30° anniversario del Memorandum SANU

Il 24 settembre 1986 apparve su di un quotidiano belgradese (Večernje Novosti) un articolo su di un Memorandum dell’Accademia serba della Scienze e delle Arti, a proposito della posizione della Serbia in Jugoslavia. Negli ultimi trenta anni tale documento (peraltro si trattava di una bozza, dato non irrilevante) è stato associato, innumerevoli volte (da studiosi e non), alla politica di Slobodan Milošević, al nazionalismo serbo, ed alla distruzione della federazione jugoslava. In altri termini, il Memorandum è stato percepito ed interpretato come la base ideologica della politica del leader dei comunisti di Serbia nella sua scalata verso il potere, fondata, appunto, sul nazionalismo serbo.

Le critiche verso il Memorandum, in Jugoslavia, hanno avuto due fasi iniziali: ovviamente nell’autunno del 1986 e nei mesi immediatamente successivi. Tuttavia, dopo una fase di relativo oblio mediatico, tornarono alla ribalta nel 1989. Successivamente la questione del Memorandum venne ripresa, soprattutto a partire dal 1991, anche da osservatori stranieri (giornalisti e ricercatori), giungendo così, in qualche modo, anche al pubblico occidentale. La questione del Memorandum ha assunto un carattere quasi mitologico, e ancora oggi nello spazio post-jugoslavo, al di fuori dei confini della Serbia, ha una valenza simbolica profondamente negativa per indicare, con timore, il risorgere di politiche nazionaliste serbe (queste ultime dovrebbero storicamente essere poste sulla scia del Načertanje del XIX secolo).

vecernje-novosti

Il titolo dell’articolo originale sul Memorandum, apparso il 24 settembre 1986 [Ponuda beznađa – L’offerta della disperazione]. Foto dell’autore.

Senza alcuna pretesa di esaustività in merito al tema in oggetto, in occasione del trentesimo anniversario, è desiderio di chi scrive condividere il lavoro svolto (tratto dalla tesi dottorale, stilata a cavallo tra il 2012 ed il 2013), frutto di ricerche d’archivio sul campo condotte nel 2011-2012, sebbene iniziate indipendentemente già nel 2005. Il testo che segue deve essere inteso come un tentativo di storicizzare quegli eventi, contestualizzarli, con mente sgombra da pregiudizi e senza mirare ad apologie di sorta. In altre parole è un tentativo di comprensione del Memorandum nel contesto storico della Serbia del 1986, e della reazione dei vertici politici (serbi e jugoslavi) ad esso. In sintesi, il Memorandum appare come un sintomo di un malessere della società serba e jugoslava, iniziato con la crisi economica alla fine degli anni ’70 del secolo scorso (sebbene non riconducibile unicamente a questo fenomeno). Un documento che sostanzialmente, nei contenuti, non aggiunse nulla di radicalmente nuovo sulla posizione di alcuni (ben noti) critici del regime. Lo scoppio del caso mediatico nel settembre del 1986, in quanto tale, probabilmente, dovrebbe essere inteso come l’indice di una delle numerose lotte tra le fazioni politiche all’interno della Lega dei comunisti, piuttosto che un efficace tentativo di reprimere la dissidenza. Un documento, infine, che con il senno del poi, è stato additato come il piano d’azione politica di Milošević negli anni successivi. Ma che, in quel 1986, difficilmente avrebbe potuto esserlo. Più realisticamente, alcune idee del documento, ben presenti in parte dell’opinione pubblica in Serbia a metà degli anni ‘80, vennero adattate e cooptate dal regime per ottenere il supporto e la legittimità, in un momento di profonda crisi del regime stesso. Il tutto però avvenne gradualmente e, a seconda delle circostanze del momento, senza cesure immediate. I punti di rottura, della radicalizzazione del clima politico e delle numerose epurazioni dal partito, in questo senso, furono simbolicamente due: l’ottava sessione del Comitato centrale della Lega dei comunisti di Serbia nel settembre 1987 (vittoria del clan politico di Milošević in Serbia, province escluse), e l’adunata ad Ušće del novembre 1988 (icona delle mobilitazioni di piazza contro le legittime dirigenze della Vojvodina e del Kosovo – ed anche della Repubblica socialista del Montenegro – sfociate il 28 marzo 1989 con gli emendamenti costituzionali della Serbia, che ridussero drasticamente l’autogoverno delle due province, e la nota commemorazione a Kosovo Polje del 28 giugno 1989).

Detto ciò, è evidente che la politica perseguita dalla Lega dei comunisti della Serbia nel periodo compreso tra il 1987 ed il 1989, durante la fase della cosiddetta “Rivoluzione antiburocratica”, ha ripreso numerosi elementi del Memorandum, ossia dell’ideologia nazionalista serba. Ed è altrettanto evidente che l’impatto di tali politiche, costituite da una serie di “colpi di stato” (sostenuti da Belgrado) nei confronti dei legittimi vertici politici in Vojvodina, Kosovo e Montenegro, avvenute nel più totale e assordante silenzio dell’Armata popolare jugoslava, e con il tacito interessato assenso delle altre repubbliche jugoslave (eccezion fatta, in parte, per la Slovenia di Milan Kučan, e dell’ideologo croato Stipe Šuvar), contribuirono ad un profondo clima di sfiducia, paura, confronto e radicalizzazione della retorica, sino a giungere al punto di non ritorno del 1991, e dei tragici eventi che seguirono.

Il Memorandum nel suo contesto storico e la reazione dei vertici politici

L’élite politica serba, seguendo il pensiero marxista dell’ideologo jugoslavo Edvard Kardelj (Sloveno, artefice della Costituzione jugoslava del 1974), cercava un’alleanza e l’inclusione degli intellettuali nella sfera politica, alla ricerca di nuove soluzioni alla crisi, in grado di fornire risposte ai nuovi problemi, all’interno del sistema socialista. L’Accademia delle Scienze di Serbia non era certo un’eccezione e fu così dunque che nel corso del 1985, venne formalmente istituita una commissione, dietro invito della presidenza della repubblica serba (presieduta da Ivan Stambolić) al fine di analizzare la situazione economica e sociale della Serbia e del Paese; il frutto del loro lavoro era destinato esclusivamente ai vertici politici della Repubblica (della Serbia). A tale attività, lecita e legittimata dal potere politico, si affiancò una seconda commissione di accademici, legati ad altri circoli intellettuali, ed in particolare al Comitato per la difesa della libertà di pensiero ed al Pen Club, particolarmente attivi nell’ambito dei diritti umani, che solevano tenere riunioni sulla sorte sventurata, (a detta loro), dei Serbi del Kosovo – finendo così coll’essere connotati come nazionalisti; ciò che rendeva la situazione praticamente illecita era il loro essere dissidenti nei confronti del regime.

I servizi di sicurezza jugoslavi (Služba državne bezbednosti – SDB) monitoravano costantemente e con dovizia di particolari i nemici dello Stato, inclusi naturalmente i membri dell’Accademia che avevano preso parte ai lavori della commissione sopraddetta. Secondo il Consiglio federale per l’ordine costituzionale (di fatto il vertice dei servizi di sicurezza), v’era una stretta connessione tra il ‘Comitato per la difesa della libertà di pensiero ed espressione’ e l’Accademia, con lo scopo deliberato di condurre un’opposizione anticomunista. Il gruppo di dissidenti che organizzava le petizioni e le proteste a Belgrado, per sensibilizzare l’opinione pubblica sulle condizioni dei Serbi del Kosovo, fu in grado di trovare rifugio sotto l’ombrello istituzionale dell’Accademia stessa. Questo secondo gruppo di intellettuali diede l’avvio ai lavori di una seconda commissione, il cui scopo era quello di produrre un “Memorandum sulla posizione della nazione serba nella cultura e nell’educazione in Kosovo.” I membri della commissione, secondo i servizi di sicurezza, erano: Dobrica Ćosić, Pavle Ivić, Predrag Palavestra, Mihajlo Marković e Dimitrije Bogdanović.[1] Dobrica Ćosić, noto intellettuale serbo, in particolare per i suoi romanzi patriottici, ha sempre negato una sua partecipazione attiva ai lavori della commissione, ed anche i suoi colleghi accademici ed intellettuali hanno avallato le sue dichiarazioni, sebbene fosse a tutti chiaro che, dati i contenuti e le idee del Memorandum, doveva necessariamente esserci stato un suo coinvolgimento, diretto o indiretto. Per la precisione, Ćosić dichiarò semplicemente di aver fornito le sue impressioni sui lavori della commissione[2], ammissione con ogni probabilità volta a difendersi da probabili sanzioni penali da parte del regime.

Nel Settembre del 1986, la dirigenza comunista serba, nell’intento di contrastare il crescente movimento di opposizione, legato al gruppo di intellettuali, lanciò una nuova campagna di propaganda. Milošević stesso ebbe un incontro all’inizio di Settembre con i principali giornalisti e caporedattori della capitale, cercando di coordinare la campagna mediatica.[3] Il 24 Settembre apparve un breve articolo sul quotidiano belgradese Večernje Novosti (notizie della sera), all’epoca quello con la maggior tiratura nella capitale, recante la firma del giornalista Aleksandar Đukanović, che attaccava con toni aspri il Memorandum (sino ad allora del tutto ignoto all’opinione pubblica). Il documento ancora non era stato pubblicato, e formalmente, ad esclusione degli addetti ai lavori e di una ristretta cerchia di politici, nessuno ne era a conoscenza. Essenzialmente il giornalista trasse alcune delle parti più compromettenti, agli occhi del regime, della bozza del testo, bollandolo come libercolo frutto di un bieco nazionalismo. La causa principale dei problemi della Jugoslavia e della Serbia in particolare, secondo gli artefici del Memorandum, era la Costituzione jugoslava del 1974, che avrebbe innescato un grave problema di disintegrazione nel Paese, la cui valenza simbolica era chiara: veniva auspicato un ritorno ad un maggiore accentramento dei poteri (negando così la politica di Tito dell’ultimo ventennio circa).

La versione del documento oggi nota, pubblicata ufficialmente dalla SANU stessa a metà degli anni ’90, è leggermente ridotta rispetto alla bozza originale. Infatti, secondo i servizi, la versione di lavoro era composta di 150 pagine, che vennero ridotte successivamente a 74. Di queste 74 pagine, 30 erano pronte (nella seconda metà di Settembre circa) ad andare in stampa, mentre le 44 rimanenti erano in fase di revisione, e fu proprio allora che Đukanović pubblicò l’articolo. Proprio a breve distanza dall’ultimazione dei lavori per la pubblicazione del documento, venne dunque bloccato dalle autorità,[4] sebbene fosse destinato ad uso esclusivo delle autorità stesse e non del pubblico.

Le reazioni dei vertici politici jugoslavo e serbo non si fecero attendere, incluse quelle di Ivan Stambolić (presidente della Serbia) e Dragiša Pavlović (presidente dei comunisti della metropoli belgradese). Stane Dolanc, a capo dei servizi di sicurezza jugoslavi disse in proposito che:

[il] servizio di sicurezza nella situazione in cui ci troviamo non è nella posizione di far rispettare la legge. Il servizio di sicurezza o i servizi di sicurezza sono nella posizione di far rispettare la legge se qualcuno ubriaco in un’osteria dice “abbasso i comunisti”, abbasso questi, abbasso quelli, noi possiamo arrestarlo immediatamente. Il servizio di sicurezza può applicare la legge se qualcuno scrive in strada o su un muro “Kosovo repubblica” [riferito al separatismo albanese], ma il servizio di sicurezza non può fare nulla contro né [Dobrica] Ćosić, né [Vladimir] Dedijer, né [Kosta Čavoški], e altri quando scrivono una piattaforma sulla distruzione della Jugoslavia.[5]

Probabilmente, Dolanc (per giustificarsi) si riferiva al fatto che la presenza di sentimenti contrari al regime socialista ed alla Jugoslavia fosse un fenomeno talmente diffuso nella società da rendere inefficaci i tradizionali metodi di prevenzione e contrasto adottati dai servizi di sicurezza. Del resto, le idee propugnate dagli oppositori serbi nel Memorandum non erano affatto nuove, dunque è evidente che la censura del regime non fosse in grado di praticare un controllo estensivo sulla circolazione delle idee critiche nei confronti dei governanti. Inoltre, l’iniziativa attuata da Stipe Šuvar circa due anni prima, tramite il Libro bianco (un indice delle opere culturali e artistiche colpevoli di essere controrivoluzionarie, peraltro in gran parte frutto di autori serbi) non diede in concreto alcun risultato.

Milošević, il giorno successivo alla pubblicazione dell’articolo di Đukanović, durante una sessione della Presidenza del partito serbo, affermò che:

…non è una persona normale e assennata [chi crede] che l’intera Jugoslavia possa supportare una linea nazionalista, la linea nazionalista di Dobrica Ćosić e del gruppo dell’Accademia delle Scienze.[6]

Stane Dolanc, Slobodan Milošević e Azem Vllasi non furono sorpresi dai contenuti del Memorandum, ben noti al pubblico jugoslavo sin dalla fine degli anni ’70, bensì dall’audacia nell’organizzare sistematicamente tali contenuti, fornendo a certe idee nazionaliste serbe una forma strutturata con un chiaro intento politico. Milošević tenne volontariamente un basso profilo perché, forse, ritenne opportuno non fare pubblicità alle idee del Memorandum nei confronti dell’opinione pubblica.[7] Milošević voleva così dimostrare che la Lega dei comunisti fosse il reale detentore del potere e pertanto avesse il diritto esclusivo di creare l’agenda politica, in quanto unica istituzione a cui fosse consentito di offrire delle risposte ai problemi socio-politici ed allo scontento popolare. In secondo luogo Milošević credeva, apparentemente, che l’inclusione degli intellettuali nella soluzione della crisi in atto fosse di primaria importanza, perché essi avevano la conoscenza ed il sapere per superare la crisi economica all’interno del sistema socialista autogestito jugoslavo.

A partire dall’autunno del 1986, il silenzio pubblico di Milošević venne, forse erroneamente, interpretato come una forma di assenso del leader serbo alle idee contenute nel Memorandum. In realtà Milošević parve nettamente contrario a tali idee, come si è visto, perché percepiva gli autori del documento come dei potenziali pericolosi rivali politici, che gli avrebbero potuto causare problemi di ordine pubblico a Belgrado e in Serbia.

Va inoltre sottolineato che nel gennaio 1986 (otto mesi prima della campagna contro il Memorandum), Milošević, in occasione della sua candidatura a futuro presidente del Politburo serbo, venne accusato da Petar Živadinović (anch’egli membro del Politburo serbo, impiegato presso la TV belgradese) di aver installato un nuovo direttore (Dača Marković) del Centro marxista di Belgrado in maniera inappropriata, senza seguire lo statuto allora vigente, e senza informare i membri belgradesi del Comitato centrale.[8] Živadinović asserì che in seguito alla nomina del nuovo direttore del Centro marxista belgradese (appuntato da Milošević dopo esser divenuto presidente del comitato belgradese della Lega dei comunisti della Serbia, nel 1984) ossia Dača Marković, la “lotta ideologica” ovvero la propaganda comunista contro gli oppositori ed i dissidenti, ed in particolare gli intellettuali, diminuì, in un momento in cui avrebbe dovuto “intensificarsi” e “crescere.” Curiosamente, Živadinović affermò che nonostante Dača Marković avesse adottato uno stile molto aspro nel criticare i presunti avversarsi ideologici, allo stesso tempo tacque (ben prima del caso del Memorandum) “continuamente sull’Accademia delle Scienze Serba.” Ciò anche quando “vi sono ragioni per criticarla.”[9] Se si considera che all’epoca l’Accademia era considerata complice nel proteggere i dissidenti dal regime, e se si tiene a mente il silenzio in pubblico di Milošević nel Settembre del 1986, si potrebbe ritenere che già dal 1984-1985, Milošević (tramite il direttore Dača Marković) non volesse attaccare frontalmente gli accademici rei di cospirare ai danni del regime. Anche volendo considerare attendibili le affermazioni di Živadinović (che peraltro appoggiava un altro candidato alla Presidenza della Lega dei comunisti della Serbia), resta arduo in base alle informazioni disponibili, affermare che effettivamente Milošević fosse in quella fase esplicitamente colluso con gli accademici e dunque con i dissidenti. Inoltre i sostenitori di Milošević, tra cui vari ex-partigiani, come ad esempio Nikola Ljubičić – eroe nazionale jugoslavo – lo apprezzarono proprio per aver combattuto in egual misura tutti i nazionalismi (incluso quello serbo). In assenza di ulteriori prove, non sarebbero altro che affermazioni puramente speculative ed infondate.

D’altro canto è evidente che almeno dal 1984, due anni prima della stesura del Memorandum, egli condivideva molte delle idee di natura economica sul ruolo deleterio della frammentazione del mercato jugoslavo.[10] Se si considera che Milošević entrò in politica a tempo pieno nel 1984 e che, dalla fine degli anni ’60 del secolo scorso, ricoprì vari ruoli in qualità di direttore di aziende e in ultimo come direttore di banca, inoltre, il fatto stesso che fosse uno dei membri della commissione Kraigher, finalizzata alla soluzione dei problemi economici dell’economia jugoslava, non può stupire dunque la sua condivisione di certe idee economiche volte ad una maggiore integrazione del mercato interno jugoslavo.

Infine, la percezione del fallimento di un modello economico confederale, che avrebbe spinto il Paese a certe forme sorpassate di autarchia, era ben presente nell’ambiente socio-culturale della Serbia degli anni ’80 (in contrasto con altre idee e percezioni nelle Repubbliche nord-occidentali, come la Slovenia e la Croazia). Il Memorandum dunque, come accennato in precedenza, non aggiunse o affermò nulla di nuovo o inusuale nel discorso culturale della Serbia di quel tempo. L’attacco contro l’Accademia serba e certi accademici in particolare, fu probabilmente un “danno collaterale” della propaganda ideologica comunista contro un’opposizione embrionale al regime. Fu inoltre, il probabile esito di una strisciante lotta tra fazioni politiche interne alla Lega dei comunisti stessa, che si dispiegheranno con forza nel 1987. Nei mesi successivi, durante la primavera del 1987, Milošević delineò una strategia politica che riscosse un ampio successo in termini di consenso e legittimità: una politica demagogica, il cui perno era la situazione dei Serbi del Kosovo.

Christian Costamagna

[1] ARS, AS 1589/IV, CK ZKS, t.e.1329, Magnetogram skupne seje P SFRJ in P CK ZKJ-28.10.1986, allegato redatto dal Savezni Savet za Zaštitu Ustavnog Poretka, “Neki političko-bezbednosni aspekti pokušaja organizovanih grupnih dolazaka srba i crnogoraca iz SAP Kosova u Beogradu”, Beograd, 15 Jul 1986, p. 6. Secondo i servizi di sicurezza jugoslavi, il fervore degli intellettuali nazionalisti di Belgrado era in prima istanza volto ad attaccare il socialismo in Jugoslavia, anziché mosso dal loro reale interesse per le sorti dei Serbi del Kosovo, p. 4. Ćosić, Palavestra e Bogdanović all’epoca – autunno 1986 – non vennero menzionati dalla SANU. Cfr. Audrey Helfant Budding, Serbs intellectuals and the national question, 1961-1991 (Tesi dottorale, Harvard University, 1998),  p. 311.

[2] Cohen, Serpent in the Bosom, cit., p. 58.

[3] AS, P CK SKS, k. 518, Deveta Sednica Predsedništva Centralnog Komiteta Saveza komunista Srbije. Beograd, 25. September 1986 godine, p. 21/3.

[4] ARS, AS 1589/IV, CK ZKS, t.e.1329, Magnetogram skupne seje P SFRJ in P CK ZKJ-22.10.1986, [Discorso di Stane Dolanc, capo del Consiglio federale per la protezione dell’ordine costituzionale], p. 30. La sezione (sulla questione socio-economica), pubblicata a Londra nel Novembre/Dicembre 1986, era composta da circa 25 pagine (la parte sulla nazione serba era di 23 pagine circa), cfr. Mihailo V. Mikich (ed.), Memorandum Srpske Akademije Nauka i Umetnosti (London: Biblioteke Svetosavlje Novembre/Dicembre 1986, http://icr.icty.org). La sezione socio-economica del Memorandum pubblicata dalla SANU nel 1995 è composta da 26 pagine (la parte sulla nazione serba è di 23 pagine), cfr. Kosta Mihailović, Vasilije Krestić, Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Answers to criticism (Beograd: SANU, 1995). Si può ragionevolmente ipotizzare che la parte che allarmò i censori del regime fu proprio quella dedicata alla posizione della nazione serba in Jugoslavia e non quella legata agli aspetti economici.

[5] ARS, AS 1589/IV, CK ZKS, t.e.1329, Magnetogram skupne seje P SFRJ in P CK ZKJ-22.10.1986, [Discorso di Stane Dolanc, capo dei servizi di sicurezza jugoslavi ovvero del Consiglio federale per la protezione dell’ordine costituzioanale], p. 27.

[6] AS, P CK SKS, k. 518, Deveta Sednica Predsedništva Centralnog Komiteta Saveza komunista Srbije. Beograd, 25. September 1986 godine, p. 22/3.

[7] Dejan Jović spiega chiaramente che Milošević “credeva che l’opposizione non andasse trattata come un partner” cfr. Dejan Jović, Yugoslavia: a state that withered away (West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2009), pp. 252-253.

[8] AS, P CK SKS, k. 431, Neautorizovane Magnetofonske Beleške sa 114. Sednice Predsedništva Centralnog Komiteta Saveza komunista Srbije, Održane 24. i 25. januara 1986. Godine,  p. 28/1.

[9] AS, P CK SKS, k. 431, Neautorizovane Magnetofonske Beleške sa 114. Sednice Predsedništva Centralnog Komiteta Saveza komunista Srbije, Održane 24. i 25. januara 1986. Godine,  p. 28//5.

[10] Politika, 24 Novembre 1984, p. 4. Sulla frammentazione del mercato jugoslavo cfr. Marijan Korošić, Jugoslavenska kriza (Zagreb: Naprijed, 1989), pp. 70-78.

20160923_145440

Edizione ufficiale, con una lunga introduzione critica, del Memorandum, e delle reazioni ad esso, pubblicata dalla SANU nel 1995, in lingua inglese. Foto dell’autore.

 

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Bosnia: considerations, comparisons and questions.

Bosnia: considerations, comparisons and questions.

Christian Costamagna

Bosnia, again in our minds. We are witnessing the protest in the streets, held in front of the buildings that represent the power. Citizens’ forums spread around, demanding more social justice and accountability from their politicians. In the background there is a dramatic social and economic crisis, as in many other European countries.

We are told that this time the protest has nothing to do with nationalism, and I believe it. Nevertheless, can we learn something from the recent past of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Yugoslavia?

Yugoslavia

In the second half of the 1980s, due to a deep economic and social crisis (high inflation, unemployment), workers started to strike, all over Yugoslavia. I can remind maybe the most notable one, the strike in Labin, anyway it was just one among many others. The protests were often addressed in Belgrade, in front of the federal parliament. Workers demanded a pay rise and the Yugoslav politicians, already experiencing a fall in consensus and legitimacy, tended to satisfy them. They bought social peace, most probably without a real long term project for the economy (with the disappointment of the IMF).

The perception, among many workers and citizens, was that the Yugoslav political élite was corrupted, inefficient, because they thought just how to exploit the people. Black Mercedes were a symbol of the discrepancies between the bureaucrats and the people: to be sure, it was a hated symbol of social differences in a socialist country.

Serbia

In Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, in order to acquire more credibility in the eyes of the public opinion, organized the spontaneity of the grassroots movements, in particular the Serbs and Montenegrins from Kosovo. But not just them. Indeed, the so called Anti-bureaucratic revolution was multifaceted because it was also a protest against the “bureaucrats”, the members of the political élite who were accused to be “lopovi” (thieves) etc. The declared goal was to remove and renew the political class in order to boost the economy of the country, breaking (so it was the leitmotiv at the time) the autarchy of the republics and provinces. This autarchy regime, according to this rhetoric, was made possible by the 1974 Constitution and the Basic law about self-management. Of course this interpretation is (and was) open to discussion. In the end, in October 1988, in Novi Sad, the leaders of the local political élite, under great pressure in the streets, had to give up and resign. Something similar happened in January 1989 in Titograd. Milosevic’s strategy was winning.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

In the meantime, when it was time to publicly discuss the opportunity to give up the monopoly of the power of the communists, Bosnia was, most probably, among the most backward side. Let’s take a look.

Non-party pluralism was the best possible solution for mainstream media and the Party in Bosnia. The best possible option for the regime was to maintain the status quo, so it is quite clear why the Party was skeptical about the introduction of multi-party democracy. For example, F. Muhic, at the Marxist Center of the Central committee of the League of Communist of Bosnia and Herzegovina (autumn 1988) said:

Multi-party system would not be a successful alternative to the League of Communist of Yugoslavia, because it would be, on the basis of the already lived experience, our national division led to the boundaries of irrationality.

Of course Muhic had in mind the experience during the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, that ended with the King’s dictature (not solving anyway the national question).

In December 1988, Oslobodjene (Sarajevo) published an article quite similar in its stances:

Multy-party system does exist in Yugoslavia, but according to the most primitive possible ethnical principle.

A young Miljenko Jergovic, in the student magazine Valter (May 1989) followed this logic:

Advocating political pluralism it seems to me pointless, it is total nonsense…under the conditions of vulgar and primitive attempts to resolve every conflict – to invoke one such democratic achievement, that primarily implies a certain cultural but before that a certain civilizational level. Political pluralism it is possible just in those societies that are flexible enough, in order to endure every [kind of] thought…

Jergovic implied that Bosnian society was not yet ready to bear democracy and the multi-party political system. The cultural and civilizational background was unsatisfactory. Citizens in BiH were not prepared to embrace political parties. The inherent risk was to fall back to the Yugoslav Kingdom experience, with political parties as an expression of single nations, in a republic made up of three of them.

It is too easy now to think that Jergovic, Muhic (we could also include Stipe Suvar and many others) were right, that they predicted the future. It was not certain at all, but a good analyst could have reached similar conclusions. During socialist Yugoslavia there were also divisions among the society along ethnic lines, Bosnia included, but we had to wait Milosevic for its homogenization and mobilization.

Milosevic wanted to forge a new Yugoslavia with more power at the center of the federation, dismantling the 1974 Constituton. After what happened in Vojvodina and Kosovo, the political leaders and opposition in Slovenia were afraid to lose their autonomy. One man – one vote (as Milosevic claimed), in Yugoslavia, meant the end of the cultural, historical and national autonomies of the various republics, of small nations and minorities. Using Milan Kucan’s words, the final outcome would have been a Serboslavia (a Serb dominated Yugoslavia). Slovenia’s autonomy was considered at stake. Today we know that, in the end, after the introduction of multi-party elections in 1990, the new Slovenian leadership, adopting a popular referendum (December 1990), Slovenes opted for full independence. All of this notwithstanding Western pressures over Ljubljana to remain in Yugoslavia.

Questions

After this long premise, I would like to introduce some questions and personal thoughts about the situation in today’s Bosnia.

First of all, well before the war in 1992, politicians in Bosnia, in 1988-1989 were afraid that the introduction of multi-party system would lead to nation-based parties. In this sense, they were right. We should ask why and how this happened.

Secondly, connected with the previous point, present day Bosnia, because of the interference of the International community (UE, USA etc.) – like in the case of the Office of the High Representative – could hardly be defined a sovereign country in the common sense. Of course this was probably the best possible solution to stop the war in 1995, following the Dayton agreement. Nevertheless, what I want to say is that Bosnian society and its citizens, in the last two decades were not entirely free to decide their own destiny. Was this condition – all three Bosnian nations kept under strict surveillance in order to avoid disorders – already in motion at the time of Tito? Did EU/OHR subsumed the role of Tito and the Communist Party as the containment factor of a divided society not ready to take the future into his own hands? After all, the cumbersome institutions in Bosnia, resemble so much to Socialist Yugoslavia one’s and to Kardelj’s Constitution. Indeed today’s BiH reminds post Karadjordjevo’s Yugoslavia (1971): to give everybody top autonomy at the local level in order to avoid more unrest, but then keeping all the power system under the strict control of the Party (after deep purges of course).

The third point: is occurring in Republika Srpska a Slovenian syndrome? What I want to say is that, as at the end of the 1980s Milosevic’s strategy to centralize the Yugoslav federation scared Slovenian public opinion and its political leadership, maybe, the strategy of some protesters in today’s BiH Federation to state “gladni smo na tri jezika” (so somehow wishing to overcome the institutionalized ethnic divisions) could scare the public opinion and in particular the political leadership in Republika Srpska. Anyway, while it is quite clear that the protest in the Federation is not connected with nationalist issues, paradoxically, every claim to a unite Bosnian people beyond the ethnic fences, it sounds as a direct attack to the Serbian entity’s life and its legitimacy. That’s why we can read such paranoid declarations coming from Banja Luka. From this point of view, the position of today’s government in Republika Srpska is not so different from the one in Ljubljana in 1988-1991. What is different is the “competitor”. Anyway, I would like to remind that the national issue is by no means exclusive of former Yugoslavia. In Western Europe we are still debating about the possible independence of Scotland, Catalunya, Sudtirol etc. Moreover the very same debate in the European Union about the southerners countries like Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal vs more virtuous countries, like Germany, reminds the old debate between Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia vs Slovenia and Croatia. So I can switch to the next point.

The protests in some cantons of the Bosnian federation lead to resignation some politicians. Now there are forums where citizens are formulating their specific requests. That’s a good sign. Still, we should think about it. Usually, social protests against authoritarian and corrupted regimes are called revolutions (in a positive way). On the other end, in a democracy, were the politicians are regularly elected in a free competition, violent protests in the streets are usually labeled as dangerous populism and unacceptable violence beyond the democratic boundaries. The present Bosnian case, how should be labeled? Is it a jacquerie or a revolution? Who is leading it? I have in mind also the recent pitchforks protest that happened in Italy. The origin of the protest was the economic and social crisis; they claimed that all politicians in Italy are thieves and should go home. Thousands of people protested in the streets, in front of the buildings of the political power, with no real political goal. It was quite a flop.

Someone promptly defined the forums as a form of direct democracy. Is it a proper definition? Why? Former Yugoslavia already experienced a form of direct democracy, the socialist self-management. Unfortunately for the cells of basic work (OOUR), the last word and the real power was in the Party’s oligarchy. So it did not work. The so called meetings of the Serbs of Kosovo were also labeled by Milosevic’s regime as a form of direct democracy. Someone, already in 1988, saw in these Serbian “mitinzi” a form of fascism. Then we have other models of direct democracy, like in Switzerland, but the outcome is debatable, like the recent one about imposing quota on immigration. What I want to say is that direct democracy is an interesting tool, but more often than not can empower the worst sentiments in a population, or it can be easily manipulated. Again, in Italy there is an open debate about the 5 Stars Movement and the main question is: is it really direct democracy or Mr Beppe Grillo is controlling the Movement? In Italy, if you are in favor of such protest movements, the establishment will say that you are a populist (in negative sense). Why this principle should not work in Bosnia?

Finally, we should have in mind the global context. Post-modern societies, economic globalization are challenging the existing world, as we know it. Welfare state had to be reinvented. While our values, ideas about the world and life are changing, our culture is adapting, also our socio-political institutions should be redefined and renewed as well. It would be a mistake to believe that post Dayton BiH makes an exception with its overwhelming government structures. While EU and Bosnian citizens are asking for a more rational system (cutting public expenditure), the same is happening in Italy (the abolition of the provinces, the abolition of the high chamber in the parliament) and at European level, with a higher level of integration. This is also the crisis of Eurozone, if we want to put it this way. Why should the German citizens accept the idea of Eurobonds? Why should they pay the price for the inefficiencies of Italian or Greek economy? In the meantime, sufferance and social unrest is growing and spreading in Europe in the last years, not just in Paris’ banlieues. A new 1848 is haunting Europe?

In 1989 M. Jergovic questioned the real cultural and civilizational readiness of Bosnians to embrace multi-party democracy. Today we should ask if today’s citizens, in BiH, are culturally ready to give up the ethnic key that was institutionalized with Dayton. Moreover we should ask if this society is ready to develop a more accountable political élite. Personally I wish so, but I have to admit that I am skeptical. Of course, the fact that Croatia is already in the EU and Serbia is going toward this goal is positive, because there are not political leaders ready to go to war for keeping all Serbs or Croats in one state. Compared to 1991-1992, Bosnia shows a better outlook.

Anyway this is not just an oriental or Bosnian problem. This is a European problem. Also in Italy, a founder of the European Community, we have similar problems. The corruption among the political élites (with its dramatic catharsis happened with Mani Pulite “Clean hands” in the first half of the 1990s) is by no means an exclusive of Bosnia. But our rulers, unfortunately, are a mirror of ourselves and our cultures. 

Yugoslavia’s dissolution; hypothesis and considerations.

Christian Costamagna

 

Structures of Governments & Nationalism

                                  

As the ancient philosophers, we could imagine the structure of power in the human societies as a pyramid:

 

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At the apex we have a Monarch. Then, in the middle, we have the Optimates. At the base there is the people. One single form of government could be prevailing (eg. a Monarchy), but the power could be also shared, so in this case it is called a mixed form of government.

These forms of governments could be called:

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Let’s now apply this model to Socialist Yugoslavia, a form of authoritarian government:

 

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We could suppose, in this artificial simplified model, that the form of government, in Socialist Yugoslavia, was formally mixed, composed of all three forms, although the “monarchy” level (Tito) prevailed over the other two.

After the death of Tito in 1980, the power shifted to the “Aristocracy” level of analysis.

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Along the 1980s, the social and economic crisis was eroding the legitimacy of the leadership of the Party.

Moreover, “the people”, groups of ordinary citizens, together with the intellectual elite “non conformist” or openly dissident toward the political elite who held the power, they were raising new demands, new hopes: more often than not, they were questioning the power.

New ideas and needs in the society, old problems were surfacing again. The opponents of the Socialist system, seen as democrats (or may be just useful anti-communists) by the West, were supported by the Free world in order to erode the socialist regime. Most of those “democrats” or simply “anti-communists”, and in particular the more prominent with a more visible impact, were nationalists (like Vojislav Kostunica). On the other hand, the West supported the regime with financial help. This was, at the time, the best form of anti-Soviet propaganda (to have a Socialist heretic country like Yugoslavia).

Serbs in Kosovo, during the 1980s, felt they were victims of genocide, committed by Albanians. Albanians wanted Kosovo to be formally a Yugoslav republic, and not just a province of Serbia. Slovenes thought they were exploited financially by the “southerners”. Moreover they were teased by the presence of Bosnians and Serbs working in Slovenia. Also Croats felt quite uncomfortable in Yugoslavia. It is enough to remind the role of the Croatian expatriate communities toward the Yugoslav state. All of this happened in a period of high unemployment and inflation.

Essentially, every people of Yugoslavia felt exploited. They wanted more social justice, equality, more participation. In the 1980s, the “fruit” was ready to be “plucked”.

Here comes the fracture into the elite, the Yugoslav “Aristocracy”.

 

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A part of the Socialist regime elite, like Slobodan Milosevic, understood that in order to gain legitimacy and save the regime, the best option was to adopt and adapt the general discourse prevailing the Serbia in the 1980s: and this was Serbian nationalism. This form of Milosevic’s populism later became a plebiscite of the Serbian nation in his favour. Somehow Milosevic political thought is not so distant from Machiavelli’s one. The “prince” should listen to the desire and wishes of the people. On the other hand, politicians like Ivan Stambolic or Stipe Suvar (as Francesco Guicciardini was opposed to Machiavelli), were in favor of an aristocratic/optimate form of government (the oligarchy of the League of Communists and its elite). Last but not least, Milosevic’s political thought could be framed as an “anti-imperialist”. The problem is: should we approach the study of Yugoslavia with the post-colonial approach? (http://www.postcolonial-europe.eu)

In other Yugoslav republics, the communist leaders avoided such a strategy, while Milan Kucan, in a sober manner, simply adopted many issues of the Slovenian opposition. The non-communists leaders, in all the Yugoslav republics, before and after the fall of the regime, adopted usually an outspoken nationalist and possibly populist political style and method.

This wave of nationalism(s) in Yugoslavia was inspired, may be, with the best intentions: for democracy, for social justice, equality, emancipation, participation. Every leader adopting this strategy claimed to be simply defending his “people” against the others. On the other hand, it was a way, for the political elite, to stay in power or gain power and legitimacy.

In this sense, it is possible to say that:

1)     Nationalism is empowering the people – it cut virtually the distance with the “aristocracy” (political elite and elite in general). An example: Milosevic’s Anti-bureaucratic revolution 1988-1989.

2)     Nationalism (like populism) could often be a victim of (an easy) demagogy. It could be labeled as a way in order to get rights, power. The power to do something, to have something. This power could be the power to be free from slavery, oppression.

3)     Democracy, per se, is just an empty word. Every democratic regime, in a state, has its own “aristocracy” or may be “oligarchy”. It was so in Socialist Yugoslavia. What distinguish the political elites is the relation with the “people”, the citizens”, is the way of conduct of this elite. The “aristocracy” can co-opt the best individuals on merit, it can give rights to the citizens. But it can also be “closed”, corrupted. In the latter case it could be deaf to the requests of the society at large, asking for more justice, more rights, the respect of the human rights.

4)     After the French revolution, the complex of values, the quest of rights, democratization, walked along with nationalism and populism.

5)     Nationalism could be considered a subordinate sentence, whereas the main sentence is made of “power” and “form of government” in the society.

Does democracy means nationalism?

The scholar work done in the past 20 years about the area of Western Balkans was mainly aimed at finding an explication to the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the following decade of wars. Not rarely those works were biased and based, as it is typical of “instant history”, on limited sources.

The above mentioned scholarship is often devoted to the study of contemporary political history. Left aside the war related topic, the dissolution of the state became very soon popular and disputed. I will not here, once again, try to summarize the various and many theoretical approaches to the topic, because I assume they are already well known. I can mention here the work done by Jasna Dragovic-Soso[1] for a general overview. It is natural that there are so many possible explanations, like cultural, economical, personalities, external factors, the 1974 Yugoslav constitution and many others. It just depend by the point of view, the methodological approach of the scholar.

Moreover, in the last few years, after the “War in the Balkans” topic seems retreating from bookstores’ shelves, even in the English language scholarship there is a renewed interest in the more sociological/culture aspects of Socialist Yugoslavia: Yugoslavia’s Sunny Side – A History of Tourism in Socialism 1950s-1980s edited by Hannes Grandits and Karin Taylor (2010), Bought and Sold: Living and Losing the Good Life in Socialist Yugoslavia written by Patrick Hyder Patterson (2011) and Remembering Utopia, The Culture of Everyday Life in Socialist Yugoslavia, edited by Breda Luthar and Marusa Pusnik (2010), just to quote a few.

From my personal point of view, in the field of historiography there is one basic methodological assumption: there is a fast track, and it is typical of political History, administrative institutions, and it can even change overnight (the events). It can be labeled as microhistory. Then there is a cultural dimension, bounded to the values of a human society, and it takes years or generations before it can change radically. This can be called longue durèe. Of course in between those two temporal dimensions we can imagine another one, that of ideas, “the spirit of the times”, that like a virus, can spread from a continent to another, especially in the younger generations.

I believe that the existing scholarship about the dissolution of Yugoslavia is partly characterized by a general misunderstanding: there is a competition and confusion about the main factor who led to the dissolution of the state, ranging from the ancient hatred of the Yugoslav nations to the German/Vatican recognition of the independence of Slovenia and Croatia. This situation is conditioned by the feelings toward what once used to be a country, those who miss it (yugo-nostalgia), and those who think it was an artificial construction desired by Western powers.

I propose a very simple subdivision in four categories:

  • Regime change in 1990 (not well covered in the scholarly literature)
  • Yugoslav state dismemberment in 1991
  • War
  • Internationalization of the conflict – Western (non)intervention

This sort of conceptual map can help to distinct the main steps in the dissolution of the Yugoslav state, considered in what I called above the “fast track” of History, the time span related to a short elapse of time and the changes that can happen in the administrative institutions of a state.

Still, there is one element that must be added to the dissolution of the Yugoslav state, and I think it was overlooked by many because it is politically incorrect according to the values of the Western Society: from the theoretical point of view, democracy (here intended as the multiparty elections held in 1990 in the various Yugoslav republics), with the victory of nationalist oriented political parties, put an end to the (con)federal state. The simple message is: Yugoslavia could not be democratic. Is this position really sustainable by sound facts?

Of course it is well know that Yugoslavia, as state, was basically since the beginning plagued by nationalism, and to say that this multinational state was destined to dissolve, soon or later, is clearly determinist and disputable: I reject the determinist point of view. On the other hand, assuming that a multinational state can function just under a kind of dictatorship and a dictator (like Josip Broz Tito) is as well objectionable.

Even so, from the comparative point of view, after the fall of the Berlin wall[2], in Europe we had indeed three multinational socialist federations crumbling down into small pieces, and, by contrast, the two German states reunited. Moreover, overstretching the comparison, even Belgium, today, continues to have governance problems related to its multinational character. Nonetheless it still exist on the political map, like Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Coming back to Yugoslavia, and in particular to Socialist Yugoslavia, we should ask why multiparty democracy should have destroyed a multinational (con)federation. In the case of Yugoslavia, democratic oriented dissidents were quite different from the rest of Eastern Europe; even so their form of disagreement existed, had a role in the development of the events before and after the 1980s. The Western democratic or at least non socialist values, in Socialist Yugoslavia, were nurtured and propelled by two main actors: the intellectuals in the field of the humanities and the churches. The Yugoslav dissidents, non communists, democrats, were essentially confined into the boundary of their nation (Serb, Croat, Slovene…). There was, in the mind and public discourse of the Yugoslav dissidents, a sort of equivalency between Yugoslavia (as concept) and communism, communism and absence of freedom. On the other hand, democracy was imaginable just inside a single nation. That is why I said that democracy, under such conditions, led to the dissolution of the Yugoslav state in 1991. There was clearly a deep, non negotiable, antagonism in the new Yugoslav leaders, from Ljubljana to Belgrade (here I consider Slobodan Milosevic as an ancien regime’s member, who got new legitimacy using demagogy and populism; in this sense, compared to the other Yugoslav communists, he was “new”). I am aware that there were also other intellectuals, like Predrag Matvejevic, that were in favor of a democratic Yugoslav state; still, like the federal prime minister Ante Markovic in 1990 and his political party, they had no real appeal on the people, no grass roots support.

Paradoxically, the democrats, “philosophers who became kings”, were the political leaders closer to the instances and wishes of the people, were or became against the Socialist system, exploited demagogical tricks, and led Yugoslavia, as a political community, to its end. I am not, here, extending this single case to an absolute truth, valid in each instance. I am simply trying to explain why this happened to Yugoslavia after the end of Socialist regime. Actually there was in Yugoslavia a real conflict of mentalities, ranging from the most open and western oriented in Slovenia, like the ecological or pacifists movements in Slovenia, to the close and paranoid mentality prevailing in the Yugoslav People Army, a mentality who considered any influence of the West as a “special war” against the country (like in the case of general Veljko Kadijevic). From a certain point of view, the highly contested work of Samuel Huntington, The clash of civilizations, can appear less provocative than it was thought to be.

Actually, the very same balance between freedom/democracy and absence of freedom/authoritarian system even today is not so clear and undisputed. The so called “democratic deficit” in the European Union, in the context of the demagogical refuse of Euro and Europe by the radical parties and movements, especially during a period of crisis, could be an indicator of the need of non democratic instruments for the governance (like the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in order to keep the country functioning).

After this theoretical digression, coming back to the dissidence in Yugoslavia, it should be questioned how was it possible to happen? Where was located the reservoir of dissidence, democracy and nationalism in Yugoslavia? As stated above, the main bastions of resistance to  Socialism were clearly the institutions related to the national identity, like cultural associations and religious ones.

In this conceptual framework, considering the short lived post Socialist Yugoslavia (1990-1991) as a political community tore apart by democracy, made up of nationalist oriented dissidents, could lead us to explore a new possible field of research, what I called above the “cultural track”, the slower one.

Did democracy destroy Yugoslavia?

Did democracy destroyed Yugoslavia? Could Yugoslavia survive without an authoritarian regime? Is it possible to advance a new interpretation of the dissolution of SFRY adopting the “classical” canon for the best form of government?

If we accept this interpretative frame, after the death of the monarch Josip Broz Tito, the optimates (the communist elites), during the 1980s, came into conflict in order to fill the gap of political legitimacy. Milosevic became a “plebeian tribune”. In the context of a multinational state, nationalism, in Gellner’s meaning, became the engine for enhancing people’s support towards the leadership. It was an element of modernization. Populism became the primary political style, in part due to a fragile civil society.

 Finally, in 1990, thanks to the introduction of multi-party democracy, the fracture in the Yugoslav political elite was consumed. At the Yugoslav level, this meant nothing less than anarchy. This new condition of anarchy (after all, like in Albania in 1997) the state “withered away”. So, as a result of non-negotiable visions about a future Yugoslav community, war followed.

First of all we can’t simply assume that the introduction of the democratic regime in a multinational state necessarily implies that it is condemned to explode (after all we already mention the case of Belgium and Canada, but also Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia). Then, even if this was historically true for the post-socialist Eastern federations (Czechoslovakia and Soviet Union plus Yugoslavia), the state dissolution does not have to end into a war.

The responsibility is to be found in the political elites, in the political leaders personalities. But what about civil society? What about culture, values, ideas? Does a warmonger leader simply reflect the attitudes of his/her countrymen?


[1] Jasna Dragović-Soso, “Why did Yugoslavia Disintegrate?,” in State Collapse in South-Eastern Europe. New Perspectives on Yugoslavia’s Disintegration, ed. Lenard J. Cohen et al. (West Lafayette, Ind. : Purdue University Press, 2008), 14.

[2] Of course I do not underestimate the external reasons and influences in the making and dissolution of the Yugoslav state. Here I deliberately focus on the internal factors. For the transnational dimension of Yugoslavia state building see Vesna Drapac, Constructing Yugoslavia, a transnational History, 2010.