Flames in the Balkans

by Dubravko Kakarigi

Tallahassee Peace Coalition Newsletter

November-December 1992
he Balkans are in the flames again. For the fifth time in this century a major warfare has befallen its population. First, the two Balkan wars were waged in 1912-1913 when the Turkish empire lost its foothold in Europe. Then in 1914 the First World War started in Sarajevo, the Second World War subsequently devastated the whole area in 1941-1945, and finally the wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina have been raging during the last two years.

ince June last year, major changes occurred in the area. Yugoslavia, which once was a country which many looked up to as an inspiring experiment in achieving social justice, has hopelessly fallen apart. The differences between the industrialized and traditionally Central Europe-oriented regions to the West (Slovenia, Croatia, and partially Bosnia- Hercegovina) and the more basic-industry oriented, agricultural, less developed regions in the East (Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia) became too strong for the fragile union to survive. Absence of a central, old-style communist state authority exarcebated those differences to the point of no return. Yugoslavia was doomed to crack open.

hy are those people fighting?

he major grievances of the Yugoslav western ideologues have been in the area of the political domination of the east over the west. Serbs, the west says, have dominated the state apparatus, the police, the political system, the army, and the leading industrial management positions through their majority membership in the League of Communists which had been the political party in power since 1945. This system enabled the east to siphon the resources from the west for their wasteful projects, west says, which lead to the major slowdowns of their own economies.

he western areas, their Yugoslav eastern counterparts say, have enjoyed the fruits of the liberation war (1941-1945) in which the Serbs have taken most of the load and suffered the most casualties (many inflicted by the other ethnic groups). The west has been able to develop faster and is now wanting to separate at the expense of the Serbs, they say. Also, many Serbs live in the west and under no circumstances should another separation of the Serbian people from their mother country be allowed; especially not such that the Croatian Serbs might again be decimated at the hands of Croatian fascists (during the Second World War many hundreds of thousands of Serbs and others were killed under the fascist regime in the Croatian puppet state). In addition, the peoples to the South, the Macedonians and the people of Montenegro, are not separate ethnic groups at all, Serbs say, but are actually Serbs who, due to the anti-Serbian conspiracy, have been awarded a nationality in order to diminish Serbian influence and a rightful, leading position in the region.

hen we include the Albanian question into the picture we can recognize the full spectrum of problems. About two million ethnic Albanians live in Kosovo, the southern region of Serbia, where they are demanding self-determination and have had a luck to establish themselves in the region of the original medieval Serbian state.

learly, there are at least two groups of people here with drastically different agendas, each seemingly reasonable if examined in isolation. Those agendas are that the west (and also Macedonia) wants to go alone after unsuccessful trial union and the east wants to maintain the union and if not that, then "Serbia should be wherever Serbs live," and since there are many Serbs living in Croatia and Bosnia- Hercegovina, those two areas can not be allowed to be independent. Since both sides have reached the point where they are not willing to compromise, the militarily stronger side has decided to impose its agenda by means of war. The tragic side to this situation, in addition to the suffering of the war, is that all sides attempt to correct some "injustices" of the long gone times. The trouble is that justice is many times based on memories of the generations from the far past which never solves the problems of the living. For example, there are strong currents among both the Croats and the Serbs who claim that the central region (Bosnia-Hercegovina) should rightfully "belong" to them since at one point in the past (in 12th or 13th century) it used to be a part of their respective states. While this is true, it only aggravates the existing problems and makes their solution so evasive.

t is irrational to argue about the issues related to the people's territorial rights based on the facts from 200, 300, or 600 years ago. Consequently, the solutions to these problems are irrational too—over 20,000 people dead, over 2 million displaced, huge damage to the national economies and even more to the environment.

propose that the fundamental reason and the force which fuels this tragedy is the model of human existence which humans have adopted thousands of years ago. This model is based on the "survival of the mighty," male domination, and bows to the life taking rather than to the life giving powers. As long as it is not replaced by a more natural and a more beneficial for all model of human co-existence, where linking is preferred to ranking, we will witness wars and destruction and wonder why they so persistently follow us around this humble little planet which gives us all that we have.