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: What were the basic political structures of the Socialist
Federative Republic of Yugoslavia? (the name of the country after World War II)
and how did they correspond to ethnic groups?
A. This Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia was composed of six
the north-west there was Slovenia, then Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Macedonia and Serbia. The Republic of Serbia, which is the largest and has the
population, within it had two autonomous provinces, that is, in the north it
and in the south was Kosovo.
... Ultimately there were six peoples for which six republics corresponded: the
Croats, the Slovenes, the Muslim Bosnians, the Montenegrins, the Macedonians
and the Serbs.
However, we are talking about historic borders which did not correspond
to the ethnic borders. In fact, there really were no ethnic borders because it
impossible to draw the lines according to ethnic lines; they were such a
mixture of peoples, in some of the republics one noted that there was a
presence not of one but several
people making it up. Therefore,....Serbia was supposed to have only one
nation making it up, one people making it up, Croatia had two, that is, the
Croats and the
Serbs, since there were 12 per cent Serb population. According to the 1991
Bosnia-Herzegovina, where there were three peoples, that is, the Muslim
Serbs and the Croats who in 1991 were 44 per cent, 31 per cent and 18 per
In addition, outside those people who made up the southern Slavs, there were
other populations as well that were called either the minorities or
The two major minorities were the Albanians, represented by 2 million and the
Hungarians either 300,000 or 400,000. This is why, as far as Serbia was
were two autonomous provinces created; in the southern part, Kosovo, because
population there was a majority Albanian, and then in Vojvodina because next to
Serbian population, which in 1991 represented 54 per cent, I believe, there
were a large number of minorities, mostly Hungarians, but there were Rumanians,
there were Slovaks. These are two regions where significant minority
One of the peculiarities of the constitution under Tito, of the various
constitutions which followed one during the regime, was the fact that
while they proclaimed that there was equality among the various nationalities,
maintained the distinction between the peoples, on the one hand, and the
minorities on the other..
... There was a constitutional contradiction in the 1974
constitution. At the same time it was stated that Kosovo and Vojvodina were
part of the
Republic of Serbia, but simultaneously it is said, well, that Kosovo and
Vojvodina had the same (status) as other republics.
So this ... corresponds to the difficulty and conflict between the Serbs, on
the one hand, and the minorities who were living in Serbian territory on the
other. And then between the Serbs
and the Albanians.
As the regime evolved, the republics became more and more autonomous, but the
autonomous provinces also became increasingly autonomous. From '74, they were
on the same footing as the republics, which was a source of a great deal of
dissatisfaction among the Serbs.
I would like to add as well that when I said that the republics corresponded to
this or that, people, does that mean that any of these republics were really
because all of the provinces, all of the republics, had a mixed population of
proportions. I will not give you the details here, but the ethnic composition
of each of the
regions was extremely complex.
Q: What was/is the significance of this 'national status' for the
citizens of Yugoslavia and how did they view it?
A. "Nation" is considered to be a group of people sharing a common culture,
number of cultural characteristics, and these cultural characteristics are
remain with them regardless of the state they belong to. This is why in this
part of Europe
it is impossible really for the limits or borders between states to coincide
with the limits or
borders between nations; whereas in western Europe they are one and the same
thing, as it
So in the eastern parts of Europe, belonging to a nation, to one nation or
is something which an individual feels as being something that belongs to him,
does the language he speaks or the religion he belongs to, and that is
something that is
over and beyond politics.
So Yugoslavia from the outset was a multinational state, that is, the state in
which there were several nations, in which people considered themselves to be,
instance, Serbian or Croatian or Slovenian, or Muslim Bosnians or Albanian,
of the fact that they belonged to Yugoslavia. Legally even, the nationality
citizenship were distinct concepts under Yugoslav law, and they were distinct
under Soviet law. They have remained distinct concepts in the legislation of
that now make up the former Yugoslavia. For example, a citizen of Croatia
still today can
have Croat citizenship and at the same time have Serbian or Italian or
nationality, and the same goes for Serbia.
"Citizenship" means belonging to the state but "nationality" is a
is an intrinsic part of the individual. The citizens of the former Yugoslavia
still holds true today for the republics) had (and still have) this particular
they regard themselves as belonging to such and such a nation.
Now, this feeling may be or not be significant in their hearts, but it is
that does exist. By the same token, it is the people around them who regard
belonging to such and such a nation as well. When you are talking about
areas where you have different nationalities living together, for example, in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, the people themselves were aware of being this or that and
their neighbors were this or that, which for quite sometime, so long as the
were favorable, did not in any way hinder them from getting along fine and
living side by
side, marrying one another,etc. But the awareness of belonging to one group or
another was something that was there. Once the political circumstances changed
became unfavorable, once these differences were consciously exploited to give
conflict, well, that conflict was one that could be easily stirred.
Q. After World War II, didn't Yugoslavia's five "nations" correspond generally to
A. Yes. There was an overall correspondence. Once the Muslim Bosnians were
recognized as a nation, there were as many nations as republics -- six
republics, six nations -- but that is not to say that all the inhabitants of
the Republic belonged to the nation in question.
As I already said earlier, in all of the Republics, with the exception perhaps
Slovenia, the population was very mixed indeed. With the exception of
was no Republic in which the dominating nation accounted for more than, let me
72 per cent of the population, I think. So in no case did the
dominating population account for three-quarters of the population in Bosnia.
solely to two-fifths, that is say, the Muslims accounted for only two-fifths of
So there was no case where there was a full correspondence between the nation
and the Republic, just as in the Balkans as a whole there is not any place
where there is a
full coincidence between states and nationalities. There are minorities
does that mean? A minority is a group of people in respect of which
nationality are two different things. So when you have Greeks from Albania,
Bulgaria, Hungarians from Rumania, etc., you are talking about minorities; that
is to say,
that people, their definition of themselves as a nation is different from what
as the state they belonged to.
So this "coincidence" of one-nation, one-republic in Western Europe is one that
without saying for historical reasons. In the Balkans and Eastern Europe in
general, it is
one that you simply cannot bring about except via violence. Now, that violence
deportation, it can be massacres, it can be ethnic cleansing. The "Utopia" if
whereby there would be coincidence between state and ethnic borders, was the
Utopia of the Treaty of Versailles, that was the
very principal behind it in 1918. That treaty, of course, was one that could
implemented. So there were minorities everywhere subsequently, and that was
underlay Hitler's position of Europe in 1941. It was the same idea of carving
ethnic lines, and it was done under Hitler in the southern Balkans, but there
again at the
price of massacres.
That is also the Utopia that is taking place before us, that is to say, to want
political, i.e., state borders to coincide with the ethnic borders of
the nationalities. For all of the people of a given
nation to be in the same state and that there be no minorities, that is a
Utopia and the only
way you can work towards that is with violence, with dreadful violence.
Q. Were there some nations, peoples, that viewed a particular republic
as their primary political entity?
A. Yes, that was the case everywhere, because there were as many republics as
nations. So, in each of the republics there was a main people which considered
to be at home, that it was their Republic. But, as I said, in Croatia
officially there were
two constituent nations, in Bosnia there were officially three peoples making
up the state.