BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Alex N. Dragnich, author of "Serbs and Croats: The Struggle in Yugoslavia." In your preface, you say that you were led to write this book primarily by the realization that the journalism produced in the wake of the collapse of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, including Yugoslavia, has been not only inadequate, but often incorrect.
ALEX N. DRAGNICH, AUTHOR, "SERBS AND CROATS: THE STRUGGLE IN YUGOSLAVIA": Yes, that's right.
LAMB: How incorrect?
DRAGNICH: Well, for example, so often you heard the statement made that Versailles created Yugoslavia. Well, actually, the Yugoslavs created and – and the state was established before Versailles ever met. And there are other kinds of things about – you know, they're referring to this present war, the conflict in Yugoslavia, as a civil war, as a – as a war of aggression, whereas it really is a civil war.
LAMB: Let me just interrupt to ask you, what – when you refer to Versailles, what are you talking about?
DRAGNICH: Well, the Versailles peace conference at the end of the First World War. Some columnists have said that Yugoslavia was sort of cobbled together out of remnants of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Well, actually, it was put together by south Slavs, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, many of whose intellectual – intellectual leaders had suggested that this was a logical way to go. And, actually, they concluded in July of 1917 agreement on the formation of the new state.
LAMB: What does "Yugoslavia" mean?
DRAGNICH: Well, "Yug" in Serbian or Croatian means "South." So it's, you know, a land of the south Slavs.
LAMB: What does "Slav" mean?
DRAGNICH: "Slav" is a term applied to the general configuration of races in Eastern Europe – Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Serbians, Montenegrins, Croatians, Czechs, Slovaks.
LAMB: What's the name "Dragnich"?
DRAGNICH: Dragnich really comes from the – well, Drag means deer, and it comes from – from my forbearers, whose name was – the original forebear was Draga, and his descendants became Dragniches.
LAMB: Where did they live?
DRAGNICH: They lived in what was south Serbia at that time. And three brothers, as my father tells me – told me a long time ago – three brothers who migrated to what is – what's Montenegro, and there were these three brothers, Drago (ph) and Maure (ph) and Djurovich (ph) – Djuro (ph). And so the – the – the – of the three brothers, the three lines, Dragnich, Djurovich (ph) and Maurevich (ph).
LAMB: When did your family come to the United States?
DRAGNICH: Well, my father came in 1907, and my mother in 1911. Actually, my father came here with the idea of making some money and then going back, buy some land, and then live like a king. I mean, it was that land hunger, you know. But my father moved from one job to another clear across the continent, even up to Alaska, at which point my mother got rather tired and said, you know, you either send money for me to come over there or come home. Well, he hadn't saved enough money to come home, so he sent for her to come, and then she came in 1911. I was born in 1912, out in the state of Washington.
LAMB: Are you a Serb?
DRAGNICH: Yeah. My – yeah, my – my parents both came from – they're both Serbs from Montenegro.
LAMB: How much of your Serbian ancestry influenced your need to write this book?
DRAGNICH: I don't think – I don't think any, except to the extent that I became rather familiar with the country and did my PhD dissertation on the development of parliamentary government in Serbia, so that I was a bit familiar. And then I served in the embassy, in the American Embassy in 1947 to '50. And so that familiarity with the country, I think, led me to – to a familiarity of the book, because I wrote several other books about Yugoslav history.
LAMB: When was Yugoslavia created?
DRAGNICH: In 1918, formal declaration, December 1, 1918.
LAMB: We've got a map that we took out of your book. Several – there are several maps in this book. And this is the one of "European Powers, August 1914." It's there on the screen. It shows Germany and Austria-Hungary, and right below it would be Serbia?
DRAGNICH: Serbia, yeah.
LAMB: Romania, Bulgaria?
LAMB: What was the world like when that map was drawn?
DRAGNICH: Well, that was a world in which – pre-World War I, when Germany and Austro-Hungary were – were allied together. And Russia to one side there and France were – and Britain, of course, part of the Triple Entente. The – the two – the two camps, or the two ententes, clashed in – in the First World War.
LAMB: What does "entente" mean?
DRAGNICH: Well, it means a – an alliance.
LAMB: And when Yugoslavia was formed, who put it together? How many different areas made it...
LAMB: ... whole?
DRAGNICH: ... Serbia, which dates back to the Middle Ages and was under then – under Turkish Ottoman rule for nearly 500 years, became independent in the 19th century. And so that, plus Montenegro, another independent Serbian – small Serbian kingdom, were involved in the First World War.
And during the war, there was also something called the Yugoslav Committee, functioning largely in London, chaired by a Croatian. But there were Serbs and Slovenes on it, too. These were people who represented the Serbs and the Croats and the Slovenes who were in part of the Austro-Hungary empire. And so they were eager to get out from under the Austro-Hungarian empire and wanted to join Serbia to form a common country.
LAMB: If a Croat was sitting here next to you, what would he or she look like?
DRAGNICH: Oh, probably you couldn't tell the difference.
LAMB: How about a Slovene?
DRAGNICH: I – I doubt you could tell much difference.
LAMB: What about language?
DRAGNICH: Language – if you are in – if you're in Serbia, people will say Serbian. If you're in Croatia, they'll say Croatian. Universities who teach the language call it Serbo-Croatian. And, actually, the differences between Serbian and Croatian are no greater than British English and American English. Slovene speak – they speak a tongue that is very, very similar, but also some significant differences.
LAMB: Where does the word "Balkan" come from?
DRAGNICH: Balkan simply refers to – well, I guess the – the word "Balkan" means mountain, and it was referred to – the Balkans were referred to as a part of the Austria – part of the Ottoman empire, when it was – when the Ottomans – Ottoman – Ottoman Turks came in there in the 14th century, 15th century.
LAMB: Now, going back to your own history, you say you were born in what town?
DRAGNICH: A little town of Republic, which is – which is in the state of Washington, up north near the Canadian border in eastern Washington.
LAMB: How long did you live there?
DRAGNICH: Well, until I went off to college at the age of 21.
LAMB: Where'd you go to college?
DRAGNICH: I first went to a little Baptist school in – in Oregon called Linfield College, mainly because I had two teachers who were graduates of Linfield. And then at the end of – end of two years, I was in debt a little, maybe $100, $150, which in those days was quite a bit. Stayed out a year, worked, paid off that debt, and then decided that it would cost me less to transfer to go to the University of Washington, where I got my BA degree and also where I met my future wife.
LAMB: And what did you – what'd you get your degree in?
DRAGNICH: In political science, major in political science.
LAMB: What did you do after school?
DRAGNICH: Well, after school, I went to do graduate work at the University of California, where I got an MA and a PhD. And I must pay considerable thanks to my wife, who then was a registered nurse and who, in effect, helped me get through graduate school.
LAMB: This book, which is small in size, was written when?
DRAGNICH: It was written – well, mainly in '92, but – no, '91 and '92.
LAMB: I went out to try to find it in bookstores, took me a long time. Finally found it in a bookstore up in New York City. How come it's so hard to get?
DRAGNICH: I can't explain that, because it's published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, which company has a wide network of distribution.
LAMB: Let me ask you maybe a better question. How come this is the only book I could find in a bookstore that had anything to do with Yugoslavia or Serbs and Croats?
DRAGNICH: Well, I don't know. There isn't much in the past. There is a rather thin volume, also published by a British young man by the name of Glenny (ph), who has done some – some good work.
LAMB: But in – in general, why is it that so little has been written about that part of the world when we're so at least emotionally involved in talking about it these days?
DRAGNICH: Well, I think some things were written about that part of the world, but they were written in somewhat earlier years. This one happened to coincide rather conveniently with events in Yugoslavia. At one point, I said, "Well" – to my wife, I said, "Well, I ought to write a brief history about Yugoslavia," because then it seemed like Yugoslavia was – was on the way to breaking up.
And I thought, "Well, a brief history" – you know, my other books dealt with the development of parliamentary government in – in Serbia or Nikola Pasic's Yugoslavia and Serbia, and other books that I've done, you know, were sort of scholarly books with a lot of footnotes and so on. I thought here – and I really attempted here to do a popular history that would be easily understood by any reader, and I wanted to keep it fairly brief.
LAMB: You often read that World War I started in Sarajevo. Where is Sarajevo? And did it start there?
DRAGNICH: Sarajevo is – as everybody knows, I think, now – in the center of – of what is called Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. At that time, it was part of the Ottoman empire. And the – as the Ottoman empire was – was sort of decaying in 1878, Austro-Hungary was allowed to occupy Bosnia-Herzegovina, and then unilaterally they annexed it in 1908.
And that became the – sort of the focal point for a lot of Serbs, who – who were at that time the largest group in that area that we now call Bosnia-Herzegovina. And it was there that the – that the Austro-Hungarian pretender to the throne – or the – or the heir to the throne, rather, and his wife came. And, unfortunately, they came at a – on what is Vidovdan, the holiest of Serbian holidays. Serbian authorities had nothing to do with it, although there was a – a movement called Young Bosnia, and it was a member of that movement that actually killed the heir to the throne and his wife in – in 1914.
LAMB: The heir's name?
LAMB: And what happened...
DRAGNICH: Archduke Ferdinand.
LAMB: Who – when – when he was killed, what happened then?
DRAGNICH: Well, Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia to allow Serbia – to allow Austria-Hungary to come into these lands and into Serbia to ferret out anti-Austro-Hungarian activities. I think Serbia agreed to every – I don't remember now the – all of the details, but I think Serbia agreed to practically all of the terms of that ultimatum, except this one, to allow foreign – foreigners to come into Serbia, to meddle in Serbian affairs. And at that point Austria-Hungarian simply declared war on Serbia.
LAMB: What is the correct pronunciation of Bosnia-slash-Herzegovina? Govina or Govina?
DRAGNICH: Herzegovina – Herzegovina, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
LAMB: If you say – when you – we – we hear people pronouncing it two ways, Herzegovina or Herzegovina. Which one's right?
DRAGNICH: Herzegovina. Herzegovina. In – in most of these words that – that are Serbian or Croat, the accent is usually on the first syllable.
LAMB: You have, in the front of this book, a little attempt...
DRAGNICH: Guide to pronunciation.
LAMB: Guide to pronunciation, which we'll show the audience. And why – why'd you do that?
DRAGNICH: Yes. Well, because I think in many books, particularly in the newspapers, some of the – the sounds don't come out right unless you see what – how the – how it is written in the language with the diacritical marks over some of these letters, like C, for example. Or if you look at one of these current leaders, Milosevic in Serbia – when it's written – when you see it in the newspapers, it's – it ends with a C, but actually it is pronounced as if it were a C-H.
LAMB: Do you find people mispronouncing your name very often?
DRAGNICH: They have, yes.
LAMB: Mr. Dragnich, can you back to that – the hyphenated Bosnia-Herzegovina and explain why it – and what that is?
DRAGNICH: Well, there were two areas. One was called Bosnia, and the other Herzegovina. And they don't have – they're just sort of geographic units. They have no ethnic meaning at all. And if you were to go there, you couldn't tell the difference between a Serb and a Croat or somebody who was of the Muslim faith.
LAMB: Why has this become the contested area?
DRAGNICH: Well, it's become a contested area because when Yugoslavia began to break up, the large Serbian population did not want to be left outside, because Serbia had fought in the Balkan wars and in World War I to liberate those areas, and they became part of the – of Serbia – or, rather, became part of the first Yugoslav state.
LAMB: When you say Balkan wars, what are those?
DRAGNICH: I mean, Balkan war of 1912, which in effect ousted the Turks from Europe, from the – from the area that was – well, it was a combination of several armies, Serbian, Bulgarian, Romanian, and Greek that finally got together and said, look, this decaying empire, we need to kick the remnants of it out of Europe, and they did in the Balkan war of 1912.
LAMB: One of the reasons we asked you to come here and do this book – and, by the way, this – you say this book came out in '92. And we were talking earlier about how difficult it is to get. I know you told us before this started that this is going to come out in paperback?
DRAGNICH: It's going to come out in paperback in May, according to the publisher.
LAMB: Was there a reason? I mean, is there enough interest? Is that...
DRAGNICH: Well, apparently they have enough interest, because this was – this came out in '92, and the publisher tells me that all copies have been distributed now. I suspect there are copies available in bookstores here and there that have handled it, but they decided not to print any more hardback, but to go to paperback.
LAMB: As I started to say, one of the reasons we asked you to come here is to try to make sense out of all this, and maybe it's me, but I'd ask you, do other people have trouble understanding how to figure out this whole area?
DRAGNICH: Oh, yes. Many people have asked me – many of my neighbors have asked me, you know, what is all the fighting about? And many, of course, don't even – know none of that history. You cannot understand what's happening there unless you know some history of the area and the peoples who are there.
LAMB: We've got in the back – and I did some figuring – there may not be exactly accurate, but you've got an exhibit in the back. I'll try to find it here. Well, we'll show – put it on the screen, and we can show what it looks like in the book. But you show some of the population breakdowns, and I know it helped me understand a little bit better. Why don't we go ahead and put that on the screen? There you can see the Yugoslav population in 1991, first of all, where are these – what's the source of these figures?
DRAGNICH: That's the Yugoslav census of 1991. And the – and the figure looks a little bit – I didn't add it up the way you've got it there – but it could be a little large. I don't know.
LAMB: I mean, most of the time, you see figures of 24 million instead of...
DRAGNICH: ... 24, 25, yes.
LAMB: That's my arithmetic, so somebody may take a pen to that and say it's wrong.
DRAGNICH: Yeah, yeah.
LAMB: But if you go from the bottom, and we'll go back to the other one in a moment, Bulgars, Romanians, Turks, Gypsies. Now, what's a Gypsy?
DRAGNICH: Gypsy is where people who came from somewhere in Asia and into the Balkans, and you find them in – you find them in Romania, more and more in Romania than anyplace else, but some in Yugoslavia, some in Hungary, some in Czechoslovakia, and some...
LAMB: What's – what's a Yugoslav?
DRAGNICH: A Yugoslav is someone of the Slav race who is in the south, that is, it's a sort of distinction between the northern Slavs or the Russian Slavs, those who are in, let's say, the northern Slavs, the Poles, and then you've got some in Czechoslovakia or Slovakia and the Czech Republic, sort of middle of Europe. And then when you get down to the Balkans, it's primarily the south Slavs.
LAMB: In your book – and James can look at this closely – you have this appendix back here. It's where I got all these figures, the population of Yugoslavia. One of the things I noticed as you go down slowly, if you don't mind, please, that Serbs – in every section there are Serbs. It's the only nationality that there is in each section. You can see there – and why is that?
DRAGNICH: Well, it isn't a complete breakdown. For example, there are some – there are quite a few Serbs in – quite a few Croats in Serbia, for example. And so it does vary, but Serbia – the Serbs are the most numerous. They were, I think, before the current fighting broke out, I think the Serbs made up about 38 percent of the total population.
LAMB: But the one thing you notice, no matter what section it is, there are Serbs in each one, but there aren't Croats or Slovenes in each section.
LAMB: Why is that?
DRAGNICH: It isn't a complete breakdown. I think the chart itself may have been a little bit skewed, in that I took the major points there, but, no, there are – there are Croats and there are Slovenes elsewhere in the country.
LAMB: Let me ask you a general question about all that. Are you surprised by what's happened?
DRAGNICH: To a degree, yes. I know that there were some disagreements. I'm surprised that some more peaceful resolution couldn't have been reached. And as you no doubt have looked in the book, I blame the Western powers a great deal for what has happened.
DRAGNICH: Because they first recognized Slovenia and Croatia – this rather rapid recognition of the secessionist republics. And when they did that, they in effect aided and abetted the Croats and the Slovenes in the violation of the Helsinki Accords, which we signed, among – and practically all the European powers – that boundaries of countries could not be changed by force.
And here these people were changing the boundaries of a sovereign nation, Yugoslavia, and the Germans and the Austrians pushed the hardest to do that. And then after, in effect, violating the Helsinki Accords against changing boundaries by force, they turned right around and said to the Serbs, "But you can't do anything to rectify your grievances."
In other words, there are – there are many Serbs left outside the Republic of Serbia. I suppose to clarify that, before communism came to power in 1946, the country was not divided into ethnic units, republics or anything else. But when Tito, who was the leader of the Yugoslav Communists, came to power in 1946, he divided the country up into six republics and two autonomous provinces. Now, that was a rather artificial division, because it left a lot of Serbs outside the Republic of Serbia.
And so – well, I said a lot. It left out – it left close to 3 million, and most of these – 1.5 million in Bosnia-Herzegovina and 600,000 or maybe 800,000 in Croatia.
LAMB: We've got another map from 1941 we're going to show the audience from your book.
LAMB: What – what does this do, partition of Yugoslavia? Who did the partitioning?
DRAGNICH: Partitioning, Yugoslavia was attacked by Italy and Germany in April of 1941. And a satellite state was created that was called the Independent State of Croatia. And it reached to take in most of Bosnia-Herzegovina. And that particular division was rather tragic in the sense that 750,000 Serbs were massacred in that axis satellite fascist conglomeratization called the Independent State of Croatia.
And the rest of the country – part of it in the dark color up there indicating Slovenia and the dark color indicating mainly of Serbia, they became simply occupied by the Germans. And, of course, that whole thing changed after – at the end of World War II.
LAMB: You mentioned Tito.
LAMB: Marshal Tito, we used to hear about him all the time.
LAMB: What's the name Walter have to do with this?
DRAGNICH: Walter was his – Walter was his name in the international communist movement. I guess the Russians gave him that name. And that's what he was known in the international communist movement as until the war – until World War II, and then with the attempt of the Yugoslav Communists to seize power in what was – what had been Yugoslavia, then he came to be known as Josip Broz Tito. Presumably, his real name was Josip Broz. He was – had a Croatian father and a Slovene mother.
LAMB: Did he consider himself a Croat or a Slovene or a...
DRAGNICH: No, he always said that he was – that he was a Yugoslav. As a matter of fact, he made quite a point of that, saying that he was – he was not any – of any one national group. Although when it came to carving up the country and dividing it, at one point, he said you cannot – you cannot divide my Croatia. So that he did have some feeling that – of nationality feeling, although had basically always said, I'm a Yugoslav.
LAMB: When did you first go to that part of the world?
DRAGNICH: Well, I went there in 1939 as a graduate student. I went to Europe for a couple of months. I was then hoping to get a fellowship, do graduate work at the University of California in Berkeley, and I think I felt some foreign experience like that would help me, which it did. I got a teaching fellowship at the University of California in Berkeley. So it was there in '39 for about a month, within Yugoslavia.
LAMB: How long have you spent over there altogether?
DRAGNICH: Well, it's difficult for me to conclude, because at the end of the World War II, I was asked if I would go to Yugoslavia to be in the American embassy in Belgrade, to be in charge of the press and cultural work, and I was there two-and-a-half years, and then I came – then I came back to the United States, went into teaching at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee. And then several summers I spent over there doing research.
My first book, called "Tito's Promised Land," came out in 1954, and then I did a book later on the leader of Serbia, Nikola Pasic, who was on the political stage in Serbia for about 50 years. He was the leading light in the creation of Yugoslavia, from Serbia, and was prime minister of Serbia and then prime minister of Yugoslavia until 1926, the date of his death.
LAMB: Did you ever meet Marshal Tito?
DRAGNICH: No, but I saw him several times while I was serving in the American embassy.
LAMB: How long was he the dictator that ran the country of Yugoslavia?
DRAGNICH: Well, from 1946 officially until his death in 1980.
LAMB: What did you think of him?
DRAGNICH: Well, he was – he had some of the attributes of seeking integration of the country, but his basic policies really were of great ill for the country as a whole.
LAMB: We used to think – at least you'd read in the American newspapers that he was a friend of the West.
DRAGNICH: Well, he – I don't think he was ever a friend of the West. He was – he was a Communist. He was a loyal supporter of the International Communist Movement. Of course, when Stalin tried to oust him in 1948, he then asserted himself as being independent, and we felt at that time – and incidentally I was serving in the American embassy at that time – we felt that this was the beginning of the downfall of Communism. And we thought Tito had sort of kicked out the first brick from under that edifice.
So – and then, of course, American newspapers liked that idea, you know, signifying somebody who was going to be a great pin in the whole structure, helping to tear it down. Actually, he buried some – in the dictatorship – it was a dictatorship – it was brutal, in the – especially in the initial years. And he felt that somehow he was putting this country together in a solid form.
Actually, what he did was to sweep many of the critical problems, especially nationality problems, under the rug, and so when communism broke out, when communism began to disintegrate, all of these hostilities that had been churning under the surface broke out in some of this tragic war.
LAMB: What year did he die?
LAMB: What happened after that?
DRAGNICH: After that, he was – well, before his death, in anticipation, I guess, of his death, he put together a new constitution in 1974 which shared power so that actually you needed almost unanimous consent among the republics before major measures could be taken, but the Communist Party supposedly was dedicated – certainly they said they were dedicated – to carrying out his – following his path, but later on, the leaders sort of began splitting and moved away and following – followed nationalist paths, until about 1989, '90, when the break seemed to – when the whole business seemed to come unstuck.
LAMB: You criticized the Western governments for recognizing the breakup in recognizing Slovenia and Croatia too soon. Was that – did that include the Americans?
DRAGNICH: Well, the Americans came later. Actually, Secretary Baker – Secretary of State Baker I think was on a sound course when he said to them, look, we'd rather you'd still together, but if you're not – if you're going to fall apart, we will respect your wishes, and when you reach some political settlements, then we'll take up the question of recognition, which was a very sound position.
But pushed by Germany and Austria and some of the other Western European powers, we sort of caved in. And after a few months, we also recognized these states.
LAMB: Here's a map you've got from your book from 1945, which was, I assume, after World War II. You can see there. If you go through those sections of what was Yugoslavia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, also Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, who were they aligned with during World War II?
DRAGNICH: Well, Yugoslavia entered the war after being attacked by Germany and Italy in April of 1941. Yugoslavia became part of the Western alliance. But they were overwhelmed by German and Italian troops in a short while, about two weeks.
Then was created the Independent State of Croatia, which was a Nazi fascist ally, which occupied most of Croatia and what is Bosnia-Herzegovina, the rest of the country, pretty well – well, Italy got some – got to occupy some areas, and Bulgaria some others. So that actually – and actually Croatia declared war on the United States and on – on Russia, Soviet Union.
So the only people who really fought on the side of the allies were the Serbs. Of course, you had two guerilla movements that were struggling for power and control. And these two guerilla movements clashed with the Communist movement coming out ahead, partly because of Western aid and partly because of Soviet aid.
LAMB: What's that part of the world like, to go there and visit?
DRAGNICH: Well, it was a great place to visit. I traveled over most of Yugoslavia. And the people were very friendly. Whether you were talking to Serbs or Croats or Slovenes, Macedonians, whatever, they were always very friendly to Americans. They looked up to America. Serbs especially had been allied with the West, they'd been friends of the United States since recognition back in – I think it was 1878, for over 100 years. And the Serbs were allies of the West in two world wars.
But I don't want to minimize the friendship of the other peoples of Yugoslavia, who always I think most Americans found all of the Yugoslavs, all the south Slavs very cordial and very hospitable.
LAMB: We read that the Americans have a special relationship with Kosovo, or at least they have a position they're taking that if certain things happen in Kosovo, we would intervene or we wouldn't permit things to happen. Can you explain that? Who lives there, by the way?
DRAGNICH: Well, that's a tragic situation. That's the – and I'm glad you asked that, because I think this is something that Americans generally don't understand. Kosovo is the region in what was south Serbia – that was the center of the old Serbian empire of the Middle Ages. It was – Serbia in those years – for about 100 years, Serbia was the strongest empire in the Balkans.
And so when you talk about Kosovo, that's where the basic – that's where all the cultural religious monuments, the Serbian Orthodox Church, for example, had all the monasteries there and so on. And the Serbs were the only ones there, actually.
But in the close to 500 years of Ottoman Turkish occupation, the number of Serbs – or percentage of Serbs dropped. And, of course, it's a complicated – complicated questions, but the Serbs really – I mean, you talk about ethnic cleansing. The Serbs were victims of it back in the 19th century. But in Kosovo, that region, which is sacred to the Serbs, just as Jerusalem is to the Jews.
So – but now after World War II, Tito promised these – these Albanians, who had mainly become a factor in the 19th century, after they had converted to Islam, and then we have the coming of the Second World War, there was the – there were the Italians who helped create a great Albania, so that Kosovo became part of that greater Albania. Then after the war, or during the war, Tito has promised these Kosovo Albanians freedom, you know, self-determination when the war was over. He didn't quite give them that, but he gave them a separate status within Serbia, an autonomous region.
And then after – under Tito – and these were Communists, in the rule of Kosovo, they had really purged a lot of Kosovo. Not only did they destroy Serbian cultural monuments, desecrate monasteries and cemeteries, but forced a lot of Serbs to flee, stole their properties, burnt haystacks, and the like, and so that many Serbs fled.
So today, you have a situation where the Albanian population is close to 90 percent, the Serbian population, 10 percent or 12 percent. And so when this – finally, after Tito's death, it became evident to a lot of people in the central government in Yugoslavia – it was probably evident to them before, but nothing was done – about this persecution of Serbs in Kosovo by the Albanians.
Then they simply went ahead and, in – under the – when Slobodan Milosevic became president of the Serbian Party, Communist Party, it was then that he began taking on the issue of Kosovo and made it his own campaign promise, which earned him a good deal of respect, even among non-Communists.
LAMB: What do you think of him?
DRAGNICH: Well, he's – he's a tragic figure. For the Serbs, he is bad medicine, because he is not a democrat. The Serbs historically have been great believers in democracy and tolerance. Serbs succeeded so that – in the building of a parliamentary democracy before the First World War that was on par with any country in Europe, with a free press, multiple parties. Governments fell as a result of votes in the parliament and so on. It was a parliamentary democracy in the best tradition.
And Milosevic is anything but that. He is part of the Tito – he's a part of the Tito heritage, part of that Communist Party, which because of the – of his unwillingness, I think, to bend, has been tragic for the Serbs and tragic for everybody over there.
LAMB: And his actual job today is what?
DRAGNICH: Well, he's president of Serbia.
LAMB: And what is Yugoslavia today? You point out in your book there are three Yugoslavias.
DRAGNICH: Yeah, that's right.
LAMB: The first one was when?
DRAGNICH: The first one, 1918 until it was destroyed by the Nazi and Italians.
LAMB: What year was it destroyed?
DRAGNICH: In 1941.
LAMB: The second Yugoslavia came...
DRAGNICH: It came at the end of the – end of the Second World War, and stayed until it began to unravel in 1990.
LAMB: And the third Yugoslavia?
DRAGNICH: The third Yugoslavia was created within the last couple of years, and it really consists of Serbia and Montenegro.
LAMB: And who runs that?
DRAGNICH: Well, there is a – there is a national parliament, and there is a national president. The president is Dobrica Cosic, who – the Serbian novelist, one-time Communist. I know Cosic rather well, and he is – he's now at least the – in the popular parlance, he is now a strong Serbian nationalist.
Now, in my talks with him over the years, because I got to know him when I was writing about the first Yugoslavia, and in those years, he really was saying to me, you know, unless we can democratize, communism is finished. This was back in the – 1980, for example.
LAMB: You know...
DRAGNICH: So he's technically the president, but everybody seems to believe that since Serbia is the largest component of that Yugoslavia, that Milosevic is the real ruler.
LAMB: You have in your book figures – and I'm not sure where they are – but I was looking for them – figures of what the per capita income is for the Croats, the Slovenes and the Serbs. And if I remember right, the Slovenes are something like $12,000 a year. The Croats were – what, in the range of $7,000 or $8,000...
DRAGNICH: Seven or eight.
LAMB: ... and the Serbs are $4,500.
DRAGNICH: That's right.
LAMB: Now, why the disparity?
DRAGNICH: Well, part of the disparity, it's interesting because the Slovenes and Croats have many times charged the Serbs with exploiting them and exploiting the country, that they're contributing so much to the national product and so on. But I think what explains it is that historically, Slovenia and Croatia, as part of the Austria-Hungary empire, was more advanced. Serbia was more rural, more backward.
So that if when – when the first Yugoslavia was created in the 1920s, when it came to the question of where do we invest money, well, you invest it where there was some industry already, and that was Slovenia and Croatia. And ironically, Tito did the same thing after World War II. More of the investment went into Croatia and Slovenia, in terms of industrial goods and industrial development.
LAMB: What about religion? Slovenes, Croats and Serbians, what religion are they?
DRAGNICH: Slovenes and Croats are predominantly Catholic, almost entirely Roman Catholic. Serbs are Serbian Orthodox. You know, Serbian Orthodox Church is like other orthodox churches. Whether it's Greek Orthodox or Bulgarian Orthodox or Romanian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, they are separate. They have more autonomy than Catholic churches.
LAMB: I don't know whether you can do this or not, but if you had a Croat, a Serbian and a Slovene sitting around a table, and they were going to tell each other what they really thought of each other, what would one say about the other? What are the kind of things that are underneath all this, the hatred that's involved in this?
DRAGNICH: Well, interestingly enough, you know, I've sat at tables at cafes where all three were present and generally very cordial. I think they'd probably resist telling each other some of their basic thoughts, Croats might say to the Serbs, look, you're backward, you're Balkan, you've been influenced by the Turks.
The Serb may turn around and say to the Croat, look, you're a victim of the propaganda that comes out of the Vatican. And – but if you're looking at them, you can't tell the difference. I can't – I can't tell the difference. And many of...
LAMB: And let me just pursue that a little bit more. What would the Slovenes say? Anything different about the Croat and then about the Serb?
DRAGNICH: Slovene would – Slovene would say, look, both Serbs and Croats – both you Serbs and Croats are really not as developed as we are. I know the first time I took a trip through Slovenia and came to Belgrade at a cocktail party, some people were asking me, what was my impression?
And I said, well, if I were Slovene, I would say I want to get out of this thing, because actually the Croats – when you look at Croatia and Serbia, they're very similar, you know? Slovenes are more advanced. They have been more under the influence of the Germans. You found greater order and greater cleanliness all around. Slovenia seemed more advanced.
LAMB: Let me pursue this a little bit more. Are all – are the Slovenes, the Croats, and the Serbians all Caucasians?
LAMB: How about the Albanians?
DRAGNICH: Yes, I would say, but a lot of anthropologists – I'm not an anthropologist, so anthropologist may be a little bit – view things differently, but they are basically Caucasian, yes.
LAMB: What about the Muslims?
DRAGNICH: Well, Muslims are – it depends on which Muslims you're talking about. The Albanians are Muslims. You talk about Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina, they're totally different. They're Slavs. They are Serbs and – they were Serbs or Croats, mainly Serb, who during the long years of Turkish occupation converted to Islam. So in Bosnia-Herzegovina, when you're talking about the Muslims there, they are Serbs or Croats or were Serbs or Croats, whereas in Albania they are – they are somewhat different.
LAMB: Is there any place in this area where the hatred is around the race issue, around the skin color differences?
DRAGNICH: Not really. Not really. Because skin color is pretty much the same.
LAMB: All right, now you're...
DRAGNICH: In some areas, these people live side-by-side in great peace and – and great accommodation. Other places, a little more hostility.
LAMB: By the way, you said you taught at Vanderbilt. How long were you there?
DRAGNICH: Oh, I was there 28 years.
LAMB: Where do you live now?
DRAGNICH: Live in a retirement community here on the outskirts of Washington, D.C.
LAMB: You have family?
DRAGNICH: Yes, I have a wife, and I have a daughter who is married and lives in New York. And I have a son who's in the Foreign Service, currently stationed in Australia.
LAMB: When you sit around the table with friends now and they ask you about this area, what do you advise them? How do you – what do you suggest to them that they look for in trying to understand what's going on over there?
DRAGNICH: Well, I tell them, look, take a look at the history of this – of these peoples and go back and try to see what happened when Yugoslavia started to break apart. It was strongly held together by the Communist dictatorship under Tito and then after Tito for a number of years.
But as the economy began to have problems, they had borrowed a good deal of money in the United States and in the West generally, with a huge foreign debt, and their economy, like other Communist economies, not too profitable, not too effective, not too efficient. Then they began blaming each other.
And as things began to break up, then I – I urge my friends, look, take a look at what was there before these people started breaking up, and then you'll sort of understand it, particularly if you look at the lack of evenhandedness in the part of the West in trying to deal with these – these peoples, after Yugoslavia started to break apart.
LAMB: When you're trying to find information today about that area, what do you watch and read?
DRAGNICH: Well, I read newspapers. I get stuff from English publications. I get some things out of Yugoslavia. And a lot of it you don't know, because you don't know where the truth is. I have been greatly disappointed in the American media, for example.
The demonization of Serbia – it seems that if you – everything you read, whether you read the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Washington Times, Washington Post, you get almost the same thing and everybody is blaming the Serbs, whereas I think if you take a look at what happened when Yugoslavia was falling apart and see that the West was not evenhanded, it favored the secessionist republics and not the Serbs.
Now, the Serbs – it seems to me that the West might very well have gone – might have well gone to the Serbs – look, they might have said, look, these people are breaking apart. And, you know, Croatia has a right. If they want – if the Croats want to secede and want to form their own nation, that's OK. Slovenia wants to do that, that's all right.
But then you ought to give the Serbs the same right of self-determination, which – which the Western powers, in effect, foreclosed for Serbia. And that's why the Serbs did not want to live in Croatia, because of the experience of Croats during the – that fascist state in World War II. And the Serbs didn't want to live in a Bosnian state because the Serbs had fought for the liberation of those Serbs so they could join Serbia.
Now, if they don't have the right to self-determination, then these Serbs began to fight. And I think if the West had simply said to the Serbs, look, when this thing is all over with, your grievances – we will support the addressing of your grievances in any final settlement, I think a lot of the bloodshed, maybe most of the bloodshed could have been spared.
LAMB: On the back of your book, there's praise for your book from the following people, Jim Moody, from Wisconsin, a Democrat, who used to be a member of Congress, Birch Bayh, a Democrat, former senator from Indiana, John Scanlan, former U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia, and John Walkeep (ph), professor emeritus of political science at University of Arizona. Any reason why those particular people were picked to be on the back?
DRAGNICH: Well, let me say, Moody had served – Moody had been in Yugoslavia before he was elected to Congress. He was with CARE (ph), I think, the organization providing packages and so on of care. And Moody traveled all over the country, learned the language very well – I've heard him speak – and had a very evenhanded approach toward Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. I got to know him, partly because of the things that he said.
And then if you look at former Ambassador Scanlan, I came to know him when I invited him first to speak to a group after he had returned as ambassador. I think that was in '88 or '99, after he had served as ambassador, and then had a chance to see him after that at different functions. And I suppose it's quite normal that here is a man who has no ethnic roots, as far as Yugoslavia is concerned.
LAMB: What about Birch Bayh?
DRAGNICH: Birch Bayh I think was simply working with – I think his law firm had a – I think had an account with Yugoslav Petroleum at one point. So that was his – his interest, so he had some interest there. And I think – let me say something more about John Scanlan, the American ambassador. I suppose one reason – I asked him to read the manuscript, and he liked it. And I suppose because he felt my treatment of the subject was good. Of course, that would appeal to me.
John Walkeep (ph) is an old friend of mine. We were colleagues together at – in political science at Vanderbilt. Subsequently, he was president of the American Political Science Association, went to University of Arizona, where he I think just retired recently.
LAMB: You can correct me on this if you would, please, if I'm wrong, but Laurence Silberman, who is a judge, a federal judge here in town on the Court of Appeals, the U.S. District of Columbia – District of Columbia Court of Appeals – was the ambassador to Yugoslavia during the Nixon administration, I believe.
LAMB: Lawrence Eagleburger more recently was the ambassador to Yugoslavia, but he also ended up being secretary of state in the Bush administration. When you watched those two men over the years, is there any conclusion you can make to the way they were ambassadors? And why did Larry Eagleburger say what he said when he was secretary of state? Did it have anything to do with his experience there?
DRAGNICH: Well, I think if we look at – if we look at Judge Silberman first, he I think very correctly evaluated the ill nature of the Communist regime, and he was certainly hated by the Yugoslav Communists, because I think he quickly sensed the nature of that – the autocratic nature of that regime.
Eagleburger came to, I think, know the country pretty well. Now, he had – after – in the interim, between being ambassador there and becoming – coming back in the State Department for a period of years, he was associated with a Yugoslav venture, the Yugo Automobile, which was imported at one time to he United States and was charged with being somewhat prejudiced by that.
Eagleburger is interesting, because one of the things he said to a – was certainly quoted in the Baltimore Sun as having said, yes, we made a mistake in recognizing Bosnia-Herzegovina. We should not have done it until the question of the Yugoslav army had been resolved.
Later on, I can't understand some of his statements, because he knows – he knows better than some of the things that he said, but I think he got very impatient, because he was eager to have some resolution of that conflict.
LAMB: Is there any one place where people watching this can go on a daily basis to get the truth or close to the truth in any of the publications that you read, in your opinion?
DRAGNICH: Well, that's very difficult. I think if you read some British publications, you can come closer to the truth. If you read The Independent, which is a very good newspaper in Britain, or even some of the other publications...
LAMB: We can – we can buy here in this country the Economist every week. You can also buy the Financial Times. What about those two?
DRAGNICH: Well, I think Financial Times is not bad at all on Yugoslavia. The Economist has had some good articles and some rather not so good articles. I don't know. I used to admire the New York Times. I used to admire the Washington Post. But I don't know.
One of the things that really concerns me, Brian, is, you know, you're not old enough, but during the '30s, when Hitler was under so much attack in this country, there were people who said, now, look, let's wait a minute. Maybe Hitler's got something. Maybe he has a just cause against the Versailles Treaty, which treated Germany unfairly.
I ask you, where is there a noted newspaper correspondent in this country who has said, with respect to Yugoslavia, the breakup of Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, who has said, let's wait a minute. Let's look at some of these facts.
I mean, some of the facts that I have put into this book, I don't know of a single American newspaper man, noted newspaper man who has asked that critical question. Nobody wants to look at the issues. Everybody wants to dwell on what is happening there now and who is killing whom. And they're all – they're all – all guilty of atrocities, Croats, Serbs, Muslims. They're all guilty of atrocities.
But where is there – I have – you know, I have tried to write op-ed pieces. I've written many to the New York Times, to the Washington Post, to the Christian Science Monitor, to the Wall Street Journal, and I think with one exception they were all turned down. And they dealt...
DRAGNICH: I don't know why. They dealt with the issues. And I've said – I've – let's get at the issues. Nobody wants to talk about the issues. Everybody wants to say, what's happening there now? And who's at fault?
LAMB: Are you perceived as being pro-Serb?
DRAGNICH: Yes, I am. And I don't – and I don't really think that I am. Let me say this. I don't care who would do a history of Yugoslavia. I don't think anybody who does an objective history of Yugoslavia – no matter what his background – can come out but what that history will look rather favorable as far as the Serbs are concerned.
LAMB: Are people's emotions tied to the fact that Serbs are the ones that are doing the ethnic cleansing or...
DRAGNICH: Well, I think that certainly has been part of the problem. For one thing, the media wants to make foreign policy for the United States, and that I think has shaped people's attitudes a great deal, because, look, at Kosovo, where the Albanians practiced ethnic cleansing against the Serbs for decades, nobody seems to say anything about that.
The Croats practiced ethnic cleansing against the Serbs in World War II, and even now, in 1991, in certain areas of Croatia, Serbian villages have been completed cleansed. Serbs have been completely thrown out or killed or imprisoned. Nobody seems to deal with that. Everybody seems to think, well, somehow the Serbs are the only ones guilty of ethnic cleansing. They're all guilty of some of these atrocities.
LAMB: Is there a difference between the way the Democrats think on this issue and the way the Republicans think?
DRAGNICH: Well, it doesn't seem like – one of the things that – you know, I don't mind saying this. I was a New Deal Democrat. I was a – historically my whole life have been that of a Democrat. And one of the things that puzzled me in 1992 is, why would my Democrats, my Democratic leaders, accept and follow a failed Republican policy? I really – I really don't understand it.
Governor Clinton during the campaign was out with anti-Serb statements. And nobody in that – and I think this – and it is true, also, of Vice President Gore, people in his office, somehow perceive the Serbs as the only ones at fault. And I really – they don't seem to want to get at the issues. The issues are not important, it seems.
LAMB: Do you have any – again, any notion why?
DRAGNICH: Scads of people have asked me that question, not only here, but people who have visited from Europe. How do you explain an American policy? Why don't the – why doesn't the American administration want to look into the causes? What the Serbs are doing, are they doing it simply because they're nasty people? Are there some reasons or this business of somehow Serbs have captured two-thirds of Bosnia-Herzegovina or 70 percent, as if these Serbs had no business being there?
These people, as Lord Dolan (ph), who has worked with Secretary Vance to get out some plan to resolve this thing, has said, look, the Serbs have been there for centuries, before any fighting began in Serbia. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Serbs were on more than 60 percent of the land. And yet the media seems to distort that, doesn't even want to look at the issues.
LAMB: I know this is hard at this vantage point, but what do you think is going to happen over the long haul over there?
DRAGNICH: Well, over the long haul, some resolution of some differences inevitably will have to be made. These people, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, they're neighbors. They're going to have to work out means of living together.
The Slovenes are already seeking some ways of – the Slovenes were very successful during – during the 1970s, particularly 1970s, very successful in that their firms, their businesses had branches all over Serbia, for example. They were good businessmen, better than the Serbs, better than the Croats, and they are now cut off from that, but they are putting out some feelers now for somehow providing some accommodation.
And I think that eventually they'll have to have some accommodation. Unfortunately, this tragic civil war, the conflict has simply made it very difficult, and probably it's not going to be easy, but eventually they have to.
LAMB: Here's what the book looks like. Alex N. Dragnich is the author. And it's in your bookstores or can be ordered, and the paperback comes out in May. Book written in 1992, "Serbs and Croats." Thank you very much for joining us.
DRAGNICH: You're welcome.
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