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May 14, 2011
By Marcus Papadopoulos | In a rare and exclusive inter view, the former Bosnian Serb leader Dr Radovan Karadzic spoke to Marcus Papadopoulos from Politics First about the twentieth anniversary of Yugoslavia’s implosion offering his version of events leading up to and during the war in Bosnia.’
Twenty years ago, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia imploded heralding the start of a succession of civil wars between the patchworks of peoples that made-up the country. The Bosnian conflict, the bloodiest and most brutal of all the Yugoslav civil wars, lasting from 1992-1995, was blamed by Western governments and Western media on the Serbs, who were accused of trying to carve out a “greater Serbia” from the territory of Yugoslavia. Indeed, throughout the duration of the war the Bosnian Serb leadership and the Bosnian Serb people, who constituted a third of the region’s population at the beginning of 1992, having first settled on these lands in the seventh century, were completely derided by Western commentators and, as a result, the Serb version of events was ignored.
But there are always two sides to a story. Lord Carrington, the former chairman of the peace conference on Yugoslavia, said that the actions of the American, German and certain other European governments “made it sure there was going to be a conflict” in that region. And Lewis MacKenzie, the former United Nations protection force general in the former Yugoslavia and commander of the Sarajevo sector, commented that: “Those of us who served as UN commanders in Bosnia realized the majority of the media reports were biased, to say the least. Whenever we tried to set the record straight we were – and continue to be – accused of being ‘Serbian agents’.”Dr Radovan Karadzic was the leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the war. Currently on trial at The Hague for war crimes, Dr Karadzic’s version of events as to why Bosnia descended into civil war and what happened during the course of the fighting has rarely been heard in the West. In fact, it has rarely been told at all.
In the year which marks the twentieth anniversary of Yugoslavia’s break-up, Dr Karadzic spoke to Politics First and offered the Serb perspective on the origins and events of the Bosnian war and how Western media reported the fighting.
Origins of the Bosnian civil war
Some commentators have argued that the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was always going to collapse once Tito had died. What are your thoughts on this?
Yugoslavia should not have been founded in the first place, but once it was founded it should not have been dissolved in the way it was. It had no real chance from the beginning, as it was a new nation of different tribes, with different history, different occupiers- Austria-Hungary and Turkey-and different religions. It was formed by the “entente powers”-France and Britain- to take Croatia and Slovenia out of German influence.
In 1941, Yugoslavia dissolved in blood because Germany was on the scene. It happened again in the 1990s. From the beginning, the centrifugal powers were as strong as the centripetal powers.
How did you feel when the SFRY began to disintegrate in 1991?
The communist party [of Yugoslavia] took the position even in the late 1920s that Yugoslavia should be dissolved and the Communist International inherited this attitude. The Yugoslavian communists secretly decided to dissolve Yugoslavia in the early 1960s, but this could not be achieved in a one party, one army system. Once a kind of democracy was introduced, antagonisms appeared in full strength.
When did you first begin to think that a civil war could engulf Bosnia?
Although Western analysts envisaged it decades prior to the event, I did everything I could to avoid a civil war. Once the war broke out in Croatia, we became aware that war could break out in Bosnia and that it would be much bloodier. That’s why we were willing to make the concession that Bosnia could leave Yugoslavia provided we had in Bosnia what Bosnia had in Yugoslavia, as the European Community had proposed.
What drove you into politics?
I had been involved in politics since the 1968 student movement. Although I was suspected by the secret police, I did not remain active because my profession demanded long hours. However, when the decision was taken to form a democratic political party, I could not resist being involved.
How did you respond to the actions by the Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic from late 1990 onwards?
At the beginning, Izetbegovic was very cooperative. He was for a reasonable federation and was, in fact, the first to mention the division of Bosnia into three interdependent or even independent states. However, he came under the influence of those who wanted to dominate Bosnia and this was the cause of the war. Izetbegovic was more interested in imposing the Islamic way of life in the Muslim community than in dominating Bosnia. He was, nonetheless, influenced by his own circle of extremists, some Islamic regimes and some Western countries seeking the domination of all of Bosnia.