Ethnic Cleansing

Donald M. Lance engdl at SHOWME.MISSOURI.EDU
Wed May 5 03:57:28 UTC 1999

This posting is more about history than about language, but it is a
response to a posting about the earliest use of the term "ethnic cleansing."

A friend of mine in St. Louis grew up in Banya Luka and can go well beyond
the brief information that Brian Good provided on the matter of Balkan
"cleansing."  However, what he adds doesn't offer any evidence about the
term in question.

John remembers either hearing Governor Gutich's speech or reading it in
1941, when he was about 14.  Gutich had been badly mistreated by Serbs --
nails under the fingernails as torture, etc -- and frequently used
inflammatory language when talking about the Serbs.  Why?  A little
pre-1941 history helps.

In the late 1930s the Croatians were trying to regain their independence
from what started out after WWI as the nation of Serbs, Croats, and
Slovenes and had been turned into a "Greater Serbia" by the repressive
government in Belgrade.

In the 1920s, the Serbs began treating Croatians like second-class people,
giving all decent jobs to Serbs rather than Croatians, etc. An irony was
that, as better craftsmen, Croats and Slovenes built Belgrade, and then
they were treated like dirt by the haughty Serbs.

In the late 1920s, a man named Pavelic, knows (to Croatians) as the
Croatian Lincoln, wanted to make internal peace and went to Paris, London,
and Moscow for help.  Told that he should deal directly with Belgrade, he
went there with a delegation of 8 or 9 to try to talk to the government.
The delegation was gunned down in the Parliament building. Pavelic and two
others were killed and the others wounded.

Also, among other things, the Serbs coveted the fertile land of Voivodina,
which had large populations of Croatians, Germans, and Hungarians. The
Serbs engaged in ethnic cleansing there (killing or driving out non-Serb
citizens) and many Serbs moved across the Danube and eventually became the
largest ethnic group in Voivodina.

During the 1930s the Croatians began building an army to try to get their
independence from the Serbs, so when the Germans came in, they let the
Germans help them in their fight.  Maybe not the smartest thing to do, but
the Germans seemed much more civilized to the Croats than the Serbs were.
Remember that the Nazi pogroms came later.  During the war, the Croatian
Army continued to build and fought the Germans when they could.  A lot of
Germans lived in Croatia.  Germany gave something like independent
statehood to Croatia (which included Bosnia-Herzogovina) and Voivodina, but
not to Slovenia or Serbia-Montenegro. Kosovo was occupied by the Italians.
The Germans wanted to absorb the Slovenes into Austria because they looked
like a "purer race," more like the Germans. John said that in 1941 the
Serbian population on Criatia-Bosnia-Herzogovina was only about 13%.

By the end of the war, Tito was in power in Belgrade, and the Croatian army
of 240,000 were told that they should turn over their armaments to the
English at the Austrian border. John had joined the Croatian army in 1944
at the age of 17. Some 40,000 Croats were taken to Belgrade in a forced
march, many of them dying along the way or being killed when they got
there. John went with other Croatians into the Tirol, where he saw lots of
officers and soldiers he had known in the war. He said about 1.5 million
Croatians fled the country at the end of WWII because they could see that
Tito's communist regine would probably be worse than what they had already
suffered from Belgrade.

The English (Indian soldiers) came into the camps and asked for volunteers
to go to Italy. John volunteered. Those who didn't volunteer were turned
over to Tito and many or most of them were killed. While in a camp in
Italy, John applied to immigrate to the U.S. or to Peru.  His Peruvian
approval came first, and as he was leaving he was approved for U.S.
immigration. He went to Peru for a couple of years and then came to the
U.S. and has been a very loyal citizen since 1952 and is very knowledgeable
about history and politics.  He worked at many jobs and eventually built up
his own trucking company in St Louis.  His two sons, very well off thanks
to their hard-working father, are very conservative.

Though "ethinic cleansing" may go back to a sound bite from that 1941
speech, Gov. Gutich certainly didn't have the power to accomplish it.  The
other remark quoted in the piece forwarded by Brian, John says, was on the
order of inflammatory rhetoric of the time, certainly not official policy
in Croatia.

Another sound bite that gets repeated with little concern for the original
context is the reference to the "Nazi puppet state."  The Nazis encouraged
the Serbs to fight the Croatians during the War, so who was the puppet?

>>From: Brian Good <bkgood at PACBELL.NET>
>>Organization: Pacific Bell Internet Services
>>Subject:      Ethnic Cleansing
>>This is from an essay by Andrew Bell-Fialkoff called "A
>>Brief History of Ethnic Cleansing," from _Foreign Affairs_
>>Summer 1993, page 110, posted online at
>>The last quote seems like a likely origin for the term.
>>Only about fifty years ago that is within the lifetime of an
>>individual Croatian nationalists carried out massacres of Serb
>>civilians in a Nazi puppet state comprising most of today's Croatia
>>and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Ustashi, as these nationalists were known,
>>regarded Croatia's more than two million Serbs as a threat to national
>>integrity. The Croatian minister of education, for example, speaking
>>at a banquet in June 1941, remarked that "one-third of the Serbs we
>>shall kill, another we shall deport and the last we shall force to
>>embrace the Roman Catholic religion and thus meld them into Croats."
>>This policy was officially enunciated later the same month by the
>>governor of western Bosnia, Viktor Gutich. In a speech at Banya Luka,
>>Gutich urged that the city, and all of Croatia, be "thoroughly
>>cleansed of Serbian dirt."

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