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Balkan Report: February 14, 2003


14 February 2003, Volume 7, Number 5

YUGOSLAVIA: THE END OF AN ANACHRONISM. The name "Yugoslavia" is now gone from the political maps of Europe. Its disappearance was long overdue.

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia passed into history on 4 February, when the Yugoslav parliament approved the Constitutional Charter of the new state of Serbia and Montenegro (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 2003). The new name may be unwieldy, but it replaced one that had long ceased to have any real meaning.

The idea of Yugoslavism -- the unity of all South Slavs -- is a Croatian concept dating from the 19th century. Most nationalist movements in Europe, including Serbia, at that time aspired to create a state ostensibly of a single nation.

But some Croatian thinkers felt that close cooperation with ethnically related neighbors on an equal footing was the best hope for their people, who were divided between the Austrian and Hungarian halves of the Habsburg monarchy and subject to pressures from Hungarian and Italian nationalist movements. In short, Yugoslavism was a concept born out of the weakness of a people that had not had truly independent statehood for centuries and little hope of attaining it in the foreseeable future.

The Yugoslav state that was born at the end of World War I owes its existence to the wartime efforts of Allied politicians to force Serbian leaders to work with Croatian and other political exiles from the Habsburg monarchy. Serbian leaders had hoped to create a greater Serbia without any large number of Roman Catholic Slavs, but after the Kingdom of Serbia's defeat by the Central Powers during the war, those exiled leaders had little choice but to do as the Allies wished.

The new state was first called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (SHS), which in itself speaks volumes about the ethnically based pecking order, particularly where Macedonians, Albanians, Muslims, Hungarians, Montenegrins, and others were concerned. A German joke at the time suggested that SHS stood for "Sie hassen sich," or "they hate each other."

After nearly a decade of political instability, King Aleksandar I Karadjordjevic proclaimed a unitary Kingdom of Yugoslavia on 6 January 1929. Despite one very belated attempt at reform to placate the Croats in 1939, this Serb-dominated state remained in place until the Axis invasion in the spring of 1941.

The communist Yugoslav state that emerged from World War II was founded on the basis of national equality, at least in theory. Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians, and Montenegrins were full-fledged "peoples of the state." The Slavic Muslims were granted that same status more than two decades later. The non-Slavic Hungarians and Albanians had an official status of "nationality" in the country whose name meant Land of the South Slavs.

In reality, the country was the Land of the League of Communists, whose leadership included officials from all of the main ethnic groups. When Slobodan Milosevic found at the close of the 1980s that he could not use the Yugoslav state for his own purposes -- thanks primarily to the objections of Croatia and Slovenia -- he proceeded to destroy it.

The state he was ultimately left with was a greater Serbia, including Kosova and Montenegro. His policies then led in 1999 to the loss of Kosova, whose ethnic Albanian majority wants full independence. For its part, Montenegro's current leadership is also bent on independence. What is left of the old Yugoslavia thus seems to be in the final stages of disintegration.

Whether Montenegro remains in some sort of political arrangement with Serbia or not, a state that is a Land of the South Slavs has long ceased to exist. That project probably ended in 1991 with the independence of Slovenia and Croatia and certainly with the subsequent independence of Macedonia and Bosnia.

Milosevic kept the Yugoslav name when he set up his federal republic in 1992 in hopes of keeping the old state's property and international prestige. Those hopes are now history -- as is Yugoslavia. (Patrick Moore) (Much of this article first appeared in "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 February 2002).

WHICH SYMBOLS FOR THE NEW STATE? Finding acceptable national symbols for Europe's newest state, the loose confederation of Serbia and Montenegro, is proving to be a difficult task.

On 4 February, rump Yugoslavia ceased to exist as part of a bid by the European Union to keep Serbia and Montenegro linked and ostensibly prevent further instability in the Balkans.

The secretary of the lower house of the outgoing Yugoslav federal parliament, Ljiljana Perovic, explained why the new state so far has no national symbols: "Article 27 of the law accompanying the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro stipulates that a law on the flag of the common state of Serbia and Montenegro must be submitted within 60 days after the new parliament of Serbia and Montenegro is constituted. A law on the coat of arms and anthem of the common state of Serbia and Montenegro must be submitted by the end of 2003."

This means that symbols of the now defunct Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are invalid for use in Serbia and Montenegro, and it is far from clear whether they can be used to show Serbia and Montenegrin participation in international institutions such as the United Nations.

The issue of national symbols will be high on the agenda of the new state's constitutional commission. A member of that commission, Dragan Jocic, the deputy chairman of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), said there should be no rush, however, to adopt new symbols. "I don't think there should be any [quick] resolution of the symbols question -- I mean the flag, coat of arms, and anthem -- of the new common state for the simple reason that after the adoption of the Constitutional Charter, there is a tendency to believe that this is a temporary state," Jocic said.

Under the EU-brokered agreement, Serbia and Montenegro are each entitled to hold an independence referendum after three years.

However, other commission members, including Bosko Ristic, a member of the leadership of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic's Democratic Party (DS), said resolution of the issue is in the hands of the members of the federation: the republics of Serbia and Montenegro.

Moreover, Serbian heraldic expert Dragoljub Bacovic said there is no need for a new coat of arms, at least for the time being. "The current coat of arms, that of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, contains all the elements that related to each of the two federal constituent units, and now to each of the two [republican] governments. From that point of view, purely in heraldic terms, nothing has happened. The [Yugoslav] coat of arms can continue to be the emblem," Bacovic said.

Bacovic noted that reaching any sort of agreement will be difficult and that the status quo should be maintained wherever possible. "As far as the flag is concerned, the [Serbian and Montenegrin] flags differ only in the proportions and shades of blue, [so] it's evident that it would not be necessary [to change], as it would difficult to find a [new] flag that would correspond to logic. If everything besides logic is applied, you end up with [creative but nontraditional] flags like those of Greenland or Thailand," Bacovic said.

The Serbian and Montenegrin flags each consist of three horizontal stripes of red, blue, and white. The middle stripe in the Serbian flag is dark blue, while in the Montenegrin flag it is light blue. The Yugoslav flag also consisted of three horizontal stripes, but the order of the colors was different: blue, white, and red.

Bacovic said there is virtually no chance of Serbia and Montenegro reaching agreement on an anthem to succeed the pan-Slavic Yugoslav anthem "Hej Sloveni" ("Hey Slavs"). RFE/RL's Belgrade correspondent said, moreover, that the Yugoslav anthem has fallen into some disfavor among many former Yugoslav citizens.

Compounding all this is the realization that the more than 10 million citizens of the new state do not yet know what to call themselves. Egon Fekete, a Belgrade-based linguist, said: "I simply don't see a way for us to come up with a term or name to refer to the inhabitants of the new state. Anything that could be done would constitute violence against our language."

Bacovic said calling the inhabitants "Serbo-Montenegrins" would be discriminatory, as he put it, because it would turn Serbs into "Serbos" while leaving the Montenegrins intact. "This contradicts the logic, beauty, and feel of the language." And he said that referring to them as "inhabitants of Serbia and Montenegro" leaves it unclear what is being referred to: the residents of the common state or the constituent republics.

In Montenegro, presidential adviser and former Prime Minister Miodrag Vukovic is optimistic about the chance of agreeing on a common flag. But he predicted that it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the two republics to agree on a common coat of arms or anthem.

The last Yugoslav coat of arms depicted a two-headed Serbian eagle bearing a quartered shield containing the Montenegrin lion and the old abbreviation SSSS in Cyrillic, widely believed to stand for "Only Unity Saves the Serb," or "Samo Sloga Srbina Spasava." The abbreviation, which often riles non-Serbs, was often scrawled by Serbian forces on conquered or destroyed property during the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova.

Montenegrin painter Tiho Vujovic said the best thing would be for each of the two constituent republics to preserve its own symbols without insisting they be present in the symbols of the common state: "You should take everything out of the [new joint] coat of arms that irritates or in the past irritated one side or the other side."

Meanwhile, citizens of Serbia and Montenegro wanting to travel abroad for the foreseeable future will have no choice but to travel on passports bearing the name Yugoslavia, featuring an eagle with lowered wings, the Montenegrin lion, and the SSSS abbreviation. (Jolyon Naegele)

LITTLE REGRET IN SLOVENIA FOR THE DEMISE OF YUGOSLAVIA. World attention has recently focused on the 4 February decision by the Yugoslav parliament to abandon the name Yugoslavia in favor of Serbia and Montenegro (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 2003). Slovenes, however, seem to feel few pangs for the passing of the 73-year-old name of their former state.

The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was renamed Yugoslavia in January 1929 as part of an effort by the royal dictatorship to forge a single Yugoslav ethnic identity. Not only did the three titular ethnic groups disappear from the official name, but the traditional internal divisions vanished as well. Instead, nine "banovinas" were established, largely named after rivers. This window dressing fooled few, as evidenced by the ethnic fault lines that fractured the country in 1941 and again in the 1990s.

Even from the beginning, the name Yugoslavia -- Land of the South Slavs -- was something of a misnomer. First, Yugoslavia was not composed entirely of South Slavs. The substantial Albanian minority of Kosova is the most obvious example. By the time Yugoslavia disintegrated, Albanian -- not Slovenian or Macedonian -- was the No. 2 language in the country after Serbo-Croatian in terms of sheer numbers of speakers. Other minorities, ranging from Hungarians, Italians, and Germans to Gypsies, Ruthenians, and Circassians, created a complex ethnic mosaic.

Second, not all South Slavic territory was united within Yugoslavia. Aside from the Slovenian-populated areas of Italy and Austria and the ethnic Macedonian villages of northern Greece, millions of South Slavic Bulgarians remained outside the land of the South Slavs.

Stalin reportedly frowned upon Tito's postwar project for the unification of Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, and Yugoslavia's 1948 break with the Soviet Union put an end to any such fantasies. By the time rump Yugoslavia dwindled to include only Serbia and Montenegro in 1992, the name was something of a joke, widely lampooned as "Serboslavia."

When Slovenia attained its full sovereignty in 1991, the establishment of an independent government, military, and currency all signaled clear breaks with the federal state.

Shedding other aspects of the Yugoslav past has been messier. Slovenia's relations with Croatia are still dogged by disputes over the jointly owned Krsko nuclear-power plant (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 August 2001) and with Bosnia over prewar deposits in Ljubljanska Banka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2002).

Other old issues involve all of the former republics. The Soviet debt (now borne by Russia) to Yugoslav successor states totals some $1.3 billion and remains uncollected. Other joint assets yet to be divided include monies from the Yugoslav National Bank (pending an explanation from Belgrade concerning the disappearance of several million dollars during Milosevic's rule) and $260 million worth of artworks from diplomatic and consular properties, according to a 2 February article in "Delo."

Commercial ties with the former Yugoslav republics remain important, although diminished in relative terms -- today, EU trade accounts for 62 percent of exports and 68 percent of imports. Nonetheless, investment opportunities for Slovenian companies in the "near abroad" continue to grow, from casinos to breweries (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 November 2001 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2002).

Serbia, however, has largely remained a black hole in Slovenian marketing. One need only glance at the back of a milk carton from the Ljubljana Dairy to find labeling marked Croatian, Bosnian, Macedonian, and English, but not Serbian. Nonetheless, business contacts are slowly being restored with Serbia as well. The Slovenian carrier Adria Airways recently celebrated its first direct flight between Belgrade and Ljubljana after 1 1/2 years of negotiations.

Educational connections are being reestablished as well. "It was the worst hotel we ever stayed in!" laughed a student at Ljubljana's Faculty of Economics, leafing through her album of pictures from a school-sponsored class trip. "But we had a great time." Judging from the photos of the students' alcohol-fueled week, one could see why. The faculty sponsors trips to different locations every year; last year it was Malta, this year, Belgrade.

For 21-year-olds like Jana and her classmates, the events of more than a decade ago are only a dim memory. The wounds of secession cut less deeply in Slovenia than elsewhere in former Yugoslavia and have had more time to heal. It is only natural that, on the eve of their entry into the European Union, a new generation of entrepreneurs is promoting Slovenia as the "gateway to Southeastern Europe."

As everywhere, many people feel some nostalgia for their past, and this includes memories of "the good old days" in Yugoslavia, especially among the older generation. True regret is rare, though. A common observation is that life in Slovenia is now more difficult, but better as well, and there is no looking back to the Serb-dominated state. The title of a 5 February "Delo" opinion column sums up the prevailing sentiment: "Smrt Srboslavije" -- "The Death of Serboslavia." (Donald F. Reindl, dreindl@indiana.edu)

MACEDONIA'S NATIONALIST OPPOSITION ON THE REBOUND. The parliamentary elections of 15 September 2002 brought about a marked change of government. The Social Democratic Union (SDSM) and its junior partners defeated the ruling coalition of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party of Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), Liberal Party (LP), and the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH).

After some hesitation, the SDSM formed a coalition government together with the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union of Integration (BDI), which was founded by former rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK) and proved the biggest vote getter among the ethnic Albanians.

The defeat of the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE was the result of a number of factors. During the 2001 interethnic crisis, which brought the country to the brink of a civil war, the government headed by VMRO-DPMNE Chairman Ljubco Georgievski proved to be unable to cope. Badly organized armed forces headed by a confused leadership faced big problems fighting the UCK. Instead of trying to bridge the widening gap between the Albanian minority and the ethnic Macedonian majority, Georgievski and his hard-line interior minister, Ljube Boskovski, fell back on nationalist rhetoric and policies.

Many voters had already turned their backs on the VMRO-DPMNE and its leadership amid charges of widespread corruption and nepotism. Georgievski's negative attitude toward the international community and its subsequent reactions to his perceived stubbornness may also have contributed to the VMRO-DPMNE's electoral defeat.

After the elections, the party virtually disappeared from the political scene. It announced a boycott of the legislature's plenary sessions to protest the participation of former rebel commanders in the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January 2003). It also seemed that leading figures such as Georgievski and Boskovski were avoiding public appearances, especially after the new government pressed criminal charges against a number of high-ranking party members, such as Vojo Mihajlovski (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 January 2003 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 2002 and 10 January 2003).

Georgievski's long absence from the public eye gave rise to media speculation that he had gone into hiding abroad. According to other rumors, the party was about to split into Georgievski's followers and his opponents, who accused him of an "insatiable appetite for money" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January 2003).

But now, the party seems to have rallied. First, the party has ended its boycott of the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January 2003). Second, it now seems clear that Georgievski used his absence from public view to organize a reshuffle in the party leadership with clear implications for party policy.

This reshuffle was announced on 1 February, when the party confirmed Georgievski's proposals for the new Executive Committee. The most notable change was that Boskovski was not re-elected to that body. He was replaced by former Finance Minister Nikola Gruevski, who also became deputy party chairman. Within the Executive Committee, Gruevski will be responsible for the party's economic policies, while another moderate, Marjan Gjorcev, will be in charge of political questions.

Georgievski thus gave a clear signal that he wants to get rid of controversial personalities who could further damage the VMRO-DPMNE's image. After the reshuffle, party spokesman Vlatko Gjorcev dismissed allegations that U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Lawrence Butler had advised Georgievski to remove Boskovski from the party leadership.

The media helped return Georgievski to the political scene. On 7 February, Gjorcev announced that the VMRO-DPMNE had struck a deal with the dailies "Dnevnik" and "Vest." The dailies agreed to publish a series of articles on corruption cases in the period 1994-1998 and 2001 -- when the SDSM was in power or participated in the government -- thereby diverting media attention from the VMRO-DPMNE's corruption scandals.

Moreover, Georgievski himself has started writing a weekly column for "Dnevnik," in which he addresses recent political issues. Paradoxically, in his first column, which appeared on 31 January, he accused the media of being biased in favor of the ruling SDSM. According to Georgievski, the media enjoyed free rein under his government but then reverted to communist-era practices when they willingly supported the SDSM government in "persecuting" the VMRO-DPMNE.

In his second column, published on 7 February, he defended a controversial police unit, the Lions. The unit was recently dissolved because many members allegedly committed criminal acts (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 January 2003). Georgievski nonetheless called them the bravest defenders of the country.

Currently, there are two options for the VMRO-DPMNE. On the one hand, it could try to establish itself as a serious conservative opposition party in the broader European sense, and there are some indications that this is what it has in mind. On the other hand, it may remain an old-style nationalistic, unpredictable, Balkan-style party grouped around a single political leader rather than around a program. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "There's no truth to it." -- Former NATO commander and U.S. General Wesley Clark, in reference to reports that he plans to run as a Democrat for the presidency in 2004. Quoted in "The Washington Post" on 6 February.

"An independent Kosovo is a huge problem." -- Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. Quoted by RFE/RL in Belgrade on 6 February.

"We realize it is our destiny to join the EU." -- Croatian President Stipe Mesic, quoted by Reuters in Brussels on 10 February.

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