Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Kosova is free !

Yesterday, I truly felt what a privilege and a joy it was to be alive, and to watch as the great people of Kosova finally achieved the freedom that they have sought for so long. It is a moment that all Kosovar patriots, all sincere Serbian democrats and all those who believe in freedom for the people of South East Europe, and indeed in freedom generally, should be celebrating. With all my heart, I should like to congratulate the people of Kosova on this great occasion.

Kosova was crushed and oppressed by the Ottoman Empire; murderously invaded by the Serbian Army; repressed and colonised under the Yugoslav kingdom; dismembered by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy; and terrorised by the Communist police-state after World War II. It was partially emancipated in the late 1960s and 70s, only to see its autonomy brutally abrogated by Slobodan Milosevic, in an assault that culminated in the attempted genocide of the late 1990s. Who would have thought before 1999 that the story would have a happy ending ? Who would have thought that when Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, East Timor would one day be free ? This is a lesson, that no matter how bleak things may seem, justice and liberty may triumph in the long run. I have said before that the idea that Kosova’s independence will cause innumerable other ‘separatist’ territories around the world to try to follow suit is a scaremongering myth. Still, I hope that the happy outcome will indeed inspire other enslaved nations not to give up hope: liberation may be just around the corner; you can’t keep a good nation down. Long live the freedom of the Chechens, Kurds, Taiwanese, Kashmiris, Darfurians ! Long live a free Palestine alongside a free Israel !

It is easy to forget at this happy time that yesterday there were, in fact, two victors: Kosova and democratic Serbia. No nation can be free if it oppresses another, and all true Serbian democrats should be celebrating, not only the emancipation of their Albanian sisters and brothers, but their own. Kosova was a millstone around Serbia’s neck, and Serbia will be happier without it; just as Britain and France are happier with Ireland and Algeria independent. Many Serbs may not feel like celebrating, but one day this will all seem in a much more positive light to them; an unhappy conflict is over and their path to long-term peace, prosperity and participation in the European dream is open. As for the die-hard nationalists – Vojislav Kostunica, Tomislav Nikolic and co. – long may their misery last. Their genocidal campaign to break up Yugoslavia, redraw borders and establish a Great Serbia was the direct cause of Kosova’s independence. They sought to dismember their neighbours, yet this led only to Serbia’s loss of Kosova. What goes around comes around. As ye sow, so shall ye reap. Unfortunately, their misery will not be as great as the misery of the mothers of Racak, Srebrenica and Vukovar; they should bear that in mind while they wallow in their self-pity. But how many Serbs turned out to demonstrate and attack the US embassy ? 1-2,000 ! There was a time when hundreds of thousands of Serbs would have demonstrated over Kosova; that time is past. The people of Serbia have moved on; the nationalists should too.

There is an ignoble tradition on the Left of refusing to acknowledge any of the good things that Western leaders do. Let us break this tradition and give credit where credit is due. Well done George W. Bush and the United States of America ! Well done Gordon Brown and the United Kingdom ! Well done Nicolas Sarkozy and the Republic of France ! Well done to the free world ! And a special well done to Tony Blair, our greatest prime minister in half a century, whose resolution in 1999 made this all possible. Well done not just for doing what is right, but for standing up to the imperialist bully and thug, Vladimir Putin. It is easy (and right) to be critical of Russia, but it should not be forgotten that in the early 1990s, Russia’s record on the Balkans was less bad than that of Britain and France; our leaders used Russia’s alleged (in fact mythical) ‘historical friendship with Serbia’ as an excuse for their own disgraceful policy of appeasing Milosevic, and the worst elements in Russia were only encouraged. It is time to make it clear that if Russia wants to avoid irrevocably damaging its relations with the West, it needs to stop causing trouble for us in the Balkans. We should be friends with Russia, but this means Russia democratising, not the West pandering to a brutal ex-KGB tyrant who uses weapons of mass destruction against his own civilians and wages racist campaigns against ethnic minorities. Putin asks: “Why do we promote separatism? For 400 years Great Britain has been fighting for its territorial integrity in respect of Northern Ireland. Why not? Why don’t you support that?”. He seems not to realise that we in the UK will happily let Northern Ireland go if that is what its people want; the concept of a democratic majority appears to be alien to him. Or perhaps he’s just stupid.

If anything dampens one’s mood, it is the tepid welcome to newly free Kosova given by so many pundits and commentators; freedom apparently is not very inspiring to our chattering classes who live permanently in fear. The Guardian describes Kosova’s independence as “a unilateral solution which only sets back further the goal of a new international order, where disputes are decided multilaterally”. No doubt the Guardianistas would be happier allowing Chinese Communists and Russian KGBers a veto on the freedom of every new state; thank goodness Dubya and Gordon take a less wishy-washy approach. That a right-wing, Republican US president should prove to be more progressive and ‘left-wing’ on the question of national self-determination than our leading liberal paper – not to mention our so-called ‘radical left’ – is merely a sign of the times.

The Daily Telegraph has come out in favour of the partition of Kosovo as a solution to the problem, showing that the spirit of Neville Chamberlain’s brand of unreconstructed Toryism is very much alive. Let us be clear on this point: according to the last legitimate census of Kosova in 1981, a single Kosovar municipality had a Serb majority – Leposavic. The current Serb majority over a larger area of northern Kosova is simply the result of ethnic cleansing, and should not be recognised. Kosova should allow Leposavic to secede and join Serbia – provided Serbia similarly allows the Albanian-majority municipalities in southern Serbia proper, Presevo and Bujanovac, to secede and join Kosova. But thankfully partition – which really might open a Pandora’s box for border changes in the Balkans – is not going to happen, so any debate about it is a waste of time.

As for whether we are hypocritical for not recognising a similar right to secession for Republika Srpska (Bosnia’s Serb Republic) or Abkhazia: perhaps these two entities could allow back to their homes the roughly half of their respective populations they kicked out in the process of establishing themselves; then perhaps we might discuss the merits of their respective cases. But a country that can only achieve a workable majority in favour of independence by expelling half its population is not a country with any right to that independence.

Indeed, if there’s one good thing that can be said about the awful new flag that has been foisted upon Kosova by the international community, it is that it does at least contain an image of Kosova in its existing borders, so militating against partition, and is therefore less totally dreadful than the monstrosity imposed on Bosnia by the international community a decade ago; a flag that is too awful for me to reproduce here, or even link to.

Why should the people of Kosova not be allowed a flag with their own beloved black double-headed eagle on a red background ? A flag that they held onto through all the bad times: It waved above their infant might; when all ahead seemed dark as night.

They are out of the dark now.

Long live independent Kosova ! Long live democratic Serbia !

Monday, 18 February 2008 - Posted by | Abkhazia, Balkans, Bosnia, Caucasus, Former Soviet Union, Former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Russia, Serbia

1 Comment

  1. […] February 18, 2008 in Uncategorized Not much to say about this besides my best wishes to the newly independent state of Kosova. For heartfelt and astute observations I direct you to Marko Attila Hoare’s blog, Greater Surbiton. Hoare, the author of Genocide and Resistance in Hitler’s Bosnia: The Partisans and the Chetniks, 1941-1943 is also a contributor to the Bosnian Report of the Bosnian Institute and Democratiya. Here is an excerpt from his blogpost, “Kosova is free!“: […]

    Pingback by Kosova Independence « The New Centrist | Wednesday, 20 February 2008

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