Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy Birthday, Republika Srpska!


Republika Srpska celebrates its birthday and the patron saint day on January 9. 
Twenty years ago, on Saint Stephen's feast day, the Assembly of Serb People of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared the Serb-dominated regions of Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina independent of the designs of the Republic's non-Serb leadership to secede from Yugoslavia. Bosnian Serbs created a separate entity, Republic of Serb People of Bosnia and Herzegovina, later to be renamed Republika Srpska, and decided it was to remain a part of Yugoslavia. This move was a response to "Memorandum on Sovereignty" adopted by Bosnian Parliament in spite of the Bosnian Serb deputies' opposition
Alarmed by the warmongering rhetoric of Bosnia's Islamist leadership, Bosnian Serbs, led by Radovan Karadzic, moved to organize and protect themselves against the possibilities of Muslim domination, forceful removal or genocide they faced in the World War II at the hands of Croatian fascists and Muslim Nazi collaborators. Alija Izetbegovic, Muslim president of Bosnia and Herzegovina was known for his Islamic fundamentalist views and calls for a creation of an Islamic society and an Islamic state in Bosnia. In the bloody war that ensued, Srpska consolidated its territory against the Muslim-Croat alliance during 1992-1993, but was forced to accede some of it towards the end of the war after it was attacked by NATO forces and the regular army of the Republic of Croatia. The peace signed in Dayton, Ohio, on November 21, 1995, left Srpska with 49 percent of territory of Bosnia, but recognized it as a separate and equal entity within the reformed Bosnian state.
This outcome fell short of the Bosnian Serb ambition to remain part of Yugoslavia, but considering the military odds Srpska faced in 1994 and 1995, its very survival and international recognition was a victory of sorts. The Dayton-established political order ensured not only the survival of Srpska, but the continued political existence and relevance of Serbian people west of Drina. Srpska managed to avoid the fate of its sister state of Serb Republic of Krajina, which was militarily overrun and ethnically cleansed by Croatia in 1995.
Although its Dayton-guaranteed statehood experienced partial attrition via openly anti-Serb policies of the Office of High Representative, which forced Srpska leadership to give up several key jurisdictions, Srpska still functions as an entity autonomous from Sarajevo's dysfunctional central government. Bosniac ruling establishment, both secular and religious, have persisted in calling for the abolition of Srpska, accusing it of being a "genocidal" creation, although Srpska was created before the war broke out and the claims of a genocide have not been substantiated by evidence. Srpska's leadership have responded with threats of a self-determination referendum and a secession from Bosnia. President Milorad Dodik have been openly defying Sarajevo's ambition to subdue Srpska and centralize the state under Muslim domination. He has claimed that 98 percent of Srpska's population are in favor of a secession. 
Regardless of the political gamesmanship and bickering, the irreconcilable political differences between Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Muslims dominate Bosnia's internal affairs and threaten to break the country up. Only the presence of foreign political and military factors prevent a steep decline into instability.
Republika Srpska continued to mark St. Stephen as its Statehood Day after its inclusion in the Dayton-reformed Bosnian state in 1995. 


Gray Falcon said...

Nice writeup (and a very good blog, by the way).
One little objection: the area on which the Serb Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina (the "of Bosnia-Herzegovina" part was later dropped, so I supposed the proper English translation of Srpska would be the "Serb Republic") was not "Serb-dominated" (which is an ugly, propaganda term) but rather "inhabited by Serbs" or "Serb-majority." Either is appropriate. "Dominated" is not.

Srbo said...

Thanks for the praise, it means a lot coming from the Gray Falcon.
When it comes to the difference between "dominated" and "inhabited," there is a couple of perspectives I had to consider. The original Srpska (the four SAOs) covered some towns where Serbs didn't necessarily live in majority, but did dominate due to the population distribution patterns, e.g. Bijeljina. Also, it excluded areas where majority of Bosnian Serbs lived, but didn't make up the majority of population (Sarajevo, Tuzla). Except for Banja Luka, cities where majority of Serbs lived weren't included in the SAOs. I can live with "inhabited," but "dominated" is the most precise and I don't think a negative connotation is warranted because it was indeed a matter of physically dominating an area versus inhabiting in large numbers but not physically dominating. Most Serbs were left outside the original Republic of the Serb People of Bosnia and Herzegovina at its founding.
I am all for calling it the Serb Republic, but the official term as used in English is Republika Srpska, however awkward and inadequate it sounds. An alternative is Republic of Srpska, which is downright ridiculous. The Serb Republic is the most fitting translation and it's up to us to use it, I guess, and make it official. If anyone asked me in 1992, I'd just "drain" Drina and name the new state West Serbia. The nominal geographical disunity of Serbdom is one of the underlying factors of its dysfunctional political nature.

Gray Falcon said...

While I accept your explanation, I still think "dominated" is a term with seriously negative connotations. Notice how it is always used in a negative fashion, and only when referring to the Serbs; when it comes to others, territories are "majority this" or "inhabited by that". Though we may mean "predominantly" when we say it, "dominated" invokes South African Apartheid. That is why I urge people to avoid it.

As for "Српска", since is the linguistic analog of "Чешка", it would make sense to call it "Serb Republic" in English.

One thing I've learned about terminology is that it's very flexible - and it's better to craft it yourself than accept your enemies'.

Srbo said...

The anti-Serb bias made a lot of otherwise acceptable terms undesirable in the context of objectively and precisely describing events that transpired. From that perspective, "dominated" is seen as negative. Now, the question is to what degree do we want to succumb to having our language manipulated. Is it the victim vs. the oppressor thing and how much can we do to change that relationship as established for the Bosnian dynamics in the Western media?

Nikolaj said...

I'd say there is nothing wrong with the term 'dominated'. The word 'dominated' does have negative connotations, but only to those with a certain mindset. For people who value things such as honor, or pride, strength, power or victory or determination, and so on, using the term 'dominated', in the sense that Serbs dominate over a certain land area, would sound pleasing. But to people who are turned off by the qualities I mentioned, they would see the term 'dominated' as ugly. That mindset is perhaps more 'soft'. They would value things more along the lines of tolerance, meekness, mercy, equality and being 'nice' to others, humility, etc. I find that people/cultures which embrace those things also tend to be more guilt-ridden and more easily fooled. I think the first set of qualities are superior to the second (though they don't need to be mutually exclusive. I polarized them on purpose to make a point).

But I can see why, at least to Western ears, the term 'Serb dominated' can sound bad. On the other hand, since that land is actually Serbian land, Serbs have every right to dominate it as much as they want. If Serbs embraced 'stronger' terminology, like 'dominated', rather than more meek 'inhabited/populated', it could give them more cultural and moral confidence, something they really need at the moment.
If Serbs are afraid of using powerful language, this can make them more hesitant to be assertive in other fields. Language does shape the way we see the world.
But for Western ears, we should pander to their terminological taste. The Arabs are very good at that. They say one thing to a Western audience, and then release a storm of Arabic terminological frenzy to their native brethren. I find that Serbs are very bad at presenting things to Western audiences in a way that appeals to them. Serbs seem to either be too forward, and come across as some sort of hardline nationalist (when usually they aren't), or they attempt to be 'softer' and in the end fool themselves into believing their own rubbish.

Anonymous said...

The only proper future for the entire entity of Bosnia Herzegovina is to recognise that, regardless of location and without putting blame on any one ethnic group, it is a failed state. Upon accepting that, Bosnia Herzegovina should reunite with Serbia and Kosovo in a New Yugoslavia which remains cantonised but which should provide a more stable umbrella to prevent a recurrence of either the horrors of the 1990 or those of the vile Independent State of Croatia.

Anonymous said...

RS is genocide part of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Human thinking would newer give any right to someone who torture, reaping and kill for no reason.
For Serbs(some of) I mean Bosnian Orthodox -radicals Birth of RS is just cover for making Big Serbia,
unfortunately they dint finish what they start, and the have to know that what they did is wrong and is gone fallow them to the end of RS.
Peace For innocent people of Bosnia.