CHAPTER THREE: COMPARATIVE NATIONALISMS
3. CROATIAN NATIONALISM: THE END OF YUGOSLAVISM
In the previous post, Johnstone gives a truncated version of the process by which the Serbo-Croat language was codified. She is not incorrect to note that the process of nationalization very often involves a standardization of various related dialects into a centralized national language; her error (a deliberate error, I am certain) is to suggest that this process somehow takes on a life of its own and can, to some degree, dictate identity to the population in question. Even as she acknowledges that the process is a self-conscious one driven by a national elite, she contradicts that insight with the implication that the Croats were going against the stream.
She makes this implication more explicit in the next paragraph:
"Since language had prevailed over religion in unifying Germans in a single state, why couldn't a single language unify Catholics and Orthodox who, unlike the German Catholics and Protestants, had no history of bitter religious wars to put behind them?"
This is actually a very good question (although it ignores the question of Muslim Slavs completely), but Johnstone makes no sincere effort to address it. If she had wanted to do so, she could have compared the very notable differences between the German situation versus the South Slav situation. It would not be hard to note the very different circumstances between the two scenarios. But to do so would require a sincere commitment to honest inquiry and and a genuine willingness to have her preconceptions challenged. So she says nothing further about the German example; she merely insinuates a false parallel and moves on.
Instead, she again draws her overly simplistic contrast between the Serb situation--nationalism being nurtured and developed by a newly independent state--versus Croatian nationalism, which was developed within the confines of the Hapsburg Empire. She falsely claims that Croats had no desire for true independence, a deliberate misrepresentation of a nationalism being developed by a minority within a multinational empire which had a much firmer grip--and more Great Power support--than the Ottomans had over the peripheral Balkan lands where the Serbs had won their independence.
She dismisses Croatian appeals to their medieval past while ignoring that Serbs--and many other national groups--also founded their modern nationalist movements on connections to a distant past. She claims that Croatian nationalism was uniquely "legalistic" in nature, because of the claims regarding the rights of medieval Croatia under Hungarian rule. She also claims that Yugoslavism was essentially a Croatian invention, created with a Western audience in mind, while Serbs were focused on a liberation struggle of all the South Slavs (the "Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes" name). This is another gross oversimplification of the debate within both Serbia and Croatia, of course. Johnstone seems to imply that the "Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes" title was somehow more appropriate--we already know she believes Bosnians, Macedonians, and Montenegrins are "really" Serbs. As for Albanians, Roma, Jews, Hungarians, and so forth, she has nothing at all to say.
After World War I, Yugoslavia became a reality. Johnstone assures us that it was doomed from the start because
"The fatal misunderstanding was that the Serbs, whose leaders had been reluctant to form Yugoslavia to begin with, took seriously the project of building the unified state once it was established, while the Croats, whose leaders had promoted the idea, saw it as only a temporary expedient and subsequently tore it down."
To the extent that this analysis is true, it still ignores the expansionist nature of Serbian nationalism and the tendency to see the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes as a Serb-dominated state; a just reward for their lead in South Slav self-determination. As for the Croats, Johnstone wants to have it both ways--damning them for being trapped within a Hapsburg Empire that stifled and suppressed their national aspirations, while simultaneously damning them for using Yugoslavism and the opportunities of the postwar peace to leverage as much independence as they could win. The Serbs were noble liberators of honest intentions; all the other peoples of Yugoslavia were ungrateful, scheming pretenders of uncertain or illegitimate national identity.