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I've had to stop going to the bar with the Croatian bartender, and my Croatian barber, to avoid hearing how the fault all belongs to the Serbs. I got tired of hearing a one-sided litany of long stored grievances. Nothing could be that one sided.

So I began a little research project, reading about the history of the region going way back.

Why do the Russians support the Serbs was one of the questions. Easy answer. The Serbs walked out of Russia a thousand years ago; someplace called the P_____ Marsh area, I forget the word. It wasn't much of a place and they lived there because they were surrounded by hostiles. Scratch a Serb and I guess you find a Russian. Slavs. An ethnic identity to the core.

The Serbs and the Croats come from the same ethnic stock. Outsiders call their language(s) Serbo-Croatian. Don't say that to a Croat or you'll get into a fight. They pretend not to understand each other.

When they split into two rival camps, I seem to recall it had to do with dividing loyalties during the breakup of the Roman Empire. Some of the greatest "Roman" generals were from Illyria, the present day Balkans. Think Gen. Vespasian, later Emperor Vesp. was such. Ditto Constantine or his father, I forget which.

These Slavs who came south out of Russia were later called the South Slavs, which is what Yugo Slav means, south Slav.

They split into rival camps along religious lines, supporting their patrons and adopting strong elements of the dominant culture they were subordinate to, at the time. Examples were that the Serbs adopted the Orthodox Christian rite, as in Greek, Russian, Serbian Orthodox after the breakup of the Christian church, sometimes called the Catholic Church (this is way before Luther's Protestant Revolution). Orthodox rite was headquartered in Constantinople, today's Istanbul, an arrow-flight from the Balkans. Catholicism hq'd in Rome. Latins hated Greeks. Spoke different languages. Fought over doctrinal differences. Used different alphabets, Roman and Cyrillic, just as today. People in Yugoslavia identify themselves, on trains, say, by what book or newspaper they read. If Cyrilic, you're likely a Serb. The Croats went Catholic. They are more Catholic than the Pope. They read the paper with the Roman letters.

The children who claim to have seen the Virgin at Medugorje were Croatian. The Church tried to disavow the apparition without success, and the location became a shrine for pilgrimages. The kids' parents were part of a community that their enemies during WWII marched off a cliff. Disturbed kids will persuade themselves they see the damnedest things, and predisposed adults will believe them.


When the Turks conquered Constantinople, changing the name to Istanbul, they kidnaped blue-eyed Slavic children and raised them in barracks to be loyal warriors to the Sultan, who ruled the Balkans and eventually invaded Europe. Think they got as far as Vienna. Big contest between Christians and Islamics: Turks, Moors, etc.

The Turks forced many residents of the Balkans to "turn Turk," i.e. submit to Islam, if they wanted to keep their land, and to live, basicly. Hence the third explosive component of the Balkan powderkeg. "Ethnic Albanians" they're called. Also Bosnians in the neighboring country, formerly province, to the north.

It's possible for all three to live side-by-side peacefully, provided there's a sufficiently strong power sitting on the lid. This is what Tito was trying to do, with some success. When he went, the lid blew off and the pot boiled over.

Serbs and Croatians don't like Muslim Albanians, Bosnians and others. Regard them as traitors who succumbed for profit while they didn't and suffered for their loyalty to their race, religion, ets. These feelings go so deep they are indistinguishable from the person.

In fact the way these folks identify themselves isn't just by who they thing they are, but by who they know they are against. I'm Serb because I'm not Croat or Albanian, in other words. Very serious business of personal and group identity. No way to get rid of this by force that I'm aware of.

Which brings us to the question of Kosovo, which is largely Muslim. Serbs say it is an integral part of the land of Serbia. In their minds it is. We don't seem to care. Here's why it's important to them.

In the mid-14th Century the Serbs rebelled against their political masters; I forget who this was, might have been before the Turks or might have been them. At any rate, the Serbian general was less than fully competent and he lost the big battle for Kosovo. Place called Polje, or black crows or ravens. Kosovo Polje becomes a place of religious significance to Serbs. Have prayed for the return of Kosovo ever since. It's "Remember the Maine," "Remember the Alamo," and "the South Will Rise Again," all rolled up into one, as someone remarked.

So now the "Kosovars," whom the Serbs regard the same way the Israeli's regard the south Lebanon Hezbolla Palestinians, i.e. "terrorists," start rebelling, seeking their freedom from he hated Serbs. The Serbs fight back. Civil war. Ethnic cleansing. Genocide. Rape, pillage, and burn. Business as usual in the Balkans.

Which brings us to us.

We saw the genocide of WWII, fifty years ago. We got into that war but good. Ditto WWI, a generation before that, when Europe was bled white.

Clinton says not again. If the leaders then acted smarter and sooner, maybe that all wouldn't have happened. Makes sense to me. If a band of brigands is raping and murdering the folks in the next village or house, I think I want someone to do something to put a stop to it, even if it means raising the proverbial posse. That's what I think is going on with the air-strikes and I support it. I mentioned sometime ago that I admired Clinton. I do when he acts as president, not when he acts like jerk. Right now he's acting like president. So I think the support is deserved. Just keep your eye on him at all times, that's all.

Hope this helps.

-rs



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