Unification News for July 1999
Balkan Lessons Part One
The tragic conflict in Kosovo has captured the world’s attention, and divided its people like nothing since the Cold War. The situation is so complicated that few even try to grasp it. Each of the many factions has presented an impassioned case for itself.
In 1991 this author made a two month pioneering journey to Macedonia and Kosovo. At that time the area was so obscure that I’d never even heard of their capital cities, Skopje and Pristina.
Now, even with a peace plan signed, the roots of the conflict remain, and no one expects an easy resolution. America will be involved there for a long time.
In this two-part article I’ll provide as much information as possible. We’ll review the current situation, the various players, their history and claims, and a possible solution for the conflict. Also, its disturbing similarity to certain situations right here in America.
It has been said that "the Balkans generate more history than they can locally consume." World War One is only the most famous of the conflicts to begin there, and the region also played a key role in World War Two. At that time Serbia was a staunch ally of America, but now it’s being cast as the bad guy.
Unfortunately, the region has no shortage of bad guys.
The benighted Kosovo Albanians have few moderate leaders. Their radical faction’s fighting arm, the Kosovo Liberation Army, is a Marxist organization, supported by the terrorist Osama bin Laden. They obtain funds by dealing drugs. Amazingly, NATO spoke of training the KLA to conduct sabotage!
Albania was once Red China’s only client state, and an extremely strict dictatorship. Today it is free, but in chaos, with powerful crime lords operating as they please.
Serbia hosts the region’s only remaining Communist regime. Their strongman, Slobodan Milosevic, preaches a strident brand of nationalism. While there I did not meet a single person who admitted to liking him. Yet, during NATO’s attacks, the Serbs rallied around Milosevic.
Black-masked Serbian paramilitary groups have rampaged out of control. They often battle their Croatian counterparts, forcibly clearing out entire towns. For some reason, their years-long, mutual "ethnic cleansing" has received little publicity.
Newly independent Macedonia, afraid for its very survival, can hardly afford to support its beleaguered neighbors. Even so, it has hosted many thousands of refugees.
NATO, though chartered as a defensive organization, became an international aggressor, issuing stern ultimatums and then unilaterally attacking a much smaller neighbor.
NATO is currently led by a bloc of socialist governments; openly so in England, Spain, France, and Germany; ideologically so in America. These ex-radical politicians have no military experience, and even their Generals are clearly incompetent. In the opinion of this author, by the dictates of the Principle, these leaders (if not their entire nations) have placed themselves "on Satan’s side."
Over the last eight years I have remained involved with the Balkans. I picked up as much of the local languages as I could, and roamed the towns, spending time with regular folks. An account of my visit appeared in the June 1991 UNews.
In 1995 I was asked to write an article for Makadonska Falanga magazine, Macedonia’s premier variety monthly. (It has since closed, due to that country’s severe economic difficulties.)
I wrote about my impressions of that new/old nation, and offered some ideas for its future. It was translated into Macedonian by my spiritual son Robert, who also translated the Divine Principle.
My article quoted Santayana’s famous dictum, "people who forget history are condemned to repeat it." Balkan people have the opposite problem, for they cannot forget or forgive the past, and thus bind themselves to its manifold tragedies.
In April 1999, in response to public interest in Kosovo, I sent a popular California talk show host a long e-mail. I wrote about the situation, and its tangled roots in history. He read the entire message over the air.
The Balkan region has ethnic divisions deeper than most Americans can imagine. Most white Americans, for example, have black friends, and can speak a little Spanish.
In Kosovo it took me about an hour to learn some Shqiperi (Albanian), such as "merdita" for "hello." However, a Slavic friend, born and raised nearby, didn’t even know that much!
Even small divisions get inflated. The common morning-time greeting in Serbia is "dober dan," and in Macedonia it’s "dober den." One time in Skopje I was addressing an old man, and I slipped and said "dober dan." He proceeded to lecture me. In reality the two dialects are closer than New York and Oklahoma English.
Recently I heard a Serbian man claim that "there couldn’t be any rapes occurring in Kosovo," because "a Serbian man wouldn’t touch an Albanian woman with a ten foot pole." In fact, radical Serb and Kosovar leaders both called for ethnically-targeted rapes, as a way of terrorizing their opponents.
The terror isn’t all across ethnic lines. Some Albanian clans maintain deadly "blood feuds," centuries-old quarrels that make the Hatfields and McCoys look like pikers.
Please don’t get the impression that the region is some kind of "human jungle." Ordinarily the inhabitants are polite and soft-spoken; I hardly heard a shout the entire time I was there. There are many Muslims, but it is nothing like the Arab world. They are quite westernized.
The Balkans have an amazingly complicated history, so I’ll try to summarize the parts most relevant to today’s situation.
It is commonly stated that "the current conflict goes back 600 years," to the defeat of the Christian Serbs by the Muslim Turks. In reality, it goes back much further!
Three thousand of years ago the Albanians were known as Illyrians, and they occupied the entire central Balkans. Around 300 BC, next-door ruler Alexander the Great marched out and conquered Empires thousands of miles away. But after giving the Illyrians a military thrashing, he preferred to leave their tribes alone. On maps of that era their land is a blank.
From 229 BC through 9 AD the Romans gradually conquered the Illyrians. They built the famous Via Egnatia, a fortified Rome-Byzantium road, thus pacifying the area.
However, the Romans—or any other ruler, right up until today—never fully subdued the "Gegs," or mountain clans. Near modern Skopje there is a Roman ruin dating to about 400 AD, called Scupi. The Albanian word for the city of Skopje is Scupi.
Rome fell, and the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire took possession the Balkans. Their influence grew and faded (twice), then they too were driven from the region.
Starting around 500 AD, barbarian tribes migrated into the Balkans from the north and east, among them the Slavic Serbs and Turkic Bulgars. The Bulgars then adopted Slavic ways.
Around 880 AD, Saints Cyril and Methodius developed the Cyrillic alphabet, now used in distinctive forms by Russia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and others. (Serbia and Albania use Latin alphabets.)
Their pupil St. Clement founded a University at Lake Ohrid, and his students proceeded to convert the Slavic world to Orthodox Christianity. Which, despite detours into Marxism, etc., still reigns supreme.
During the Middle Ages the Balkans changed ownership countless times, as various nations waxed and waned. Today, these records provide the basis for a welter of competing claims.
The Ottoman Empire, centered in (what is today) Turkey, expanded greatly under Sultan Murad II and his successors. In a famous and decisive battle, they defeated the Serbs at Kosovo Polje, the "Field of Blackbirds," in 1389. Many Albanians fought and died alongside the Serbs. By 1393 the Bulgarians also fell.
The Albanians generally stayed in their mountain fastness. Their greatest hero, Scanderbeg, served the Turkish Sultan with distinction, then returned to the Catholicism of his childhood. After 1450 he rallied his people and held off the Turks for twenty years. Albania calls itself Shqiperi, or "Land of Eagles," after Scanderbeg’s double eagle crest.
During their long rule the Ottomans intermarried with the Albanians, and eventually converted most of them to Islam. (And, to the north, many Bosnians as well.)
Today Albania’s population is a blend of Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Muslim. Many families are mixed, thus Albania has a long-standing reputation for religious tolerance.
Mother Teresa was an ethnic Albanian, born in Skopje. Even during Albania’s Marxist period, they referred to her as "the Great Mother of Albania." I once visited Skopje’s only Roman Catholic church, and our members have aided her missionary center there. Her selfless service to all humanity points the way to a solution for the Balkan crisis.
I’ve tried to be current, but by the time this article reaches you, anything may have happened . . .
Next month we’ll start off with a look at recent Balkan history.
You can read my other relevant articles on my web site.
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