My piece on Antiwar.com last week was inspired by a posting here, in which I challenged Pat Buchanan's interpretation of the 1914 Sarajevo assassination. In the column, titled "Triumph of Tragedy," I wrote:
In the Yugoslavian pot, the Serbian identity had melted away, while people who used to consider themselves Serbs (or Turks, Croats, or Bulgarians) became "Montenegrins" or "Macedonians" or "Bosnians." When all the consequences of Yugoslavia's creation are added up, it is easily a worse historical disaster for the Serbs than the Ottoman conquest.
This was obviously toned down from what I said in "Missing the Point":
Furthermore, in 1918 there was no such nation as "Bosnians," or Montenegrins, or Macedonians. People in what are today Bosnia, Montenegro and Macedonia considered themselves Serbs, Croats, Turks, even Bulgarians. It was Communist social engineering and propaganda that manufactured them into distinct "nations" - while destroying the Serbian sense of nationhood in general.
Now, I may have oversimplified things somewhat. Certainly there were at least some who considered themselves other things. However, even a cursory glance at contemporary sources would reveal that my claim here is factual.
The Montenegrin identity had been inseparable from Serbian until the end of the Great War, when some supporters of the Petrovic dynasty resented the merger with Serbia. Communists exploited this divide and worked for decades to create a "Montenegrin nation"; the pinnacle of this project is today's independent Montenegro, whose rulers are building a national identity on a foundation of Serbophobia.
Austria-Hungary attempted to create a "Bosniak" nation during its occupation mandate, without much success. Bosnian Muslims identified themselves as Turks, or - following the Great War - as Serbs or Croats with a distinct religion. It was Tito's Yugoslavia that incubated their nationhood, trying to use them as a counterbalance to Serbs and Croats. And a fine job that turned out to be, if the 100,000 dead and the smoldering ruins of Bosnia are anything to judge by.
Now as for Macedonia... Google "Antiwar.com" and "Macedonia" and see how many hits you get for my columns on the subject, and what I wrote therein. At the time when damn near no one in the West objected to the KLA's butchering of that country, I wrote about the murder of Macedonia and the futile surrender of its leaders to Imperial demands. But I dare argue that only under Tito did the Macedonian national movement actually succeed in creating a nation, and all of a sudden I'm a villain?
Look, I'm routinely attacked by Albanians because I'm a Serb (it doesn't matter what I say, really - unless I endorse the KLA somehow; then I'm a poster child for what needs to be done). I get grief from Greeks, because I dare say "Macedonia" instead of FYROM or what have you (look, Alexander was a barbarian, OK? Just because he embraced the culture of Hellas and spread it around the known world doesn't make him any more Greek than my Orthodox faith makes me one).
And now I'm marked for malice by Macedonians for daring to point out that hey, today's Macedonia exists within the boundaries of the territory liberated from the Ottoman Empire by the Kingdom of Serbia. What about the areas controlled by Bulgaria and Greece? How come we never hear about them? Also, am I wrong in saying that most people in that area at that time considered themselves Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians or even Turks, since the whole concept of the Macedonian nation was in its infancy? I doubt it. Find me some contemporary sources that argue otherwise and I'd be willing to change my mind.
While you're at it, can you give me a publication date for the first dictionary and grammar of the distinct Macedonian language? Also, please explain how come that many residents of northern Macedonia have distinctly Serbian names, except they've been "Macedonized"? And finally, that whole talk about modern Macedonians being descendants of Alexander's folk? About as plausible as the "bogomil Bosnians" or "Albanians as Illyrians" arguments. Spare me.
Bulgarians and Greeks spend decades denying that Macedonians even exist. As a result, they get to keep the territories gained in the Balkans Wars. Serbs go along with emancipating Macedonians as a nation, and they lose the territories, and get accused of being hostile to Macedonia and Macedonians! Not exactly an argument for tolerance or open-mindedness, is it?
I've told my Macedonian friends before, and I'll say it again: the real danger to your continued existence, let alone prosperity, isn't from the north. The Serbs have accepted Macedonia and Macedonians, and all the questions that I raise here are merely historical nitpicking. An attempt to teach my own people an important lesson, as the case may be. Meanwhile, Bulgarians are issuing dual citizenships, Greeks insist there is no such country, and Albanians are taking the land. And this Serb is one of the few people in the world pointing that out and disagreeing with it.