War In Former Yugoslavia

 

Sir, - In ignoring some inconvenient truths, and distorting certain facts, Mr J. G. Danaher (October 9th) presents a stilted picture of the disintegration of former Yugoslavia. I can only assume that he is simply regurgitating the information provided by his masters in Zagreb. Two myths need to be dispelled immediately:

The Yugoslav National Army was not Serb-dominated: its ranks of privates and NCOs were young men from all republics and all ethnic groups who did their national service on completion of their secondary education. The officer core was professional, and although Serbs formed some 60 per cent of same, all senior command posts were distributed strictly to reflect the ethnic make-up of Yugoslavia. Thus, at the start of the battle for Vukovar, the Chief of Staff was General V. Kadijevic (the son of a Croat/Serb mixed marriage), while the Commander of the Air Force was General Tus, a Croat, as was his deputy (both, in turn, defected to the Croat forces later on).

Serbs never "occupied" any Croat land. In Krajina and parts of Slavonia they defended the land which was their home for centuries (e.g. the Serbian Orthodox Monastery Krka, in Krajina, dates from the mid-14th century). In 1990, the newly elected Franjo Tudjman and his nationalist party HDZ changed the constitution of Croatia. From being the republic of Croats, Serbs and national minorities, it became a republic of Croats and national minorities, thus eliminating the rights of the Serbs to self-determination. Most Serbs automatically lost their Croat citizenship and thousands were dismissed from their places of work.

On May 15th, 1991, Serbs did try to block the election of the Croat Stipe Mesic as the President of the Federal Presidency, but with good reason: he had stated publicly that he would be the last president of the Yugoslav Federation, i.e. that he would preside over its disintegration. Nevertheless, he was elected, and served his term to the end of 1991.

On June 25th 1991, Slovenia and Croatia, contrary to the statutes of the Yugoslav constitution, declared independence. Slovenians seized the border crossings to Austria and Italy, which they declared their own. On June 25th the Federal Government sent 50 tanks and 450 policemen and soldiers, from Zagreb, to secure these borders. In clashes with Slovenian paramilitaries, 58 JNA soldiers were killed, nine Slovenian paramilitaries and 12 civilians (including five foreign lorry drivers whose trucks were seized and used as barricades by the Slovenians). So much for the invasion.

In July 1991, the Croat paramilitaries started their action against the Serbs in Slavonia: dozens of Serbs were killed and hundreds were driven out of Vukovar. By September, a score of Serb villages in the regions of Slavonska Pozega, Novska, Pakrac, Daruvar, Grubisno Polje and Virovitica were burnt, their populations forcibly deported, with hundreds being imprisoned or killed.

By the time the ceasefire was signed on January 3rd 1992, 250,000 Serbs were expelled from Slavonia; they were followed by another 250,000 expelled from Krajina in the autumn of 1995. Despite a number of internationally witnessed agreements since, none of them are allowed to return to their homes. On the contrary, the exodus of Serbs from "Sector East" continues to this day.

German recognition of Croatia was not the cause, but was certainly decisive in the dismemberment of Yugoslavia. Following the recognition, the citizens of Zagreb sang "Danke Deutschland", much as their parents/grandparents sang "Deutschland uber alles" when German troops marched into Zagreb in April 1941! Like father, like son! - Yours, etc., Zivko Jaksic,

Serbian Information Bureau,

Grange Road,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 16.