his essay offers the history of the turbulent cultural & social relationship between the Slavic Croatians (Croats), Bosnians, and the Serbs from their medieval foundations, to their division between support for the socialists and the Fascists in World War II, to the pan-Slavic union of Yugoslavia, until their total collapse during the Yugoslav Wars and today. It tracks the historical decay from an ethnically-based Slavic alliance between the three followed by a shift to bitter hatred after the end of Yugoslavia between three cultures of the same seed. Also included are some of my observations & photos from my research travels to the former Yugoslavia (Croatia and Slovenia) at the bottom as they are relevant to this essay. Note that this topic can be controversial; I have tried where possible to analyze each group’s perspective.From the 6th century onward, the pre-Christian Slavic race pushed westward from the Urals and the Volga river of central Russia into the heart of Europe. From this common Slavic stock a variety of military tribal confederations developed in central Europe and the Balkans, gradually coalescing into functional principalities, bans (duchies), and kingdoms. A unified Slavic Croatia first was declared by King Tomislav the Great by the early 10th century, soon to gravitate closely to the Catholic faith that dominated the region and was most auspicious for international diplomacy with nearby Hungary, Germany, and Italian states. Serbia forged a kingdom by the 10th century, adopting the Orthodoxy that dominated the region and was represented by neighboring Bulgaria and Byzantium. Bosnian & Herzegovine principalities coalesced into unified statehood last of the three by the early 12th century, split between Orthodoxy and Catholicism due to its geographical proximity to Orthodox Byzantium and the Catholic Papal States. These southern Slavic kingdoms (“Yugo-Slavs”) were the three major ethnic groups that would, 1,000 years later, build upon a common ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage to found Yugoslavia. The obliteration of the Byzantine Empire by Venice during the Fourth Crusade of the 13th century allowed the South Slavic vassal states to be completely liberated. This marks the complete foundation of Bosnia and Serbia. Since the genesis of these national identities until the Yugoslav unification, a shared language, genetic origin, culture, and heritage pervaded despite the hegemony of various empires. The three ethno-social groups did not live under one national flag for the vast majority of their histories. The political infighting, geography, and burgeoning Catholic religion of the Croatian Kingdom of the 11th century caused Croatia to become a territory of the massive Kingdom of Hungary almost immediately. From the 13th century until 1526, the Catholic Croats lived under Magyar (Hungarian) hegemony almost without interruption. The proud Orthodox Serbian kingdom enjoyed independence and prestige from the 13th until the 15th century. Bosnia’s sovereignty is debated as to whether it was independent or a tributary vassal of Hungary like Croatia. It is generally agreed to have been largely independent. The extent to which it was Catholic or Orthodox is also debated. The independence of these Slavic national identities, to the great fear of the rest of Christian Europe, came to an end as the Muslim Ottoman Empire delivered the blade of jihad against the Balkans. From the 15th to the 16th centuries, the Ottoman Turks — in most cases without any provocation — conquered Christian Albania, the Romanian kingdoms (Wallachia and Moldova), Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, southern Croatia, what is now Greece, and most of Hungary. Albania fell after a heroic resistance by the Christian Albanians under Gjergj Skanderbeg. Bosnia fell by 1485 with little difficulty. Serbia put a heroic and famous series of revolts against the invading Muslims in the fields of Serbia’s Kosovo in 1389 that left the Ottoman sultan Murat slain, and Belgrade (1456). Despite their heroic resistance to unprovoked conquests of the mighty Ottomans, the Serbs fell and became subjects of the Ottoman realm like their Bosnian brothers for the next 400 years.
The Croats, Slovenes, and Hungarians escaped Ottoman conquest in part thanks to the Germans. Due to political intrigue, marriage, and diplomacy, as well as the will of the Slavs and Magyars to escape Muslim hegemony, the nations of Hungary, Croatia, and indirectly Bohemia (Czechs and Slovaks) were incorporated into the German Austrian Habsburg Empire after 1526. Hungary, which controlled Bohemia and Croatia, were so destroyed by the Turkish jihad (with the last Hungaran king Lajos dead on the field of Mohacs) that they became a province of the Austrian Empire until 1918. As a result, the Catholic Croat Slavs escaped the historical phenomenon of Muslim rule, unlike the Bosnians and Serbs. The Slovenes, a very undeveloped “ethnic group” by this time, were also a part of the German dominion. The Bosnians would eventually be annexed by the victorious Germans in 1908, but the bitter refusal of the Serbs to be taken by the Germans contributed to their war of independence against the Turks and the Austrians in World War I. The experience of living under foreign Muslim occupation has been debated. It is short-sighted to describe a period of brutality, violence, forced conversion, stagnation, and murder. It is also illusory and fanciful to, as modern American academia espouses, depict a period of multi-cultural tolerance and free religious worship. Indeed, the Ottoman Empire was unusual of Muslim realms in its granting of inordinate autonomy to religious communities and regions. The Serbs and Bosnians, however, enjoyed almost none. The ancient lands of the Serbs and Bosnians were taken, their great palaces and treasures becoming the property of a hated and very foreign enemy. The conquest of these free peoples was not provoked. Christians lived as second-class citizens in their own homelands, unable to enjoy political franchise unless they either betray their nation and families by converting to Islam and fighting their own countrymen and fellow Christians in the Ottoman armies (the Janissaries). A blood tax called devshirme (دغشرمي) forced Christian European mothers to give up every few male family members (varies by population census) to be forcibly conscripted into the Janissary elite in Istanbul after forced conversion to Islam, with many returning to their nations to fight against the villages of their birth. The majestic wealth and education the Islamic world had to offer at this time of Muslim conquest was often quite appealing to many families for their sons instead of death or starvation. Their options were to adopt a very similar religion to Christendom (Islam) or, in many cases, starve to death. Many families under Islamic rule professed submission to Islam solely to inherit the benefits, but instead practiced the faith of their heritage in private to avoid persecution or death. Apostacy from the Ottoman perception of Islam was punished by death. The Christian natives also paid inordinate taxes. Balkan subjects, often prone to famine and underproduction of grain at this time, were barely able to survive, let alone pay large taxes. Most Europeans view this today as a period of foreign occupation and injustice. Although Ottoman policy is often portrayed unjustly negatively, modern attempts to depict them as liberal and tolerant are very improvident and foolish, especially in an age when all peoples are supposed to live free from foreign empires.
The conversion of Bosnia and Albania to Islam
A unique feature of the Ottoman occupation era was the widespread conversion of the Bosnians and Albanians to Sunni Islam. Whilst the great majority of Europeans refused to accept the religion of their invading conquerers, or converted solely to avoid second-class status, Bosnians and Albanians did en masse. There are many reasons for this. Most of the conversion efforts in the Balkans were performed by Bektashi Sufi mystics who brought a very liberal, open form of Islam at which most conservative Muslims tend to scoff. Many in Albania emphasized common foundations of Christian and Muslim prophets. Many were willing to accept some characteristics of native Slavic culture that the conservative jurists of Istanbul or Egypt would not. Bosnia and Albania both had very underdeveloped religious traditions, the former not fully adopting either Christian sect, and the latter merely a nation-less region of tribal infighting and very passive adherence to Catholicism. Albanians and Bosnians also hoped to gain the upper hand politically and socially over other peoples in the Balkans by adopting Islam. No statistics exist to determine accurately how many Bosnians actually converted, but today Bosnia is roughly 40% Muslim. It must be noted that although Bosnian culture firmly portrays a Muslim characteristic, it is a very liberal Islam that is in no way akin to that of modern Arab, Turkish, Pakistani, or Indian immigrants to Europe today. Note that “BosniaK” refers to Bosnian Muslims, whilst “BosniaN” refers to the nationality. The Serbs, with their highly developed Orthodox culture and bitter opposition to the Turkish conquerers, absolutely refused any conversion to Islam even to avoid the second-class status under which they lived.
The elite and famous janissaries with daggers, Islamic beads for prayer, and a tobacco huqqah waterpipe. Many of this elite legion were Europeans forcibly taken from their families, converted to Islam, and conscripted for life or a term into Istanbul’s armies. Many preferred this luxury lifestyle to the hardships of farming live as third class Christian citizens.
Europeans (whites) standing before an Islamic sultan or bay (royal nobility) to be conscripted.
Independence from Muslim Ottoman occupation
As a result of Ottoman rule and the preceding hegemony of other European empires, the Croats had become a firmly Catholic culture, the Bosnians a mixed Muslim and Christian one, and the Serbs a valiantly independent Christian society. After nearly 400 years of the rule of the armies of Islam, Ottoman authority waned due to bankruptcy and the growing economic and military superiority of the Europeans by the early 19th century. Croatia, modern Slovenia, and Hungary remained under the rule of the Catholic German Austrians until the end of World War I in 1918. The independence-seeking Yugoslavs (South Slavs) all found themselves strugglng to fend off German annexation after only a few years of independence from the hated Muslim rulers. Orthodox Russia promised support for Orthodox Bosnia and Serbia frequently. A series of revolts by Romania, Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia against the dying Ottoman realm caused most of the Balkans to be free by 1878. The Serbs offered obstreperous contumacy, leading two massive revolts against occupying Turks. Bosnia was effectively annexed by the Germans in 1878 as well, although it was not until 1908 that it formally became part of the Austrian Empire (then Austria-Hungary). Macedonia was finally part of independent Serbia after the Balkan Wars of 1913-14. Montenegro was never annexed by the Ottomans. Ottoman Empire map by 1914. All Slavic lands had declared their independence from the armies of Islam. Shows all political bodies; the South Slavic countries are not independent, but are ruled by the Germans excluding Serbia. (from nationalarchives.gov.uk)
Independence from German domination and the creation of a pan-Yugoslav state
By the dawn of World War I, Slovenia, Bosnia, and Croatia were all part of Austria-Hungary. Serbia was independent. Fears among radical Serbian nationalists that the Germans would soon enter Serbia to annex the Sers like they did the Bosnians and Croats led to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. The Serbs’ refusal to lose their independence to the Germans after having just gained it from the Muslims in many ways initiated World War I. Upon the close of World War I, the non-German majority of the Austria-Hungarian Empire effectively refused to fight. The empire was dissolved in 1918. Out of its ashes by the command of the victorious Allies, Czechoslovakia, Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary, and Slovenia all became independent states. Sentiments of ethnic and cultural nationalism that began during the war led to the merger of Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, and independent Serbia into a collective and unified nation called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes by 1918. Despite having different religions, the virtually identical culture, language, and heritage of these peoples made this pan-Slavic state function. It was quickly renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as a monarchy centered in Belgrade. This realm included Macedonia, Montenegro, and Kosovo as well. It was dominated by Serbs. Little inter-ethnic hatred existed during the early stage of Yugoslav history, although increasing battles over ethnic franchise would presage disaster.
Encarta’s map of Austria-Hungary by World War I, showing Hungarian claims and German ones. Serbia is excluded. Notice the many South Slavic nations collectively under the same empire. Source: Encarta.
Map of Europe upon the formation of an ethnically-based Yugoslavia Kingdom in 1918 (from nationalarchives.gov.uk)
Inter-ethnic divisions during World War II presage future instability, Croatia’s alliance with Nazi Germany
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia remained upright and successful until 1939, when the global calamities of World War II struck the South Slavs. Yugoslavia was initially very close with Adolf Hitler, his greatest trading partner. Hitler was ultimately relegated to invade their casual ally due to prescient predictions of a Bulgarian invasion of Macedonia and an invasion by Mussolini’s Italy. As a result, western Yugoslavia were merged into Italy, whilst the remainder became part of the German dominion. The Yugoslav monarchy was abolished. World War II can easily be interpreted as the beginning of inter-ethnic competition between the Yugoslav constituent peoples that would, 40 years later, cause some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century in the Yugoslav Wars. The broken Yugoslavia became a warzone of competing ideologies and political interests, including socialism, Communism, Fascism, monarchism, Serbian and Croatian nationalism, and democracy/liberalism. Chetnik militias, often allied with the German Nazis, called for the re-establishment of a Serbian-dominated kingdom. Other Serbs, Bosnians, and Croats rallied for an independent, multi-ethnic socialist state akin to the Soviet Union. The most famous of these socialist Partisans was Jozip Broz “TITO.” Militias fought against each other in a brutal civil war from 1940 until 1945 that shattered the pan-Slavic peace that the Yugoslavs had enjoyed from 1918-1940. History would repeat itself in the 1990′s. Croatia and Bosnia’s situation was very different, and can be seen as the greatest cause to inter-ethnic conflict in the future socialist Yugoslavia. When the Germans invaded Yugoslavia, they found most of the Croats and Bosnians greeting them with open arms. Initially, the main reason for this was that both groups sought to hinder Serbian domination. Later, this evolved into a bitter hatred for Jews, Communists, Serbs, socialists, and democrats that was shared by Germans, Bosnians, and Croats so intensely that many Germans were even surprised. Croatia became a semi-independent ally of the Third Reich under Ante Pavelic of the Ustashe regime called the Independent State of Croatia. According to Misha Glenny’s The Balkans, Fascist Croatia would perpretrate some of the most brutal acts of violence of World War II, killing more of the total national population than any other country. The Croats, despite being branded as racially inferior by German ideology, promoted a Croatian nationalist idea that depicted the Croats as an unpolluted Slavic-Aryan people. Jews, Serbs, and Communists were bitterly persecuted in full-scale death camps. Bosniak Muslims and Croatian Catholics actively joined the SS division of killing squads, especially the Handschar unit. Croats considered Bosnians to be their brothers, merely Croats who had been forced to adopt Islam by the Ottoman conquerers. Catholicism became the state religion. Bosnia was incorporated into Croatia by Hitler. Bosniak Muslims fighting in the SS for Nazi Germany against Jews and Soviets were led on an Islamic jihad against democracy, liberalism, and Jewish influence by the Muslim Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husayni (see below). This difficult division imposed by the Germans — with great support by the Croats — would not be forgotten by the Serbs when socialist Yugoslavia was forged. The Nazis and the Ustashe laid the foundations for a future tremendous inter-ethnic conflict. Today, Ante Pavelic, despite being one of the most involved of the racial Holocaust leaders during the war, is portrayed by many Croats as a lion for repelling the hated Serbs.
A Bosnian Muslim SS legion supporting the Axis against the Soviets, Communists, and Jews. “Traitors!” say the Serbs and socialist Yugoslavs fighting to protect their freedom from Axis brutality and genocide.
Grand Muftiy of al-Quds (Jerusalem) shows his support for the Axis and their Bosnian Muslim legions to promote Jihad against the Jews and atheistic Communists. His Islamist movement was prompted by fears for the coming establishment of a Jewish state (Israel) in Palestine.
Fascist Croatia’s leader Ante Pavelic shakes the hand of Adolf Hitler.
Yugoslav socialist partisan freedom fighters march against Fascist capitalist oppression (from Encarta)
The re-establishment of a pan-Yugoslav state under the multi-ethnic socialist banner
By 1944, the Germans and Italians were on the decline. Italy had fallen (and thus lost Slovenia), and Germany was on a two-front war with most of its army destroyed by Stalin’s legions. Bulgaria had collapsed and betrayed Germany by switching sides (thus losing Macedonia). Yugoslavia now became a battleground between competing ideologies. Croatia, now without a German sponsor, fell along with the Serbian Chetnik nationalists to the socialist partisans under Jozip “TITO.” One major reason for the partisans’ victory, other than the committment of their members and the brilliance of their leader, was that the Chetnik brigades were generally only open to Serbs, whilst the socialists included Montenegrins, Croats, Bosnians, Muslims, Catholics, and Serbs. By 1945, the unified state of Yugoslavia was re-established. It was now a socialist federation with quasi-autonomous republics for Croats, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Bosnians, and Slovenes. Soviet military support allowed this nation to come to fruition. It was in fact a socialist dictatorship that was highly beloved when its leader was charismatic, and hugely catastrophic when he was not. The political system of Yugoslavia offered both positive and negative consequences. Tito, whose ethnic identity is so obscured as to be generally unknown, considered “Croat” and “Serb” to be insignificant in favor of a collective identity of being “Yugoslavs.” This has made Tito a hero that, despite the bitter breakup of Yugoslavia, continues today among Croats, Serbs, and Bosnians alike. Tito is still beloved for being so independent — directly prefering the needs of the Yugoslav peoples — because of his independent path from the Soviet Union that caused Stalin to force the expulsion of Yugoslavia from the Communist International by 1950. Catholicism, Islam, and Orthodoxy were given equal status and were protected despite the Communist mantras of atheism. As a result, the early Yugoslav period subsumed religious and inter-ethnic conflicts and allowed the South Slavs to live in cooperation. Serbian was no longer the official language, but Serbo-Croatian (all the languages are almost identical), thus emphasizing the commonality of these regional identities under one nationality. Many criticize him, however, for merely passively delaying unavoidable ethnic problems and regional issues without realizing that after his death it would cause a volcanic eruption of conflict. A major problem of Yugoslavia was that its power was centered in Belgrade (Serbia). This aggregated power inordinately to the Serbs. The president enjoyed dictatorial powers, and as soon as Yugoslavia gained a leader that was not so pan-Slavic as Tito was, it would convert into a system of Serbian domination again. Another tremendous problem of Yugoslavia that only delayed the inevitable was that Croatia and Slovenia held the vast majority of Yugoslavia’s industrial and economic power, but were forced to pay taxes to and obey the decisions of an already-disliked Serb-dominated government. Serbia today remains incredibly poor, whilst Slovenia is very wealthy. This quickly foreshadowed the end of the union, as Croats soon wondered why they were giving their economic capacity to a government that “oppressed” them.
Mighty Yugoslav socialist hero and dictator Jozip Broz “TITO”. Tito was viewed as a national hero, unifier of the South Slavs, and peacemaker in a world without any.
The flag of Yugoslavia after unification. Often bears a star in the center, traditional of Communist states like North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union.
The EHL map of Yugoslavia upon its full extent (1918 as a dictatorship kingdom, 1944 as a socialist dictatorship of the same size.
The rapid collapse of Yugoslavia under Milosevic, the Yugoslav Wars of independence
The death of Jozip Broz Tito in 1980 was considered a national tragedy, and many South Slavs feared greatly for the future of their federated nation. Although it is common to claim that it was Milosevic who “ruined” Yugoslavia, it must be acknowledged that the growing industrial inequality between Croatia and Serbia, as well as the historically-recurring process of Serbian hegemony over Yugoslavia, made the fall inevitable in many ways so long as Belgrade monopolized power. The drastic fall of unity came due to a political impasse. Croats, Bosnians, and Slovenes perceived a Serbian domination of Yugoslavia, whilst Serbs (rightfully) saw the uncooperative discord of their regional provinces. Worse, the Albanian Muslims of Kosovo — part of Serbia for 1,000 years and now independent — initiated a growing and violent revolt via terrorism and in many cases Islamic jihad. In response to this internal “disobedience” to the Belgrade authority, the Yugoslav government adopted a policy of “Yugoslavism,” a type of nationalism that expected the autonomous peoples of Yugoslavia to proudly follow the central government for the good of the whole nation. The Croats and other minorities perceived this as no more than further Serbian domination.
Slobodan Milosevic, viewed as a hero to many Serbs but a frightening usher of further Serb hegemony by non-Serb Yugoslavs.
As a result, non-Serb Yugoslavs responded with political revolt whilst Serbs reacted with violent crackdowns. For the wealthier states of Slovenia and Croatia, this system of perceived oppression was no longer the dream that Tito had enacted into reality. Slovenia initiated the tumbling collapse, declaring independence in 1991. The “Yugoslavs” (the Serbs) responded with artillery and bombing in the Ten-Day War, only to be defeated in part due to the fact that Serbia now had to deal with Croatian independence as well. Croatia declared independence in 1991, but suffered a far bloodier war that lasted until 1995, one of the most devastatating of the 20th century. Croatia met aggression by Serbian civilian militias and soldiers with scorched earth policies of massacres and bombings. The Croatian general, Ante Gotovina, is portrayed as a terrorist and war criminal by many in the United States and the EU (who have cited him in the International Criminal Court), but he is lionized in Croatia as a hero who expelled the Serbs. The territory with the Serbian civilian population in Croatia, Srbija Krajina, is almost entirely depopulated of Serbs due to the assaults of Croatian death squads that mirror those performed by Croatian Nazis during World War II. Of course, Serbian civilians were equally guilty of massacres and brutality against Croatian civilians just as they were in Bosnia. With the help of the United Nations and NATO, the Croats ultimately expelled the invading Yugoslav army by 1995, and an independent Croatia was established alongside Slovenia. Croats today view the Serbs with intense hatred, claiming that Yugoslavia functioned when Tito (a Croat in fact) was in power, and only collapsed due to Serbian chauvinism and corruption. Serbs see it such that it was the revolt of the Croats and Bosniaks who fostered the collapse. Macedonia declared independence peacefully by 1993. In 1992, the very worst of the Yugoslav Wars began in Bosnia, one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century on both sides. Massacres, debatable genocides, massacres, alleged rapes, and civilian murders lasted day and night until 1995. The inter-ethnic conflict between Bosnians (with Croatians) and Serbs during World War II was recalled with much zeal, and the “Muslim” characteristic of the Bosniaks made them a particularly vulnerable target. In response to Serbian brutality against civilians, many Bosniaks looked to the Qur’an as a vehicle for social justice, retaliation, and solice. As a result, Bosniak Mujahidin legions fought jihad against the invading Serbs much like they did during World War II. Mujahidin volunteers from the Middle East and Afghanistan also traveled to Bosnia to aid in the jihad. The Srebrenica Massacre is one of the worst atrocities since World War II, and is debated to have left anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 Bosniak Muslim civilians slain and allegedly raped. It has been described by the UN as a genocide . Despite the typical depiction of this war as one of Serbs slaying innocent Bosniaks, it must be acknowledged that both sides committed acts of terrorism and massacre of civilians and soldiers alike on an equal scale. By 1995, after more than three years of debatable genocide, the Bosnian War of Independence came to an end as Croatian and Bosniak militias, with the support of NATO, UN, and American military forces, expelled the invading Yugoslavs from the country and slaughtered the resisting Serbian civilians in Bosnia. The Dayton Accords of 1995 defined Bosnia as an independent nation protected by the USA, NATO, and the UN as it remains today. The tenuous ethnic situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina was “resolved” by the UN’s decision to divide Bosnia into three portions: Republika Srpska (Serbian Republic) for the Serbs in the east, Croats in the southwest and northwest, and Bosnian Christians and Muslims in the center. See below for a map. The Serb portion operates almost entirely independent of the central government, even printing its own money. It remains in this form today. The Croats and Bosnians, due to their shared history of alliance and their common experience of resisting Serbian dominance, have a relatively copasetic relationship, whilst both bitterly hate the Serbs still. Bosnia today is 40% Muslim. It must be noted that Bosnia’s and Albania’s Islam is very liberal, and by no means sufficient or comparable to the Islam of Turkish, Pakistani, and Arab immigrants to Europe today.
A cultural and religious map of Bosnia. Bosnia is tensely divided between Christian Serbs, Catholic Croats, Bosniak Muslims, and Bosnian Christians. (click to enlarge) By 1995, Yugoslavia no longer existed. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was now merely Serbia-Montenegro, still led by Slobodan Milosevic. This nation included Albanian-majority Kosovo.
The EHL map of Yugoslavia’s collapse and wars of independence therein with dates.
Ante Gotovina, hero of Croatian independence and, as the US and UN claim, genocidal war criminal. No faction will agree on the reasons for the fall of once-stable Yugoslavia. A shared evolution of these peoples’ cultural, linguistic, and ethnic heritage brought them to forfeit their own sovereignty in the goal of fostering a shared state of Yugoslavia. As a result, most Croats, Bosnians, and Serbs today are often so bitter about the Yugoslav Wars and the tragedy of Yugoslavia’s death that they refuse to even speak about it (as I learned myself). Although often depicted as yet another “Communist” state that collapsed at the same time as the Soviet Union, this stereotype ignores the complicated social and religious evolution that these peoples have experienced for the last 1,000 years. At any rate, Yugoslavia was formally at an end with the independence of Montenegro in 2006. Many Montenegrins have no idea why their country is independent, considering themselves to be the the same people as the Serbs, their new sovereignty no more than the result of “politics.” Hatred for the United States and the Americans remains intense, especially among Serbs, for their seizure of Kosovo from Serbia and their “intrusion” into the region. Slobodan Milosevic is portrayed with mixed results by Serbs today. He was thrown out of power in 2000 by the Serbian government, eventually brought to the Hague court before being found dead in his cell of debatable causes in 2006. Many consider that he died of poison.
The Kosovo conflict
The last inter-ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia took place in Kosovo. An integral part of Serbia for 1,000 years but populated by Albanian Muslims, Kosovars hoped to gain the same independence as the Croats as Yugoslavia was dissolving. Albanians are bitterly hated by Serbs, Greeks, Macedonians, and most Europeans due to their perceived inordinate involvement in crime and drug trafficking, let alone their international national revolt (in the case of Serbia). Albanians formed a number of independence-seeking movements, some with quasi-Marxist affiliation and others with Islamic characteristics. The most famous was the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The Muslim heritage of the Albanians in Kosovo caused this independence struggle to be framed from an Islamic perspective, and many considered themselves Mujahidin. Like in Bosnia, many foreign fidayin (holy warriors) fought against the Serbs in Kosovo. The Serbs, like in Bosnia and Croatia, responded to Albanian terrorism with massacres and brutality. In 1999, as Yugoslavia had collapsed, President Bill Clinton led a joint air attack by the US, UN, and NATO against Yugoslavia to protect the Albanian Kosovars. As a result, Serbia-Montenegro was obliterated, and Kosovo became a protectorate of the UN as it remains today. In their aspirations for independence, massacres and terrorism between Albanians and Serbs resumed in cafes and villages. Churches were burnt to the ground by Albanian Mujahidin alongside collapsing mosques detonated in angry Serbian reprisals. The nationalism of the Kosovars, seeking “Greater Albania,” spread terrorism to neighboring Macedonia to the point that that nation was on the brink of total collapse in the 2001 civil war. Like the Bosnian case, the typical notion of a brutal Serbian army and an innocent Albanian victim is short-sighted, and ignores the horrific terrorism against civilians committed by Albanians. Atrocities occurred on both sides. The establishment of Kosovo was unsuccessful until 2008, when Muslim Kosovo — with the backing of the European Union, UN, and US — was established without any approval or consultation of the Serbian nation of which it was an integral part for 1,000 years. Hatred for Americans remains very strong in Serbia, believing that Americans illegally denied the sovereignty of Serbia at the same time as they decried the Serbs as terrorists and war criminals for denying the Croats and Albanians the right to sovereignty. Rallies in Belgrade are common in which American flags, not Kosovar flags, are burnt. Kosovo is not recognized by most of the world today, and is the poorest in Europe.
The EHL map of the often-sought “Greater Kosovo” and “Greater Albania”. This is the maximum extent of Albanian Muslim claims to sovereignty, though they have only acquired a small portion thereof (see below). Albanians also claim parts of Macedonia.
The EHL map boundaries of the new nation of Kosovo as it is recognized by the United States and European Union.
Slobodan Milosevic on trial in the International Criminal Court after his expulsion by the new regime.
The EHL map of Montenegrin succession from Serbia, formally ending all Yugoslavia. Albanian Islamic freedom fighters in Kosovo rally the Jihad against the Serbs, with US support. For some Albanians, the conflict is a fight for freedom; for others, it is a Jihad. The fight is rooted in an Islamic characteristic.
The new modern flag of independent Montenegro.
A few personal observations of the former Yugoslavia:
The South Slavs have a highly complicated political and social historical relation from their inception nearly a millennium ago until today, despite being of the same ethnicity and effectively the same culture. From a common Slavic stock the Serbs, Bosnians, and Croats developed their own religious directions, dialects, and endured brutal foreign and jihadist rule for nearly a thousand years until returning to their common ethnic identity in the ethnically-based South Slavic nation of Yugoslavia. Today, these three Slavic peoples have returned to mutual diversion and even ethnic and social hatred despite this common heritage. In my research travels throughout Europe, I was anxious to investigate the psychological and cultural perspectives on Yugoslav history and the Yugoslav Wars from members of each ethnic group. Having been to Slovenia and Croatia, the first two republics to break from Yugoslavia, my understanding of the total dissolution was augmented. Serbia and Bosnia are two of the poorest nations in Europe, the former with such a horrendous infrastructure due to the civil war and overall obsolescence that a mere side-trip into Bosnia from Croatia was impossible due to the lack of paved roads. Serbia’s average per capita income is $10,900, whilst Bosnia’s is $6,500, Croatia’s $16,100 and Slovenia’s is a whopping $25,500 . The economic division between the provinces of the former Yugoslavia is blatant, and it was no different when Yugoslavia was still extant. Although Slovenia has grown tremendously due to investment from Italy and the European Union, it is of almost shocking contrast to the obsolescence, poverty, and lethargy of Croatia only a few kilometers away. That Slovenia and Croatia, as holders of the vast majority of industrial and economic power of Yugoslavia, tired of being controlled by far-poorer Serbia is understandable. Slovenia is as clean, wealthy, upright, and well-invested as any other modern Western European country, akin to a Venice without crime, volatile immigrants, and grafitti. Croatia’s capital Zagreb, although poor and delapidated, is rich in industrial strength, factories, and businesses in comparison with Serbia. Croatia’s paved roads are almost of Autobahn quality, in great contrast to the faltering infrastructure of Serbia and Bosnia. In all of Yugoslavia, and in the perspective of dozens of Macedonians, Serbs, and Bosnians who I was able to interview in diaspora, Marshal Tito is celebrated and mythified. It is perceived that Yugoslavia, once a powerful and stable exporter under Tito, was a dream that corroded only due to Serbian chauvinism. Of course, Serbs have their own perspective on the Croats and Bosnians, who many Serbs say “don’t know what’s good for them” (referring to the idea that the state would not have dissolved were it not for Croatian disobedience to Belgrade). The collapse of Yugoslavia is not viewed by most here as a fault of socialism, dictatorship, or Tito, but rather the corruptive self-interest of Slobodan Miloševič, the Serbs, and the Albanian rebels. Many blame politicians and kleptocrats for making Tito’s dream die, believing that it was only the minority of Serbs in the Serbian government who proliferated the violence, and that it was only political backstabbing that caused Croatia, Montenegro, and Macedonia to become independent. Albanians and Kosovars are hated universally, with many presaging a death of these South Slavic cultures by rapidly-breeding Albanian Muslims. In Croatia, Tito still endures cult of personality status. Busts, statues, and paintings can be seen of him in both Slovenia and Croatia ubiquitously. Not only did he unite the Slavic ethnicities in a peaceful state with a vivid future, but he is believed to have protected jobs and the well-being of the people due to dictatorship’s traditional ability to exert whatever means necessary to fulfill its goals through nationalization. With no or little nationalization of industry and public affairs, little security is certain despite this lull of peace in the volatile Balkans. Many openly curse that their fathers enjoyed lifetime security, whilst they in the new corrupt democracies can barely survive (of course an exaggeration). Ante Gotovina, the Croatian leader responsible for protecting Croatian independence from Yugoslavia is by majority praised as a national hero against their Serbian brothers, despite his international status as a war criminal and murderer of Serb civilian separatists. Graffiti can be seen throughout Croatia showing popular support for Gotovina. A photo shown below taken by me shows the text “Ante Gotovina…HEROJ” (hero). Evidence of Serbian military assault on civilians and soldiers can be seen all over Croatia, as I saw for myself. In the coastal ancient walled fort city of Dubrovnik, bullet holes and artillery shells can be seen in many of the 500-year-old buildings maintained to commemorate the Croats’ defense of their right to statehood (my photo shown below). Due to the fact that the bombing occurred so recently, most Croatians can remember first-hand the Serbian invasion, including the fear of social reprisal by the Serb minority, the sound of gunfire and explosions in the distance, and even the deaths of thousands by the hands of artillery or even mass murder. In some of my interviews with local Croats, those who did not express brutal ethnic hatred for Serbs were so emotional with anger and hatred in regard to the subject that they refused to discuss it.
NOTE: This text is only a part of the work of Dr. James Mayfield ( historian and the Chairman of the European Heritage Library). For more details, to get in touch with author and also to read more interesting documents related by Dr. Mayfield we invite readers to visit the website www.euroheritage.net. We find Dr. Mayfield research very interesting and we really appreciate his ability to explain very shortly complexe historical events.