The area between the Adriatic, Danube and the Black Sea, known as the Balkans, is associated with a mosaic of peoples divided in religious,
Владислав Б. Сотировић, 21.03.2010
national, economic and financial sense. Because of its strategic validity this peninsula through history was the epicenter of political clashes and armed conflicts marked by constant interferences of foreign powers. Being the border-line between civilizations, between Indo-European and Asiatic worlds, marked by coexistence of different nationalities, the Balkans act as an geopolitical equalizer during the periods of the power games. The experts on geopolitics will usually present the Balkan geopolitical importance by the example that whoever controls parts of the Montenegrin-Adriatic corridor (the co called “Turkish corridor”) and the Morava River-Vardar River route controls the transportation of Caspian oil and central Asia’s gas to the terminals of the Adriatic Sea.
National, ethnic and religious conflicts have been a feature of Balkan history and present time (and most probably of the future) primarily because the region has a conglomeration of antagonistic nations, religions and cultures, which have fashioned its cultural, economic and political environment. The political map of the Balkans has been changing constantly in conformity with the interests that big powers had in relation to this crossroads of Europe and Asia. Two factors have gradually come to play decisive roles in the history of the development of the Balkan peoples – religion and the interests of leading European powers (and after WWII as well of USA and China). The great powers have often used the religious factor to disunite the Balkan nations, especially where the nations were of the same origin but had different confessions (for instance, Bulgarians and Pomaks in Bulgaria or Serbs, Croats and Boshnjaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina).
The last crisis (from 1991) evolving in the region of former Yugoslavia (having its climax today with the question upon Kosovo status), is due to various factors – religious as well as ethnic – at play within its different nations. The religious factor was most pronounced among the Croats; then quite indiscernible among the Serbs and hardly “apparent” among the Bosnian (Slavic) Muslims, at the beginning of the conflict. For instance, the Croatian nationalist leadership of Croatian Democratic Party (HDZ) used the religious factor as a key to the solution of its national question: opting for Catholicism was a sign of Croatization. Ethnic consciousness was quite discernable among Muslims and Croats, whereas the Serbs began to speaking in these terms only at the end of the 1980s.
It can be said that at the Balkans big powers interests is playing a decisive role while religion is serving as a means to achieve their goals. Later, however, once, for instance, Islamic countries became involved in the conflict (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan), elements of a civilization conflict became more and more apparent (like today in Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia but also at Cyprus) fitting to the theory of “Clash of Civilizations” (from 1993) by American scientist Samuel P. Huntington. Islam is just beginning to drive its way through the Balkans, not having any territorial link with Turkey. The borders of its inner-Balkan connections have, however, already been marked and successful preparations are already been made to consolidate and expand those territories (Kosovo, Sandžak, Montenegro, Bosnia…). In order to link them to Islamic Middle East, Islam is anxious to acquire the territories of northern Macedonia and southern Bulgaria. Southern Europe will then, likewise, be leaning against a compact wall of Islamic countries. The South Slavic states – Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia – will thus find themselves on the frontier of Islamic probes into Europe, which threatens to bring about more conflict problems. However, Europe’s leading countries and America had not regarded yet this as a possibility, having only been concerned with their own interests.
Having in mind Balkan reality the European Union expressed its worrying about the effects of a potentially explosive situations at several Balkan micro regions on the peaceful coexistence between different religions and nations which can at any time provoke an explosion of Europe’s “powder keg” – the Balkans. To avoid this risk, the EU must prevent feelings of being abandoned among all Balkan nations and religious groups. This is true especially today when Kosovo independence is knocking to the European doors. It depends only on EU decision will both of Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Kosovo Albanians or only one of them feel themselves abandoned by community of European democratic nations or welcomed to the EU club. The consequences of the “wrong” move can be fatal for the continent as whole. For instance, the Balkan “powder keg” can open the doors to the new Cold War era between East and West (or even more seriously, as S. P. Huntington mentioned, between the West and the Rest) as it is already heralded by the regional info-media – if the West lead by USA will further insist on building anti-nuclear shield in Eastern Europe (Poland and the Czech Republic) and recognize Kosovo self-proclaimed independence Serbia will allow Russia to build up a similar anti-nuclear shield on its own territory (rockets C-400-2) alongside the River of Drina that is neighboring Bosnia.
For the end, we have to remember in this context two facts:
1) the First World War started on the Balkans when Russia in July 1914 decided to protect the national interests of the Serbs against Pan Germanic policy of “Drang nach Osten”; and
2) the Cold War started also on the territory of Balkans when both armies of Titoist Yugoslavia (sponsored by Stalin) and Anglo-American one entered the city of Trieste on the same day – May 1st, 1945.
The Trieste crisis was finally solved in 1975 by bilateral agreements between Italy and Yugoslavia but the Cold War was prolonged for the next 15 years. To learn lessons from the Balkans one have to take into consideration the fact that any “wrong” step done by international community can have much deeper traumatic global consequences for a longer period of time. Probably for that reason (Historia est magistra vitae) Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi advised Albanian side on his official state visit to Tirana on December 3rd, 2007 to wait with unilateral proclamation of Kosovo independence.
Владислав Б. Сотировић
Оснивач и уредник онлајн магазина
Serbian Patriotic Front