The constant misunderstanding between the Serbs and the rest of the world  Facebook 

April 8th, 2009  |  Published in Attualità, Politics  |  33 Comments by Giuseppe Matteo Vaccaro Incisa

Serbian tzar Stefan Uroš IV Dušan, middle of XIV century, monastery Lesnovo, Republic of MacedoniaInternational politics is not that far from being a boxing match. Among babies. While studying this much overrated subject, practitioners amass degrees and PHDs just to come to the self-evident truth that the world is governed by ‘those who have it bigger’. The big&bossy child simply spoons away the snack from the younger. That’s how it works, baby.
For this very reason international politics goes very often everywhere but in the ‘right’ direction. Diplomatic crises quite often appear more like children’s fights than the management of the ‘equilibrium of the world’ (or whatever they like to praise it).

The case for Kosovo and the Serbs does not make an exception to the rule.
The first to be blamed are the same Serbs, of course. The antipathy they have been able to generate all over the world is impressive. Their reputation might not have been that high anytime (because of a critically complex history) but they now officially represent the only case of internationally-prosecuted State in the world, as far as I can tell.
First, Germany and the Vatican (urged by blatantly personal interests), recognized the new Slovenia and Croatia entities in the first 90’, sealing the end of the Yugoslavian-state era over quarrels that perhaps could have been managed differently by the same Slavs. Then, the creation of the fake-state of Bosnia-Herzegovina – decreed elsewhere abroad – swiped out another piece of Serbia (now an autonomous state called ‘Republic of Serbia’ within the Bosnian federation). Then, because of a disastrous leader and a disgraceful political class, they get bombed by NATO. Soon after, they lose control of another piece of their country, the – unlikely to be created – Kosovo province, put under the joint administration of UN and EU. In the end, they’re now forced to accept the total loss of that piece of land instead of the loose control & territorial unity recipe they proposed.

The reasons for the doggedness international institutions keep serving such sour dishes to the Serbian people (enhancing the historical sense of victimization they feel since the Turks domination) is given by a variety of factors. All of those, though, may be driven back to a single element.
Serbs have always had – or, as they say, they have been perceived as if they had – a peculiar sense of territorial possession over the Balkans. The myth of the ‘Greater Serbia’, in various declinations, has been generated and nourished all over the last couple of centuries. This conception got well along the idea of unity of the southern Slavs (that’s what the word Yugoslavia meant) Croatians, Montenegrins and – to a lesser extent – Slovenes shared either. Not that Serbs hadn’t any reason to believe they should be the driving force of the process (and of the system created thereafter). It is true that among the cultures there around (excluding the Magyars, which are a per se case) Serbian can be easily recognized as the ‘master’ of the region. Tightened between catholic Austria and islamic Turkey, they have been able to develop an impressive array of arts and literature, always devoted to their own Orthodox Church. Beside the fact that Serbians always have been far more numerous than their neighbours, Belgrade is, still nowadays, the only relevant capital of the area. The Serbian language (actually a double-alphabet system, using both Latin and Cyrillic) is the stool on which the neighbours grafted their dialects in the time. It is only apparently superficial to say that the only concrete difference between a Serbian and a Croatian* or a Montenegrin is that the first is orthodox, the others are catholic – still, they’re all Christians.

Hence, because of their history, Serbs tend to see themselves as the local godfathers, the historical ‘holders of the keys’ of the region. The more the thing is evident (and mostly true), the more all the others react evidencing the differences (and what of that is not true).
Serbs never actually intended to annihilate the culture, the traditions and the specificities of the other Slavic groups, part of the ex-Yugoslavia. What they needed, as a true psychological need after centuries of being at the frontiers of Europe – in their vision, defending it from the muslims invaders, or at least not allowing them to go further north (most of the time) -, was to see recognized their role of ‘guardians of Europe’ from the rest of the world (or at least from Europe) and, from the Slavic colleagues, their position of master of the region.
such psychological need has always obtained quite cold answers. The total lack of diplomatic skills – quite typical of all the Slavs – turned to show Serbians as arrogant and despotic, unable to manage a state that – all of a sudden – was internationally acknowledged as a ‘multi-ethnic’ state (which Yugoslavia never was: there were all and just Slavs).
Under their perspective, Serbs had a sincerely hard time trying to understand why they got so much international attention when they decided not to respect an internal pact of succession for the presidency of the Yugoslavian federation and then refuse to accept the dissolution of the nation: in the end, Tito was Croatian, and he was on charge for 35 years, why the hell should they not try to force a little the things and recompose the breaking puzzle, even with some military suggestions?

Here we are, with the perfect recipe on how to lose pieces of your country at a very fast pace.
Serbians pay not only the bills they accumulated on their own (effectively undeniable, even if to a lesser extent than generally thought). They pay also for the bills left open by Yugoslavia to the world, before suddenly dying hit by a lightening heart attack. Of course, for the bad news you always need a scapegoat. Since you’re the biggest, here we are, recognizing you, now, the master’s role.
I know, it wasn’t exactly what you meant when aspiring to that recognition.

*Though, right now a young Croatian can’t understand that easily a Serbian. The linguistic ‘diversification process’ enacted by the Croatian governments during the last decade is shocking, in its effort to differentiate what is basically non-differentiable. Still, it’s hard to believe that where you had a single nation with a common language for about 40 million people, now exist a number of city-states all of them claiming to have (and to always have had) their own unique language.

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  1. Zmaj says:

    April 8th, 2009 at 22:39 (#)

    Wow. Missinformed and biased is an understatement for this article.

  2. The constant misunderstanding between the Serbs and the rest of the world says:

    April 8th, 2009 at 22:43 (#)

    [...] View original post here: The constant misunderstanding between the Serbs and the rest of the world [...]

  3. Leon T says:

    April 8th, 2009 at 23:08 (#)

    Anyone writing such trash as well as those publishing it should be ashamed. It is full of inaccuracies. First of all, the author contradicts himself several times… each time to prove a point. But what point… that Serbs, Slovenes, Croats, Montenegrins, Bosnians are all ethnical equals, that is Slavs? I guess that would make Italians, Spaniards, and Romanians all ethnic Latins? Absurd. And 40 million people speaking a common language? No matter how much one tries to overlook differences and combine southern Slavic languages, there is no way to come up with 40 million. So I guess the author is ignorant not only about ex-Yugoslavia, Slavs, and politics, but has no understanding of simple mathematics either.

  4. Miroslav Milosevic says:

    April 8th, 2009 at 23:14 (#)

    Lots of inaccuracies are shown in the text, anyway, thanks for the attempt to explain things better, but this is a wrong way to do so. Speaking about Ottoman rule that much and not mentioning World Wars at all, where Serbs were the second victims by death toll in the Holocaust, having 600 000 or more civilians died in Croatian nazi camps, that memory is much more fresh than ottomans and times of Sulaiman the Magnificiant. Will you explain me what was the right to Kosovars to gain independence while croatian Serbs are not only banned from being that, but were also expelled from Croatia? Yet they recognize Kosovo (prolly forcibly).
    And about the last pasus: In most of Croatia, attempts of Tudjman neonazi regime to “unserbianize” the Croatian language has actually failed, just like its attempt to rename their most popular football club Dinamo Zagreb to Croacia.

    Ok now about the places over about I agree with the author:

    Then, the creation of the fake-state of Bosnia-Herzegovina – decreed elsewhere abroad – swiped out another piece of Serbia (now an autonomous state called ‘Republic of Serbia’ within the Bosnian federation). Then, because of a disastrous leader and a disgraceful political class, they get bombed by NATO ===== This is a very correct statement. Bosnia and Herzegovina war was one of the very few wars in the entire human history in which none actually managed to prevail. At the end of the war led in a triangle – where each side (Croatian, Serbian and Bosniak) had other two as enemies the representatives of all three sides – Milosevic, Tudjman and Izetbegovic were recognized as guarants for peace(!). The new artificial country was divided into 2 parts: Serbian and Bosniak-Croatian. Western negotiators hoped, and they still do that Bosnia will become a new Belgium – a very divided, but still functional state. 14 years later its more evident that it actually failed. Two entities within Bosnia are making separate economic systems. This will soon lead them to the end, because there are extreme inequities about most issues.

    The total lack of diplomatic skills – quite typical of all the Slavs – turned to show Serbians as arrogant and despotic, unable to manage a state that – all of a sudden – was internationally acknowledged as a ‘multi-ethnic’ state. ===== Lacking of diplomatic skills is not about belonging to an ethnicity, its more about the exposure of a people to foreigners, commerce, transit. As you know, such activities are most present in coastal areas – and almost all Slavic people except for Croatian lived on landlocked areas. Even Pollacks who have seas, dont bother to it much. Thus, Slavic cities could never became trading centers of Europe, like Venezia, London or Amsterdam, they were always and still are more attractive for manufacturing than for trade (speaking of foreigners interest). Thats why Slavs stuck to peasantry and mining more than other european ethnicities. This includes even Russia.

  5. Karlo says:

    April 8th, 2009 at 23:58 (#)

    The story is trying to brainwash people into believing the Serb’s were & are always the victims.
    Serbia started the war in (1) Slovenia (2) Croatia (3) Bosnia & Herzegovina (4) Kosova & you must clearly ask yourself why?? because they wanted to create a Greater Serbia.The countries mentioned above never ever put their foot in Serbia proper territory, they are all victims of Serbian terror.
    Because the Serb’s have a history of losing every war, they tend to get more and more upset each time for not reaching their goals.
    The Serb’s are masters in spreading propaganda or should I correct that and say “were” when they controlled the Yugoslav government & of course media.


  6. DefenderOfTruth says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 00:32 (#)

    Wow this article is beyond ridiculous, it is absurd. The author is clearly uneducated in matters relating to the Balkans and is proud to display his ignorance by making statements such as the following:

    “Then, the creation of the fake-state of Bosnia-Herzegovina – decreed elsewhere abroad – swiped out another piece of Serbia (now an autonomous state called ‘Republic of Serbia’ within the Bosnian federation). ”

    Does he know that Bosnia and Herzegovina was a Yugoslav republic with the exact same standing, national autonomy, and rights in Yugoslavia that Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Macedona had? Does he know that Bosnia and Herzegovina was NEVER a part of the state of Serbia? Obviously not. He’s ignorant as a doorknob and loves to show it. Calling Bosnia and Herzegovina which is an internationally recognized sovereign state a “fake state” only shows that he has an inherent disdain for the country and prefers Slobo’s ideas over those of the international community and the majority of Bosnia’s own citizens (after all 66% of Bosnian citizens voted for independence in the ‘92 referendum).

    The Serbs are disdanined because of their Serbofascist ideology of dominating and undermining their non-Serb neighbors. They committed ethnic cleansing in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo and they committed genocide in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica. They single-handedly prevented the entire region from moving forward in the 90s and resulting in all the former Yugoslav republics being left behind while the other East European states moved forward with joining the EU and NATO. Losing every war and a piece of its territory (i.e. Kosovo) is just desserts in a few years the economy of Croatia will be bigger then theirs and the other countries are also moving forward. Maybe Russia will give them enough money to help them stay solvent maybe not, its their problem anyways and I hope that now they will keep their problems confined to their own national borders and not get their neighbors involved.

  7. Max says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 01:22 (#)

    The Serbs are the only people in the region who have not whored themselves to greater powers. Just take a look at what happened in WWII – Croats, Albanians, Bosnian muslims, they all sided with the nazis, only the Serbs were fighting the good fight. The Serbs were surrounded by enemies, but still they came through. And after all their sufferings and sacrifices, not just for themselves but for the sake of Europe, they are today made out to be the bad guys.

    Thank you Matteo, nice to see there are people who know their history and speak the truth

  8. Karlo says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 03:47 (#)

    Anti-semitism in Serbia
    during the World War II
    The physical liquidation of Serbian Jews began immediately in the spring of 1941.
    Almost all the men were killed by the autumn and the women and children and the remaining men were liquidated at the end of April and the beginning of May, 1942. The exact number of people killed is not known even from Jewish sources. Historian Jasa Romano, however, has come to the conclusion that 88% of all Serbian Jews were killed. The Serbian historian Sretenije Zrokić says that of the 11,870 Belgrade Jews only 1,115 or 9% survived the war. It was not only the Germans who captured and killed the Jews in Serbia, rather it was the Serbian Police, Nedić’s volunteers and Chetniks . Most were killed in the Sajmište and Banjica concentration camps. Not a single Jew managed to escape from the camps.
    Source: Ljubica Stefan, Anti-semitism in Serbia during the World War II
    # Judein GreiLjubica Stefan is retired professor: refugee from Belgrade where
    she lived for 30 years, researches genocide against Albanians,
    anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews, as well as the behavior of Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church in World War II.

  9. Karlo says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 03:51 (#)

    Serbia the original Nazi Collaborators

    please click or type in the link/ web site below for further reading,images & videos & you will see for yourself.

  10. Adam says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 04:50 (#)

    Great Article Matteo, honest and truthfull!

    Bosnian Muslims, Croats, some Macedonians were once Serbs.

    Bosnian muslims exist because of 500 years of Turk rule. Croatians exist because of roman catholicism movement where many Serbs converted to catholicism now known as “Croatians”

    It’s just common sense, Serbs have the greatest population in the balkan area even though millions were killed in WW1 & WW2, Croatians and Bosnians speak Serb. If they weren’t Serb why do they speak it? It’s not because of Tito that’s for sure. If they had their own history they would have their own language aswell… and you can’t tell me that the Croatian language came first when croatia’s population is 4.5 million and Serbia’s is 7.5 plus 1.5 million in Bosnia.

  11. Karlo says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 05:45 (#)

    You can see how they were known as Servs /Servia until recently

    Servus: These words originates from the Latin word for servant or slave, servus. The phrase is an ellipsis of a Latin expression meaning, “I am your servant”

    That is why Servs rape and kill civilians, the rage of having been a Servant it still there.

  12. Maria says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 05:50 (#)

    Serbs are Turks (controlled by Ottomans Empire for almost 500 years & converted) meaning that Sebs are Christian Turks.
    Croatia/Slovenia on the other hand were part of a civilized Austro-Hungarian Empire for almost 500 years. Croats/Slovenians are more civilized and have respect for their wives and don’t hit them like Serbs do something they inherited from Turkey.

  13. Karlo says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 05:54 (#)

    The period of Croatia within ex-Yugoslavia (1918-1941, 1945-1991)

    click on the link below or type

  14. Terry says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 05:56 (#)

    Thank you for the facts.

    I did not know that the Serbs were that bad. You Croatians suffered alot.

    Thank you again.

  15. Peter says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 07:44 (#)

    The Serbs want to be big people but in reality are small. The Serbs wanted to create a Yugoslavia like the English created a Great (er) Britain. Croatia has joined NATO now & soon the EU. Serbia can look towards the Russians for help & remember the Russians don’t help their own (oops) Where were the Russians when NATO (USA) were bombing Serbia????You do not have friends anymore.
    The Serbian propaganda has finally caught up with them & ain’t working anymore.


  16. Bob says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 10:31 (#)

    Croatians like Karlo just prove why Serbs now go on their own and why Croats specifically have a major complex issue towards Serbs.

    Croatians have committed the biggest ethnic cleansing in the Balkans in August of 1995 by expelling more then 250 thousand Serbs from Croatia within several days, with the fullest approval of the Croatian government. The Croatian fascists are still celebrated in Zagreb and elsewhere in Croatia (just go and google “Marko Thompson singer”) and see what comes out, the pure fascist propaganda and art created in Croatia.

    Serbs have no more desire to form any type of statehood with any of these treacherous nations. Serbs now go on their own.

  17. Peter says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 10:53 (#)

    Bob you are wrong. The offensive Blitz war a good thing. The serbs that fled the area in Croatia around Knin which is within (inside) the Croatia proper border self declared that area away from Croatia & made up their own police force, army, currency etc & did not recognize being part of Croatia. The Serbs in Knin were firing rockets into the Croatian capital Zagreb so Croatia had to respond swifly & professionaly. What a joke its like the Russians in London suddenly declared London and renamed it Londonosky & made up it’s borders, oposed the British government & then firing rockets on British civilians. The August blitz in 1995 in Croatia is named Oluja which ended the war in Croatia, B&H, basically stopped the war in ex-Yugo. Marko Perkovic Thompson has always said that he has no interest in fascism, the small group that attend his concerts are die hard communist, ones that want to push Croatia down or Serbs attending the concerts to give Croatia a bad name (Udbasi) serbo-yugoslav secret police & try tospread propaganda but it is not working anymore. The large necklace he wears is a Saint from Italy, St Benedict of Nursia & not a fascist symbol as indicated by alot of Serbs.

  18. Karlo says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 11:01 (#)

    Croatians and Serbs lived side-by-side in peace until 1918. Croatia took in thousands of Serbian refugees from the advancing Turks and supported Serbia’s bid for independence from the Ottoman Empire. It was only in 1918, when Serbia annexed Croatia as part of its newly expanded Kingdom that the hatred began.

    The myth of Yugoslavia was reborn on November 29, 1945 when the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia was born as “a community of peoples who had freely expressed their will to remain united within Yugoslavia” despite the fact that no vote was ever taken. In 1990 and 1991 the peoples of Yugoslavia for the first time were allowed to vote for myth or reality. The peoples of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Macedonia voted for reality in the form of freedom in a new Europe, an end to Communism and an end to multi-national empires. The peoples of Kosovo and Vojvodina, enslaved in their own homelands, were given no vote.

    On April 26, 1992 Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic proudly announced the formation of a new Federation of Yugoslavia consisting of Serbia, Montenegro and the previously autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo. Like the two Yugoslavias before it, this “state” was also a myth.

    On August 2, 1992 over two and one-half million Croatians, representing seventy-five per cent of the electorate, again went to the polls in elections closely monitored by international observers headed by Lord Finsberg of the Council of Europe. In first-time direct elections for the Presidency, Franjo Tudjman received fifty-seven percent of the vote in a race contested by eight major candidates. The second-place candidate received twenty-two per cent of the vote. The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) was returned to power in a Parliament reflecting a half-dozen political parties and all of Croatia’s major ethnic groups. Croatia chose democracy.

    Serbia chose Communism, expansion, war, and the continued myth of Yugoslavia. The Serbian leadership chose to launch an all- out war of aggression against her neighbors to force them to accept the Myth. When the entire free world finally recognized that Yugoslavia was indeed a myth, Serbia simply recreated it with the stroke of a pen backed by a few thousand tanks.

    Some myths do not die an easy death

  19. Karlo says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 11:02 (#)

    Croatia emerged as a unified nation state in 925 A.D., and, through a personal union under a single king, joined what would become the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the twelfth century. Throughout the history of the Empire, Croatia maintained varying degrees of autonomy with its Ban or Viceroy and Sabor or Parliament which first met in 679 A.D. Following World War I, Croatia was absorbed into the new artificial state that would become Yugoslavia. The first Yugoslavia, from 1918-1941 was little more than an extension of Serbia with a Serbian king, ruling from the Serbian capital of Belgrade with Serbian laws. This marked the first time in history that the Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Montenegrins and Macedonians had lived together in a single state. The history of royalist Yugoslavia was marked by the brutal suppression of Croatian political, human and civil rights. The Croatian nation rallied around the Croatian Peasant Party and Stjepan Radic, its elderly, nearly blind, pacifist leader. Radic, along with four other Croatian leaders, was gunned down by a Serbian Deputy on the floor of Parliament in 1928. King Alexander Karageorgevic followed this blow by declaring himself dictator and banning all political parties. Croatian Parliamentary Deputy Ante Pavelic then formed the Ustase or “Insurgent” Croatian Liberation Movement to gain Croatian independence by force. Alexander was assassinated in 1934 and was succeeded by his cousin Prince Regent Paul, an Oxford educated half-Russian who cared little about politics or Yugoslavia.

    World War II

    Between 1934 and 1941 Yugoslavia moved closer and closer to Hitler under the leadership of Milan Stojadinovic who formed his own storm troops and adopted the title Vodja or Fuhrer. Later Premier Dragisa Cvetkovic would lead Yugoslavia into the Axis fold with Mussolini and Hitler on March 24, 1941. Almost immediately a military coup was staged by two Serbian air force generals assisted by the British Special Operations Executive.

    Finding instability on his southern flank unacceptable on the eve of the invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler ordered the immediate conquest of Yugoslavia. The Serbian-dominated army surrendered without a fight. The Government and Serbian royal family fled to Britain with millions in gold and established the Yugoslav Government-in-Exile which laid the entire blame for the war and defeat on the Croatians.

    Pavelic’s Ustase immediately took control of Croatia including Bosnia and Hercegovina. The new Croatian state was divided into German and Italian occupation zones while Italy annexed large parts of Dalmatian Croatia outright. Croatia joined the Axis, sent troops to the Eastern front and enacted anti- Semitic and anti-Serbian legislation. Serbia became a Nazi puppet state under General Milan Nedic who intensified the persecution of Jews, Gypsies and Croatians that had begun under the royalist regime before the War. Tens of thousands perished in the multi-faceted war among Communist Partisans, German, Italian, Croatian, Serbian and even Russian Cossack forces. In the end, it would be the Communist-backed Partisan army led by a Croatian, Marshal Josip Broz Tito, with the backing of the Red Army which would emerge victorious.

    The Second Yugoslavia

    After World War II, Yugoslavia was reconstituted as a Communist federal republic with the promise of equality for all its nations and peoples. As in most Communist states, promises were not fulfilled. A ruthless secret police compounded by the economic and political exploitation of Croatia led hundreds of thousands of young Croatians to seek freedom and prosperity abroad. After the purge of secret police chief Aleksandar Rankovic in 1966, a new air of freedom developed in Croatia known as “The Croatian Spring”. Less known in the West than the “Prague Spring”, this great liberalization was crushed by the Communists in late 1971. One target of the new round of repression was a dissident former Partisan hero and Yugoslav Army general, Franjo Tudjman. The events of 1971 put into motion events twenty years later that would result in Croatian independence.

    The death of Tito in 1980 led to increased demands for democracy and a market-based economy as well as for greater autonomy by Croatia and Slovenia from the Serbian-controlled central government. As Western-oriented Slovenia and Croatia moved quickly toward democratic reform, Eastern-oriented Serbia struggled to maintain Communist authoritarianism and a centralized government. In 1990, Dr. Franjo Tudjman became the first freely elected President of Croatia in over half a century.

    Free and democratic elections in Croatia and Slovenia demonstrated a commitment to the democratic process, the protection of human rights, and the development of a free market economy in those Republics. Croatia immediately began negotiations in mid-1990 toward the formation of a loose confederation of nations that would have granted national autonomy while preserving Yugoslavia in some form.

    The Republic of Serbia refused all attempts at negotiation and engaged in massive human rights violations against the Albanian majority in the province of Kosovo, dismantling its Parliament and purging its government, media, and educational system of Muslims and non-Communists. The Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, remained committed to a single party, totalitarian regime in Serbia and throughout Yugoslavia.

    Spurred on by Milosevic, Serbs in Croatia launched a well- planned armed insurrection on August 17, 1990, attacking police stations and blockading the main highway south of the Croatian capital of Zagreb. When Croatian police attempted to stop the violence, the central government dispatched the Serbian-controlled air force and army to “restore order”. In 1991, after months of fruitless negotiations and increased violence by the Serbian minority in Croatia, fueled by the Serbian government and military, the Croatians voted for independence. On June 25, 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared themselves to be free and independent of Serbia and Yugoslavia.

    Independence and Aggression

    Under the pretense of protecting the Serbian minority in Croatia, a full-scale war was launched against Croatia by the Serbian-Yugoslav armed forces and Serbian militias. Croatia abided by over a dozen cease fires only to see the army regroup and attack again. By the end of 1991, over one-third of Croatia’s territory had been seized, the city of Vukovar and others totally destroyed and thousands of Croatians had been killed. In December 1991, the Serbian government openly admitted that it aimed to annex territory in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina in order to form a new “Greater Serbia”.

    On January 14, 1992 the European Community recognized the independence of Croatia and most of the world’s major powers followed suit. Notably, the United States government headed by George Bush held back on recognition of Croatia and Slovenia until after the United Nations peace-keeping forces had been moved into Croatia. Bush’s Deputy Secretary of State and chief advisor on what was Yugoslavia was Lawrence Eagleburger whom the press dubbed “Lawrence of Serbia”. Eagleburger had close personal and financial ties with the Communist leadership of Serbia as well as Yugoslav banks and arms industries. Despite Eagleburger’s friendship with Communist Serbia, even the United States was eventually forced to condemn Serbia’s expansionist aggression and recognize Croatia in April of 1992.

    On April 26, 1992, Serbia declared the birth of a new Federal Yugoslavia and became the last nation in Europe to remove the red star from its flag. The history of the three Yugoslavias has been filled with mythology, but no myth was greater than the myth that Yugoslavia ever really existed.

  20. Karlo says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 11:04 (#)

    Myth: The people of Croatia asked to join Serbia in forming Yugoslavia in 1918.

    Reality: The people of Croatia did not ask to join Serbia in 1918. The elected representatives of the Croatian people voted for a “Neutral and Peasant Republic of Croatia” in 1918.

    The Yugoslav Committee

    The basis of the myth that Croatia willingly joined Serbia in 1918 is to be found in the complex history of the Yugoslav Committee. The Yugoslav Committee was formed by exiles living outside the Croatian homeland during World War I. The Committee was led by Franjo Supilo and Ante Trumbic and included the famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic. Each repudiated the Committee within a few years of the founding of Yugoslavia. “Yugoslavs” were Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian people who identified themselves with the movement toward a single Yugoslav or South Slavic state. Exiled Yugoslavs living in North America and Britain were the primary supporters of the Yugoslav Committee. Having established offices in London and Paris as early as 1915, the Yugoslav Committee became an active lobby for the cause of a united South Slav state during the First World War.

    The concept of a unified South Slavic state had been discussed by Croatian and Slovenian intellectuals since the mid-nineteenth century. However, the “Yugoslav Idea” did not mature from the conceptual to practical state of planning. Few of those promoting such an entity had given any serious consideration to what form the new state should take. Nevertheless, the Yugoslav Committee issued a manifesto calling for the formation of such a South Slavic state on May 12, 1915. The document, like the rhetoric of those who produced it, was vague concerning the form and system of government. It received little official recognition.

    At the same time Serbia, led by Nikola Pasic’s pan-Serbian Radical Party, saw the “Yugoslav” concept as a useful tool in the long sought development of a “Greater Serbia.” As the War dragged on, the Allies began to think of the concept of Yugoslavia as a blocking force in the Balkans to counter future German expansionism. Although no formal agreement was announced until July 1917, the Yugoslav Committee and the Serbian Government-in-Exile worked hand-in-hand from November 1916 onward. On July 20, 1917 the Serbian government and the Yugoslav Committee issued the text of an agreement known as the Declaration of Corfu which called for the formation of a multi-national state. The document was deliberately mute as to whether the government would take the form of Western-oriented Croatia or of the Eastern-oriented Serbia. The vast majority of the Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian people had no knowledge of the declaration made by a small group of exiled intellectuals and the Serbian Government-in-Exile. Nonetheless, the signers claimed to speak for all South Slavic peoples and the Declaration of Corfu became the justification claimed by Serbia for the forced unification of Croatians and Slovenes under the Serbian crown.

    The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes

    As the War drew to a close, the Austro-Hungarian Empire began to disintegrate. The Croatian Sabor or Parliament met in Zagreb on October 29, 1918 to declare “the Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia” to be a free and independent state. The Habsburg Crown recognized Croatia and transferred the Austro-Hungarian fleet to the Croatian government on October 31st. The Croatian government in Zagreb was fully formed before the fall of Austria on November 3, Germany on November 11, and Hungary on November 13. The Yugoslav National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs was organized in Zagreb on October 15, 1918. This twenty-eight member Council was self-appointed, not elected. Although its president was a Slovene, the Council was dominated by Svetozar Pribicevic, a Serb. On November 24th this self-appointed group called for a common state with Serbia. This is the body so often cited as having “asked” to join Yugoslavia.

    The mythology overlooks another Congress held just blocks away on the very next day. This was the Congress of Stjepan Radic’s Croatian Peasant Party attended by almost three thousand elected delegates from every part of Croatia. The Peasant Party was the largest and most popular party in Croatia at that time and would remain so during the period between the Wars. It won absolute majorities in every subsequent election. This Congress assailed the National Council as arbitrary and unconstitutional and unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a “Neutral and Peasant Republic of Croatia.” Following this Congress, there were huge demonstrations in the streets of Zagreb supporting independence.

    Zagreb’s brief jubilation quickly changed to the sober realization that Croatia would again be ruled from a foreign capital as Italian, French and French African forces invaded from the west and Serbian troops invaded from the east.

    On December 1, 1918, Serbian Prince Alexander announced the formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, with a Serbian King ruling from the Serbian capital of Belgrade. Despite the neutral sounding name, the country was called Yugoslavia by the diplomatic community almost from the beginning. Ironically, at the Paris Peace Conference the Yugoslav delegation openly insisted that it be known as the “Serbian Delegation.”

    The Paris Peace Conference

    At the Peace Conference itself, the Croatians submitted a petition to President Wilson calling for an independent Croatia. With over 150,000 signatures and the notation that another 450,000 signatures had been seized by the Serbian Army, the document specifically asked:

    That Mr. Wilson and the representatives of the great Powers should recognize the independence of the Croatian people;
    That an international Commission should be sent to Croatia to inquire;

    That a Constituent Assembly should be formed so that the Croatian people be free to decide their fate;

    That the Serbian Army be withdrawn;

    That the Sabor, should be respected as being alone authorized to the making of laws in Croatia; today, they are being dictated by Serbia and executed in the most brutal manner by the military.

    Although submitted to the Paris Peace Conference on May 4th, 1919, the objections of the Croatian people were noted and then ignored by the United States and other so-called “Great Powers.” President Wilson’s famed Fourteen Points for which America had fought a World War were undergoing a metamorphosis at the Conference. Point X originally called for “…the freest opportunity of autonomous development” for the nations of Austria-Hungary and Point XI stipulated that “relations of the several Balkan states to one another be determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and for international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states.”

    The American delegation’s commentary on the revision of Wilson’s famous Fourteen Points noted that:

    An internal problem arises out of the refusal of the Croats to accept the domination of the Serbs of the Serbian Kingdom.
    In a classic example of diplomatic double-speak the delegation wrote:

    The United States is clearly committed to the programme of national unity and independence. It must stipulate, however, for the protection of national minorities…it supports a programme aiming at a Confederation of Southeastern Europe.
    Thus, in the eyes of the victorious Allies, in order to protect the Croatian nation, it was necessary to destroy it. There was no vote of the Croatian people about their future. By decree, Prince Alexander dissolved the Croatian National Council, convened a Parliament composed primarily of members of the Serbian Skupstina or Parliament and declared that all laws of the Serbian Constitution of 1903 were in effect throughout the land. Despite the fact that the purpose of the new Yugoslavia was supposed to be the unification of all South Slavs into one state, Serbia, making good on a secret pact with Italy made in 1915, handed over a large part of the land and population of Croatian Dalmatia to Italy, including the strategic cities of Rijeka and Zadar. For the first time in thirteen centuries the ancient Croatian institutions of Ban or Viceroy and Sabor or Parliament were abolished by the Serbian King. The long process of “Serbization” had begun.

  21. Karlo says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 11:05 (#)

    Myth: The government of the Republic of Croatia denied basic civil, cultural and linguistic rights to the Serbian minority in Croatia.

    Reality: On the very day it declared independence Croatia granted extraordinary rights and privileges to Serbs and other minorities in Croatia.

    It became apparent throughout the world that Serbia was the aggressor in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina during the break-up of Yugoslavia. Its clear aim was the preservation of a Greater Serbian state while retaining the name Yugoslavia against the expressed will of the majority of the people. However, Serbia’s aims were not so clear to many in the West during the terrible days of aggression in the Fall of 1991 and Spring of 1992. A full-scale Serbian propaganda campaign repeated time and time again that the War was to “protect the Serbian minority in Croatia” despite the fact that the Serbs had lived peacefully with the Croatians for nearly a half-century. To reinforce their case, Serbia let it be known to the world that the new Croatian government had made no provision for the rights of Serbs in Croatia. The Western media, unable or unwilling to read the documents provided to them by the Croatian government in English, accepted mythology as fact and in many cases continued to repeat it well into 1992. “The Croatians wrote a new constitution, giving no special rights to Croatia’s Serbs…” wrote the Christian Science Monitor on September 19, 1991.

    Croatian Declaration of Independence, June 25, 1991

    In reality, with the very first document to emerge from the new Croatian Republic, its Declaration of Independence on June 25, 1991, the Croatian government guaranteed not only civil rights, but unique rights to the Serbian minority. The first two articles of the Declaration established the rights of Croatia to declare independence and to defend its territorial integrity. Article III of the Declaration stated:

    The Republic of Croatia is a democratic, legal and social state in which prevails the supreme values of constitutional order: freedom, equality, ethnic equality, peace, social justice, respect for human rights, pluralism and the inviolability of personal property, environmental protection, the rule of law, and a multi-party system.
    The Republic of Croatia guarantees Serbs in Croatia and all national minorities who live in this territory the respect of all human and civil rights, especially the freedom to nurture their national language and culture as well as political organizations.

    The Republic of Croatia protects the rights and interests of its citizens without regard to their religious, ethnic or racial belonging. In accordance with customary and positive international law, the Republic of Croatia guarantees other states and international bodies that it will completely and consciously uphold all its rights and duties as a legal successor to the previous Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the extent that they relate to the Republic of Croatia.

    In order to avoid bloodshed and insure a peaceful transition, the Croatian Declaration concluded:
    The Republic of Croatia calls upon the other republics of the former SFRY to create an alliance of sovereign states on the presumptions of mutual recognition of state sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual respect, recognition of political pluralism and democracy, pluralism of ownership and market economy, and the actual respect of human rights, rights for ethnic minorities and other civilized values of the free world.
    Serbia met this call for peaceful dialogue with the bloodiest warfare Europe had seen since World War II, slaughtering over ten thousand people, exiling hundreds of thousands and crushing the human rights of non-Serbs in every corner of former Yugoslavia.

    Charter Relating to the Rights of Serbs and Others

    In order to dispel any doubts about the Croatian government’s commitment to human rights and exceptional rights for the Serbian minority, the Croatian Parliament in its first session as an independent state, adopted The Charter Relating to the Rights of Serbs and Other Nationalities in the Republic of Croatia on June 25, 1991:

    A just solution relating to the issue of Serbs and other nationalities in the Republic of Croatia is one of the important factors to democracy, stability, peace and economic advancement, and to cooperation with other countries.

    The protection and full realization of rights for all nationalities in the Republic of Croatia, as well as the protection of individual rights is a composite part of international protection of human and civil rights and the protection of nationalities and as such they belong to the area of international cooperation.

    The rights of nationalities and international cooperation will not allow any activity which is opposed to the regulations of international law, especially sovereignty, territorial integrity and the political independence of the Republic of Croatia as a united and indivisible democratic and social state.

    All nationalities in Croatia are legally protected from such activities that would threaten their existence. They have the right to respect and to self preservation of their cultural autonomy.

    Serbs in Croatia and all nationalities have the right to proportionally engage in bodies of local self-government and appropriate government bodies, as well as security for economic and social development for the purpose of preserving their identity and for the protection of any attempts of assimilation, which will be regulated by law, territorial organization, local self-government as well as institutionalizing parliamentary bodies which will be responsible for relations between nationalities.

    Organizations which will adhere to the aims of its constitution and which are involved in protecting and developing individual nationalities, and as such are representative of the said nationality, have the right to represent the nationality as a whole and each individual belonging to that nationality, within the Republic as well as on an international level. Individual nationalities and members have the right, in order to protect their rights, to tum to international institutions which are involved in the protection of human and national rights.

    The commitments of the Croatian government to human rights surpassed those of the United States Declaration of Independence which referred to native Americans as “merciless Indian savages,” or the U.S. Constitution which specifically defined an African-American as three-fifths of a person. The Croatian Parliament further strengthened the law on December 4, 1991 by specifically granting local police, courts and governments to Serbs in those areas in which they were a majority. These documents grant Serbs and other national minorities full protection of human rights, guaranteed proportional representation in government, the right to self-government, and protection from any attempts of forced assimilation. It further encouraged individuals and organizations to appeal to international bodies to secure these protections. Ironically, Serbs in Croatia have never needed these provisions. It was the Croatians, Bosnians and Kosova’ s Albanian majority who would appeal to the European Community, the United Nations, the International League for Human Rights, Helsinki Watch, Amnesty International and other international bodies for protection from the Serbian minority and the Serbian controlled Army

  22. Karlo says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 11:06 (#)

    Myth: Between 500,000 and 2,000,000 Serbs were murdered by the Croatian government during World War II.

    Reality: The exact number of war victims in Yugoslavia during World War II may never be known due to fifty years of intentional disinformation by the Yugoslavian and Serbian governments, Serbian exile groups, and others. However, it is likely that approximately one million people of all nationalities died of war-related causes in all of Yugoslavia during World War II and that as many as 125,000 Serbs died of war-related causes in Croatia during the War.

    The question of war losses during World War II represents the most divisive, heated and emotional issue among all of the nationalities of the former Yugoslavia during the post-War period. The bloody multi-sided War in Yugoslavia involved the German, Italian, Ustashe, Partisan, Domobran, White Guard, Slovenian Guard and at least four different; Cetnik armies. The multifaceted war pitted Serbs against Serbs, Croatians against Croatians, Serbs against Croatians, and Serbian Orthodox against Catholics and Muslims. The loss of life was heavy and difficult to document. As the war progressed and even long after the war ended, the mythology of the numbers of victims continued to grow.

    The Growing Numbers

    On the question of the number of Serbs killed in Croatia, it became possible to simply pick a number and virtually any press medium in the world would publish the figure without question. In one sixty day period in late 1991, David Martin put the number at 500,000 in the New York Times; Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic at 750,000 in USA Today; Josif Djordjevich at 1,200,000 in the San Francisco Chronicle; Teddy Preuss at 1,500,000 in the Jerusalem Post; and, setting an all-time record, Peter Jennings’ ABC News program set the figure at a record 2,000,000. Further, each of the sources added a separate twist to the number. For some, the number represented total “killed,” for others “murdered,” others “murdered in concentration camps,” and still others did not define how the losses occurred. None listed any source for the figures. To illustrate the magnitude of these charges, it would require killing one person every 90 seconds, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the entire duration of the War to reach Mr. Preuss’ figure of 1,500,000. The fact is one million people did not die in Croatia from all causes during the War. Many scholars doubt that there were a million lives lost to war-related causes in all of Yugoslavia during World War II.

    Yet this mythology runs deeper than virtually any other. As early as April 1942 the Serbian Orthodox Church in America, based upon Mihailovic’s reports, claimed that over one million Serbs had already been killed in Croatia. As the war progressed, the numbers continued to grow in the Serbian press until actually exceeding the number of Serbs in Croatia. It must be noted that no Croatian troops set foot in Serbia during World War II. Thus all accounting of Serbian losses must be for those living in Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovnia.

    Post-War Accountability

    After World War II, the Communist Yugoslav government set the total demographic losses for all of Yugoslavia from all causes at 1,700,000. The figure was never verified and was contradicted by demographic data comparisons between the Yugoslav census of 1931 and 1948. Nevertheless, this figure, which included natural mortality and decreased birth rate, was presented to the West German government for war reparations. At the same time, the Belgrade media began circulation of the figure 750,000 Jews, Gypsies and Serbs killed in Croatia during the War. By 1958 the number 750,000 was used to describe losses at a single camp, Jasenovac. Such high numbers were used not only to gain additional war reparations from Germany, but also to legitimize the Communist governments’ role in saving the peoples of Yugoslavia from the horrors of nationalism. Germany refused to accept the 1.7 million figure and demanded documentation. On June 10, 1964 the Yugoslav government secretly ordered that the exact statistics regarding war victims be assembled. The task was completed in the Socialist Republic of Croatia by the Center for the Scientific Documentation of the Institute for the History of the Worker’s Movement in Zagreb. By early November, the data had been collected and were sent to the Federal Institute for Statistics in Belgrade. When the data were tabulated, excluding Axis forces, the actual figure was 597,323 deaths for all of Yugoslavia. Of these, 346,740 were Serbians and 83,257 were Croatians for all of Yugoslavia. These figures excluded the deaths of any person who died fighting for the Cetniks, Ustase, regular Croatian Army, Slovenian Home Guards or serving in the German or Italian Armies. The government returned the data for re-tabulation and the figures were confirmed and provided to Germany.

    The Data Made Public

    In July of 1969, Bruno Busic, an associate at the Center for Scientific Documentation, published data from the 1964 study showing that 185,327 people were thought to have died of all causes in Croatia during the War and that 64,245 may have died in German or Croatian prisons or concentration camps. In September of that year the magazine that published the data was banned and Busic was arrested in 1971. After serving two years in prison he escaped to Paris where he wrote several monographs on political prisoners in Croatia. He was murdered in Paris in October 1978 by the Yugoslav Secret Police. In 1985, the Serbian scholar Bogoljub Kocovic published a major scholarly research work which put the figure for total demographic losses in all of Yugoslavia at 1,985,000 of which 971,000 were war-related. Of these 487,000 were Serbs killed anywhere in Yugoslavia by any side including Germans, Italians, Croatians, Albanians, Hungarians, Soviets, American bombing or by other Serbs. Kocovic concluded that some 125,000 Serbs and 124,000 Croatians died in Croatia during World War II. Kocovic also noted what many previous demographers had ignored. The first post-war census was taken in 1948 and “it is fully justified to take into account these post-war victims of communist terror,” in reference to the thousands of Croatians slaughtered in late 1945 and 1946 in what have come to be called the Bleiburg Massacres. In 1989 The Yugoslav Victimological Society and the Zagreb Jewish Community published what is now considered the definitive work by Vladimir Zerjavic which set total war losses at 1,027,000 of which 530,000 were Serbs and 192,000 Croatians. 131,000 Serbs and 106,000 Croatians were listed as having died of all war-related causes in Croatia.

    The Myth Grows On

    Regardless of which scholarly study is consulted, no study has ever reached the figures so casually thrown about in the media. And despite all scholarly evidence to the contrary, in 1992 the Serbian Ministry of Information in Belgrade continued to claim that 600,000 Serbs were killed and the President of Serbia claimed 750,000 were killed by the Croatians during World War II. The Western media, unfettered by any need for factual documentation not only published these numbers, but, as in the case of ABC News, increased them by over one million victims. The Serbian scholar Bogoljub Kocovic best summarized the dilemma of those who would dare to seek the truth in this complex and volatile history:

    Very soon it dawned upon me that the major obstacle to my work would be the myths created over four decades about the number of victims, myths by now deeply implanted in the soul of the people of all religions, political beliefs and nationality; myths which, by repetition became a ‘reality’. There will be many who will reject my study because it does not conform to their beliefs…Many of them are looking for spiritual food to ignite their hatred of the Croats.

  23. Karlo says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 11:07 (#)

    Myth: Because Tito was a Croatian, no retribution was taken against Croatian officials, soldiers or civilians after World War II by the victorious Partisans.

    Reality: Thousands of Croatians were slaughtered immediately after the War, tens of thousands more were sent to prisons, government officials were executed and those who escaped were tracked down and murdered in foreign lands well into the 1960s.

    That there was no retribution against the Croatians after World War II is not so much a myth as an outright attempt to falsify history. As is the case with several other myths, the Serbian apologists Nora Beloff and David Martin gave new currency to this story in the world press during the Croatian war for independence.


    The post-war massacres of Croatians are almost unknown outside the Croatian community. To Croatians, the single word “Bleiburg” summarizes the pain endured by an entire nation. The Bleiburg-Maribor massacres have been documented in such works as Operation Slaughterhouse by John Prcela and Stanko Guldescu, In Tito’s Death Marches and Extermination Camps by Joseph Hecimovic, Operation Keelhaul by Julius Epstein, Bleiburg by Vinko Nikolic, and perhaps best known, The Minister and the Massacres by Count Nikolai Tolstoy. That these massacres occurred is irrefutable. Only the number of deaths and the depth of American and British duplicity are in question. The story of Bleiburg began in early 1945 as it became clear that Germany would lose the War. As the German Army retreated toward the Austrian border, the Red Army advanced and the Partisans began their consolidation of power, anarchy prevailed in what was Yugoslavia. A dozen or more nationalist movements and ethnic militias attempted to salvage various parts of Yugoslavia. Most nationalists, Croatian, Slovenian and Serbian alike, were anti-Communist and all had visions of the Western Allies welcoming them into the coming battle against Communism. Croatians especially cherished the totally unsupported notion that Anglo-American intervention would save an independent Croatian state. As in every other part of eastern Europe, armies, governments and civilian populations began moving toward the Western lines. Some were pushed before the retreating Germans, others followed in their wake. Many traveled in small bands, armed or unarmed, while others were well organized into mass movements of people and equipment. Along the trek north they fought the Partisans and each other. Many surrendered, others fought to the death.

    Retreat from Zagreb

    The retreating Germans, usually without bothering to inform their erstwhile allies, took with them much of the material support for the Croatian armed forces. Despite conditions, several Croatian generals wanted to defend the city of Zagreb from the Partisan advance and fight to the finish if necessary. The Partisans made it clear that the city, swollen to twice its size with refugees, would be destroyed if they met resistance. A final meeting of the Croatian government was held on April 30, 1945 at which the decision was made to abandon Zagreb and retreat into Austria.

    Still quite naive concerning Allied intentions, many Croatian officers hoped that the still sizable Croatian Army would be allowed to surrender to the British to fight again against the Russians. Since both Croatia and Britain were signatories to the Geneva Conventions, it was felt that at worst the Croatians would be treated as prisoners of war.

    The exodus from Zagreb began on May 1st. Some 200,000 civilians were flanked by 200,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Croatian armed for~es. The Archbishop-Metropolitan Aloysius Stepinac took charge of the government for the few hours between the departure of Croatian officials and the arrival of the Partisan Liberation Army. State Minister Vrancic was dispatched to Italy as a peace emissary to the Allies and several high-ranking English speaking officers headed the main column toward Austria. The retreat was well ordered and the protecting flank armies insured that all of the civilians arrived safely at the Austrian border by May 7. A number of military units remained behind to fight delaying actions as late as May 12. Still other units, known as “Crusaders” fled into the hills and fought sporadic guerilla actions until 1948. The huge column, numbering perhaps as many as one-half million soldiers and civilians, including Slovenes, Serbs and even Cetnik units, finally came to rest in a small valley near the Austrian village of Bleiburg.

    The leaders had no way of knowing that their peace emissary, Dr. Vrancic had traveled as far as Forli, Italy by plane and car under a white flag only to be stopped short of his goal. At Forli, Vrancic and Naval Captain Vrkljan, who spoke fluent English, were detained by one Captain Douglas of British Field Security who was more interested in their diplomatic grade Mercedes-Benz automobile than their mission to see Field Marshal Alexander in Caserta. He held the emissaries incommunicado until May 20 when he had them thrown into a POW camp and confiscated the automobile.

    Deception and Betrayal

    In the belief that their envoys had made some arrangement with the British, the multitude of humanity set up camp in the valley to await the outcome of negotiations. One of the first groups to arrive at British headquarters was a contingent of 130 members of the Croatian government headed by President Nikola Mandic. All were told that they would be transferred to Italy as soon as possible by British Military Police. All were then loaded into a train and returned to the Partisans for execution. It was the intent of the British to turn over all Croatians, as well as Serbs and Slovenes, to the Communists from whom they had fled.

    When the Croatian military leaders realized that they had led hundreds of thousands into a trap, many committed suicide on the spot. The British extradited at first hundreds, then thousands of Croatians. Some were shot at the border, while others joined the infamous “Death Marches” which took them deeper into the new People’s Republic for liquidation. Realizing the importance of the clergy to the Croatian people, most church leaders were arrested. Although Archbishop Stepinac was sentenced to death, he was saved by a massive outcry of world public opinion and died under house arrest in 1960. Two bishops, three hundred priests, twenty-nine seminarians and four lay brothers were less fortunate and were executed. The number of Muslim religious leaders executed has never been determined, although the figure is thought to be in excess of six hundred. Churches and mosques were closed or destroyed throughout Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. The new government dynamited the minarets around the mosque of Zagreb, turned the building into a museum glorifying the Partisan victory and renamed the square in which it stood “Victims of Fascism Square.” One of the first acts of the Croatian government in 1991 was to rename the plaza.Almost every government official from the President to local postmasters, every military officer above the rank of major and virtually every Ustasse officer, regardless of rank, was found guilty of “crimes against the people.” Many were executed. Enlisted members of the Ustase were often found guilty en masse and sent to concentration camps where many died. All top ranking members of the government were executed. Chief-of-state Ante Pavelic managed to flee only to be gunned down by a would-be assassin in 1957. He later died of complications.

    Denial and Discovery

    The total number of people liquidated may never be known, but figures of 100 to 180 thousand have been voiced by some, up to one-quarter of a million by others. Despite the scholarship and masses of documents proving the contrary, the Yugoslav government denied that the Bleiburg-Maribor massacres or any subsequent liquidation of anti-Communists occurred. As late as 1976 special teams were active in Slovenia and southern Austria covering up evidence of the crimes. The American and British governments, implicated in the forced repatriation that led to the slaughter also sought to cover-up or at least ignore the crimes.

    Finally, in July of 1990 with the departure of the Communist regime, the truth began to come to light. In underground caverns in Slovenia and northern Croatia, researchers using spelunker’s equipment descended into the mass graves long before sealed by the authorities. They found layer upon layer of human bones, crutches, rope and wire. Many of the skulls had a single bullet hole in the back. Estimates ranged from 5,000 victims in one cave to as many as 40,000 in another. When news was made public, people from throughout Croatia and Slovenia reported other mass grave sites that had been known to them for years. For obvious reasons none had ever spoken publicly of them before.

    In 1990 the Croatian Parliament formed a commission which included foreign experts to determine, for the first time, the full extent of the post-war massacres. Determining how many perished will be a difficult undertaking that will require years of grizzly exploration and detailed research. Whatever the final result, it will never again be said that Croatia did not suffer in post-war Yugoslavia.

  24. Karlo says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 11:08 (#)

    MYTH: The Serbian-Croatian border was drawn up secretly by Tito, a Croatian, in 1943 benefiting Croatia at the expense of Serbia.

    REALITY: Croatia’s border with Serbia is essentially the same as in 1848 and 1918 with the exception of those lands taken from Croatia and given to Serbia and Montenegro under both Yugoslav regimes.

    This mythology is a recent creation of the Serbian government and has been given wide circulation by Serbian apologists Nora Beloff and David Martin. The purpose of the myth is to stress to the world that the borders of the former Yugoslav republics are simply administrative boundaries with no historical significance. Once this myth is taken as fact the argument follows that such meaningless borders are subject to negotiation and change, in favor of Serbia.

    The reality is that Croatia today has roughly the same borders as in 1848. Serbia has increased its borders after every one of its many wars since 1813. Today Serbia controls more territory than it has in its entire history. In the north it has annexed the lands of the Hungarians and Croatians. In the south two hundred thousand Serbs rule over two million ethnic Albanians in the absolute police state of Kosova. Montenegro has become nothing more than a Serbian province.

    The myth that Serbian lands are held by Croatia was used by the Serbian government to launch a war of aggression to seize valuable gas and oil fields, rail and shipping corridors and port facilities. Eastern Slavonia, where Serbian aggression resulted in the total devastation of the ancient city of Vukovar, had a Serbian population of 16.4% according to 1991 census. Dubrovnik, which underwent months of siege by Serbian forces, had a Serbian population of only 6.2% in 1991. Neither region has ever been a part of Serbia.


    The borders of Croatia have changed over the past thousand years reflecting the ebbs and flows of the great empires around her. When King Tomislav united Pannonian and Dalmatian Croatia in 925, the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus recorded that Croatia covered some 100,000 square kilometers (38,600 square miles), had a population in excess of two million and fielded 60,000 horsemen, 100,000 foot soldiers, 80 galleys and one hundred cutters, a formidable state for tenth century Europe.

    Serbians at the time were under the control of Bulgar or Byzantine rulers and did not organize their first state until 1170. Serbia reached its zenith under Czar Stephen Dusan who died in 1355. His death was followed by civil war among Serbian nobles which led to a Turkish invasion. The Serbs suffered a stunning defeat at the battle of Kosova in 1389 and another at Smederevo in 1459. Serbia remained only as an Ottoman vassal state well into the nineteenth century when it was fully reestablished as an independent state by the Treaty of Berlin in 1878.

    The expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century also had tremendous effect on the size and character of Croatia. The Croatian lands of Bosnia and Hercegovina were absorbed by the Ottomans in 1463 and 1482, reducing Croatia to a 16,000 square mile crescent protecting Europe from the Turks. In 1699 the Habsburgs recovered all of Croatia and Slavonia and settled Germans and a large number of fleeing Serbs into Slavonia and Vojvodina. Upon the defeat of Napolean, the Congress of Vienna incorporated Illyria into Austria. Although parts of Croatia were governed by different branches of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the eastern borders of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina were well established by 1848. In the west, Istria, the city of Zadar and several Dalmatian islands would remain under Italian control until 1943.


    Even when still an Ottoman principality, Serbia gained territory in 1833 and 1878, bringing its size to some 18,500 square miles. The newly established Serbian state began almost immediately to covet its neighbors lands and developed the official slogan “Serbia must expand or die!” Serbian expansionism was first directed toward the south into Macedonia and west toward the Adriatic through Bosnia and Hercegovina. In order to thwart Serbia’s westward expansion, the Austrian protectorate of Bosnia-Hercegovina was annexed to the Empire in October 1908. As various European powers took sides supporting Austria-Hungary or Serbia in diplomatic and military alliances, the groundwork was laid for confrontation and the outbreak of the First World War. Deprived of Bosnia, Serbia turned to Macedonia, then a part of the Ottoman Empire. The Balkan War of 1912 freed Macedonia from Turkey but led to a dispute over the spoils between the victors Bulgaria and Serbia. Aided by Greece and Romania, Serbia defeated Bulgaria and took the lion’s share of Macedonia and all of Kosova. Only the establishment of a new Albanian state prevented Serbia from reaching the Adriatic.


    When the Croatians elected a Habsburg as their king in 1527, they did so with the understanding that the crown would respect the rights, laws and customs of the Croatian Kingdom. While this principle was often violated by Hungary and Austria, Croatia maintained a great deal of autonomy and its ancient Sabor or Parliament and Ban or Viceroy. By 1914 the Croatians were on the verge of restoring their full political rights within the Empire.

    The heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand, was a liberal thinker who envisioned a new Empire based upon greater recognition of the Kingdom of Croatia. The Prince envisaged replacing the “Dualism” of Austria-Hungary with the “Trialism” of Austria-Hungary-Croatia or even a federal system based upon the American or Swiss model under a single benevolent Emperor. The thought of such a Croatian state, perhaps encompassing Bosnia-Hercegovina, presented a major threat to Serbia’s dream of westward expansion and a “Greater Serbia.” On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Serbian terrorist group “Black Hand” assassinated Arch-duke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo. Princip was one of seven assassins sent by Colonel Dragutin “Apis” Dimitrijevic, Chief of Serbian Intelligence. Within weeks the world was at war.


    Serbia made no secret of its ambitions in the War. As early as September 4, 1914 the Serbian government circulated a letter to all of its diplomatic missions calling the war an opportunity to create “a strong southwest-Slav state (to) be created out of Serbia, in which all Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes would be included.” Serbia was more than willing to bargain away Croatian lands to Italy in a secret annex to the Treaty of London in 1915 in order to fulfill the dream of a Greater Serbia. Making use of the well intended but unelected Yugoslav Committee, Serbia with the backing of the victorious Allies, annexed Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Slovenia and Montenegro in 1918 into the new Kindgom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

    The borders of the Triune Kindgom of Croatia-Slavonia-Dalmatia and those of Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1918 were roughly those that had been in place since 1848. In the north Croatia gained two small territories from Hungary, Medjimurje and Baranja, but lost several coastal islands to Italy in negotiations between 1918 and 1920.

    When King Alexander declared himself absolute dictator and changed the name of the country to Yugoslavia in 1929 he abolished the traditional borders and reorganized the country into nine banovinas and the prefecture of Belgrade. Croatia was divided into the 15,649 square mile Banovina of Savska, primarily Croatia proper and Slavonia, and the 7,587 square mile Banovina of Primorska, primarily Dalmatia. While some traditionally Bosnian territory was added to Primorska Banovina, the oil and mineral rich region of Srijem, Croatian since 1718, went to the Serbian Banovina of Dunavska.


    From 1918 through 1938, Yugoslavia had thirty-five governments with a total of 656 ministers. Only twenty-six had been Croatians. The top-heavy Army had 161 generals. One, in charge of supply, was a Croatian. In the elections of December 1938 the Croatian Peasant Party and its leader Vlatko Macek were defeated by a very close count of 1,364,524 to 1,643,783 for the royalist government. Given the fraud and terrorism common to all Yugoslav elections, it was obvious that the Peasant Party had won a stunning victory. Even government figures confirmed that over 650,000 Serbs had voted for Macek. Despite this the Stojadinovic government refused to recognize the results or form a coalition government.

    Faced with the threat of armed rebellion, Prince Paul sacked Stojadinovic and replaced him with Dragisa Cvetkovic, a former mayor of Nis and a person open to negotiation concerning the “Croatian Question.” The result was a Sporazum or Agreement of August 26, 1939 which formed the semi-autonomous Banovina of Croatia covering 38,600 square miles with a population of almost four and one-half million, 80 per cent of whom were Croatian. The new Croatian Banovina was connected to Yugoslavia only in matters of defense, foreign relations and a common postal system. Its borders included all of the two previous Banovinas, portions of western Bosnia and parts of western Hercegovina. Eastern Srijem and the strategic bay of Kotor with the southernmost tip of Dalmatia remained in Serbian hands.


    The formation of the Banovina of Croatia was a gesture that could have saved Yugoslavia in 1918, but coming only a week before the outbreak of World War II, it was simply too little, much too late. When Yugoslavia disintegrated at the first sign of German troops, a new Independent State of Croatia, known by its Croatian initials NDH, was founded on April 10, 1941. Its borders, which incorporated Bosnia-Hercegovina, were finalized by the Treaty of Rome on May 18. While Germany was willing to recognize the pre-1918 borders of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina in the new state, Italy demanded and received most of the Dalmatian coast and set up an occupation zone comprising almost one third of the country. The NDH covered some 46,300 square miles with a population of 6,750,000. Internally the state was divided into 23 prefects or velike zupe which were further divided into 142 districts and cities. Although Italian Dalmatia technically reverted back to the NDH upon the fall of Italy in 1943, much of the region was in Partisan control for the remainder of the War.


    Tens of thousands of Croatians fought and died in the 39 Croatian partisan brigades that began the Liberation War under Josip Tito on June 22, 1941. The Partisans promised a new Croatian Republic, with full rights and autonomy, within a new federated Yugoslavia.

    After the partisan victory, a commission was established to set the borders of the new Yugoslav state. That commission was headed by Milovan Djilas, a Serb from Montenegro, and included ministers from Serbia, Croatia and Vojvodina. In the west, Croatia regained all of Italian Dalmatia, including Zadar and Istria. After years of negotiations the border was finalized in 1954 with Croatia gaining most of Istria, the city of Zadar and those islands occupied by Italy between the World Wars. In the south, the commission gave Montenegro access to the sea by removing the port of Kotor and the surrounding districts from Croatia. In the north Croatia’s border returned to its pre-war configuration with the inclusion of Medjimurje and Baranja which had been Hungarian prior to 1918 and which had been seized by Hungary during World War II.

    The borders of the Banovina of Croatia included a great deal of territory traditionally part of Bosnia-Hercegovina, including the cities of Travnik and Mostar. In 1945 the border was returned to 1918 boundaries with minor adjustments in the Bihac area where a number of Croatian villages were given to Bosnia-Hercegovina. But it was on the border with Serbia that Croatia would take its greatest territorial loss in 1945. The oil and mineral rich eastern Srijem region with the city of Zemun, Croatian territory since 1718, but partitioned by Alexander in 1929, was joined to Serbian Vojvodina.


    The Croatian people again declared themselves to be free and independent on June 25, 1991. One year later, virtually the entire world had recognized Croatia within the borders designated in 1945. The overwhelming majority of Croatia’s twelve hundred mile border is based upon ancient boundaries that Croatia brought with her into Yugoslavia in 1918. In those areas where the borders were changed, Serbia gained and Croatia lost. Despite this basic reality, the Republic of Croatia has made no territorial claims against any other nation; nor has Slovenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina or Macedonia. Serbia and Serbia alone since 1813 has constantly expanded in pursuit of the dream of a Greater Serbia stretching from Bulgaria to the Adriatic Sea. It is a dream that has cost the lives of millions over the past century and one-half and brought the worst fighting to Europe since World War II. How many more will die for Serbia’s dreams of empire remains to be seen.

  25. Sam says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 11:11 (#)

    It is often said that truth is the first casualty in war. In June of 1991 war broke out in Europe for the first time since World War II as Serbia attacked Slovenia and Croatia. At the same time another war, a war of propaganda and mythology was launched in the world press. Identical stories surfaced with identical words in different publications and written by different journalists throughout the war. The attack was two- pronged. One goal was to tar the fledgling Croatian government with the brush of Fascism, despite the fact that the President of Croatia was a Partisan war hero who fought against Fascism during World War II.

    Another purpose was to mask the reasons for Serbian aggression and to blur the realities of a war prosecuted solely to gain territory and to maintain centralized Communism in what was Yugoslavia. At first the disinformation was limited to the writings of avowed leftists such as Alexander Cockburn and Serbian apologists like Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley, David Martin and Nora Beloff. As the war dragged on from weeks to months, the words and phrases of Serbian mythology appeared over and over again in an ever widening circle that would eventually include the editorial pages of such highly respected journals as the Christian Science Monitor and New York Times. Yet few of the charges and allegations of the campaign were new. The history of Serbian disinformation can be traced to the origins of Yugoslavia in 1918. The Communist Party controlled Tanjug news agency and Television Belgrade continued the battle that was lost in the diplomatic community as one nation after another recognized a free and independent Croatia.

    On November 20, 1991 headlines around the world screamed “Croatian Militias Slit Throats of 41 Children”. Reuters news agency reported: The children, between 5 and 7 years old, reportedly were found with their throats cut in the cellar of the kindergarten in Borovo Naselje after Croatian forces abandoned it during the weekend”. The children were, according to the report, all Serbs.

    This story demonstrates mythology in the making. It was carried on every electronic network and in newspapers throughout the world without any form of confirmation. That the village in question had been under siege for months, that all children had been evacuated months before, and that obviously no kindergarten classes had been held anywhere in the war zone for some time did not seem to catch the attention of a single editor. The following day some papers ran the Reuters retraction in small print after the twenty-two year Serbian photographer, Goran Mikic, admitted that he had fabricated the story. In Belgrade, the press never printed the retraction and in fact later cited the non-incident in its news coverage as a part of its propaganda campaign against Croatia.

    Propaganda is defined as information and opinions, especially prejudiced ones, spread to influence people in favor of or against some doctrine or idea. Myth is defined as an old traditional story or legend. Mythology represents a body of myths. Over the past seventy years a great deal of propaganda has become mythology with a life of its own, growing and changing with each retelling. Myths were not only resurrected and embellished by propagandists, but by well-intended journalists and others attempting to understand and to justify the Serbian wars of aggression. Regardless of the motivation of those who repeat the myths, the result is always the same. Another generation is introduced to the mythology created to keep the Croatian nation in bondage.

    Some myths are new, others are very old. The myth of the forty-one children reported on one day and retracted the next will no doubt find its way into some history book, somewhere, as fact. It will become a part of the negative mythology or “black legend” that casts its shadow on the Croatian nation.

  26. Filip says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 11:19 (#)

    Why did Serbia start all the wars and who allowed it?

  27. MATTEO INCISA says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 12:48 (#)

    I am glad to see that my modest words – written more than one year ago for an American publication – resulted in such passionate readings and reactions.
    Unfortunately, as you all may see, most of the ‘passion’ for a subject as such is showed by people presumably coming from the ex-Yugoslavian area (and I’m not assuming this on the diplomatic skills shown in some comment!).

    Anyway, that was exactly the rationale behind the request of my past editor when he asked to me to write on this subject: why all this has happened? Besides and beyond the war, the crimes, the humanitarian disasters of the last two decades, what is the set of mind of these population? why – apparently, before the world – they can’t stand each other any more?

    In the world context, ‘humanitarian intervention’ is nowadays almost an automatic reaction (in certain circumstances) simply because a ‘humanitarian disaster’ is happening. More articulated considerations, right or wrong, are left behind.

    It was not the purpose of the article to define who was right or wrong in the past conflicts. Purpose of the article was to show what is the set of mind that stands behind the behavior of the State of Serbia and its citizens.
    The article does not treat Serbians with favor nor does it provide for any excuse in the try to justify their past behaviors.

    It tries to provide, instead, for a brief cultural and sociological frame in order to understand what has brought to the disintegration of a state whose seven (!) successor city-states now all want to be part of the European Union, but not as a single entity of 25millions of inhabitants (I do apologize for the incorrect statement in the article on the ‘40 millions’), with the consequent weight that this would have meant.

    7 States ranging from 1 to 8 million each will be simply ‘absorbed’ by the Union. I hope it would be pacific the merely geo-political consideration that the ex-Yugoslavian entity would have been, instead, ‘part’ of the same Union, for a number of reasons.
    This has proved to be impossible. Fine. Still, the number of scholars from all over the Balkans who have started this reflection is not insignificant, nor is their word.

    Last consideration, on the ‘ethnical’ aspect: Italian, French and Spanish are exactly the same ethnic group, along a number of other European populations, who are all, from Lisbon to Kiev, bluntly and universally defined as ‘caucasian’. Among this group, there are a number of different ’strains’, such as the latins, the anglo-germans and the slavs.

    Slav people – of course, also because of their history and recent self-determination – still tend to over-stress the ethnical argument, when relating to other populations. This, again, is something ‘Old Europe’ and the US have an hard time understanding: we may still have jokes (even tough) between Italians and French, Germans and English or Europeans and Americans; still, those are not based on any idea of different ‘ethnicity’, but only on different customs and habits matured over the history in the European space.
    The sentiment of ‘hatred’ that sometimes emerges still today from the words of Slav people – mostly among themselves – is unknown to Europe today. Europe had also its wars in the past century (…). Still, in 1950 it managed to create the predecessor of what today is the European Union.
    Where are the ex-Yugoslavian States today?

    Thanking all of you for your participation to this debate,


    Matteo Incisa

  28. Matteo Incisa says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 13:01 (#)

    ah, and to avoid further possible misinterpretation:

    da, mogu rasumeti (i malo govoriti) Srpsko-hrvatski. Bilo sam mnogo vrieme u Beogradu i Zagrebu, imam drugi tamo i ucestan idem a danas.

    so, let me put it straightforward: anyone should drop arguments such as ‘only-me-know-the-truth’, and accept (and possibly, respect) others’ opinons.


  29. Mike says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 15:30 (#)

    Did a high school student write this? How did this trash make it’s way onto what I initially though was a noteworthy site. Such a poor publication with a definite bias! Shameful to have this dribble grace this site’s pages. Sad how some people can actually have no conscience and steer public opinion with such lies. Oh well, I’m hoping that some people out there don’t believe everything that they read….. otherwise this world would be a disaster zone created by morons.

  30. John Maszka says:

    April 10th, 2009 at 23:06 (#)


    I’m doing research on how American foreign policy affects popular support for terrorism. My theory is that America’s hegemonic activity fuels popular support for terrorism, but I need data to support that hypothesis. I plan to conduct a large international survey in order to collect that data. Before I conduct the survey, however, I need to devise a survey instrument that is non-biased (non-western, non-white). I strongly believe that the biggest reason that America is losing the war on terror is that we aren’t listening to the people that matter the most—everyone else. The same principal applies to my survey: it won’t do any good if I’m not asking the right questions.

    So I’m asking for your help.

    I’ve put together a pre-survey questionnaire to help fashion a survey that hopefully will ask the right questions― one that takes race, religion, and gender issues into consideration rather than just making the same old geopolitical assumptions that political scientists in my field tend to make. I’m particularly interested in incorporating the views of women, non-whites, and people living outside of America and Western Europe. The final survey will go out once the pre-survey data has been collected and analyzed.

    The survey can be accessed at

    Please take a moment and fill out the survey.

    Thank you!
    Take care,

    John Maszka

  31. Adam says:

    April 11th, 2009 at 02:19 (#)

    Talk about complex, seems that Karlo has one, he has copied and pasted his propaganda history from croatian websites to make himself feel better and justified.

    This article is not rubbish, as you can see Matteo lived in both Beograd and Zagreb, he hasn’t written this article out of the blue.

    The documentary from BBC called The Death of Yugoslavia shows who the perpetrators are and who started the war and why it was started.

    Milosevic just tried to keep Serb areas Serb, simple as that.
    The fascist croatians with german support (of course) wanted to separate and so did the bosnian terrorists supported by Al Queda.
    They all needed external help otherwise we know what would of happened.

    Srbi su boziji ljudi!

  32. Tony says:

    April 11th, 2009 at 03:45 (#)

    Adam you are wrong, You are defending the guilty-land occupiers-Serbia. Serbia has no access to the beautiful Adriatic Sea & has got control of the western European borders……that hurts………sorry it’s not yours………not even the Montenegro people like you or trust you any more as you people are very very selfish…….Stick to your brothers Russia who helped you get hammered by NATO.
    Karlo is correct…….THU TRUTH HURTS my friend.

  33. Ceca - Kukavica (clip) | Ceca Ražnatović says:

    April 19th, 2009 at 20:17 (#)

    [...] The constant misunderstanding between the Serbs and the rest of … [...]

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