Monday, 11 September 2017

War in the Balkans - My Take Part III

Yugoslavia 1989 showing ethnic distribution
Trust is destroyed. Fear abounds. The Yugoslav Federation gathers in Bucherest to discuss the situation. Croatian, Slovenian and Montenegan presidents propose a solution which would give them autonomy within the federation. Milosevic and the presidents he has secured the support of, notably Kosovo and Bosnia, reject this proposal.  There is a series of meetings seeking to resolve their differences but ultimately they break down. Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro walk out on the talks declaring that the Federated Communist Party of Yugoslavia is henceforth dissolved.Since 1989Yugoslavia has allowed a degree of democracy in that new political parties are permitted. Moderate and pro democracy parties emerge. Elections are held in Slovenia and Croatia and these moderate parties are elected. Croatia and Slovenia announce that they will declare independence. On the day of the announcement Yugoslav airforce jets attack Zagreb targeting the parliament building. The President narrowly escapes his intended fate and the declaration proceeds.

There is a short 10 day war in Slovenia which ends after Milosevic concludes that Slovenia is not of great interest having fewer Serbians in its population. In Croatia conflict breaks out initiated by local Serbian militia and Serbian members of the police force. They take control of the main highway between Zagreb and the south. Their action is immediately supported by Milosivic and the Serbian dominated Yugoslav armed forces. Croatia is hamstrung by a UN agreement which has been brokered, restraining them from accessing or importing military equipment. This is an attempt to allow time for a negotiated settlement but only results in Serbian troops gaining control of about one third of the country.

1991-1995. The war continues with the Croartians slowly gaining the upper hand. Tens of thousands of both Serb and Croats are displaced. Families of mixed heritage (Serb/Croat/Bosnian) who had embraced Tito's vision of an integrated multi ethnic society are riven with conflict, neighbours turn on each other believing the propaganda of their respective leaders.Towns are razed to the ground. Zagreb, Dubrovnic, Split and Zadar are shelled. The UN plays an ineffective role but by mid 1995 Croatia has regained control over all it former territory and hostilities cease.

This period also sees the fall of the Berlin wall (Novmber 1989) and the break-up of the Soviet Union.(December 1991).

And that's only part of the shit-fight. In Bosnia-Herzegovina a war rages (1992-1996) between Bosnian Serbs and Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), backed by Serbia and Croatia respectively, each with aspirations to annex part of that state. The conflict becomes is three way with Croatian Serbian and Bosnian forces attacking each other until, with USA urging, Croatian and Bosnian forces unite to fight against Serbia..Massacres, ethnic cleansing, systematic rape as a strategy of both subjugation and social destruction take place. The most tragic element of the conflict is the siege of the capital, Sarajevo, where the city is totally destroyed and isolated for almost three years. 250,000 people die and two million are displaced. Milosovic maintains that he has not ordered any of this, merely spoken passionately of his vision for a Greater Serbia.

In 1995 a peace agreement is negotiated in Dayton Ohio USA and signed in Paris in December of 1995 by the Presidents of Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Dayton Accord signed 1995 - Paris
1998 ethnic distribution
Milosevic is humiliated. He becomes the President of the surviving Yugoslavia (1998-2000) and continues his mission to create an ethnically pure Serbian state. In 1998 and 1999 Serb nationals in Kosovo take action to secure Serbian dominated territory while Kosovo nationals declare independence and set up an alternative government. The Yugoslav Government, now only Serbia and Montenegro, directly intervenes to impose its control and to suppress Kosovo Albanian resistance. NATO intervenes and controversially takes direct military action against Serbian forces. the conflict ends in mid 1999. Milosovic is defeated in the elections of 2000 and steps down as president.

In 2002 Milosevic is extradited to The Hague to face charges of war crimes and genocide but dies in prison in 2006 of natural causes before his trial is completed. 

Today there is little evidence of the war. It's a topic not discussed openly. There is a small museum devoted to the attack on Zagreb in 1991, but it's in a building with no signage whereas the many other museums in Zagreb trumpet their presence proudly. Kristina tells us she has friends from all ethnic backgrounds but the one "off limits" topic is the war. It's too risky, too raw. It would risk the friendships. I am impressed by Kristina. She is one of the brave ones. She is  prepared to speak honestly about this tragic era.

Balkans 2015
So is this the truth or just another piece of propaganda? Is it too coloured by Kristina's loyalty to Croatia? Am I making presumptions by even committing these impressions to print? I am assuming there are others who have been confused by the complexity of this period and who have been affected by it. The war created a flood of refugees across the globe and sadly those families often took their troubled history with them to their new destination country. Things are pretty quiet in Croatia and the Dalmatian states nowadays. People are more concerned with issues of employment and survival. Croatia has joined the EU but remains the poor cousin and over 150,000 young people leave he country each year searching for a new life in the larger EU family.

I invite you to read a highly regarded book, "The Death of Yugoslavia" also available as a BBC five part documentary of the same name on youtube.

I apologize for any errors of fact and would welcome any feedback.


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