Shock Waves: Eastern Europe after the Revolutions

By John Feffer | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Yugoslavia. . .
Things fall apart

. . .as horses absurdly harnessed together, they will scatter in all directions as soon as the advancing spirit of the times will weaken and break the bonds. 1

—Franz Grillparzer

In the late summer of 1990, a group of ethnic Serbs within Croatia began campaigning for their own brand of independence. They blockaded some roads and demanded a plebiscite. They had guns. Some said they were in the pay of the Serbian government. 2

In the increasingly independent republics of Slovenia and Croatia, life nevertheless went on. Occasionally, people would talk of the horrific possibility of civil war—Serb against Croat, Macedonian against Albanian, Christian against Moslem. But the specter of revived blood feuds had been raised so frequently in Yugoslavia during the 1980s that it had become an observation more banal than harrowing. Civil war was certainly possible, but no one was ready to sell the house, quit the job, and move to Austria. Calmer heads would surely prevail. Negotiations were taking place. Stubbornness would eventually dissolve into compromise. Europeans would resolve their differences in a "civilized" manner.

These Europeans wouldn't. War did indeed come in 1991 and with a ferocity that even the most pessimistic prophets found shocking. The former Yugoslavs, now referred to by their particular ethnic identities, seemed determined to prove that even as the 20th century neared its end, Europeans could still commit atrocities.

What a brave new Europe this was. Western European leaders gathered in banquet halls in Brussels and Luxembourg to toast their new consensus on economic and political integration. In the ancient port of Dubrovnik and the Danubian towns of Vukovar and Osijek, Yugoslavs slaughtered one another. The Cold War was over, the Berlin Wall was

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