Friday, May 15, 2009

The Pirates of Piran

I'm old enough to recall the last Congress of the Yugoslav League of Communists (SKJ), in January 1990. After their demands (to scrap the unified Party structure in favor of more power to the republics) were rejected, the Slovenian delegation walked out. The Croatian delegation joined them. Thus began the collapse of Yugoslavia.

In Slovenia, the Communists re-branded themselves as democrats; the first "democratic" president was the very same Milan Kucan who led the Communist walkout. His Croat colleague, Ivica Racan, was less lucky; he would play second fiddle in Croatia's independence drive to chauvinist Franjo Tudjman. But throughout 1991, Slovenia and Croatia were allies in the fight to assert independence and dismantle Yugoslavia.

So I have to admit a certain sense of schadenfreude when I read about the ongoing border feud between Slovenia and Croatia, which is interfering with Croatia's bid to join the EUSSR. Having disposed of Yugoslavia and either "erased" (Slovenia) or ethnically cleansed (Croatia) their unwanted inhabitants, Zagreb and Ljubljana are now tearing at each other with hatred previously reserved only for the Serbs.

The heart of the dispute is Croatia's assertion of maritime borders that would deny Slovenia access to the open sea in the Bay of Piran. On one hand, it is hard to be sympathetic to Zagreb; Croatia already controls most of the eastern Adriatic, from Istria to Dubrovnik, some 1000km of coastline. Slovenia has about 50km, Bosnia has less (and even that on paper only), and Montenegro has the rest. On the other hand, Slovenia is clearly using its position of EU membership to strong-arm Croatia on the issue.

Not surprisingly, the commissars in Brussels see the entire affair as horribly embarrassing. Not only does it interfere with their plans to annex Croatia, it undermines the whole 1990s narrative of "democratic" Croats and Slovenes fighting together against the evil Serbs.

Personally, I think Slovenia is doing the Croats a favor, albeit unwittingly. If they thought Yugoslavia was "violating their rights," wait till they get a taste of the EUSSR! At least the Croats had a fair bit of power and influence in Belgrade, making the break from Yugoslavia that much easier; breaking away from Brussels will be quite different. And given the whole animosity for the Slovenians, which appears to be mutual, one wonders why they'd want to be in the same polity with each other again. Ah, but logic and EUSSR seldom mix.

Croatia and Slovenia became bedfellows in order to kill off Yugoslavia (which benefited them both enormously, by the way). That marriage of convenience is long over. Yet I find it hard to feel sorry for either.

You wanted "independence"? There you go. Have fun.


M said...

Absolutely right, Gray Falcon. Why feel sorry for either one of them?


Johan said...

For all the indisputable failings of Tito's regime, the many Slovenians living in Italy (Venetian Slovenians, i.e., Beneški Slovenci) and in Austria (Carinthian Slovenes, i.e., Koruški Slovenci) could thank it at least for negotiating modicum protections of their culture and national rights (for example, I know for a fact that Carinthian ones then acquired the full right to their language in the first four grades; etc.). Tito's regime apparently had enough cards in its deck to squeeze concessions from the notorious Germanic and Italian chauvinists.

I do not follow the issue these days, but could bet the things are now back to square one. And one cannot help but speculate that Slovenians may even be starting to have some second thoughts about the murder of those unarmed boys that were sent to shield the border customs crossings some eighteen years ago.

M said...

Honestly, having a casual knowledge of the beast involved, I absolutely don't think most people in Slovenia (unless we're talking about the few Serbs trapped there these days) have ever had any second thoughts or remorse about the killing of the unarmed JNA soldiers at the Holmec border crossing in the summer of 1991 (just one of many terrorist acts!).

Johan said...

My reference to "having second thoughts" was obviously not about any remorse, but a vehicle to bring into focus the fact that the present tiny Slovenian state is powerless, its inhabitants again at the mercy of its chauvinistic neighbors, who had dominated them for a millennium (Heiliges Römisches Reich, Austro-Hungary, etc.). The Slovenes must be aware of that, all their EU, NATO and other crap "memberships" notwithstanding. Neither nostalgia nor guilt, merely the reality setting in.

(BTW, the Slovenes of the early XX century Austro-Hungary were indeed looking up to Serbs, incomparably more than any Croats ever had (despite the latter's originating the Yugoslav idea), with great warmth and hope of salvation. And no, I do not think that particular sentiment will return.)

Michael Averko said...

Of possible interest:

At Wiki and using its search engine, look up a pre-WW II Russian org. by the initials of NTS. This org. was formed in Belgrade between WW I and II by Russian emigres. It included some Slovenes. I also understand that some Slovenes were allied with the WW II era Chetniks.

I've seen where it has been said that some Croats have referred to Slovenes as "mountain Croats."

I seem to recall Croats and Slovenes bickering among themselves for a stated lack of support each gave during their respective wars of the last decade.