In the face of the burgeoning tragedy in the Balkans it is difficult to keep silent. Serb and Kosovar friends bombed, and those beautiful forest trails mined . . .
This two-part article was published in the July and August 1999 issues of the
Unification News. It is slightly different than the print version, thanks
to some corrections offered by my readers.
The tragic conflict in Kosovo has captured the world’s attention, and divided its people like nothing since the Cold War. The situation is so complicated that few even try to grasp it. Each of the many factions has presented an impassioned case for itself.
In 1991 this author made a two month pioneering journey to Macedonia and Kosovo. At that time the area was so obscure that I’d never even heard of their capital cities, Skopje and Pristina.
Now, even with a peace plan signed, the roots of the conflict remain, and no one expects an easy resolution. America will be involved there for a long time.
In this two-part article I’ll provide as much information as possible. We’ll review the current situation, the various players, their history and claims, and a possible solution for the conflict. Also, its disturbing similarity to certain situations right here in America.
It has been said that “the Balkans generate more history than they can locally consume.” World War One is only the most famous of the conflicts to begin there, and the region also played a key role in World War Two. At that time Serbia was a staunch ally of America, but now it’s being cast as the bad guy.
Unfortunately, the region has no shortage of bad guys.
The benighted Kosovo Albanians have few moderate leaders. Their radical faction’s fighting arm, the Kosovo Liberation Army, is a marxist organization, supported by the terrorist Osama bin Laden . They obtain funds by dealing drugs. Amazingly, NATO spoke of training the KLA to conduct sabotage!
Albania was once Red China’s only client state, and an extremely strict dictatorship. Today it is free, but in chaos, with powerful crime lords operating as they please.
Serbia hosts the region’s only remaining Communist regime. Their strongman, Slobodan Milosevic, preaches a strident brand of nationalism. While there I did not meet a single person who admitted to liking him. Yet, during NATO’s attacks, the Serbs rallied around Milosevic.
Black-masked Serbian paramilitary groups have rampaged out of control. They often battle their Croatian counterparts, forcibly clearing out entire towns. For some reason, their years-long, mutual “ethnic cleansing” has received little publicity.
Newly independent Macedonia, afraid for its very survival, can hardly afford to support its beleaguered neighbors. Even so, it has hosted many thousands of refugees.
NATO, though chartered as a defensive organization, became an international aggressor, issuing stern ultimatums and then unilaterally attacking a much smaller neighbor.
NATO is currently led by a bloc of socialist governments; openly so in England, Spain, France, and Germany; ideologically so in America. These ex-radical politicians have no military experience, and even their Generals are clearly incompetent. In the opinion of this author, by the dictates of the Principle, these leaders (if not their entire nations) have placed themselves “on satan’s side.”
Over the last eight years I have remained involved with the Balkans. I picked up as much of the local languages as I could, and roamed the towns, spending time with regular folks. An account of my visit appeared in the June 1991 UNews.
In 1995 I was asked to write an article for Makadonska Falanga magazine, Macedonia’s premier variety monthly. (It has since closed, due to that country’s severe economic difficulties.)
I wrote about my impressions of that new/old nation, and offered some ideas for its future. It was translated into Macedonian by my spiritual son Robert, who also translated the Divine Principle.
My article quoted Santayana’s famous dictum, “people who forget history are condemned to repeat it.” Balkan people have the opposite problem, for they cannot forget or forgive the past, and thus bind themselves to its manifold tragedies.
In April 1999, in response to public interest in Kosovo, I sent a popular California talk show host a long email. I wrote about the situation, and its tangled roots in history. He read the entire message over the air.
The Balkan region has ethnic divisions deeper than most Americans can imagine. Most white Americans, for example, have black friends, and can speak a little Spanish.
In Kosovo it took me about an hour to learn some Shqip (Albanian), such as “merdita” for “hello.” However, a Slavic friend, born and raised nearby, didn’t even know that much!
Even small divisions get inflated. The common morning-time greeting in Serbia is “dober dan,” and in Macedonia it’s “dober den.” One time in Skopje I was addressing an old man, and I slipped and said “dober dan.” He proceeded to lecture me. In reality the two dialects are closer than New York and Oklahoma English.
Recently I heard a Serbian man claim that “there couldn’t be any rapes occurring in Kosovo,” because “a Serbian man wouldn’t touch an Albanian woman with a ten foot pole.” In fact, radical Serb and Kosovar leaders both called for ethnically-targeted rapes, as a way of terrorizing their opponents.
The terror isn’t all across ethnic lines. Some Albanian clans maintain deadly “blood feuds,” centuries-old quarrels that make the Hatfields and McCoys look like pikers.
Please don’t get the impression that the region is some kind of “human jungle.” Ordinarily the inhabitants are polite and soft-spoken; I hardly heard a shout the entire time I was there. There are many Muslims, but it is nothing like the Arab world. They are quite westernized.
The Balkans have an amazingly complicated history, so I’ll try to summarize the parts most relevant to today’s situation.
It is commonly stated that “the current conflict goes back 600 years,” to the defeat of the Christian Serbs by the Muslim Turks. In reality, it goes back much further!
Three thousand years ago the Albanians were known as Illyrians, and they occupied the entire central Balkans. Around 300 BC, next-door ruler Alexander the Great marched out and conquered Empires thousands of miles away. But after giving the Illyrians a military thrashing, he preferred to leave their tribes alone. On maps of that era their land is a blank.
From 229 BC through 9 AD the Romans gradually conquered the Illyrians. They built the famous Via Egnatia, a fortified Rome-Byzantium road, thus pacifying the area.
However, the Romans–or any other ruler, right up until today–never fully subdued the “Gegs,” or mountain clans. Near modern Skopje there is a Roman ruin dating to about 400 AD, called Scupi. The Albanian word for the city of Skopje is Scupi.
Rome fell, and the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire took possession the Balkans. Their influence grew and faded (twice), then they too were driven from the region.
Starting around 500 AD, barbarian tribes migrated into the Balkans from the north and east, among them the Slavic Serbs and Turkic Bulgars. The Bulgars then adopted Slavic ways.
Around 880 AD, Saints Cyril and Methodius developed the Cyrillic alphabet, now used in distinctive forms by Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and others. (Albania, along with Kosovo, uses a Latin alphabet.)
Their pupil St. Clement founded a University at Lake Ohrid, and his students proceeded to convert the Slavic world to Orthodox Christianity. Which, despite detours into marxism, etc., still reigns supreme.
During the Middle Ages the Balkans changed ownership countless times, as various nations waxed and waned. Today, these records provide the basis for a welter of competing claims.
The Ottoman Empire, centered in (what is today) Turkey, expanded greatly under Sultan Murad II and his successors. In a famous and decisive battle, they defeated the Serbs at Kosovo Polje, the “Field of Blackbirds,” in 1389. Many Albanians fought and died alongside the Serbs. By 1393 the Bulgarians also fell.
The Albanians generally stayed in their mountain fastness. Their greatest hero, Scanderbeg, served the Turkish Sultan with distinction, then returned to the Catholicism of his childhood. After 1450 he rallied his people and held off the Turks for twenty years. Albania calls itself Shqiperi, or “Land of Eagles,” after Scanderbeg’s double eagle crest.
During their long rule the Ottomans eventually converted most of them to Islam. (And, to the north, many Bosnians as well.)
Today Albania’s population is a blend of Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Muslim. Many families are mixed, thus Albania has a long-standing reputation for religious tolerance.
Mother Teresa was an ethnic Albanian, born in Skopje. Even during Albania’s marxist period, they referred to her as “the Great Mother of Albania.” I once visited Skopje’s only Roman Catholic church, and our members have aided her missionary center there. Her selfless service to all humanity points the way to a solution for the Balkan crisis.
I’ve tried to be current, but by the time this article reaches you, anything may have happened . . .
Next month we’ll start off with a look at recent Balkan history.
This is the second half of my article about the crisis in Kosovo. Unfortunately, the issue is so complex that we can only give a brief overview.
In this section we’ll look at Balkan history, and the current situation of Kosovo and Macedonia. We’ll look for similarities closer to home. Finally, we’ll offer a solution.
During the 1800s, Balkan nationalism surged as the Ottoman Empire weakened. In a series of rebellions, the Greeks, Serbs, and others cast off the Turkish Ottoman yoke.
Following World War One, Yugoslavia was cobbled together by Europe’s “Great Powers” under King Alexander I. He was assassinated by his resentful subjects in 1934.
During World War Two, famed British spymaster “Intrepid” tricked Hitler into thinking the Allies were going to invade Greece. To counter this the Nazis sent over a dozen Wehrmacht divisions sweeping through the Balkans and into Greece.
Numerous factions quickly took sides. Croatia’s Tito followed Stalin, while Col. Mihajlovic and most Serbs supported the Allies. Croatia’s infamous Ustase supported the Nazis, acting so extreme that even the German soldiers were shocked.
During W.W.II the Serbs lost a quarter of their population, and still managed to tie down some eight Nazi divisions. This delayed Hitler’s attack on Russia until winter set in, altering the course of the war. (To think that NATO’s considerably smaller forces could have easily cowed Serbia was pure folly.)
Fascist Italy ruled Albania during W.W.II. Albanians poured into Kosovo during their rule, as a part of a deliberate Axis policy to weaken enemy peoples.
After the war the Albanian Kosovars were granted autonomy by Tito, who walked a tightrope in ruling his extremely diverse Yugoslavia.
For the next fifty years the Kosovars continued to pressure, and to out-populate, the Serbs. They also benefited from Tito’s relatively moderate policies.
The Kosovars ended up better off than other Albanians, many becoming rich as “guest workers” in Europe’s wealthier nations. (I saw many Mercedes Benz sedans on the roads of Kosovo, most with Swiss license plates.)
This author has kept in close touch with Macedonia, so I’m paying special attention to that nation. Like Israel, Macedonia has lived and died several times over the millennia.
After thriving under Alexander the Great and his dynasty, Macedonia was vanquished in 148 BC, continuing only as a province of some other nation.
It flourished once again in 976 AD under King Samuel (Tsar Samuil). During his reign the Orthodox Church’s Archbishopric of Ohrid was organized. (Many historians call Samuel a Bulgarian, even though he rebelled against them, and his capital was at Lake Ohrid, far to the west.) In 1018 Samuel was defeated by the resurgent Byzantine Empire.
In 1282, Serbian conqueror Stephen Dusan made great inroads on the weakening Byzantines, establishing his capital at Skopje. His successors soon fell to the advancing Turks.
In 1878, through war and treaty, Macedonia changed hands three times!
The Macedonians revolted several times during the 1800s. They reappeared as a political entity in 1893 with the founding of the VMRO, and the quixotic Ilinden Uprising of 1903. British, French, Italian, Austrian, and Russian troops were sent in to police the area. (In the Balkans, history really does repeat itself.) The VMRO’s military commander, Goce Delchev, is now Macedonia’s greatest hero.
Macedonia became an official province of Yugoslavia after W.W.II., and gained independence in 1991.
Today’s Greeks look upon Macedonia with disdain, claiming that their civilization was always Greek, and that its Slavic inhabitants are lacking in gratitude for their uplift from barbarity.
There is another side to the story. In 1777, during Ottoman rule, the Greek Orthodox Church helped quell Balkan aspirations by eliminating local rule of both Bulgarian and Macedonian churches.
Macedonia’s claim upon Alexander the Great as a national hero, plus Greek repression of its own Slavic minority, has fueled great resentment between Greece and Macedonia.
THE RECENT WAR
I have been asked about the possible “spiritual significance” of the Kosovo crisis. If there is one, I have been unable to discern it. The tragedy there was foreseen by many. Our own PWPA held “reconciliation” conferences which were well-received, but our efforts were overwhelmed by ethnic leaders with deadly ambitions.
I once accompanied our Albanian National Leader to a meeting with a Professor in Kosovo–and all the man really wanted to talk about was getting the heck out of there!
In the 1990s the Kosovo Liberation Army upped the ante with a campaign to assassinate Serbian policemen; who, nasty though they are, surely didn’t deserve it. The Serbs were compelled to retaliate in force. Paramilitary groups, such as the one led by the infamous Arkan, took matters into their own hands.
However, it was only after NATO’s widespread and inaccurate bombing began that refugees began to flee Kosovo en masse.
Declassified documents from the Vietnam War, and recent exposés about the Gulf War, prove that the American government to quick to lie about its military involvements.
Concerning the Balkans, conspiracy theories abound. Some say that Europe’s “Gray Eminencies” secretly wanted Milosevic to do their bidding, by driving out the Muslim Kosovars. Others worry that President Clinton, who has admitted to envying wartime Presidents like Roosevelt, actually risked starting a “hot” World War Three, simply to bolster his imagined legacy. Confronting Russian ground troops, and “accidentally” bombing the Chinese Embassy, elevated these worries far beyond paranoia.
Many people worry that Balkan-style history will repeat itself elsewhere. It has long been popular to compare America to the declining Roman Empire. Now it’s the foreboding of a local version of Kosovo.
California will soon be populated by fewer than 50% white people. While most of its diverse population gets along quite well, many (formerly) minority groups are “represented” by strident activists.
Many of California’s Hispanics support, and almost none will denounce, radical groups such as MECHA. These groups wave red marxist flags at political/cultural rallies–and the liberal news media has been very careful not to show this on camera.
MECHA is openly calling for an independent, socialist nation called Aztlan. Their claim to California is based on a rather dubious connection to Aztec legend, and on independent Mexico’s 30 years of rule.
During the Mexican era some 1000 literate citizens (out of about 12,000 in total) dominated all of California! Alta California’s ruling Dons pretty much ignored Mexico’s appointed Governors.
Earlier, Europe’s Spanish Empire had claimed the land. The local Indians, enjoying the balmy climate, had never got much beyond the Stone Age.
Today, schools and Universities host MECHA speakers, and many people believe that political–if not violent–action will soon eliminate “unjust Yanqui” rule.
Black Panther-type groups, and condescending Chinese factions, while currently small, are a constant influence. Factor in the dominant liberal’s disrespect for police, and the weakening of America’s armed forces, and you have all the ingredients for a future California Kosovo . . .
Now the people of the Balkans have to rebuild. Undamaged areas have to revive their moribund economies. Macedonia has a nearly 50% unemployment rate, and Albania is in chaos. Kosovo and Serbia were bombed into ruin.
These nation’s former (and not so former) communist elites have proven totally incompetent. Their greedy “dead hands” aren’t even able to revive their subjects enough to fleece them more than once. (Unlike America’s Federal Reserve and IRS.)
Fortunately, new leadership, and fresh economic ventures, beckon. Macedonia has bravely signed a multibillion dollar trade deal with Taiwan.
There is a strong religious element to the current conflict, and extremists from around the world are flocking to try and harden the believer’s positions.
The Orthodox Church has a deep and wonderful sacred tradition, but it seems powerless to end the conflict. Each Balkan religion is identified closely with its ethnic host. Even the atheistic communists in Serbia donate to their church, considering it a vital part of their heritage.
Just as in Northern Ireland, they’ve all taken sides, perhaps irrevocably.
Only a new and healing ideology, and the resultant fresh mindset, can save the Balkans. It must embrace the economic, political, ideological, and especially spiritual arenas. Secular “experts” have completely missed this point.
True Father’s speeches, dating back thirty years and more, provide the solution. In America, God provided the “heat” for its famous “melting pot.” America itself has nearly lost that blessing, and the Balkans desperately need it now.
A widespread, trans-ethnic revival is the only answer. Only the True Parents can embrace each faction, and end the centuries of conquest and revenge.
Only a new culture of heart can allow everything from Albania’s blood feuds, to the Kosovo situation, to NATO/Russian rivalry, to be forgiven.
When the young people of the Balkans joyfully attend international matchings, and build families that cross those countless bloody lines, the Kingdom of Heaven will surely be at hand.
© 1999 by Paul Carlson
[Shqip is pronounced "shh-keep."]
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