Sunday, May 21, 2006

How many ex-Yugoslavias?

Right now, there are five countries in the place of Yugoslavia: Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia & Montenegro. Considering the very high turnout at today's referendum in Montenegro, there soon may be another split, as Serbia and Montenegro go their separate ways.

Of course, the whole thing is misguided. Just like a division into Red States and Blue States (and you remember some of those "Jesusland" maps right after the last election) is meaningless, the same goes for Yugoslavia.

Splitting along the geographical borders will not accomplish anything, as the quarrel is not really between Serbs and Croats and Bosnian Moslems and Kosovo Albanians and others, but between the modern 21st century worldview held by the people in cities and the backwater medieval worldview of the people in rural areas.

Citizens of Belgrade, Zagreb, Sarajevo, Novi Sad, Ljubljana, Mostar, Nis, Pristina and Skopje have more in common with each other than each have with people living just a few miles outside of each of those cities. It is a typical division along the city-country or urban-rural or liberal-conservative lines. [Added later in response to some comments on other blogs linking here: It is the rural folks who are tribal and religious and afraid of the "Other". Just like US Christian conservatives in the cornfields of the Midwest are terrified of Islam because they know nothing about it, so the peasants of the Balkans are afraid of each other's religions: the Orthodox detest the Catholic who detest the Moslems, etc., because all they know is what they heard from their priestsand village chiefs. The urban intelligentsia, atheist of course (after 50 years of socialism, can you imagine anything else?), does not think in terms of religion or tribe and has a much more democratic and internationalist outlook.]

Geographical splits will accomplish nothing, as the frontlines will remain WITHIN each of the 5 or 6 mini-nations, yet neither one will have the power of the large state (Yugoslavia as a whole) to be able to successfully deal with such struggles.

Secessionists are claiming victory. No official results yet.

Update 2: Yup, it appears that there will be six, not five ex-Yugoslavias...

Update 3: So, it is official now. Both Serbia and Montenegro are independent states now.

You can learn more about Montenegro here (that is an official tourist site so everything is rosy) and on Wikipedia, which also has a lot of excellent links to other informative sites.

Montenegro is a tiny place, very mountainous and very beautiful. There is very little arable land, and what there is cannot be processed in agroindustrial manner - you cannot get a combine harvester up the cliffs after all. Thus, the food produced there is as "organic" and healthy as you can think of. There is quite a lot of mineral wealth there which is mined and processed, mainly in the industrial areas surrounding the cities of Podgorica and Niksic. There is otherwise very little industry and thus very little pollution.

The main source of income for Montenegro is tourism and for a good reason. The Adriatic coast there is absolutely gorgeous - if you have money to travel to Europe during summer, it's hard to do better (and cheaper) than spend some time there. The relative intactness of nature, due to rough and inhospitable terrain, is one of the biggest selling points of the country which has touted istelf for more than a decade now as the "first ecological state in the world" and they take environmental protection seriously there.

Socially, this is an extremelly traditional and patriarchal society, but this is changing, leading to some internal tensions. Many Montenegrins have studied at the University of Belgrade (or travelled abroad) and came back home changed (you can say "civilized") about the ways of the world and the modern gender relationships. They clash with their elders and with the people in rural areas who still stick to the old ways. It is mostly the traditionalists who have voted for independence yesterday, I guess, as the more educated people feel, just like citizens of other big cities in the Balkans, as Europeans and as Citizens of the World and not in terms of small local tribal sentiments.

Being mountain folks, Montenegrins are physically huge! They are the tallest ethnic group in Europe (and one of the tallest in the world). Where height, strength and courage count, as in some sports like basketball and karate, the old Yugoslav national teams were almost entirely composed of Montenegrins. The women, also tall and strong, are stunningly beautiful.

From what I gather, the divorce between Serbia and Montenegro will proceed peacefully, with a handshake (just like the independence of Macedonia, the only one where the USA stationed its troops to protect it from....what?). Each will try to gain the entrance into the EU, where, once again, all the ex-Yugoslav states will find themselves together as parts of a bigger unit, trading with each other and enjoying good neighborly relations. So, why a decade of bloodshed and all that secessionism just to reunite again?

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:44 PM | permalink | (3 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink