- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Yugoslavia is dead. The multinational federation, once consisting of the republics of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro, is no more.

The last chapter in the country’s break-up was written recently when tiny Montenegro voted to secede from its union with Serbia. The result consigns the last vestiges of former Yugoslavia to history after the bloody wars of the 1990s had already led to Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia leaving the federation.

Referring to Montenegro’s referendum, Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski said “we witnessed the end of Project Yugoslavia, which was formed at the time with good intentions.”

Mr. Buckovski is wrong about the latter point. Yugoslavia has often been portrayed by Western diplomats and scholars as a noble attempt in multicultural nation-building, which sought to unite all of the South Slavs into one state.

Forged in 1918, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later renamed Yugoslavia in 1929) was an artificial creation of the victorious Allied powers, especially Britain and France. In the eyes of the West, its primary purpose was to act as a strategic buffer in the Balkans to contain Germany and Austria. Yugoslavia was an imperialist project. It was a Serb-dominated empire, which abrogated the rights to democracy and national self-determination for most of its constituent peoples.

From its inception, Yugoslavia contained the seeds of its own destruction. It was based on a massive lie: namely, that it was composed of similar peoples who shared a common language, heritage and culture. Instead, it consisted of an ethnic patchwork of rival national groups, who not only spoke different languages but had radically different cultures, religions, histories and civilizations. This was especially true of its two largest republics, Croatia and Serbia.

For nationalist Serbs, Yugoslavia served as a mask for achieving their goal of a “Greater Serbia,” uniting all of the Serbs in the region into one common state.

As Serbian leader and Belgrade’s chief architect of the South Slav union, Nikola Pasic, wrote in 1918: “Serbia does not want to drown in Yugoslavia, but to have Yugoslavia drown in her.” Under Belgrade’s harsh rule, the country was turned into an authoritarian, centralized police state where non-Serbs were routinely persecuted and murdered.

During World War II, Nazi Germany’s invasion led to Yugoslavia’s dismemberment. Quisling regimes were installed throughout the region.

In Croatia, a group of fascist thugs, called the Ustashe, erected a pseudo-independent state allied with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. The Ustashe passed racialist laws and committed countless unspeakable crimes, including the mass murder of more than 100,000 Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croats.

In Serbia, a pro-Nazi government led by the odious anti-Semite, Gen. Milan Nedic, imposed a fascist regime, whose victims were not only Croatians, Albanians, Muslims and opposition Serbs. Its main victim was Serbia’s large Jewish community, nearly all of whom were exterminated or sent off to concentration camps.

Yet the greatest mass murderer was Josip Broz Tito. His communist Partisans succeeded in re-establishing Yugoslavia in 1945, however, only as a Leninist totalitarian state built upon the corpses of hundreds of thousands of victims — Croatians, ethnic Germans, Hungarians, Serbs, Slovenes, Albanians, Muslims and Montenegrins.

When communism finally began to collapse across Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia’s dissolution was not only predictable but inevitable. It was an experiment in social engineering, in which the peoples of the region were used as guinea pigs — first, by the West and then by the communists — to test utopian theories about the virtues of multinational nation-building and the evils of small national states.

It is remarkable that, even with the obvious failure of multinational federations in the Balkans, the European Union has only grudgingly come to accept Montenegro’s newly won independence. Even though Serbia and Montenegro are similar in many ways (both are Slavic, Orthodox Christian nations), Montenegrins rightly feel they have a separate Adriatic identity and a clearer path toward a European future. This is especially true in the wake of the EU’s recent decision to halt further entry talks with Belgrade because of its failure to capture the fugitive Bosnian Serb war criminal, Gen. Ratko Mladic. Having broken away from Serbia’s stifling grip, Montenegro is now free to pursue EU accession negotiations on its own.

Brussels believes microstates in the region will only lead to further instability. In fact, the very opposite is true: Only by allowing each national group to flourish by having its own country, history, culture, religion and civilizational identity can there be lasting stability and real, peaceful co-existence.

The demise of Yugoslavia — like the demise of other defunct multinational entities, such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia — shows that the idea of forcing national groups to live with one another in a common state against their wishes is not only antidemocratic and illiberal but is a recipe for disaster.

Yugoslavia was the God that failed. Good riddance.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is editor of Insight on the News (www.insightmag.com) and a regular contributor to the Commentary Pages of The Washington Times.

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