Wylie and Helene|
A country in transition.
Yugoslavia is a land enchanted and entangled: Love and Hate; Tranquile and Anxious. An intelligent, industrious and polite people sometimes swept into passions beyond their control or understanding.
The history of the Balkans is like a pungent onion. One where you can only peal back a few layers before your eyes start to water up and then its hard to see things clearly. This may be even more true to those closer to the situation.
Most towns have at least two churches: one Catholic, the other Orthodox. Many have a Mosque, some a Synagogue.
Yugoslavia claims 20 different ethinic groups. There are even some misplaced Egyptians who have their own separatist party.
Being a gateway between Europe and Asia has caused this mix.
The Great Schism between Rome and Constantinople first caused a relatively homogenous people to be split along the beautiful, blue Danube. Even thougth their language, food, customs and god were the same, the Catholic Croates now lived to the North, the Orthodox Serbs to the south.
Turks moved into the south around 1300. This caused the Serbs to move north into Croate territory. Over the next 200 years the Turks pushes all the way to Vienna. They were finally pushed back to the Danube in the early 1700s. Hungarians and Austrians followed in their wake. Much of the beautiful Architecture and excellent beer come from the Austrian Heritage.
The Turkish Sultanate rule from Istanbul, modern Constantinople, finally left the Balkans in the late 1800s. Remaining was a profoundly mixed populace.
During the second world war the Croates sided with their Catholic cousins in Austria and Germany. The Serbs with their Orthodox cousins, the Russians. By the end of the war more that a million Yugoslaves had been slaughtered, mostly at one anothers hands.
When Tito came to power, one of his first acts was to force the 300,000 Austrian/Germans to leave the country because he feared they would support a return to a monarchy. Their beer and architecture is all that now remains.
He used this example to other ethnic groups that they had better go along with the program, or else. Milosevic poured gas on these embers with his call for Serb nationalism in the late 1980's. "Where ever a Serb is buried, that is Serbian land". His financial savvy added 6 zeros to their currency. It now took 100,000 Dinars to buy what 1 Dinar bought before. Life savings were wiped out.
Currently Yugoslavia is coping with 400,000 Serb refugees from the recent separation of Croatia and Slovenia, and 200,000 Serb refugees from Kosovo.
I know this brief synopsis is probably mostly in error but I hope it at least gives an idea of the complexity that challanges a beatiful country, with fertile land and an intelligent and industrious people.
Nearly all the Yugolslaves I met were kind and generous to me. To all I say "hvala". May you soon wake from your troubled dreams.
The Chapters of Serbia...