These are (very) short excerpts
from Dr. Raju G. C. Thomas' article entitled:
Nationalism, Secession and Conflict:
Legacies from the Former Yugoslavia
This paper was presented at the First Annual
Association for Study of Nationalities Convention, Columbia
University, New York City,
April 26-28, 1996
Professor Raju G. C. Thomas teaches Political Science at Marquette University.
He has published extensively in professional journals and is the author
of several books on global politics.
Between 1991 and 1994, Yugoslavia disintegrated swiftly and painfully...
...Although the Yugoslav problem began as one of the right of national
self-determination among its several internal "nations," subsequently,
it became a conflict of contested boundaries among newly created states
and of new disgruntled and/or fearful minorities within these states. Thus,
the creation of new states out of old multiethnic states generate newer
problems of self-determination and soveregnty, and of newly contested boundaries
and dissident minorities....
The problem posed by the disintegration of Yugoslavia was that its
former internal boundaries which posed no restriction on the movement of
the ethnic groups, have suddenly become international frontiers creating
and trapping new minorities within new states who do not wish to be part
of these states. Thus, for example, Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia, who thought
they were citizens of Yugoslavia, suddenly found that the old state had
simply vanished from right under their feet. They had become citizens of
new states to which thay do not wish to belong. Serbs did not choose to
migrate to the new Croatia and Bosnia. They were already there as part
of the old Yugoslavia. Attempts now to remain together are being resisted
by the new states of Croatia and Bosnia and by the International community...
...From the standpoint of equity and fairness, two related questions
can be asked. If the principle of national self-determination with the
meaning of "the right to secede from a state" could be granted
to Slovenians, Croatians, Bosnian Muslims and Macedonians, then why cannot
the same principle be granted to the serbs of the newly recognized states
of Croatia and Bosnia? And if the Serbs demand this right, then why
should not the Albanians of Kosovo demand the same right? If national self-determination
extending the right to secede is the new overriding norm of the world politics
today, then it surely must also be granted to new minorities created by
state sucessionists. Or, some logical explanation must be provided as to
why the principle of the right to secede was applied selectively to Slovenia,
Croatia and Bosnia but not to other ethnic groups demanding secession elsewhere
in the world. Domestic political disputes, minority ethnic grievances,
and armed secessionist struggles have been far more intense and prolonged
elsewhere than in the former Yugoslavia.
From a global-comparative perspective it is difficult to justify Slovenia
and Croatia being allowed to "jump the queue" ahead of other
self-proclaimed nations demanding the right to secession and international
...What was different about the former Yugoslavia
was the Germany, Austria, and the Vatican pushed the European Union to
recognize the independence of Slovenia and Croatia; and then the United
States pushed the rest of the world to recognize the independence of Bosnia.
The criteria of recognition here was selective and arbitrary...
...In Yugoslavia, a sovereign multi-ethnic independent state that
had existed for over 70 years was abruptly taken apart through the Western
policy of diplomatic recognition. Serbs, who had lived together since 1918,
were separated suddenly into three different states against their wishes.
Thus, the Serbian struggle to remain united within the old state of Yugoslavia
does not quite fit the term "aggression" or "irredentism"
in the usual sense...
...In retrospect - Yugoslavia's territorial integrity and sovereignty
should have been preserved. It is one thing to encroach upon the soverereignty
of an existing state where there are massive human rights violations taking
place, but it is quite another to do so in anticipation of such alleged
violations. There were no mass killings taking place in Yugoslavia before
the unilateral declarations of independence by Slovenia and Croatia and
their subsequent recognitions by Germany and the Vatican followed by the
rest of the Europe and the United States. There were no mass killings taking
place in Bosnia before the recognition of Bosnia. Preserving the old Yugoslav
state may have proved to be the least of all evils. Problems began when
recognition or pressures to recognize occured. The former Yugoslavia had
committed no "aggression" on neighboring states such as Austria,
Hungary, Bulgaria or Rumania. Surely then. the real aggression in Yugoslavia
began with the Western recognition of Slovenia and Croatia. The territorial
integrity of a state [Yugoslavia] that was voluntarily created and which
had existed since December 1918 was swept aside. In 1991, new state recognition
policy proved to be an inventive method of destroying long-standing sovereign
independent states. When several rich and powerful
states decide to take a sovereign independent state apart through the policy
of recognition, how is this state supposed to defend itself? There can
be no deterrence or defense against this form of destruction....
Disintegration and war in the former Yugoslavia was caused mainly by
the hasty and reckless Western policy of recognizing new states who wished
to secede from an existing long-standing state. Indeed,
Western powers dismembered Yugoslavia through a new method of aggression: