CITY VERSUS COUNTRY IN SERBIA

By William Markiewicz

The media gave abundant information about the long lasting anti-Milosevic demonstrations in the cities of Serbia. The impression given was that if Milosevic stays in power it's because of his powerful police and army. The world anticipated a huge popular upheaval -- which happened instead in Albania. What the media didn't say was that no matter how flamboyant those anti-Milosevic demonstrations were, they represented only a minority of Serbs. The silent majority, which is peasant, supports Milosevic and that's why he logically remains in power. What should really draw outside viewers' attention, is this dichotomy, the latent disagreement between the cities and the countryside. Why are the Serb city dwellers and the peasant majority divided? The reasons are rooted in Serbian history: practically the whole Serbian population was peasant until almost the twentieth century. The Turkish invaders didn't favour Christian Serbs in towns and automatically relegated them to the countryside and to the mountains. After Serbia got independence, the Serbs started to move into the cities but that didn't turn them into urbanites. They remained peasants in the cities for a long time. Nota bene, an analogous situation happened after W.W.II in Warsaw. When Warsaw was destroyed, the original Warsawians were scattered all over Poland and abroad and a number of peasants entered the newly rebuilt city. Contrary to the Croats and Muslims who had grown with their cities over the centuries, those Serbs, new-urbanites, lost their peasant roots but didn't create a strong urban intellectual personality simply because this takes generations to develop. So, those Serbs didn't retain the strong Serbian identity of the peasants who had fought to hold onto it through centuries of Turkish occupation. Consequently many of the intellectual Serbs in the cities feel more affinity with their Croatian and Muslim urban counterparts than with their peasant Serbian brothers. They probably have a hard time realising that those sophisticated Croat and Muslim city dwellers remain strongly Croat and Muslim. The Serbs' sympathy will not be reciprocated, it remains a one-sided interest. This naive attitude recalls that of the German Jews before the war who thought Hitler would spare them because they were such good Germans. Those dreams are reflected in the speeches and interviews of the leader of the opposition in Banja Luka, Dr. Miodrag Zivanovic, who accused peasant refugee newcomers of changing the face of the city, and who dreams rosy dreams about the return of his former Muslim and Croatian University colleagues in harmony and fraternity as if nothing had happened. He refuses to face the fact that this page of history has turned forever and that the peasant newcomers are the new reality. He is exiled in his own home town like many Serbs of his kind. And there's the recently deceased intellectual, Miladin Zivotic, who believed that it's enough to open hearts and gates to the Muslims and Croats to achieve peace and love. He accused the Serbs of nationalism but refused to condemn the nationalism of others. Innumerable Serbian intellectuals declare, "We are not Serbs, we are Europeans", words their Croatian or Muslim counterparts would choke on. If they remembered ancient history they would think of Carthage, which gave itself to the Romans and was destroyed, and of those sophisticated pacifists from Baghdad who opened the gates to Tamerlane and he built a tower with their heads.

Of course the Serbian urban element is not perfectly homogenous; some nationalists are also against Milosevic for not helping the Serbs from Bosnia, from Krajina as well as those expelled from the heart of Croatia. He had no choice; if Serbia entered the war, it would now be in shambles, occupied by 'peacemakers' and Milosevic would be a 'war criminal'.

In sum, the city Serbs, either too soft or too extremist, didn't create a valid alternative to Milosevic's leadership.

The New York Times (March 11) quoted a Western diplomat that the next war between Muslims and Serbs in Bosnia will at least be swift, meaning that a quick Muslim victory is a positive outcome. They didn't report who this Western diplomat was but I will bet my boots that he was German. Why would Germany want the Muslims to conquer the Serbian part? Let's imagine the following scenario:

1. Muslims attack and win. The surviving Serbs run away.

2. The Muslims find themselves with a big chunk of territory which never belonged to them. Let's not forget that the Serbs have been the peasants of Bosnia since the dawn of time, hundreds of years before the Muslims ever showed up in Bosnia, and, like all peasants in the world, they possessed the majority of land. The Muslim authorities, dominated by fundamentalists, would have to find people to settle those territories and would naturally allow a massive influx from overpopulated Islamic countries.

3. Germany enters into Croatia and Serbia "to protect them from a Muslim invasion." The Croats would open their arms to them as they did before and the Serbs would fight back as they always fought back. In consequence they would be literally smashed and wiped out. What the Nazis couldn't do because they were active on other fronts, today's Germany with its modern technology and having no other 'adversary' than the Serbs, would achieve in a "promenade." The Serbian hills will no longer be a fortress. Europe will approve because everybody will start to be afraid of this sudden incursion of Islamic power into Europe. And who will be held responsible? The Serbs of course! -- "If the Serbs hadn't started it all, we wouldn't have Iranians and Algerians in Balkans!" -- such are the twisted ways of prejudicial logic. This will result, in the best of cases for the Serbs, in a country "no bigger than a postage stamp" as somebody hostile to Serbs expressed in a newsgroup. And the Serbs are at least as numerous as Croats, Muslims and Albanians together!...

In the 19th century the Austro-Hungarian authorities had already declared, "the Serbs have to die!" The Serbs are practically the only obstacle to Germanic domination of the Balkans on the road to the Mediterranean.

The French recruiter of mercenaries said about Serbs, "The Serbs are beasts." If it were some other recruits he would say, they are good fighters, but because they are Serbs they had to be beasts. The character assassination and hate propaganda has made several tours of the world and conditioned the idea that wiping out the Serbs wouldn't be a big loss.

Recently the Canadian Supreme Court declared that neither Canadian nor International law permits Quebec to separate unilaterally. This International law didn't apply to Yugoslavia, ripped apart with the world's complicity including Canadian.

We have seen in the film "The Death of Yugoslavia" that Milosevic couldn't make crucial decisions without the approval of his collaborators. The rest is history. Can we imagine Saddam Hussein or Fidel Castro depending on the agreement of their colleagues? Even de Gaulle or Trudeau -- would they have let themselves be held back? So much for Milosevic the "dictator."

I have no personal reason whatever to sympathize with Serbs. I am only immensely sorry for the poor devils. It is chilling to consider how easy it is to irreversibly inflame public opinion against particular groups: Jews, Gypsies, now Serbs -- and whose turn will be next? The only lesson that can be drawn from this situation is a general warning to all people on Earth: "Don't be weak because once you meet somebody stronger, see what may await you."


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