February 6, 2003

Yugoslavia's End
The name is gone, but delusions remain

This Tuesday, the parliament of the last Yugoslavia decided to lay the name and the idea to rest, abolishing the country in favor of a new, ill-defined entity called "Serbia and Montenegro." The new Constitutional Charter and the bill governing its implementation had already been passed by the Serbian parliament on the 28th, and by the parliament of Montenegro the day after.

The decision is not unexpected. As early as last March, Serbia and Montenegro's vassal potentates signed a pledge drafted by their conqueror, erstwhile NATO GenSec Javier Solana, to kill off the last Yugoslav federation. At the time, this column declared:

The new "state" is but a vampire, an undead monstrosity which is destined to live for three more years until the EU mercifully stakes it through the heart. Meanwhile, it will subsist by sucking blood from the people on which it was imposed.

This Wednesday's New York Times frankly described the new entity as a way to "buy some time" for Europe and the Empire to think of something better suited to their interests. It also acknowledged that "Western governments" (a.k.a. Washington) had encouraged the separatist tendencies of Montenegro's regime. Unsurprisingly, the people who 'solved' the crisis between Serbia and Montenegro were the ones who created it to begin with.

Malicious Epitaphs

Predictably, most media reports on Yugoslavia's demise were riddled with historical inaccuracies and false characterizations. For example, Reuters claimed Yugoslavia was "established in 1929 as a royal dictatorship," though the kingdom itself had been in existence since 1918, and in 1929 merely changed the name.

Continuing the pseudo-historical survey was the AP, pioneering the theory of 'spontaneous Communism' by stating that, "After World War II, the kingdom became a communist-run, six-republic federation." The way this rather substantial change occurred was anything but spontaneous. During the war (1941-1945), Tito's Communists waged a war against the monarchy as much as against the Axis occupiers, conducting a campaign of social and political engineering parallel to their military operations. Yugoslavia was thus organized into Soviet-style 'republics' with no more sovereignty or legitimacy than their USSR counterparts.

Reuters rounds out Yugoslavia's turbulent past by declaring that "the old six-member socialist federation collapsed violently during the rule of Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s." The fact that Milosevic never ruled the six-member federation, or that he only became President of its truncated successor later in the decade, does not faze these brave paladins of historical charlatanism.

European bureaucrats were similarly unfazed by reality in 1991, when they ruled that both Soviet and Yugoslav 'republics' were indeed sovereign states, erasing both countries with the stroke of a pen. This insane insistence on inviolable sovereignty of Stalinist creations, whatever its motivation, was the actual root cause of ethnic conflicts in both former countries – not, as Christian Science Monitor ignorantly claims, the "Serb nationalism that Slobodan Milosevic incited in order to cling to power."

Echoes of 1941

It is the Monitor's resurrection of the much-abused canard that suggests the real reason for all the post-mortem libel. Yugoslavia's detractors really cared not a whit for the Yugoslav idea, one way or another. Certainly, when convenient they lauded it as a model of 'multiethnic multiculturalism' or other such nonsense they were trying to peddle in its successor states, but they had no qualms when it came to actually destroying that 'multicultural paradise' by decree. Both the disingenuous talk of Yugoslavia's supposed glories and Yugoslavia's actual destruction were united by the vilification of the Yugoslav idea's principal supporters, the Serbs. It was not enough to merely wipe out something the Serbs had sacrificed so much to create (while getting little or nothing in return), they were to be blamed for said destruction!

Many Nazi analogies were involved in this endeavor, yet the actually applicable one was hardly ever mentioned. Even as he swore to destroy Yugoslavia with "unmerciful harshness" in April 1941, Hitler himself clearly revealed his hatred for the Serbian people:

"… just as in World War days, the Serbs thought the time was ripe for taking advantage of the situation for new assassinations against Germany and her allies. Soldiers of the Southeast Front: … In doing this, your duty, you will not be less courageous than the men of those German divisions who in 1915, on the same Balkan soil, fought so victoriously."

Hitler also claimed he was acting to defend Yugoslavia's Germans, who were "being subjected to the most humiliating attacks," and that he'd endeavored for eight years to "bring about closer co-operation and friendship with the Yugoslav people." Such words ring as false as NATO spokesmen's nonsense about "democratic bombs" and "humanitarian intervention" from the spring of 1999.

Defective Dreams

In all honesty, Yugoslavia's relegation to the dustbin of history is by itself a good idea. From its very inception, Yugoslavia had been a flawed creation, a grandiose experiment in both nation-building and social engineering, doomed to failure by simple truths of history and human nature. No king could make distinct nationalities blend into one, nor could any Communist make those nationalities love each other after the horrors of World War Two – and especially not by playing them against each other in a game of power thereafter. Nor could any country sustained by four decades of massive ethnic manipulation survive when those tensions boil over into violence.

Though all have suffered from this ill-conceived (though well-intentioned) idea, the Serbs have sacrificed to it almost everything they had: from half of Serbia's able-bodied males in World War One, and almost a million again in World War Two – either as victims of genocide, guerrillas of different persuasions, or civilians executed by the warring factions – to their own recognized statehood, their entire society and economy, and even their national identity. Malicious tongues attribute this to a desire for domination, but yet again, evidence does not bear them out.

In retrospect, it is easy to see that Yugoslavia was an ill-defined Statist project from start to finish, and as all such designs brought its subjects naught but wrath, ruin and misery. What little happiness, peace and prosperity they've enjoyed ultimately proved ephemeral.

Of course, what replaced it has proven far worse, but the choice was never solely between the two. Unfortunately, it seems the last successor of Yugoslavia, the 'Serbia-Montenegro' zombie state, will not fare any better. Given its rulers and their proclivities, that is hardly surprising.

Same Old Crooks

Yugoslavia's end would bring no change to residents of Serbia-Montenegro. They would still be ruled by corrupt, power-hungry, amoral, facetious, and highly corruptible people, who did not even bother to cloak themselves in the sham legitimacy of democratic elections.

Belgrade again faces Imperial extortion, this time a threat to withhold 'aid' unless three wanted 'war criminals' are sent to the Hague Inquisition. Never mind that this 'aid' will most likely end up lining the pockets of the government, American consultants, and various NGOs whose raison d'être is to peddle pro-Imperial nonsense to the masses. In case of loans the Empire is threatening to withhold, Belgrade is better off without them. The worst thing anyone so impoverished can do is to go into debt. Yet Serbia's current rulers are taking out substantial foreign loans to cover pensions and welfare payments. They buy social peace and stay in power, while their subjects will have to pay it back – with interest – for generations.

As for their 'cooperation' with the Hague Inquisition, or even the International Court of Justice, they would do well to observe a simple bit of wisdom: "In confessing false sins, no one believes the apology of the accused, nor waits for the forgiveness of the accuser."

The Horrors of 'Djukadjin'

Since the new 'union' would be dominated by the Prime Ministers of Serbia and Montenegro, Zoran Djindjic and Milo Djukanovic, some critics have already dubbed the creature "Djukadjin." They might as well have called it Mordor, or Upper Hell.

Djindjic's vision of the State is epitomized in the recent treatment of an elderly woman who tried to supplement her meager income by selling flowers from her garden. The 73-year-old Dafina Stojkovic from Nis was arrested and sentenced to a fortnight in jail or a 900-dinar fine, for selling flowers "outside the designated marketplace." (Glas Javnosti, Belgrade, January 30, 2003) Her fellow citizens, outraged by this act of judicial terror, took up a collection and paid the fine.

What monstrous creature would criminalize the sale of one's own property, and choose to make a point of it by prosecuting a 73-year-old grandmother? The State as Zoran Djindjic sees it, that's who.

Montenegro's leaders are even worse. Milo Djukanovic's regime has been linked to various forms of organized crime – beyond what governments normally do, that is – the latest concerning abuse of trafficked sex-slaves. Djukanovic's answer to everything is increased harping about independence. In pursuit of this, and encouraged with plenty if Imperial cash, his followers have twisted or outright fabricated history, religion, and even language.

Djindjic and Djukanovic have long since sold their souls to the Empire. Thus one can't even insult them properly any more: "To call them whores would be an insult to that noble profession; whores only sell their bodies, their souls are their own." Now they are to run the temporary and very involuntary association of Serbia and Montenegro. Oh joy of joys…

Another Foolish Promise

But what else is there? What can anyone in the now-dead Yugoslavia do that is different, or better? Just asking that question reveals the sheer desperation of the forlorn. The right question would be what can't they do better, for it can hardly be worse.

A favorite panacea of Empire's quislings is that by continued sacrifices Serbia and Montenegro would soon join the European Union, where peace and prosperity await. Sure. And Arbeit macht frei.

This is the same European Union that recently mandated that pig farmers had to put toys in their sties to make pigs happy. Serbia has always been famous for its pork. Would any decent Serbian pig farmer ever agree to this nonsense?

Then again, they won't have to. Nobody will ask them, just like nobody has asked any of the people there about anything. In line with the predominant reasoning of today, people exist to serve the State and not the other way around. 

Even if Djindjic and Djukanovic honestly believed what they're saying, the woebegone people of Serbia and Montenegro would end up exchanging a past historical failure – Yugoslavia – for a future one, the EU, while their leaders benefit handsomely in the process. Most Balkans politicians may only be good for hanging from lampposts, but these people… it would be an insult to the lampposts.

And Yet…

For all the misery still in store, one era in Balkans history has ended. Yugoslavia is no more. While hard on those who harbor nostalgia for what – compared to the present – justly seem the "golden days," Yugoslavia's demise has opened up possibilities (however slim) for deconstructing other Statist boondoggles that keep the Balkans mired in conflict, poverty and despair.

Just as those it benefited most nowadays revile its memory, those who foolishly invested the most in its creation should not mourn Yugoslavia's end. If anything, they should learn from the tragic folly of their obsession, which has cost them millions of lives, most of their society and almost a hundred years of history. They should use this occasion to re-examine the notions of Statism as the source of their troubles and not something unrelated or – God forbid! – even 'natural.' Who knows, perhaps the rein of terror by the Empire and its vassals may yet meet a swift and deserving end.

Either way, Yugoslavia should ever serve as a reminder that even the best-intentioned Statist dreams come at too high a price. May it rest in peace its people never really had.

– Nebojsa Malic

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Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo, and contributed to the Independent. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com appears every Thursday.


Archived Columns

Yugoslavia's End

Balkanizing the World

A Chauvinistic Farce

The 12 Months of Christmas

More Dirty Lies

Democratic Destruction

Forged Memories

Making the Balkans Connection

Remembering the Obvious

Empire's Playground

Casus Belli

Forward to The Past

The Unbearable Futility of Voting

A Global Balkans

Triumph of the Will

The Day Nothing Changed

Illusions of Truth and Justice

More archived columns by Nebojsa Malic

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