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YUGOSLAVIA SPECIAL REPORT - HISTORICAL LOOK AT THE BALKAN CRISIS

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The tragedy unfolding in the Balkans has ancient political and religious roots. What became Yugoslavia after the first World War and started splitting up last year has for thousands of years been on a political fault line. The basic divide can be said to date back to the Roman Emperor Constantine, the first Emperor to profess Christianity, who split the Roman Empire into East and West realms in the year 330. The dividing line between the two is still one of Bosnia's borders. Later the Ottoman Empire expanded from the South to include what is now Bosnia, only for the line to move back again as the Christian Austro-Hungarian Empire drove back the Moslem Ottomans. Until 1914, it was the clash of empires which dictated the tensions of the area; that changed on June 28th when a Bosnian Serb nationalist Gavrilio Princip assassinated the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Sarajevo became the epicentre for the first World War as the outside Great Powers joined in. In the conflict that followed, alliances were forged that effectively tied Orthodox Serbia to its fellow Slavs in Russia, Italy, and the Anglo-French alliance. On the other side were the Austro-Hungarians whose Empire stretched to include Bosnia and Germany. After the war, the Croats, who feared Italy would absorb them, had to deal with the Serbs as the least worst option. In 1918, the state of Yugoslavia was born, straddling the old boundaries of empire but the tensions and religious divide remained. Three years later it became a constitutional monarchy but the change if anything increased the internal pressures; the Croats opposed the new constitution and boycotted the parliament meeting which approved it, thus placing the issue of Croatian autonomy at the centre of Yugoslav politics for the 1930s. In 1934 King Alexander was assassinated by a Croat in Marseilles while travelling with French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou, who had just been on a Balkan tour to build alliances against Germany. The king left an 11-year-old heir, and the authority of the monarchy was never really restored. By 1937 agreement had been reached to effectively grant a Croatian region considerable autonomy. In 1940 at a Balkan Entente meeting Yugoslavia, Romania, Greece and Turkey agreed to maintain their neutral status to keep out of the Second World War which had already broken out. That attempt proved futile. In March 1941 the government effectively capitulated to German demands and joined the Tripartite pact with Germany and Italy. Opposition to the submission led to a bloodless coup in Belgrade a day later. Ten days later the Germans, without declaring war, invaded Yugoslavia and Greece, bombing Belgrade savagely. Within a week they had set up an "independent" Croat state. In Croatia, Jews and Serbs were singled out for dismissal from public office and made to wear special badges. Croatian ministers publicly decared their intention of driving out all Serbs - by extermination, enforced flight or enforced change of religion. In Bosnia, which had been incorporated into Croatia, some 12000 Serbs were reported killed by the Croatian Ustachis in Banja Luka. Resistance initially was headed by Royalist Serbian General Mihailovitch whose forces were mainly in the mountainous areas of Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro. Another group, the Partisans, led by Croatian Communist Josepf Brod Tito, also resisted, but opposed Mihailovitch. After the fall of Mussolini in 1944, the allies realigned their support, backing the Partisans instead of the Royalists. That switch eventually led to Tito's supremacy. The victorious Croat Communist put Serbian Mihailovitch on trial, exceuting him in 1946. Tito then set up a constitution balancing the ethnic populations but ensuring that power remained in the hands of the Communist Party; it also effectively ensured that the old regional and ethnic conflicts were not dealt with but pushed under the surface. On that surface, however, all seemed to be going well for Tito and Yugoslavia. After the 1948 split with Stalin, Tito was prominent in the non-aligned movement and was to be seen all over the world. His guerrilla past influenced the way he organised the countries defence, especially after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia when he came to fear a Soviet incursion. That led to the building up of self-sufficiency in arms and a fairly large full time army backed by a large reserve and further backed by millions of men who could fight a guerrilla war and had ready access to arms.

dc:identifier
045-00028383
dc:source
Visnews
dc:title
YUGOSLAVIA SPECIAL REPORT - HISTORICAL LOOK AT THE BALKAN CRISIS
dc:type
MovingImage
mhub:credit
Visnews
dc:description
The tragedy unfolding in the Balkans has ancient political and religious roots. What became Yugoslavia after the first World War and started splitting up last year has for thousands of years been on a political fault line. The basic divide can be said to date back to the Roman Emperor Constantine, the first Emperor to profess Christianity, who split the Roman Empire into East and West realms in the year 330. The dividing line between the two is still one of Bosnia's borders. Later the Ottoman Empire expanded from the South to include what is now Bosnia, only for the line to move back again as the Christian Austro-Hungarian Empire drove back the Moslem Ottomans. Until 1914, it was the clash of empires which dictated the tensions of the area; that changed on June 28th when a Bosnian Serb nationalist Gavrilio Princip assassinated the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Sarajevo became the epicentre for the first World War as the outside Great Powers joined in. In the conflict that followed, alliances were forged that effectively tied Orthodox Serbia to its fellow Slavs in Russia, Italy, and the Anglo-French alliance. On the other side were the Austro-Hungarians whose Empire stretched to include Bosnia and Germany. After the war, the Croats, who feared Italy would absorb them, had to deal with the Serbs as the least worst option. In 1918, the state of Yugoslavia was born, straddling the old boundaries of empire but the tensions and religious divide remained. Three years later it became a constitutional monarchy but the change if anything increased the internal pressures; the Croats opposed the new constitution and boycotted the parliament meeting which approved it, thus placing the issue of Croatian autonomy at the centre of Yugoslav politics for the 1930s. In 1934 King Alexander was assassinated by a Croat in Marseilles while travelling with French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou, who had just been on a Balkan tour to build alliances against Germany. The king left an 11-year-old heir, and the authority of the monarchy was never really restored. By 1937 agreement had been reached to effectively grant a Croatian region considerable autonomy. In 1940 at a Balkan Entente meeting Yugoslavia, Romania, Greece and Turkey agreed to maintain their neutral status to keep out of the Second World War which had already broken out. That attempt proved futile. In March 1941 the government effectively capitulated to German demands and joined the Tripartite pact with Germany and Italy. Opposition to the submission led to a bloodless coup in Belgrade a day later. Ten days later the Germans, without declaring war, invaded Yugoslavia and Greece, bombing Belgrade savagely. Within a week they had set up an "independent" Croat state. In Croatia, Jews and Serbs were singled out for dismissal from public office and made to wear special badges. Croatian ministers publicly decared their intention of driving out all Serbs - by extermination, enforced flight or enforced change of religion. In Bosnia, which had been incorporated into Croatia, some 12000 Serbs were reported killed by the Croatian Ustachis in Banja Luka. Resistance initially was headed by Royalist Serbian General Mihailovitch whose forces were mainly in the mountainous areas of Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro. Another group, the Partisans, led by Croatian Communist Josepf Brod Tito, also resisted, but opposed Mihailovitch. After the fall of Mussolini in 1944, the allies realigned their support, backing the Partisans instead of the Royalists. That switch eventually led to Tito's supremacy. The victorious Croat Communist put Serbian Mihailovitch on trial, exceuting him in 1946. Tito then set up a constitution balancing the ethnic populations but ensuring that power remained in the hands of the Communist Party; it also effectively ensured that the old regional and ethnic conflicts were not dealt with but pushed under the surface. On that surface, however, all seemed to be going well for Tito and Yugoslavia. After the 1948 split with Stalin, Tito was prominent in the non-aligned movement and was to be seen all over the world. His guerrilla past influenced the way he organised the countries defence, especially after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia when he came to fear a Soviet incursion. That led to the building up of self-sufficiency in arms and a fairly large full time army backed by a large reserve and further backed by millions of men who could fight a guerrilla war and had ready access to arms.
dc:subject
unrest, conflicts and war
mhub:temporal-coverage
1914-06-28