by Kemal Kurspahic
When, in long-ago 1986, the Serbian academicians and artists wrote their
Memorandum about how the Serbs win in war and lose in peace - a document whose
basic idea was the claim that Serbs were victims of a Yugoslav constitution that
favoured Slovenia and Croatia, that divided the Serb nation among several states
and Serbia itself into three parts, and that actually made possible `genocide'
against Serbs in Kosovo - and when they demanded that all Serbs should live in a
single state, they did not exactly plan for this state to end up being just
`Serbia proper' [i.e. Serbia without the provinces]. But by kindling Serb rebel
lion in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, in a world that was not ready to recog
nize the forcible redrawing of borders, the Great-Serb movement led to the ef
fective exile of the Serb minority from Croatia and to the withdrawal or flight
of Serbs from large areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Now, thirteen years after the Memorandum, the cycle of the Great-Serb campaign
for a smaller and smaller Serbia has returned to its point of departure: to
The Memorandum's assertions about `genocide against Serbs' in the province were
mainly based on statistical manipulations. One of these concerned Kosovo's
growing Albanian and declining Serb population. In the nationalist interpreta
tion, genuinely dramatic figures - showing, for example, that in 1961 there were
67 per cent Albanians and 23 per cent Serbs in the province, while in 1991 the
ratio was 90 to 10 - acquired the significance of nothing less than a `genocide
against the Serbs'. The academicians and artists did not want to see any of the
other factors behind these demographic changes: above all, the fact that Kosovo
was by far the most backward province of the former Yugoslavia, in which employ
ment and average income reached barely one third of the (anyway poor) Yugoslav
average, which naturally led to migrations of the Serb population towards more
prosperous territories in Serbia proper; or again, the biological factor - the
fact that the poor Albanian population had by far the largest birth-rate iÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ
Other `proofs of genocide' in the form of claims about expulsions from ancestral
hearths, killings, rapes of Serb mothers and sisters - even though official sta
tistics showed that in traditional Albanian environments the amount of all such
violence, killing and rape was significantly less than in Serbia itself - were
used, by the authors and propagators of the Memorandum thesis that Serbs were
endangered, in order to disseminate among the Serbs a sense of being under di
rect threat of extermination, in the face of which the nation naturally had to
unite and prepare to defend itself.
The resulting unity was then - in the decade that followed, in which Slobodan
Milosevic waged no fewer than four wars for an ever-diminishing `Greater Serbia'
- maintained by perpetually nurturing the thesis that there was a general con
spiracy against Serbdom. The enemies were no longer just `Shiptar separatists',
`Croat ustashe' and `Muslim mujahedin', but an entire world coalition made up of
strange partners - from the Vatican (catholicism against orthodoxy) via Tehran
(Islam against Christianity) to Bonn and Washington (Western imperialism against
`The whole world is against us' was the war cry designed to reinforce Serb unity
in the face of a then mainly imaginary danger.
During the past ten years - from the Serbian destruction of the constitutional
equality of the republics during the `popular happenings' in Novi Sad and Ti
tograd, to the threat of the (cancelled) `meeting of truth' in Ljubljana; to the
erased autonomy and beginnings of state repression against the Albanians in
Kosovo; to Milosevic's threats at Gazimestan in 1989 about how `our battles are
not yet armed ones, but even that is not to be excluded'; to three campaigns of
war, one of brief duration in Slovenia, an evil one in Croatia, and a genocidal
one in Bosnia-Herzegovina; right up to the current systematic `ethnic cleansing'
of Kosovo's majority Albanian population, amid crimes whose true dimensions are
yet to be learned - Milosevic has indeed fulfilled the prophecy about how the
whole world will be against Serbia.
By rejecting the Rambouillet agreement, which provided for Kosovo's autonomy
within Serbia guaranteed by international military forces under the direction of
NATO, which would have protected both Albanians and Serbs until conditions had
been created for a long-term political solution, Milosevic gambled away perhaps
for good the readiness of the world to keep the Albanians inside Serbia, even
against their democratically expressed will. Hardly anybody, even among the most
resolute opponents of redrawing European frontiers, now believes that after this
criminal `ethnic cleansing' they will ever again be ready to live under a Ser
bian rule that they accepted only a few weeks ago in Paris.
If today `the whole world' really is `against Serbia', the only legitimate ques
tion is - why? And the natural thing would be to seek the answer in Belgrade it
self, instead of blaming `the whole world'. That alone would be an indication
that something is beginning to change inside Serbia.
Translated from Svijet, Sarajevo, 18 April 1999