Alternative Insight

Who Destroyed Yugoslavia?
The Serbs Speak

Two devastated buildings stand on Belgrade's principal street as grim reminders of the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia's capital city. They signal the world that Serbia and its people will not forget the destruction visited upon them.







But that is it. Belgrade surprises! Instead of being a scarred and sullen city with dazed, emotionally distraught and angered inhabitants, with a population bitter at a world that tore its Kosovo soul from them and needlessly killed its people, Belgrade is a vibrant metropolis. Its citizens crowd the streets each night, shop in department stores, dine in fine restaurants and fill the many elegant cafes throughout the "Stari grad," the old city and its lengthy pedestrian walk. Pastry shops appear on almost every block of the central city zone. Well-cared parks are abundant, with the Kalemegdan Fortress park undoubtedly one of the finest in Europe. The well preserved fortress and its grounds, together with the park, overlook the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, two vital and beautiful waterways. Within many of the river barge restaurants and in late night clubs, Belgrade rocks.

The Serb people will not forget NATO's bombings of its land and its support for their adversaries. They are quick to rebuke a world that has not responded sufficiently to their pleas for assistance in rebuilding their country and their lives. While waiting for a bus that goes to the new sports arena, which is hosting the European basketball championships, a young Serb university student, a refugee from his birthplace in Bosnia, relates that "all Serbians hold the United States responsible for the destruction of Yugoslavia." He qualifies his remarks; "Not Americans personally, but the American government." He takes a Serbian 20 dinar note from his pocket and writes on it: "Hello everybody from Serbia and Bosnia - Vladan, 22.09.2005."

At the sports arena, tens of armed police in riot gear patrol the complex. Each ticket holder is searched and prevented from bringing in umbrellas and blunt instruments. The reason for the intense security soon becomes apparent; NATO member France is playing Lithuania. Joyful Lithuanian fans seat themselves throughout the arena while no French contingent of fans of any size can be observed. Although the stadium audience loudly applauds the Lithuanian team when it enters the court, it greets the French national team with catcalls, boos, and jeers. The French cheering squad, of only about a dozen persons, becomes known only after the French team scores, and they remain mostly quiet throughout the game (which France won).

Across from the arena, which is in Belgrade's new city, are the offices of B-92, a popular and controversial television and radio broadcaster. B-92 was an intense critic of former president Milosevich and is still a critic of the government's policies. Other media have accused B-92 of being pro-American and its staff has been threatened with physical harm by Serbian extremists.

A young woman journalist at B-92, earnest and sincere, speaks for herself: "I neither like America nor dislike America. We must get along with everyone. No, we will not seek revenge and try to recover our lost Republics. Montenegro will most likely secede. Serbia will only be Serbia. That is reality and we must live with reality."

A trip through the Montenegro Dalmatian coast supports the journalist's opinions. Although Montenegro is still technically a republic allied with the Republic of Serbia to form the remaining Yugoslavia, Montenegro uses the Euro as its currency and does not accept the Yugoslav dinar. The republic has its own telecom card and the Serbian telecom card does not function with Montenegro public telephones. This is equivalent to the southern region of the United States not accepting the dollar and having unique public telephone cards.

Although the Serbs have been charged and maligned with ethnic cleansing, they have suffered greatly from the total ethnic cleansing that occurred during the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
In Slovenia
, the Serbs, who are 2.4% of the Slovenian population, are now a culturally deprived minority.
In Croatia, an estimated 200,000 Serbs had been forced to leave the province of Krajina (
The Onus on Zagreb, Oct o5, 2005,, and many of those who remained or returned after fleeing, have lived in miserable conditions. (Report on the Conditions of Serbs in Croatia, Alice Mahon, MP, Britain, 12-21-9,
In Srpska, an estimated 450,00 refugees from other parts of Bosnia and Croatia found refuge.
In Kosovo, the Serb population has been reduced from 190,000 to 100,000. inhabitants (
The ethnic minorities in Kosovo,
The previously mentioned young Serb student in Belgrade also said: "A hundred Serbian churches have been destroyed in Kosovo and the world does not care."

Throughout Serbia you can meet persons who were forced to leave Bosnia or have been reduced from professional status to selling goods in the street. Serbs are suffering, no doubt about that.
A Bosnian Serb pensioner
talks wistfully of having to leave the home of his birth in house in Bosnia and being forced to spend his last years in a small village on the Montenegro coast.
A Serb woman agronomist has no employment and peddles merchandise. Fate guides her life. "It's not money and materials that make you a person," she says. "It's what is in your heart and mind."
A middle-aged Serb mother relates her tale: "I was a Spanish teacher, and in Mexico on an assignment when the bombings in Belgrade started. I returned quickly and was horrified. We might have been wrong about some things, but I couldn't understand the bombings of our children. We were all shocked at the bombings of Belgrade but, no, we don't consider revenge. "
A Montenegro woman says simply: "We are a peaceful people. We never contemplated war."

The Bosniaks (the term Bosniak has been created to differentiate the Bosnian Muslims from the Bosnian Serbs and Croats) might eventually be the major victims of the destruction of Yugoslavia. Bosnia territory, which includes the entirety of the previous Bosnian Republic of Yugoslavia, is divided between the Federated Bosnia Herzegovnia Republic (51%) and Srpska, a Serb Republic (49%).

Entering Bosnia from Croatia reveals villages still scarred by the civil war. Mostar has several destroyed buildings and many marked with artillery shells and bullet holes. In the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovnia, the Croats and Bosniaks live mostly separated from one another. The two ethnic groups inhabit opposite sides of the river.

Sarajevo has made a slow recovery from the war. TheTurkish quarter has been completely renovated, but, similar to Mostar, many damaged buildings, including the old parliament, still testify to the previous hostilities. Serbians have been leaving Sarajevo and building new communities in the surrounding hills of the Republic of Srpska. A 2002 study shows Sarajevo's pre-war Serb population of 159,000 having been reduced to 40,000 persons. The United Nations High Commission in Bosnia (UNHCR) disputes the figures and claims 83,200 Serbs have returned to Bosnia since the 1995 Dayton peace agreement, including 40,300 to Sarajevo. (Sarajevo Serbs Threatened, Amra Kebo, 25 January, 2002,

The guided tour of Sarajevo emphasizes the siege of Sarajevo, the heroism of the Bosnian Muslims and the duplicity of the Serb military. The Bosniak guide does not consider that his one-sided view of the war and his disparagement of the Serbs are unfair and damage the image of reconciliation that the goverment is trying to encourage. A Moslem taxicab driver, who brings tourists to the tunnel that brought supplies to embattled Sarajevo, talks admirably of Yugoslavia: "What was wrong with it?" and contemptuously of the Srpska Serbs. He notes that Serbs are leaving Sarajevo and points to new and large housing communities that are being constructed in the Srpska Republic hills above Sarajevo. He registers fear when passing the Srpska police, who he claims demand money from non-Serb drivers. It is obvious that Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Moslems have not resolved their antagonisms and are remaining separated

What conclusions can be drawn from a brief survey of the present state of the former Yugoslavia? Everyone, without exception, Serb, Bosniak, Croat, Montenegro, expressed admiration for former Yugoslav leader Marshall Tito. Tito held Yugoslavia together with the concepts - we are all Yugoslavs, each republic must be respected, multi-ethnicism is the guide, and no national identity is favored. Former Yugoslavian President Milosevich might have made a fatal mistake when he used the Yugoslav parliament and army to protect Serb communities in all republics instead of having the republics resolve their own ethnic problems. Of course, he might have faced a no-win situation, but his maneuvers violated the Yugoslavian constitution and enraged the leaders in each of the republics.

Nevertheless. the hypocrisy of the western nations is apparent. Bosnia was created without the approval of the Bosnian Serbs, who boycotted the vote on the grounds that it was unconstitutional - the referendum bypassed the veto power of the representatives of the Serbian people in the Bosnian parliament. If national identity guided the western nations to recognize Bosnia as a separate nation, then why hasn't the UN also allowed Serbian Srpska and Serbian Krajina to achieve their national aspirations? The Bosnian Serbs wanted a Bosnian Republic in Yugoslavia. They have a Serbian Republic in Bosnia.

A journey through the Serb Republic of Srpska encounters a beautiful land of mountains and valleys, rich in farms of all types, forests, logging, sawmills and some university towns. If permitted, the Bosnian Serb Republic would probably vote to unite with Serbia. Serb nationalism cannot be indefinitely thwarted and the unification of Serbia and Srpska is destined to happen in the future. Similar to the Bosnian Serbs, the Croatians in the Federated Bosnian Croat Republic have indicated they seek to unite with their counterparts in Croatia. If Bosnian Serbs and Croats successfully separate themselves from Bosnia, the future Bosnia could be reduced to a small, mostly mountainous country, lacking sufficient resources and remaining with only memories of the rewarding defense industry brought to it by the Yugoslavian central government. In a gradually impoverishing environment, which could occur in both Bosnia and Kosovo, Radical Islam, America's greatest enemy, will gain adherents.

The nation of Yugoslavia had an uncomfortable political arrangement in the early 1990's and changes in its composition were probably necessary. A mixture of uncontrolled nationalism, Serbian leadership indifference to an equitable sharing of Yugoslavia's resources and income, personal aggrandizement sought by several leaders, and the failures of each republic to recognize and resolve the unfair treatment of their Serbian minorities brought about the destruction and dismemberment of Yugoslavia. The western powers, led by the United States and its NATO partners, seemed eager to have Yugoslavia dismembered and therefore didn't carefully examine the causes of the struggles, took a one-sided view against Serbian actions, and responded too late to limit the murder, mayhem and ethnic cleansing. As usual, American foreign policy directed the use of violent military tactics (NATO in this case) to counter the violence in Bosnia and Kosovo, which aggravated the conflicts and increased their destruction. The United States then "saved the day" by imposing solutions that will be contested for decades, and which will lead to additional sorrow and regret.

alternative insight
nov 1, 2005