Professor Emeritus of Economic and Political Geography at the Faculty of Geography, University of Belgrade
The Balkan Geopolitical Knot and the Serbian Question
Characteristics and Importance of the Geographical Position of the Balkan Peninsula
Source: Serbian Question in the Balkans, University of Belgarde, Faculty of Geographic, Belgrade, 1995.
Table 1: Area, Population and National Gross Product of the Balkan States
Regions of Conflict in the Balkans
There are three big peninsulas in the south of Europe: Iberian, Apennines and Balkan.
The Iberian peninsula lies in the southwest of Europe, between the Mediterranean sea and the Atlantic Ocean. There are two states on it: Spain and Portugal. Both of these states played an important role in the discovery and conquest of the overseas territories and in the propagation of European, primarily Latin-Catholic culture in the world. Their greatest influence was established in Latin America and, to a smaller extent, in Africa and Asia. Catholicism is markedly a dominating religion on the peninsula as in the 15th and 16th centuries Judaism and Islam were eradicated by ethnic cleansing of a special sort.
The Apennines peninsula has a central position in Southern Europe. It penetrates deeply into the central Mediterranean. The Roman Empire and the cultural and historical epoch of the Renaissance originated on this peninsula. These two historical creations had international (global) importance. Today, Rome (the Vatican) is the nucleus of the Roman Catholic part of Christianity and has great importance in the world. From the Apennines, spiritual and economic influences reached the Balkan peninsula, either spontaneously or forcibly by means of conquering (in the times of the Roman Empire, the Venetian Republic and the Fascist Italy). The influences streamed over the Soca river, middle Adriatic and the Strait of Otranto.
The Balkan peninsula lies in the southeast of Europe. Its northern boundary extends from the Bay of Trieste, Ljubljana valley to the Sava and Danube rivers. This is a traditional northern geographical boundary of the peninsula. The Balkan peninsula covers the area of around 520,000 sq. km. and has about 45 million inhabitants (1990).
In comparison with the Iberian and Apennines peninsulas the Balkan peninsula is characteristic of:
Remarkable linking and transiting function - it links the greater part of Europe with east Mediterranean and the Near East.
Great ethnic, cultural and civilization heterogeneity. Cultural and civilization systems of the East Christianity, West Christianity and the Islam meet and entangle on it (particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina). Eight languages are spoken there.
Political fragmentation. If all recognized and non-recognized political and territorial units are taken into account, there are 13 of them with the average size of 40,000 sq. km.
Rather low level of economic development, particularly when compared to Western, Central, and Northern Europe.
Being mostly an object in international relations, while the other two south European peninsulas (and states) have largely played the roles of subjects in international relations.
The eastern edge of the Balkan peninsula coincides with a maritime route: the Black Sea - the Sea of Marmara - the Aegean Sea - the Mediterranean, an extremely important route for a vast coastal hinterland of the Black Sea. This means that in the zone of the Straits (Bosporus and Dardanelles) two highly important transport and geopolitical routes criss-cross: one in the NW-SE direction and the other in the NE-SW direction. That is why a number of countries (Russia, Germany, England, etc.) kept trying to put the Straits under their control. Nowadays, the Straits belong to Turkey. At the west end of the peninsula is an important Adriatic-Ionian maritime route that passes through the Strait of Otranto (57 km minimum width) and joins the important world maritime Mediterranean route in the E-W direction.
The central position of Serbia around the main "natural trajectories" on the Balkan peninsula is a constant that cannot be changed. That is why in future, just as before, all major movements through the Balkans will run through our country. In fact, two roads run through Serbia in the north-south direction: the main one along the valleys of the Velika and Juzna Morava rivers and the other one parallel to it: Belgrade - G. Milanovac - Kraljevo - Pristina - Skopje. Therefore, no bypass routes eventually to come into life via Bulgaria and Romania and along the Adriatic and the Apennines peninsula can thwart functional primacy of the central Balkan routes.
The above described transit-linking function of the Balkan peninsula is its lasting transportation, economic and geopolitical characteristic that has had an important impact upon historical events and lives of people.
The Balkan geopolitical knot is made of: a) peoples and states, their relations and connections, b) exterior states and organizations which are active politically, economically and in some other ways in the Balkans.
The Balkan peninsula has had a tumultuous history. Unfortunately, "negative history" (political) is still being generated on it.
In the classical period, or rather, until the times of the Turkish occupation (the 14th and 15th centuries), the Balkan peninsula was an important subject in international relations. For more than 2000 years this peninsula emitted bright and useful cultural and civilization impulses (science, philosophy, art, law, policy, economy, sports, etc.). Hellenism, besides Judaism and Latinism, has been the main source of European as well as of the world civilization.
In the times of migration to the Balkan peninsula, numerous peoples settled on it, but only the Serbs, Bulgarians, Croats and Slovenes survived. The Greeks (Hellenes), Illyrians, and Tracians had already been there. The Bulgarians settled in the eastern, the Serbs in the central and the Croats and Slovenes in the western part of the peninsula. The westernmost line reached by the Serbs was the Cetina - Una rivers line. The Greeks settled the southern portion of the peninsula. They were an integral part of Byzantium.
On the Balkan peninsula in the pre-Turkish times, politically active were Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia. Already in 788, the Slovenes fell under the German rule. At that time Serbia ranked among the most developed states in Europe. Exterior powers active on the peninsula were Hungary, Austria and the Venetian Republic. In fact, two important spiritual and military-political centres were active: Constantinople and Rome. The consequences of their activities are evident in two divisions that occurred in the Balkans: the first one in 395 when the Roman Empire split into the eastern and western parts, and the second one in 1054 when Christianity split into East and West. Both lines of division ran through the middle of the former Yugoslav area. Grave consequences of the second division are felt even today.
The penetration of the Turks in 1354 (the period 1354-1683 was marked by the Turkish military and political transgression in the Balkans and in Pannonia) and their several centuries-long domination in the Balkan peninsula caused some major consequences, such as:
Great migrations of population were incited for political and economic reasons. The Christians, mostly the Serbs and Croats migrated along the same routes as the Turkish hostile advances, that is, towards north, northwest, west and southwest. In the westernmost border region where the Turks penetrated, the process of conversion of the people of Orthodox faith (Serbs) to Uniate and Catholicism was in progress.
The Military border system was established from the 16th to 19th centuries for safety and economic reasons in the bordering regions between Turkey and Austria and the Venetian Republic. The Serbs were mostly settled in the Military border areas. They were autonomous in relation to Hungary and Croatia, i.e. they were directly administered from Vienna. The military border system was dissolved in 1873.
Islamization of a large portion of the South Slavs and Albanians took place mostly in Bosnia and Albania. The Cazinska Krajina is the westernmost Islamic enclave in Europe.
Turkish conquests interrupted the normal historical pace in the social economic and political development of the Balkan peoples. They were thus very much excluded from the European socio-economic and cultural processes. The Turkish occupation was a big step backward for the enslaved Balkan peoples.
The Turkish, Austrian and Venetian occupations of the Balkans in the 18th and 19th centuries hampered the formation of any large nation or a more spacious state in this area. The occupation amplified political and ethnic fragmentation. That is why many small ethnic communities and states in the Balkans still exist.
At the time of the Turkish military and political retreat the so-called "Eastern issue" was opened, that is, the struggle of many out-of-Balkan states for a "successor" to Turkey in the Balkans. Then, a quite distinct geopolitical cross on the Balkan peninsula with the NW-SE and NE-SW legs appeared. Germany and Austria (and Hungary) were active from northwest, Russia from northeast, Turkey from southeast, and the Vatican, the Republic of Venice and Italy from southwest. Great Britain and France, the so-called maritime powers, were active from the southern Mediterranean side. Austria proclaimed itself a "natural" successor of Turkey in the Balkans. Russia tried to become a ruler on the straits (Bosporus and Dardanelles) and reach the "warm" seas. Great Britain opposed this violently. "Balkanization" began in the Balkans. This term means: political and geographical fragmentation, quarrels and intolerance among the Balkan peoples, and foreign domination. The majority of administrative establishments in the Balkan states adopted a concept of "greater" states ("Greater" Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Hungary, Croatia, etc.) which naturally provoked conflicts and tension. A system of omnipresent "claims" of neighbours over territories was established. There are 21 regions of acute and potential conflicts and political clashes in the Balkans.
The Serbs started a liberation war against the Turkish occupation in 1804 and the Greeks in 1821. It should be pointed out, however, that before the Serbian uprising in 1804 the independent Serbian country - Montenegro had existed for long. The Balkan peoples struggle for freedom continued during the 19th century. Thus, already in 1878, Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, and Romania obtained international recognition. In the same year (Congress of Vienna), Austria-Hungary occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina. From 1804 till 1914 it regarded Serbia as its great adversary. It feared the Serbian role of Piedmont among the "Austrian" Serbs and other Slavs.
In 1912 the First Balkan War broke out. It ended the Turkish domination in the Balkans. Albania was formed. The Macedonian ethnic area was divided among Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria.
After World War I the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was formed (Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1929). That was the largest and the most populated Balkan stare. For the first time all the South Slavs, except Bulgarians, were united. The state was economically weak and politically unstable because the parts of the East and of the West were united in it. It had many external enemies: Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania, the Vatican, and the Comintern (the third International).
In World War II, Yugoslavia, Greece and Albania were occupied by the Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey were the Central Powers' allies. Yugoslavia was divided into several occupied and annexed units. The Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a deformed Fascist, Catholic, Ustashi state, was formed and extermination of the Serbs, Jews and Romanies started as part of the policy of genocide. A liberation and civil war based on ethnic and ideological subversive grounds was waged. Partisans led by the Communist party of Yugoslavia were victorious.
After World War II, namely at the time of the "cold" war, the Balkan peninsula was politically, economically and ideologically very much divided. Bulgaria and Romania were in the Soviet zone, that is, they were members of the Warsaw Treaty and Comecon. Greece and Turkey were members of the NATO. Yugoslavia was one of the leading members of the Non-alignment movement (before 1948 it had been an important ally to the USSR) and Albania was in the so-called voluntary isolation (it had been with the USSR before the 1960s). Greece and Turkey were capitalistic countries and the other four Balkan countries were Bolshevik-socialist, on the understanding that Yugoslavia had a considerably different interior order (self-management) compared to other socialist countries.
During the "cold" war (1945-1989) the main rivals on the Balkan peninsula were the U.S., the leader of the western bloc, and the USSR, the leader of the eastern bloc. The S.F.R.Y. was an important key in the strategy of the Western bloc, as it blocked the countries of the Warsaw Treaty from the Adriatic and intersected all the geostrategic routes of the Eastern bloc that started from Hungary (Pannonian fan) towards southwest and south, and from Bulgaria westbound. This was the reason why Yugoslavia enjoyed the protection of the West, thus its territory remained integral.
When the "cold war" ended (1989, demolition of the Berlin wall), and the Warsaw Treaty (1991) and the USSR (1991) vanished, the political-geographical, geopolitical and military and strategic picture of Europe and the world changed tremendously. The bipolar system disappeared. The West, headed by the U.S., triumphed. The U.S. became a dominating world power. But, this was nor the "end of history". Contradictions, less visible earlier, between the U.S., EC, and Japan are now more pronounced. China is becoming an important international factor. There is a view that in the time to come "the clash of civilizations" will be one of the main modes of world clashes. Ethnic clashes in the Yugoslav area appear to assert the quoted thesis.
When the "cold" war ended and the Bolshevik-socialist system broke up, the ex-socialist countries of Europe (S.F.R.Y. inclusive) and the republics of the former USSR (now self-governing states) were at the stage of social economic and political restructuring that manifested itself in the introduction of parliamentary democracy and market economy.
The process of post-communist restructuring in the S.F.R.Y. started in 1990 along with the first multi-party elections in some of the Yugoslav republics. However, events took another course and had different contents -the state split up and a civil war broke out. Yugoslavia disappeared in 1991. In the same year (June 25) Slovenia and Croatia seceded, forcibly and against the Constitution, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) followed. Slovenia, Croatia and B&H were admitted to the United Nations on May 22, 1992. Serbia and Montenegro remained in Yugoslavia which changed its name into the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (F.R.Y.).
According to the 1974 constitution, Yugoslavia was more a confederation than a federation. The main reason that it disappeared was great ethnic, cultural and economic inherent non-homogeneity. The Catholic republics of Croatia and Slovenia (western pair of the country) with more developed economies than the lest of the state did nor wish to stay with the "oriental" "Byzantine" peoples. The secession of the Catholic republics was strongly backed up by Germany, the Vatican, Austria, Hungary and by other European countries; the U.S. and the international community, too.
The new Croatian state, today's Republic of Croatia, has a non-democratic nationalist Serbophobic regime. The Serbs were proclaimed national minority by the 1990 Constitution of the Republic of Croatia although they had autonomy in the times of the Military Border as well as the status of a constituent people in 1918 (the formation of the first Yugoslavia) and in 1945 (the foil-nation of the second Yugoslavia). Various oppressive measures, including ethnic cleansing, were implemented. And the Serbs from the former SR of Croatia, vividly remembering the genocide from the period 1941-1945, organized armed resistance. Thus, a civil war broke out. Two political and territorial units were formed on the territory of the former SR of Croatia: Republic of Croatia (capital Zagreb) and Republic of Serb Krajina (capital Knin). UN intervened and the larger part of the Serbian regions are now protected by UN Forces (UNPROFOR).
In April 1992, a cruel civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina broke up. The main reason why the conflict erupted was ethnic non-homogeneity of the population. Bosnia and Herzegovina was the only country in the world where the Islam (Muslims), Orthodox Christianity (Serbs), and Catholicism (Croats) existed in one and the same small area. Co-existence could not be put into life as the objectives of their social and political communities differed very much. The Muslims wanted a unitary B&H of Islamic fundamentalistic provenance, the Croats wanted to annex the whole B&H to the Republic of Croatia, and the Serbs wanted to remain in Yugoslavia. The B&H state was to have a consensus-based administration of all the three constituent peoples. However, this principle was not respected by the Muslims and Croats. They wanted to impose on the Serbs decisions against the interests of the latter. This caused a civil war.
Today, there are three political and territorial units in B&H: the Serb Republic, the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, and the Republic of Bosnia (Muslims). There is also the Autonomous District of Western Bosnia, a territorial unit of the Muslims that refused to pay obedience to the central Muslim government.
One of the characteristics of the crisis in B&H is the manipulation with the name "Bosnian/Bosnians" in the sense of national affiliation. In the times of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy these names were meant to be applied to all the Bosnia and Herzegovina population with the intention of nullifying national and religious differences and breaking up the wholeness of the Serbian ethnic being. Now, only the Muslims in B&H, and even in the Raska region, are called by these names. By using these names they now want to prove:
1) historical origin of the Muslim nation and 2) that the Muslims are a single domiciliary people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in other words, that the Serbs and Croats are national minorities there.
Due to the pressure of some leading countries (Germany, the Vatican, the U.S.), bias and unfair propaganda war against the Serbs and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and insufficient knowledge of the complex ethnopolitical circumstances on the territory of the former S.F.R.Y., the International community (EU, CESC, UN) adopted several improper and imprudent decisions and actions, such as: 1) they supported the break-up of the S.F.R.Y., 2) they recognized the independence and sovereignty of the secessionist Yugoslav republics, and 3) they introduced inhuman sanctions against the F.R.Y. (Serbia and Montenegro).
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is now in a particularly difficult position due to the disorders caused by the break-up of the S.F.R.Y. and particularly due to the introduction of sanctions. Subsistence of millions of people, especially children and the ill, is in peril. As the sanctions are also introduced against the Serb Republic and the Republic of Serb Krajina, the whole Serbian people, i.e. one whole people is in peril. That is why the sanctions are magnum crimes against mankind and humanity, they are contrary to the main postulates of humanism and the basic principles and targets of the UN Charter.
In the F.R.Y., particularly in the Republic of Serbia, the social and political instability is provoked by separatist, secessionist, and anti-state claims of the Albanians, Muslims, Hungarians, and Croats. The leading establishments of the Albanians and the Muslims are pleading for the separation of Kosmet (Kosovo and Metohia) and the Raska region (Sanjak) from the F.R.Y., i.e. from Serbia. The Hungarians of Vojvodina require a very high level of autonomy and the Croats of Vojvodina are passing diverse fabrications, such as the persecution of the members of their national community in Serbia.
The peoples that have been politically active, i.e. the peoples that have had their states for long in the Balkans are the Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, and Croats. The Macedonians, Montenegrins, Muslims and also Albanians constitute new ethnic entities.
Macedonian Slavs. At the turn of the 20th century the Macedonian Slavs inclined towards the Serbs or Bulgarians. But, before World War I, the majority of the Slav population on the territory of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.M.) did not declare themselves either as Bulgarians or Serbs. At that time, prompted by the widespread arousal and shaping of national identities of the Balkan peoples, national awareness stirred in the Macedonian Slavs. They started to identify themselves as a separate nation, named after the ancient Greek district Macedonia in which they lived. In 1893, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (V.M.R.O.) was formed and in 1903 the Ilinden (St. Ilyas Day) uprising against the Turkish administration broke out. The Republic of Krusevo was organized but it lasted only ten days. Although short lived, this Republic cut deep into the conscience of the Macedonians. After the Balkan wars (1912-13), the Macedonian geographical area was divided among Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria. The Aegean Macedonia was awarded to Greece, the Vardar Macedonia to Serbia, and the Pirin Macedonia to Bulgaria.
The Communist Party of Yugoslavia acknowledged the existence of the Macedonian nation at their Third Congress (1926), and the Macedonians as a people were proclaimed at the Second Session of the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia (A.V.N.OJ.) in Jajce, Nov. 29, 1943. On August 2, 1944, at the First Session of the Antifascist Council of National Liberation of Macedonia, the Macedonian state was officially proclaimed. It was formed on the territory of Vardar Macedonia, that is, in the part of the Macedonian area that was liberated from the Turks and defended from the Bulgarians by the Serbs in 1912 and 1913. This means that the Serbs, in a certain way, are one of the "parents" of the Macedonian state and nation. Another "parent" is the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.
In view of the studies of J. Cvijic and the actual ethnic situation, one may assume that the Serbian-Macedonian border was drawn arbitrarily in 1945. The border was neither ethnic nor historical or natural. It was drawn at the expense of the Serbs. Even today, there are many Serbs in the Kumanovo district, in Skopje and its environment, and in Polog (1981 population census - 44,468).
The Albanians constitute a very old Balkan ethnic community. In the past, the area of present Albania was ruled by the Roman, Byzantine, Serbian, and Turkish administrations. The Turks occupied it in the first half of the 14th century. The Albanians attempted to establish their own state in the mid 15th century (Dj. K. Skenderbeg around 1403-1468), but without success. They formed a nation in the late 19th century and early 20th. They organized their state for the first time in 1912.
During the Turkish administration the Albanians were much Islamized and were generally loyal vassals to the Turkish Sultan. Just as the majority of other Muslims in the Balkans, they identified themselves as legitimate citizens of Turkey. During the Turkish administration they were often used to put down liberation movements in the neighbouring Christian countries.
The newly formed Albanian state did not encompass all the Albanians in the Balkans. A good number of them remained in the neighbouring countries (Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro). The Albanians stalled to settle the Serbian countries more intensely in the 18th and 19th centuries. Their number aggrandized thanks to their high natural increase. The first big flight of the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohia (Kosmet) and from Northern Macedonia occurred in 1690, the migration known under the name of Great Migration of the Serbs. The second big flight of the Serbs occurred in 1737. However, the Serbs continued to flee from their historical native lands, this time because of the continuous pressure and terror exerted by the Albanians. In the old Serbian countries the Albanians often utilized a method of continuous intimidation and violence. This practice also included organized purchase of the Serbian land and other property. After World War II the authorities in the country fostered continuous and constant increase of the number of the Albanians in Kosmet.
In spite of multiple misfortunes, the share of the Serbs varied around one fifth of the total population count in Kosmet. This situation started changing in the 1960s in the way that the shares of the Serbs and Montenegrins were constantly on the downgrade. The 1981 population census shows that the Serbs moved out of Kosmet 6.9 times more than they moved in. Bosnia and Herzegovina ranked first in the scope and Kosmet in the intensity of Serbs' emigration! The great wave of emigration of the Serbs was evident in the last 30 and odd years, i.e. in the period of their living in "their own state". This was the period when the Albanians in Kosmet had already seized much political, administrative and judicial power (plenary session of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia on the Brioni islands in 1966, 1974 Constitution). The flight of the Serbs from Kosmet over the last 30 and odd years is probably a unique case in the world history as it has probably never happened that the affiliates of the predominant, principal people had to flee from their historical fatherland under the pressure of the affiliates of a national minority.
The Montenegrin belong to the Serbian ethnic body. Until World War II they felt as the proudest of the Serbs, elatedly stressing their distinct exclusivity that originated primarily from the long existing Montenegrin state.
In connection with the origin of the Montenegrin nation, it should be emphasized that the separation of this nation from the Serbian nation in the period between the two world wars was zealously aided by the Comintern, the Croatian clero-chauvinists, the Vatican, and other external factors which worked on the break-up of Yugoslavia. The differentiation between the Serbs and Montenegrins was ardently maintained in the communist Yugoslavia (1945-1990). The main reason was: to weaken the Serbian national feeling. The communist Yugoslavia was rather successful here. More than 50 generations of pupils in Montenegro were caught that they were not Serbs. For the purpose of efficient conversion of the Montenegrin Serbs into Montenegrins very often the words and works of Njegos, Marko Miljanov and other famous leaders and priests of Montenegro were crudely falsified. In some editions of their works, the words "Serbian", "Serbian brotherhood" were omitted in many places. If the Comintern position that the Montenegrins should be completely separate from the Serbs were to be observed, then the Montenegrin nation would fall within the group of the so called "decree nations".
Yugoslav Muslims are a young nation. The ethnic properties of the Muslims were first manifested in the form of "Bosnian nationhood". This idea was particularly favoured by B. Kalay, the conveyor of Austro-Hungarian interests in B&H after 1878. The objective was to tie B&H as firmly as possible to Austria-Hungary and at the same time to strengthen Catholicity in it. After the Fourth Congress (1928), the Muslims were repeatedly mentioned as a separate people by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, aiming at the territorial and political destruction of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. However, the ethnonational autonomy of the Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina was first instituted in World War II under the influence of the Muslim fundamentalists and of El Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem. During the existence of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) the Muslims were proclaimed the most worthy portion of the Croatian people ("flowers of Croatia"). A large number of them served in the Ustashi troops. The Muslims requested a counterfavour, that their ethnic individuality be acknowledged in the NDH. And it was acknowledged, but only after the German leaders had put additional pressure on Pavelic, the head of state.
The Muslims who speak the Serbo-Croatian language are mostly of Serbian origin, because Bosnia and Herzegovina, the countries with the greatest number of Muslims, were predominantly Serbian countries before, during and after the Turkish conquests. It has been already mentioned that the western Serbian border ran along the Cetina and Una rivers. Here are some additional historical facts.
The Trade Treaty signed by Kulin, the Bosnian ban (governor), and the people of Dubrovnik in 1189 was written in the popular language and in Cyrillic script. This is the oldest written monument in our language. The most renowned medieval ruler of Bosnia Tvrtko I Kotromanic was crowned in the monastery of Mileseva in 1377. There is a written account of the coronation:
"I, Stephan Tvrtko, King of Serbia, Bosnia and the Littoral by God, was given this throne of the Serbian rulers, my ancestors, by God." Sali-pasha, the mutesarif of Pec who was born in Bosnian Tuzla, said to J. Cvijic in Kosovska Mitrovica in 1900 that he was "of our blood" and that "...he was looking after our monasteries." Dr Mehmed Spaho (1883-1940), the founder and head of the Yugoslav Muslim community, used to say: "If I were to choose between Belgrade and Zagreb, I'd choose Belgrade." By the 1948 population census there were 1,036,124 Muslims in Yugoslavia. Of that number 78.1% declared themselves as "undecided Muslims". The nationally decided Muslims numbered 227,203 (21.9%) of whom 70.9% were Serbs, 12.8% Croats, and 16.3% Macedonians. In B&H there were 97,296 nationally decided Muslims of whom 74% were Serbs and 26% Croats. It is worth mentioning that in 1948 in the People's Republic of Serbia there were 105,356 Muslims of whom 83.2% declared themselves as Serbs. The undecided ones counted only 17,315 (16.4%). M. Ekmecic, Member of Academy, recently pointed out that after World War II almost the entire Muslim intelligentsia in B&H declared themselves to be of Serbian nationality. Mesa Selimovic (1910-1982), the well-known writer, declared himself as a Serb, precisely locating the homeland of his ancestors.
All the above is to assert that the Serbs have lived in B&H "from the start", that is, from the time when they settled in the Balkans. Hence, their involvement in the current civil war is not aggression against the state of B&H, but a struggle to realize their vital objectives, such as freedom, equal rights, etc.
The population of Orthodox faith, precisely the Serbs, were the most numerous people in Bosnia and Herzegovina before the 1960s in spite of Islamization and war sufferings. Later, the Muslims sprang up to the top place. The Serbs' share abruptly dropped in the 1960s and 1970s due to more intense emigration to Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and abroad, and due to smaller natural population increase and their declaring as Muslims.
It should be particularly emphasized that the Muslims in the Raska region, Montenegro, Herzegovina and Eastern Bosnia are of Serbian origin. Many Muslims in these regions are aware of their Serbian origin. A lot of surnames of the Muslims and Serbs in these districts are identical.
It should be noted, however, that belligerent nationalist and fundamentalist Muslims are more attached to Croats than Serbs. This phenomenon has not been studied enough. In our opinion, the reasons are threefold. Firstly, the Serbs are the most numerous people in the Yugoslav area and most mixed with the Muslims. For this reason it is necessary for the Muslims to establish a partnership with another Serb-opposing people if they wish to triumph over the Serbs. Secondly, the Serbs fought against the Turks and Muslims much more than the Croats did and this historical experience brought about much intolerance and hatred against the former. Thirdly, it is the question of psychological and ethical handicap of converts -- they have a great aversion towards the ethnicity they come from and a striking attachment and love towards the ethnicity they come to. Besides, the Muslims were proclaimed a nation by the leadership of the League of Communists of the S.F.R.Y. and of SR B&H in the 1960s. They are a typical nation by decree. The basis for this type of singling out was found in religion (Islam). It is interesting to state that the U.S. and other western countries opposed the proclamation of the Yugoslav Muslims as a separate nation. They were also against the proclamation of the Macedonian nation in 1944. What is the situation now:
It has been indicated that there are thirteen acknowledged and non-acknowledged political-territorial units on the Balkan peninsula today. We count Bosnia and Herzegovina as one unit as yet there are no data available about any future state in Bosnia and Herzegovina whatsoever. The table below gives main data for the political and territorial units in the Balkans.
The contemporary ethnic structure of the population in the Balkan states is hard to determine since there are no reliable or comparable data. There is not a single and the same approach to the ethnic identification in each of them.
In spite of the problems listed, the tables and text below will give main data on ethnic characteristics of the peoples in the Balkan countries.
The difficulties to determine the ethnic structure of the population in the Balkan countries are evident from the Table below.
Source: Andre Leibch, Minorities in Eastern Europe. Obstacles to a Reliable Count. RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 1. No. 20, 1992, p.38.
The data on the national structure of the population of Albania, Bulgaria and Romania are given in Tables 1, 2 and 3. The three states are ethnically heterogeneous. In Albania and Bulgaria the shares of national minorities are minimized. In 1975, in Albania a decree was passed on Albanizing personal and geographical names. The state authorities in that country have had a bivalent position towards the national minorities. They have been striving for ample rights for the Albanians in the neighbouring countries but, at the same time, they have denied any rights to the minorities in their own country.
In Bulgaria there are no officially recognized national minorities, only ethnic groups. The Macedonians are not even mentioned as an ethnic group although there were about 235,000 of them in Pirin Macedonia before World War I and 179,000 in the 1956 population census. Political-legal position of the national minorities in Romania underwent changes after World War II. It was particularly difficult during Ceausescu's dictatorship. The position of the Serbs was also grave after the conflict between Yugoslavia and the Eastern countries in 1948. Many Serbs were resettled and murdered. Today the Serbs in Romania enjoy all rights of a minority.
Greece. The total population count in 1990 was 10,038,000 with 98% of Greeks (official estimates). Officially, there are no national minorities in Greece. The Macedonians are not recognized as a separate people and the Turks have the status of Greek citizens of Islamic faith. They are given certain ethnic rights which directly depend on the rights enjoyed by the Greek minority in Turkey by the principle of reciprocity. The probable count of the Turks is about 120,000 in the northeast of Greece. M. Panov claims that on the eve of World War One 329,000 Macedonians lived in Greece.
Turkey. In the European part of Turkey the national structure of the population is homogeneous (Turks). In its eastern part, there are numerous minorities of Armenians and Kurds. It should be noted that the Turkish authorities have been very cruel towards these minorities for decades. However, this does not preclude the ruling establishment in Turkey from pleading for the national rights of the Muslims in B&H and the rest of the Balkans.
Regions, ethnic and legal-political problems present matters of dispute among the Balkan states and peoples. Disputes emerge from the agitated and unfortunate history, high ethnic non-homogeneity, insufficient political culture of the majority of the Balkan peoples, particularly of their leading establishments, and from a greater involvement of the Great Powers in social and political circumstances and relations in the Balkans. We will list them in the SE-NW direction.
1. Turkey - Greece. Intolerance between these two countries started back in the mid 14th century. The Turks have been mostly aggressive and the Greeks defensive. They come into conflict now over the Greek portion of the East Aegean area aspired to by Turkey. Tension exists because of Cyprus, too.
2. Turkey - Bulgaria. Intolerance stems from the unsatisfactory status of the Turkish national minority in Bulgaria.
3. Bulgaria - Greece. By the Treaty of San Stefano (1878), the northeast Greece (West Thrace) was awarded to "Greater" Bulgaria. In World War II this territory was occupied by Bulgaria. Supporters of "Greater" Bulgaria keep these facts in mind. The Greeks are aware of that.
4. Bulgaria - Romania. There may be a dispute over the area of South Dobruja. Before World War I this territory belonged to Bulgaria, then from 1913 till 1940 to Romania. In 1940 it was returned to Bulgaria (Treaty of Craiova). Now the Romanians wish to bring this area back to "homeland".
5. Bulgaria - Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The problem is very acute since in Bulgaria the Macedonians are considered to be a portion of the Bulgarian people. Macedonia is the most important territory in the Balkans which Bulgaria claims. It is true that the present official rule in Bulgaria acknowledges the Macedonian state, but it still claims that it is the Bulgarian ethnic area.
6. Bulgaria - F.R. of Yugoslavia (Serbia). The planners of "Greater" Bulgaria deem that a pan of Southeast and Eastern Serbia should belong to the eastern neighbour. In the optimum variant, "Greater" Bulgaria should reach the Velika Morava river.
Until now the relations between Bulgaria and Serbia have been rather poor. In 1915, as an ally to the Central Powers, Bulgaria invaded Serbia treacherously, "from the back". In World War II, as an ally to the Nazi Germany, Bulgaria was a major occupier in Serbia. In both world wars the Bulgarian occupiers were guilty of many atrocities towards the Serbian people.
The Bulgarians and the Serbs have mostly argued over the Vardar river valley since 1330. As the F.Y.R.M. is now a separate state there is no reason for these two peoples to continue their disputes. This means that in the forthcoming period they should optimize their cooperation as neighbours.
7. Greece - Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Macedonians of the F.Y.R.M. are of the opinion that Greece occupied most of their ethnic area in 1912. Then they became subjected to a process of extensive assimilation. On the other hand, the Greek administration did not recognize the Macedonian national minority on its territory and contested the name of the Macedonian state. Though the official administration in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia confirmed their wish for a status quo in the state boundaries, a large number of Macedonians wish to unite the whole Macedonian ethnic area ("Greater" Macedonia).
8. Greece - Albania. Disputes are due to unsatisfactory position of the Greek national minority in Albania. On the other hand, the planners of "Greater" Albania are of the opinion that the northwest Greece should belong to the Albanian stare.
9. Albania - Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. There is a dispute because of the unsatisfactory position of the Macedonian national minority in Albania. Another threat is the Albanian separatist movement which is supported by a numerous highly biovital and well-organized Albanian minority in Macedonia. The planners of "Greater" Albania claim the whole western, northern and northeast Macedonia.
10. Albania - F.R. of Yugoslavia. Since 1912, the relations between Albania and the First, Second, and Third Yugoslavia have been poor most of the time. The reason for this has been that Albania claims a large portion of Serbia (Kosmet and the neighbouring districts) and Montenegro, wishing to annex them to "Greater" Albania. Albania is a small state in the Balkans. However, it is "great" because of its political and geographical position (on the Strait of Otranto), biodynamics of its population, and aggression towards the neighbouring states. The relations between the Serbs and Albanians and between Serbia and Albania rank among the most serious social and political problems in the Balkans.
11. FYR of Macedonia - F.R. of Yugoslavia (Serbia). The relations between Serbia and the F.Y.R.M. retain historical and contemporary dimensions. A lot of Serbs look upon a large part of Macedonia as the Serbian historical homeland, and with a good reason. Several hundreds of thousands of the Serbs are reckoned to have lived there in the time of the Turkish rule. Skopje was an important spiritual and economic centre of the Serbian people. There are many Serbian cultural and historical monuments in Macedonia.* (See Fig. 4.1- p. 79.)
The Serbian army liberated the Vardar Macedonia from the Turks in 1912. It is today's Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The matters of dispute between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the F.Y.R.M. are: 1) the question of the property of the Serbs expelled from Macedonia in the Second World War (they were forbidden to return to their homes); 2) undecided status of the Serbian national minority in the F.Y.R.M. (it is not mentioned in the Constitution of the state contrary to the Albanians, Turks and other national minorities); 3) occasional harassment of Serbs by local authorities; 4) unsettled property rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Macedonia; 5) zealous participation of the Macedonian ruling establishment in implementing sanctions against the F.R.Y. and in demonizing the Serbs; 6) territorial claims of the F.Y.R.M. towards Serbia.
The F.Y.R.M. is keeping best vigil over its northern boundary. Even the U.S. soldiers are there. The main reason for such a situation on the border is the danger of a possible conflict in Kosmet. However, the F.Y.R.M. is threatened by a real danger from the east (Bulgaria) and from the west (Albania and the "domestic" Albanians). In spite of that, this state treats the F.R.Y. and Greece with maximum revulsion. It should not be so, as the F.R. of Yugoslavia, the F.Y.R.M., and Greece are the possessors of the Vardar-Morava river valley, the most important natural trajectory in the Balkans. All the issues of dispute between Belgrade, Skopje, and Athens should-be smoothed out as soon as possible and a fruitful cooperation incepted. Such a cooperation would be beneficial for all three parties, primarily for the F.Y.R.M. If all issues are worked out with Bulgaria, a regional community can be formed in this part of the Balkans. The main objective would be to promote cooperation, but not to close themselves from the rest of the world.
12. F.R. of Yugoslavia - Romania. These two countries have neither border nor territorial or any other problem.
13. F.R. of Yugoslavia - Hungary. For over 1000 years the Hungarians oppressed some of the Yugoslav peoples. After the retreat of the Turks from Pannonia the Hungarians spread extensively beyond the boundaries of their homeland. They had their "Greater" Hungary for the first time within the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and for the second time in World War II (as an ally to the Nazi Germany). The Hungarian leading establishment is dreaming about a reestablishment of "Greater" Hungary (for the third time) which would encapsule parts of Serbia, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine.
14. F.R. of Yugoslavia and political and territorial units in the area of the former republics of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The relations between the F.R.Y. and the listed political and territorial units are not defined because of the civil war which is in progress there. The F.R.Y. and the Serbian people are anxious to see the civil war end as soon as possible in B&H and in the former SR of Croatia and to finalize the Serbian, Croatian and Muslim national issues.
15. Republic of Croatia - Republic of Slovenia. These two Catholic and secessionist republics used to be the most developed and rather privileged parts of the former S.F.R.Y. There are no major disputable issues between them. In the forthcoming period, a problem of the political and economic status of the Littoral and Istria may arise.
16. Italy - Republic of Croatia - Republic of Slovenia. The relations between Italy, Croatia and Slovenia have been correct so far. However, some political parties and movements in Italy are of the opinion that the Osim Agreement should be revised, and an issue raised to change the state border towards Slovenia. There is some tension between Italy and Croatia over the issue of the Italian national minority in Croatia.
If numerous unresolved social and political issues between the Serbs and Muslims, Serbs and Croats, and Muslims and Croats are thought of, then, there are more than twenty conflict-prone regions. Almost each stare has at least one unsatisfactorily resolved issue with its neighbours. Almost each state "is in war" with its neighbours. Such political relations hardly exist anywhere in the world.
The second big problem is the wish of almost all the Balkan peoples and countries to form their "greater" states, that is, to unite all the so called national territories but also take possession of the territories that belong to them according to the so-called "historical" law, and, sometimes, according to an arbitrary interpretation of ethnic and historical facts. They also want to improve their own economic position. Aspirations and projects of "Greater" Balkan states are based on ethnic, historical, and functional-economic principles of state delineation. An ethnic approach, instead of a civil and political approach (model), is applied to nation shaping and national issues resolving. There is a tendency to gather one's "own" nation into one's "own" state, mostly because there have never been historical prerequisites in the Balkans that would enable the implementation of a civil - political model in nation shaping. However, attempts to fulfill all of the "national" wishes certainly lead to territorial overlapping, that is, to duplication even triplication of political aspirations of certain peoples over one and the same territory, due to ethnic mixture and "history". For example, southwest Backa which is in the F.R.Y. is a matter of interest of Hungary and Croatia as well.
It has been stressed several times that numerous outer-Balkans states have been pretty involved in settling political, military, economic, and other issues in the Balkans. Some of them are still very much interested in this area although for the leading World Powers it is not classified among the so-called priority regions from the aspect of geopolitics, demography or economy. In spite of this the interests of outside powers are still confronted here. The U.S., Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Turkey, Italy, and the Vatican, then EU, CESC, UN, and some other international organizations are concerned with shaping and unraveling of the Balkan geopolitical knot.
The Role and Significance of International Factors in the Disappearance of the S.F.R.Y. and in the Yugoslav Crisis
Yugoslavia was created in 1918 as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. This first Yugoslavia disappeared in April 1941, while the second Yugoslavia (S.F.R.Y.) was restored in 1945 and disappeared on June 25, 1991, when the secessionist republics of Slovenia and Croatia single-sidedly and forcibly proclaimed their independence. Still, the state vegetated, but its functions rapidly diminished and died out. Then the Socialist Republic of Macedonia set on the route of separation and independence (on November 17, 1991, the Constitution of the Macedonian state was adopted) as well as the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (March, April 1992). The Socialist Republics of Serbia and Montenegro decided to remain in Yugoslavia changing its name into the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Constitution was passed on April 27, 1992.
The former S.F.R.Y. was the most suitable frame for all the South Slav peoples that lived in it, i.e. the majority of the Serbs, Croats, Slovenes and Montenegrins. Not many of them remained in the neighouring states. Almost all of the so-called Yugoslav Muslims lived in this state as well. A good number of people started to feel as Yugoslavs. The state had convenient, pretty self-sufficient natural resources. It belonged to the group of medium developed countries. In spite of it, the state broke up. The break-up was provoked by internal and external factors. The internal ones were numerous structural, spatial, and dynamic variances within the social and political complex. But the crucial and most perilous for the state were ethnic, cultural and civilization differences. The key problem was the one between Catholic and Orthodox creeds.
There was a small number of the Yugoslavs (ethnopolitical) in this state and the Yugoslav feeling was more an ideology than a cementing, prevailing ethnonational substance. The "state - nation" formula was not successful. When they lost control over the whole of Yugoslavia because of the anti-bureaucratic revolutions in Serbia and Montenegro, the Catholic republics (Croatia and Slovenia) decided to break up the state by means of forcible, armed secessionism. The seeds of dissension shot up in the bygone year of 1054, when this area was divided into West Christian and East Christian parts and when the proselytic aggressive Catholicism was incepted in our areas.
Then, the secessionist republics presented themselves as multi-party democratic countries and states which wanted to adopt western standards in their interior order as soon as possible. On the other hand, they qualified Serbia as a Bolshevik, nationalist, and hegemonist state and the Serbs as aggressors, hegemonists, and perpetrators of numerous crimes in Croatia and B&H. A strong support to the secessionist republics was given by Germany and the Vatican and their satellites Austria and Hungary. Later on, strongly urged by Germany, the other members of the European Union joined in. The U.S. supported the secessionist republics and the Muslims in B&H primarily because of the strong influence that Islamic oil and Catholic lobbies exerted upon the ruling establishment in the United Stares of America. On November 29,1991, the arbitration of Badenter's Commission (an authority of EU) gave an "expert" opinion, staring that the S.F.R.Y. was in a process of "disappearing". The second position of the Commission was that all the republics of the former S.F.R.Y. were successors to the disappearing state. The same Commission qualified the republic boundaries as state boundaries and proclaimed the Serbs in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina to be national minority. An assessment was made that the F.R.Y. was the most responsible for the escalation of the crisis on the territory of the former S.F.R.Y. and for the break out and prolongation of the war in B&H. This was the reason why on May 30, 1992, a total blockade was imposed on the F.R.Y. and the Serbs as a whole. Unjust, inhuman, genocidal sanctions are threatening elementary conditions of living of the millions of innocent people, including children, women, and the sick. Although many in the outside world have become convinced in the meantime that in B&H the civil and ethnic war has been going on all the time and that the F.R.Y. is not an aggressor, the sanctions are still implemented. The General Secretary of the United Nations (B. B. Ghali) recently declared: "We all are responsible for the Yugoslav drama.
Having in mind the atrocities carried out in the civil war on the territory of the former Republic of Croatia and B&H, the suffering of the population of the F.R.Y. due to the sanctions and great economic difficulties that hit the whole Southeast Europe, it should be pointed out that forcible demolition of the former S.F.R.Y. by the domiciliary secessionists and their foreign aids (Germany, the Vatican and others) is an immense crime against mankind and humanity. It is hard to understand the arrogant and cynical behaviour of some of the international organizations and states (for example, the U.S.) when the sanctions against the F.R.Y., the Serb Republic, and the Republic of Serb Krajina are concerned. In order to abolish sanctions additional things are requested, such as ending the civil war on the territory of the former SR of Croatia, "resolving" the political status of Kosmet, Sanjak, and Vojvodina, changing the political regime in Serbia, and accepting foreign control over the Yugoslav Army.
With reference to the Yugoslav crisis the international community (EU, CESC, UN) undertook several inconsiderate and paradoxical actions. Here are some:
Domicile secessionist forces are chief destroyers of the former S.F.R.Y. They would not have been successful, however, if they had nor had strong and continuous political, media, and material support front abroad, particularly from Germany, the Vatican, and Austria. The secessionists shoved the state to the edge of an abyss into which it was pushed by foreign supporters.
A European and Balkan state, the founder of UN, CESC, and of the Movement of non-aligned countries, and the key country in the existing strategic balance in the Balkans has been broken up.
A serious blow was dealt to the system of peace treaties made after World Wars I and II and a perilous precedent was made, so that the more powerful states could violate (in peacetime) the existing treaties, agreements, and conventions without punishment.
Yugoslav area and the whole Balkans have become a polygon for testing and imposing a model of pressure and foreign interests. Thus, Balkanizing this part of the world has been prolonged. At the same time, this is a warning to other small peoples and states not to oppose the will and interests of powerful states and their organizations.
A road is open to revive the earlier concepts of spheres of interest in the Balkans by other than Balkan Powers, which means that the geopolitical cross should continue to exist in this part of the world.
A disintegration process was supported in the Yugoslav area while in Western Europe an integration of the states and peoples is in progress. Thus, it is beyond any principle and also inhuman to justify the uniting of the Germans who lived in two internationally recognized states for 50 years and, at the same rime, to request the splitting of the Serbs who lived in one stare for more than seven decades. In addition to this, we may also say that the Serbian people is the only people in Europe that were endangered by the Germans three times in this century.
An immense political mistake was made by acknowledging the independence of the former SR of Croatia and SR -of Bosnia and Herzegovina before the national and political question in these countries was comprehensively resolved. The question of co-existence of the domiciliary peoples in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina remained unresolved by such recognition. The inner boundaries of the former Yugoslav republics were acknowledged as if they were international ones. The Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were proclaimed national minorities, which provoked their massive revolt and resistance.
The international community started to resolve the Yugoslav crisis in a colonial way by treating the constitutive peoples of Yugoslavia as quarrelling tribes.
It was ignored that the S.F.R.Y. was not an imperial creation, but a voluntary union of the South Slav peoples, and that only one half of the population voted in favour of independent states. This is why we speak of secession not of succession.
All the Yugoslav peoples, except the Serbian people, were acknowledged the right to self-determination and this brought about armed conflicts in the former SR of Croatia and SR of B&H. The whole Serbian people was punished (sanctions, bombing and war threats) because it did not yield to the arrangements which resulted from wrong legal and political actions of the international community.
It was requested that Bosnia and Herzegovina was to be kept as a unitary state though it was highly non-homogeneous from the ethnic aspect. At the same time, they allowed, some even encouraged (Germany and the Vatican), the break-up of Yugoslavia because of ethnic non-homogeneity.
Yugoslavia is threatened by bombing although it has not got a single soldier on the territory of B&H, while no one wants to notice that several thousand soldiers of the Republic of Croatia are present in B&H.
Islamic countries and the majority of Western countries have the right to look after the Muslims and Catholics in B&H, Croatia, and Serbia (Kosovo & Metohia, Sanjak, Vojvodina), while the right is contested of the Serbs from Serbia to aid the Serbs in B&H and Croatia although they lived together in the same state for 73 years.
Particularly incomprehensible to the Serbian people is the implementation of double standards in the Yugoslav crisis by the leading states and international organizations in the world. The crisis is regarded in black and white colours. The Serbs were proclaimed culprits. It was very difficult for the Serbian people to learn that their traditional allies forsook them, particularly France, Great Britain and the United States. The Serbs have realized and they believe that so have other freedom-and-justice-loving people that "justice" of the mighty means protection of their own interests. "Justice" for some peoples is realized to the extent to which it fits the interests of the great powers and big international business.
The leading countries of the West (the U.S. in particular) that play a decisive role in the existing international community, including the United Nations, demand from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Serb Republic, and the Republic of Serb Krajina to quietly bow their heads to the views of these states in spite of the fact that valid provisions of the international law are being blatantly violated. Mistakes are hard to avow, particularly when they are made by the omnipotent and arrogant! During the civil and inter-ethnic war in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina much worse crimes were done by the Croats and Muslims than by the Serbs, but the world public was mostly informed about the Serbian crimes. Atrocities made by the Muslim and Croatian sides were ascribed to the Serbs. Owing to great possibilities of instantly transmitting information in picture and word all over the globe and owing to the monopoly and bias of information producers, a huge pack of lies about the present struggle of the Serbian people for equality and bare life has been presented as "truth", which has never happened in the history of mankind before. Unfortunately, these lies are adopted as truth in the immense part of the world public. This means that modern computer informatics enables economic, military, and political oppressors and fabricators of information to manipulate the world public.
The international community (EU, CESC, UN) caused immense damages to all the peoples from the Kupa river to the Timok river, to the Serbian people in particular, by their rashness, bias, and disrespect of international law in finding the solution to the Yugoslav crisis, and also by their ungrounded and unjustified demonization and absolute and unseen punishment of Serbia and Montenegro, i.e. the Serbian people as a whole (total blockade). For this reason, the international community owes an apology to the Serbian people. They are bound to recompense immense damages to the Serbian people, the damages that were inflicted by their unprincipled attitudes and actions.
In order to fully understand and analyse the problem, we will attempt to make a definition of the Serbian question. In our opinion it consists of five elements which are closely related and conditioned. They are:
The aspirations, wishes, needs that the maximum possible number of the Serbs in the Balkans and the Danube valley live in one, their own state. This is a question of self-determination. The Serbs must have equal rights as other peoples in the former Yugoslavia.
The need that the Serbian state should become a democratic state, which means that its interior order is to be based on parliamentary democracy, market economy, law obedience and the protection of human rights.
The demand that the Serbs behave in a democratic way towards non-Serbs in their state and towards non-Serbs in other states. This means that the Serbs as a people and as individuals shall observe ethnic and other features and interests of other peoples.
The demand that the Serbs as a people and Serbia as their state are acknowledged equal rights and accepted as a constructive member of the international community. In other words, it is indispensable that other peoples and other states behave in a humane just and equal way towards the Serbs, regardless of where they live.
The demand for an inherent unity of the Serbian people based on the principles, needs, and demands listed above as the four elements of the Serbian question.
With regard to the contents of the Serbian question and main geopolitical and economic directrices of Serbia - its functional environs, the Serbian question could be satisfactorily solved in the following way:
1. To allow the Serbian people their own administration on its historical and ethnic territories, also allowing other Yugoslav peoples the same rights. The Serbian people, compared to other Yugoslav peoples, has an additional right to self-determination and uniting because it was exposed to genocidal extermination many times. The Serbian people, united in this way, would be a key factor of stability in the Balkans as it is not in its nature to ill-treat and tyrannize other peoples. Since a large part of the Serbian ethnic area lies west of the Drina river, the western geopolitical and historical directrix is given primacy over other directrices because it is a symbol of the union of the Serbian countries.
2. In the process of delineating the Serbian ethnic area on the territories of the former Yugoslav republics of Croatia and B&H the first principles to be applied shall be the ethnic and economic ones. It will be necessary to take account of and reconcile to the utmost the interests of the Croats, Serbs and Muslims. Immediately after the cease of war enmities and delineation, it will be necessary to initiate extensive economic and other cooperation, so that the available common natural resources and the already built infrastructure systems could be used to the utmost as well as market economy mechanisms and cooperation in science and culture.
3. Inside Serbia and the F.R.Y. and in the whole area of the former S.F.R.Y. and the Balkans it will be necessary to verify the interior state order on a democratic civil-political and ethnic principle. This principle reads that the main conductor of all activities in a state is Man, individual, citizen, freely associated in his union of interests. The second component of the same principle stipulates that, if necessary, equal ethnic communities as collective subjects may exist and allow the accomplishment of a series of their specific anthropogeographic characteristics and interests.
4. Since Serbia, the homeland of the Serbian people, is located in the central part of the Balkans, in the area in which the main natural trajectories and anthropogenic lines and knots of the infrastructure are located, it has a marked transit function for the neighbouring and other states. At the same time, as a landlocked country it has great need to communicate with other countries. That is why its own geopolitical communication cross is operative on the territory of Serbia. That cross - knot contains, besides the said western directrix, the northern, southern and southwest ones. The northern directrix enables connections of Serbia with the economically most important part of Europe (Central Europe) and is a land bridge to Ukraine and Russia (branching in Budapest). The southwest connection means deepening the relations between Serbia and Montenegro and the egress of Serbia to the sea, and the southern one interconnects the three Orthodox states -- Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Greece and gives Serbia an egress to the Aegean sea. Other directrices are also important -- the western one (the Sava river) which connects Serbia with Croatia, Slovenia, Alpine and Western Europe and the southeast one (the Nisava-Morava river valleys) that connects Serbia with Bulgaria, Turkey and other areas in the Orient.
5. The Serbs should endeavour to realize better and more universal relations with all the neighbouring countries and peoples within the shortest possible period. Special attention should be paid to the reinforcement of the relations between Serbs, Croats, Muslims and Albanians. As for other countries, every possible effort should be made to restore normal interstate relations. Without cooperating with the most developed countries we would remain at the periphery of policies, economics, science and technology and would be an object rather than the subject in international relations. Cvijic says, "The development of Serbia (and Yugoslavia - added by the author) should be in accord both with the prevailing general ideas in the world and with the objectives of our national work." 32
1. The leading establishments of the Balkan peoples and states should be much more constructive, rational and tolerant when realizing and solving ethnic, political, economic and other problems in the Balkans.
2. In the former Balkan socialist countries the post-communist reconstruction of the society and policies should be completed as soon as possible, i.e. a comprehensive parliamentary democracy, legality, and market economy should be introduced.
3. In resolving national questions and in shaping new states it is best to apply a combined civil-political and ethnic principle. When delineating states, primary principles should be: ethnic, functional, economic, and historical. The principle of democratic regionalism will be also useful.
4. The Balkan peoples should take their destinies into their own hands and regain a position of the subject in international relations after 640 years. The state boundaries need not be changed as they were internationally determined and recognized after the Balkan wars and after World War I.
5. The Balkan peninsula lost its geopolitical and geostrategic significance it had in the period of the "cold war" because of the changes in the key social and political relations in Europe (disappearance of the Eastern bloc, the USSR and Warsaw Treaty). It has no longer major significance for the international capital since it does not possess any geo-resources of world importance and because its productive and consumptive powers are proportionally small (45 million inhabitants with rather low per capita incomes). In this information-spreading globalistic period there is no need for conquering and formations of spheres of interest by means of methods of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. It means the time has come "to leave the Balkans to the Balkan peoples". This action should be aided by external powers, primarily those that have participated in the formation of the Balkan geopolitical cross and knot for centuries. Upon this gesture of the foreign factors, the Balkan peoples and states should arrange their internal relations in such a way that they are compatible with requirements and needs of the contemporary world of culture, civilization, science and technology, with full respect for domiciliar ethnic, historical, and other specifics. Through negotiations and settlements, they should responsibly, honestly, and conscientiously endeavour to meet maximum territorial, ethnic, economic, and other interests of all the Balkan peoples. This can be best realized by applying the combined civil-political and ethnic principle in shaping nations and states. If necessary, the principle of democratic regionalism, including t1)e so called ethnic enclaves (enclaves), can be applied.
In fact, the application of the principle of demographic regionalism and the system of ethnic enclave (exclave) with appropriate autonomy can help to solve complex problems that arose in the Yugoslav area and in the Balkans as a whole due to ethnic, economic, cultural and political, territorial, and structural non-homogeneity and dynamic non-uniformity. There is a large number of scientists and public servants who are of the opinion that the democratic regionalism will gain in significance in the forthcoming social and political order and territorial organization of Europe (Europe region). One should be aware of the two simultaneous global processes: 1) overall merging ("global village") and 2) democratic regionalization. The latter means that smaller local communities, even in the same nation (regional or subnational communities), should be allowed to resolve their social, economic, cultural, and political problems by themselves, naturally not at the expense of the whole and other regional communities. An illustration of this is, for example, the wish of the Istrians to have their specific regional autonomy inside the Republic of Croatia.
The Balkan peoples and states may, if necessary, realize an overall or partial territorial federative or confederative system on the Balkans. Namely, the Balkan peoples should become their own lords after 640 years and change their status of an object to the status of the subject in international relations. The term "Balkanization" should fundamentally change its meaning - instead of conflicts between the Balkan states and their subordination to foreign powers, the term should mean fruitful cooperation and active, equitable participation in international relations. Somewhat modified Scandinavian model of interstate relations should be implemented in the Balkans.
6. In the acute Yugoslav crisis it is most important to resolve the Serbo-Croat relations. The starting fact should be that the Serbs experienced two genocides organized by the Croatian state in the last 50 years. The Croats have the right to form their own state. The same right must be given to the Serbs. This means that the Serbs on the territory of the former SR of Croatia on which they have absolute majority (Republic of Serb Krajina) should be given a chance to decide with whom they want to live. Other, the so-called "urban" Serbs in the Republic of Croatia should enjoy all the rights stipulated for national minorities in international standards, provided that the international control for the implementation of them is instituted.
The Serbo-Croatian relations extend to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to Vojvodina. These questions can be settled by negotiations. Success would be rapid if 1) the Croats recognize the Serbs west of the Drina as a people equal to them and 2) if they refrain from unduly claiming and annexing to their state the Serbian ethnic areas west of the Drina river. With fulfilling these requirements, the Serbo-Croatian relations would be rapidly and essentially resolved. Later, it would be relatively easy to establish economic, cultural, sports and other relations, links and dependencies. This time the Serbo-Croatian relations should be shaped in a satisfactory way for both sides, implementing, if need be, the process of population resettlement and exchange of the territories. If these relations were settled the Serbian and the Croatian question would be resolved to a great extent.
The Croats in Serbia (Vojvodina) have never been threatened by the Serbian side on the basis of ethnic differences. They were and they are equal citizens of the Republic of Serbia.
7. The civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina showed that the unitary B&H cannot exist. Solutions are possible on the grounds of the Geneva Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nevertheless, if fruitful understanding in B&H and elsewhere is desired, it is necessary for individuals and members of different collectives to have equal rights. This particularly applies to the three ethnic collectivities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The war in B&H broke out because the equality of the peoples was impaired (disrespect of consensus). After delineation, relationships on equal terms should be nurtured as well as the regard and respect for justified interests of the three peoples.
8. National minorities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia do not have reasons for revolt on national grounds because they enjoy all minority rights formulated by the international standards. And more than that. The leading establishments in the F.R.Y., Serbia and Montenegro, should endeavour in the forthcoming period and make the adherents of all the national minorities in the F.R.Y. feel it as their homeland. On the other hand the adherents of the national minorities should show by their loyal and constructive efforts that the F.R.Y. is their only homeland.
9. The Federal units in the F.R.Y., the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Montenegro, namely the Serbs and Montenegrins as the constitutive equal peoples of the same ethnic origin should constantly promote their relations and connections thus enhancing the prosperity of their fatherland. Ardent resistance to any form of separatism and secessionism should be effectuated as it is against the interests of Montenegro and Serbia.
10. The F.R.Y., and Serbia in particular, should continue to work towards the union of all the Serbian countries, without harming the interests of the neighbouring peoples.
11. We should think thoroughly what awaits us in future. The area of the former S.F.R.Y. and of the Balkans as a whole is inhabited by small peoples. Because of their geopolitical position and other circumstances described above, the Balkans were either occupied or subdued to foreign influences in the past. Now that we are quarrelling again many want to enter our area.
It would be very good if reason and common interest prevailed in the process of approaching and regaining trust among the Yugoslav peoples. The foundation of relations among the peoples shall be Man, citizen, overall equality of peoples regardless of their national, religious, social, and other affiliations.
The elements that unite us shall be emphasized just as the actual and progressive elements in the time to come. Democratic principles shall be realized, not only proclaimed.
1. Statisticki godisnjak Jugoslavije 1992 (Belgrade: SZS, 1992), p. 42.
DR JOVAN ILIC is Professor Emeritus of Economic and Political Geography at the Facuity of Geography, University of Belgrade. He has published over one hundred and seventy scientific and professional papers, monographs and textbooks. He has also contributed about two hundred encyclopedic entries. His major books and publications arc: Karakteristike funkcionalnih odnosa izmedju grada i okoline sa posebnim osvrtom na SR Srbiju /Functional Relations between Town and Its Surroundings with a Special Reference to the SR of Serbia/ (1970); Modelsko predvidjanje transformacija prostornih struktura i sistema /Transformation Predicting Model of Spatial Structures and Systems/ (1973); The population of Yugoslavia (1974, co-author); Osnovne karakteristike ekonomske geografije kao naucno-nastavne discipline /Basic reatures of Economic Geography as a Scientific Discipline/ (1975); Regionalna ekonomska geografija Amerike /Economic Geography of America/ (1979, co-author), Pogled na svet: Azija, Australija i Okeanija /A View of the World: Asia, Australia and Oceania/ (1979, co-author); Neki nacini rangiranja i iznalazenja kriterijuma za utvrdjivanje stepena drustveno-ekonomske razvijenosti drzava /(Classification and Criteria in Determining the Socio-Economic Development Levels of States/ (1979); Razvoj i osnovne karakteristike stanovnistva jugozapadnog Banata s posebnim osvrtom na opstinu i grad Pancevo /Population Development in Southwestern Banat with a Special Reference to the Town and Municipality of Pancevo/ (1984); Polozaj geografije u sistemu nauka /The Place of Geography in the System of Sciences/ (1987), Broj i razmestaj Srba na teritoriji avnojske Hrvatske /Number and Distribution of Serbs on the Territory of AVNOJ Croatia/ (1993).
Note: The former S.F.R.Y. is shown with the administrative borders before 1991.
1. Patriarchal order. 2. Romanic-Mediterranean influences. 3. Modified Byzantine civilization. 4. Influences from the Mediterranean. 5. Turkish-eastern influences. 6. New popular civilization. 7. Middle European influences. 8. Influences from Western Europe.