Although Serbia is now ruled by a pro-Western government, and is applying for European Union, or perhaps even NATO, membership, there is still a kind of centuries-old “persecution complex” prevailing among the Serbs.
Over the years, the Serbs have been portrayed by Western media as invaders, while the Islamic Albanians in Kosovo have overwhelmingly been placed on the moral high ground.
However, as far as the Serbs are concerned, it is actually the other way around: in their view, not only did the Albanians not deserve the moral high ground, they are actually the real persecutors who have committed countless atrocities on the Slavic people for centuries.
To remind people of the crimes against the Slavs committed by the Albanian Muslims, Serbia is currently building one of the world’s largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals on a site where the remains of the Serbian saint “Saint Sava” were ordered to be shattered and burnt.
The man who gave that order was Koca Sinan Pasha, who was of Albanian origin and at that time ruling the Balkans on behalf of the Ottoman Empire, and who had brutally suppressed a massive uprising across the region in 1594, during which he was determined to obliterate the sense of Slavic identity among the Serbs.
Apart from the Albanians, another source that is fuelling the persecution complex among the Serbs is the Croats, both of whom fought a bloody war against each other following the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia.
For the past 20 years or so, public opinion in the West has remained largely sympathetic towards the Croats, and has regarded the Serbs as both the invaders and racists.
But again, to most Serbs, the Croats are indeed the real bad guys, and many of them even refer to the Croats as “the world’s last remaining fascists”.
It is because the Croats aligned themselves with the Nazis during the Second World War and took part in the Holocaust in order to secure their country’s independence.
Another reason why most Serbs are holding Croats in contempt is because, as they put it, the Croats were so cunning that they were always able to achieve fresh territorial gains even when they were defeated in wars.
That happened when Croatia joined Yugoslavia after the First World War, and again after the Second World War, when Marshal Tito was using Croatia as a tool to curb the Greater Serbia Movement.
Then after the fall of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, the United States quickly threw its weight behind Croatia and secured its sphere of influence at a time when the Croat troops were losing the war against the Serbian forces in Bosnia.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 23
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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