By Milorad Ekmecic,

Posted on The New York Times web forum
"US Interests, US Achievements"
August 9, 1996

The present Yugoslav crisis is the result of the efforts by the countries of the European Community and the United States to aid separatism in the Catholic regions of the former Yugoslav state and thereby facilitate their inclusion in a future federal European state. For strategic reasons the territories inhabited by Muslims have been added to these regions. Contrary to principles of international law, a sovereign state was destroyed by an accelerated process. Yugoslavia was created in 1918 following the break-up of the Habsburg and Ottoman empires, and it was in 1945 a founder-member of the United Nations orgnization.

The right to self-determination was taken away from the Serbian people, since the territories in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina where the Serbs had every historic and ethnic right were cut off from the body of the Serbian state. A new rule was imposed whereby the internal frontiers of the former Yugoslav socialist republics were now treated as international frontiers. Western countires attempted to declare the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina as national minorities, while the civil war which broke out as a result of this, they treat as an aggression by Serbia on the independent states of Croatia and Bosnia- Herzegovina.

In fact, the regions in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina that began to be populated by the Serbs from the early medieval period have ever since been considered Serbian lands. It has to be pointed out that Bosnia-Herzegovina was never an independent state after the Turkish occupation in 1463, while Croatia ceased to be that in 1102 when it became part of the Hungarian state. from 1527 Croatia formed part of the Habsburg empire.

Until as late as 1918 Dalmatia did not have constitutional links with the rest of Croatia, being until 1797 an integral part of Venice and from then until 1918 formed a separate region of the Habsburg empire. From the beginning of the 16th century the Serbian people in the present republic of Srpska Krajina were organized on the territory of Military Krajina (Military Frontier). Until 1883 Krajina was outside autonomous administration by Croatia, and the Serbs were free from feudal obligations. Politically, the Serbs links were not with Zagreb but with the central government in Vienna. (The Serbs had more autonomy in the Habsburg empire than the Don Cossacks in Russia.)

After the "demilitarization" of Krajina in 1883, the Serbs were included in Croatia without any guarantees concerning national rights. From then on, to this day, there has existed a clash between the Serbs and Croats in Croatia.

The current frontiers of Bosnia-Herzegovina represent the result of wars between the Habsburg and Ottoman empires - they do not represent ethnic frontiers. These frontiers stabilized themselves with the peace of Karlowitz of 1699 and the peace of Posarevats of 1718, dividing the Serbs in Dalmatia and in the former Military Frontier zone from their brothers in the east. the internal frontiers in Socialist Federal Yugoslavia were adopted on administrative, not ethnic and historic grounds.

Marshal Tito had has reasons to deny the Serbian people the right to territorial autonomy in the Socialist Republic of Croatia. In the meantime, in Bosnia and Herzegovina there were for longer period even after 1945 relative Serb majorites. As is well-known, in all population censuses for Bosnia-Herzegovina (the first thorough census being in 1879) the Serbs constituted 43% of the population, the Muslims 31% and the Croats 18%. In the interwar period 1918-1941, the Serbs retained this majority.

During the 19th century the Serbian people in Bosnia-Herzegovina fought for independence from the Turkish state (until 1878), and from the Habsburg state from 1878 to 1918. Its first war of liberation to unite with Serbia into one state took place in 1804 (the Serbian Revolution). From 1862 there is an uninterrupted chain of insurrections against Turkish rule. In July 1875 there erupted another Serbian insurrection motivated by the efforts of the Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina to liberate themselves, causing a substantial international crisis ("the Eastern Question, 1875-1878"). The Bosnian Crisis of 1908-1909, when the Habsburg empire annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina, likewise became an international affair, as did the July Crisis of 1914 (following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo) which led to the outbreak of the first world war.

During the first of these three major international crisis, on 28 June 1876 the Serbs declared unification of Bosnia-Herzegovina with Serbia and Montenegro into a single, federated Serbian state. In order to prevent this, at the Congress of Berlin in 1878 the great powers mandated Austria-Hungary to temporarily occupy Bosnia-Herzegovina and "establish peace" there. In the Serbian insurrections 1875-1878, Bosnia-Herzegovina lost 13,64% of its population (150.000 out of the total of 1,100.000), mostly Serbs. Instead of solving the questions that caused internal rebellions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Austro-Hungarian adminstration initiated a policy of denationalization and the banning of expressions of Serbian national identity. By refusing to solve the agrarian question in favour of the Serbian serfs, it left the land in the hands of Muslim feudal lords, thus making the latter the props of its power. From 1882 until 1903, the Austro-Hungarian administration prohibited any national identification and proclaimed an artificial "Bosnian nation". This policy of denationalization, together with the unresolved agrarian question and the suppression of the tendencies of the Serbian people towards the Kingdom of Serbia were the causes for the Sarajevo Assassination of 1914 after which the first world war broke out. In the course of this war, until 1918, a policy of ethnic cleansing was pursued in those regions of Bosnia-Herzegovina where the Serbs formed the majority - thus eastern Bosnia was declared a war zone, and the expulsion of Serbs was allowed there.

A chain of concentration camps was created to hold Serbian patriots, it being the first such case in European history that concentration camps were being created in order to change the ethnic composition of regions. Between 1878 and 1914 there took place a policy of colonization by German, Polish and Ukrainian Catholics in Bosnia-Herzegovina, during which time twenty new Catholic villages came into existence in an area of compact Serb population. In the first world war Bosnia-Herzegovina lost 360.000 people, or 19% from the overall population, the losses being predominantly among the Serbs. Similar expulsions of Serbs were carried out in Croatia after 1914, which resulted in the creation of centers of Serbian national resistance and guerrilla warfare.

It has to be emphasized that the Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina had their feudal class, but lived mostly in towns, whereas the Serbs were a peasant people living overwhelmingly in the countryside. Out of 54 districts in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1918, 42 opted for immediate unification with Serbia, without waiting for the results of political talks. As a peasant people in Bosnia-Herzegovina the Serbs held 64% of the land (arable land and forests). This percentage of Serbian land ownership exists to this day.

The destruction of Yugoslavia in 1941 by central European fascist clericalism produced the Independent State of Croatia which included Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Croats formed barely over one half of the population or this state. A massacre of enormous proportions was perpetrated against the Serbs. A policy of forcible conversions to Catholicism was pursued, with the approval of the Vatican and in accordance with its plans. This is even today fundamentally shaping Serbian attitudes.

The precise number of Serbian dead in the genocide of 1941-1945 has not been established. The German authorities give the figure of 750.000, but modern historical demography calculates that it could be over one milion (1,300.000) if children are taken into account and persons who could have left successors. The genocide against the Serbs was at the heart of the civil war and the resistance movement, led by the Communists and Serbian nationalists. During the genocide the Croats initially treated the Muslims as part of the Croat nation. The Muslims began from 1942 to demand territorial autonomy from Adolf Hitler, with a German governor. In a Memorandum dated November 1942 the Muslims demanded that Bosnia be given to the Muslims (except for some territories around Travnik and Bugojno) and that the proposed state be given anoutiet to the Adriatic Sea via the valley of the river Neretva and the towns of Konjic, Mostar, Metkovic and Ploce. They also demanded the ethnic cleansing of 175.000 Serbs and Croats in this state, and the immigration of the same number of Muslims. The Muslims gave Hitler one SS-division. A Croat "legion" (two-thirds Catholics, one third Muslims) was destroyed at Stalingrad.

Following the establishment of the Federal Yugoslav state in 1943 (confirmed in 1945), Yugoslav Communism at first gave the Muslims the possibility to declare themselves as Serbs or Croats. The majority of those who declared themselves chose to be identified as Serbs, among them the entire Muslim intelligenties, including the current leaders of the Muslim movement. From 1961 the Communist authorities attempted to give the Muslim the constitutionaly recognized status of nation, being finally achieved with the Constitutional Amendments of 1974. Concurrently, Serbs and Croats began slowly to emigrate from Bosnia-Herzegovina, while Muslims from elsewhere began to immigrate. The demographic outcome of these changes was that between 1961 and 1981 the Muslims became a relative majority in the republic. The last population census (1991) showed the Muslims as forming 43% of the overal population, while the Serbs had 31% (although if account is taken of the Serbs who declared themselves as "Yugoslavs", the Serbs would have 38%).

The separatist tendencies in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were aided at first by the Vatican and Catholic countries of central Europe, followed by other countries of the European Community and the US. In the new Croatian Constitution the Serbian people lost their previous status as a recognized nation and became an unprotected minority. Contrary to the Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina (amendments 62 and 70) a commission of legal experts from the European Community (the "Badinter commisssion") ruled that a referendum on independence was legally justified even though in this referendum less than 63% of the population, and not a two-thirds majority of 66,6%, chose independence.

In both Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina the civil war began because of disputes conserning the control of police stations in municipalities with majority Serb population. The Croat attempt to take by force the police station in Borovo Selo on 12 May, 1991 was the beginning of the civil war in Croatia. For a similar reason the civil war began in Bosnia on 5 April, 1992. Already a month before armed clashes were taking place because of violance against the Serbian people in Kupres, Bosanski Brod and Bijeljina. The European Community and the US declared Bosnia-Herzegovina an independent state at a time when it did not have a Parliament, when the government had fallen apart, and when the armed insurrection had engulfed its entire territory. A "phantom state" was declared independent and sovereign. This is the roof of the religious war of today.

It is impossible not to detect in these efforts by the European Community and the US the same motives that led the Catholic countries of central Europe to occupy Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1878, to provoke there a deep international crisis, and to go to war because of it in 1914. History repeats itself, it is also to be expected that all the consequences of the terror that the Catholic countries of central Europe had carrled out here since 1878 will be repeated. The Serbs are denied the right to self-determination; states led by Croat or Muslims are being created; a principle of international law is being negated whereby the loss of ethnic majority through genocide (as in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1941-1945) cannot be recognized; and regions where the Serbian people have always been a majority are being declared as Muslim regions. Thus a fundamental principle of democracy is being negated, the principle that the form of government and state must not be imposed from the outside, but must be freely decided upon by the people. Today the US is exporting its form of government to the Balkans, as they always did in Central America. The intention is that this violence will prevent the Balkan peoples to associate with neighbors, and with closely related peoples in non-Catholic eastern Europe.