Friday, February 29, 2008

Oliver Kamm Blog

The latest in my series of "I've been reading this for a long time and I can't believe I forgot to include a link until now" posts:

Oliver Kamm

This is simply an excellent blog by an ideological soulmate (i.e., an internationalist/leftist who is appalled by the isolationist tendencies of the "multicultural", moral-relativist contemporary Western Left). My failure to include a link to this blog before now is especially strange since I actually linked to a particular post from his blog nearly two years ago.

I have rectified this baffling oversight* and I encourage anybody who hasn't already done so to begin reading Mr. Kamm's blog on a regular basis. It is a reliably excellent read. Don't take my word for it; check out his latest entry, a hilarious update on the pathetic saga of Srebrenica-denier and all-around conspiracy-monger Neil Clark. Kamm gives the deluded and laughable Mr. Clark all the respect that a paranoid defender of the Milosevic regime deserves.

*Any and all readers of this blog are always welcomed and encouraged to bring any relevant online resource to my attention.

"Muslim Identity and the Balkan State" ed. by Hugh Poulton and Suha Taji-Farouki

I have read most of the collected essays in this fine collection:

Muslim Identity and the Balkan State

Published in 1997, no doubt some of the data and interpretations are now dated; also, because the status of Bosnia was very much in doubt in late 1996 when this volume was being prepared for publication, the editors chose not to discuss the Muslims of Bosnia. Rather, this book looks at the Pomaks of Bulgaria and Greece, ethnic Turks throughout the Balkans, the Slavic Muslims of Macedonia, ethnic Albanian Muslims in Macedonia, Kosova, and Albania proper, and the Slavic Muslims of the Sandzak.

The book can be read in its entirety, or individual essays can be read independently. For a general reader intersted in gaining a broader perspective on the complexities and varieties of different Muslim communities throughout the region, this book is an easily readable resource.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Recent Coverage on Kosova

I have a couple of books I plan to cover in the next few days, but in the meantime Roger Lippman's excellent website Balkan Witness has gathered several new stories on Kosova's independence, as well as some other articles from recent months and years for context:

Articles on the Kosovo Conflict: Kosova Independence

Ian Williams contributes a good article, and Peter Lippman's contribution is succinct and fair.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie: Still a Liar

If you can resist the urge to punch your PC monitor while listening to this pompous pimp for Serbian nationalism, I suggest you check out this recent interview with well-known Serb-nationalist apologist, Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie, courtesy of East Ethnia:

Lewis MacKenzie Pollutes the Canadian Airwaves

It is the height of journalistic irresponsibility that this Mike Duffy allowed MacKenzie to regurgitate such easily refutable nonsense like the "staging" of the Racak massacre without challenge. And if there were still any lingering doubts that MacKenzie is little more than a compliant mouthpiece for Serbian fascism, his reiteration of the "Serb Jerusalem" argument should put them to rest.

Absolutely disgraceful that this man represented both the UN and the Canadian armed forces; equally disgraceful that he is active in Canadian politics today, and that he is given a public platform from which to spread his poisonous disinformation.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Troubling Sign of Sectarianism

On February 12 of this year, the OSCE Mission to Bosnia released what, in a liberal secular society, should be a thoroughly uncontroversial press statement:

Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina Should Be Inclusive, Not Exclusive

Anyone familiar with the multi-confessional composition of Bosnian society and of the need to nurture a shared civic culture, regardless of his or her own beliefs or affiliation.

Unfortunately, the The Cabinet of Reisu-l-ulema in Sarajevo opted to respond with shrill, disingenuous hysteria:

We Are Sorry the OSCE Has Joined General Anti-Islamic Histeria

This is both frustrating--because it is so patently false, a rather severe mischaracterization of the actual text of the original statement designed to muddy the waters of discourse--and dangerous, because the last thing Bosnia needs is any prominent representatives of any of the three main ethnorelgious groups reverting to tactics of outraged victimhood.

Fortunately, the OSCE is sticking to their guns:

DANI Barometer - Religious Classes in Kindergartens

I'm glad to see that the OSCE didn't allow any undue "sensitivity" to distract from the central issue--the introduction of explicitly religious instruction into public schools.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina

A belated edition to my "News and Advocacy" Links:

Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina

This council is run by Bosniaks here in the the United States. It's mission is twofold--as an active voice in the interest of the large Bosniak-American community, and to serve as an advocate for the interests of Bosnia-Herzegovina with the US government.

I highly recommend visiting their site and supporting their work; there could be no more obvious manifestation of my belief that the interests of the USA and Bosnia-Herzegovina are similar and connected than the fact that some 300,000 Bosniaks live here in the United States. It is in our interest to strengthen our bond and develop our dialogue.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Genocide and Resistance in Hitler's Bosnia" by Marko Attila Hoare [8]


Dr. Hoare concludes by briefly recounting a central theme of his book; namely, that the war in Bosnia was a war of competing--and fundamentally incompatible--ideologies. The war was, at root, political rather than ethnic--which is not to say that the "national question" wasn't important, or to deny that widespread tribal bigotry was an important factor fueling much of the resulting violence.

"Genocide in Bosnia" makes this argument forcefully and convincingly. In the final page, Dr. Hoare concludes by noting that the Partisans and the postwar Communist never completely succeeded in ridding the country of some of the baser passions and more chauvinistic political impulses. In this light, the Bosnian war of the 1990s was in many ways a continuation of the same political/ideological war that raged in the 1940s.


I highly recommend this well-documented, assiduously argued, and quite readable book to anyone interested in the development of 20th Century Bosnia as well as anyone looking to broaden their understanding of Yugoslav history. More importantly, this book is an authoritative refutation of the simplistic histories of Yugoslavia's World War II experience wielded by nationalists and their enablers. As such, this isn't just a valuable work of history, but also a substantive piece of academic activism. Dr. Hoare's book stands both as a sober piece of scholarship and a strong rationale for supporting and believing in the integrity of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Genocide and Resistance in Hitler's Bosnia" by Marko Attila Hoare [7]


This is the final chapter of this excellent book, documenting the triumph of the Partisans over the Chetniks in Bosnia. This event was an important turning point in the history of Yugoslavia, but also a telling event in the national history of Bosnia itself. One of the main themes of this book is the specifically Bosnian character of the Partisan movement there, and how Bosnian characteristics and realities helped shape it. In fact, Dr. Hoare even shows that the Bosnian Chetnik movement, despite its allegiance to a "Greater Serb" ideology, was fundamentally a Bosnian movement, often at odds with the Serbian leadership (including Mihailovic himself). The culmination of the events and dynamics mapped out in the preceding five chapters is the unity and institutional strength of the Partisan movement in western Bosnia, and a string of military successes against both the NDH and the Chetniks, which solidified the supremacy of the Partisans and helped assure their eventual victory.

There is little need for a detailed summary--the narrative arc of this chapter is relatively simple and straightforward. First, the author details the temporary ascendancy of the Chetniks in eastern Bosnia-Hercegovina, which was ultimately transient for reasons Dr. Hoare neatly encapsulates:

"Yet the Great Serb project rested on shaky foundations: poor organization, primitive leaders, an administration riddled with Partisan sympathizers, a popular base that could not expand beyond the Serb minority of the population, and an often bitter animosity between its Serbian and its Bosnian adherents. The pyrrhic Chetnik victory merely set the scene for the subsequent Partisan resurgence."

And so, the avowedly provincial and self-limiting Chetnik movement would not be able to overcome its intrinsic limitations, nor would Bosnian Chetniks be able to transcend their own Bosnian loyalties in order to cooperate fully with a pan-Serb movement run by a Serbian and Montenegrin leadership.

Meanwhile, in western Bosnia, the Partisan movement--in a move driven by native Bosnian Partisans as much as by the Supreme Staff and Tito--would succeed in their greatest military triumph to date; the liberation of Bihac, which would allow for the creation of a nascent Partisan state in an area of Bosnia where it would be possible to draw a large number of Croats and Muslims into their ranks. The Partisans were then able to hold the first 'Anti-Fascist Council of the People's Liberation of Yugoslavia' in this liberated territory; this council was an important step towards the goal of creating a truly pan-Yugoslav, multinational movement.

These developments were followed by a series of military moves as the Supreme Staff sought to move back east and take the Chetniks on; these moves were initially successful, including the great victory of the Battle of the River Neretna, during which the Partisans both managed to hold off a coordinated Axis/Chetnik/Ustasha offensive and break the back of the Chetniks (although by no means completely destroy them as a military threat). An ill-advised attempt to return to Serbia ended in the near-catastrophe of the Battle of the River Sutjeska, at which the Partisan forces had to fight desperately just to escape a fierce Axis/Chetnik attack, one which still managed to destroy fully a third of the Partisan forces involved. Yet they did escape, and survived to link up with other Partisan forces.

Bosnia was won. The Chetniks, while not finished, could not hope to prevail. And then the Italian surrender to the Allies took their forces out of the equation, leaving the Partisans free to deal with the wholly inadequate Ustasha and NDH forces in western Yugoslavia. Serbia itself would not fall to the Partisans until the arrival of Soviet military power in 1944, but by then it had long been clear who was the dominant domestic power in the country.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Marko Attila Hoare on Kosova Independence

The old cliche "I couldn't have said it better myself" was never more true:

Greater Surbiton Blog on Kosova Independence

I have nothing to add to his eloquent and comprehensive statement; except that I could not agree more about the 'flag issue.' I will always consider Bosnia's current flag to be an aberration. Same for Kosovo.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

"Genocide and Resistance in Hitler's Bosnia" by Marko Attila Hoare [6]


This chapter covers events in Western Bosnia, which became the center of Partisan resistance after the collapse in eastern Bosnia under Chetnik, Nedicite, and Axis assault. In order to explain the dynamics at work in this region, Dr. Hoare moves back in time to the period just before the outbreak of the rebellion, in order to examine the regional particulars at work in this region; and also to explain why the Partisans were ultimately more successful in western Bosnia, and why this became the heart of the movement.

These developments are covered in extensive detail; rather than summarizing them all, I will merely note that in very broad terms some of the underlying challenges for the Partisans were the same--the chasm between city and country, the political immaturity of the Serb peasant soldiers, distrust between Partisan units and Croat and Muslim peasants, competition from Chetnik-sympathetic leaders, and so forth. There wasn't a war between Partisan and Chetnik armies, but rather a competition within one disparate resistance force from competing ideologies.

The Communists realized that they needed to increase their political presence in order to combat the appeal of crude Serb nationalist propaganda, and to make other institutional changes as well. When warfare finally did break out between the two groups, the Chetniks--further removed from Serbia than those in eastern Bosnia--were forced to turn to, of all possible allies, the Ustasha and the NDH state; the alliance between the two was never very stable or wholly productive, but along with the cooperation of the Italian and German occupiers this put the Partisan forces at an overwhelming disadvantage. Yet the inevitable defeat was almost temporary; for reasons which are complex and I haven't summarized here, the Partisans had greater public support and a more developed political infrastructure than in eastern Bosnia; once Axis troops pulled out, Partisan forces were easily able to resume control in spite of having been "defeated" the the Chetniks and their allies.

In short, the Partisans were ultimately more successful because in western Bosnia they not only realized that their best hope of defeating the Chetniks and uniting the people behind them was to put their multinational rhetoric and ideals into practice, they were--for a variety of local demographic, political, economic, and social factors--actually able to do so.

By the end of this chapter, the seeds of the future multinational Partisan army are beginning to bear fruit; the Croats of the Livno area were providing a solid base of Croat support, and Croats and Muslims of Bosanka Krajina were beginning to sense that there was a real difference between the Partisans and their Chetnik opponents. Real efforts were made to restrain the bigoted passions of peasant soldiers, to educate them in Partisan ideology and the nascent dogma of what would become known as "Brotherhood and Unity", and to articulate a Bosnian patriotism which could serve as a tangible, livable counter to Great Serb propaganda.

The chapter ends with a consideration of how Partisan efforts on behalf of gender equity were crucial to their ultimate success; Chetnik ideology was conservative in all respects, while Partisan rhetoric about the equality of women and their political and cultural liberation spoke to half of Bosnia's population. This was ultimately a great advantage for the Partisans--and their opponents knew it, as shown by the frequency of Ustasha and Chetnik propaganda about "women of low morals" and such.

It cannot be overstressed how much of Dr. Hoare's book focuses on the fact that the Partisans succeeded because they were ultimately able to impose an urban, literate, cosmopolitan leadership onto an army filled with recruits from rural, provincial, conservative villages and hamlets. The Chetniks--proudly rural, anti-urban, and conservative in all ways--ceded the cities to the Partisans, as well as the potential of Bosnia's women, and they would pay for their stubborn provinicialism.

Kosovo: Worlds Newest Independent State

Today, February 17, 2008, Kosovo officially declared independence. Congratulations to the people of Kosovo, and I sincerely hope for peace and unity among all its citizens.

CNN: Kosovo Declares Independence from Serbia

BBC: Kosovo MPs Proclaim Independence

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Genocide and Resistance in Hitler's Bosnia" by Marko Attila Hoare [5]


This chapter details the period when the Partisans began moving away from "a Serb-oriented resistance strategy, towards one that was genuinely multinational." But the transition wasn't smooth, and even as the Chetniks held the upper hand the Partisans committed serious errors of judgment and worse as they pursued often contradictory policies.

One major problem was that, partly due to the politically unformed nature of most troops and partly because of an embrace of extreme measures implicitly condoned by a shift in policy, atrocities against Croats and especially Muslims continued apace. These atrocities were now often carried out under the aegis of eliminating fifth columnists, but in the eyes of many Partisan troops and even some leaders all Muslims were fifth columnists.

Even as these massacres were eroding Partisan support in the countryside, the increasingly aggressive and confident Chetniks were carrying out putsches in Partisan units throughout eastern Bosnia, killing the Communist leadership and assuming command of military units.

This increasing threat even drove Tito to contemplate a temporary alliance with the Ustasha, a testiment to how precarious the Partisan situation was. Meanwhile, in eastern Herzegovina, a tragedy was taking shape--while this region had, in theory, a strong Partisan presence, in reality there was disconnection between the Serb-peasant countryside and the radicalized, multiethnic urban proletariat in Mostar. The dangerous brew of Leninist extremism proclaimed by the central command combined with the politically crude consciousness of the Herzegovina Partisans to form a perfect storm of revolutionary violence--much of the infamous and tragic "Left Errors" of the war happened here. Scenes of doctrinaire Communist violence against fifth columnists real and imagined (even "future traitors") were common, and the end result was predictable enough--the Partisans in the area completely lost the support of the local population. The remnants of the Mostar Battalion were forced to hide with family, as they had no network of support whatsoever.

Under the 'Third Offensive', the Partisan resistance in east Bosnia and Hercegovina collapsed; ultimately the Partisan leadership was forced to concede that they would not be retaking Serbia in the near future, so rather than stubbornly hold out in a doomed battle, they retreated towards western and central Bosnia--the Partisan "Long March." The remnants of some units from eastern Hercegovina and Bosnia were combined and reorganized; ironically, these stragglers who had escaped from a total defeat would form the experienced, dedicated, and politically mature core of a stronger, more enlightened and ideologically coherent Partisan movement.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"Genocide and Resistance in Hitler's Bosnia" by Marko Attila Hoare [4]


The breakdown in the Partisan-Chetnik alliance had the effect of moving both movements toward their ideological extremes; the Partisans became a more explicitly Marxist/Communist movement fighting for social revolution as well as liberation, even as the Chetniks virtually ceased all resistance activities, and instead made deals and alliances with the occupying forces while laying the groundwork for an ethnically "pure" future Greater Serbia.

The Chetniks in East Bosnia soon turned to full-fledged genocide against the Muslims of the region (Jews were also targeted), while plans for a "Homogenous Serbia" were drawn up; the ideology of the movement was now fully developed and driving events at least as much, if not more, than the current political situation. This genocide would have been much worse than it was had it not been for the fact that the Chetnik movement was not as centrally organized and controlled as the Partisans were (a fact which would ultimately favor the Partisans, although not yet).

Much of the first pages of this chapter are concerned with the attempts to build this "Greater Serbia" within the confines of Axis occupation, as well as continuing cooperation between the Bosnian Chetnik movement and the Nedic regime (which was never total). Chetnik propaganda at this point stressed the non-Serb nature of the Partisan movement, and was drenched in virulent anti-Semitic rhetoric. The irreligious nature of the Partisans was also stressed, as well as their urban and non-patriarchal ways.

The Partisan leadership came to recognize that Great Serb sentiment was their greatest enemy, and that they would have to combat it with appeals to pan-Bosnian unity and patriotism. They also realized that they had made insufficient efforts to politicize the masses, who were easily swayed by crude nationalist hate-mongering.

For awhile, the Partisan military leadership even became (unrealistically) focused on liberating Sarajevo; aside from the economic desirability of this then-unattainable goal, this fixation on the Bosnian capital revealed how the Bosnian focus of Partisan activity was morphing into a specifically Bosnian Partisan revolution and movement.

As the Partisans increased their efforts to reach out to Croats and Muslims, they also tried to keep the door open to Serbs by setting up "Volunteer" units; military units of Serbs who fought alongside Partisan units without becoming Communists themselves. This effort to allow Serb peasant soldiers to maintain solidarity while fighting the occupation ended up being more trouble than it was worth, as the loyalty and military worth of these units was always questionable; ultimately, most would go over to the Chetniks regardless.

The Partisans also broke with Marxist orthodoxy in one important way--they made great efforts to show sensitivity to and respect for religious traditions, even assigning members of the clergy to units and giving them distinctive religious insignia.


There is a great deal of detail I am bypassing in this extremely brief account of this chapter; in the interests of finishing this review in a timely manner, I will continue to provide bare-bones summaries of the final three chapters as well. I cannot stress enough how substantive and readable the book is. I highly recommend it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

"Genocide and Resistance in Hitler's Bosnia" by Marko Attila Hoare [3]


Briefly stated, this chapter covers the period when the Partisan movement tried, and ultimately failed, to achieve a military and governmental alliance with the growing Chetnik movement; this policy was driven by expediency--the reality that in the opening months of the rebellion, the vast majority of footsoldiers were conservative rural Serbs. As noted in the first chapter, the KPJ had done a reasonably good job of taking command of an uprising not entirely of its making, but there were limits to how much control cadres actually had.

This chapter details the ups and downs of this ultimately failed enterprise; the author is sensitive to the difficulties the KPJ faced even while he does not shy away from mistakes made. The details of this phase of the uprising--when the Partisans were still "riding the tiger" of a Serb-peasant uprising, attempting to take command of politically unformed rebel bands are thoroughly documented.

Roughly speaking the Partisans were between a rock and hard place; while they needed to appeal to Serb nationalist sentiment in order to maintain even nominal control over the armed rebel bands, this also meant that all too often they had to pander to the bigotry and worse of their own soldiers. This translated to Partisan acquiescence with--and occasionally participation in--atrocities against Croat and especially Muslim civilians, especially as Chetnik influence and propaganda became more prevalent in Bosnia. This often pushed Croats and Muslims into collaboration with the Ustasha, which only fed Great-Serb propaganda even more while weakening Partisan pretensions to multiethnic cooperation and unity--which at this point was little more than a rhetorical flourish.

Still, for awhile the Partisans were able to build a nascent "state" in Eastern Bosnia by cooperating with Bosnian Chetniks, who were more inclined to some sort of accommodation with the Partisans (who's ranks were mostly filled with Serbs anyway) against their common Ustasha enemy than the Chetnik leadership in Nedic's Serbian state. This delicate balance was shattered when the Partisans were defeated in, and driven out of, Serbia, and the Chetnik alliance with Nedic became obvious, as did their decision to collaborate with the fascist occupiers. This triggered a breakdown in the Partisan-Chetnik alliance in east Bosnia.

The chapter ends with a case study of sorts; because of the still-underdeveloped nature of KPJ organization at local levels and other factors, some regional branches of the Partisan movement reacted to local conditions and these extraordinary stresses through their own dynamics, usually not with good results. Dr. Hoare examines the case of the "Drvar Republic", a Partisan mini-state which ultimately fell to Italian troops. Like the rest of this very interesting chapter, the story is far too complex for me to adequately summarize without going to great lengths--I would much rather prefer to encourage you to read the original.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"Genocide and Resistance in Hitler's Bosnia" by Marko Attila Hoare [2]


I will make no effort to systematically summarize and review the entire contents of this substantial work, which manages to synthesize a great deal of archival information, documentation, and historical data into a coherent and readable narrative without sacrificing clarity or comprehensiveness. Instead, I will very briefly summarize the general focus of each chapter so that I might communicate some minimal sense of the larger framework Dr. Hoare richly illustrates. This entire review comes with the implied caveat that I cannot hope to do full justice to the book.


This 80-page chapter covers the initial uprising in Bosnia, which was initially a home-grown resistance to the Ustasha genocide committed by the NDH fascist regime. Because my summary will be far too brief to do justice to the themes covered in this chapter, I will take the liberty of quoting the entire opening paragraph--which serves as something of an extended thesis statement--in full:

"The Partisan movement in Bosnia-Hercegovina was the product both of long-term socio-economic developments at home and of the short-term 'accident' of foreign invasion and occupation; it involved the merger of a traditional Serb-peasant uprising and a modern urban-revolutionary movement; and it represented both a characteristic chapter and a turning-point in modern Bosnian history. The Axis powers of Germany and Italy, by destroying the Yugoslav kingdom, changed the course of Bosnian history. Their installation in power of the Ustasha regime, and the latter's genocide of the Serb population in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, unleashed a resistance movement that would take shape as the Partisans. Yet the Partisans were not simply an armed response to the new order, but a revolutionary movement of a specifically Bosnian kind."

The Axis invasion of Yugoslavia led to an occupation where the country was split into German and Italian zones of control; the Nazi leadership made sure to control the parts of Yugoslavia essential to their greater strategic aims as well as assuring control over key mineral deposits in Bosnia, for example. The Axis also set up puppet regimes, both in a truncated Serbia and in a greatly enlarged Croatian Ustasha state, the NDH.

The necessity of maintaining some degree of independence ultimately proved a boon to the resistance, as the armed forces of the NDH were inadequate for the task of successfully defeating a mass armed uprising. The creation of this "greater Croatia" in fact if not in name actually exacerbating the Ustasha's difficulties, as ethnic Croats made up just barely over half of the population of the NDH, and the Ustasha were of course only a minority faction of this bare majority.

So while the ruling party dutifully carried out their duties as Nazi allies in committing genocide against the Jewish and Gypsy minorities, the demographic realities of their new state combined with their toxic ideology led the Ustasha leadership to simultaneously pursue a policy of genocide against the sizable Serb population (Muslims being considered Croats who had converted to Islam). Whether this genocide had been planned from the outset, or was a decision that was arrived at later is a matter of debate; what is clear is that the genocide was a product both of Ustasha ideology and the circumstances of World War II but not of Croat nationalism itself.

The Ustasha genocide was brutal and savage, but limited by the military weakness of the NDH state. Dr. Hoare wades briefly into the controversy over the numbers killed both in the genocide generally and at Jasenovac specifically; no need to rehash that argument here. The relevant point is that the genocide was real, it did happen, but it was neither as efficient nor as thorough as the Holocaust both because of the lack of manpower and logistical support that the Nazi state had at its disposal, and also because it does seem that the genocide was carried out with varying degrees of ruthlessness and systematic thoroughness from place to place. The infamous Ustasha aim of (to paraphrase) killing one-third of Serbs, expelling another third, and converting the final third to Catholicism, while vile beyond measure, actually serves to illustrate the difference; one cannot fathom a high-ranking Nazi contemplating assimilating any number of the Jews of Europe.

[Note: In the interests of keeping this post at a manageable length, I will be grossly oversimplifying the narrative; my apologies to the author if I neglect any important nuances or fail to properly emphasize certain key points. Any incoherence in the following account is entirely my own, and does not reflect the much more comprehensive and well-developed account in the book]

In the meantime, the KPJ (Communist Party of Yugoslavia) was preparing and organizing for resistance, while waiting for authorization from Moscow (which would come after the German invasion). Dr. Hoare has done an admirable job of explaining the process by which the party organized, and by which connections between Bosnia's small but growing urban working class and the villages were developed and utilized. For example, seasonal timber workers were often exposed to Communist ideas while working at mills with other workers, then took those ideas home with them. Schoolteachers were another important conduit of Communist indoctrination, since they brought ideas to the villages they had picked up at universities and in cities; the author points out that educated and literate people often served as important providers of news and information in provincial isolated villages where illiteracy was common and there was little if any access to broadcast media.

Because of the unique nature of the uprising in Bosnia, Communist proclamations usually stressed Bosnian--rather than Yugoslavian--patriotism; appeals were made to all the peoples of Bosnia. This was a multinational, inclusive ideology, but it often jarred with the sentiments of the fighters in the field, and would not go unchallenged by rebel leadership.

I should note that there is a great deal of material detailing the political development of the Bosnian branch of the KPJ and its relation to the central organization, as well as a great deal of information regarding key figures involved; in the interests of brevity I will not dwell on these admittedly important aspects to the story.

The uprising, when it came, was fought largely in rural areas at first, and most soldiers were Serb peasants from the countryside; yet the majority of Bosnian KPJ cadres and leaders were urban-based, and frequently non-Serbs. The KPJ was not in a position to create this rebellion on its own, nor to completely control it. However, the KPJ was able to "ride the tiger" with an admirable degree of success and step into a leadership role once events were underway; the hard work of organizing throughout the towns and cities of Bosnia had born fruit, as the Partisans were able to provide the logistical and institutional leadership apparatus necessary to coordinate and direct disparate rebel units--the countryside needed urban centers to act as the "nerve centers" of the uprising. Hoare writes:

"Bosnia-Hercegovina created the Bosnian KPJ organization, not vice versa, and the Communists and the peasant rebels formed an organic whole."

The revolt spread across all of Bosnia, although it broke out at different times and with differing levels of success and participation, some of which was arguably due to institutional in-fighting which I won't recount now, and some of which was due to jurisdictional issues; i.e., some areas fell into a no-man's land between regional organizations. In the meantime, the KPJ was busy trying to normalize the structure of the Partisan movement; a thorough reorganization of the military and civilian institutions was carried out. The Partisan army was reordered, and the introduction of Communist insignia, flags, and other symbols was introduced. In liberated areas, governing was carried out by "People's Liberation Councils" (NOOs), which combined Communist organization with traditional village government quite effectively.

None of these potentially positive developments could obscure the central challenge to the Partisan effort at multinational Bosnian state-building--the fact that the military rank-and-file was overwhelmingly Serb. This was no matter for idle ideological speculation, either, once the the Chetnik movement became active.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

"Genocide and Resistance in Hitler's Bosnia" by Mark Attila Hoare [1]

Introduction: Understanding the Partisan-Chetnik Conflict

In the wake of my review of How Bosnia Armed by Dr. Marko Attila Hoare, I am now reading another excellent work by the same author: Genocide and Resistance in Hitler's Bosnia, subtitled "The Partisans and the Chetniks 1941-1943".

The Introduction begins--after briefly defining the geographical and temporal parameters of his subject--in 1992:

"The war that erupted in Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1992 involved the clash of two mutually exclusive political projects. On the one hand was the goal of a sovereign Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina as a state of Muslims, Serbs, Croats, and others, for which the majority of Bosnia-Hercegovina's citizens had voted and to which the Republic's leadership was formally committed. On the other hand was the goal of the partition of Bosnia-Hercegovina into separate Serb, Croat, and Muslim entities. This second goal was supported by the leadership of the principal Bosnian Serb political party, increasingly by the leadership of the principal Bosnian Croat party, and was gradually accepted de facto by the leadership of the principal Bosnian Muslim party. "

I quoted this section at length because it is noteworthy for what it does not say--that the war in Bosnia was an ethnic between different ethnic groups. No honest inquiry into the root causes of the Yugoslav wars is possible unless one first understands the ideological and political roots of the situation. One must study the past in order to understand the present; but the past cannot illuminate the present unless one is willing and able to recognize current realities.

This is important, because Dr. Hoare goes on to elaborate that while Western supporters of Bosnia-Hercegovina "argued on the basis of contemporary values--multiethnicity, democracy, state sovereignty, and human rights", supporters of the Serb nationalist project relied more on historical arguments, with an emphasis on the events of World War II. Serbs, it was argued, had sound historical reasons to fear living in a multiethnic republic they did not dominate.

The pro-Serb nationalist version of WWII history depicted it as a period of ethnic civil war between heroic, anti-Nazi Serbs fought against pro-Nazi and/or avowedly fascist Croats and Muslims. Dr. Hoare also points out that all to often, Westerners sympathetic to Bosnia reversed the ethnic stereotypes and portrayed 'the Muslims' as good and tolerant and 'the Serbs' as evil and intolerant.

Dr. Hoare argues that the reality of World War II in Yugoslavia was quite different, that members of every national group fought on "both" sides (he understands quite well that the situation in Yugoslavia during the occupation was complex and that it is often quite difficult to generalize about the loyalty and motivations of disparate military units across time and space); it is also true that many Yugoslavs were caught up in the internal war between Partisans and Chetniks without being loyal to or supportive of either side.

That is not to say that the "national question" wasn't present in or important to events in World War II; rather, Dr. Hoare notes that:

" is often forgotten that the national question is not just about the claims of one nation set against those of another, but about different concepts of the nation held by members of the same nation."

More specifically, it needs to be explained how the Partisans came to triumph over the Chetniks while following an ideology of multiethnic cooperation and coexistence versus the Chetniks Great Serb ideology which soon led to genocide against non-Serbs in areas they controlled. While outside observers have assumed that the answer is self-evident--the Partisans were able to appeal to all Yugoslavs, while the Chetnik appeal was necessarily limited to Serbs--the answer is actually more complex, because while the Partisan movement ultimately became truly multiethnic at the grassroots level, it began as an anti-Ustasha uprising by almost exclusively Serb peasants. How did the Partisans succeed in establishing leadership over a resistance movement of mostly provincial and often chauvinistic Serbs? Why were the Partisans originally willing and able to cooperate with the Chetniks, and why did this cooperation eventually break down? These are some of the questions Dr. Hoare addresses in this fascinating study.

Finally, Dr. Hoare is determined to show that the Partisan struggle in Bosnia was not merely an important battlefield in a larger Yugoslav resistance movement, but also the creature of a distinct "Bosnian revolution," in which an ideology of multiethnic cooperation and a Bosnian patriotism triumphed over a Chetnik movement and its diametrically opposed ideology of Serb nationalism and ethnic exclusivism; what is more, the Bosnian Partisan rank-and-file numbered thousands of ethnic Serbs who fought and died for this Bosnian revolution.

How did all this happen? These are some of the major themes of this excellent book.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mihalis Blog

Another blog I read frequently but have, until now, failed to include in my blogroll in the sidebar:


An infrequently-updated blog from a Marxist perspective, but well worth checking out. The most recent post--from last November--should be required reading for anyone swayed by the "where are all the bodies" arguments the Balkan revisionists frequently resort to.

SDA's Tihac Complicates Police Reform

Well, this isn't good:

Political discord blocks BiH police reform

I confess to not being in-the-loop on Bosnian inter-party relations, so anyone knows more than I about the nuts and bolts of BiH domestic politics is more than welcome to share any insights you might have.