czechoslovakia in the 1930s and in China's claim to the territories of its old Manchu and earlier empires, which at one time or another included Tibet and the northern parts of India, Burma, and Vietnam. Similarly, if Hungary today sought to annex by force Vojvodina, parts of Romania, and Slovakia because Hungarian minorities live there, or because these areas were once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it would be aggression and irredentism.
The situation in the former Yugoslavia is different. In Yugoslavia, a sovereign multiethnic independent state that had existed for more than seventy years was abruptly taken apart through the Western policy of diplomatic recognition. Serbs, who had lived within that state since 1918, were separated suddenly into three different states against their wishes. Thus, the Serbian struggle to remain united within the old state of Yugoslavia does not quite fit the terms aggression and irredentism in the usual sense. Indeed, the conceived Greater Serbia, which had already existed within the larger Yugoslavia from 1918 to 1991, would appear to be no greater than France, Germany, Iran, or Japan, where most of an ethnic group lives in the boundaries of a single state. Part of the problem of Serbian aggression can be traced to the refusal of the West to redraw the internal boundaries of the former Yugoslavia.
Not that such redrawing would have avoided bloodshed and refugee flows, as the partition of India in 1947 demonstrated. In the division of Punjab and the redrawing of boundaries, about half a million civilians lost their lives in a massive slaughter by all sides. Whether it was the Muslims, Sikhs, or Hindus who killed the most seemed almost irrelevant, given the enormity of the bloodshed. Within two months, 10 million Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus caught on the wrong side of the new international frontiers were forced to flee to the other side. By the end of 1947, there were virtually no Sikh or Hindu Punjabis left in Pakistani Punjab and no Muslim Punjabis left in Indian Punjab, despite the fact that all Punjabis had lived peacefully side by side before partition and the creation of new states. Similarly, in the case of Cyprus, the de facto partition into Greek and Turkish Cyprus left no Turks on the Greek side and virtually no Greeks on the Turkish side. Nearly two hundred thousand Greeks out of a population of seven hundred thousand were forced from the Turkish side to the Greek side. Redrawing of boundaries would not have avoided bloodshed. Events in the former Yugoslavia show parallels. The population of Bosnia in particular was too mixed and scattered, and Serbian efforts to create an ethnically pure Serbian Republic of Bosnia were bound to be bloody and immoral. But at least some boundary readjustments and the protection of newly created minorities should have been attempted before the recognitions of Croatia and Bosnia were granted.
The underlying causes of the bloodshed in the former Yugoslavia may be found in policies and actions that occurred beyond the boundaries of the former Yugoslavia. In choosing between the territorial integrity of the state and the right to self-determination, the Western powers, under pressure from Germany, supported the latter principle. This was inconsistent with policies adopted elsewhere in the world. Yugoslavia was a case in which nationalism bred reactive nationalism and counternationalism, which then spun wildly out of control. High expectations of freedom and exaggerated fears of oppression were unleashed suddenly as the Yugoslav state was pushed toward disintegration-within by nationalist forces and from without by the Western powers. The only reason that the Bosnian Muslims and "Macedonians" seceded was because Slovenia and Croatia chose to secede and were hastily recognized by the West. That process was similar to the secessions of the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union, which had not sought secession but felt compelled to secede after the Baltic states, Georgia, and Ukraine had seceded. Following Eritrean secession in 1993, the danger exists that Ethiopia also will unravel like the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. The secessionist demands of the Somalis in the Ogaden province have been revived. The secession of the Afar, Tigray, Oromo, and Amhara ethnic regions then would leave little of the old Ethiopia. And the disintegration is likely to be bloody.
The policies of the West toward Yugoslavia were inconsistent. It made no sense to claim that Serbs, Croats, and Muslims could not live together in a larger Yugoslavia while declaring that they should in smaller Bosnia. Once intense conflict occurs and suspicion and distrust prevails, it becomes difficult to make different peoples live together if they refuse to do so anymore. We cannot force Jews and Arabs to live next to each other in the Middle East, Hindus and Muslims in the former British India, or blacks and whites in the United States and South Africa. Races and ethnic groups must believe in the advantages of multiculturalism and coexistence of their own free will. It took the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make white Americans understand the principles of tolerance and fairness, and even today informally segregated neighborhoods are common in the United States. Ironically, in the former Yugoslavia all the ethnic groups did live together peacefully for several decades, even after the horrendous experience during the Second World War. Amazingly, in 1994 Croats and Muslims chose to live together again in Bosnia despite the savagery they had inflicted on each other through much of 1993. In spite of the atrocities committed by Bosnian Serbs against the Muslims, an offer was made at the same time to bring them back into a multiethnic Bosnia, an offer the Serbs refused. No doubt it is manipulative politicians who engineer beliefs of intolerance and interethnic incompatibility. In the former Yugoslavia, the Communists turned nationalists were almost entirely to blame, and their motives appear to be personal ambition and political survival rather than the long-term welfare of their peoples.
Allen Buchanan opens the first chapter of his book Secession by citing the words Abraham Lincoln used to explain why he chose to face civil war rather than allow the South to secede:
"I would save the Union.... My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save the Union by freeing some and leaving others alone I would do also that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union."(23)
The war that Abraham Lincoln waged to save the territorial integrity of the United States at considerable human cost was not allowed in the case of the former Yugoslavia. In the ultimate analysis, if the rights of the nation are to override those of the state, then the rights of new national minorities must also override the newly created states. Allowing Slovenia and Croatia to secede was the beginning of the end of Yugoslavia. Once a few secessions are allowed, a multiethnic state is likely to unravel completely amidst disputes over new boundaries and the plights of new minorities. The West had set the stage for the further Balkanization of the Balkans.
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Last revised: June 7, 1999