bosnia report
New Series No. 9/10 April - July 1999
 
Prophecy fulfilled
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 Kosovo.

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 n the former Yugoslavia.

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 Serb socialism).

`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

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