Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

The national identity of the Bosnian Serbs

Originally published as ‘The national identity of the Bosnian Serbs’, in Darko Gavrilović et al., Facing the Past, Searching for the Future: The History of Yugoslavia in the 20th Century (Sremska Kamenica: Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation, Centre for History, Democracy and Reconciliation and the Faculty for European Legal-Political Studies, 2010), pp. 179-204

 

Summary

National identities are not homogenous; differences of identity may be produced within the same nation by differences in region, historical experience, socio-economic background or other factors. The Bosnian Serbs, by virtue of living for centuries in the land of Bosnia or Bosnia-Hercegovina, developed a form of Serb national identity that differed from that of other Serbs, including the Serbs of Serbia (Serbians). Bosnian Serb politicians have pursued specifically Bosnian Serb national politics that regularly set them at loggerheads with the political elite of Serbia. This Bosnian Serb national politics has differed over time and has itself been expressed in different currents, but it has always reflected an identity and worldview that is both Serb and Bosnian. The overriding goals of Bosnian Serb national politics before 1918 were the liberation or autonomy of Bosnia-Hercegovina and unification with Serbia and other lands identified as Serb; the first goal was seen as a means toward the second, but the second did not necessarily negate the first. After 1918, when unification with Serbia was achieved, albeit on a Yugoslav rather than a pan-Serb basis, Bosnian Serb national politics shifted to resisting Bosnian autonomy. After the Axis destruction of Yugoslavia in 1941, the Partisan movement embodied a new expression of Serb-led Bosnian autonomism, which resulted in the unification of Bosnia-Hercegovina and Serbia on a Yugoslav federal basis, as two distinct republics. In the 1990s, with the fall of Communism and collapse of Yugoslavia, Bosnian Serb nationalists rejected Bosnian independence and, with Serbia’s assistance, established a separate Bosnian Serb entity – the ‘Serb Republic’ or ‘Republika Srpska’.

It was the Serbian Orthodox Church that provided the basis for a single Serb national identity stretching across the western Balkans. The autonomy enjoyed by the Bosnian Orthodox community under the Ottomans, combined with the memory, preserved by the Orthodox clergy, of the Serbian medieval state, were the twin foundations of Bosnian Serb nationhood. This nationhood was then conditioned by the multi-religious or multi-national character of Bosnian society. The fact that up until the end of World War I, the Bosnian Serb peasants were predominantly non-free and legally subordinate to Muslim landlords conditioned the course of Bosnian Serb national politics. The impossibility of the Serb political classes satisfying the class aspirations of their Serb peasant constituents, while at the same time winning over the Bosnian Muslims to Serb national politics, was the principal structural weakness of Bosnian Serb nationalism. It ensured a permanent, irresolvable tension, between on the one hand the Bosnian Serb assumption that all Bosnian Muslims (and Catholics) were really Serb and that Bosnia-Hercegovina was a Serb land, and on the de-facto treatment of the Muslims and Croats as the national ‘others’, and ultimately of Bosnia-Hercegovina as an alien entity oppressing the Orthodox Serbs, and from which they sought autonomy. During the interwar period, Bosnian Serb weakness vis-à-vis the Muslims in the struggle for control of Bosnia-Hercegovina manifested itself in support for the country’s partition. Although the Serb-dominated Bosnian Partisan movement resulted in the establishment of a unitary Bosnian republic within federal Yugoslavia, the prospect of independence for a unitary and Muslim-led Bosnia-Hercegovina resulted in a new, and this time successful, Bosnian Serb partitionist drive.

Given the repeated conflict between the Bosnian Serb political classes on the one hand and those of Serbia on the other, the establishment of the Republika Srpska as an autonomous entity separate from Serbia should be seen as a more natural outcome of Bosnian Serb national aspirations than a ‘Great Serbia’ that proved repeatedly unrealisable.

 

The National identity of the Bosnian Serbs

Nationalists like to portray their nation as being homogenous; a ‘seamless garment’. Yet nations and national identities are in fact heterogeneous; differences of identity may be produced within the same nation by differences in region, historical experience, socio-economic background or other factors. As there are differences of identity among Croats, between those from Zagorje, Slavonia, Istria, Dalmatia, Bosnia and so forth; and among Albanians, between those from Albania proper, Kosovo, Macedonia and so forth; so there are differences among Serbs, between those from Serbia proper, Vojvodina, Kosovo, Bosnia, Lika and so forth. This study will discuss the specific identity of the Bosnian Serbs, its differences with the identity of the Serbs from Serbia, and the historical consequences of this difference. It will trace the historical origins of the difference between the respective national identities of the Bosnian Serbs and of the Serbs from Serbia (henceforth referred to as ‘Serbians’ – Srbijanci). It will explore how this difference of identity resulted in different political goals and ideologies between the political classes of these two branches of the Serb nation, throughout the existence of Yugoslavia and up until the present day.

The original Serbs arrived in the western Balkans, including Bosnia, in the seventh century A.D. It is not, however, possible to trace the existence of the Serb nation in Bosnia, in unbroken continuity, back to this medieval population. The population of medieval Bosnia, which emerged as an effectively independent state under Ban Kulin in about 1180 and reached its greatest territorial extent under King Tvrtko in the second half of the fourteenth century, had ethnically heterogeneous roots. These included both the pre-Slavic (Illyrian or Vlach) population of the region and the Slavic settlers, including Serbs and Croats, who arrived during the early middle ages. But there is no correlation between these medieval ethnic divisions among Bosnians and the contemporary ethnic division between Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims or Bosniaks. The latter was the product of religious divisions created by the long period of Ottoman rule, which began definitely when the medieval Bosnian kingdom fell to the Ottomans in 1463. Prior to the Ottoman arrival, the Bosnian population had been principally divided between Catholics and between adherents of the Church of Bosnia, deemed heretical by the Catholic Church, with a smaller population of Orthodox in Hum or Hercegovina, which was acquired by Bosnia only in the fourteenth century. The Ottoman occupation resulted in the conversion of the greatest part of the Bosnian population to either Islam or Serbian Orthodoxy, while large numbers of Orthodox Vlachs migrated to Bosnia in the same period. It was this Orthodox population – Slavic and Vlach – that formed the basis of the modern Bosnian Serb nationality, while the Islamic population formed the basis of the Bosnian Muslim or Bosniak nationality and the Catholic population formed the basis for the Croat nationality. All three modern Bosnian nationalities have diverse ethnic origins; each of them is descended both from the original, already heterogeneous Bosnian medieval population and from more recent arrivals.(1)

Ethnic Serbs are spread across the territory of the western Balkans; after Serbia itself, the largest populations of Serbs are in Bosnia-Hercegovina followed by Croatia and Montenegro, with smaller numbers in several other states of the region. This does not correspond to the historic borders of any Serbian state. Although Bosnia was briefly under Serbian suzerainty during the middle ages, the largest concentration of ethnic Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, prior to the 1990s, was in western Bosnia and central Croatia; territories that mostly had never formed part of any Serbian state. It was the Serbian Orthodox Church, not any historic shared Serbian statehood or primordial ethnicity, that formed the underpinning for a single Serb nation spread across the western Balkans. In 1557, the Ottomans re-established the Serbian Orthodox patriarchate, with its see in Peć in present-day Kosovo. Stevan K. Pavlowitch says of the re-established patriarchate that it ‘provided a well-organised framework for its faithful over all the European lands controlled by the Turks, and remained across Hungarian and Venetian borders even after the tide had receded. It acted on behalf of the “Serbian nation”, and spread the name “Serb”. In fact, once could say that it was only then that something approaching a Serbian ethnic consciousness appeared.’(2) Ironically, the Ottoman Empire was the state that united most of the lands inhabited by substantial numbers of Serbs , for whom the restored Serbian church provided unity; as Michael Boro Petrovich writes, ‘from 1557 until the Peace of Požarevac (Passarowitz) in 1718 virtually all Serbs found themselves together in an organization of their own.’ Furthermore, ‘it was the political, social and cultural role of the Serbian church that gave it such decisive importance in the preservation and rebirth of the Serbian nation. In effect, it was the Serbian church that provided the bridge between the medieval Serbian state and a modern secular Serbia in the early nineteenth century. Thanks to Ottoman policy, the patriarchate of Peć was the bearer not only of spiritual but of secular authority, as the legally confirmed organisation of the Serbian millet.’(3)

Nevertheless, if the existence of a unified Serbian Orthodox Church laid the basis for a single Serb people sharing a national identity, the division of the Serbs between different states and provinces laid the basis for different interpretations of this national identity. Following their conquest of Bosnia in 1463, the Ottomans re-established Bosnia as a sanjak – an administrative-territorial unit. This was followed in 1580 by the establishment of an eyalet of Bosnia – a larger administrative territorial unit that grouped the Bosnian sanjak with other sanjaks. Though the borders of the eyalet of Bosnia fluctuated greatly over the succeeding decades and centuries, and at times included large parts of what are now Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, nevertheless this entity – itself the heir of the medieval Bosnian kingdom – was the direct precursor of the modern province and subsequently republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina. The Serb Orthodox inhabitants of the eyalet of Bosnia, over centuries of living in it, evolved a consciousness of Bosnia as their country; i.e. a national identity that was Bosnian as well as Serb. This has meant a somewhat different national identity to that of the Serbians, and frequently to different perceptions of national interest, even to conflicts between these two branches of the Serb nation. In this respect, the Bosnian Serbs resemble the Montenegrins, for whom identification with the Serb nation had to be reconciled with awareness of their own distinct national tradition arising from having inhabited a distinct country of their own.(4) Like the Montenegrins, Bosnian Serbs might differ among themselves, or over time, on the question of how far to submerge their own country and identity in the wider Serb nation. Unlike the Montenegrins, the Bosnian Serbs never evolved into a wholly separate nation in their own right. But like the Montenegrins, the Bosnian Serbs’ distinct national tradition, arising from having inhabited a homeland different from other Serbs, helped to ensure that this homeland would never be united with Serbia into a single, Great Serb state.

The Serbian socialist Svetozar Marković was among the first to caution that, given their long history of separation, unity between the different branches of the Serb nation would pose its own problems. In his 1872 essay ‘Serbia in the East’, Marković wrote:

But Prince Mihailo himself was unable to establish a Great Serbia… We maintain that this policy came to nothing because against it were insurmountable obstacles. The first and greatest obstacle was independent Montenegro, which looked upon Hercegovina, Bosnia and Old Serbia exactly as Serbia did and, and which furthermore openly strove to found a completely independent Serb state. The second great obstacle was the Bosnian aristocracy with its existing rights… To acquire Bosnia by war would mean provoking a social revolution in Bosnia, destroying the local aristocracy, which has existed there for several centuries; and when the delighted common people had liberated itself from one master, would it then have consented to come under the Serbian gendarmes, captains and other masters ? (5)

Marković correctly predicted that the Serb population of Bosnia-Hercegovina would prove as much, or more, of an obstacle to Serbia’s annexation of Bosnia-Hercegovina as the Muslim landlord class. Successive events in the one-hundred and twenty years after Marković’s death in 1875 would prove him right.

The autonomy enjoyed by the Bosnian Orthodox community under the Ottomans, combined with the memory, preserved by the Orthodox clergy, of the Serbian medieval state, were the twin foundations of Bosnian Serb nationhood. At the same time, centuries of living in the land of Bosnia, as distinct from Serbia, gave the Bosnian Serb urban elite an awareness of, and patriotic identification with, their Bosnian homeland that in some ways resembled that of the Muslims. Indeed, early Bosnian Serb nationalists tended to espouse a nationalism that was inclusive of the Bosnian Muslim elite, not anti-Islamic, and that while looking to Serbia, at the same time expressed its awareness of Bosnia as a distinct land in its own right. In the late 1840s a delegation of Serbs from Bosnia visited Russian political circles, declaring ‘that the Bosniaks would gladly be the rulers of their country while paying the Sultan a definite tribute.’ Their project was ‘inspired by the example of their neighbour and sister Serbia.’(6) When the Bosnian Christians, above all Orthodox, rebelled against the Ottomans in the 1870s, the rebellion, under the leadership of the Bosnian Serb urban middle classes, was both Serb-nationalist and Bosnian-patriotic in organisation. Representatives of the Bosnian rebel bands held a gathering at the village of Jamnica in December 1874, one that was referred to subsequently as the Bosnian national parliament. Among its most prominent actions were an appeal to the Great Powers for international recognition, the appointment of a provisional government known as the National Council for Liberation in Bosnia, and the framing of an appeal to the Bosnian Muslims to join the rebellion, promising full respect for their religion and property.(7) In July 1876, the Bosnian rebel leaders issued a ‘Proclamation to the Bosnian people’ in which they announced that ‘we, the entire leadership of the Bosnian rebel detachments as the only legal representatives of the Serb land of Bosnia… proclaim that our homeland Bosnia be joined to the principality of Serbia’.(8) Yet the rebels were aware that Bosnian and Serbian interests had diverged following Belgrade’s signing of a peace treaty with the Porte in March 1877, when it was felt among them that ‘nothing now links us with Serbia’.(9) The rebels’ Provisional National Bosnian Government, formed in October of the same year, announced that ‘the Bosnian nation has never wanted, nor now wants, to become a constituent part of any other state’. It ‘wishes to unite with other Serbian lands. If that unification, in the present political circumstances of Europe, is not permitted us as we wish, then the Bosnian nation wishes to have its complete freedom and self government’, without prejudicing its right to unite with other Serb lands in the future.(10)

Bosnian Serb nationalism, as it emerged in the nineteenth century, therefore favoured both unification with Serbia and other Serb lands and sovereignty for Bosnia. This duality found its most eloquent spokesman in the Bosnian Serb revolutionary Vaso Pelagić. The Ustasha proclamation put forward by Pelagić during the rebellion of 1875-78 called for Bosnia-Hercegovinas unification with ‘both Serbian principalities [Serbia and Montenegro]’, but made clear that the carrier of sovereignty in the land of Bosnia should be its own parliament with its own government.(11) Pelagić advocated that ‘Bosnia-Hercegovina become an independent state or enter a brotherly and free union with the Serbian Principality and other nations of the Danubian region and the Balkan peninsula’.(12) In this period, Bosnian sovereignty was seen as a stepping-stone toward unity with Serbia; no possible contradiction was envisaged between the two.

The Bosnian rebellion of 1875-1878 nevertheless provided an early manifestation of the principal structural weakness of Bosnian Serb nationalism: its inability fully to embrace the Muslims and the Bosnian Orthodox peasantry at the same time. Under the Ottomans, the landlord class was Islamised. Although by the 1870s most Muslim and the majority of Catholic peasants were free, in that they were not fiscally or legally obliged to the Muslim landlord class, the majority of Orthodox peasants remained subordinate to the Muslim landlords. Although this subordination was not strictly speaking ‘feudal’, this fiscal and legal subordination resembled in many respects the serfdom of Christian feudal Europe. These ‘enserfed’ Orthodox peasants naturally viewed the Muslim landlord class as the national oppressor. To satisfy the Bosnian Serb masses, the Bosnian Serb national movement would have to satisfy the class aspirations of the peasantry vis-à-vis the Muslim landlords. Yet to conquer Bosnia-Hercegovina, the Bosnian Serb national movement would have to embrace the Muslim element, which meant providing guarantees for the Muslim landlords. This dilemma was ultimately inescapable, and explains in part the failure of the rebellion of 1875-1878. The Bosnian Serb merchants who provided most of the rebel leaders shared their Serb national identity with the peasants that comprised the rebel rank and file, but enjoyed close relations with the Muslim elite, with whom they were, as tax farmers, complicit in exploiting the peasantry. The rebel leaders consequently fell between two stools: their rejection of the expropriation of the Muslim landlords alienated the rebel masses while their aim of unification with Serbia prevented them from winning significant Muslim or Croat support. The rebellion therefore stagnated and ended in failure.(13)

Bosnia, which from the 1870s became ‘Bosnia-Hercegovina, was viewed by Bosnian Serb nationalists as a ‘Serb land’, and the Bosnian Muslims and Catholics as Muslim and Catholic Serbs. This became more problematic, however, following the occupation of the country by Austria-Hungary in 1878, and particularly after Benjamin Kállay became Austro-Hungarian Finance Minister, therefore ruler of Bosnia-Hercegovina, in 1882. Kállay preserved the economic privileges of the Muslim landlords and the Muslim domination of municipal government. He sought to create a new, Bosniak national identity that would be inter-confessional and inclusive of all Bosnian citizens – a project known as Bošnjaštvo, that translates roughly as Bosniakism. From 1883, the language of state was known as Bosnian. In 1889, the regime introduced a Bosnian flag and coat-of-arms, designed on the basis of research into historical Bosnian symbols and intended to signify a Bosnian identity wholly distinct from the Serbian and the Croatian.(14) The governments assumption of the right to appoint Orthodox Metropolitans for Bosnia-Hercegovina, interference in municipal government, removal of municipal control over schools, forced transformation of Serb Orthodox schools into inter-confessional state schools, restrictions on the use of the Cyrillic alphabet and ban on the official use of the Serb name, represented a violation of rights that the Serb Orthodox community had enjoyed in the Ottoman Empire. This united the Bosnian Serb population against the government and behind a specifically Serb-national movement for church and school autonomy. This meant that the Serb-nationalist view of all Bosnia-Hercegovina and of all Catholics and Muslims as ‘Serb’ was now at loggerheads with the Serb national movements goals of autonomy vis-à-vis the central Bosnian authorities and separateness vis-à-vis other Bosnians in the fields of education and language. Bosnian Serb nationalism was pulling simultaneously in opposite directions.

A further contradiction preventing the achievement of a ‘Serb Bosnia’ was the class conflict between the ‘enserfed’ Orthodox peasantry and the Muslim landlord class. The Serb political classes were required, under pressure from the Serb peasant populace, to push for reform of agrarian relations in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Yet this drew a wedge between them and the Muslims, preventing the absorption of the latter into Serb national politics. Thus, leaders of the Serb and Muslim autonomist movements met at Kiseljak near Sarajevo in August 1901 and produced a draft of an agreement for cooperation that called for an autonomous Bosnia-Hercegovina with a Serb governor and Muslim vice-governor under the aegis of the Ottoman Sultan. But on account of disagreement over the agrarian question, this draft agreement remained unsigned on the Muslim side.(15) Despite their shared opposition to Habsburg rule and goal of Bosnian autonomy, the Serb and Muslim national movements crystallised wholly distinct from one another in the period of this rule. Hence the foundation of the ‘Serb National Organisation’ in 1907 in parallel to the ‘Muslim National Organisation’, as well as the ‘Croat National Union’, formed the year before. Hence also the formation of wholly separate cultural societies for the three principal Bosnian nationalities in the early years of the twentieth centuries: the Muslim society ‘Gajret’ (‘Zeal’); the Serb ‘Prosvjeta’ (‘Enlightenment’); and the Croat ‘Napredak’ (‘Progress’). These societies then became the principal institutional promoters of national identity in Bosnia-Hercegovina in the decades that followed; through financing the education of students from the ranks of their respective nationalities, they acted to create nationally conscious intelligentsias.(16) Meanwhile, the Austro-Hungarian occupation had been followed by the increasing foundation of nationally exclusive Serb and Croat newspapers, usually by Serbs and Croats from the Habsburg lands or by Bosnians educated among them who adopted their respective national outlooks.(17) This acted to consolidate the Bosnian Serb and Croat reading publics as distinct, nationally homogenous ‘imagined communities’.

The highpoint of Serb-nationalist Bosnian autonomism was nevertheless reached in the period of the Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1908. This annexation was itself prompted by the Young Turk revolution of that year and the restoration of the Ottoman constitution, and by the consequent joint demand of the Muslim National Organisation and Serb National Organisation – formally submitted by Ali-beg Firdus and Gligorije Jeftanović, on behalf of the two organisations, to Ban István Burián – that Bosnia-Hercegovina, too, be granted a constitution and parliament. When Austria-Hungary responded to the Young Turk and Bosnian autonomist threat to its control of the country by annexing Bosnia-Hercegovina on 5 October, the two parties responded with a joint proclamation to the ‘people of Bosnia-Hercegovina’, asserting the unity of Serbs and Muslims in the struggle for Bosnian autonomy. In 1909, Serb National Organisation representative Nikola Stojanović issued a denunciation of the draft Austro-Hungarian constitution for Bosnia-Hercegovina, in the process making an eloquent demand for Bosnian national self-determination. Stojanović denounced the division of the Bosnian parliament by curia on the grounds that ‘the government creates for us religious curias and in that way sanctions the earlier conflicts.’ In contrast to this, ‘the Serb National Organisation expressed as its programme the universal, equal, secret and direct right to vote’. This, it should be said, was linked to Stojanovićs accusation that the curial system was intended ‘to bypass the Orthodox majority’. He went on: ‘Complete autonomy is the only true solution to the question of Bosnia-Hercegovina, because only this protects the Bosniaks and Hercegovinians, joined by a common past and origins, from assimilation by heterogeneous elements, and guarantees the indivisibility of Bosnia and Hercegovina; only on this basis can control by the signatory powers to the Berlin Congress be replaced by the self-control of a single nation, one that Austria-Hungary itself has declared to be mature.’(18)

Stojanović’s statement reflected the still-dominant belief among Bosnian Serb nationalists that Bosnia-Hercegovina could emerge as a unitary, self-governing nation-state – both Bosnian and Serb – formed around the core of the Orthodox majority. Yet in this period, the Bosnian Serb political elite began to divide between the supporters of the older, more conservative, traditional Serb current and those of the younger, more cosmopolitan, more oppositionist Yugoslav current influenced by pro-Yugoslav currents in the other Habsburg South Slav lands. The older current, which was heir to the Serb autonomist movement of the 1880s and 1890s and was represented by individuals such as Jeftanović and his son-in-law Milan Srškić, remained dominant among the Serb čaršija; it was generally loyal to the Habsburgs during World War I and formed the basis for the Bosnian wing of the People’s Radical Party in the interwar period. By contrast, the younger current, represented by individuals such as Stojanović, had its stronghold outside of Sarajevo in the town of Mostar.(19) Its members during World War I sought Bosnia-Hercegovinas unification with Serbia on a Yugoslav rather than a Great Serbian basis.

The Bosnian Serb political classes were further fractured by divisions over the agrarian question, which became more acute after early March 1910, when Emperor Franz Joseph ordered Ban Burián to begin the process of resolving the agrarian dispute through the voluntary purchase by the overwhelmingly Serb serfs of their farms. This reform amounted to only a very meagre step toward solving the problem, one that was to register very little success. In response, the Serb parliamentary club issued a declaration in March 1910, demanding that ‘Bosnia-Hercegovina should become an independent administrative oblast with all the characteristics of a state, safeguarding its unity and historical-political individuality’, and calling for a ‘solution to the agrarian question’ through the ‘compulsory redemption of the serfs’.(20) These maximal Serb goals therefore linked the demand for national liberation for the land of Bosnia-Hercegovina with the demand for class liberation for the predominantly Serb serfs. Yet the apparent unwillingness of the majority of Serb parliamentary delegates to press for the realisation of their own program led to a split in Serb ranks, with a radical minority led by Petar Kočić agitating against the majoritys betrayal of the goals of Bosnian autonomy on the one hand and of the redemption of the serfs on the other.(21) For Kočić, Bosnian autonomism and Serb nationalism were now combined with a partisan advocacy of the cause of the Serb serfs vis-à-vis the Muslim landlords, a class struggle which tended to express itself in sectarian, anti-Muslim terms. Kočić’s radical pro-peasant and anti-Muslim faction was the father of the Bosnian wing of the League of Farmers of the interwar period, which in turn begat the Bosnian wing of the Chetnik movement of World War II.

As Bosnia-Hercegovina modernised and prospered economically under Austro-Hungarian rule, so class divisions among the previously relatively homogenous Bosnian Serb and Croat communities increased, while the elites of all three Bosnian nationalities became more conservative. Conversely, the network of radical student groups that retrospectively came to be known as ‘Young Bosnia’ represented a reaction against these developments. Hostile to urban, bourgeois civilisation, to the social influences of Western Europe and to the Serb elite or čaršija in cities such as Sarajevo, Young Bosnias activists tended to hold principles that were puritanical, mystical and anti-materialist, drawn unconsciously from the ethics of rural society based on Orthodox Christianity and the extended family (zadruga). Their fanatical national-radicalism and their longing for martyrdom were a reflection of the Orthodox religious milieu in which the majority of them had been raised. Young Bosnia nevertheless grew from what was primarily a Great Serb nationalist movement in its early years, into one that in the last years before World War I was Yugoslavist in character, preaching an end to religious divisions, the cooperation of Serbs, Croats and Muslims and the unification of the South Slavs on a federal basis. Its young members, and those of similar organisations, came from the first generations to be schooled in the nationally mixed schools and colleges of Austro-Hungarian Bosnia-Hercegovina; their family backgrounds were in the religiously segregated countryside, but they spent their youth among Bosnians and others of all nationalities.(22) Yet Young Bosnia was very far from representative of the Bosnian Serb mainstream, and the Bosnian Serb elite was generally outraged by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Young Bosnia radicals on 28 June 1914, and remained loyal to the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the start of the war. On 1 August, four days after the Empire declared war on Serbia, a delegation of Sarajevo Serbs visited the Vice-President of the Country Government to express their continued loyalty to the Emperor.(23)

At the time of the outbreak of World War I, therefore, the Bosnian Serb political classes were therefore divided over national strategy. Yet the political ideologies of all factions reflected, in different ways, the Bosnian Serb national identity. As the collapse of Austria-Hungary and Bosnia-Hercegovina’s unification with Serbia and with other South Slav lands approached, the dominant faction among the Bosnian Serb political elite sought to manage this unification in a manner that would avoid a break either with their counterparts from among the Bosnian Muslim and Croat elites, or with the pro-unification politicians of other Habsburg South Slav lands, or with the government of Serbia. This strategy reflected a peculiarly Bosnian Serb understanding that, while unification with Serbia was the goal, collaboration between Bosnian Serbs and non-Serbs could not be sacrificed to this goal, and that the feelings and aspirations of the latter had to be taken into account. According to Pero Slijepčević, a leading Bosnian Serb supporter of the Yugoslav Committee – the London-based body of emigre South Slav politicians under the leadership of the Dalmatian Croat Ante Trumbić that lobbied the Allied governments in favour of the establishment of a unified Yugoslav state – he and his collaborators saw themselves as representing ‘the whole of Bosnia, not just its Serb part’, and worked to avoid ‘a break between Serbia and the Yugoslav Committee [that] would hit Bosnia-Hercegovina the hardest, tearing it apart both spiritually and perhaps also territorially’. Consequently, Bosnia-Hercegovinas representatives played the role ‘that Bosnia-Hercegovina ought to play: the role of intermediary, the role of buckle between Serbia and Croatia’.(24) In particular following the outbreak of revolution in Russia in 1917, the desire of the Bosnian Serb political classes to maintain a united front with their Croat and Muslim counterpart was heightened by their fear of popular revolution; they feared the revolutionary-nationalist fervour of the Bosnian Serb peasant masses directed against the Muslim landlords.

The pro-Yugoslav standpoint of the leading Bosnian Serb politicians standpoint brought them into frequent conflict with the Serbian government of Nikola Pašić, which wished to establish Serbia’s exclusive right to Bosnia-Hercegovina, irrespective of any wider Yugoslav dimension. In January 1918, Pašić requested that Nikola Stojanović, as a Bosnian Serb member of the Yugoslav Committee, campaign solely for Bosnia-Hercegovinas unification with Serbia outside of the Yugoslav framework, something that Stojanović refused in the belief that this would mean a break between Serbia and the Serbs on the one hand and the Croats and Slovene on the other, an unsightly scramble for territory and ‘even that Bosnia be divided between the Serbs and Croats’.(25) In the negotiations in Geneva in November 1918 over the form that Yugoslav unification should take, Stojanović and his fellow Bosnian Serb member of the Yugoslav Committee Dušan Vasiljević sided with their colleagues in the Yugoslav Committee and against the Serbian government in favour of an essentially confederal union between the Kingdom of Serbia on the one hand and the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs on the other.(26) The Bosnian Serb political elite kept rank with other Bosnians and Habsburg South Slavs, ultimately through the medium of the first National Government of Bosnia-Hercegovina, which was established on 30 October 1918. The latter, dominated by Serbs and headed by the Bosnian Serb Atanasije Šola, kept a check on radical manifestations of Serb irredentism. On 1 December 1918, the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, including Bosnia-Hercegovina, was united with Serbia under the Karađorđević dynasty to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Bosnia-Hercegovina joined this state as a distinct entity under international law, having successfully resisted considerable pressure from the Serbian government and army to declare Bosnia-Hercegovinas unification with Serbia prior to the act of all-Yugoslav unification.(27) That Bosnia-Hercegovina was not formally united with Serbia by the time of Yugoslav unification in 1918 was the direct result of actions taken by the Bosnian Serb political elite in the face of popular irredentist pressure from the Bosnian Serb masses. This demonstrated that far from simply being part of a larger, seamless Serb nation, the Bosnian Serbs formed a national corpus in their own right: their elite perceived a national interest and followed a national strategy that were independent of, and to some extent in conflict with, those of the political elite of Serbia.

This divergence between the national politics of the Bosnian Serbs and the Serbians continued after Yugoslav unification, even though the Bosnian Serbs were themselves deeply divided. After 1918, the greater part of the Bosnian Serb political elite rejected the Great Serb nationalism of Serbia’s People’s Radical Party under Pašić, choosing instead to unite with Yugoslav-oriented elements from other former Habsburg lands and from Serbia to form the integral-Yugoslavist Democratic Party. This was a reflection of their past collaboration with, and attempt to maintain unity with, their non-Serb Bosnian counterparts. The Bosnian Serb leaders made a particular effort to draw Muslims and Croats into the Democratic Party project. Almost all Bosnian political factions participated in the founding conference of this party, which took place, symbolically, in Sarajevo in February 1919, but the principal Croat and Muslim factions ultimately refused to join the party on account of its centralist programme.(28) The Democratic Party was rejected also by the bulk of the Bosnian Serb masses which, thanks to the class division between Serb peasants and Muslim landlords, gave their support overwhelmingly to overtly Serb nationalist parties: the People’s Radical Party and the League of Farmers [Savez zemljoradnika]. Yet the Bosnian Serb politicians of these parties, too, remained guided by peculiarly Bosnian concerns that divided them from Serbia’s political classes.

The largest segment of the Bosnian Serb electorate gave its support to the People’s Radical Party, whose Bosnian wing was heir to the conservative, Sarajevo-based section of the Bosnian Serb elite under Jeftanović, that had led the campaign for religious autonomy under Austria-Hungary, then made its peace with the Austrian Kaiser and court in 1909. This political faction, in which the dominant figure was Srškić, had split with the Democrats when the latter in April 1919 chose to merge with the anti-Radical opposition in Serbia; Srškić’s faction became the Bosnian wing of the Radicals instead. Yet when the Serbian-dominated Radical-Democratic coalition government in Belgrade adopted a more moderate position vis-à-vis the Muslim landlord class than was acceptable to the Bosnian Serb electorate, Srškić resigned as Bosnian prime minister in protest, thus squaring his commitments to his Bosnian Serb constituents with his obligations toward his party leadership in Belgrade and articulating a particular Bosnian Serb national interest. Meanwhile, a significant constituency among the Bosnian Serbs demanded a still more radical reckoning with the Muslim landlords, and their expropriation with minimal compensation. To press for this, this constituency spawned a ‘Labourer’s Organisation’, which in 1920 emerged as the Bosnian wing of the League of Farmers party. In 1921 the Radical-Democrat bloc in the Yugoslav constitutional assembly bought the support of the principal Bosnian Muslim party (the Yugoslav Muslim Organisation – JMO) for the draft constitution, by giving concessions to the Muslim landlords on the issue of agrarian reform and by undertaking to preserve the administrative borders of Bosnia-Hercegovina within the new state. The League of Farmers voted against the constitution in protest. On the eve of the vote on the constitution, Vojislav Lazić, on behalf of the Farmers in the constitutional assembly, complained that the government was ‘more keen to collaborate with the beys than with the representatives of the Farmer-worker nation’, and that ‘[n]ational unity has been totally confounded by the fact that, at the last moment, the historical borders of Bosnia have been conceded’.(29)

Thus, the different traditions of Bosnian Serb nationalism were represented by the Bosnian wings of the Democratic, Radical and Farmers’ parties. The Bosnian wing of the Democratic Party – which included the greater part of the pre-unification Bosnian Serb political elite but enjoyed minimal electoral support among the Bosnian Serb masses – represented the non-sectarian tradition of Bosnian Serb nationalism, which favoured the collaboration between Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims in the interests of Bosnian unity. The Bosnian wing of the People’s Radical Party – heir to the autonomist movement of the Austro-Hungarian era and to the conservative, Sarajevo-based wing of the pre-unification Bosnian Serb elite, and enjoying the strongest electoral support among the Bosnian Serb masses – represented the hegemonist tradition of Bosnian Serb nationalism, which viewed all Bosnia-Hercegovina as a Serb land and all Bosnians (or at least all Orthodox and Muslims) as Serbs, and which sought to subsume all of them within the Serb national movement. The Bosnian wing of the League of Farmers – heir to Petar Kočić’s radical faction under Austria-Hungary, and the second-most-popular party among Bosnian Serb voters – represented the separatist tradition of Bosnian Serb nationalism, which viewed the Muslim landlords as the class enemy and viewed the nation in narrowly Serb Orthodox terms. All three groups interpreted the national interest differently from the political classes of Serbia.

The political fragmentation of the Bosnian Serbs following the establishment of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes reflected an insurmountable structural weakness in Bosnian Serb nationalism vis-à-vis the Bosnian Muslims, who successfully united behind a single party, the JMO. Mainstream Bosnian Serb nationalism during the 1920s, as represented by the Radicals, was unable to overcome the contradiction faced by the need to unify the Serb nation in Bosnia-Hercegovina and co-opt the Muslims at the same time. The Radicals could not hope to challenge the JMOs hold over the Muslim electorate if they supported the sectional interests of the Bosnian Serb peasantry unconditionally. Yet so long as they attempted to win over the Muslim elite by a conciliatory stance on the agrarian question, they could not eliminate the Farmers as a competitor for the Bosnian Serb vote. The Radicals were therefore unable to dominate the Bosnian Serb vote as the JMO dominated the Muslim vote, therefore were at a disadvantage in their political competition with the JMO. This was the root of a wholly new tendency among Bosnian Serb nationalists: retreat from the claim to exclusive possession of all Bosnia-Hercegovina, to support for the Bosnia-Hercegovinas partition. Srškić, increasingly desperate as the 1920s progressed in the face of the Radicals’ inability to compete successfully with the JMO for control of Bosnia-Hercegovina, pursued a policy that was autonomous of the Radical leadership in Belgrade, attacking the JMO as his irreconcilable enemy even when the Radicals and JMO were allies at the Yugoslav level. Srškić blamed the Bosnian Radicals’ failure on Clause 135 of the Yugoslav constitution, that preserved the provincial borders of Bosnia-Hercegovina and the six traditional Bosnian oblasts within the administrative framework of the kingdom, allowing the JMO to cooperate with the principal Croat party (the Croat Peasant Party – HSS) and preserve its influence at the oblast level. At the same time, the Radicals’ political campaign against the JMO escalated into actual physical terror and violence.

Srškić’s struggle with the JMO for control of Bosnia-Hercegovina culminated in him once again breaking ranks with the People’s Radical Party leadership to support the dictatorship of King Aleksandar, established on 6 January 1929. As Minister of Justice under the dictatorship, Srškić engineered the Law on the Naming and Division of the Kingdom into Administrative Territories of 3 October 1929, through which the kingdom – now renamed the ‘Kingdom of Yugoslavia’ – was partitioned into nine provinces or ‘banovinas’ that disregarded the historical borders between the different Yugoslav lands. In particular, Bosnia-Hercegovina was partitioned between four banovinas – the Vrbas, Primorje, Drina and Zeta Banovinas. In three of these banovinas, the Serbs enjoyed a majority; in the fourth, the Primorje Banovina, the Croats enjoyed a majority; while the Muslims were left as a minority in all four, with the aim of fulfilling Srškić’s plan to assimilate them into the Serb and Croat nations. The Law on the Islamic Religious Community of Yugoslavia of 31 January 1930 deprived the Bosnian Muslims of all autonomy in religious affairs. All high-ranking Islamic officials were to be appointed by the King, up to and including the Reis ul-ulema, who was to be transferred from Sarajevo and seated in Belgrade, with authority over all Yugoslavia’s Muslims. Finally, Srškić’s determination to destroy forever the JMO and any possibility of Muslim autonomous political mobilisation was reflected in the new Yugoslav constitution of 1931, which stated: ‘There may be no association on a religious, tribal or regional basis within the party-political sphere nor in the sphere of physical education’.(30)

Srškić’s peculiarly Bosnian Serb perception of national interest thus led him to break with the Radicals in Serbia to pursue his campaign against the JMO, which now involved abolishing all traces of Bosnia-Hercegovina as an administrative entity. Yet just as Bosnian Serb politicians were ready to break ranks with their Serbian counterparts, so the latter were ready to break ranks with the former, when their own different perception of national interest required it. Srškić’s triumph was short-lived. The assassination of King Aleksandar on 9 October 1934, followed by the appointment of a government under Milan Stojadinović in June 1935, led to the reversal of Aleksandars policy toward Bosnia-Hercegovina and the Muslims. Stojadinović created what was nominally a new political party, but was in fact a coalition of existing parties: the Yugoslav Radical Union (JRZ), formed from a merger of the Radicals, the JMO and the Slovene Peoples Party. This policy effectively ceded power in Bosnia-Hercegovina to the JMO and the Muslims, to which the fragmented Bosnian Radicals were very much a junior partner. The Stojadinović regime (1935-39) thus marked the low point of Bosnian Serb political fortunes in Yugoslavia. Bosnian Serbs, alienated from the regime on account of its alliance with the JMO, gave only meagre support to the JRZ. The vice president of the JRZ organisation in the north-east Bosnian town of Brčko, for example, wrote to Stojadinović in October 1935 that, while a minority of politically conscious Serbs in Brčko recognised that the alliance with the JMO was necessary for higher state interests, the Serb masses were alienated by this policy.(31) In December 1936, Government Minister Lazar Marković learned from a Bosnian Serb correspondent that ‘among the Serbs a terrible depression and apathy is reigning that bodes ill for Herceg-Bosna’.(32) Serb members of the JRZ ‘felt themselves to be a constituent part of a deserved majority in both the state and the party; they could not cope in the position of a minority in a party grouping and did not know how to subordinate their local and personal interests to the higher interests of the party and state’, as one of them reported to Stojadinović in October 1938.(33)

Nevertheless, Dragiša Cvetković, who succeeded Stojadinović as Yugoslav prime minister following the latter’s fall in February 1939, sacrificed the Muslims just as Stojadinović had sacrificed the Bosnian Serbs. On 26 August 1939, Cvetković signed an agreement with HSS leader Vlatko Maček. This Cvetković-Maček Agreement or Sporazum established an autonomous Croatian Banovina within the framework of the Yugoslav state. The Banovina of Croatia was formed from the merger of Yugoslavias two Croat-majority banovinas – the Sava and Primorje Banovinas – plus some additional territory. Cvetković thereby built upon Srškić’s partition of Bosnia-Hercegovina, which was now more overtly divided between Serbs and Croats. Yet whereas Srškić had been motivated by a Bosnian Serb desire to defeat the JMO and establish Serb control over the best part of Bosnia-Hercegovina, the motivation of Cvetković, and above all of his patron, the Yugoslav regent Prince Pavle, was essentially Serbian: the desire to reach an accommodation with the Croatian opposition that would preserve Yugoslavia, at the expense if necessary of the Bosnian Serbs and Muslims. According to the recollections of Branko Miljuš, who had been Minister without Portfolio under Cvetković, the latter responded to his objections to the Sporazum with the question: ‘How much longer will you Serbs from Bosnia obstruct our Sporazum with the Croats ?’ In Miljušs opinion, Cvetković represented a ‘type of politician for whom the territory between the Drina and the Adriatic represented simply a field of manoeuvre, and the Orthodox and Muslim population of that area so many bargaining counters’.(34) Cvetković and his supporters, for their part, claimed that, as concerned the Serbo-Croat dispute, ‘the main role in provoking all these conflicts was played precisely by those Serbs from the prečanski areas [i.e. Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina] headed by Svetozar Pribičević, as the one most familiar with Croatian conditions’, while ‘the “Serbs from Serbia”, on the basis of the latters prescriptions and advice – of course incorrect – attempted to resolve them’.(35) In this dispute between Bosnian Serb and Serbian emigres over the Sporazum, each blamed the other for betraying the national interest.

The period 1939-1941 witnessed the strongest manifestation in the entire Yugoslav period of Bosnian Serb national mobilisation, autonomous of Serbia’s political classes. The Muslims mobilised in opposition to the Sporazum and to the partition of Bosnia-Hercegovina, in the ‘Muslim Movement for the Autonomy of Bosnia-Hercegovina’, which demanded the establishment of a Bosnian banovina equivalent to the Croatian one, heightening the insecurity of the Bosnian Serbs. The latter mobilised either against the Sporazum, or against the possible establishment of a Bosnian banovina, or against both. In the words of one correspondent of Srpski glas, the newspaper of the Serb Cultural Club: ‘We were struck with shock when the Sporazum was published and when we saw that those deciding in Belgrade had sacrificed us Bosnian Serbs without a thought’.(36) All Serb political parties were totally opposed to Bosnian autonomy as demanded by the Muslim Movement, but a minority within the Bosnian Serb political classes were ready to buy off the Croats by accepting the Sporazum. For example, Dobroslav Jevđević, head of the Bosnian section of the Yugoslav National Party, broke ranks with the latter’s leadership by embracing the Sporazum on an anti-Muslim basis: ‘since, as we said, we do not deem Bosnia-Hercegovina to be a territory with a particular state right, because it does not comprise any kind of particular ethnic, economic, communications, nor in its present frontiers historical whole, we make no bones about the fact that the administrative division should be carried out on the basis of the tribal ownership of each part of the Bosnian land, except where military or industrial-defensive interests do not permit this.’(37)

Yet such Bosnian Serb voices were outnumbered by those that opposed the Sporazum. Branko Kaluđerčić, a Bosnian Serb follower of Stojadinović, argued: ‘It is wholly understandable that the Serbs of Bosnia-Hercegovina are without exception frightened and excited, and are raising their voice against the notion that even a single district of Bosnia-Hercegovina be sacrificed to the kind of political system of terror that reigns in Croatia.’ He insisted: ‘no one has the right to decide that a single district of Bosnia-Hercegovina be separated from Belgrade and from Yugoslavia, for whose greatness and unity Bosnia-Hercegovina gave many lives and much blood of its best sons.’(38) Some Bosnian Serbs even revived the tradition of Serb-Muslim cooperation in their resistance to the Sporazum. Serbs from Brčko denounced the inclusion of their town in the Banovina of Croatia as a ‘complete injustice to Serbdom and at once an injustice to our Muslim brothers, of whose feelings and thoughts nobody has taken account.’(39) A particularly hardline opposition to the Sporazum and to Bosnian autonomy was expressed by the Serb Cultural Club, a pan-Serb, extreme-nationalist organisation that was to a considerable degree dominated by Bosnian Serbs, with Nikola Stojanović as vice-president, Vasa Čubrilović as secretary and Vladimir Ćorović as its intellectual motor.(40) Serb Cultural Club member Stevan Moljević, provided the fullest articulation of the pro-partition ideology of Bosnian Serb nationalism, born of the recognition that even in a united Yugoslavia Bosnia-Hercegovina as a Serb land was lost. His concern was therefore to ensure that ‘the Serbs in the area encompassing Bosanska Krajina, Banija, Kordun, Lika and Northern Dalmatia, which forms a compact whole of over 1,200,000 souls, [not] be put in a subordinate position either to Zagreb or to Sarajevo’. Moljević favoured the abandonment of Serb defence of Bosnian unity; the abandonment of Sarajevo as a Serb city; and a defence instead of the Serb-majority Vrbas Banovina centred on the city of Banja Luka; ‘Today in Banja Luka the Serbs have a relative majority. In time they will have an absolute majority.’ Banja Luka, therefore, had to become a ‘mighty cultural centre’ for the 1,200,000 Serbs of this area, that would ‘paralyse the influence of Zagreb and Sarajevo’ and ‘be the frontier guard of Belgrade.’(41)

 The Bosnian Serbs arose in November-December 1939 in a spontaneous movement directed against their forcible inclusion in an autonomous Bosnian banovina: the Movement ‘Serbs Assemble !’ Paradoxically, the Bosnian Serbs arose on an autonomous Bosnian basis to oppose Bosnian autonomy. On 11 November, a conference of Serb organisations and societies convened in Sarajevo to express the Serb opposition to Bosnian autonomy. The conference resolved: ‘Regarding the plan – that in the new ordering of the state, beside the Banovinas of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina be detached to form a separate, fourth banovina – all Serbs of Bosnia-Hercegovina reply with a decisive and unconditional “No”, and every attempt to enact such a plan will collapse in the face of the most decisive resistance of the Bosnian-Hercegovinian Serbs, of whose unity in such a struggle, if it is presented to them, nobody need doubt for a moment.’(42) The conference led to the formation of a Council of Serb and Other National Societies and Institutions that assumed a leadership role in the movement. Similar conferences of Serb organisations and societies were then held in other towns across Bosnia-Hercegovina. The movement culminated with an assembly organised in Doboj on 31 December 1939, at which five-hundred delegates representing ‘all national, cultural and other societies from all Bosnia-Hercegovina’ presided over a crowd of three-thousand people. President of the assembly Jovan Ɖakula, who was president of the Orthodox Church municipality for the town of Doboj, referred dismissively in his opening speech to Bosnia-Hercegovinas ‘so-called historical borders’, yet the assembly represented Bosnian Serbs alone, not Serbs from other parts of Yugoslavia. The purpose of the assembly, in the words of Milan A. Bož, was to show that ‘the national and state question cannot be resolved without us, cannot be resolved without the Serb nation of Bosnia-Hercegovina or against its wishes’. Ilija Berić of Bosanski Brod appealed to ‘Serb Sarajevo, brave and heroic Tuzla, glorious Banja Luka and Mostar, the pride of Serbdom, and the other towns and villages of our proud Bosnia and stout Hercegovina, that together we raise a strong and decisive voice, that we are one, that we are indivisible, that we shall everywhere and always be and remain with mother Serbia, and that no force will separate us.’ This speech and the very form of the Doboj assembly illustrate that even though Bosnian Serb nationalism in 1939 was directed at the negation of Bosnian autonomy, its frame of reference remained Bosnian and its rhetoric Bosnian-patriotic.(43)

The events of 1939-1941 demonstrate that the Bosnian Serbs comprised a national corpus in their own right, entirely ready and able to mobilise independently of the political classes of Serbia. They appeared to demonstrate also a virtually unequivocal rejection by both the Bosnian Serb elite and populace of any form of Bosnian autonomy. Yet Bosnian Serbs opposed Bosnian autonomy only when it implied a move away from union with Serbia, as it appeared to do in 1939, and when it was Bosnian autonomy under Muslim leadership. In World War II, the Partisan movement in Bosnia-Hercegovina, headed by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, won the battle for political leadership over the Bosnian Serb masses, despite – or perhaps because – of the fact that it fought under the banner of self-rule for a multinational Bosnia-Hercegovina of Serbs, Croats and Muslims. The Germans and Italians who invaded and destroyed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in April 1941 separated Bosnia-Hercegovina from Serbia, incorporating it within a Croat-fascist puppet-state, the so-called ‘Independent State of Croatia’, which carried out genocide against the Serb, Jewish and Gypsy population of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. The Partisans fought under the banner of Bosnian self-rule within a re-established Yugoslavia, in which Bosnia-Hercegovina would again be united with Serbia, not on a Great Serb basis, as part of an enlarged Serbian state, but on a federal Yugoslav basis. The establishment of the People’s Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1943-1946, as a constituent member of a Yugoslav federation along with Serbia, Croatia and other South Slav lands, represented the fulfilment of traditional Bosnian Serb national aspirations.

The process of establishing the Bosnian republic was very much led and driven by Bosnian Serbs: the Bosnian Partisans were never less than 60% Serb in composition, and Serbs numerically dominated the Bosnian Partisan movement at every level. In 1945, the fledgling Bosnian state that emerged from the war had a Serb president, Vojislav Kecmanović; a Serb prime minister, Rodoljub Čolaković; and a Serb secretary of its Communist organisation, Đuro Pucar. Although sharing the internationalist and multinational-Yugoslav ideals of their non-Serb Communist comrades, Bosnian Serb Communists such as Čolaković and Pucar also expressed their Bosnian Serb national identity. At the Second Session of the Country Antifascist Council of the People’s Liberation of Bosnia-Hercegovina in June-July 1944, at which Bosnian statehood was formally re-established by the Partisans, Pucar gave the first keynote speech, stating: ‘Thanks to historical and political circumstances, the Serb people, which was the most threatened, found within itself enough living strength to wage the struggle against the occupier. Led by democratic forces, it developed a democratic spirit in its struggle; thus it could introduce the idea of brotherhood among the peoples of Bosnia-Hercegovina. To it belongs the honour and glory of introducing the idea of brotherhood among the Muslims and among the Croats.’(44) In attributing to the Bosnian Serbs the role of bringers of freedom to Bosnia-Hercegovina and the Bosnians in general, Pucar interpreted the Bosnian Partisan achievement as part of the Bosnian Serb revolutionary tradition. This was not an entirely accurate interpretation, as despite the Serb preponderance within them, the Bosnian Partisans were very much a multinational movement to which Muslims and Croats as well as Serbs made a crucial contribution. The Bosnian Partisan movement was the child both of the genuinely multinational interwar labour movement that spawned the Communists, and of the principally Serb Bosnian peasant-radical tradition.

The Partisans’ Bosnian Chetnik rivals, too, were a child of the Bosnian peasant-radical tradition, and despite their Great Serb ideology, they continued to express a Bosnian Serb national identity and outlook that put them at loggerheads with Draža Mihailović’s Serbian-oriented Chetnik Supreme Command. The Bosnian Chetniks sense of identification with the land of Bosnia-Hercegovina; their jealousy over their own autonomy; and their understanding of the Serb rebellion as a Bosnian peoples uprising rather than as a conventional military struggle waged by Yugoslav Army officers – all this marked their divergence with Mihailović’s leadership. Bosnian Chetnik commanders tended to view Mihailovićs officer-delegates as representatives of an alien and hierarchical officer corps, and their conflicts over authority with these delegates on occasion erupted into violence, even killing. Stevan Botić, commander of the Mountain Staff of the Bosnian Chetnik Detachments, claimed in the course of his conflict with Mihailović’s command that ‘we are not at all separatists, but we wish to preserve the unity of Bosnian Chetnik action and do not permit that men interfere in our Bosnian problems who did not participate in the Bosnian uprising, nor are familiar with the situation in Bosnia.’ He claimed also ‘that Bosnia has its special problems and that not a single Bosnian wants to have anybody imposed upon him as a tutor, just as we Serbs of Bosnia do not want to set up some kind of Serb unit just for ourselves, like they think we do’.(45) He claimed that around Mihailović ‘are gathered men who want to be master of Bosnia, when she is liberated… Around Brother Draža are gathered mostly Montenegrins and Serbians who do not understand our circumstances’.(46) On 21 August 1942, Botićs Mountain Staff of the Bosnian Chetnik Detachments held a joint conference with another Bosnian Chetnik staff, Radoslav Radić’s General Staff of the Bosnian Chetnik Detachments, to prepare for the formation of a unified Bosnian Chetnik command and to adopt a united stand vis-à-vis the Chetnik movement in Serbia. The conference recognised Mihailović as supreme Chetnik commander but remained committed to the principle that Mihailović had no right to appoint Chetnik commanders for Bosnia without their agreement, and insisted that such commanders had to be Bosnians.(47)

The conflict between the Partisans and Chetniks in Bosnia-Hercegovina of 1941-1945 reflected, so far as the Bosnian Serbs were concerned, a fissure in their national identity induced by economic and social change. The Partisans were spearheaded by the Communists, who were the product of the pre-war labour movement, itself a product of the urban and industrial civilisation that had begun to emerge with the industrial revolution following the Austro-Hungarian occupation of 1878. In the Bosnian towns, there was a stronger tradition of inter-ethnic civic coexistence that transcended the divisions between Serb, Croat and Muslim nationalists, while the Bosnian labour movement was based on the principle of working-class unity across ethnic divisions. This urban and industrial culture found expression in the multinational composition of the Communists and Partisans, which embraced Croats, Muslims, Jews and others as well as Serbs, and in support for a multinational Bosnian republic as the common state of Serbs, Croats and Muslims. Although the Partisans were also a child of the Bosnian peasant-radical tradition, it was their Communist spearhead that ultimately defined their politics. By contrast, the Chetniks were more exclusively an heir of the peasant-radical tradition; the direct successor of the League of Farmers, whose politics were defined by the Serb peasantry’s class struggle with the Muslim landlords. Unlike the population of the towns, the population of the Bosnian countryside lived on plots of land exclusively owned or occupied by mono-national families. The Serb peasants’ national outlook therefore tended to be more ethno-religiously exclusive than that of the Serb urban population. This outlook found its most extreme expression in the Chetniks’ genocidal campaign against the non-Serb population of Bosnia-Hercegovina, particularly the Muslims, and their goal of a nationally homogenous Great Serbia.(48) Yet it was the Partisan movement that proved stronger.

The People’s Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, renamed in 1963 the ‘Socialist Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina’, was dominated by Bosnian Serbs for the first two decades of its existence, until the second half of the 1960s. From that time on, however, Serb preponderance within the Bosnian republic began to decline while Muslim power rose, due to a number of factors: the relative numerical decline in the Serb population and rise in the Muslim population, on account of higher Serb out-migration and a higher Muslim birth-rate, leading to the Muslims overtaking the Serbs as the largest Bosnian nationality by 1971; the formal recognition of the Muslims as a nation in their own right in 1968, coupled with a Muslim national cultural renaissance in this period; the rehabilitation from 1966 of the Bosnian Croats, who had previously suffered widespread discrimination on account of their generally weak support for the Partisans; the fall of the Serbian strongman Aleksandar Ranković, vice-president of Yugoslavia, in 1966, and the consequent weakening of Serbian predominance within Yugoslavia as a whole; and the retirement of the Bosnian Serb Communist strongman Đuro Pucar in 1969 and the rise of a new generation of Bosnian Communist leaders headed by the Croat Branko Mikulić and the Muslim Hamdija Pozderac. This process was paralleled by the loosening of the Yugoslav federation from the late 1960s onward and its evolution along semi-confederal lines, culminating in the Yugoslav constitution of 1974. The Bosnian republic, in which Serbs were increasingly less dominant and numerous, was increasingly also more independent of the federal centre and resembled more closely a sovereign entity.(49) So too did the other members of the federation, including the Socialist Autonomous Provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina, which though formally part of Serbia, came to escape its control and enjoy most of the attributes of the Yugoslav republics. This process generated a Serb-nationalist backlash, among the Serbs of Bosnia-Hercegovina, Serbia and elsewhere, which expressed itself in the regime of Slobodan Milošević after 1987, the ‘anti-bureaucratic revolution’, the ‘happening of the people’, and the Wars of Yugoslav Succession, in which the Milošević regime and Serb nationalists in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina sought to carve out new Serb borders. In Bosnia-Hercegovina, the retirement of the Partisan generation of Communist leaders during the 1980s, who were generally committed to Bosnian republican statehood, opened the way for the emergence of a new generation of Bosnian Serb leaders who would lead the backlash against the latter.

The fall of the Communist regime in Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1990 and the first free elections resulted in a coalition government of three nationalist parties representing each of the Bosnian nationalities: the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), Croat Democratic Union (HDZ) and (Muslim) Party of Democratic Action (SDA). Yet the Bosnian Serb nationalist backlash immediately expressed itself in a campaign to set up regional associations of ‘Serb municipalities’ as expressions of Serb self-rule at the local level. In April 1991, Pale, the only Sarajevo municipality where the SDS had achieved an absolute majority in the elections of autumn 1990, seceded from the city of Sarajevo, and would later become the Bosnian Serb rebel capital. In September 1991 the Serb regional associations grew into autonomous regional bodies. Thus the Serb Autonomous Oblast (SAO) of Herzegovina was established on 12 September, followed by the Autonomous Region of Bosanska Krajina on the 17th and the SAO of Romanija on the 19th. The SAOs of Semberija and North Bosnia were subsequently established, bringing the total to five. These SAOs were autonomous regional bodies that grouped together Serb-controlled municipalities, violating the authority of the central government in Sarajevo. This separatist drive was catalysed by resistance to the emergence of Bosnia-Hercegovina as a sovereign state, under a Muslim-nationalist president, Alija Izetbegović. Following the Bosnian parliament’s vote on 14 October 1991 to establish the Socialist Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina as a sovereign state, the SDS delegates seceded from the parliament in protest and on 24 October established a separate Serb National Assembly claiming to represent the Bosnian Serb population as a whole. On 9 January 1992, the Serb Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina was formally proclaimed. Following the declaration of Bosnian independence and with international recognition of this independence approaching, the two SDS members of the Bosnian Presidency resigned from that body on 4 April and left Sarajevo. The Serb Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina dropped the Bosnian appellation in September, becoming merely the Serb Republic (Republika Srpska).(50)

The establishment of a separate Bosnian ‘Serb Republic’ necessarily required a brutal war, the destruction of the Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina and the extermination or expulsion of the non-Serb population on the new Serb entity’s territory. Yet through the Milošević regime in Belgrade and the Republika Srpska leadership under Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić were partners in this process, the perceptions of Serb national interest on the part of these two Serb regimes continued to diverge, as they had for successive earlier generations of Serbian and Bosnian Serb leaders. The Bosnian Serb rebels resisted the efforts of Belgrade to pressurise them into accepting successive international peace plans; Belgrade retaliated by imposing sanctions on the Republika Srpska, but proved unable to impose its will on the latter. The goal of unifying ‘Serb lands’ east and west of the Drina to form an enlarged Serb state proved to be as elusive in the 1990s as it had been in earlier periods. The emergence instead of a semi-independent Bosnian ‘Serb Republic’ wholly separate from Serbia, which achieved international recognition under the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, was a more natural culmination of Bosnian Serb national aspirations. But it was not the only one: an alternative, albeit minority Bosnian Serb current was provided by those politically conscious Serbs who remained loyal to the concept of a unified, multinational Bosnia-Hercegovina during the 1990s. Including such individuals as Bogić Bogičević, Jovan Divjak and Mirko Pejanović, as well as many Partisan veterans, members of this anti-nationalist current founded the ‘Serb Consultative Council’ in 1993, refounded the following year as the ‘Serb Civic Council’.(51) The Bosnian Serbs, to this day, continue to express their national identity in diverse ways.

 

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Srpski glas

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References

 

 

  1. Marko Attila Hoare, The History of Bosnia; From the Middle Ages to the Present Day, Saqi, London, 2007, pp. 33-61.

  2. Stevan K. Pavlowitch, Serbia: The History behind the Name, C. Hurst and Co., London, 2002, p. 16.

  3. Michael Boro Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, 1804-1918, vol. 1, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York and London, 1976, p. 12.

  4. Srdja Pavlović, Balkan Anschluss: The Annexation of Montenegro and the Creation of the Common South Slav State, Purdue University Press, West Lafayette, Indiana, 2008.

  5. Svetozar Marković, ‘Srbija na istoku’, Celokupna dela, vol. 8, Narodna knjiga, Belgrade, 1995, p. 93.

  6. Dušan Berić, Ilija Garašanin i ustanak u Hercegovini 1852-1854, in Fuad Saltaga (ed.), Bosna i Bošnjaci u srbskoj nacionalnoj ideologiji – antologija tekstova, vol. 1, SALFU, Sarajevo, 1997, pp. 366-367.

  7. Milorad Ekmečić, Ustanak u Bosni 1875-1878, 3rd ed., Službeni list SRJ, Belgrade, 1996, pp. 175-178.

  8. Vasa Čubrilović, Bosanski ustanak 1875-1878, 2nd edition, Službeni list SRJ / Balkonološki institut SANU, Belgrade, 1996, p. 182.

  9. Ekmečić, Ustanak u Bosni, p. 320.

  10. Milorad Ekmečić, Radovi iz istorije Bosne i Hercegovine XIX veka, Beogradski izdavački-grafički zavod, Belgrade, 1997, pp. 248-249.

  11. Vaso Pelagić, Istorija Bosansko-ercegovačke bune u svezi sa Srpsko- i Rusko-tursko ratom, Štamparija Viktora Hornjanskoga, Budapest, 1879, pp. 57-58.

  12. Kasim Suljević, Nacionalnost Muslimana između teorije i politike, Otokar Keršovani, Rijeka, 1981, p. 113.

  13. Ekmečić, Ustanak u Bosni 1875-1878, pp. 180-181, 234-235.

  14. Tomislav Kraljač, Kalajev režim u Bosni i Hercegovini (1882-1903), Veselin Masleša, Sarajevo, 1987, pp. 210-214.

  15. Mustafa Imamović, Pravni položaj i unutrašnjo-politički razvitak Bosne i Hercegovine od 1878.-1914., Bosanski kulturni centar, Sarajevo, 1997, p. 125; Nusret Šehić, Autonomni pokret Muslimana za vrijeme austrougarske uprave u Bosni i Hercegovini, Svjetlost, Sarajevo, 1980, pp. 118-119.

  16. Robert J. Donia, Sarajevo: A biography, Hurst and Company, London, 2006, p. 101.

  17. See Todor Kruševac, Bosanskohercegovački listovi u XIX veku, Veselin Masleša, Sarajevo, 1978.

  18. Nikola Stojanović, Ustav Bosne i Hercegovine, Steve M. Ivković i Komp., Belgrade, 1909, pp. 5-6, 21-25.

  19. Imamović, Pravni položaj i unutrašnjo-politički razvitak BiH, pp. 149-155.

  20. Petar Kočić, O programu obnovljene Otabine, in Petar Kočƒ, Sabrana djela, vol. 2, Svjetlost, Sarajevo, 1967, pp. 320-321.

  21. Ibid., pp. 322-324.

  22. See Vladimir Dedijer, The Road to Sarajevo, MacGibbon & Kee Ltd., London, 1966.

  23. Mustafa Imamović, Historija Bošnjaka, Preporod, Sarajevo, 1997, p. 464.

  24. Pero Slijepčević, ‘Bosna i Hercegovina u svetskom ratu’, in Pero Slijepčević (ed.), Napor Bosne i Hercegovine za oslobođenje i ujedinjenje, Narodna Odbrana, Sarajevo, 1929, pp. 260, 264-265.

  25. Nikola Stojanović, Jugoslovenski odbor (članci i dokumenti), Nova Evropa, Zagreb, 1927, p. 58.

  26. See ‘Ɖenevska deklaracija od 9. nov. 1918’, in Ferdo Šišić (ed.), Dokumenti o postanku Kraljevine Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca 1914.-1919, Naklada Matice Hrvatske, Zagreb, 1920, pp. 236-238.

  27. Nusret Šehić, Bosna i Hercegovina 1918-1925, Institut za Istoriju u Sarajevu, Sarajevo, 1991, pp. 29-30; Branimir Gligorijević, Kralj Aleksandar Karađorđević, vol. 1, Beogradski izdavačko-grafički zavod, Belgrade, 1996, p.432.

  28. Branislav Gligorijević, Demokratska stranka i politički odnosi u Kraljevini Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Belgrade, 1970, pp. 46-53.

  29. Stenografske beleške Ustavotvorne skupštine Kraljevine Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca, vol. 2 (from the 38th to the 68th regular session), Državna Štamparija Kraljevine Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca, Belgrade, 1921, no. 53, p. 2.

  30. Ustav Kraljevine Jugoslavije od 3. septembra 1931 godine, Izdavački knjižarnica Gece Kona, Belgrade, 1933, p. 12; Hamdija Karamehmedović, AM. ‘Srškić i Muslimani, in Milutin Popović (ed.), Milan Srškić 1880-1937, Odbor za izdavanje Spomenice pok. M. Srškić u, Sarajevo, 1938, p. 185.

  31. Archive of Serbia and Montenegro, Collection 85, L. Marković, 2-195.

  32. Archive of Serbia and Montenegro, Collection 85, L. Marković, 2-421.

  33. Archive of Serbia and Montenegro, Collection 37, M. Stojadinović, 53-153.

  34. Branko Miljuš, Sporazum 1939 god., Glas kanadskih Srba, Windsor, 1957, pp. 7-10.

  35. Srpsko-hrvatsko pitanje i putevi Sporazuma, Paris, 1952, pp. 36-37

  36. Dokle će bosanski Srbi podnositi žrtve ? Zar ćemo opet preživljavati drugu 1914 godinu ?, Srpski glas, no. 14, 15 February 1940.

  37. Dobroslav Jevđević, Bosanski Srbi i autonomija Bosne – memoar o anacionalnim i razornim elementima politika dra M. Spaha, authors publication, Sarajevo, 1939, p. 4.

  38. Branko Kaluđerčić, Zašto smo protiv granice na Drini i protiv ćepanja Bosne i Hercegovine ?, authors publication, Belgrade, 1939, pp. 13, 16.

  39. Brčko srez i grad – riječ Srba brčana povodom pripojenje srezova sjeverne Bosne Banovini Hrvatskoj, Belgrade, 1939, pp. 3, 12, 34, 44, 45.

  40. Nebojša A. Popović, ‘Srpski Kulturni Klub (1937-1941)’, Istorija 20. veka, yr 7, no. 1-2, 1989, pp. 110-113.

  41. Stevan Moljević, Uloga i znaćaj Vrbaske Banovine, Brača Jakšić, Banja Luka, 1939, pp. 8-18.

  42. Srpske i nacionalne organizacije u Sarajevu i Banjoj Luci protiv autonomije Bosne i Hercegovine, Politika, 13 November 1939.

  43. Sabor u Doboj 31 decembra 1939, Belgrade, 1940, pp. 1, 9-16, 21-24.

  44. Zemaljsko antifašističko vijeće narodnog oslobođenja Bosne i Hercegovine, vol. 1, Veselin Masleša, Sarajevo, 1968, pp. 182-184.

  45. Zbornik dokumenata i podataka o narodnooslobodilačkom ratu Jugoslovenskih naroda, Vojnoistorijski institut, Belgrade, 1981, pt 14, vol. 1, doc. 139, pp. 523-524.

  46. Đoko Slijepčević, Jugoslavija uoći i za vreme drugog svetskog rata, Iskra, Munich, 1978, p. 442.

  47. Petar Kačavenda, Prilog pitanju odnosa komande bosanskih četnika i Vrhovne komande Draže Mihailovića (1942), Prilozi, no. 8, 1972, pp. 264-265.

  48. See Marko Attila Hoare, Genocide and Resistance in Hitler’s Bosnia: The Partisans and the Chetniks, 1941-1943, Oxford University Press, London, 2006.

  49. Hoare, The History of Bosnia, pp. 309-342.

  50. Ibid., pp. 342-358.

  51. Ibid., p. 388.

Thursday, 10 September 2020 Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Former Yugoslavia, Marko Attila Hoare, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arnesa Buljusmic-Kustura’s ‘woke’ excuses for Jeremy Corbyn’s Balkan genocide revisionism

ArnesaPic

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s former leader, is a Balkan genocide revisionist. At the time of the NATO bombing of Ratko Mladic’s Bosnian Serb forces in 1995, shortly after the genocidal Srebrenica massacre, the ‘Committee for Peace in the Balkans’, of which Corbyn was a prominent member, published a statement that failed to condemn the genocide and instead condemned the NATO bombing. It complained that ‘The one-sided nature of NATO’s intervention is breathtaking’ and ‘Bosnian forces were reported by the Dutch UN commander in Srebrenica to have burned 200 Serb villages in the area surrounding the town, with no question of a NATO response.’

The Committee for Peace in the Balkans was co-founded by Corbyn’s close collaborator Diane Abbott and by Sir Alfred Sherman, an advisor to Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, who made racist claims of a ‘European Islamistan in Bosnia and a Greater Albania’. The further activities of Corbyn as a member of this group have been documented by the investigative journalist Iggy Ostanin, whose work I draw upon here. This included Corbyn meeting a Serbian diplomat on the eve of NATO’s military intervention in Kosovo, to warn him that ‘exaggerated claims’ of ethnic cleansing would be used as a ‘pretext’ for intervention.

CorbynSrebrenica

In 2004, Corbyn signed an early day motion (EDM) in the House of Commons in support of a column by the notorious denier of Milosevic’s crimes, John Pilger. The EDM spoke of ‘fraudulent justifications for intervening in a “genocide” that never really existed in Kosovo’ and claimed that ‘the final count of bodies found in Kosovo’s “mass graves” was 2,788.’

Somewhat later, in 2014, Corbyn published an article in the Morning Star, endorsing the analysis of the NATO intervention made by Noam Chomsky, a notorious denier of the Srebrenica genocide. Corbyn wrote: ‘Not long after this the war in former Yugoslavia and the atrocities at Srebrenica enabled Nato to supplant the UN forces and become embroiled in a 78-day bombardment of Serbia. At the end of that conflict, in 2001, Noam Chomsky analysed the whole war and concluded that the real “winners” were Western arms manufacturers and that “the US was able to enforce its domination over the strategic Balkans region, displacing EU initiatives at least temporarily, a primary reason for the insistence that the operation be in the hands of Nato, a US subsidiary.”’

Sad though it is to say, a Bosnian activist in the UK, Arnesa Buljusmic-Kustura, who describes herself as an ‘analyst’, ‘researcher’ and ‘lecturer on genocide and fascism’, with over 32,000 Twitter followers and who serves as Operations Manager for Remembering Srebrenica, has repeatedly tweeted in defence of Corbyn in relation to former Yugoslavia; either defending him or making excuses for him. Buljusmic-Kustura was a strong supporter of Corbyn’s campaign to become prime minister of the UK, and she also speaks and writes against genocide denial. Her contortions are what happens when someone attempts to reconcile opposition to genocide denial with radical ‘woke’ politics.

Initially, she claimed there was no evidence that Corbyn was a Bosnian genocide denier, and that the accusations against him were a ‘useful tool’ of the Tories:

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Acknowledging that Corbyn had signed the EDM in relation to Kosovo in 2004, and that it endorsed the ‘notorious genocide denier’ John Pilger and that this deserved to be criticised, she nevertheless attempted to mitigate his action by claiming that the EDM ‘focuses more on the human cost of intervention rather than downplaying the war crimes committed by Serbian forces‘ (to recap: the EDM spoke of ‘a “genocide” that never really existed” and claimed that the ‘the final count of bodies found in Kosovo’s “mass graves” was 2,788’).
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She also tried to claim that any conflation of his stances on Bosnia and on Kosovo was simply a ‘propaganda tool’ – as if his positions on the two conflicts had been different – and that anyway Britain in general had a bad position, so his own position was unexceptional:
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Following Corbyn’s defeat in the UK general election in 2019, she continued to defend him from the charge of Bosnian genocide denial. She claimed that accusations of his genocide denial were part of a right-wing attempt to manipulate Bosnians and ‘well-meaning liberals’ against him:

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Next, when more evidence of his record was pointed out to her, she claimed it arose from ‘misplaced idealistic leftism’ and that it was really about being ‘critical of the NATO bombing’, and that Corbyn was too unimportant at the time to matter anyway. She also shifted from defending him from ‘genocide denial’ to defending him from ‘outright genocide denial’ – a significant moving of the goalposts:

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Finally admitting that he had taken a ‘bad line’ on Bosnia, she nevertheless put it down to ‘an attempt to criticize the NATO bombings’, but emphasised her common ground with him regarding criticism of those bombings.

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Further excuses offered for Corbyn’s stance was that it simply reflected the stance of the mainstream media and UN, that he was too unimportant at the time to matter anyway, and that people should be angry with the Tories instead:
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Other mitigating factors proffered were that Corbyn had not written the EDM, merely signed it, and that it anyway only related to Kosovo, not to Bosnia:

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Truly disappointing that anyone claiming to be an expert on, and opponent of, Balkan genocide denial should try so hard to shield someone like Corbyn from fully justified condemnation. When someone’s extreme-left politics and opposition to genocide denial cannot be reconciled, it is almost always the extreme leftism that comes out on top.

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Pic: For the woke, any misdemeanour can be overlooked…

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, 13 June 2020 Posted by | Bosnia, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, Kosovo, Red-Brown Alliance, The Left, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

How ‘progressive’ is the campaign against Rebecca Long-Bailey over her comments on abortion?

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Rebecca Long-Bailey, one of the frontrunners in the contest for the Labour leadership, has come under fire for saying that she personally believes the time-limit for the abortion for disabled foetuses to be the same as for non-disabled foetuses (24 weeks into pregnancy), and that in case of any changes to Britain’s abortion law, she would ensure that the views of the Catholic Church were heard. Long-Bailey is widely regarded as the ‘Continuity Corbyn’ candidate and has the backing of the Momentum movement, so we are in the very strange position of seeing Labour centrists attacking a Corbynite politician for not being left-wing enough.

There is a cognitive dissonance between Labour centrists attacking Corbynites, probably correctly, for losing the election by being too left wing, then attacking a Corbynite leadership candidate for being insufficiently left-wing on abortion. While support for a radical liberalisation of Britain’s already liberal abortion laws is strongly supported by many Labour members, including those with moderate or centrist views on other issues, it is not popular with the British public, which would actually be sympathetic to a moderate change to the UK’s abortion law along the lines Long-Bailey suggested. And support for such a change is higher among women than men.

For many Labour centrists, radical abortion-law reforms are an obsession equivalent to the Labour left’s obsession with Palestine: a ‘progressive’ cause that may or may not be worthy, but is certainly not a major concern for most British people. Ironically, just as the Corbynites’ Palestine obsessions led many of them into the murky waters of anti-Semitism, so the abortion obsessions of certain Labour ‘moderates’ are leading them to outright anti-Catholic bigotry; most notably in the statement of Paul Mason, a supporter of rival Labour leadership candidate Keir Starmer, who tweeted that ‘I don’t want Labour’s policy on reproductive rights dictated by the Vatican’. Such tropes reflect the same sort of ‘dual loyalty’ insinuations regarding Catholics that some Corbynites and others have directed against Jews.

But just as left-wing anti-Zionism turns out not to be quite so ‘progressive’ when you look a little more closely, so too with the cause Long-Bailey’s critics are championing.

Continue reading at Large Blue Footballs

Tuesday, 21 January 2020 Posted by | Abortion, Genocide, Liberalism, The Left, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dragan Markovina’s falsehoods about my book ‘The Bosnian Muslims in the Second World War’

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Dragan Markovina, the founder and first president of the New Left (Nova Ljevica) party in Croatia, has written a commentary on my book ‘The Bosnian Muslims in the Second World War’, which I here reply to.

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1) Markovina writes: ‘Ključni je pak, nezanemariv i neoprostiv problem ove knjige u tome što se u najbitnijem ni po čemu ne razlikuje od revizionističke historiografije u Srbiji, koja prodaje priču o dva antifašistička pokreta, i u Hrvatskoj, o tome kako je jedino zbog čega bi partizane trebalo honorirati činjenica da su stvorili federalnu Hrvatsku. Hoare zapravo tvrdi doslovno isto, da su postojala dva muslimanska oslobodilačka pokreta, koja su se zbližavala i udaljavala, da bi se na koncu ipak ujedinila u partizanskoj vojsci, a sve sa zajedničkim ciljem stvaranja federalne Bosne i Hercegovine. Ovaj autor to radi daleko pametnije od njegovih pandana u Srbiji i Hrvatskoj, na način da ne falsificira činjenice, ali bit ostaje ista.’

Neither of these claims regarding my thesis is correct. It is untrue that I claimed that the Muslim autonomists were some sort of anti-fascist resistance movement, and also untrue that I claimed that the two movements – the Partisans and Muslim autonomists – united to form a single movement. My thesis was that a) the Muslim autonomists were NOT an anti-fascist resistance movement, and were a resistance movement only insofar as they were anti-Ustasha, while being very much collaborationist in relation to the occupying powers; and b) that elements of them were coopted into the Partisans and NOP, but certainly NOT the autonomists as a whole, against which the Partisans fought throughout the war.

As regards the first of these claims, I am going simply to repeat what I wrote in response to Xavier Bougarel, who mischaracterised my thesis in a similar way:

i) I wrote ‘Although the Muslim autonomists were not a resistance movement in the sense of being anti-fascist, anti-Nazi or anti-occupier – they were none of these – they were a resistance movement in the sense of being anti-Ustasha and anti-NDH’ (p. 10). They were a ‘specifically Bosnian anti-Ustasha (though not anti-fascist, anti-Nazi or anti-occupier) current of resistance, that paralleled and overlapped with the Communist-led People’s Liberation Movement (NOP)’ (p. 14).

ii) I described the Muslim autonomist leader Uzeir-aga Hadzihasanovic as ‘the de facto leader of the pro-German but anti-Ustasha wing of the Muslim elite’ who ‘adopted a back-seat role in channelling Muslim autonomist opposition to the NDH’ (p. 41).

iii) I discuss the efforts of Muslim autonomists ‘who were anti-Ustasha but nevertheless ready to collaborate with the occupiers’ (p. 40) to seek ‘direct German military administration over the whole of Bosnia-Hercegovina’ (pp. 40-41); the stated desire of Murat-beg Pasic, a Muslim autonomist notable from Bijeljina, to ‘fight for Bosnia-Hercegovina, albeit under German military protection’ (p. 44); and the attempts of Muslim autonomists in Hercegovina to ‘express the loyalty of the Muslims of Hercegovina to the Kingdom of Italy’ and seek ‘the establishment of an autonomous Bosnia-Hercegovina under Italian protection’ (p. 50).

iv) I described in detail the Muslim Memorandum to Hitler of November 1942 as ‘the culmination of activity on the part of the pro-German, anti-Ustasha wing of the Muslim autonomist movement. Up until the summer and autumn of 1943, Muslim autonomist activity aimed predominantly at direct collaboration with the Germans to bypass the Ustashas, rather than at direct resistance activity.’ (p. 51).

v) I cite the Memorandum’s enthusiastically pro-Hitler, anti-Semitic words addressed to ‘Our Führer !’: ‘Nobody, not a single ethnic group, not a single tribe, likewise not a single nation in all Europe has with greater devotion felt and understood your gigantic movement to establish a New Order in Europe as have we Bosnians, Muslims of Bosnia. We have in the principles of National Socialism, your movement, felt that it alone brings justice, order and peace to Europe, which has been blighted and ruined by democracy.’ (p. 52) I cite the Memorandum’s reference to the fact that ’the Jewish problem among us has finally been solved…’ (p. 52).

vi) I describe the opposition of the leading Sarajevo Muslim autonomists Uzeir-aga Hadzihasanovic and Mehmed Handzic to collaboration with the NOP (p. 82); the fact that Handzic was the ‘most powerful opponent of both the Partisans and the Ustashas among the Muslim autonomists’ (pp. 247-248) and that the NOP may have assassinated him; the execution by the Partisans of the Tuzla Muslim autonomist leader Muhamed-aga Hadziefendic (p. 137); that Nesad Topcic, leader of the Muslim autonomist ‘Green Forces’, directed his activity primarily against the Partisans (p. 189) and was eventually killed by them (p. 257); that Tito considered Muslim autonomist leader Hafiz Muhamed efendi Pandza, with whom the Partisans collaborated, to have been ‘an agent of the Gestapo all along’ (p. 153); and the Partisans’ execution of Srebrenica Muslim autonomist Ismet Bektasevic after he abandoned them for the Ustashas (p. 143).

 

2) Markovina writes: ‘Hoare, jednako kao i hrvatski državotvorni povjesničari potpuno zanemaruje ideju socijalne revolucije kao konstitutivnog dijela dio te borbe, koju jedva da spominje, a i pritom posredno, ali očito u potpunosti relativizira moralne izbore. Kao da je potpuno svejedno da li je netko bio od početka i svo vrijeme antifašistički opredijeljen ili nije.’

Markovina doesn’t explain what he means by ‘the idea of social revolution’, and by linking it to the assertion that it was not ‘potpuno svejedno da li je netko bio od početka i svo vrijeme antifašistički opredijeljen ili nije‘, he suggests that he himself doesn’t know what he means. Because the whole point is that a social revolution and an antifascist movement are NOT the same thing.

Does he mean a social revolution in the countryside, among the peasantry who comprised most of Bosnia’s population ? But the real social revolution there had already been carried out by the royal Yugoslav regime after 1918, and involved radical agrarian reform to the benefit of the Bosnian Serb peasantry and at the expense of the Muslim landlords and their families, reducing many of them to poverty. Taking this radical social change a step further to encompass actual extermination or expulsion of the Muslims was what the Chetniks attempted to do, while the Partisans followed the more conservative policy of trying to preserve Bosnia’s traditional multiethnic coexistence.

Does Markovina mean a social revolution in the towns, among the proletariat ? But their socio-economic circumstances did not naturally lead them to support the sort of guerrilla uprising the Communists wanted to wage, involving destroying industrial assets to prevent the occupiers using them. In Zenica in July 1941, one veteran of the struggle recalled that local Communists feared ‘If we destroy the steel mill, the workers will become unemployed en masse and their hostility to Pavelić will be turned against the Communists’. When the Partisans destroyed the industrial assets of Drvar in September 1941, one Partisan recalled ‘To be honest, it has to be said that the best part of the people could not immediately understand and accept the meaning of this action. The majority of the population, which lived from their earnings from these factories, did not approve of their burning.’ Thus, the Partisan movement cannot be seen simply as some sort of outgrowth of pre-existing working-class struggle.

Does Markovina mean an idea of social revolution that existed in the Communists’ heads ? But the revolution in Bosnia wholly failed to unfold according to such pre-existing conceptions of what Communists thought it should look like; for example, richer peasants (‘kulaks’) were on the whole more likely to support the Partisans and poorer peasants to support the Chetniks. When the Communist leadership did shift in the direction of the ‘second stage’ of the revolution – of going from an anti-fascist struggle to a proletarian struggle – it had disastrous consequences for the Partisans in Hercegovina, where it led to systematic extermination of ‘kulaks’ that drove the local population into the arms of the Chetniks. The Hercegovinian Partisan Ljubica Mihić later recalled entering the struggle in the villages ‘with all the bookish, dogmatic prejudices concerning kulaks, middling peasants and poor peasants, and there I found a totally unexpected situation. Instead of by class, the division was national, and our ideas were not even accepted by the poor’.

The reality is that the Communists called the struggle they were waging a ‘Narodnooslobodilacka borba’ – National Liberation Struggle or People’s Liberation Struggle. They did not call it a ‘Klasnooslobodilacka borba’ or ‘Socijalnooslobodilacka borba’. They fought and won a national-liberation struggle using patriotic and anti-fascist rhetoric, not a class-liberation struggle using class rhetoric. The national struggle and the genocidal threat, represented in Bosnia by the Ustashas and Chetniks, were far more important than any social or class factors in mobilising people into the NOP. That is why the NOP took much stronger root among the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia than in Serbia, and stronger root among the Croats in Dalmatia (annexed by Italy) than among the Croats in northern Croatia, irrespective of prewar social conditions. And it is why the Muslim Bosniaks, who had mostly voted alongside their own ‘bourgeoisie’ for the Yugoslav Muslim Organisation before the war, were ready to join the NOP en masse.

 

3) Markovina writes:Autorova tendencioznost vidi se i po još jednom detalju, a to je izostanak priče o Mostaru, koji je spomenut izravno ili posredno tek na 5-6 mjesta, a isto vrijedi i za Hercegovinu generalno.’

This is what my index says:

‘Mostar: 15, 17, 30, 32, 46, 47, 50, 118, 124-5, 176, 185, 193, 225, 339, 276, 277, 291, 350, 360, 368, 377; Muslim Resolution of (1941), 42-43, 360; Chetnik activity in, 49, 106-7, 112; early NOP activity in, 67-69, 79-81, 82; liberation of (1945) 266–9’

In other words, Mostar appears in rather more than five or six places.

 

4) Markovina writes: ‘Zašto mislim da je izostanak šireg prikaza stanja u Mostaru planski izostao? Pa zato jer s mostarskim slučajem, u kojem je gro Muslimana, pa tako i moja baka bio u radničkom pokretu i činio najznačajniju bazu partizanske vojske i gradskih ilegalaca od prvih dana okupacije i rata, pa sve do kraja, sve Hoarine teze padaju u vodu. Mostarski muslimani su u najvećem broju, od početka i bez ikakvih kalkulacija bili u antifašističkom pokretu zato jer su bili komunisti. A Hoare se ponaša tako da kad mu nešto ne odgovara, jednostavno prešuti. Tako mu je svugdje drugo važan nacionalni sastav partizana, samo za Mostar spominje generalno jak antifašistički pokret, bez spominjanja nacionalnog sastava.’

What is notable here is that Markovina cannot simply criticise the book for (as he sees it) neglecting to discuss something sufficiently that he considers important. No, he has to make the accusation of deliberate bad faith, or suppression of evidence, on the historian’s part. Which, to put it as politely as possible, reflects his own authoritarian-Communist intolerance and small-mindedness when faced with anything that does not confirm his own biases and cliches. When I am constantly and repeatedly attacked by Twitter Chetniks for supposedly exaggerating the Muslim Bosniak participation in the NOP, it very strange to be suddenly attacked with the opposite accusation: that I am supposedly downplaying Muslim Bosniak support for the NOP !

In my book ‘Genocide and Resistance in Hitler’s Bosnia’, I wrote the following: ‘The Hercegovinian capital of Mostar was the large town in Bosnia-Hercegovina where during the 1930s opposition to the Belgrade regime was strongest, and perhaps the one subsequently where support for the NOP would be most pronounced. In the words of Čolaković: “For Mostar it is characteristic that there the Muslims are the main basis of our movement. Few Muslim homes in Mostar are not tied to our movement, not only those of the poor but those of the notables.” According to Humo: “In Mostar a broad People’s Liberation Front was created and the Partisan families contributed a lot to its cohesion and activity. Almost every family had someone in the Partisans, and the Party involved all those families in its work. The solidarity of the citizens was such that illegal agents could freely move about without worrying that someone would reveal them. Every house was ready to hide anyone in danger.” Finally Vlado Šegrt, former commander of the 29th Hercegovinian Division, said of Mostar: “Rarely could one find any other town with a greater percentage of the population ready to involve themselves actively in the Partisan movement. There were towns in which the great majority of the people sympathised with the Partisans and were just waiting for the time when we should come and bring freedom, but there were few towns like Mostar in which so many people were ready to accept such difficult and dangerous tasks. These claims are supported by the testimony of the Ustasha police, which reported powerful Communist activity in several areas of public life in the city: pupils of the Mostar Gymnasium were “over 80% Communist oriented”; in the tobacco factory Communists were “spreading Communism unhindered among our workers”; Mostar citizens, Croats as well as Muslims, were demanding the release of Communist prisoners and the return of sacked Serbs into the administration; and there were several Communists and sympathisers among the Mostar Home Guards. The NOP was present also in the German munitions factory NSKK, where its agents siphoned off weapons and uniforms for the Partisans. Even the mosques in Mostar could serve as a hiding place for the NOP’s armaments. That the Communists were able to operate so easily in Mostar owed something to the Italian military presence, for the Italians did not wish the Ustasha state to consolidate itself in their zone of the country and did not allow the Ustasha police to act freely against the Communists. In total, Mostar contributed nearly two thousand Partisans during the war. After the war, the NOP in Mostar was made the subject of an epic poem, entitled ‘Poem about Mostar’, by Hamza Humo, the great Mostar poet.’ (‘Genocide and Resistance in Hitler’s Bosnia’, pp. 213-214)’

In other words, I have already written about, in an earlier published work, all the things that Markovina accuses me of deliberately suppressing and being silent about. (NB But note also the exaggeration in Markovina’s claim that ‘Mostarski muslimani su u najvećem broju, od početka i bez ikakvih kalkulacija bili u antifašističkom pokretu zato jer su bili komunisti.’ The Mostar Muslims were mostly anti-fascist from the start, but they were not mostly Communist.)

I do not of course expect Markovina to be familiar with my earlier book. I cite this passage to show just how false and, indeed, disgraceful is his accusation that I suppressed evidence of the antifascist sympathies of Mostar’s Muslim population.

 

5) Markovina writes: I na koncu, da bi čitatelju raspršio sve iluzije, autor glavni dio teksta, prije zaključka, završi ovako: “I baš kao što su komunisti, koji su bili mala i progonjena sekta tridesetih godina prošlog stoljeća, poveli borbu za oslobođenje Bosne i Hercegovine protiv Sila osovine i njihovih saradnika, tako će i bivši ‘Mladi Muslimani’ i njihove pristalice, na čelu s Alijom Izetbegovićem, povesti Bosnu i Hercegovinu u sljedećem metežu tokom devedesetih godina. Bosanska revolucija, koja se ugasila četrdesetih godina, rasplamsat će se ponovo pola stoljeća kasnije”. Pet puta sam ovo pročitao, svaki put ne vjerujući vlastitim očima, da je netko tko ima toliko podataka i znanja, u stanju mrtav-hladan zaključiti kako je Alija Izetbegović nastavio revolucionarnu partizansku i Titovu borbu. Besramno.’

As the citation above makes clear, I did not write that Alija Izetbegovic continued the revolutionary struggle of Tito and the Partisans. I wrote that Izetbegovic and his group led Bosnia in the next upheaval, and that the Bosnian revolution which wound down in the 1940s flared up again half a century later. There was no suggestion that the political goals or ideological character of the two parties that led Bosnia in each of its revolutionary phases were equivalent, merely an observation on the structural similarities, whereby in each case a dedicated, persecuted sect assumes a leadership role in a revolutionary upheaval. I certainly made no moral judgement about whether either group was ‘the good guys’, because that is not the task of the historian.

The trouble here is that Markovina, given his own ideological background, cannot understand the phenomenon of revolution except in terms of the Communist party. Being a Communist in Bosnia during World War II meant being a revolutionary. But being a Communist in Bosnia, or elsewhere in Communist-ruled Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s meant being a conservative; a supporter of the status quo. It was anti-Communists who were the revolutionaries in the 1980s and 1990s; the ones who tore down the Berlin wall. Markovina is offended by comparisons between Communists and anti-Communists. He cannot step outside his ideology and look at the course of history objectively, or judge his own and other political currents by the same standard. That is his problem.

Saturday, 18 January 2020 Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Conservatism, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, The Left, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Britain’s uncertain Brexit march

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The popular vote of the UK on 23 June 2016 to leave the EU has been politically an earthquake for the first and a shock to the second. Retrospectively, the outcome was likely, given the structural factors both within Britain and between Britain and the EU. Yet these same factors have obstructed a clear British postreferendum strategy for secession: Britain does not know what kind of Brexit it wants, or whether it wants one at all. This briefing will examine the causes of the Brexit revolution and the reasons for its uncertain execution, before considering the likely outcome.

Britain’s relationship to Europe is traditionally ambiguous. Britain’s identity – of a Protestant island-state formed in 1707 from the AngloScottish union – was cemented during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in wars against the Catholic powers of continental Europe. It was successively reinforced by Napoleon’s anti-British Continental System; by nineteenth-century imperial ‘splendid isolation’; and by Britain’s ‘Finest Hour’ in 1940, standing alone against Nazi-dominated Europe. But to maintain the European balance of power, Britain had to be closely involved in Europe’s politics. When Britain became too detached from Europe, as during the American Revolution and the Boer War, it found itself in peril.

Continue reading at IRMO Brief

Sunday, 15 September 2019 Posted by | Brexit, Britain, European Union, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering the Bosnian Genocide

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Review of Hikmet Karcic (ed.), Remembering the Bosnian Genocide: Justice, Memory and Denial, Institute for Islamic Tradition of Bosniaks, Sarajevo, 2016, 350 pp.

Hikmet Karcic, who this month defended his PhD at the International University of Sarajevo, combines an intellectual seriousness in his research into the Bosnian genocide with a readiness to engage with the painful essence of the topic in a way that is all too rare. He is not one to rest content with safe platitudes about reconciliation, memory, civic values and the like that often seem to substitute for such an engagement. His readiness to rock the boat was apparent when his exhibit on the Srebrenica genocide, due to be shown at the European Parliament this month, was cancelled by the latter for displaying ‘too many skulls and bones’. For all that the Srebrenica genocide is now commemorated and recognised in Europe, elements of the EU establishment clearly do not like to see their sleek corporate veneer tarnished by a display concerning it that is too frank and prominent. Subsuming the story of the Srebrenica and wider Bosnian genocide within a ‘progressive’ democratic European narrative remains difficult to achieve, given the extent to which ‘progressive’ democratic Europe was implicated in the genocide

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The current volume of essays arose out of an conference organised by the Islamic Tradition of Bosniaks and held in Sarajevo in 2015 to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. Karcic has managed to assemble a collection of texts covering a range of themes related to the genocide – trials and courts, remembrance and memory and destruction of denial – that are generally of a high scholarly level and likewise pull few punches. In particular, Sandra Cvikic and Drazen Zivic have contributed a withering critique of the form of ‘transitional justice’ promoted by the international community and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), whereby the genuine trauma and memory of the genocide among communities in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia are expected to be suppressed in the name of ‘reconciliation’ and a blander, value-neutral form of memory that tends in the direction of equalising the guilt and suffering of the parties to the conflict and their respective populations. Similarly, former ICTY investigator Nena Tromp provides an account of the tribunal’s pragmatic compromises in the pursuit of truth and justice, in particular with regard to its failure to compel Serbia to hand over the uncensored minutes of the Supreme Defence Council; Tromp’s account is as well informed as one would expect given its author’s expertise, but also very critical of the tribunal’s policies. Norman Cigar’s critique of the US military’s contribution to the Bosnian catastrophe, in the form of its exaggerated estimates of the Bosnian Serb armed forces’ capacity to resist militarily and consequent bad advice to the Clinton Administration, provides an excellent antidote to cliches of US hawkishness, militarism and imperialism.

There are too many more good essays and individual points contained in this volume to list them all, but just to give an example of the range, there is an essay by Safet Bandzovic on the abuse of Bosniak refugees from Srebrenica and Zepa in Serbia during the war – a sideshow to the genocide that has had little attention paid to it – and an essay by Alexandra Lily Kather on the international law regarding genocide that serves as a very good introduction to the subject. I am just sorry that Karcic was apparently unable to prevail upon the always interesting Geoffrey Nice to contribute a fully referenced academic article; his contribution here consists of a rather tantalising list of numbered points.

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Hikmet Karcic

There is, however, one criticism to be made of this collection of essays that transcends any single article, and it applies to many other similar collections relating to the war in the former Yugoslavia: various cliches have crept into several of the texts that should rightfully be dispensed with. Thus, John Weiss claims that in the Communist era in Yugoslavia, ‘The popular memories of the battles of World War II that set Partisan against Chetnik or White Guard, Ustashe against Serb or Jew,  Handzar against Chetnik or Jew, and Yugoslavs against Russian were not allowed expression in the public sphere’ (p. 114). It was certainly a grievance of the Serb nationalists in the 1980s and 1990s that the memory of the Ustasha genocide against Serbs and Jews was supposedly suppressed, but it was not a legitimate one; the genocide was commemorated very publicly, for example in the memorial parks at Jasenovac and at Vraca in Sarajevo, while the Partisan battle against the Chetniks at Neretva in 1943 was depicted in the famous 1969 film ‘Battle of the Neretva’ starring, among others, Yul Brynner and Orson Welles; a more high profile commemoration could barely be imagined. Weiss also argues, in relation to comparisons between the Bosnian genocide and the Holocaust, that ‘As a tocsin to assemble and stir up the righteous, then, “Never again !” retains power, perhaps even more power than it had before the 1970s. But as analytic framework or policy guide, it has to be judged often misleading and occasionally dangerous’ (pp. 122-123). This seems to be an unwarranted concession to the ‘all sides are guilty’ attitude that dominated UN and international community thinking during the 1990s conflict, yet it was the latter, not the ‘Never again !’ position of pro-Bosnia activists, that resulted in the catastrophic international policy that culminated in the Srebrenica massacre.

Bandzovic notes without criticism the view that ‘Everything that happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the Bosniaks between 1992 and 1995 can be observed, according to a number of Serbian politicians and academics, as the continuity and completion of a process that began in 1804. Earlier events included Karadjordje’s uprising against the Ottoman government in the Smederevo Sanjak, the establishment and expansion of the Serbian state, as well as the disappearance of Muslims from this territory’ (pp. 224-225). Such a teleological, essentialising attitude toward Serb nationhood and nationalism as intrinsically genocidal has predominated among some of their critics, but it isn’t warranted: Serb national politics was historically at least as ready to co-opt the Bosniaks as it was to exterminate them, as witnessed in Ilija Garasanin’s 1844 ‘plan’, the readiness of the Serbian government in the 1850s and 1860s to recognised the land-rights of the Bosnian Muslim landlords, the Serbian Army’s generally correct treatment of the Muslim population of the Sandzak during the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, the 1921 Vidovdan constitution’s recognition of Bosnia-Hercegovina’s historic provinces within the the new Yugoslav state, Milan Stojadinovic’s partnership with the Yugoslav Muslim Organisation in governing Yugoslavia in 1935-1939, and so on. Treating the genocide of the 1990s as simply the logical culmination of Serbian history detracts from the specific responsibility of the Milosevic and Karadzic regimes for organising and launching it.

Samuel Totten’s recommendation, that there be established two major museums and research centres on the Srebrenica genocide (pp. 87-88) seems to follow the trend of over-emphasising the latter to the point where it overshadows the rest of the Bosnian genocide, treating the 1995 massacre as if it were something of an aberration. In fact, as Edina Becirevic’s research has shown, the Srebrenica massacre was the culmination of the genocidal policy begun in the preceding years, and followed on logically from the massacres of 1992 and the siege of Srebrenica of 1992-1995. Since the German courts found, in the Nikola Jorgic case, that genocide had already taken place in Bosnia outside of Srebrenica in 1992, and since the European Court of Human Rights upheld the legitimacy of this conclusion under international law, there is no need to commemorate the Bosnian genocide as if it only occurred in Srebrenica in 1995.

All told, this is an excellent collection of articles that will be of interest to the newcomer to the subject and to the expert alike. But it highlights the fact that there is still more to do in challenging the stereotypes.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018 Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, European Union, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, Marko Attila Hoare, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If fundamentalists are hijacking #MeToo to promote a socially conservative sexual agenda, is that a completely bad thing ?

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Even Bari Weiss, Opinion editor for the New York Times, says that with the Aziz Ansari case, the #MeToo movement has gone too far: ‘The insidious attempt by some women to criminalize awkward, gross and entitled sex takes women back to the days of smelling salts and fainting couches.’ We from a far-left background might call this the movement’s ‘Kronstadt moment’.
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The tendency to treat women as delicate flowers lacking either sin or agency, and men as having a monopoly on responsibility, is indeed extremely sexist. Conflating bad sex or unwanted advances with sexual assault does a huge disservice to the real victims. If a man’s career can be destroyed by unproven, unsubstantiated allegations from anonymous women, that too is injustice. These points are not new; similar ones were already being made a quarter of a century ago by ‘power feminist’ Katie Roiphe.
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But if fundamentalists have hijacked #MeToo and are ironically pushing a socially conservative sexual agenda, is that a completely bad thing ? A post-sexual-revolution culture that abandons more respectful courtship in favour of young men going out to ‘get laid’ with women they neither know nor care about, and young women increasingly emulating their boorish, drunken promiscuity is far from representing genuine liberation, and is likely to encourage sexual harassment and assault. Hence the case of the Stanford University student Brock Turner, who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman behind a skip after they had attended a student party together; an assault his father notoriously labelled ’20 minutes of action.’
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Sexually promiscuous women appeal to male fantasy; Modesty Blaise and Lisbeth Salander were created by male writers. But as someone wrote in relation to Sex and the City, ‘Samantha’s inner life stops at her labia but I’ve never met a real-life woman who would envy her.’ However misguided the excesses of the #MeToo movement, perhaps in their own way, they reflect a feeling among many women, and even men, that the blessings of social progress have not been unmixed. Aziz Ansari’s accuser may not be a victim, and her public humiliation of him may have been deeply unfair, but her hurt was undoubtedly real, even if it was due to her own choices. As the highly doctrinaire and aggressive Jessica Valenti tweeted in relation to the Ansari case, ‘part of what women are saying right now is that what the culture considers “normal” sexual encounters are not working for us, and oftentimes harmful.’
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Provided we don’t abandon the principle of sexual equality, maybe it wouldn’t hurt for us to be a bit more prudish and old-fashioned ?

Tuesday, 16 January 2018 Posted by | Feminism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Srebrenica genocide denier David N. Gibbs praises Donald Trump on foreign policy

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We have had periodic cause to comment here on the fourth-rate scholar and Srebrenica genocide denier David N. Gibbs of the University of Arizona, author of the propaganda tract First do no harm, which attributed the break-up of Yugoslavia to a German conspiracy and blamed Srebrenica on its Bosniak victims. He has now popped up on ‘OpEdNews’, where he has given an interview entitled ‘Trump Might Actually be Right about NATO’. This is what he says:

‘Well, let me start out by saying that most of Donald Trump’s positions are classic demagoguery and are quite dangerous. But on some foreign policy issues he does occasionally make sense, especially with regard to the issue of NATO. He has repeatedly questioned the value of NATO to US security, as an overly expensive extravagance, and this is a very legitimate issue to raise. To my knowledge no other candidate in recent years, not even Bernie Sanders has been willing to address this issue.’

‘Mostly, NATO seems like an expensive extravagance, a military alliance in search of a justification. Candidates for president should be debating NATO’s value. So far, only Trump is willing to engage the issue.’

‘While Hillary Clinton has been on the hawkish side of the spectrum, the mainstream of both parties has been strongly supportive of NATO, and has favored efforts to find new enemies and new missions to justify the alliance. Until Trump’s recent statements on the issue, there has been almost no criticism of the alliance, and no real debate. Hopefully that will change.’

‘Trump is far from an ideal candidate to be raising the issue of NATO’s lack of value. He is rightly viewed as a racist, divisive figure. But no other candidate is addressing the issue that NATO is a huge taxpayer expense to America’s taxpayer, while providing no real benefit in terms of enhanced security.’

The sort of ‘left-wing’ ideology that leads Gibbs to deny the genocide of a European Muslim people, leads him also to praise the foreign-policy position of someone he admits is a racist; a supporter of banning Muslims from entering the US. He goes so far as to suggest that Trump’s views on NATO are preferable to those of the radical left’s own Bernie Sanders.

I wish I could say I was shocked, but this is sadly predictable.

 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016 Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, The Left, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Michael Gove’s anti-Balkan Brexit propaganda

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I recently received a pro-Brexit pamphlet through my door that argues I should vote for Britain to leave the EU because of the danger that further EU expansion into the Balkans will result in more immigrants from the Balkans coming over (see image, above).

This echoes an article Michael Gove published in the Daily Mail some weeks ago:

The Albanian Option. It sounds like a John le Carré novel. You imagine a story with political intrigue, huge sums of money going astray, criminality and double-dealing. And you’d be right. But the Albanian Option isn’t holiday reading fiction — it’s diplomatic fact. Albania is on course to join the European Union — alongside four other countries, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. The already unwieldy group of 28 is due to become a throng of 33. And Britain isn’t just backing this move. We’re paying for it. Every week we send £350 million to the EU. And now millions of your hard-earned taxes are being directed to these five prospective members. Between now and 2020 the United Kingdom will pay almost £2 billion to help these nations prepare for membership of the EU — that’s more than we will spend on the NHS Cancer Drugs Fund over the same period. This bounty will be our greatest gift to Albania since the comic talent of the late Sir Norman Wisdom, that country’s improbable national hero, lit up the dark days of Stalinist dictatorship. Indeed, I wonder if the Albanian people are now convinced that Britain’s Foreign Office is full of Norman Wisdom characters, lovable chumps whose generosity and good-heartedness make them easily gulled into accepting all sorts of bad advice. How else could they explain their good fortune in being on the receiving end of a £2 billion Balkan bonanza?

As Justice Secretary, I am well aware that there are around 10,000 foreign criminals in our jails — and one in 20 of those is Albanian. Of all the prisoners in our jails who come from European countries, 10 per cent come from Albania — yet Albania comprises less than half of one per cent of the overall population of Europe.

Those prisoners currently cost the British taxpayer almost £18 million a year to keep in custody. And that’s before Albanian citizens even have the right to move to the UK! The Home Secretary knows the problem is very far from diminishing. Already this year we’ve seen 20 gangsters from Albania convicted of running a brutal drugs ring in Manchester.

Of course, as the Home Secretary rightly noted, Albania is not the only accession country with an organised crime problem. Albania’s neighbour on the Adriatic Sea, Montenegro, has a breathtakingly beautiful coastline and romantic interior. It also, unfortunately, has mafia gangs, a reputation as a centre for money-laundering and a record for narcotics trafficking. The prime minister, Milo Djukanovic, has been a leader of the country almost continuously for the past 30 years. He started as a Communist apparatchik and friend of the murderous Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. But today he is a fan of the European Union and chummy with EU power brokers.

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Has everyone got that ? Albanians and Montenegrins are basically all criminals and we need to leave the EU to stop them flooding into our country and swamping it. Huge, China-sized countries that they are. Gove’s exploitation of stereotypes of Albanians and Montegrins as criminals echoes the sort of propaganda popular among the supporters of Slobodan Milosevic and his successors, who first attempted to destroy the Albanian people of Kosovo as a group, then to deny their state international recognition. Note that Gove does not distinguish between Albanian criminals and Albanian people in general. Consider this sentence: ‘I wonder if the Albanian people are now convinced that Britain’s Foreign Office is full of Norman Wisdom characters, lovable chumps whose generosity and good-heartedness make them easily gulled into accepting all sorts of bad advice. How else could they explain their good fortune in being on the receiving end of a £2 billion Balkan bonanza?’ He is concerned that ‘the Albanian people’, not just Albanian criminals, might consider British officials to be ‘chumps’.

Albania has been one of Britain’s staunchest allies over the past two decades. Its troops have fought alongside ours, sustaining casualties in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Gove is, of course, a neoconservative who strongly supported the US-led intervention in Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein. While the Albanian troops were shedding their blood in support of the unpopular intervention in Iraq, while other British allies refused to step forward, Gove did not say at the time ‘Go home; we don’t want you on our side as you’re a bunch of criminals and scroungers.’ No, he waited until the Brexit campaign cynically to stab them in the back. Though it is not inconceivable that he launched his anti-Albanian tirade in a fit of pique after his suggestion that the UK could form part of a ‘free-trade zone’ of countries outside the EU, along with Albania, was trashed by the Albanian prime minister, Edi Rama.

His portrayal of Montenegro’s Djukanovic as a ‘friend of the murderous Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic’ is another exercise in cynicism, given that Djukanovic has been a longstanding ally of the West who, as Montenegro’s president, visited Tony Blair in London during the Kosovo War in 1999 to declare his opposition to Milosevic’s policy – at considerable personal risk, given Montenegro was then under the military control of Belgrade’s forces.

Gove was, until 2011, a trustee of the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society, whose policy at the time was to support the expansion of the EU to include the Western Balkan countries and Turkey. According to its manifesto, The British Moment, published in 2006 and currently selling on Amazon for as little as 29p, ‘The EU should contemplate expanding to include Turkey, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia.’

Gove did not express any dissent from this policy at the time. He thus subscribed to a political vision that was outward-looking, seeking to combat totalitarianism and human-rights abuses, and promote Western liberal-democratic values across the world, and that sought to embrace Albania, Montenegro, Turkey and other Balkan states as allies in this project. He has now done a 180-degree turn, and subscribes to a political vision that is inward-looking and isolationist; the counterpart of Donald Trump’s call for a wall to be built against Mexican immigrants. Instead of seeking to export our positive values, Gove wants to keep the outside world out. No longer allies, Balkan states in Gove’s eyes are now threats; sources of immigrants who will come over, import crime with them, steal our jobs and scrounge off our taxpayers. The tension in neoconservatism was always present between its positive, optimistic, liberal-interventionist tendency that perceived a world inhabited by sisters and brothers in need of solidarity and freedom, and its regressive, pessimistic, Islamophobic and anti-immigration tendency that perceived a world inhabited by hordes of unredeemable economic migrants and jihadis. Orcs, one might say. Gove’s definite defection to the second tendency is a powerful indication of the movement’s degeneration.

What a disgraceful, miserable political evolution Gove has undergone. A powerful European union of democratic states including all the countries of the Western Balkans and, one day, a fully democratic Turkey is one we Brits should be proud to be part of.

Vote REMAIN on 23 June

Tuesday, 21 June 2016 Posted by | Albania, Balkans, Britain, European Union, Former Yugoslavia, Immigration, Montenegro, Neoconservatism, Racism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marko Attila Hoare – Henry Jackson Society – Complete Archive

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The complete archive of articles I wrote for the Henry Jackson Society, as Greater Europe Co-Director and European Neighbourhood Section Director between 2005 and 2012 is now available online at henryjacksonsociety.wordpress.com .

Wednesday, 17 September 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment