Sunday, January 29, 2012

"The Fall of Yugoslavia" by Misha Glenny [11]

Chapter 5: August 1991-May 1992: Bosnia-Hercegovina--Paradise of the Damned

Glenny's account of the war in Bosnia proper begins with a trip across the Sava River from war-torn Slavonski Samac in Croatia to as-yet untouched Bosanski Samac on the Bosnian side. This gives him an opportunity to note how unprepared for the war Bosnia was; not just militarily and politically, but also at the level of daily life--most people simply did not seem to really believe that the war would cross over from Croatia.

It also gives him a chance to briefly explain who the Bosnian Muslims are, and what their relation to the surrounding Serbs and Croats is. I do mean briefly, by the way, and by spending only two pages explaining how the Muslim Slavs of Bosnia and Sandzak became the Muslim nation in Tito's Yugoslavia in such a cursory fashion, Glenny raises more questions than he answers, some of which are troubling.

He essentially regards the creation of a Muslim nationality as a Titoist move to create leverage against Serb and Croat nationalism in the late 60s and early 70s. He points out that they are a nation who are solely distinguished by their religion, but ignores how much Catholicism and Orthodoxy define Croats and Serbs, respectively.

Lastly, he refers to the problems this creates under the convoluted 1974 Constitutions, which defined Yugoslavia as a federation of both constituent republics and constituent nations. He argues that republics could not leave Yugoslavia without the consent of the all nations. The objection is obvious--neither Croatia nor Bosnia had the right to leave, as the Serb nation in both republics refused to cooperate.

How Glenny will square this legal objection with Western notions of individual liberty (who decides how "the nation" feels?) and minority rights (minorities were not "nations" in the Yugoslav Constitution) will be interesting.

I am not suggesting that he is misreading the Yugoslav Constitution--I am merely curious as to whether or not he sees the same problems with it that I do; and also how he thinks the situation should have been managed. Under Glenny's logic, only Slovenia and Macedonia had the right to leave Yugoslavia, given the objections of the Serb "nations" within Croatia and Bosnia (let alone the fact that the Albanian minority in Kosova were not a "nation" and therefore lacked such rights).

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