|You are in: Talking Point|
Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 10:36 GMT
Yugoslavia: Foolish dream or noble idea?
The agreement signed between Serbia and Montenegro signals the end of Yugoslavia, over 80 years after the creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
Both states within the new entity -to be known as Serbia and Montenegro- will have their own economies, currencies and customs systems.
In three years' time they will have the chance to opt for referenda on full independence.
Yugoslavia's short life was marked by struggles between fractious republics and the central government, between local nationalisms and the dream of an integrated, multi-ethnic country.
Slobodan Milosevic, currently at the Hague tribunal facing charges of genocide, did more than most to damage the name and reputation of Yugoslavia.
But was the demise of Yugoslavia the fault of one man alone? Or was the ideal of a multi-ethnic Balkan state a foolish one from the beginning?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Integration is in the air almost everywhere in modern Europe. Yet, there are local ultra-nationalists and exterior politicians with interests of their own who push for further disintegration and consecutively more suffering of people in Yugoslavia.
Having experienced a long row of personal troubles after the dissolution of my country, I wish the best of luck to Serbia and Montenegro. Please stay together for progress, mutual tolerance, and understanding!
The vast majority of the people of Yugoslavia were proud of their nation and had no desire to break it up. There were Orthodox, Catholic and Muslims living shoulder to shoulder with each other. They rejoiced in one anthers births and marriages and grieved together for lost loved ones. Those with politics and power to blind them embraced nationalism, sponsored by the international community they brought death and destruction to bear. We did not choose this. It was a fate chosen for us by those outside our borders.
The present borders of the nations of the former Yugoslavia, do not properly represent the distribution of the population. The peoples of that region are thoroughly mixed throughout the whole area. Bosnia has a 30 percent Serb population. To make things even more confusing in terms of borders, is that the Bosnians live in between Serbia, and the Bosnian Serbs. The only way that every person of all the nationalities will belong to the nation of their nationality, is for the area to be one united country, ruled in a truly democratic way. If people try to split the nations into different entities, people are going to try and make the borders make sense in the most simple and brutal way they know how: physically forcing the minorities out. Now tell me how you couldn't have problems in a place like Bosnia, where there is no majority.
Born and raised in Canada, I truly cannot understand the Europeans' obsession with ethnicity and religion. We are all one people, no matter where you come from. Perhaps you have to live in a country like I do, where almost everybody come from another land, and everybody has just as much a right to be there as everybody else.
Multi-ethnic states are as much a farce as the former communist ideology. After the fall of communism, left-wing intellectuals are defending the multi-ethnic state. Not so illogical as most multi-ethic states were communist. And communist dictatorships are the only means to keep them together. No wonder Yugoslavia fell apart. After Tito's death there was no iron fist to suppress nationalism. As for the West, no wonder they want to keep the multi-ethnic dream alive, as they deny some of the elementary democratic rights of their own minorities. They forget that nationalism is not about suppressing other minorities' rights, but exerting their rights against a suppressing majority.
Shame on all who destroyed Yugoslavia. It was and still will be a "hope" in my heart and many people out there in this terrible world.
Shame on all of the West and the EU. Long live Yugoslavia.
Yugoslavia (in English: Southern Slavia) served as a vehicle to promote the interests of Serbia and that of certain Western powers that supported Serbian dominance. Yugoslavia actually fell apart 10 years ago. What was left was in fact "Serbo-Slavia". For all those fans of that country they need only to look towards the horizon for the next artificial state: Euro-Slavia.
France, Germany, Britain, USA, Spain, Italy - they are master tailors. They are designing countries to please their friends. In Bosnia they can force three groups who hate each other to be friends and in Yugoslavia they can break them. If the Kurds cry for a country no one will hear them. That would be against the friends of the West. All the talk about justice from the international community is a joke.
It is a sad end for a once great country.
Count Bismarck once said that the entire Balkan region was
not worth the life of a single Pomeranian grenadier. Perhaps he was right. Lets hope this is not the beginning of another doomed Patchwork nation in the Balkans.
Yugoslavia had a decent chance under Tito but the Big Slob and his gang threw it all away. This compromise thing won't last nor shouldn't.
Jennifer Ethington, USA
Milosevic was not solely responsible for the demise of old Yugoslavia. Nor was the demise of Yugoslavia 'inevitable' - it worked perfectly well, its main achievement being a level of peace and ethnic tolerance not enjoyed by most of its happy successor states. It died but there was nothing inevitable about its death. Pre-war Yugoslavia was crushed by Hitler, and Tito's by the greed of local chancers. If you study its fall in the 90s (Try Misha Glenny's 'the Fall of Yugoslavia') the thing is how close peace and intelligent political solutions were, time after time. Ironically, the very European nations who helped dismember the Yugo federation are enthusiastically creating a Euro federation of ethnically diverse states - precisely the sort of construct they helped destroy in Yugoslavia.
This had to happen eventually - but shame about the name Yugoslavia. For me, it was one way of not focusing on my ethnic belonging even though I know that what I call Yugoslavia is a country of my childhood which has now become a myth,completely unreal. I'll just have to think of something else to call myself when people ask where I'm from. Sad.
Anastasija, Serbia and Montenegro
A strong, united Yugoslavia can only be a good thing in a region so much in need of stability. The fracturing of the former republic has produced only bloodshed; these two former components can exert a calming influence on the whole region, not to mention improving its economy.
Unfortunately creating artificial countries without respect to history and ethnicity has been shown to fail the world over. Look at the USSR, Rwanda, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia etc. Even the Scots and Welsh have their own parliaments now and nationalism within the UK is on the rise, if (so far) peacably. There is a lesson for those who want to sign up to the whole EU thing as well in my opinion.
'Those who ignore the lesson of history are condemned to repeat it.'
Yugoslavia was only kept together after World War Two by Tito.
Yugoslavia was an artificial country created out of the Treaty of Versailles. How do you create a country out of different sets of people and different religions that have always had tensions between them.
It was indeed a foolish and fateful decision from the start. History has shown that such artificially made-up countries (Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, USSR etc.) only survived as long as their people were kept under iron-hand dictatorships. In the case of Yugoslavia, one only has to look back at what happened during the WWII period, when Serbs, Croats and Albanians were basically dealing with each other with such brutality that it even horrified the Italian fascists, to realise that this so-called country had no long-term future whatsoever.
When something is done wrongly at the beginning, it cannot last long despite all efforts made through years to change it for better. My former country is good example, and the new-old one will be just another one with the same faith.
Yugoslavia's tragedy has not much to do with Slobodan Milosevic. However, it has a lot to do with those who supported (by advice and by arms) early separation of some republics. It led to the war - just as early recognition of Northern Ireland would probably lead to the war. It's foolish to say that Yugoslavia was a foolish idea.
On the contrary, for quite some years, it was quite a nice reality.
Then "the big ones" interfered - finishing their "advice", "support" and "help" with 78 days and nights of bombing.
Isn't everything already obvious...or CNN and BBC have yet another "mystification" ?
Anastasija is still living in a Serbian propagandist dream. The Serbian people always thought of Yugoslavia as Serbia, that's why it is basically only the Serbs that are complaining about "Yugoslavia's "break-up. I haven't noticed the non-Serbs complaining.
The total number of Serbs that died during World War II was 480,000. Of which, many were killed by Serbs fighting amongst themselves, meaning, Serbian Chetniks killing Serbian Partisans and vice versa.
Milos Mladenovic, United States
Of course it was doomed. It was one in a series of testimonies to the Great Powers' absence of geographical merit. Even the Soviet leadership's disregard for ethnic boundaries (think of Nagorny Karabakh and Crimea) fades in comparison to the anomaly that is Bosnia. The relatively recent "Bosnian" Croat unrest shows that there are still plenty of maps in need of redrawing.
In my opinion the communist idea of united proletariat of all nationalities did not work, not just in Yugoslavia but also in former Soviet Union. The only one way to deal with it was to let these counties be free and independent. It was not an easy process and too many innocent people died. I am hoping that now Serbia will be able to rebuild itself and have a peaceful existence.
The collapse of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and the implosion of Romania, display fundamental injustice and unsoundness in the 1918 Treaty of Trianon. New nations drunk with nationalism, each one armed to the teeth against its neighbours, produced nothing of value to anyone. Ceausescu, Milosevíc and Meciar were the children of Trianon. Today no-one needs them. A new millenium and a new era promise rights and representation even to those defeated in wars of the last century.
The dream of a united Yugoslavia is a worthy and powerful dream. Unfortunately, harsh reality intercedes, more often than not in such cases, and we can only mourn the lost of a noble possibility.
It is indeed a sad day that the name Yugoslavia has been relegated to past history. Yugoslavia was a noble idea which was brought together by many Slavic intellectuals, government officials, and monarchies to unify the south Slavs in south eastern Europe after WWI in 1918. Among those were Strossmayer of Croatia along with Alexander Karadjeordjevic I who were strong advocates of this new Yugoslavia. The strongest opposition of the creation of Yugoslavia was the foreign minister of Serbia at the time Nikola Pasic who was more supportive of a unitarian Serbian state. From the Western world, it was clear that the French and Russians were firmly behind the new Yugoslavia while England was largely neutral.
As Yugoslavia was created by the western powers from the remnants of the Austro-Hungarian empire, so to it was dismantled by those same nations. However, the nations of Germany and the US are largely to blame- while the rest of Europe blindly followed. The south Slavs are one nation in south eastern Europe, they are only differentiated by
religion and politics. It was a noble idea while envisioning the integration of Bulgaria and Albania. It opens the door for a united
European Union from the Atlantic ocean over Britain to the Bay of Bosphorus in Istanubul, Turkey-the gateway to the Middle East and Asia.
They killed more of each other during WW2, than were killed by the Germans. The SS commander in Dubrovnik wrote to Berlin complaining that the way the Yugoslavs were treating each other was demoralizing his men. Of course it should never have been a country! My in-laws are from Slovenia and one day my mother-in-law was singing a song in Slovenian to my infant daughter. When I asked her what it was called in English, she said "Pour the flour on the Serbian's Head". I think that about sums up the viability of the country.
Whoever says they're sad to see the demise of Yugoslavia or that it was once a great nation obviously never lived there. And whoever says that a strong and united Balkan region would benefit the people really have no clue about the local culture.
Nothing is inevitable. On the contrary, it's an amazing coincidence that the worst possible people all appeared at the worst possible time- not only Milosevic but Tudjman in Croatia and others- people who came to power by picking the scabs of history and appealing to the worst instincts of their people. There is nothing special about Yugoslavia. Leaders like that can spring up anywhere.
Derek, ex-pat, Brazil
Tito's Yugoslavia was a dream, a very nice dream that I lived for a short period of time. There will never be any other country for me again.
Messrs. Cooper and Fletcher make excellent points -- if Yugoslavia was "doomed from the start", then so may be the E.U. (How ironic that even tiny Serbia and Montenegro (no slur intended) insist on having separate currencies, when the E.U. has just rolled out the euro.) Violence in India, massacres in Rwanda, ongoing separatist sentiment in Quebec, and similar simmering inter-nation intra-state squabbling make one still more pessimistic for European integration - and peace. It appears from history that the only "successful" way to make a multiethnic country is to decimate and disperse the original ethnic group and replace them with a thoroughly mixed population (such as was done to the aborigines in Australia or native Americans in Canada or the U.S.), or to use totalitarian methods to enforce a sort of peace (such as in China or Tito's Yugoslavia). How sad.
A quick observation.
UN Security Council resolution says Kosovo is part of Yugoslavia.
The death of Yugoslavia opens the way for the independence of Kosovo.
Ilya Girin, USA
I agree with Robert- Yugoslavia was created by the so-called victorious European powers without taking into account the differences in culture, language and ethnic groups in the region. There is and was no such thing as the complete nation-state of Yugoslavia. Indeed, it was doomed from the start.
It is true that not creating Yugoslavia in the first place, would not have resulted in its demise in the 90's. To a certain extent, Yugoslavia was a Western reward to the Serbs for their painful
contributions to WWI. But this was not the only force leading to Yugoslavia - many within Serbia and Croatia, its largest members, wanted this union, seeing it as a natural way of resolving
ethnic tensions - much like the EU is doing today.
It was this mentality that made Yugoslavia work,
(as well as Tito's bloody hand), for all these
years, and, had the West been keen on supporting
these attitudes, Yugoslavia would either have kept
together, or it would have disintegrated peacefully.
So I ask:
Why didn't the Europeans send Solana in 1990 to
work out a deal for keeping the Union together? Why
did the Germans rush to help the Croats secede? And
why did the Americans rush to recognize Bosnia so
quickly as an independent country? By that time, they
all knew very well what would happen if another
You can blame Milosevic and other nationalist leaders
for mass graves and ethnic cleansing, but the politicking
that led to this horrendous violence points a good chunk
of the blame to western shoulders.
It is ironic, in my mind, to see the same Western
powers that created Yugoslavia in the first place,
carry so much burden for its demise.
I therefore dare raise the possibility that Yugoslavia
was not doomed. The West helped push it in this
direction, and also has blood in its hands.
Putting Milosevic on trial is a good thing, and I am sure
justice will be served on him, but I'd like to see western
politicians answer to the same court one day.
The unfortunate aspect of Yugolsavia's demise is that it has happened without any democratic consultation with the people's of Serbia or Montenegro. Should we expect the same in the UK?
Tom Yohannan, Spain
It is for economic reasons and business purposes that nations should be united under one country regardless of ethnicity or religions. It works in the United States. We are a country of many nations, races and religions. It should have worked with Yugoslavia.
That's the reason for the European Community as a common market.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union was a mistake. They should have listened to Gorbachev about a Commonwealth. China as a country with 1.2 billion people would soon be an industrial giant.
It's about time we faced this reality. All over the world there are places consisting of nothing more than a border drawn on a map by some conquering king or colonial power, but where the people inside that line have no common sense of nationhood. How many lives and how much money will be wasted at more failed attempts at 'nationbuilding' in places like that?
Yugoslavia was doomed from day one. They were just too different with identities built upon opposing each other. That is how they defined themselves. This is very similar to Britain's relationship with Europe. The politicians never understood this.
In the construction of such a state it is imperative that one ethnic group is not seen to dominate it. Tito( of Croat and Slovenian parents) understood this principle. Milosevic essentially tried to turn Yugoslavia into a Serbian run state, thus destroying it. I hope the architects of the EU learn from this example.
Malcom Tvrtkovic, Croatia
The difference in vision is amazing between Balkan people and Westerners. Yugoslavia was a failed attempt, period. People first need to fell like "at home" in their own country, before thinking about voluntarily joining a union. This is happening today with ex-Yugoslavian republics. They all wanted to be first independent, THEN joining the EU, Nato, etc. It is all natural. And the story continues with Quebec and Co.
It is disgusting and shameful how arrogantly the 'international community' has treated Yugoslavia. It has done nothing but try and destroy the country, stir up trouble and then lay the entire problems of the region on the Serbian people and Milosevic. This is all because Yugoslavia did not join Nato or the Warsaw Pact - it stood alone as an independent country in the centre of Europe. America (and its 51st state of the UK) could not allow that. I wish Serbia well and hope that the Serbian people don't think that we're all as biased and ignorant as most of our Blairite politicians.
My thoughts on the subject echo those of Anastasija from Serbia & Montenegro and those of Jon Cooper and Robert from the UK. Artificial states composed of so many diverse nations (diverse ethnically and in religion) cannot work for long and it did not in the case of Yugoslavia, Soviet Union and many others. Switzerland is the only exception and I must admit that I cannot reconcile their recipe for success.
Fine. So you gave us "a new name". Would you please leave us alone now?!
Yugoslavia was indeed a bad idea from the beginning. Not simply because it sought to unify diverse ethnic and religious communities, but because these communities had for centuries been enemies. In that sense, I feel those who warn against the EU on the same basis are misguided - although past relations between Britons, French, Spaniards, and Germans have been less than peaceful, they don't compare to the Balkan mess. There is one nation where disregard of ethnic and religious allegiance was a success - the USA.
I agree with Robert: You only have to look at the history of countries like Nigeria to see the peril of creating countries without regard for the diverse societies affected.
As a Kosovar Albanian I couldn't care less as long as we're not in it, whatever they decided to name it. Words like Yugoslavia and Serbia will always remind me, and most of my compatriots, of decades of repression, death, torture, misery and occupation. This is true, not only during the Slobo's days but throughout Yugoslavia's 70+ years of history. We Albanians are not Slavs and we were forced to live in Yugoslavia (South Slavic state) until 3 years ago, and we can only be FORCED AGAIN to live under South Slavic state, whatever that name may be.
Sure it was doomed - in the last 10 years its doom has been the explicit plan of the Western powers, following the age-old dictum of `divide and rule.' All three nationalist parties were funded by Western (esp. US) agencies, just as the mockery of a court of law in the Hague is a Nato construct withholding due process to achieve a decision made in advance - 10 years in advance.
The idea of Yugoslavia was great when there was an 'umbrella' to divert attention away from ethnicity but it was always doomed to end like this. Yugoslavia died in 1991. The re-naming of what is left is 11 years too late.
I am deeply saddened by this decision between Milo Djukanovic and the president of Yugoslavia Vojislav Kostunica. This country was once a shining star but now it has been shot down into pieces. I am deeply saddened and will always hold the name Yugoslavia in my heart dearly.
No, the fall of Yugoslavia was not the fault of just one man (Milosevic) he undoubtedly had a large part to play because his poor economic policies and his attempts to centralise Yugoslavia (and strip places such as Kosovo of their autonomy) led to a rise in nationalism in many Republics (including Serbia). His actions of responding to this nationalism with force only caused it to rise further and for many peoples to believe the best solution was to break away from Yugoslavia. His actions to strip Kosovo of its limited autonomy and take away identity, cultural and language rights away from the Kosovar Albanians led to the creation of the KLA. Milosevic undoubtedly was the main man at fault for the collapse of such a wonderful country but he was not alone, there were many people of all the different Yugoslav Republics who were at fault. So as some people seem to don't just blame the Serbs, there a wonderful people and it is a minority of them who were involved in genocide etc.
The creation of the predecessor of Yugoslavia, the SCS Kingdom, was a grave mistake, as Croat nationalism and Serb feelings of superiority because they already were independent were not exactly good grounds to base a common country on. Slobo did not destroy Yugoslavia, it was a country doomed to fail as soon as Tito's tight grip on it had gone. The recognition of Croatia and Slovenia by Germany sped up the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Rising Albanian, Serb and nowadays Montenegrin nationalism in the remaining FRY put the concept of Yugoslavia in the grave. Bismark's arrogant remark shows the attitude of most people even today towards Balkan peoples, forgetting that most of the chaos is due to Great Power involvement in our region.
V. Tomasevic, Yugoslavia (Serbia &Montenegro)
The creation of Yugoslavia was one of the great mistakes made at the end of the First World War. In their zeal to punish the Central Powers, the victors dismembered Austria and Hungary and threw the pieces as prizes to various countries. Romania, Poland, and the newly-created state of Czechoslovakia all got pieces. Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Vukovina were given to Serbia as prizes of war. (This was especially ironic because it was a terrorist in the pay of the Serbian king who started the war.)
Forcing the Croats and Slovenes to live under the rule of their traditional enemy was bound to cause trouble. Soon after the annexation, the Yugoslav government declared Croatia to be a province in rebellion and turned its secret police loose on the Croats. It should have been no surprise when the Croats welcomed the invading Germans as liberators 20 years later.
It is unfortunate that people who speak the same language and live so close together cannot form a single nation. But we ignore history, especially centuries-old vendettas, at our peril.
Countries don't matter any more. Big business has more effect on people's lives these days, and will continue to expand it's influence.
What will matter is not Bosnia, Croatia or Serbia, but Microsoft, BMW and Yamaha.
15 Mar 02 | Europe
Yugoslavia's death sinks in slowly
14 Mar 02 | Europe
Yugoslavia consigned to history
14 Mar 02 | Europe
Yugoslav partners sign historic deal
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Other Talking Points:
Links to more Talking Point stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy