Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
The people in this region have been fighting one another for 1000 years. Why?

Explanations about differences in religion or language are not an explanation, only a description. During most of this period the quality of life of the various factions wasn't appreciably different, the resource availability was similar and the chances for expanding land holdings limited.

Not only have these groups been in a near constant state of antagonism, but they have managed to drag in neighboring states and even more distant ones time and again.

Let's assume that in the last cycle of violence the US was really motivated by humanitarian impulses. This is seen as an exception, so what did Austria or Turkey or Germany or Hungary get out of involvement in earlier conflicts? The small amount of territory and a fractious population doesn't seem much of a reason to get involved.

Attributing intervention to nationalist pride is just giving irrational behavior a label. The world is perfectly capable of doing nothing when the Tutsi and Hutu murder each other (happening again this week in Congo) so what's so different about the Balkans?

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 11:03:00 AM EST
Stavrianos' History of the Balkans Since 1450 paints a different picture than the one you give as to constant fighting in the region.

There is only one area that saw a lot of fighting, and that is in the Krajina in Croatia. That's also the area between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Serbs were actually recruited to that area as a bulwark against the Ottomans. But the Bulgars, Albanians and Serbs were firmly entrenched inside the Empire, and for hundreds of years, there was no fighting. The 19th century saw the first independence movements in the region, and there was a great deal of fighting then, but it was against the Ottoman Empire.

I would subscribe to your point of view for the 20th century, especially the first two decades.

Afterward, the Balkans were swept up in Axis-Ally intrigues with Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Bulgaria, lining up with the Nazis and the Serbs and Greeks lining up with the Allies.

After the war, nothing happened until the 1990s.

As to the geostrategic importance of the region, it used to related solely to the Danube, and the fact that this river was key for trade. But now with oil and gas pipelines stretching from the Caspian to the Black Sea and the Adriatic, the region has become important for other reasons.

by Upstate NY on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 11:48:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See this from Wikipedia:

The fact that the place resonates with the population to this day shows that 700 year old animosities lie just below the surface. To hold a grudge for 700 years means that something is going on, even if the level of violence is suppressed by the rulers.

Yugoslavia was a "success" because Tito kept on lid on things, not because he fixed them. Once the top of the pressure cooker was removed, boom!

I remain puzzled.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 12:01:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know all about that. But it's not a grudge. It's their commemorative history. The USA has the same exact thing. The Turks do. So do the Greeks. So do many peaceful countries. The US has Bunker Hill, to give just one example.

I would contest this idea of a pressure cooker being removed causing the mayhem. It was not that which caused it. It was the division of land/property without any regard for a fair division among all ethnic groups. That's what caused it.

by Upstate NY on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 12:08:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"... has become important for other reasons."

Are you refering to the land grab for the Serb Trepca mine complex North of Mitrovica, which is estimated to be worth over $5 Trillion dollars with one of the largest coal reserves in Europe?

by vladimir on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 01:42:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Erratum: that's US$ 5 billion.
by vladimir on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 02:06:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Coal reserves are good...

...for those who still use coal.

Other reasons: oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian into Europe.

by Upstate NY on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 02:30:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.eoearth.org/upload/thumb/9/97/Balkan_oiltransprojects.JPG/350px-Balkan_oiltransprojects.J PG

Unless you have better maps, I must admit that I don't quite get it.
Russian influence in SE Europe & the Adriatic seems more plausible to me as a cause for concern - even in the 90s, when Russia was in decay.
Empires come & go & come & go.

by vladimir on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 05:58:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Occasional Series