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Further news from Sarajevo




As I wrote previously, the city of Sarajevo yesterday commemorated the centenary of the assasination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand with a fairly confused set of events. A member of a not entirely ceremonial royal family and in a sense therefore a political leader was murdered 100 years ago, as was his wife. Neither of them were bad people and the murder was a horrible thing in itself, even without the terrible events that it set off. The city of Sarajevo held events to commemorate this centenary, but there was much ambiguity about what message (if any) were being sent.

Inevitably, the memories of more recent events in Sarajevo were in the air, even if not explicitly spoken about. The assassin Gavrilo Princip was a Serb nationalist and the sides of buildings in Sarajevo are full of holes that were put there by other Serb nationalists for four years during the siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1996.

However, there are two Sarajevos. The bulk of the city is part of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (not to be confused with the nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, of which it is a constituent entity), and is populated mostly by Bosnian Muslims, with a small Bosnian Croat population also. However, to the east is Istočno Sarajevo (East Sarajevo), which is part of the Serbian Republic (not to be confused with the Republic of Serbia, of which it is not a constituent entity but would probably like to be) and which is populated by Bosnian Serbs. East Sarajevo consists mostly of new housing that was built on the edge of town using international aid money in order to house Serbs from Sarajevo who either fled or where expelled from Sarajevo during the siege. There is no obvious sign that one is crossing the boundary between the two entities when one does, but they are quite separate just the same. Public transport does not cross the border. People from East Sarajevo to not have access to healthcare in the principal hospital in Sarajevo. People from one side do not socialise or work on the other.

If you look more carefully  there are differences between what is on the two sides. As I said,  the housing in East Sarajevo is mostly new. The housing in nearby neighbourhoods of non-East Sarajevo are older, and the walls of buildings are full of holes where they were hit by shells during the siege. There is a large and new Orthodox Church overlooking the boundary between the two parts of the city. Away from the populated areas but still on the boundary is the base of the EUFOR peacekeeping force. The boundary goes right through its middle.

Although the memory of the siege of 1992-6 was hanging over the events in the historic part of Sarajevo yesterday,  allusions were vague. In East Sarajevo, not so much. Public spaces are still being established in that part of town. One of these is a new park. A ceremony was held yesterday to name it “Gavrilo Princip Park”, and a statue of the murderer himself was also unveiled. Thankfully, I suspect, we did not make it to East Sarajevo for that dedication ceremony. However, we did visit the park and the statue today. A few people were posing for photographs with it. Whereas the main commemorating events were deliberately non-provocative, those in East Sarajevo were extraordinarily provocative, and very crude. Also, insane.

A mildly strange day

Samizdata’s World War 1 correspondent Patrick Crozier and I are presently in Sarajevo,  on the hundredth anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which triggered World War 1. It has been a slightly peculiar occasion, as nobody – local, or visiting – seems to be quite clear about what exactly is the correct way to commemorate such an event. There are musical events, art exhibitions (mostly only tangentially related to the occasion), conferences, and a vast number of television crews from all around the world looking for people to interview and things to film other than one another, mostly without great success. It has been, a long, hot day, and the journey into Sarajevo from Belgrade (that we made yesterday evening) is a long and tiring one through steep mountain roads, and I lack the strength to write at length now, alas.

However, whatever the correct way of commemorating an event such as this is, my guess is that it does not involve dressing up as the Archduke and/or his wife Sophie and sitting in a similar open car to the one they were riding in when they were murdered on the exact same spot exactly one hundred years earlier.

It was, however, possible to to that in Sarajevo today.


Samizdata quote of the day

On July 1 next year, Croatia becomes the 28th member of the European Union, and under the terms of the Treaty of Maastricht this new, proud sovereign state – not yet two decades old – must accept the entire corpus of EU law; and she must place her neck in the noose of the single currency. Unlike Britain or Denmark, the Croats have no opt-out. They are now legally obliged to give up the kuna for the euro, and I say, don’t do it, folks. It is not only a mistake. To submit to the euro would be a stunning refusal to learn the grim lessons of recent Balkan history

Boris Johnson.

Blimey, I can hardly believe I just quoted Mr. Toad. But whilst I share BJ’s sentiments on this, knowing Croatia reasonably well, I suspect there was less opposition to this than one might have expected due to the indigenous Croatian political class being such a dismal collection of pond scum and turds who floated to the top. I think the average Croatian could not see how shifting power away from these wankers could possibly make things worse. And of course they are entirely wrong on that score, as they will eventually discover.

What Israel and Kosova have in common…

…rather a lot actually.

Michael Totten continued to climb in my estimation after a very good article called The Israel of the Balkans on the interesting parallels between Kosova and Israel.

Strongly recommended.

‘Imperialism’ or just creeping cosmopolitanism?

Michael Totten’s latest bloggage from Iraq is as informative as ever, but the thing that fascinated me most was a brief but interesting discursion into the use of the English word ‘Supermarket’ on a sign in a small town in Iraq.

What struck me about the sign on that store, and on many other stores in Iraq, was the English word “supermarket.” The only people in Saqlawiya who find English helpful are the Marines. And me.

I’ve seen this far beyond Iraq. Even in small towns in Libya – one of the most closed societies in the world – I found store signs in English. The amount of English in a genuinely cosmopolitan city like Beirut is even more striking, though no longer surprising. Beirut, at least, has a huge tourist industry. Imagine how differently you would think about Arabic civilization if small towns in Kansas and Nebraska – not to mention large cities like New York and Chicago – had storefront signs in the Arabic language even though no Arabs live there. Perhaps the word “imperialism” wouldn’t seem so much like a stretch. Of course no one forces Iraqis or Libyans to put English words on their signs, so it’s telling that they do so anyway, and that they did not choose Chinese or Russian.

I disagree with Michael’s use of the word ‘imperialism’ and I think he answers that point himself in the very next sentence. An even more demotic variation on the inexplicable prevalence of English puzzled me many years ago BB (Before Blogging). I spent some time in a few fairly rough parts of Croatia and one can hardly miss the prevalence of racist and sexist graffiti on the communist-era concrete tower blocks. The odd thing is that mixed in with the usually ‘Jebi Se’ varient epithets in Croatian, you will find floridly racist threats or extravagant anatomical references in more or less grammatically correct English. And this in an area that was not exactly a magnet for English speaking tourists, particularly in the middle of the then on-going war.

The huge number of people who speak English in Croatia can be easily explained by the ubiquity of satellite dishes, which is why I often referred to the local Croatian English dialect as MTV English. But that does not answer the question of why in a linguistically and ethnically homogeneous area (such as unlovely New Zagreb in Croatia or Saqlawiya in Iraq), people use written English when there is no commercial or political pressures to do so.


And so what Slobodan Milosevic wrought comes full circle

Kosova has declared its independence from Serbia and if ever a people have justification for not trusting the political institutions of another, it is the Kosovars. Perhaps this will, as some fear and other hope, start a wave of reasonable and logical separations… starting with Taiwan maybe?

Supporting the Islamic good guys

There is a very interesting article in The Weekly Standard by Stephen Schwartz called The Balkan Front, describing the struggle between Saudi backed Wahhabi Islam and the very moderate Bektashis and Rumi Sufi traditions in various parts of the Balkans.

These are forms of Islam antithetical to the Wahhabis, and they are in the majority in places like Bosnia-Herzegovina (I have gotten drunk with enough Bosnians to know). Supporting them politically, financially and militarily, plus encouraging them to evangelise in areas infested by the Wahhabi pestilence, is surely a strategic move that should be supported by anyone who sees the spread of intolerant radical Islam as one of the major threats to civilisation in the world today.

This is a subject on which the Serbian, Bosnian and Albanian governments, not to mention peoples, should be making common cause. It is in the interests of everyone who wants stability in the Balkans to oppose the presence of corrosive Wahhabi Islam and the Islamo-fascist politics that come with it. Tolerating Saudi money flooding into the region is like someone prone to cancer smoking cigarettes but given the areas fratricidal recent past, perhaps the malign Saudis can do a service by providing the Balkans’ fractious factions with something long needed: a legitimate and loathsome common enemy.

We forgot that you were here

The Balkans have been very quiet for what seems to be the longest time. Or, if not exactly quiet, then so overshadowed by other events that I had almost forgotten about them. Almost. But I have always regarded the region as an occasionally dormant volcano as opposed to a dead one.

In that context, this rather gloomy editorial from the Asia Times is worth reading:

When the outcome of a tragedy is known in advance, it finds ways of occurring earlier than expected. In this case, the fate of 100,000 Serbian Christians who remain in Kosovo may pre-empt the debate over Europe’s eventual absorption into the Muslim world.

The author makes no attempt to disguise his own sympathies so caveat lector.

I sometimes wonder how the last Balkan war would have played out without the NATO (read American) intervention. Very differently I suspect. In the event of another eruption, does the USA have the available resources and sufficient political will to perform an encore?

Slobodan Milosovic is dead… good riddence

No doubt Harold Pinter will be sad that his favourite masss murderer and communist/national socialist despot has snuffed it but my guess is that they will be celebrating in the streets in Croatia, much of Bosnia and in more the rational circles in Serbia.

Good riddence to bad rubbish.

Neither forget nor forgive

Some of the Serbian paramilitary ‘heroes’ responsible for the mass murder of 192 Croatians in Vukovar in 1991 have been put on trial in Serbia.

This is a welcome development as not only does it brings bring these people to account, it will require Serbian society and the Serbian state to confront what really happened. In the absence of an externally imposed ‘denazification’ process, this could be exactly what Serbia needs and perhaps the start of a process that will de-legitimise vile creatures like Vojislav Seseji and other nationalists who do not have the widespread opprobrium they deserve within Serbia itself.

War crimes trials far off in the Hague simply cannot have the same effect as trials within Serbia itself. Forcing the painful truth to be brought out for all to see has to be a good thing as far too many people with the blood of the Balkans on their hands are still relaxing in the cafés of Belgrade. Perhaps this is the first sign that their days are numbered, but it would be premature to just assume this will be the case. Nevertheless, these trials are a very good start.

What Bastille Day is all about

A few days ago I wrote an article pointing to information indicating that the French government had not only agreed to not arrest General Ratko Mladic, the man who supervised the murder of 7,000 men and young boys in Srebrenica under the orders from Chetnik leader Radovan Karadzic, but were also giving the former Bosnian Serb leadership a safe haven from arrest to this day in sector of Bosnia under their military control.

So when a French serial commenter who leaves his remarks on Samizdata.net left a comments under that post saying:


I whish you all the merriest July 14 ever.

My first reaction was pure fury. This guy might as well have just pissed on the graves of these people, murdered just eight short years ago. In fact to remind us all of his horror which happened under the nose of humane and oh so moral ‘Europe’, and with the complicity of government officials who are still in office today in Paris, London and the UN in New York, just last Friday it was reported that more bodies had been found in Srebrenica, bringing the total up to about 8,000 murdered in cold blood.

I was on the verge of banning this guy and leaving an extremely hostile remark of my own. But then I thought about those remarks a bit longer and calmed down. In fact it started to dawn on me that those comments were a perfect adjunct to the article.

The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 was an event more important in the mythology of the French Revolution than in the actually history of it (far from freeing imprisioned patriots, the inmates were four forgers, two lunatics, and the Marquis de Sade), but it was indeed a portent of the blood soaked egalitarian horror that was to follow.

So yes, that was the perfect comment to remind us that not only is France, like most countries, rooted in slaughter and horror in the distant historical past… but that recent outrages (giving aid and comfort to mass murderers) will just be forgotten in France and millions of French people will sing the national anthem and feel good about the people who lead them. The same people who gave Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic a free pass for slaughtering thousands in Srebrenica and tens of thousands elsewhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Vive la France.

And yet this same commenter, like so many French people, decries the overthrow of Ba’athist Socialism in Iraq. Vive La Liberte? Not for the people of Iraq it would seem and certainly not for the slaughtered people of Srebrenica.

There are hypocrites and then there are French hypocrites. Do not let anyone ever tell you that there is nothing at which the French are truly world class.

Accessory after the fact

It has been claimed that French President Jacques Chirac negotiated de facto immunity from prosecution for the second greatest post-WWII war criminal in Europe west of the former Soviet border, Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, in return for the Bosnian Serb military releasing two captured French pilots.

The claim, dismissed as “hearsay” by Paris, was contained in the transcripts of a telephone conversation between the former Yugoslav president, Zoran Lilic, and the head of the Yugoslav armed forces in Belgrade.

They described Mr Lilic explaining in December 1995 that Gen Mladic would be safe from extradition after the Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian conflict, even though he had already been indicted for war crimes.

“He will not be delivered to anyone from the tribunal. He has got the guarantee by Chirac and Slobodan [Milosevic],” said the transcript. “Accordingly, he has to deliver these men to us, if he wants to, or he should come with us and place the men at the place of his choice.”

If this is true, then Chirac is nothing less than an accessory after the fact to mass murder. The fact that both General Mladic and the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic have both remained at large does rather suggest this report is true. Oh… and where are these two indicted mass murderers at large? In the French controlled sector of Bosnia, of course.

Britain has its own amoral creatures like Douglas Hurd who disgracefully equated murder victims with their murderers in the Balkans, so it would be fair to say that this particular shit sandwich is large enough for much of the political class on both sides of the English Channel to take a bite… but next time your hear a member of the French establishment lecture anyone about anything on ‘moral grounds’, tell them to drop dead, preferably in Srebrenica.