Background: Yugoslavia, Serbia, Kosovo, and Dead AlbaniansHere's a short, and over-simplified, background:
- The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was cobbled together in 1918 - part of the nation-building craze that followed WWI
- The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was re-named "Yugoslavia" in 1929
- Josip Tito ran the place as an independent Communist state from 1945 to 1980
- Tito died in 1980, and the Yugoslavia had a few other bosses for almost a decade
- Slobodan Milosevic said that he was president of the Serbian Republic in 1989, and made it stick
- Milosevic's ideas about Serbian domination of the area broke up Yugoslavia the hard way
- Fighting resulted in Yugoslavia breaking into independent ethnic territories in 1991-92:
- What was left, Serbia and Montenegro, became the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY): with Milosevic as boss
- Under Milosevic's orders, Serbia's military tried uniting ethnic Serbs in Serbia - and neighboring republics - in to "Greater Serbia"
- Milosevic's plan succeeded in getting Serbia bumped from the UN
- Serbian leader Milosevic eventually became president of FRY in 1997
- 1998: a minor ethnic Albanian insurgency in Kosovo, a formerly autonomous Serbian province provoked, or provided an opportunity for, Serbian forces to massacre ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo, and kick the survivors out of the country
- Some Albanians objected, NATO got involved (I told you this was over-simplified), and Serbia got bombed by NATO
- As a result
- Arrangements were made for Kosovo to become independent
- Milosevic was accused of crimes against humanity, but died in The Hague before the trial could start
- February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared itself independent of Serbia - jumping the gun on plans for independence eventually, but not now
And yes, I'm being terribly unfair. Maybe. I said, "some Serbs," not "Serbs."
There are more detailed, and less colorful, discussions of Serbia and Kosovo in The World Factbook, and of Kosovo in Global Security's Military section.
Kosovo Independence, Serbian Protests, Five-Finger Discounts, and Protester FlambéLast Sunday, Kosovo declared independence, some Serbs didn't like it, and now two floors of the American embassy in Belgrade have been burned.
A protester came out extra-crispy, and quite dead. His body was found in the embassy after it cooled off a bit.
Not all Serbs were at the accidental activist-roast at the embassy. Many more were at a rally, chanting "Kosovo is Serbia," and saying that they'd never give the province up.
It's not just American property that's getting trashed in Serbia and Kosovo. UN equipment is getting hit, too.
Some groups even broke into a McDonald's and "demolished the interior." More level-headed people ransacked shops, and liberated sporting goods, including running shoes and track suits, from a department store.
Perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on the protesters. Belgrade's emergency clinic says it treated more than 30 lightly-injured people: half of them policemen. The clinic's deputy chief said that the injured protesters were, for the most part, "extremely drunk."
What Does this Serbian Riot / Protest Mean for America?By itself, today's violence is just more of the cost of doing business in a world of tiny nations and ancient feuds. My guess is that the American embassy was hit because America helped NATO keep Serbs from Killing Albanians in Kosovo.
Besides, it seems to feel good to hate America. I suspect it's because this country is big, successful, and doesn't have a habit of making life miserable for people (and their families) who engage in penny-ante vandalism of American property.
So, until America starts acting like a real oppressor, we can expect to see American embassies burned, and American flags burned. It's a compliment, in a way, to this country's civilized behavior.
An important point to note in Belgrade's big street party is that what's happening in Serbia doesn't seem to have a significant religious angle to it. From the looks of it, the Serbia-Kosovo / Serbian-Albanian is a feud between ethnic groups that probably goes back to a time long before the Hatfields' and the McCoys' ancestors emigrated to the new world.
Finally, it's well to remember that the world is full of territories that have a long, long backlog of mismanagement and hostilities. It will take time for them to get organized, and learn to cooperate with each other. Lots of time.
"The World Factbook" - Serbia
Global Security - Military - Kosovo Background
"Kosovo and U.S. Policy" Congressional Research Service (2007)
More at "Serbia and Kosovo, from a Croatian-Irish Point of View, and from Another Point of View" (February 22, 2008)