An International Symposium
"SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE 1918-1995"
Publisher: Croatian Heritage Foundation
& Croatian Information Centre
For the Publisher: Ante Beljo
Expert Counsellor: Dr. sc. Dragutin Pavlicevic
Editor: Aleksander Ravlic
Graphic Design: Gorana Benic - Hudin
Printed by: TARGA
Copies Printed: 2000
professor; lecturer at American and Swedish universities. A true Serb decided to return to
Croatia instead of Serbia (Yugoslavia)
Vicka Lovrina 4
20 000 Dubrovnik-CROATIA
TO THE MYTH OF "GREATER SERBIA"?
It is a shame that there arenít more young people here. I
have a suggestion for the formation of a group of young individuals who would develop and
conduct a project-study in Croatian and English, encompassing all the events which are to
occur in Serbia this year and next. This would be information from open sources which
would then be analysed by two people with sharp minds who would draw conclusions which
would then be given to the Croatian government, with the goal of creating a new Serbia
that could be lived with in the future.
Serbia became free in the year 1867 when the last Turkish soldiers withdrew from
Belgrade and gained its independence (as did Montenegro) at the Berlin Congress in 1878.
That was the time of the alliance between Germany and Italy, which later turned towards
imperialism and colonialisation. As a parachutist in the American army, I was jumping into
Belgium in the war that permanently crushed Nazism and fascism. Afterwards, I was a
witness to the collapse of all the great world empires; British, French, Belgian, Dutch,
Portuguese along with their colonial empires. In newer times, we have all been witnesses
to the disappearance of the largest social experiment in the history of mankind. On the
basis of Marxist theory, it supposedly attempted to develop a social system which ended up
costing the human race some ten million victims. The greatest world empire were also
recently lost under the leadership of Russia-USSR.
In the last few years, we have been witnesses to the last attempt of creating an empire
in South-eastern Europe - the realisation of a Serbian empire under the slogan Greater
Serbia. This tremendous conflict which the imperialistic gang from Belgrade provoked, this
war, would be funny if, unfortunately, it wasnít tragic. It was during this time that
they wanted to create their empire in the middle of Europe while aspiring to rule over all
the surrounding nations. However, all the empires crumbled, and so will this last one -
Serbia. Because of this, I wish to speak about both the end of the idea and practice of
the creation of a Greater Serbia, of the end to the idea of a Greater Serbian empire, and
of the end to the idea of Yugoslavia in Serbia and among Serbs.
Therefore, I wish to briefly explain the meaning of Greater Serbia. What brought about
the idea of the formation of a Greater Serbia? What roles did religion and culture have?
What did the past three attempts of creating a Greater Serbia bring to the Serbian nation?
What is Serbia without a Greater Serbia and what will soon happen to it?
If I wish to speak of a Greater Serbia, I have to stray a bit into the history of my
own family. My father, Jefto Dedijer, who received his doctoral degree in Vienna in 1908,
conducted many geographical and political studies of Herzegovina, Old and New Serbia, and
Dalmatia. In the last brochure which I still have in Dubrovnik, he wrote of the increase
in Serb territory under princes Caslav, Nemanja, Lazar and the despot Stevan. Afterwards,
he mentioned Serbia in the II rebellion of 1813, 1833, 1878, and from 1912-1913, and even
Montenegro as a part of Serbia. There are tabulated items, years, and kilometres of space
upon which it was stated that Greater Serbia was supposedly larger than all of Yugoslavia
in terms of territory. In the year 1915 in Nis, before the withdrawal of the Serbian Army
from Serbia through Albania, my father wrote this anecdote: "Croatian politician
Frano Supilo went to the Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikola Pasic, and said:
"The army is withdrawing, Italy has entered the war on the side of the Entente and is
going to take Dalmatia from us". In response, Pasic asked: "What is
Dalmatia?" For Greater Serbians, there werenít any Croatians in Dalmatia, only
Serbs and Catholics!!
The reasons why and how the idea of a Greater Serbia came about were also discussed. My
father was born into a peasant family near Bileca in Herzegovina, but through studying and
reading he introduced himself to some precepts of geopolitics which were already taught in
Vienna at the beginning of the twentieth century. He was well acquainted with the works of
the famous Serbian geographer and ethnographer, Jovan Cvijic, who published some
cultural-geographical and anthropogeographical works in which he discussed where Serbs
lived, how many there were, who were Serbs, and how to make a Serb out of a non-Serb. That
was a very important task in that time, but at the same time he showed how social sciences
can be untrue even in the situation of current politics. Even today, unfortunately, many
social sciences are in a similar predicament.
Even though my father was a member of the Serbian revolutionary (terrorist)
organisation "Black Hand" in the beginning, and equally collaborated with its
leader, Dragutin Dimitrijevic Apis, he later had trouble with them. My mother, a Bosnian
Serb, taught me that all people are alike. In the year 1928, when Punisa Racic, with the
knowledge of King Aleksandar, killed two Croatian representatives and seriously injured
Stjepan Radic at the parliament in Belgrade, my mother told me, Vladimir and Boro:
"Children, this is the end of Yugoslavia. King Aleksandar has killed the democratic
leaders of Croatia."
When the Serbian Army captured Kosovo and Macedonia and committed a massacre of the
Albanians during the first Balkan War (1912-1913), Dimitrije Tucovic, a prominent Serb
socialist, automatically reacted by writing a book against it (Serbia and Albania).
Within a few weeks, my father Jefto published the book "New Serbia" in which
it was written: "The conquest of Kosovo and Metohia gives Serbia an unbelievable
position to conquer the entire Balkans." When the defeated Serbian Army retreated
towards the sea through Albania in 1915, he wrote: "We are going to transform them
into Serbs, not by beating them, but instead through school and other ways, and we are
going to turn all of them into Serbs!" I brought up just a few facts to show how
these seemingly "learned" methods created a Greater Serbia.
It should not be forgotten that the Serbs lived under Turkish rule for over 500 years
and that that certainly had an impact on the Serbian people, on their minds, culture, and
way of thinking. I had a conversation with Milovan Djilas prior to his death, and when I
asked him what will happen to Serbia, he responded with a letter explaining how the idea
of a Greater Serbia had arisen in Serbian cities (in Vojvodina, for example), how traders
were spreading the idea, exporters of swine, a thin layer of Serbian bourgeoisie, and how
that idea would never be effectuated in a war.
To a degree, the Serbs took over and learned the following motto from the Turks:
"Bow down, turn Turk, and you are ours!" That is what the ideologists of a
Greater Serbia demanded from Croatians, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Albanians and others;
either turn Serbian, or if unwilling, be ruined - as were Christians in Turkey -
completely suppressed, practically slaves. I will add another anecdote. When I returned
from Turkey in 1960, a well-known Serbian author by the name of Dobrica Cosic asked me:
"How is it in Turkey?" I answered: "Ah, my Dobrica, in Turkey everything is
Serbian!" He was surprised, but I explained to him that the two have a great deal in
common in terms of language, food, people, their expressions and mentality, so much so,
that I was left dumbfounded.
And when we ask ourselves today: what did the idea of a Greater Serbia give to the
Serbs, actually Serbian imperialism in the Balkans, we must answer negatively. For
example, in World War I, Serbia fell to ruins and lost 20% of its active population. The
first Yugoslavia was a prison for the non-Serb people which was proclaimed a dictatorship
in the year 1929 under Serbian King Aleksandar from the Karadjordjevic dynasty. Because of
this, that nation was lawless and fell apart in the year 1941 in World War II. The second
communist Yugoslavia was founded on the same or similar ideas which is why it suffered a
downfall in 1990.
And what did the idea of the formation of a Greater Serbia bring to the Serbs
afterwards in the period of Slobodan Milosevic? An idea which they made every effort to
actualise through the course of world history. It brought Serbia an economic catastrophe
with embargoes and sanctions, as well as social poverty and decadence. It also brought it
a national leadership for whom arrest warrants by Interpol and the Hague Tribunal have
been issued. It brought it complete political anarchy and the loss of respect and
credibility in the world. It brought the death and political emigration of 100,000 people,
especially the young and educated. That is why my colleagues in Sweden told me: "We
know that that you are a Serb, but forgive us for saying that the Serbs in this war were
murderers, barbarians, and inhuman!" And now, that the failure of the idea of a
Greater Serbia may be discerned, the question is posed: "What will Serbia be like
without its imaginary empire, without the actualisation of the idea of a Greater Serbia?
First, we must say something of the international community who needed a few years to
begin resisting the conquering aspirations of Greater Serbia. Of that, my son Mihajlo, who
doesnít speak "our language" very well, organised a special conference in
Washington. For example, in 1993, the editor of the magazine "Duga", Mr. Milic,
called me from Belgrade and told me: "A victory is being celebrated here. With the
help of the international community, we have won. In our hands, we hold one-third of
Croatia, 80% of Bosnia-Herzegovina, we have taken Montenegro, and Vojvodina was already
ours!" And now I pose the question: "Who in that international community enabled
the victory of the idea of a Greater Serbia which was celebrated in Belgrade?" I
automatically wrote to my associates in America, for example to a friend who is the head
of the CIA, and mentioned: "You say that the Serbian army is strong, but I assert
that they are villains." I also added the fact that in 1944 Tito and the partisans
forced 250,000 Serbian Chetniks to flee and that partisan Generals Koca Popovic and Peko
Dapcevic crushed them in 1945. And thatís how it was for this Serb military in the
summer of 1995 which the Croatian wartime operation "Storm" confirmed.
"There", I wrote, "thatís your strong Serb military!"
Why did the Serbs celebrate a victory in 1993? They were given that opportunity by old
British and French imperialistic politics which along with the help of Yugoslavia (Greater
Serbia) and Greece, blocked the Germans and Russians in the Balkans. Yet English General
Rose who killed Argentineans in the Falklands like animals, came to Bosnia-Herzegovina and
declared: " I am not allowed to fire at the Serbs. I will not kill people!" Or
as British Prime Minister John Major, for example, announced on TV which I watched in
Sweden: "That is a civil war. We are going to take thirty children from Sarajevo and
nurture them and treat them in our hospitals!" Consequently, he stated the same as
did Mr. Milosevic. That is the perfidious and filthy politics of one nationís leader.
That was also done by Lord Carrington, Rose, and even the best intelligence agent of this
century, Fitzroy MacLean, who got involved in his later days and said: "Support
Serbia, all Croatians are fascists!" And yet he is going to come to the Croatian
island of Korcula again for vacation. Or as Lord Owen told the Bosnians: "Well, you
lost the war, what more do you want?" The same can be said for Mr. Hurd and Mr.
Rifkind who were for Milosevic only until the Americans began bombing the Serbs in Bosnia,
when by surprise, they turned around and conceded to it. This is that English unprincipled
imperialistic politics which was implemented by all, with the exception of W. Churchill
and M. Thatcher.
I also wrote to US President Bush in 1992 by way of my friends at the CIA and proposed
that all they need to do is fly over Serbia with a number of planes and frighten Belgrade,
and soon I will also tell president Clinton the same. After all, at least we attained the
bombing of Serbian sites in Bosnia. However, look at what American diplomat Holbrooke is
doing. He is giving the Serbs in Bosnia conquests, yet I would ask him: "In regards
to the Persian Gulf, why didnít you give the aggressor Saddam Hussein one-third of
Kuwait as a gift in order to maintain peace?" No, instead all of Kuwait had to be
returned, and the aggressor had to leave. And what is he doing now? Heís suggesting that
Milosevic and war criminals Mladic and Karadzic be given 1/3 of Bosnia, namely the area
where they surrounded Gorazde as well as the Banja Luka region where all the Catholic
churches and mosques were destroyed, while the Orthodox (Serbian) churches remained and
where Focaís name was changed to Srbinje.
Western politicians do not want to be overthrown by Slobodan Milosevic and his
politics. From a Stalin-Milosevic they want to make a Gorbachov-Milosevic, from a
Hitler-Milosevic to an Adenauer-Milosevic. And now Milosevic declares: "We must bring
Serbia back to civilisation!" Even his wife allegedly says that there shouldnít be
any nationalism in Serbia. At the same time, Serbia is a totalitarian country in which
there are 120,000 policemen and 115,000 soldiers. Even after the Croatian operation
"Oluja", Serbia is still a police state, yet the situation is an interesting
one. Now Belgrade newspapers report that in 1991 Croatians defended Vukovar with rifles
only and held the front against 300 Serbian tanks. Even in the so-called Krajina in
Croatia they had 500 tanks, but ran from the Croatian Army as if they had none.
And what is Slobodan Milosevicís strategy today? He wants to gather all the leftists
in Serbia, even Vuk Draskovic, and then create a national block which would countenance
Mr. Holbrooke who wants to make a peacemaker out of Milosevic. However, in Serbia there
exists a large number of small political groups and individuals, and it should not be
forgotten that in Belgrade in 1991, 100.000 people took to the streets against Milosevic.
I believe that the Serbian people have been following what has been going on, that
theyíre getting the most important information, and that they will not be misled in any
of this. That is why for this situation in Serbia I apply the following proverb of former
American President Lincoln: "You can trick some Serbs all of the time, and all Serbs
some of the time, but you can never trick all of the Serbs all of the time!" Because
of this Iíd like to emphasise that just as all the communist regimes were ruined, so
will this one be in Serbia. The exact moment that that is to happen cannot be predicted,
but everything can change overnight, demonstrations can break out that could ruin all of
In the end, I would like to say something about the Republic of Croatia. President Dr.
Franjo Tudman, on the occasion of the celebration of Croatian Independence on May 30,
1990, said something to the effect of how he would like to build a Croatia that would be a
part of the free world. It would have to be a nation with unlimited freedom with the
possibility of developing into a democracy. In economic terms, private enterprise and
pluralistic ownership need to be made possible in Croatia. I think that Croatia will have
many hardships if headed in that direction, however. It will need Serbia as a neighbour,
but only a Serbia that will be a part of the free world as well. Because of this, I
believe that the project which I mentioned at the beginning needs to be actualised.
Croatia has to be given the opportunity to influence those developments in Serbia which
will lead to the inclusiveness of that nation into the global democratic process and
That is why I personally try to touch upon that evolution of Serbia wherever I go. It
is also why I sent a letter in September of this year to Dobrica Cosic who I knew as a
young partisan, and suggested to him: "Dobrica, if the slightest bit of integrity and
bravery of a "skojevac" (member of SKOJ - League of Young Communists - which
Dedijer compared to Jesuit fanaticism and the first Muslims - Muhamedís followers) still
remains in you, you would appear on Serbian television, call together a press conference
and beg the Serbian people for forgiveness for all the harm youíve brought to
them." I am afraid that old man Dobrislav is no longer competent to do that anymore.
With that fear I now live like a "Serb from the bottom of a barrel", as I
sign my articles in the Serbian language. This is because sauerkraut, a favourite Serbian
dish, is best right from the bottom. Since 1988, I have been fighting a lonely battle.
Fighting against a Greater Serbia, many times I thought of Willy Brandt and other Germans
who from 1939 to 1945 fought the battle against the myth of a Nazi Great Germany. Will it
make the task harder for those who fought for a democratic Serbia in which Serbs would
learn to live in equality and peace with other people in their country, with their
neighbours in the Balkans and in the world?
Prof. dr. Stjepo Obad:
Konavle's Prevlaka in the Centre of European Diplomacy
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