Mark Collins – Bloody Balkans: Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks Section

A friend has brought this very interesting essay to my attention–just a few excerpts:

The Balkan Butler

Hubert Butler (1900-1991), the last late scion of the Irish Literary Revival, is surely one of the great essayists in English of the 20th century. Only over the last decade and a half, however, have his essays been collected and published, in Ireland, first with ESCAPE FROM THE ANTHILL (1985), then THE CHILDREN OF DRANCY (1988), GRANDMOTHER AND WOLFE TONE (1990), and IN THE LAND OF NOD (1996). The original appearance of his writings is confined almost completely to Irish periodicals, many of them obscure. For this reason his corpus of a hundred or so essays, including magisterial pieces on the Balkans and Mitteleuropa, has only recently come before a large readership in the English-speaking world…

…In all, twenty-six of his published essays, about a quarter of his work, deal in varying degrees with the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania. Of these, fourteen are on Yugoslavia and another six partly so. Moreover, seven of the essays devoted to Yugoslavia are among his greatest. In these, his overarching leitmotif is the corruption of Christianity by ecclesiastical and/or state authority.

The central historical example is the genocide unleashed in Croatia by the policy of forcible conversion endorsed by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and executed by the Ustashe regime of the Second World War; “the most bloodthirsty religio-racial crusade in history,” as he puts it, “far surpassing anything achieved by Cromwell or the Spanish Inquisitors.”[3] Cumulatively, the great Yugoslav septet is surely the most devastating critique of the Church’s collaboration with Balkan fascism ever to have appeared in English; and all the more powerful for the fact that he clearly loves Croatia and is writing in the spirit of Christianity, albeit a rather heterodox and secular Christianity that declines obeisance to any credo…

…Back in Dubrovnik he runs into Rebecca West and husband, and tosses off this classic:  “They were motoring via Mostar and Sarajevo to Belgrade and so they took me out of Orasac and had some wine with me on the way. It was a fearful day, pouring rain, so they must have had a disappointing drive. She, like so many others, is writing a book about Jugoslavia or rather she says ‘Me in Jugoslavia’.”[15] In fact, disguised as an Englishman, Butler appears in this novel, BLACK LAMB, GREY FALCON, now a bible for Balkan know-nothings…

And a meritricious one indeed–from a comment of mine at a post earlier and elsewhere:

The Serb-besotted Rebecca West (she clearly loathed Croats, not Slav enough), in “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon” (a book that has had far too much lasting influence), called Kosovo “Old Serbia”.

Mass Market Paperback Black Lamb and Grey Falcon : A Journey Through Yugoslavia Book

She also called Macedonia “South Serbia”, the official–Serbian-dominated–Yugoslav government term pre-World War II.

The Croats did indeed exterminate Serbs with truly horrific brutality during that war. The Serbs, for their part, did not forget nor forgive.  Hence their ethnic cleansing in Croatia early in the 1991-95 war, with Bosnian Muslims then targeted essentially for representing the Turks of hated Kosovo Polje memory.  The Croats however did get their revenge in Operation Storm in 1995 (with a lot of American assistance, more here from a Croatian source).

Back to Croatia in 1941.  The memoirs of a Jew, Slavko Goldstein are very well worth the read.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s