Balkan Primer (II) - 1987 Yugoslavia Sitrep

April 6, 1999

Comment: #254

Discussion Thread:  #253


[1] DAVID BINDER, "In Yugoslavia, Rising Ethnic Strife Brings Fears of Worse Civil Conflict," The New York Times, November 1, 1987, Sunday, Late City Final Edition, Section 1; Part 1, Page 14.

The United States is being drawn inexorably into a complex Balkan quagmire with unknowable consequences for Europe, America, and perhaps even the world. Aide workers now report that Albania is reaching the limits of its capacity to absorb the Kosovar Albanian refugees flooding into it. Macedonia is becoming unstable, has closed its borders, and shows signs of becoming antagonistic to the Kosovars. Signs of disease in the refugee groups are mounting.

One of the factors that has drawn America into this conflict was its de facto alliance with the Kosovo Liberation Army, an organization most Americans never heard of until that alliance emerged during the breakdown of the Ramboullet conference -- a breakdown which led to the NATO's decision to bomb Serbia.

What are the aims of the Albanian separatists and is it possible to understand what mindset triggered the ruthless Serbian strategy to end the Kosovo Question once an for all?

As with all questions in this tortured part of the world, the violent twists and turns of history, race, religion, tribe, and geography make it impossible to provide black and white answers to questions that are now being colored indelibly by the passions of an unfolding humanitarian disaster of biblical proportions.

The attached report in the November 7, 1987 New York Times is now long forgotten, but it presents a complex portrait of the Kosovo question that is unaffected by the passions of the moment. It makes for prescient reading.


Ethnic Albanians in the Government have manipulated public funds and regulations to take over land belonging to Serbs. And politicians have exchanged vicious insults.

Slavic Orthodox churches have been attacked, and flags have been torn down. Wells have been poisoned and crops burned. Slavic boys have been knifed, and some young ethnic Albanians have been told by their elders to rape Serbian girls....


The federal Secretary for National Defense, Fleet Adm. Branko Mamula, told the army's party organization in September of efforts by ethnic Albanians to subvert the armed forces. ''Between 1981 and 1987 a total of 216 illegal organizations with 1,435 members of Albanian nationality were discovered in the Yugoslav People's Army,'' he said. Admiral Mamula said ethnic Albanian subversives had been preparing for ''killing officers and soldiers, poisoning food and water, sabotage, breaking into weapons arsenals and stealing arms and ammunition, desertion and causing flagrant nationalist incidents in army units.''

Coming three weeks after the ethnic Albanian draftee, Aziz Kelmendi, had slaughtered his Slavic comrades in the barracks at Paracin, the speech struck fear in thousands of families whose sons were about to start their mandatory year of military service.

Because the Albanians have had a relatively high birth rate, one-quarter of the army's 200,000 conscripts this year are ethnic Albanians. Admiral Mamula suggested that 3,792 were potential human timebombs.


Ethnic Albanians already control almost every phase of life in the autonomous province of Kosovo, including the police, judiciary, civil service, schools and factories. Non-Albanian visitors almost immediately feel the independence - and suspicion - of the ethnic Albanian authorities.

End Excerpts.

Chuck Spinney

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