Mirjana Maleska
Full Professor at the Doctoral School of Political Science, University “Ss. Cyril and Methodius”, Skopje.

The power of history and religion over human hearts


In 1989 when the Berlin wall fell, and the ‘iron curtain’ was finally removed from the political scene in Europe, Yugoslavia (SFRY) seemed more ready for integration into the new post cold war Europe than the other Eastern-European countries. The communist system itself was ‘revised’, i.e. the economy was highly decentralized, the land was mostly privately owned, and certain forms of market-based economy had begun. The political system was also decentralized. The federation was a loose community, comprised of two houses in the parliament, one consisted of the citizens and the other consisted of the republics. Decisions were being made by a consensus of the six republics and two provinces, Kosovo and Vojvodina. Geographically speaking, Yugoslavia belonged to Europe, both spiritually and culturally. Despite ideological differences, those ties were strong in the past, as well as in the last fifty years.

When, in 1989, dramatic changes in Europe took place; Yugoslavia was a moderately developed industrial country with natural potentials, educated intellectuals, and economical problems that could be surpassed with European assistance. The most serious obstacle facing Yugoslavia was that it had large debts to other countries. For example, in 1990 those debts came to about 17 billion dollars with an inflation rate of about 600% and an unemployment of about 25%. This debt was one of the highest of all Socialist states because the Yugoslav economy had begun to make the move towards a market-based economy and had no great-concealed unemployment.

Knowing that nationalistic centripetal forces could bring about disintegration in the country and quite possibly a civil war, the representatives of the European Community promised the last Yugoslav prime minister, Ante Markovic, material help, admission of Yugoslavia into the European Community, as well as a number of other benefits, if Yugoslavia transformed into a loose confederation.

However, the development of these events proved that there is something self-destructive in human beings and that the power of history and religion over human hearts is stronger than the mind. The Yugoslav federation began disintegrating in a violent way.

In the beginning, the European Community did not succeed to assume the role of an impartial mediator between the sides in conflict: the Serbs and Croats. Inside the European Community, there appeared to be conflict of interests as Yugoslavia’s crises escalated. The Conference of Yugoslavia, formed in September 1991 by EC, failed because of the disunity among European countries, which at that moment ‘lead’ their own policy independently from the previous contracts in the community. Thus, igniting nationalism and violence in those who were stronger and better armed - the Serbs.

From March to June 1999, 12 thousands NATO soldiers were stationed on the Macedonian-Yugoslav border. Military planes, some of which were the newest bombers and had never been used in combat, were bombing Serbian military infrastructure. What was that force called nationalism and what had been happening in the Balkans during the last ten years, that necessitated engagements of NATO to stop it suppress it or put it under control?

The force of nationalism and the creation of nation-state [Back to top]

Yugoslavia (SFRY) disintegrated under the forces of nationalism created by the nations that composed the Yugoslav federation, mainly Serbian and Croatian nationalism. The consolidation of national states began near the end of the last century and at the beginning of this one, after the fall of the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian Empires. This process continued to the end of this century, after the fall of federal power in Yugoslavia in 1991.

These processes were happening simultaneously on a wider European scale and were followed by political instability and wars. The European states themselves were divided and confronted so that relations among the Balkan states reflected the established balance of power after World War II. In 1989 this balance broke. The power of the Soviet Union and its traditional influence as a stabilizing factor in the Balkans decreased, and the Balkan nations began the process of consolidating their national states. Old territorial hostilities and buried conflicts began to surface. The Serbian nation was hurt by the disintegration of Yugoslavia more so than any other nation because a large number of Serbs lived in Croatia and Bosnia. All of the above was happening when European integration intensified making the ethnic conflicts of the Balkan nations seem even more absurd. Those Yugoslav nations like Croats or Macedonians, who were weaker and needed outside assistance to create their own nation-state showed more cooperation with the EU and NATO. Their governments made some compromises: Croats abandoned their ideas of creating a Greater Croatia and agreeing to a Croat-Muslim federation in Bosnia. Macedonians agreed to offer protection and development of national rights to the Albanian minority in Macedonia. The Serbian Government, however, was less prepared to make compromises and provoked international anger. The escalation of violence in Kosovo was not acceptable for the stabilization and future of Europe.

Historical circumstances: Yugoslavia was formed in 1918 as a result of national aspirations by the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians and then, ironically enough, disintegrated seventy years later, also as a result of national aspirations for separate statehood. Circumstances changed, and the security dilemma that kept the southern Slavs united, weakened in the second half of the century.

In 1918 the unification of Serbs, Slovenians and Croats depended mostly on the military and political successes of Serbia. Up until that time the Slovenians, Croats and Muslims in Bosnia lived in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while Serbia, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria already had their independent states. This can be attributed to the help given by Russia and other European states in a military confrontation with the Ottoman Empire. When World War I was coming to its end and the imperial frame of Austo-Hungary disintegrated, the Slovenians and Croats faced a major dilemma: to be divided between Austria, Hungary, Serbia and Italy, (to which the great powers had already promised a part), or to form a common state of the southern Slavs together with the Serbs who were ethnically closest to them.

The Serbs were on the winning side in World War I and the future success of the common state of the southern Slavs depended on their political and military success. Outside the parameters of all military estimates, they conquered the more numerous Austrian and German expeditions. When the forces of Germany, Austria and Bulgaria united and attacked Serbia and its armies, across the snowy mountains of Albania, the Serbs retreated to Korfu. Soon after that retreat, the Serbs together with the Greeks began a victorious offensive, reaching Belgrade and taking Bosnia. The military successes of Serbia allowed it to dictate the negotiations for the formation of the country of the southern Slavs; while at the same time to lead secret negotiations with Hungary for the division of Croatia and Bosnia, where a great many Serbs lived.

Serbia would not have negotiated with the Croatians and Slovenians for unification, unless those ten dramatic days that shook the world had not occurred. The American John Rid referred to those unforgettable ten days in his famous book ‘Ten days that quaked World’. The Russian revolution, and later the retreat of this traditional ally of the Serbs, Russia, from the war with the contract signed in Brest-Listovsk, weakened the Serbian position, making them more willing to compromise.

This historical moment is very important because form it was derived the myth, that the Serbs helped and sacrificed themselves so that the Slovenians and Croats could have their own state based on it, and in 1991 they ‘betrayed’ it, simply by leaving the federation. Like all myths, this one is only partly true, but it was believed in, so that the sanguinity of Yugoslavia’s disintegration in comparison with some ‘velvet’ disintegration is due also to the need for revenge.

However, the truth is that the Croats, Serbs and Muslims lived in close proximity, very intermingled and any separation among them required a lot of patience, long negotiations and impartial international mediation. In the seventies only 56.5% of the Serbs lived in Serbia proper, while 25% were non-Serbs, Albanians and Magyar and 27% of Serbs lived outside Serbia. Croatia was in a similar, although somewhat better situation because 80% of the Croats lived in their republic and 27% of them lived outside Croatia in other republics. Bosnia was a real mixture where about 43% were Muslims, 41% Serbs and 16% Croats. The fact that different ethnic groups could not separate without a lot of atrocities was also a reason, among others, for the duration of Yugoslavia.

In 1945, the Western states that won the war recognized the Yugoslav federation under the leadership of Tito. At Jalta, the influence in Yugoslavia of the West and Russia was divided 50:50. Yet, it actually meant dominance of Russian influence over the Yugoslav communist regime. That is why the break between Tito and Stalin was considered a ‘victory’ for the West. Thus, making them more willing to help the economic development of this country and its status of mediator between the Eastern and the Western block. This constellation of the relations among the two big powers which was retained until the fall of bipolar Europe, acted as the glue that held the Yugoslav federation together.

The second reason for its existence from, 1945 to 1991, was the ideology of socialism and communism. It should be understood that this idea appeared as an extreme alternative to the previous failures of liberal democracy in the Balkan states, between the two World Wars, to improve the situation on the Balkans and to take their people out of poverty and national oppression. At the beginning the idea of communism had enormous support. Tito, who in 1945 organized genuine antifascist resistance, came to power through elections, and certain analysts from the West estimated that he would have won again, had there been free and fair elections. In time, the communist idea became profane, because absolute power leads to corruption. The great economic progress in Yugoslavia up until the sixties, which came about as a result of credits from abroad and of the people’s enthusiasm, began to decrease and the ethnic problems became evident again. The opening towards the Western markets and liberal values strengthened the conflicts further.

The opening of Yugoslavia towards the West, between the eighties and the nineties undermined its unity and ideology. Competing with Western economies required greater initiative from the companies that already had some autonomy in bringing about economic decisions and national leaders began to fight about the distribution of the federal budget. In time, this widened the gap between the developed and not so developed Yugoslav republics. (Slovenia, for example, was several times more developed than Kosovo). The economic differences made dialogue among the communist leaders in the country more difficult. The attempt to introduce market-economy in the sixties failed because a danger that Yugoslavia may disintegrate threatened. Thus, a slower course of economic and political reforms was introduced, which gave the republics and provinces greater autonomy, with the intention to decrease the discontent. However, weakening of the central power increased the discontent of the Serbs, who were afraid Yugoslavia would disintegrate and the Serbs would be divided. Serbian nationalism was initially created on that genuine fear. The last congress of the Communist party of Yugoslavia (SKJ) marked the beginning and the end of Yugoslavia because it uncovered the depth of the differences and disintegration of the party. Slovenian and Croat communists suggested that Yugoslavia had to turn into a looser federation or confederation, while the rest of the Yugoslav nations supported Milosevic’s course towards greater centralization of the country.

The prize paid for the keeping the internal balance and peace was elimination from the leadership of the country of all those who were in favor of further changes. Thus, during the last ten to fifteen years a mediocre structure of power, both by mentality and behavior, strengthened its position. Since the power was mainly concentrated in the communist party, the absence of effective control created a type of politicians whose mental structure can be disastrous for the people they govern, as was the case with the Serbs. They though that they could do anything and that everything was allowed. Not believing in democracy and democratic changes but in unrestricted power former Yugoslav president Milosevic are notorious examples of those type of politicians, who were and even still are something of a ’trade-mark’ of the Balkan.

Thus, the opinion that in multinational communities the consolidation of the national state, in certain circumstances, gains advantage before the economical and other rational issues proves to be true. Unsettled historical issues emerged, myths were put into function in daily politics, public opinion was mobilized, the ‘other side’ was demonized, and the moderates were proclaimed ‘national traitors’.

In such a small geographical area, where different ethnic groups live in close proximity, the nationalism of one ignites the nationalism of the others. Yugoslavia was a state that united all Serbs in a single state frame, and it was clear that the Serbs would be the biggest losers when, in 1991, the federation began disintegrating. Did the European Community show, at the beginning of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, sufficient understanding and impartiality for the state of the Serbs? It’s a mute point at this juncture in time, however, it of importance to the Europeans and their future as a united community, when trying to surpass old grievances. The lesson was learned and some years later, unity of NATO’s country was greater.

Grasp of Croatian and Serbian nationalism: main cause of war [Back to top]

Croatian nationalism. The force of Croatian nationalism and genocide was notorious. During World War II, NZH (Independent State of the Croats) was formed as a puppet regime for the fascist power. It was only in the camp of Jasenovac, according to the official dates in Yugoslavia (SFRY), that about 70, 000 people were killed, because of the fact that they belonged to the Serbian minority in Croatia, or were Jews or Gypsies. The total number of dead people, according to the Yugoslav data, that Tudjman’s regime rejected, reached close to a million. The Croatian nationalism and chauvinism were supported by the Croatian Catholic Church, which openly proclaimed that all Croats had to live in one own state. Therefore Bosnia, with 17% Croatian population, is a Croatian country. The church never apologized or justified the terrible crimes committed to the Serbian minority in Croatia during the war thus, casting a shadow over the reconciliation of the Serbs and Croats.

In 1971, the Croatian nationalism emerged once more in full force. The Croatian Academy of sciences published a memorandum which demanded secession, formation of an independent Croatian state, separation of the Serbian and Croatian languages which, until then were one language, economic independence for Croatia and so on. The memorandum was supported by mass demonstrations, forcing police out on the streets in order to break up the demonstrations. A number of people were arrested and convicted for inciting nationalism. Among those tried for chauvinism was the late Croatian president, Tudjman

The traditional Croatian chauvinism towards ‘infidels’ or ‘shismatics,’ as the Orthodox Serbian minority was called, was due to great religious intolerance. The Serbian minority in Croatia (17%) was concentrated in the region of Kraina. In 1995, Croatia’s army initiated an offensive called the Storm offensive, supported by the USA. The idea was to make Serbs in Bosnia, who was causing terrible atrocities, weaker. During the four days of this offensive and bombing of Knin, where a civilian population lived, about 200,000 Serbs fled from Kraina to Serbia proper. After the war, president Tugman responded to the criticism that was cast upon him by saying that he would prevent their return even though he was obliged to according to The Deyton contract. He further stated that, “Croatia will never have 17% Serbs”. But the guilt doesn’t lie only on the side of the Croats. As a mater of fact, nationalistic leadership of Kraina’s Serb; refused to accept autonomy which under the pressure of the Western countries, Tudjman regime offered to Kraina.

Thus the idea of nation-state appeared to absorb some minorities but to ‘cleanse’ by use of force bigger ethnic group whose drive for secession could threaten the nation-state. Normally, to prevent secession, the nation-states had to be organized on the basis of sharing power between ethnic groups. But the state, which already used force to reach the ‘national’ ideal, had no need to make such compromises. More repression was used to stop media and political parties from bring the question of power sharing on the ‘table’. Religious intolerance allowed them to justify their practice of ‘entice cleansing’. With some specifics, Croats used this pattern as well as Serbs did

From the beginning of the existence of the Yugoslav federation, Croatia, as well as the other republics, tended to decentralize the federal government, with the intention to have their own resources at its disposal as much as possible. Serbs, who were 10 000 000 out of 22 000 000 of Yugoslavs, always were in favor of greater centralization. The equal division of power between the republics and provinces in the constitution of 1974 was imposed by the communist elite of Yugoslavia and existed until 1989. However, Western influence and the democratic winds that blew from there, brought about again, the confrontation between the separatism of developed republics Slovenia and Croatia and the unitarisam of Serbs.

Slovenia and Croatia had the best economic, even civic performances for a faster integration in Western Europe. Slovenia had a rate of unemployment of about 2%, while the average rate of unemployment in Yugoslavia was 25%. The European market was geographically closer to the Slovenians and Croats, tourism on the Adriatic brought great financial means to Slovenia and Croatia and they reluctantly shared it with the others, although they were in Yugoslavia, for a long time, a Fond for the undeveloped republics and provinces, and part of the assets that otherwise would have remained within these republics, went to undeveloped areas.

When in 1991, when the free elections in Slovenia and Croatia nationalist parties won, Slovenia immediately abandoned the federation and its police began provoking the Yugoslav army, which, at that moment, was multinational. Croatia wanted to apply the same recipe, having the support of Germany but the Serbs did not approve. They tried to win part of Croatian territory in Kraina were the Serbian minority lived and had good excuse for that. At the beginning, Croatia did not offer appropriate protection in the form of autonomy to the Serbian minority. It was only later, when Kraina was already in Serbian hands, under the pressure of the international community that this minority was offered autonomy. In the meantime, however, the Serbs gained advantage in Bosnia and committed huge crimes against the Muslims. This provoked the Western powers and the US decided to give the ‘green light’ to the Croats to conquer Kraina with their army. During this action, violence against Serbian civilians took place, so that today the War Crimes Tribunal urges indictments of three Croatian generals.

The fear that Croatian nationalism would bring about the secession of Croatia and Bosnia and the dismemberment of Serbia provoked revengeful nationalism in Serbia. The Serbian Academy of Sciences emerged with their own ‘national program’ in which it stated that they would create a ‘Serbian national state’ within its ethnic borders, including the Croatian and Bosnian territories where the Serbian minority lived.

Lessons (un)learned: The Serbian nation has a long history, tradition of statehood, religion and culture. For a small nation, it widened its territories in the middle of this century, mainly through wars. This expansion, of course, was met with great discontent on the part of the neighboring nations, some of which remained inside Serbian borders, just as part of the Serbian population lived outside its state borders. Twice, in two world wars, Serbia was on the side of the winners and took many lives. In World War II, it was among the countries that took the greatest number of lives. The alliance, with the victorious Western forces, brought Serbia a ‘reward’ in the form of territorial expansion: to the south, the territories of Kosovo- Metohija and Vardar Macedonia. A very impressive episode from the past speaks of Serb mentality: in 1877 the Serbs joined Russia when they announced war on the Ottoman Empire with the intention to spread in Macedonia, Kosovo and Sanjak. Believing that they should be rewarded for their support, the Serbs were shocked to find that, according to the San Stefano Treaty, Macedonia was given to Bulgaria, a country in which Russia had the greatest influence over in the Balkans. “They were bitter”, the historian B. Jelavic notes, “to see such gain go to the Bulgarians whom they regarded as having maintained a passive attitude in the past, instead to the Serbs, who had fought for centuries” (B. Jelavic, 1993).

The Serbs were not though the lesson of history that Bulgarians later would experience, that nationalism must be restrained and put under control. Bulgaria, which entered into the Balkan wars in 1912, 1913 and in 1915 in World War I, with the intention to conquer Macedonia, considering the majority of the population, Macedonian Bulgarians, were constantly in war from 1912 to 1918, and suffered huge casualties - 160 000 dead and 300 000 wounded out of a population of five million. Lead by the same ‘national ideals’ in World War II, it joined the forces of the Axis, because it was promised Macedonia. However, they paid with many lives, and lost the war. It seems that Serbia is learning the same lesson in Kosovo.

When in 1945, after the victory of the partisan and communist movement in Yugoslavia, an alliance of six countries: Slovenians, Croats, Bosnians, Macedonians, Serbs and Monte-Negrians was formed, known as Yugoslavia - this was the first ‘peaceful’ and volunteer limitation of Serbian nationalism and expansionism. Macedonia, for instance, which was considered a Serbian territory conquered in the previous wars, now gained the status of a republic. On the basis of this ‘contract,’ from 1945, in 1991 Macedonia declared independence.

In 1974, Serbian nationalism once again was limited with a kind of an agreement among the communist elite, which reorganized the balance in the federal government and the governments of the republics, giving more power to the republics. That new balance obviously incited the separatism of the republics and not their integration. When this balance was disturbed and the separatism of every republic emerged on the surface, Serbian nationalism became more violent and revengeful.

Albanian separatism and irredentism [Back to top]

When in 1971, the Croatian nationalists gathered to demonstrate in Zagreb, their support for the secession of Croatia, fierce demonstrations with same ideas were in Pristina.

Today’s KLA began on the radical fringe of Kosovare Albanian politics originally made up of diehard Marxist-Leninist (who were bankrolled in the old days by the Stalinist dictatorship next door to Albania) as well as by descendants of the fascist militias raised by the Italians in World War II. Their only ‘ideology’ was to create a “Greater Albania reaching into Albania, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro.

During World War II, Kosovo become part of pro-fascist Albania and ‘ethnic cleansed’ Serbs who lived there. When, after the war, Kosovo again became a part of Serbia; the Serbian police applied different forms of violence, almost till the sixties, to prevent Albanian separatism. This provoked discontent among the Kosovo population. To limit this state violence that was becoming extremely large, Tito changed the chief of the police, to his military friend and a member of the communist elite Alexander Rankovic. The historian R. West wrote about an episode that testifies to Serbian nationalism that was previously concealed. He says that he was a witness when Rankovic, at that time a pensioner, would appear at public places in Belgrade and people would get up and applaud him.

Tito and the Communist multiethnic elite reacted to the escalation of the Croatian and Albanian separatism in such a way that fulfilled most of the nationalist demands with the intention to diminish its strength. The two provinces - Kosovo and Vojvodina gained substantial autonomy within Serbia, with their own parliament, judicial system, police and the possibility to have economic ties with other countries.

In that period, financial support from the Fond (funding for undeveloped regions), would go to Kosovo, in order to diminish the difference in development between Kosovo; as well as to minimize conflicting interests between the developed and the undeveloped parts of the country in Yugoslavia. That improved the situation in Kosovo, but economic and cultural reason as well as pressure from the Albanian separatist’s lead to the emigration of Serbs and a decrease in the Serbian minority in Kosovo from about 50% to 10% (before the intervention of NATO in Kosovo). The Serbian government pointed to this problem out on several occasions; however, they did not have adequate the support of the other republics.

After the death of Tito in 1980 until the end of the eighties, a process of national consolidation was taking place within all Yugoslav republics. For example, in Macedonia it meant introduction of the Macedonian language, as the only state language in the territory of Macedonia, unlike the previous situation when the Albanian language, had a similar status in the parts where the majority were Albanian. The institutions for high education of the Albanians were reduced, and economical measures were undertaken to reduce the birth rate of the Albanians that was exceptionally high (3,4%).

I suppose that similar processes of national consolidation happened in Serbia and frightened Albanians from Kosovo. When in 1991, the republics started to proclaim independence one by one; the Kosovo Albanians did the same thing. They proclaimed independence which, was recognized only by Albania. They organized elections for representatives of parliament and president of the republic. Their strategy, at the beginning was to create peaceful resistance and later by arms was separatism from Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Because the Yugoslav government didn’t try to solve the problem, the resistance rose transforming in a state of mind. The Albanian leadership did not want to talk about anything other than independence, basing their rights on the number of ‘historical’ pretensions over Kosovo. On the other side, Serbs claimed their right too over Kosovo because of their historical reasons, as well.

Kosovo Albanians refused to participate in the local and state elections and organized their parallel government in Kosovo, financially supported by the citizens and emigrants. The Kosovo emigrants organized and armed groups who were in favor of a violent secession of Kosovo from Serbia. The reaction of the Serbs was ‘hostile tolerance’, and when KLA began terrorist actions, lost nerves and resorted to violence to prevent secession, which went completely out of control causing huge scale casualties and sufferings in the province.

Albanian separatism grew under the Serbian policy of repression. Useful parallels with Macedonia can be drawn here. During the time of the former president S,Milosevic ,Serbian nationalism generally consisted of violent ways to consolidate the national state into ethnic borders. They weren’t in a position to make a step toward democracy, although they had free elections. The democratic opposition of the present nationalism wouldn’t come up with the right democratic solution for Kosovo, because it wouldn’t gain support from the electoral. In this way, the opposition remained marginal of Serbian and Kosovo politics. Beside, the last ten years a new generation of Kosovar Albanians appeared as a political and military factor. Kosovo has the highest birth rate in Europe and 70% of the population is under 30. Most of them (70%) are unemployed, with villagers and clan mentality; a vast pool of disenchanted youth from which the guerrilla army can recruit. These fighters by and large differ from their elders in that they do not speak the Serbo-Croatian language, have no loyalties to the Serbian State and have contact with the Serbs only at checkpoints or jail. Their war is not only against Serbian government but also against the intellectual and urban elite of Pristina and other larger towns.

Macedonians did not have this problem of violent consolidation of the national state, because its small minority was mainly in Aegean Macedonia, which is now part of Greece, and Macedonian nationalists faced a bigger and stronger nationalism - the militant nationalism of the Greeks. In 1991 in Tesalonika, around 1 000 000 Greeks gathered to explosively emotive demonstrations against Macedonia. On the other hand, the moderate Macedonian leadership in 1991-1992 declared that Macedonia would not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

The Macedonian case [Back to top]

At the beginning of this century, the territory of Macedonia presented the ‘apple of discord’ among Balkan states: Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia. The division of Macedonia after the Second Balkan War mainly between Greece and Serbia left Bulgaria unsatisfied. It entered twice in wars, the First and the Second World War to return the territory of Macedonia inside its borders. Its claims were based upon its believe that the main ethnic groups in Macedonia were Macedonian Bulgarians. Bulgaria was defeated and the situation has remained unchanged up to 1991.

When in 1991 Yugoslavia disintegrated, the balance between the Balkan nations and the balance between Western and Russian influence in that region was disturbed. Each Yugoslav nation tried to benefit from this situation. Those nations that had no significant minorities, as Slovenia, gained independence through a very short war. Those that were intermingled, like the Serbs, Croats and Bosnians, did not manage to divide peacefully. The Serbian and Croatian nationalism, whose ideal was the creation of a nation-state where political borders would follow ethnic lines, was strong and pulled toward war. Serbs, whose nation was the most disperse, deeply hurt by the dissolution of Yugoslavia, engaged the military power of the former state in pursuing its national ideal. Every side in Bosnian war committed atrocities, but the Serbs, committed the most.

In 1990, Macedonia proclaimed independence in an extremely difficult domestic and international environment. The neighboring countries were hostile, and Macedonia had to cope with a sizable Albanian minority, whose policy of secession was backed by the Albanian state. But in the last ten years the interests of those two groups: the Macedonian majority and Albanian minority greatly overlapped. Albania as a state was too feeble to support the separatist tendencies of the Albanian minority in Macedonia, and its strategy was to gain a status of a ‘constituent nation’. Thus the leaders of the Albanian minority in Macedonia were cooperative, as well as the Macedonians, who had their own interest to be cooperative, the first being the survival of the state. The fact that both groups at that time were lead by moderate people saved Macedonia from chaos. Macedonian nationalism was feeble at that time, since the Macedonian nation is of recent origin. Historically, Macedonian separatism and irredentism from Yugoslavia backed by some circles in Bulgaria, and the Macedonian emigration there, was defeated between the two World Wars and again immediately after World War II.

This balance has existed until the Kosovo crises and the danger of a full-scale war in 1998. This war directly and without any doubt has undermined the balance between the Macedonian majority and the Albanian minority. Both groups are scared and have their own different political aims and hopes. For ex. only several months prior to the elections in Macedonia, in April 1998, after the disintegration of the state structure in Albania and the smuggling of weapons through the high mountain of Shara where the border between Albania and Kosovo runs, the “hostile coexistence” between the Albanians and the Serbian government turned into an armed conflict. The gyre of violence that began spinning struck all the citizens in Kosovo, but mostly the Albanians. At that time there were estimated of 30 000 automatic weapons in the hands of the force of several thousand fighters plus anti-tank weapons and light mortars (according New York Times of March 29,1999). The massacres in Drenica and Racak, the bombing of the Albanian villages and the great number of refugees from Kosovo in 1998/1999,caused by the use of excessive force of Milosevic regime, radicalized the public opinion of the Albanians in Macedonia . They started to gather on public meetings on which only Albanian flags could be seen, the Albanian national anthem was sung and fiery speeches in support of the independence of Kosovo were held. The Macedonian public was greatly disturbed and when FRY (Yugoslavia) sent warning signals for interfering in its internal affairs, anti Albanian feelings erupted through the Macedonia media demonizing the Albanians and especially, their radical leaders. Several times during the last ten years, the leadership of the Albanian minority in Macedonia gave proof for its double standard over loyalty often going directly to Tirana to consult with the officials of the Albanian Government. Macedonian state wasn’t in a position to oppose this behavior, but the feelings were hurt.

The difficult economic situation in Macedonia additionally aggravates this balance. Due to this deteriorating conditions, the Macedonian and Albanian radicals and nationalist won the last national election in 1998 , creating an unusual coalition. The aim of Macedonian nationalists in the government is closer ties with Bulgaria, which perfectly overlaps with the interest of the Albanian radicals for closer ties with Albania. But one part of the Macedonians traditionally rely on Serbian and Greek partnership and their policy of status quo about the borders.

The future independence and stability of Macedonia depends on its ability to transform in a democratic multiethnic state, which means that the Macedonians will have to make a lot of compromises with the Albanian minority. The Albanian minority also must know its responsibility. Therefore, the Macedonian majority and Albanian minority in Macedonia, are, in a sense, condemned to try to endure these terrible times of massive earthquake in the Balkan Region and to find the formula of living together.

That is one possible option. The other is, to find a more powerful ‘friend’ to pursue one’s own separate ‘national’ interest which recently was a mainstream in the Balkans. That could be Tirana for the Albanians; for the Macedonians, that could be Sofia or Belgrade-Athens , depending of the final solution of the Kosovo question. Dissolution most probably won’t be “velvet”.