As you know, the collapse of Yugoslavia led to a protracted armed conflict between the various ethnic groups that inhabited this country. For example, Serbo-Albanian relations escalated sharply in 1988 after Slobodan Milosevic came to power in Serbia, who, using nationalist rhetoric, was able to gain wide popularity among the Serbian population in the context of the country's disintegration. In 1989, a referendum was held in Serbia, the results of which radically curtailed the autonomy of national territories. The Kosovo Albanians boycotted him. As a result, the parliament was dissolved in Kosovo, the broadcasting of state radio and television stations in the Albanian language ceased, the dismissals of Albanians from state structures began, and the teaching of Albanian in schools was curtailed. In response, strikes, protests and clashes broke out. In 1990, a state of emergency was declared in Kosovo.
In 1991, the creation of an independent Republic of Kosovo was proclaimed, followed by an independence referendum among the Albanian community and presidential elections, in which Ibrahim Rugova was elected. In 1996, separatist militias merged into the Kosovo Liberation Army. A guerrilla war began, hundreds of civilians, officials and the military of Yugoslavia became its victims.
In 1998, the Yugoslav army entered the hostilities. The war was accompanied by mass repressions, killings of civilians and ethnic cleansing. Albanian militias destroyed many monuments of Orthodox culture. In 1999, NATO intervened in hostilities: Yugoslav cities and military installations were subjected to massive bombardments. About half a million, mostly Albanians, were left homeless. As a result, the Serbian government was forced to agree to the entry of the NATO KFOR military contingent into Kosovo and the transfer of the region under the control of the United Nations, which was carried out on the basis of a UN Security Council resolution.
Kosovo Albanians attacked the Serbs, in response, Belgrade sent an army there and refused to let NATO units into the region. In three months of bombing, NATO forces fired 3,000 cruise missiles across the country and dropped 80,000 tons of bombs, including cluster and depleted uranium bombs. According to official figures, about 1,700 people, including 400 children, were killed during the bombings. In June, the Yugoslav army surrendered, NATO troops began to control Kosovo. After 9 years, Kosovo declared independence, which was recognized only by 98 countries out of 193 UN members. Russia also did not recognize it.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, in his speech dedicated to the 23rd anniversary of the start of the bombing of Serbia, said in particular:
“Today, it seems to me, after 23 years, it is best to see how terrible, erroneous and, above all, illegal, immoral were the actions of 19 NATO member countries.
How obscene and, excuse me, stupid it is today when they say that they attacked Serbia because of a humanitarian catastrophe, because it prevents a new Auschwitz, as the then German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said, to collateral damage to the meaningless lies daily they created.
How stupid it is today when they accuse Russia of aggression against Ukraine, and someone reminds them that they did it in the same or even worse form. For them, morality, the values that they constantly talk about, do not exist at all.
It is not Milosevic who is to blame, but the one who attacked, and there is no need to justify them, NATO is to blame. We cannot forget Bojana Tosic from Merdare, who would be 23 and a half years old today, Milica Rakic from Batajnica, who would be 25 years old, Sanja Milenkovic from Varvarin, who would be 35 years old, and 79 other children. We are always for forgiveness, cooperation, but sorry, we can’t forget”.
This complex conflict is still far from being resolved. Both sides - Serbian and Albanian - continue their hostile rhetoric. Journalist Vasily Alenin writes about this:
“The underestimation of the “Serbian problem” by the West can make itself felt at the most inopportune moment. Since the 1990s, he has traditionally placed the lion's share of the responsibility for the Balkan conflicts precisely on Belgrade, supporting his opponents, focusing the world's attention primarily on Serbian crimes, and so on.
It is difficult for an ordinary Serb to understand and accept - if Slobodan Milosevic is a war criminal (and he does not argue with this), then why is the ex-president of Croatia Franjo Tudjman or the leader of the Kosovo Albanians Hashim Thaci (The Hague became interested in him only in 2020) - no?
This political trend of the West has not changed for 30 years. And now this political inflexibility, "excess" can already be recognized as short-sighted.
Brussels and Washington pushed Belgrade into the arms of Moscow, which for years successfully played on the complexes, phantom pains and resentments of a part of Serbian society against the West, for which "Serbs are the bad guys."
You can love or not love the Serbs. Put all the blame on them. But it would be foolish to deny that the old and still fresh wounds have disappeared somewhere. And there are many.
It would be even more foolish to deny that sooner or later the "semi-frozen" Balkans will flare up. Especially if someone periodically strikes matches at the Balkan powder keg.