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The Hidden Hand of Violence
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Human Rights

Peacekeeping forces ramain on the ground in Kosovo. But how were ethnic rivalries inflamed into war in the first place?

Ending the Balkan Nightmare

by Gail Armstrong and Patricia Forestier

“I feel responsible because I made the preparations for this war — even if not the military preparations. If I hadn’t created the emotional strain in the Serbian people, nothing would have happened.

“My party and I lit the fuse of the Serbian nationalism not only in Croatia but everywhere else in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“We have driven this people and we have given it an identity. I have repeated it again and again to this people that it comes from heaven, not earth.”

eard on Yutel television in Belgrade in January 1992, these words, and the person who spoke them, may reveal more about the Balkan conflicts than the many and varied interpretations offered through media and politicians over recent years. The speaker was Serbian psychiatrist Jovan Raskovic, founder of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDP) of Croatia.

1980s – 1991: Lighting the Fuse of Ethnic Rivalry

The international discussion of the political, social and military situation in the Balkan states generally omits mention of Raskovic. Yet, as one of the modern demagogues of ethnic cleansing in the region, he played a pivotal role in shaping current events. His ultra-nationalism and zeal for the creation of a “Greater Serbia” under the guise of a call for “peace” preceded the 1992 outbreak of ethnic massacres in Yugoslavia by more than a decade. And although he died that year, his legacy has included the murder, harm and/or rape of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

Raskovic’s influence started in his home city of Sibenik, in southern Croatia, in the early 1980s. His application of fundamental psychiatric theories and practices as tools of suppression was already evident. According to psychiatric colleague Brois Zmijanovic, who wrote in the newspaper Nedjeljna Dalmacija on October 17, 1991, Raskovic “used electroshocks and other sadistic psychotherapeutic methods with particular pleasure in the case of Croats, especially Croatian women.”

Raskovic glorified the Serbian minority in Croatia, telling them during public meetings of atrocities committed against the Orthodox Serbs during World War II by the Ustashi — Croatian fascists installed as puppet leaders by the Nazis during the war. He spoke incessantly about the concentration camps built by the Ustashi, attributing them to the “instinctive urge for genocide” in the Croatian people.

Jovan Raskovic, students and fellow psychiatrist Radovan Karadzic
Raskovic, as well as student and fellow psychiatrist Radovan Karadzic (second from left), attended exclusive functions in Belgrade — including dinners at Slobodan Milosevic’s and other political leaders’ villas — in which an ethnically pure “Greater Serbia” was planned. Raskovic empowered Karadzic to lead the Serbian Democratic Party in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1991.

Creating Mass Paranoia

As a psychiatric expert in paranoia, Raskovic could hardly be unaware of the effect created by his accounts of massacred Serbian children or eviscerated Serbian women — events which had taken place some 50 years earlier but which he presented under the color of the present.

Raskovic in fact devoted much of his own writing from the 1980s to psychiatry for the masses. His 1990 curriculum vitae presented to the Serbian Academy of Sciences lists many of his writings on the subject of paranoia, focusing on the study of the mechanisms triggering paranoia, jealousy, aggressiveness of the masses, and related topics. In one of his most well-known books, A Mad Country [Luda Zemlja], Raskovic wrote that when three ethnic groups live together, “as paranoia overtakes their relations, the feeling of hatred becomes the normal, human factor, the factor of defense.”

But paranoia, he wrote, had to be provoked among the different ethnic groups in order for hatred to set in.

Map of Serbia

The mass psychology of paranoia was precisely what was taking effect in the region during the 1980s when, “in former Yugoslavia, stories started about rape as war crime,” wrote Mladen Loncar of the Medical Center for Human Rights in Zagreb, Croatia in early 1993. “The Serbian authorities started them in order to attain certain political goals — the abolition of the autonomy of Kosovo and the establishment of a discriminatory law. They released the news that Albanian men were raping Serbian women in Kosovo. However, this was never proved, nor was any medical documentation furnished.

“It was a ‘pilot’ study of the utilization of rape in order to attain political and military goals,” continued Loncar. “They saw that this method was efficient for the masses. It provoked psychological effects; people rallied around the local authorities, asking for more repressive measures against the Albanians.”

It also taped a path for political action. Serbian politician Slobodan Milosevic exploited the tensions in Kosovo to rise to political power. He declared himself the “liberator” of the Serbian people, and in 1989, stripped Kosovo of the autonomy it had enjoyed since 1974.

Loncar also wrote of a “special group of psychiatrists” at the military hospital in Belgrade who “specialized in war psychology and who worked out the method of systematic raping and proceeded to use it in the war against Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Realizing the psychological effects of rape, the strategists then exploited a statement made by a Serbian bishop who declared that 30,000 Muslim women had been raped in Bosnia, “to frighten the rest of the Bosnian population. The goal of such a declaration is to force people to leave their country.”

Through 1999: Increasing violence sweeps the region

While Karadzic was rising through ranks in Bosnia, Slobodan Milosevic came to power in Serbia. As the self-proclaimed “liberator” of the Serbs, he stripped Kosovo of its autonomy in 1989. By 1992, with both Karadzic and Milosevic in power, sporadic conflicts in Yugoslavic republics had escalated to full scale violence.

Lighting the Fuse

As the campaign of terror was being prepared against non-Serb populations in Bosnia and Croatia, Raskovic spent more and more time in Belgrade, gaining support for his theories and the creation of “Greater Serbia.” He co-authored the “Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Science” of 1986 advocating the racially superior nation; the unpublished tract circulated among political leaders and intellectuals.

And in 1990, he ultimately “lit the fuse” across the nation with publication of A Mad Country, little more than a manifesto containing his psychiatric theories of ethnic differences in Yugoslavia.

According to Raskovic, the Croats possess a “fear of castration” and are afraid of everything and, therefore, cannot assert themselves or exercise authority or leadership.

The Muslims, he claimed on the other hand, have an “anal-erotic fixation” which prompts them to gather wealth and hide behind fanatic attitudes.

The Serbs, his own people, possess an “Oedipus complex” that empowers them to stand up to and “kill the father.” This is why, Raskovic explained, the Serbs are the only group with a sense of authority and why they need to assert that authority over the other Yugoslavian peoples.

Raskovic’s book was touted in a publicity campaign in which he was hailed as the greatest psychiatrist and scientist of his era.

While fueling his ultra-national Serbian cause through media and public appearances, Raskovic created the Serbian Democratic Party in Croatia.

It was only a matter of time before the Serb minority’s instilled paranoia of the Croats would escalate to bloodshed.

Through the work of Karadzic and Milosevic – the latter whom Raskovic proclaimed to be “the result of the work of those who have brought the Serbian people back to consciousness” – the ethnic cleansing agenda has resulted in massive loss of life. Both men have been indicted for crimes against humanity by the International War Crimes Tribunal. Neither has been brought to justice.

In 1990, Serbian civilians from Krajina — the primarily Serbian-populated lands of Croatia bordering Bosnia and Serbia — were provided arms by the Belgrade government, via the SDP leaders, in order to “defend” themselves from the Croats. Roadblocks were established by Serbs in order to prevent non-Serbs from entering areas of Krajina proclaimed to be “Serbian.” When policemen were sent by the Croatian government in order to bring order, they were killed. War had broken out in Croatia.

Trouble Spreads

As Croatia experienced sporadic conflicts, ethnic rivalries were escalating in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina. There, in Sarajevo in 1991, Raskovic empowered Radovon Karadzic to lead the Bosnian branch of the SDP.

The choice of party leader for Bosnia was not a casual one. Karadzic had been Raskovic’s student in group psychology in Zagreb in 1988 and 1989, and his political trainee. His allegiance to Raskovic was firm. Karadzic publicly proclaimed in a 1991 media interview that he was ideologically influenced by “above all, Jovan Raskovic.”

Karadzic, like Raskovic, specialized in group psychology and in paranoia, as evidenced by works on the subject he presented to the Fifth Congress of Psychotherapists of Yugoslavia in October 1987 in Sarajevo. Karadzic’s “research” involved reciting to various patient groups a story in which several people sliced members of their own family into pieces. The purpose was to observe the intense fear the story created in the patients.

Like Raskovic and various Serbian intellectuals and politicians, Karadzic had attended the exclusive dinners held in Belgrade in Milosevic’s and other political leaders’ villas, during which Greater Serbia was planned. Both Karadzic and Raskovic were also members of the Association of Serbian Writers, located at Francuska 7 in Belgrade, in which the idea of an ethnically pure Serbia was disseminated among the Serbian intelligentsia.

Karadzic, with Raskovic, embarked on a systematic campaign to instill fear in the minority Serbian community in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1991. They organized a series of public meetings which were attended by thousands of Serbs, who were told of supposed threats and a genocidal conspiracy against them by the Bosnian Muslims.

And at a national assembly in Bosnia-Herzegovina in September 1991, Karadzic delivered a chilling speech which foreshadowed the coming genocidal horror against the local Muslims. “The Muslims must be careful of what they are doing,” he warned. “They might very well disappear.”

Under Karadzic’s leadership, concentration camps – whose inmates, according to a July 26, 1995 report in The Los Angeles Times looked “eerily similar to the famous photographs of Nazi concentration camp victims rescued half a century before” — and systematic raping of women forced non-Serb populations to flee from Bosnia.

“A New Trend has Begun”

By continually spreading the notion that the Serbian minority was “threatened” by ethnic Albanians, Milosevic widened pockets of tension into chasms of ethnic differences and hatred.

Before Karadzic rose through the ranks to lead the eugenics-driven SDP cause throughout Bosnia, Slobodan Milosevic had come to power in Serbia. After his election as president of the republic in 1989, he transformed the communist Serbian party into the nationalistic Socialist party. It was only a matter of months before ethnic rivalries swept the former Yugoslavia at a fever pitch, and the first open warfare broke out in the region.

In an arrogant claim for the strength of the agenda he principally authored, Raskovic declared in A Mad Country that “Milosevic has not been the promoter of such events happening in our country, but only the tool. The motives have been hidden deeper. Such motives have been concentrated in a nucleus of feelings of fear, that have not exploded. This nucleus has lost its shell and that is all. This shell has shrunk away.

“The frictions inside are less, the feelings of guilt have gone and a new trend has begun. The opposite trend,” he proclaimed.

Having already exploited the fears of the Serbian minority in Kosovo during his rise to power, Milosevic continued to foment and nurture strain between the ethnic groups in the region. By continually spreading the notion that the Serbian minority was “threatened” by the ethnic Albanians, Milosevic widened pockets of tension into chasms of ethnic differences and hatred.

As Raskovic declared in a television interview after Milosevic was elected President, “Milosevic is the result of the work of those who have brought the Serbian people back to consciousness.”

Theories Live On

Sporadic hostilities increased throughout the Yugoslavian region, and by 1992, the stage was set for a full-scale discharge of the tensions ignited by Raskovic, Karadzic and Milosevic.

Two months after Raskovic’s chilling announcement on Yutel television claiming responsibility for “preparations for this war” in terms of “the emotional strain in the Serbian people,” war indeed broke out in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And the chaos spread. A few months later, Raskovic died of a heart attack in Belgrade. Karadzic became leader of the Bosnian Serbs, and as the war escalated, Bosnian newspaper Glas Slavonije observed on April 11, 1992, “The unhappiness of Bosnia-Herzegovina is once again due to a psychiatrist: Dr. Radovon Karadzic.”

Raskovic’s theories did not disappear with him. As an article in Le Figaro, the French national newspaper, reported on April 13, 1999:

“History remains very alive in Serbian people’s minds and Yugoslav media keep comparing Nazi bombing of Belgrade of 6 April 1941 with the ongoing NATO air strikes. TV ads of RTS [Serbian Radio and Television] present U.S. and British politicians against a swastika background.

“In addition to history, psychoanalysis is also used for propaganda. The newspaper Vecernje Novosti yesterday published a brand new thesis. Slobodan Jakulic, director of Laza Lazarevic psychiatric institute, explained that the world is governed by exterminator politicians whose plans to create a new world order are inspired by heavy sexual complexes and frustrations. According to this theory, Tony Blair is a homosexual who has fallen in love with Clinton. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright experienced a deep trauma during her childhood spent in Yugoslavia — where her father used to be ambassador for Czechoslovakia before the Second World War. ‘Due to her ugliness compared with young Serbian girls, Serbian boys would systematically avoid her, which caused her to have a permanent feeling of hatred toward Serbian people,’ Dr. Jakulic explained.”

Such psychiatric theories about the world outside Serbia, nurtured over two decades, continue to spawn ultra-nationalism and its attendant justifications for the destruction of human life.

Crimes Against Humanity

On July 25, 1995, Karadzic was formally indicted by the United Nations’ War Crimes Tribunal for crimes against humanity. So far, he has escaped justice.

In May 1999, Milosevic was also indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal. If the record to date is any indication, the indictment will make little difference in the long-term in the Balkans — unless he and the other purveyors of misery and death are actually brought to justice.

While current Western political actions are aimed at stopping violence and further misery in the Balkans, it will not prevent it from repeating in the future. Nor will it minimize the danger posed not just to Muslims, Croats and Bosnians but to the Serbs as well. It was, after all, the same fundamental psychiatric theory of racial superiority that the Croatian Ustashi learned from Nazi eugenicists during World War II in order to annihilate Serbs as one of several “inferior” ethnic groups.

Thus the paramount danger stems not from armies and politicians — but from those who exalt the belief that some human beings are “life not worthy of living.”
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