June 23, 2008

The Road to Kosovo, Part I

Destroyed House and Fence Bosnia.jpg

A gigantic poster of genocidal Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic hung on the outside wall of a hideous communist-style apartment block.

“Get a picture of that,” I said to my friend and traveling companion Sean LaFreniere as I drove our rented car through the outer suburbs of Serbia's capital Belgrade. I had the wheel and he had the camera.

“Too late,” he said.

We were driving fast on a four-lane road and were almost out of the city. Our road trip from Serbia to Kosovo via Bosnia, Croatia, and Montenegro was just beginning.

“That’s okay,” I said. “We’ll probably see another one.”

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Housing blocks, New Belgrade, Serbia

We didn’t, however, see another one, not anywhere in Serbia or in Bosnia’s Serb-controlled Republica Srpska. Europe’s worst living political leaders still have a base of support among Serbs, but it’s slowly dwindling.

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Communist architecture, New Belgrade, Serbia

Outer New Belgrade looks more or less like what I expected in a post-communist city in Eastern Europe, but Old Belgrade is beautiful, sophisticated, stylish, and fun. Neither Sean nor I had any idea what to expect from Serb villages aside from the fact that they’re in no way cosmopolitan as the capital is. Small Serb towns and villages – especially in the Republica Srpska – were also the least friendly places for any Americans brave enough to visit the former Yugoslavia as it violently came apart at the seams in the 1990s. Serbian-American relations are tense again since American-backed Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February this year. Extremists in the capital responded by firebombing the American Embassy and a McDonald's.

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Countryside, Serbia

The countryside beyond the city limits was flat agricultural land that looked more or less like the American Midwest. Sean and I could have been in Iowa or Illinois. Bosnia, we knew, is famously much more rugged, and we'd be there in less than two hours.

“We have to stop before we reach the border,” Sean said. “I still have thousands of Serbian dinars.”

“Just exchange them in Bosnia,” I said.

“You can't exchange them in Bosnia,” he said. “You can’t exchange dinars anywhere outside Serbia.”

“You can’t?” I said. “Are you sure?” I hadn't heard that before and it didn’t sound right. He had a wad of dinars worth almost 200 dollars, though, so I pulled off the highway into a small town that looked just barely large enough that it might have a bank.

“Want to find a bar and drink some slivovitz with the locals?” I said. I was kidding slightly, but only slightly.

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Serbian village

“Hmm,” Sean said. He didn't know if he wanted to down slivovitz with drunk villagers or not. Neither did I.

We both wondered, though, how well we’d be received if we sidled up to a bar in the Serbian countryside and asked for shots of slivovitz in American English. With only a single exception, everyone we met in Belgrade was perfectly friendly and pleasant despite Serbia's sometimes primitive anti-Americanism.

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Orthodox church, Serbia

Sometimes I’m not sure what to make of even the primitive anti-Americanism, let alone the moderate variety. I later met an Albanian woman in Kosovo who frequently travels to Belgrade to visit friends. “I go there all the time,” she said. “I have friends there. I’m not paranoid about it. We go out and have a good time. But in the back of my mind I remember they are Serbs. One night I met a Chetnik guy. He couldn’t believe it when I said I was from Prishtina. He said Oh, I killed you during the war. I yelled at him. I screamed at him. I got so mad and felt my eagle coming out. But at the end he wanted to marry me.”

Our randomly selected small Serbian town had only one main street. Maybe we would see a bank and maybe we wouldn't.

“There,” Sean said. “On the right.” They did have a bank. “Park.”

There was nowhere to park in front of the bank, so I found a place a few hundred feet down the road.

A badly dressed scruffy Serb man in his fifties who had not shaved in days stared holes through me as he walked toward our car. Sean paid no attention to the man, flung open his door, and started toward the bank by himself. I guessed that meant I would stay with the car.

Scruffy Guy came up to my driver's side door. I looked around. Was I illegally parked? Was I in front of his house?

I stepped out of the car. He said something to me in Serbian.

“Do you speak English?” I said. “Do I need to move my car?”

He pointed to the license plate of the car and jabbed his open hand at me as though I owed him money.

“No,” I said. He wasn't a parking attendant. “I am not giving you money.”

Scruffy Guy pointed at the license plate again.

“Beograd,” I said. “The car is from Beograd.” That was obvious from the “BG” on the plate. “So what?” I knew he couldn't understand me, but I had to say something.

He demanded money more aggressively this time.

“No!” I said.

Scruffy Guy spat out an insult in Serbian and shuffled off. I impatiently spun the key ring around my index finger while waiting for Sean to change his money when Scruffy Guy grabbed the arm of a younger man on the sidewalk, turned him around, pointed at me menacingly as if I were a hated witch or a leper. He said God-only-knows-what in Serbian. He probably said “foreigner” in there somewhere, but I can't be certain. The younger man narrowed his eyes at me briefly, then contemptuously brushed off Scruffy Guy and walked away.

Scruffy Guy wanted money or worse, and he wanted help from his townsfolk. So he pointed his finger at me and yelled something awful in Serbian. Heads turned from every direction. I had no idea what to expect, and I prepared to jump back in the car and lock the door if even a single person approached me.

I no longer had any interest whatsoever in drinking shots of slivovitz in a run-down bar in this town with these people.

Nobody approached me, though. All eyes turned from me to Scruffy Guy, whose reputation in town – I'd be willing to bet at this point – is worse than the reputation of travelers from outside like Sean and myself. His fellow citizens seemed initially startled by my presence, but they seemed to have no interest in doing or saying anything to me. Scruffy Guy was clearly frustrated by his inability to gin up a big scene.

Even so, I was relieved when Sean came back after changing his money. I faced hostility the instant I stepped out of the car, and I was worried he might have run into some trouble as well. He didn't.

We crossed the border into Bosnia on a small village road in agricultural country. No cars were ahead of us in line at the remote border crossing, and none were behind us. The border police at each stop on our way out of Serbia and on our way into Bosnia stamped our passports without saying a word.

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Serbian village

Bosnia didn't look or feel like a new country at first. We had only crossed into the Serb-controlled Republica Srpska. This region of Bosnia now has a Serb majority because they ethnically-cleansed it in the mid-1990s.

Sean and I tried our best to follow the map from the border to Tuzla, a city outside the Republica Srpska where we could easily find the main highway to Bosnia's capital Sarajevo. Almost every road sign, though, was in Cyrillic. Neither Sean nor I recognize most of the letters. It's an easy enough alphabet to learn, and we were both able to decipher some of the letters and read it slightly, but the signs were still not what I would call helpful.

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Most road signs in Serbia proper are written in both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets, but the Serbian government in the Republica Srpska couldn't bother with that courtesy even though the majority in Bosnia-Herzegovina use the Latin alphabet. I didn't see a single road sign anywhere in Republica Srpska that pointed toward Sarajevo in any language or alphabet. All signs, instead, pointed to Belgrade or to small nearby villages.

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Countryside, Republica Srpska, Bosnia-Herzegovina

And so we got lost. Thanks only to the location of the sun in the sky could we tell that we were heading north toward Croatia instead of south toward Sarajevo. We need to stop for directions, so I pulled into the parking lot at a gas station.

“Let's both go inside,” I said and braced myself for another hostile encounter. Serbs in Bosnia tend to be more nationalistic than those in Serbia proper, and we had already had a few minor issues over there.

The station owner didn't speak a word of English, but he understood where we needed to go. He pointed at the map and used hand signals to give us directions to Tuzla. He was perfectly pleasant and charming, but another younger man coldly sized me up from head to toe and let his eyes linger on my watch. I smiled at him as though he hadn't just done that, but he kept up the Balkan Stare until Sean and I headed back to the car.

*

“Hey,” Sean said after another hour or so of driving. “There's a mosque.”

On the hill to our left was the first Muslim village we had seen since we entered Bosnia almost two hours before.

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Muslim village, Bosnia-Herzegovina

“It looks like a nice little town,” I said. It was just off the main road to Tuzla and Sarajevo, yet we both wanted to take a look and compare it with the Serb towns we had been driving through all day. So I turned off and drove up the hill toward the village with a mosque in its skyline.

The instant we entered the village we saw bullet and shrapnel holes in the walls.

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Mortar or artillery scars, Muslim village, Bosnia-Herzegovina

None of the Serb towns or villages we passed through bore a single scar from the war that we could see, but the minute we saw a mosque, bang, just like that, we found ourselves in what was a war zone. I'm accustomed to seeing this sort of thing in the Middle East, but this was Europe.

Bosnia is a far cry from Iraq, though. Half the people we drove past on the village road were women. In an Iraqi village, all or nearly all would have been men. Women hardly ever leave the house in villages in most Arab countries. None of the women we saw in this Bosnian Muslim village wore an Islamic headscarf. In Iraq, all or nearly all village women wear an enveloping head-to-toe black abaya. This was the most outwardly secular Muslim village I had ever seen in my life, but it was typical of Muslim villages in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Albania as I would later see for myself.

The village was small and there was little to see, but neither Sean nor I were completely sure we had just pulled off the road to Tuzla. Perhaps we were lost again and didn't know it. So I pulled into a car repair shop and rolled down the window to ask. A man stepped out of the shop and frowned slightly when he saw the license plate on the car. The first letters were “BG,” which told him we were driving a Serb car from Belgrade. Here we go again, I thought.

“Hi!” I said and tried to sound as aw-shucks American as possible. We aren't Serbs, was what I meant to convey. We aren't the people who shot up your houses. We're from a country that kinda sorta helped you a little during the war.

The man smiled. He didn't speak English, but he understood when I told him we were driving to Tuzla and he verified that the road we had just turned off was the right one.

So we continued driving toward Tuzla, in Bosnia proper outside the Republica Srpska, and wherever we saw mosques we also saw blown up houses.

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Destroyed House, Bosnia-Herzegovina

There was pain and suffering on all sides during the war. No faction was entirely innocent. I take seriously the following observation written by Rebecca West in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon shortly before the outbreak of World War II: “English persons...of humanitarian and reformist disposition constantly went out to the Balkan Peninsula to see who was in fact ill-treating whom, and, being by the very nature of their perfectionist faith unable to accept the horrid hypothesis that everybody was ill-treating everybody else, all came back with a pet Balkan people established in their hearts as suffering and innocent, eternally the massacree and never the massacrer.”

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Minefield warning, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Nevertheless, it's obvious just from driving around that the Muslims of Bosnia really got hammered the hardest in the last war. I don't mean to pick on the Serbs, but the visual evidence, as well as the documented evidence, is just overwhelming.

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Destroyed house near Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Two years ago Sean and I drove on a lark from Istanbul to Iraq, and we passed through dozens of Turkish towns in the countryside on the way. Many Bosnian cities looked awfully familiar. “Welcome to Turkey,” Sean said. “We're in Turkey.”

We weren't, of course, in Turkey. But Bosnia was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years. The similarities didn't surprise either of us in the slightest. There would hardly be any Muslims in Bosnia at all if it hadn't been for the Turkish Empire's expansion into the Balkan Peninsula.

Turkey is politically secular, and culturally secular to an extent. The Muslim parts of Bosnia are noticeably much more so. I don't know why. Maybe it's because Turks were Eastern Muslims before they ever pushed into Europe while Bosniaks were Europeans long before they converted to Islam. Perhaps the answer is simpler than that, or more complicated. I'm no expert in Balkan history, especially not ancient Balkan history, but I know what an Islamist environment looks like and Bosnia isn't one of them. Wahhabi Islamists are trying to radicalize Bosnia, and they are a bit of a problem, but in no way did Bosnia remind me of heavily Islamist areas I've visited, such as Egypt and the Hezbollah-occupied regions of Lebanon.

*

We drove past a post-modern mosque outside Sarajevo.

“I want a picture of that,” I said and pulled the car into the driveway. Sean and I got out. A Muslim man walking out of the mosque flicked his eyes downward at the license plate and jabbed three fingers at Sean, muttered something rude-sounding in Bosnian, and walked around the car.

“Hi,” Sean said. “We’re Americans.” The man just walked on.

“What was that about?” I said.

“He just stuck three fingers at me,” Sean said.

“Like this?” I said and made the tri prsta, the three-fingered Serbian Nationalist salute.

“Yeah, that,” Sean said.

“Why the hell would he do that?” I said.

The tri prsta means different things depending on who you ask, but they’re all related in one way or another to Serbian Nationalism. Predrag Delibasic, a half-Bosnian and half-Serbian writer Sean and I met in Belgrade, told us the three fingers stand for the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Academy of Science, and the Military.

“Maybe he thought we’re nationalist Serbs,” Sean said, “and he was mocking us?”

I don't know. Maybe he didn't really mean to jab three fingers, and maybe he was just annoyed that I stopped the car in his walking path. Either way, I didn’t like how so many people looked at the license plate on the car to figure out who we were – or supposedly were – but I found myself doing the same thing to other people and their cars after I saw that they did it to us.

The next day Sean and I drove up one of Sarajevo’s big hills to get a look at the city from above.

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Communist housing blocks from hill, Sarajevo

A defunct Austro-Hungarian military fort still sits up there, and it looks like it was used recently by at least one armed faction in the Bosnian War. We saw several mortar-sized holes in the walls.

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Austro-Hungarian fort on hilltop overlooking Sarajevo

I parked the car in front of some residential homes at the steps leading up to the fort. A group of young Bosnian men sat at a table in the yard right in front of the car.

“Hi!” I said in English and tried to sound as American as possible. “How are you guys?”

“Hello,” one of them said.

I wanted them to know we weren’t Serbs in case they looked at the license plate. I wasn’t paranoid and thought it awfully unlikely that they would key the car or worse if they actually thought we were from Belgrade, but it only took one second’s worth of effort to make sure they didn't.

*

“We need to stop in Mostar,” Sean said on our way out of Sarajevo toward Dubrovnik. “We have to see the Mostar Bridge.”

I wanted to see it, too. It's a famous bridge built by the Turks in the 16th Century, and it was recently rebuilt after being destroyed by the Croatian Defense Council during the Bosnia War in 1993.

“We also need to get to Dubrovnik before dark,” I said. “This might be the only time we'll ever get to see it, and I want some pictures.”

Dubrovnik is a spectacular walled city on the Croatian coast near the border with Montenegro. We booked a hotel room in Montenegro and needed to leave for Kosovo first thing the next morning, so there would be no time to go back to Dubrovnik if we missed it during daylight.

There was no time to stop for proper food in a restaurant, so we pulled into a gas station to stock up on road food. I hoped oranges, bananas, or anything that had some nutritional value would be available, but gas stations all over the world sell little other than junk food, it seems. They had peanuts and pistachios, but the rest of our stock was a pile of cookies, potato chips, chocolates, and croissants. And the croissants were really just Twinkies from Turkey in the shape of croissants.

Sean and I wanted to speed through Bosnia and get to Croatia as quickly as possible, but the Opel we rented in Belgrade drove like it was built with a moped engine. Step on the gas and nothing much happens unless you're at a dead stop on a flat road. Passing slow trucks was impossible if there was a bend in the road anywhere in the same time zone.

The destruction wrought from ethnic-cleansing, including mass graveyards as well as blown-up houses and villages scourged by artillery fire, stretched from one end of Bosnia to the other. It was horrible.

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Destroyed Muslim village, Bosnia-Herzegovina

In one otherwise beautiful town on the shore of a lake we drove past a mosque minaret with its top shot off.

“Let's drive to that mosque,” Sean said. “I want a picture of that.”

“No time,” I said. “We have to get to Dubrovnik before dark.”

“It will just take a second,” he said.

“Would you rather photograph that mosque or Dubrovnik?” I said.

“It will just take a second!” he said again. “Just make a left here.”

I made a left.

“You have a second,” I said.

I gave Sean a hard time, but was quietly glad he talked me into it. I wanted to be talked into stopping at least once in a while. We were short on time, but neither of us wanted to see Bosnia beyond Sarajevo only from the inside of a car.

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Destroyed mosque minaret, Bosnia-Herzegovina

The top of the minaret just above the muezzin's speakers for the call to prayer had been blown clean off. Seeing destroyed churches and mosques in the Balkans reminded me of the Taliban's destruction of Buddha statues at Bamiyan with anti-aircraft guns. Two blocks away from the decapitated mosque was an intact Serbian Orthodox church. This town may once have been a model of inter-religious co-existence, but it's not anymore.

“Okay,” I said. “Let's get to Dubrovnik.”

This time Sean got behind the wheel. I had done much of the driving and needed a break.

Bosnia is a troubled country with a dark recent past, but it's also extraordinarily beautiful. For some reason that I can't quite explain, it's hard to imagine such a terrible war erupting amid such breathtaking scenery. Sean nearly ran the car off the road when we drove through a canyon between Sarajevo and Mostar. “Oh my God,” he said, “look at this place!”

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Canyon between Sarajevo and Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina

I was glad he was driving or I might have actually gone off the road while gawking at the mountains and canyons.

Mostar, also, is stunning. Sean and I couldn't just drive through it without stopping, at least briefly. And besides, we were tired of road food. Potato chips and chocolate chip cookies could pass for lunch when we were in college, but not today.

So we sat at an outdoor cafe near the recently repaired bridge, ate Bosnian kebabs, and drank from bottles of locally brewed beer as the muezzin's haunting call to prayer from local mosques echoed off the looming walls of the mountains.

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Mostar Bridge, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Parts of Bosnia look and feel like Turkey, but Mostar looks and feels like nowhere other than Bosnia.

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Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina

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Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina

It's a beautiful place and, aside from the mosques and a few blown-up buildings that hadn't been fixed yet, it felt no different from anywhere else in Europe. Westerners who may be afraid of Bosnia for its Islam, and who may worry that places like Sarajevo and Mostar might resemble Iraq or the rough and reactionary immigrant neighborhoods in cities like Paris and London, have no idea what they are missing. We saw no hijabs or bearded fanatics, but plenty of liberated women and their hipster boyfriends drinking beer and wine and having a wonderful time. Bosnia, despite its troubled past, is benign.

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Young people, Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina

“Let's go,” I said. “Mostar is great, but the sun is going down and we don't want to miss out on Dubrovnik in daylight.”

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Catholic Church, Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina

We weren't far from the Croatian coast. It was obvious that many Catholic Croats live in Mostar and in the surrounding region. We saw lots of Croatian flags flying from houses and draped over electrical wires as we moved to the edge of Bosnia and toward the Croatian border.

*

The coastline of Croatia is extraordinary. Steep hills and mountains rise sheer from the shores of the sea. Wooded islands just off the coast mean the view is stunning in every direction.

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Croatian coastline

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Croatian coastline

The sun went down just as the outskirts of Dubrovnik came into view.

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Sunset, Croatia

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Dubrovnik, Croatia

“We're just minutes too late,” I said and sighed. “Out pictures are going to suck.” I almost said we shouldn't have stopped in Mostar, but it would have been a mistake to skip Mostar. What we needed was more time.

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Old city walls, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Perhaps it was just as well. It's impossible to capture the magic of Dubrovnik in photographs. The medieval walled city on the water is gorgeous and perfect from every possible angle, but what's really special is the feel of the place as an organic whole.

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Stairs, old city Dubrovnik, Croatia

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Old city, Dubrovnik, Croatia

“This is the most amazing place I have ever seen,” Sean said.

I almost objected. Paris is amazing. Istanbul is amazing. The old city of Jerusalem is amazing. Is Dubrovnik really better than those three? I couldn't bring myself to object, though. If Dubrovnik isn't the most amazing place I've ever seen, it certainly ranks at the top with the others.

We both kept saying “wow,” around every new corner and wondered why on Earth it took so long to finally visit. I should have gone to Dubrovnik years ago, just after the war ended.

You would not have wanted to be there during the war. At the gate leading up to the old city walls is a map that shows every site that was hit and how much damage it caused.

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“Grad Dubrovnik,” it says. “City map of damages caused by the aggression on Dubrovnik by the Yugoslav Army, Serbs and Montenegrins, 1991-1992.”

Dubrovnik was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site twelve years before the Yugoslav Army shelled and burned it. Aside from the map, however, I saw no evidence that it had ever been under siege during the war. The reconstruction job in Sarajevo impressed me, but they have done an even better job in Dubrovnik.

Many Croatians still nurse a grudge against Serbs – and many Serbs answer in kind – for what happened during the violent demise of Yugoslavia. Some Croatians would like to secede from the region altogether and claim that they are not Balkan people at all.

Croatia, however, is part of the Balkan Peninsula – at least its southern half is.

And Croatia was involved in two of the recent wars in the former Yugoslavia. They were victims of ethnic-cleansing and mass-murder by Serbs, but they dished out the same treatment to both Serbs and Bosniaks in Croatia and Bosnia. They haven't liberated themselves from geography, nor have they exempted themselves from the rough and dirty politics of the region.

Even so, the minute Sean and I stepped inside the walls of the ancient city of Dubrovnik, I felt that at least this part of Croatia really was different, even though it lies below the Danube-Sava-Kupa line that commonly defines the region. For the entire trip so far I had half-jokingly called Bosnia and Serbia the “Middle East of Europe,” but the joke is I was only half-kidding. Politics in Serbia uncomfortably resembles politics in the Arab world. Bosniaks share the religion of most of the Arabs. Belgrade and Sarajevo felt unmistakably Eastern in different ways.

Dubrovnik, though, looked and felt emphatically Western. I felt like I had passed through an invisible barrier in the dimension and had returned “home” the instant I walked through the gate. I can't tell you what, exactly, made me think of Dubrovnik as “home.” I had never been there before, I knew almost nothing about the place in advance, and I stayed for such a brief period I had no time to get past the disorientation and confusion of being in a strange new city and country. But I know what “home” looks and feels like when I freshly return from somewhere else -- especially while my heightened sense of stranger's awareness is still at its peak.

Historian Peter F. Sugar notes Dubrovnik’s unusual history in the region in Southeastern Europe Under Ottoman Rule, 1354 – 1804. “The relationship between the little city-state and the large empire,” he wrote, “is extremely interesting and sui generis. Dubrovnik was the only vassal state of the Ottoman Empire whose territory was never invaded during its long vassalage, in whose internal affairs the Ottomans did not once interfere, and whose status was ambiguous from the point of view of Muslim-Ottoman jurisprudence.”

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Dubrovnik, Croatia

Most churches in Croatia are Catholic. Maybe it was all in my head, but I felt closer to Italy on the other side of the Adriatic than I did to Bosnia even though Bosnia was less than five miles away. More tourists poked around Dubrovnik than I had seen in Sarajevo or Belgrade. Much of the city inside the medieval walls was designed on a grid pattern. The city once rivaled Venice, and it looked the part.

Still, there was an elusive and undefinable X factor about the place that was unmistakably Western, and I couldn't pin down what it was. I do not know why, but it was somehow obvious to me that, unlike much of the Balkan Peninsula, Dubrovnik had never been culturally transformed by the Turks. Dubrovnik's compass points only West. The East is at their backs just over the mountains.

*

Montenegro didn’t strike me as Western the way Dubrovnik had just done. Montenegro is just…Montenegro.

Montenegro means Black Mountain. In the local language, Black Mountain is called Crna Gora. The Turks absorbed Montenegro into their empire, but it remained a largely autonomous island of Christianity in a sea of Muslim rule – much as Maronite Catholic Mount Lebanon did. Its mountains – which are actually green with forest – are so tall and so sheer that it must have extraordinarily difficult to safely send ground forces in and keep them there if their purpose was to put the country’s people under the boot. Anyone who would have wanted to forcibly oppress Montenegrins would have been wise to look upward in terror and say never mind. The Ottomans were, in fact, thrown out entirely at the end of the 17th Century.

Sean and I couldn't see Montenegro yet, though, because we drove along the coast in the dark. It's spectacular. I knew that. I've seen the pictures. But we drove along some of the world's most extraordinary coastline on a moonless night and missed it entirely.

Well, almost entirely.

“Look at that!” I said.

What looked like a well-lit Great Wall of China shot straight up the side of a mountain.

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Kotor Wall, Montenegro

The wall rose above the ancient city of Kotor, presumably to prevent any hostile force from raining hell upon the townsfolk from higher ground. I wished we could have slowed down and seen Montenegro properly in the daylight, but we had to content ourselves with seeing part of it the next afternoon as we took the winding narrow road up into Kosovo.

The country is tiny, but it seemed like it took us all night to reach our hotel on the dark and twisting coast road.

“Where exactly is our hotel anyway?” Sean said.

“It's just outside Bar,” I said.

“Bar?” he said. “The town's name is Bar? I don't trust a city with only three letters.”

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Montenegro

Kotor. Budva. Ulcinj. Bar. Who outside of the Balkans has heard of these places in Montenegro? I knew the capital of the country was called Podgorica, but it wasn't until I actually went to the former Yugoslavia that I had a clue how to pronounce it. (Pode-gore-EET-suh.) If I weren't a long-time geek about the Balkans, and if I didn't have a jones to see these countries for myself, I would not have heard of any of these places in Montenegro.

The only thing we really saw of Montenegro on our single night in the country was our hotel room that looked like the inside of the Brady Bunch house.

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1970s hotel room, Montenegro

I unfolded our map to plot our route for the next day. Sean and I noticed that if we cut short our sleep time we could make a quick detour around Lake Skadar inside Albania before heading up into Kosovo.

“We could have breakfast in Shkodra,” Sean said.

“Shkodra,” I said. (The city is also known as Shkoder.) “It sounds exotic and strange. Like a city named by Klingons.”

Lake Skadar Map.JPG

Many cities and countries in the Balkans have strange-sounding names in their original languages. Most Westerners couldn't even name which continent they belong to if their names were not translated. Some are straightforward enough: Serbia is Srbija, Kosovo is Kosova, and Macedonia is Makedonia. But Croatia is locally known as Hrvatska. (I like that name, Hrvatska. It's fun to say, and it has more gravitas than Croatia. I think we should all start calling Croatia Hrvatska.) Montenegro is Crna Gora. Albania is known by Albanians as Shqiperia. Its name means Land of the Eagles.

“I should call up my mother,” Sean said, “and tell her we just left Hrvatska, we're in Crna Gora, and we're on our way to Shqiperia. What? she'd say. Where the heck are you? I thought you were in Europe. We are, I'd say. These are countries in Europe. No they aren't.”

Neither Sean nor I knew the first thing about Shkodra, the mysterious-sounding place in the supposedly wild north of Shqiperia where tourists just do not go. Hardly anyone went anywhere in Albania until recently. Most outsiders' mental maps of the place might as well have been marked with the words Here There Be Dragons. All I knew then is that Northern Albanian had a reputation as the most lawless place in Europe after a devastating economic and political collapse in the late 1990s.

Robert Young Pelton's Web site Come Back Alive still warns would-be travelers about the region where Sean and I were going under his heading Dangerous Places: “In just a few short years Albania has had the distinction of changing from a country with the most paranoid and overcontrolled communist state ever to a country without a state. It was tricky, but Albanians have risen to the challenge to become Europe's most lawless people at the turn of the century...Being a foreigner, unless you happen to know a couple of the local banditos, you stand an excellent chance of being fleeced. The minute you walk in the door and open your mouth, the $ sign will start ringing for just about everybody there - except you.”

Whether that was still true of Northern Albania or not (it isn't), I didn't know. And neither did Sean. And we were going in there with Belgrade plates on the car.

We left first thing the next morning.

To be continued...

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All photos copyright Michael J. Totten and Sean LaFreniere

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 23, 2008 2:26 AM

Comments

Before all the fun starts! Hrvatksa does sound an awful lot like a cheese from Denmark but short a few vowels.

Posted by: Pat Patterson Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 5:08 AM

Nice road story. I liked old Belgrade as well, as I visited it last month, and found the new city rather attractive, for its long living socialist style.

But have an objection though: You can exchange dinars outside Serbia. At least, I did so in Greece. Plus, I thing you were a bit biased against Serbs. At least it seemed so, especially as you described the story of the Scruffy Guy.

In any case, I wish you a good trip.

Posted by: ch.ntzani Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 6:33 AM

Wow. I have been to Dubrovnik both before and after the war and just love the city and it's people.

I had forgotten how beautiful Bosnia is, from what little I saw of it.

Thanks for the pictures.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 8:01 AM

'Hrvat' (a Croatian, who lives in Hrvatska) is also the origin of the word Cravat, for a part of the military uniform that some of them wore in a 19th century western European army whose nationality I forget.

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 8:20 AM

What a beautiful place!

It sounds like it might be a good idea to rent a local car (with local and appropriate license plates) every time you go to an area that's hostile to the neighboring ethnic and/or political group. But the question is, how often would you have to rent a new car?

About "Come Back Alive" - that sounds like a handy source for people who travel to interesting and weird places. Did you find their information was generally accurate?

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 10:40 AM

Mary: About “Come Back Alive” - that sounds like a handy source for people who travel to interesting and weird places. Did you find their information was generally accurate?

No, what is posted about Albania is now out of the date. I mentioned that parenthetically at the end of the piece. From what I heard from Albanians, though, that information was accurate a few years ago.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 10:45 AM

No, what is posted about Albania is now out of the date.

I know, but I was just wondering if you found that other information about other places was generally accurate.

Even if it's not completely accurate, I've got to give them credit for a great title. Really to-the-point.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 11:03 AM

Mary: I was just wondering if you found that other information about other places was generally accurate.

Hmm, I don't know, I'll have to look.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 11:06 AM

The Road to Kosovo Part 1 was both smug and insulting to Serbian people. It appears by your own words that you went through Serbian with preconceived ideas. Did you ever think to ask someone to translate what the "Scruffy Guy" was saying instead of pretending your were clairvoyant?

You cleverly or intentionally ignore the fact that today, June 23rd, 2008, there are 1.2 million Serbian refugees in Belgrade from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. That represents twice the combined number of Croat, Muslim and Albanian refugees. Over 95% of these Serbian refugees have been denied a right to return to their homes.

Did it ever occur to you that some of those bombed-out houses in Bosnia once belonged to some of these Serbian refugees? Apparently you were willing to be hoodwinked into believing that every destroyed house you saw was a Muslim property? A mosque in a village does not automatically mean the village is Muslim, there were many villages throughout Serbia and Bosnia with mosque, churches and even Jewish synagogues.

Bosnia and Serbia had 8 distinct ethnic populations speaking 11 languages. Bosnia and Serbia were the most multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious spots on earth. Since World War I Serbs have become a minority in their own country. Apparently you did not read Rebecca West very thoroughly? After the Holocaust in the Balkans in which 1.5 million Serbs, 80,000 Roma and 60,000 Jews were liquidated the Serbs ranked in 4th place in government positions under 50 years of communism.

When the war was declared on Croatia in 1991, Milosevich was not even in office. Prime Minister Markovic, a Croatian, was the one who ordered Serbian troops to attack Croatia. He then resigned and fled to Croatia knowing full well what he had unleashed.

Your remarks about Dubrovnik were astonishingly arrogant and somewhat ignorant. It is a well known fact the Croats burned old auto tires throughout the walled city and photographed Dubrovnik with telephoto lenses to compress the range. The world was lied into believing that Dubrovnik was burning...it was only smoking. Imagine you actually believe that in the middle of a war with the Serbs when food and medicine could not get into Dubrovnik that marble, mortar and roofing tiles were getting in and that the Croats were able to match 15th century construction so perfectly that you could not detect the damage done? Is there no end to your self-serving ignorance?

Dr. Peter Maher, a linguistic professor from Chicago went to Dubrovnik 6 weeks after its apparent destruction. Being a Roman Catholic they did not bar his entry. He reported on Chicago Pubic Television that Dubrovnik was "barely scratched" and that the only damage done was to the home of the Serbian priest, the Serbian church, and the Serbian Icon museum that was blown up from within.

I also note that not a single word was mentioned in your travel log that 91 Serbian churches were destroyed in Croatia in 1991, that 285 Serbian churches were destroyed in Bosnia from 1992-95 or that since the end of the war in Kosovo 170 ancient Serbian churches, many listed with UNESCO as World Treasures have been razed right under the noses of 17,000 NATO troops. There were entire Serbian villages razed in this war and during the bombing in which more than 170 Serbian schools were destroyed, dozens of Serbian hospitals and nursing homes were bombed and $60 billion in infrastructure damage was done to Serbia, yet you did not see any of this evidence?

Spinning a tale to imply that the Serbs are to blame for all of the ills in the Balkans was bigoted at best, and racists to the core.
Shame on you for having such a closed mind. I suggest the old adage: "There is none so blind as those who refuse to see."

William Dorich
Los Angeles

The writer is the author of 5 books on Balkan history and music including the 1992 book, Kosovo.

Posted by: wdoric Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 11:42 AM

One of the disadvantages of visiting Dubrovnik and Venice as a child is how long it to me to realize that the rest of the world would almost entirely fail to be that great.

Of course it also means that when you confront arrogant Californians who believe their collection of strip malls is the acme of civilization, you can shut them down with less effort than stepping on an ant. I used to think I did this public service of humiliating poseurs from the Bear state so easily because of living in Oregon.

Thanks for reminding me of the wonder of Dubrovnik and its salutary effects on personal development.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 11:46 AM

--William Dorich
Los Angeles

--The writer is the author of 5 books on Balkan history and music including the 1992 book, Kosovo.

---After the Holocaust in the Balkans in which 1.5 million Serbs

an OBVIOUS lie as only about 1 Million Yugoslavs were killed in WWII, but what's new. Bill Dorich makign things up. How many of those Jews were killed by ZBOR, Serbian State Guard or by the Chetniks?

The writer wrote 5 books to blame everyone but the Serbs.

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 11:54 AM

William Doric: the author of 5 books on Balkan history and music including the 1992 book, Kosovo.

You claim to have written five books, but your name only gets 86 hits on Google and zero on Amazon.com. Have you actually published any books, or do you just type them? How about a single article in a reputable publication?

Either clarify your remarks in your bullshit bio or you will not be welcome to post comments on my Web site. Lots of people lie about who they are on the Internet, but you aren't welcome to do so here if I catch you.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 12:10 PM

William Doric: I also note that not a single word was mentioned in your travel log that 91 Serbian churches were destroyed in Croatia in 1991, that 285 Serbian churches were destroyed in Bosnia from 1992-95 or that since the end of the war in Kosovo 170 ancient Serbian churches, many listed with UNESCO as World Treasures have been razed right under the noses of 17,000 NATO troops.

You know what, buddy? There are lots of things I didn't write about in this piece. I also did not write about the massacres and exterminations campaign at Srebenica and Vukovar. I could have, but it doesn't mean I'm "pro-Serb" for neglecting to mention these particularly barbaric war crimes from your side.

This is a travel article.

You aren't my editor. You will never be my editor. Write your own goddamn blog. This one is mine.

You're done here. I'm tired of you and your bullshit already.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 12:15 PM

It's always nice for someone to come in and make my rude comments about Californians look sedate by way of comparison.

Sorry you had to clean out the trash again, Michael.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 12:20 PM

Reading your latest makes me wish I'd had two or four extra days around Dubrovnik, since then I would have gone to Mostar and Sarajevo. Also, although you said, "More tourists poked around Dubrovnik than I had seen in Sarajevo or Belgrade," that really doesn't do the situation justice. In the summer, it's packed, even at the decidedly nondescript beach of which the sign was the most entertaining aspect.

The European low-fare airlines, combined with the still-inexpensive private rooms, make it so that an extended weekend for a German or a Londoner in Croatia is even more financially feasible than an extended weekend for a Oregonian in Vancouver or a Missourian in New Orleans.

(I've posted the best of my 2007 Croatian trip - Zagreb, Plitvice, Split, and Dubrovnik - at slide.com for anyone curious to see what things would have looked like had Michael had come to Dubrovnik from the north rather than the east.)

Posted by: calbear Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 12:26 PM

---You cleverly or intentionally ignore the fact that today, June 23rd, 2008, there are 1.2 million Serbian refugees in Belgrade from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

and another lie by William "Serbs were setup /forced to kill, destroy and rape" Dorich:
First. Serbs have 49% of the territory with 32% or so of population and every trace of Bosniak identity from schools to houses to mosques has been wiped out in Republika Sprska.

They can't even place flowers at cemeteries as Arkan wannabes threaten them. So who is stopping whom in Bosnia if Serbs were really throw out? Seems like there were enough Muslim land for those angels.

In Kosova: There were only about 200,000 Serbs or 10%, give or take a few. Now they are about 130,000 there between Mitrovica and the "concentration camps" so do the math.

In Croatia: How many Serbs were in Krajina to begin with? Less than 300,000 and I am being generous.

Lastly, Serb sources disagree with you:

"International Refugee Day is being marked today, with Serbia home to some 100,000 refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, the highest figure in Europe.

There are about 75 collective refugee centers in Serbia sheltering some 6,000 people, while the rest live in private accommodation or with family members.

The number of people with refugee status was 550,000 in 1996. With many receiving Serbian citizenship in the meantime, that figure has since fallen to about 100,000."

(Google a sentence to see the source)

Even in 1996, 12 years ago, the number was 6-700,000 less than you claimed. Now it's only 100,000 so how do you know 95% of them are being denied a right to return?

So Bill, did you pull the number out the books you bragged about and why should we trust anything else you say ?

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 12:27 PM

Patrick: Sorry you had to clean out the trash again, Michael.

Eh, it happens.

Arguing with Serbian Nationalists on the Internet is about as useful as arguing with Hezbollah partisans -- the key difference being that Serbian Nationalists killed a hell of a lot more people and actually provoked a military confrontation with the United States.

I will say that the overwhelming majority of Serbs I met in the real world are a lot more pleasant and reasonable than those who troll blogs.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 12:31 PM

Nameless-fool: So Bill, did you pull the number out the books you bragged about and why should we trust anything else you say ?

Don't bother. Bill is banned. I'm not letting this thread be hijacked by some asshole who lies about who he is and pulls numbers out of thin air. I have better things to do than sit here all day debunking his crap.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 12:35 PM

Bashing Los Angeles, the city or county, is perfectly acceptable. As a resident of Orange County I'd like to remind that most of us escaped from LA and sometimes view it as an alien growth.

Posted by: Pat Patterson Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 1:28 PM

"I have to say, I like your idea of a “neo-centrist” alliance. Secular conservatives like me, the younger generation of neocons, who feel more at home with “South Park” politics and supported Rudy Giuliani in the primaries really do feel out of place in the GOP and with the doves in the Democratic party.

Best regards,

E.D. Kain"

This is a comment I just saw from the previous posting about Zohan. Given that I didn't have the chance to see it until this new article was posted, I would like to interject into whatever lengthy discussion seems to be ongoing for this article (I have not taken the time to read through that whole blog fury yet) and say that "E.D. Kain" hit it right on the head for me on this particular comment.
I'll take it one step farther and add that this feels more confusing because a good chunk of us (that Kain describes there) still remember our Conservative roots (namely, our parents), and so can't seem to understand why those of the Conservative movement are suddenly not so willing to be in a coalition party GOP (let's face it, both parties are essentially coalition parties with some factions more clearly marked than others). It seemed to be a fine union until our section of the party reached parity and began having as much a say in who the nominee would and should be, but it increasingly seems that there may be no home for us: certainly not in a DNC whose voice has become dominated by far Leftists and that does not even resemble the old DNC of moderate-left and Liberal voters; and increasingly not in a GOP whose Conservative movement is not willing to cede any ground whatsoever, even to us. I understand we're "just" an ideology and not a movement, but I hope it doesn't ever reach the point where we truly do not have a home (and the GOP should feel the same, since that party is doomed without our generation's and voting bloc's support).
As the 'ole song goes: Fools to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am: stuck in the middle with you.

Posted by: Joe Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 1:37 PM

I like Los Angeles a lot more than I used to. I hated it for most of my life, but my wife is from Southern California and I "get it" now after having visited the city with her for the past eight years.

You know what's the best treatment for a hatred of Los Angeles? A trip to Baghdad. Tijuana works, too, and it's a lot closer.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 1:38 PM

Good guess Michael. William Dorich and his wife own a self-publishing company. His parents or father was a Serb and the son is currently involved in a lawsuit against the Vatican claiming that the Holy See helped Croatian fascists escape from Yugoslavia in 1944-1945.

Posted by: Pat Patterson Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 1:45 PM
As a resident of Orange County I'd like to remind that most of us escaped from LA and sometimes view it as an alien growth.

That is an exceedingly (and seemingly unintentionally) ironic thing to say. Orange County's generically bad architecture has spread throughout the suburbs of this country like a real alien growth, one that isn't restricted to L.A. County. Now Orange County has plenty to recommend it, but so does Los Angeles; you just have to know where to look. There's a reason why L.A. is the location for so much of the television that's inspired envy of Americans by those living elsewhere. Orange County has The O.C. and Arrested Development, which represent the place pretty well.

Posted by: calbear Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 2:39 PM

Pat Patterson and Michael,

I've dealt with Californians who attempted to metastasize in other parts of the country. The one who tried to promote his cultural superiority in Savannah, Georgia was the worst of a bad lot. The core of the problem is ignoring the value of what's been accomplished where you are in favor of what is fashionable in LA at the moment.

The last time I was in LA even briefly it was in LAX, which I flew to from the marvels of PDX. The juxtaposition was intense.

Prior to that, I attended a convention at the Burbank Airport Hilton. Because I didn't have a car, there was no place to go. I threw a small room party and had to travel for miles to find a decent liquor store. Friends walked for more than a half hour to find the nearest restaurant through miserably inhospitable terrain.

I've lived in LA. I remember school being canceled because the air was too toxic to allow children out of their houses. Nobody forces me to live there, and I take care to arrange my life to avoid the possibility. There are good reasons to live in LA, but quality of life or superiority of culture are not any of them.

Because people from LA are prone to imagine that their choice of compromises are the natural laws of the universe, I feel compelled to provide them with alternative perspectives. In my experience, the only way Californians amend their arrogance is through an experience that engenders future humility.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 2:51 PM

Wow, what a nice fresh thread, one that will assuredly not end up with Limbic (or other Serbian nationalists) hijacking it and having the last word?? What a bright future lying ahead for this thread!

I had no idea that Dubrovnik was such hot shit. My family started traveling everywhere in Europe for work and pleasure only after I moved out of the house/country. What a shame!

They didn't report it to be so great, but then again, they are somewhat desensitized to European beauty--they mostly take it for granted. I want to visit Croatia someday soon, but as far as coastal scenery in the Balkans goes, the Ionian coast is just a level above that of the Adriatic.

Great article, Michael. It read like a nice novel, and I was pissed the narration ended so soon (especially since you were venturing into There-lie-dragons North-Albanian territory).

You know, that area you are just about to tell us next (well, not Shkoder, but the rest of the highlands) is almost just as mysterious and mythologized to us urban Albanians as it is to foreigners. Traveling up north is a taboo of sorts, one which I have vowed to break this year.

Everyone in Albania raves about the south, the valleys, the beaches; the Alps are the ghetto of Albania. The area is supposed to be breath-taking, and I plan to more than quadruple the amount of information and number of pictures available on the net on my next trip.

I am curious whether you drove inside the Rozafa castle while in Shkoder, but I guess I'll find out soon (probably not, since you only went for breakfast).

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 3:31 PM

calbear-The OC, filmed in Manhattan, Redondo and Hermosa Beach. Arrested Development filmed in Culver City and Marina Del Rey. Both cancelled. We have Pablo Neutra and you have that carbuncle on Grand. Scratch a resident of OC and he'll regale you with smog stories, like Patrick's (and which I endured as well}, the total loss of blue collar jobs inside the city, monumental traffic jams and a tendency among the residents to riot and try to burn down the city every decade or so.

Most of us have been calling for a fortified zone using the San Gabriel River for years but reuniting families from those unfortunates still on the other side of the Orange Curtain is still popular with those who got out years ago.

Posted by: Pat Patterson Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 3:55 PM

I honestly am not familiar enough to speak authoritatively about parts of the country other than coastal California, and possibly Boston and Seattle. Los Angeles has a lot of culture; it’s just that – ignoring the media-driven one we’re all too familiar with – it’s mostly an immigrant culture. But that immigrant culture beats other places I’ve been hands-down. Orange County may have a wonderful Vietnamese community, but L.A. has far more communities in its borders than any place I know of (with London being a possible exception), not to mention the entertainment scene, which is one of the best in the world for contemporary entertainment (e.g., pop music).

Regarding the air, the 70s in Burbank cannot be compared with, say, 21st century Venice Beach. There are many L.A.s, and, although I purposely overlooked a lucrative career opportunity in Burbank precisely due to the smog and traffic, the fact is that much of L.A. is livable, and, if I’m going to be somewhere with that level of smog, better L.A. than Houston, Pittsburgh, or Detroit. (Although, in retrospect, living as near to the freeway as I did in any of these without air filtering is not a good idea.)

When I was young, all I knew of L.A. was the Valley and the Inland Empire, where my family lived. I hated it. But after actually living there, rather than merely visiting it, I’ll gladly defend it.

Back to the original point: With such diversity, of course L.A. is going to have people like Mr. Doric. But he’s no more representative of the city than he is of America in general.

Finally, for those who've read this far, here's the Croatian for "It is forbidden sex on the beach" (at a beach right outside of the Dubrovnik city walls).

Posted by: calbear Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 4:03 PM

There are some parts of Los Angeles that were built before my grandmother was an adult. But not many.

Dubrovnik was culturally secure in its identity before Vasco de Gama learned to sail. (That Vasco de Gama learned to sail was a bad thing for Dubrovnik, but they didn't find out about it until the Galleon entered serial production.)

Los Angeles absorbs and abstracts culture to a much greater extent than it produces. It is possible that they can overcome this limitation in their identity, but the chances are not looking good. Their burn rate is furious, and the supply of cultural fuel is getting limited. Exacerbating this problem is an addiction to fashion that rivals the destructive worst of their addictions to psychoactive substances. The need to be in the now and the inability to create the interesting reality they so desperately crave causes some ludicrous extremes.

All I do to abuse California Cultural Imperialists is show the silliness of their contentions. A decade ago CCI was showing off his latest pair of CDI (Chick's Dig It) shoes. They were military issue pattern black oxfords, with slightly better leather than what is passed out at boot camp. This guy was wearing as the latest thing a pair of shoes that would have been readily identified as geek shoes twenty years previously. This happens all the time in LA because they have the cultural anchoring of jetsam.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 10:40 PM

What immigrant population? Wasn't California part of Mexico before it was part of the US? :)

Posted by: Lindsey Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 10:56 PM

> 86 hits on Google and zero on Amazon.com.

Here is a hit on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Kosovo-William-Dorich/dp/0317050745

Posted by: Onslo Author Profile Page at June 23, 2008 11:02 PM

Ok, not to hijack a thread or anything... but what Michael missed out on telling you about the early pit stop in Serbia was interesting to me...

I left Michael with the keys to the car and permission to drive around the block if need be. Meanwhile, I used him as a distraction to march a couple hundred dollars in cash into the local bank.

Once I walked based the armed guard into the bank office I felt like I had walked into a Swiss travel agency. It was an otherworldly switch from the rather Midwest feeling farm town (with just a hint of Mexico) that was the street outside.

Within these (bullet proof) glass doors a pretty blonde girl completed the task of changing my money with out even a hint of ripping me off. And I WAS aware that neither the Dakotas nor Kansas could have offered me a better banking experience.

Then I got back to the car and saw Michael smoking a cigarette and looking pissed off. I had no idea what he had just been through with the old drunk and no idea that he had not heard my directions to drive off if he got in trouble when I bailed from the car.

At any rate it was a rather slim taste of Serbia, but an experience that one could well predict for travelers on the major highway from Serbia's capitol into Croatia. Meanwhile my experience with a sliver of very Western seeming office workers was also probably indicative of that class selection.

The thing about this part of the world is that you can find east and west, high and low, safe and dangerous all mixed together, all suggestive of the nation as a whole. It leaves the tourist or other visitor wondering if you ever have stumbled upon the REAL Balkans or only just one absurd niche.

Posted by: sean Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 12:05 AM

Sean: It leaves the tourist or other visitor wondering if you ever have stumbled upon the REAL Balkans or only just one absurd niche.

Yes, it's always like that when I blow through a place quickly. There is no getting around it.

The peril in writing about experiences like these is that perpetually outraged ethnic chauvenists like William above deliberately misinterpret everything on the page. (If this happened in Bosnia or Kosovo or Montenegro or Albania or Croatia I still would have written about it.) Oh well. It comes with the territory, and I can ban trolls with a single click of the mouse.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 12:15 AM

Michael:Oh well. It comes with the territory, and I can ban trolls with a single click of the mouse.

Amen.

Below are just some snippets from the customer reviews of Mr.Dorich's book (keep a gag-bag handy):

1)

I thank you William Dorich for bringing your personal eye-witness testimony on the truth behind the conflict in Kosovo to the world. It IS a matter of attempted subjugation of the Serbian Orthodox by the Albanian Muslims.

2)

I don't recall when I purchased this magnificent 1992, William Dorich volume, published by the Kosovo Charity Fund and Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Alhambra, Ca. (interesting)

This book is an important reminder to would-be ambassadors of "good will"--like the misguided International Crisis Group--that recognizing an "independent" Kosovo will bring no "peace" to the Balkans, but only encouragement for a vastly expanded international jihad.

The only reason that the Balkans were ever a "powder keg" was their repression for hundreds of years by Ottoman Muslim invaders.

3)

Thank you kind sir for helping to educate us and show the the truth behind the new Jihad being waged in eastern europe.

...It is worse then the holocaust because the media now knows the truth about the cleansing of serbs but ignores it because the media is pro Muslim and hates christians, expecially christians who stand up for themselves

...and this book tells the truth, that one day we shall reclaim our ethnic land and force the foreign monster back to from whence he came.

4)

Everybody who still argues about such chauvinistic thesis as "illyrian descent of albanians","late settling of Slavs" and other hypothesis set by german nazional-socialistic historians(Gustaff Kossina),should contemplate the facts in this book

The theory that Slavs were indigenious to Balkan peninsula,is gaining more and more suport amoung certain scientist.The fact is that Serbians are idigenious people for at least several millenia-anthropologicaly-and language is second class category when ethnicity is in question-and it is more and more plausible that illyrians were actualy Slavs

Fact is that Illyrians inhabited entire Balkan,but there is not a single enclave of Albanians outside the south-western part of it.The truth is that Albanians have no ties with Illyrians-they call themselves Shiptars and are actually two peoples-Tosks and Ghegs.

That they are recent settlers in kosovo is proven by fact that in albania there is ratio Christian vs. Muslims 60:40,while in kosovo ratio is 2:98-because Turks collonised only Muslims.By reading this book,reader will get first-class knowledge about authochtonity of Serbs in kosovo and how this teritory was settled by Albanians only in last 300 years-and how their numerical predominance is for only last few decades.

This book proves that Kosovo was,is,and will be Serbian-by the virtue of historical logic-regardless of the fact that world is turned upside-down since march 24,1999-simply because of Serbs ancient mentality-not to put themselves volontarily to slavery-as many Eastern Europians gladly did.

errrr, so you get the drift. So Serbian ultra-nationalists troll blogs, and some of the more enlightened ones also write books.

How nice!

What makes me sick is that this little fascist was seemingly raised in California. You would think that not having to breathe in poison everyday in your isolated country whose media is controlled by its semi-fascist regime, would make one a happy lad.

I have noticed this of second-generation conservative Muslims in Canada, and I guess it goes for others as well: Distance from the old country can further radicalize people. Talk about poor integration.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 7:28 AM

I support allowing the Republic of Srpska to join Servia for the same reason I support allowing Kosovo (excepting its Serb-majority provinces) to join Albania: Monoethnic states, or states with an overwhelming majority of one ethnic group, are more stable, unified and pleasant places to live. Why do you recommend forcing Bosniaks and Croats to live in the same country with their previous Serb tormentors? It is just a recipe for further strife and civil unrest.

Posted by: markus Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 8:45 AM

==Why do you recommend forcing Bosniaks and Croats to live in the same country with their previous Serb tormentors? It is just a recipe for further strife and civil unrest.

Marcus,
the idea is that as economy picks up and the new generation gets educated people will start living with each. And that EU /US will keep an eye for future Slobodans. But I agree. Letting people live with their own might be best in these times, at least it solves that problem, but then:

--Bosniaks deserve a better split of what's left since Croatia has Croats living in the Bosniak half (Now Serbs alone, thanks to Mladic and Karadzic tactics has half).

--A chunk of Vojvodina would have to go with the Hungarians inside.

--Montenegro would get Decani (and some near the border monasteries in Kosovo) in return for Ulcinj (100% Albanian), Plave, Guci that were given to Montengro in 1912-18. Montengro would gain one more tourism spots and the Serbs anyway.

--Kosova would get Presheva and 100% Alb cities near the Serb border in return for Serbs getting the north, free and clear.

--FYROM seems like a loser since it would have to be split, but they are already split. Albanians don't care about "Alexander the Great" or the Macedonian name. In return, they will have a more or less homogenous nation, avoid a potential uprising like in 2001 if things (rights as well as $$) do not improve, and some EU help.

Put Kosova and Fyrom Albanians in one confederate which will join Albania in 10-15 year anyway and there you have it. Peace. Of course every nation will start to grumble and want more, but it can be done if the powers just stay firm. They can even mention it un-offically and guage its interest. Serbia's Kosovo is replaced with what will be left of Republika Sprska and Northern Mitrovica.

Lastly, arm everyone equally with old US /EU weapons (they are still very good for the Balkans;-)) and peace is guaranteed. Serbia's kryptonite is well armed men, and they started the 4 wars only because they had full control of the Yugoslav army, while the rest were stuck with looted chinese AK-47s. Despite the bravado, they don't well without partners doing their bidding if the other side is armed, plus they will have Croatia and Albania right there.

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 9:27 AM

Medaura,

Good Lord. Thanks for posting that.

You know, I've thought Serbian Nationalist propaganda was as bad as that of Hamas and Hezbollah, but actually I think it is worse. Serbian writer Filip David was absolutely right when he said it is a totalitarian ideology. It amazes me that anyone in the United States would believe that crap.

If it were true I'd be writing the same thing. I'm pretty sure that just about everyone who has followed my work over the years can see that.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 9:40 AM

Markus: Why do you recommend forcing Bosniaks and Croats to live in the same country with their previous Serb tormentors? It is just a recipe for further strife and civil unrest.

Well, I almost agree with you. The only trouble is that most of the Republica Srpska is territory won by war and ethnic cleansing only. Kosovo isn't like that. Kosovo had a 90 percent ethnic majority without war and ethnic cleansing and genocide, so it's a much cleaner break. See the maps I published here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 9:44 AM

Monoethnic states, or states with an overwhelming majority of one ethnic group, are more stable, unified and pleasant places to live

Are Canada, the USA, Australia, Brazil and most of the western hemisphere unpleasant places to live? I didn't know that.

Many people from the old world believe that monoethnic states are more stable and pleasant, and they've waged many wars and killed millions of people to prove it, but in the west, we've proved that this theory is wrong.

Still, people in the old world judge other people for what they are (or what they were born as) not what they do, and they're still alarmingly willing to kill and maim in the name of ethnic 'purity'. It's not clear if anything will change that.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 11:04 AM

"Many people from the old world believe that monoethnic states are more stable and pleasant, and they've waged many wars and killed millions of people to prove it, but in the west, we've proved that this theory is wrong."

Like in Paris now?

I think Steyn is onto something when he distinguishes between multicultural and bicultural. A situation approaching the latter encourages bad rivalrous instincts.

Posted by: someone Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 11:56 AM

Michael: You know, I've thought Serbian Nationalist propaganda was as bad as that of Hamas and Hezbollah, but actually I think it is worse. Serbian writer Filip David was absolutely right when he said it is a totalitarian ideology. It amazes me that anyone in the United States would believe that crap.

Hamas and Hezbollah cannot weave a thick web of bullshit around their 'cause' before the laser-bright spotlight of scrutiny pierces through it. They operate in a region of the world on which all eyes have been turned for a while now. Even with (I find) a largely crypto-sympathetic media on their side, they can't get away with their crap.

Serbian propaganda is more outrageous because it runs largely unchecked and unchallenged, therefore it 'sticks' better.

It is a totalitarian ideology that fills the void in many people's lives, curiously now, the lives of many second-generation poorly-assimilated immigrants in Western countries. When you can't grasp or relate to the new, you hold on to the old for dear life, and regress to a scary state of 'hard-coreness'.

I met a Serbian guy at university in Canada, who seemed to have just recently overcome (perhaps not even entirely) that mindset. When he told me of the many Serbian nationalist centers for the youth in an area as boring and docile as Kitchener, Ontario,... I knew the whole thing was screwed up.

Anyway, I have personally noticed that aside from the paleocon fascist variety in the US (an understandable allegiance), Serbian nationalists have managed to garner a lot of sympathy from flaming Jews (like Goran). I find it interesting and I don't know exactly why it is the case.

Part of it must be the culturally narcissistic and myopic tendency to see Palestinian terrorists in any remotely Muslim side of any conflict (they relate to what they don't know through what is familiar to them).

But part of it, I think is the offshoot of a tentative ideological coalition among fundamentalist Jews and Christians. These are the people who equate Western Civilization with Judeo-Christianity and who feel like they are on a holy war (counter-jihad) against Muslims everywhere. One of the Amazon customers of that sick book who was raving about it was (apparently) a Jew from Israel.

It takes all kinds...

If it weren't for people like you who are genuinely interested in the Balkans, travel there, and report what they see without any compulsive need to re-write history from any perspective, I think the Serbian propaganda machine would have succeeded in painting the entire conflict in Yugoslavia (especially against Bosniacs and Albanians) as a religious war.

Don't let the haters get you down Michael. It's not the first time some idiot comes around here to vent his irrational frustration at the fact that you didn't merely write another appendix in their make-belief history-cookbooks.

Cognitive dissonance is a bitch!

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 12:23 PM

> Kosovo isn't like that. Kosovo had a 90 percent
> ethnic majority without war and ethnic cleansing
> and genocide

First Kosovo is a 100% christian country and next its a 90% muslim country. I call that conquest and genocide.

Posted by: Onslo Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 12:34 PM

> Serbian propaganda is more outrageous because
> it runs largely unchecked and unchallenged,
> therefore it 'sticks' better.

Banning people is not a way to check their ideas.
Yet you applaud banning.

Posted by: Onslo Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 12:41 PM

> Part of it must be the culturally narcissistic
> and myopic tendency to see Palestinian terrorists
> in any remotely Muslim side of any conflict

Notice that 1,500 al-Qaida fought against the Serbs.

(The Taliban spring offensive of 2006 was maybe 800 Taliban).

http://www.southeasteurope.org/subpage.php?sub_site=2&id=17400&head=if&site=2

Posted by: Onslo Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 12:51 PM
First Kosovo is a 100% christian country and next its a 90% muslim country. I call that conquest and genocide.

I'm not an expert, so please educate me on when Kosovo was 100% Christian. If the answer is what I think, why should something that happened centuries ago be reason to have two wrongs "making a right"? 2000 years ago, there were no Christians there and, if I'm not mistaken, no Turks or Slavs. Everyone living there is a "recent migrant," so we'd better get used to it.

Posted by: calbear Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 12:52 PM

Onslo: Banning people is not a way to check their ideas. Yet you applaud banning.

First of all, I did not applaud anything.

Banning is not a way to 'check' anyone's ideas. "Their" ideas can be checked independently. Banning is one (out of a few) sensible way to react to "their" insane ideas, which have a tendency to degenerate threads into bullshitfests.

I don't understand why people like you come and take a dump on other bloggers' websites. Start your own, where you can write all the make-belief reports of 'genocide' that you wish, to your heart's content!

No one's stopping you.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 12:54 PM
Notice that 1,500 al-Qaida fought against the Serbs.

You know whom bin Laden originally fought against? The Soviets. Next he wanted to fight Saddam Hussein. The enemy of one's enemy is not necessarily one's friend, whether it's al-Qaida and us, al-Qaida and Balkan Muslims, or Serbia and us.

By the way, the link you give does not back up your claim. The "1,500 people" are foreigners who fought on Bosnia's side in the early 90s, not necessarily al-Qaida, which likely didn't have that many members back then. There are several circumstantial links to al-Qaida from individuals and organizations mentioned, but even these unproven links total in the single digits, not 1,500.

Nice try though. I can see why 24 likes Serbians to play bad guys when they need to give Islamists a break.

Posted by: calbear Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 1:01 PM

Onslo: First Kosovo is a 100% christian country and next its a 90% muslim country. I call that conquest and genocide.

Kosovo was Christian before the Ottoman Empire expanded into Europe. The conquest there was done by Turks, not by Albanians. The Albanians are those who were conquered.

The Albanian and Kosovo flag today is the symbol of Skanderberg's Catholic anti-Turkish resistance.

I don't mind explaining these things to readers who know little about the history of the region, but you need to tone down the attitude or I'm throwing you out.

Banning people is not a way to check their ideas.

My Web site will not be used as a platform to promote racism, fascism, or terrorism. Engaging in any of these behaviors is a banning offense. I will also throw someone out for being an asshole, and I don't give a damn whether you approve of this policy or not. There is only so much crap I'm willing to put up with on my own Web site. Complain one more time and you're done here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 1:15 PM

calbear: I can see why 24 likes Serbians to play bad guys when they need to give Islamists a break.

That is hilarious.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 1:17 PM

Damn, Michael.

Limbic wouldn't have lasted beyond the first few comments under your new zero-tolerance-for-bullshit attitude. Seriously, you know you must be doing something right when you attract the rage of so many crazies.

The propagandists are evangelizers of their doctrine. When/if engaged, they have a compulsive need to have the last word, which is why it's smart to keep their comments under control to begin with, before the thread turns batshit crazy.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 1:31 PM

Michael,

you probably know better than me when and how Kosovo came to have so many Albanians and so few Serbians. My understanding is that there was hatred and injustice between the two peoples -- you might even call it low-level civil war -- for years upon years, prior to 1999. No matter how things got that way, once both sides were big and powerful enough to really cause intractable problems with one another, they should have been separated, which is finally what is happening now. I don't understand why foreign policy elites in particular cling to the idea that ethnic groups in a conflict-ridden region or country, utterly incompatible with each other and killing each other, must be made to live together, particular if one of the conflicting sides can be shown to have been the bigger aggressor. Who wants to live with a bully?

Mary -- yes, by and large the less ethnically and racially diverse a place is, the more pleasant of place it is to live in. Not all of Canada, United States, and Brazil are diverse, but the parts that ARE, tend to be the unsafe and unpleasant places to live. This is perhaps not so much the case if one is rich, and can enjoy the benefits of diversity (interesting restaurants, cheap menial labor, etc.), while being relatively free to ignore the downsides (high taxes, unsafe neighborhoods, public schools where no one can learn).

There has recently been a lot of literature on this. The sociologist Robert Putnam (author of "Bowling Alone") did an intensive study and found that the more ethnically and racially diverse a metro area is, the lower the quality of life is, as are the levels of other positive factors such as social trust, community and civic involvement, being pleased with local services, etc. There was a good article on his findings (which upset him so much that he refused to release the data for several years) in the City Journal.

And there is another very interesting article by Hanna Rosin in the current issue of the Atlantic, entitled "The Murder Mystery", showing how the great liberal plan to eliminate poverty in the 1990's by tearing down the huge inner city public housing complexes and giving the residents Section 8 vouchers, with which they largely moved into older suburbs succeeded in diversifying those suburbs and bringing in the whole host of social ills associated with ghetto life.

Also, see: Turks in Germany, Algerians in France, Pakistanis in England, Somalis in Finland, Syrians in Lebanon, etc. Good fences make good neighbors.

Posted by: markus Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 1:34 PM

yes, by and large the less ethnically and racially diverse a place is, the more pleasant of place it is to live in. Not all of Canada, United States, and Brazil are diverse, but the parts that ARE, tend to be the unsafe and unpleasant places to live.

So, we should try to live only among people who look like us, and avoid funny looking foreigners with their weird customs and smelly food? Because life is just so much more pleasant that way? This really doesn't sound like progress.

It's also not true. Yes, there are a few new studies 'proving' that people are happier when they avoid anyone who is different from themselves, but there are many studies proving that the mingling of culture and races is good for a society. There are millions of people living in the west who prove that it's true every day. I live in an ethnically diverse city, and I love it.

I've lived in Europe, and I was shocked by the racism there. Germans in Germany are biased against Italians - they're definitely not tolerant of blacks, Hindus, Muslims, Hispanics or the French. German Americans, though, behave pretty much the same way other Americans do.

In America, we integrate newcomers into the general society. Everyone has a chance to be an American. In Europe, newcomers are isolated. Muslims, Italians, Germans, Americans and Hindus are allowed to move to France, but they can never really be 'French'. You don't need a study to see whether immigrant groups in Europe are more alienated, violent and angry than immigrants in America.

You also don't need a sociological study to see the effect that ethnic-based hatreds have had on world history.

We should also acknowledge that social science studies are not, in any way, scientific. Our knowledge about human behavior is still in the dark ages stage. We can't even figure out why one person reacts differently to depression medication than another. If we can't figure out why individuals behave the way they do, forget about trying to scientifically understand the interworkings of millions of individuals in a society through sociological polls and 'research'.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 2:29 PM

Nice travel post, like always. I believe in traveling with my kids so my 14-year-old daughter saw Dubrovnik with us. The concerts in the square in front of the church are nice. A tour guide showed us where newborns could be deposited by the mother so the church would rear them. It was a revolving panel so the person inside would not see who was leaving the infant. Beautiful place but they haven't forgiven the Serbs. I also took a picture of that map of the damage just inside the gate.

About the Albanians, they were the original residents who were pushed west and south by the Slavs as they invaded around 500 AD. I have a nice history of the Byzantine Empire with the story. Also Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is indispensable to understand the place. A surgeon friend of mine was asked by a Serb doctor to help him find a job. This was about 1970. He asked around and found the VA hospital in West LA was hiring. He told the Serb doc (I think American citizen by then) about it and suggested he go over for an interview. A few weeks later, he saw the fellow and asked him how it went. The guy replied. "I didn't even talk to him !"

"Why", he asked. The Serb-American replied "He was a Grick !" Meaning of course, Greek.

Serbs are haters; even after they've been here for 20 years.

Posted by: Mike K Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 3:11 PM

Mary,
I'm against ethnic based hatred too. And I think the best way to minimize such conflict is to give each group of people there own little (or big) slice of territory, where they can live and develop without being lorded over by a bigger group, and where they lack the opportunity to lord over others. Even in our great cosmopolitan cities, you generally have neighborhoods that are ethnic or minority enclaves, black or gay or Italian or Irish or whatnot. Yes, people feel safer amongst their own kind.

BTW, I hope you can admit that Israel is an aggressively ethnonationalist state, down to and including separate schools for Israeli Arabs, limitations on where they can live, and whom they can marry. I also think that if the Israeli Arab demographic continues to increase, up to a point at which they can politically dominate Israeli politics, perhaps in coalition with leftist parties, there would be serious talk across the Israeli political spectrum about redrawing boundaries to exclude some Arab citizens. I would support consideration of such changes, in the interest of civil peace and stability. Would you?

Posted by: markus Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 3:28 PM

Markus and Mary, I think you're talking past each other.

Of course I agree with Mary that multi-ethnic societies like the U.S. are wonderful places when it works out, and it seems Markus does too. But when two groups live right on top of each other and at least one seethes with violent hatred, it is better if they are separated. Partitioning countries is a nasty business, but it's better than genocide. The only thing worse is partition and genocide together, which is what happened in the Republica Srpska.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 3:37 PM

Michael,

Did you check with DPU and get a license to call people fascists? Apparently he's regulating that now.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 4:34 PM

Patrick,

My "fascist" license in this context comes from Robert D. Kaplan who wrote the following:

“If Yugoslavia was the laboratory of Communism, then Communism would breathe its last dying breath here in Belgrade. And to judge by what [Slobodan] Milosevic was turning into by early 1989, Communism would exit the world stage revealed for what it truly was: fascism, without fascism's ability to make the trains run on time.”

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 4:49 PM

And if Milosevic's totalitarian Serbian Nationalism doesn't match fascism in every last detail, I don't really care. The point stands. Hurling "fascist" at a genocidal warmonger really isn't like using it just against political opponents whom I do not like.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 4:51 PM

Michael, please keep tossing out the comment trash -- it makes your comments so much more readable than elsewhere.

It's your fantastic articles which attract the readers! and commenters.

(Consider writing Cherna Gora so as to help pronounce it better, Č or č is like with an h, as is š and ž, recall Russian nationalist Zherinovsky. Sometimes I write my son as Mishko.)

Up until this coming election, America has been an idea - Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness (thru a gov't which Protects Private Property). It's an identity that, theoretically, is available to all in the world.

I can NEVER become a Slovak. Nor a Serb. It's not even a possible choice. And so much politics is based on identity. Unfortunately, the US seems to going thru more identity politics.

Mary, it might be that recent Hispanics in and around SE LA are ethnically cleansing parts of it of blacks.

Patrick, if you're not "driving down her freeways, midnight alleys roam" you haven't lived the real LA (woman) experience.

The Swiss solved their issues with cantonization -- which I advocated for Yugoslavia (and S. Africa), and advocate for Iraq and Sudan. Elites HATE cantons, perhaps because it reduces their ability to manipulate ... identity politics.

Michael, ethnic cleansing, like the US allied supported Czechs did with post WW II Germans, is not quite the same as genocide. Wouldn't you rather be a refugee than a murder victim?
And today, AFTER the unjust cleansing by the Serbs, what is justice? Who will decide, who will enforce, who will PAY THE PRICE to enforce justice?
And what about justice in Darfur? Or Tibet?

The land should be considered 'lost', and the international community wanting to support justice should promote self-help loans at subsidized low interest rates, with the subsidy being considered the just partial compensation.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at June 24, 2008 7:36 PM

"My Web site will not be used as a platform to promote racism, fascism, or terrorism" the author said some time ago but he forgot to add that his website also will not be used to promote different ideas then his own, at least not more then once.

I read this post and all the comments carefully. It was really interesting to see Balkan from authors perspective. I especially liked the scene at the car mechanic, saying "Hi" in oppose to BG plates which might have gotten him into trouble.

I'm not surprised by the slightly biased stance of the author when talking about Serbs (especially being that this point of view is generally excepted nowadays, mostly in the western world) but, in order to fit the stereotype, he would have to be rather tolerant to other ideas, which, if are different then his own are called "insane".

To promote his own ideas i think that the author ought to be more tolerant of other people's opinions. This is based on the comments, the post it self was very interesting, easy stile, very nice and pretty objective unlike the comments.

Posted by: Rastko Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 3:56 AM

Partitioning countries is a nasty business, but it's better than genocide.

That's true, and we may wind up doing a lot of partitioning. According to this essay be Jerry Muller, The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism, in the old world, racism is just a way of life:

Projecting their own experience onto the rest of the world, Americans generally belittle the role of ethnic nationalism in politics. After all, in the United States people of varying ethnic origins live cheek by jowl in relative peace. Within two or three generations of immigration, their ethnic identities are attenuated by cultural assimilation and intermarriage. Surely, things cannot be so different elsewhere.

Americans also find ethnonationalism discomfiting both intellectually and morally. Social scientists go to great lengths to demonstrate that it is a product not of nature but of culture, often deliberately constructed. And ethicists scorn value systems based on narrow group identities rather than cosmopolitanism.

But none of this will make ethnonationalism go away. Immigrants to the United States usually arrive with a willingness to fit into their new country and reshape their identities accordingly. But for those who remain behind in lands where their ancestors have lived for generations, if not centuries, political identities often take ethnic form, producing competing communal claims to political power. The creation of a peaceful regional order of nation-states has usually been the product of a violent process of ethnic separation. In areas where that separation has not yet occurred, politics is apt to remain ugly....

..Far from having been superannuated in 1945, in many respects ethnonationalism was at its apogee in the years immediately after World War II. European stability during the Cold War era was in fact due partly to the widespread fulfillment of the ethnonationalist project. And since the end of the Cold War, ethnonationalism has continued to reshape European borders...

According to Muller, people in Europe are just as racist (or ethnonationalist) as the people in the Balkans. Europe only seems more civilized now because their ethnic cleansing project was so successful. However, if you get a European talking about large groups of Jews or Muslims living in their country, the old hatreds come pouring out.

Americans and other immigrant-settled nations, like Canada, Brazil, Australia call this racism. In Europe and in much of the Middle East, they call it life.

There are some throwback ethnonationalists in America - they usually settle in the extremes of left and right. Many are too intelligent to openly criticize immigrant nations for mingling ethnic groups, so they condemn us for our 'imperialism', and our efforts to "lord over" people who just want to live in small, self-governed pure states, with their own kind.

Ethnonationalism explains why the Middle East is likely to be a problem for a very long time, and why Europeans sympathize with Palestinian and other Arab efforts to ethnically cleanse the Middle East. It also explains why people like Pat Buchanan and Noam Chomsky agree about so many things.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 8:05 AM

"“Shkodra,” I said. (The city is also known as Shkoder.) “It sounds exotic and strange. Like a city named by Klingons.”"

Actually, it was named Alexandria by the Greeks. Shkodra is just the mangled version that is left after a few changes in local language. The same can be said of places like Iskander and Kandahar.

Posted by: Fat Man Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 9:24 AM

Fat Man:
Actually, it was named Alexandria by the Greeks. Shkodra is just the mangled version that is left after a few changes in local language. The same can be said of places like Iskander and Kandahar.

Actually, with all due respect, that happens to be bullshit. Unlike the Albanian cities of Durres (Epidamnus) or Fier(Apollonia), Shkodra was never at any point a Hellenic colony. It was an Illyrian settlement all the way from the beginning (around the 4th century B.C) until it was conquered by the Romans.

I had no idea that Greeks made up names for foreign polises they were unrelated to, and a cursory search reveals no connection between Shkoder and Alexandria.

The etymology of Shkoder is not settled, but it probably comes from "Shko Drin" (in modern Albanian: where Drin goes) since the river Drin makes a delta right by the castle of Rozafa (Shkodra's symbol)

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 9:53 AM

Hi Michael,

I see you have started banning. Sheesh. Pro-Serbs really do make you mad! Oh well :-)

I am going to avoid getting bogged down by the snidery of some of our resident sock-puppets and shills, and respect you wishes about commenting on the content of your post (although enforcing this policy on those cooking off on myself and other would be appreciated).

Karadic Poster

Regarding the Karadic poster, can I ask where you saw this? I travel that highway regularly and I am am frequently in New Belgrade but I have never seen it. There is nothing on Flickr, the local news, any of the Belgrade photography sites or other blogs. Are you sure it was not someone else? An advert perhaps?

If I can locate it I can have it removed. Seriously, that sort of idiot gesture lets down the whole city and is almost certainly illegal. The worst I hve ever seen is illegal hawkers selling small posters.

Nice words about Belgrade

Thanks for the kind(er) words about Belgrade. It was good to see you praising the city this time.

Currency in the Balkans

You are right about Dinars. Whilst it is possible to convert them in some places outside Serbia, generally it is best to carry Euros. Even in Serbia many people use Euros which are pretty much accepted everywhere.

Primitive anti-Americanism

Regarding Serbia's "primitive anti-Americanism" which I would say is no more primitive than any other variety of prejudice, I think you will find that even in the countryside people will treat all foreigners extremely well.

There are exceptions, sure, but as a rule of thumb we foreigners find rural Serbia to be as welcoming and kind as Belgrade, which is bend-over-backwards nice to us.

I have personally seen much worse anti-Americanism in rural Ireland than Serbia, with much less justification.

It was nice to hear about the Albanian woman who comes to Belgrade regularly. It says to me that an Albanian woman from Kosovo can be welcomed amongst Serbs and have a great time in Belgrade. I know of similar tales from the thousands of Croats and Slovenians that also come to party in Belgrade. They generally feel welcome and safe and love the place. It seem that the Albanian woman was the only one with a problem, the one never forgetting she was in the company of Serbs. Even her choice of words was suspect. Describing someone as a "Chetnick guy" is ethnic slur around he. It is like a Serb calling an Albanian a "Shiptar" or using the N-word to describe an African-American. The Wikipedia article you link to confirms this.

That said, very occasionally one can come across a look, an under the breath comment, some "atmosphere" but it is very rare and Serbs will not tolerate it.

I cannot go on enough about how good it is to be a foreigner in Serbia, even an American.

The incident in the sticks

Regarding your experience in noname town, I am not sure why you devoted so much time to the strange inciden.

How did you know the man was a Serb? How did you know he was asking for money? How did you know he insulted you in Serbian, or later yelled something awful?

This looks like just another "dramatic" incident that tells me plenty about the village loon but nothing about anything else, except perhaps to underscore that Serbia is full of nasty aggressive money obsessed people. Was that your point?

Roadsigns in Republika Srpska

I completely understand your frustration with road signs in Serbia and RS. They are very bad generally and the policy of Cyrillic only signs in RS is monumentally idiotic. Signs are for people who do not know where they need to go, almost by definition people not from that locality.

Interestingly, you note that you saw no road sign anywhere in Republica Srpska that pointed toward Sarajevo. If you ever try and get to Belgrade from Croatia you will find the same thing.

Belgrade and Serbia do not exist. The first signs for Belgrade on the Zagreb - Belgrade highway start about 40km from the border. Serbs to their credit, have signs to every major town in the region even in the center of Belgrade.

Coldly sized up by brutes

It seems you luck with Serbs really is very bad.

Even the nice guy who helps you navigate is cancelled out by Mr Cold Sizeup who is plotting to steal your watch. I am struggling to understand how I, and every other foreigner I know who lives here, seems to have just about the opposite impression.

Bosnian scars

I saw war scars everywhere in Bosnia, so again I am surprised to see you did not spot any damage in Serb towns. Maybe they use the money from stolen American watches to pay for teams of repairmen to patch up their bullet holes? :-)

Encounter with Mr Frown-at-Serbs

Your encounter with the kind Bosnian in the village was weird. He displays the casual anti-Serb prejudice Serbs have come to expect almost everywhere in the region and then all is well when he discovers you are not those bastard Serbs the ones who "shot up [their] houses" that you are "from a country that kinda sorta helped [them] a little during the war".

Imagine for a minute you were not an American, but you were a Serb, would you approve of his reaction?

Perhaps you might not, but simply file it as "understandable"?

If that is so, then how can you be alarmed and seemingly upset by the "primitive" anti-Americanism of people whose houses you DID “shoot up" and sorta bombed for 79 days?

I am not sure why the Bosnian's wariness and negativity is OK, but the Serb's is not?

Rebecca, our mutal love

Thanks for quoting Rebacca West. I was oddly honoured that you saw fit to use the quote from our last discussion.

Bosnian Muslim forgiveness

The Muslims undoubtedly were the biggest victims by far of the horrors of the Yugoslav wars. That is partly why I am so stunned by their forgiveness and general lack of animosity. Just this weekend I had a guest from Visoko stay with me. I am humbled by the lack of ethnic hatred sensible analysis that so many of my Bosnian friends seem to exhibit. This chat was Ethnic Cleansed by Croats when he was 6. Despite years in a German refugee camp and eventual resettlement in New York State, he is back in Bosnia fighting bigotry and nationalism on all sides.

As I noted elsewhere, the Bosnian's are model of what a secular Muslim-majority state can be. I genuinely wish them all the best.

Danger on the road for accidental "Serbs"

Driving a BG plate car was brave, If you leave your BG plate car unattended in Croatia you risk it being keyed (scraped). Mere hostile looks are a comparative luxury for Serbs. I am not sure about Sarajevo and the Federation but a Serb plate car in Kosovo is considered extremely risky outside of the Serb north. I hope you were OK.

By the way, how did it feel being a "Serb"? Not nice huh. Plenty of hostility? Well now you know how Serbs feel.

Mosque with its minaret blown off

Your comments about the Mosque and the Minaret deserve a comment.

You note that "Two blocks away from the decapitated mosque was an intact Serbian Orthodox church."

That surprised me, because you were in the middle of Herzegovina - Bosnian Croat territory - are you sure it was not a Catholic Church?

Incidentally, some of the people of Herzegovina are restive and there is sabre rattling about a Kosovo style secession from the federation.

Mostar's benignity

Mostar is stunning, but sadly it is also deeply troubled. Behind the gorgeous façade is an ethnically divided city with simmering tensions. It is not nearly as benign s it looks.

After last week's Turkey - Croatia football match (the one Croatia lost to penalties despite playing magnificently), massive riots broke out in Mostar after the match with Turkey supporting Bosnian Muslims versus Croatia supporting Bosnian Croats.

Flag lines streets

Did you not think it strange that Croats have their had flags draped everywhere? Did you see that in Serbia?

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is gorgeous, but after spending 2 weeks there in 2006 I was a bit fed up.

It has been ruined in exactly the same was Venice has. It has become a purely tourist based city. Beautiful to be sure, but a Disneyfied space.

The shelling of Dubrovnik it was an enormity but oddly when I was there local rudeness was reserved for more for tourists that theri supposed ethnic enemies the Serbs.

Serbs in our party had the effect of making waiters and others friendlier not nastier. Cab drivers asked after the White City (Belgrade) and waiters aked how things were back in Serbia. Not a hint of the anti-Serb incidents one hears so much about around Split.

Dubrovnik, like much of Croatia, does feel markedly more "Western" that other parts of the Balkans. The city, like many of the towns and islands of that coastline, is genuinely fascinating.

Kotor and Shkodra

I think in Kotor you may have seen the best of Montenegro, had you stopped. It rivals Dubrovnik for beauty.

I also think you missed out not spending time in Shkodra. It is also very pretty and I know several people from there and they are lovely people. It much safer there too now. Just last year an Irish friend from the UN spent a long weekend around there and said that it was a fantastic experience - friendly people, lovely beaches and no bandits in sight.

Final thoughts (for now)

Thanks for these reports. I enjoy them very much even if I disagree with you sometimes.

I know you are not an Ethnographer, and these dispatches are very much fleeting impressions of the places you visit, but please keep in mind that as a respected independent voice your opinion, however it came to be formed, carries weight.

Even a slight bias can end up being magnified and stereotypes reinforced. In this age of media cynicism, people like you are now increasingly becoming the writers of the the first draft of history. That is why talking to you is so important. If you write about places like the Balkans, with its raw wounds and muddled lie-polluted past, you can expect to draw fire and fury. Sure they can be ugly and fierce and contentious, but by having these discussions we ensure, to paraphrase Orwell, that lies do NOT pass into history.

Banning those you disagree with is not a good solution. The very point of blogs is not to lecture but to converse. It is in these conversations that errors are corrected, biases exposed and unfairness challenged.

It is the lifeblood of serious journalism.

It would be real pity for you to become just another victim of the Balkans, and have this great site reduced to an echo chamber that merely reinforces groupthink and insulates you against cognitive dissonance.

Clearly this is not the case now, but banning is where this rot starts. Don't let it happen, please.

Posted by: Limbic Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 9:53 AM

When you only have 3 comments to work with, you gotta stuff them up as much as possible.

Makes sense.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 9:57 AM

Limbic: I see you have started banning. Sheesh. Pro-Serbs really do make you mad!

It depends, Limbic. You aren't banned. There is a line that shall not be crossed. If any Albanian shows up and starts writing like William Doric, he or she will be out -- and I did meet one person in Kosovo who was like that. "Pro-Serb" has nothing do with it. I'm not tribal about this stuff. I am not from any of the places I write about. I am American, and if I have an "ethnicity" beyond that, it is English. My wife's "ethnicity" is Irish. We don't care one whit about what trouble our marriage might cause if we lived in the old world, say, Northern Ireland. I find ethnic tribal thinking of all varieties repulsive. It leads to war and must be resisted.

Regarding the Karadic poster, can I ask where you saw this?

I don't know the name of the street, but I know where it is. It has four lanes and a median strip in the middle. Go out to the Europcar office in New Belgrade, turn left on that main street in front of the offic that leads out toward the countryside and toward northern Bosnia and Vukovar, and look to your left after a kilometer or so. If I remember right, it's on the left side of the building facing the street. It's on the same street that I took that picture of the weird Zepter building.

Thanks for the kind(er) words about Belgrade. It was good to see you praising the city this time.

I did before, too. It just got lost in all the negative politics. My opinion of the city is entirely independent of my opinion of Serbian Nationalism. You see that I also praised Istanbul in this piece, and I detest Turkish Nationalism as much as I detest Serbian Nationalism, and for similar reasons. (I have seen Turkish Kurdistan, and it is horrendous.)

Thanks for quoting Rebacca West. I was oddly honoured that you saw fit to use the quote from our last discussion.

Well, it's a great quote. Lots of people use it, and I had it underlined in my copy of the book before you quoted it here. I was slightly pleased that you saw fit to use it.

Describing someone as a “Chetnick guy” is ethnic slur around here.

Yes, unless he actually self-identified as a Chetnik, which some people do. The woman I'm referring to is very strongly a left-liberal intellectual and not at all racist or nationalist. She also finds Albanian nationalism creepy and thinks Hashim Thaci is a fascist. I'd tell you who she is (she's well known) but she didn't want to be formally interviewed or quoted by name.

If that is so, then how can you be alarmed and seemingly upset by the “primitive” anti-Americanism of people whose houses you DID “shoot up” and sorta bombed for 79 days?

Look, I can understand very well some aspects of Serbian anti-Americanism. The US bombed Belgrade, and it was clearly not a war of liberation for Serbs as it was for Kosovar Albanians. That doesn't make people happy. Not everyone in Serbia adheres to that point of view, but I would be crazy to expect them to.

No, I did not like how a few Bosnians (two, I believe) were peeved when they saw the license plate on the car. It's understandable, just as Serbian anti-Americanism is understandable to an extent, but still regrettable. What if I were an anti-nationalist Serb? There are many. They just won a plurality of votes in the last election.

By the way, how did it feel being a “Serb”? Not nice huh. Plenty of hostility?

Actually, there wasn't that much hostility. Just a small amount. But yes, I get it. I have Serbs friends, or perhaps I should call them friendly acquaintances. They're good people. Good people live everywhere. I am an American, almost all of us learn this from the time we are small children. The overwhelming majority of us have zero tolerence for ethnic nationalism. It would destroy the United States utterly if we succumbed to it because we have people from literally everywhere in the world.

That surprised me, because you were in the middle of Herzegovina - Bosnian Croat territory - are you sure it was not a Catholic Church?

Actually, this was much closer to Sarajevo than to Mostar. I don't know the name of the town. It was near a large lake.

Did you not think it strange that Croats have their had flags draped everywhere?

Yes, it was a bit odd, which is why I noted it.

these dispatches are very much fleeting impressions of the places you visit

Yes, these first pieces (especially this one and the next one) are basically travel articles and should be read as such. I could put that up as a disclaimer, but most readers get that without my having to say so.

I spent much more time in Kosovo and was able to drill down and will be able to write about it more seriously and thoroughly.

banning is where this rot starts.

It's something I have to do once in a while. I will not ban reasonable people who disagree with me. You can be reasonable, which is why you're still here.

Double-plus-Ungood disagrees with me around 80 percent of the time, and he's been leaving comments here for five years. One of these days I'll have coffee with him. He lives five hours north of me in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He knows better than anyone that I don't ban people for disagreeing with me. I will never ban him, and he knows it.

I've been doing this for years and have had terrible things happen to my blog when I refrain from clicking the "ban" button once in a while. There is more than one kind of rot in a comments section.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 11:56 AM

It seem that the Albanian woman was the only one with a problem, the one never forgetting she was in the company of Serbs. Even her choice of words was suspect. Describing someone as a “Chetnick guy” is ethnic slur around he. It is like a Serb calling an Albanian a “Shiptar” or using the N-word to describe an African-American. The Wikipedia article you link to confirms this.

The fact that the freakozoid tentatively identified as a "Chetnik guy" had just told the woman 'with problems' "Oh, I killed you during the war" is conveniently neglected. Her choice of words and general caution are just demented manifestations of her irrational Serbophobia, not grounded in any reality whatsoever.

Yes,.. indeed.

I am not sure about the equivalence of 'Chetnik' and 'Shiptar' as ethnic slurs though: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=shiptar

shiptar (371 thumps up, 148 thumbs down)

A dirty, smelly, tooth missing, ugly, unemployed Albanian who is a virus of a human being which lives in other peoples countries in europe and feeds off of them like a parasite. Very good at low wage jobs like stone masonry, and cleaning up the feces of superior races.

(Illustrative example:) Albanians in Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, Italy, and Greece.

Nice!

From the Wikipedia article:

During the Yugoslav wars, Serb paramilitaries often self-identified as Chetniks. Vojislav Šešelj's Serbian Radical Party formed the White Eagles which was identified as Chetniks. Vuk Drašković's Serbian Renewal Movement was closely associated with the Serbian Guard, which was also associated with Chetniks and monarchism.

Chetniks receive veteran pensions in Serbia, so how exactly is it an ethnic slur to be called a Chetnik? On par with the n-word? Exaggerating much?

I have learned English relatively late in life, and one of the little mysteries of the language for me was grasping why exactly the n-word was so offensive. Italian being my quasi-mother-tongue, I could tell that its etymology is completely innocuous: merely coming from the Latin 'negro' meaning 'black'. 'Black' is a neutral word, much as 'white' is. So why the fuss?

I could perfectly understand why 'motherfuc*er' or 'asshole' were offensive words because they mean inherently negative things, semantically, but the taboo offensiveness of the word 'black' in Latin (the n-word) escaped me for the longest time.

Now I think I have slowly come to understand it: it's the same as with 'shiptar'. 'Shiptar' is merely the Slavic pronunciation of Shqiptar (the 'q' in Shqiptar is a bitch to pronounce) which is itself merely the adjective meaning 'Albanian' in the Albanian language.

So it's an explosive ethnic slur comparable in gravity to the n-word, to call Albanians 'Albanian' in Serbia!!!

When I first heard Serbs calling me Shiptar I just thought they were saying I was Albanian, zealously pointing out this simple truism as if it were something special. I didn't get it.

It turns out that Serbs calling Albanians what Albanians call themselves is mighty offensive, though the semantics of the word are purely neutral and descriptive. Where does the hatred in that word stem from?

This is the ugliest most disgusting form of racism: calling an ethnicity/race of people by their proper (and neutral) name, but using that neutral designation as a synonym with 'inferiority', 'ugliness', 'wretchedness', 'parasitism' and what have you.

It is akin to implicitly proclaiming that all the negative dehumanizing properties assigned to a certain hated ethnic/racial group by racists are self-evidently and inherently tied to that group.

In this case, it signifies that hatred toward and dehumanization of Albanians are so ingrained in the collective psyche of the Serbian nation, that Serbs everywhere can express their bigoted feelings toward Albanians by just calling Albanians 'Albanian', because the word itself implies the entire pool of disgust and hatred for Albanians implicit in Serbian culture.

So a Serbian nationalist doesn't need to call me a 'terrorist, filthy, parasitic, evil, inferior, barbaric Albanian'; s/he just needs to contemptuously call me 'Albanian!' (Shiptar) and all these qualities are inherently implied in my very being as an Albanian, and bear not explicitly repeating.

Same with the n-word. It wasn't originally a slur, if you look up the history and evolution of the term. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigger

But I can imagine bigoted rednecks whipping black slaves with a leash at a plantation somewhere, screeching at them 'niggers!' full of seething hatred, as if calling them merely what they were (i.e. blacks) would be the highest most universal insult. To them to be black was in itself self-evidently equivalent to all the derogatory associations now crystallized around that word.

It's the same with Shiptar. The language here is a testament to the degree of widespread collective dehumanization of Albanians in the Serbian public opinion. They don't need other insults for Albanians: merely calling them Albanians will do, as if Albanian=monster.

So it's not even on the same scale with calling a militant hyper-nationalist Serb a Chetnik. The Kosovar woman calling a little fascist that (whether he was a self-identified Chetnik or not) does not mean that she thinks all Serbs are Chetniks (or whatever qualities that term implies). You could pretty safely call militant Serbian nationalists Chetniks, without every Serb on the face of the Earth having any reason to be offended. Chetnik is used in the Balkans as a proxy for a militant chauvinistic Serb (and there are valid historical inferences to support this analogy); therefore it makes a qualitative distinction between Serbs fitting a certain behavioral pattern, versus the average Serb minding his business. It does not dehumanize Serbs wholescale.

Shiptar on the other hand makes no qualitative distinction, and it is a racist offense to all Albanians everywhere.

By the way, for what it's worth, there are no equivalent of 'Shiptar' to denigrate Serbs in the Albanian language. Serbs are called 'Serb' which is a completely neutral adjective, like 'American' or 'Chinese'.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 1:42 PM

Fascinating, Medaura. Yes, you are completely right.

And the so-called "Chetnik guy" really did say he killed Albanians during the war. The Albanian woman who made this comment is the type of hyper-liberal individual who would vote for Dennis Kucinich is she were American.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 1:53 PM

The Albanian woman who made this comment is the type of hyper-liberal individual who would vote for Dennis Kucinich is she were American.

Errr,.. don't put me in the same room with her. I might do her more harm than any Chetnik ever could (kidding!).

Seriously though, UFO Kucinich? She must be smoking something fierce! Then again, US politics are very filtered out and dumbed down in Albania/Kosovo. I myself cheered for the Democrats before I moved to the US myself.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 2:04 PM

"Unlike the Albanian cities of Durres (Epidamnus) or Fier(Apollonia), Shkodra was never at any point a Hellenic colony. It was an Illyrian settlement all the way from the beginning (around the 4th century B.C) until it was conquered by the Romans."

Alexander's mother, Olympias, was Illyrian and he had Illyrian levies in his army but I agree the name isn't Greek in origin.

I once encountered a scruffy guy in Ireland who sounds just like the one you met, Michael. It was in 1977 and he spoke English, after a fashion, but the exchange sounds similar. Since everybody n Ireland (especially priests) seemed to be visiting Long Beach, CA in those days, I suggested maybe he should visit the relatives he mentioned. That was highly insulting to him (He informed me he'd never been on a boat or a plane) and he stalked off.

Probably village curmudgeon.

Posted by: Mike K Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 3:44 PM

Joe said (a ways up) regarding my comment on the Zohan post--

"I'll take it one step farther and add that this feels more confusing because a good chunk of us (that Kain describes there) still remember our Conservative roots (namely, our parents), and so can't seem to understand why those of the Conservative movement are suddenly not so willing to be in a coalition party GOP (let's face it, both parties are essentially coalition parties with some factions more clearly marked than others)."

This is so true. It's tricky when you sit to the left and right of the fence on various issues. Gets you feeling a bit schizophrenic at times (or paranoid). But I think that sometimes unpopular politics can be a sign of a principled position.

I've read some pretty virulent attacks on the "neocons" from "true conservatives" lately, which is what got me thinking about neo-centrism as an alternative to aligning with the conservative coalition...

Then, too, the religious right has me nervous as they are displaying tendencies that would seem more at home in the Mid-East than America.

But the doves on the left seem totally incapable of dispensing with the moral relativism, and so here we are, "stuck in the middle with you" as the refrain goes (once again).

Cheers,

E.D.

Posted by: E.D. Kain Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 3:53 PM

Sorry, I was side-tracked running into that reference to my comment.

Thanks for the article, Michael. Brilliant, engaging piece. Lovely photographs. I bet you wish you'd picked up a little Serbian prior to the trip, eh?

In any case, I wholeheartedly support your banning of trolls and racists. Meryl Yourish has a similar policy on her blog when it comes to the anti-Zionist crowd. It's one thing to be sensible, to present alternate points of view, and another wholly to bring a bunch of propaganda and virulence to a site.

Posted by: E.D. Kain Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 3:55 PM

Hello Michael,
First, I want to say I truly enjoy your articles and look forward to each new one. I spent 2 years living and working in Bosnia, training the local police for the UN IPTF mission. I was posted up North, near the Croatian border and where the Federation and Republica Serbska came together. I lived in a Moslem area, trained Croat police, and spent a fair amount of time in the RS.
While I did find this particular article to be somewhat biased against the Serbs, I think you yourself provided the key. As you said, you wrote about what you saw and experienced. I have a fairly good idea of the route you took; there's just not that many ways to go from Belgrade to Tuzla, to Sarejevo and Mostar. Given you spent a fair amount of time in the RS, it stands to reason in that area, it was the Serbs driving out the Muslims and Croats.
Other areas are different. One thing I found was that victim and victimizer in Bosnia really depends not so much on your ethnicity/religion, but whether you were a minority in the area/village you lived in. All three groups were pretty enthusiastic about ethnic cleansing if they weren't the victims.
I travelled a lot throughout the Balkans while I was there, and it's an incredibly complex area and situation. I think you've done a great job of capuring that sense of unreality that exists in the region. We used to joke about "just another surreal moment in Bosnia" when we lived there.
The big problem I see with Kosovo is the precedent it sets by being recognized as an independent country. As a bit of an analogy, suppose 25 years from now, one of the states in the Southwest is 75% hispanic. Does the state have the right to secede from the US and declare itself independent, or decide to become part of Mexico? According to what's happened in Kosovo, it would appear that way. I don't have an answer to what to do about Kosovo, but I do think what we've done will come back to haunt us. If the US, the UN, the EU and NATO can disregard the soverignity of Serbia, they theoretically can disregard any country's soverignity.
Finally, reading your posts about the area has convinced me I need to go back for a visit. I made a lot of friends there, and it would be great to see them again. Thanks for the article, and I look forward to the next one.
Dan

Posted by: Dan859 Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 4:24 PM

Dan859: As a bit of an analogy, suppose 25
years from now, one of the states in the Southwest is 75% hispanic. Does the state have the right to secede from the US and declare itself independent, or decide to become part of Mexico?

If they suffered wholesale ethnic cleansing by officially sanctioned American armed forces, I'd say yes. Otherwise, no.

What happened in Kosovo will never happen in the United States. We will never elect the likes of Slobodan Milosevic to power here. And if we did, Congress would break him in half.

I'm not worried about the precedent. China is, regarding Tibet, but that's a feature, not a bug, as far as I am concerned. Some places need and deserve to break away.

Montenegro broke away from Serbia two years ago, and no one seems to worry about that precedent even though a huge percentage of people who live in Montenegro are Serbs.

Kosovo didn't start a new precedent. Kosovo came after the precedents set by Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 4:37 PM

Michael,
I agree with the need to have done something about what was going in Kosovo. For that matter, I'm pretty appalled by what's going on in Dafur, and the unwillingness of anyone to do anthing about it. I think we handled Kosovo poorly.
I don't see how Slovenia, Macedonia and Montenegro apply. These were peaceful transitions agreed upon between the parties involved. Even Croatia gained independence with a minimal amount of fighting.
Take the example I gave above, and assume that this state has a referendum of some sort and declares its independence. Are we as a nation willing to use force if necessary? If we are, and we do, how is that substantially different from what happened in Kosovo? I doubt that in this situation, if they've declared independence, they're going to agree to stop just because we said so.
I agree that it's unlikely we'd ever elect anybody like Milosevic. That doesn't negate the precedent that's been set. As far as China goes, I doubt they're too concerned about Tibet declaring independence. They'll crush whatever revolt may occur, the world and the UN will issue strong statements of condemnation, and then everyone will just move on. We all saw how Russia dealt with Chechnya, I don't think Tibet will be much different.
Feel fre to email me, as i really don't want to monopolize your comment section.
Thanks,
Dan

Posted by: Dan859 Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 5:23 PM

Michael,
I agree with the need to have done something about what was going in Kosovo. For that matter, I'm pretty appalled by what's going on in Dafur, and the unwillingness of anyone to do anthing about it. I think we handled Kosovo poorly.
I don't see how Slovenia, Macedonia and Montenegro apply. These were peaceful transitions agreed upon between the parties involved. Even Croatia gained independence with a minimal amount of fighting.
Take the example I gave above, and assume that this state has a referendum of some sort and declares its independence. Are we as a nation willing to use force if necessary? If we are, and we do, how is that substantially different from what happened in Kosovo? I doubt that in this situation, if they've declared independence, they're going to agree to stop just because we said so.
I agree that it's unlikely we'd ever elect anybody like Milosevic. That doesn't negate the precedent that's been set. As far as China goes, I doubt they're too concerned about Tibet declaring independence. They'll crush whatever revolt may occur, the world and the UN will issue strong statements of condemnation, and then everyone will just move on. We all saw how Russia dealt with Chechnya, I don't think Tibet will be much different.
Feel fre to email me, as i really don't want to monopolize your comment section.
Thanks,
Dan

Posted by: Dan859 Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 5:23 PM

Alexander's mother, Olympias, was Illyrian and he had Illyrian levies in his army but I agree the name isn't Greek in origin.

Not only that, but lest anyone head's explodes here, I will throw a monkey wrench into the machinery of the much more well-established and successful Greek propaganda, and add the following:

Those ancient Macedonians were not Hellenic people either. They spoke a different language similar to that of the tribes of Epirus and Illyria. This is well-documented. All indicators and historical records point toward Macedons being just another Thraco-Illyrian tribe, speaking a different dialect, like the Albanian Ghegs (descendants of Illyria) and Tosks (descendants of Epirus) speaking different but mutually intelligible dialects. It's not a coincidence that today Macedonia's greatest ethnic minority are Albanians.

I don't feel at all like the progeny of a superior race for being remotely related to the ancestors of Alexander the Great (on both sides of his family, not just his mother, which is all Greeks concede, if at all) like the Greek propagandists do (only after they re-write history to fit with their wishful 'diary'). Alexander was a brute and an asshole (quite possibly literally), and in any event, I am not tribal and I don't care.

But Greece's pretenses over Macedonia are ridiculous and unfounded. First of all, regardless of the racial lineage of whoever lived in the area 2000 years ago, now its ethnic makeup is what it is.

Greece is vetoing Macedonia's integration into European institutions because they supposedly are stealing away grandeur rightfully belonging to Greece by appropriating the name 'Macedonia' (Greeks claim Macedons were Hellenic).

This shit is so ridiculous and I couldn't even make it up!

Greece has been much more successful at re-writing its own history than Serbia has. Now people don't even question it. Greece also has entirely ethnically cleansed the hundreds of thousands of Albanians who used to live in its northern territories, so now there is no problematic ethnic minority sticking out as a sore thorn.

Another piece of trivia: Did anyone know here that Greece has maintained the state of war with Albania since WW2 (Italy invaded Albania in 1939 and used its southern territories to launch an attack against Greece, in which Albania itself did not even participate) all the way until, supposedly, 2004???

Why? Well they used the pretext that Albania 'had attacked Greece during WW2' to kick off the last remaining Albanian communities and expropriate those Albanians from their lands. Those lands have not been returned to their rightful owners and now after 2004 it's too late for any properties to change hands again.

I don't want to talk about Greek propaganda and chauvinism here though, lest we get sidetracked.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 5:23 PM

Michael,
Well, I just spent quite some time writing a reply, only to have it lost in electric heaven when i tried to post it. If you'd like, email me and we can continue. I don't want to monopolize your site.
Thanks,
Dan

Posted by: Dan859 Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 5:26 PM

The necktie originated with Croatian mercenary cavalry in the service of Louis XIII (or XIV). That is why it is also called a "cravat". Not from "Croat" wrongly pronounced "krote", but from "hravat", which the French rendered as "Croate" pronounced "kruh-wat".

Posted by: Rich Rostrom Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 5:34 PM

I don't see how Slovenia, Macedonia and Montenegro apply. These were peaceful transitions agreed upon between the parties involved. Even Croatia gained independence with a minimal amount of fighting.

With all respect, since you have been very polite, that is absolute bullshit! The only reason Macedonia and Slovenia were able to escape unscathed from the abusive polygamous marriage that Yugoslavia was, is that the Serbian government was too exhausted by then to send in troops to butcher Macedons and Slovens. Croatia got away with a 'minimal amount' of fighting? So?

What is minimal amount of fighting? Is there a threshold 'amount' of fighting that makes secession unacceptable by itself?

This whole attitude is very myopic and historically insensitive; it takes the status-quo of the world's political map to be the rigid structure of the universe for as far back as we can remember, with any future changes being considered fundamentally disruptive to this perfect and stable order.

Did you forget how Yugoslavia was created in the first place?

By your same reasoning, the US missed the boat on the whole setting-dangerous-precedents department by allowing the partitioning of Austro-Hungaria way back when it recognized Yugoslavia as a new state/federation, to be carved out of Austro-Hungaria's then (before WW1) sovereign territory.

If such idiotic analogies were enough to justify any provinces/states' right to secede or lack thereof, said South-Western states can already use the creation of Yugoslavia for a 'precedent' as a fig-leaf to the dreaded sectarian ambitions you attribute them.

Or,.. how about the creation of Ireland? Carving its insolent political self so shamelessly out of the sovereign territory of Great Britain!

Oh, but wait!

The United States of America itself was just the child of a bloody revolution! The birth of the US set the needed 'precedent' for the future secession of its states! Boo hoo... looks like the union is doomed!

There is no such thing as a 'precedent' setting a standard procedure in stone for resolving ethnic/political conflicts in all times and places. Human history is a mosaic or empires, tribes, political coalitions, that rose and fell through the ages, with new mutant states/entities rising from the ashes of the old ones.

Punishing innocent people in the Balkans for the sake of establishing a false consistency to appease your paranoid fear over 'Latino heavy' states seceding from the Union is logically unsound, not to say morally vacuous.

The moral arguments for supporting the secession of a people from the grasp of its tyrannical government are articulately laid out in the Declaration of Independence, and as such, they are universal principles. It sounds to me like you don't fully understand the ideals behind the founding of your own nation. By the way, individual states have a almost indisputably a constitutional right to secede.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 6:19 PM

Medaura,
First, I don't know the limits to discourse on this site, so I'll refrain from answering your "bullshit" comment in kind. I'm not really sure where to start. In no particular order, let's look at this. Slovenia was the first of the former republics to secede. So much for the Yugoslav army being "too exhausted". There was, compared to Bosnia, minimal fighting in Croatia. I never said there was a threshold. I was comparing two situations which had very different circumstances. In the cases I mentioned, there was an agreement among the parties involved which led to a peaceful resolution. That's very different from what happened in Kosovo, where an internal problem was solved by the forcible imposition of an outside solution.
As far as the polygamous marraige that was Yugoslavia, I lived there for 2 years. I learned the language and spent a lot of time talking to people there, trying to understand what had happened, and why. It's a whole lot more complicated and a lot less black and white than you seem to be implying.
Sarcasm doesn't become you or the point you're trying to make. My attitude is myopic and historically insensitive? Idiotic analogies? Boo hoo, the union is doomed? My paranoid fear? That one's my personal favorite. Do you have any professional qualifications to judge my paranoia or lack thereof? Logically unsound and morally vacuous. You don't address the issues, but attack me. If I recall correctly, there's a word for that.
My example is hypothetical. I used a state because I was trying to put the question in a context that would apply to us. If I somehow offended you, that was not my intent.
As far as states having an almost indisputable right to secede, I beg to differ. The Civil War answered that question.
For precedent in general, yes, I think it's a good thing. And yes, I think in some cases, I think the victors in a war have missed the boat. You mentioned WW1. I agree, we messed that up. Just look at the Middle East right now. Many of the current problems in Africa have a lot to do with the arbitrary way borders were established there after WW2.
Again, My issue is with how the problem in Kosovo was resolved. I don't object to the fact that we stepped in to stop the fighting, I object to the imposition of an outside solution. Even in Bosnia, the parties involved settled it themselves through the Dayton Accord. Yes, we were involved, but they were the ones that that solved it.
If you'd like to have an intelligent discussion, let's continue. If all you want to do is to hurl insults and spew invective, please, spare all of us.
Dan

Posted by: Dan859 Author Profile Page at June 26, 2008 12:53 AM

Hi Medaura,

Juts a quick note about your post where to invoked me, the demon Limbic, and now have to pay for your sins.

First off, let me say that I thought this was mostly a very good comment with a sound analysis of the nature of slurs and come great insights into the use of offensive language.

I have a few things I though ought to be cleared up though, but I do not think we are on course for another thread hogging bust-up even if I were not limited to a few posts.

About the Albanian woman in Belgrade, I was addressing Michael in my comments, and since he wrote the article and recounted the anecdote, there was no need for me to quote him to himself or unnecessarily duplicate content for people fresh from reading the article.

I should also like to point out that I did not say that the woman's words were "manifestations of her irrational Serbophobia" nor did I say they were "not grounded in any reality whatsoever". You dreamt that.

The irony here is that I am nearly certain that woman in question is a friend of mine and she is one the "Albanians I have spoken to" that I referred to in previous discussions.

As bizarre as this might sound to you, far from being a Serb nationalist, I mix in the same LDP/Women In Black circles as Michael's contacts in Belgrade and am on record in my blogs and other writings as being strongly against all forms of Ethnic Nationalism, including Serbian.

If this Albanian woman is who I suspect it is, then Michael's descriptions of her are dead on. This is no nationalist, she is indeed a very liberal, highly intelligent, well informed forward thinking woman. She also appears at least to be having a great time when she is here.

The thing that worried me was this statement:

She said, "“I go there all the time, I have friends there. I’m not paranoid about it. We go out and have a good time. But in the back of my mind I remember they are Serbs."

Perhaps you could see how this statement might be suspect if I carry out a Copernican inversion:

Dragana, a Serb journalist from B92, regularly travels to Pristina, “I go there all the time, I have friends there. I’m not paranoid about it. We go out and have a good time. But in the back of my mind I remember they are Albanians."

Can you see how this might be interpreted badly?

It is like something you hear spoken of apparently dangerous dogs: "I love Pit-bulls. Most a very friendly, but in the back of my mind I remember they are vicious fighting dogs".

The whole paragraph and tale of Mr Chetnik suggests to me something akin to "Yes, they seem fine, but by nature they are dangerous, oh look here is Mr Chetnik to justify my fears".

If even ultra-liberals like her harbour fear and suspicion of Serbs, then there is a big problem because that fear and suspicion of all Serbs would not be justified by the actions of even 200 "Chetnik guys" insulting her daily. However you dress it up, it is a prejudice and should be resisted even if there is a basis to it.

You may or may not know this, but the Ethnic Victimization story is a staple in these parts.

Every Serbs has a tale just like that of the Albanian woman in which they were insulted or threatened - usually in Croatia. You tend to find though that in those stories, the locals always stand-up for them, which is what I think you would find in Belgrade too.

About Ethnic Slurs, it makes for a fascinating topic and your analysis is generally spot on. You let yourself down though, in an otherwise interesting analysis, by writing:

"...hatred toward and dehumanization of Albanians are so ingrained in the collective psyche of the Serbian nation, that Serbs everywhere can express their bigoted feelings toward Albanians by just calling Albanians 'Albanian', because the word itself implies the entire pool of disgust and hatred for Albanians implicit in Serbian culture."

This is about the psyche of the individual using the term, not the "collective psyche of the Serbian nation".

Here in Serbia the Radical Party is trying to revive the reputation of the Chetniks after what they see as 50 years of Communist disinformation.

I have had Serbian academics in my kitchen nearly in tears with frustration at the prospect of Chetniks making a comeback in textbooks here.

It is a huge political issue here directly related to the Radicals and their agenda.

No doubt some minuscule number of Serbs would be proud to be called Chetniks (like "Chetnik Guy" and some Radicals) but I wager the vast majority would be mortally offended.

To call someone a Chetnik in Serbia is to label them a fascist. Only self-identified fascist, Radicals would not insulted by this. Outside of Serbia, in most of the Balkans at least, it is a pejorative term for Serbs - all ethnic Serbs - not just nationalists or fascists.

You can argue that queer merely means odd, faggot is merely kindling for a fire, the n-word is the river Niger with an accidental n, but as you have pointed out ethnic slurs take their meaning and the force of their insult from the way in which they are used, and how people chose to name themselves.

The word is merely short-hand for an expression of hatred and contempt, and to that end calling someone a Chetnik (say Filip David) is most certainly as egregious, insulting, callous, and when used as an ethnic slur, as racist as any equivalent.

So yes Medaura, a Serbian or Croatian or Montenegrin or Macedonian bigot doesn't need to call you specific names, "Shiptar" implies that to him or her anyway.

So it is with an Albanian or Croatian or Montenegrin or Macedonian nationalist calling a Serb a Chetnik.

As one site writes of "Shiptar":

"A derogatory term employed by Balkan Slavs (Croats, Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians) when referring to Albanians. However, its use parallels that of the word "nigger" in the United States. In that Albanians use the word "shiptar" to address/describe one another, while taking insult from its use by non-Albanians. Note: The word "shiptar" is most likely derived from the name of the Albanian language - "Shqiptar"."

I will submit an entry to the same database for "Chetnik":

"A derogatory term employed by non-Serbs in the Balkans when referring to ethnic Serbs. However, its use parallels that of the word "nigger" in the United States. In that some Serbs use the word "Chetnik" to address/describe one another, while taking insult from its use by non-Serbs."

As for your complaint that...

"...with Shiptar. The language here is a testament to the degree of widespread collective dehumanization of Albanians in the Serbian public opinion.

Firstly, I am sorry to the first one to point this out, but the word is used everywhere in the Balkans as an ethnic slur against Albanians.

It does not imply "widespread collective dehumanisation" any more than "Yankee" implies "widespread collective dehumanisation" of Americans or "Mick" implies "widespread collective dehumanisation" of the Irish.

You wrote...

"Chetnik is used in the Balkans as a proxy for a militant chauvinistic Serb (and there are valid historical inferences to support this analogy); therefore it makes a qualitative distinction between Serbs fitting a certain behavioral pattern, versus the average Serb minding his business. It does not dehumanize Serbs wholescale.

Shiptar on the other hand makes no qualitative distinction, and it is a racist offense to all Albanians everywhere."

These are very good points, and completely true where someone uses Chetnik in that context of a proxy for a militant chauvinistic Serb. That is only one use of the word. It is also used as blanket derogatory term for all Serbs.

I am very glad to hear that Albanians do not have an ethnic slur for Serbs. Perhaps we can model their success in suppressing racist language and export it to the rest of the region.

That is, of course, presuming that "Serb" itself is not a ethnic slur ipso facto like "Shiptar" is to some Serbs?

Posted by: Limbic Author Profile Page at June 26, 2008 1:58 AM

Dan,

I apologize if I have offended you. It was not my intent to hurl any personal insults your way, though I can understand how you would take it personally given my strong language.

Yours is an argument I hear all the time, and is one which happens to particularly irk me. When referring to it as an idiotic analogy, historically insensitive, morally callous and logically unsound, I am speaking of this wildy parroted argument in itself and not addressing you in any way personally.

I called 'bullshit!' with all due respect, because you have been very polite and civil, yet I find the argument absolutely ludicrous and worthy of the flashing 'bullshit' stamp!

But I will tone it down for the sake of hopefully getting through to each-other:

Slovenia was the first of the former republics to secede. So much for the Yugoslav army being “too exhausted”.

Yugoslavia was falling apart. It was a time of crisis, and the Serbian/Yugoslav government had to prioritize its efforts and economize its military strength to keep the situation under control. Croatia was much more important to Serbia than Slovenia because of its coast (and because of fresh ethnic hatred from WW2), so Serbia put up a bigger stink to keep Croatia. The reason it didn't go after Slovenia and Macedonia is because it was either exhausted (in the case of Macedonia) or overwhelmed by impending future developments(in the case of Slovenia). Splitting hairs over semantics here won't do the argument any good.

There was, compared to Bosnia, minimal fighting in Croatia. I never said there was a threshold. I was comparing two situations which had very different circumstances.

How is the level of fighting ensuing secession, relevant to the moral right of secession per se or lack thereof, whether compared on a relative scale or not to the fighting that happened in Bosnia or anywhere else in the world??

You not only admittedly compared these two situations with different circumstances (I don't think the background circumstances of Bosnia vs Croatia are fundamentally different, at least not as they relate to these countries/then-provinces right to secede from Yugoslavia) but you are, most importantly, and I think, absurdly, comparing two situations so different (Kosovo vs the hypothetical far-fetched secession of US states), as to make their comparison, in fact, a matter of apples and oranges.

In the cases I mentioned, there was an agreement among the parties involved which led to a peaceful resolution. That's very different from what happened in Kosovo, where an internal problem was solved by the forcible imposition of an outside solution.

There would have never been any agreement over Bosnia either had the outside forcible missiles not taught Milosevic a lesson. Croatia achieved an 'agreement' because it had enough military/brutal strength to set its terms. There was an agreement by Japan to capitulate after it got its civilian cities nuked, twice. You are deeply mistaken if you there there was anything but a balance of brute force (or threat thereof) shaping these 'agreements' over Bosnia and Croatia. So Kosovars have less of a right to live free for the mere reason that they were unarmed and unable to repel Serbia militarily forcibly enough to dictate terms of an 'agreement'?

So might makes right...

In any case, you still have not addressed the birth of Ireland, and most ironically, that of the United States! You got your dreaded 'precedents' clearly cut right there.

As far as the polygamous marraige that was Yugoslavia, I lived there for 2 years. I learned the language and spent a lot of time talking to people there, trying to understand what had happened, and why. It's a whole lot more complicated and a lot less black and white than you seem to be implying.

Please now. I am from the Balkans, born and raised. We learn this stuff since grade school. I know more than is probably healthy of the details, nuances, and intrigues behind the creation of Yugoslavia in particular, and of the partitioning of the former Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires in general. Let's not forget, specifically, that Kosovo was invaded and annexed by Serbia not before 1912, with the blessing of German and British bureaucrats looking to throw Russia a bone.

If you think you posses any relevant points in the history department that would help your argument, I kindly invite you to bring them forward.

My example is hypothetical. I used a state because I was trying to put the question in a context that would apply to us. If I somehow offended you, that was not my intent.

I know it wasn't your intend to offend me or anyone else but offend me you did. I don't know whether I am more offended as a former Albanian, who has seen first-hand the after-math of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, and who has grown up learning about and living with the consequences of the then-great-powers'-that-be arbitrary nation building (or nation destroying) experiments in the Balkans over the past century.

Or, as a future American, when I hear such a remarkably stupid (don't be offended please, it is only the argument I find stupid) analogy which pretends to concern itself with the hypothetical integrity of the Union, but by ignoring the natural and universal right of people to rise up and free themselves from the jurisdiction of a tyrannical and utterly destructive government, completely negates the philosophical foundations of the American Revolution which led to the formation of the Union in the first place.

To tell you the truth, I have usually heard this sort of argument from hard-right anti-hispanic bigots in various internet forums, which is why I took some liberties with my tone/attitude in responding to you initially, but I do not believe you are such a person and I think you are genuinely trying to have a thoughtful debate.

As far as states having an almost indisputable right to secede, I beg to differ. The Civil War answered that question.

A favorite saying of mine by Oscar Wilde: "It is often said that force is no argument. That, however, entirely depends on what one wants to prove."

The Civil War far from settled the issue constitutionally. It merely settled history, for the time being. If there was a constitutional right of secession before that war, it should be just as valid now. It wasn’t negated because Northern munitions factories were more efficient than Southern ones.

Not that I am currently advocating for any state to secede, however I don't know whether you are aware of this, but many states have in place explicit provisions on their state constitutions reserving themselves the right to secede. New Hampshire, for example, is one of such states.

So forget the 'ethnic' aspect of it all, which seems to stir the judgment of anti-immigration types. What if New Hampshire ever used its constitutional (explicitly guaranteed) right to secede? There are no sizable ethnic minorities there, just for the sake of hypothesis, its mostly white thoroughly American constituency finally has enough of receiving 35 cents for every dollar it raises in taxes for the federal government, and decides to live by its motto "Live Free or Die". Would you be in favor of sending in troops there to hold people down? Or should the US army ethnically cleanse the state to get rid of its 'trouble-making' population? If so, then why would the Union be worth preserving at all?

Or do you think Kosovo's independence is a dangerous precedent for New Hampshire?

No, this is utter bullshit. New states have been created and destroyed from the dawn of civilization. 'Precedents' of any kind, often contradictory ones, can be found throughout history. 'Precedents' don't establish any natural rights, neither do they determine in any way the future course of history in any place in the world.

If Kosovo, Ireland, India and the US are dangerous precedents of countries being carved out of other countries, China invading Tibet and having it recognized as part of its sovereign territory (and countless other examples), are precedents to the polar opposite political development.

The issue is that Kosovo's population was butchered, roughly 90% of it is Albanian, and they have no wish or reason to live under Serbia.

All of the US states have good reason to live under the federal government and have expressed no wish to the contrary. If any of them ever got secessionist ambitions, they would be debated in constitutional terms, and not with a big fat elephant of attempted genocide/ethnic-cleansing in the room, changing the entire dynamics.

For precedent in general, yes, I think it's a good thing. And yes, I think in some cases, I think the victors in a war have missed the boat. You mentioned WW1. I agree, we messed that up. Just look at the Middle East right now. Many of the current problems in Africa have a lot to do with the arbitrary way borders were established there after WW2.

Of course. But that's just human history. Might used to make right and anyone with enough muscle could draw arbitrary borders across the globe. We like to think we are more civilized now, and here we are looking to get an equitable and humane common-sensical solution, instead of taking the sanctity of arbitrary borders for granted, or at least as overriding the sanctity of life of the people living within those borders.

Again, My issue is with how the problem in Kosovo was resolved. I don't object to the fact that we stepped in to stop the fighting, I object to the imposition of an outside solution. Even in Bosnia, the parties involved settled it themselves through the Dayton Accord. Yes, we were involved, but they were the ones that that solved it.

I gave you my arguments. You still haven't proposed an alternate solution to Kosovo. Please do, if you have one in mind. If it involves it remaining part of Serbia, it will be easily shown to be an inferior and far less equitable solution than independence.

Kejda

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 26, 2008 8:10 AM

Kedja,
I'm a little pressed for time, so this will be breif. First, congratulations on your upcoming American citizenship!! For now, here's a quote from UN resolution 1244: "Reaffirming the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other States of the region, as set out in the Helsinki Final Act and annex 2,…" I don't know how to do hypertext links, but that comes from NATO's website (www.nato.int) so I'll trust it as being accurate.
I just can't see how Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity were upheld. You keep claiming I'm saying might equals right. I never said that, and I don't believe that. What I do believe is that an agreement reached between the involved parties is more likely to succeed than a solution imposed by those on the outside.
I'm in no way trying to denigrate your experiences. My experience has been that in the Balkans, there's plenty of blame for everyone. Trying to apportion blame, or claim a black and white situation there isn't productive.
The UN stepped in, bombed the Serbs into submission, and imposed res. 1244 in 1999. I agree up to that point. Where I take issue is what happened afterwards. My solution would be to have continued with negotiations. Sooner or later, the two sides are going to come to an agreement. KFOR's in place, the Serbs aren't likely to make any military moves, and Kosovo operate pretty much autonomously. I really can't continue, i have to run. I'll pick this back up later.
Dan

Posted by: Dan859 Author Profile Page at June 26, 2008 10:14 AM
Croatia was much more important to Serbia than Slovenia because of its coast (and because of fresh ethnic hatred from WW2).

True, but also don't forget how many Serbs lived in Croatia versus in Slovenia.

The reason it didn't go after Slovenia and Macedonia is because it was either exhausted (in the case of Macedonia) or overwhelmed by impending future developments(in the case of Slovenia).

The spirit of that is true, but technically they did go after Slovenia. The West may forget tiny, short wars, but when a ten-day war results in independence, you can bet Slovenes don't. There is some lingering resentment from Croatia over the fact that Slovenia won its independence so easily due to the Serbian war against Croatia (and against Croats in Bosnia), but that mostly plays itself out in peaceful maritime border disputes, not ethnic violence.

Yugoslavia was founded in the chaos during and after World War I as a necessary balance against much larger and more threatening powers. After the fall of Communism, those peoples who had previously united suddenly needed no defense from outside peoples and plenty defense from one another, resulting in succession. Unfortunately for Kosovo, it had not been independent during WWI and was not a republic within Yugoslavia, so, from what I understand of the vague and often illogical standards of international "law," had less of a claim to independence than the prior nations that seceded. However, in the world that Milosevic created, one could not expect Kosovo to remain content as an autonomous region in Serbia, no more than one might expect post-WWII Korea to fall under the sphere of control of Japan, for example, just because it had for so many years prior.

Sooner or later, the two sides are going to come to an agreement.

Unfortunately, history is not on the side of this assumption.

Posted by: calbear Author Profile Page at June 26, 2008 10:32 AM

calbear,

I agree completely with everything you said.

Kosovo's status and its degree of autonomy have changed many times within the Yugoslavian federation.

Of course, Slovenia was attacked also, but I conceded the point for the sake of the argument, that it got off relatively unscathed. Dan seemed to employ a vague metric of 'severity of fighting' as a proxy for the legitimacy of secession, so I needed to address that line of reasoning.

All I cared to debunk was the far-fetched and paranoid argument of Kosovo's secession setting a precedent by analogy to the secession of South-Western latino-heavy American states.

US sates joined the union peacefully (for the most part) and out of self-interest. Kosovo was invaded and annexed by Serbia in 1912.

No single US state has any major legitimate overriding beef with the federal government. Kosovo's population was attacked, killed off, or driven out by 'its own government'.

All US states have equal proportional representative power (within the convoluted House vs Senate structure), and the federal government's reach is limited by the constitution. Kosovo had third class province status within Serbia, not even Yugoslavia, and no political means for its people to address their problems.

If any renegade state gets the idea to secede out of genuine or imaginary grievances, the speech will not go anything like "Well, we ought to be able to sneak away, just like that obscure tiny mini-state in the Balkans did after all", but more like "Just as our forefathers cut their ties with Great Britain over this this and this, we too shall seek a better form of government for ourselves and break our ties with the Union over that and that and that"

The truth is that only dictatorial repressive regimes are scared of Kosovo's secession. A cursory look at the countries who have not yet recognized Kosovo's independence bears self-evident testimony to this fact.

There is no way the two sides would have reached an agreement 'sooner or later'. The options on the table here were not of a continuous sliding-scale nature where mutual give-and-take can lead to an agreeable balance.

The alternatives are only two, and they are discrete: Either this province remains part of Serbia, or it doesn't. Serbia has almost institutionalized this myth of Kosovo being the cradle of its 'civilization' and won't compromise on its stance. Kosovars want their own country and don't see any way or reason to re-join Serbia. It's either one or the other, there can't be both. I don't see how further negotiations would have made any party more sympathetic to concede to the other party's ambitions over the region.

Independence was the right move and it was overdue. KFOR will not be in the province for the next 100 years. Stability must be achieved and the final status resolved within our lifetimes and even better, within our attention spans.

UN resolutions don't mean anything to anybody; we just barely pretend they do. The UN didn't get its hands dirty to fix this slaughterhouse situation right in the middle of Europe; NATO did, led by the US. The UN didn't intervene in Iraq; the US and its allies did. The UN is just a global secular wishy-washy 'church' sprinkling 'holy water' on the done-deals of its powerful member states.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 26, 2008 12:02 PM

Kejda,
So, my analogy is back to being far fatched and paranoid. Again, your qualifications to make a medical diagnosis are what? You stated Kosovo was invaded and annexed by Serbia in 1912. True enough, but Serbs had been there in greater or lesser numbers for about 1500 years before then as well. It was the Serbs who fought the Ottoman Turks at Kosovo Polje in 1389, and the Nemanjic dynasty had an established empire there for 200 years prior to that. Throughout the next several centuries, right up until present, Serbs lived there. To imply, as you seem to be doing, that the Serbs have no legitmate or longstanding attachment to Kosovo simply isn't true. Now, I'm not saying Kosovo doesn't have legitimate aspirations for independence. What I'm saying is that you seem to favor black and white, while I maintain it's more complicated than that.
Your stating opinions doesn't make them facts. Independence was the right move and it was over due. Opinion.
KFOR won't be there for the next 100 years. Opinion. For what it's worth, in the area I worked in Bosnia, there was graffiti on an abandoned house that said "Happy New Year 2001 SFOR. You'll be here for the next 100 years". Since it was written in Serbo-Croat, I'm guessing it was a local who wrote it. He or she would seem to have a diffent opinion on the subject.
Stability must be achieved and the final status resolved within our lifetimes and even better, within our attention spans. Opinion, and more importantly, why the necessity it be resolved right now?
If you want stability, I don't think the outside imposition of a solution is the best way to achieve it.
In the long run, neither my opinions or yours make any difference to what will happen. I do hope everything works out in Kosovo, I just would have been more optimistic if they had reached an agreement amongst themselves. As it stands now, I'm not optimistic. I just hope I'm wrong.
Dan

Posted by: Dan859 Author Profile Page at June 26, 2008 4:28 PM

Dan: It was the Serbs who fought the Ottoman Turks at Kosovo Polje in 1389

I should point out that Serbs fought on both sides of that battle, as did Albanians. See Noel Malcolm's Kosovo: A Short History.

I just would have been more optimistic if they had reached an agreement amongst themselves.

I think we can all agree with that. Whether an agreement was possible is another matter. The difference between the two sides are as irreconcilable as those between Israel and Hamas. Hamas wants to conquer Israel, Israel says no, so they fight. Serbia wants to conquer Kosovo (again), Kosovars say no, so they either fight or have an external solution imposed upon them.

The fact that some Serbs live and have lived in Kosovo gives Serbia no more right (in my view) to reconquer that territory as the existence of Israeli Arabs give Hamas the rights to Tel Aviv.

Anyway, the Bush Administration will not rescind its recognition of Kosovo, nor will a McCain or Obama Administration. None of our opinions will change that.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 26, 2008 4:39 PM

Anyway, the Bush Administration will not rescind its recognition of Kosovo, nor will a McCain or Obama Administration. None of our opinions will change that.

Amen.

Given the latent strand of insanity lurking in so many of the popular opinions on this topic, I am damn grateful that our opinions are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 26, 2008 4:54 PM

Hi Michael,

I personally do not think the Serbs want to really "reconquer" Kosovo.

Despite what Serbian politicians say publicly, it is an open secret that many of them are glad to be rid of the place. As they see it, Kosovo was a financial, military and political burden which is now the UN's problem.

My personal suspicion, and this is backed by discussions with diplomats and locals, is that they are paying lip service to an unyielding position on Kosovo whilst they hold out for partitioning and perhaps better "inducements" from the EU.

Everyone knows it would be utterly impossible to reintegrate 1.5 million unwilling Kosovar Albanians into Serbia after what happened in 1999 (and years of abuse at the hands of the Milosevic regime).

Even the Radical Party supporters are stumped when I point out to them that id miraculously Kosovar Albanians decided all was forgiven and that they would love to be back in the folds of mother Serbia's skirts, the Radicals would never get anywhere near power. Those ethnic Albanian voters would provide just the swing voted needed to keep the Liberal and Democratic parties in power without so much as a nod at the Socialists or Radicals.

So what now?

It may very well be true that neither this nor any (near) future US administration will rescind its recognition of Kosovo, but as long as the EU is stuck in its impasse over Kosovo, and the Russia/China axis is against set against it, we have a frozen conflict.

I am starting to think that partition is the fairest and most pragmatic solution. If it happens, and its looking increasingly likely, it should be followed by speedy EU membership for Kosovo, Serbia, Albania and the rest of former Yugoslav states not yet in the EU.

This should help boost regional economies and the Irish model has shown us that this goes a long way to helping solve seemingly intractable ethnic conflict.

Posted by: Limbic Author Profile Page at June 27, 2008 1:37 AM

Kejda,
You're obviously well educated. Why do you insist on labelling others as insane, paranoid, etc.? It doesn't help the points you're trying to make, it weakens them. What's the problem with having a civil discussion, and allowing for people to disagree reasonably? It seems all you want to do is shout down those with whom you disagree. The worst part is, you and I share a lot of common ground. I fully support what the UN/NATO did. I support Kosovo being independent. Reread what I've written. I object to the way the situation was handled. That's all. Yet, apparently that difference is enough for you to feel justified to make all kinds of ad hominem attacks against me. Be my guest. Maybe next time, you'll use facts and logic to support your position. We can only hope.
Dan

Posted by: Dan859 Author Profile Page at June 27, 2008 1:47 AM

Dan,

If you choose to identify your positions as insane, that is your problem, not mine.

Your skin is paper-thin. Give me a break! You do sound paranoid right now, and note that I never called you that before.

I don't feel a need to respond to your other 'points' as it looks like you willingly misinterpret my words and you are more apprehensive than you seem to realize.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 27, 2008 9:53 AM

Kedja,
Where did I say my positions were insane? Please, point that out to me, I can't find it. I do object to YOU repeatedly characterizing my opinions as paranoid, vacuous, idiotic, bullshit, etc. You then say I'm thin-skinned and I should give you a break. Why should I give you a break? So you can simply continue in the same vein? I don't think so. Because it's just the way you speak? Maybe you could reevaluate your choice of words. You tell me why I should give you a break.
Next, you say I sound paranoid. You make a point of emphasizing that you haven't said it directly to/about me before, but now it's specifically directed at me. It's still an ad hominem statement.
How am I willingly misinterpreting your words?Twice you said Serbia invaded and annexed Kosovo in 1912. Both times it was a stand alone statement. At least implicit in that is the idea that that was the first time Serbia had held that territory, especially since you said "not before 1912". You had previously told me that if I thought I had any relevant historical points, to please bring them up, so I brought up the Battle of Kosovo Polje to disprove your statement. Apparently, that's one of my points, or 'points' as you wrote, that you don't care to respond to. And yes, I do understand the use of quotation marks in that context.
I quoted UN res. 1244. You didn't respond to the resolution, you threw the UN under the bus. Now, I'm not always a big fan of the UN. I disagree with much of what the UN has done, and hasn't done, but that resolution does specifically address the question of sovereignity. I do think that concepts like rule of law, sovereignity, and precedent have some relevance here and a place in the discussion. You close by saying I'm more apprehensive than I realize. Ad hominem again.
Let me be blunt. I'm pissed!! I'm tired of the slurs, the snide remarks and the supercilious attitude. You want to talk the talk, let's see if you can walk the walk. Put together a factual, logical position without resorting to name calling. Or not. Either way, without an express request from you, I'll not respond, so feel free to say what you want.
Dan

Posted by: Dan859 Author Profile Page at June 27, 2008 2:25 PM

Dan:

Where did I say my positions were insane? Please, point that out to me, I can't find it.

So were you speaking for yourself below or what?

Why do you insist on labelling others as insane, paranoid, etc.? ...

The worst part is, you and I share a lot of common ground. ...Yet, apparently that difference is enough for you to feel justified to make all kinds of ad hominem attacks against me.

You interpret my broad statement about many opinions on the Kosovo topic being rather insane, as directed-at/applying-to you specifically. Why does it itch so bad?

You confound my opinion regarding an analogy which you are not the first nor the last to utter (Kosovo's secession vs. Latino-heavy US states seceding from the Union) with an ad hominem against you personally.

Intelligent and well-meaning people can be caught all the time uttering idiotic or even implicitly racist arguments like the one you are so over-sensitive about, but it doesn't at all necessarily make them idiots or racists. Note, that I didn't just call you intelligent and well-meaning right now either. I made no personal statement about you whatsoever.

The fact that you have chosen to take everything personally makes you sound paranoid,-- an observation arising from your reactions. If you can appreciate the irony of it, I am calling you paranoid for thinking that I ever called you paranoid-- among attributing me other 'insults' such as 'callous', 'insane', etc.

I didn't think your 'points' were worth addressing, and yes, the choice of quotations was deliberate, because I wasn't sure whether you were even sure what you were talking about: "Opinion, not fact. Opinion, not fact". What were you even talking about? Most of us know the facts rather well: reaching sensible conclusions from them is what's interesting and what discussions such as these are all about.

Actually, perhaps you don't even know your facts all that well though. The battle in 1389? Is that your ace? Really? The 'relevant historic fact' that throws a monkey wrench in my argument?

Michael just corrected you on your blanket statement: It was the Serbs who fought the Ottoman Turks at Kosovo Polje in 1389

It was not just the Serbs. It was a coalition of Serbs and Albanians, among other Balkans nations. The coalition happened to be led by a Serbian prince. It was actually an Albanian warrior who managed to sneak into the Sultan's tent and kill him, though the battle was nevertheless lost. The fight took place on the field of Kosovo because it was a good spot to have a medieval battle, so what?

It doesn't mean Serbs have a claim to Kosovo because of that battle, any more than the other nations part of the anti-Ottoman coalition like Bulgaria, who sent troops in the battle, have a claim to that land. For you to think otherwise suggests that you have either been fooled by, or are a shill for Serbian propaganda.

Anyway, there were Serbs and Albanians fighting on both sides of that war, like Michael pointed out.

Like Filip David said, even then in the 1300s, Kosovo was mostly Albanian in demographics.

That's not just his opinion or mine, by the way. It is a fact.

Besides, why pick this arbitrary point in the time-line as year zero for considering Serbs' claim to the land? Why not go back further in time when Southern Slavs invaded the native Albanians and expelled them from their lands in the 6th century A.D.?

I call bullshit on your arguments even louder than before. One question: Do you think Albanians are recent immigrants in Kosovo?

People sympathetic to that inane 'latino heavy South-Western states' pseudo analogy always seem to think so.

As for the UN resolution:

As usual the reference to UN Resolution 1244 that you used is merely in the intro as the ideal solution, that Yugoslavia not be dismembered. But from that point on the UN and NATO make it quite clear that this doesn't seem possible and they lay out a number of solutions that will ultimately lead to an independent Kosovo.

The very next line is that they, the UN and NATO are, "Reaffirming the call in previous resolutions for substantial autonomy and meaningful self-administration for Kosovo." And to paraphrase that there had been no compliance and that the violence was continuing against the people of Kosovo. Unnamed but obviously referring to the continued attacks and population removal by the Serbs,

The reference to Annex 2 is even more damaging to the Serbian position in that is based on the original Rambouillet Accord, which Serbia rejected, that, "...while establishing and over seeing the development of provisional self-governing institutions to insure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all inhabitants in Kosovo." The fact is that on at least two different occasions the Serbs had a chance to maintain full or partial control of Kosovo but simply chose a different path. Much like the murderer offered a life sentence, rejects that and then is condemned to death. Of course now he wants the original offer to be binding over the verdict, the facts on the ground in that the KLA and NATO kicked Serbia out of Kosovo.

http://www.nato.int/kosovo/docu/u990610a.htm


By the way, it does not surprise me at the slightest that you seem to think Michael is biased against Serbs, because you seem to be pretty biased in their favor.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 27, 2008 4:09 PM

>> To call someone a Chetnik in Serbia is to label them a fascist. Only self-identified fascist, Radicals would not insulted by this.

I swear I have seen many of them with Chetnik hats and flags during marches. that does not mean much, but if it was a swastika, people would mind it more. Those radicals did get 40% of the vote, and that is because the economy is in horrible shape. They are the single most powerful party in Serbia. Yes or no?

When Serbs accuse everyone being Nazis but they opposed the Germans, who is mentioned? Not Nedic, Zbor, Serbian Guard etc etc but Draza Mihailovic, the Chetnik. Kosta Pecanac was another Chetnik but at least he was honest and didn't hide the Nazi ties. So if Serbs adore Draza, the Chetnik, why would you be upset?

Regarding Serbs fighting in 1389: many fought for the Turks as well in the same battle. Plus, it was the Serbs who betrayed John Hunyadi by telling the Turks' his position and also delayed Albania's Gjergj Kastrioti from reaching him with 20,000 Albanian mountaineers. He was late and the rest is history. That was the "Second Kosovo Battle"

It was also the Serbs, the good ottoman vassals (the Church didn't mind it either as they were getting rich) that also fought against Christians in Nicolisa and many other battles. (Stefan Lazarevic to be exact) In the same filed, Serbs worked against us and for the Turks after 1900's so we could get weak enough for you to exterminate us. Your hero was Kralj Marko, the ottoman vassal, sent to kill Musa, the Albanian renegade that rebelled against the Sultan. it's in your songs

Here's a summary of your glorious contribution to Christianity: youtube*com/watch?v=YwXsKaLIblQ don't get me started. yes, Albanians fought for the Turks, just as we fought against them, protected the Pope before the Swiss Guard, fought the Russians, for the Spaniards, for the Kingdom of Naples, for Napoleon...and so on.

A man's job, in a mountainous area, was fighting and that's what they did:

"The story of the Albanians deserves a study in itself. Attracted by the 'sword, the gold trappings, and the honors, they left their mountains chiefly in order to become soldiers. In the sixteenth century they were to be found in Cyprus, in Venice, in Mantua, in Rome, in Naples, and Sicily, and as far abroad as Madrid, where they went to present their projects and their grievances, to ask for barrels of gunpowder or years of pension, arrogant, imperious, always ready for a fight."

- Nicholas Pappas

Encyclopedia Catolica: "The force of circumstances has driven the Albanian into fierce espousal of one or other of the causes which are being periodically fought out between antagonists whose success or defeat leaves his own condition almost unchanged. It was an Albanian who led the Greeks in the War of Independence, and again an Albanian who commanded the Turkish troops sent to quell the rebellion. The Kings of Naples kept an Albanian regiment styled the Royal Macedonian, and the famous resistance of Silistria in 1854 is due to dogged Albanian bravery. "

Albania in 1920 looks like it was in 1500 because no one really conquered it, they just let it be: no roads, no commerce, no taxes, nothing. Religion does mean nationhood to us like it does to Serbs and Greeks so it's important.

"The Albanians, these tigers of mountain wars ... have as their religion rebellion. Even their worst warrior is one of the strongest and bravest on the battle-field, just as if he was a knight on the legendary horse. But he has no horse, nor proper weapons for battle. Instead of the horse, he has a lance which strikes as lightning, he has spears who's points are full of posion as the sting of hornets, he has also a wooden bow with some arrows. Furthermore, he is stronger than iron ... "

- Ibn Kemal, Historian of the Turkish court during Skanderbeg's war against the Turks.

There was a reason why Albanian schools were not allowed: The Serbian and Greek churches were one, but unity was the major one. The Sultan feared Albanian unity as he got screwed by Ali Pasha and Mehemet Ali (Egypt's Albanian founder)

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at June 27, 2008 5:25 PM

Well well. It seems both nameless-fool and Kejda have "decloaked" as a Trekkie might say. It only took another non-Serb gently defending Serbs to bring out the demon in both of you.

Michael,

It seems that hereabouts people like Dan and I - non-Serbs who speak up for Serbs - can be routinely accused of being "Serbian nationalists" and subjected to a string of ad hominum insults by two Albanians, who seem to be able to get away with hijacking threads, going waaaaaay off-topic, insulting individuals (or or entire ethnic groups) and reposting hate propaganda.

For responding to their constant anti-Serb attacks or insinuations, I was cautioned with 3 post limit and Dan got a torrent of abuse. The one Ethnic Serb who showed up here, William Dorich, whose original post was no worse that nameless-fool's excretion above, got banned.

I think its time to applied your new policy a bit more evenly.

Nameless-fool,

Any chump can go and harvest the sort of material you posted here from the many Albanian Serb-hate sites and empty it on our eyeballs. The very same chump can go to the many Serbian anti-Albanian hate sites and do exactly the same thing in reverse.

Don't subject us to this nonsense. There is enough of it in MySpace forums from people who write "I h8 Alboz 'n Chetniks".

Albanians and Serbs have way more in common that perhaps they both like to admit, and that includes valiant resistance against Turkish and German occupations, but also the shame of collaboration. In that sense Albanians and Serbs are like every occupied people in history. Pointing out each others historical wrong-doings is both bad mannered and hypocritical.

Kejda,

Maybe it is time to take a hint? You are ruining what would otherwise be good arguments and interesting observations with your aggressiveness and sometimes grossly unfair anti-Serb swipes.

One could say exactly the same thing about me and Albanians, and I am now making sure I do not misrepresent myself by giving the false impression that I am anti-Albanian. I suggest you make the same effort. I doubt you would insult people in person the way you do online. Raise your standard.

Posted by: Limbic Author Profile Page at June 28, 2008 2:33 AM

Limbic,

It is clear that you will not let the expressed wishes of this web site's owner to limit your rants to three per thread, get in the way of your compulsive need to have the last word.

No one has been addressing you, and you are already over your limit of three posts per thread. What do you want? Besides insinuating that nameless_fool and myself be banned, of course?

You have made a number of manipulative, dishonest and highly annoying remarks in your comment #2, which I didn't address because attention is all you crave and live off of.

Enough with the moral equivalence, already. You are the last person qualified to tell us how much Serbia and Albania have in common, or the shared blame/shame of collaboration. The mere fact that you think nameless_fool's posts bear any resemblance to those of the freak Dorich, just shows how corrupt and/or clueless you are.

Nameless_fool provided quotes with authors, as well as easily verifiable facts. If you want to challenge anything in specific, you are more than welcome to do so, on your blog, since you already had your 3 posts here. Speculating that the information supposedly came from Albanian nationalist sites (btw, name me a few, I don't know of any) will not get you very far. By the way, how mighty hypocritical of someone who in another thread linked to an 'article' from Islam-Watch, which had actually been fished out from Serbiana.

If you are trying to fool yourself that you are not an Albanian hating bigot, don't. You ought to either try much harder than that to not sound anti-Albanian, or don't bother hiding it at all. I could fill an entire page with your outrageous quotes, including minute-marks from your pseudo-intellectual YouTube rants, which show your true colors bright and clear.

What now? Will you take another dump on Michael's blog and fire off your 5th post on this thread? You got a fresh one that will give you new chances to seethe. Check out the homepage.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 28, 2008 5:50 PM

You warn someone that their bigotry diaper is leaking and the "thanks' you get is taking it off completely!

http://www.limbicnutrition.com/blog/michael-totten-again-this-time-on-the-road-to-kosovo/

Posted by: Limbic Author Profile Page at June 29, 2008 5:21 AM

I counted five posts from Limbic so my suggestion is either cut our all the vowels or if that is too difficult then excise the two posts that resemble Kerouac's original manuscript for On the Road.

Posted by: Pat Patterson Author Profile Page at June 29, 2008 7:22 AM

Rereading nameless-fool I was struck by how similar the Albanians are to the Scots and Scots-Irish of Ulster. Willing to fight generally for anybody but never trusted by those they fought for either in the Balkans or Tennessee.

Posted by: Pat Patterson Author Profile Page at June 29, 2008 9:22 PM

Willing to fight generally for anybody but never trusted by those they fought for either in the Balkans or Tennessee.

Pat, Byron compared Albanians to the Scott highlanders. I suggest you read this: "The Albanian Character" chapter from by H. Brailsford in 1906 or so: promacedonia.org/en/hb/hb_8_1.html

Here's a quote on the peculiarities (as he saw them; it isn't exactly glowing but...):
"The key to the Albanian temperament is, on the other hand, a sensitive and somewhat aggressive pride. At its lowest it is a picturesque and amiable vanity, at its best it is a fine self-respect. He has the same quickness of wit, the same tense nerves as the Greek, and the same spirit of enterprise. But his pride saves him alike from cowardice and from meanness.

He will rob openly and with violence, but he will not steal. He will torture an enemy, but he will not touch a woman. If he swaggers and boasts and puts a certain truculence into his very dress, he has much too high an opinion of himself to lie meanly in self-defence. He has the traditions of a race which has fought for the Turk as his mercenaries, but has never accepted his domestic rule without protest. An Albanian's sense of honour is not entirely external.

He will murder you without remorse if he conceives that you have insulted him — as Turkish officers and Russian consuls have learned to their cost — and if the murderer, a lonely outlaw, should find his way even to a strange and possibly hostile tribe, it will fight to the last man rather than surrender him to the authorities. But he is equally punctilious about his own pledged word. To keep it he will face any risk himself, and to help him to keep it, his tribe will think no sacrifice extravagant. It is extremely mediaeval, no doubt, this Albanian sense of honour, but if it has the crudity and bloody-mindedness, it has also the chivalry and something of the inward dignity of the knightly spirit."
--------
The mistrust was mutual. They were effective soldiers and whoever hired them HAD to deal with their "crap"

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at July 5, 2008 1:07 AM
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