Nationalism that surfaced in Kosovo protests ripples across Yugoslavia
Last spring's demonstrations by the Albanian minority in Yugoslavia are still reverberating in the country -- in court sentences, in sluggish purges in the Albanian-populated Kosovo Province, and in reawakened Serbian nationalism.
The latest sentences came Aug. 2: between 1 and 11 years imprisonment for 12 participants in the nationalist protest last April and May in Kosovo that left at least eight demonstrators and one policeman dead.
The goal of the riots was an independent Kosovo republic within the Yugoslav Federation (Kosovo is now an autonomous province within the Serbian Republic) -- or even, for some, Kosovo's secession from Yugoslavia and accession to neighboring Albania.
The outburst sent shock waves through this multinational state that overcame its pre- war Balkanization only by the supranational stature of founding father Josip Broz Tito, a Croat. The court sentences reflect the shock in convicting defendants of taking part in "hostile and counterrevolutionary demonstrations."
The purges that have followed the disturbances -- nonlethal firings of Kosovar officials who are deemed to sympathetic to Albanian nationalism -- are continuing.
The "differentiation" (between competent and incompetent officials) is going much too slowly for Belgrade's taste, however. Numerous articles in the central press complain about the resistence to "differentiation" in the Kosovo Communist Party, factories, secondary schools, institutions of higher education, and some government agencies.
The (mostly Serbian) critics argue that the purges are slow and superficial, and they object to the "absence of criticism and self- criticism" among Kosovars.
So strong is the Serbian backlash that some non-Serbs fear that this revived Serbian nationalism may prove to be the most lasting result of the Kosovo unrest. Before Tito the usual form of Yugoslav unity was domination of the smaller nationalities by the Serbs. The Croats, Slovenes, and other nationalities have been hypersensitive to any resurgence of this pattern ever since Tito's death 16 months ago.
The Serbs, for their part, regard an assertion of their national identity as normal and find it unjust that such an assertion -- which raises no eyebrows when practiced by the smaller nationalities -- immediately arouses alarm when exercised by the Serbs.
Whatever the merits of these contrary points of view, the awakened Serbian nationalism is evidenced today in casual conversations in Yugoslavia, in the Yugoslav press coverage of Kosovo -- and, some Croats and Slovenes say, in the publicity accorded the anti-Tito poetry of Serbian poet Gojko Djogo.
"Albanians -- crazy," volunteered one Montenegrin to a visiting American in limited, but expressive, English. Another Serb voiced concern about the high Kosovar birthrate.
The Serbs want "collective guilt of all Albanians," concluded one Slovene disapprovingly.
More discreetly, the central (Serbian- dominated) Belgrade press and television express deep-rooted suspicion of the 1.5 million Kosovars in this country of 22 million. Their reports on Kosovo emphasize the external "enemies" (primarily Tirana Albanians) who are seen as the instigators of Kosovar nationalism -- and the ingratitude of the Kosovars for all the money and efforts the more-developed parts of Yugoslavia have lavished on trying to modernize Kosovo, the poorest of all Yugoslav regions.
Even in the responsible Belgrade papers there is little of the where-did-we-go-wrong soul-searching of, say, some US papers after the Miami riots. From the less responsible Belgrade papers and magazines, one Slovene noted, you might think there had been "almost a holocaust of the Serbian population in Kosovo -- and that every Albanian was a bandit."
To some Croats and Sloveness one of the most disturbing manifestations of Serbian nationalism is the suspended trial of poet Gojko Djogo. Djogo's poetry implicity attacks Tito -- and although Diego is being charged for this very offense, he is out of jail, his poetry has gained in notoriety, and the cream of Serbian intellectuals has rallied to his defense.To some Croats and Slovenes this smacks of "Byzantine" maneuvering to devalue Tito and the supranationalism he stood for.
As one Slovene put it, the glorification of the Serbs implicit in Djogo's poetry, along with the submergence of other nationalities, is "a line which is quite popular with the most reactionary elements in Serbian society, with the orthodox clergy . . . with old bourgeois families [with officials] full span to the so-called radical left."