Ethnic Cleansing

Jim Rader jrader at M-W.COM
Wed May 5 09:22:02 UTC 1999

I don't want to cast aspersions on either Don Lance, for whom I have
much respect as a linguist, or Don's friend John, but this is an
oversimplified and in some places distorted and inaccurate (e.g., the
pre-WWII percentage of Serbs in the Vojvodina) picture of
a very complex series of events.  Ethnically based putdowns ("the
Croats and Slovenes were better craftsmen") are typical of the
prejudices that have been a major factor in creating the nightmare of
the last eight years. Even if I had the time to present a balanced
picture (which I don't, so I'm not tempted), I wouldn't, though.
ADS-L is not the place for a discussion of Balkan history and
politics.  Several other lists I'm on that  have nothing to do with
the Balkans have experienced serious disruptions due to arguments
over Kosovo, NATO, etc.  Let's stick to American English.

Jim Rader

> 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?

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