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South Slavic: January 27, 2005

27 January 2005, Volume 7, Number 3


Part I.

A program by Srdjan Kusovac of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service.

RFE/RL: On 1 January the British government released its 1974 files. This customary release of 30-year-old files brought new facts to light dealing with a variety of issues, including the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and Prime Minister Harold Wilson's plans to secretly block the planned visit to London of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, who was engulfed in the Watergate affair.

These revelations lead us to wonder if or when we will ever know the full truth about the dissolution of former Yugoslavia and the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Let's discuss it with professors Ivo Banac of Yale University, Rados Ljusic of the University of Belgrade, Serbo Rastoder of the University of Montenegro, Zijad Sehic of the University of Sarajevo, and Sabrina Ramet of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

Banac: What could be found in, for instance, British, French, Russian, American, Italian, and other foreign archives? The materials would mostly likely provide insight into how diplomats viewed the situation on the ground, or what they themselves did at the time. [Such materials could be interesting but are unlikely to affect our basic understanding of events in the region itself]....

Ljusic: It is quite usual and normal to release files 30 years after the event. However, I suspect that all democratic states hold back at least some files that are never made public. There might even be documents in some archives relating to the [1815] Congress of Vienna or [1878] Congress of Berlin that remain secret because they reflect a long-standing policy of one country or another that was carried out over a long period of time....

It will take time, perhaps not just 30 but even 50 years, before we can learn the truth about some developments, such as the motives behind the race between the Russians and Americans to reach Kosovo first in 1999. It should not come as a surprise if some democratic states were to hold on to such information even after 30 years....

RFE/RL: Might some of the files that will be released shed light on developments inside the Yugoslav region after 1991?

Ljusic: The most important thing from that period is the relationship between [Croatian President Franjo] Tudjman and [Serbian President Slobodan] Milosevic. I assume that records of all the talks they had, either over the phone or during their [several] meetings, will be available to the public 30 years after the events took place.

However, I am not so sure that the Croats will actually release all the documents concerning Tudjman, and the same protective instincts might obtain in Serbia as well..... Documents that are potentially compromising for a state might remain embargoed even after 30 years.

Banac: Some of the most interesting and, as far as I am concerned, most important details about...the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina [from 1992-95]...are those regarding the plans [of Tudjman and Milosevic] for the division of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It will be very important to what extent the governments of all those states that were interested in developments here were informed about the [partition] deal between Tudjman and Milosevic, how they reacted to it, and whether they supported or opposed it. For me, that is the key question of the war, especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina, after 1992.