KNIN NOT IN THE VOJNA KRAJINA
Knin, like Benkovac, is over 50 kilometers from the historical
boundary of Vojna Krajina as the crow flies. 50 kilometres
may not seem a long distance in Canada, but on 19th century
European mountain tracks, where every square kilometer has
3000 years of history, distance is a relevant factor
A Response to Serbian Propaganda
A propaganda campaign is spreading that Knin was in the Vojna Krajina, and that by association the so-called-krajina created in the early 1990s was part of the Vojna Krajina (â€˜Military Frontierâ€™). Documented treaties in history show this propaganda to be a lie, a lie which served as a pretext for starting a war of aggression costing the deaths and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. Official condemnation of the lies about the so-called-krajina should be
a non-negotiable condition set by Croatia during negotiations for its EU membership.
Serbs in Croatia had to â€˜ethnically cleanseâ€™ one-third of Croatia of its Croats and other non-Serbs, and barricade major transportation routes in Croatia (so-called â€˜log-revolutionâ€™), before the fictitious so-called-krajina within Croatia could be materialized. Contemporaneous newspaper reports, and official census data over the past two centuries verify that there is no factual basis to Serbian claims of an historical right to Croatian territory.
In addition, an exaggerated Serbian presence in Croatia has been claimed by alleging that most, or all of the Orthodox in Dalmatia and Croatia have always been Serbian. But many European documents contradict this claim. Indeed there have been many famous Croatian Orthodox people in history as well as Croatian Orthodox churches, all documented. And European Statutes exist which refer to the â€œVlachsâ€? in Croatia or the â€œMorlachsâ€? in Dalmatia, not to Serbs.
Incredibly, on many internet reports and in many books the number of Serbs who allegedly left Croatia in 1995 varies from 40,000 to 600,000, depending upon the source. The fact is however that many of the Orthodox had fled the Serbian-occupied territory of Croatia long before 1995, and they were subsequently branded as traitors and cowards by the Serbian regime in Belgrade.
The Serbian anti-historical claims about Croatian territory have been concocted as part of a long-term revolutionary plan to legitimize a Serbian presence there, in order to enlarge the Serbian state. Todayâ€™s Serbian minority in Croatia are the most vocal of all other minorities put together, even though their numbers throughout Croatia in the most recent 2001 census is quite small in proportion to their demands. Serbs had initially objected to being called a minority because they
had politically administered Croatia and the rest of the former Yugoslavia through a totalitarian system, until its collapse along with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. But as new â€˜conflict resolutionâ€™ legislation in post cold-war Europe was being discussed, the Serbs began to reformulate their demands within a â€˜minorityâ€™ frameworkâ€”just as they had reformulated the Yugoslav constitution many times in order to cater to re-servicing of former Yugoslaviaâ€™s international debt.
The Ominous Treaty of Paris
Dalmatia and its hinterland have been the object of barter in European treaties for centuries. In 1919 for example at the Treaty of Paris in Versailles the Italians obtained parts of Croatia from Istria throughout Dalmatia.I In 1995 the Dayton Accords became officially known as the Treaty of Paris, to be signed at the Elysee Palace in France. Given the tragic consequences of Versailles for Croatia, what legacy should Croats expect after the Dayton/Paris Treaty?II Since 1995,
the administrators of the Dayton/Paris Treaty in Bosnia & Herzegovina have given-in to Serbian intransigence at the expense of Croatian peoplesâ€™ human rights. Fifteen years on, Serbs still do not comply with Dayton in B & H, as Croats are unable to return to their ancestral homes in peaceâ€”homes which now fall within the boundaries of the newly created â€˜Republika Srpskaâ€™â€”a region formed by the ethnic cleansing and slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
The reinforcement of Serbian intransigence in B & H has caused Serbian intransigence to spread into Croatia.
Serbian non-compliance with the Dayton/Paris Treaty in Bosnia is heard of occasionally with reference to indicted war criminals responsible for the Srebrenica massacre, etc., but how many people know about Serbian ultranationalism in Croatia? For example, in Croatia today Serbian provocation includes changing street signs, and spreading graffiti which
says â€˜this is Serbiaâ€™.III One can easily conclude therefore that like the first Treaty of Paris in 1919, the 1995 Treaty of Paris has created a legacy of instability for Croatian people.
Tragically Serbian fabrications are supported by foreigners who inadvertently encourage contravention of international law. As part of a very vocal pro-Serbian lobby around the world many books, websites, and international organisations have shown unquestioning support of false historical claims. On some unofficial maps of Croatia a non-existent region appears known as the so-called-krajina, an alleged historical region which exists only in the minds of Serbia and its foreign
allies.IV Unfortunately the UN Hague Tribunal indictments, many NGOs, together with other official European institutions have apparently integrated the unauthenticated Serbian version of Croatian history into their documents and agendas.
Croatiaâ€™s Stolen History
Before analysing the so-called-krajina fabrication, it is essential to understand that this propaganda is inextricably linked to the historical theft of the history of the Morlacchi, or Vlach presence in Dalmatia and Croatia. Up until the late 19th century there had been practically no Serbian churches in Dalmatia but there had been many â€˜Greekâ€™ Orthodox churches with mostly Croatian worshippers--many of whom had become integrated with Morlacchi hinterland families. In one of many sources which allude to the true ethnicity of the original Orthodox in Croatia, Larry Wolff in â€œVenice and the Slavsâ€?, writes that â€œThe heterogeneous Orthodox society of Zadar included Montenegrin officers and Sarajevo merchants â€¦ and (others) from Corfu and Crete â€¦(The Venetians) were concerned to reduce foreign influence on Orthodox Dalmatians, including the Morlacchiâ€?.V The issue of the Morlacchi in Dalmatia is well documented and over the coming months I will analyse it in a separate article. Thus, Serbian propaganda has re-written the history of the Morlachi in Dalmatia, with false
claims that most of them were of Serbian background.
Until the feudalistic creation of the first Yugoslavia at Versailles there had never been a strong Serbian presence in Dalmatia. Only when Serbs ruled under a dictatorship and later under a totalitarian communist system did the Knin regionâ€™s ethnic balance begin to change. This ethnic balance shift also occurred due to post WWII immigration into Croatia of Serbs, or due to the conversion or compliance of non-Serbian Orthodox for the purpose of their own social
mobility or communist party membership. In communist Yugoslavia the Serbian numbers in Croatia swelled again due to their staffing of military garrisons, including for example, Benkovac and Knin. Its very important to understand that itâ€™s because Serbs did NOT have numbers in Lika in the late 20th century that they had to include Knin municipalities in their so-called â€˜krajinaâ€™ territorial claims. This led to the fabrication and spreading of the lie that Knin had always been part of the Vojna Krajina.
Foreign-sics of Serbian Propaganda
Like Chinese whispers, the following examples show how Serbian propaganda has reached the recent English language community, which has also unfortunately spread into some tourist guides.
For example, relying on Silber & Little as a source in â€œThe Death of Yugoslaviaâ€?, on the internet the Canadian RCMP Inspector Graham Muir discussed his UN duty at â€œBenkovacâ€?. Tragically, Muir has been fooled by pro-Serbian propaganda: â€¦ â€œ (in Benkovac) 50 km west of Kninâ€? â€¦ â€œI quickly came to understand that Vlade and his people were Serbs living in Vojna Krajina, a region that hugged the western boundaries of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The word
Krajinaâ€”pronounced Cryeena--comes from the Serbo-Croatian word Kraj, meaning end or edge. The name of the region means military frontier.â€? â€¦ that it was the Austrians who created the Krajina â€¦ and that Serbs directly were ruled by imperial Vienna.â€? VI
It is particularly unsettling for me as a Canadian to witness such misinformation from a member of the RCMP. The history of the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) was the topic of my first school speech in grade 6 in Toronto.
Because of my four-page speech, I experienced a youthful pride when watching the world-famous RCMP Ride. In 2003 I followed-up my family background in Ottawa with a visit to the old War Museum, the Chateau Laurier, the Canadian Archives, and a tourâ€”one of the highlights of which for me was the RCMP headquarters.
Knin, like Benkovac, is over fifty kilometers from the historical boundary of Vojna Krajina as the crow flies. Fifty kilometers may not seem a long distance in Canada, but on 19th century European mountain tracks, where every square kilometer has 3000 years of history, distance is a relevant factor.
Before the UN arrived in 1992, Benkovac and predominantly Croatian villages around it had been ethnically-cleansed and the villagers slaughtered there under the command of Ratko Mladic (before he took command of Serb forces in Bosnia). The Serbian war crimes of nearby Skabrnje or Brusko have been dealt with at the Hague Tribunal; but other towns surrounding Benkovac which were cleansed by Serbs before the UN arrival included Lisane-Ostrovicke, Medvida, Rodaljice, Sopot, Polaca, Korlat, and Nadin. During 1991, every town with a Croatian majority was ethnically cleansed all along major roads, from the south of Knin to Korenica in northern Lika across the border from Bihac.
About the 1991 Serbian attacks in the Benkovac vicinity a British archeological team wrote:
â€œThe shelling of the city (Zadar) by the Serbian Army, or JNA, was shocking and distressing. News followed that many of the hilltop monuments investigated by the project had been taken over as military strongholds by the JNA; the damage caused to these sites by the excavation of army trenches cannot be underestimated. And the massacre by the Army of an unknown number of Croats in the hamlet of Nadin, where the project worked for three seasons, can only be the cause of the deepest regret.â€?VII
Misha Glenny (of BBC) in his book,â€œThe Fall of Yugoslaviaâ€? blurs the meaning of Vojna Krajina and Krajina, by using the terms interchangeably and in reference to Knin, and says that the minorities question should include territorial integrity.VIII
Glennyâ€™s version of history was refuted by Ivo Banac, a Yale History Professor, who writes: â€œFor example, the Knin area of northern Dalmatia was never part of the Hapsburg Military Frontier, or, more properly, of the Croatian-Slavonian Military Frontier, the inhabitants of the latter were predominantly Croats â€¦(and) that the migration of Serbian patriarch Arsenije III Carnojevic to southern Hungary had virtually nothing to so with the Serb presence in Banija, Kordun, Lika and the Knin area â€¦â€? IX
Similarly, even Tim Judah, in his book which has a pro-Serbian bias, â€œThe Serbsâ€?, made the point that Knin and Southern Dalmatia were never part of the Habsburg Vojna Krajina.X
It appears Croatian historical boundaries and timeframes are being deliberately distorted to create a fictitious succession of Serbian power which did not exist in history. Another example of this is in US Ambassador Richard Holbrookeâ€™s â€œTo End a Warâ€? (1998).XI Holbrooke, the architect of Dayton, inserts two maps which shows â€œKrajinaâ€? in Croatia. In his monologue Holbrooke refers to Kijevo as being in Krajina. Like Inspector Muir, Holbrooke also uses Silber & Little for a reference, that Serbs had lived in â€˜Krajinaâ€™ for generations.
Silber & Little, (of BBC) in â€œThe Death of Yugoslaviaâ€? discuss Krajina as the â€˜Serbo-Croatianâ€™ word for Kraj or edge or end, or means Vojna Krajina, or Military Frontier. After the meaning of the terms Krajina and Vojna Krajina are discussed interchangeably, the book then continues with, â€œKnin is a lonely dust-bowl of a place in the isolated barren wastelands of Croatiaâ€™s Dinaric mountains. Krajina forms the hinterland of Croatiaâ€™s prosperous Adriatic coast, with which it had traded and intermarried for centuries. Knin and Krajina generally, were economically integral parts of southern Croatia.â€? XII
In â€œA Paper Houseâ€? Mark Thompson writes: â€œ â€¦ (Serbs) policed the vojna granica or vojna krajina (Military Frontier). A spartan tradition of pride and independence was transmitted from father to son, just as in the southern Habsburg borderlands, where Serb communities protected Knin and the Likaâ€? â€¦ (or) â€œâ€¦ named after the vojna krajina (Military Frontier) between the north Dalmatian coast and the Bosnian border â€¦ the historic territories of the Vojna Krajinaâ€™ were proclaimed autonomous. â€œ.XIII Just as with Silber & Little, after reading this text, Knin appears to have existed in Vojna Krajina, and of course no authentic European documents or relevant maps could be referred to.
In the book â€œWar in the Balkans 91-93â€? there is a blur between the historical meaning of Vojna Krajina and the more recently alleged â€˜Krajinaâ€™ territory. Many glossy photographs and maps are explained on adjoining pages by text, â€œâ€¦ that Croatia has strong Serbian settlements, dating back to the 16th and 17th century and descended from the farmer soldiers who were encouraged by the Habsburgs to settle down in this region and â€¦ which became known as the frontierâ€”in Serb â€˜Krajinaâ€™ â€¦ â€œ in reference to the Zadar or Knin region.XIV
The propaganda which originated in a few pro-Serbian books has become widely spread over the internet. According to one internet site, â€œThe so-called Military Krajina (Vojna Krajina) comprised northern Dalmatia, Lika, Kordun, Banija and Bosnian Krajina (western Bosnia).XV
Another report on the internet, â€œMinorities in Croatiaâ€? shows a map of the â€œRepublic of Croatia 2000â€? marking the main regions of Croatia as Slavonia, Istria, Krajina and Dalmatia.XVI
One more example from the internet is of Heather Field of Australian Political Studies Association, discussing the â€œKnin Krajinaâ€? area and the minority issue in Croatia as being problematic because of its â€œhistorical tradition of not being under Croat or Zagreb control from when they had acted as the frontier military force and defence of the Austro-Hungarian
Instead of referring to the official UNPA Sectors, the Hague indictments constantly refer to the unrecognized â€˜Krajinaâ€™ region of Croatia instead of Croatia.XVIII It would seem that â€˜Krajinaâ€™ has been recognized in many international circles including the Hague, even though it was not recognized by the UN. In addition even the OSCE (Org. for Security & Cooperation in Europe) talks in Europe rejected proposals to link â€˜minority rightsâ€™ with territorial demands in 1991.
Croatiaâ€™s Territorial Integrity
If the Hague indictments do not use accepted international terms how then can one expect others to do so? The issue of territorial integrity and sovereignty should be a Croatian condition for EU entry, just as Turkey and other countries have their own set of counter-conditions.
Croatiaâ€™s historical territory around Knin has been documented in treaties by the Habsburgs, the Ottomans, and the Venetians, just to name a few. For example, several stages of Venetian occupation which rivalled Ottoman incursions over the centuries around the Knin region have been well documented. For centuries Knin has always been an integral part of Croatian history, not Serbian history. Even when under the Ottoman Empire, Knin was in â€˜Turkish Croatiaâ€™ (as designated by many official contemporaneous mapmakers). Later when Knin and the Dalmatian hinterland was occupied by Venice the majority of the inhabitants there were Croats with whom most of the Morlacchi became assimilated as either Orthodox or Catholics.
In their official capacity Croatian government representatives must articulate in clear terms that they expect their territory
and history to be respected, before Croatia enters the EU.
I â€œPeacemakers: Six Months that Changed the Worldâ€?, M. Macmillan, London 2002 (p.300).
II â€œThe Worldâ€™s Bankerâ€?, S. Mallaby, Sydney 2005 (p.362).
III â€œNarodni Listâ€?, Zadar, 01 rujna 2005.
IV â€œThe Yugoslav Dramaâ€?, M. Crnobrnja, McGill-Queenâ€™s UP, Montreal 1996 (page 16).
V â€œVenice & the Slavs: Discovery of Dalmatia in the Age of Enlightenmentâ€?, L. Wolff, Stanford 2001 (p.148).
VI â€œA Search for Something Betterâ€? by Inspector Graham Muir, from Legion Magazine website.
VII â€œThe Changing Face of Dalmatiaâ€?, Soc. Of Antiquaries of London, Leicester, 1996 (Preface).
VIIIâ€œ The Fall of Yugoslaviaâ€?, M. Glenny, Penguin, London 1992, 1993 (p. 5-7, 101).
IX â€œForeign Policyâ€? Winter 93-94, I. Banac book review, reprinted on internet by the â€˜bosnian instituteâ€™.
X â€œThe Serbsâ€?, T. Judah, USA, 1997 (p. 16).
XI â€œTo End a Warâ€?, R. Holbrooke, Random House NYC, 1998 (p. 25, 30, 161, 238).
XII â€œThe Death of Yugoslaviaâ€? (accompanies BBC TV series) L.Silber & A.Little, Penguin, London, 1995 (p. 100).
XIII â€œA Paper House: The Ending of Yugoslaviaâ€?, M. Thompson, Random House, Sydney, 1992 (p. 236, 254, 260).
XIV â€œWar in the Balkans 1991-1993â€?, Debay, etc., editors, 1993 (p. 30).
XV â€œCrisis in the Balkans: Croatiaâ€?, internet site of Centre for Peace in Balkans, Toronto.
XVI â€œMinorities in Croatiaâ€? from internet site of â€˜Minority Rights Group Internationalâ€™, 2003.
XVII â€œFailure of Post-Communist Political Arrangements in Former Yugoslaviaâ€? H. Field, APSA, Australia, 2001.
XVIII â€œIntnl. Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslaviaâ€?, on internet, Case No. IT-01-45, & IT-03-73-1.
JEAN LUNT MARINOVIC