YUGOSLAVIa. 20.07.1917, Corfou - 04.02.2003, Belgrade. R.I.P.
When this country is now part of history, I remind a prophetic sentence of Underground : Ivan, lost in the underground asks for the way back to Yugoslavia. Someone answers him: ”Nema Jugoslavia !” (Yugoslavia does not exist any more !).
Understanding the situation in Balkans is necessary to catch the subtleties and to read between the lines of Emir Kusturica's films. The people, the religions, the politics, the geopolitical conflicts had already a strong importance in each republic before they were joined together in Yugoslavia and after they imploded in the complex situation of today.
Balkan means mountain and the first physical characteristic of this area is its mountainous aspect, not easily crossable, particularly in the winter. Its accentuated relief does not help mixing of populations and was undoubtedly one of the causes that many particularisms resulting from history remained, and still divide the local populations (all of Slavic roots). There are however geophysical disparities which unbalanced the economic progresses of the various areas : fertile fields in Slovenia, large agricultural plains in Voïvodinia, better conditions for industry in Serbia, sea access for Croatia, Slovenia and Montenegro. Bosnia and Herzegovina, mountainous except in its northern part is from this point of view less favoured.
Area not very favourable to the massive military operations and fast progressions, Balkans were naturally a border not easily crossed during the confrontations of Eastern and Western civilizations.
Coming from south, Greek civilization has first reigned on Balkans. The Romans settle on these territories starting from IVth century BC, coming from west and southwest. During the fourth century a first division of the territory occurs because the line separating the Western part of Roman (catholic) empire from its Eastern part (orthodox) is situated along the Drina river. During the 5th century, barbarians invasions (Francs, Ostrogoths and Slaves) are coming gradually from east and northeast. During XIIIth and XIVth centuries the Ottoman empire gradually extends its influence on Balkans by introducing Islam. In 1389, the Turks win a decisive victory at Kosovo Polje and obtain a large part of ex-Yugoslavia, except Montenegro and Croatia. This domination involves important population movements : Serbs settle in Voïvodine and in Krajina, and Albanians settle in Kosovo emptied by this emigration. This situation creates a durable feeling of foreign occupancy, badly felt by the populations concerned and thus creating a cleavage within these populations. This cleavage is accentuated by the Islamic conversion of Bosnian minorities, soon treated as collaborationists.
At the beginning of the XIXth century, the retreat of the Ottoman empire places gradually these countries under the influence of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Serbia remains however autonomous. The Balkan wars of the beginning of the XXth century push back the Turks, and Turkey reaches its current border. Serbia doubles its surface. A first idea of joining the southern Slavs appears inside the Austrian empire, project which would separate Serbia from Bosnia strongly populated of Serbs. François Ferdinand is then assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, an utopist bosnian Serb, on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo.
War bursts and Serbia, thanks to a decisive French assistance, pushes back the Austrians. With the issue of the First World War the countries are gathered within a kingdom which becomes the kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929 with a Croatian opposition (Oustachis) strong enough to cause the assassination in Marseilles of king Alexander Ist. The first explicit reference to Yugoslavia (Southern Slavs) appeared in 1917 with the creation by king Alexandre Karadjordjevic of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which followed the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croatians and Slovens, founded in 1918. King Karadjordjevic was the first leader trying to impose on the mosaic of people gathered under his authority the idea of a Yugoslav identity, but without much success.
The Second World War causes conflicts between Serbs and Croatians, due to the attitude regarding German occupancy. Serb resistance and Tito's communist resistance, are led by Tchetniks, using the old name of the resistants to the Ottoman empire .
During the war a tenth of the population dies. Half of it resulting from the civil war. Then Tito founds a new Republic of Yugoslavia, and will live more than thirty years of peaceful life. With its iron hand, Yugoslavia imagines a socialism that is not aligned on Moscow. Tito will always tried to calm the conflicts between the different ethnic and religious groups. Thus, in 1968 he created the “Muslim” nationality, for those who do not identify as Serb, nor as Bosnian. This nationality did not imply any religious belongship.
Communist politic in Yugoslavia consisted in giving a standard cultural model to cinema and television. It was a form of propaganda, and efforts were made to accentuate the resemblances between Serbs and Croats, Croats and Muslims, etc. Thus, Yugoslav film industries didn't favoured the historical, national or religious films. It's that time when directors were tightened to the Party that Emir Kusturica wanted to denounce in his burlesque scene of Film inside the film in Underground. Only the Second World war was tolerated as film subject because it highlighted the only time in its history that Yugoslavia, was united to fight an external enemy.
However, after his death in 1980, the country dislocates slowly. In the 80's, central authority is gradually lowered to the benefit of the provinces in which will grow very nationalist atmospheres. In 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall will encourage the provinces to emancipate from the authority of Belgrade.
The elections of 1990 lead to the success of Franco Trudjman who is elected president of Croatia, what refuse the Serbs living in the south of the country. The Croats start to build an army. In 1991, Milošević takes the power in Serbia exploiting the claims of the Serb minorities of Kosovo in front of in the local Albanian Muslim majority. June 25, 1991 Slovenia and Croatia proclaim their independence what causes the first engagements. October 15, 1991 the croato-muslim majority votes for the sovereignty of Bosnia, which involves auto-proclamation of three autonomous Serb republics, in the north of Bosnia (Banja Luka), in eastern Herzegovina and in Romanja (Blade). The European Community recognizes Bosnia on April 6, 1992. The federal army, now Serb, settles in Serbia which becomes with Montenegro, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) on April 27, 1992.
The Serb militia takes the heights of Sarajevo and install heavy weapons. The Serbs of Bosnia also take cities next to Serbia. In 1993 the Croats attack the Muslims in Mostar whereas the Serbs help the Croats in central Bosnia and the Bosnian army in Mostar. One year later under assistance of the USA a croato-muslim agreement ends the hostilities (March 18, 1994). Following the engagements a certain balance of the forces remains in Bosnia.
An exclusion zone is created during the ultimatum of Sarajevo on February 9, 1994 after the explosion of a fatal bomb in the market of Markale. No heavy weapon should be fired within a 20 km circle centred on Sarajevo or being out of the control of the FORPRONU. The same status is extended to the town of Gorazde on April 22, 1994.
At the end of 1994 the war has made more than 150 000 died people and 2 million moved people including 1 200 000 refugees out of Bosnia and Herzegovina (when there were 4 350 000 people in 1991). During this period failed the plans Vance Owen (January 1993), and Owen Stoltenberg (September 1993) whereas the plan Juppé Kinkel (April 1994) meets severe difficulties. In the spring of 1995 after an hostage capture of blue helmets, the international community reacts more highly, and sends a fast force of reaction and starts a more brutal engagement of NATO and UN which results in air and terrestrial operations strongly criticised due to strong collateral damages.
Then, a peace process is being developed and leads to the agreements of Dayton on November 21, 1995, signed in Paris on December 14, 1995. These agreements foresee the separation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in two entities: the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (of which the majority of the ten cantons present a bosnian-muslim majority : cantons of Sarajevo, Tuzla or Zenica, or a Croatian majority : canton of Livno, in Herzegovina), and Republika Srpska (with a Serb majority). But if Bosnia is officially divided into two entities, it actually does not count less than thirteen governments : those of the common State, those of each of the two entities, and those of the ten cantons of the Federations…
Feeling crushed by a capacity lowered by the international community for its exactions within the conflicts in Bosnia, Croatia and in Kosovo, Montenegro took little by little distance from Belgrade to engage on the way of independence. After the fall of Milošević in October 2000 and the introduction of a team of democrats and reformists to the head of Yugoslavia, the European Union opposed to a new parcelling out in Balkans, summoning Serbia and Montenegro to get along, at least for a three years period.
Thus, the creation of this Serbia-Montenegro Union, whose common institutions, still of first importance (diplomacy, defence, economy, minorities), were very limited. Despite the pressures of Brussels to maintain the federated state, Montenegro organized after the three-years period a self-determination referendum. Europe still imposed a specific 55% mandatory rate for independence in order to recognize the results. This rate was shortly obtained with 55.5% with the vote of 21 may 2006.
Previously an autonomous province of Serbia, this territory with Albanian majority was placed under the administration of UN on June 10 1999, after the violent conflicts who opposed the Serbs and the Albanese separatists at the end the 90s and with the humane catastrophe which followed. Since the peace agreements of Kumanovo, the same day, a NATO force, the KFOR, ensures peace and order in this area, previously placed under the authority of Serbia. The negotiations on the statute of Kosovo between the Serbian and Kosovar authorities remained a long time in a dead end, the first speaking only about a large autonomy of Kosovo within Serbia, the second ones wanting independence.
It is in this context that on February 17 2008, the Parliament of Kosovo unilaterally proclaimed the independence of the territory. This independence was officially recognized by a certain number of countries, among which France and United States, but other ones, like Russia or Serbia, are totally opposed to it.