Why Bosnia Must Die

DANIEL BERGER

November 06, 1993|By DANIEL BERGER

Because of Bosnia, Yugoslavia was invented. To insure the death of Yugoslavia, Bosnia must be destroyed.

To backtrack: Yugoslavs or most of them are one ethnicity if you go back far enough. Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims speak one language. They use different alphabets and have different religions because for centuries they had different rulers and histories.

There really was a Bosnia once, as much as there was a Slovenia or Croatia. There was a kingdom of Bosnia in the 12th century. In the 14th century it acquired Herzegovina to the south from Serbia, and the two have usually been united since.

A Christian heresy in the Middle Ages, called Manichaeism, saw evil and good as equal forces in contention. One group, the Albigensians in Provence, was destroyed by holy crusade in the 13th century. In Bosnia, this heresy lived on, its adherents called Bogomils. Catholic and Orthodox churches and polities were equally intent on destroying Bogomilism. Bogomils fought, understandably, to retain Bosnia's independence.

Finally, Bogomils welcomed Muslim Turk conquerors in 1463 as more tolerant than Catholic and Orthodox princes. Many Bogomils converted to Islam, for the record, and were allowed to keep their wealth and position. Bogomilism disappeared. Turkey ruled Catholics (Croats), Orthodox (Serbs) and Muslims as well as Jews and Gypsies, side by side in Bosnia. This explains why there are blond and blue-eyed Muslims in Bosnia. And why many Serbs think of Muslims as treasonable opportunists. Converting to Islam was ''turning Turk.''

Serbia was in the Turkish empire until the 19th century and Croatia in the Austro-Hungarian empire until the 20th. Bosnia-Herzegovina was in both. After Bosnian revolt, Austria administered it under Turkish ''suzerainty'' from 1878, annexing it in 1908. A Bosnian Serb nationalist, carrying a weapon from the royal Serb arsenal, assassinated the heir to Austria's throne in Sarajevo in 1914. Austria held Serbia accountable and World War I began. It destroyed the Austro-Hungarian, Turkish and Russian empires.

Every country was to be freed. But what was a country? Serbia and Montenegro were already kingdoms with Serb majorities. Croatia was ruled by Hungary under the Austrian banner, but had its own identity.

They might have been separate countries, but Croatian politicians agreed in 1917 to merge with Serbia and Montenegro in the ''Kingdom of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs,'' which was proclaimed in 1918. Its name was changed to Yugoslavia, or union of South Slavs, in 1929.

One motive was that Bosnia was neither Serbia nor Croatia, but claimed by both and a likely cause for war between them. It fit neatly into the larger concept. Another motive was to create a South Slav state powerful enough to repulse Italian designs on the Dalmatian coast.

Yugoslavia was dismembered by German-Italian occupation in 1941, and re-established by the Communist Marshal Tito in 1945.

Muslim, all this time, meant a religious distinction. In 1964 and 1974, dealing with nationalist fissures, Tito defined Muslims as a nation. It was like the Soviet Union declaring Jews a nationality.

Bosnia had been a medieval state and a Yugoslav ''republic,'' but Bosnian Muslims had always lived among others as the largest minority. Jealous Serbs called them Turks as a pejorative, and some emigrated to Istanbul.

British author Mark Thompson, in his 1992 book, ''A Paper House: The Ending of Yugoslavia,'' gave Bosnia's terminal 1991 population as 41 per cent Muslim, 31 percent Serb, 18 percent Croat (that's a total of 90 percent, with 10 percent other) and 27 percent of the marriages mixed. Bosnia was the part of Yugoslavia that worked.

The existence of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a multi-national, diverse state that could not be independent would cry out for reinvention of a Union of South Slavs to include it. The Communist-Fascist-nationalist dictatorships of Croatia and Serbia, using war to monopolize power, require Bosnia-Herzegovina's destruction.

With annihilation of the Muslims; with dismemberment of the ''republic'' into three parts and the Muslim part smallest and not viable; with the exodus of all Jewish children to Israel -- Bosnia-Herzegovina will permanently vanish.

Then Yugoslavia could never be reconstituted. That's what dismemberment is for.

Daniel Berger is an editorial writer for The Baltimore Sun.

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