TUE, 12 APR 1994 08:50:26 GMT
AIM, BELGRADE, March 28, 1994
INTERVIEW: Dr. Dusan Janjic
The negotiations on the future of Bosnia are in the focus of attention of the entire world. Can any model of inter-ethnic cooperation be expected to function in B&H when all negotiations held at the level of former Yugoslavia have failed; why have the Muslims been swaying from one side to the other ; considering the existing hatred and tragic conflicts, can we speak of a "Balkan doom" ? - these are only some of the questions the answers to which we tried to obtain from Dr. Dusan Janjic, Senior Scientific Associate at the Institute of Social Sciences (Centre for Sociological Research) in Belgrade, who,for over a decade and a half has been engaged in the research of nations and inter-ethnic relations (he is the author of the books: "The Open Issue of the Nation", "The Vocabulary of a Nationalist", " The State and the Nation", " A Nation - What is That?"). In addition to that, Dr. Janjic is also the founder and coordinator of the Forum for Ethnic Relations, an Association which gathers scolars from former Yugoslavia and Europe and whose aim is the development of democracy in multi-ethnic societies, as well as the Secretary General of the European Movement of Serbia.
* Can we speak of the "Balkan doom" on this soil of ours, considering the outbursts of hatred and the tragic conflicts that are repeated from one generation to the next? Multi-ethnic communities and interests that manifest themselves as national ones exist elsewhere too, but the frictions that do appear are not so tragic. Are there perhaps any other hidden reasons for such a course of events?
- I believe that for the first time, the events that have been tkaing place are not a typical Balkan story. This is the first war on this soil, as far as I know history, that local peoples have set out against each other without open foreign interference and assistance, the first time that these people were not hangers-on of various empires or else their soldiers. Mention is made of the Balkan doom because the Balkan peoples never had the chance to decide on their destiny. Their lot was such that the big powers were always the ones to draw their maps. The observation that this resembles the European thirty-year religious war is correct, since all this is a pre-national principle characteristic of the times European states were created. I presume that the international community would perhaps permit that if it had at its disposal corresponding control mechanisms. It does not have them for the time being, and naturally it fers for itself. The price of that should certainly be called to mind. In the Thirty-Year religious war, 60 percent of the population was killed. Estimates show that the price of the smallest possible ethnic state would imply the loss of 900 thousand human lives. Is that what we really need?
* The Muslims have swayed throughout their history from the Serbian to the Croatian side, and vice versa, becoming at one time "brothers of Mohamedan persuasion" and at the other "the blossom of the Croatian people", while they themselves insisted that the Bosnians are of Muslim faith. In former Yugoslavia they were granted national identity which as of recent has been disputed in these midsts by both one and the other side. Whose is Bosnia and Herzegovina? Whom do the Muslims belong to?
- The most general answer to this question would be - that Bosnia and Herzegovina is neither merely a geographical term nor a mechanical mixture of ethnic characteristics.It is a geo-political, historical, civilizational formation of a higher order and identity. Even medieval Bosnia differed from the neighbouring states in as much as it did not have a state religion, but rather three confessions which competed among each other. This imposed the need to search for a solution suited to the existing confessional diversity and one that would prevent religious wars, which in itself contributed to the creation of a specific political culture of seeking to establish an equilibrium on the one hand, but also to unite against a third party ( as opposed to the West where the enemy was, as a rule, the other party), on the other. The existence of the Muslims renders in European surroundings a specific mark of identity, although the very question of defining and naming this community provokes numerous disputes and conflicts.
This is among other things, the result of the fact that the history of the Muslims is full of changes (Bogomilism, Islamization).During Turkish rule, and later on when nations were created, the Muslims were faced with ever greater challenges. From that time on the Muslims and the Christians became two opposed groupings, two hostile words. The Christians saw in the Muslims, as the co-holders of authority, their oppressors, while the Muslims saw in the Christian populace their sworn enemies. The development of the Muslims as a nation, their shaping into a nation in the modern sense of the word, is parallel and in some ways paradoxically connected with Communist rule, and although in the first post-war years the Communists themselves did not know what should be done with the Muslims, from 1963 they were registered in the census as as a separate category.
Within the framework of the Muslim population, the establishment of the Muslims as a national category existed a long-term goal. This produced within this group a national loyalty to their own specific identity and a persistence in respect to that identity in the ever more escalating contest between the Serbs and the Croats to win them over to their own side. Since in everyday live too, a third partay is always a crowd, it is clear why the Muslims have become a problem. Two problems stood in the way for the Muslims to constitute themselves as a confessional and religious entity. The first is their ethnic origin, since all of them were either of Serbian or Croatian origin, and the second is the powerfull influence of Bogomilism which penetrated Islam during the entire period and established some special connections between the peoples on this soil. Although Islam distinguished them it was not powerfull enough to break these other connections. When former Yugoslavia disintegrated, the Muslims were faced with a national identity crisis.
The institutions which guaranteed them their identity fell apart, the League of Communists died away, but the war resulted in something else. The war solved that problem definitely, although it will be difficult for many Muslims to be only Muslims. The war distinguished them definitely...
*... the creation of a nation through sacrifice?
- Of course the myth about the hero and the victim is of vital importance for the constitution of a state.They have achieved that through this war. The other two sides are challenging the Muslims because they are an obstacle in the constitution of their own ethnic states. How is this manifested? Well, by claiming that they are not what they think they are, but are rather that they are one of us. This is a chauvinistic principle. Chauvinism is the principle of standardizing: you can only be me. If you do not wish to be that - you will be eliminated. And since it is difficult to say that at loud, then sophisticated figures of speech are used - once they are, and then again they are not a nation. The problem of the matter is that the Muslims have still not been accepted as the third party, even by the international community. That is the essence of their tragedy and the tragedy of this war. If the international community were quite clear that it was a specific entity that does not have to linked to Turkey and Iran - things would take a different turn.
* How rational is the fear from an Islamic state on the Balkans? Many are convinced that the Washington Agreement was worked out in order to prevent that?
- I believe that at the beginning of the war that fear was not justified nor was it rationally founded, however, at present it is necessary to deliberate on that aspect of the problem too. This war brought about the escalation of extremism among the Muslims, and the longer it lasts the danger will become greater and more realistic. The greater the sacrifices, the stronger those factions which will insists on fundamentalism will be.
* Judging by the first statements of the leaders of the waring sides in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Washington Agreement, in one way or another is acceptable to all: the Muslims are convinced that they will gain more territory and maintain the sovereignity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Croatians that they have avoided sanctions and that they will solve in the confederation package the problem of Krajina, while the Serbs believe that a green light has been turned on for their unification with the mother country. Can this Agreement satisfy all the aspirations and untangle the bloody Bosnian knot?
- I saw one version of that Agreement, but I do not know if the one I saw was signed. I can therefore speak of it only from the position of one who is semi-informed, although I see that many speak here as if they were acquainted with every detail of the Agreement. The American Administration, for which it is said here that it prepared the document in an insufficiently serious manner, is actually much more serious than the protagonists on the local political scene. Namely, the reactions to the Croatian- Muslim agareement followed the pattern of that which is only presumed and a rather strange matrix which showed that in the heads of our politicians and public the bloc division of the world is still alive.
Precisely because of that some absolutely absurd statements could be heard about the revival of Jalta. Something interesting happened: at one moment, the Civic Union, the Democratic Party, the Socialist Party of Serbia,the Belgrade Circle and, for instance, Aleksa Buha, toed the same line. I was amased by that fact, although I know they all had different motifs - some were pleased, while others feared that it meant the recognition of ethnic division. The Washington Agreement does imply in a certain way the recognition of division, but then there is no adequate peace agreement which does not reflect reality as such. However, another thing is more important.
Here, the opinion that this agreement is some kind of new American experiment and that it is completely contrary to what the American Administration has been doing up to now has become fully established. I see things in a completely different way: the year long straggling was actually a preparation, and the people who were engaged on it did their job very well. At the level of general ideas, I see no difference between the Vance-Owen plan and the Washington Agreement. I do see a difference in the technology and very clerly defined initial aim - the urgent localization of the conflict. No one actually believes that the conflicts will cease at once, but it is more than evident, that they can be more easily overcome, just like forest fires, if they are localized. The technology that has been applied on this occasion implies two very important things.
First, a division of tasks which did not exist up to now, and second, which is completely clear except for to blinded Russofiles, the synchronized actions of the Russians and Americans. In addition, the Greeks, as excellent merchants, are securing the rear, so that some consider them to be friends and others a neutral party. Should I endeavour to give a forecast, I would say that this process will end in the formation of a troika which will be responsible for the local "rebelled tribes", wherein the third protagonist will be France instead of Greece.
In this division of work, from the very start the psychology of the waring peoples was kept in mind, so we witnessed that the Serbian side was ready to courageously retreat from the battlefield if it has the heroic excuse that the Russians are coming, just as the Muslims and Croatians are ready to accept what they had absolutely no intention of accepting, but after all, the Americans will help. Thereby, the first rule of a good agreement has been met - each side can find an excuse for stopping the fighting (although it is not satisfied with the achieved), and at the same time save it honour. This is extremely important to the people who are waging the war here.
* Can anything be solved in Bosnia on the basis of the principles contained in the Washington Agreement?
- Certainly the Agreement can contribute to the quellingof the conflict. It would be ideal if the Serbs would agree to join the federation. It would be a wise thing for them to do. They have shown, unfortunately, - I have in mind the leadership at Pale - just like at the time of the Vance-Owen plan, that they do not understand their own interests and position. Whether collectively, or individually, they are manifesting a dose of self-destrutiveness, which is of course nothing unusual considering the political profile of the people who have been pulled into something they cannot endure, particularly if national fervour and the conviction that all the conquered territories can be kept is added to all this.
In the process it seems that they are not aware of the fact that every day they are losing an additional few percents of their territory. If the Serbian side does not accept the offer from the Agreement, it can count on pressure and some kind of defeat. After that, the war shall attain some other dimensions: there is one side which brings together the Muslims and Croatians which have accepted the rules of the game of the international community, which will guarantee them in that case rights as well. I believe this is a turning point, and that Belgrade has come to understand that. The authorities in Belgrade talk of resolving the problem of territorial integrity at the end of the peace process. Thereby, they are actually leaving open possibilities for negotiations.
I am afraid that Karadzic will have to change his stands time out of number, since the possibility of military defeat can been seen in the distance. I, of course do not believe that anyone reasonable will now opt for a military conflict,but it is a politically relevant fact, just like the threats of bombing. Therefore, in this particular case force enforces reason. It is a sad fact, but it is so, and I think that will lead to the quelling of the conflict.
* Can that be the final solution of the Bosnian crisis?
- Of course not. No one reasonable can expect that, least of all the American Administration. Essentially it is a phase that should make possible what is called the establishment of peace and an opportunity to give each side a chance to believe that it will achieve its goal. In the meantime, at least on smaller localities, people can try to lead a normal life. For the leaders no danger can come from what they themselves say. Karadzic is not afraid of that, but rather of Banja Luka, Trebinje, just as Izetbegovic fears the opening up of Tuzla or Mostar, regardless of how strange that may seem at first glance. In this war local elites have been created and they want power.
This Agreement too relies on these local bosses. Protectorates and the process of regionalization suits these new local elites. I believe, regardless of what is being said, that an optimum number of five to nine regions will be set up in a federal Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is a possibility that ethnic hegemony will overrule local aspirations,something I personally do not believe in, since it has lost its buttress and is weaker by the day...
*... That ideological story ended in war?
- The result of this war - is nearly 400 thousand victims, destroyed cities, refugees. People can bear that two, three or four years. After the fifth year it will be almost impossible.We can perhaps see here that integration developed under duress can create some new bridges which will blur the borders between Croatia and Serbia and enable the creation of a political and economic zone into which Macedonia by the nature of its position, can enter.
* The Serbian side has rejected the possibility of joining the B&H Federation.How realistic are its chances to unite with the parent country, which is after all, its goal?
- I do not believe any differences exist between Pale and Grude, namely, the Republic of Srpska and Herceg-Bosnia as far as their final aim is concerned. But there is one essential, and for the Serbs unfortunately, an unfavourable difference. Serbian policy created at Pale and Belgrade is to the most part, I would say,a cold war and doctrinary policy. You know the story when once upon time a Russian general appeared and threatened the Americans that he would destroy Florida because of Cuba. It seems that Karadzic and his generals are acting according to that model. However that model does not become a small power and has a tragically funny effect on the international scene. The other side, which is no better, and in some aspects even worse since it is less organized, uses a rethoric that the world understands, and that is cooperativeness.
In the further process of negotiations, they put spokes in wheels and contest it. The authorities from Pale do the contrary. They always set out firmly, and then start to retreat, instead of advocating cooperation and then dragging it out. That is why I presume that yet another sleepless night will follow after which the proposal will be accepted. Then those from the international community will say - sorry, your time is out, the price of everything is much higher now. Due to such an approach,they find themselves ever more often in situation in which they have to sell their own skin at an ever lower price.
* How do you explain the conviction of the international community that Bosnia and Herzegovina can be maintained in its integrity after the disintegration of Yugoslavia? According to that logic, Bosnia should succeed precisely in what Yugoslavia has failed - to preserve its multi-ethnic, multi-confessional and multi-cultural substance?
- The international community intervened here primarily for the reason of principle. There is no oil here so that the Americans would be interested to send their soldiers.It concerns a conflict of two principles which have clashed first in Yugoslavia and caused its disintegration. The Slovenians and Croatians spoke of the sovereignty of their republics, and the Serbs of the sovereignty of ethnos, of the ethnic right for all Serbs to live in one state, be it called Yugoslavia or somehow else. The principle Kucan and Tudjman invoked (no wonder Europe recognized them as her own) is the principle of the Helsinki Final Act - territorial status quo,meaning that borders can be changed only by agreement and not by force.
I am not naive to believe that it is of vital importance to the international community to establish peace and maintain territorial status quo precisely here. It is important for it to be able to embody it in that principle since it has no mechanisms of protection. They would leave us to break down, but what should they do with Hungary and Roumania for example, Roumania and Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey? The whole of Central and South Europe would catch fire. We benefited for forty years because we were outside the blocs. We gained no wisdom from that, but allowed inertia and easy living to overwhelm us. If we had translated our own principles, for which we got credit, into an active policy, this would be Eldorado here. We are no longer important now. After all, why should someone try to save us when we ourselves do not know how to do so ?
* Albanian leaders in Kosovo point out that Serbs in B&H are waging a war for the "Albanian cause" in Kosovo, although the international community has let them know that nothing is to come out of the Kosovo republic. How do you assess the present situation in Kosovo, considering the spreading rumours that a new front will be opened in Kosovo?
- The Albanian side in Kosovo benefited most from Milosevic's policy and had noed to lead an active policy itself. It was sufficient for it to be passive, as it actually was. And only to call attention from time to time to its requests. In my opinion, the present situation is different. Precisely the insisting on a status quo is slowly making the Albanians in Kosovo to begin to speak of some lower aims - a third Yugoslavia, high level of autonomy, international observers, which is all quite far from requesting the Kosovo Republic.
The Serbian side is still uncertain what to do since it does not have a clear strategy. Part of the Serbian democratic opposition is ready to accept talks on a high level of autonomy. The authorities think that they can still firmly hold things under control, although they will most probable be the first to negotiate with Rugova. In addition, the doctrinary chauvinist option is still very strong. Its advocates believe it is possible to either convert the Albanians into Serbs or to expel them from Kosovo. However, I believe the Kosovo problem is now approaching the negotiating phase with considerable influence of international factors, since they have successfully carried out the process of internationalizing the Kosovo issue and will succeed in appearing at the Geneva Conference and at the talks on some kind of special status.
I think it would be wise of the Serbian authorities to offer that special status, since it can mean both everything and nothing until the beginning of the negotiations themselves. The wisdom of politics is to transfer the ball on the other side and let the opponent see what is to be done with a bad shot. Casting the ball over would be very important, since the key factor here is neither the Albanian nor the Croatian issue. In this crisis the key factor is the unresolved Serbian national issue. Will the Serbian side make a move and give others a chance to show whether the other sides are better or worse than it is?
In attempting to maintain power in Belgrade at any cost many lives have been lost,material and other goods destroyed, Yugoslavia used up and Serbia rendered impossible to solve its national issue as a democratic one. This is, and will remain to be in the future as well a source of tensions not only in Serbia and not only among the Serbs.