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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    TUE, 29 NOV 1994 21:42:41 GMT

    THE SERBS ON "THIS" SIDE

    AIM, SARAJEVO, November 26, 1994 "It is not easy to be a Serb in Sarajevo nowadays", Alija Izetbegovic recently said in a conversation with a group of Slovenian writers who were visiting the capital of B&H. Izetbegovic said what many Serbs did not dare say, and in this way crossed the threshold which stood like a barrier to an open public dialogue about the position of the Serbs in Sarajevo and the newly-established Bosnian-Croatian Federation.

    The official authorities generally made a distinction between the "Chetniks" and the Serbs, but in a part of the public these two concepts are identified, and for that reason some Serbs, and even whole families, although completely innocent, suffered greatly or were forced to leave Sarajevo. At the same time, many Serbs have proved to be honourable defenders of the city and engaged supporters and fightesr for the idea of living together. Most of them, though, kept their silence for a long time, overcome by the burden of Karadzic's propaganda that they were "traitors of the Serbian people" or by disbelief of their neighbours in the sincerity of their attachment or at least loyalty to the Bosnian state. Besides the serious complex of national guilt for the aggression and the war, this was the second reason why their position was "not easy".

    For a moment it seemed that even God himself has abandoned the "loyal Serbs". At the very beginning of the war, all Orthodox priests left Sarajevo. Had it not been for a certain deacon, Avakum Rosic, who happened to be in Sarajevo just before the war and remained there, there would have been noone to chant funeral services for the dead and those who were killed. The believers remained, and their spiritual leaders had gone, but orthodox cemetaries suffered no damage in Sarajevo, and the state even helped repair a church.

    To stress too much that you are a Serb, which the city Muslims and the Croats did not shrink from doing, was a highly sensitive and sometimes even very dangerous. Such people could experience various inconveniences and difficulties. The official policy and the media used to glorify those who rejected almost everything that was Serbian, so that those who did not sufficiently publicly emphasize their devotion to Bosnia, were constantly closely observed with suspicion, like through a magnifying glass. This is the usual order of things: when, let us say, a Boshniak criticizes the authorities, then he is a communist, when a Croat does it - he is against the federation, and when a Serb does it - he may even be proclaimed to be a Chetnik. Or, when someone on the market asks for pork, he can even get the following answer: " Who wants to eat pork, let him go to Pale!" Fortunately, the times have passed when every Serb was considered to be a fifth columnist with a secret radio station hidden in his apartment. As the authorities stabilized after all and managed to get even with the gang in army ranks, certain law and order were introduced to the extent possible considering the war.

    In Sarajevo itself, there are many more examples of good coexistence. Rarely did a friendship or a marriage split up because of national disagreement. A majority of the people still think that multinationality is the wealth of this state. Such a thesis, at least officially, is pursued by the authorities, too, although they consist mostly of politicians from national parties, probably because they believe that if they did not support the idea, B&H would lose the support of Europe and the world community. And yet, in state firms, there are no more directors who are Serbs, and in certain enterprises, the second wave of "cleansing" has begun. For instance, in the pre-war giant enterprise, the "Energoinvest", ten key managers were sent away "on leave", among them six were Serbs. In Radio-Television B&H, the situation is somewhat different. When speaking of journalists, there are 62 Boshniaks, 20 Serbs, 17 Croats, 4 Montenegrins, 1 Macedonian and 40 Bosnians, who are mainly those who once declared themselves as Yugoslavs. But, although the number of Serbs in RTV B&H is not negligible and corresponds approximately to the percentage of the Serbs in Sarajevo under siege - they do not have much of an influence on general editorial policy.

    After the bloody war between the Boshniaks and the Croats, the Federation of these two nations created under pressure exerted by the Americans, was received as the first phase towards peace and a presumption that after all, it is possible to live together again. That is why, the possibility that a solution will soon be found even with "Karadzic's Serbs" a solution is growing. The Boshniaks and the Croats are, according to the Constitution, constituent nations on the territory of the Federation which includes cantons with majority of Boshniak and Croatian population. The Constitution also reads: "The decisions about the constitutional status of the territory of the Republic of Bosnia&Herzegovina with majority Serbian population will be made during peace negotiations at the international conference on former Yugoslavia."

    Therefore, in the new state, the Serbs are not a constituting nation any more. Deputies of Serbian nationality from civic parties have submitted a draft amendment to the Constitution of the Federation demanding that the Serbian nation be constituent nation. The draft was rejected with the explanation that the Serbs cannot be a constituent nation in the Boshniak-Croatian Federation and in "their" Serbian unit as well. This clearly indicates that the federal Assembly believes that Karadzic and the authorities in Pale will decide about the destiny of the Serbs. "If we cannot influence the so-called Serbian republic, we will not allow the Serbs to influence reaching the most important decisions" - these are the words of a Croatian deputy. In order to make up a little the situation that was thus created, an appeal was sent to the Serbian people (in the so-called republic of Srpska) to join the federation and become a constituent people. There are few who believe that this will actually happen and the hopes, when speaking of a peaceful political solution, are directed towards the B&H which will be the Union between the Federation B&H and the part with the majority Serbian population. On the territory of the Federation, according to certain assessments, at the moment there are between 130 and 150 thousand Serbs. The assessments for Sarajevo speak of a figure between 30 and 40 thousand. But the Serbs, and not only thw Serbs, are still leaving Sarajevo.

    The initiator of the amendment of "Serbian" deputies in the assembly of the Federation, who belong to groups of some multinational parties, was the Serbian Civic Council - the only institutional form of activities of the Serbs on the territory of the B&H Federation. (Allegedly) it is a non-party organization with a civic orientation, and its members are directed to express their political stance through other, primarily national political parties. Younger members of the Council, however, think that a Serbian, truly democratic party should be founded, which would be a counterpart to Karadzic and which would deprive him of the right to represent all Serbs. Allegedly, through such a party, the Serbs from "this" side would be able to express their interests. But, for the time being, this initiative has been left aside, because, apart for the problems of personnel, any such Serbian party, even if it supported the idea of a sovereign B&H, would, perhaps, be considered to be a "Trojan horse" sneaked in by Milosevic. This is best proved by the political scandal caused by the invitation of the Serbian Civic Council from Sarajevo to various movements and parties to attended a joint gathering "against the war, and for a just peace, integral Bosnia and undivided Sarajevo". What happened next could only be expected: the Party of Democratic Action could not break though the barrier which prevents the political public here when political organizing of "loyal Serbs" is in question - the Serbs in Sarajevo were resented for trying to gather Boshniaks and Boshniak organizations at peace rallies, "because the Boshniaks were led by someone for a long time, and now they have finally decided to lead themselves". After this, many organizations withdrew their acceptance for participation at the gathering.

    The Serbs do not feel much that they are an ethnic minority in the Federation, because, alongside the federation, in the true sense of the word, the Republic of B&H exists, in which the Serbs are one of the constituent nations. The capital of both states is Sarajevo, so that concerning formal equality, the Serbs lack nothing. For instance, although the official languages, according to the Constitution of the Federation, are Bosnian (Boshniak) and Croatian, the teachers mostly teach the mother tongue as they always did, and the students can choose whether they will have Bosnian, Croatian or Serbian written in their diplomas.

    There are no Serbs at state posts in the Federation, of course, but they are represented in the republican state agencies. Miro Lazovic is the Chairman of the Assembly of B&H, while the members of the state Presidency are Mirko Pejanovic and Tatjana Ljujic-Mijatovic, but their influence in making significant decisions is not proportional to the high-sounding titles. Is that so because they are members of civic parties or because they are Serbs?

    The Serbian issue in Bosnia is "frozen" until Karadzic signs the peace agreement. The Serbs who believe in B&H are preoccupied by unpleasant thoughts: will Bosnia, where they have remained, continue to be their homeland? The division of B&H quite certainly, and the union with the independent Serbian part probably, will divide the Serbs into "constituent" and "minority" ones. The further the process progreses, the more will the Serbs become a true minority. Some say: "that is not bad either, if at least half of what was promised here of the civic concept is left!"

    RADENKO UDOVICIC