28 July 2005, Volume
'60 YEARS SINCE THE VICTORY OVER FASCISM'
By RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service broadcasters Slobodan Kostic, Dzenana Karabegovic, Ankica Barbir-Mladinovic, Biljana Jovicevic, Gezim Baxhaku, and Blagoja Kuzmanovski.
In early May, the 60th anniversary of the "victory over fascism" was marked worldwide (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 April and 15 May 2005). In former Yugoslav states the topic is still bound up with controversies and ideological conflicts. Why are some World War II personages considered heroes by some and traitors by others? Why are accounts of the past subjected to the influence of ideologies and political myths? Historian Zvezdan Folic:
The fact is that Montenegrin society is very much divided. The part of society that promotes the ideas of the National Liberation War today is progressive and oriented towards civic values, while some other political forces openly support and want to rehabilitate the Chetnik movement for their own political purposes.
President of the Matica Crnogorska Branko Banjevic warns against painting a black-and-white picture of the situation:
Divisions would not be so strong and deep if Montenegro were left alone and spared of all manner of influences coming from outside. I am talking about financial and organizational support for some political parties, groups, etc. The restoration of the Montenegrin state, and the long-term interests of the Montenegrin people and all citizens of Montenegro are strongly linked to the fight against fascism. All the attempts aimed at rehabilitating the Chetnik movement and making the Partisans and Chetniks equal in rights seek to prevent Montenegro from returning to its roots in a free, democratic, European society that will be realized only when Montenegro becomes a sovereign state.
President of the Veterans' Association Andrija Nikolic:
What really matters are not divisions but something that St. Peter of Cetinje [Sveti Petar Cetinjski] said two centuries ago, "I do not need you and you do not need me, but Montenegro needs both of us."
KOSOVO: WAS WORLD WAR II ANTIFASCIST?
There are different opinions in Kosovo about the character of World War II and the National Liberation War of the peoples of former Yugoslavia. According to Professor Hakif Bajrami, who has thoroughly studied World War II on the territory of former Yugoslavia and Albania, it is scarcely possible to find a historian who would call it an ideological conflict. Rexhep Abdullahu, president of the Albanian National Democratic Party, disagrees and thinks that it was an ideological and antifascist war.
World War II was a conflict between two sides: the fascist and Nazi forces on one side wanting to divide the world into new spheres of influence, and, on the other, the signatories to the Atlantic Charter, which can be defined as a new geopolitical program of universal and historical proportions.
According to professor Bajrami, since Nazism and fascism were aimed at achieving the domination of Europe, World War II on European territory can be considered antifascist, but this does not necessarily make it an ideological war. Rexhep Abdullahu from the Albanian National Democratic Party has a different view:
World War II had an antifascist character since it involved democrats from around the world, but there were also the Russians and others who wanted to establish communist regimes, which is why the war had an ideological character as well.
To stress the nonideological character of the war in former Yugoslavia and Albania, Bajrami says:
Many leaders of the antifascist and liberation war in Albania were not communists, and that was the situation in both Yugoslavia and Kosovo. Ivan Ribar was not a communist but was the chairman of the AVNOJ [Antifascist Council of the National Liberation War of Yugoslavia], just as Mehmet Hoxha was not a communist but was chairman of the Antifascist Council of the People's War for the Liberation of Kosovo formed in Bujan, Albania."
According to professor Bajrami, of the 49 participants in the Bujan Conference and 61 invited guests, two-thirds were not members of the Communist Party of either Albania or Yugoslavia. This is why professor Bajrami calls the conflict a liberation war against a foreign occupier. Mr. Abdullahu finds it quite logical that Albanians who backed the communists early in the war later changed their views:
We had a pro-Western political force, the National Democratic Movement, which realized what was going on and what the real aims of the war were. They nonetheless expected unification with Albania, which would eventually become a democratic country....
MACEDONIA: CALLS FOR REVISING HISTORY
Historians explain that a common goal -- the war against fascism -- united all Macedonian forces involved in the National Liberation War, but there were also different ideologies dividing them.... Although in neighboring Balkan states those divisions were far more obvious, they existed in Macedonia, too, as historian Lazar Lazarov explains:
There were different factions among both autonomists and federalists. One group wanted the liberated Macedonian territories to be united with Bulgaria, while the other movement advocated the creation of a Macedonian state, with several different visions for its future. One of them fought for Macedonian independence with eventual membership in the future Yugoslav federation, but there were also concepts advocating a Yugoslav-Bulgarian, Balkan, or even Danubian federal state. However, the Yugoslav federation prevailed and became reality. The most important thing about it is that it enabled the Macedonian people to create its own state and decide its own future.
There are still problems regarding this period of Macedonian history. One of the reasons why this period and the role of many leaders of the liberation movement remain unclear and insufficiently studied by historians is the fact that most of the archives have been destroyed.
In the Yugoslav federation, those topics were considered off-limits. Not because it was not allowed to study them, but because the files and other materials regarding those issues were simply unavailable.
Some historical issues remain unclear, particularly those concerning the Albanians living in Macedonia. A controversy emerged when a memorial was dedicated to some important people from the Albanian nationalist Balli Kombetar [National Front] organization. Political analyst Hisan Ramadani explains:
Their main idea was a united Albania. The communist movement in Albania shared the same concept [at one point but later came out in support of a Balkan federation, leading to a split with the Balli Kombetar]. The issue deserves to be reopened and studied for the sake of achieving a balance.