Rivers of blood and … drops of honor
Today it is generally accepted that the disintegration of Yugoslavia, which took place 10 years after the death of Marshal Tito, was directly caused by the impossibility of the coexistence of all federal republics in a single country. Allegedly, all of them together passed a collective “verdict” of a united Yugoslavia. But the experience of a deliberate split of a strong power, tested in the SFRY, was then not accidentally used for the collapse of the USSR.
It is also believed that the “divorce” itself among the Yugoslavs was bloody everywhere. But such dubious postulates are, to put it mildly, hyperbole. Today, few people will remember how Slovenia quietly left the federation, how Macedonia managed to do without violent clashes. In general, the Montenegrins actually sat out in their mountains, although they were terribly pressured from Belgrade, and the beautiful Dubrovnik was burning very close by.
Lazar Moisov. They even listened to him at the UN
Let’s start with the point of view of the Macedonian Lazar Moisov (1920-2011). He was far from the last politician of the last years of Yugoslavia – the Minister of Foreign Affairs and a member of the Presidium of the SFRY from Macedonia, and even de jure President of Yugoslavia – the head of the Presidium of the SFRY in 1987-1988.
Preparing and accelerating the disintegration of the SFRY, under the guise of ostentatious “titoism”, the leading politicians of the republics since the mid-70s, to whom the ideology of the commonality of the Slavic peoples of Yugoslavia was alien. For obvious reasons, the ideology of Yugoslav unity was supported by a Croat, but the creator of post-war Yugoslavia, Marshal Tito. This ideology was adhered to in the Orthodox of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro, but not in the non-confessional Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo.
The politician quite rightly believed that the situation was aggravated by
and the blurring of the centralized functions of the SFRY initiated by Tito as opposed to the maximum centralization in the USSR … These destabilizing factors, due to their gradual stimulation by the West and as the governing prerogatives of Tito and the Protitians weakened in the last 5-6 years of his life, led the country to disintegration. What was also influenced by the transient disintegration of the USSR.
Moisov noted that the really bloody Yugoslavian disintegration was
exactly where the pro-Orthodox ideology of Yugoslav unity was actively rejected: in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. The collapse of the country was accelerated by the huge territory of centrifugal and Western-supported Croatia, which included almost all ports and other communications of a single country.
The position of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro, as well as the close position of Slovenia in favor of Yugoslavian unity, could no longer change the situation. At the same time, years later, the most serious consequences of the collapse of Yugoslavia became characteristic just for the Orthodox of Serbia, the Serbian regions of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. Meanwhile, the notorious Hague Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia immediately took the position of a very dubious anti-Orthodox, anti-Serb and, in general, anti-Yugoslav legal priority.
The Hague Tribunal has become a kind of propaganda brand in the West, and as noted by the famous Russian Balkanist Alexei Dedkov,
Among the accused in The Hague were practically all the military and civilian leadership of the Serbs, including ex-presidents, members of the government, chiefs of staff, senior military leaders, heads of security agencies and special services. But from other nations, the accused were most often soldiers, rarely – officers, and even more so representatives of the highest leadership.
Who has a Macedonian accent
Macedonia was chosen as the stone from which the Yugoslavian masonry was to begin to crumble. At the same time, no one was interested in the fact that Greece opposed the isolation of North Macedonia from the FPRY-SFRY. There, not without reason, they have long feared almost traditional claims to this part of Macedonia on the part of the adherents of the idea of ”Great Bulgaria”. North Macedonia for Athens has always been preferable as part of Yugoslavia than under the control of Sofia.
Already in the early 90s, the Greek Foreign Ministry offered its mediation in resolving the problems of Yugoslavia. There was also an idea to involve the functionaries of the Balkan Pact, a political and economic union of Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey, to resolve the crisis.
However, the “last” Yugoslav authorities were confident in their ability to preserve the federation. In Turkey, however, they did not react at all to the idea of Athens. And the structures of the Balkan Pact, including the main ones – the Council of Prime Ministers and the Council of Foreign Ministers – were by that time only a decoration. They have not gathered together since Tito’s death.
Despite the fact that Greece was a member of NATO and the EU, “any of its authorities, especially the military, were inclined towards nationalist policies,” noted on this occasion the long-term secretary general of the Greek Communist Party Kostas Koliannis. This was facilitated by Greece’s neighborhood not only with non-aligned Yugoslavia, which remained outside NATO, the EU and the Warsaw Pact, but also with Stalin’s Albania.
“King of the Hellenes” was the official title of the kings of Greece, which was a monarchy with a short break until 1974. Characteristically, in connection with nationalist claims, the “black colonels” even probed the ground in Belgrade about Greece joining the Non-Aligned Movement.
Within the framework of this policy, Greece did not object to the proclamation of Macedonia as a federal republic in 1945 as part of Yugoslavia. Before the collapse of Yugoslavia, Athens’ position did not change. But when the ex-Yugoslav republics rushed to the EU, and then to NATO, the Greek authorities began to demand a change in the name of Macedonia, which was opposed by its leadership.
In Greece, as noted by Kiro Gligorov,
for obvious reasons, they did not want not only the disintegration of Yugoslavia, but also that the northern Greek border became controlled by Brussels. Therefore, for a long time there was a mutual political game around the “intransigence” of Greece about the name of Macedonia and Athens’ objections to its participation in the EU and NATO with the former name.
Kiro Gligorov. President of Macedonia who was forced to leave
But, in his opinion, in fact, the West is annoyed by the mention of the former, but united Yugoslavia in the official name of Macedonia: “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” Western politicians
advised us to remove the reminder about ex-Yugoslavia, but to no avail. For a long time, our position played into the hands of Greece.
Trust, but separate
The West initially did not trust independent Macedonia. First of all, because its first president, Kiro Gligorov, actively advocated the confederal reconstruction of the former SFRY, against the NATO bombing of Serbia and the separation of Kosovo from it. Moreover, he stated that
regardless of whether Yugoslavia exists, we are all Yugoslavians. Therefore, we must understand each other and strive for consolidation.
Already in the mid-90s, a series of attempts on Gligorov’s life and unprecedented propaganda harassment began. This stripped him of the presidency at the end of November 1999. But even being retired, Kiro Gligorov did not change his positions, regularly announcing them in local and foreign media.
Macedonia could be separated from NATO and the EU by its close political and economic interaction with Russia, for which both Kiro Gligorov and Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevsky advocated. The latter, during a visit to the Russian Federation (2012), proposed creating a political and economic “chain” Montenegro – Serbia – Macedonia – Russia with the creation of a free trade zone between Macedonia and the Eurasian Union (with Serbia, the EAEU has had such a zone since the early 2000s).
Nikola Gruevsky, pro-Russian prime minister of Macedonia
The energetic prime minister also proposed to implement, with Russian assistance, a unique strategic project back in the mid-70s – the construction of the Danube-Aegean shipping canal. On the route Belgrade – Skopje on the Vardar River – the port of Thessaloniki in the north of Greece, ships of the “river – sea” class could go.
This ambitious project, which can significantly change the economic map of the Balkans, is supported by Serbia today. Gruevsky presented the project to the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the summer of 2012, but Russian business and political circles ignored it.
Gruevsky followed in the footsteps of Slovenian President Milan Kucan and the same Kiro Gligorov, advocating economic cooperation between the countries of ex-Yugoslavia and also putting forward the idea of a renewed Yugoslav confederation. It is interesting that here too Moscow demonstratively remained “neutral”. So it turns out that Russia has lost an important potential ally in the Balkans.
It should be recalled that the very idea of a canal to Thessaloniki is by no means new: even before the First World War, they were worn with it in Vienna, which became one of the incentives for the expansion of Austria-Hungary in the Balkans. Before the next world war, the Italian Duce and the German Fuhrer were seriously interested in the project.
However, Marshal Tito was the first to take it seriously. It was enough for him to persuade only the Greeks. However, the owner of Yugoslavia first announced the project at the talks in Belgrade with the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany E. Mende. Focusing on German industrial potential, the idea was soon supported by the Greek military junta and the international Danube Commission (see How the Danube flows into the North Sea and the Rhine into the Black Sea).
By the way, the project was beneficial for the USSR as well, because it allowed to reduce dependence on the Black Sea straits controlled by Turkey. At the same time, on the one hand, Western assistance in the implementation of such a project would strengthen the political and economic relations of the SFRY with the West, which are already almost allied. But on the other hand, Yugoslavia would come to the fore in South-Eastern Europe and especially in the Balkans. Moreover, in conjunction with the nationalist Greek junta.
Black colonels, forgotten “masters” of Greece
This, of course, could weaken the political partnership with Yugoslavia, long-established by the West, in which the part of the first violin was always played not by Belgrade. Therefore, the West preferred red tape rather than assistance in the construction of such a canal, realizing that Belgrade, together with Athens, could not master such a technologically complex and high-cost project (over $ 7 billion in prices of the mid-70s).
Western promises to facilitate the creation of such a highway were repeated every year, but no more. Meanwhile, J.B. Tito preferred to listen to these promises rather than address Moscow’s requests for the creation of a trans-Balkan channel. The Marshal had no doubt that the assistance of the USSR in this project would only increase the Soviet pressure on the SFRY on foreign policy issues. And it will de facto involve the country in the Warsaw Pact.
The “dream” channel is still a dream
Is it any wonder that, as a result, a promising project remains a project to this day. Only the annual transit revenues of Yugoslavia and Greece along this waterway could amount to 60-80 million dollars in the first three years of the canal’s operation, and in the 4th and 5th years – already 85-110 million dollars. This is an estimate multilateral design team.
Such profits would certainly have allowed Belgrade and Athens not only to settle accounts with investors, but also to prevent the financial bankruptcy of Yugoslavia in front of the West by the end of the 1980s. There is hardly any doubt that it only hastened the disintegration of the SFRY.