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« Unnatural history lesson | Main | Recalling Eric Varley »

July 27, 2008


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Hasan Prishtina

The autonomy of Kosova and Vojvodina was removed in 1989, not 1987. Otherwise, a good piece. What never ceases to amaze me is how a regime that reduces its people to poverty and concentrates vast wealth in the hands of directors of banks and large enterprises, not to mention their criminal friends, can be thought by anyone to be 'left wing'?

Oliver Kamm

You're right, of course. I have corrected this date in the post.

David Boothroyd

To be fair it should be commented that Tito's 1974 constitution which granted Kosova and Vojvodina votes in the Yugoslav council equivalent to the six republics was motivated by his desire to minimise Serbian influence in Yugoslavia.

While Milošević was quite happy to see the Bosnian Serbs attempt to carve territory out of Bosnia, he was not particularly happy to see Karadžić leading them as Karadžić was allied with Vojislav Šešelj who was his main internal political opponent at the time (they were later, in 1998, to go into government together when more progressive forces emerged). Milošević was able at Dayton in November 1995 to sign an agreement which meant Karadžić becoming a war criminal fugitive unable to participate in politics. At the time Milošević himself had nothing to fear from the ICTY as he was not indicted until 1999.

Oliver Kamm

Nonetheless, revoking the status of the automous provinces and abolishing their voting power wasn't a constitutional reform. It was explicitly a means to "make Serbia whole again", as Milosevic had already signalled with his purge of the Communist Party of Kosovo in 1988. With the vote of Montenegro on his side, Milosevic thereby counted on four of the eight votes in the collective presidency.

Peter Hitchens somehow overlooks the reason for Slovenian, Croatian and Bosnian demands for independence, namely that Milosevic was concentrating power in his own hands. When the Croatian representative Stipe Mesic was due to accede to the rotating presidency, Milosevic blocked it. The rest - ethnic cleansing, covert arms shipments and genocide - is history, and a terrible one.

Hasan Prishtina

I am not sure there is much evidence of Tito's wish to minimise Serbian influence. Tito had purged both the Croatian and Serbian party leaderships which were by 1974 were relatively docile. The powers given to the SAPs in 1974 were not greatly more than those they had following the constitutional amendments of 1971.

The impetus behind the 1974 constitution was that: a) Tito was 82 and needed some mechanism to succeed him; and b) this was seen as the best way of facilitating a loose federation of socialist, self-managing political units as envisaged by the constitution's ideological author, Edvard Kardelj.


Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts did not publish an open letter in 1986. A draft version was leaked to the press. SANU never actually approved the document. In any case the draft of the memorandum did not contain any mention of creating a “Greater Serbia”. The then communist leader Milošević welcomed the memorandum in June 1987 with “The appearance of the Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences represents nothing else but the darkest nationalism”.

Kosovo’s autonomy wasn’t revoked in either 1987 or 1989. The 1974 Yugoslav constitution effectively split Serbia into three parts. The autonomous provinces were put on an equal footing with the republics except there were not defined as states and had less representatives in the Yugoslav parliament. They could also veto any legislation or decision passed by the republican assembly of Serbia, but Serbia could not veto anything passed by either provincial assembly. This mean that Serbia’s status was somewhat ambiguous and not able to control its own territory.

The drafting of the constitutional amendments started in 1986 by a commission. It was agreed to by the Kosovo assembly, and by all of the other republics in Yugoslavia.

Kosovo’s status was not diminished in the SFRY at all. Kosovo still appointed its members to the SFRY presidency and retained the same veto powers in the federal assembly.

Blaming everything on Milošević ignores concrete facts like the 1968 demostrations and the 1981 riots by the Kosovo Albanians.

Kirk Johnson

Of COURSE "Kosovo’s status was not diminished in the SFRY at all"--that's because Milosevic had bullied the original regional leadership in Kosovo and Vojvodinia out and had replaced them with compliant puppets; along with his allies in Montenegro, this gave him four out of eight votes in the Federal Presidency. Milosevic was always a master of maintaining the fiction of legality while twisting the mechanism of the state to serve his own purposes.

The argument that neo-liberal economic reforms were "responsible" for the war have unfortunately been given legitimacy by Susan Woodward, who worked as an advisor to UN Special Envoy Yasushi Akashi (a gutless appeaser and a real impediment to decisive intervention). Her book "Balkan Tragedy" is often cited as a source by pro-Serb--or at least anti-Western--Balkan revisionists, especially those of the Left.

Ian Cresswell

phildav is actually right that Milosevic did not immediately welcome the memorandum. He denounced it like a good Communist is supposed to do. He embraced its logic and rhetoric fairly quickly though.

The rest of your post is a very odd description of the anti-bureaucratic revolution.

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