Dogged Nationalism

Article excerpt

THE Balkans have been synonymous with fervent, fragmenting nationalism at least since the assassination of an Austrian archduke by a Serbian fanatic in 1914 touched off World War I.

Since the '20s, nationalist passions in the region have found more or less peaceful outlets within Yugoslavia's quiltwork federation. But the ancient loyalties and resentments continue to smolder, sometimes erupting in violence, as in last month's riots in Kosovo Province. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, an autonomous province within Serbia, protested what they saw as encroachments by the Serbian parliament.

The strife - as well as the ongoing unrest within the Soviet Union, most recently in the republic of Georgia - reminds us that nationalism is the force that won't go away. Self-evident? Not to everyone. A recurring dream of 20th-century visionaries (some more benign than others) has been of a peaceful order in which nationalist aspirations are subordinated to the greater weal.

It's little wonder that nationalism is regarded as one of the great enemies of peace; the last two centuries are soaked with blood spilled in its name. Yet nationalism has often been viewed positively, too, as people have struggled to free themselves from imperial and colonial rule. …