The Road to War in Serbia: Trauma and Catharsis

By Nebojša Popov | Go to book overview

The Unresolved Genocide

SRÐAN BOGOSAVLJEVIĆ

Yugoslavia was, according to its pre-Second World War borders, one of the countries with the highest number of war victims, the greatest amount of war damage and the worst effects of genocide. The question of indifference with respect to the war victims therefore arises1—while there may be political motives for this indifference, there can be no justification. The fact that in the only register of the victims of war no attempt was made to collect data on the perpetrators of crimes as well, reveals something of the motives of the then leadership of Yugoslavia: there was an unwillingness to stir up and bring into the forefront the barely pacified intolerance among nations that had reached its peak during the war. Thus, the delay in carrying out a serious analysis of the war victims, in compiling lists of victims, as well as in identifying those responsible for the suffering, even at the lowest level, and, naturally, delays in their sentencing, have created room for manipulation and exaggeration.

At worst, it is not impossible to view the present conflict as a continuation of the 1941–1945 war, since the highest numbers of victims and the most brutal clashes occurred in more or less the same areas. Retaliation for what had been done earlier, and fear of a renewal of genocide (irrespective of whether this fear was justified or not), were, at the same time, if not the moving force behind the war, then certainly an important element in motivating the masses.

Launching an investigation now, or even a few years ago, at a time when it served as an overture to the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the war, rather than at a time when many of the facts could have been checked, is in many ways a futile undertaking. Today, one can carry out a critical review of the estimates and appraisals given in previous years, and perhaps by establishing some irrefutable facts one can manage to ascertain the minimum number of victims. Naturally, most disputes regarding the war victims are based on

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