Zoran Musić, 1909-2005

The painter Zoran Musić was born in Gorizia, a provincial town in the Austro-Hungarian Empire that today is part of Italy. He spent several years in Austria as a teenager before enrolling in the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. He spent time in Spain and Dalmatia before World War II and was deported as a political prisoner to Dachau in 1944. That experience -- he drew restlessly, and in secret, what he witnessed -- would come to dominate his work in the late 1960s, when his Dalmatian landscapes began morphing into skulls and corpses. After liberation, he settled in Venice and later had a second studio in Paris.

He died Wednesday in Venice.

In 2002, the Jewish Museum in New York showed a small selection from his work, a reinterpretation of his Dachau pictures. For additional biographical information, click here.


Turkey: part of Europe or...?

The Turkish government is not always making it easy for those in favor of Turkey's eventual accession to the EU. The failed attempt to criminalize adultery is among the milder irritations; Turkey's continued refusal to even begin to acknowledge what happened to the Armenians is a much more serious issue. An academic conference, organized by leading Turkish universities, was to begin proceedings today in an attempt to challenge the official version of the Armenian genocide.

It was not to be: after immense pressure from the government, including a speech in parliament in which the minister of justice called the conference a "stab in the back of the Turkish nation" and called for an "end to this cycle of treason and insult, of spreading propaganda against the [Turkish] nation by people who belong to it, the organizing university has now given in and "postponed" the event.

Were it not for tomorrow's holiday in parts of Germany, I can imagine the sort of coverage this would have gotten from the FAZ and similar circles opposed to Turkish entry. They generally use human-rights issues as a pretext to militate against something they hate anyway; but in this particular case, they may actually have a valid point. Until the official Turkey wakes up to its responsibilities, it has indeed no place in the EU.

Slovenian Communist charged with genocide

Reuters reports that Slovenia has charged a former Communist official, Mitja Ribicic, with genocide for his role in the killings of Yugoslav Nazi collaborators and anti-Communists at the end of World War II. This seems to be the first action of its kind and is likely to lead to heated debate about the crimes of the early Titoist era, which have never been fully discussed in the former Yugoslavia or its successor states.

Mitja Ribicic was a deputy chief of the Yugoslav secret service in Slovenia at the time and is 86 now. He faces a long jail sentence should he been found guilty. The Reuters story doesn't mention where he lives.


Breaking news: U.S. unpopular in Muslim world

U.S. journalists have discovered a new outpost of anti-Americanism in Europe.

Yaroslav Trofimov, a reporter on the Wall Street Journal, writes in Slate that anti-American feelings have been inflamed by the war in Iraq. (Must have missed that one.) As an example, he presents... Bosnia. Under the hed Those Ungrateful Bosnians (“We liberated them. Why are they still against us?”) he makes the argument that the deployment of a mine-clearing unit has proven so unpopular that it has pushed the Bosnian Muslims' positive feelings towards the U.S. to the sidelines:

The debate over the Iraq expedition has bared the extent of anti-American feelings that flourish these days, even in such unlikely places as Sarajevo. As reactions in Bosnia show, the U.S. engagement in Iraq, which was meant to convert the Muslim world to America's gospel by building up a model democracy there, has so far achieved precisely the opposite result: Anger over Iraq's unfolding tragedy has superseded the memories of America's own past good deeds in Muslim lands.
I find it rather curious to claim that the Iraq war was “meant to convert the Muslim world to America's gospel” -- I always thought it was about removing Saddam Hussein. It's not like Wolfie and Dick and Rummie were sitting around one day thinking, gee, how can we get the Bosnians to love us even more, and then one of them came up with the brilliant idea to invade Iraq.

But quite apart from this gaffe, the article just re-runs stereotypes we've seen time and again (and I bet you this article will be brandished by nationalist Serbs and Croats for months to come as proof of what they've been saying all along -- the Muslims were dangerous and had to be stopped at all cost, and why does the West reject us when in fact we just did what was needed to preserve Western culture, blah-blah-blah): of bearded Islamist publishers, fiery preachers at the main mosque, and Bosnians fighting in Fallujah (okay, that's a new one, I think). What the piece does get right, however, is the shameless double-dealing of the reis ul-ulema, Mustafa Ceric, who loves to present himself as a voice of moderation towards Westerners only to turn around and pander to the less moderate feelings of some of his supporters.

In any case, it seems to me that most Bosnians -- Muslim or otherwise -- care most about what happened in their country and about the current situation there rather than about Iraq or even Palestine. Heck, they didn't even care about Kosovo when the Serbs went on a rampage there in 1998-99. Human nature, perhaps?


American Steamroller Effects U-Turn

... or has it?

The USG has noticed that there's a need for vision and leadership in Europe, or more specifically, that there's some developments in the Balkans that will require those two qualities, which are in notoriously short supply in Europe. (That supply is at least as short as the USG attention span these days.)

Unfortunately, the USG routinely forgets that visions and leadership need to be implemented and realized, something at which the boring Europeans tend to be better than the fidgety Americans

But in the Balkans, the Europeans have been implementing and realizing piecemeal steps whose direction remain unclear. Nowhere is this more tangible than in Kosovo, a seemingly intractable problem the USG now woke up to -- again. In the diplomatic words of sources quoted by the Paris edition of the Times,

Some State Department officials acknowledged that the nearly intractable ethnic hatreds in the Balkans have been a side issue for the Bush administration, in part because of its concern about global terrorism.

Clinton administration officials, particularly former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, have suggested that the Bush administration was averse to trying to build on an achievement of the Clinton years, namely the bombing of Serbia and the setting up of Kosovo as a semi-independent protectorate.
Be that as it may, the Times article seems to suggest that there's been some sort of U-turn in the Western approach. The deal so far was that Kosovo had to fully meet a number of conditions before talks would be opened. The Trib implies this is no longer the case:

[under secretary of state for political affairs R. Nicholas] Burns said the United States now favored discussing the future status of Kosovo simultaneously with improvements in its democratic standards, with the hope that the improvement can become an incentive for achieving independence.

He said the aim was to settle Kosovo's status by the end of 2005.
While it is not clear to me how “improvements in democratic standards” could become an “incentive for achieving independence” if the two are explicitly uncoupled from one another -- if this were the key concern of the policy, then why not just stick to outright conditionality? -- it does seem to me that this is a more sensible approach, and in fact one that has gradually been taking shape.

An editorialist at Transitions Online agrees, in an excellent piece posted today. Money quote:

Explicit linking of progress on security, human rights, and democracy with the status issue was always wrong. Kosovo needed to become stable, tolerant, and democratic regardless of its status. In other words, human rights, security, and democracy should always have been presented as non-negotiable and separate from the status question. By making them part of the status issue, the international community injected an element of bargaining into its Kosovo enterprise. By the same token, whatever status Kosovo gains in the end, that status should stem from considerations wider than the current situation in the territory.

In any case, not all Europeans are going to be amused. As a (European) pal of mine put it none too delicately, though thankfully in French, the Europeans "se font à nouveau enculer."


Titoslavia, and an apology

That fine journalistic outfit from Bijeljina, SRNA, reports on the proclamation of the Republic of Titoslavia in the Sarajevo suburb of Rakovica -- the geographical center of the former Yugoslavia, explored by Zoran Solomun in his excellent Tagebuch eines Jugo-Nostalgikers: Im Zentrum Ex-Jugoslawiens, shown on Arte in 2003 -- planned for 25 May, Tito's birthday. SRNA reports that Titoslavia is

located on 3,5 hectares of land in a private park owned by Blasko Gabric, decorated with 133 trees originating from all over the world. Work is currently underway on the construction of a pool that will symbolize the Adriatic Sea.
The main motor behind the initiative is one Jezdimir Milosevic of the Sarajevo NGO Peaceful Action of Humanists. But SRNA didn't just write a fluff piece -- no, they went out and did their research, and they even interviewed someone who should have something interesting to say on the topic, Tito's eldest grandson, Joška. He told SRNA that things that were unimaginable during his granddad's rule could be seen in the Belgrade of today -- things such as the Albanian or Kosovo flag, “just because someone from Albania or Kosovo is visiting.”

Shocking times indeed.

Oh, and my apology is for cross-posting from my own blog -- it shan't happen again, and in my defense I shall point out that I just got back from a week of doing nothing and am too lazy to write two pieces tonight.

And a further apology is that Blogger's HTML seems to have trouble accepting all the little diacritics the South Slavs use in their names. I'll figure it out for future posts, or just avoid any names that got them.