Join 3,442 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Serbs appear unhappy about independent Kosovo
February 21, 2008 12:27 PM   Subscribe

This past Monday, the US recognized Kosovo as an independent state. Today, Serbs appear a little upset.

What this means for the UN, the US, Russia, or Serbia is unclear. Predictably, reportage varies, from the staid international press to the "stormed by mobs" diction of US news networks. The picture is confused, but it might be pointing to some significant anti-Western sentiment. In the fog of civil unrest, how do we tell?
posted by Emperor SnooKloze (63 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Gotta torch something, am I right?
posted by smackfu at 12:35 PM on February 21, 2008


"Sir, there's an angry mob here to see you."
"Does it have an appointment?"
"Yes."
"I phoned ahead!"

posted by ninjew at 12:44 PM on February 21, 2008


The picture is confused, but it might be pointing to some significant anti-Western sentiment.

It isn't anti-Western sentiment, it's anti-muslim. The feeling among many is that Kosovo, being a predominately muslim state, has no place in Europe. In other words, they want Kosovo back in Serbia and the the Albanians and muslims out. That's why they also torched the Turkish embassy.

This may be one of those rare situations where the U.S. actually has the moral high ground.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:47 PM on February 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


If the Serbs did in fact access the embassy grounds and buildings unopposed due to numerical strength and begin to catch fire to them while waving flags and singing, I believe it is permissible to use the term "stormed by mob".

Anything less would require a staid approach. Especially if you're used to having your embassies fire-bombed.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:58 PM on February 21, 2008


Pastabagel, I think it's anti-Albanian rather than anti-Muslim. The Serbs had a go at the Christian Croats too. That's not to say that religious allegiance isn't part of identities in that region, but I my understanding is that we're looking at ethnic rather than religious conflict.

Insamuch as any of these conflicts make any sense, or have any rationale other than human group behaviour, of course!
posted by alasdair at 1:04 PM on February 21, 2008


There aren't any good guys in Kosovo, from what I can tell. When the Serbs were in power, they burned the mosques and tried to drive out or kill the Albanians. After we stepped in and the Albanians got in power, they torched and defiled Orthodox churches and did their best to drive them out as well. If the Albanians didn't commit the same level of atrocities that Milošević's regime did, it seems to basically be because the world is paying greater attention and won't let them get away with it, not because of any moral superiority on their part. Both groups are only too happy at this point to kill each other with great gusto.

I don't really see any hope for peaceful pluralism there. At best, maybe an independent Kosovo will make the dividing line between Christians and Muslims clear, and we'll have two mutually hateful, segregated countries. If they can survive without going to war, perhaps that's the best outcome possible.

There isn't any moral high ground in Kosovo, just piles of bodies, some older than others.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:14 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Good luck Europe. We'll get back to you on this one.
posted by tkchrist at 1:14 PM on February 21, 2008


Pastabagel, I think it's anti-Albanian rather than anti-Muslim.

That's a fair point, though it may be a distinction without a difference - most of the kosovo Albanians are muslims. I think this should probably be viewed in the wider context of russians fighting the muslim Chechnyans, German hate groups targeting the growing turkish population, last year's riots in Paris, the tensions in England, etc. In other words, each county seems to be having ethnic tensions with the ethnicity that also happens to be predominately muslim.

Though in the context of Serbia (and surrounding European countries all the way to Greece) Albanians are seen as a problem due to their high population growth rate.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:15 PM on February 21, 2008


For an alternative view on these events have a read of
Kosovo and the end of national liberation
by Philip Cunliffe over at Sp!ked.

He puts forward the interesting point of view that an occupied area has delcared independence at the behest of the occupying army, without the backing of the Security Council and with laws written into their constitution about how the EU representative will get to approve their legislation.
posted by sien at 1:23 PM on February 21, 2008


It isn't anti-Western sentiment, it's anti-muslim.

Pastabagel, I think it's anti-Albanian rather than anti-Muslim.


Now, now, you're all right! It's anti-Western, anti-Albanian, and anti-Muslim!

Kadin2048 is absolutely right: There aren't any good guys in Kosovo. And this is unlikely to wendell.
posted by languagehat at 1:23 PM on February 21, 2008


It looks like LTTE supporters are happy with the way things went in Kosovo: Kosovo’s victory has lessons for other liberation struggles.
posted by chunking express at 1:26 PM on February 21, 2008


After we stepped in and the Albanians got in power, they torched and defiled Orthodox churches and did their best to drive them out as well.

Assholes abound. Here's the problem with this logic. The Kosovo Albanians who wanted an independent country are far and away the dominant ethnic group in Kosovo. So their wanting to kick the serbs out amounts to "you stay in your country, I'll stay in mine".

The serbian position is different. They want Kosovo to be part of serbia, buy they also want the dominant ethnicity in Kosovo to disappear, which is twisted logic. It would be like the Germans invading Poland because some Germans live there, but then wanting the poles to get out (which is not what happened, btw).

Of course, both positions are abhorrent and untenable, but in my opinion the Serbian one is worse. The US solution here was to to appease either side, but to get Kosovo out of UN administrative limbo and functioning as a society. There is a real risk here of turning Kosovo into the European West Bank. Also, Serbia did lose a war.

There is probably a lot of thinking about fencing in the Russians, appeasing Turkey because of US ambitions, etc that went into the US policy here, but I haven't heard any well reasoned arguments for keeping Kosovo in serbia that don't place the interests of serbians ahead of albanians.

At some point, Europe is going to have to accept that for any given country, the people living in the country whose ethnicity includes the country's name don't have any greater right to live there than anyone else who is there legally. I suppose we have to learn this lesson to.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:27 PM on February 21, 2008


Bring back Tito.
He'll sort 'em all out.
posted by rocket88 at 1:43 PM on February 21, 2008


Kadin2048 is absolutely right: There aren't any good guys in Kosovo.

Nah, I'm pretty sure that one group is freedom fighters and the other group is evildoers. You can always see it that way-- if you're willing to try hard enough.

I guess you're just some kind of pinko America-hating quitter, languagehat.

Thanks for that link, sien. I'd wondered why so many NATO countries were so quick to recognize Kosovo's independence. Here's one theory as to why: "the representative of the EU in Kosovo will have the power to strike down legislation he or she dislikes. The result will be an empty shell of a country, filled with EU and NATO power." Thing is, it might be worth the tradeoff to most people in Kosovo-- be only quasi-independent, but not have to share a state with Serbia.

Even if everyone living there isn't blameless, it's hard to see why Kosovo should be compelled to be a part of Serbia forever, though.
posted by ibmcginty at 1:44 PM on February 21, 2008



Assholes abound. Here's the problem with this logic. The Kosovo Albanians who wanted an independent country are far and away the dominant ethnic group in Kosovo. So their wanting to kick the serbs out amounts to "you stay in your country, I'll stay in mine".


Um, what? How does that mitigate the wrongness of their position? That's what every racist, nationalist group has said since the fall of the Third Reich.

For the Serbs, the important thing is that the Albanians are comparatively new to Kosovo (at least their predominance), and many of them have direct connections to the clan/organized crime groups that control Albania itself. It's a huge security risk. And of course, there's the threat to Serbian culture: besides the churches and the battle, the Serbs say that Albanian textbooks are now editing the Serbs out of the province's history entirely. Which, in a country as concerned with tradition as Serbia is, is a huge deal.
posted by nasreddin at 1:49 PM on February 21, 2008


The Kosovo Albanians who wanted an independent country are far and away the dominant ethnic group in Kosovo.

This brings up all sorts of unpleasant questions about "facts on the ground". The demographic history of Kosovo is pretty ugly, with repeated attempts at ethnic cleansing and colonization of and by various groups over the past 500 years.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:00 PM on February 21, 2008


Of course they're mad. It's like if the UN decided that America didn't treat Mexican-Americans well enough and so it forcibly made Texas its own country.
posted by The World Famous at 2:02 PM on February 21, 2008


Assholes abound. Here's the problem with this logic. The Kosovo Albanians who wanted an independent country are far and away the dominant ethnic group in Kosovo. So their wanting to kick the serbs out amounts to "you stay in your country, I'll stay in mine".

Sure, but as nasreddin says, the predominance of ethnic Albanians there is relatively recent. Kosovo contains some of the Serbian Orthodox Church's most holy sites. It isn't just an outlying province that the Serbs happen to have had control over.
posted by atrazine at 2:03 PM on February 21, 2008


I'm sure there are good guys in Kosovo, just as there are good guys in Serbia, and Croatia, and Bosnia, even though there were a lot of bad guys in all of them. If we're rejecting the collective punishment provisions of the bad guys in question, we'd better reject it completely.

The Spiked article is interesting, but I think it's a little too heavy-handed. The era of national liberation is ending, mostly because of the end of colonial governance under which most national liberation movements arose. We have reached an era of ethnic liberation movements and we are having a really hard time proceeding. Kosovo is an irony: its "independence" is really acceptance of protectorate/colony status under the EU. To me, the EU presents a model for ethnic autonomy movements, in that it doesn't matter if you give Catalonia or Brittany or wherever self-governance when foreign, trade, monetary, and so forth policy is all federalized at the EU level. The risk to me seems more that Serbia and some other parties will now reject this model when they should have been brought into it. (Some of the same mistake was made by allowing part of Cyprus to accede. This is a step that could have implications for the long-term success of the EU model or even the EU itself.
posted by dhartung at 2:15 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah, now we have a burned body inside the embassy.

Are we tilting more towards the "stromed by mob" scenario or are we sticking to the staid?
posted by jsavimbi at 2:20 PM on February 21, 2008


At some point, Europe is going to have to accept that for any given country, the people living in the country whose ethnicity includes the country's name don't have any greater right to live there than anyone else who is there legally. I suppose we have to learn this lesson to.

At some point, Americans are going to have to accept that wishing won't make it so.

The institutions, constitutional arrangements and culture of many European countries are the product of a thousand years of continuous settlement by a single national group. If you are able to trace your family tree and your national culture and history back eight hundred years and see how they are intertwined then it can be disconcerting to see second generation immigrants demanding political change.

Of course, to an American perspective a 2nd generation immigrant has every right to do that. And legally of course they do, they are full citizens after all. But. There is also a certain feeling of 'who the hell are these people and where did they come from?' that one feels the need to suppress when 'foreigners' (who aren't foreign at all of course) talk for instance of abolishing the monarchy.

Anyway, long rambling tangent over.
posted by atrazine at 2:21 PM on February 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


OK, for all the wise men talking about Serbian points of view, here's a point of view that actually comes from a Serbian. You may disagree with it, but it's what's running through the average Serbian head, including mine, just so you don't go judging the mentality of a people based on what embassies CNN tells you they're attacking (for fuck's sakes):

That the West recognises Kosovo as an independent state would almost be 'the last straw' if there hadn't been so many last straws in the past. Fundamentally, people are very wary of the West. Civilians were bombed in 1999 (over what was later found to be no 'exterminations' at all) for what almost all see as a personal attack on Serbia and indiscriminate expansion of American military influence in the area. Albanians have not helped by historically never liking the Serbians - it takes a cursory examination of Albanian Skenderberg Waffen SS Divisions during World War II to realise the brutal, inexplicable hatred at the root of the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army), which was, incidentally, described by the Pentagon as a "dangerous terrorist organisation" as late as 1998. But the real big players in this situation are the ones who are floundering a UN resolution and occupying and tearing apart a sovereign nation.

Anti-Western sentiment in Serbia grows out of 20 years of continued aggression from the West, hideously and shamefully biased media coverage of the Balkans and an absolutely immoral position of double standards being imposed upon us. As the EU sets conditions after conditions after impossible conditions to meet in order - not to directly enter the EU, as one might expect the EU to concede, but to 'talk' about eventually signing a piece of paper which may ensure future negotiations in a non-binding way, Serbs cynically watch on incredulous as demands to self-humiliate pour out of Brussels and Washington.

Serbian Orthodox culture leans heavily to the East. That the West, for all its token words of 'Serbia is Europe', and for all the real and tangible Serbian will to join the EU, has done absolutely nothing other than alienate, insult and try to humiliate the Serbians has only pushed us to look further East, to the new superpowers who, if democratically challenged (compared to an American glorious record of democracy, I might imagine?), are at least adamant in their opposition to the West taking its own detour around the UN when it comes to serving their own interests.

Serbia is a country which, for its hard-headed defense of a sense of moral justice, basically started World War I by, while collaborating fully with the Austro-Hungarian Empire in order to prosecute the assassins of Prince Franz Ferdinand, refusing to accept responsibility and to submit to unreasonable demands.

Hopefully the EU and the US will not go as far as their Austro-Hungarian predecessors this time around.

I hope I have managed to illustrate much of the anti-Western sentiment in Belgrade today.

Being in Central Europe at the moment, I am blessed with CNN coverage of the demonstrations, where they have since 1700h rolled footage over and over again of hooligans attacking the US embassy, rescuing such illustrious Serbo-phobes from the '90s such as Wesley Clark and Richard Holbrooke to spew more venom onto a whole people while Euronews showed footage of the 600,000 strong peaceful march and clips from a speech made by film director Emir Kusturica, before passing to the hooligan attacks.

Yes, it's fair to say Serbians are very wary of the West. Frankly, the West only has itself to blame.
posted by adricv at 2:22 PM on February 21, 2008 [10 favorites]


Sure, but as nasreddin says, the predominance of ethnic Albanians there is relatively recent. Kosovo contains some of the Serbian Orthodox Church's most holy sites. It isn't just an outlying province that the Serbs happen to have had control over.

What the hell?

Kosovo has been predominantly ethnic Albanian since the Serbs decided to move out of the area en masse when they achieved an autonomous province in 1804. Then the Serbs forced Albanians out of southern Serbia back into the Ottoman controlled area which is mostly modern day Kosovo.

Kosovo declaring its independence is just Serbia's chickens coming home to roost.
posted by Talez at 2:33 PM on February 21, 2008


Moon Over Kosovo: Rioters Bare Buns for CNN
posted by homunculus at 2:35 PM on February 21, 2008


Think it as a messy divorce. Kosovo and Serbia have not loved or liked each others for a long time now and last arguments were downright nasty and Serbia has still restraining order from that. Splitting the property is problematic, as Serbia have quite good claim that the house was theirs when Kosovo moved in and it is not right to give half of it to Kosovo. If they stay together, it doesn't seem plausible that Serbia will treat Kosovo as equal and will get abusive again. Or maybe few more years of therapy and councelling would help. Usually Ahtisaari tries to do that, but in this case he recommended separation.
posted by Free word order! at 2:40 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


adricv: Thanks for contributing a genuine Serbian viewpoint. That's one thing I come to MeFi for—the wide variety of members. (Could always be wider, of course. Come back, Migs!)
posted by languagehat at 2:46 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, adricv, maybe you should have just let me have whatever misconceptions I had about Serbian mentalities from CNN, 'cuz what you wrote is way scarier than anything I thought before.

I mean, saying that it's the Albanians' fault for not being friendly to the Serbs that governed them? Really?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:48 PM on February 21, 2008


Bring back Tito.
He'll sort 'em all out.


Damn right.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:50 PM on February 21, 2008


Um, what? How does that mitigate the wrongness of their position? That's what every racist, nationalist group has said since the fall of the Third Reich. For the Serbs, the important thing is that the Albanians are comparatively new to Kosovo (at least their predominance), and many of them have direct connections to the clan/organized crime groups that control Albania itself.
posted by nasreddin at 4:49 PM on February 21


I agree with you, it mitigates nothing. But the postures of the two parties and their positions are not symmetrical. I said that both positions are abhorrent. Both positions are wrong.

Here is what both sides fail to understand - after the tired "thousands of years of history" they are still killing each other over real or imagined offenses. And yet Serbians are burning the U.S. embassy, which is a clear act of war by the way, and nowhere do you hear Americans calling for war with Serbia. Nowhere do you hear any American saying they hate the serbians.

I understand that everyone is incensed, everyone is angry, and perhaps justifiably so, at least in their own minds. But this "the important thing is that the Albanians are comparatively new to Kosovo (at least their predominance)" is the road to ruin. Who the hell cares who is new and who isn't? If predominance is the problem, maybe Serbians (and every other European ethnicity) should be having more children, instead of reproducing at less than the replacement rate. Maybe that's the real threat here. Too many of their babies and not enough of ours.

This logic sounds a lot like the jingoist "the illegal Mexicans are trying to take back California" that you hear in the US.

The reality of course is that this is not happening because of ethnic tension, it is happening because the governments involved have some very recent vested or even prospective interest that is threatened by Kosovo's independence. How long before we learn about Russian gas pipeline deals that have to be scuttled because of this? How long before we learn about what money is moving where, about who in the Kosovo or Serbian government has a deal with who in the Turkish or Russian governments that are now screwed up because of the meddling Americans.

And of course the Americans are meddling. Oil is $100 and Russia is hoarding it. Do you think the U.S. is going to hand over Europe's energy future to Vladimir Putin?

It's the same old story. Money needs to move against the tide so the people are stirred up to change it.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:58 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


ROU_Xenophobe: (I decline to comment on your username) Evidently the concept of a multi-ethnic society eludes you. I was referring to the origins of the violent secessionist movement, which has strong links to the Greater Albania idea infused by Italian fascists during their occupation of Albania in World War the Second. Many people in Serbia make a link between the general Albanian population in Kosovo and the KLA, you obviously do too. In my naivété I choose not to go so far.
posted by adricv at 2:59 PM on February 21, 2008


Chomsky intvu Serb TV 2006; why we bombed Belgrade
posted by hortense at 3:02 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


And yet Serbians are burning the U.S. embassy, which is a clear act of war by the way, and nowhere do you hear Americans calling for war with Serbia.

Yeah, because we already had one of those going, and the most recent thing we did in it was to take one of the most historically significant parts of their territory and tell them that it doesn't belong to them anymore.
posted by The World Famous at 3:04 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


adricv writes "here's a point of view that actually comes from a Serbian."

And thanks for sharing it, it's welcome and interesting.

Actually, it is quite interesting, because you offered an idea of what is going on in some serbian minds.

I would like to point out some aspect of your comment , some remarks about its structure and its content:

1. you seem to divide people between groups : kosovo , serbian, western people and so on
2. yet your comment about the violence/misdeeds/error point out that very FEW of these people did a lot of damage. Namely, that SS division (and I don't care from which region they come from, SS were seriously dangerous sociopaths, all of them) or the bombing by a group of western military, not mentioning the abuses of the Serbian generals over some people in kosovo. Notice, it is always a very restricted group of people doing a lot of damage.

As you can see, the errors, horrors and violence of few apparently involved millions..that probably don't know much about each other, but are just parroting propaganda. In my own country, there are some many regional difference it's a miracle we are all under the same State and have some kind of national identity..and indeed, the fascination with national identity was so strong that fascism used nationalism in an attempt to equate blackshirt=one nation, whereas blackshirt=fascist.

Behind all this incited hatred there are skillful , in their own devious ways, politicians who exploit harmless identities by saying that , if a small group of K did wrong to S, then it follows all of K hate S (or vice versa). That's divisionism and has been used since the times of Julius Cesar.

In my mind, I have this memory of reading on the internet that young palestinians and young israelis were complaining that the war has been long enough, that it didn't really make any fucking sense at all and that they refused to keep on fighting. And when the fight is over, the war is over : clearly, not in the brain of these who are plotting and scheming to incite some, but they can think one millions pages of propaganda and whatnot, if it doesn't lead to combact and hate, it's an harmless fantasy.
posted by elpapacito at 3:04 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Talez: indeed and it's fair enough that Kosova has its independence now, but Serbian nationalists may have a different idea of what 'recent' means.
posted by atrazine at 3:09 PM on February 21, 2008


Serbians torching our embassy "An act of War?" I guess. But we'll need another Clinton in office before we'll bomb white people again.
posted by tkchrist at 3:10 PM on February 21, 2008


Serbians torching our embassy "An act of War?" I guess. But we'll need another Clinton in office before we'll bomb white people again.

Before we bomb Belgrade again, you mean?
posted by The World Famous at 3:13 PM on February 21, 2008


As the EU sets conditions after conditions after impossible conditions to meet in order - not to directly enter the EU, as one might expect the EU to concede, but to 'talk' about eventually signing a piece of paper which may ensure future negotiations in a non-binding way, Serbs cynically watch on incredulous as demands to self-humiliate pour out of Brussels and Washington.

I can't abide this. Self-humiliate? What about having to live next to someone different than you is humiliating? Where I live, there are, as of the 2000 census, over 40 languages spoken natively by the residents within a 2 mile radius of where I live. I used to live in an apartment building where I got to see every manner of shroud or headscarf the muslim world has ever conceived, and that was just on the elevator. I have my pick of 7 different south american varieties of fast food rotisserie chicken between two traffic lights. Is this supposed to humiliate me? The 100 yr old methodist church supports an afternoon ethiopian coptic church service. Its fun to watch the stragglers from the morning service pass the early birds from the afternoon service. Which of those groups is supposed to be humiliated, the rednecks for having to lend out their church, or the Ethopians for having to suffer the indignity of the heretic methodists?

Serbians want into the EU because it's going to bring in money. Don't talk about humiliation when you've already decided to sell out.
posted by Pastabagel at 3:13 PM on February 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


elpapacito: I see what you mean, and you are, of course, absolutely right.

One insurmountable character trait, however, is the unbelievable hardheaded-ness of Balkaners. And since in the end many people get emotionally and personally affected, it becomes a hideous tangle which although instigated by ulterior motives, will eventually need everyone to get out. And everyone in the region seems to be pulling their bit of string in their own direction.
posted by adricv at 3:19 PM on February 21, 2008


But we'll need another Clinton in office before we'll bomb white people again.

Maybe time for another "stuff white people like" post?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:22 PM on February 21, 2008


Pastabagel: I challenge you to find one post-founder EU nation who didn't join because of the money-fest. Allow me to mention that Yugoslavia used to be a country where people would celebrate Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim festivals alike.

Perhaps you misunderstood what I referred to as 'humiliate'. Indeed, not wanting to live next to someone different than you seems to be a motivation for Kosovo's secession rather than for it's permanence inside Serbia.

The EU's demands are not for accession or for talks but for the beginning of negotiations on when to start the talks. And they're demands which get more unrealistic the more of them are met. Hence the parallel with 1914.

I'm not asking you to agree with me, I just want to make sure you're clear on what I meant. Perhaps my linguistic skills are not up to scratch, but as a foreigner I do my best - after all, Serbian is a language I can speak with a total of 18 million people worldwide, we're kind of forced to learn another language if we want to survive outside our borders.

I commend you on your accomplishment of living where you do. It certainly sounds 'holier than' my humble country of origin.
posted by adricv at 3:27 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


...Yugoslavia used to be a country where people would celebrate Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim festivals alike.

Exactly: bring back Tito!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:31 PM on February 21, 2008


From my point of view:

1) Most Americans perceive a "Muslim" as someone of Arabic origin, wearing a turban or something. But in the Balkans, the word is more synonymous with a person of Turkish / Ottoman descent, which of course is due to the Ottoman Empire's historical control / subjugation / dominance (however one wants to look at it) of the region. This perception has a lot of relevance still - one of the reasons that Kosovo's independence is so bitter for Serbs is that Kosovo is home to the site in which the Ottomans crushed Serb forces in 1389. Yeah, that's a long time ago, but Slobodan Milosevic's references to the battle - some six hundred years later - helped kick-start the nationalist melee that lead to wars in the former Yugoslavia, and the problems that Serbia has today. Although they lost the battle, Serbs have tended to see it as "the" moment which heralded the birth of the Serbian state. In any case, I would characterize the Serb reaction to independence not as one of "anti-Albanian" or "anti-Muslim," but as "anti-Turk." As a pejorative in the Balkans, "Turk" can mean any sort of person in the area who's Muslim - that residual fear / hatred of / memory of (however one wants to look at it) of Ottoman control of the Balkans is perpetuated through this term.

2) Serbia's situation. Statements like . . .

"Anti-Western sentiment in Serbia grows out of 20 years of continued aggression from the West, hideously and shamefully biased media coverage of the Balkans and an absolutely immoral position of double standards being imposed upon us."

. . . carry little truth. "Aggression" in the former Yugoslavia originated with Serbia, who started wars with Croatia (over the Krajina), Bosnia (over the whole place) and Kosovo (ditto). It was probably a problem that Western powers were quite hungry to recognize Slovenia and Croatia (the wealthiest two of Yugoslavia's six republics, and the two whose loss would sink much of the rest of Yugoslavia economically), but it happened. Bosnia had little choice than to declare its independence or be subjugated in a new Serbocentric federation which, as the Serbian poster has implied, would inevitably "look to the East." None of the 60% of the population who were "Muslim" or "Croat" were happy with that prospect, and where I lived in Sarajevo (the republic's biggest city), many of the Serbs weren't either. Yet that did not stop Serbia-sponsored attacks on civilians, kidnappings, gang rapes (etc) from occurring while the "West" did nothing. ("Continued aggression from the West"? We wished for it just a little Western aggression every day, while our friends and family died.)

Serbia should realize that it lost three wars - wars that it alone began. It was treated more than fairly in some respects - re: Bosnia, in that it, under the guise of "Republika Srpska," was allowed to keep territory it had conquered - a luxury not extended to the losers of most wars. Serbia has not meaningfully cooperated with the search for Mladic and Karadzic, both of whom are still believed to be protected by the state. It has never demonstrated much desire to disenfranchise exceedingly nationalistic leaders (although the most recent election showed a little positivity in this regard) or show support for minorities. I've got ethnic Hungarian friends in Subotica who've been attacked recently by nationalistic gangs, with no protection or concern from the authorities. You don't even hear about that. Serbia has been offered serious financial aid, help jumping on the EU bandwagon and other perks if it would just try to maintain at least a visible facade of democracy and minority rights and protections. It just hasn't done so.

Given that I lost everything courtesy of the Serbs, I could be much harsher and I'm sure people would have at least some sympathy. So let me just say this:

The idea that the "West" has done absolutely nothing other than "alienate, insult and try to humiliate the Serbians" is simply not true. Were Serbians to rejects nationalistic dogma, were they to turn over a few war criminals and were they to really try to create a place for its minorities, maybe Kosovo wouldn't have been lost.

Living as I did in Bosnia during the war, I realized that the "West" cared very little at all for our area of Europe. It's a tough lesson to learn. The idea that the "West" really cares enough about Serbia to make a (fairly senseless) point of "alienating," "insulting" and "humiliating" Serbia for little reason is simple megalomania on Serbia's part. I was guilty of the same misconception when I thought the "West" cared enough about our multi-ethnic Bosnia to come save us. But I was wrong. So wise up, Serbia, and don't make the same mistake, or you may lose everything just like me.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:33 PM on February 21, 2008 [13 favorites]


adricv, I suppose I should have cut you more slack as a non-native speaker. But when you write:

Albanians have not helped by historically never liking the Serbians

That comes off to a native-speaker as being about the Albanian nationality, not any particular group of Albanians or an Albanian political/terrorist organization.

But still, if I were going to write a parody or stereotype of what an irrationally nationalistic person might write in such a situation, I'd probably include lots of language that made my nationality the perennial victim of others who kept stabbing at it, and I'd include grandiose statements of my nationality's importance to world history, and of its virtuousness, and I'd include some discussion about how the people my nationality supposedly suppress are pretty terrible people themselves, and I'd probably offer some manner of threat about pushing us too far.

All of which are in your comment.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:33 PM on February 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Here's another Serbian opinion: without even bringing "the West" (Western Europe, and America) or "anti-Western" sentiment into this (not that it doesn't exist), separating Kosovo from Serbia is a huge tragedy for Serbia. Almost all of the national traditions and culture in some way have their origin in events that occurred in Kosovo- the national identity of Serbia is heavily tied in with the Orthodox religion, since many of the epic figures of Serbian history are as well known for their political deeds as what they did for the church. I urge those of you who are interested in understanding this perspective to seek out a translation of a very old Serbian epic poem about the famous battle at Kosovo in 1389. Part of it appears here: http://www.kosovo.net/sk/history/battle_of_kosovo.html, a few pages down.
Anyway. Perhaps these kinds of emotional connections mean nothing in the face of demographics, but imagine how you would feel if all of a sudden, Boston, Philadelphia, and other places of vital historical significance to America suddenly belonged to a different country.
I guess what I want to say is that, while the situation there left a lot to be desired, both for Serbs and Albanians in turn, I don't think this is really the best solution, or even an enduring solution.
posted by Oobidaius at 3:41 PM on February 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


In retrospect I do see how such a broad and sweeping use of the term Albanian could have been misconstrued and I apologise, for the perceived meaning was not that which I intended, although it is one which prevails in more radical elements of Serbian society.

The trigger to World War I was the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against a fledgling Serbian state over unfounded accusations that it was the state that was behind the assassination of the Archduke. It's not a grandiose statement of our importance to world history, it's a sorry fact! The roots to the confrontational attitudes at the time run far deeper but if you want to find the trigger, there it is.
posted by adricv at 3:45 PM on February 21, 2008


"It isn't anti-Western sentiment, it's anti-muslim.

Pastabagel, I think it's anti-Albanian rather than anti-Muslim.

Now, now, you're all right! It's anti-Western, anti-Albanian, and anti-Muslim!"


You're all right! It's a floor wax and a dessert topping!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:00 PM on February 21, 2008


Kostunica, who earlier addressed the peaceful rally, said "Kosovo is Serbia's first name."

Great. Now I have "My Serbia has a first name, it's K-O-S-O-V-O" stuck in my head.
posted by dw at 4:12 PM on February 21, 2008


The trigger to World War I was the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against a fledgling Serbian state over unfounded accusations that it was the state that was behind the assassination of the Archduke. It's not a grandiose statement of our importance to world history, it's a sorry fact!

Just prior to World War I, under the orders of the Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence, Serbian Military Officers and remnants of the by then moribund Black Hand organized and facilitated the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria on occasion of his visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia.
posted by dw at 4:20 PM on February 21, 2008


I <3 Tito
posted by Fupped Duck at 4:29 PM on February 21, 2008


Can't you guys just stop living in the past ? It is OVER, it is 2008. I am not asking to ignore the past as if it didn't exist, but to stop acting as if it was justification for today bullshit.
posted by elpapacito at 4:31 PM on February 21, 2008


Almost all of the national traditions and culture in some way have their origin in events that occurred in Kosovo- the national identity of Serbia is heavily tied in with the Orthodox religion, since many of the epic figures of Serbian history are as well known for their political deeds as what they did for the church.

Two things:

1) During the Ottoman era you guys peacefully co-existed in the area so they have just as much a tie to the region as you do.

2) Once you guys got the Belgrade principality you guys were out of there. You basically left Kosovo to the Ottomans and the Albanians made the best of a bad situation. When you received more land in 1878 from the Berlin Congress you guys starting kicking out the Albanians and they ended up resettling in Kosovo.

IMHO, Serbia kicked the Albanians out of the sandbox and now Serbia's pissed because Albania started playing with the ball instead and Serbia really liked that ball.

That's not to say one side is wrong or right. I'm just calling it as I see it.
posted by Talez at 4:31 PM on February 21, 2008


"1) During the Ottoman era you guys peacefully co-existed in the area so they have just as much a tie to the region as you do."

I mean, not really- Serbian ties come from the Serbian Orthodox church literally having been founded in Kosovo- at great cost. I don't think I was very articulate in explaining this, but the Orthodox Church basically is Serbian culture.
posted by Oobidaius at 4:56 PM on February 21, 2008


Perhaps you misunderstood what I referred to as 'humiliate'. Indeed, not wanting to live next to someone different than you seems to be a motivation for Kosovo's secession rather than for it's permanence inside Serbia.

adricv, I'm not trying to sound holier than thou, I'm trying to understand what is humiliating, because you never explained it.

They all joined the EU for the money, of course. But it is their money, and they get to make whatever demands they want in relation to it. If whatever they are asking is so humiliating (and I still don't understand what is so humiliating, or why it is humiliating), perhaps Serbia shouldn't take the money.

adricv, I really do appreciate your comments here, and it is a very important perspective that is helpful in understanding this, but there must be something I'm not understanding, and maybe you can explain it - what precisely is the affront that has triggered this outrage? Why is US recognition of Kosovo somehow worse than Kosovo steadily building to independence over the last ten years. Did this really come as a surprise?

Then there's this sentiment:
Yeah, because we already had one of those going, and the most recent thing we did in it was to take one of the most historically significant parts of their territory and tell them that it doesn't belong to them anymore.
posted by The World Famous at 6:04 PM on February 21


Who does 'their' and 'them' refer to? Kosovo belongs as much to the Albanians who live there as to the Serbians who don't live in another part of Serbia but claim it based on cultural heritage. Do Serbians believe the Albanians in Kosovo would be better off under a united Serbia? Do they think that the Albanians want their indpendence to stick a finger in the eye of the serbs? Please help me to understand the outrage.
posted by Pastabagel at 5:28 PM on February 21, 2008


I wish I had my father's copy of Opus Maledictorum; I'd retype this article (which I can only find a cite for): On Christian Moslem Relations in the Balkans. Maledicta, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1977. 42. (Reprinted in Opus Maledictorum: A Book of Bad Words, ed. by Reinhold Aman. New York: Marlowe & Co. 1996. 4. ).
posted by klangklangston at 5:43 PM on February 21, 2008


Anti-Western sentiment in Serbia grows out of 20 years of continued aggression from the West

I've been to Serbia and have heard this tired canard many, many times. Serbia may be home to some of the nicest people on Earth, but it's also overflowing with some of the wildest conspiracy theories ever. One theory that seems to be almost universally accepted is the "Great Western Anti-Serbian Conspiracy," pushed by nutters like Vojislav Šešelj, in which an innocent and peace-loving Serbia is the victim of coordinated attempts by the West to destroy it. (For reasons unknown)

The theory fails to explain why, for example, the West sat on their collective asses in the early 90s while Serbs rampaged through Bosnia. It also doesn't explain why the West waited nearly ten years to finally allow Kosovo to break away. It's pretty clear that Kosovo doesn't make much sense as an independent country, and that the West wasn't thrilled with the idea. But there was no other choice. The Serbs repeatedly made a mockery of peace deals in the 90s, and showed neither remorse nor recognition for the ethnic cleansing they carried out in the former Yugoslavia. In fact, another conspiracy theory I've heard is that there was no ethnic cleansing at all; the mass graves were all bullshit Western propaganda to make Serbia look bad.

For more awesome Serbian conspiracy theories: read this wonderful post. You'll learn how NATO used happy meal toys against Serbs, and all about the Tesla directed-energy superweapon. The truth is out there!

Also: there should be an ex-Yugoslavia meet-up one day; I'm sure there'd be plenty to talk about!
posted by Ljubljana at 10:00 PM on February 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


Serbs, like most Balkan people, are (for the most part) lovely folks, but as Ljubljana pointed out, recent history doesn't square at all with the conspiracy theories most commonly heard from Serbs.

I also want to point out that the following statement rolls right over many actual facts:

"The trigger to World War I was the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against a fledgling Serbian state over unfounded accusations that it was the state that was behind the assassination of the Archduke."

It's possible that different people have different understandings of exactly what constitutes a state being behind an assassination, but in the case of Archduke Ferdinand, the assassination was ordered by Serbia's Chief Of Military Intelligence and the plot was largely carried out by Serbian military officers in collusion with the "Black Hand." Serbia was asked by the Austro-Hungarians and Germany - rather peaceably - to investigate the assassination and this request was pretty rudely denied. The role that Serbia played in the assassination isn't entirely clear, but it's fair to state that Serbia's alleged role was much greater than one of "unfounded accusations."

Of course, Serbia alleged the same "unfounded accusations" claim against those who stated that Serbia was behind the slaughter in Bosnia - saying rather that the war in Bosnia was entirely one of (and here I love the Soviet-style absurdity of the claim) "spontaneous uprising" by Bosnia's ethnic Serbs with nothing to do with Serbia per se. Later, of course, the truth came spilling out - Serbia funded the war, supplied both soldiers and armaments, activated and supported "irregulars" like the rapist butcher Arkan and his gang, allowed war criminals to creep back to Serbia when the going got tough, and so on. The "unfoundedness" of accusations against Serbia have a history of turning out to be (at least) partially true.

One last thing about someone's comment: "Perhaps these kinds of emotional connections mean nothing in the face of demographics, but imagine how you would feel if all of a sudden, Boston, Philadelphia, and other places of vital historical significance to America suddenly belonged to a different country."

This is a disingenuous comment for a couple of reasons:

1) The USA has not engaged in a decades-long oppression of the (imaginary) 90% of the population of Boston or Philadelphia who are a different ethnicity and speak a different language from the rest of the USA.

2) That (imaginary) majority of oddballs in Boston and Philadelphia does not have a history of dominance of those cities stretching back more than two centuries.

3) There's nothing "sudden" about Kosovo become independent. Demographically, it was obvious what might happen without a healthy dollop of tolerance and fairness from Belgrade. Even more so in the recent years when Serbia was *told* that Kosovan independence was a possibility without some big changes. The Serbs certainly had time to either prepare for this inevitability or to work out some way of preventing it. Instead, as they've done repeatedly in recent decades, they choose to promote the nationalistic "nothing can touch us" party line and act like toughs; they've lost yet another battle in doing so.

I'm not dismissing Serbia's feeling of loss, which is sincere and obviously troubling for them. But they had a reasonably fair choice in the matter, and did, well, nothing to prevent it from happening. I'm Yugoslav by birth, and despite the war, I've got lots of Serbian friends and warm memories of many aspects of Serbian culture. But I've never understood the psychology of victimhood as righteousness and its incorporation into the Serbian psyche. Their most glorified battle is a six hundred year-old one in which they got slaughtered. They started and lost three bloody, vicious and disgusting wars in just the past two decades. And just the other day, they lost their most 'sacred' land. Meanwhile, Croatia and Slovenia have done a pretty fair job of eliminating overt and retrogressive nationalistic tendencies and are on the march to prosperity and happiness. Even the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro are doing pretty well by comparison. Serbia's current miseries are its own fault - a conscious decision to perceive itself as a historical victim. The results of making war and an unwillingness to pay a just price, despite the rest of the world's generosity. Think of the guilt and shame of most Germans after the Second World War; its Serbian corollary is minute.

Yet Serbia doesn't own up to any of this. Serbia swims in a puddle of denial and blame. I can't help but think that if Serbia were just some guy, he would be the subject of an intervention and eventually placed in rehab. When that didn't work, his acquaintances would become distant and ask one another, why can't he just get his shit together and lose the self-righteous attitude? Doesn't he see what it's already cost him?

Eventually, people would just give up on him. Anyone who could even be vaguely seen as his victim - his wife or his child - would be the object of extreme sympathy and enduring kindness. Maybe eventually you'd spot him drunk in an alley somewhere, stinking of sick and filth, ranting against those he believes had wronged him. You'd just wonder how someone who'd once had everything he needed to be happy could so allow his inability to examine himself critically to let him reach such a sad state.

Ljubljana's post probably says this better than I have, but despite my own status as a victim of Serbia, I'd still rally for Serbia to fix its problems and join the rest of human society. I'm not a mean or vengeful person. But I've got to rant a little.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:03 PM on February 21, 2008 [7 favorites]


There isn't any moral high ground in Kosovo, just piles of bodies, some older than others.

Ah, religion.
posted by telstar at 2:58 AM on February 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


"1) The USA has not engaged in a decades-long oppression of the (imaginary) 90% of the population of Boston or Philadelphia who are a different ethnicity and speak a different language from the rest of the USA."

I would rather point out to the American Indians. Freedom to Lakota Nation!
posted by adricv at 6:39 AM on February 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would rather point out to the American Indians. Freedom to Lakota Nation!

Yes, of course. But you've missed the point entirely, which was the ineptness of the comparison of "the sudden of loss" of Baltimore (et al) to Serbia's loss of Kosovo. The world isn't fair, and America's gotten away with a lot, historically. I'm now an American citizen, and proud to be one. Yet I still acknowledge this fact. Most thinking Americans would too. America's oppressed many peoples during its relatively brief history.

But Serbia isn't one of those oppressed peoples. In actuality, its willing forays into war were met by general apathy by the rest of the world for a very extended time (as Ljubljana describes). Retribution, when it eventually came, wasn't really retribution at all but a means of stopping Serbia's aggression. Furthermore, actions against Serbia were acknowledged in advance and could have been avoided - in fact, the world would rather have avoided it. It was followed by generous (if largely undeserved) offers of aid. Serbia was allowed time to fix its own problems - or show that it was on a path to democracy - before any adverse action would be taken. Serbia did not take advantage of the world's lenience. It continued to encourage nationalist rhetoric and policy; it continued to shelter war criminals. The loss of Kosovo is part of the fallout from that. This isn't brain surgery, which is what makes Serbia's seeming "victimization" so strange. Who can't connect these dots?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:44 AM on February 22, 2008


An interesting perspective from Joshua Treviño at OrthoVox (formerly Tacitus, I think):
Failure.

Kosovo’s declaration of independence today is a moment of joy for Kosovar Albanians and their sponsors in the West. It is, in truth, a colossal failure for all concerned. … A true cause for celebration in Kosovo would involve Serbs acknowledging the reality of Albanian dominance in the provice, and Albanians acknowledging the preciousness of Kosovo to the Serbs — and reaching a compromise based upon autonomy and respect rather than secession and pain. In the Balkans — and around the world, really — you either live together, or you kill one another. In Kosovo, the United States has come down firmly, if unwittingly, in favor of the latter.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:26 AM on February 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would rather point out to the American Indians. Freedom to Lakota Nation!

As a Native American, I am greatly offended by this. There's no equivalent in Native American history to the bombing and sniping of Sarajevo or the massacre at Srebrenica or the battles with Kosovo.

Please call me when your people are force-marched nearly 1000 miles to new lands that they don't necessary get to keep. Until then, stop implying you have some brothers and sisters in victimhood as the First Nations, because we don't want anything to do with war-mongering ethnic cleansers. We already enough of those to deal with, thank you.
posted by dw at 11:27 AM on February 22, 2008


Please help me to understand the outrage.

Borders of the country changing. When does that not cause outrage? The U.S. don't really have a moral high ground as the independence is to their best interests and the U.N. once again got bypassed.

Russia's ambassador to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, has warned that Russia could use military force if the Kosovo independence dispute escalates. Which proves that killing people is always a shitty solution, whichever "side" you are on.
posted by ersatz at 11:55 AM on February 22, 2008


In the end, and I'm doing my best to look at it as far away from personal issues as possible, in the Balkans there are no good guys, there are no bad guys, there are just sides. For someone not involved it's best to stay the hell away or get caught in the maelstrom.

"we don't want anything to do with war-mongering ethnic cleansers." I like your thick paintbrush, dw.
posted by adricv at 1:15 PM on February 24, 2008


« Older Implants and transplants can be used to create a p...  |  The International Crusade For ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments