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Toothless Serb syndrome

Mark Mardell | 11:06 UK time, Monday, 25 February 2008

What started as my response to just one of the comments to my various postings on Kosovo has developed into something longer, so I’ve put it here rather than underneath the comments.
Ethnic Serbs in Mitrovica (L) and ethnic Albanians in Pristina
Dan Mattei complains that I have selected only pictures of Serbs who are “ugly, unshaven and had no teeth” in contrast to the photos of “young and beautiful” Albanians.

There are three pictures on the page. One is a crowd scene from too great a distance to make any judgement. One is of an old man with both a cigarette and a tooth pick in his mouth.

It’s true he has a moustache, but to my mind he has a noble, rather handsome look.
Ethnic Serbian protester in Mitrovica
Then there is a picture of Gojko Raicvic whom I approached because he was draped in a flag and whose interview I found especially interesting as he is a British citizen.

As far as I remember he was clean-shaven and, as far as I can see, has a full set of teeth. The other chap’s mouth is closed, but there is no reason to think has no teeth.

Beautiful Albanians on the previous posts? Well, it is in the eye of the beholder and I don’t want to insult the bearded gentleman featured on the “mosh pit” post but I doubt that he would be a model agency’s first choice.

Most of the pictures are of crowd scenes but I have to admit there is one of a rather cute little girl. Sorry to be rather long-winded but my point is that Dan believes I and the BBC are biased and so sees something that is not there. As long as it supports a feeling of unfairness and persecution, the reality does not matter.

Sense of victimhood

Many in the West who deal with Serbia see what I shall call “the toothless Serb syndrome” as part of the country’s problem. A sense of victimhood that ignores the facts.

Many argue that much of this is the fault of Serb politicians: they have not admitted that wrong was done in the past and have not prepared people for the loss of Kosovo.

Some might argue that it’s a bit like saying that Winston Churchill didn’t prepare the British people for defeat in World War II.

Still, it’s hard to see, whatever the moral or legal case, how in practical terms Kosovo will ever be, in practical terms, sovereign Serbian territory, or what diplomatic or other measure politicians would pursue to further this aim. The West assumes, somehow, Serbia will come round.

Part of the reason this will be so hard is not simply because many Serbs see Kosovo as an important part of Serbia, but because the meaning of Kosovo is that of loss.

In the nineteenth century, in many different parts of Europe, people singled out a glorious military victory of the past and hung upon its structure the meaning of their nationalism. But for Serbs it was a battle lost.

The defeat at the hands of the Ottomans in 1389 (although several historians claim it was more of a standoff and a more decisive battle had occurred some 30 years earlier) allowed the Serbs to see themselves as beaten but unbowed, victims of betrayal and lack of faith.

This interpretation was strengthened by the recapture in the early twentieth century of Kosovo and its subsequent loss. It is their Grail.

Crown of thorns

There is a striking use of Christian imagery. Kosovo is a “a crown of thorns” or “Serbia’s Golgotha”. As Christ suffered for mankind, Serbia suffered for Christian Europe.

Kosovo is a sacred dream, fleetingly possessed only to gather more weight of meaning each time it is lost; feelings of betrayal and sacrifice stressed by nationalist politicians each time it is snatched away again.

Regained in 1912 lost by 1916. Regained again in 1918. Quasi-independent under Tito, re-claimed for the Serbs by Milosevic. Now lost again.

As the old T-shirt slogan goes: “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” Whatever the national myth of loss, Western governments legal justifications for independence do seem like a slight of hand, and inspire as much confidence as a three-card trick.

When pressed, diplomats argue: “The Serbs have forfeited the moral right to rule Kosovo.”

This is the real argument, but one thing about it worries me. Who exactly are the Serbs who have morally forfeited the right to rule Kosovo?

Those involved in the Milosevic government? Those who supported him and his policies? What about those like Boris Tadic who opposed him?

It is not surprising Serbs feel sore if they are to be ever tarred with the actions of a government that got its come-uppance a decade ago.

'Get over it'

But many of those who deal with Serbia are impatient. While their words would be a lot more erudite they amount to: “Get over it!”.

One diplomat surprised me with his comparison. He said the Serbian President Boris Tadic is in a similar position to that of the government of the Irish Republic during much of the twentieth century: that Northern Ireland was an intrinsic part of the Republic, was part of the constitution, and to some a holy cause.

But Irish Governments restrained their hand so they didn’t do anything much practical to further this cause, and very gradually, as the mood changed, finally abandoned the claims.

It’s not a comparison that would have occurred to me: the minority in the north, the Catholics, had never been in a position of dominating the province with military might and administrative power.

But it’s striking that a number of top Brits in Kosovo have, accidentally or not, got Northern Irish experience.

The head of planning of the EU mission, Roy Reeve, as well as being our man in Kiev in the past and having a senior position in the international community in Georgia, was Jim Prior’s special adviser when the Hillsborough agreement was being negotiated. And Paul Acda who will be head of Kosovo customs was head of customs in Northern Ireland at one time.

Of course the Republic gave up its claim without any suggestion it was illegitimate, and only in return for some say over the affairs of Northern Ireland, and a very real change in the treatment of the Catholics there. Some would want Serbia to go very much further.

Carla del Ponte

My colleague, the Economist's Charlemagne, has kindly supplied me with the link to a speech by Carla del Ponte in which she sets out why Serbia (and other countries) have to comply with the international war crimes tribunal before they can enter the European Union.
Former Yugoslavia war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte

The argument goes like this:

The EU was built not just on reconciliation after World War II but specifically on German remorse. If the majority of Serbs do not feel remorse for their country’s actions in the Balkans War, it would undermine the ethos central to the European Union.

And at the moment, the claims of back-stabbing by politicians and unfair behaviour by victorious powers, and the toothless Serb syndrome itself are more reminiscent of post-World War I Germany, with all that ominously implies.

When I press diplomats about these apparently dismal prospects for Serbia’s future within the EU, they tend to point out that we are talking about something 20 years in the future.

It is exactly the same thing they say when you talk about the objections to Turkish membership. Which does nothing to suggest how Serbia will come to be a beloved member of the European community.

Perhaps Serbia and Turkey should enter the EU at exactly the same moment. And as a true gesture of reconciliation, a grand ceremony should be held on Kosovo Pole, the site of that battle of 1389.

And whatever pictures are beamed into his home in Toronto, Dan, watching the ceremony on the BBC, will see only the happy and toothy grins of the well-shaven and good-looking Serbs.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 11:44 AM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • John Lancaster wrote:

It was the Kosovo Serbs that gave Milosovic the excuse to begin his campaign of Serbian domination of the Balkans that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia. Most Serbs are happy to see the back of them and are far more concerned about he historic symbolism of Kosovo, and especially its roles as the centre of the Serbian Orthodox church. The Kosovo Serbs see themselves as victims and consider reprisals against the EU and NATO as justified, because they are begining to realise that they have been abandoned and have nothing more to lose. Blegrade's rhetoric is toothless, and the area has no real strategic importance either to Moscow or the West, other than asserting Russia's posture. However, it is a very explosive situation, and one which the EU especially is ill-equiped to resolve.

  • 2.
  • At 11:48 AM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

"Dan Mattei complains that I have selected only pictures of Serbs who are “ugly, unshaven and had no teeth” in contrast to the photos of “young and beautiful” Albanians."

They're lucky you didn't select their "Portrait of Dorian Gray." If you had, the image would have been too ugly and frightening to publish on the internet without a disclaimer warning off children and the weak of heart.

  • 3.
  • At 12:03 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Saidur Rahman wrote:

Finally a well thought out article amongst all the reactionary posts that circulate this topic. Also a glorious return to form to the reasoned posts I was used to when this was a weekly diary. Please more like this or better yet go back to the diary. Pretty please.

  • 4.
  • At 12:24 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • c k wrote:

shame on th western world as yugoslavs were so important in the crack down of nazism, what they get in return is bitterness and a break down of their country.

  • 5.
  • At 12:27 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Natalija wrote:

I really cannot grasp why you spend so much time analyzing 'the Serbian syndrome'. Why don't you put some stress on the Albanian story of the genocide? Where is the evidence of this? Try and find out how many Albanians lived in Kosovo before 1999 and compare the number to current two million. Where is the result of the so-called genocide? Then maybe you should inform yourself how many Serbs were killed in various wars (WWI, WWII) in the last century or so, and then you will understand why this nation is so persistant regarding their 'suffering', as you call it. Also it is a sheer scandal to equalize the position of Serbia and Kosovo on their path towards the EU. Years will have passed until these two communities can be compared on any ascpect of civilisation.

  • 6.
  • At 12:39 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Jono wrote:

I think the Kosovo issue is one that is by no means black and white and I believe it is often portrayed as being so in the West. As if the previous actions of a former Serbian government somehow give authority to a declaration of independence. This is wrong and Mark I think you touched on an interesting point there with the reference to Serbia's attitude resembling that of a post-First World War Germany. But why did the Germans hold this attitude? Perhaps it was due to the Treaty of Versailles that ceded much of its territory to neighbours, those whom had won the war. Indeed one area was even supervised by the then 'League of Nations', now UN (sound familiar?). The difference in treatment towards Germany at the end of the Second World War was that a great deal of effort was put into rebuilding it and not into punishing it with humiliating treaties.

I think that to give Kosovo independence without first having had the chance to run their own affairs and re-build their economy was a mistake. Montenegro was a good example Kosovo could easily have followed. Existence whilst part of a loose union with Serbia that could eventually be reviewed in time with a referendum. I think it's obvious people will support independence whilst Kosovo is under a UN mandate and the economy (and quality of life) is in such a state. But would this still be the case had they been autonomous within Serbia for a reasonable period of time? Had the economy been improved and life somewhat normalised?

Furthermore the way in which independence has been achieved has not led to 'stability' that is so needed in the Balkans but has increased instability. The international community has used independence as a quick fix when it is far from. Republika Srpska is now arguing for the right to leave Bosnia, Romanians are worried about their Hungarian minorities, the Montenegrins and Macedonians are worried about the Albanian minority in their own countries and the potential dreams of a 'Greater Albania'. By seeking to define a country by ethnicity (is this not outdated in the 21st Century) the international community has not only created instability in Serbia and the Balkans but in Europe as a whole. A Europe where several different people groups occupy the same state in co-existence. Kosovo is a precedent that gives authority to the minorities who would want to challenge this co-existence and seek countries based on the ethnicity of populations alone.

  • 7.
  • At 12:40 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • john wrote:

I don’t really think the situation of Kosovo can be compared to Northern Ireland. Despite the firm lines used by cartographers there are hundreds of boarder disputes in the world and a number within Europe but only a few involving the issue of recognising a state which others recognise. The similar ones would be Israel not recognised by a few countries and Taiwan recognised only by a few.

The effectiveness of non recognision is a power issue the arab boycott of Israel is only slightly effective, the Chinese have been very successful in blocking Taiwan in most forums. Serbia and more especially Russia can block Kosovo’s joining a lot of organisations (and even such bodies as UEFA have rules prohibit non UN members basically designed to keep Gibraltar out)and refuse to recognise documents it issues.

What has been missing from the entire debate what conditions must be met for British recognition of a break away state.

As an aside one of the EU principles in dealings with taiwan is according to" principles in dealing with Tiawan is “Opposition to any measure which would amount to a unilateral change of the status quo”

Presumably, the use of any kind of force to impose one's moral principles upon those who do not share the imposed viewpoint will always lead to feelings of injustice which are likely to fuel the next conflict....

Perhaps the rule of (international) law would be better -provided one can establish a set of laws that are fair to all -and are fairly and honestly imposed without fear or favour....

I guess, the idea that those in power will give up that power in the name of peace and equity has generally proven to be a forlorn hope..... and so the cycle of suffering continues....

  • 9.
  • At 01:12 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Frank wrote:


I'm delighted to see that you not only read the comments to your blog, but indeed respond.

As an Irishman living in Belgrade the comparison to Ireland is a natural one for me, though I'm surprised at the one offered here. Indeed I find it depressing to compare the republics acceptance of the reality in the north and Kosovo because in the case of Ireland it took almost 80 years from the creation of the republic for that to happen.

The comparison I draw is that of what can be achieved through negotiation. The world had long resigned itself to the status quo in the north, and yet a dedicated effort by 2 British governments and 1 Irish resulted in a multilateral agreement accepted by all.

By comparison 3 years of serious negotiations on Kosovo seems remarkably impatient, an expectation that Serbia should get over it's partitioning after less than 8 days extraordinary. Serbia has for too long been failed by it's own politicians, it is now also being failed by the International Community who have so conspicuously failed to show the leadership the British latterly showed in Ireland.

Well said Mark. Whilst I don't doubt some news agencies can be biased, your reporting of the Kosovo crisis and their subsequent declaration of independence has seemed to me to be fair and representative of all sides.

Kosovo becoming independent has not been a two sided affair, ie Albanians vs Serbs, the international community in particular the EU are very much involved as well, and whilst the loss of Kosovo is painful to the Serb people, the fact is that the EU cannot idly stand back and watch while hardliners ruin the hard won peace now prevailing in the Balkans. Those people who see the BBC taking sides in this issue are only looking at the narrow picture, Serbs losing out, and not thinking of the bigger picture, long term stability and peace within Europe of which Kosovo is a part.

  • 11.
  • At 01:53 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • angela wrote:

I feel it was and is the extreme thirst for nationalism and the attitudes of Serbs that they are a superior race is what got them where they are today. Had they given all their citizens equal human rights, Kosovo would today be part of Serbia. They need to understand, you cannot suppress an entire people. See it in their blogs and protests all they do is "SLANDER SLANDER". No MOre!

  • 12.
  • At 02:00 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Konstantin wrote:

Dear Sir,
I am a diplomat with 18 yars behind me (as a diplomat)of a very small ,,State,,.
So please understand me not to write who I am.
You know what I rememberd reading your answers?
The one of the greatest Historians, Mr.Richard Pipes told us around the table in our country - ,,Don,t even try to explane to foreigners (especially to anglo-saxs) that this (separatists territories) is your land because ,, you fight for it during ceturies, the ashes of your heroes are there,, and so. on., they can not understand this and the reason is very simple - THEY HAVE NOT SUCH A RICH HISTORY AS YOU HAVE!!!
This is the reason of your misunderstandings!!!

Best Regards,


  • 13.
  • At 02:09 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Srdjan wrote:

Perhaps we should not enter at all.

  • 14.
  • At 02:10 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

The 'toothless Serb syndrome' may indeed be offensive, but the 'toothless EU syndrome' is a reality.

Sure, the EU is 'strong' in a bully-like way when it comes to overriding citizens' concerns - like referenda on member state sovereignty, or pushing through its enviro-nutter agenda - but it is totally toothless when it comes to serious matters like standing up to Islamists, Iran or China.

This is good, actually, as the notion of a federal-minded EU super-state with real 'hard power' terrifies most free-thinking people.

  • 15.
  • At 02:15 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Dawid wrote:

Although Dan Mattei's comment was certainly exaggerated, it is true that the choice of photos on the BBC is sometimes peculiarly cliched. Take Eastern Europe for example: I have seen more old headscarved women here on the BBC photos accompanying articles about Poland than during my whole life in Poland. I remember the time when every article on China had to be illustrated with a photo of a Chinese cyclist pedalling along a billboard advertising mobile phones. Those cliches are out there for real and it is no wonder that some people get oversensitive.

  • 16.
  • At 02:34 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Laert Dogjani wrote:

"And at the moment, the claims of back-stabbing by politicians and unfair behaviour by victorious powers, and the toothless Serb syndrome itself are more reminiscent of post-World War I Germany, with all that ominously implies."

Yes, yes, yes. This is the greatest threat Mark. The only solution would be significant investment by the EU in Kosova and Serbia. The more you have, the more you stand to lose.

By the way, remeber how WWI started?

  • 17.
  • At 02:47 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • toby stewart wrote:

I think the accusations of bias are a bit strange. I mean, how in hell can one write anything on the subject without being biased one way or the other?

No matter journalist says, it will be picked up or trodden on by both sides, and used to support preconceived ideas. All these folks asking for impartial reporting should maybe step back and ask themselves if they could do any better. Just because one has a strong opinion and a deep feeling of certainty, this does make one impartial. It only feels like that. The opposite is true.

Having said that, I would make one note regarding the tendency of the British journalist to presume that their government acts according to law. Consider the following phrase:
"Western governments legal justifications for independence do seem like a slight of hand."

In fact, the presumption that Western leader gave a"legal" justification is quite false. What was given, rightly or wrongly, was a real politik and moral justification for actions that are, rightly or wrongly, clearly against legal norms.

As the UK and the USA delve further into extraordinary renditions, water boarding, the suspension of habeous corpus and so on and so forth, we who like the law, and who like to presume our government acts within it, must be vigilant. There may not be any accountability in our parliament for waging illegal war and torturing folks in hidden jails, but there ought to be some accountability amongst the people for what they say.

If it isn't legal, don't say it is. Not even in passing. Especially not in passing. every jew who was sent to the gas chambers was sent there by "lawful process".

That is the whole point, if you think about it. Government is not the law, and must never define the law. Nor should it control the press, but the BBC was so badly beaten up over its outrageous criticisms of the Blair government that now it cowers like a broken dog, and supports government feverently.

That doesn't mean the folks who work there are bad folks, or biased. Everyone has things they can't say at work.

  • 18.
  • At 02:49 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Enkela wrote:

This was a well-written article Mark. Thank you!

The world media stressing now the Serbian "victimhood" over the loss of their "heartland" is not doing anyone any good and is letting that country wallowing in self-pity. It has to be stressed over and over that Serbia has to repent and atone for its deeds during the Balkans Wars of the 90s, has to hand over those genocidial maniacs Karadzic and Mladic, and then we can all move forward. Not saying that the other sides are angelic and never did any wrongs, but the Croats, Albanians, Bosnians are doing a better job at admitting their part of the mistakes and trying to build better societies.

But I had a good laugh when I read how some people think they see slight biases of BBC and the Western media even from pictures!

  • 19.
  • At 02:55 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • md wrote:

Mark's comments re the failings of Serbia's recent leaders to prepare their people for the loss of Kosovo and their self serving, irresponsible use of nationalist rhetoric, ring true.

This is not a shock to the Serbian people simply because it has happened but because their leaders have consistently told them that this could not happen. Clearly it could and has.

The EU has not helped matters at all by pursuing a 'carrot but no stick' approach to dealing with Belgrade. (we all know that NATO do the stick a little more convincingly than the EU). This has resulted in a situation where the EU has nothing left to offer Serbia in terms of incentives and the threat of force seems an unlikely reality.

Also the points re Carla Del Ponte's speech should not be overlooked. The cognitive dissonance, denial and xenophobia displayed not only by recent Serbian Governments but also by so many of it's people (in public comments at least) are what is keeping Serbia outside the EU and may do so for decades to come.

Serbia should look to the example of Germany and their 20th century genocides. The Germans accepted that the actions of their National Socialists were wrong, there was no debate, they were sorry. They made that very clear. It was enough, for Europe as a whole to move on.

In the case of the Yugoslavian wars, Serbia is not only a long way from apologising but it is also a very long way from accepting that they did anything wrong.

Let's try to remember that the world is very aware of what the Serbian Governments did to the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo. We are probably more aware of how the ethnic Albanian majority were persecuted for years than most Serbians are.

  • 20.
  • At 03:17 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Panos wrote:

Mark Mardell argues that, Many in the West who deal with Serbia see what I shall call “the toothless Serb syndrome” as part of the country’s problem. A sense of victimhood that ignores the facts.'

Well let us look at the facts:

1. £200,000 Serbs ethnically cleansed from Krajina with the approval of the west.

2. The Bosnian Serbs are not allowed to join with their homeland Serbia or even to form their own independent republic like the Kosovar Albanians.

Shouldn't the Serbs feels as victims here? After all they allowed Albanians to settle in Kosovo after the 2nd world ear and they lived an immensely better life than native Albanians under the Enver Hodja regime for many years.

Kosovo is a piece of the puzzle in the the premeditated dismemberment of Yugoslavia. One wonders whether this puzzle has still more pieces to be completed...

The problems that this will create?
1. Should the ethnic Greeks of northern epirus also demand independence?
2. Should the Albanians in FYROM demand an independent Tetovo?
3. Should ethnic Moldovans in Romania also demand independence?
4. Should Greece deal with the rhetoric expansionism of FYROM using arms? It is becoming a joke when FYROM claims to be Greek-Macedonia. It is even more of a joke when slavs/albanians in FYROM claim to be descendants of Alexander the Great..!!! What else are we going to see and hear?

Where do we stop? Too horrific to contemplate another Balkan war and possibly another 3rd world war. Is this an imaginary scenario or could it become a reality due to the irresponsible interventionist policies of the 'imperialist' American-English global superpowers? They have made a mess just about everywhere they have intervened (Iraq, Afganistan, Palestine etc). This megalomania of the Anglo-American policy is very dangerous for the whole of Europe.


Isn't it strange how most of the comments that are not controlled by the reporter seem to be against this deplorable stance the UK government has taken in recognising the illegal state of Kosovo, while the vast majority of the comments you have chosen to publish are in agreement with you. I dare say there might be some unfair censoring going on. I very much doubt you will publish this but at least I hope you will read it.

  • 22.
  • At 03:31 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • angela wrote:

to Jono #6,

"Montenegro a good example", double standards. Government officials forbad all puplic celebrations on the Independence of Kosovo. Serbs were allowed -- actually encouraged -- to protest,with slogans that read:we will slit the throats of Kosovo Albanians, then head to Albanians in Tuz, Plav, Guci, Uljin and Bar, 15,000 showed up to protest, whereas Albanians were DEMANDED that they stay indoors. "Montenegro a real good example".

  • 23.
  • At 03:57 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Aleks wrote:

One may ask why those who tell the Serbs to 'put a sock in it' and drop the victimisation routing seem so ready to believe in the Albanian victimisation routine?

It's not like the media have in general been 'impartial' arbitors in the region, so I suppose if you go by column inches (rather than actual real analysis), then the Serbs are all 'truely evil' and the Albanians are 'tainted angels'

As for those commenters here, the politicians and the Media who liken the Serbs to Nazis, or somehow post-war Germany, it really looks like they've never been near a history book in their life. Come on, how many divisions of Serbs fought for the Nazis? Zero, nil, none.

With regards to Carla Del Ponte, one asks why Europe is so uninterested in its own Nazis, you know, real ones from World War II. The BBC is now covering a story of a Danish Nazi Soeren Kam with German citizenship that the Bavarians refuse to send to Denmark on charges of murder (as reported by the BBC:

Numerous EU state's records on dealing with their own past is extremly poor (i.e. Austria, the 'victim' of Nazi Germany, which hasn't tried a Nazi in over 30 years, where war criminal Kurt Waldheim became UN SecGen, and still will not extradite Milovoj Asner:

Spain had 20 years of silence over the crimes of the dictator Franco. Portugal stays silent about Salazar. The French tip-toe around what they did in Algeria and every now and then put a toe in.

More recently, the EC's role in turning a blind eye to the annulation of elections by the Algerian military when it looked like the FIS would win in 1991 is abhorrent, as well as allowing the French to continue to supply weapons to the Algerian military.

Yes, many EU member states know all about their own war crimes, few of which have faced their own history. Yet, they expect Serbia to swallow a pre-written EU written script of 'their' own guilt, so they can then be 'allowed' to join (in addition to numerous non-acquis communautaire related demand they've decided to add).

The Serbs aren't Nazis. Serbia is not Germany. The use of such terms reflect the narrow-mindedness of the people that use them, instead of admitting that they don't understand.

Everyone's an expert on the Balkans!

  • 24.
  • At 04:01 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Mikra wrote:

Slobodan Millosevic had been reelected (or elected president of Yugoslavia) in 1997 six years after he had help starte the first war with Slovenia. By the time majority of Serbs promoted him to president of the Yugoslavia, his fascist policies had killed more than 100,000 people in Croatia and Bosnia. So, it's not really only the politians that keep failing Serbia. There is also something about Serb society in general that looks more like Germany of the Second World War in terms of nazification of people. Their political ruthlesness is matched only by their inability to ever see change in the life of their country.

  • 25.
  • At 04:16 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Sam wrote:

This is just going beyond the reality. Serbs always claim the history of Kosovo and forget to claim all the horrible crimes they have done to Albanians, in 1912, in 1945 - 1947 in 1981, 1990s. To them the basic human rights for Albanians was never an issue. They always had a justification the "Albanian terrorists". Their claim is always through religion, but they forget to count the Albanian catholics and orthodox Christians though crimes were committed against them as much as against the muslims. This is the time for them to wake up and say let us move on. If Kosova and Serbia both will join EU what is their big fuss about?? Under the Kosovar constitution Serbs have equal rights as the rest of the Albanians, if not more. The whole point is they hate to see the Albanians finally off their constant violent grip. As far as the pictures complaint that is just such a lame excuse. Dan you should stop being jelous of Albanian beauty and enjoy their beauty.

  • 26.
  • At 04:38 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Nemo the Fish, Netherlands wrote:

Since the 8th century Serbs and Albanians lived and died side by side. Kosovo belongs to them both (they also share a common ancester: the Illyrians). This is why I believe a Confederation of Serbia and Kosovo would have been the best sollution, but the Serbs rejected the idea during the rule Milosovic. Serbs should realise that when Kosovo and Serbia join the EU and Schengen, the border will be gone. Then Kosovo can belong to them both again.

  • 27.
  • At 04:54 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Kosta wrote:

It is quite humorous the fantasy so many uninformed people hold of an economically feasible"independent" Kosovo. The Albanians have their own country. Is it prosperous? No. That is why the Serbs allowed these immigrants in to work. The only problem, unlike the Romanians, Bulgarians, etc, who did the same, the Albanians have become an invading parasite inconsiderate of the culture they entered as guests. It seems to be their nature. Look at Macedonian and investigate their problems. Then go to Montenegro, Olcin. Ask the Greeks and then see on how their police treat them. Their birthrate far out produces any other place in Europe and probably is only second to Brazil. I told an Italian friend today don't be surprised if in 50 years there is a movement for independence in Bari, Albanians again. There are good people in all cultures. The question is the percentage. Please open your eyes and do your own research. To be treated civilized you must act civilized.

  • 28.
  • At 05:04 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Chris wrote:

Mark, you mention Serbia suffering for christian Europe.....this is something of a myth, and not entirely accurate. The Ottomans and the Serbians certainly fought each other, but they also fought alongside each other. For example, the Ottoman army led by Sultan Mehmet which finally captured (Orthodox Christian) Constantinople included a very large Serbian contingent, as did the Ottoman army led by Sultan Bayazid which was defeated by Timur the Lame.

The struggles betwen the Ottoman Empire and the nations of central and eastern Europe are often portrayed today as an early 'clash of civilisations', but in many ways the Ottomans were just another nation. It's even said that the Ottomans discussed sending assistance to England during the Spanish Armada, much being made of the two nations' mutual animosity towards the large Catholic powers - France, Spain and Austria - dominant in Europe at the time.

  • 29.
  • At 05:17 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Kate Thomas wrote:

Mark - I speak as a British person, so cannot be struck off as a Serb nationalist (which any Serb who wants to keep Kosovo is labelled as now).

How can you mention the history of Serbia and their national sense of 'victimhood' and not mention that around one million Serbs were killed in WWII by the Nazis? Many of the most brutal crimes were carried out by Kosovo Albanians known as the Skenderberg SS which shocked even the Nazi SS with the level of their atrocities. This is well documented.

In the Jasenovac death camp hundreds of thousands died. An estimated 100,000 children under the age of 10 were brutally killed, usually beaten to death. Look up the history of the treatment of the Serbs along with Jews and Roma, and you should understand that this wasn't that long ago. The New York Holocaust Museum have records of these events and remember them.

I went to Belgrade after the 1999 bombing and actually sat on a hill overlooking the city with an elderly Serbian gentleman who told me that he had lived in Belgrade through WWII and the bombing of his city by the Germans and British, and that it broke his heart to have Serbia's allies through two world wars turn against them.

This 'sense of victimhood' that you speak about is not a new comment, but it is said without respect to the nation and writing off important history far more recent than the Ottoman Empire.

And let's not also forget that 240,000 Serbs have been 'cleansed' from Kosovo since Nato took over the province in 1999, and there are around 1,000 Serbs still 'missing'. The UN have all of this documented if you wish to check your facts.

When the war ended over Kosovo, Serbia legally retained sovereignty and had started to move on and integrate with the rest of Europe in these post Milosevic days. The move by the US, UK, Germany and France is shockingly illegal and badly thought out.

If there are any people reading this in a position of power I implore you to restart negotiations over Kosovo. Serbia was never the stalling point in these talks. The US made sure that they were never taken seriously because they had already promised an outcome of independence to the Kosovo Albanians.

The way things are going now in the Balkans there will be a European war within the year. No country can bypass international law and just give away 15% of another UN nation to one ethnic group. That is a recipe for disaster.

BBC - I really hope that you will post my comment in full, because these are facts that people should be aware of. Despite not being Serbian, I am sick and tired of the demonisation which is now written off by Mark Mardell as some sort of victim complex.

  • 30.
  • At 05:19 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Andrej Kovalev wrote:

The beginning of the end of Western civilisation begins at the hands of the West itself. Although throughout history outmigrating and outpopulating of one ethnic group by another resulted in claims to land and change of jurisdiction, modern internation law attempted to enshrine different principles in order to minimise bloodshed. Given native Westerners' lack of desire to reproduce and the seeping of very coherent ethnic groups from less prosperous, but well-reproducing places to more prosperous ones (just like Albania and Yugoslavia after WWII), in a matter of decades we may well see "toothless Westerners" losing battles one by one to demographic titans, most likely with the help of (for the moment) stronger Westerners as it suits their interests. Divide and conquer--Marshall Tito, you mastered that perfectly, and your unlikely Western standard-bearers continue on just as well.

  • 31.
  • At 05:23 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Jasmina wrote:

It's all about islam and muslims against every other religion.
They are agressive, violent and expanding all over the world.
I can hardly wait for British Parliament to be substitute by Islamic Parliament (which exists already) in the years to come!
One satisfaction for Serbia: muslims know that there will be no new mosques, islamic parliaments, head scarves, etc in Serbia.
Just wandering: why members of Denmark Parliament want to abolish Kuran in their country?

  • 32.
  • At 05:24 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Alex wrote:

Dear Mark,

Perhaps your blog does not suffer from this so-called "syndrom" but BBC without a question does! This situation was followed followed with apperent bias when it came down to choice of wording and photographs.

  • 33.
  • At 05:32 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • astrix wrote:

As a British Citizen of Dalmatian Serb origin, I was bought up as being British. Only when the conflict started in yugolsvia did I read and question my grandfathers about their war experiences and the betrayal of their anti-Nazi-fascist struggle and country to communist Tito. In the closing months of the war, if it was not for the humanity of the Italian troops they would have been betrayed by the British troops and returned to Tito to be executed, but luckily they made it to the safety of Italy. Serbia was given to Tito by the British. Thank-you for your 50yrs of 'regression'.Tito funded by the british created the false border of Vojvodina and Kosovo. He did not protect SErbs and he did not create provinces in other republics. We owe nothing to the British and their. All Serbs are aware of your double standards from the past.

  • 34.
  • At 05:43 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Mr. R wrote:

This so-called "hard-won peace" is very unfair. Attempts are being made to bribe Serbs into accepting a lie, that they are responsible for all evil in the Balkans. If that's the price for joining that club, then forget it. They should show self-respect by refusing it. They should never give up Kosovo and should never give up Republika Srpska, never.

Who is claiming Serbia not to have the moral right to rule Kosovo, and why? Is it because of the hundreds of thousands who fled in 1999? Why did they flee, and when? They fled when those who now claim Serbia not to have the moral right to rule Kosovo chose, out of spite and evil motives, to bomb Kosovo and the rest of Serbia and Yugoslavia. They are responsible so any moral right to make any decisions regarding Kosovo are nonexistent.

By the way, why aren't the so-called Kosovars told to "get over it", when 1999 is brought up and accept Serb rule. Krajina Serbs were told to "get over it", "it" being Jasenovic, Ante Pavelic and the Ustashe (700,000 killed according to the most cited figure) and accept to be ruled by those who openly honour the symbols and ideology of that movement. They have been since removed from their homeland, and with complete support from those claiming that Serbs have no moral right to rule Kosovo. Why isn't Croatia told they have no moral right to rule Krajina?

  • 35.
  • At 05:58 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Goran wrote:

In response to Angela:

Keep in mind that it wasn't Serbia that was legislating rights to the Serbian territory of Kosovo for decades after WW2, but rather Tito's Yugoslavia as a whole. During that time, it was the Serbian population of Kosovo who suffered from Tito's corrupt immigration policy. Systematic attacks were waged against Serbians throughout the that time, especially in the 80s and 90s. During the 80s, however, our media in the US was more attentive to the Albanian violence and terror attacks.

It's easy for a politician to say, "get over it," but it is something that no Serb (myself included) will ever accept. Each and every nationality, culture, and religion has a center of gravity, if you will. It is what defines them, and it is something that will never be taken away from their heart and soul. I don't know every other conflict enough to pretend that I am an "expert," although many seem to. I know the Greeks very well, since I have grown up many of them, and I see the same fire in their hearts when they speak of ancient Greece, Athens, and even Cyprus. I'm sure if I speak to other ethnicities, I would discover they have the same feelings about their sacred lands as well.

I'm not posting to be ignorant towards anyone, but my God. Serbia has paid enough to the international community. All factual figures do not support the claims pre-NATO bombing, but the EU and US still persists. Also, for what it's worth, Milosevic is DEAD and was overthrown by Serbia in 2000.

Turkey is currently invading the Kurdish area of Northern Iraq do to separatist problems, yet I hear very little complaint about that.

Bottom line: Kosovo is Serbia.

Get over it.


  • 36.
  • At 06:03 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Matthew P. wrote:

Hello Mark,

Why don't you do us a favor and post a bolg entry on Albanians? Here is a good topic for you -- background of present Albanian leadership in Kosovo? Im really interested to see what wonderful things you'll come up with.

  • 37.
  • At 06:06 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • michael wrote:

The creation of states or statelets on any continent on the basis of ethnic or religious majorities may seem straightforward, the problem for many of us, men and women whose parents married across or out of, their own ethnic and religious group and who have multiple identities is that we cannot be fitted into neat ethno or sectarian boxes. We needs rights and freedoms that respect us and others as individuals with rights and responsibilities to each other. Politicians in the region and international community who were around at Dayton give higher value to the rights of communities and less to the rights of individuals, and so have helped tip all of us into the pit...

Life of Brian "yes we are all individuals..."

By not standing up for our and others individual rights we are give the field to ethno- sectarian nationalists and their siren voices of us and them and the hated "other".


  • 38.
  • At 06:10 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • SerbiaForever wrote:

Now, which state in its right mind would like to see a state in their backyard that practice radical islam? Lets be honest and say that this battle today is fought by Serbian peope alone, just like we did try to stop the Ottomans of entering the Europe in 1389 during the Kosovo Battle, but we were let down by the rest of Europe who even today is paying the price for this huge mistake,but tomorrow the rest of not just the Europe, but the world will be fighting this same battle. This is not the first time that world is witnessing the rise of dangerous ideologies.What it will take for the world to learn from their mistakes? As far as the Serbian people,we will get Kosovo back even if we have to wait another 500 years. In geopolitical terms, the world of tomorrow will look much different then it is today. God bless Serbia and its people who always fought on the right side!

  • 39.
  • At 06:20 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Eugene wrote:

What I really can't understand is why western countries think that any side in Balkan wars is better than others. Sure Serbs committed many atrocities, more than others, but only because they were strong and therefore had more opportunities to do so. In my opinion, victimized Kosovars committed less only because they were weak and wern't able to do what they wanted. If they were stronger, sure they would try to clean out not only Serbs but all non-Albanians wherever they could. EU should use equal approach to all sides in the conflict and doesn't look for favourites!

  • 40.
  • At 06:23 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • M. Papic wrote:

Dear Mark,

This is the first time that I heard the theory that the EU was built on the principle of "German remorse". Ms. Ponte is a much better lawyer than a historian. If I seem to remember my graduate education correctly, the EU was built on the principle of locking Germany into a web of institutional and normative commitments that would both clearly
benefit Germany and the rest of Europe. Certainly Germans had to feel some remorse for this thing to work, but nothing of the sort expected of them after the First World War and the infamous "Guilt Clause". In fact, non-Nazis were treated as victims as much as the rest of Europe was. Post-Nazi Germany was not even expected to hunt down its own war criminals!

Your (and Ms. Ponte's) misunderstanding of this analogy (or rather the incorrect conclusions you draw from the correct analogy) is poignant as it illustrates the greater inability of Europe to realize that they are not dealing with a Serbia analogous to a Nazi Germany, but rather with a Serbia analogous to the Weimar Republic (as you say with all the ominous implications that come out of that).

While it is certainly up to Serbia to hunt down the last 3 ICTY criminals, it is at the same time up to Europe to make sure the mistakes of Versailles are not repeated and that Serbia is integrated into the EU as soon as possible. The people in Serbia who are today saber rattling over Kosovo are exactly those who have not benefited from closer integration with the EU (and will not benefit from it in the future), and there are a lot of those around precisely because Brussels (and London, Berlin, Paris and Ms. Ponte's Den Hague) dragged out the EU accession process for so many years. The EU should have fast tracked Serbia into the EU and fixed it from within as a member state. With Russia's resurgence and the discrediting of Europeanists in Serbia, this integration is in jeopardy.

So no... it wasn't Germany that "got it" after WWII, it was Europe. Europe realized that punitive war resolution mechanisms (such as the "Guilt clause", war reparations and occupation of Saarland and Rhineland agreed upon in Versailles) do not work. This is why your analogy should not lead you to conclude about what Serbia should do, but rather what Europe ought to do...

  • 41.
  • At 06:27 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • John Stambler wrote:

OK Mark, you explained nice why Kosovo should be severed from Serbia and why Serbs should be OK about it. Tell us then, why West does not allow the Serbs to secede from Kosovo, as they are practically the only ones ethnically cleansed from Kosovo in the last few decades? And why Serbs in Bosnia should not be given the same right as Albanians in Kosovo? For 8 years, Serbs have been working hard to shake off the Milosevic image and this is how west punishes them today. And you expect them to just say - Yes sir!

  • 42.
  • At 06:35 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • neb wrote:

Mark - Britain, Germany and now US, ex-imperial-powers-who-lost-sense governments should pay attention to its domestic affairs instead of running around the world pretending bringing democracy & peace (1m dead in Iraq as a consequence of your way of bringing democracy). How hypocritical that is! You all have your own ticking bomb hidden in your own backyards: economy problems, education, poverty (over 30m people live under poverty line in US), India & China next superpower question, and so on. Let Serbia deal with their own political problems rather than you (3rd rate politicians who are currently on power are not capable to advice on nothing that important).

  • 43.
  • At 06:38 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Milivoje wrote:

The Serbian syndrome is in reality the double-standard syndrome of the international community.
As a student in Serbia I worked in NGO sector promoting the EU and its values for 4 years, and I believed in it. I moved to the EU to do my master's degree two years ago, and I was very dissapointed with everything!


  • 44.
  • At 06:53 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Bodo wrote:

As I began reading this article I got a feeling that it will be yet another anti-Serb diatribe. But then a surprise! For once, an actually balanced article! Thank you Mr. Mardell, I only wish the BBC and the rest of the western media would finally tone down their anti-Serb bias and at least attempt to honestly explain the Serbian position.

  • 45.
  • At 07:12 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • ED wrote:

When parents abuse their children,its only right and moral for social services to take their children away from them and care for them until they are 18.The same applies to Serbia.They had the chance to prove to the Albanians that they care about them and all they did was abuse that opportunity to ethnically cleanse Kosovo and exercise terror.
In todays Serbia 45% of population voted for the neo-nazi Radical party which still advocates ethnic cleansing of Kosovo and other former Yugoslav republics.Serbia has a long way to go toward reconciliation with themselves first and then its neighbors.They need to reflect on their past,accept it and then move forward.Unfortunately,from comments I'm reading here and some other forums and boards,Serbs are still thinking of Albanians as a lower form of life that dont deserve any better.Nazi Germany had the same ideas and we all saw what happened.

Here is a simple example:

Natalija says:"Years will have passed until these two communities can be compared on any ascpect of civilisation."

Its a shame even thinking that way,let alone express that in a public forum.All human beings are equal regardless of race,ethnicity or background.Until some Serbs realize that,they will isolate themselves further until they come to term and understanding of their past.

  • 46.
  • At 07:14 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Darko, Miami wrote:

The cliché pictures don’t have so much weight. One has to be living isolated and in cave not to notice all this beautiful Serbian young tennis, basketball, handball, water polo players…Those pictures have been all over the world, news, tv shows, sport events now for years….As well Belgrade organizing so many international sport and cultural events with the participation of the biggest stars. The only negative pictures about Serbians and Serbia that are forcefully imputed to the people are ones from CNN and BBC, but guess what, this time it won’t work…

  • 47.
  • At 07:31 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • mim wrote:

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, as the Serbian writer Filip David points out,

"Institutions of culture...were transformed into noisy gangs whose trumpets and drums were announcing future bloody sunrises. Without such a thoroughgoing and fundamental preparation, which emphasized the national to the extent of self-adulation, together with a hatred of all that is different and alien, the war would not have been possible... Institutions of culture prepared the war. Politics put it into effect David 1994:44-45"

As it can easily be inferred from the abovemntioned paragraph, the problem in Serbia lies not simply with its leaders however nationalistic and irrational they may be (Milosevic, Kostunica, Sesjeli). It is the Serbian nationalist doctrine that created the right circumstances for the emergence of such politicians. It is the Serb Academy of Sciences that produced "scientific" papers such as "The expulsion of Albanians" by Vasa Cubrilovic, one of its promiment members and also a member of Yugoslav communist leadership that was the template for Milosevic's ethnic cleansing practices on a large scale.

I believe and hope that more and more reasonable Serbs will make their voice heard and will not allow that their country remain hostage to the ghosts of the past. They cannot aford to sit and watch while their lives are being run and ruined by irrationality and primitive nationalism

  • 48.
  • At 07:33 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Carolyn wrote:

Dear Mark
Is or is not the BBC run by the Foreign Office? Which would explain years of bias in reporting the Balkans. The bombing of Serbia WITHOUT U.N sanction [my,nothing has changed],the West's ally in both WW Wars, had to be explained somehow,a transference of guilt by perpetrators-U.S & NATO to DEMONIZING
VICTIMS OF BOMBING.[Well, they deserved it]. Very much indeed as the
Irish were scorned,demonized by British for centuries after 'noble Albion' has seized their land...
I have never seen the BBC write any articles on the infamous Jasenovoc camp,indeed on the slaughter & displacement of Serbs which has gone on during U.N & NATO's occupation of Kosovo to present day.
Internet is a wonderful thing because
we can check the veracity of statements U.S & their lapdogs feed us. Not surprisingly, more & more people are supporting the Serbs...

  • 49.
  • At 07:52 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • V. Berisha wrote:

It is unbelievable how people can have two such contradictory views about themselves: on one hand, Serbs have historically propagated the idea of Serbian superiority over every other people in the Balkans, at the same time as they have cried out about being the victims of the very same people!

Having survived the terrors the 1990s, I though that there was nothing worse in the world than being a victim of the Serbian savagery at that time! I couldn’t have been more wrong, for now I understand that the only thing worse than being a victim of that regime was to be the blind believer of it! One can be healed from the former, but the latter is what consumes you.

This is evident in hundreds of Serbian comments that I have read in the past several days in blogs as well as reactions to major newspaper articles, which brought back memories of the Milosevic era Serbian propaganda of victimization and racism. Indeed, the deeply rooted racism such as that expressed by Natalija: “years would have passed before these two communities can be compared on any aspect of civilization”, suddenly surfaced everywhere after Kosovo’s independence and was proudly reaffirmed publicly by many Serbs.

On the other hand, the “victim image” about which Mr. Mardell writes is so prevalent in these recent Serbian posts. I have to say that there is nothing worse than the “Victim Image” that is either attributed to a people or it is voluntarily embraced by it. The former is how everyone, rightfully, remembered Kosovars from the 90s, the latter is how everyone sees Serbs today. Fortunately, if nothing else, Kosovo’s independence will enable Kosovars to see themselves not as victims anymore, but as proud citizens of a democratic country. I wonder what will it take for Serbs to start seeing themselves not as a superior people nor a victimized one, but a normal society that can coexist with others.

  • 50.
  • At 07:56 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • adi wrote:

BBC is a great corporation with journalistes in every sky of our globe,very accurate and profesional at their job.And on KOSOVO article(well done Mark).Respect for your work.Many thanks.

  • 51.
  • At 08:04 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Nebo wrote:


Not everybody in Serbia subscribes to the lost Grail thing and not everybody is a fan of Orthodox Christianity. People in urban areas, intellectuals, students who organize protests, are simply concerned with the sheer injustice of this secession and the blatant breach of international law.

It is true that the Serbs don't feel sufficient remorse for the crimes of the 1990s, but due to the loss of Kosovo, the prevailing feeling today is that of injustice and self-righteous anger, and that makes people further away than ever from feeling remorse and facing the truth about the past.

Your comparison with Germany in the post WW1 period doesn't hold water - not because Serbs are any better human beings than Germans (or anyone else, for that matter) - but simply because they don't have the military power to start some large-scale war. In fact, the country most resembling Nazi Germany today, ruthlessly conquering others and cultivating the myth of its cultural and national superiority, is the US.

  • 52.
  • At 08:08 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Ronald wrote:

"Perhaps Serbia and Turkey should enter the EU at exactly the same moment. And as a true gesture of reconciliation, a grand ceremony should be held on Kosovo Pole, the site of that battle of 1389."

Never ever gonna happen, the entire western world has been duped by Kostunica and they all played right in his hands.

Let me explain.

Kostunica first shot down the EU treaty as he knew it was an carrot to keep Serbia calm after kosovo declared independance.

And the reaction from the US & EU about the embassy riot was just what he was hoping for, he knew it wasn't gonna help the 'cause' but that's wasn't what he was after, he was after the reaction by the US & EU condemming this riot and putting EU talks on ice for an long time.

Kostunica wasn't trying to demonstrate the world the outrage about kosovo, he was looking for an stick to beat Tadic, and the EU just has given him the biggest stick possible.

Now the EU has to face the fact that even if Tadic manages to ride out the full 5 years, talks between the EU & Serbia ain't going anywhere these 5 years, not even an SAA will be possible.

The EU has just shot it's self in the foot in an big way and Kostunica get's what he want's an president that's absoluty powerless, great work EU, 10 years of work down the drain because off some stupid building which could be rebuild in less than an week.

  • 53.
  • At 08:10 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Michael Saban wrote:

Hi Mark,

I enjoy your writing even though I don't necessary agree with everything you write. However your intellectual approach is appealing and I really think that you have honest motives. I understand why Americans want an "independent" Kosovo. Their biggest military base outside of USA is in Kosovo. EU doesn't want American military bases on their soil. America needs presence in the central Europe to fight its "holy oil wars". They need a puppet state they can totally control to make sure to be there for many years to come. The thing I don't understand is just how pathetic once great countries like UK or F be. You were once leaders in the World, but now bow to America's demands. I truly sympathize with once great Empire's liege, they must be equally aching as Serbs. They might not be as conscious and aware that they're in the bent over position, thus they do not object; but if someone asks you to break the law and brainwash you to proclaim that wrong is right, I wonder what's next? What happened to integrity? Independent Kosovo is nothing but the (successful) end of Hitler's policy. Whomever he promised an independents state - they've got it: Croatia, Slovakia, Kosovo. Kosovo's Nazi Albanians (SS Skenderbeg) started genocide against Christians in 1941. They've conducted the worst genocide for over 65 years against Serbs. And they are nothing else than refugees from repressive Albanian regime who now want peace of their host's land. They were not the founding nation of neither Serbia nor Yugoslavia. They have less moral rights to separate than Scotland, Ireland or Quebec.

Independence is not a popularity contest. Until you have your flag waiving in front of the UN and your country's seat is inside, you're nothing but a joke. Who cares who votes for who? What's the point of recognizing a country in a sheer statement, outside of the place that only matters (United Nations). UK made a boo-boo. It didn't help legalize Kosovo Albanian status, but it only aggravated its old ally, but also defiant country of Serbia..The way I see it from across the Atlantic, your international credibility is melting by the minute and it will deteriorate even faster if your irresponsible actions cause violent unrests. Greetings from Canada and God Bless the Queen!

  • 54.
  • At 08:15 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Joshua Kinsey wrote:

I believe that a major source of the anger directed at the EU and the USA over the Kosovo situation is the hypocrisy displayed by these governments.
I'm curious to know why when Kosovo declares independence, the Western Powers jump to recognize them, but when the Lakota Nation of North America declared their independence on Dec 20, 2007, not one EU nation stepped forward to support them?
Surely the opression suffered by the Lakota peoples at the hands of the US Government is as valid as that suffered by the Kosovars at the hands of the Serbs. What about the Kurds..?
Or the Armenians in Turkey...?
It is this double-standard that abrogates sympathy for the EU and US position.

  • 55.
  • At 08:19 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Ana wrote:

Let us forget the history for a moment, what happened in XII-XIII century, forget who was there first Albanians or Serbs, let us forget who the monasteries and churches belong to (Albanians become Muslims under ottoman empire), let’s forget who is minority and who is majority, who is right and who is wrong, who is ugly and who is beautiful as “Beauty Is in the Eyes of the Beholder!”...but when did we forget what happened only few years ago? Can any raped person live with the rapist?! I CAN NOT! Can any parent live with the murderer of his/her child?! I CAN NOT! Can anyone live with the fact that you don't know where the body of your beloved is? I CAN NOT! When did we forget the photos of the slaughtered Albanian babies with pretext that they are KLA?! Pregnant women with wombs wide cut?! Most of us had the choice not to see and hear about all these atrocities ....but as Mark wrote” the bearded gentleman featured on the "mosh pit" post but I doubt that he would be a model agency’s first choice" did not have that choice, on contrary HE HAD TO LIVE THRU THAT NIGHTMARE! Think twice for the sake of all raped women (if it was my/your sister, mother, daughter, wife!!!), for the slaughtered babies, for innocent people whose only fault was BIENG Albanian!
“There will be no reconciliation in South-East Europe without the sincere recognition of the crimes committed by one’s own nation.” –Carla Del Ponte. I am looking forward to the day when Serbian nation will apologize to all nations in the Balkans for all the pain they caused!

  • 56.
  • At 08:23 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • mike wrote:

It is a simple fact that Albanians dont want to live with Serbs. Montenegrins which are practically Serb did not want to live with Serbia either (independent in 2006). Serbs started and lost 4 wars in Balkans and killed over 300,000 people (and they still dont feel any remorse for that). Albanians have lived in these lands since the time of Illyrians and did not come in these lands like Serbs during the 7th century. During the time of Rankovic Albanians were again prosecuted and thousands were killed and left for Turkey. In any case - talking about this is a waste of time - Serbs started a war and lost it and with it they lost some land also -:). What Serbs need is work and food on their table not Kosova.

  • 57.
  • At 08:27 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Damien wrote:

By the way, the "toothless Serb, beautiful Albanian" comment may have been in reference to a comic that was posted on the New Kosova Report ( front page last week. I saw this same comment posted on the aforementioned site. The comic featured two pictures beside each other. On the left side was a pretty, young girl holding an Albanian flag under the caption "Young, Hopeful Kosovo Faces...". Next to this was a picture of a screaming man (not completely toothless as I can see his two front teeth)waving a Serbian flag I presume, under the caption "Ugly Old Serbia".

  • 58.
  • At 08:30 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • vlad wrote:

Hi Mark,

A very interesting article, though I wonder if by constructing such a reply to one reader's comments, you risk upsetting a large number of people who will expect similar responses to their opinions. :-)

I would be grateful for an explanation of a couple of things that puzzle me in the current situation, if they can be answered more succinctly in a future post than I can ask them.

It is clear that many Serbs feel very strongly that Kosovo is part of their country, history and culture. One wonders why so few Serbs live there. Was there really such an exodus following NATO's intervention? Did so many ethnic Albanians arrive from elsewhere? In all your conversations with Serbs, I wonder if any of them have offered reasons why so few Serbs live there, other than the higher birthrate of the Albanians.

There are rumblings that the Republika Srpska may seek independence from the Bosniaks. What would the negative consequences be of this region joining Serbia proper? And similarly, could the Kosovans not agree to a land-swap with Serbia, exchanging those areas of Kosovo with Serb majorities for those of Serbia with Kosovan majorities? And finally, what is the logic behind preventing Kosovo from uniting with Albania?


  • 59.
  • At 08:48 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Tim Toh wrote:

One may remember that during the Balkan war, the successes of the Serbian army (who had all the tanks and all the air force)was claimed - by the Serbian President - to be proof of the superiority of the Serb nation over the others. And as long as Serbs consider this to be true, there is little room for peaceful coexistence.
Now, the Kosovo Serbs want back their former jobs, which they got in the past for the only reason that they were of the same nationality with the governing power; and they want to get them back by force. One should ponder on its significance.

  • 60.
  • At 08:53 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Roman wrote:

NOT all Germans support the stupid and UNJUST policy of the EU, NATO and the German government... there are a lot of people who believe Kosovo belongs to Serbia - There must not be another criminal state on the Balkans... Thank you for your critical voice

  • 61.
  • At 08:56 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Thomas Patricio wrote:

Excellent post Mark,
It seems so far you've managed to shame many of those who posted irrational postings accusing you and the bbc of being partial, although only 18 people have commented so far.
As for Mr.Konstantin's comment, saying that Anglo-Saxons don't have a rich History, for a diplomat he sure is pretty ignorant in this regard. It's such a typical attitude by nationalist to assume their History is richer than others and to cling to the past as a way forward. The past is the past. It's interesting, we can take some lessons from it and that's pretty much it. Why do nationalists feel such a need to poison future generations with perceived losses and grievances? Remember, forgive and move on. If Anglo-Saxons or Westerners in general don't understand such concepts is because by and large and for the most part, we learned how to move on. Yes we probably should be more patient with Serbs, but they need to understand that we in the West want them to move on so they can take their proper place as a "normal" country within Europe.

Thomas Patricio
Toronto, Canada

  • 62.
  • At 09:00 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Shaun Harvey wrote:

Jono #6

It is wrong to say that Germany's reaction after WWII stemmed from lighter treatment than after WWI. The country lost Eastern Prussia which was home to 11 million Germans who were driven out of their homeland along with the Germanic people all across Europe. The country was split in 2, as was the capital and the East was hit with very steep reperations by the Russians. The West Germans came around because they knew if they weakened the Western Allies they would have been merged into the Soviet block. The East Germans simply had no choice in the matter. The problem with the Balkans is that it is so full of a deep seated hatred on many levels. The Germans were nationalistic and hated the Jews but in the Balkans each religion hates the other, the nations hate one another and there is no clear clear dispute to settle but a web of interconnected problems. Until now only communism held the region together - perhaps it is a firm hand that the region needs?

  • 63.
  • At 09:20 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Deanna wrote:

Toothless Serb syndrome? They look British? I can see how someone can get offended by that.

  • 64.
  • At 09:35 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • ronald krauss wrote:

Playing the victim is a common method in the balkans to get what you want. In fact it is a common way used by small nations in order to get favors from bigger powers. However I think that neither the serbian people nor their government have any rights over Kosovo. Kosovo for the last few hundereds of years has been like a small nation under invasion. First it was invaded by the turks and in 1912 the invaders became the serbs. The kosovo albanians have just as much right to get their country back as any other european contry had right to be liberated from nazi germany.

  • 65.
  • At 09:55 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • S Antonijevic wrote:

It looks to me that Mr Mark Mardell,for some reason forgot to mention the most important fact in his comment,and that is The International Law.Both me,him and everyone else in UK are expected to respect and comply to laws in this country,and yet we have a goverment that totally ignores this rule.
Also,Mark tried to be history analyst and it's clearly is not his job.Maybe he should seek advice from leading historians from USA,UK,Europe,Rusia before he attemps to write such a sensitive matter.

It is true that Kosovo was given independance many times in the past, and always during occupation ( for instance Hitler also recognized it )However it always got back to Serbia.
The Just might be slow but it will come.

  • 66.
  • At 10:03 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • ves wrote:

well, if you continue writting articles like above, pointing out that serbs actually have some valid claims to being mistreated, than dan would not feel that you are biased.
unfortunatelly, this is your first attempt at being objective that i have read. i hope you keep on trying though, even though you will probably be quickly fired by bbc in that case.

  • 67.
  • At 10:36 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Sanja wrote:

I am truly sorry for the people that support this horrible partition of an internationally recognized country. I can tell you for a fact that under old Yugoslavia, all of its people (no matter what republic they were from) used to support Kosovo by giving % of their monthly paycheck to people of Kosovo, including Kosovo Albanians. When Kosovo Albanians requested to study in Albanian language when in schools, old regime contracted with Albania to provide books written in Albanian. However, it was the Albanians that started creating problems in Kosovo with their KLA army and once Serbs responded back, it was somehow their fault. You all very well know that if this happened in the United States, special army forces would be sent in to quite down the rioters because those types of riots are not supported in this country. But how can someone like US understand the importance of Kosovo?? They can't because they have no history. Kosovo has Orthodox monasteries that are three times as old as the US. Yes, it is the US that decides to tell everyone else what to do. You know what the saddest part is - that Europe cannot agree on anything !! You have England and France, who are US puppet's and of course they had to follow US in their holy war to get in the middle of Europe and create mess again. US is going to create another puppet state right under Russian's nose. The worst part of everything is that the whole world is deciding what should be done with Serbia and Kosovo - everyone is being asked except Serbia, whose territory this is. What would US do if in 100 years, Mexicans in Texas say they want independence because there is 90% of them??? Does that give them a right to be independent??? Absolutely NOT !!

  • 68.
  • At 10:45 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • A. Bayich wrote:

The BBC mostly follows British official policy.
I am Serb and believe me this policy is greatly anti-Serbian.

The BBC reporters are objective and unbiased. They just set a few "truths". For example:
1. Milosevic is the only one who was responsible for Yugoslav wars
2. The war crimes committed by Serbs are comparable to Nazi's crimes in ww2
3. Albanians lived in the apartheid set by Milosevic in Kosovo in 1990s
4. Serbs wanted to kill or expel all Albanians from Kosovo in 1999, only Nato intervention had saved them

The BBC reporters have never questioned these "truths".

If these "truths" were true I would gladly support the independence of Kosovo

  • 69.
  • At 10:46 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Fact wrote:

Just to throw some fact out on the table for all of you too know. Milosevic was a horrible leader. He did many wrongs in kosovo. Tadic is much different. It is against the international law for kosovo to become a country without serbia approval. 1.4 M Ethnic Albanian citizens lived in Kosovo before the "Milosevic Genocide" 370 000 Serbs occupied the region at the time. 1.9-2.0 ethnic albanins live there now. 120 000 Serbs? does anyone ask what happened to the 250 000 thousand serbs and why they dont live there. 1 muslim church was burned down. 27 Othodox serbian churches dating back hundreds of years were burned down. In 2004 thousands of serbs were "kicked out" threatned, dicriminated, raped so they fled from kosovo while the KFOR and UN forces failed to protect them. Ethnic Albanians were given their own schools their language was tought throught kosovo and full rights and privilages before the 1999 war Review the news around the world and youw will see every fact here is true....

  • 70.
  • At 11:10 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Aleksandar wrote:

I just wonder for how many years to come Serbs and Serbia will continue to pay the price for what happen in the Balkans during 1990 ' s . I have to say ( and I think that this is the opinion of the vast majority of Serbian people ) that the Serbs are tired of beiing the only ones to blame in this conflict . Sure terrible things happen during the war , and I'm not trying to justify anything , but are we the only ones to blame ??? There weren't atrocities on other sides as well ??
Try to find out how many refuges are living today in Croatia , Bosnia , and how many in Serbia . The figures are alarming , yet the serbbashing continues . And although we overthrow the tyrant ( Milosevic ) I hear the comments you are paying the price for all the bad things Milosevic did during his time in power . For how long I ask , 10 years , 20-30-100 ?? So the whole generation of youngsters who have no idea what's going on will continue to suffer because of what Milosevic did during the 90's . Reconciliation ??
Do not forget it's the people who are paying the price , not the leaders or the politicians .

  • 71.
  • At 11:13 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Thor wrote:

Again missing the point.

West made a huge problem 1999 with its illegal war against Serbia and West doesn't know how to solve it today.

200 thousand Serbs were expelled from Kosovo and that is the only reason why 90% of population of Kosovo want independence.

The only real reason why West want to give Kosovo's Albanians what they want is because West (governments) believe it is the cheapest option for them.

Real solution is to help 200 thousand Serbs to return to their homes and to help Serbia make it work! It is funny how West tries to forget what it was its main duty when West forced Serbia to accept resolution 1244!

By trying to cut Kosovo out of Serbia West really tries to hide its responsibilities for illegal war, for ethnic cleansing of Serbs, for the theft of Serbian property in Kosovo and for war reparations.

Blair - The War Criminal, that is interesting! Why don't you write about that?

  • 72.
  • At 11:44 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • miroslav radulovic wrote:

the only war crimes the serbians are guilty of is not being with the germans 60 years ago. what a wonderful place europe would be, what a wonderful world.

  • 73.
  • At 12:07 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Fatmire wrote:

I love your blog Mr. Mardell, you do a wonderful job and keep up the good work!

As for the responses, particulary that of Natalija.
Natalija, do you know the definition of genocide?
I lived in kosova from '93 to '98. Serbian Parlimantaries came into my village, they pulled my grandfather from his bed, and threw him into the village square with all the rest of the elderly and sick, and then proceeded to machine gun them down. Then, they raped all the girl who were 14+. The younger ones were luckily left alone for the most part. I was lucky enough to be one of them.
In my aunts village, noone was spared. I suggest you good Racak, or Prekaz and see what images show up. They are not pretty.
There was a genocide in Kosovo, and for one to deny that is ignorance and is a possible symptom of having been brainwashed.
Even after all i went through, seeing so much death, seeing my brother die at only 12, i have no hatred towards Serbs. But for you to deny genocide in Kosovo when you were not there like i was, you did not see it first hand like i did, is rather insulting.

Independence was long over do, and for people to think that Kosova could ever go back to being a part of Serbia need psychiatric reevaluation. You cannot clump a people who have a different language and religion with people who have a different language and religion. There is bound to be conflict.
Instead of blowing up cars and attacking U.S. embassies, wouldnt it be more productive on the Serbs part to be more diplomatic, possibly portray their unhappiness in a better way then infuriating the US and other countries by attacking their shops and embassies. They will get no where with this kind of the behavior.

The Serbian rioters are making Serbia look like a child who got its favorite toy taken away, crying about it wont make mommy or daddy give it back.

  • 74.
  • At 12:20 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Jim Flecker wrote:

Two points if I may:

First, I too thought Mark was unfairly criticised for his choice of photos which were not tending towards "toothless" at all. However I would pick him up on his choice of words or rather his pronunciation: he always says Kosovo as if spelled with an A or an E at the end. This is rather like those with IRA sympathies who always say "North of Ireland" rather than "Northern Ireland" - it does tend to suggest that he prefers the Albanians to the Serbs.

Second, to choose something other than a victory as a defining moment in a nation's history should not seem so strange to an Englishman where the only date every schoolboy knows is 1066 where the English were beaten by the invading Normans. I know it's not an exact parallel, but imagine if 500 years later the French invaders had been finally thrown out? That is what Kosovo is to Serbs... The difference is that the Turks were even more beastly than the Normans, and still pose a menace!

  • 75.
  • At 12:37 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Milos Milosev wrote:

Well, this is a much more balanced piece than the previous ones on Kosovo. I am impressed that you actually bothered to learn about the historical significance of Kosovo to Serbia. Thanks.
However, one thing escapes you: it is not just a myth of loss, it is a myth (and fact) of Phoenix-like rebirth from ashes, which will apparently be the perpetual ordeal of Serbia. It is not so much about Christ-like sacrifice, it is about reclaiming what is rightfully yours, about standing up against injustice even if you are weaker, instead of siding with whoever is stronger at the moment. I know this may seem archaic, but the same principles are called "ethics" in everyday human life, so I see no reason why whole nations should not follow it.
As for the comparison with post-war Germany, frankly I am fed up with this sort of parallels. It is extremely offensive because about 1 million Serbs died in WWI at the hands of Austrians and more than 2 million were either killed in battles or executed in Croatian and German camps in WWII. But I guess we should have chosen our alliances better. From what I see, ex-German allies in these parts are pretty well off, while the allies of the West (Serbs and Greeks) have had a raw deal. The crimes in the recent Balkan wars were horrible, but I don't think they are anywhere near the masterful "performance" of Germany. Essentially, I think we (not only Serbia, but the whole of ex-Yugoslavia) are being sacrificed as the scapegoat of united Europe, so that some of the more horrendous crimes between the now united western Europeans could be forgotten and all the blame for large-scale European conflicts laid on the Balkans. I am sure you have day-to-day contacts with many Germans. Do they feel remorse and are the atrocities of their compatriots constantly thrown at them? No. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. So what more are we expected to do?
Just one more point and I will not take up any more space: we are not actually as dumb as some think we are and we know that the EU prospects planned for us are dismal and, at best, something that will happen some 20 years in the future. So the hoax "accept fast-track EU membership and forget about Kosovo, which is lost anyway" will not work. Frankly, I don't think even baboons or macaques would fall for that. Eurocrats will have to come up with something better, because this whole deal looks pretty shaky and patchy. The pathetic scrabble-like installation in Pristina could well have read "stillborn", for aught we care.

See? Some Serbs can actually speak and write proper English.

  • 76.
  • At 01:18 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Johh-Jovan wrote:

Gee, Mark, I'd say it's not a sense of victimhood, it is about the very real double standards that have been at work here. As a Serbian who's lived in the west since the late 1980s, I don't think I have been steeped in much "serbian propaganda," yet, the reporting in major media has been simply sickening all along, and anyone capable and willing to do some critical thinking can attest to that.

I doubt anyone will read this, much less post it, but here are some of the questions one might ask:

1. If Serbia has lost "any moral authority" to keep Kosovo, how come nobody questions Croatia's authority to keep the Krajina region? Oh, by the way, the purging of the Serbs from the region of Knin by the Croatian army was accompanied by bombings of defense positions of the Krajina Serbs by NATO (source: New York Times, but I remember this berried in the article). Most Krajina Serbs are still prevented from going home and are living as refugees in Serbia. How come this is never a problem or issue that's raised in talks about Croatia's entry into EU? It seems that some refugees and crimes are cause for forcible and unilateral changes of borders and others don't matter. It seems a matter of good taste whether one will recognize this as a double standard or blame the utterly dehumanized side for a "sense of victimhood."

2. If the integrity of the borders (btw, drawn by a communist dictator who was a Croat and certainly not pro-Serbian) is sacrosant, and this "argument" is used in discussions about the Serbian Republic in what is now Bosnia, why are Serbian borders the only exception? Apparently, the majority of the world is still awaiting an answer to this question and is in no rush to recognize the latest fait accompli. It may just be that the big or the "most important democracies" (whatever that is in these times of ultimate relativism) of the world and Europe have overplayed their hand. I certainly hope so but in any case, it is ironic that countries like Indonesia and China would be more principled and law-abiding in this respect than France or Britain.

3. Even if the Albanians have suffered a great deal, the quarter of a million of Serbian, Roma, and other refugees that have been expelled under the noses of NATO troups would suggest to any normal person that the Albanians should not be given entire Kosovo either. In other words, why not help the two communities separate and forever extricate themselves from this mess? Apparently not, once recognized as terrorists, the extremist thugs from KLA have somehow deseved to get everything they want, courtesy of the west. You can call it a sense of victimization, I call it double standards and mind-numbing hypocricy.

4. And the list goes on and on... getting into parallels Serbia-Turkey and Kosovo-Kurdistan will obviously take us waaaaaaaaaay to far... so I won't even try.

To close, let me just say that reading BBC and other major media outlets one gets all this talk about norms, justice, rule of law, NATO, EU, all rolled into nice and easy-to-swallow sound bites, but then, thanks to the internet, one can easily go to or and all this posturing instantaneously becomes totally transparent. So much so that I barely even visit BBC any more. The only question that I sometimes find puzzling over is do people like you really believe what they write? In other wors, is (lack of) competence or integrity the explanation for all this horror?

  • 77.
  • At 01:30 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • legenda wrote:

WOW.... Srbs racists... !?!?!

Not only Albanians and Serbs live in Serbia, there are more then 25 other nationalities living in Serbia, and they DO all have equal rights. As a matter of fact, I was surprised by their lack of knowledge of what nationality some people were around them. I knew very well of who Muslims were as I was chased from my home in Bosnia by them. One of the Muslim refugees from Bosnia was in my class. And imagine that, he was a refugee in that racist, hateful Serbia!!!
Shame on you mark for comparing Serbia to Germany! You should know how much Serbs suffered under Germany in both world wars. Next time compare NATO and EU to Nazi Germany attacking other countries, that would fit your descriptions much better.


  • 78.
  • At 01:31 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Lily wrote:

To post# 11

The accusation that Kosovo Albanians did not have "equal human rights" is a absolutely ridiculous and is the kind of false garbage perpetuated by the BBC. As an autonomous province Kosovo Albanians had more rights than they would have in Albania - they had their own schools, police, language... and they abused that power by treating Serbs like second class citizens in their own country! And when autonomy wasn't enough they started their demand for independence (even before Milosevic. For Serbs to express outrage that part of their country is being ripped away from them - they are automatically considered nationalists or radicals, but any other person that loves their country is a "patriot" right? Your second accusation that Serbs think of themselves as a "superior race" is just as absurd as your first accusation. Serbia was and to this day is the most multicultural of all the former Yugoslav republics.

As for you Mark: As much as you try to portray yourself as an un-biased journalist (if you can call yourself that - I wouldn't) any person with an ounce of intelligence can see that you are the antithesis of that, but then again would one expect anything different from the BBC?

I realize that this will probably not get posted.

  • 79.
  • At 02:07 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • D Calvitti wrote:

Some points to consider: It's easy to utter the phrase "the Serbs" when discussing the wars of the former
Yugoslavia since 1991. But when one intends to make accusations, just which "Serbs" are acccused,
and justly so? There are Serbs in Serbia, Bosnia, and there were many more Serbs in Croatia before 1995. Is Serbia itself to be punished severely for fomenting conflict? But did it actually directly go to war with its neighbors? How many of its citizens actually committed genocide, or how many atrocities were committed on Serbian soil
after WWII? So when one makes comparisons to Germany between WWI-WWII, one must know that: Germany and
Germans were indeed responsible for the wars and war crimes that it was accused of. But what about Serbia?
Are all Serbs in the Balkans from Serbia? I think not. Just how much punishment should Serbia suffer for
the mess Serbs from other areas of ex-yugo committed?

And as far as this article is concerned, it's very amusing. Especially when its purpose is the result of such a silly-premised accusation. "Toothless" indeed. Defending one's objectivity especially as it's essential as a functioning journalist is natural when it comes under scrutiny. On the other hand, the US and Britain were quick to jump on Kosovo's recognition as an independent state, the result of what the above article refers to loosely as Serbia losing the moral claims on the state. But I find it hard to swallow how in one case, NATO warplanes, spearheaded by US/British contingency, aid Croatia in what resulted in the ethnic cleansing of 200,000+ Serbs from its territory, and in another case, the same 1-2 punch punish Serbia for committing the exact same crime. Something clearly doesn't add up.

Does the author also find it hard to see, "whatever the moral or legal case, how in practical terms"
Serbs from Krajina and Slavonia in Croatia will ever be able to return to their homes? If the answer is yes, please be aware that there are families who find little humor in the irony, and that such a situation can create feelings of bias against a reporter who as far as these families are concerned represents the victors' point of view?

  • 80.
  • At 02:24 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Interested wrote:

Kosovo is a place that through history changed its masters. Whoever had the upper hand -Serbs or Albanians- maltreated and abused the others. It is the act of unspeakable arrogance to arrive at this point of history, look who was the repressed side for the last few years and give them the whole province by force. Without the real, written and signed agreement between the parties, this act of unilateral independence can only cause another war and more misery in the future. Perhaps not immediate future, but I'm afraid it will happen nonetheless.

And yes, look at the evolution of census figures over the last century or so to see who "won" the ethnic cleansing "game"...

  • 81.
  • At 02:46 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Boris Dutina wrote:

I find it unfair that if a Serb loves his country, he is labelled a nationalist or Hardliner but If you love your country in the US or UK you are Patriotic! I have read that Democratic candidate Barrack Obama has been labelled as unpatriotic because he didn’t have his hand over his heart during the American National anthem at a football game! I am a Serb that lives in Australia, I love Serbia, and I believe Kosovo should be part of Serbia! I don’t think that makes me a nationalist or a Hardliner!

Sense of victimhood - that is the key point in this case. And that sense is systematically produced and amplified by monstrous, nationalistic propaganda past twenty years.

  • 83.
  • At 03:11 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Joe wrote:

The loss of Kosovo is the last nail in Milosovich's coffin. He began his rise to power by stripping them of their autonomy (which had been given to them by Tito), and finished the job by causing Serbia to lose the province altogether.

If there were a more even split between the ethnic populations of Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo, some sort of deal might have worked. But that is not the case and, as has already been shown, autonomy, once given, can also be taken away.

The positive spin is that Serbia is no longer governed by a lunatic. He is looking towards the nation's future which he hopes will one day by that of a normal, peaceful European country.

I wish the Serbs well. I wish the Kosovars well. And I hope that in the near future they will both wish each other well.

  • 84.
  • At 04:48 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Tony wrote:

Mark Mardell great post!

Wow at the Serbs and their propaganda. They started wars in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and they still want more wars!

It looks like its in the Serb's blood to hold the arms on their hands. I still remember those Serbian soldiers of the Arkan with the black death symbol flags. Not to mention the massacres done all over the Balkan.

Again you showed your true face by burning the embassy of USA (which symbolizes the freedom, peace and democracy.) And they say only couple of "hooligans". We all know what the hooligans are, those 2 blondes didn't even look like bad girls! So far, only Serbia and North Korea have the nationalistic views. Not surprised when Serbia signed a treaty of arms with Saddam Hussein before that tyrant fell down. And you killed your democratic president (Djindjic sp?) No wonder, Karadzic is still living free in Serbia...And you are calling yourself a victim??? More like a devil's advocate! Sooner or later, Democracy will beat you!

Ok Serbia remorse. What about Turkey remorse for the genocides of Armenians, Greeks and other Christian populations during WWI? Armenians and others they mount to more than 3,000,000. UK demands for Turkey unconditionally in the EU. What about Bosnian and Croatian remorse?
How many Serbs, how many Croatians and how many Bosnians died during the war? Do numbers matter?

  • 86.
  • At 05:17 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • epiros wrote:

Very well written and insightful Mark. Serbia should stop behaving like a capricious child, flirting with EU and than back to Russia and than back to EU. Serbia should become serious and take a stance of where it wants to be, West or East. I'm a Greek orthodox and it makes me sick watching them playing the Christian drama with their priests and icons. It is getting boring.

  • 87.
  • At 05:23 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Mike wrote:

Mark please find me an article where the BBC has written anything nice about Serbia. You will probably not even embark on that because you know there is none. It is common knowledge that the BBC has something against Serbia I mean just look at your tabloid titles regarding anything related to Serbia “This is just the beginning” with an angry bearded Serb as your photo and you keep the news for days on you main page while other news disappears of your websites in a matter of hours. During the elections in Serbia the BBC put a photo of an old toothless (yes toothless) woman voting even though the presidential elections of 2008 had the biggest ever 18-25 voter turnout in the country’s history. Maybe it’s just subconscious but it is obvious the BBC has a grudge against Serbia since the civil war although Serbs as people shouldn’t be blamed for the wars rather their leader. I hope all Brits wot be held accountable for the atrocities in Iraq.

  • 88.
  • At 06:33 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • D V wrote:

This is in regards to a comment made prior to this one about why the population of serbs may have diminished so much since 1999.

I agree that the population has drastically changed as a result of wars, but there is more to it.Albanians are known to have the highest birthrate in Europe which for sure overpowered the average serbian of having two children per family.

Another thing I want to mention, that I have heard from a native serbian kosovar is something that seems to be ignored. This Serbian Kosovar, after 1999, was given a refugee visa, but under one condition: to NEVER come back to kosovo again. In the case that he did come back, he would lose his visa. Coming from kosovo where the unemployment rate is 50%, it may have very well been worth it, but as a result I bet many serbs were given that same exact ultimatum which helped diminish its population even more.

  • 89.
  • At 07:26 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • THUGS wrote:

But many of those who deal with Serbia are impatient. While their words would be a lot more erudite they amount to: “Get over it!”.

No Sir. We wont 'get over' or simply 'comply'. What your politicians say is the same what ottoman sultan said to our ancestors. We needed 5c to regain Kosovo (and Metohy). Maybe we would needed more this time, but we shall do it or fade to oblivion in effort to do it. But please, dont even think that your europe is vorthy of effort at all.
Sincerelly Yours

One of Serbian THUGS (THoothless UGly Serb)

  • 90.
  • At 08:37 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Stevan wrote:

I find it cynical that you refer to Carla del Ponte and talk about ‘EU built on reconciliation and remorse’ knowing that your own government is still officially denying its role in the atrocities in Kenya. It has been over fifty years since the brutal campaign of killing, rape and torture of civilians by British forces, yet no perpetrators were indicted, no victims compensated, no apologies issued. So before you question the moral rights of other nations, perhaps you should join your many noble countrymen in coming to terms with your own past. And then, maybe, the toothless countries of Europe will follow your example and your blogs will actually have some merit.

  • 91.
  • At 08:40 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Albi wrote:

I'd like to comment on a post of Natalija, when she tries to make comments on the number of albanians and serbs living in Kosovo.
Do you dear Natalija know that at the end of 80s and begining of 90s most of the albanians were thrown out of their jobs and their appartments to make place for all the refuge serbs coming from Croatia and Bosnia?! Also have you ever asked yourself why so many albanians (Kosovars) live in various EU countries and USA?!
By making it very difficult for albanians to live in Kosovo (80s and 90s) our number in Kosovo became ever smaller but grew very fast, and by bringing serbs from Croatia and Bosnia to Kosovo (even from Serbia itself), Serbian government tried to bolster the number of them and tried to change the demographic structure of Kosovo.
BTW, where do you get the number of Kosovo population, when it's been really a long time when we had a registration, and even when it was done albanian numbers were allways choped!

  • 92.
  • At 09:03 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Anja wrote:

Well, we do not need to become a beloved member of EU. Is GB a beloved member of the EU?

  • 93.
  • At 09:14 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Jeroen wrote:

I'm also surprised by the numerous negative comments on the various BBC website forums; the majority of them in favour of Serbia and many predicting World War 3.

I've been to Kosovo a few times and really can not see any way that Serbia can rule this territory effectively after all the bloodshed (admittedly on both sides - though the actions of Milosevic in the 1990s were truly horrific).

I agree this independence or EU-dependence is preferable to any Serb involvement that will undoubtedly just prolong the economic misery of Kosovo... or do the Serbs have a brilliant plan to create jobs in Kosovo, fix the energy crisis and police the place anytime soon? I can just imagine the protests we'd hear in Serbia if their tax money were to be used to patch up Kosovo!

I'd also like to touch on a point made by many commenters, that this creates a new 'muslim state' in Europe. These people clearly have no idea of the real situation in Kosovo, which just like Albania is mostly secular. All the '70% muslim' statistics you see in reports (even in reliable newspapers) are completely of the mark. Kosovo and Albania feel more secular than many Western European countries with only a handful of old men going to the mosques.

As for the comparison with other conflicts, I think there's a parallel with Transylvania too. Hungary lost this territory in about 1920 and was equally incensed about it; they also consider Transylvania a sort of cultural heartland because of the historic events forming the Hungarian nation that took place there in the past. Visit any chatroom on the topic and there will still be heated debates about who killed who, and there are plenty of maps for sale depicting the old Hungarian borders when times were still good (not so much for the suppressed minorities in Hungary, but that's a detail). Perhaps Serbia is going the same way, ending up as a embittered bunch of nostalgic map collectors. I hope not.

  • 94.
  • At 09:17 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • lindsay wrote:

I agree that the pictures are not very representative of a nation, given that serbian girls are reknowned in the Balkans for being the most beautiful. But when it comes to pictures, why not an article on the devastation of the Serbian orthodox churches in Kosovo, there is plenty of material on "You Tube". Ancient churches burned, icons destroyed, and yet the western world never mentions it or shows pictures of it. Most of the churches were and are UNESCO world heritage, but are on the "Danger List". Think of the outcry one would see, if christians burned to the ground, muslim mosques. What would the world say? I personally am sick of these debates, I research myself and watch the videos showing this destruction and am daily shocked, when i read the BBC, and never once see anything mentioned of what the Albanians did the the Serbian heritage. I would appreciate, as you have tried to do here, a more balanced view of things, and not just politics politics, but more of what happens on the ground.

  • 95.
  • At 09:26 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Fisnik wrote:

I want to rephrase something what US secretary of the State said couple of days ago, "Serbians talk about something that happened in 1836." For your information we are in 2008 now, think about it. Get over it - move forward. People die and there is nothing we can do about it. That's the way it is. Serbia lost Kosova and there is nothing you can do about it. You lost if because of all inhuman things committed by Serbian people. It’s a pity that a copy-paste of Millosevic is still running Serbia. I would strongly recommend you to wake up because the world knows what has actually happen in Kosova and who the victim is. Wake Up. Look towards the future. We are in the 21st century my dear Serbs.

  • 96.
  • At 09:58 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Avni wrote:

Sure my northern neighbour friend, you are sure likely to fade into oblivion in effort to do it, but at least you will fade with dignity and pride and you will have Kosova the last thing on your mind.
That's what we call a patriot on the Balkans.
He he, as ironic as it sounds, you never know the value of something until you have lost it. Get over it. It's a done deal. EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON!!! Think about it!

  • 97.
  • At 10:01 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Nick wrote:

If we follow the revisionist logic of some of your correspondents, should we now regard the forcible redrawing of Germany's borders post-1945 as a cynical betrayal of all the "good Germans" like Willi Brandt (who actively opposed the odious 1933-45 régime) and the high-minded democrats of all shades who have led the Federal Republic since 1949? It has always been customary for "victorious powers" to reassign territories they end up controlling from one sovereign administration to another (or to grant them independence), usually with a view to protecting their own national interests. Now we have the Russians (of all people!) moaning about the incompatibility of Kosovan independence with "international law", whatever that is supposed to mean. I am desperately sorry for the Serbs trapped inside an independent Kosovo, and would argue that a redrawn frontier round Mitrovica would solve a lot of problems. I seem to recall, however, that a similar suggestion - to "bend" the Oder-Neisse Line - was put forward in 1945-46, so as to exclude a number of majority German-speaking cities like Breslau and Stettin from a newly reconfigured Poland. And we all know who put the lid on that... If the Germans - save for a shrinking band of ageing East Prussian nostalgics - can "get over it", so can the Serbs (toothless or not).

  • 98.
  • At 10:12 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Milan wrote:


  • 99.
  • At 10:13 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • dalmat wrote:

Hi everyone
You might be interested to hear what an ethnically cleansed Serb from Dalmatia,today UK citizen, thinks about this issue.
The West has accepted ethnic cleansing as a tool for "bringing peace" to Balkans. Just a question: What is the difference between Kosovo and Serb Krajina and why is OK to expel Serbs from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo but is Crime to do the same to Albanians of Kosovo.
It seams that by West the Serbs and Serbia are marked as problem in Balkans. Are the others really better than them, more democratic, peace loving, etc., more human in short.
It's hard to take how West happily accepted ethnic cleansing by KLA Albanians (sorry Kosovars) under NATO protection.
The fact is that only in Serbia there haven't been forcefully created demographic changes (except Kosovo), but there is about 1 million refuges there. But that's fine, they deserve it, they are Serbs.
I hated Milosevic at the time but now I think that if the Serbs had Gandhi as a president, the results would be the same.
We will never surrender. I hope.

  • 100.
  • At 10:34 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • A person wrote:

Ah what a shallow post. Well I will be even more shallow;

if you visit the website and search ‘gorgeous Belgrade girls’ you will see that Serbs are far from ‘toothless’. A video made by a Scotsmen and not by a Serb I may add.

  • 101.
  • At 10:39 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • churchill wrote:

If Europe is truly nursing the believe of uniting themselves, then they better think again. Usually, it's at the close moment of unification that the most trouble suddenly burst out. Who couldn't have expected Kosovo to divide west-east further. it clearly shows that Kosovo has a resounding value in the unification of europe. What western governments should be doing is how to restore Kosovo back to its Gloriuos past:Its christian History.

  • 102.
  • At 11:00 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Peter Masters wrote:

The article takes a lot of strange turns. It will try to address a few:
- the Irish got over the north for a say and better minority rights. It might be added: the prospect that due to demographic changes the North will one day be undder catholic rule.
- Germany after World War I: the tragedy is that they did have real points to complain about: the borders that forced German majority areas in other countries, the treatment of the Germans in Czecheslovakia, the forced separation of Austria, etc. A major reason why Chamberlain had to give in in Munich 1938 on Sudetenland was that it would be very hard to explain at home why British soldiers had to die for the right of the Czechs to (mis)rule over German-majority areas.
- the Slovenes started both the shooting and the ethnic cleansing (look on Google for "Slovenia the erased") in former Yugoslavia. I never heared anyone require them to show remorse. Don't you think that being onesided in asking remorse creates more problems than it solves?

  • 103.
  • At 11:05 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Maksimo wrote:

I sense the author of this article was trying his hand at a bit of humour. Not funny. Wrong theme, wrong timing

On another topic, is not there a law in some european countries against denying the holocaust? Well, what if we tossed that coin, and suppose there was a law against falsely claiming genocide. I am sick to the stomach of albanians claiming they were victims of genocide.

There are now 300,000 more albanians in kosovo than in 1999. How is this possible if they were the victims of 'genocide'. enough already

  • 104.
  • At 11:35 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Aster Blistock wrote:

Thanks for the interesting post, Mark. For an academic analysis of the role of religion and myth in the recent Balkan wars and the Serbian understanding of Kosovo please see this article by one of the leading European Muslim scholars of today:

Also it needs to be pointed out that denouncing Milosevic is not a sufficient condition for being a 'good guy' in Serbia. Unfortunately, it appears that many of those Serbs who denounce Milosevic still believe that the likes of Karadzic and Mladic should be greeted as national heroes.

  • 105.
  • At 12:10 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Thabo wrote:

If the Serbs really do feel this strongly about Kosovo then violence is inevitable. The EU forces in Kosovo seem extremely vulnerable to hit and run insurgent attacks. Should a low level insurgency break out how much blood would the EU be prepared to shed in order to keep Kosovo independent? Five thousand, ten thousand, fifty thousand lives - and for what?

Aside from becoming a conflict without end that over decades consumes EU lives and treasure, Kosovo might also go down in history as the high water mark of Europe's eastward power projection.

  • 106.
  • At 12:57 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • sima wrote:

Presenting various ethnicities in different medias has offten been on the edge of creating politicaly motivated stereotypes. But this can go even further. Since my childhood I have been exposed to the influence of serbian state television which was trying for a very long period during Milosevic era to convince the spectators that all the leaders of the oposition are foreign agents or criminals while on the other hand Milosevic himself was the solely protector of national interest. State television even encouraged people to invest their money during the hiperinflantion in banks that turnout to be froud companies and people believed it. However I can't resist in not saying a word or two about the core of the problem about the conflict between Serbs and Albanians. Historicaly both nations have their right to live in Kosovo or even to claim it but what ever the official phraseology neither the Serbs nor the Albanians do not recognize that right to each other. When Serbs arrived in Balkans in the sixth century the indigeneous Illirian populations had already been almost exterminated by the Romans and was living in the region aproximately correspoding to that of the present day Albanian state. The Kosovo was held by the Byzintine empire and was mostly inhabited by the Roman colonists. Serbian kings took over Kosovo from them in the twelveth century. By Serbian expansion towards the south Kosovo ( than the term reffering only to the minor part of the present day teritory and that of the Slavic origin ) became the heart and the most developed part of the Serbian state. In that time though it is much simplifzing to talk about the nations in modern terms, Albanians and Sebs had no difficulties in their reltionship. With the arrival of the Turks who managed to held two thirds of Balkans under their rule for five centuries the political climate changed and the Albanian who mostly accepted the conqueres religion begun to thriwe. The Albanians were not the exception, many Serbs also accepted Islam and being the priviliged class of society they exploited their christian compatriots throughout Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro. Thus the feudal system under the Turkish rule left all these nations to be in the time capsule of feudalism untill the end of the nineteenth century. Serbs fought on the allied side in both world wars but being pushed by mr. Churchills deal with Stalin in to the hands of Soviet Serbs after the second world war weren't the typichal winners. The point is that both Serbs and Albanians had never lived in the normal and civilised democratic societies and when the comunism colapsed both nations were seized by their ex communist elite now turning to the new totalitarian model of nationalism combined with the criminalized privatization. The leading forces of USA and EU aswell as Russia done nothing to help these nations create a way for modernization and pregress but instead they have used and offten stired conflicts in order to fullfill their own sometimes even minor strategic interests.

  • 107.
  • At 01:08 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Artan, Prishtina wrote:

Thank you Mark for making this possible.

It is sad to observe that many Serbs have entered the masochistic "circulus viciosus" and seem to never get out of it. It is also sad that they blame Milosevic alone for everything. So, Milosevic alone did all the wars, he was a superman, batman...he drove tanks alone, planes, fired every bullet, and the rest of serbs were watching the "miracle show" on TV, on how well he was performing. So it started with Slovenia, luckily it lasted one day only, then Croatia, Bosnia and finally Kosova??? I wonder now whether they will start the same with Vojvodina, because Serbs there are "suffering" too...

As a response to some comments here:
1. Turkey archives - 1878 after St. Stephans Tractate & Berlins congress with a secret agreement between serbs and turks , 250 000 albanians were expelled from towns that currently are in Serbia (Nis, and sandjak area. They were sent to Anadoll - Turkey, they were all to change their names and identity. In 1912, after London's congress, 200 000 albanians again from Sandjak Ulcinj, Tivar, Potgorica (currently in Montenegro) sent to same location in Turkey (Sandjak - Vilayet of Sandjak under Otoman empire). Furthermore, Ulcinj, Tivar were given to Montenegro as a reward for participating in Balkans war, Nis & Sandjak were given to Serbia as a reward, Skopje, Tetovo & Gostivar (Macedonia) were given to Macedonia, 40 km deep territory of southern Albania given to Greece. Albania was about to be given to Italy, fortunately US President Wilson did not allow that. All these happened till 1912. See the current Turkey population about 4 million "Albanians" live there. I assume some would say "They will declare Independence there too".

What happened in the past is not recoverable, now we are in present, and only in present we can make decisions. Kosova is now independent, I am happy to live in. Maybe as THUGS wrote, it will be taken by Serbia after 500 yrs, who knows, but for now, I appeal to THUG and his friends and nation to live in the present not the past or future, so that together as decent european citizens make our lives better.

We Kosovars have gotten over what happened just last decade, which is still painful, but have a good will to move on. I personally know many serbs, some are my friends, they have optimistic point of wiev, they claim that they are being used by Serbian politicians in Belgrade for their own benefit of staying in power. My friends claim that they are not welcome in serbia, they are called "izbeglice" (refugees) and treated like second class citizens.
World moves forward...

  • 108.
  • At 01:23 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Toothless wrote:

"We have in Serbia a situation in which the U.S. has forced an action --the proclamation of independence by the Kosovo Albanians -- that is in clear violation of the most fundamental principles of international law after World War II," argues Robert Hayden, Director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. "Borders cannot be changed by force and without consent -- that principle was actually the main stated reason for the 1991 U.S. attack on Iraq."

Toothless this, isn't it?

  • 109.
  • At 02:07 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Dejan wrote:

About cigarette and a tooth pick:

If you lost somewhere in South Serbia mountains you will get hot soup and bed for free charges and no questions.

In Albania you will get one phone call to contact your family about buying up.

In US you will get lot of questions.

  • 110.
  • At 02:43 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Dragan wrote:

Thor, you are right! It is the cheepest way for EU and the troubled US to give Kosovo independence! One does not have to be right, but rich enough to get US and UK approval to manipulate with the rest of the World.

  • 111.
  • At 02:51 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • arto wrote:

Not to be redundant,but supposing several of the states in the south western part of the United States,namely Texas,California etc.wanted to create separate and independent Spanish speaking territories separating themselves from the United States with there own form of government.These territories did belong to Mexico at one time in past history.There is a great migration of Mexicans into these states and in time will supplant other ethnic peoples in this region.Will the UN and western powers step in to aid the population of these states ?Which country will be willing to bomb Washington ?
My point is this,people are migrating to other countries consistently , they bring along there own language and customs but soon accept there new language and customs as well as the rules and regulations set down by that particular government.My parents migrated to the United States in 1920 and became Americanized as did many immigrants , we are proud of our heritage but loyal to our new country.

  • 112.
  • At 03:19 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Lennart wrote:

As we are speaking about the independence being just, there is one thing: if we don’t accept the Kosovar independence then what? For almost a decade the UN was administrating the territory, this made an unstable situation, no business would invest, the province stayed poor (this hurt both Serbs and Albanians). Furthermore the Kosovo issue was troubling for the entire region. In other words: there had to come a solution any time soon.
In order to find a solution there have been a lot of negotiations. All failed however. The options of far going autonomy within Serbia were not accepted by Serbia and Russia. Proposals by the Serbs and the Russians were rejected by the Albanians. Conclusion: negotiating seemed not to work-out a desperately needed solution.
Then: are there any possibilities of keeping Kosovo in Serbia? This would mean turning back the independence and force the Albanians to be in Serbia. How? If the answer is (as it was in 1998) putting a lot the Albanians out of Kosovo, I prefer to support independence. If the answer is the Albanians will integrate in Serbia, it is not going to happen and there will be civil war (we all know how these can be). And than after the civil war we will probably face the same problem. Again I prefer independence now.
So: although understanding the Serbian anger, I do not see any other solution.
I will conclude: the majority of the Kosovar population wants independence and I will accept this, not with joy but knowing there is no other solution.
I hope this is the last obstacle and the region will move towards EU-integration so there will be no more violence.

  • 113.
  • At 03:37 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Petrit wrote:

For those people that want to know the truth. According to the official Yugoslav 1991 census, which to say the least was biased, there were 194270 serbs in Kosova. Now serbs claim that there are 250000 serb refugees in Srbia and another 100000 still remaining in Kosova. Can someone explain the maths here pls? or is it that they are just brainwashed and live in denial!

  • 114.
  • At 04:38 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Boki wrote:

It's funny how all that BBC focuses on is exactly what the US and British governments agree with. The recognition of Kosovo is breaking international law and going against UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The Serbian Constitution clearly states that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia and Serbia has the right of the sovereignty over it's land. The same thing is stated in Resolution 1244 which states that the boundaries of the SR Jugoslavia, to whom Serbia is the legal succesor state, will not and cannot be changed without the agreement with Serbia. This is sad that International law is not followed and the "Police of the world", the USA, dosen't even follow it.

  • 115.
  • At 05:03 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Alex wrote:

These people are chanting “Kill, Slaughter so an Albanian does not exist” or “Knife, Wire, Srebrenica” or “Long Live Ratko Mladic” (war criminal responsible for genocide, hiding in Serbia)… and now they should be represented with some nice, decent photos, so that they look better for worldwide audience.
We are talking about people who openly support genocide in Bosnia and who have no objections to Milosevic’s policy of ‘ethnic cleansing”, in fact they blame Milosevic for not completing his genocidal project, and now we have to make sure that that kind of people look good on BBC web site.

How’s about some better-looking photos of Hitler and Osama then?

  • 116.
  • At 05:22 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • titti wrote:

In response to dan matei's writing, I think its pathetic to accuse bbc and mainstream western media in general claiming to demonize serbs or Serbia Pure fact is that Serbia always used the local media and tried to present/demonize kosovars(albanians)as terrorists, religious fundamentalists and uncivilised(rapist, involved in drug trade, organize crime etc, which of course always was preplanned and prejudicial).
Also with regards to those pictures we should not forget that 60% or more of Kosova's population is under 25 years old, while more then 40% of serbs voted for Serb Radical Party(Which derives from Cetnik nationalist serb movement)and yes cetniks always had and always will have beards and xenophoebic ideas, just like their leader who is as we speak is being tried by War crimes tribunal on the Hague, So please before you decide to write something at least check the basic facts.

  • 117.
  • At 05:27 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Vlada Spasic wrote:

Mark - I was also thinking last week how "coincidental" could it be that you are showing pictures of unshaven, rugged looking Serbs. I mean, pictures are worth thousand words so the only impression that your blog-entry could convey is that Serbs are these wild people that do nothing but fight. Of course that is not the truth....people that you are showing are from rural communities in the Balkans and they constitute maybe 20% of the total population. Maybe you should direct people to the site like:

Yeah, why don't you try maybe people can see beautiful Serbian men and women that the entire world is talking about. And a lot of them were also protesting but you don't publish their pictures. Probably because it doesn't fit withing your "journalistic" agenda. Mark just be fair journalist and I guarantee you will sleep better and be a better servant to your profession.

  • 118.
  • At 05:38 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Zuta Osa wrote:

What fascinates me is the level of intellectual discipline that needs to be maintained when 'debating' whether or not a 9 year old NATO military district, run and managed by the US and its clients, should be recognized as 'independent' or not. Why do Kurds get Turkish 'cross border raids', Gazans blockades, bombing raids and Israeli 'incursions', Abkhazians the Harvard-trained Saakashvili military, and so on and so on, while the `Albanians` get a `state`, Mark? Perhaps for the same reason that Iran got nuclear know-how under the Shah, just like Saddam Hussein got his chemical weapons? Or maybe it was why Noriega was handed Panama, or why Osama bin Laden and Musharraf rose to such glorious prominence? It's obvious what it takes to get the goodies, and you don't need an intellectual journalist to tell you: obey orders.

Just how insane do you think we have to be to take the `military humanism` you apparently stake the West's claim of moral ascendancy on as anything more than a euphemized drive to secure stupendous sources of strategic power? What level of hypocritical concern about the rights of self-determination and 'democracy' and 'freedom' must we hear before you cry uncle? Your power and privilege give you huge responsibilities, which you shirk by ignoring moral truisms and engaging in empty debate along with virtually your entire profession. Since real lives are ruined every day based on the ignorance and pompous self-righteousness you and your kind sow, a certain salutation involving you and the horse you rode in on comes to mind.

  • 119.
  • At 06:25 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • kosta wrote:

Roughly 2-million Serbs were killed during the course of the 20th century, resisting foreign occupation in order to create a country (which took the form of a multiethnic federation). Over the past 20 years, some 800,000 Serbs became refugees because of the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo and some 20,000 (conservatively) were killed in these conflicts. The West during these 20 years, divided Yugoslavia into 6 (now 7? countries), never once consulting the Serbian people and always backing unilateral moves towards secession (i.e. without negotiations with Serbia or the Serb people in these republics). As a direct result of Western policy Serbs now have been partitioned into 5 states.

I'm Serbian, and like most Serbs I reject nationlist politics (most voted for Tadic recently because they wanted to avoid the Radicals coming into power), but it's difficult to combat the nationalists when there are so many arguments / injustices done by the West towards Serbs that have never been excused (Germany never paid reparations for its crimes to Serbs over the course of the 20th century). Furthermore, many Serbs support the Radicals, not because of their nationalism (most are tired of the wars that have occured), but because of their opposition to the impoverishing logics of "transition" economics and shock therapy.

The same situation maintains in Kosovo among Albanians and throughout the region. Let's move forward, but in order to do so, everyone involved will have to re-examine their own positions / hangovers from the wars of 1990s. There are new players on the scene and new possibilities for regional cooperation that need to be seized (both at the government level and at the grassroots level). For people in the West, I think it's important this time around to see what our governments did and did not do during the 1990s and how they themselves were a factor of instability (who did 'we' in the West arm? what nationalisms did we support? which crimes were we silent on? are we consistent when we demand war-crimes trials for Balkan peoples but our states refuse to give up British and US generals guilty of war-crimes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan)....

Just some questions to ponder. Meanwhile I'll continue debating the Serbian nationalists in my own community...

  • 120.
  • At 07:23 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Jeroen wrote:

And here's a refreshing look at Kosovo's history:


Is Kosovo Serbia? We ask a historian

Noel Malcolm, senior research fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. He is the author of Kosovo: A Short History. The Guardian, Tuesday February 26 2008.

"Kosovo is Serbia", "Ask any historian" read the unlikely placards, waved by angry Serb demonstrators in Brussels on Sunday. This is rather flattering for historians: we don't often get asked to adjudicate. It does not, however, follow that any historian would agree, not least because historians do not use this sort of eternal present tense.

History, for the Serbs, started in the early 7th century, when they settled in the Balkans. Their power base was outside Kosovo, which they fully conquered in the early 13th, so the claim that Kosovo was the "cradle" of the Serbs is untrue.

What is true is that they ruled Kosovo for about 250 years, until the final Ottoman takeover in the mid-15th century. Churches and monasteries remain from that period, but there is no more continuity between the medieval Serbian state and today's Serbia than there is between the Byzantine Empire and Greece.

Kosovo remained Ottoman territory until it was conquered by Serbian forces in 1912. Serbs would say "liberated"; but even their own estimates put the Orthodox Serb population at less than 25%. The majority population was Albanian, and did not welcome Serb rule, so "conquered" seems the right word.

But legally, Kosovo was not incorporated into the Serbian kingdom in 1912; it remained occupied territory until some time after 1918. Then, finally, it was incorporated, not into a Serbian state, but into a Yugoslav one. And with one big interruption (the second world war) it remained part of some sort of Yugoslav state until June 2006.

Until the destruction of the old federal Yugoslavia by Milosevic, Kosovo had a dual status. It was called a part of Serbia; but it was also called a unit of the federation. In all practical ways, the latter sense prevailed: Kosovo had its own parliament and government, and was directly represented at the federal level, alongside Serbia. It was, in fact, one of the eight units of the federal system.

Almost all the other units have now become independent states. Historically, the independence of Kosovo just completes that process. Therefore, Kosovo has become an ex-Yugoslav state, as any historian could tell you.


  • 121.
  • At 08:11 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Toothless wrote:

Thank you, Lindsay 61.

It is obvious that Serbia is a special case. Get 200,000 Serbs out of Kosovo, surely they are going to be called "toothles". Bomb them 78 days, surely they are "toothless". Would you like something else? Do you want more? Deny "toothles" of some more rights. Steal his territory. Even if the "toothless" is a dog, if you kick him around daily it will start to bite. Something more to prove your "supremacy"? Go on, press more and what will happen? The "toothless" will sharpen their teeth. No doubt. But, remember: no illegal act can ever create a precedent. Stop harrassing the "tootless", do something positive if you are ever capable of that. Are you? Where is the source of your supremacy? Scotland's independence in 2010 based on the Kosovo "precedent"?

  • 122.
  • At 09:34 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • david wootton wrote:

There is lots of room for compromise in this Kosova-Serb conflict. I personally would support PARTITION the evil word of the 21st century. Partition would have solved many past conflicts before they turned into wars. Why would one language group ever consider living with another. What kind of country would ever be stable when one part cannot communicate properly with the other. I would suggest that my own country, Canada, be partitioned if necessary to avoid conflict. I suggest that all nation-states should be divided along ethnic and linguistic lines. Sooner or later, all will by means of conflict and even war. Why are the politicians and people of the world not practical in this way. It should be easy for the Kosovars to give up the Serb area north of Mitrovica in return for an agreement allowing a future union with Albania or / and an exchange of Albanian occupied area in Serbia.

The Serbs have learned a hard lesson - one that has been learned over and over again in history, that if you don't breed and occupy areas, you are doomed to lose it. Western peoples from Vancouver to Vladivostok will learn that lesson some time in the 21 st century - it's all too obvious to me. As the old saying goes: occupancy is 90 percent of the law !!

I welcome the new country of Kosova in addition to the future new countries of Kurdistan, Palestine, Quebec, Nubia, Sahara, Dagestan, Ossetia ( North and South united ), Chechenia, Tibet, Basques, Wallonia, ad infinitum.

  • 123.
  • At 10:15 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • ronald krauss wrote:

Lets not make this about religion like it is the tendency to make every disagreement in the world. Whoever has met albanians or serbs would most probably have realized that both sides are not very religious and use religion exclusively as a tool against the other group. In fact this is not an issue anymore in my opinion. After serbia vents for a while, it will move on with its life realizing that the indipendence of Kosovo is an advantageous move for serbia as well.

  • 124.
  • At 10:30 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Sujica Boris wrote:

What can people who live far away from Serbia and Kosovo say about serbs, and how do they have the nearv to call us killers and so on. Milosevic was a politician who was much better than Bush or Clinton, and it wasn't his falt that croats, muslims and slovenians wanted to tear down our country. Would the USA permit Texas or Alabama or any other state to leave without war, I think not. I lived here all my life and I hear from foreign reporters what is hapening in this country and they know everything just by coming here for a couple of days. That is not realistic, and I as a serb am very offended. Kosovo is a part of Serbia and nor the USA nor the EU can tell me otherwise, as long as they tell lyes the serbian people will revolt against them even thou they don't have anything to revolt with. We are a proud nation and I'm afraid that the inly solution to the serbs is to take what is their's are die trying. Don't think that the serbs are ready for war, but they are to proud to kiss the EU and the USA's asses!

  • 125.
  • At 10:32 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Gabrielle N. Bailey wrote:

Some article! Another psychic on Serbian morality. I often wonder why remorse is always on the shoulders of the Serbs? Germany, Italy, Albania, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, etc. never apologized to Serbia for WW I and WW II. The Albanians slaughtered the Serbs in Kosovo with such zest during WW II that the Italian occupiers had to pull them off. The Germans and Croatians never apologized for the 700,000 Serbs killed in concentration camps. The Croatians actually turned their concentrations camps into bird sanctuaries! So much for remorse! The U.S. never apologized to Serbia for handing them over to the Russians after WW II. or bombing them on Easter Sunday, and killing 20,000 civilians on their way to church. So, it seems that although Serbia WAS actually very heavily victimized over the years, no one has felt the need to step up to the plate and document remorse. Unlike the rest of the self righteous, superior,Europeans-neither Serbia, nor Yugoslavia has ever attacked another country in their entire existence. Maybe the US, Britian and France should apologize for breaking International law and stealing $220 billion in mineral resources from Serbia. Oh, I forgot-powerful countries don't need to apologize or feel remorse. They can just bully everyone and fabricate the truth until they actually believe their lies. It wouldn't hurt you to do some REAL reserch and practice a little fairness and accuracy in reporting. That is after all your job.

  • 126.
  • At 12:39 AM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Adi wrote:

Since Serbia and Greece got a "bad deal" from the West as someone suggested, isn't it the time to join Putin's Russia. As you may know they are having a big boom. may be it will be better for everybody. I frankly dont think states where orthodox church rules belong with the rest of the free democratic nations. let them be with each other.

Also Kosova is an indipendent country now and they can call themselves whatever they please! As per Serbian "we will get Kosova back"- in your dreams!

thank you mark for your stories.
Adi from Canada

  • 127.
  • At 05:01 AM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Branislav wrote:

Dear Mark lets forget the myths, history, Turks, invaders, battles, losses, victims... Let me try to explain what hurts the most and explain it in the language you understand: WE HAD A DEAL AND YOU BROKE IT. As you know, Serbia did not fight Albanians in Kosovo. Yes, there was an insurgency. But it was US and Serbia that fought the real war. And it is true: Serbia lost. Serbia lost when it pulled UNTOUCHED AND UNCHALLENGED army from the most sacred part of its country. In my opinion it was a good idea to stop the violence and the killing. However, we had a deal. The deal that in some way, in some small, insignificant way Serbia will return to Kosovo. Not as a ruler but as a helper. Nine years later, when we, democratic, open Serbia ousted Milosevic in the streets, when he is dead in the Hag you have broken that deal. This is the new Serbia you lied to! Why? Because of what happened in the 1990 or 1998 or while Milosevic was alive? Why can't the US & UK get over Milosevic? When will you stop looking into the past? When will you GET OVER IT?

  • 128.
  • At 06:34 AM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Ion Boanda wrote:

(...and as a true gesture of reconciliation, a grand ceremony should be held on Kosovo Pole, the site of that battle of 1389...)

How about of that of 1999?

You're a funny guy...a very funny guy... I'm sure that in the back of your mind you know that Feb. 17/2008 will come back to hunt the UK, BIG TIME!

  • 129.
  • At 06:38 AM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Dexter wrote:

You know why most people cannot solve Agatha Christie's mysteries?
Because she makes you believe that certain statements made by people are actually facts. Thus, when you start thinking you are cluless. You think you have all the facts to convict person A, but alas, it's not him. It's the guy you least suspected.
When I read some of the comments here it is obvious that writers of modern history script have studied the great Agatha. Certain things are presented as undisputable facts, but again , as in Agatha stories, when you carefully put them undr microscope you see that all those "facts" are actually coming from the criminal himself!
Examples: 1, Albanians suffered during Serbian rule. This one is my favorite since this is a statement that is simply unverifable yet powerful. How would you really verify this? BY Albanian stories?

2. Serbs commited ethnic cleansing and genocide. Often, a number of 10,000 is trown around. Now, how exactly did they get to a nice, even round number of 10,000? If anybody was ever counting, they would have come up with something like 9,954 or 10,123 or some beliavable number. The truth of course is that the number is sheer propaganda promoted by the West, becasue it often comes with an important clue of "estimated". Do you know how many people Rudy Gulianni estimated died in WTC attacks? 25,000-30,000 perhaps more, said him during hours of chaos. THose who followed the events in 1999 would know that number of killed Albanians started at hundreds of thousands, then started dropping to tens of thousands before settling for 10,000 simply because they were not sure how low it would go.

Even if that were true, how many were killed by NATO bombs (o yes that was true, I have it on tape if you wish courtesy of F-18 pilots), how many were KLA soldiers? I never saw that breakdown, so please show it to me.
Even if we stop arguing about numbers, did any world institution accused Serbia of such crime? Trust me, they tried in Bosnia, if it there was any grain of truth in that US would not miss to exploit it.

There are many other examples of this, but I will not bother readers.
I will just say that sometimes if you look at "facts" under different angle a whole new story emerges, you may even stuble upon the truth. Who knows.

  • 130.
  • At 07:11 AM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

I don't think it's a question of teeth in a literal sense.

Serb nationalists' fury is caused by a fact that their country doesn't have any teeth metaphorically vis a vis peoples they used to subjugate.

And what angers them even more is a knowledge that putinesque Russia they'd like to rely on is basically toothless too despite all Kremlin's claims to the contrary.

Hey, how about a decent denture?

It could make a good impression, at least on people who don't know any better.

hey Mark, i did not know, you are quite funny, your blog is good. BBC has been filled with some many depressing comments by serbs and few albanians that sound all so similarly depressing, blaming the us/eu everybody, bla bla, "Get Over It" and enough with the "toothless serb symptom" :) good one. ...

  • 132.
  • At 02:14 PM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Stephen Basten wrote:

I agree with the comparision of situation with post WWI Germany.


Because, right now, serbs see themselves as completely abandoned by democracies,unequal compared to others on Balkans and their territory stolen.

-Ethnic serbs militarily expeled from Croatia...not much of them returned...they dont have a right to the state or selfgoverment.

-Bosnian serbs have their entity, but dont have right to secede from Bosnia.

-Kosovo serbs were promised milk and honey but are actually living in economicaly poor ghettos...except in northern part.

Unfortunately,as Javier Solana implied, EU accepted the rule of ethnic cleansing as legitimate in Balkans.

Fact is, that neither serbs nor albanians have strong democratic tradition, rules or for them economical and political european future is far away.

And even serb proeuropean politicians dont see kosovo as independent least without an agreement with Serbia.

It was also a fairy tail, saying that independent Kosovo, as is right now, will be stabilizing factor for Balkans.
Wrong, will be quite the opposite not just for Balkans but for the rest of the world too.

Which country will let UN troops in with the prospect of loosing territory?

Actual independence of Kosovo is questionable, because foreign governing body can and will overrule any decision of democraticly elected kosovo parliament that they see inappropriate. And that body will look only of itselfs interests.

Just wait and see which companies will be the owners of kosovan natural riches, telecommunications, highways...

Money does not care for democracy, just profit.

I see no light at the end of the balkans story tunnel yet.

  • 133.
  • At 04:58 PM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Slav wrote:

So when will the world recognize the Lakotha Republic? Lakotha declared its independence in December of last year by withdrawing from all treaties with United States. The country encompasses better part of Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota. Will EU and GB support their right to self govern as well? I highly doubt that, even thou those people surly have more rights to those territories then Albanians have to Kosovo.

  • 134.
  • At 05:59 PM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Alex wrote:

To Mark Mardell,
I've been following your work (especially related to former Yu) for many years. I'm struck with your lack of knowledge and understanding of the complexity of the situation in the Balkans, and the international law. But on the other hand I understand that you are just tiny part of the British propaganda machinery, which helped the creation of the monster called Kosovo. It is not my intention to give you lessons on Balkan history and reality, but if you call yourself a journalist, at least you should try not to be so one sided.........

  • 135.
  • At 08:29 PM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Auberoni wrote:

Hey Joseph, Serbia can't appeal to the International Law because Serbia violated the same law for decades. When one country starts killing its own citizens just because they have different ethnic background, should not appeal to the same law it has violated when the time of facing the consequences comes.

  • 136.
  • At 09:01 PM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Nick wrote:

Yes Mr Mardell, the "evil" Serbs (who just looove to play victims, and are NEVER victimised), were the only agressors in all Balkan conflicts, while charming, freindly and fun-loving Albanian leaders Agim Cheku, Hashim Thaci and Haradinaj (whose illegal organisation KLA was recognised as terrorist by the UN) were just holding hands with children, peacefully picking flowers and singing "Ode to Joy" in fields of Kosovo. And arms, drug, stolen car, and human trafficking in Kosovo for the last 10 years, was actually done by Japanese Samurai, not friendly, ever-smiling, freedom-loving Albanians.

Seems that your knowledge of Balkan situation in the last 30 years comes down to - When unsure, just blame Milosevic and evil Serbs.

  • 137.
  • At 11:16 PM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • V.L. wrote:

Hello Mr. Mardell,
when you get a chance, please take a look at this video because I think it will give you another outlook on the situation in the Balkans.


  • 138.
  • At 12:28 AM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Ivan Plavec wrote:

Both my grandfathers and great uncles and great grandfathers fought in the WWI and WWII against Austrohungarian empire and the Germans helping the allies, saving thousands of allied lives, the French, the English, the Americans...

Serbs were the only people in the balkans to have never sided with the enemy counting Croatians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Hungarians, etc...

SO you my friend, can go and write these articles all you want....Because at the end of the day, you represent to me what I always knew...Cowards.

I live in Australia now and observe ANZAC day celebrations, however I think of my forefathers and what they have done in liberating Europe and this is how you treat us today, by writing these bs articles...

Shame on you. Serbia is a country of great history and willingess to help the cause of justice and has always fought in the name of a free Europe.

  • 139.
  • At 05:02 AM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Amused wrote:

A bit of advise for the Serbs and their advocates: Please watch (and, if necessary, watch again) the Seinfeld episode in which George decides to do the opposite of what his instincts tell him is correct.

Were you to allow the lesson of that funny episode to govern your own actions:

- If you felt the urge to remind us, yet again, of Serbia's centuries of woe... You might instead acknowledge, with some sincerity, that the Serbs have not always been innocent victims and have committed their fair share of crimes at their neighbors' expense.

- If you felt the urge to lionize the likes of Karadzic, Mladic, Seselj, etc... You might instead show some respect for their innocent victims.

- If you felt the urge to paint the West as hypocritical... You might instead suggest that Serbia renounce its claims to Bosnia and the Croatian krajina.

- If you felt the urge to say things like, Serbia should have been on Germany's side in WWII because that clearly would have worked out much better... You might instead decide that siding publicly with Hitler is probably not the best way to get anyone with a double-digit IQ to take you seriously.

In short: If you felt like doing any of the things you've been up to since 1989... You might instead stop and reflect on just how well that's working out for you! But by all means, don't take this advise. It's much more fun to watch you make fools of yourselves.

  • 140.
  • At 05:05 AM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • outtheback wrote:

As with most agreements, read the small print.
Resolution 1244, annex 2. The Rambouillet Accord. By referendum Kosovo can become independent, there is no mention that Serbia must also agree, just that a referendum can be held to determine independence.
Under the Helsinki Final Act the signatories can not interfere in another European country's internal affairs, hence the late reply of the various other parties to enter the fray in Bosnia etc, but once there due to public/media pressure they could not sit idle and let Kosovo happen.
The "west" has been called to account over the Rwanda cleansing and it's almost non existent reply so it was to be expected that they were going to do something once opinion showed that they should, particularly as this was close to home.
Did the then Serbian government have a choice not to sign 1244 back in 1999? Probably not but that is the lot of the loser, sadly for the Serbian people those in power on that day signed Kosovo away and your great ally Russia kept it's mouth shut. (In those days Russia needed western cash more then today). However now it suits the Russians to sponsor the outcry in Serbia because of the ramifications in Georgia and other areas in Russia's south. (And they have gas and cash to push issues their way)
For Serbia's political leaders to say today that it is the US and EU who are to blame is akin to not wanting to tell their own people that it was the politicians of the day who gave it all away, and who knows how many in 1999 are still in power today, the Serbs can tell I am sure.
We will no doubt see a lot of larger ethnic groups wishing to claim independence from the country they live in over the next 50 years, that is just the way the world is going. Scotland will be next. England "just get over it".

  • 141.
  • At 05:44 AM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Ivi Tagata wrote:

Dear Mark,
This is a much more thoughtful approach to the question. Serbian self-pity is as much part of the problem as Western wantonness in this. Just as you say, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. But Carla del Ponte's comment that the EU is built upon German remorse seems absurd, and if it is accurate, it should definitely not remain the foundation of a modern united Europe. Western Europeans have to internalize that Eastern Europe has a history of being 'sold' to the Russians or the Turks, or, more recently, to the Americans. A modern Europe has to look at the interests of the whole Union, not just Britain and France and Germany. Serbs feel betrayed in favour of American interests, as do the Poles in the energy deals with Russia. Until Europeans feel more loyal to each other than to outside powers, we will achieve nothing.

  • 142.
  • At 06:31 AM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • madame balcanica wrote:

Toothless Serb syndrom was more obvious in photogallery. At the beginning of the election day in Serbia, there were six pictures: three with presidental candidates, two with toothless babas and one with an old man. When Tadic won, they added a couple of pics with younger people.
But, that's BBC Balkan policy: I don't know anything about the Balkans and I am proud of it!
I don't agree that Albanians are presented any better. Nor are Romanians, Bulgarians, etc. We are all just savages for the Royal BBC. Mr. Mardell's expertise on the Balkans just proves it. The main BBC editor mixing up Kosovo battle and the First World War, and then, after many readers corrected his excellent knowledge of Balkan history, he made a mistake in geography: mixed up Cyprus and Corfu repeadetly.
My advice: read Balkan news, from any country. Many are available in English.

  • 143.
  • At 07:04 AM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Aneta wrote:

Mr. Mattei is right . Serbs are evils in your view and Albanians are the people of the future .
You started with the utopia of multiethic mini states in the Balkans .
To make things worse , you keep Serbs of
Kosovo and Bosnia as hostages of the Muslims and , to a larger extent , hostages of NATO and UE .
This implies that Britain , France e.a.
keep a population of roughly 3 mil. in
ghettos , with only minimal rights , denying them of the rights you granted to Muslims .
This happens in Europe , year 2008.
It certainly is a shame.

  • 144.
  • At 07:38 AM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Alex wrote:

If this blogger has a penchant for toothless Serbs, so be it. I am troubled not so much with the pictures of toothless Serbs but more so of the false history that the partial media reporting creates. Examples are numerous, I will talk only about one I witnessed first hand. I lived in Sarajevo before the wars started in former Yugoslavia. What I saw was Serbian refugees coming from Croatia because Serbs were being maltreated, expelled from their houses and workplaces, some were killed, all this before the war started. The Croatian president Tudjman was openly bragging how his wife was neither Jewish nor Serbian, at the political gatherings Croats were selling cans with “pure Croat air”, Croats were reviving Ustashi (Fascist) symbols from the WWII. Given that between 500,000 and a million Serbs were murdered by Ustashis in WWII, this was very alarming to all Serbs in Croatia and outside, and it provided a good reason (or justification) for Milosevic to intervene. Later on most Croatian Serbs were expelled in a military offensive approved by USA, thereby completing the plan originally conceived by the Ustashi fascist regime in WWII. These facts are important because they give a context in which the Serbian uprising in Croatia and Serbia’s intervention occurred.

  • 145.
  • At 10:41 AM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Batman wrote:

Mark, don't worry what serbs say or complain, when they have no teeth they are nice to you, but as soon as they have, they bite you like their brothers russians.
they don't respect west, but they have no choice. if UK, US or west is like Albania,then you can see who the serbs are.

if some serbs dont want to accept or pay for miloscevic crimes, why albanians should pay by giving up their freedom and rights?

and miloshevic didn't acted alone, miloscevic didn't kill personally, it was the serbian people who where the killing machine. and now they feel victims.

they should remember that is good that it finished like this way with kosovo indepence

  • 146.
  • At 11:47 AM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • mirjana wrote:

"Montenegrins are practically the Serbs". (from the above comments)

It seems to me quite the opposite. The majoriy of Serbs are originating from Montenegro.

  • 147.
  • At 11:53 AM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • altin wrote:

can i just say that all this business about serbs saying that Kosovo is the heart and origin of their country, i'm afraid they are wrong big time, the reason being is because Kosovo is known (as Dardania) which existed in the greater albania centuries ago. i do not accept for a second that serbs call Kosovo is their origin. Kosovo's population is dominated by albanians and rightly so as we only have one flag and one Hymn! bring on greater albania in the future and hopefully as soon as posibble. why does albania have to have its land taken away that was inherited and we defended Europe and in particular the church when The Great Gjergj Kastrioti managed to keep the ottoman empire away from europe. why doesn't the west take that into consideration that albania once was the power of europe and without albania and albanians, europe would be a totally dominated of Islam faith.

  • 148.
  • At 11:59 AM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • sirivanhoe98 wrote:

By the time Milosevic came to power in 1987, Albanian pogroms against Kosovo Serbs was institutionalised. Physical abuse and rapes against women were common, Albanian youth boasted to Western journalist that Serb hunting was their favourite past time. Indeed Milosevic's rise to power was a direct result of failure by Kosovo's Albania political leadership to protect property and physical rights of Kosovo's Serbian and other non-Albanian communities.

Although the secessionist flame by Kosovo Albanians had burned since WW2, it gained momentum in 1981, when Albanians rioted in Pristina during which scores of people were killed and more than 25,000 Serbs were forced to leave Kosovo. Pogroms against Serbs by Albanians were reported by NY Times as far back as 1874.

American and European supported Kosovo's secessionists the KLA, during the late 1990's with logistics, military intelligence, training and more importantly weapons. For two years the KLA waged a low intensity but brutal war against Serbian authorities, forcing Milosevic to send it a large contingent of troops to deal with the incessant and deadly KLA attacks.

This was the trap that the USA and EU had set for Milosevic, knowing the resultant military response would be broadcast globally and would influence public opinion in support of the subsequent bombing of Serbia. Within days of Serb forces leaving Kosovo, following the 78 day bombing that devastated Serbia's infrastructure, construction of Camp Bondsteel, USA biggest military base outside USA began. Planning for the base would have started at least one year before NATO's war on Serbia, proving that irreversible war preparations were well underway, long before the sham that was the Rambouillet conference.

USA and EU have violated international law, by ignoring UN Resolution 1244, which was the document that guaranteed Serbia's sovereignty and ensured withdrawal of Serbian troops from Kosovo. Without the resolution, Serb forces would have remained in Kosovo and NATO would not have entered Kosovo. NATO had ran out of military targets and its continued bombing of civilian targets with the resultant collateral damage was beginning to turn public opinion against the bombing campaign. NATO would not have had the stomach to send in soldiers to take Kosovo from Serbian forces. Kosovo would have remained in Serbian hands today.

  • 149.
  • At 12:12 PM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Damien wrote:

One small point regarding your comparison betweeen the situation in the North of Ireland and Kosovo.Irish nationalists number in the late 40 % in the North of Ireland and are THE growing segment of the Norths population.While the Irish Govt withdrew its claim of sovereignty over the 6 counties be very sure that no one believes that the North of ireland will remain part of the UK in the longer term....

  • 150.
  • At 02:30 PM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • berat wrote:

to anna#22

i love your comment,,,,,

i wish there where more people like you in this world

many thanks

Berat london

  • 151.
  • At 05:02 PM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • tara wrote:

Someone said that truth is always somewhere in the middle.So lets say I accept everything the albanian kosovars say as a true.Still I'm curios to hear what has to say serbian kosovars,so I can make my own opinion.
My point was,will you mr.Mardell go to northern part of Mitrovica or some refugee camp in Serbia and interview serbian kosovars,in order to give us opportunity discuss the other side of a story?

  • 152.
  • At 05:30 PM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Coal Michaelson wrote:

England has been scared of Serbia ever since it saw the Serbian infantry break the Southern (Thessaloniki) Front in 1918, and will never forget Serbian friendship with France (Serbia is the only country in the world to build a monument dedicated to another country (not people, but the whole country) – France; or just look at the black marble plaque in monastery Gracanica (10km from Pristina) that says: "Serbia - France 1916")... France will never forgive execution of General Draza Mihailovic, after which Charles De Gaule promised he will never set his foot on the soil of Yugoslavia (Serbia)…Germany and Austria will never forgive Serbia for breaking the Southern Front in WWI, and, therefore, causing the fall of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and German loss of the WWI…USA will never forgive Tito for “stealing” $15 billion in 1949-50 from them, never repaying it, and, since Serbia was the initiator of Yugoslavia, blames the Serbs for the money…Poland, Peru (?!?!?!?!?), and other countries that recognized Kosovo’s independence, were forced by US to recognize it…Remember, as long as Serbia is weak, it’s easy for super-powers to control Balkans… Serbia was one of only a handful of European countries (none of the countries existed, because they were ruled by somebody else) in the eve of WWI. Serbia aided Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro to liberate themselves from the Turks, and Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia to liberate from Austrian-Hungarian rule, aided US pilots, and followed British advice to rise against Hitler in WWII (following this advise cost Serbia loss of 2 milion lives, which was 4th in the world, after Soviet Union, Germany and Poland). To repay Serbia, Croatians, Bulgarians and Albanians slaughtered millions of Serbs in two World Wars. Yugoslavia (with Serbia in the middle) helped and assisted all of the third-world countries against the colonialism of Britain, France, and other countries. Who, in there “capitalist – divide and conquer” mind, would like a country like this?!?!? A freedom loving nation, host to over 27 different nationalities, suffering tremendous losses in the last centuries and earlier, its capital being destroyed 37 times in the history, still showing incredible hospitality to any visitors or guests, is a “thorn” in the eyes of neo-colonialists, and, unfortunately, it will stay like this for a very long time…

  • 153.
  • At 07:09 PM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Risto wrote:

and the toothless Serb syndrome itself are more reminiscent of post-World War I Germany, with all that ominously implies.

So it seems to the president of Estonia. Russia is reminding him of Germany before the coming of NSDP.

Russia could be sliding into dictatorship as Germany did soon after World War I, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has warned

Welcome to the 21-st century of Information Warfare. Yes, the BBC(et all) is biased because of a natural reason: it is a government service. So are the private TV: because of the "natural" private/compound interest of the company[which is private => owned by people who are citizens of the country of ___(put the county here) who are dependent to the country they pay the taxes].

Risto, R. Macedonia

  • 154.
  • At 09:57 PM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Jelena wrote:

I am a Serb living in Kosovo for the past six years and I have never felt as a victim to the west before I first handedly witnessed March 17, 2004 here. What happened was that angry Albanian mob attacked, terrorized, raped and killed defenceless K-Serbs in the enclaves forcing them out of their homes as well as destroying 34 Orthodox Christian churches under Nato-led K-For nose, who did close to nothing to stop them. BBC reported K-For was caught sleeping almost justifying what was being done to the Serbs saying that the violence was provoked as the Albanian boys were forced into river Ibar by the K-Serbs. UNMIK-P investigation however showed that the riots were orchestrated and that the Albanian boy falsly testified he was attacked by the Serbs after being instructed to do so by his parents. UNMIK-P spokesperson Derek Chapel who announced this was expedited to Bosnia. Nobody was ever arrested or sentenced for the events of March 2004. In Kosovo led by KLA's the Snake Thaci this is bound to happen again. Maybe K-For will not give way this time? We can only hope and try not to think of ourselves as victims. I am not going to mention IDP issues - that is another question. As when it comes to BBC being impartial - well you Sir can always hope, but I on the other hand still remember the reports from your TV about the events I was talking about and many, many others.

  • 155.
  • At 10:01 PM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Ranvir Singh wrote:

The BBC won't print this cos they lack the guts & oh so politically correct!

Mark you're so full of it, especially when you're quick to disregard the Serbs history & give their land away. Who are we to decide the fate of Kosovo? That's between the Serbs & Albanians [let's face it that what "Kosovans" really are].
I condemn the Serbs for murdering & raping during the wars & they lost the "PR" battle. However, who am I to decide the fate of a region that isn't in my heart?

To the victor goes the spoils & it's as a result of facts on the ground - the Serbs lost & their troops are out, Albanian majority in Kosovo.

So how does this affect us?

Not to worry the lands that have ruled the world for the last 2oo years (UK & USA) will soon face the same facts on the ground (Mexican & Muslim majority in each country), then when those groups ask for laws to be changed, sensitivity to their way of life, independence. What will be your response?

You'll cry like a "toothless serb" over the loss of what you love in your heart. Then we'll offer you words of "wisdom" from diplomats & your article.

Anyway rule of law only applies to countries who can't defend themselves, i.e. Serbia, Iraq, etc & when it suits western economic interest.
The beeb won't print this cos they love all things Muslim, i.e. Albanina & cow tow to PC pressure.

  • 156.
  • At 10:55 PM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Thomas Patricio wrote:

Apparently I was wrong...
Those who posted irrational postings were not put to shame. They still continue...

Thomas Patricio
Toronto, Canada

  • 157.
  • At 11:46 PM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Ivan wrote:

I hope my comment will not be censured as most are.
Well BBC is objective but only five years after something happened. When Milosevic died, I heard the most objective story about him on BBC. But would you tell such a story having in mind fault of all sides in war at the time when there was war in Ex Yugoslavia? I didn't hear anything near that story in 1993-2000
The same as for the Kosovo. For example if you say it was a fight of Kosovo people for freedom why don`t you point out one small tiny detail that Albanians on Kosovo never wanted to vote on Serbian elections. In 1992 SPS (Milosevic`s) party and SRS (Seselj`s party) together had 53% support and 400.000 votes more than opposition. In 1993 on elections they had only 200.000 votes more. And they had 70% of power in the parliament. Why? Because of Kosovo, they were having head start because Albanians never wanted to vote. And they were offered a lot by Serbian democrats in period from 1992 (Milan Painc) - 1997(last talks in Vienna) just to vote. It was ugly demographic clash of nationalist (on both side) and the Serbian liberals were the one to lose most apart from the victims. But you know what despite everything we won in October 2000 and will will win again in our intentions to build Serbia as a modern country of its all citizens, and nationalistic free. It will take time but we will make it despite inner obstacles and despite all your propaganda. As for your blog it is just bias as most of BBC analysis(not news, they are not bias). Serbs not only have battle of Kosovo, they also celebrate battles in WWI (Kolubarska, Cerska) and in WWII. It was the on the streets of Belgrade on 6th of April 1941 where people were protesting against pact with Germans and fascism, not in Zagreb or Pristina. It was Uzicka republika in Serbia that was first liberated mini state in 1941 in Europe. It was Serbia that had successful parliamentary liberal democracy from 1902-1914 with king Peter I as head of state. As for pointing out only Serbs in ex Yugoslav war tragedy I can just give you official figures of death civilians in Bosnia: Muslims 40.000, Serbs 23.000, Croats 9.000. I guess by you these 23.000 Serbs just died of bad weather? By this I don`t by any mean want to underestimate the magnitude of crimes on non Serbs. But there is no point presenting to you this. You know why? Because you know the best.

  • 158.
  • At 12:30 AM on 29 Feb 2008,
  • Werner Schneider wrote:

It may be outdated to define a country around a certain ethnicity, but isn't this the real problem in many countries? Maybe not that extreme in Europe, although the tragedies on the territory of Ex-Yugoslavia tell otherwise. In Africa, borders were written by colonial powers in disregard of ethnicities and this is still causing a lot of problems until today. How come, that a country with only two ethnicities (one of them a small minority) like Botswana has had the best development of the continent since independence. It was for the leaders too, no question, but there was also no reason for jealousy between ethnicities and nobody wanted to dominate the other. Serbia may feel betrayed, but the overwhelming majority in Kosova doesn't want to stay with them. I would not mind at all in my country Austria, if one province suddenly decided with overwhelming majority, that they would like to be independent without using violence. There are many small and rich countries in this world, so leave it to the people of an area to decide democratically, if they want to belong to a certain country or not. And when a certain area like Kosova for good reason hates the people of the rest of the country so much, that they would never accept being ruled by them again and would certainly use violence to avoid it to happen again, how could you force them to stay? By gunpoint maybe and with enormous violence, maybe massacres, but this should really be something of the past in 21. century-Europe.

  • 159.
  • At 02:03 AM on 29 Feb 2008,
  • Merkur wrote:

Thank you Mark for such a great article. I have always thought that Serbs have thought of themselves as the "Jews of the Balkans". The defeat of Serbs in Kosovo Polje does not establish by any means their rights over Kosovo. It defies logic to claim the right of causing Genocide because of a folkloric incident that happened 600 years ago.I think the Serbian people need to invest themselves through a catarsis process like post WWII Germany. Serbia should prohibit the denial of Genocide not only against Albanians but also against other nations such as Croatia or Muslim Bosnia. They should hand over Karadzic and Mladic. They should publicly and humbly apologize to those nations. Only then should EU and the World view Serbia as a truly democratic and civilized country. What the world witnessed last week only reinforced the negative view that Serbia projects. The "thugs" that attacked the embassy in Belgrade were not just "thugs" but thugs motivated by the Serb Prime Minister, who represent the country whole. Denying Kosovo acceptance in the world organizations such as UN or OSCE will prove to be an unyielding tactic as it would only bring Kosovo and Albania closer. Defeats the purpose of denying statehood to Kosovo. It only sounds as illogical as causing Genocide in the first place. But then again does anyone think that any statement made by the Serb propaganda sounds reasonable?

  • 160.
  • At 05:52 AM on 29 Feb 2008,
  • NS wrote:

Teeth! Teeth! Everybody is talking about teeth. I, for my part, hate the dentists and dislike discussions involving teeth. But, since we're on the subject... Russian teeth, among other things, have to do with oil and gaz, and Kosovo separation did 2 things:
1) help Russian gaz work its way further into balcans
2)as stated in one of my previous posts, it also halts EU's swallowing of states by antagonising Serbia.

Serbia is being helped by Russia, economically through the pipeline and politically at the United Nations. Too early to judge the full extent of Serbian-Russian reaction and the consequences of Kosovo separation. I think their reaction will not be drastic, but rather a slow and dogged one. We will see how imaginative the measures applied will be. Ironically, a big part of success for Serbs and Russians would be to not mess up the development of the opponent's blunder, as Napoleon would say. The whole decision to separate the place is just so politically and legally immature...

In the worst case scenario, Kosovo becomes something like a "Palestine lite" of sorts. But what could EU do - they don't seem to be the masters of their destiny these days. Of course, one good thing the west is totally toothless to stop is the South stream Pipeline and with it, the increased positive Russian influence in Eastern Europe, especially Serbia. If the richest European countries had any teeth, they would look after EU interests instead of allowing geopolitical "zits" on its body for the sake of somebody else's gambling! Yet they know they can't disobey. America is watching, and they don't want to anger her like they did opposing the war in Iraq... and now that we have this "irag" anaIogy going, I think the jury is still very much out on who will be "picking up their teeth with broken fingers" in the end of it all.
So bite me :)

p.s. All that said, Mark, while the subject of this entry is quite discussable, I think your choice of title is a bit unfortunate in the current context. Fanning the flames of conflict in mass media is rather unhelpful right now; your blog is interesting anough as it is, no need for gratuitous waving of the red rag when embassies are getting burned you know.

  • 161.
  • At 07:22 AM on 29 Feb 2008,
  • rick p wrote:

Mark I enjoy your writings and agree with many of your comments in this article. I do however fear the decline of the UN's relevance, the UN with all of its flaws has done a decent job of keeping us shaved apes from completely destroying each other. I believe this Kosovo decision could be the UN's death blow if they do not defend international law.
Regarding the toothless Serbs, there has been a media Bias against the Serbs for the last 15 years, it intensified with the bombing of Serbia to justify the western decision to bomb.
I feel that Kosovo should be an entity in Serbia as the RS is an entity in Bosnia.


  • 162.
  • At 03:51 PM on 29 Feb 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"So when will the world recognize the Lakotha Republic?"

As soon as its enthusiasts gain a clear majority of votes in the states you've mentioned: Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and Dakotas.

Just as Canada will recognize an independence of Quebec, UK of Scotland and Spain of Catalonia- as soon as those 3 provinces manage to finally find enough enthusiasts for a separation.

[So far they haven't.]

P.S. I appreciate the fact that you tactfully haven't asked when the world is going to recognize an independence of Chechnya and Tibet, although a clear majority in both of those countries (once independent) would love to get the hell out of Russian Federation and PRC ASAP.

[Have I mentioned Dagestan and Uighuria?]

  • 163.
  • At 05:07 PM on 29 Feb 2008,
  • Eric wrote:


While I entirely agree with your analysis of Serbian victimhood (and how it tends to hinder regional stability), I feel that you are de-emphasizing the roles and responsibilities of the major powers in the disintegration of Yugoslavia, and the brutal conflicts that followed.

Note the little interference in Yugoslavia when Milosevic the madman came to power -opposed by many Serbs- and how the US and EU sat by and watched a state in the heart of Europe disintegrate into seven statelets...let alone a lack of interference in the subsequent wars and humanitarian disasters until it was too late. We sat by, doing nothing, and pretty much condemned Yugoslavia's ethnocultural and sectarian diversity as an artificial state that was doomed for failure, when in essence, Yugoslavia was no less diverse (along sectarian and linguistic lines) than Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, or Spain.

Further, we tend to identify universal attributes in West Balkan societies (especially the Serbs), and we use these social characteristics in an effort to explain the prevantable humanitarian conflicts that we didn't stop. Take the Serbian sense of victimhood, for example, something that it by no means unique to the Serbs. Even here in the United States we have this general belief that our nation is a gentle giant always helping the world, only to be treated with disrespect. This paradigm always ignores the decades of negative American involvement in foreign countries, from helping install brutal dictators to assisting murderous paramilitaries that suit Washington's geopolitical interests. Like the Serbs, we Americans too tend to forget the bad things we've done to someone else, and we only rmemeber the bad things that were done to us. Almost every country, religion, region, or ethnic group sees itself as the victim. But our skewed news media only attributes these social characteristics to West Balkan societies.

  • 164.
  • At 05:20 PM on 29 Feb 2008,
  • mona wrote:

Hi everybody!

I have a solution. Inter-state marriages. This will ease tensions. It will "erase" ethnicity as highly important. It will make Europe more United.

  • 165.
  • At 10:08 PM on 29 Feb 2008,
  • Thanos wrote:

I don't understand why the Kosovo Albanians think that now Kosovo is independent. Hasn't anybody told them that now Kosovo belongs to the U.S.A.(may be they like it). As a matter of fact Kosovo has just become the 51st state of U.S.
For starters, the U.S. has installed one of their biggest military bases in Southeast Europe (euphemistically termed as a NATO base).
Soon, they will be dumping all their nuclear waste there (already radiation is high, due to the depleted Uranium spread all over by the "good" NATO bombs during the "liberation" war).
The Americans will be supervising the currently disorganised drugs dealing & transportation and also the human trafficking, which at the moment are in the hands of the local Albanian Mafia. As a sidekick, the Americans will have free drug rations for their soldiers and also, use the local Albanian girls as sex slaves for their military personnel (see Philippines).
So, Kosovo Albanians, you may now enjoy your newly-found INDEPENDENCE.

  • 166.
  • At 10:22 PM on 29 Feb 2008,
  • JM wrote:

My dear Mark(o Attila) Mardell,

I fear that, despite your best efforts, this year's bonus may not be forthcoming. I just had at look at the "READERS RECOMMENDED" section on Have Your Say for "Should the world recognise an independent Kosovo?".

It looks like many readers no longer believe the standard narrative peddled by the BBC/Guardian, i.e. that Serbs are uniquely evil and that they are to blame for everything, yes *everything*!

I note that a 'pull the heart strings' photo essay on Kosovo has just appeared on the website. Ah well, keep on trying.

Nevertheless, best of Anglo-Serbian to you: Auntie's hapless hack bumbling around the Balkans.



  • 167.
  • At 11:57 PM on 29 Feb 2008,
  • Erjon wrote:

As somebody mentioned above,the indipendence is the only solution?What else can be done?I cant understand how people think that Kosovo should be under Serbia?Have they asked how can that be posible?
That can be posible only by forcing 90% of the population of Kosovo to live under Serbia with a gun on their heads probably,cause they simply dont want to.
As for the Northern Ireland conflivt comparision i would say that had the population there been 90%catholics,Britain would never have sent their army in there to crush any rebelion of a sort.The people in Northern Ireland have the democratic right be voting the peopel they want to lead them,and if they choose to vote Sein Fein then Northern Ireland will be independent.

As for the Historical argument,lets simply listen to what Noel Malcom who is one of the most respected historians had to say about the Serb claims.

Bottom line is ,had Serbia not persecuted the Albanian minority,had they not bullied them nationaly,giving them many offending epithets,which continue to this day,had they not striped the province of its Aoutonomy,had they not lunched an extermination war on the intelectual class,had they not used brutality to surpress their national feelings,and had they given them the rights any free people enjoy in a democratic country,Kosovo could have well been today under Serbia.

But clearly ,even by the coments here,or any coments one would hear from Serbs,they want Kosovo,but they dont want the Albanians in it.That can not work out.

  • 168.
  • At 12:14 AM on 01 Mar 2008,
  • Tom wrote:

To Moderator: Support the freedom of speech!!!!!!!!

A lot of things changed with BBC since the Lord Hutton inquiry. I think Mark is part of that change. Yes, pictures are carefully selected and they are there to follow the story, not Mark's story but rather story of Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

  • 169.
  • At 01:03 AM on 01 Mar 2008,
  • Bernard wrote:

"positive Russian influence in Eastern Europe"

that has to be a contradictio in terminis if I ever saw one.

Russia is not going to do anything that could threaten to irrepairably damage their trade-relations with the EU, and Russia is not going to do anything that could threaten a military conflict with the US.
Russia may talk the talk, but financially it cannot walk the walk. Remember the US military budget alone is ca 500 billion dollars. That's a 4th of the worth of the ENTIRE russian economy, or if we want to be conservative: a 5th.

No, Russia is going to toy along a bit, suckering the Serbs into selling their them their assets for cheap and then, when the opportunity arises, they'll dump them for reasons of realpolitik.

You heard it here first.

And if I hear one more Serbs saying what good allies they were during WW1 I'm going to have to kick someone.
One of the main causes for WW1 was a Serb

  • 170.
  • At 11:39 AM on 01 Mar 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

Ahhh the toothless serb syndrome. No doubt accompanied by the sajkaca, plum brandy & phrases such as "Serbia to Tokyo".

If I may, I would like to take the tooth analogy further. Indeed, due to poor dental hygeine (aka Greater Serbia on the brain), Kosovo became a bad tooth that need to be extracted by a qualified dentist (aka the EU & good ol' US of A). Understanderbly, Serbia is feeling some pain from the procedure, despite the panadeine forte.

But more importantly, there is still the issue of narcotics (aka Greater Serbia brand nationalism). An absence of drug rehabilitation (aka extradition of war crimes suspects) and a willingless of the patient to turn their lives around, may lead to some semi-permanent psychosis dominated by even more pronounced delusions of victimhood, alternated by a messianic complex, where cities (like Vukovar, Dubrovnik were) may need to be destroyed in order to save them.

  • 171.
  • At 04:05 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • Maria Amadei Ashot wrote:

Who decides when someone has "lost the moral right" to own, or govern, that which is theirs?

Scores of millions of Americans believe that Bush and his administration have no moral right to govern them, or to command US armed forces.

You know, and we all do, that for European diplomats, of all people, to invoke "moral right to govern" is really laughable.

Nor is it fair at all to say, Mr Mardell, that there is no way back out of this rash US-led move, and that the Serbs will simply "have to accept it," "get over it" or "learn how to work around it."

In 1843, the British Empire, and France, recognised the sovereignty and independence of the Hawai'ian Islands. Whose are they today? The US today has for some time grappled with a very thorny secessionist problem of its own, that of Puerto Rico. It is bound to flare up further in the wake of the actions vis-à-vis Kosovo.

Whether or not the situation in Pristina remains a kind of stalemate (with the Kosovo passport gaining admission to the US, Finland, Costa Rica or Peru, but not to Russia, or China, or India) -- or, potentially, escalates into something less pleasant and even bloody -- it is Nato who caused the status quo to shift, and thus it is NATO, not the Serbian side, who looks foolish.

An overwhelming majority of the world's population and territory remains aligned with Serbia, and will stay that way. THAT is the part that the ex-great powers of the West need to "get over" and "get used to."

Led by the US, as you prefer to be, rather than by your own reason & better nature & traditional principles, you have allowed the old Cold War divisions to come to life again, only this time much more starkly. You have split the world into two camps, just when the old divisions appeared to have finally scarred over.

Where formerly it was possible to paint the 'Communist bloc' as some kind of 'evil empire' because it denied human rights and seized private property, this time around it is the 'West' -- and Nato -- who is wearing the black hats, for YOU are the ones denying human rights and reassigning ownership of lands that are NOT YOURS TO GIVE, to third parties.

Maybe it will take a war, or maybe some other tortuous process will take place, but the lands you claimed for the Albanian population of Kosovo are only theirs in YOUR IMAGINATIONS, and to the extent that you are prepared to part with your own treasure and blood to help them cling to them.

I have lived in the West all my life, from day 1, for 50+ years now. And I know just how much intelligence, imagination, treasure and blood you ex-great powers have to spare. My money is on Serbia -- and I suggest you keep some friends there, just in case.

Kosovo has not changed hands. There may be parallel systems on those lands, for a time; the Serb government may have found itself lightened of the burden of caring for a million or so Albanians in Kosovo (frankly, I don't even trust Nato's numbers, since you have no precise count of them, not after 10 years of K-FOR!). But the land, and its borders, remain fixed. You can't pick them up and move them to Brussels, or Texas. The burden will be -- as it has been all these years -- with the Albanian population to learn how to get along with the people who own these lands. Nato is the one who has picked a fight with Russia, and who now has a problem: not the Serbs.

  • 172.
  • At 04:14 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • Dustin wrote:

First, I am disgusted that anybody could, even in a society of free speech, which is essential to freedom, publicly deny the atrocities that were committed against Kosovo Albanians in 1998 and 1999. Are you of the same mind of those who deny the Holocaust? It is true that the media has not placed equal emphasis on the "ethnic cleansing" that Serbs experienced in the Second World War and in the 1990s in Krajina. However, anyone who was paying attention to world events in 1999, and certainly who has ever been to Kosovo and heard the accounts of the events from both Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs, knows that it is both offensive and factually wrong to deny these events happened. Consider something else from history: unilateral declarations of independence, while often objected to by governments in the name of territorial integrity, have been the basis of the formation of many states, many of whom did not have people screaming for the involvement of the obsolete institution known as the UN Security Council. Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro all unilaterally declared independence from a Belgrade-headed government, and were all recognized almost immediately. These were movements based on popular will, as was that of Kosovo. This does not take away from the fact that the Tibetans had their independence robbed of them while the world stood by and watched. But it is a mistake of great proportion to make an analogy between Kosovo and separatist movements in other countries, which are sponsored by radical political groups (e.g. Basque) or by the Russian government (e.g. Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where Russian-sponsored militants expelled Georgians, who were the plurality of the population, and gave Russian citizenship to all others who were not even born in Russia). Of course Kosovans know that their independence is going to entail years of international aid and supervision. Wouldn't the criticism of the newly independent state be much more harsh if their government were to expel the international presence?

We need to consider all sides of arguments we make, not just the parts that are convenient to a certain bias.

  • 173.
  • At 06:26 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • Marcel -Netherlands- wrote:

@Bernard (168)

Russias debt is zero and its budget surpluses are huge. This is one thing most western countries and USA cannot say. All western countries are burdened with crippling debt and keep borrowing like there is no tomorrow. No the next power will not be the EU (thank heaven for that, the sooner this anti-democratic institution is gone the better it is) it will once again be Russia. And China and India with them. Asia is the new power.

  • 174.
  • At 10:55 PM on 02 Mar 2008,
  • e.b wrote:

No one can deny how fascinating are the Balkans with their nations!
We have Greeks who live by their past (a fascinating one though). They complain that Greek minorities are mistreated in Albania, yet Albanians treat them as equal citizens (personally checked). Greece officially recognizes no minority inside her territory although.
We have the Serbians, the all-time victims (according to them). they say that Kosovo is their territory, but how did they obtain it, I'm just wondering.
We have the Macedonians that live in a state in which the population is multi ethnic yet they don't have great problems between ethnicities within boundaries.
We have Albanians, that for some weird reason are seen from other countries in the region as being simply appeared where they are for some trick of fate. They are seen as if trying to form a Greater Albania in the Balkans. But have you asked an Albanian about that particular idea? A Greater Albania is not something that is aspired among Albanians. Greeks and Serbians say that now the Albanians will request independence in Montenegro where they have extensive freedom (i personally know a handful of Montenegrin). After finishing with Montenegro Albanians will ask for in FYROM (or Macedonia call it as you want), which is doubtful for they have governed together. After finishing whith the other places will ask independence in Epirys (northern Greece). But last time I was there there weren't any Albanians, so independence of what?. In Albania the majority doesn't even think of such stupid things. A Greater Albania is something Albanians don't really care. I'm not going to repeat been there done that stuff about Albanians. They say that Albania will be a problem with the oops 70% Muslim population. But Albania is in it's origin a Christian state converted to Muslims after Turkish conquest (majority of them still keept their Christianity during ottoman rule, "read cryptochristians"). Didn't a recent research show that in Albania 35% are Muslim 30% Christian (catholic, orthodox, various) and a staggering 35% atheist (correct the values if you want it doesn't change a lot) . There is not a strict notion of religion for an Albanian and there is no "family religion". In most Albanian families you will find persons of different religion (personally I am orthodox, my father is atheist, my mother is catholic, I have no idea of what my brother believes) so where is the Muslim danger. Albanians are more secular that the world thinks and less prone to the crazy aspirations and expansionist ideas given by others.
The Balkan nations are prone to declare a lot of victimism in many cases. It would have been better if they leave such dumb thing as superior nation (or race, name it as you want) I don't think that Serbia, or Albania, or FYROM or Montenegro or any other will be more then 50 years away from getting EU membership. so what's the meaning such rage. We live in a world that we have to share, it's nonsense to live by the past whatever it may be. Everyone could talk for hours about what his nations has done. Yet they are talks. It serves more to cooperate for it's not far away the moment that those nations will be forced to have to do whith each other

  • 175.
  • At 06:12 AM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Marko wrote:

Again with the Battle of Kosovo in 1389?!? Why the constant emphasis on something that is actually of only faint importance to Serbs? A closer look into the psyche of Serbs will reveal that there is more frustration and bitterness over the way the West contributed to and resolved the break-up of Yugoslavia (and now Serbia) than to Kosovo, 1389. Then again, Serbian anger is so much easier to dismiss when linked to nationalistic myths and hubris.

  • 176.
  • At 07:18 AM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • J. Popovic wrote:

Good article.

May I just add that Kosovo situation is far from an exception in the world today. The difference is that violent conflicts with ethnic/separatist inspiration (like Darfur, Cyprus, Bosnia, Sri Lanka, Georgia) are in this case treated with promises of independence.

The way the Wast is handling Kosovo dispute is eerily reminiscent of Munich treaties. And marginalization of UN role is similar to how Iraq adventure was initiated.

  • 177.
  • At 07:43 AM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Meletis wrote:

The way I see all these "conflicts" in the Balkans (where I live) but also elsewhere, is that they all are resolved without any common set of principles.
I don't see this much heralded international law.
Border change is bad or good, depending on the side you support. Human rights issues are there or are not. Historical reasons are there and are not.
I am afraid that if we take a much more "wider view", we will realize that in 100-200 years from now, current borders will not be as they are now.
Change is bound to happen and it is always dictated and enforced by those who have the power. It does not have to be military, though it usually is.

  • 178.
  • At 08:39 AM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Maria Amadei Ashot wrote:

Dear Mr Mardell,

Maybe it's because I'm using a Mac with the latest OS, but there is usually no reaction at all when I click on either "Preview" or "post." I am telling you this so you don't imagine I am trying to bombard you in some way with text. I fully appreciate the onslaught of correspondence you must have to deal with daily, and value the space you & the BBC provide for people to express their points of view.

Here's something curious, though, and I offer it in a very tongue-in-cheek way, as a curiosity. Armageddon is not something many Europeans are worried about -- although it is an important part of the Weltanschauung of the most conservative elements in America, the kind that can be expected to continue to shape US foreign policy.

Armageddon has been conventionally interpreted as alluding to a place in today's Israel called "Megiddo." But the Apocalypse part of the Scriptures where Armageddon is mentioned, exactly once (in Ch. 16) was written by St. john on Patmos. And in Greek, Ar-Mageddon sounds an awful lot like the word for Macedonia (regardless of whether you think of Macedonia as Greek or Yugoslavian territory; in the time of the writing of the Book of Revelations, it would have been a geographic name applicable to the general location where we find ourselves embroiled today: 'Makedon.' The US military base, Camp Bondsteel, is situated near a city called Urosevac, consecrated to a certain Saint Urosh.

As things stand today, Kosovo is a much likelier candidate for Armageddon -- "the final great battle between the nations" -- than Israel.

Nato may feel very sure of itself that 'Russia would not fight' over Kosovo (although thus far Nato's intelligence has been rather deficient in having plainly mis-calculated the intensity of the resentment of the spontaneous abrogation of the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, and other such 'minor' principles of international law).

But what is equally certain is that Nato is in no position to fight over Kosovo, either, and has no stomach for any kind of new war scenario, not even a 'US-led' one.

We can thus safely guess that we have reached a complete standoff. The "independence of Kosovo" shall never be more than what it is today: the dependence of a small population of Albanians settled in some parts of Kosovo, legally Serb land, on the largesse of formerly great Western powers.

The Serbs shall continue to serve the needs of their loyal populations, and shall continue to regard the lands of Kosovo as their own. And there is NOTHING Nato or anyone can do to alter that view, or in fact to prove it 'wrong.'

There will have to be an effort on the part of the international community not only to ensure the preservation & protection of cultural treasures within the Kosovo borders, but also the reconstruction and proper maintenance of any that have been destroyed or desecrated to date. It would not do for the EU's wobbly reputation to have it be seen as one who condones the destruction, looting, vandalising or desecration of Christian churches and cemeteries.

The EU has thus gained an additional set of responsibilities, and clearly believes it has room on its plate for more.

And so it shall remain, unless and until someone actually goes to war over the disputed lands, setting into motion the worst-case scenario.

I don't recommend 'testing Russian resolve' on this one. Only someone who just emerged from a 400-year coma would have such limited understanding of Russia as to consider 'testing it' a worthwhile exercise.

In the meantime, have a look at Kosovo via Google maps' satellite imaging function. Most of Kosovo is EMPTY COUNTRYSIDE. To depict it on your maps as "populated by Albanians" is a disgraceful lie. You should clearly identify where there are concentrations of Albanians (in Pristina and some other urban areas, e.g. Urosevac) and where there are concentration of Serbs. The empty areas should be designated as EMPTY, not settled. It takes more than a few scattered farms to hold on to 10 000 square kilometres of land, which is what Nato has chosen to 'grant' to the million or so (can we get an accurate number at least?) Albanians demanding Serb lands.

  • 179.
  • At 12:48 AM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • NS wrote:

Teeth! Teeth! Everybody is talking about teeth. I, for my part, hate the dentists and dislike discussions involving teeth. But, since we're on the subject... Russian teeth, among other things, have to do with oil and gaz, and Kosovo separation did 2 things:
1) help Russian gaz work its way further into balcans
2)as stated in one of my previous posts, it also halts EU's swallowing of states by antagonising Serbia.

Serbia is being helped by Russia, economically through the pipeline and politically at the United Nations. Too early to judge the full extent of Serbian-Russian reaction and the consequences of Kosovo separation. I think their reaction will not be drastic, but rather a slow and dogged one. We will see how imaginative the measures applied will be. Ironically, a big part of success for Serbs and Russians would be to not mess up the development of the opponent's blunder, as Napoleon would say. Considering the multitudes of other options available, the whole decision to separate the place is just so politically and legally immature...

But what could EU do - they don't seem to be the masters of their destiny these days. In the worst case scenario, Kosovo becomes something like a "Palestine" of sorts. Of course, one good thing the west is totally toothless to stop is the Russian pipelines and with them, the increased positive Russian influence in Eastern Europe, especially Serbia. If the richest European countries had any teeth, they would look after EU interests instead of growing geopolitical "zits" on its own body for the sake of somebody else's gambling. Yet they know they can't disobey. America is watching, and they don't want to anger her like they did opposing the war in Iraq... and now that we have this "irag" anaIogy going, I think the jury is still very much out on who will be "picking up their teeth with broken fingers" in the end of it all. So bite me :-)

p.s. All that said, Mark, while the subject of this entry is quite discussable, I think your choice of title is a bit unfortunate in the current context. Fanning the flames of conflict in mass media is rather unhelpful right now; your blog is interesting anough as it is, no need for gratuitous teasing when embassies are getting burned you know.

  • 180.
  • At 02:46 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Jelena wrote:

One more thing- perhaps you could investigate why every nation in the Balkans, which has big Albanian minority is scared of them and do not like them- you might find it interesting. Ask the Greeks, the Slav Macedonians, the Slav Montenegrins.... Perhaps it sheds some light.

  • 181.
  • At 01:14 AM on 06 Mar 2008,
  • Albano wrote:

Well Jelena maybe I can answer your investigative false report.
How do you know that Greeks don’t like Albanians? It is your assertion or do you back your claim with real facts. I have many Greek friends and beside that had a Greek girlfriend.
The Slav Macedonians that you are talking about are the Serbian minority which lives in Macedonia and same thing goes for the Montenegro.

  • 182.
  • At 01:40 AM on 07 Mar 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"have a look at Kosovo via Google maps' satellite imaging function. Most of Kosovo is EMPTY COUNTRYSIDE. To depict it on your maps as "populated by Albanians" is a disgraceful lie." [#178]

Most of the Russian Far East is an
EMPTY COUNTRYSIDE, and depicting it as populated by Russians is a disgraceful lie.

"It takes more than a few scattered farms to hold on to 10 000 square kilometres of land".

True. So should NATO, then, support peaceful reconquista of South Eastern Siberia by much more numerous Chinese?

One shouldn't use a boomerang if one doesn't know how to throw it; it may come back and hit the thrower.

  • 183.
  • At 12:39 AM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Michael wrote:

The Serbs have a strong historical attachment to Kosovo. Agreed and accepted. One could even go so far as to translate that attachment into an abstract right of Serbs to live in Kosovo unmolested.

The question that hasn't been addressed is: Why does that attachment translate into a right of sovereignty over Kosovo? Someone please explain.

Dear Mark
I would just like to say that you should think before you say anything about any nation because you have no clue about the history.Also I would like to finish by saying Kosovo is Serbia's and the will always remain theres.No matter what a bunch say or think.

Dear Mark
I would just like to say that you should think before you say anything about any nation because you have no clue about the history.Also I would like to finish by saying Kosovo is Serbia's and the will always remain theres.No matter what a bunch say or think.

  • 186.
  • At 03:17 PM on 08 Mar 2008,
  • Mark Richard Boston,USA wrote:

Dear Serbs and Kosovars, GET A LIFE ! Its a new global world and all this petty nationalism is old news. Don't they have science or business channels on your television stations ? You people have to much time on your hands. People who concentrate on jobs, careers, and knowledge will prosper in the future, not those hanging around a 500 year building. Your both Europeans start acting like Europeans or future generations will laugh at you. Change is a constant, stop clinging to the past. Start investing in education and business not which warlord fell off his horse in battle. sincerely Mark

  • 187.
  • At 12:48 PM on 10 Mar 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

A collapse of Kostunica's government seems to indicate that that not every Serb politican is a rabid jingost and that there are quite a few pragmatists in Belgrade's upper echelons.

Let's wait for May election's outcome.

  • 188.
  • At 08:38 AM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • Igor wrote:

In spite of your valiant defense of BBC's neutrality in their selection of pictures, the new story on the elections in Serbia unfortunately proves what many of us have suspected all along - there indeed is a toothless Serb syndrome rampant around the BBC. One reason more to switch to a more independent source of news - if there is one left at all...

And as far as Mark Richard's post (186.) is concerned, that sort of nonsense in praise of a bland new world can really only come from the States - perhaps you should stop worrying about your job and career and business and the economy and stop to smell the flowers, so to speak.

  • 189.
  • At 12:49 AM on 12 Mar 2008,
  • Mark Richard Boston,USA wrote:

Dear Igor, patriotism and nationalism are beautiful things but not when they result in horrific losses from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Nothing is worth the pain that region experienced. NOTHING. Demographic evolution has no time for that nonsense. The new global world is not bland at all but exciting and filled with opportunities as peoples interact. Countries that embrace change will be much better off. As for my comment "could only come from the states" shows your fear of integration. Americans come from every nationality and race. We try not always successfully but we try to get along because there is no alternative. WE WOULD BE DISGUSTED TO SEE A SARAJEVO TAKE PLACE HERE. TRAINS LEAVING PRISTINA WITH HERDED CIVILIANS ON BOARD IS NOT EXACTLY SMELLING THE FLOWERS. Having said that I agree Kosovo should not have been recognized as an independent country but its to late now. Serbia is being treated unfairly but its over now,over.

  • 190.
  • At 10:32 AM on 12 Mar 2008,
  • Diederik Knaeps Manderfeld wrote:

If you really believe that old, unwashed, worn-out man with the messy moustache and a mouth full of cigarette, toothpick and who knows what more (chewing tobacco, I bet) to sport a "noble, rather handsome look" you must be either his mother or a very heterosexual man.

Perhaps it is wiser to use pictures of Serb rugby and waterpolo teams in future? I'm all for that.

  • 191.
  • At 10:19 PM on 12 Mar 2008,
  • Andrey, Russia wrote:

A more correct comparison should be not with Norern Ireland but with Palestineans. Serbs have lost their lands, their homes and their Western enemies are trying to further populate this part of their country by Albanians, loyal to the West.

Remember, Albanians are recent immigrants: before WW2, there were less than 40% of them in Kosovo, and before 20th century - a negligible number.

  • 192.
  • At 09:53 AM on 13 Mar 2008,
  • balkan person wrote:

The way Serbia feels right now is exactly how the other states felt after WW1 - when Serbia took large pieces of territories from them. Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria... plus, the creation of "Yugoslavia". So just as Bulgarian people were feeling angry and bitter - for they lost a lot of their lands - so the Serbs feel now. What goes around....

Of course, it is all in the past and the number of people who remember the Balkans during the two Balkan wars and WW1 is very very small... it will all be forgotten soon.

  • 193.
  • At 12:14 AM on 14 Mar 2008,
  • mim wrote:

to 191

very knowledgeable, aren't you ? You seem to know one thing or two about how to populate other countries because this is exactly what Russia did with the Baltic countries when it invaded them in 1940, and with other former Soviet republics, right ?

as for the 40% Albanians before World War II, the first time I hear or read it. Even according to Serbian estimates, at the time when Serbia conquered Kosova in 1912, the Serb population in Kosova amounted to 25%.

As you can see there is a huge gap between your figure and the Serbian estimate. If one assumes that you and Serbain sources are both right, it turns out that Albanian population decreased relatively by 35% between 1912 and the outbreak of World War Two. They either must have left Kosova or simply vanished, whichever you prefer.

Maybe you have been reading KGB statistics and hence the paradox

Beauty doesnt mean anything!The only thing that means something is what sort of country and what are the people like.

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