Sunday, February 05, 2012

"The Fall of Yugoslavia" by Misha Glenny [12]

Chapter 5 [continued]

There is a brief respite in the chapter, during which Glenny visits a pub located at the geographical center of a Yugoslavia which was already breaking apart; named, quite aptly, 'The Centre of Yugoslavia.' The owner tells Glenny that he's not going to change the name because "What else can I call it? The Centre of a Ghost State?"

This anecdote sets the stage for a brief discussion of national identity in Bosnia. Glenny notes that even at this late date, a significant minority still considered themselves Yugoslav; but more depressingly, he also notes that by this point the national designation of 'Bosanci' had died out, replaced first by 'Bosnian Serb', 'Bosnian Croat', and 'Bosnian Moslem*'. Ultimately, the 'Bosnian' prefix was dropped.

What this meant for a viable "Bosnian" national identity was clearly not good. Glenny goes on to explain that Bosnia had never been an independent state since the Middle Ages, and that it's continued existence--and I do give him credit for acknowledging that Bosnia has a long history as a distinct geopolitical entity--it has only been able to survive under the protection of some larger polity--the Ottomans, the Hapsburgs, and Yugoslavia.

He goes on to say that, after the independence of Slovenia and Croatia--he continues to regard Western support for their secession as the primary direct cause of the actual war--Bosnia was left with three choices, none of them good and none of them universally supported. Whether to stay in a truncated Yugoslavia and fight against Serbian hegemony, accept Serbian hegemony under direct control of Belgrade, or declare independence and reap the whirlwind of violence to come--there were no good choices, and none that the country as a whole could rally around.

Glenny's stance here is increasingly troubling--he regards Milosevic as a monster and sympathizes with Bosnia's plight, but he is adamant that nothing could be done by the West. He recognizes the provocations that Belgrade makes but then focuses mostly on the missteps and outrages made by his opponents. Glenny simultaneously says that nothing could be done, yet he assigns blame to the West for supporting Croatia and Slovenia, and to the leadership of those two republics for somehow not placating the same Milosevic whom he has aptly described as a sociopath bent on tyranny.

*I should probably acknowledge that Glenny uses the British 'Moslem' rather than the American 'Muslim' throughout the book. Even though I'm not quoting him directly here, I am paraphrasing his words rather directly and therefore am transcribing his spelling in this case.

1 comment:

Katja R. said...

I have not been here in a bit.., ┼żao mije!
Glenny is one of those guys I just wonder about. I think he takes journalistic objectivity too far.