Archive for August 24th, 2016

Black holes draw nearby stars and if these come at a point of no turning back that is an event horizon, there is no chance of escaping their fate. In terms of history it has been determined before and as in the case of the break-up of Jugoslavia it took several centuries. Determinism is settled by bad policies and exacerbated by a bureaucratic machinery that is corrupt and by events played out elsewhere. In Syria we shall see all playing their part. We shall look at Jugoslavia first.

Geography and history of Yugoslavia play a great part in its break up. There were already several fault lines created by the culture, ethnicity and religion of people.

The most important religious influences were Western Christianity (i.e., Roman Catholicism, first brought to the western part of the region by Charlemagne and later reinforced by the Austrian Habsburgs), Eastern Orthodox Christianity (brought to the east from the Byzantine Empire), and Islam (brought to the south by the Ottomans).

Two major historical factors made the Balkans what they are today: The first was the split of the Roman Empire in the fourth century AD dividing the Balkans down the middle into Roman Catholic (west) and Byzantine Orthodox (east) — roughly along today’s Bosnian-Serbian border. The second was the invasion of the Islamic Ottomans in the 14th century. The Ottoman victory at the Battle of Kosovo Polje (1389) opened the door to the region and kicked off five centuries of Islamic influence in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, further dividing the Balkans into Christian (north) and Muslim (south).

Because of these and other events, several distinct ethnic identities emerged. The major ethnicities of Yugoslavia — Croat, Slovene, Serb, and Bosniak — are all considered South Slavs. The huge Slav ethnic and linguistic family — some 400 million strong — is divided into three groups: South (the peoples of Yugoslavia, explained next, plus Bulgarians), West (Poles, Czechs, and Slovaks), and East (Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians).

The South Slavs, who are all descended from the same ancestors and speak closely related languages, are distinguished by their religious practices. Roman Catholic Croats or Slovenes are found mostly west of the Dinaric Mountains (Croats along the Adriatic coast and Slovenes farther north, in the Alps); Orthodox Christian Serbs live mostly east of the Dinaric range; and Muslim Bosniaks (whose ancestors converted to Islam under the Ottomans) live mostly in the Dinaric Mountains. Two other, smaller Orthodox ethnicities have been influenced by other large groups: the Montenegrins (shaped by centuries of Croatian and Venetian Catholicism) and the Macedonians (with ties to Bulgarians and Greeks). To complicate matters, the region is also home to several non-Slavic minority groups, including Hungarians (in the northern province of Vojvodina) and Albanians, concentrated in Kosovo (descended from the Illyrians, who lived here long before the Greeks and Romans).

Of course, these groups overlapped a lot — which was artificial and imposed from above. Islamophobia was a principal reason for this ethnic mixing came in the 16th century. The Ottomans were threatening to overrun Europe, and the Austrian Habsburgs wanted a buffer zone — a “human shield.” The Habsburgs encouraged Serbs who were fleeing from Ottoman invasions to settle along today’s Croatian-Bosnian border to defend the realm (known as Vojna Krajina, or “Military Frontier”).

In the chaos of WWII, two distinct resistance movements arose, with the shared aim of reclaiming an independent Yugoslavia, but starkly different ideas of what that nation would look like.

First, in the eastern mountains of Yugoslavia rose the Četniks — a fearsome paramilitary band of mostly Serbian men fighting to re-establish a Serb-dominated monarchy. Wearing long beards and traditional mountain garb, and embracing a skull-and-crossbones logo adorned with the motto “Freedom or Death” in Cyrillic, the Četniks were every bit as brutal as their Ustaše enemies. In pursuit of their goal to create a purely Serb state, the Četniks expelled or massacred Croats and Muslims living in the territory they held. (To this day, if a Croat wants to deeply insult a Serb, he’ll call him a “Četnik,” and a Serb might use “Ustaše” to really hit a Croat where it hurts.)

The second resistance group — fighting against both the Četniks and the Ustaše — was the ragtag Partisan Army, led by Josip Broz, who was better known by his code name, Tito. The clever and determined Partisans had dual aims: to liberate Yugoslavia as a free nation on its own terms, and to make that new state a communist one. Even while the war was still underway, the Partisan leadership laid the foundations for what would become a postwar, communist Yugoslavia.

After years of largely guerrilla fighting among these three groups, the Partisans emerged victorious. And so, as the rest of Eastern Europe was being “liberated” by the Soviets, the Yugoslavs regained their independence on their own. Soviet troops passed through, in pursuit of the Nazis, but were not allowed to stay. After the short but rocky Yugoslav union between the World Wars, it seemed that no one could hold the southern Slavs together in a single nation. But one man could, and did: Tito.

But then no man has ever created history and pulled the strings how it should go except for a short period after his natural tenure. Much of the ‘people-trouble’ in Ukraine now was determined during the Bolshevik regime under Stalin. This exactly is what we see in in the break up of Yugoslavia . Syria is no exception.

Determinism is another word for historical imperative.

(ack: RickSteve’s Croatia&Slovenia-Cameron Hewitt)


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