Yugoslavia: Peace, War, and Dissolution

Yugoslavia: Peace, War, and Dissolution


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The Balkans, in particular the turbulent ex-Yugoslav territory, have been among the most important world regions in Noam Chomsky’s political reflections and activism over the past couple of decades. Through his articles, public talks, and correspondence, he has been addressing some of the crucial political and social issues (such as the relevancy of international law in today’s politics, media manipulations, and economic crisis as a means of political control) that affect both the region and the international community. This volume provides a comprehensive survey of virtually all of Chomsky’s texts and public talks that focus on the region of the former Yugoslavia, from the 1970s to the present. With numerous articles and interviews, this collection presents a wealth of materials appearing in book form for the first time along with reflections on events 25 years after the official end of communist Yugoslavia and the beginning of the war in Bosnia.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781629634425
Publisher: PM Press
Publication date: 04/10/2018
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 630,610
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 17.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Noam Chomsky is a laureate professor at the University of Arizona and professor emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. His work is widely credited with having revolutionized the field of modern linguistics, and Chomsky is one of the foremost critics of U.S. foreign policy. He has published numerous groundbreaking books, articles, and essays on global politics, history, and linguistics. His recent books include Who Rules the World? and Hopes and Prospects. Davor Džalto is associate professor and program director at the American University of Rome and president of the Institute for the Study of Culture and Christianity. His research interests include the fields of history and politics of the Balkans, political theology, and religious philosophy. Andrej Grubacic is the chair of the Anthropology and Social Change department at the California Institute of Integral Studies. His books include Don’t Mourn, Balkanize: Essays after Yugoslavia. Andrej is a member of the International Council of the World Social Forum, the Industrial Workers of the World, and the Global Balkans Network. He is associated with Retort, a group of antinomian writers, artists, artisans, and teachers based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Read an Excerpt


Yugoslavia: Dreams and Realities

Davor Dzalto

"Yugoslavia" ("Jugoslavija") refers to the state of South Slavs. The term is derived from the word describing the South Slavic population. In reality, there was more than one Yugoslav state.

"First" Yugoslavia was born out of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians, which was formed in 1918. Prior to World War I, in the territory that would become the Yugoslav state, only Serbia and Montenegro existed as independent kingdoms. The war brought about the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which created the opportunity for the "liberation of the Slavic population" from the centuries-long rule of various empires over the region. The newly liberated territories would join Serbia and Montenegro to form the first modern multinational State of South Slavs. The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians was renamed in 1929, becoming the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, ruled by the Karadordevic Serbian royal dynasty.

The "second" Yugoslavia was a child of World War II. After Hitler's Germany invaded the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (on April 6, 1941), two anti-fascist movements were formed — the "Cetniks" of Colonel (later General) Dragoljub (nicknamed Draza) Mihailovic, loyal to the exiled Yugoslav government, and the Yugoslav Partisans, led by the secretary general of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz, nicknamed "Tito." Hitler's invasion resulted in the immediate partition of Yugoslavia into smaller units controlled either directly by Germany or its allies. It also resulted in the formation of the fascist Independent State of Croatia ("Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska," hereafter NDH), subordinated to Hitler's Germany. The fascist "Ustaša" regime of the NDH would expand and radicalize atrocities in the region, primarily targeting the Serbian, Jewish, and Roma populations.

This complex war landscape of the 1940s meant that World War II in the Yugoslav territories was not only a war of the local, predominantly Slavic population against Nazi Germany and its allies (and, with various degrees of cooperation, between the Slavic resistance movements and the global anti-Nazi coalition) but also a civil war between two different camps, one royalist (the Cetniks) and the communist-led Partisans, for control over the future state, its system, and internal organization.

The foundations for the new Federal Yugoslavia were laid in the middle of the war, in the second session of the Antifascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ) in 1943. This meeting and its decisions would be the basis for the formation of the postwar Yugoslav state that would encompass more or less the same territories previously occupied by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (with the later addition of Istria). The meeting was also important as it laid down the basis for the future demarcation lines between the Yugoslav republics. The internal Yugoslav borders, drawn in 1946, would be criticized later on, primarily in Serbia, as arbitrary, lacking legitimacy, and being drawn against the Serbs' interests. One reason for these claims was that the new internal borders meant that Serbs lived in four different republics — apart from Serbia, a significant Serbian population also lived in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Another reason was that only Serbia, among all the other Yugoslav republics, was further split into the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina and the Autonomous Region of Kosovo-Metohija (from 1963 the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija), as defined by the 1946 Yugoslav Constitution. The reason for this probably lies in the attempts of the new Yugoslav leadership to balance out the predominant number of Serbs among the Yugoslav nations and to prevent Serbia occupying a dominant position as the biggest of the republics.

The first elections took place immediately after the war on November 11, 1945. Although nominally free, only the communist National Front participated, which led to its triumph and the establishment of the one-party system. The Constitutional Assembly, formed after the elections, officially abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the Federal Peoples Republic of Yugoslavia ("Federativna Narodna Republika Jugoslavija," hereafter FNRJ) on November 29.

The first constitution of the FNRJ was approved on January 31, 1946. This constitution is important not only for its definition of the internal political and economic organization but also because of its treatment of the ethnicities that lived in the newly formed state. In this document, we find a subtle (and still not consistent) terminological distinction between "nations" ("narodi") and "nationalities" ("narodnosti"). I will briefly address the complex issue of the national, ethnic, and religious landscape of communist Yugoslavia. Understanding this landscape, at least in its main features, is important since it is this diversity and the many ethnic tensions that had existed before and during World War II that played an important role in the later history of Yugoslavia and its dissolution in the 1990s.

The Yugoslav state would change its name two more times. With the constitutional amendments of 1963 the name of the country was changed to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ("Socijalisticka Federativna Republika Jugoslavija," hereafter SFRJ). This state would continue to exist until the Yugoslav Wars of the last decade of the twentieth century. The new, and the last, Yugoslavia was proclaimed in 1992 under the name of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ("Savezna Republika Jugoslavija," hereafter FRY), consisting at that point of only Serbia and Montenegro.

The "Brotherhood-Unity" of the Yugoslav People(s)

From the above description of Yugoslav history up to 1946, one can obtain a sense of the complexity of the ethnic, national, and religious landscape of Yugoslavia. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was multiethnic, composed of three main South Slavic ethnic/national groups — Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians. In addition to these three, the communist Yugoslav government would also recognize Macedonians and Montenegrins as "nations." This means that post–World War II Yugoslavia, in its early years, was composed of five "constitutive nations."

The political vocabulary of communist Yugoslavia requires a little bit of decoding at this point. What was meant by (constitutive) "nations" is that these peoples were political entities, equal in their rights, which also included the right to self-determination. The common interpretation of the political rights of the constitutive nations and the right to self-determination was that all these nations freely decided to come together and form the Yugoslav state during their joint fight against fascism. This would have important consequences regarding the way self-determination would be interpreted in Yugoslavia later on. Drawing of the borders of the Yugoslav republics and specifying the concept of the Yugoslav "nations" was probably an attempt to find a balance between recognizing the existence of particular national identities (i.e., Serbs, Croats, Muslims, etc.), an attempt to make these nations "free" in the new communist Yugoslavia, and an effort to preserve the unity of Yugoslavia.

The 1946 Yugoslav Constitution also mentions the existence of "nationalities" ("narodnosti") and "national minorities" ("nacionalne manjine"). These concepts also require an explanation because of the way they were used in later Yugoslav political vocabulary. The concept of "nationalities" referred to the ethnic/national groups who lived in Yugoslavia, but whose state of origin (the state where they were a constitutive nation) was outside of Yugoslavia. For instance, the Yugoslav nationalities, according to this criterion, were Albanians, Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians, etc. Finally, "national minorities" (later incorporated into the concept of "nationalities") were all those minority groups that did not fall into any of the above categories, meaning those that were not constitutive nations, but who also did not have their own "home" country outside of Yugoslavia (such as the Roma population, for instance).

An additional complication was religion. Yugoslavia was home to three large religious groups — Orthodox Christians (to which most of the Serbs, Montenegrins, and Macedonians belonged), Roman Catholics (mostly Croats and Slovenians), and Muslims (predominantly inhabiting the regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, southwestern Serbia, and the AP of Kosovo and Metohija [ethnically mostly Albanian]). The case of the Muslim population is especially interesting.

Prior to World War II, and also in the first decades of the new post– World War II Yugoslavia, the Muslim population of Bosnia and Herzegovina was generally considered, in terms of its national belonging, either Serbian or Croatian. This was based on the understanding that segments of the South Slavic population (usually interpreted as premodern Serbs and/or Croats) converted to Islam during the centuries of Ottoman rule in the region. Thus just as parts of the South Slavic population remained Orthodox or Roman Catholic, other parts converted to Islam. That means that there was a sense of distinction between the national and religious identities, while nonetheless a specific ethnic identity in the case of the Bosnian Muslim population was recognized. This, however, would slowly change in communist Yugoslavia.

In 1968, in a session of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the committee recognized Muslims in this Yugoslav republic as a separate Muslim nation. This was formalized on the federal level in 1971, when the census allowed for members of the Muslim population to also choose the option "Muslim, in the sense of nationality." This meant the recognition of the Bosnian Muslim population as a constitutive nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It also created a strange situation in which the word "Muslim" meant two different things at the same time: a nation, in the case of south Slavic Muslims (living primarily in Bosnia and Herzegovina); and a religious group, which was by no means limited to the Bosnian South Slavic population but also included segments of, for instance, the Albanian or Roma populations. This concept of Bosnian Muslims as having a separate national identity would become the basis for the later concept of "Bosniaks" ("Bošnjaci"), which became, toward the end of the twentieth century, the standard term for describing the ethnicity/nationality of the Bosnian Muslim population.

What one can conclude, based on this picture, is that post–World War II Yugoslavia was ethnically and religiously an extremely diverse country. It was composed of six federal republics, two autonomous provinces, six nations, three major religious groups, and many more nationalities and ethnic groups. In addition to that, except for Slovenia, which was inhabited almost exclusively by Slovenians (they comprised over 90 percent of the total population), all other Yugoslav republics had much more diverse national and religious landscapes. These facts would also have important repercussions for later events in the SFRJ, as well as during its breakup.

In spite of the official doctrine of "brotherhood and unity" ("bratstvojedinstvo") among the Yugoslav "nations and nationalities" advocated by the Yugoslav leadership and promoted by official state propaganda, national tensions did not cease to exist. Here we come across one of the many contradictory elements of the complex Yugoslav puzzle.

On the one hand, Yugoslavia was the incarnation of the "South Slavic dream" to form a unified state that would gather together South Slavs and enable them to resist various imperial aspirations. On the other hand, from the very beginning, there was a perception of Yugoslavia (especially among segments of the Croatian population) as an oppressive state in which the biggest population, Serbian, dominated the other nations. The drive toward independence in Slovenia and Croatia would continue to be one of the major elements of the Yugoslav story, and some interpretations even hold the initial desire among the Slovenians and Croats to join Yugoslavia to have been primarily opportunistic — to avoid their integration into other neighboring countries (primarily Austria, Hungary, and Italy). The situation, in this respect, was different among the Serbs as the most "scattered" of all the Yugoslav nations across the borders of the republics. In various Serbian national programs there had been a drive toward a more unified and centralized state — a state in which "all Serbs" would live.

These two opposing drives would significantly contribute to the fate of Yugoslavia toward the end of the twentieth century.

Yugoslav People(s) and National Tensions

The national tensions in post–World War II Yugoslavia have a couple of sources.

The first one has to do with World War II memories, as well as with different perceptions of the character and meaning of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia for the different Yugoslav ethnicities and their intellectual elites. The perception of pre-war and World War II history defined to a significant extent the way in which segments of the national body politic in each of the Yugoslav republics would interpret their own position, meaning, and objectives within communist Yugoslavia.

Apart from the Serbian-Croatian tensions caused by the genocide committed against the Serbian (as well as Jewish and Roma) population in the NDH during World War II, there were other conflicts along the national or ethnic lines that contributed to the tensions caused or magnified by the war.

The Cetnik formations, for instance, massacred Bosnian Muslims, especially during the first years of World War II, usually rationalized as revenge for the atrocities committed against Bosnian Serbs. Unlike the Serb population, the Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina were perceived by the Ustaša regime as "Croatian nobility" and the "purest race," and thus were not subjected to the oppression that many non-Croats and non-Roman-Catholics experienced. Moreover, a separate SS division was created in Bosnia, the infamous "Handzar" division, which fought mostly against the Orthodox Serbian population in Bosnia.

Since Albania was also an ally of the Axis powers, Albanian fascist leaders and the military forces applied a policy of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo against the Serbs and Montenegrins. A special division of the Wehrmacht, the Albanian SS Waffengebirgs Skenderbeg, fought against the Partisans and the Cetniks in 1944. But tensions also existed along the lines of different ethnic and religious identities — Albanians do not belong to the South Slavs, and the majority of the Albanian population in Kosovo and Metohija are Muslims, as opposed to Orthodox Serbs. These tensions existed in the pre–World War II period and would continue after the war. The inhabitants of Kosovo and Metohija experienced Serbian oppression immediately after the Turkish Empire had been defeated (in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913), and the region had been incorporated into the modern Serbian state. Occasional violence between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs in post–World War II Yugoslavia continued, which provoked Yugoslav police oppression against Albanians. The situation was further complicated by the aspirations of some Kosovo Albanians, advanced very early on, to proclaim independence and to join Great(er) Albania.

These factors played an important role in later developments in the Balkans. As already noted, war memories made many Serbs afraid of any potential independent Croatian state, given the scale and character of extermination the Serbs experienced in Croatia during World War II. Given the massacres committed in Bosnia, a certain level of mistrust between the Muslim and Serbian populations also existed. Many Muslims perceived the Partisan (and later communist) regime as its protector; once the communist regime started collapsing, it has been claimed, many Muslims feared possible Serbian revenge. Finally, as noted above, the secessionist ideas among Kosovo Albanians predate the Yugoslav crisis of the 1990s, and conflicts with the local Serbs and state police only escalated the mistrust and hostilities.

The second source of the national tensions in the post–World War II period has to do with Croatian and Serbian postwar emigration. Toward the end of the war, many Croats and Serbs associated with the Ustaše and the (predominantly Serb) Cetniks left the region, escaping the revenge of the communist Partisans. In the last years of the war and in the postwar period many Croatian nationalists emigrated to Western Europe, North and South America, and Australia, and the same goes for many of the Serbian nationalists and royalists who had sympathies for the Cetnik movement. Radicals from both groups would take responsibility for organizing multiple terrorist attacks on Yugoslav officials abroad, as well as within Yugoslavia in the 1960s and 1970s. Segments of this emigration would also represent a major source of support to the Croatian and Serbian nationalists of the 1980s and 1990s.


Excerpted from "Yugoslavia"
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Copyright © 2018 Valeria Chomsky.
Excerpted by permission of PM Press.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v

Preface Remaining Yugoslav Andrej Grubacic vii

Introduction Davor Dzalto 1

Glossary of Acronyms 4

Part I Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia: Dreams and Realities Davor Dzalto 6

The Conscience of Yugoslavia 35

The Repression at Belgrade University 36

Letter to Tito 45

Part II Yugoslav Wars

Solutions and Dissolutions Davor Dzalto 50

USA, Germany, and the Faith of Yugoslavia 63

Most Guns, Most Atrocities 67

Open Letter to the Guardian 69

On the Srebrenica Massacre 74

Part III Kosovo Crisis

Kosovo: A Drama in Multiple Acts Davor Dzalto 78

Crisis in the Balkans 85

Wiping Out the Democratic Movement 102

The Truth about Kosovo 111

Kosovo Peace Accord 116

Lessons from Kosovo 126

A Review of NATO's War over Kosovo 136

Humanitarian Imperialism: The New Doctrine of Imperial Right 157

Comments on Miloševic Ouster 187

On the NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia 191

Perspectives 201

About the Authors 204

Index 205

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