Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Three [13]


One quick note from the previous section on Serbian nationalism before moving on. I had touched on this point in passing, but it was only when rereading the section in question that this quote struck me:

"To prevent any return to Serbian predominance, the country was divided administratively along geographic lines into republics that enlarged the "home republics" of the non-Serb nationalities while reducing the Republic of Serbia, notably by creating the Republic of Macedonia in what had been southern Serbia and recognizing a new "nationality," the Macedonians, whose Slavic language resembles both Bulgarian and Serbian."

So much to ponder there. For one thing, Johnstone conveniently ignores the fact that Macedonia was "part of Serbia" by virtue of having been conquered by force.

Also, her dismissal of the Macedonians status as a nation isn't surprising in and of itself--we already know that Bosnian Muslims (and, she once insinuated, Montenegrins) are "really" Serbs--except her admission that the Macedonian language is closely related to both Serbian and Bulgarian. So if "Macedonian" isn't a legitimate nationality by her standards, that begs the question--are they "really" Serbs, or are they "really" Bulgarians?

I don't think you'll be surprised in the slightest to learn that she ducks the question entirely.


Anonymous said...

Diana Johnstone is a lunatic. Macedonian language does NOT resemble Serbian. In fact, Macedonian language is so different from Serbian or Bosnian or Croatian language that native Bosnian or Serbian speaker CANNOT understand Macedonial speaker. Same situation with Slovenian language, we just don't understand them, it's a different language, different words, it's like talking to Arabs, can't understand a word they are saying.

Kirk Johnson said...

My understanding is that Macedonian is much closer to Bulgarian. It certainly cannot be considered, by any stretch of the imagination, as a dialect of Serbian.

Even if it were--so what? Johnstone's failure to grasp the fluid and evolving nature of national identity is what the real issue is. I would imagine that Johnstone would have a real issue with someone claiming that there are no real "Palestinians," and that "Palestinian" is an artificial nationality.

I am still--three chapters into this book and well over 100 pages of text written (feel free to email me and I'll send you the entire review so far in Word format)--grappling with this issue. Her conception of "nationality" and how it is defined is troubling to say the least; it borders on fascist.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be interesting to know if Diane Johnstone speaks ANY Slavic languages.
Macedonian is indeed quite different from Bosnian, Serbian or Croatian, and it's pretty different from Bulgarian.
I'd say the difference is like the difference between English as spoken in the U.S. and Lowland Scots dialect, languages in the same language group but quite different.
If Diane Johnstone knew anything she'd know too that Macedonians and Serbs do not regard each other as at all the same. They always wanted their own country and it's just sillyness to say that Serbia was reduced by the subtraction of Macedonia. Many of the borders of the Balkans countries were not determined by the historical inhabitants but by a bunch of very powerful idiots at the end of WWI cutting deals and doing land swaps.

Kirk Johnson said...

Katja, while Johnstone seems to be fluent in at least French and probably German based on citations in the footnotes and biography, by that same criteria she does not seem at all fluent in Serbo-Croat.

Which is not a sin--I don't read or speak any of the South Slavic languages, either. But I don't lecture Westerner on their presumed ignorance of a culture when I have a very tenuous, second-hand grasp on its history, either.

Anonymous said...

Well Kirk, I don't think it's no a sin not to know even one language of the Balkans but if one is going to set up as an expert on the region, it would not be a bad idea.
For one thing it might result in a more nuanced perception of the region. That wouldn't be a bad thing.