Waggishly, I enquired about its price and its popularity among tourists. It was all I could do to get out of the shop with the cardigan. In Serbia, Milosevic is genuinely popular. Elsewhere in the country, he is feared. In Serbia, he has come to symbolise the re-emergent Serbian nation, a nation misunderstood and mistreated over the centuries by the Turks, by the European powers, by its neighbours in Yugoslavia. History lives in Serbia.
Last year saw the th anniversary of the battle of Kosovo Polje when Ottoman Turks routed the knights of the Kingdom of Serbia.
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As many as one million Serbs travelled to the supposedly autonomous Albanian-majority province of Kosovo to mourn the passing of the Serbian Golden Age. The status of the province of Kosovo is the most sensitive issue of all for Serbian nationalists, and it is made worse by the alacrity with which foreigners and fellow Yugoslavs take up the cause of the Albanians. At the end of the Second World War there were almost as many Serbs as Albanians in Kosovo — but a low Serbian birth rate and heavy migration to Serbia proper now means that the province is nearly 90 per cent Albanian.
Every Kosovo Serb has a story of the things done by Albanians to drive the Serbian community out of the province — Orthodox nuns raped, a broken bottle stuck up the anus of a Serbian nationalist. It is the poorest region of Yugoslavia. Pristina, the provincial capital, is filthy; the streets, the pavements swimming in mud, the polluted air stinging the back of your throat.
A city full of hovels and superfluous space-age prestige developments. The design had originally won second prize in a competition to build a new stadium for Baghdad. The only losers were the people of Pristina, who wasted a lot of money and who use it to only a tenth of its capacity. I arrived in Pristina the evening after a screaming crowd of thirty thousand Albanians gathered outside the headquarters of the provincial government to demand the freeing of political prisoners, multi-party elections and the resignation of the local Communist leaders — who they describe as Serbian puppets.
The Albanians of Kosovo are an aggrieved people. They do not hide their anger, or their desire — anathema to a Serbian nationalist — that Kosovo should become the seventh republic of Yugoslavia. I heard little talk of secession; still less of a desire to unite with their brethren across the border in Albania. They are Muslims, but I could not detect the slightest whiff of fundamentalism. There were serious disturbances in , and last year. This time round, the situation is much more dangerous. The stakes had suddenly multiplied. This January, what felt like an uprising began in the towns and villages of Kosovo.
The day always started with demonstrations and stone-throwing, then the Police would respond with tear-gas, rubber bullets and, ultimately, live ammunition.
Glory Days: Yugoslavia's National Airline Through Communism
On the first day of the killings, I drove with an interpreter through a pea-souper to the town of Orahovac near the Albanian border. It was eight in the evening and Orahovac was a ghost town, with just one sign of life — a mad dog yapping at the car and wrestling with its wing-mirrors. At the hospital, a doctor described how three young Albanian men with bullet wounds had been brought in.
They had died before her eyes. They fear police interrogation. We went to the police station, barricaded from the rest of the town by jeeps and armoured personnel-carriers.
The police were frightened, huddled in groups in one large room, talking rapidly and nervously, trying to smile at a foreign journalist. They would tell me nothing. Up the hill — on the way out of Orahovac — I found a billiard room, with four young Albanian boys. They said six, ten, fifteen people had been killed. The police had shot — for no reason, they said — at a passing bus.
It was time to leave. After six days the Army was sent in. Federal leaders were sent to Kosovo on a peace mission and this particular wave of unrest began to ebb. But there will be more. Military containment alone cannot work. But even in the few days I was there I saw the political initiative pass from the more moderate of these leaders into the hands of those less willing to condemn violence.
Meanwhile, the Serbian community in Kosovo, which demanded arms to defend themselves from attacks by Albanians that never transpired, is better-organised and no less unwilling to compromise. In the long term, the federal authorities can do little to solve the Kosovo question. When Tito died, so did the office of President of the Republic. He bequeathed to his country a collective presidency — constructed so as to discourage careerism and unify the nationalities. The effect has been much the opposite, and has denied the country firm government in times of crisis.
The enemies of the Bolsheviks were far more numerous, but they were poorly organized, divided, and ineffective. Relying on these tactical advantages, they succeeded in taking power.
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The next problem was whether they could hold onto power in the face of the successive onslaughts of the Germans, the White armies, and the Allied intervention. The first decision of the Bolsheviks was to sue for peace with the Germans. The terms were harsh, but Lenin argued that there was no alternative except to bow. In the Treaty of Brest— Litovsk March the Bolsheviks temporarily signed away to the Germans a third of their country and more than half of their industry. But the breathing space the treaty was designed to win never materialized. Although German pressure relaxed with the signing of the armistice in November , the Bolsheviks had still to cope with the White armies, the Allied interventionist forces, and a war with Poland.
After three years of civil war, the Whites were defeated, the Allies the United States , Japan, France, and Great Britain withdrew their forces, and the Bolsheviks survived. Coincidentally with the civil war, the Bolsheviks proclaimed a state of siege, and all opposition parties were suppressed one by one. But they left the government in protest against the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and grain confiscations from the peasants, and the Soviet government reverted to its original exclusively communist composition, which it has since retained.
Lenin at the time made no bones about the necessity for dictatorship and suppression of opposition groups. By abolishing freedom for opposition parties, the communists transformed the Soviets, the trade unions, and other forms of mass organization into transmission belts, as they came to be called, for carrying out the will of the monopoly party.
From the one-party state it was only a short step to the establishment of dictatorship within the party. But Lenin had set the master precedent with his ultra-centralist ideas on party organization. In Stalin was appointed general secretary of the party, a post of key importance in controlling party patronage. His recommendations became increasingly decisive in appointments of regional and local party secretaries, who later returned to party congresses as voting delegates. When Lenin became ill in —, the most prominent contender for the succession was Trotsky.
But the man who commanded the party machine was Stalin. He joined with two other party leaders, Grigori E. Zinoviev and Lev B. Kamenev, who held strong positions in the party organization, and together they proved powerful enough to shear Trotsky of a considerable degree of his authority. In that period Stalin was building up his personal machine and soon felt strong enough to dispense with the support of Zinoviev and Kamenev, who moved over in to join Trotsky in forming the so-called Left Opposition.
In order to defeat them, Stalin allied himself with the right wing in the Politburo—Nikolai I. Bukharin, Mikhail P.
Tomski, and Aleksei I. Together, they crushed Trotsky and his new allies in — Not satisfied to share authority, Stalin then turned round in to rid himself of the right wing and ejected Bukharin, Tomski, and Rykov from leading positions in the party. Many of the most faithful of his erstwhile supporters were caught up in the fury of the purges. While the particular form of despotic rule that Stalin developed was no doubt peculiar to him and a reflection of his personality, the desperate desire of both Lenin and Stalin to overcome Russian backwardness reinforced reliance on authoritarian expedients.
When the Bolsheviks seized power, Russia was still a largely peasant country in the early stages of industrialization. Among Bolsheviks, consciousness of Russian backwardness was so strong that many feared it would be impossible to move forward to socialism, or even hold onto power, unless help was provided by successful proletarian revolutions in the advanced industrial nations of the West. After the exhaustion of the civil war and the famine that accompanied and succeeded it, the communists were compelled to beat a retreat, to make concessions to the peasantry, and to permit a partial revival of private trade.
The Last Days of Yugoslavia
During the years of the NEP—the New Economic Policy , which lasted from to —prewar industry was rebuilt, but the regime encountered the greatest difficulty in accumulating the investment funds to finance a further expansion of the industrial sector. Agricultural output grew but so did peasant consumption, and efforts to increase the tax burden on the more well-to-do peasants met formidable resistance. The resulting stalemate was eventually resolved by forcing the peasants into collective farms, which operated essentially as collection agencies to extract grain from the peasantry at low prices.
Thus a large part of the burden of accumulating an industrialization fund was transferred to the countryside.
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Beginning in with the first five-year plan, Stalin launched Russia on a program of forced-draft industrialization. Inherent in the industrialization drive was also a powerful nationalist, or patriotic, ingredient. As the prospects of world revolution dwindled in the s, Russia, the home base of the revolution, became the central preoccupation of the party leadership, and the need to strengthen its defenses and build up its power loomed as a more and more important task.
In the process the legacy of Russian national interests became inextricably intertwined with broader Soviet goals and objectives. Industrial backwardness operated as a barrier both to the assertion of Russian national claims and to the realization of communist revolutionary hopes.
To overcome this barrier was to ensure survival and to open the door to greatness. We must make good the distance in ten years. The speech was to prove prophetic. Exactly ten years later came the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union.
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