The judges of the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague called on Professor
Paul Garde to give an historic overview of the Balkans region and Garde then
fielded questions from the judges. Garde's testimony was given June 27-28,
1996. He is a professor of Slav literature and languages and has written many
lingustics books. Since 1991 Garde's research and writing have focused on the
break-up of Yugoslavia.
Q. After Tito died in 1980, what led to the rise of nationalism
and the eventual dissolution of Yugoslavia?
A. After Tito's death, as I indicated earlier on, we had the sort of turning
presidency. So, in other words, you did not have one single person who would
impersonate the state, it would rotate every single year. So, of course, his
actually very limited.
But from that moment on some nationalistic trends could be voiced and started
to emerge less timidly than before in the different republics and, more
Serbia. In Serbia, even the press, came up with Serb nationalist opinions.
As of '81, a year after Tito's death, some troubles arose in Kosovo. Kosovo,
might I remind you, is an autonomous province whose population is -- Albanian
represented about 80 to 90 per cent. But Kosovo did not have the status of a
so the Albanians from Kosovo, who claimed the status of Republic for their
some were even more radical and they wanted to be reunited with Albania,)
major troubles, riots, that started at the University of Kosovo and then spread
out to the
whole country. The uprising was militarily oppressed in '81. There were many
So, from that moment on, nationalism intensified both from the Albanians from
Kosovo but also from the Serbs. Even in Serbia we saw in the official press a
campaign directed against the Albanians from Kosovo. So, gradually, the Serb
nationalistic thesis were voiced up to the moment when nationalism came to
Serbia with the accession to power of Milosevic.
But at the same time we see that the 80s, after Tito's death, there is another
phenomenon that took place -- that has nothing to do with Tito's death, it just
happen at the same time -- there was an economic decline. Yugoslavia had been
prosperous as long as the world economy was fairing well. That was until '74.
the oil crisis of '74, Yugoslavia underwent some economic problems but still
its means. But in '80 or, rather, in '79 there was a turning point. There
economic problems, and we see this on economic graphs. There was a downward
of 1980, poverty and so and so forth. Basically, all these phenomena coincided
impoverishment, in the rise of nationalism and, more specifically, the Serb
So, finally, the more open expression of such nationalistic themes in Serbia
more particularly, and we also see the accession to power of Milosevic. So
no longer oppressed in Serbia. It is even encouraged. It has become
Q. Was there a memorandum prepared by the Serbian Academy of Arts
and Sciences on an informal basis circulated in the 1980s that attempted to
explain the rationale of the nationalist movement?
A. That particular text dates to December 1986. It has not been published.
First it was
circulated covertly. It was only published later on in Croatia. So this text
officially by the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Serbia by a group of
inspired by the writer Cosic
So this particular text analyses the situation in Yugoslavia. The first part
with the economy and it indicates that decentralization of the decision-making
excessive power given to the different entities, is a cause for the economic
decline in this
country. Now to keep this intact we would need to re-establish a centralized
Now in the second part of this document they address the more cultural and
political issues. It states and it asserts that Serbs do not have the place
that they deserve in
the federation, and that their country, i.e. Serbia, is unduly divided into
three, since we
have these two autonomous provinces, Vojvodina and Kosovo, which have just
same authority, the same power, as if they were republics. Then furthermore
the authority of Serbia be re-established over these autonomous provinces.
complain about the fact that the Serbs are oppressed in Kosovo, threatened in
they stated, by the Albanian (majority) and even that the Serbs are threatened
in Croatia by
the Croat majority. So, in short, they denounce this threat that they feel
whether or not directly connected to the Republic of Serbia.
So this was a sort of first step, the first time that they expressed their
nationalistic demands, and they look at different aspects of the problems from
legal, linguistic point of view, cultural point of view. So the remedy is to
according to the authors, in recentralizing, if you like, recentralizing
Serbia. Serbia would
then take power over these autonomous provinces, and to re-centralize
other words, to turn it into a stronger state. One could say, although it is
not part of the
text, that the Serbs would then have full control over the whole federation.
Q. What did the Serb demands for "recentralization" mean, and what did
that have to do with Milosevic and nationalism?
A. When Milosevic came to power in Serbia this
happened at the same time as Gorbachev took power in Russia in the USSR.
understood that communism did not have any future, so he had to find something
keep his power and his authority.
So what he initiated in 1987 was what was called the anti-bureaucratic
revolution. What does that mean? In all communist regimes you had oppression
course. The communist regimes, whenever they were faced with people being
always said it was not the regime's fault; it was the fault of the bureaucracy
bureaucracy had to be fought against. So, basically, we hear the same slogan
Milosevic in 1987. He wanted to fight bureaucracy, this anti-bureaucracy
revolution as he
called it. At the same time in Tito's regime, in that of the communist
Yugoslavia, you did
not have one single bureaucracy, you had several bureaucracies. You had the
bureaucracy of each Republic and each autonomous province. So the whole idea
revolution against bureaucracy has to be connected with the idea of fighting
If you wanted to do away with bureaucracy that means you also want to do
away with the different bureaucracies that ruled over each Republic and
provinces. That means you need to reinforce a central authority. Now this
whole idea is
based on a concept that the French are quite familiar with and which is the
democracy implies centralization, and any local authority is a source of
inequalities, whilst, on the contrary, in other traditions like in the
one would think that, on the contrary, the more decentralized the more you have
freedom and the more democracy you have.
So I think that Milosevic thought that we did not need to fight against
bureaucracy as a whole, but you had to fight against bureaucracies and the
powers of the
different Republics in order to come back to more centralization, of course at
the level of
Serbia, and, if at all possible, at the level of Yugoslavia.
So, more specifically, all the different forces that were against Serb
were assimilated to bureaucracy. For instance, one of the slogans that was
heard at that
time was that we should eliminate powers that represent bureaucratic
nationalists. So in
Kosovo that meant you had to do away with the Albanian leadership in Kosovo.
means that you have to do away with a certain type of bureaucracy, but at the
that meant that they wanted to re-establish the authority of the Serbs over the
Similarly, if we could in Croatia and Slovenia or elsewhere, if we could weaken
bureaucracy, we would then re-establish the central authority which is that of
So under cover of anti-bureaucracy revolution you see hidden this trend of
taking control on the part of the Serbs over the whole federation. Of course,
as a threat for all the other peoples who suffered from bureaucracy and still
they were quite
happy to have their autonomy.
Yes, I would like to add that, naturally, this sort of combination between
fighting bureaucracy on the one hand and fighting for nationalistic objectives
extremely efficient and even explosive, since in Serbia people were oppressed
bureaucracy as a matter of fact, but at the same time these national trends are
latent. So when you manage to combine both you get something that is extremely
So Milosevic exploited this phenomenon, capitalised on this phenomenon, and
organised different meetings and rallies. In the years 1988 through 1990 in
Serbia and in
all other regions where you had a Serbian population you had major rallies,
of about 200,000 demonstrators in one city. One million people rallied in
times, but these people got together under those slogans aiming at fighting
but also defending the Serb nation and this was used by Milosevic to do away
political adversaries, those that were faithful to Tito and even those who
refused this rise
He is capitalising on this to eliminate his adversaries in Serbia of course,
also in the two autonomous provinces. So he has managed, thanks to these mass
demonstrations, to eliminate his adversaries who were in power in Vojvodina in
and he managed to have them replaced by people that belonged to his side.
The same happened in Montenegro. So he managed to gain control over four
out of the eight entities, over four of the seats at the Federal Presidency.
he is breaking the sort of balance that emerged under Tito, since you no longer
equal entities, but you have one block that dominates practically over half of
and half of the seats in the Federal Presidency and that also claims power in
republics, in Bosnia and Herzegovina where Serbs live. So it is felt as a
threat by the
Albanians of course who were deprived of their autonomy and that are military
but also by Croats or Bosnians, since in Croatian and in Bosnia we also see
rallies being organised that are felt as a threat. There is even an attempt to
organise such a
rally in Slovenia in Ljubljana, but it did not succeed because in that country
you have no
Serbs at all. So the Slovene government simply prohibited this rally and
prevent it. Otherwise in just a matter of a few years by using such popular
rallies and by
using such popular demonstrations against people in power, against all the
authorities with his authority as an exception, Milosevic managed to break this
the federation. So consequently it's impossible for the federation to
Q. Were actually some special events that the Serb nationalists staged?
A. Yes, they occurred around the time of Milosevic constitutionally removed
the autonomy of the two provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo. Toward the end of
there were all kinds of mass demonstrations, particularly at the occasion of
anniversary of the battle of Kosovo which took place in 1389, the Serbs were
the Turks. This event is celebrated by tradition and by the Serbian ethics and
folk songs. Sometimes people speak about the myth of Kosovo which had an
importance in the eyes of the Serbs. In 1989 for the 600th anniversary of the
Kosovo there was an enormous rally with more than a million people, a million
demonstrators in a primarily Albanian region.
There were also demonstrations which were intended to recall the massacres
during the Second World War in which so many Serbs were killed, massacres that
been carried out by the Ustasha government which had been set up in Croatia,
demonstrations which were demonstrated to remove the remains of those victims
been buried from the mass graves where they were lying. That is what happened
time. It was a way of bringing the memories of this massacre back to life, and
at the same
time to encourage, perhaps not exactly instill hatred against the other people
the reasons for that massacre, but there were other things that happened.
processions. There were remains of one of the Princes who had been killed
battle. There was a solemn procession in which the remains of that Prince were
and taken to various locations. Manifestations of tremendous nationalism.
demonstrations as well in the regions of Bosnia and Croatia where there were
that is all kinds of demonstrations whose purpose was to rekindle this Serbian
Q. How did the media join in with the rise of nationalism?
A. From the articles and magazines that I looked at, mostly from 1990 on, the
of that time is filled with nationalist kind of statements, the reminder of the
took place during the Second World War when there were so many massacres. This
constantly recurring theme. There is not a single addition of a magazine at
that time in
which one does not find at least one or two articles on the subject.
One of the ideas which was an attempt to rekindle memory, one of the ideas
which was propagated by the Serbian press were messages that under the Tito
regime people did not speak about those massacres. This was not true because
these massacres were always
spoken about, but at that time it was not an obsession, as it became at the end
1980s. Also at that time there was not so much emphasis placed on the ethnic
nature of the massacres. In other words, under Tito one spoke of the victims
and one attempted not to place so much emphasis on the fact that there were
victims or Croatian victims, but rather there were expressions which really
brought out the
political rather than the ethnic aspect. But the massacres themselves were
Therefore, it is not true to say that no one spoke about them any more.
at the end of 1980s this appeal become somewhat obsessional in a way which it
There is also a propaganda which was unleashed against the memory of Tito
and his regime. He was accused of all kinds of evils. That Serbian propaganda
him as the man who did everything that he could in order to suppress the Serbs,
the Serbs, who divided the Serbs into several states, with the result that
became more and more autonomous. In short, they went into all kinds of details
kinds of historical reminders. They tried to show the fact that from top to
policy was directed against the Serbs and for that reason that the Serbs were
I have read hundreds of pages on that subject in the publication. One can
imagine the degree of violence in the denunciation of Tito's memory. In that
press as well
is the denunciation of an `international plot' against the Serbs. The idea was
that Serbia and
the Serbian people, orthodox people, had their own religion, a national
religion, and they were always the object of international plots, and that
other religions, that is
Islam and Catholicism, in fact were not national religions but international
Therefore, if the history was analyzed as one of the empires which had
region, there was the Muslim empire, there was the Ottoman empire, there was
one which was the Habsburg one. Therefore, the Serbs were always subjects of
multinational empires dominated by the other international religions; always
the object of
attacks by the Vatican Empire, by Islam. People speak about plots against
there was yet a third international movement which played its role against the
Serbs, that is
Comecon, the communists. The historical analysis tried to show how the Comecon
time, that is the time of the monarchy Yugoslavia, denounced it as being a
prison for the
people and it asked for a revolt against what the communist had called the
bourgeoise. Therefore, that Comecon was alleged to have been continued by Tito
also played his role against the Serbs in the name of that Comecon
So they would speak about the Vatican Comecon Islamic plot. There was
another neighbouring force which also played again the Serbs which was Germany,
Germany against whom they were at war during the First and Second World Wars,
Germany which at that time is accused of supporting the other Republics,
Croatia and Slovenia. Therefore, one speaks about a Vatican German Islamic
plot, but this is not something which finds one time; you find that on every
page in that
press. You also find accusations about the other peoples.... Macedonians are
not really Macedonians but only southern Serbs, or the Muslim
Bosnians are really only Islamized Serbs, that some of the Croats in fact are
Catholicized Serbs. There were all kinds of articles trying to popularize
these ideas from a
point of view of history, language, politics, culture, religion, all tended to
that the Serbs were always oppressed and that in fact they are much more
people would like to say and that, therefore, it would be justified for them to
have a greater
state than the one they have.
I am only giving you few of the themes.
Q. Who was influencing and controlling the media during the rise of
nationalism in Serbia?
A. When we talk about the media a distinction has to be made. First there is
was completely controlled by the communist power and then by Milosevic.
did not have much occasion to look at that television. Most of my information
from the written press, but I know that this was the same thing on television,
Many important books were written on that subject. There is the book by
"Forging War" which explains well how Serbian television operated at
that time. Television was completely under the control of the power. As far
as the written
press goes, one could not say that power controlled it completely because at
that same time
there was a certain kind of opening up of the press. There were two types of
press, that is, the government press which was communist: the Politika group.
There was a magazine called Dugar.
Then we also see the nationalist press of the opposition parties in the
which is more or less the organ of the radical Seselj party
and many others as well. The emphasis of the opposition press and the
come together when it comes to those themes, one more critical of Tito, but
speaking the propaganda that is basically the same. This not mean that there
also at that same time a real opposition press which resisted that
nationalistic current. The
two most important names we can cite there was the Vreme weekly magazine and
Daily Borba, both of which remained outside that stream and did a good job in
their readers. There was no total control by the power over the written press.
However, there was complete control over the television media.
Q: After Tito there were some six or seven years during
which there was not really no conflict, and then suddenly it took off
again. So, was this rekindling of memories something artificial,
something that was provoked?
A. Well, the rekindling of memories would have taken place in any event,
because the people
not just in Serbia, not only in Yugoslavia but throughout Eastern Europe, had
impression that the communist regime was lying to them and that was not wholly
unwarranted. So, whatever was not part of that communist doctrine was welcome.
Whenever anybody said something that was the contrary of what the communists
was assumed that that person was speaking the truth. So there would have been
rekindling of memories at all events. But something else that is true is that
of rekindling memories was voluntarily and systematically exploited by the
power and guided in the direction that suited it.
At all events, the fact that this was so widespread, this rekindling of
and that it was directly directed against the other people, that was due to the
on the part of the people in power. It was, in fact, the political
exploitation of a phenomenon that did have something spontaneous to it.
Q. How did the declarations of independence in Slovenia and
Croatia affect the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina?
A. Bosnia and Herzegovina, as we saw, is at the heart of the former
Yugoslavia, and the
people there, besides the Muslim Bosnians, you have Serbs and Croats there.
Now, as a
result, the setup in Yugoslavia suited the people in Bosnia, and survey showed
before the war they were in favor of keeping their Yugoslav federation but on
condition that the federation be balanced, that is to say, that it included
Serbia and Croatia
as well. Bosnia was right in the middle and there was this desire of seeing
maintained, but once the federation no longer included Slovenia and Croatia,
up face to face with Serbia and was on unequal terms because there was a lot
more Serbs and they have a lot more power.
So that solution whereby Bosnia would stay within the new Yugoslav federation
that was dominated by the Serbs, well, was favored by the Serbs and the Croats.
The Muslims of Bosnia were very much against that. So, once the federation
fell apart, the majority of the Bosnian population, since Muslims and Croats in
Bosnia account for two-thirds of the population, so the
majority of the population of Bosnia wanted at that point in time independence
In Bosnia at that time the elections in December 1990 had been won by the
three nationalist parties, the SDS, Radovan Karadzic, (the Serbs); SDA of Alija
Izetbegovic, (the Muslim Bosnians) and then the HDZ, the Croat party. So the
nationalist parties formed a coalition and ruled. They split up the authority,
coalition did not last very long precisely because the various members of that
Two of the parties in question were for the independence of Bosnia; whereas
the third party, the SDS, the Serb party, was totally opposed to that. This is
conflict came about so quickly during the second half of 1991--all this while
the war was being waged in Croatia, the terrible war, in the course of which
army, the federal army with the help of the Yugoslav militia, occupied a third
territory, drove out the Croatians living there and already at the time there
cleansing going on.
So whilst those events were occurring, Bosnia and Herzegovina remained
outside of the conflict and, in principle, it was neutral, but President
careful about that. But the federal army occupied the territory and it was used
as a real base
against Croatia. The internal tension was quite considerable; everyone felt
that a conflict was going to break out, and during that second half of 1991
conflict was being prepared and that the instruments were set up with the
conflict and ethnic cleansing.
Q. Professor Garde, how did the Serbian nationalism manifest itself in the
Republic of Bosnia
and Herzegovina? What was Karadzic's role?
A. At the time the first pluralist elections were getting underway, those of
December 1990, among other parties, there was a nationalist Serb party that was
established, the SDS, that is, the Serb Democratic Party. From the outset its
head was Radovan Karadzic. Now, this party, unlike the party in power in
Serbia, was not a communist party. It was anti-communist, in fact, and it was
supported by the Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church played an important
role in the
establishment of this party, the SDS.
So this nationalist party, the SDS, had as its official aims to defend the
of the Serbian people in Bosnia, and it got involved in the elections and
participated in the
coalition that won the elections, but subsequently it participated in the
government and in
the administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Presidency of the Presidency
the main Bosnian Muslim leader, Alija Izetbegovic. The Presidency of the
Council, that is
to say, Prime Ministership, went to a Croat and the President of the Assembly
went to a
member of the SDS, a Serb.
Radovan Karadzic did not take on an official position, but remained leader of
the SDS party. He also acted as President of the national Serb Council which
non-official body, but which was supposed to be representing the interests of
people in Bosnia.
At the same time, the Serb party, just like the other nationalist parties,
sure that it had power in the opstina, in the municipalities, where it had a
Q: Some have speculated that international recognition of the independence
of Slovenia and Croatia gave rise to the war. Is this possible?
A. The declarations of independence as such did not immediately give rise to
reactions on the part of the international community, but in Slovenia and in
the conflict broke out, that gave rise to some reactions, that is to say, there
was a war that
was being waged. The international community and particularly the European
could not put an end to it. In Slovenia, it was easy enough precisely because
there was no
Serb minority in Slovenia, so the Serbs did not see much point in conquering
After a few days they had no trouble accepting to withdraw.
In Croatia, things were more difficult because the conflict lasted six
was bloody. It was dreadful. The efforts of the European Community to put an
end to it
were initially in vain, and at that point in time some countries, in particular
other countries as well, thought that the best solution would be to reconize
independence of Slovenia and Croatia, so that the conflict would be officially
as an international conflict, and that would allow for outside intervention and
by the United Nations that would be legitimate with the view to ending the
Other countries in contrast, for example, France and the UK, thought that it
would be best not to reconize the independence of those Republics which would
reconizing the borders. They thought it would be best to wait and to get
from those Republics in return for reconizing that independence. In
particular, what they
had in mind was concessions from Croatia in respect of its borders.
So there were two opposing ways of viewing the problem. On account of this
opposition of views, for six months no decision was taken. During those six
months all of
the efforts deployed by the international community to put an end to the
in vain. After six months, in December of 1991 the decision was
taken to reconize the independence of those Republics.
Now, that decision of a condition of recognition was taken on 17th December.
The recognition came into effect as of 15th January and Germany jumped the gun
-- I do
not remember the exact date -- but they went ahead with recognition on their
At all events, once the recognition did take place it was immediately after
that that the
fighting in Croatia stopped. They stopped it on 2nd January 1992.
It is often said that recognition was
premature, that it was one of the causes of the conflict. I read somewhere
recognition was the actual cause of the war. I think rather the opposite, that
recognition came very late. It was also on account of that recognition that
ended in Croatia.
When you say that that is the cause of the war, what you have to know is that
that recognition, that decision in December 1991 was taken after some six
months of war,
rather, there were tens of thousands dead in Croatia. There had already been
around Vukovar. There had been dreadful mass murders, mass graves. The war
lasting for some six months. So to say that it was the recognition that caused
the war, it is
a bit much because the war had already been going on for six months.