Saturday, February 25, 2006

The June 1989 Gazimestan nationalist celebration myth - busted!

The regularly repeated myth that 'The 28 June 1989 celebration in Gazimestan of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo was nationalist', has now been busted. Click here to read the about the real nature of this celebration.

For the rest of the 'Destruction of Yugoslavia: Myth and Fact' page, click here.

For my recently posted page of excerts from speeches of Milosevic, showing his consistent and stringent opposition to nationalism, click here, and here for my recent post showing much-demonised General Ratko Mladic's opposition to ethnic cleansing.

Myth: The 28 June 1989 celebration in Gazimestan of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo was nationalist.

FACT: The 28 June 1989 celebration in Gazimestan of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo has been granted great importance in the distorted, anti-Serb official history of the break-up of Yugoslavia. According to this official history, the celebration was a Milosevic-organised nationalist event, which threatened and inspired fear within the hearts of the other peoples of Yugoslavia. Nothing could be further from the truth: the event was simply the celebration of an historic anniversary, and it carried the message of multinational peace and harmony, and brotherhood and unity amongst peoples.

28 June is St Vitus day for Serbs, when they remember the Battle of Kosovo against the Ottoman Empire, which took place on 28 June 1389. According to Serbian national mythology, this defeat led to the destruction of their medieval state and their subjugation under Turkish rule. The Serbian Prince Lazar was said to have had a dream the day before the battle in which a falcon offered him the choice of achieving either a heavenly or an earthy kingdom, and he chose the former, and fought and lost the battle. Prince Lazar was reputed to have said that “It is better to die a heroic death, than live with shame. It is better to die of sword in battle, than bow to our enemies.”

This tale, embedded in the Serbian collective memory, has inspired ideals of national self-sacrifice amongst the Serbs for centuries. This mythology is not ‘nationalist’. St Vitus day is not about saying that Kosovo belongs to Serbs and not Albanians, it is simply a national anniversary, which carries the message of unity and self-sacrifice. As the most famous Yugoslav dissident, Milovan Djilas, said “If there had been no battle at Kosovo, the Serbs would have invented it for its suffering and heroism”.

Much of this mythology is historically inaccurate, as most nations’ founding myths are. Historians – many of them Serb – have discovered that the Battle was in fact more of a tie than a defeat, and that the medieval Serb state actually survived for another seventy years before finally falling to the Turks. This is often pointed out in the West as if it exposes the Serbs or Milosevic in some way, ignoring the fact that no-one in 1989 attempted to claim this national mythology as historical fact. Slobodan Milosevic himself, in his speech at Gazimestan on the day, said that “Today, it is difficult to say what is the historical truth about the Battle of Kosovo and what is legend… [I]t is difficult to say today whether the Battle of Kosovo was a defeat or a victory for the Serbian people, whether thanks to it we fell into slavery or we survived in this slavery. The answers to those questions will be constantly sought by science and the people.”

As 28 June 1989 was the 600th anniversary of this famous Battle – and such a milestone anniversary does not crop up every day – large celebrations were organised for the event. The bones of Prince Lazar were also taken on a tour of Yugoslavia, which began on 28 June 1988 and ended in September the following year. Note that in June 1988 Kosovo was ruled by people such as
Azem Vllasi and Kaqusha Jasari, celebrated in the West as Albanian resisters of Milosevic and his supposed evil nationalism, and they raised no objection to the beginning of preparations for these celebrations.

This is because there was nothing abnormal or nationalist about celebrating this event. Socialist Yugoslavia may have been tough on nationalism, but the Communists did not simply erase the history of the nations and nationalities of Yugoslavia, and such milestone anniversaries were always celebrated. In 1976-7, for example, there were a number of celebrations in Bosnia and Serbia of the centenary of the Serb uprising in Bosnia, organised in co-operation with the Serbian Orthodox Church, while in November 1987 the centenary of the death of Vuk Karadzic, founder of the Serbian language, was celebrated in Serbia.

Rather than deny such national anniversaries, the League of Communists of Yugoslavia organised them as celebrations not of national exclusivity but of brotherhood and unity, multiethnic and multinational co-existence and harmony, that existed (in theory, at least) in Yugoslavia at the time. At the aforementioned November 1987 celebration, therefore, alongside Serbian President Ivan Stambolic and Serbian Party President Slobodan Milosevic in the front row sat Lazar Mojsov, the ethnic Macedonian President of the Presidency of Yugoslavia, and Sinan Hasani, the ethnic Albanian representative of Kosovo on that body, amongst others.

The celebrations of the 600th anniversary of the Kosovo Battle were organised on similar lines. They were officially organised not by a Serb body, but by the multinational Presidency of Yugoslavia, and the events’ organising committee went to great lengths to stress the fact that in the Battle of Kosovo not just Serbs but Albanians, Hungarians, Croats and Bulgarians had fought on the European side. The main celebration at Gazimestan on 28 June was attended by the presidents of each and every one of the republics and autonomous provinces of Yugoslavia, not just Serbia (Janez Stanovnik, the President of Slovenia, recieved the loudest applause, presumanly because the audience thought his attendance was a stand against previous Slovene support for Albanian nationalists), alongside key federal government leaders such as Prime Minister Ante Markovic (a Croat), Foreign Minister Budimir Loncar (a Croat), Defence Minister Veljo Kadijevic (a Yugoslav), his Deputy Stane Brovet (a Slovene), and Interior Minister Petar Gracinin (a Serb). The then President of the Presidency of Yugoslavia, Janez Drvonesk (a Slovene), and all its other members, also attended. So did a number of members of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, including its then President Milan Pancevski (a Macedonian). The composition of the representatives attending was as multinational as Yugoslavia itself.

As this was a Serbian national anniversary, Slobodan Milosevic, President of Serbia, was obviously the main speaker. But he did not use
his speech to the million odd people – primarily Serbs – that had gathered that day in Gazimestan to whip up nationalism. On the contrary, he gave one of his typical pro-Yugoslav speeches in favour of brotherhood and unity amongst peoples, and explicitly warned of the dangers of nationalism. He emphasized, for example, that “Serbia has never had only Serbs living in it. Today, more than in the past, members of other peoples and nationalities also live in it. This is not a disadvantage for Serbia. I am truly convinced that it is its advantage. National composition of almost all countries in the world today, particularly developed ones, has also been changing in this direction. Citizens of different nationalities, religions, and races have been living together more and more frequently and more and more successfully.” His speech, available to read here, ended with a line that succinctly summarises the whole message of the celebrations – “Long live peace and brotherhood among peoples!”.

Friday, February 24, 2006

What Slobo said

I have compiled a page of quotes of Slobodan Milosevic, which show his consistent opposition to nationalism and stringent belief in national equality. The page is available here. I shall hopefully soon also add more to the 'Destruction of Yugoslavia: Myths and Facts' page.

The quotes I have included show that Milosevic fought for national equality and rights for all in Kosovo and was in no way anti-Albanian, that Milosevic was an adament opponent of nationalism and frequently condemned it, and that Milosevic believed in the preservation of Yugoslavia as a community of equals. There are also a few quotes relating to Bosnia and the beginning of the civil war there.

I have highlighted in bold several things that Milosevic said that have been taken out of context, misrepresented, and quoted as words of nationalism, extremism, war-mongering, etc. By reading them within their context one can see that he was in fact arguing for the complete opposite.

Opponent of ethnic cleansing: General Ratko Mladic

On 12th May 1992, as the Bosnian civil war was just beginning, the Bosnian Serb Assembly voted to create a Bosnian Serb army, and appointed General Ratko Mladic, then Commander of the Yugoslav People's Army district covering Bosnia, as its head. At that time the Assembly was full of discussion about what the goals of the Serbs should be in the coming conflict, and it was on that same day that Radovan Karadzic, President of the Serb Democratic Party, presented their six strategic goals to the Assembly. On this matter, Mladic had this to say:

"People and peoples are not pawns, nor are they keys in one's pocket that can be shifted from here and there. It is something easily said but difficult to achieve. We cannot cleanse, nor can we have a sieve to sift so that the only Serbs would stay, or that the Serbs would fall through and the rest leave… People, that would be genocide… We cannot wage war on all fronts nor against peoples. I would like to suggest that we adopt such a wisdom that we will not go to war but that if we are attacked, we will defend ourselves, and we don't want a war against the Muslims as a people or against the Croats as a people but against those who started that war and who pitted these people against us.”

Does this sound like something that a genocidal monster who, as the BBC puts it, "came to symbolise the Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing of Croats and Muslims", would say?

NOTE: A proper article will come soon, I have posted this because of Mladic's current reappearance in the news.

The wise words of Slobodan Milosevic

The following quotes of Slobodan Milosevic show his consistent opposition to nationalism and discrimination, and his belief that equality amongst nations and nationalities was the basis for peace and harmony in Yugoslavia (highlightened in bold are words that are frequently quoted out of context to make him look nationalist; seen in their proper context one can see this was not the case):

“The situation in Kosovo will improve only if the Serbs, Montenegrins, Albanians and all the others who live and work in Kosovo strengthen their ranks and enhance brotherhood and unity. Any basis for action which excludes brotherhood and unity but proceeds from intra-national intolerance and hatred is not right and we shall do everything to prevent it.” - 20 April 1987

“We neither wish nor we can classify people into Serbs and Albanians, but we should distinguish among the honest and progressive people fighting for brotherhood and unity and national equality on the one hand and nationalists and counter-revolutionaries on the other hand. If we do not create and strengthen that front, Comrades, then there will be no Kosovo, no Serbia, and no Yugoslavia either.” - 25 April 1987

“Enver Hoxha, through his policy, excluded the Albanian people as an underdeveloped society from Europe and thereby deprived them of taking part in the dynamic life of the present-day world, and this portion of the Albanian people [in Kosovo], here and now, are aspiring towards Europe and a modern society and they should not be stopped along that path. Nationalism always means isolation from others, closing in upon oneself within one's own framework. It means lagging behind in development, because without progress and cooperation on an all Yugoslav level and broader afield, there can be no progress. Every nation and nationality which isolates itself is behaving irresponsibly towards its own development. That is why it is we communists in the first place who must do everything to eliminate the consequences of a nationalist and separatist behaviour on the part of the counter-revolutionary forces in Kosovo and also elsewhere in the country.” - 25 April 1987

“Today it is the Serbs and Montenegrins that suffer most from that [lawlessness], but tomorrow this could be the Albanians, too, and that is why, unless law and order is introduced and respected in the broader social and historical sense, this will be the interest of all of the inhabitants of Kosovo. It is a very urgent matter which we must see to together in Kosovo.” - 25 April 1987

“The Serbs and Montenegrins alone cannot win the battle against these shameful phenomena [attacks on Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo]. Regardless of the extent of the support from the republican and Yugoslav leaderships, the position of the Serbian and Montenegrin people in Kosovo must be considerably and positively changed precisely by the Albanians in Kosovo. Honest progressive people, young people and, it goes without saying, Albanian communists, must be the first, the most persistent and successful fighters against their nationalism.This, comrades, applies not only to the Albanian nationality, but also to the Serbian, Montenegrin and any other nation in the world. It is just and moral that every nation and its most progressive people should be the first to fight against their own nationalism, against all those ugly and inhuman acts which insult and humiliate other peoples. Ultimately, these ugly and inhuman phenomena also insult and humiliate the nation whose members commit them. Albanian mothers and fathers should care more about the security of the Serbian and Montenegrin children in Kosovo than the police. In the places where the police and army take matters into their own hands freedom ceases both for those who are right and those who are wrong for everyone.” - 28 April 1987

“Any kind of flirting with nationalism or yielding to it, cannot contribute, but on the contrary can only halt, impede, slowdown and ruin a successful political development which the League of Communists has taken to be the goal. That is Tito’s brotherhood and unity which is the only basis that can secure Yugoslavia’s survival.” – 4 June 1987

“Serbian nationalism today is not only intolerance and hared of another nation or nations, but is itself a serpent deep in the bosom of the Serbian people… Serbian nationalists would do the greatest harm to the Serbian people today by which they offer as being allegedly the best thing, namely isolating the Serbian people… No one can label us Serbian nationalists because we want to, and really will, resolve the problem of Kosovo in the interests of all the people who live there.” – 24 September 1987

“The problem of Kosovo can be resolved only by strengthening the united front of Serbs, Albanians, Montenegrins, Muslims and all other nations and nationalities living in Kosovo.” - 2 November 1988

”Albanian, Serbian and Montenegrins children live there together. Why then should not their parents elect representatives who will enable their children to grow up in peace and joy at least to the extent that children in other parts of Yugoslavia and in Europe are allowed to?” – 2 November 1988

“Nobody should be surprised that all Serbia rose up last summer because of Kosovo. Kosovo is the very centre of its history, its culture, and its memory. All people have a love which burns in their hearts for ever. For a Serb that love is Kosovo. That is why Kosovo will remain in Serbia. That will not be at the expense of Albanians. I can tell the Albanians in Kosovo that nobody has ever found it difficult to live in Serbia because he is not Serbian. Serbia has always been open to everybody to the homeless, to the poor and the rich alike, to the happy and the desperate, to those who were only passing through and to those who wanted to stay. The only people Serbia did not want were evil and bad people, even if they were Serbs.

All Albanians in Kosovo who trust other people and who respect the other people living in Kosovo and Serbia are in their own country. I ask them now to rally against the evil and hatred of their own chauvinists, because they bring evil not only to Serbs and Montenegrins, but also to their own Albanian people.” - 19 November 1989

”Now let us remind the Yugoslav peoples, the working class, young people and communists that half a century ago even Spain was not far away. Many people then went to fight on its barricades against terror and hatred. Terror and hatred run riot in Kosovo today, and Kosovo is in our country of Yugoslavia. In the fight against evil in Kosovo, it is not necessary to sacrifice lives, as was done in Spain. One need only make an oath, which we Yugoslavs already gave each other in 1941, that in unity and brotherhood we shall share everything, both the good and the bad, as well as victory, injustice, and poverty, that we shall build a new better world.” - 19 November 1989

“Nowhere in Serbia with the exception of Kosovo, and one can see the end there too, do the working people and citizens divide themselves along ethnic lines. This is particularly obvious in multi-national Vojvodina, in Belgrade where members of all Yugoslav peoples and nationalities live, and in all other communities in Serbia where citizens of various nationalities live… Yugoslavia is a federal community of all peoples and nationalities that live in it. This means that they are all equal and that they have an equal position in the economic, political and cultural life of the country in which they live.” – 30 January 1989

“I am convinced, that in the fight for justice, equality, socialism and Yugoslavia, every Yugoslav, regardless of his nationality, in every one of our republics all our peoples and nationalities will be protected.” – 28 February 1989

“Having hailed the new Constitution, we can now roll up our sleeves, remembering the past is nice - but the present is in front of us, the future is knocking on our door. Serbia does not live for yesterday, but for today and tomorrow. I want to tell this to everybody inside and outside Serbia. Intoxicated with its victory, Serbia will not stand still. On the contrary, Serbia has begun great reforms with the support of all of its citizens and Serbia needs all of them to the same extent, regardless of their education, social origin, nationality and religion. They are all equally important and they all belong to Serbia to the same extent.” – 22 May 1989

“Serbia has never had only Serbs living in it. Today, more than in the past, members of other peoples and nationalities also live in it. This is not a disadvantage for Serbia. I am truly convinced that it is its advantage. National composition of almost all countries in the world today, particularly developed ones, has also been changing in this direction. Citizens of different nationalities, religions, and races have been living together more and more frequently and more and more successfully.

Socialism in particular, being a progressive and just democratic society, should not allow people to be divided in the national and religious respect. The only differences one can and should allow in socialism are between hard working people and idlers and between honest people and dishonest people. Therefore, all people in Serbia who live from their own work, honestly, respecting other people and other nations, are in their own republic.

After all, our entire country should be set up on the basis of such principles. Yugoslavia is a multinational community and it can survive only under the conditions of full equality for all nations that live in it.” – 28 June 1989

Six centuries later, now, we are being again engaged in battles and are facing battles. They are not armed battles, although such things cannot be excluded yet. However, regardless of what kind of battles they are, they cannot be won without resolve, bravery, and sacrifice, without the noble qualities that were present here in the field of Kosovo in the days past. Our chief battle now concerns implementing the economic, political, cultural, and general social prosperity, finding a quicker and more successful approach to a civilization in which people will live in the 21st century. For this battle, we certainly need heroism, of course of a somewhat different kind, but that courage without which nothing serious and great can be achieved remains unchanged and remains urgently necessary.” – 28 June 1989

“We have been witnessing daily an increasing expansion of bullying and primitive and chauvinist moves by the representatives of some political parties [Serb nationalist opposition parties, led by Draskovic, Seselj, etc]. Although their so-called parties have not even been constituted yet, nor registered, they are already threatening the communists and other nations and nationalities. These threats constitute their complete political programme and their complete political promotion. The state of Serbia will not let anyone carry out these ravages on its territory from Dragas to Horgos, nor will we sit back and do nothing if confronted with any kind of violence against those parts of the Serbian people living outside Serbia… The Serbian people, as no other nation in the world, knows that if there is a thing to which an end has to be put, it is fratricidal war, and a war in general. Other nations are also fed up with mutual extinction and waging wars. So, I am convinced that all Serbian citizens, all normal people in our republic and our country, are equally concerned to shield themselves and their children from conflicts, hatred and bloodshed… The foundation of new parties in Serbia should be a step towards further democratization, a step in Serbia's interests, and not a step towards conflicts and to its detriment” – 10 May 1990

“We are convinced that the idea of Yugoslavism as an expression of the strivings of all our peoples through centuries has not lost its sense, but that it should be built now on new democratic foundations within a federation in which we all together and on an equal footing will implement the joint interests, retaining the right to an independent organization of the republics.We believe that through our efforts, and the efforts of other republics and peoples who want Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav federation in its existing or somewhat changed form will successfully weather the crisis, and that the Yugoslav peoples will stay together. Anyhow, these peoples are mixed in this territory to such an extent that divisions make no sense.” – 25 June 1990

“Nationalism and discrimination belong to the Middle Ages. The future must be built on the basis of the policy of national equality and nothing else. Serbia is strongly in favour of this and of peace since no one wants to die.” – 19 March 1991

“If the human rights of Albanians really were threatened in Kosovo-Metohija, we certainly would not hesitate to protect them. We are proud that Serbia is not conducting a nationalist policy and that no one in Serbia is discriminated against for being a Slovene, Croat, or a member of another people or national minority. No one in Serbia is or will be a second-class citizen, apart from Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo-Metohija if we accept the ultimatums and pressures that we have been subjected to.” – 30 May 1991

"We can be a happy, good and successful country if we overcome this crisis of nationalism and nationalist confrontations." - 7 August 1991

“The Muslims [of Bosnia] are not a factor of instability although political adventurism by certain SDA [Party of Democratic Action, the party headed by Alija Izetbegovic that lead the Muslims] leaders could create that impression. However, it would be unfair to the Muslims and, I believe, to most SDA members if we were to entertain suspicions with regard to them only because of the senseless actions by individual extremists within their ranks. Everyone has extremists. Serbs have them too. If by some fortuitous chance they were in power in Serbia, Serbia would have been in black a long time ago. We must take into account the fact that extremism on one side gives rise to extremism on the other side, and if they should escape control and grow strong the conflicts would escalate''. - 29 December 1991

''It is my personal opinion that for the Serbian and Muslim peoples in Bosnia-Hercegovina, and this means in Yugoslavia too, to live together and on an equal footing is in the interests of both nations. I believe that Serbian nationals in Bosnia-Hercegovina by and large express these sentiments.” - 29 December 1991

“Bosnia- Hercegovina is made up of three equal nations, three constituent, three constitution-making nations. By definition, Bosnia-Hercegovina has been such a state from its very creation. If Bosnia- Hercegovina were an island in the ocean, if it did not have Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, or any other country around it, this principle of equal treatment of interests of all three nations would still have to be applied.

Therefore, I would like to remind you that from the very beginning we have been striving for the crisis in Bosnia-Hercegovina and relations in it to be regulated on the basis of consensus and equality of all three nations. We even said before all this that to help such a process and such a principled approach we would respect any solution that these three peoples reached on an equal footing. This is the beginning and the end. I do not see any other solution. I do not seen any other solution to this agony in Bosnia-Hercegovina other than for hostilities to stop immediately and for the conference that was in fact based on this principle of equality and consensus of the three constituent nations to resume immediately.” – 28 May 1992

“Always, not now or a year ago, but much earlier, we made the Serbian stance on this issue [Bosnia] very clear, namely, that we do not have any territorial pretensions. This is on the record and in the last two years, before all these clashes started, nobody who is honourable could say that we were striving for the creation of a Greater Serbia or something similar. I am glad that we have now started to join forces in our efforts to stop all these bloody events, and everything that is absolutely bad, and this unjust war… Only insane people can believe that such a sort of ethnic cleansing could be something good. This is a crime that cannot be accepted or justified, regardless of the side.” – 28 August 1992

“You [Kosovo Serbs] must do everything to develop unity, but not only within the Serbian nation but unity, understanding, and love with all those who live in Kosovo. We know that there are many Albanians in Kosovo who do not approve of the separatist policy of their nationalist leaders. They are under pressure, intimidated, and blackmailed, but we shall not respond with the like. We must respond by offering our hand, living with them in equality, and not permitting that a single Albanian child, woman, or man be discriminated against in Kosovo in any way. We must, for the sake of all Serbian citizens, insist on the policy of brotherhood, unity, and ethnic equality in Kosovo.” – December 17, 1992

“For this country, and not only in Kosovo and Metohija but for the entire country, there is no other way, no other policy but a policy of national equality. We will stick to the policy of national equality, and every citizen will be equal to us regardless of his nationality, his religion, profession, or political inclinations, since this is the state of all the citizens of Serbia, and it must remain so [loud cheering]. Only like that can it be successful.

We cannot forget the cruelty that one part of the Serb population in Kosovo was exposed to in the early 1980’s, when the great exodus took place from this region, but just so that it does not happen again, we have to remember that such cruelty should not be repeated again against anyone, not against the Serbs, not against the Albanians, not against the Turks, not against the Muslims, or any other nationality that lives in this region. The Serb people, being the largest and most populous in Serbia and the Balkans, have the greatest responsibility to take in and protect those who are weaker. This has always been the tradition of the Serb people. They have to, and I know that they want to offer the hand of cooperation, of understanding, equality, and coexistence to everyone. I am convinced that not a long time will pass before Kosovo and the south of Serbia generally, becomes exactly such a region of mutual understanding, cooperation, and coexistence in progress and prosperity.

This is why I want to say again: For this country there is no other policy but a policy of national equality.” – 20 July 1995

Monday, February 20, 2006

New articles soon

I hope to write up some new "Myth and Fact" articles soon, relating to the question of Kosovo, the rise of Milosevic and the Serb constitutional changes of 1989 that have been so unjustly vilified in the West.

One thing I will refute is the 'official line' on the June 1989 celebrations at Gazimestan, which asserts that this was a Serb nationalist celebration organised by Milosevic. In fact it was simply the celebration of an historic anniversary and was not at all nationalist or threatening, but was multi-ethnic and multi-national and carried the message of national equality. The website Emperor's Clothes has already shown this by analysing the speech that Milosevic made at the event, but I will look at other aspects of the celebration to prove this even further.

Another thing I may do a "Myth and Fact" on is the question of democratic and economic reform of Yugoslavia. According to anti-Milosevic propaganda, he was a conservative neo-Stalinist hardliner, while the Slovene and other separatists were democrats and market reformers. I will show the truth, which is that Serbia was the centre of democratic dissidence in Yugoslavia, that the Serbian party and state were the most liberal and reformist for most of the 1980s, and that Milosevic was an advocate of bold economic and political reform in the direction of free-market multi-party democracy. The real conflict in Yugoslavia was not between democrats (Slovenes) and conservatives (Serbs), but between those who advocated the dissolution of Yugoslavia and those who advocated its continued existence.

I'm also thinking about compiling a page of quotes of Milosevic throughout his career to show his consistent advocacy of multi-ethnic co-existence and tolerance. Refuting the idea that Draskovic and co were a "democratic opposition" to the evil Bolshevik Milosevic (Serbia under Milosevic was in fact a democracy, if not a perfect one, and the "democratic opposition" were largely a bunch of vile nationalist thugs and war-mongering opportunists) is also an option.

As is pretty clear, I've got a lot of ideas. I've done the research really, it's just a matter of writing it up. Hopefully by the end of this week I will have one or two articles up. Given the current context of Kosovo status talks, I may also write an article showing why there isn't a single valid, let alone just, argument for granting independence to Kosovo.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A new myth busted!

I have written and posted a new 'Myth and Fact' in the "The Destruction of Yugoslavia: Myth and Fact" series. The myth that I bust is that, as the Hague Prosecution’s Indictment of Slobodan Milosevic puts it, “On 17 November 1988, high-ranking Kosovo Albanian political figures were dismissed from their positions within the provincial leadership and were replaced by appointees loyal to Slobodan Milosevic”.

The explanation busting the myth is very extensive and covers lots of ground. If you want to understand what was really going on in 1988-9 in Kosovo and in Yugoslavia regarding Kosovo, then you should definately read this one.

Click here to read Myth: In November 1988 Slobodan Milosevic had the popularly elected Albanian leaders of Kosovo removed and replaced with his hand-picked puppets.

Myth: In November 1988 Slobodan Milosevic had the popularly elected Albanian leaders of Kosovo removed and replaced with his hand-picked puppets.

“On 17 November 1988, high-ranking Kosovo Albanian political figures were dismissed from their positions within the provincial leadership and were replaced by appointees loyal to Slobodan Milosevic” - Point 9 of the Hague Prosecution’s Indictment of Slobodan Milosevic

FACT: In November 1988 a part of the leadership of the Provincial League of Communists (LC) of Kosovo, acknowledging their failure in implementing the agreed policy of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) on Kosovo, resigned. The Kosovo LC accepted these resignations, and then elected successors, who were long-standing ethnic Albanian political leaders, not puppets of Milosevic.

EXPLANATION: Ever since the 1981 Albanian nationalist riots in Kosovo, the problem of Albanian nationalism and pressures on Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo had come to prominence, and the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) had periodically announced new sets of measures, from the purging of Albanian nationalism from school textbooks to the banning of inter-ethnic land sales, which were designed to stabilise and resolve the crisis. Again and again the ethnic Albanian leaders of Kosovo’s party and state bodies had promised to implement these measures, but again and again the LCY found that they had failed, with emigration under pressure of Serbs and Montenegrins and Albanian nationalist agitation continuing unabated.

Azem Vllasi, the ethnic Albanian President of the Kosovo LC from May 1986 to May 1988, had promised to implement the party’s latest package of June 1987, as had his successor, Kaqusha Jashari. But both had taken a militant, nationalist-leaning line, and on 30 July 1988 the Presidium of the Central Committee (CC) of the LCY assessed that its program for dealing with the Kosovo problem had not been implemented, and attacked Kosovo’s Provincial LC leadership for not having worked hard enough for its implementation.

The LCY did not, however, explicitly state yet who was responsible for this failure, and whether changes in the leadership of Kosovo were necessary. The day before the LCY’s assessment, though, the Federal Assembly of Yugoslavia had voted to, along with the Federal Government, “take steps to establish the personal and joint responsibility of those who fail to carry out tasks embodied in the Yugoslav program on Kosovo”, with measures employed against those responsible including “recalls and removals from office”. Serbian party officials led by party president Slobodan Milosevic therefore insisted that those in the Kosovo leadership who they considered responsible, in the first place Vllasi and Jashari, should resign, and new leaders be elected who would implement LCY policy and have the confidence of all the nations and nationalities of Kosovo.

Others in the party, including – crucially – the then LCY President, the ethnic Croat Stipe Suvar, an opponent of Slobodan Milosevic and fierce critic of the Serbian and Montenegrin Kosovo demonstrations that Milosevic defended, shared this view. Soon the rest of the party did too, leading the LCY Presidium, in a joint session with the leadership of the Kosovo Provincial LC on 11 October 1988, to vote to find the Kosovo party leadership primarily responsible for “the open emergence of counter-revolution” in Kosovo and its seclusion from the rest of Serbia, declaring that the communists of Kosovo had “for years drawn closer to nationalist positions and had lost the ability to mount resistance against them”. Finally, at the 17th Session of the CC of the LCY, held on 17-20 October 1988, the report of the LCY President Stipe Suvar, which the CC voted to adopt, explicitly stated that “personnel changes" in the leadership of Kosovo were necessary; the CC openly condemned its Kosovo members, Vllasi and Jashari; and a working group was established to establish the “responsibility” of Kosovo party officials for failure to implement LCY policy.

The Kosovo party leadership, including Jashari and Vllasi, accepted this assessment. At a 2 November 1988 joint meeting of the Presidiums of the Kosovo and Serbia LCs to discuss its implementation, Jashari explicitly declared, in line with these conclusions, that “in a short period of time further cadre changes should be carried out in the [Kosovo] Presidium, not under pressure…. But because we can find people who will be able to mobilise all the nations and nationalities in Kosovo”. Vllasi similarly stated that they would establish responsibility, a process that would resemble “eating humble pie”, but one that they would “not [run] away from”, insisting that “there is no-one amongst us who departs from LC policy”.

Other Kosovo figures spoke along similar lines, with some ethnic Serb members of the Provincial Presidium in particular speaking self-critically. Members of the two Presidiums disagreed over the extent of the coming self-criticism and cadre changes, whether individual or collective responsibility for the failure should be established, and how long the process would take, with some from Serbia accusing their Kosovo counter-parts of procrastination and a “flight from responsibility”, but the meeting ended with the adoption by both of a joint conclusion. That conclusion stated that:

“The Presidium of the Serbian LC Central Committee and the Presidium of the Kosovo LC Provincial Committee are of the view that, before any cadre renewal is undertaken, it is necessary in as short a period of time as possible to establish the degree of individual responsibility in the Presidium and the Provincial Committee of the Kosovo LC for failure to implement the conclusions of the ninth session of the LCY Central Committee on Kosovo. In the process of ideo-political and work differentiation the Presidium and the Provincial Committee of the Kosovo LC should rid themselves of those individuals who no longer enjoy the confidence of either the people or the LC membership. Both their departure and the appointment of new cadres who will be prepared and competent to fight for the implementation of LCY policy will have a considerable positive effect on the political mood and future actions.”

The Kosovo party leadership thus completely accepted the need for changes in its composition, as the LCY Presidium had stated. So too did the rest of Yugoslavia, with the LCY Presidium reiterating once again on 9 November 1988 that the Kosovo Provincial party leadership had not been carrying out the decisions of the LCY, and could not successfully execute its tasks in its present composition.

It seemed to some, however, that the Kosovo LC was procrastinating over the issue, leading Milosevic to reiterate his demand once again on 14 November that Jashari “immediately” relinquish her functions as she was “incapable” of filling them, and state that Serbia expected the Kosovo leadership to implement the conclusions of the 17th Session immediately and “without procrastination or playing for time”.

Finally, on 17 November 1988, a month after the 17th Session, the shake-up came. Two Albanians and two Serbs announced their resignations from the Kosovo LC Provincial Committee, which then voted to accept them. Jashari then tended her own resignation as Provincial LC President, as did the party secretary Vojislav Zajic, an ethnic Serb. Remzi Kolgeci, a member of the Presidium and the President of the Presidency of Kosovo since May 1988, became acting President of the Kosovo LC, which then voted to remove Azem Vllasi from its ranks on the grounds that he was also Kosovo’s representative on the CC of LCY, and could not occupy both posts simultaneously.

These cadre changes of November 1988, as can clearly be seen, were voluntary, accepted by the Kosovo leadership and those involved, and supported, and deemed necessary, by the rest of Yugoslavia. They were not, however, accepted by all Albanians in Kosovo, and when the resignations were announced several thousand Albanian miners and students descended on the party headquarters in Pristina to demand their rejection.

The Provincial Committee, however, rejected their demands, and voted on 18 November to accept the resignations, with its acting President Remzi Kolgeci appealing to the demonstrators to disperse to their homes, and the Federal Presidency demanding that they cease, warning that they were causing anxiety amongst the other nations and nationalities of Kosovo and deepening national divisions.

The protestors soon dispersed, but would return later after the work of cadre changing was completed in late January 1989. The Kosovo LC then elected new officials to the posts of those who had resigned. Rrahman Morina, then Kosovo’s Provincial Interior Minister, was elected the new LC President, and Tomislav Sekulic, an ethnic Serb who supported brotherhood and unity and opposed what he called “drunken Serbism”, was chosen as the new party secretary. Vllasi, meanwhile, was removed from the CC of the LCY, and Ali Shukrija elected to take his place.

The ethnic Albanian Trepca miners who protested in February 1989, threatening to blow themselves up if their demands were not met, demanded, amongst other things, the resignations of Morina, Shukrija and Husamedin Azemi, the president of the Pristina LC. These three have thus been portrayed in the West as, as Noel Malcolm puts it, "Milosevic's placemen", despite the utter falseness of this characterisation.

All new party officials were elected in exactly the same manner as those they replaced, and had hardly come from nowhere. Morina had been Provincial Interior Minister for a good while now, under both Vllasi and Jashari; Azemi had already been a member of the Provincial LC Presidium prior to the November shake-up and only incurred the miners’ wrath due to his characterisation of their earlier protests as nationalist in character; and Ali Shukrija had formerly been Prime Minister and President of Kosovo, and was perhaps the most important Albanian politician active in politics at the time.

Nor were these the only Albanian politicians to support the course that Kosovo took in 1988-9. Both the President of the Provincial Presidency, Remzi Kolgeci, and the Provincial Prime Minister, Nazmi Mustafa, for example, like most Albanian politicians in Kosovo, retained their absolutely key posts and supported the direction Kosovo took. So did Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian representative on the Federal Presidency, Sinan Hasani, who had, just two years earlier, been the President of the Presidency of Yugoslavia and thus its nominal head-of-state.

These men were not Serb puppets, and it is false to suppose that the Serbs even desired pro-Serb puppets. At the aforementioned 2 November 1988 meeting Jashari had spoken of the need to bring into the leadership people who would “be able to mobilise all the nations and nationalities in Kosovo”, and this was precisely what party leaders in Serbia had been suggesting. As Slobodan Milosevic explained at that same meeting,

“The problem of Kosovo can be resolved only by strengthening the united front of Serbs, Albanians, Montenegrins, Muslims and all other nations and nationalities living in Kosovo. In their leaderships they therefore need people who will enable them to live in peace, with mutual respect and in brotherhood.

Kosovo does not need in its leadership Albanians who would apparently side with Serbs and Montenegrins but would be considered ''traitors'' by other Albanians. Nor do we need Serbs and Montenegrins who would, as revenge, blame all the Albanians for what the chauvinists in their ranks have been doing.

Individuals must be brought into the Kosovo leadership who will be on the side of all the people living there and who will protect all of them from the misery and the disgraceful happenings there which will continue to happen if the idea of an ethnically pure Kosovo is allowed to be realized.

Albanian, Serbian and Montenegrins children live there together. Why then should not their parents elect representatives who will enable their children to grow up in peace and joy at least to the extent that children in other parts of Yugoslavia and in Europe are allowed to?”