Can anyone recommend any books about the war in the Balkans from an Orthodox, or at least a Serbian, perspective?
This isn’t from a Serbian perspective, and actually avoids taking sides about the whole thing, but it’s probably one of the most balanced out there.http://www.amazon.ca/Sharp-End-Canadian-Soldiers-Story/dp/1550545884
It covers more than just the Balkans, obviously, and has a lot to say about some of the internal politics of the Canadian government and our Armed Forces. Folks may, or may not, find that interesting.
Having been a Canadian soldier myself, from 1990 to 2000, I can assure you there unfortunately aren’t any works about it from an Orthodox perspective that have any semblance of balance or objectivity.
Personally, I never made it onto a rotation to serve in the “Former Yugoslavia”, as we took to calling it, as the names and borders kept changing – it was hard to keep track for a while. But, many of my very good friends did.
A close buddy I went through Basic Training with was on an Observation Point just as a JNA (read: Serbian) advance cut them off from relief and re-supply. They were out there for 30 days with seven days worth of rations. He remembers half a Chicklet (that’s a brand name for a piece of gum) being breakfast once. Near the end of their time there, a Dutch NGO humanitarian convoy (that somehow got through the various blockades) came down the road near their OP. He and his section robbed them at gunpoint for everything they had that was edible. The Dutch didn’t make too much fuss about it, considering they were carrying stuff for people in need, and if it turned out that the people in need were Canadian soldiers, then so be it. I’m pretty sure the drivers weren’t impressed with being tossed out of their vehicles at gunpoint though. My buddy also remembers, during the same ordeal, chasing a goat that strayed near their outpost with a machete once. He wanted to kill it and eat it – they were starving remember! The goat got away. Only afterwards did he realize that he had chased the goat through a minefield. Throughout this entire episode, the Serbs kept probing them every couple of days – ie. shooting at them to see if anyone was still alive to shoot back. Needless to say, the fact that Serbian soldiers were repeatedly trying to kill Canadian peacekeepers (my personal friends included) pretty much tarnishes the idea of “heroic” Serbian “freedom fighters” in my mind.
I also have many good friends that were in the battle of the Medak Pocket, which bizarrely enough, the Croatian government still insists never happened. They say it’s something the Canadian government cooked up to make the Croatians look bad internationally.
You don’t need us to falsely create anything for you to look bad internationally. You’re doing that very well all on your own.
I view claims that the 1990s Serbian govt and forces were defenders of Orthodoxy and righteousness with great skepticism. I'm open to being corrected though.
As do I. I have great difficulty with the linking of Serb nationalism and Orthodoxy. Perhaps that’s because I’m far too aware of the atrocities committed by *all* sides in this conflict. The battle of the Medak Pocket was all about Croats exterminating an entire village of Serbs. But, make no mistake, the Serbs did the same to the Croats. They both did the same to the Muslims, and of course, the Muslims returned the favour.
As I said, I wasn’t ever there, but I heard many stories around the smoking pit. More than a few were told by guys with tears in their eyes. Distraught parents come to the Canadian peacekeeper’s camp once. Apparently, their fourteen year old daughter was kidnapped from her family home by Serbian forces. A few days later, one of our patrols finds a body. It was of a young female. She was found naked, tied bent over a chair. There were clear signs of sexual assault, and her throat had been slit. She had clearly been raped repeatedly, and then killed to prevent her from making any accusations.
It turns out that her father speaks enough English that you can’t slough this job off onto an interpreter. How do you tell him what happened to his daughter? How do you explain that his beautiful baby girl’s only crime was not being Serbian enough? After you rotate back home, how do you sleep at night knowing what you know?
If anyone knows an answer to the last question, please let me know.
It’s fashionable to critique NATO’s bombing of Serbia. Yes, they bombed many Churches, Monasteries and Hospitals. That’s because the Serbian forces were stockpiling weapons there. Of course, they deny it, and many Orthodox people seem to believe these denials. It seems that very few Orthodox supporters of the Serbian government had access to the satellite and aerial photographs that NATO had. Nor were they privy to the human intelligence reports, and likely couldn’t have eavesdropped on the Serbian military telecommunications. It should be clear by now that I don’t believe their denials for very good reasons.
Yes, atrocities happened, but they were committed by all sides, against all sides. The Balkans is an area where the fighting was done by various factions of bad guys. It was void of good guys, no matter how much some folks want to whitewash the historical accounts.