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Watch List: May 14, 1999

14 May 1999, Volume 1, Number 18

90 PERCENT OF KOSOVAR ALBANIANS EXPELLED, U.S. DECLARES. Serbian forces have expelled more than 90 percent of all ethnic Albanians from their homes in the province of Kosova, the U.S. State Department charges in a 30-page report released on May 10. Titled "Erasing History: Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo," it describes the emergence of "horrific patterns of war crimes and crimes against humanity," including "systematic executions" in at least 70 communities, and "organized rape and a well-planned program of terror and expulsion." Human rights organizations welcomed the report as the first overview of the ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosovo. But several of these groups criticized the figures for understating the dimensions of the tragedy, especially one estimate which claims the execution of "at least 4,000 Kosovars." Most of these organizations suggest that the number of ethnic Albanians killed has been much higher. The report stops short of calling Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic a war criminal -- possibly to avoid jeopardizing ongoing diplomatic talks. However, investigators at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague make no secret of their gathering data to convict him.

SETTLEMENT MUST NOT LEAVE MILOSEVIC IN POWER, RIGHTS GROUP SAYS. In an unusually sharp statement, the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights said on May 10 that the Serbian regime's crimes against humanity cannot be tolerated and the people responsible for the crimes must be brought before The Hague tribunal. Representing 39 human rights organizations in North America, Europe, and the former Soviet Union, IHF said it would be "deeply skeptical" of any diplomatic agreement that left Slobodan Milosevic in power and did not guarantee that Kosovar Albanians would be able to return to their homes. The group concluded that any such settlement "would legitimate the genocidal tactics of the Serbian government and would serve as a precedent for other governments seeking to suppress ethnic constituencies."

RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS FEAR BOMBING'S IMPACT... NATO's campaign in Yugoslavia may undermine the process of building a civil society in Russia, two leading Russian human rights activists told a May 7 meeting in New York. At a conference sponsored by the Forced Migration Projects, Lyudmila Alexeeva, who heads the Moscow Helsinki Group, spoke of "a terrible explosion of anti-Western feeling" in Russia and warned against a destruction of links to the West which "serve as the main ally in the effort to build civil society in Russia." Seconding her views, Professor Boris Topornin of the Moscow Institute of State and Law described many Russians as perceiving the bombing as an arbitrary use of force which erodes support for Western values.

... BUT NO RUSSIAN BACKLASH YET AGAINST MISSIONARIES. Popular anger at NATO's airstrikes has not led the Russian people to turn against Western missionaries, according to the Oxford-based Keston News Service. But Keston's survey of a cross-section of clergy and laity did find that some Western missionaries believe that the NATO campaign might ultimately have that effect. A few of them, including Pentecostal Bishop Sergei Ryakhovsky, believe that could lead to calls for the expulsion of Western missionaries.

BELARUSIAN ELECTION PROCEEDS; OPPOSITION LEADER DISAPPEARS. Despite arrests and threats of severe punishment by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime, thousands of activists have been going from door to door to allow people to vote. From May 6 to 10 they collected ballots from 1,722,042 voters, or 22 percent of registered voters in Belarus, opposition leaders announced on May 11. Though many election organizers have been arrested and thousands of ballots confiscated, the election continues until May 16. But the democratic opposition is alarmed by the disappearance of one of its leaders, Gen. Yury Zakharanka, the former Minister of Internal Affairs fired by Lukashenka in 1996 for criticizing his policies. Zakharanka was active in the election, working for presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Mikhail Chygir, now in jail. Zakharanka was last heard from around 9 pm, May 7, when he called his wife Olga to say he was on his way home. Later in the evening his portable phone no longer responded. Olga Zakharenko says that for the past two weeks two cars followed him and that "reliable people" warned him that someone wanted to kill him. The New York-based International League for Human Rights has expressed "grave concern" with Zakharanka's fate, "especially in the context of the rapid deterioration of human rights in Belarus in the past several months."

U.S. CONTINUES TO HOPE FOR RELEASE OF AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST. At a State Department press briefing on May 10, spokesman James Rubin expressed disappointment that Baku has not responded to appeals for the release of journalist Fuad Gakhramanly and voiced hope that he would come under an amnesty to mark Independence Day on May 28. Last November Gakhramanly was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment for writing an article which the prosecution described as outlining tactics for toppling President Heidar Aliev. The article was never published.

** UPDATE ** Russia's Ministry of Justice has re-registered Jehovah's Witnesses as a legitimate religious organization authorized to work in the country. But there is still no word on the disposition of the case against Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow City Court. That case, which began three years ago, was adjourned on March 19 with the appointment of a committee to study the teachings of the church and to determine whether the church threatens social peace (see "RFE/RL Watchlist," 1 April 1999.) "We are pleased that the federal government took the step of re-registering us," spokesman Judah Schroeder of Brooklyn, N.Y. told RFE/RL. "The action suggests that we are not in violation of the law. But we have not heard from the court as yet."

br />By Charles Fenyvesi

Because of the brutality his regime has inflicted on Kosova, many people around the world are already calling Slobodan Milosevic a fascist. In many cases, they are doing so more because that is the most insulting thing they think they can say rather than because they understand what a fascist is and whether Milosevic corresponds to it. A new study titled "The Fascist Revolution" and released coincidentally only one day after NATO air strikes began provides some useful standards against which Milosevic can be measured as well as some important clues to understanding why he enjoys so much support among many Serbs.

Written by University of Wisconsin history professor George L. Mosse, this book defines fascism as a genuine revolutionary movement comparable to communism, but one that in contrast to communism rests on a popular consensus about the unique mystique of the nation. "A revolution from the political Right is as possible as one from the political Left," Mosse writes, "once revolution is defined as the forceful reordering of society in the light of a projected utopia."

To many historians and social scientists, the dictatorships of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler constituted a freak phenomenon which occurred in a unique historic moment and resulted from an unlikely concatenation of political, social, and economic emergencies. But Mosse is not afraid to challenge such a conception which appears to distance ourselves from the fascist threat. In his understanding, Mussolini and Hitler were leaders who enjoyed popular support that was both broad and deep, and they championed an ideology embedded in European culture and traditions. Mosse's thesis is that acting out the potent myths of nationalism and spurning democracy and the rule of law, fascism did rise in other countries as well, and, he implies, could do so again.

Mosse also breaks rank with many of his colleagues when he declares that "fascism can no longer be thought of simply as a movement of the bourgeoisie." Instead, Mosse emphasizes fascism's "cross-class appeal," which, he writes, worked well not only in "highly-developed" Italy and Germany, but also "in undeveloped nations like Romania and Hungary." The book presents a convincing case that with a reflexive stress on economic and social factors, important as they may be, "class analysis cannot really capture the essence of fascism."

Calling attention to the fascist appeal to nationalism is not unique to Mosse. But he defines nationalism as the belief system which provided "the bedrock" upon which fascism was built. Mosse denies the comfortable liberal view that fascist ideology was an aberration peculiar to a few minor theorists out of sync with the acknowledged master thinkers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, or, as others proposed, fascism is an illness that infected minds shellshocked in the trenches of the first World War.

Mosse identifies fascism's expansionist drives as fueled by long-standing national ambitions thwarted by groups fascist leaders demonized as perfidious, cowardly, and congenitally inferior. Mosse reminds us that a fervently expressed popular will once embraced fascist objectives such as transforming the Mediterranean into Italy's Mare Nostrum and conquering Eastern Europe as Germany's "natural inheritance" and "legitimate Lebensraum." Not many Italians and Germans questioned then that a strong, superior nation has the right to seize, plunder, or destroy what weaker nations or minorities built for themselves.

Mosse advances strong arguments that in their resolve to fight wars -- an engagement they worshipped -- Hitler and Mussolini had little to do with such bourgeois notions as common sense, reason, or reasonableness. He points out that the messianism which fascism promoted was advertised as ready to overcome the dialectic of earthly life. The highest pedestal of glory was death -- martyrdom in the service of the sacred nation. Mosse cites the slogan which both German and Italian propaganda repeated endlessly during the second World War: Death in battle makes life worthwhile. Milosevic is not mentioned in Mosse's book. But it should come as no surprise that several reviewers have noted the parallels: The Serbian dictator's brand of Serbian nationalism has attracted plenty of followers, many of them fanatics, and he has been adept in stirring nationalist frenzy by playing up the tragedies of Serbian victimhood through the centuries of Ottoman oppression. But perhaps the most disturbing parallel is that many Serbs find satisfaction, if not historic redemption, in seizing the opportunity to wreak vengeance on Bosnians and Albanians of the Muslim faith, pilloried as "the Turks of today."

Mosse's work will not be the last word in the longstanding debate about the nature of fascism. But by suggesting that it is a phenomenon that can emerge now and in the future as well as in the past, Mosse presents an intellectual as well as a political challenge to us all.