Monday, August 16, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [2]

Part One: Laying the Charge

The six chapters in Part One detail political events in Yugoslavia from the publication of the infamous Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Art in 1986, to the eave of armed fighting in the Krajina region of Croatia in early 1990.

It is worth stressing again, that the book traces the political developments in the country; while the authors understand and explain that nationalist tensions and grievances were a real issue prior to the outbreak of hostilities, they categorically reject the possibility that the mere existance of such resentments and prejudices could explain the Yugoslav wars. The book makes it quite clear that the wars which destroyed Yugoslavia were the direct result of deliberate political decisions made by ambitious and shrewd political leaders.

Chapter 1: "This Is Our Land"

We begin with the publication of the Memorandum, which the authors put into context of the political situation in Yugoslavia after the death of Tito in 1980 and the Yugoslav constitution of 1974. We are also introduced to Dobrica Cosic, Ivan Stambolic, and Slobodan Milosevic, among others. Cosic's status as the godfather of modern Serbian nationalism is briefly sketched out, and while Stambolic takes the position of an orthodox Communist official who fears the latent power of nationalism and who wishes to keep the Titoist system working, we are shown Milosevic shrewdly keeping silent on the issue, although a party official in his position should very well have had an opinion. The calculating, ruthless nature of the man is already beginning to show.

At the end of the chapter, the Serbian government took Cosic and his co-conspirators under its wing; the Communists were coopting the nationalists for their own ends--a power play to replace the vacuum still left vacant by Tito's death.

Chapter 2: "No One Should Dare to Beat You."

This chapter is a detailed summary of Milosevic's infamous visit to Kosovo in 1987, the circumstances surrounding it as well as the context it occured in. While the basic outlines of the story are familiar to anyone who has studied the Balkan wars, what is striking about Silber and Little's account is how much of these events were thoroughly stage-managed and prepared. Milosevic, the nationalist Kosovo Serb leadership, and the Serbian media all cooperated to create a flashpoint moment which, more than any single event, sent everything which followed into motion.

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