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CIAO DATE: 11/00
Civil-Military Relations in the Third Yugoslavia
1 Military traditions of the Serbs
Any consideration of the Serbs' military traditions is inevitably a study of both the real and mythical aspects of their history. They are so intertwined that the very endeavour to distinguish between them is not only hardly possible but also counter-productive. The thesis that the 'boundaries between myth and history are not clear' 1 can be proved in the Serbian case. At the same time, however, the inter-mixture of these two components easily leads to false conclusions and corrupt political decisions. From today's perspective Serbs are the most mythologised people in the world. Two opposed and equally biased perceptions are dominant: they are perceived as either 'heavenly people' or 'devil's seed'. The common notion in both interpretations is war. Yet this does not provide enough elements to form a clear picture. In the light of the most recent events (the 1999 NATO intervention in FR Yugoslavia) one may say that what the Serbs see as bravery, others interpret as belligerency. And vice versa - what Serbs see as an anti-heroic war, others see as humanitarian intervention. Given the crucial position of Serbia in the Yugoslav wars that have still not ceased, one may assume that fresh historical material for the evaluation of Serbian military traditions, myths and traumas is still growing. This very fact certainly contributes to the inability to analyse them objectively, but usually politically motivated blockades are made in order to prove one's righteousness.
Today's Yugoslav military ethos is being created under the direct influence of external and internal pressures, i.e. the interpretations about its role given by international and domestic political factors. More importantly, its identity and legitimacy are being created in the confusing interplay of old and newly created myths. It is almost impossible to define precisely the historical background of the Army of the so-called Third Yugoslavia. Namely, the federation consists of two republics representing two allegedly distinct nations with very close but also different historical backgrounds. Even the history of the bigger, Serbian nation, is extremely complex since it comprises the past of the parts of the Serbian nation that have been living in different territories, under different rulers, and this does not even take account of the mass migrations. In addition, FR Yugoslavia still claims its statehood continuity not only from the First and Second Yugoslavia, but also from its constituencies' predecessors.
The 'richness' of a history which is usually seen as one of wars and pogroms as well as the persistency of the myths and legends may lead to the wrong conclusion that the modern military history of Serbia/Yugoslavia has been pre-determined for a long time. Serbs' and Montenegrins' military virtues - or, rather, belligerency - may be seen as an easy explanation for their current military adventures. This falsely 'historical' approach can give only ahistorical and fatalist interpretations, which can be used as justification for misleading political decisions. Since the former Yugoslav territory is being used as a focus for the creation of the so-called New World Order, and particularly because of Serbia's core role in the turmoil, such conclusions may have far-reaching consequences with no reference to academic research. Like the other Balkan countries and nations, today's Serbia is also deeply involved in the process of rewriting its national history. Yet unlike the Croatian case, where history is being redesigned into a tabula rasa foundation for a 'new' or better history for the Croats, in Serbia this process has a different goal. Being deeply involved in heavy wars/conflicts and being blamed as a main guilt-bearer, the Serbian regime has been trying to prove its self-righteousness and to accentuate historical injustices that have always made Serbia the victim of other countries' policies. Therefore, to a large extent Serbian military history consists of a series of defeats, traumatic experiences, migrations and terrible losses. More precisely, it is what usually dominates in Serbs' self-perception of their historical fate.
The beginning of the story concerns the origin of the Serbs and their settlement in the Balkans. This part of their history does not differ from that of the other Slav tribes and therefore is not particularly spectacular. Despite efforts made by the nationalists to prove that the Serbs are 'the world's most ancient people', our knowledge of South Slav history in general until the sixth century appears to be very poor and uncertain. Only after their invasions of the Balkans does the historical data become more accurate and richer, thanks to the well-known Byzantine sources and authors. Later, having become one of the biggest Slav people, Serbs did not mind emphasising their distinctiveness from the other Slav peoples in the Balkans. On the contrary, in the light of Vuk Karadzic's 'linguistic' Serbianism, the modern Serb national ideology was based on the assumption that regardless of the religious affiliation (of the Catholic Croats and/or Bosnian Muslims) they all belonged to the same people. Serbia should have been Piedmont in the process of their unification. This trait of Serb ideology has been one of the most decisive factors of their state and military history. The thesis of the history of the Balkans as a history of migration not only of peoples but also of lands 2 fits perfectly in the Serbian case. One can follow the military traditions of the Serbs as well as the military traditions of the Serbian state(s). Throughout the centuries the Serb-populated areas on the Balkans were changing due to the extraordinary historical developments that caused mass migrations. As for the Serbian state, its size as well as its location has always been shaped by military power - its own or that of its adversaries. Nevertheless, it was the Serbian church that was always the most focal point of Serb statehood and nationhood rather than the military. Throughout the centuries whenever the state territory was scattered and state independence interrupted the collective memories of the past glories, traditions of statehood and past sovereignty survived thanks to the religion. It has provided immeasurable sources for the Serbs' mythical view of the world and become the foci of their dreams and hopes for resurrection of the lost state and freedom in a hopeless situation.
Serbian history centres on several dominant themes that are extremely important for an understanding of the modern military/political situation. However, the historical continuum may be 'divided' into two long periods, at least, for the needs of the analysis of civil-military relations. The first period starts with the Serbs' settlement in the Balkans and the medieval state building, while the second begins with the re-establishment of the Serbian state and the creation of the modern army in the nineteenth century. The first period is of critical importance though it is filled with myths, legends and mysticism. The second one resembles a self-propelling prophecy, i.e. it may be seen as the materialisation of the old curses on the Serbian nation and the state. However, since myths and legends are not purely abstract notions but evolve as a result of real social processes, the opposite is also true: sometimes social developments may be influenced by the practical use of the old myths, which can be used as a justification for some form of political mobilisation. War sacrifices and defeats are the most frequent motives in Serbian military history. The Serbs are often referred to as the only people in the world who build self-glorifying military myths around defeats. Tightly linked with this theme is the apotheosis of Serbs' migrations, sufferings and tremendous losses. The only bright but inspiring memory comes from their 'Golden Age', i.e. the period of the rise of the Serbian medieval state and the Church.
In the first several centuries after their arrival in the Balkans, Serbs had established some forms of would-be state. The task was finally accomplished in the twelfth century under the rule of the Nemanja dynasty on the territory that would be known as Old Serbia (occupying Raska, Kosovo, Metohija and northern Macedonia). During a period of two centuries the kingdom succeeded in transforming disparate tribes into a people and gave them common identity. In the fourteenth century under Tsar Dusan's rule Serbia became a major military power and the state territory stretched 'from the Danube to the Peloponnese'. This was the only extended period of greatness to which Serbs could later look back and draw inspiration.
The well-prepared and large armed forces brought territorial gains, but the glory of the Serbian medieval state has been preserved thanks to the autocephalous Serbian Church that was established in this period. The symbiosis between the Serbian state and the Church was so tight that Nemanjas established the Church and the Church preserved their heritage. After their death, Stefan Nemanja and his son, known as St Sava, were canonised saints. Thus, the royal Nemanja family was immortalised. St Sava described his father with reference to the biblical patriarch Abraham. The sanctification of the rules, but also of the State, was to prove the theory of divine right over Serbian territory. That Holy Serbian Land that is the cradle of the Serbian statehood was located on the unfortunate land of Kosovo, which would become a scene of many dramatic but inglorious events.
In the collective memory of the Serbs, however, the past glory of the Nemanjas' rule is overshadowed by its downfall. Although in reality it was a gradual process, in Serbs' perception the turning point is identified with the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. The loss of statehood and independence has been pictured in a most magnificent but eerie way. The military defeat has been celebrated through the legend that Serbs (i.e. King Lazar, the political and military leader) sacrificed the Empire on Earth for the Empire on Heaven. Having fought bravely against the overpowering military of the unbelievers (Turks), Serbs lost the battle but not the pride and dignity. From that defeat on in the later Serbian history there has been one fundamental motto - 'It is better to die in battle than to live in shame.' The best illustration is the record of King Lazar's speech to his men made by the Serbian Patriarch Danilo in the aftermath of the Battle of Kosovo:
You, oh comrades and brothers, lords and nobles, soldiers and vojvodas - great and small. You yourselves are witnesses and observers of the great goodness God has given us in this life ... But if the sword, if wounds, or if darkness of death comes to us, we accept them sweetly for Christ and for the godliness of our homeland. It is better to die in battle than to live in shame. Better it is for us to accept death from the sword in battle than to offer our shoulders to the enemy. We have lived a long time for the world; in the end we seek to accept the martyr's struggle and to live forever in heaven. We call ourselves Christian soldiers, martyrs for godliness to be recorded in the book of life. We do not spare our bodies in fighting in order that we may accept the holy wreaths from the One who judges all accomplishments. Suffering beget glory and labors lead to peace 3 .
The myth of Kosovo has crystallised the notion of relativisation of Defeat through the relativisation of Death itself. In this belief Defeat might bring terrible losses but it does not mean The End. In accordance with the religious beliefs even after Death (End) there is Hope - in resurrection. In the following 'dark centuries' under Ottoman occupation Serbs were waiting, hoping and struggling for the resurrection of their Old State and the glorious leader, the King Lazar. The concept of Victory arising out of Defeat could give justification for slavery, misery and calamity that Serbs suffered in the next periods.
Historical data show that in strategic terms the Battle of Kosovo was not the decisive one in terms of losing independence. Moreover, the issue of who was the winner and who the loser is still highly disputable, but undoubtedly the final downfall of Serbia happened 70 years after Kosovo (at the Battle of Smederevo in 1459). As for King Lazar, the hero of the Battle of Kosovo, there are no reliable historical data. It is believed that his glory was a result of the Serbian Church eulogies and the series of epic folk poetry created in order to preserve the memories of the Serbia's rulers, statehood and independence. Moreover, the fallacy of the myth of the indomitable Serbian heroes was evidenced soon after the Battle of Kosovo. While Lazar was venerated as a saint who sacrificed his life rather than surrender to the Turks, soon after his death Serbia became a vassal state; Lazar's 14-year-old daughter was sent to the Sultan's harem while her brother Stefan was fighting along with the Sultan's troops. 4 In addition, King Marko (Kraljevic Marko) was the Turks' vassal in the reality with infamous military virtues, but is one of the most remarkable figures in the Serb epic tradition.
The Kosovo myth is not the only one in Serbian history, but is certainly one of the most influential. It has been used as a basis for many other politically useful concepts, which are nevertheless important for the understanding of Serbs' self-perception on their 'historical mission'. One of the predominant perceptions is about the Serbs - brave 'Frontiersmen' (Grezier). They have always been 'guarding' the Christian world from the Turks (equivalent to anti-Christians, evil forces in history). The picture of Serbia (or Serbs) as antimurale christianitatis is just one more element in the series of competing myths existing with Croats, Bulgarians, Romanians and even Albanians. The basis of this belief is that one's nation can claim a special moral superiority for having suffered. In this particular case, the Serbs have performed a self-sacrifice so that civilised Europe could flourish. With Serbs this myth has been developed into a national dogma, which has developed rapidly - particularly in the last several years.
Closely related with this myth, is the David and Goliath attitude, according to which Serbia has always been fighting military superior powers (Ottomans, Austria-Hungary, Germany, and today NATO), but in the end, regardless of the sacrifices, it has always been victorious. The concept of the people-victim is the basis for the belief in the Serbia-Phoenix. In this doctrine, individualistic values have no meaning because the individual life is completely subordinated to the community and its mission. In the Serbian case collective martyrdom to the cause of the preservation of the state is the highest value, while self-sacrifice becomes a behavioural stereotype. The myths of military valour in Serbian history are tightly related to the myths of redemption and suffering. More precisely, the legend of the indomitable Serbian spirit is embodied in the stories of numerous and disastrous rebellions, while the legends of sufferings are incarnated in the stories of the Serbs' mass migrations that followed each military defeat. The first migration in the sorrowful saga happened after the unsuccessful rebellion of the Serbs led by their religious leader, the Patriarch Arsenije, in 1690. 5 Since then the Serbs have deserved the name of Arsenije's children several times in their history, the last time being in the 1995 exodus from Croatia. Arsenije could be seen as a Serbian Moses - 'but leading his people away from the promised land' 6 (i.e. Kosovo). The protagonists of the first myth were known as hajduci (outlaws) who glorified as freedom fighters through many epic songs and became a symbol of the struggle for freedom. The reality was very often quite different, since for many of them the banditry was the main source of living. In the collective national memory, they have been idealised like heroes out of a need to maintain the people's spirits. After centuries of Turk occupation, with no signs of any imminent 'resurrection' of their state and liberty, these anti-heroes were seen as apostles of freedom. Two of the most glorious events in the Serbian national history are the First and the Second Uprising. The famous leader of the First Uprising from 1804 Gjordje Petrovic (better known under his Turkish name Kara-Djordje) was a prototype of a Serbian anti-hero. His successor Milos Obrenovic was even worse. But both of them are given a significant place in the Serbian 'hall of fame'. As a young man Karadjordje left his rural district to seek his fortune, sometimes tending sheep but also as a bandit (or hajduk). In the Austro-Turkish war of 1788-91 he served in a Serbian unit raised by Austrians. He has been remembered as a man of tremendous psychical strength, with a violent temper but courageous, and as a genius for irregular warfare.
The other side of the story about the First Serbian Uprising sheds light on its real goal. The rebellion force consisted of some 30,000 armed villagers and hajduks had no plan to overthrow the sultan's rule, but to keep the status quo against a further deterioration of the Ottoman system, personified in the dahias' terror. More importantly, the internal dissension was one of the basic causes of the Serbian failure. Since the very beginning Karadjordje quarrelled with the Council over supreme decision-making authority. 7 Karadjordje demanded a hereditary claim to supreme authority, while rival knezes on the Council wanted the leader appointed by a 'senate'. In 1811, Karadjordje used a vote of the national skupstina (assembly) to get his way, but the whole affair diverted energy from the war, and Karadjordje replaced the best military leaders with those who were loyal to him. This contributed to the defeat of 1813. The deep internal divisions not only affected the outcome of the rebellion, but also laid the foundation for a century of Serbian politics.
One of the important symbols of Serbian national history is the coat of arms that has a cross in its centre with four 'S's around it. Originally the 'S's were not supposed to mean letters but fire-lighting flints. Later they were transformed into letters with specific meaning(s). In the first interpretation, it should have meant 'Sama Srbija Sebe Spasila' - 'Serbia Alone Delivered Herself'. However, it acquired a more likely interpretation in the motto 'Samo Sloga Srbe Spasava' - 'Only Unity Saves the Serbs'. The syndrome of disunity among the Serbs has been an old one, evidenced even during the Battle of Kosovo. Hence the motive of treachery was very often used as justification for military defeats. However, it has never been given priority over the external factor, i.e. superior adversaries. Therefore, the internal weaknesses were mentioned only in the (rare) moments of self-critics, while the sufferings and terrifying traumas have never been allowed to be forgotten. One of the most morbid monuments is the Skull Tower near Nis. 8 It is still used as a symbol and a lesson for the young generations of Serbs of the value of independence, showing them what price their fathers paid for it. Milos Obrenovic is glorified by Serbian historiography as a leader of the Second Uprising, which brought autonomy to Serbia (in a form of an administrative unit called pashalik). However, even the limited autonomy was partly a result of the constellation on the international scene that was favourable to the rebels. According to the witnesses Obrenovic was a brave military leader, but soon appeared to be brutal and murderous politician. His rule was even more oppressive than the Turkish one, so the Serbs could not see any difference. The corrupt rebel leader Milos Obrenovic (1817-39) had Karadjordje murdered and his head sent to the sultan to signal Serbian loyalty. It had been the beginning of a long and bloody rivalry between the two dynasties that followed in the next generations in which the military was usually deeply involved.
Milos's rule marked the beginning of the 'real military history', i.e. the history of the modern military institution building. The systematic examination of the factors that have influenced the military-political relationship as well as civil-military relations can be traced from that time. In the Serbs' dominant collective perception the military has always been a defender of the nation and the homeland, and tightly related to this myth is the other one that claims that Serbia has never waged offensive war. Historical data contradict both myths. Since the birth of the Serbian military (although formally within the Turkish Empire since Serbia had not been granted full independence), it has performed the internal military mission, i.e. maintenance of the domestic order. It has become a very useful tool for the autocratic rule, appropriate in the struggles against both people's protests and the political opponents. Only later, during the era of national awakening did the military acquire the (external) national liberation function.
It was Milos's son, Prince Mihajlo Obrenovic, who defined Serbia's full liberation and the creation of a South Slav confederation as his main political goals, and with that purpose organised a regular army. Having felt the strength of newly born nationalism, he was the first Serbian ruler to incite the idea of a great national liberation war against the Turks. 9 To this major goal, however, all political freedoms were to be sacrificed, so he did not allow any political opposition. He subordinated to himself legislative, executive and judicial power in the state. After Mihailo's assassination the active military intervention brought to the throne immature Milan Obrenovic. It was the beginning of the series of praetorian actions of the Serbian military and direct interference in domestic political life. The Serbian rulers established themselves by sheer force of power through military coups or with open military support - and usually ended the same way. In particular, the coup of 1903 had a lasting influence on Serbian politics. It made the army a powerful force in domestic politics and put the army's rivals on notice that their lives might be in physical danger. 10 At the same time, the work of the junior officers demonstrated weakness in the army hierarchy: top officers could not control the armed patriots under them. In the collective memory of the Serbian people as well as in the official historiography the interference of the military in domestic political affairs and/or actions against its own people has not been emphasised. The perception of the military's external mission, on the contrary, is highly appreciated. By selection and rejection of certain historical events, Serbian history is perceived as a series of wars and battles that have always been imposed on the peace-loving and proud Serbian people. Interestingly, even the perception of the First Balkan War, which is generally considered as a national liberation war, is that it was unwillingly imposed on the Serbs; Turkey caused it by its refusal to implement reforms demanded by the Great Powers. However, the most dominant perception is that Serbia has never waged unjust wars or wars of conquest. The first Balkan War was the time when 'dreams of new glories to flow from territorial expansion bemused many minds'. This dark side of the Balkan wars cannot be found in Serbian (nor in Bulgarian) history or documents. Officially, the role of Serbia and its military was exclusively noble and human. Therefore, no elaboration of Serbia's aggressive moves towards northern Albania and Macedonia can be found during the Balkan Wars. 11 In the former case, Serbian army was allegedly only helping the Montenegrins and in the latter, Macedonia had to be protected from the Bulgarians. By avoiding 'dark spots' in its national past, the official historiography promotes the idea of historical correctness, guiltlessness and the moral integrity of the Serbian nation. 12
In cases where the motives of war are highly ambiguous, the interpretation finds the solution in the axiom that 'Serbian people never make mistakes and has a deep sense of historical justice; only (some of) the leaders made some wrong decisions.' One of the most inglorious moments in Serbian military history, the Serbian-Bulgarian War in 1885, for example, is interpreted as being due to the mistake of King Milan and the military circles who 'did not express the interests or aspirations of the Serbian people'. Not surprisingly, the Battle of Slivnitza in 1885 represents an extraordinary source of military glory for the victorious Bulgarians, while it is almost neglected in Serbian historiography.
The First World War was one of the major historical events in Serbian history, and particularly from today's perspective it is given a mythical significance. The story, based on historical data and including some mythical aspects, contains all the important elements of the old Serbian myths: indomitable spirit against superior power(s); heroic resistance and catastrophic defeat; national martyrdom; and resurrection and glory. However, the Serbian resistance during the First World War also provided a fertile basis for the creation of stereotypes about the Serbs that have been prevailing (and politically useful) until today. The logic of the developments created an aurora around the Serbs who were seen at the same time as heroic and noble - and barbarous and bellicose savages. 13 The Allies glorified the extraordinary steadfastness of the small Serbian army, while the Central Powers' propaganda spread the legend of a race of barbarous savages, animated by individual vindictive greed and unrestrained by any moral or humane considerations. For example, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia under the ominous slogan of 'Serbien muss Sterbien' (Serbia must die). Field Marshall August von Mackensen, who was in charge of a German army group, on the eve of their attack on Serbia in October 1915 sent the following message to his troops:
Soldiers, you are not going to the Italian, or Russian, or French front. You are now going against a new enemy, a dangerous, tough, courageous and severe one. You are going to the Serbian front and against Serbia, and the Serbs are freedom-loving people who will fight and sacrifice themselves to the last man. Take care that this small enemy does not spoil your reputation and compromise the previous successes of the glorious German army.
The Serbian perception of the First World War is a mixture of 'earthly' and 'heavenly' elements, in both cases with a stress on the most glorious moments. The official interpretation reveals an intention to locate Serbia in the centre of world history and Serbia's territory as a scene where major world upheavals commence. The greatness of the Serbs is equally stressed both in their glorious victories and the misery and horror of their downfall in the Albanian highlands. In Serbian perception of history, retreat and exile are not the same as defeat, they are only temporary but unavoidable elements in the circle of life and death. War is seen as a collective fate, and the victims and sufferings are inevitable. According to some estimates, for different reasons (military actions, reprisals, epidemics, poverty etc.) Serbia lost a quarter of its pre-war population and half of its pre-war resources, in addition to a quarter of Montenegro's population. In that case Serbia behaved as a collective Medea offering up her own children. This is illustrated by a letter from a Serbian mother to her peasant son, a prisoner in Austria:
I suppose that if they took you prisoner, it was because you were wounded and not able to defend yourself. But if you surrendered without being wounded, my son, never return home. You would defile the village, which has sacrificed on the altar of our Fatherland 83 heroes out of the 120 who were called up. Your brother Milan fell at Rudnik. He must have been happy to see his old king firing a rifle in the front line. 14
The end of the war brought a reward for all sufferings and self-sacrifice - Yugoslav nation-state building. The resurrected Serbian state was bigger than ever - the price paid for it was worthwhile. In that sense, the First World War represents a turning point in Serbian history: it promoted Serbia as a recognisable actor on the world stage and gave a substantial 'proof' of the epic historical values of the nation. Epic and warfare values being given the highest appreciation in the collective memory, the military has derived an endless source of legitimacy in society. The military has always been identified with the people and vice versa. As the people are unconquerable and just, the same applies to the military. The goodness of the Serbian people's mission gives an aura to the brave and noble Serbian soldier, who becomes a figure of mythical proportions. Being in a direct linkage with God, the institution he represents cannot be judged by human laws and norms. The code of military honour is the highest criteria for the military's behaviour. In this doctrine the nation's spirit is a military one, while the nation's body is made up of soldiers. On the surface it seems that in the Serbian history the notion of civilian control has been incompatible with the virtuous nature of the military. On the other hand, the militant policy of civilian politicians prepares mythical roles for the military. This symbiosis appears to be a long-term facet of Serbian politics.
2 Military traditions of the Montenegrins
Throughout the centuries of dramatic Balkan developments, Montenegro has always been perceived as a tiny and unique island because of its very small territory and population. Nevertheless, the island has not been a peaceful place in which to live and the mountaineers have been known as a race of brave fighters and venturesome individuals. The idealised picture of the Montenegrin highlands and its fearless people was often an inspiration to foreign poets and artists, who usually depicted the backwardness, poverty and brutality in a more noble light. At the same time, Montenegrins have developed a specific military and political culture that emphasised the uniqueness and greatness of the small people.
For some the issue of the Montenegrins' identity is still open and the process of formation of national identity is underway. Most often they are considered either as descendants of the Serb tribes who, under Ottoman pressure, retreated to the 'Black Mountains' or their very close relatives and - most often - political and military allies. Some authors call them the 'freedom-loving mountain Serbs' 15 or the 'Serb Sparta' 16 . Closely related to these perceptions are those who see Montenegrins as 'refugee area warriors' or 'risk-takers' who chose independence to subjugation by Turks. 17 Actually, interpretations of the Montenegrins' history are focused on the issue of affirmation or negation of the people's Serbian character.
As with the other Balkan peoples, Montenegrins are frustrated by their close resemblance to neighbouring populations. A safer way to prove one's uniqueness is to insist on different historical origins and state traditions. Some of the more recent theories in Montenegro claim that during the Slavs' settlement in the Balkans, 'Montenegrins' arrived with the first wave of migration in the sixth century, while the Croats and the Serbs came a century later. The uniqueness of the Montenegrins' stock has been proved by the claim that they represent a mixture of native Illyrians, Romans and Slavs. In other words, the so-called Dukljan's Slavs could be seen as their synthesised outcome. 18 Even according to religious criterion they were different, as they belonged to the Catholic Church and only turned to Orthodox belief after being tortured by the Serbs (Nemanjas). These claims are closely related to Daljevic's racial theory of a separate Montenegrin nationhood defined in a more concise way by Montenegrin federalists in 1920s and later developed during the Axis occupation. According to this, Montenegrins could not be Serbs because their origin was not even Slavic:
Races are communities of blood, whereas peoples are creatures of history. With its language, the Montenegrin people belong to the Slavic linguistic community. By their blood, however, they belong to the Dinaric peoples. According to the contemporary science of European races, Dinaric peoples are descendants of the Illyrians. 19
As for the statehood traditions, it is believed that the first state of today's Montenegrins was created by the so-called Dukljan's Slavs in the ninth century under the name of Duklja (Dolcea). 20 The argument of 'one thousand years' state tradition (although with interruptions), strengthened by the claim that Montenegro has the longest history of freedom among all the Balkan peoples, should be a plea in today's initiatives for gaining state independence from FR Yugoslavia. Montenegrins feel that they have been deprived of being able to affirm their own national history while in Yugoslavia and that, moreover, their history has often been falsified and stolen by the Serbs. Therefore, the legends of Dolcea and the three famous Montenegrin royal dynasties (Vojislavljevic, Balsic and Petrovic) are given the utmost prominence. However, the ongoing process of 'invention of traditions' has a different course than in the other Balkan states since the internal (political) division between pro-Serb and pro-Montenegrin wings still persists.
Regardless of the undeniable (religious, ethnic and cultural) closeness between the Montenegrins and Serbs - their political relationship has always been ambiguous, a mixture of affection and repulsion. Given the (dominant) awareness of belonging to the same ethnic stock, Montenegrins have been burdened by a twofold feeling, namely the 'little-brother complex' and the self-perception of the spiritual driving force of the Serbs. The source of contradiction is in the fact that the feeling of Montenegrin self-centredness and separateness to some degree counteract what they see as a strong tradition of not just belonging to but indeed leading the Serbian people. In this sense it is very important to portray the Montenegrin state and autocephalous church as antedating the Serbian ones.
Another argument for this thesis is that all the important Serbian leaders throughout history were of Montenegrin origin. Indeed, this phenomenon can be traced far back in history - from the fact that the founder of Serbia's medieval kingdom Stefan I Nemanja was born near today's Podgorica (Montenegro's capital), the same being true for the two leaders of the Serbian Uprisings and founders of two Serbian dynasties, Karadjordje and Milos Obrenovic, until today's President of FR Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic. Moreover, the most prominent Montenegrin poet and ruler, the nineteenth-century bishop-prince Petar Petrovic Njegos, considered himself a Serb. He accepted the Serbian national programme from the nineteenth century, Grasanin's Nacertanie, whole-heartedly. Attempts to compensate for insufficient territorial and population 'weight' are being made by stressing the fact that Montenegrins' spiritual superiority comes from the liberty in which the nation was developing at a time when the Serbs (and other Balkan peoples) were living in slavery. In that sense, Montenegrins are seen as the best among the Serbs. The Montenegrin king Nikola had a vision of his state as a Piedmont in Pan-Serbianism.
It seems that all the myths of identity, military glory and long traditions of independence are, more or less, interrelated with Montenegro's unique geography. Given their unique historical/geographic circumstances, they have developed separate national awareness and specific political institutions throughout the centuries. If anything resembles the Serbs, it is Montenegrins' perception of their national and military history:
It is the product of a unique history that has contributed to the formation of a national psyche where past and present merge in an often boastful and self congratulatory mélange of fact and mythology. Centuries of dogged resistance to Ottoman domination have given birth to a culture permeated by a heroic ethos constructed from the sometimes fictionalized, and frequently embellished, accounts of a prolonged struggle for autonomy, a struggle immortalized in the epic poetry with which every Montenegrin is familiar. 21
The dominant stand among Montenegrins, although not always explicitly expressed, is the one about shared historical myths and traumas with Serbia. The influence of the symbolic meaning of the Kosovo myth has been persistent throughout Montenegrin history. The differentiation between the 'heavenly' and 'earthly' aspects of the past has been made along the lines of the Kosovo pattern. In that sense, King Nikola I declared in 1910:
Deep are the foundations of this renewed kingdom of ours. They descend to the old Zetan kings Vojislav, Mihailo and Bodin. Time had been destroying only what had been on this earth, but not what had been built into it, what had been planted in the hearts of the freedom-loving mountaineers of these mountains. And this no strong man could destroy. We started building on those deep foundations. And today, here is our old kingdom glistening under the heavenly sun! 22
The presence of the historical 'memory' of the Battle of Kosovo, however, cannot be explained by the Montenegrins' trauma or glory since they did not take part in the anti-Ottoman alliance. The Montenegrin bards and poets had found inspiration for their epic poems in the heroic event, and the call to 'avenge Kosovo' was used as a motto for the struggle against enemies. The trauma seems to lessen throughout centuries of 'liberty' in the highlands far from the Ottoman rule. However, while in the Serbian case the 'enemy image' of the Turks became related in the course of time to the Kosovo Albanians, in the Montenegrin case it was transferred mostly to the Islamised Slavs. In the perception of the Montenegrins the main facet of their national ethos is audacity, which has always been connected with freedom fighting. The dominant collective perception is that while the Ottomans subjugated the rest of the Slav population, Montenegro waged continual guerrilla war on the Turks and was never conquered. Consequently, Montenegrins are freedom fighters and proud defenders of their own people - and are never aggressors.
Three factors are most often used to explain the failure of the Turks to subdue Montenegro completely: the inhospitable character of the terrain, the obdurate resistance of the population and the skilful use of diplomatic ties with Venice. The influence of each aspect, however, may be reconsidered and different conclusions about the valiant Montenegrins drawn from them. Montenegro's geographic location is usually described as a terrain where 'a small army is beaten, a large one dies of starvation'. Montenegro's uninviting landscape appeared to be ideal both for defence and attack, and was widely used by the Montenegrins both in their fights against Turks but also in a more profitable way - in banditry. In 1917 an author described it in the following way:
Montenegro is a wild tangle of barren hills with very few fertile valleys, a country that owed its liberty to the harshness of its psychical features. In fact, a popular story has it that when God was creating the world He brought the mountains along in a sack. By some accident the sack burst, and the mountains poured out higgledy-piggledy on to Montenegro. 23
Montenegro was an object of occasional attacks from the Turkish army, but according to some opinions its geo-strategic position had never been of such an importance that Turks would invest much efforts in conquering it. 24 As for the obdurate resistance of the Montenegrins, it is usually said that it lasted more than 400 years. The heroic fight, however, very often had nothing to do with the Turks and their territorial assaults. The advantages of the guerrilla fight were often used in a more profitable way - for banditry. Throughout centuries Montenegrins developed a national industry of war that could always have been practised with the neighbouring Albanian tribes.
Very much like their mountaineer neighbours, Montenegrins found another proof of national pride and glory - isolation and remoteness. The specific social environment contributed to the creation of a militarised society, a special code of honour and heroic values, blood feuds etc. This factor is usually seen as decisive in building the Montenegrins' specific social and political mentality where clan and religious loyalty was an imperative for maintenance of the community. Hence the worst sin and betrayal were in abandoning the clan and conversion to the enemy's religion i.e. Islam. However, society lacked steady internal cohesion, which often resulted in inter-clan clashes or even more often massacres of the Montenegrin Muslim population. In their external relations, on a few occasions Montenegrins even allied Turkish forces against Venice. Most consistently the Montenegrins fought against Islam in general, which put them in a position of commitment to serious war crimes and massacres against the civilian population. They were also frequently embroiled in fighting one another, miring themselves in blood feuds and stealing one another's cattle. The prestige of the warrior tradition and spirit could also be seen through the fact that the most prominent figure in the Montenegrin political and cultural history is the warrior-poet and ruler Petar II Petrovic - Njegos. His immortal poem 'Mountain Wreath' is considered the most important and invaluable piece of Montenegrin literature in existence. The basic idea of the poem was the glorification of the Kosovo spirit which was supposed to inspire Montenegrins and Serbs to free themselves from alien rule. The poem, which has been a great inspiration to many generations, is also seen in the light of today's developments as a paean to ethnic cleansing. One of its messages was a call to exterminate those who had converted to Islam and internal homogenisation and pacification of the Montenegrins.
The internal cohesion of the Montenegrin clan and traditional society strengthened after the demise of the Crnojevic dynasty in 1516. Montenegro became a theocratic state ruled by prince/bishops called vladike. This shift in the constitution of the state was of decisive significance for ensuring its survival as an independent state. Since the loyalty of minor chieftains and of the peasantry to their rulers had been unstable, the position of vladika brought stability to the country's leadership. The tight link between church and state gave it an institutionalised form of succession and prevented its becoming a matter of contest between minor chieftains and excluded the possibility of compromising alliances with the Turks.
The most common image of 'small Montenegro' in the people's collective perception is as a victim state, unprotected against powerful enemies which it has had though history and therefore Montenegro's survival is seen as a miracle. A less emphasised aspect of its survival is, however, related to its close relationship to different allies throughout history. The correspondence the Montenegrin rulers had with Turks, Venetians or Russians showed that a 'small, proud and independent' country behaved in a similar way to the other Balkan client states. The protection as well as financial support from a powerful ally was seen as crucial, while the geographic remoteness was a guarantee that it would not be able to interfere in the domestic life that was going on according to the laws of tribal society. The legend of the Montenegrin ruler with a false Russian origin, Scepan Mali, is the best illustration of a servile mentality capable of accepting a crook because of his alleged noble Russian origins.
The compulsory military service with an organised 1,000 men guard was established by Prince Danilo II in the nineteenth century. Two important changes occurred in the wider European context of Montenegro during his reign: the expansion of the Ottoman state was gradually reversed, and Montenegro found in Russia a powerful new patron to replace the declining Venice. Consequently its military ambitions increased towards complete state independence. No matter how absurd it would seem, the small Montenegro also had territorial ambitions, particularly in terms of providing access to the Adriatic Sea. A turning point in Montenegro's military history was in joining the Serbs in the war against Turkey in 1876. After the Congress of Berlin in 1878, it virtually doubled in area and, for the first time, its borders were enshrined in an international treaty. In 1896 the First Battalion was formed, which was considered to indicate the arrival of a modern Montenegrin military. At the same time, the first military schools were opened. On the other hand, Montenegro secured vital access to the sea at Antivari (modern Bar) and Dulcigno (Ulcinj). It contributed substantially to internal changes in traditionally closed Montenegrin society. The country became far more open to communication with the developing capitalist economies of western Europe. At the same time, internal political pressures for modernisation of the constitution rapidly increased. A parliamentary system was introduced in 1905. However, due to Prince Nicholas's autocratic disposition there was frequent conflict between parliament and the crown. Nicholas took the title of king in 1910. On the eve of the Balkan wars the situation in Montenegrin military could have been described as confusing. There was an obvious lack of a unique military doctrine. However, the existing gap between the military staff educated in Italy and that educated in Russia was far more important. The situation among the top brass was particularly unfavourable. It consisted of incompetent, badly educated officers. King Nikola designated his own relatives or politically loyal people to the top military posts. Nevertheless Montenegro had been preparing for the final clash with Turkey and the peaceful development was interrupted at the moment of joining the Balkan League. The ostensible motive, announced publicly, was liberation from the Turks, but the hidden agenda was to make territorial gains. The heroic code and honourable ethos of the Montenegrin army was definitively destroyed by the behaviour of some units that committed horrible crimes over the civilian Muslim and Albanian population, and this was never publicly admitted or punished. By the Treaty of Bucharest in 1913, Montenegro expanded to a common frontier with Serbia, doubling its population. On Austrian insistence, however, Serbia and Montenegro were forced to yield part of the territory they had occupied to form a newly independent Albanian state.
Montenegro took Serbia's side in the First World War and suffered conspicuously the greatest proportionate loss of life. However, King Nikola did not join his Serbian counterpart King Petar. He left the country without ordering the retreat of the Montenegrin army. It was the last war waged by the army of independent Montenegro. It did not follow the Serbian ally and the unconquerable Montenegro was occupied by Austrians. In November 1918 the Assembly in Cetinje deposed the king and announced the union of the Serbian and Montenegrin states. Consequently, although Montenegrin representatives had had little contact with the Yugoslav Committee or with the Serbian government-in-exile of Nikola Pasic during the war, Montenegro was taken into the newly established Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Although defeated during the war, Montenegro finally found itself on the victorious side along with its ally Serbia. Paradoxically, the price of military victory was the loss of state and national identity. Formally it was the end of the existence of the Montenegro's military (and the state), but it was not the end of Montenegrins' military traditions. The dominant perception of the pre-Yugoslav military traditions is quite indisputable, while the ones gained within the Yugoslav state(s) have been given opposite evaluations.
3 First Yugoslavia and the Army: different perspectives
The state of South Slavs, later called Yugoslavia, came into existence in 1918. The new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was born out of war but the state's creation was not achieved through the liberation war or the common struggle of its constituencies. After the end of the First World War the members of the 'victorious' and 'defeated' nations were brought together. Given this fact, the very act of state creation had been burdened with counting of war victims and sacrifices, which remained a focal point of inter-war political conflicts. According to some commentators, 25 it was only the Serbian military victory in the First World War that made unification of the South Slavs into the first Yugoslav state possible, but not every one of its constituencies made an equal sacrifice or gave the same contribution. 26 The truth was that the First World War was a tragic experience for all nations of would-be Yugoslavia but the heritage they brought with them was different. Apart from its state struggle against the Central Powers, the Serbs also faced another tragic experience when the members of the same people separated in different states had to fight against each other. At the same time, the soldiers, who had fought on a different side of the military front, found themselves in the same state that was supposed to be their common homeland. Despite all disadvantages, at the beginning there was idealism as well as Realpolitik on all sides - each of its constituents had different expectations. The new state was born with major defects, but the constitution was crucial. From the very beginning a conflict in state-building agenda existed. 27 The Serbs wanted a centralised state, while the Slovenes (and Croats) preferred a looser confederation, or at least equal constitutional status. Prior to 1918 the Serbs and the Montenegrins had had the independent states of their own, so they believed that they sacrificed their indipendence on expense of the new state creation. Throughout many centuries parts of Serbian people used to live separated in different states. Consciousness about national separation was the spiritus movens for many prospects of national unification, and the Yugoslav state framework was seen as the best solution. In fact the Serbian people began its common life on the basis of a non-existing experience of living together, both in intra- and in interethnic dimension. However, the Kingdom finally succeeded in uniting all Serbs in one state, which was the final goal of its historic mission stemming from the nineteenth-century national programme Nacertanije. Admittedly, the new state could be seen as a 'Greater Serbia', but the Serbs genuinely believed that they had liberated the Croats and Slovenes from the Habsburg yoke. 28
The Serbian Radicals and much of the political elite in Serbia, citing Serbia's enormous sacrifices during the war (including the loss of one-fourth of its population and 40 percent of its army) treated the new lands as conquered provinces annexed to Serbia. The Serbian regime's attitude also undoubtedly derived from the demographics of the new state, 65 percent of whose population was located in the Austro-Hungarian lands. A fear of being swamped by the more populous and economically developed Habsburg lands was thus not without foundation. The conquérant attitude was reinforced by the fact that the empire's South Slavs had fought in the Austro-Hungarian army against Serbia and the Allies during the war. Thus, for example, most officials and officers who had served Austria-Hungary were barred from serving the new state, and those who were allowed were accepted in a humiliating way. 29
'Serbian Yugoslavness' has dominated the Serbian state-building consciousness. Eventually it provoked anti-Yugoslavness and anti-Serb sentiments in the other peoples. Even among the Serbs both truth and fallacy were mixed in the Yugoslav concept. The truth was that finally Serb had found themselves in one state, while the fallacy was that they had liberated the other South Slav peoples. 30 The concept of self-sacrifice and victimisation of Serbs in the creation of Yugoslavia prevailed for decades. In this perception the Serbs formed Yugoslavia with their heroism and without any selfish interest. As they had sacrificed themselves once on the Kosovo battlefield to the greater good of Christianity, they were now sacrificing their statehood and sovereignty to the greater South Slav idea of Yugoslavism. 31 Paradoxically, although Yugoslavia was the optimal solution of the Serbian national question (all Serbs in one state) there was a feeling that the Serbs invested and sacrificed the most for the other peoples' good. To some extent Yugoslavia was seen as a loss for Serbdom: the Serbs even invested two Serbian states (Serbia and Montenegro) in its existence, laid in its foundations horrible human losses, military glories and memories of national martyrdom, while the others (Slovenes and Croats) had not invested anything and only gained at the Serbs' expense. In reality, the political activities of the Yugoslav Committee also included ideas about the creation of Yugoslav units that would have shown the eagerness of the Habsburg South Slavs to fight for the new state. 32 However, Pasic's government was afraid that these units might have been a nucleus for a Croatian army, which would endanger the Serbs' liberation plans.
The main figure in this myth is King Aleksander (called 'King the Unifier' and 'King the Martyr' 33 ). He is seen as a founding-father of the state of South Slavs who even sacrificed Serbian identity and distinctiveness by inventing the state's new name - Yugoslavia. Moreover, in order to preserve Yugoslavia's wholeness in 1929 he sacrificed the 'Serbian democratic tradition' and introduced royal dictatorship with overt military support. 34
From the very beginning the military was given a privileged position in the new state both in military and in political terms. However, the institution faced in the first place immense legitimacy problems. Paradoxically the military's (Serbian) core consisted of the officer corps with a distinguished war record. Yet the predominantly Serb army and its transformation into a Yugoslav institution met significant obstructions both with Serbs and non-Serbs. Serbs were proud of their army which had completed the historical mission and expected it to guard these achievements in peacetime. The fragile Yugoslav construction had to be protected from both external and internal enemies. 35 The latter were not difficult to identify since from the very beginning Yugoslavia was faced with harsh opposition and even violent upheavals. 36 The Serbian army had acquired a rich experience in domestic intervention in the pre-war period, but now the situation seemed very simple since the 'enemies' could have been identified through national and alleged political criteria.
The Chief of the General Staff, the famous Vojvoda Misic personally inspected the situation in Croatia and gave a discouraging report in Belgrade. In his view the situation with Croats was hopeless and he suggested a solution - to leave Croats to secede and to draw new 'just' borders between the two states along ethnic and 'historical' criteria. Obviously he had in mind the project of a Greater Serbia instead of Great Yugoslavia and this would have been likely to give the Serbs military superiority. Although King Aleksandar refused the proposal the behaviour of the military in the 'new territories' earned it a bad name. The tortures and harsh reprisals of the civilian population worsened the whole project of the new state-building and ruined the institutional legitimacy of the 'new' military definitively:
This was a blatant misappropriation of authority, quite contrary to the realities that led to the unification, and endangered great discomfiture, especially since the army applied brutal, coercive, and, as one historian dubbed them, Milos-style punishments, frequently even without the formality of a military court-martial. The most infamous of these was the practice of meeting out corporal punishment by blows with clubs or truncheons. 37
One of the most critical problems of the new state was institution building. While the other political institutions had to be created from scratch, the military was only to be transferred from the Serbian state. The units of the former Austria-Hungarian army were disbanded. The non-Serbs saw the military as a continuation of the Serbian army with the command language, insignia and all other details directly transferred from the Serbian Kingdom. The regime declared that it supported an open-door policy regarding the officers from the former Habsburg army. In reality, however, there were many problems to surmount, the question of loyalty having been in the background in the majority of cases. First of all, the officers of Slovene, Croat and Montenegrin origin had to apply for admission into the army, while it was not demanded from the Serb officers. Furthermore, the position of the non-Serb officers was humiliating. They faced huge obstacles in terms of promotion, subordination, the question of rank etc. The figures show that they were also underrepresented, which does not necessarily imply that it was a result of a planned action. For instance, in 1938 only 10 per cent of the Yugoslav officers and only 31 per cent of 191 generals were Croats. 38 The overall demotivating status of the Croat and Slovene officers very often contributed to their designation from the army.
There was a huge gap between the officers brought up in different military cultural environments, and with a different military ethos, ethnic origin and, most importantly, war experience. The Croat and Slovene officers felt superior in educational and professional terms, while uneducated Serbian officers had glorious war records. The Serbian army had gone through a real Golgotha during the war in which every second male did not survive. The most important posts within the army hierarchy had already been occupied by war heroes who were not to give up costly gained positions. Serbian officers perceived the inclusion of the officers from the (former) enemy army either as an insult to their heroic resistance or as a sign of generosity and forgiveness for the enemy's war sins. The peasant-like soldiers and officers had an inferiority complex regarding the 'noble' and well-educated Austria-Hungarian officers. Some of them were badly hurt, seeing their war units' flags being replaced by the Yugoslav three-coloured flag. Petar Jovic, a fighter from the Salonica Front and president of the Association of the 1912-1918 Volunteers said:
When the war was over we were equalised with the 'gentlemen'. They got power, one could not show them by finger. They were and still are princes. Policy of forgiveness. Also our priests called from the altars: Forgive, it is Christian! Thus no body was persecuted. It was wrong and brought a lot of harm to our Yugoslav politics. 39
The permanent political crisis in the First Yugoslavia was just a segment of an overall societal crisis. The unitary character of the state SHS inevitably had to confront strong regional-national traditions. Consensus could not have been reached either in regard to the ethnic or to the legal-ethic state foundations. The state lacked a democratic constitution and the democratic deficit could not be compensated by the introduction of a Western-type parliamentary system. The quarrels between the Serbs and Croats were merely moved from the streets into the parliament building, which soon culminated in the assassination of the Croat parliamentarian Stjepan Radic. As a last resort, King Aleksandar used coercion and introduced royal dictatorship. The basic provision of the 1921 Vidovdan Constitution was that the parliament and the government would be subordinate to the king. The political system was not based on the separation of powers principle, because the king, along with the parliament (Narodna Skupstina), was able to execute legislative power; at the same time, he was the head of executive power. Even before 1929 he had appointed himself as an extra-parliamentarian force with a direct impact on the mechanisms of decision-making. The leader of the tiny opposition republican party wrote in 1922:
The defence ministry is entirely removed from the government and belongs only to the crown. The minister of defence is not a responsible member of the government, but is some sort of royal plenipotentiary ... But this is not all. The ministry of foreign affairs has also been removed from the authority and control of the government. It has been established that during the war the monarch communicated with our envoys abroad without the agreement, nay without the knowledge, of the government. 40
The military had had praetorian experience from the times it had been named the Serbian army. On the surface it looked as if the decision on dictatorship was made by the King himself but the role of the military circles was far more significant than it appeared. Aleksandar's dictatorship heavily influenced civil-military relations in inter-war Yugoslavia. Prior to 1929, the military clique had acted more discreetly within the governmental structures. For years the main problem had been the internal strife of two competing and influential factions within the military elite - Black Hand and White Hand. Both of them were informal structures with a huge potential to influence the political process. King Aleksandar was wavering between the two groups according to his estimation on how beneficial they could be at any given moment. The new political setting from 1929 created just more favourable atmosphere for the military's open interventions. General Petar Zivkovic, one of the White Hand leaders and the King's most influential adviser, 41 held the office of Prime Minister and the Supreme Commander of the Royal Guard. The military ranks and posts within the army's hierarchy became achievable on political (and/or ethnic) criteria. Competency and skills were neglected, which was reflected in the emergence of nepotism and protectionism in the Army. In addition, the military was faced with corruption, arbitrariness and open violation of human rights. The military class believed that it had acquired full rights to lucrative political privileges on the basis of its heroic war record. The King himself did not hesitate to use the services and advice of the military circles.
After Aleksandar's assassination in 1934 a Regency came to power, with Prince Paul as a main political figure. Yugoslavia was gradually drawn into a more binding relationship with Germany, which began to recover under the Nazis. Since than, the influence of the fascist ideology on the army rapidly increased. Prince Paul assigned military officers loyal to him and his politics to the top posts. Following the 1938 Anschluss, German pressure on the Yugoslav government to associate with the Axis powers grew. Convinced that the military situation of the country was hopeless, Prince Paul and his ministers finally agreed to sign the Tripartite Pact in March 1941. In return, Hitler guaranteed that Germany would not press Yugoslavia for military assistance, move its army into Yugoslav territory, or violate Yugoslav sovereignty.
The public demonstrations from 27 March 1941 and the bloodless coup d'état led by several air force officers are events of immense importance for the Serbian perception of the developments in pre-war Yugoslavia. Regardless of the various speculations about the forces that had a hand in the protests organisation and the coup planning, 42 the dominant view is that on 27 March Serbs rose again. Brave, innocent Serbia had once again to defend itself all alone against a superior power. Yugoslavs who dared say 'No!' to Hitler were predominantly Serbs. This fact can easily be explained by the reluctant attitude to other 'Yugoslavs' regarding the defence of the country they had never felt as their own. For example, the Croatian version of these events is that the real motive behind the government overthrow was a political action against the realisation of the Sporazum (Agreement) which should have established Hrvatska banovina (i.e. wider autonomy for Croatia). The Serbs, moreover, were easy to mobilise against the traditional enemy (Germany) regardless of the forces that were protagonists in the protests.
The slogans at the protests of 27 March ('Better a grave than a slave' and 'Better war than a pact') were supposed to show the world that a small nation had again deliberately decided to die rather than to surrender to Axis powers. It was the only nation of Europe to come openly on the side of the Allies before it was attacked. The protests were seen as another self-sacrifice of the Serbs in a pending war they knew to be absolutely hopeless. In their myth they chose war and death, i.e. the Heavenly Kingdom.
4 Civil-military relations in the Second Yugoslavia: Serbian perspective
The Second World War is just another major event in which the Serbs perceive themselves as a focal point of the tragic events, military glory and tremendous war traumas. The epopee of the war has been given different interpretations but the common points are Serbs and Serbia as major victims and heroes. Again Serbs saw their role in major world events as crucial and their mission as self-sacrifice for the good of other nations.
The myth has its background in the Serbian people's uprising of 27 March 1941 when they proved their historic sense of justice and dared disobey the mighty and invincible power. Allegedly the protests affronted and provoked Hitler to make a sudden decision that would prove disastrous to the Third Reich. The order he gave to his military commanders was to crush Yugoslavia with unmerciful harshness, i.e. to destroy the country militarily and as a nation. For Serbs it had a déjà vous effect: as in the previous war the slogan was 'Sebien muss Sterbien'. On 6 April 1941, German troops invaded. In Operation Punishment, Belgrade was razed to the ground and had 17,000 civilian casualties. Serbs saw the special 'message' through the fact that the raids started on Orthodox Easter - they were to be punished because of their moral and religious beliefs. Within two weeks the Yugoslav resistance was crushed, the Yugoslav army collapsed, and King Peter and his ministers had fled. It looked as if the resistance had ceased unconditionally but it was soon resurrected in the face of Chetnik and Partisan movements.
From today's perspective the picture of Tito's (Serbian) Partisans remains as untarnished as it was in the period 1945-91. The novelty is only the way in which the ideal portrait of Mihajlovic's Chetniks has been added. During the communist period a one-sided interpretation of the Second World War resistance stressed the heroic struggle of the Partisans. The glorious and shameful details of the events were equally distributed to all Yugoslav nations: there were good guys who were always Tito's Partisans while on the other side were bad guys. In that sense, if the Croats had the villains in their own nation called Ustase, the Serbs had the infamous Chetniks.
The need to rewrite the war history and to rehabilitate Mihajlovic's role was one of the issues that were opened in 1985 and anticipated the rebirth of Serbian nationalism. Today's interpretations tend to present the 'truth' about their participation in the war according to the dominant nationalistic perception. Interestingly, the Partisan movement is still seen as a phenomenon of the greatest historic importance. Calling the Chetnik movement antifascist the attempt is made to create a superficial pursuit of a balanced 'patching' of history. Caught in the same trap as the Croats, the Serbian nationalists insist on an equivalence between the Partisans and Chetniks that is often made in a schizophrenic manner. The magic formula is to consider both forces as forms of anti-fascist resistance that contributed to the positioning of Serbia on the right side next to the victorious Allies.
This myth strongly opposes the historical facts that show that a puppet regime under the Germans' auspices was established in Serbia as in other parts of Yugoslavia. There are opinions that the mainstream of Serbia's political, intellectual and religious leadership collaborated extensively with the Axis powers. Rebellious Belgrade saw the first provisional government formed by the Germans as early as 30 April 1941. Milan Acimovic, the former minister of interior, was its head. The worsening of the security situation (i.e. intensification of the resistance in Serbia's countryside during summer 1941) called for a change. Thus General Milan Nedic, former minister of war, took up the office of Minister President of the so-called Government of National Salvation on 29 August 1941. The puppet government was condemned by the communists as collaborationist but according to other opinions, Nedic was only concerned to protect his people and thought that it would be most appropriate if the Serbs held the most important posts in the country.
For decades the communists claimed credit for being the first and the best-organised form of anti-fascist resistance both in Yugoslavia and in occupied Europe. However, some other facts prove that there were groups of military personnel that refused to capitulate and went into hiding with their weapons. The groups under the leadership of Dragoljub-Draza Mihajlovic under the name Chetniks became one of the most controversial in the history of Yugoslavia in the Second World War. The story is presented in two versions presenting Chetniks either as heroes or villains. The same controversy is related also to their commander-in-chief who is seen either as a war criminal or as one of the greatest fighters for Serbdom. Actually both views were correct to some extent. As a veteran and hero from the Balkan and the First World War Mihajlovic was a firm nationalist. He was a distinguished professional soldier who put himself at the service of his state - Serbia. For that ultimate goal he and his followers were ready to do anything he saw necessary, even committing war crimes against those who threatened the Serbian population. At the beginning he had only 26 loyal men but during the war period he mobilised a significant number of former Yugoslav officers and other volunteers ready to fight for Greater Serbia. The Chetnik units consisted mostly of Serbs whose vision of the future Yugoslavia was of a 'homogenised' country in which all Serbs would live together with their royal dynasty in a leading position; they operated mainly in Serbian territory, i.e. in Serb-populated regions of Yugoslavia. Partisans and Chetniks spent much of the war fighting each other; in the rest of the time they fought against Nazis and Ustase. However, unlike the partisans who called all the Yugoslav peoples to rally around the idea of the new federative (and communist) Yugoslavia in which they would all be equal, Chetniks held narrow national and political agenda. Moreover they acquired a bad name during the war because of their collaboration with the Nazis and for committing horrific war crimes against non-Serbs (the Muslim and Croat population).
Chetniks perceived themselves as brave and devoted patriots, freedom fighters and the only authentic defenders of Serbdom. They were supposed to be descendants of all heroes from the past that sacrificed themselves for their people. 43 Their image was constructed around the most important points of the Serbian myths of death and glory but mostly in a symbolic manner. For instance, their sheepskin caps with a skull-and-crossbones emblem, long hair and beards were supposed to symbolise mourning for their country's lost freedom. When it came to the most successful war strategy, the Partisans employed the well-known Serbian self-sacrifice myth with a clear military and political purpose. Allegedly the war strategy and tactics of the Chetniks were inspired by the ultimate goal of preserving the Serbian nation from suicidal war actions and eventual genocide, i.e. to avoid the same kind of national martyrdom as in the previous war. After the first successful military actions in summer/autumn 1941 the Nazis undertook mass executions against the civilian population in Serbia. Therefore Gen. Mihajlovic decided not to take decisive and large-scale operations against the Nazis as the best way to spare civilians from sufferings and vengeance. He was instead waiting for the Allies to give him more significant support and to invade the country.
The remarkable place that the Partisan movement occupies in the Serbian military tradition is due to their undeniable heroic behaviour and self-sacrifice during the war. Moreover, Serbs see their contribution to the anti-fascist struggle as most decisive but such an attitude takes into account the participation of the Serb population all over Yugoslavia. Although at the beginning the hotbed of the partisan resistance was in Serbia, later the majority military actions moved to Bosnia and Herzegovina. In any case, in Serbs' perception it was they who suffered most for Yugoslavia. Even the (Chetnik) casualties for Serbdom could have been seen as victims for the Yugoslavia of all Serbs (i.e. Greater Serbia). However, pro-Chetnik advocates claim that Tito misused Serbs' readiness to die for freedom and Yugoslavia. In their view Tito's motto was 'the worse the better' at the Serbs' expense. The German harsh reprisals 44 only enraged the population and brought the Partisans more Serbian recruits. In that way, it is believed that the Yugoslav communists were helping their Soviet comrades by keeping German forces busy in Yugoslavia.
The Second World War experience is perceived as another national martyrdom for the Serbs victimised both by the traditional enemy (Germany) and by non-Serb (anti-Yugoslav) internal forces. It is considered that the war left Serbs with two very important national traumas - the Ustasa's (and Muslims') genocide in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) and the Albanian terror in Kosovo. Later during the Nuremburg Trials the scope of Ustasa's extermination was classified as genocide but the number of Serbian victims was kept open, or rather shut, for decades in the Second Yugoslavia. The highest number of victims claimed by some Serbian estimates is 750,000 people, while the German documents spoke of 350,000. The war situation in Kosovo was even more obscure since both sides (Serbian Chetnik forces and the Albanian fascist movement, Balli Kombetar) committed horrific crimes and expulsions of the civilian population every time each of them was in a position to do so.
Throughout history the Serbian myths had been built around the Serbs' righteousness, sense of justice and victimisation by others. After the Second World War the new communist elite for the first time advocated the thesis of mutual guilt and glory equally for all Yugoslav nations. A Serbian author rightly stresses:
The need for catharsis was removed by pushing traumas into the background. By combining various procedures, the traumas were first modified and made relative. The closing of this problem prevented the recently ended (fratricidal) war from becoming a matter of public consideration. By redefining the situational and historical circumstances, the autochthonous causes of mutual traumatisation of the Yugoslav peoples were smothered. By making them void of any concrete content - by the depersonalisation of both the executioners and the victims - the traumas were generalised. They were reduced to being a regular phenomenon of the anti-fascist war. By a proportional distribution of the liberation and the criminal actions by means of the formula according to which 'everybody is (a little bit) guilty', the intra-national gap was falsely bridged and the trail towards ideological brotherhood and unity was blazed. Instead of de-Nazification, in the name of 'love' among the Yugoslav peoples, the past was forgiven, but not forgotten. 45
Serbia was the largest republic of the Federal Yugoslavia both in terms of territory and population. An inner view, however, after adoption of the 1974 Constitution showed the complex structure of the republic, which was unique in comparison to the others. On the other hand, Serbs were the most numerous nation although they were settled in different federal units. Due to the 'administrative' (i.e. open) borders between the republics the Serbs were nevertheless living in one state - as long as the process of decentralisation did not begin. The interplay between centralist and decentralisation tendencies reached its peak in the 1960s, when many of the hidden deficiencies of the Second Yugoslavia's project appeared more openly. Undoubtedly Yugoslavia was embraced after the war as being once again the best solution for the Serbian national question. In that sense the 'Yugoslavism' of the Serbs was as pragmatic as it was with the other Yugoslav peoples although covered with anti-nationalistic and patriotic rhetoric.
Being a relative majority in SFRY (around 40 per cent of the population) Serbs tended to adopt a statewide identity, which could have even been seen as a move at the expense of suppressing their own particularism. As long as the central (federal) power was the ultimate locus of sovereignty the Serbs were satisfied with the role of 'people of state'. Yugoslavia was perceived and defended as a centralist organisation in the name of 'unity', while the others' demands for greater decentralisation of economic and political power could have been accused of being nationalistic and anti-Yugoslav.
It is believed that the origins of Serbian nationalism in the Second Yugoslavia could be found in the late 1960s, i.e. when the process initiated by the more developed northern republics gathered momentum. A policy of decentralisation, opened in the economic sphere, was extended further into the political and the defence spheres, and was seen by many in Serbia as a threat to the Yugoslav project. One of the most important events was the removal of Aleksandar Rankovic from the top political leadership. 46 He was accused of 'bureaucratic centralist' deviations, blocking economic reform, by-passing the Communist party authority, creating out of the police 'a state within a state' and plotting against Tito personally. Since his base consisted of so-called 'Serbian soldiers of the Revolution', his removal was seen differently in the various parts of the Federation, but in Serbia it was perceived as a clear sign for a change towards Serbian cadres and Serbia's interests in the Yugoslav political elite. 47
The feeling of uneasiness was further strengthened with the debate over the policy of widening powers to the autonomous provinces (Vojvodina and Kosovo), both within the Serbian republic. The 1971 constitutional amendments were openly opposed by some Serbian constitutional lawyers, who argued that the new administrative and constitutional divisions of Serbia should be accompanied with adequate changes in other parts of Yugoslavia. During the ideological and/or constitutional debates from 1971 and 1974 Serbia earned the attribute of centralist and pro-unitaristic and of even being a conservative republic. The clear shift towards strengthened republics' statehood and inclusion of the confederal elements in the 1974 Constitution from Serbia's perspective had harmful consequences: first, Serbia's internal constitutional structure became unlike any other Yugoslav republic's and the mechanism of decision-making was complicated by the inclusion of the autonomous provinces' structures; secondly, at the same time 40 per cent of Serbs living in the other republics found themselves outside the jurisdiction and influence of the Serbian republic. At one point Yugoslavia ceased to be the perfect solution for the Serbian national question any more. Regarding their participation in civil-military relations, on the surface it looked as if the Serbs did not have any ground for complaints. With their clear over-representation in Yugoslav military (and security forces) circles, Serbs could have been more satisfied with their status than the other peoples. But that fact was seen in different ways by the republican elites. For the non-Serbs it was an indicator of the more favourable status of some peoples (Serbs and Montenegrins), and at the same time they were blamed for their more 'authoritarian' political culture that bolstered repressive professions. On the contrary, Serbs claimed their glorious military traditions and unreserved Yugoslav patriotism.
During the Second World War the National Liberation Army (the predecessor of the Yugoslav Peoples' Army) was dominated by Serbs and Montenegrins, although the claimed share of 75-80 per cent of its staff seems suspiciously high. After the war Yugoslav political and military leadership tried to achieve some inter-ethnic balance within the Army by implementing the famous 'national key'. Despite all efforts, the YPA was not and could not be representative of Yugoslav society, especially in terms of its ethnic composition. Official figures showed Serbian and Montenegrin domination in the YPA officer corps. The proportion of Serbs in the YPA was higher than that in the total population. For example, in 1983 Serbs made up more than 57 per cent of the YPA officer corps. And an even higher percentage of Serbs reportedly occupied the high command positions. Moreover, virtually every former federal secretary for national defence or chief of the YPA General Staff was a Serb. A former federal secretary for national defence (i.e. minister) served as the president of Serbia in 1984, and a retired chief of the General Staff also held that office in the next term (from 1988).
Given the extraordinary military traditions it was not strange that the military profession had always been honourable and prestigious in Serbia. The reasons for the YPA popularity in this republic were nevertheless far more complex than the political propagandists (from all sides) wanted to present. Officially determined as one of the developed republics, within its borders Serbia had many undeveloped regions. The lower and middle social class were the main recruitment base, and Serbia being the largest republic could give military positions to the biggest number of candidates. Moreover, the same was the truth for almost all the regions populated by Serbs all over Yugoslavia. Seen from that perspective, Serbs were well-represented in the Territorial Defence Units (TDU) in the regions outside Serbia proper.
Actually, it was the Montenegrins and not the Serbs who were highly over-represented in the military (and political) ranks. They made up over 10 per cent of the officer corps but only 3 per cent of the total population. Although a large number of Montenegrin communists were expelled from the party for pro-Soviet sympathies after Yugoslavia broke with the Soviet Union in 1948, they remained over-represented in the Yugoslav bureaucratic and military services. About 15 per cent of the leaders of federal administrative bodies were Montenegrins, 19 per cent of the generals in the YPA were Montenegrin, and their presence in the overall officer corps was also disproportionately high.
With the dramatic rise of ethnic tensions in 1980s the YPA became a focal point of debates over equality and the attitude of the Yugoslav peoples towards the military. The most ambiguous category within the officer ranks was the group who declared themselves as Yugoslavs in the censuses. The explanation of why this group had the highest ratio among the military officers was twofold. On the one hand, it was a consequence of the consistent pro-Yugoslav institution building of the YPA. But at the final stage of the Yugoslav imbroglio it appeared that for some military officers Yugoslavism was only a pragmatic choice that was both a safe shelter for hidden Serbian nationalism and an opportunity to gain on the basis of ethno-political correctness. The way Yugoslavism was promoted within the YPA had major deficiencies. The identity of the young military cadres had been shaped by suppressing their original ethnic identity and filling them with Yugoslav ideas. The moment these young people were to compete for higher positions in the military hierarchy, the use of the 'national key' would reinforce their ethnic identity again - for good or ill. After all, the conclusion was that Yugoslavism was conditional and desirable as long as one did not strive for a higher rank.
Identification of the real beginning of Yugoslavia's dissolution is still mission impossible. The process had been smouldering for a long time. Undoubtedly it gathered momentum with the rise of Serbian nationalism. At the same time, some circles in Serbia complained about Serbs' discrimination regarding the power share in general. Since the late 1960s the nationalists' laments were synthesised in the creed that 'Serbia won in war and loses in peace'. The objections were related to the unsatisfactory position of the Serbian republic in the Federation, although they were totally groundless from a perspective of Serbs' participation in the main central structures (security and military forces above all). However, even in the security field Serbia was not among the most enthusiastic supporters of the 'decentralisation' and liberalisation of the military organisation. Introduction of the Territorial Defence component in the Yugoslav Armed Forces meant only a widening of the republics' prerogatives in the sphere that was seen by Serbs as crucial for keeping Yugoslavia's integrity.
The Serbia-YPA relationship looked quite harmonious especially in comparison with the Croatian case where the Yugoslav top brass was the crucial factor in the 1971 crisis. On the other hand, if in Croatia the YPA had a discreet but important political role, during the crisis in Kosovo province in 1981 it undertook a very open and firm military action against Kosovo Albanian protesters. 48 Regardless of the fact that the YPA did not react on behalf of the Serbian regime, due to the symbolic meaning of the region for the Serbs the action was welcomed by the Serbian population and the elite. At the time very few cared about the harmful consequences of the use of military force in the intra-state conflict.
5 A Yugoslav Army: for the third time
The rise of Serbian nationalism is widely acknowledged as a main cause of the bloody breakdown of the former Yugoslavia. Once set in motion, it provoked a chain effect in
other parts of the federation where hidden nationalist agendas had been waiting to be brought to light. Much of the analysis on the origins and consequences of Serbian nationalism and the grim outcome of the Yugoslav wars that has been published in the last decade is still not crystal-clear in analysing the two focal points of this phenomenon - Slobodan Milosevic and the document called Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts from 1986. The Memorandum and Milosevic are unanimously blamed for fabricating myths in order to stir Serbian nationalism and to direct attention towards the Greater Serbia state-project. However, the critical analyses resemble the essence of what they try to oppose - what prevails are more newly created mythical explanations than objective studies. Identification of the role of Milosevic goes in two extreme directions by presenting him as a modern Prince Lazar or 'the butcher from the Balkans'. As for the Memorandum there are also many obscure details about its authors, the content, and its leaking to the public:
It was the dream of all nationalists in Yugoslavia to put their vision down on paper and then make it a reality. They knew their plans could not be executed immediately, but they were content to wait. The Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts remains shrouded in mystery nearly a decade after its existence was revealed. Was the memorandum an attempt to settle political scores in Serbia? How did Slobodan Milosevic, the ambitious Party chief, avoid taking a public stand? Was this revival of Serbian nationalism the first step towards dismembering Yugoslavia? 49
From today's perspective the Memorandum might be seen as a pale and hackneyed 50 as well as a boring and uninspiring 51 document but the reactions it provoked in former Yugoslavia and in the so-called international community were very quick and convulsive. Undoubtedly the Memorandum was a catalogue of the Serbs' national grievances seen through the nationalistic prism but it is still unclear whether the authors had an intention to go to the public with it and when. This rough and unfinished draft appeared in the press in a mysterious way, which provoked a chain of reactions and interpretations that were not always consequent and justified. Interestingly, at the time of its public appearance the Memorandum was most attacked in Serbia. Later, when domestic critics began to lose steam in early 1989, a new wave of critics and interpretations appeared in the other republics. As for the international public, the situation is even more bizarre. The interest in the content of the Memorandum that was considered a manifesto of militant Serbian nationalism appeared only in 1991 with the outbreak of the war in Yugoslavia. The document was translated into a world language (in French in this case) only in 1993 for the needs of the Conference on the former Yugoslavia. It appeared that prior to that the international media had been persistently repeating the interpretations they could get from the few people who knew Serbian as well as from the non-Serbian media in the former Yugoslavia. Milosevic's role in the Yugoslav wars is one of the focal point of every academic or political analysis produced over the last decade. More attention has been paid to his personality than to the social, cultural and political conditions that have empowered this man to play a role far more significant than his personal abilities would suggest he was able to perform. Only few have stressed that Milosevic has only been an administrator of the Kosovo myth, a cunning politician who used the historical opportunity to become the Vozd (Leader) of his nation. 52 The rise of the myth called Milosevic has been facilitated by internal factors as well as by various moves of the international community and media.
Since 1960s the writer (and would-be president of FR Yugoslavia) Dobrica Cosic has been known as a 'spiritual father of the Serbian nationalism', but the very fact that Milosevic has gained most by the nationalist agenda created by Cosic gives enough grounds for concluding that Milosevic himself has remarkable potential as a politician. He had already been a good way on towards making a career when an event made him visible for the wider public. Namely, a sentence that ensured him place in the Serbian national mythology was addressed to the unsatisfied citizens of the town of Kosovo Polje in April 1987 - 'From now on no one has the right to beat you!' Milosevic had been conspicuously silent on the Memorandum issue and very soon took all the advantages it offered for pursuing his political goals. Although today it is crystal-clear that he played on the card of awakened nationalism, at the time he was skilfully reconciling several mutually incompatible ideological elements and political dispositions. 53 His multi-pronged ideological strategy, i.e. the skilfully tailored parts of his agenda according to the need of the moment, appeared to be a perfect way to fill the political vacuum that was a result of the conflict between two 'personnel' factions in the League of Communists of Serbia. An author of Serbian origin rightly stresses:
Analyses of the 'Milosevic phenomenon' which insist on only one dimension of his appeal (typically nationalism), are bound to miss the point. On the contrary, it was precisely the combination of simultaneous appeals to different constituencies which helps explain Milosevic's success. Yugoslavia, unity and Titoism for the party orthodox and army officers, Serbia for the nationalists, reform and rehabilitation for the intellectuals, protection for the Kosovo Serbs, social justice for the workers and pensioners - this was the Serbian leader's equivalent of Lenin's 'bread, peace, and land'. 54
Milosevic's charisma achieved its peak in 1989. The speech at Gazimestan on the celebration of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo had a symbolic meaning. Having referred to the Kosovo battle values as 'unity', 'courage' and 'heroism' for the first time he publicly anticipated the possibility of violent conflicts. If the content of the memorandum had already been perceived as an advocacy for disintegration of Yugoslavia, then Milosevic's cry was certainly seen as a call for war. The best thing that could happen to Milosevic's belligerent policy was the victory of Tudjman's option at the parliamentary elections in Croatia in April 1990. Unlike the openly aggressive and nationalistic rhetoric of Tudjman, during his campaign in autumn 1990 Milosevic's foxy tactics was to be 'a voice of reason' against 'the dark and evil forces' in the neighbourhood. The tactics had lasted as long as it had been helpful but turned into a bellicose one the moment the Serbian regime faced the demands of the internal opposition in March 1991. The masks fell down when the Vozd announced:
Borders, as you know, are always dictated by the strong, they are never dictated by the weak. Therefore it is basic for us to be strong. We simply believe that the legitimate right and interest of the Serbian people is to live in one state. That is the beginning and the end. That legitimate interest of the Serbian people does not threaten the interest of any other nation ... And, if we have to fight, God help us, we will. I hope they will not be so crazy to fight with us. Because, if we cannot work and produce well, at least we know how to fight. 55
Behind the rhetoric of preserving at least the rump of Yugoslavia, the Serbian leadership de facto pictured the Serbian national question exclusively as a state issue. Stating that Serbia was an incomplete state the Serbian leadership had an aspiration to establish its national statehood and equalise Serbia's status with the other republics at all costs, even by war if necessary. In the Greater Serbia the state-project issue of borders was essential. In the Serbian view it should have been resolved in accordance with the nationalist creed 'Where there are Serbian graves, there are Serbian lands.' On the surface Serbian policy throughout the Yugoslav crisis may have been misleading and appeared to be schizophrenic. Namely it sought to preserve Yugoslavia as it projected it (as a federation) and, at the same time it planned its dismantling along ethnic (Serbian) lines.
There are many proofs that such a policy was not imposed on Serbia by the other secessionist republics and that it had been planned for years. The revision of history that had been intensified by the mid 1980s provided an endless arsenal of firepower for the nationalistic policy. The new version was no more correct than the former but was subjective in a different, nationalist way. Ironically, the victimisation image of the Serbian nation was found in the historical experiences of the Serbs out of Serbia. The regime in Belgrade unscrupulously misused the Second World War tragedy of the Serbs in Croatia to create foundations for Greater Serbia. The number of the Ustasha regime's victims was intentionally exaggerated in order to provoke the expected reaction of the Croatian leadership and public. Reactions coming from Zagreb were taken as 'proof'' of the genocidal nature of the Croats. The thesis of the impossibility of living together was the logical conclusion of the Serbian nationalists. Since the project of an all-Serb state was by definition a militant one (and unlikely to be realised without an armed resistance by the others), the Serbian regime needed a strong military force. Long before entering the final stage of Yugoslavia's dissolution the issue of Serb-dominated YPA was on the public agenda. When the country began to slide into disunity and war the close alliance between Serbia and the YPA looked like a self-explanatory fact and as clear proof of the necessity of organising one's own (para)military forces. However, the situation was not so simple and straightforward since the inclination of a part of the YPA officer corps towards the Serbian option was a result of a process that had been going through several stages. Moreover, as Hadzic (forthcoming) rightly argues, the process was influenced by numerous different factors (i.e. permanent and temporary, basic and circumstantial, deliberate and imposed, ideological and national). 56
The Yugoslav agony will be remembered, among other things, for the YPA's active involvement in the civil war, in which all that had been gained over decades was lost in a very short time. From being the 'nation's favourite' YPA actually found itself in the position of an army with no state, or more precisely, an army in search of a state. In its efforts, and in the hope that it would ensure its existence, the top brass both overtly and covertly related itself to only one of the Yugoslav political and national elites. The attitude exhibited on the part of the YPA officer corps at this stage only confirms the thesis about the immense significance of the feeling of political safety and existential security for the army's members. The thesis that a military as an institution exists within and because of a state is of permanent value. According to it, the state is a conditio sine qua non - with the loss of the state's support, the army loses its legitimacy and turns into a paramilitary formation.
Only few deny the fact that the YPA was the last effective federal institution of former Yugoslavia. Its multinational composition and pan-Yugoslav orientation were expected to be an efficient defence against nationalist viruses in the society. For some it was astonishing to see YPA units fighting next to the Serbian paramilitary forces with Chetnik insignia. The question is how could YPA so swiftly transform into a military force that pursued the goals of the aggressive Serbian nationalism? Were the existential (institutional) motives the only ones that made the first and the last Yugoslav institution take part in Yugoslavia's bloody destruction? For decades the YPA had been living surrounded with illusions about its own military power and capability, self-righteousness and Yugoslavness. The military circles also had a misperception of the society they were supposed to defend. It was a kind of virtual existence where the military leadership believed in what was desirable. As an ideological institution the YPA could not accept the reality of the failed ideological concept and was highly responsive to any alternative (even false) ideology that would look righteous and constitutional. The national ideology of Greater Serbia was sold to the Yugoslav army as the preservation of Yugoslavia (the country that had ceased to exist even before the war in Slovenia).
The very fact that there was no single sign of mutiny or protests among the officer corps even when the war was launched against Yugoslav citizens (in Slovenia) showed that the YPA was at the same time deeply divided from inside and disoriented. Many officers who had been suppressing their (pro)Serb inclinations suddenly got an opportunity to act on their own behalf and on behalf of the cause they deeply believed in. Other officers were in total confusion because the political leadership was in disarray and could not define any rational military goal. The collapse of the political system and especially of the supreme command created a wide scope for different and arbitrary interpretations of the military actions in the first months of the Yugoslav war.
The mode of creation of what is called the Third Yugoslavia points to the existence of extremely close relations between the civil and military elites, which at that time found a common interest in maintaining the old-new state. While the other republics were deeply engaged in their new militaries' build-up, ordered the withdrawal of the officers of their origin and ceased to pay the budget allotments, the Serbian regime did not make any visible and systematic move towards creation of a national army. It took advantage of the abandonment of such a powerful and big military potential as the YPA was at the time. The project Greater Serbia was too ambitious to be achieved by some paramilitary forces - it needed a powerful military organisation. By hijacking the YPA leadership the Serbian regime got a ready-for-action force 'overnight' without any need for spending money for the creation of a new military. The YPA cloned itself into three Serb militaries and one part of it was reborn as the Yugoslav Army (Vojska Jugoslavije - VJ), an official armed force of the new/old state that is called Third Yugoslavia.
6 Civil-military 'marriage' of interest: FR Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav Army
The consequences of the Second Yugoslavia turmoil have been numerous and not always easy to explain. The states born out of the conflict are in most cases incomplete and even devious but the case of the so-called Third Yugoslavia is unique since it is the only truly hyperreal 57 country in the world. Namely, according to many characteristics the state officially known as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia does not really exist. The new federation consisting of Serbia and Montenegro was self-proclaimed on 26 April 1992. The way it came into existence and particularly the procedure of adoption of the new Constitution (on 27 April 1992) is disputed as unconstitutional even by some distinguished Serbian legal experts. 58 Furthermore, one of the federal republics (Serbia) has kept the constitution from 1990, which regulates the relationship with the non-existing SFRY. From the point of international law, FR Yugoslavia is also in an ambiguous situation being at the same time a recognised and semi-existent entity. Namely, many countries have full diplomatic relations with FRY, while it is not admitted membership in any of the international organisations and institutions (such as the UN, IMF, World Bank, OSCE etc.). FRY strives for international subjectivity - and at the same time claims exclusive right of being the only legitimate successor state of SFRY and denouncing the other republics as secessionists. Moreover, it still uses passports with the state symbols and coat of arms of SFRY - a country that does not exist any more. The state holidays of the First and the Second Yugoslavia as well of the Third are still officially celebrated.
Hyperreality arises, however, from several other premises of utmost importance for a state personality. State borders define the territory on which a state practises its sovereign authority. In the case of FRY this condition is missing for two reasons. First, the borderline with Macedonia is still an open issue because of various disputes of a legal and, even more, of a political character. Secondly, after the deployment of the international forces and abrogation of the Yugoslav legal system in Kosovo the status of that part of the Serbian republic has become highly ambiguous issue. Formally a part of Serbia (and Yugoslavia), in Kosovo neither federal nor republic authorities are allowed to exercise their competencies, which gives the province a unique status that is still somewhere between an international protectorate and a pre-state (or would-be state) community. The issue of unity of sovereignty, territorial integrity and defined borders is further complicated by the loosening of the inter-republic ties between Serbia and Montenegro. The federal units of FRY being extremely unequal partners both in terms of territory and population as well as for a range of other reasons the new, rump Yugoslavia appears to be a very unusual and uneasy alliance. For instance, Montenegrins comprise only 6.2 per cent of the Yugoslav population; and Serbia's territory is 16 times larger than that of Montenegro. It seems that the 'new' federation repeats the mistakes of its predecessor since the inter-republic relations are getting more and more frustrating for both partners. At first glance, it seems that the new federation was born thanks to the major relinquishments made by the bigger republic in favour of the smaller one. Ostensibly, Montenegro is favoured and privileged because of its right to be equally represented in a federal structure of power, because of decision-making on the basis of consensus and because of the possibility of the interests and policies of the whole state being influenced by the will of the tiny federal unit. On the other hand, the Montenegrin establishment feels uncomfortable being 'the smaller brother' in regard to the policies pursued particularly on the international level by 'the big brother' and the infamous (first Serbian and then federal) president Milosevic. In reality, since its proclamation in 1992, the FRY policies and interests have been directed and commanded from the Serbian centre of power. With the worsening of the general situation, however, Montenegro behaves more and more as an independent state entity, especially in the foreign and defence policy realm.
One of the most intriguing characteristics of the Third Yugoslavia has been the co-existence of three different political systems, not only in normative but also in practical terms. Viewed from a normative aspect, the major discrepancy exists in the relationship of Serbia versus Federation but also in the relations between the federal units. In reality, however, the situation is much clearer - the residuum of real power moving from Serbia to the Federation following the position of the main actor, Slobodan Milosevic. At the beginning (as long as Milosevic was Serbia's president) it looked as if Serbia had a semi-presidential 59 system, while the FRY had a parliamentary one (at least in the formal sense). De facto the president of the republic of Serbia had a key role, which was also recognised by the international community. According to the Constitution of Serbia, Milosevic was elected president of the republic by direct votes of the Serbian citizens. The revocation procedure was so complicated that in practice he could not be removed from office during his term. The president had broad authorisation, such as: the right of suspense veto with regard to laws, to declare by his own decision the 'danger of war', 'the state of emergency' and to decide on the dismissal of the parliament. In short his power was immense and, to make things worse, uncontrolled. Disturbed balance between the legislative and executive power makes the president of Serbia non-responsible.
At the same time in the other federal republic, in Montenegro the president of the republic was also elected by direct vote, but his powers were limited and under certain circumstances the parliament had the right to recall him. Therefore, in Montenegro a more consistent parliamentary system was introduced. On the federal level, the executive power was concentrated mainly in the government, which was supposed to be controlled by the parliament. The federal President's functions were supposed to be mainly representative and ceremonial.
The normative political framework has established its true essence through Milosevic's personal rule. With the Serbian constitution created in accordance with his personality, Milosevic was quite comfortable within the republic's political system, while at the same time he kept the predominant influence of the policy of the federal state. The very moment he used all constitutional possibilities for staying in office, he just moved himself at a federal level. The rather narrow constitutional framework has not prevented Milosevic from continuing with his ruling style. At one time there were speculations about possible and more radical constitutional changes in the sense of switching from a parliamentarian system towards a presidential one or even the introduction of an open dictatorship but in hyperreal Yugoslavia constitutional and cosmetic adjustments have not been necessary:
This is a classical system of lawless political power, or more precisely, dictatorship. When the top power-bearers do not respect the law, then one can freely say that there exist not only elements of authoritarianism but also of dictature. When the president behave like that, then it is a matter of personalistic unlimited power ... No one should hesitate in using such qualifications in regard to our system. 60
The analysis of the model of civilian control over the military in a hyperreal state such as FRY certainly cannot follow the guidelines and principles characteristic of the theoretical study of the issue. The discrepancy between the normative and empirical mode has always been big and visible enough for the only conclusion to be that the political leadership has not even cared about presenting a more favourable picture of the state of affairs. As in the children's fairytale about 'The Emperor's New Clothes', the Yugoslav public has kept silent about the evident deviations in regard to the de facto commanding process in the Yugoslav Army. Actually the issue has not been seen as important either in political and military circles or by the public. Serbia (and Yugoslavia) has been more concerned about military victories and defeats on the fronts all over former Yugoslavia, insisting at the same time that 'Yugoslavia is not at war'.
Being a federal institution the Yugoslav Army is supposed to be under the civilian control exercised by the federal organs. The command in war and peacetime is entrusted to the President of the Republic, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Army. The Supreme Council of Defence, consisting of the President of the Republic and the presidents of both member-republics of the federation is formally given a relevant and even dominant role, since the President is supposed to command in accordance with its decisions. The federal parliament and the government have respective competencies in the field of security and defence policy - but only on paper. In reality the parliament has never discussed or decided on the most crucial issues. For example, the Defence Law and the Law on Armed Forces were adopted a year and a half after the formal establishment of FRY (in November 1993). This state still has not defined the defence and military strategy and does not carry out its control functions in regard to the security and military apparatus. As for the Council of Defence it is still unclear which decision-making procedure is valid (majoritarian or consensual) because in reality both of them have been practised.
Civil-military relations in the third Yugoslavia have been heavily dominated not by an institution but by one person - Slobodan Milosevic, regardless of the office he has been in. The most bizarre situation arises from the collision that still exists between the Serbian and federal constitution in regard to the respective president's competencies in the defence sphere. According to the constitution, the Republic of Serbia is still a state within (a federal) state, having kept the position of supreme commander of the (non-existing) armed forces, who is also authorised to declare a state of war or state of emergency, to declare mobilisation etc. According to the federal Constitution, the President of the Republic does not have very great authority, but he is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and chair of the Supreme Defence Council. Prior to Milosevic, two men - Dobrica Cosic and Zoran Lilic, held this office. Their 'success' in this position was determined by their loyalty to the president of Serbia.
Leftovers of the YPA, which were renamed the Army of Yugoslavia on 20 May 1992, were very happy finally to come by their own state and their own supreme commander. The colonels and generals started euphorically pledging allegiance to Dobrica Cosic, who personified the national Serbian ethos. However, this allegiance lasted less than a year. After a short time, Cosic was literally sacked from both offices of the President of the Republic and the Commander-in-Chief of the Army. Ostensibly, he was discharged because of suspicion about his insufficient loyalty to Milosevic's politics and excessive scheming with the then federal Prime Minister Milan Panic. It was believed that such information came to Milosevic through a loyal general. That was the end of Cosic's supreme command. This episode proved that the top brass had no dilemma in regard to whom to be loyal: the 'federal pair' Cosic-Panic or Milosevic's 'single'. Despite Cosis's swift removal from office, and just in case, Milosevic found it necessary urgently to 'cleanse' the army of 'inept generals and officers'. The new federal president, Zoran Lilic, was inaugurated on 25 June 1993. In his case, this office was reduced literally to the fictive role of the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. As a Commander-in-chief Lilic was remembered only for touring of army barracks as demanded by protocol, adoption of laws in the assembly, and by the fact that during his mandate, the Army was almost completely pushed to the margins of life. 61
Any student of the Serbian political milieu could easily recognise not only the strategic directions, but also the partly tactical moves of Milosevic's policy. Almost immediately Milosevic made good his campaign to get rid of the remaining YPA officers, who were unable to make the transition towards the new Yugoslav reality. At the first session of the Supreme Defence Council he headed, a decision was reached about the retirement of 42 generals and the hundreds of retired colonels. It was the third and the greatest wave of mass retirement of commanding officers in FRY, which was justified as the need for 'rejuvenation' and 'professionalization'. The first waves of personnel changes were carried out on two occasions (the end of 1991 and the beginning of 1992), by accelerated retirement and by internal purging based on ethnic principle. Consequently, that so-called 'ethnic hermaphrodites' from the officer corps were removed. However, the third purge of September 1993 was based on a political criterion. After that move there could be no doubt about whom the high-ranking officers would support on the political scene. Milosevic had always manipulated the army comparatively easily, but from that moment this definitely became a matter of pure routine. Milosevic's gaining the office of the President of FRY, finally, has made things politically and legally clear. The Council of Defence, as long as it consisted of the president Lilic and Milosevic and his loyal Montenegrin aide, Momir Bulatovic (the two republic's presidents), functioned 'perfectly' 62 , all the decisions being adopted by consensus. According to the legal regulations, the Council's decision is valid when two-thirds of its members give their votes in its favour. At any moment Milosevic could rely on both loyal aides and in the worst case needed only one vote on his side to enact any decision he liked. The entrance of the new elected Montenegro's president Milo Djukanovic, the renegade from Milosevic's course, brought a new moment. Even being in a minority in the decision-making proceedings he still (at least theoretically) is able to discard the veil of mystery that normally covers his actions and make the decision-making more transparent for the public control. Surely, Djukanovic's opposition has not been of any importance so far.
The Constitution has introduced formal depoliticization of the army and the function of the minister of defence is assigned to a civilian politician. 63 This change could have been considered a break with the pattern of former YPA professional officers in charge of the Defence Ministry in SFRY. This constitutionally mandated civilian control should have represented a major step toward civilianization of the ministry. However, the inability of the legal regulations to change the political arbitrary rule came to the fore during the short mandate of the Prime Minister Milan Panic, who intentionally kept the office of defence minister for himself. The top brass openly and resolutely showed its political determination to remain loyal to Milosevic's politics and out of the Government's political control. In 1993 during the presidential elections in Serbia, for instance, Gen. Bozidar Stevanovic publicly appealed to the military officers to support Milosevic's candidature.
Silent politicisation has always been a reality within the Yugoslav Army's ranks. However, the alliance between the ruling political party and the top brass has not been built on the basis of ideological indoctrination. It has nothing to do with the well-known penetration model of civilian control over the military although the Army has wholeheartedly supported the Greater Serbian national idea. Political and military elites in Yugoslavia have shared not only the same 'values', military victories and defeats but, more importantly, the responsibility for the war crimes committed by the former YPA staff all over the territory of the former federation. The tacit alliance coined during wartime, which Hadzic calls 'Hague transversal', strengthens the internal, intra-regime solidarity between the generals and the politicians. In addition, he accurately points out:
The list of war crimes which some YPA officers are charged with or are believed to be done under the Army's auspices indicates widespread violations not only of laws and customary norms of war but also of assault of the basic moral and civilised norms. In this fact one should search for the reasons for the passive conformity of the re-named officers with the ongoing entropy of the Army they now serve. 64
Many officers have achieved the highest positions in the military hierarchy of the YA thanks to their military accomplishments throughout the Yugoslav war in Croatia and Bosnia. According to Tocquelle wartime is an ideal period for swift promotions in the military hierarchy and therefore even the armies of the democratic countries secretly dream about war. Milosevic's belligerent national politics gave extraordinary opportunity for many ambitious soldiers to achieve military glory in what was presented as a 'just war'. An alliance coined upon mutual crimes is also an alliance of mutual fear and mistrust. For rulers like Milosevic who are concerned not only about their power but also about their psychical existence, lack of confidence in the loyalty of their subordinates is a typical phenomenon. The swift and unexpected changes and purges in the top military circles have been the most practised method of securing the generals' loyalty. The other one has been the budgetary allocations.
The ruling political elite and the top brass have no exit left. Their alliance built up on blood and crimes may end only on the way it was created. That fact makes developments in FRY unpredictable and scary.
7 The Yugoslav Army: On its state's service
Through war and crimes the former YPA finally found a state, regardless of the fact that it was incomplete, hyperreal and even criminal in essence. Trying to avoid the Scylla of being a paramilitary force (i.e. a military without a state), the former YPA officers crashed on the Charibdis of being mercenaries of an aggressive ethno-nationalist politics. The Army of Yugoslavia, i.e. a country that officially had not been at war until 1999, is the military with the biggest war experience in the region. Most of the war records were defeats but thanks to the well-known Serbian passion for translating defeat into victory, officially the Yugoslav Army is praised as a respectable armed force that successfully accomplishes its military missions. According to the Constitution the army's military missions are defined as 'defending the sovereignty, territory, independence and constitutional order', each of them being highly questionable nowadays.
As for external engagements, officially FRY had never been at war before the NATO air strikes in 1999, and consequently the YA had no role in the wars waged in Croatia and Bosnia. That is the official truth in FRY and there is a loud silence over the issue of the military involvement in these conflict areas. In the summer of 1991, when Yugoslav wars began, there was no mobilisation in Serbia and Montenegro either. The artillerymen and tankers around Vukovar were not mobilised either, but members of the reserve forces were sent to 'military drill'. Dead men in welded metal coffins, and from that point of view, they did not die in the mire of Slavonia or in rocky Krajina waging war for 'all Serbs in a single state', but as accidental victims of manoeuvres of armed forces. 'Serbia is not at war' is what Milosevic used to say perpetually and hyperreal Serbia wanted to believe in it. As the process of transformation of the YPA was going on also the military goals of the would-be YA were changing. As the Serbo-Yugoslav political leadership was tailoring the map of the new state the military was expected to realise the state project at all costs.
There is an unspoken belief that if it was not about the unpredictable and foxy tactics of the political leadership the Army could have had better military successes. First, the YA has always been given tasks it was objectively not able to accomplish. Furthermore, it was sent in Slovenia not to accomplish military action but to take part in a previously agreed (fake) war. It was the beginning of the long path of frustrations for the Serbo-Yugoslav Army. When the military actions shifted towards Croatia the Belgrade regime ordered fierce and ruthless (and from a professional-military point of view even senseless) attacks on the cities of Vukovar and Dubrovnik. The regime, badly surprised with the lack of Serbian enthusiasm for a fight (in Serbia proper), brought together all paramilitary Chetnik forces under the Army framework. The counter-effect was soon achieved - Croatia rallied around Tudjman's flag and struck back. The war had its own logic and dynamic and Milosevic could be satisfied.
In the period between May 1992 (when the FRY and the YA were constituted) and November 1995 (when the Dayton Accord was signed) the other two Serbian armies in Croatia and Bosnia were formed. However, there was not only a parent-children tie between the YA and the armies of Srpska Krajina and Republika Srpska. In that period, paralelly with its own internal transformation the YA was the most significant strategic reserve of the so-called Western Serbian armies. The post-Dayton period was a time of stagnation and political marginalisation of the YA. The catastrophic military defeat of Srpska Krajina and the huge exodus of Serbian civilians from Croatia also aggravated the frustrations. The Kosovo War (March 1998-June 1999) brought back the Army on to the scene. At the beginning it had been given internal (what the regime called anti-terrorist) tasks in the rebellious province but from March 1999 the Army had the historical opportunity to take part in the second biggest Battle of Kosovo in the history of the Serbian people - against the mighty NATO alliance the Army saw only a clear enemy and an honourable mission. The repeated Battle of Kosovo had all the necessary protagonists: a superior enemy, few chances to resist, Prince Lazar ready to face the challenge and the heroic Serbian soldiers. The roles were known and the players were ready to take part. Only the new Lazar was more concerned about his earthly kingdom and left the military and his people to die for the heavenly glory of the Serbian people. And the enemy had a rather different role - making the new Lazar stronger than ever in his earthly rule over his people. Officially, the YA was victorious again as it was in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia when, according to the official version, the main success of the YA was prevention of the spill-over effects of the conflicts from the other parts of SFRY. External military missions of the YA have been performed mainly in a hyperreal manner by presenting the actions as non-existing or translating defeats into moral victories. On the other hand, the internal missions have been perceived as more down-to-earth matters with vital significance for state existence. Having failed with all megalomanic projects, Milosevic's regime is threatened with huge and various (ethnic, social, political) internal conflicts that may bring to an end the Third Yugoslavia's existence. The constitutional definition of the Army's military missions has anticipated these difficulties by recognising the 'constitutional order' as an object of protection. It is also indicative that the Army may be activated both in a state of war and peace. There have been several hot points of potential or current military's involvement in internal affairs: the rallies of the opposition, conflict with the new Montenegrin leadership and Kosovo but also the fragile situations in Vojvodina and Sandzak. The first bigger challenge was the student protests in Belgrade and in the other bigger cities in Serbia in 1996/97. Serbia had not had any experience in peaceful changes of governments. Therefore the unfavourable results of the 1996 local elections in Serbia were seen as a serious political threat for the regime. 65 Although it was avoided, this conflict revealed the deep polarisation in the political life of Serbia among the forces that want to keep the status quo and the forces that stand for democratic changes.
During the crisis both sides considered the attitude of the Army as very important. On the surface it seemed that the army stood calm. Moreover, the General Staff issued a declaration on 'neutrality' of the Army. That official statement had a twofold meaning and each side took as relevant the one it considered to be valid. The opposition parties and the students wanted to believe that the message was sent to Milosevic that the Army would not give any direct or indirect support to him against the opposition; more importantly, the General Staff did not attack the opposition. On the other hand, the 'message' could have been read in another way: the Army gave advice to the students and the opposition to go through the institutions of the system and not to use 'street democracy methods', although it well knew that they had been created in a way to protect the ruling caste. As for the military circles it was also a positive achievement that the military had become a depoliticised and neutral institution that resisted being involved in internal political strife.
However, beneath the surface the situation was not so calm. Reportedly, some army officers expressed their unwillingness to obey orders to move against pro-democracy demonstrators in Belgrade. In an open letter the anonymous officers said that they would not allow Serbia to be ruined and that they certainly would not side against their people. They also wrote that if need be they would stand at the head of the Serbian people and that their weapons would never be turned against the people. In this proclamation the officers also sent Milosevic the open accusations that he 'degraded them in the 1991/92 war, attempting to turn them into minor persons in the country'. The document also said Milosevic was the only one to blame for the war. The authenticity of the document has been under dispute; on the other hand, no conspirator has ever declared himself publicly. 66 The form of the proclamation was disputed but the content was convincing - a large number of army officers adhered to what was said in the letter.
During the 1996-97 crisis three aspects of civil-military relations in Yugoslavia became visible - the split between the high command and junior officers, divisions among military units, and the superiority of the police's strength in regard to the army. The existence of an enormous gap between senior and junior military officers is a typical phenomenon for the majority of post-communist states, and the FRY is no exception. It is usually believed that it comes from the generation gulf as well as from their different ideological dispositions. According to this stereotype, the senior commanders are a product of the old communist military leadership and prefer stability to anything else; the younger officers are supposed to have far closer ties to the people, and would prefer a more professional army and more democratic society. This simplistic scheme applied to the Yugoslav case would mean that the senior officers would generally back Milosevic's regime.
However, the situation is far more complicated. The senior group of the military establishment is not so compact, and within it one can identify an 'iron line' and a moderate one. The former group is considered to be closer to the ruling SPS and its partner JUL. It is also a proponent of building closer ties with the Serbian police forces. In short, this faction endorses the internal military mission in case of need. On the opposite side is the military wing which is a proponent of the Army's so-called 'equidistance' in regard to internal political developments. The class of junior officers of the YA is also divided. It is believed that Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Radicals, has quite circumstantial strongholds among the young professional cadre. The main point of contact between them is the fact that certain commanding officers of the YA and Seselj, who was called a 'Chetnik duke' during the Croatian and Bosnian wars, are connected by the 'firm war comradeship'. 67 His chauvinist credo seems to have fallen on fertile ground among those frustrated by the defeat and who are materially and socially pushed to the margins, the professional part of the YA indoctrinated by nationalism. For some military officers electing Seselj as president of Serbia would have brought hopes that he as a member of the Council of Defence could have helped them regain the vanished honour and dignity of the profession.
The very fact that the military itself is deeply divided along functional and political lines makes it political unreliable for the regime. Not surprisingly, the YA has found itself relatively weaker than the police do, which is a pattern common to many post-communist countries. Traditionally in Serbia the army has a self-perception of being the utmost defender of the people and has looked down on the police who have been viewed as the defenders of those in power. In the period 1992-95 the Yugoslav police forces grew almost as large as the Yugoslav armed forces. It was estimated that there were 100,000 policemen and only 114,000 Army soldiers.
With the worsening of the internal situation (and the obvious disappearance of the illusions of creating a Greater Serbia) the Army has been pushed into the margins of the political considerations. Instead, the regime decided to strengthen the police as much as possible, and practically turned it into a military force. The police are, so far, unquestionably obedient to Milosevic who has ensured their loyalty. For instance, the police have been paid regularly, something that has not been true in the army. For purposes of crowd control, the police are better equipped and better trained. 68 Consequently, even if Milosevic has lost the support of urban Yugoslavs and can no longer count on the unquestioned backing of the Army, he may still be able to count on the police. But the very narrowness of Milosevic's power base may be setting the stage for a series of potentially violent clashes not only between the police and the people but also between the police and the Army.
In political terms, the YA has become a paper tiger. It cannot play a significant role in terms of influencing the political decision-making process. However, the Army has not totally lost its usefulness for the current regime. For Milosevic it is still serviceable as a tool for his enforcement of policy in other parts of the country away from Serbia proper. In Serbia he still feels secure with his secret and civil police. At the beginning of the Kosovo crisis when the police forces were not enough to keep order in the province the YA was brought on the scene again. In regard to the possible crisis in Montenegro the Belgrade regime will not be able to count on the (Montenegrin) police loyalty. With Montenegrins being a minority within the military ranks, the YA might be very useful for threatening disobedient Montenegro's leadership. Despite the deteriorating situation in the Army after the NATO intervention, its strength is considered still sufficient to pacify the small republic of Montenegro.
Officially FRY is a multiethnic country and the YA consists of the Yugoslav citizens. Due to many years of exposure to the influence of the nationalistic ideology today's YA is relieved from the feeling of guilt in regard to its Serbian character. The 'only' paradox is in the fact that the Supreme Commander is all but a nationalist. According to some sources, Serbs and Montenegrins made up 75.6 per cent of the military corps. 69 Among the 'others' it is possible to infer by implication that roughly 10 per cent are Serbs or Montenegrin from Bosnia-Herzegovina or Croatia. 70 The miscalculation in regard to the ethnic composition of the YA is very likely for several reasons. First, behind the major part of Serbs and Montenegrins the real estimates would easily show that the share of Montenegrins is far smaller than that of the Serbs. By putting them together (and by speaking of the majority of the officer corps) there is a hidden attempt to consider Montenegrin identity as a variant of the Serbian one. For a decade it has been a 'public secret' that Albanians had abolished military service and the state organs did not even try to charge them. It was an unspoken acceptance the practice of 'conscience objection' by a large part of the state population.
Obviously, there is a big discrepancy between the formal and real identity of the Yugoslav Army. The foundations of its legitimacy are very fragile since they share the fate of the regime's legitimacy. NATO's intervention in 1999 helped a bit in regaining public support and shone some light on the almost forgotten Army. The public polls in 1999 showed the highest percentage of public confidence in the Army (65 per cent) in comparison to the other state institutions (the President of the Republic got only 23 per cent, and the Government even less - 18 per cent) 71 . Such a favourable public attitude was created in the war atmosphere that was perceived as an aggression where the Army was the only defender. In that respect, NATO greatly helped the YA - and the regime for the time being.
The time of catharsis is getting closer - the moment when the naked and merciless truth will appear on the surface. The public will inevitably face the painful truth that the regime put Serbia in a position to be at war with the whole world and with itself. The Army's 'victory' over NATO meant that the Army successfully protected itself and the regime. It left behind an unprotected Serbian population (exposed to brutal Albanian expulsion and terror) and lost the 'sacred' land of Kosovo. The military officers might conclude that because of its irresponsible political decisions the Army's fate, from Slovenia in 1991 to Kosovo in 1999, was that of a loser without any guilt because it obeyed the politics of 'move on - stop - retreat'. So far the pro-regime wing (i.e. the top brass) in the Army has become even more powerful and publicly threatens that the YA will fight against external and internal enemies as well in order to prevent civil war in Serbia. In a situation like this, the only thing that is certain in Yugoslavia is uncertainty.
8 The Yugoslav Army and the regime: in the broken mirror
The last decade has been a period of profound and painful transformation for the Yugoslav Army but essentially different from the one that the other post-communist countries have experienced. The process has nothing to do with democratisation of the institution but with its war efficiency and its political usefulness for the regime. The main characteristics of the process of transformation have been unpredictability and an extraordinary dynamic. Eventually it has appeared that the military has been caught in a vicious circle. One may conclude that after a decade the Yugoslav Army is again in the situation of 1990. It faces a possible breakdown of the country; it needs to change its strategy, lacks an external ally and badly requires modernisation. Since 1991 the Army has been trying to identify the size of the state territory and eventually to reduce itself to adequate proportions and to adjust to the new needs of the new state. Inclusion in the Third Yugoslavia has solved the existential problem of the military institution, but opened up another serious problem - that of the military staff. The reconstruction was followed by loudly proclaimed steps towards reducing the officer personnel that in practice was nothing but pursuing purges on ethnic and/or political criteria. These changes incited great dissatisfaction in the military with its social status in the Third Yugoslavia, which appeared to be drastically disadvantageous in comparison to what they remembered from the Second Yugoslavia. Low salaries, irregular payments, numerous unresolved housing problems (a heap of about 17,000 requests for housing units has been stacked for years in the competent office, without any chance of being reduced in the foreseeable future) and various other reasons forced about 4,000 experts with different qualifications to abandon military service from 1991. 72 It is a public secret that many officers and non-commissioned officers make a living by smuggling and selling goods at markets or through small business in their wives' names. The impoverishment of the Army of Yugoslavia is very visible and, perhaps, under the current circumstances even an incurable problem. So far there have been two more ambitious projects for the Army's modernisation. The first one was instigated in 1992 when General Zivota Panic was Chief-of-Staff. It was supposed to create a new image of the new/old Army. The Corpus of Special Forces was introduced together with an appeal for a greater role for the airforces in the defence strategy. The second attempt, called 'Model 21', was organised by General Martinovic. Observed in the light of increasing poverty, the project 'Model of the Army of Yugoslavia until the Year 2005', ratified by the Supreme Defence Council in September 1996, is not only questionable but looks like science fiction. According to this project, which was based upon the models of Western European modernisation programmes, the YA should have become 'a well equipped, modern and efficient armed force'. The process of the projected modernisation plan was to be carried out in two phases: the first up to the year 2000, and the second by 2005. At the end of the first phase, the Yugoslav Army was supposed to have 35,000-40,000 highly trained and equipped professional officers. In the light of the current security, political and economic situation it looks grotesque. The military propaganda, along with at that time Commander-in-Chief Lilic, brought it down to the hot slogan: 'The Army of Yugoslavia shares the destiny with its people!'
The NATO intervention of 1999 has been a turning point in defence thinking both of the political and the military elite. Demands for modernisation are more urgent than ever but possibilities are extremely unfavourable because of the international embargo over Yugoslavia. Despite the loud praises of 'the heroic resistance to the aggressor' and the Yugoslav 'unconquerable spirit' the military professionals have seen the Army's real abilities and, even more, its weaknesses. In addition to the very unfavourable material situation, the Yugoslav Army's dilemmas are of a different kind. It is not able to define either its strategy or military mission. Hyperreality is not only continuing but is also growing.
The Army's attitude towards the current regime may be very crucial for the Yugoslav state prospects. If in the 1990s the YPA was in a search for a state, nowadays the YA being on the edge of survival, is in a search for financial support and strategic viewpoint in order to survive. However, a crucial question can be posed: how far is the YA ready to go in this search? The YA's attitude towards the Milosevic's regime is conditioned by the entire history of the Balkans since 1991: YA officers have not forgot their embarrassment on 9 March 1991, or the three wars they lost or the purges of the army. In April 1996, the YA Chief of General Staff Momcilo Perisic said he had things to tell the media but 'will not because he is a disciplined soldier'. The YA feels very humiliated and insulted due to the misuses and abuses from the ruling regime. This regime pushed it into war(s), which had been lost from the very beginning. However, what can be anticipated is that the YA will not be able to survive potential collapse of third Yugoslavia.
The current analyses of civil-military relations in Yugoslavia are mostly focused on a very typical question - is YA going to undertake a military coup in order to change the most authoritarian system in Europe? Unlike the other examinations of this issue, in the case of Yugoslavia the stress is on the desirability and feasibility of the military coup as the last resort for the overthrow of Milosevic. Due to the character of the system it serves such a move by the Army would probably be greeted with joy, especially in the international community. There are some opinions among the retired generals that nowadays YA must not repeat the mistake of its parent-institution from 1990 - and should stage a coup. In the international media there is much talk about the likeliness of the so-called 'Romanian scenario' in Serbia. Public opinion is not so much in favour of the military solution of the internal crisis - even 70 per cent is against, or does not believe in, such a solution. Sceptics point out that the Romanian case was not a classical military coup but more or less a farce, and more importantly did not bring an immediate remedy for the traumatised society. Yugoslav or more precisely Serbian society is still caught in the trap of mythomania that is not easy to get rid of. To make things worse, the West has not only swallowed the Serbian myths but also added new ones. One of these newly created or newly strengthened myths is the one related to the unconquerable Serbian soldier. In the light of the NATO intervention and particularly considerations of deploying NATO ground troops, international political circles and media insisted on an image that irresistibly resembled the one Austria used before and during the First World War. The Serbs had already been demonised by the international media because of their involvement and the war crimes committed in the conflict regions all over former Yugoslavia. Scholarly and political considerations about the need for denazification of Serbs appeared which were based on the presumption that both Nazi Germans and the Serbs belong to the same so-called 'cultural mode'. The thesis implies the idea of 'collective guilt' - and the appropriate punishment. Yugoslavia has been under different international sanctions, whose effect was precisely the opposite of what was expected. The highly isolated, frustrated and economically exhausted society was easy to manipulate - the 'conspiracy theory' advocated by Milosevic's regime has been directly supported by some moves of the so-called international community. Particularly, the 1999 NATO intervention on Yugoslavia helped to make heroes out of war criminals.
One of the negative effects of the intervention is the delayed catharsis of the Yugoslav society and especially of its Army. The defenders of the country against the mighty aggressors (as the public perceived the intervention) were practically 'purified' of the old crimes. The Army is not able to get rid of the old and new Kosovo myths because everybody expects it to play such a role. The 'victorious' generals are aware of the huge problems that the Army faces in terms of old-fashioned military equipment, the dissatisfaction of the officer corps and even more of the military reservists who have not been paid for their job during the war etc. The regime has not publicly declared the number and the list of names of the war victims (death and invalids) among the YA ranks yet and their families have not been given any compensation. In short, the Army is in collapse and misery and out of desperation it may act unpredictably.
Tocquelle's wise thought that the remedy for the vices of the military are not to be found in the military but in society has never been so accurate as it is in Yugoslavia's case. The Army is obviously not able to change itself or to 'democratise' the society - it is as traumatised as the society it serves. They are caught in a vicious circle and none can break it. The pessimistic prognosis is of more relevance to societal than military factors. The critical tones that come out from society (political parties, media, experts and intellectuals) have one point in common. They more or less lament for the lost opportunities and criticise Milosevic for his unsuccessful state-building process. There is an obvious lack of self-criticism or proposals for overcoming the deep crisis. With Kosovo province being de facto an international protectorate Yugoslavia will stay a prisoner of its own military history. The new Battle of Kosovo helps bridge centuries and brings Serbia backwards in the myths of the past. However, despite the visibility of this connection the hopeless situation in which Yugoslavia/Serbia finds itself at the moment is more the result of political exploitation and manipulation of more recent myths than of the ancient ones.
Serbia is still struggling with its 'divided personality'. An objective analyst could follow two main threads in Serbian political history. Even in the most difficult periods there have been two Serbias - a 'black' (authoritarian) and a 'white' (democratic) one. The key political approaches have been followed by a range of intervening shades. So far only the dark sides have dominated and shaped modern Serbian identity. Nobody has paid enough attention to the weak but significant beacons of hope, such as the war resistance, the scope of desertion and the anti-war campaign run by civil society. The process of ongoing disintegration may lead towards the creation of more than one real state identity. Inevitably the destiny of the Yugoslav Army is highly dependent on the outcome of this process. Before these crucial issues are finally settled it will be very difficult to make any prognosis on the prospects of civil-military relations in this country.
Note 1: Joanna Overing, 'The role of myth: An anthropological perspective, or: "The reality of the really made-up"', in Geoffrey Hosking and George Schopflin (eds), Myths and Nationhood (London: Hurst & Company, 1997): 1. Back.
Note 5: The Patriarch Arsenije greeted the Austrian Army fighting Turks and encouraged the Serbs' rebellion in the context of the Austria-Turkish war. When the Austrians failed, the Patriarch led some 30,000 families in exile from their homeland in Kosovo. Since in that time the traditional families were more numerous than today, one may assume that tens of thousands people fled the country. Back.
Note 7: Serbian institutions of self-rule included the knezes, local popular assemblies called skupstinas, and military leaders called voyvodes. Karadjordje was the supreme voyvode, but he was elected by an assembly that continued to meet each winter. A formal council of twelve was created in 1805. Back.
Note 8: The Skull Tower, a place of pilgrimage, was built by the Turks in 1809 during Karadjordje's uprising. The 'peculiarity' of this monument is in the fact that the Tower was built of 952 skulls of killed fighters from the famous Stevan Sindjelic's group. Having seen that further resistance of his soldiers was futile, Sindjelic fired his pistol into the powder magazine and thus saved his men from eventual death by impalement and made the Turks pay dearly for their victory. Hursid Pasha, the Ottoman leader, built the gruesome Tower as a terrible warning to the Serbs, but it turned out to be a symbol for their future resistance. Back.
Note 9: To illustration this, in the course of only ten years the military budget was doubled and increased to a quarter of the state expenditures. The military should have made Serbia a Piedmont in the Balkans. Back.
Note 10: During the rule of Milan's son, Aleksandar the bad financial situation heavily affected military officers who became very unsatisfied with king's rule. Since the very beginning the Serbian officer corps had been a magnet for poor but ambitious young men. They could get free education at the state Military Academy, enter a profession as officers, and were influential in the capital city. The army officers were fed up by 1900. The defeat of 1885 was not forgotten, and now the state proposed to cut funds for new equipment, even new uniforms. Officers went without a pay cheque for months. The army despised the king because of his personal life (he married his mother's servant). In 1903 military officers, led by Captain Dragutin 'Apis' Dimitrijevic, brutally murdered Aleksandar and his wife Draga. Aleksandar's rule had begun with a military coup and ended the same way. Back.
Note 11: During the Balkan wars the Serbian national elite defined as a matter of survival the access to the sea in northern Albania (St Goivanni di Medova being the strategic target of the Serbian army). In regard to Macedonia, it only insisted on Serbia's historical rights over a part of its medieval state (so the name of Macedonia as Southern Serbia). Back.
Note 13: See on both perceptions in the published lectures of a witness of the war as well as a fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge, given in September 1917: R.G.D. Laffan, The Serbs. The Guardians of the Gate (New York: Dorset Press,1989). Back.
Note 15: ohn D. Treadway, 'Of shatter belts and powder kegs: a brief survey of Yugoslav history', in Constantine P. Danopoulos and Kostas G. Messas (eds) Crises in the Balkans. View from the Participants (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997): 22; see also: Robin Alison Remington, 'The Yugoslav Army: trauma and transition', in Constantine P. Danopoulos and Daniel Zirkes (eds), Civil-Military Relations in the Soviet and Yugoslav Successor States (Boulder: Westview Press, 1996): 154. Back.
Note 20: Duklja (Dolcea) was established as a Byzantine vassal state in the ninth century in the region that would become later better known as Zeta under Serbian rule. It is believed that Duklja became an independent state in 1042 under the rule of the Vojislavljevic dynasty. Mihailo received royal insignia from the Pope and the Bar archbishopric was awarded in 1089. Back.
Note 26: It is estimated that wartime damage and losses were enormous for each of the Yugoslav peoples. Thus, Serbs and Montenegrins suffered 300,000 soldiers and 500,000 civilians were killed out of the 5 million population. An additional 150,000 South Slav soldiers (Croats, Slovenes, and Serbs) were killed fighting for Austria-Hungary. Back.
Note 27: Robin Alison Remington, 'Ethnonationalism and the disintegration of Yugoslavia', in Winston A. Van Horne (ed.), Global Convulsions. Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism at the End of the Twentieth Century (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997): 263. Back.
Note 29: V.P. Gagnon, Jr., 'Historical roots of the Yugoslav conflict' in Milton J. Esman and Shibley Telhmani (eds.) International Organizations and Ethnic Conflict, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995): 179. Back.
Note 30: The leader of the Croatian Peasant Party, Stjepan Radic, had dared to stand up in the middle of parliament and state that 'the Croats were not slaves under the Habsburg monarchy', and that the Serbs 'were never their liberators'. Quoted by Henry Bogdan, Warsaw to Sofia (Santa Fe, New Mexico: Pro Libertate Publishing, 1989): 206. Back.
Note 33: King Aleksander was assassinated while on an official visit to France in 1934. The assassins have never been discovered although there were speculations about a partnership between Croatian and pro-Bulgarian nationalists. Allegedly his last words were: 'Keep on my Yugoslavia!' Back.
Note 35: In the first months of the Kingdom's existence the military's main task was disarmament of the population from the 'new territories'. The manner of exercising the task was as if it were enemy territory. Even in some official edicts there were formulations that 'the inhabitants of enemy districts, occupied by the army, are subject to the jurisdiction of military courts'. Quoted in Ivo Banac, National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics, 148. Back.
Note 36: A few days after the formal unification, public protests occurred in Zagreb central square. On 5 December soldiers of the still active Croat units of the Austria-Hungarian military protested the unification and eventually clashed with the militia and the units loyal to the National Council. The unrest extended to many cities in Croatia and the Yugoslav military performed a police function. In Orthodox Christmas, 1919, Montenegrins staged a national uprising against the decision of the 'Grand National Assembly' (the so-called Podgoricka skupstina) for annexation to Serbia. The Christmas Uprising resulted in a small and undeclared war of Montenegrins against what some of them saw as Serbian occupation. Although the core of the resistance was crushed in a severe, comprehensive military campaign in 1922-23, guerrilla resistance continued in the highlands for several more years. Back.
Note 40: Jasa M. Prodanovic, 'Kralj i vlada i upravlja' (The King both reigns and governs), Republika, 14 September 1922, p. 1 quoted from Banac, National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics, 144. Back.
Note 42: The communist party claimed that it was the Central Committee that had issued a proclamation on 25 March 1941, denouncing betrayal and appealing for popular protests. In this interpretation the protests were the main factor that brought about the overthrow of the government. On the other hand, British intelligence officers also claimed credit in coup. (See Fred Singleton, A Short History of the Yugoslav Peoples (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996): 171-2. Back.
Note 43: During the years the term Chetniks has been given erroneous meaning while it originally meant a guerrilla. The name originated from 'cheta', the nineteenth-century guerrilla band that harassed the Turks. This war experience proved to be very useful for the Serbs in the following wars too, so they appreciated guerrilla fight as a part of their military tradition. Back.
Note 44: In July 1941, with some Chetnik support, the Partisans launched uprisings that won control of much of the Yugoslav countryside. The Partisan leaders established an administration and proclaimed the Uzice Republic in western Serbia. But in September the Axis struck back. Germany warned that it would execute 100 Serbs for every German soldier the resistance killed. Having defeated the rebels (Partisans and Chetniks), the German soldiers shot about 1,750 people on 13 October 1941. The mass-killing lasted 11 days, and 4-5,000 people were killed in just one week. The massacre continued in Kragujevac, where people were driven out of their homes and even whole school classes were taken away with their teachers. According to the report of the military administrator of Serbia, about 20,000 'Serbs, Jews and Gypsies were executed' on 20 and 21 October 1941. Back.
Note 46: Aleksandar Rankovic used to be one of the closest and most loyal war comrades of Josip Broz Tito during and after the Second World War. In the moment of his sudden removal he was organisational secretary of the Communist Party and chief of the powerful security apparatus. Back.
Note 48: Actually, it was not the first time that the Yugoslav military undertook an action in the rebellious province. The precedent had happened right after the Second World War when the Yugoslav regime declared an emergency situation and introduced martial law for a couple of years. Back.
Note 53: The ability to reconcile incompatible elements and to refer a wide audience is considered to be a typical characteristic of charismatic leaders. (For more details, see: Ken Jowitt, New World Disorder: The Leninist Extinction (Berkeley and LA: University of California Press, 1992). Back.
Note 55: From a speech of Slobodan Milosevic given at a closed meeting with the leaders of all Serbian municipalities in March 1991. Quoted by Vesna Pesic, 'Serbian nationalism and the origins of the Yugoslav crisis', USIP Peace Works, No. 4, 1996, (www.usip.org/oc/pesic/pesic.html). Back.
Note 57: 'Hyperreality is a reality constructed and artificial - but with the full awareness of the participants of this reality. It is a reality that exists while at the same time negating (or even denying) other realities, but the fact that the participants (and creators) are self-conscious of its artificiality opens numerous possibilities for paradoxes. Hyperreality is a place (or area, domain, field, etc.) where all the paradoxes meet and co-exist, side by side.' Aleksandar Boskovic, 'Imagined boundaries and hyperreality in Southeastern Europe', Ctheory: Theory, Technology, Culture, 29 October 1997 (www.ctheory.com/a54.html). Back.
Note 58: For instance, Prof. Pavle Nikolic argues that the current Constitution of FRY is unconstitutional because it was voted for in an illegal way by the people who had no legitimacy to vote for it. Back.
Note 63: The inability to establish at least some civilian control over this army came to the fore during the short mandate of the Prime Minister Milan Panic who, not unintentionally, kept the office of defence minister for himself. It was then that the highest military circle showed him political determination to remain loyal to Slobodan Milosevic's politics, and out of his political control. Back.
Note 64: Miroslav Hadzic, 'Javne sutnje o Vojsci Jugoslavije' (Public silences on the Yugoslav Army), an unpublished position paper in the project of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights 'Law and Policy'. Back.
Note 65: The ruling SPS refused to recognise the victory of the coalition Zajedno (Together) in some municipalities and cities. The opposition reacted by mass demonstrations in all bigger towns in Serbia on the ruling party's attempt to annul the election results. Faced with the resolve of the opposition to resist electoral machinations, in February 1997 the SPS unwillingly recognised the results of local elections and wider civil conflict was avoided. Back.
Note 66: Among other units, the famous 63 Parachute Brigade based at the Nis airport was considered the leader in sending the proclamation. It is interesting that it belongs to the Corps for Special Tasks, which is directly subordinate to the Chief of General Staff and are his closest aides. Back.
Note 67: This phenomenon dates back from the time when Seselj, in the uniform of a 'fierce Serb warrior', with a Kalashnykov in his hand and accompanied by the YPA commanding officers, roared on the ruins of Vukovar: 'I am not a leader, I am an army leader.' Back.
Note 68: According to the statement of Colonel Radisa Djordjevic, the head of the Defence Ministry budget department, 'the police have been trained to drive tanks and use anti-aircraft guns. Also a multiple rocket launching was being built specially for the police. The police academy published an army textbook on tactics while the YA did not have the money to print it for its needs.' Cited by Vreme, 1 February 1997. Back.
Note 72: For example, 75 pilots have left the Air Forces. It is known that 36 of them now fly in some African countries, which have aircrafts made in Russia, and 12 pilots fly agricultural airplanes in Syria. Another 26 pilots left for Zaire. The Military-Medicine Academy in Belgrade lacks 'only' 136 doctors. See Nedeljni Telegraf, 28 May 1997, p. 6. Back.