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Balkan Report: June 13, 2000


13 June 2000, Volume 4, Number 44

Remembering Milovan Djilas. Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the death of Milovan Djilas. A man who evolved from being a dogmatic communist ideologue to achieving an international reputation as Yugoslavia's most famous dissident, Djilas will be remembered at home and abroad as one of his country's most perceptive 20th century writers and visionaries.

He was also a "heretic's heretic," the writer and vice president of the Democratic Center Desimir Tosic wrote in "Danas" on 5 June. The drama of Djilas' life was the drama of Serbs, Montenegrins, and Serbia, and perhaps that of all Yugoslavia. He experienced the drama that led through civil war, repression and totalitarianism, and finally through the dissolution of Serbian society that we see today. As did Latinka Perovic (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report, 9 and 16 December 1999), Djilas recognized that communism isolated the individual and destroyed first any alternatives and eventually society itself, Tosic continued.

Communism, Djilas wrote, not only failed to eliminate or replace nationalism; on the contrary, it enabled nationalism to triumph because communism destroyed or prevented the development of those institutions that could have been nationalism's undoing. They included a democratic system, the market economy, and a middle class. The result was that Yugoslavia developed in a completely different way from Western countries, which seemed, compared to Yugoslavia, to be something from another planet.

It is telling, Tosic continued, that Djilas's last thoughts on the disintegrating world around him had little or no effect on the Serbian elite or on the broad public. But there is little hope for the Serbs and their future if they do not now start to learn the lessons of the past 10-odd years. Djilas's last writings would be more than useful as a means to that end. (Patrick Moore)

Split Vote In Montenegro. Preliminary results give supporters of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic a lead in the 11 June local elections in Podgorica. In Herceg Novi, however, followers of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic appear to have the upper hand. The contest between Djukanovic's For A Better Life coalition and the rival Yugoslavia-Momir Bulatovic group was widely seen as a test between supporters of Djukanovic's independent-minded reform course and supporters of close links to Belgrade. The BBC reported on 12 June that there were few local issues to affect the outcome and that the central issue was indeed the nature of future relations with Serbia.

The BBC broadcast on 13 June added that Milosevic's supporters in Herceg Novi appear to have benefited from their negative advertising depicting Djukanovic as a Western puppet and suggesting that his Western allies tried to buy him votes. Reuters added that the large number of war veterans and pensioners in Herceg Novi might have also tipped the scale in favor of Milosevic. Predrag Bulatovic, who led the campaign for the Yugoslavia-Momir Bulatovic slate, said: "In this election the citizens showed they were for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."

By contrast, Podgorica was and apparently remains a source of support for Djukanovic, who can count on the backing of most government workers. He told followers: "Today we can say for sure that Montenegro is marching on a stable, democratic, reformist path and that no one can distract it from that path. Our victory in Podgorica is much better and greater than our defeat in Herceg Novi," the president concluded.

The inconclusive outcome of the vote means that both sides are likely to redouble their efforts to win the hearts and minds of Montenegro's citizens. Stay tuned. (Patrick Moore)

Li Peng Slams NATO In Belgrade. Li Peng, who is the speaker of the Chinese parliament and best known abroad for his role in the 1989 killing of protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, addressed the Yugoslav parliament on 12 June.

He said that NATO's 1999 intervention to stop the genocide in Kosova "constitutes a violation of the purposes of the UN Charter and the universally recognized norms governing international relations and poses a serious threat to stability in Europe and peace in the world," Reuters reported. Li stressed that "bombing does not bring peace." (Patrick Moore)

Slobo's Nukes? At the end of May, U.S. nuclear expert William C. Potter told NATO parliamentarians in Budapest that the Milosevic regime has 48.2 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium as well as competent nuclear scientists at the Vinca facility between Belgrade and Kragujevac.

Potter recently wrote an article for the "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists" with two Croatian nuclear physicists, Ivo Slaus and Djuro Miljanic. They discussed former Yugoslavia's nuclear program, which was known as Program A. It is believed to have ceased in 1987, but Milosevic still has the "remnants," AP reported.

Potter suggested that there may be cooperation on nuclear issues between the Milosevic regime and other rogue states, such as Iraq. He added that "nothing has been done" by other governments to address the issue. (Patrick Moore)

'Mladic At Large In Suburbia.' This is how London's the "Guardian" entitled an article in its 12 June issue, in which it describes the current whereabouts of General Ratko Mladic, one of the world's most wanted war criminals.

According to the detailed article, the Belgrade authorities have given the boastful general a comfortable home and a salary in return for staying out of sight. He lives at 119 Blagoja Parovica, where he can be seen pruning roses in his garden.

As with many of Milosevic's erstwhile allies, Mladic has clearly been relegated to the sidelines. He received a home in Banovo Brdo rather than in the elite Dedinje district as a "calculated slight" by his former patrons. And he is clearly kept at arm's length by the army.

One unnamed Yugoslav general called Mladic "yesterday's man," adding: "He turned up at a medal ceremony in January and strutted around as if he owned the place. He had no right to be there. Unbelievable." (Patrick Moore)

Herzegovinians To Have New Program. Zoran Tomic, who is the spokesman for the Herzegovinian branch of the late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), said in Mostar on 8 June that the HDZ will adopt a new program at its upcoming congress. He claimed that the HDZ never questioned the right of the Bosnian state to exist but merely wanted changes in that state's internal organization, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

Tomic added that the HDZ now realizes that it made "mistakes and will openly turn to the public to apologize" for past misunderstandings. Observers note that the HDZ's program under Tudjman was for a greater Croatia. The party has little choice but to seek a new orientation following Tudjman's death in December 1999 and the Croatian HDZ's electoral defeats in January and February 2000. (Patrick Moore)

Albania's National Museum Seeks New Identity. Mojkom Zeqo, the director of Albania's National Museum, asked the family of late King Ahmet Zogu to send back some of the king's possessions for display in the museum, AP reported on 6 June. Zeqo hopes that by displaying memorabilia of the king, he will be able to present Albania's modern history in a more balanced fashion than in the past. The communists presented Zogu exclusively as a dictator and collaborator with the Italians. A comprehensive exhibition about the Zogist era is absent from the museum, where, at any rate, the one-sided communist-era exhibit has been removed.

The royal family is controversial in Albania. Zogu's Queen Geraldina and their son--the claimant to the throne Leka Zogu--are living in South Africa. Leka is an arms dealer who is wanted in Albania for participating in an alleged coup attempt after the 1997 general elections. At that time, he approached the offices of the Central Election Commission with a crowd of supporters to protest against alleged election fraud. He was armed with guns and hand grenades, and some of the crowd engaged police in a shoot-out.

Zeqo told Klan TV that the National Museum does not have any former possessions of the king and stressed that "regardless of politics, he is part of Albania's history, so we hope that his family will understand our request and will send back possessions of his that they still have."

But by simply displaying possessions of the king, Zeqo will not substantially address the difficulties of presenting Albania's diverse and contradictory history.

Indeed, displaying Zogu's possessions would scarcely budge the museum's communist-era ideological baggage.

The National Museum opened in 1981. The communists built it as a shrine, presenting Albania's history as an unbroken tradition of the Albanian people's struggle against the outside world. This struggle, according to late dictator Enver Hoxha's understanding of history, began about 500 BC with the Illyrians, the supposed ancestors of the Albanian people.

In an oversimplification, the communists claimed that the Illyrians and later the Albanians throughout their history settled in the area around current Albania and Kosova and defended themselves against the Greeks, Romans, Goths, Slavs, Crusaders, Byzantium, the Turks, Italians, Germans, and everybody else who passed through that territory during those 2500 years.

That ideology was designed to justify Albania's singular policy of international isolation after Hoxha's break with Nikita Khrushchev's USSR in the 1960s and the position that communist Albania had to be able defend itself against both NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

After the fall of communism, the National Museum staff removed those parts of the exhibition dealing with history after World War I. They introduced a section about communist-era persecution and about the democratic movement. The new exhibit includes a reconstruction of one of the notorious roofless prison cells from Burrel and a listing of the communists' victims in the style of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

But the museum's officials failed to revise the exhibitions dealing with ancient, medieval, and Ottoman periods to rid them of Hoxha's pervasive ideology of "national paranoia." Indeed, changes in these sections were merely cosmetic.

For example, maps showing settlements of Illyrian tribes and their defense against neighboring Greek and Roman intruders were once accompanied by a quotation from Enver Hoxha, stressing the continuity between those times and today. After the end of communism, the museum staff removed the letters, but visitors can still read the quotation by studying the remaining traces of the glue on the surface where the letters once stood.

The old ideology and self-image of isolation is, in fact, still omnipresent despite the superficial efforts. In one particularly glaring example, no effort has been made to show the important role of individual Albanians in the Ottoman administration and society. Instead, the Ottoman era remains one of conquest on one hand, and the liberation struggle of national heroes like Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg, who lived in the 14th century, on the other.

The Ottoman period, moreover, is presented as one of darkness and oppression, without any reference to the myriad cultural currents that crossed Albania over those centuries and traces of which can still be found today. There is thus no reference to the religious bodies like the Bektashis, which have their roots elsewhere in the former Ottoman empire and have played an important role in Albanian history.

But the broader public awareness of the need to review Albania's history does not yet go that far back. For the time being, the question of how to deal with the more recent heritage of King Zogu has become a priority. And not only the museum is trying to address the question of Zogu, but also the city fathers.

The Democratic Party-dominated Tirana city council recently decided to name a part of the central Boulevard of the Martyrs of the Nation (which refers to the communist Partisans) after Ahmet Zogu. The Socialist prefect of the city accepted the move, even though he did not support the idea.

The writer Andi Bejtja explained in "Klan" on 27 May that "for the Socialist electorate, King [Ahmet] Zogu still remains a puppet who strengthened the bourgeoisie, suppressed the peasants, and abandoned the country when the Italians occupied Albania in 1939. Due to the political polarization of Albanian society [today] and the continuation of legacies from World War II, another part of the electorate, paradoxically, considers [Leka] Zogu as an ally of [Democratic Party leader Sali] Berisha. Artificially, and without much to base it on, they divide everything into [politically] right and left, even though the two main parties have by and large the same program."

Bejtja suggests that renaming a part of the boulevard sends a signal of reconciliation: "This move marks an emancipation of Albanian politics from history�. When it is possible to reconcile Zogu with the Martyrs of the Nation-- for whom he was nothing else but a traitor--there is hope that we will also see a reconciliation in our day-to-day political life." (Fabian Schmidt)

Quotations Of The Week. "The Socialist Workers' Party is always there when I visit London. These people amaze me because they're always available, any time of the day or night, for a demonstration. It's extraordinary. I wish NATO's rapid reaction core was as available and could mobilize as quickly. We'd be a lot further forward." - NATO spokesman Jamie Shea, in the "Financial Times" of 3-4 June.

"NATO's success has too often been overlooked by some in this last year. But a year on, I certainly look back on what we have achieved with some pride. Just remember, we reversed the worst ethnic cleansing seen on the European continent since World War II." - NATO's Lord Robertson in Brussels on 8 June.

"We just have to be patient. The end [of Milosevic] could come very suddenly." - Unnamed Western diplomat to Reuters in London on 8 June.

"My vision is that the Serbs and Albanians will live together. But the Serbs have to change something in their heads: they are citizens of Prishtina and not of Belgrade. They haven't grasped that yet." - Former communist-era Kosovar leader Mahmut Bakalli to AP on 6 June.

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