Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"The Fall of Yugoslavia" by Misha Glenny [5]

Chapter 3: June-July 1991: State of Independence

This chapter starts off with a trio of vignettes which serve both to illustrate the sad sense of impending doom which hung over Yugoslavia (and of which the rest of the world remained ignorant), and of the fragile beauty of daily life which was about to be desecrated by war.

First Glenny goes to Prague, for the Conference on European Confederation which he describes as "a sop to Eastern European countries." While there, he speaks with the former Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Mate Babic, who turns out to be an astute witness to Franjo Tudjman's governing style. The most interesting observation is this:

"Although he was distinctly no friend of Milosevic, Mate Babic admitted frankly that Serbia had gone further down the road to privitization than Croatia. Tudjman, he insisted, was consciously blocking Croatia's progress in this direction. Let it be remembered that according to President Tudjman, Croatia's moral superiority over Serbia lay in its fervent commitment to free-market economics."

And let it also be remembered that, according to left-wing apologists for the Milosevic regime, Yugoslavia was allegedly destroyed partly because he was courageously defending the socialism of Yugoslavia against the forces of Western neo-liberalism and their capitalist lackeys such as Tudjman.

Glenny also meets Srdja Popovic, a distinguished Serbian liberal journalist from Belgrade, who predicts that war will break out when the republics begin declaring independence.

Then he makes his way from depressing, doom-ridden Belgrade to Prishtina, where he meets Veton Surroi, who proves to be a charming observer himself. The account of this visit largely serves the purpose of allowing Glenny to deal with the subject of Kosovo on the eve of the wars which would, for a few years anyway, push this occupied colony out of sight and out of mind. Glenny does seem to "get it" in Kosovo; he regards it as being an occupied territory, and he notes that few if any Serbs from Serbia have ever been there. He realizes that the presence of the state there is one of racist occupation, and that the Albanians are the victims of oppression. He also feels genuine pity for the Kosovar Serbs, whom he realizes are pawns of the Milosevic regime, which needs them in a perpetual state of fear and insecurity in order to justify the crackdown. Glenny essentially concedes the right of self-determination of the Albanian majority and the case for independence.

Finally, he visits Macedonia, where he dwells a little on the state of the Albanian minority there and the larger issue of Albanian nationalism; he ends up in Skopje as the guest of Macedonian journalist Sasho Ordanoski. They avoid politics, meet a lot of people, and have a wonderful night. It's a lovely scene, one which makes you ache knowing of the deluge which is to come.

And it comes...

4 comments:

Owen said...

Kirk, I hope you're finding this more rewarding than some of the others you've tackled - it sounds so as you quote these interesting insights.

Shaina said...

Just a side question, are your reading this book for the first time, or have you read it before?
Also, what edition are you reading? (my library has the third edition)

Kirk Johnson said...

Shaina, I've read this once before, but that was years ago...to be honest, I barely remember it. For one thing, I forgot that it only covers the early years of the war.

Kirk Johnson said...

Owen, while I'm enjoying reading this OK, I must confess that I actually enjoy reviewing the revisionist/denial books quite a bit. I realize it must seem like a dreary slog to get through books by the likes of Johnstone, Parenti, et al., but I take a grim sort of relish in tearing those books apart.