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: Tito's Yugoslavia was noted for the relatively peaceful coexistence
among the various communities. How was this nationalistic idea of a "Greater
Serbia" able to come about again? Who were those who encouraged it and who
carried it out?
A. One cannot say that this is an idea that disappeared. This is an idea
which had been very
powerful during the 19th century and during the first half of the 20th century.
The idea itselfwas under Tito's authority and something which was not allowed,
one was not to express it, but it expressed itself, nonetheless, in the
Serbian press outside the country. For example, in the United States or in
Australia and other countries as well, where there were Serbian
newspapers which expressed very openly that idea.
The Serbs, in fact, were not the only ones; there were also an overseas
press which expressed nationalistic thoughts as well. So the idea was
partially kept by
those who were no longer living in the country and also present all the time in
itself, even though it was not expressed, at least in the beginning, and in any
the Tito regime, since it was understood that the nationalist tendencies in the
republics continued to exist, the government in principle condemned them,
condemned them, in the name of a doctrine known as "unity and fraternity."
simultaneously, they had a role to play and used them because the regime played
different nationalist aspirations, pitting one against the other. It would in
favor one people at the expense of another.
Direct expression of these aspirations under the most brutal forms was
smothered, but the indirect expression of those ideas through literature or
concrete demands sometimes could appear. During the first half of the
existence, the Ministry of the Interior was the person who was the most
powerful in the
police was himself a Serb -- this was the period when the regime was extremely
centralized -- and this is the person who became actually the person who was
who repressed the Albanians and advocated that repression.
We can, therefore, see that these nationalistic tendencies always existed, and
that at one point they were expressed more openly. For example, at the end of
there was Dobrica Cosic who later on in 1992 was the President of the new
had, in fact, expressed various theses which earned him being removed from
being removed from the good graces of the government.
But, in principle, at that point it was not -- so long as the Yugoslav
was still in existence, it was not a question of demands for modifying or
borders of Yugoslavia, because they were borders which were satisfactory to the
had to do, rather, with demands...and relations among
the different nations within each of the republics.
These trends became more clear once Tito had died, that is, during the 1980s
which is when they began to be manifest; for example, having to do with the
Kosovo where there was a conflict between the Serbs and the Albanians when even
official press condemned the position of the Albanians and took the position
very much in favor of the Serbs.
The same thing held in literature at that time. We see people who are
presenting ideas from the point of view of Serbian nationalism, for example,
with the novel which was written by Vuk Draskovic called "The Knife", which
appeared in 1982.
So the nationalist Serbian tendencies became more and more strong during that
time. But so long as the Federal State existed, the problem did not really
arise as having to
do with the creation of Serbia because the Federal State, so long as its
constitution was directed in a certain way, could, in fact, become the
realization itself of Greater Serbia. Therefore, the very term "Greater
Serbia" really is not
correctly used for that period, and the concept of the Greater Serbia did not
have to be used
and should not be used.
But these nationalist Serbian tendencies became more and more clear
throughout the 1980s and become particularly distinct in the memorandum of the
Academy of Sciences which was drafted at the end of 1986.
Q. When we talk about politics and the leadership, can this concept
"Greater Serbia" be attributed to a certain faction or to specific
A. We can attribute it to a whole range of people. It was a project which
was floating in the
air at the time all through the 1980s, this idea of reforming Yugoslavia in
order to turn
it into more of a centralized state. The idea which we find in this
memorandum of the Academy of Sciences which I have just mentioned is the
This attempt at decentralization first led to economic disaster and then meant
that the Serbs were divided among various more ever increasing autonomous
that they felt that they had been oppressed and that they had to arise by
centralized state. So the idea was already floating in the air.
It was promoted by various politicians, by people working in universities,
who wanted to become the leaders of the political parties later on, that is,
Draskovic, who later on would found the Serbian Renewal Movement, or Seselj,
would set up the Radical Party, those who would later on set up the Democratic
is, it was also propagated more insidiously by the official press.
The great event, the great change, takes place in 1986/86 when all of a sudden
these ideas, which to this point had more or less been fought by the regime who
them as really being dangerous, became adopted. Suddenly there was a communist
leader in Serbia, a new leader, who adopted them. This was Slobodan Milosevic
who came to power in 1986 and affirmed his power once again in '87.
From that point on, these ideas, which up to that point had been propagated
more or less by various people, suddenly were taken up again by the power, the
Serbia. They were no longer considered, whereas up to this point they had been
against, but from this point on, they were encouraged at the highest places.
Q. Did the Serbian nationalists' ideas correspond to any kind of a
concrete reality on the ground having to do with the way the communities
were distributed, or was this instead an expansionist idea?
A. So long as Yugoslavia existed as a Federal State, the purpose of the
was merely to strengthen the State, to reinforce the centralization within that
reinforce the federal power against the various entities, because the federal
conceived in that way could become the instrument of Serb domination on the
At that point, there were no territorial demands. There was no reason to have
any because it would have been sufficient for the power at the federal level to
once again stronger and more centralizing for the objectives of the Serb
nationalists to be
achieved. It was only gradually, in fact, that this ideal moved away and that
the central power became less central and that the provinces acquired more
At that point, the idea begins to be born, that perhaps it would be better to
to an accommodation with the fact that there are borders between the republics
therefore, attempt to shift the borders, at which point the idea begins to come
about that a
redistribution of the territory would become necessary.