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A Yugoslav tale
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-05-21 10:14:47
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In the beginning there was a country called Yugoslavia, then came war that resulted in some countries gaining a future, others gaining a questionable future and others with no future at all. It may sound cynical but unfortunately it is true and that again is the result of another fallen People’s Republic only this time it was not on the east side of Europe but in the heart of Europe and that’s exactly what makes the former Yugoslavian states so interesting.

Before that beginning there was another beginning in the early 20th century when the dream of the 17th century for a single state of all South Slavic intelligentsia became true and after the collapse of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire a new country appeared the kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the kingdom of Yugoslavia. In 1949 and after the WWII that cost over 1.7 million lives to the nation and a civil conflict Marshal Josip Broz Tito with his partisans established the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The ethnic problems and conflicts were always there with main opponents in this conflict the Serbs and the Croats with the Croatian Spring at 70s to become the peak of this conflict. So after the end of the Tito era and the chaotic situation that followed a civil war followed with extreme atrocities in sides, murders and genocides, international courts and convictions that embarrassed a whole nation.

During these latest Serbia was the victimizer and the victim the very same time. Serbian leaders were responsible for a lot of those atrocities and crimes but they were not the only ones, they were just there leading and they had Milosevic to lead them. That was enough to point the finger and bomb Serbia. But the Serbian people were not the only guilty and as latest research has proved they all had their share in the atrocities, even the latest events in Kosovo proved that the victims in this case the Kosovars had their own bones in the closet. Serbian people were the victims because they became the scapegoat for the failure of the west to stop the civil war and by putting their geopolitical plans among the Yugoslavian people to become ethically responsible for what happened. If for example Germany hadn’t been so in harry and so involved to the Slovenian independence things might had turned much different. And yes all the neighbours one way or another a little or more carry their responsibility from Greece to Albania and Germany because they all wanted their share.

Milosevic was undoubtedly a murderous dictator responsible of genocide like Saddam Hussein for example but in the case of Yugoslavia the NATO in this case didn’t bomb selectively and carefully Milosevic and his followers but the Serbian cities and uncontrollable the Serbian people and that was what united the Serbian people against the NATO and particularly against the Americans and not Milosevic like the Americans like to believe and of course the Bush administration in her arrogant and intolerance attitude punished them; not Milosevic but the Serbian people. And they were punished to become example of the most unfair situation blamed for everybody else’s failure blocked from their only chance to survive and regain their dignity. In his visit the American vice president Joe Biden, the first of an American official since 1999 said that the US backs Serbia’s plans to join the European Union emphasizing very correctly for me and showing that the past intolerance is over that: “The United States does not, I emphasize, does not expect Serbia to recognize the independence of Kosovo, it is not a precondition for our relationship or our support for Serbia becoming part of the European Union.”

Mr. Biden in just a sentence returned to these people their dignity and for that a lot of people are relieved and thankful hoping that the Obama administration will keep what they started and the European Union will do the work that they should have done a decade before. You see Serbia has every right to be a member of EU, a historic right something that for example countries candidates like Turkey absolutely lack. Serbia is the country I mentioned in the beginning with the future because it has the historic past and the determination to succeed.

Slovenia is the other state that has future and it is already a full member state of the European Union. A country that has already seen the results of this union, enjoying the prosperity the post war era brought with a constantly raising economy and tourist industry, a member of the euro zone. A nation with strong roots in the European history from the 7th century and deep cultural involvement, powerful ethnic identity and a thriving democracy with respect to human rights.

Montenegro became independent from Serbia on the 21st of May 2006 after long battle with the Serbian authorities. What makes it balancing between a state with great future and a questionable state is the fact that it is very new with alive the feeling of tensions with Serbia. They are still making their first steps as a newly born democracy despite the fact that they are one of the oldest nations of the former Yugoslav nations with his history that holds far before Christ with the first settlers the Illyrians and later with close ties with the Roman and Byzantine empire. With the biggest contributor of the national economy to be tourism the Montenegro government has invest a big part of their future to the development of the tourist industry. What makes it partly questionable is the attitude in the future to what will become with the Albanian involvement especially after the independence of Kosovo and dangerous situation in FYROM.

In his visit to Bosnia Herzegovina, vice president Joe Biden in a visit to the parliament he said: “God, when will you tire of that rhetoric? This must stop and let me be clear: your only real path to a secure and prosperous future is to join Europe. Right now, you are off that path!” Again Mr. Biden summed the Bosnian questionable reality in a few sentences. The message was loud and clear what reminds is for the Bosnian politicians to get it and act.

Bosnians have been in a way lucky during this last decade and after all the events in Yugoslavia; nobody, absolutely nobody has question what happened and how to find the guilt but they all turned it to competition on who killed more. Suddenly the one who killed less became innocent and was rewarded! Amazing! When it comes to murder and especially when it comes to genocides numbers have absolutely nothing to do but facts! And in this the Bosnians are equally responsible with the Serbians. Unfortunately history finds the truth in the end and we can already see detected the first signs of that. Camps and acts of atrocities with Serbians the victims appear and bones are coming out of the closets. And instead Bosnians to see the future and try to make the next logical steps as Mr. Biden pointed they are in preparation for a new adventure this time with the Herzegovinians leading their country to another most likely painful split with nobody knows how many victims this time.

Bosnia was the other partner in the creation of Yugoslavia with deep historic roots and with their acts the only thing they do the Bosnian nationalists that at the moment handle obviously the situation is to dismiss this past for a dangerous future ignoring the lessons they have already taken till they became independent. What make Bosnia questionable are the next moves and the immediate future. Is a blinded nationalism that keeps them away not only from their European path but from their own future and prosperity, the chance for their own kids to have a real future.

And last is the country where the question mainly falls if they have a future is the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) ironically the only one that still holds the name Yugoslavia. A country made up as a state from Marshal Tito intentionally to provoke their neighbours. A nation with fouls identity and stolen symbols, unfortunately led from irresponsible leaders and an inside conflict between Slavs and the Albanians that is hold only through a blind nationalism. there is no reason to talk about the name, the dispute with Greece because there are historic facts and proves about it despite all the childish actions of the FYROM leadership to give Greek names and particularly the name of the Greek Alexander the Great to streets and squares or erupting grotesque statutes ironically with Greek letters and symbols. All this is a cover to hide the reality of this country that is a centre of trafficking, human slavery, smuggling stolen goods from all around Europe and drug dealing.

FYROM has been accused for all the above from nearly all the human rights’ organization and if you add to that the corrupted government where family members can be part of the crime network, the police chief is controlling the network getting a fair part and that any attempt for democracy for example the elections were mastered by falsification and violence. Where the Albanian minority has to live the constant humiliation and prejudice and the FYROM’s own citizens the ones who don’t participate in this nationalistic paranoia and criminality have to live in total poverty in conditions that remind the beginning of the 19th century and not the 21st. An economy that survives barely ironically due to Greek investors and a minimal and dismissive international existence since everybody is waiting to see what is coming next and if the Albanian minority will act. With the end of the Bush administration they lost their only ally but even this ally was questionable since with his acts most likely did more harm than good for example uniting the European allies around Greece in the dispute of the name and keep FYROM out of their only hope for a serious international recognition with their application for a NATO membership. After that any other attempt looks laughable including the attempt for EU membership.

The American Vice President’s visit in the region was really a new beginning for the American diplomacy in the area and Joe Biden’s remarks shown that this administration knows what’s going on and really willing to help. Joe Biden has shown a man of knowledge in diplomacy and particular knowledge in the Balkans a very sensitive region due to the minorities problems rarely appreciated and often misunderstood and endangering to evoluted in another Middle East style problem with all the chronicle implications. The only thing remains is to wait and see the administration he represents to keep their promises.

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Emanuel Paparella2009-05-21 11:44:57
What a mess! And right in the heart of Europe to boot. The last time the UN tried to bring a semblance of peace there by dispatching UN Dutch soldiers, it did not cover itself with glory. How does one begin to untangle the deep-rooted hatred and mistrust that exists between Bosnians and Serbs? Perhaps only artists can untangle and portray this mess. That may be the case of a haunting film which came out some 15 years ago and titled “Before the Rain.” Its writer and director is Milcho Manchevski. It portrays the circularity of violence and hatred seen in a story that circles on itself in Macedonia. The movie is prophetic in the Biblical sense of that word since it was produced in 1995 before the displacement of ethnic Albanians and the grudging NATO led war urged by the Americans. It was nominated for Oscar and won some 12 awards. It is about the hatred between Macedonians and Albanians and it is filmed on location in Macedonia with superb photographic images and equally superb music. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2009-05-21 11:51:08
The film is divided in three parts named Words, Faces and Pictures. It begins around a monastery high on a cliff overlooking Lake Ohrid. The second part takes place in London where a massacre ensues in a restaurant, to make the point that eventually the violence of the backyard comes inside the home of the indifferent. There is moreover an enigmatic expression which recurs in the film time and again: “Time never dies: the circle is not round.” I suppose it goes with the plot’s circularity of violence but to this day that expression with the haunting images and faces keep returning to my mind. It remains enigmatic since the Nietzchean circle of eternal return would ultimately mean that there is no hope for those people. If time never dies, then the hatred will neither. But perhaps the silver lining in such a sad movie is the beginning of the movie in a Christian monastery; for in a circle the beginning can be the end and vice-versa, intimating that indeed there is transcendence even for time, that one does not have to remain in the circularity of hatred and the ghetto of ethnicity... Food for thought.

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