Sunday 18 November 2018

Bloody, Cosmopolitan Sarajevo

After the two terrible world wars in which ninety or even a hundred million died, huge and very painful movements of people took place in Europe to try to straighten out Central and Eastern Europe's ethnic tangle, in order to prevent further wars. Nowadays, the people in charge in Western Europe (academics, journalists, clergypersons, civil servants, NGOs, politicians) have drawn the lesson that creating and enlarging new ethnic minorities is a way to eschew atavism and racism and prevent a repetition of the horrors of the recent past.

This conclusion is perverse, I think, and so does Will Collins, writing in an article in The American Conservative about Bloody, Cosmopolitan Sarajevo
. He says

NATO, the European Union, the memories of two devastating wars, and the Soviet threat have been variously credited for the decades of peace Europe has enjoyed since the end of the Second World War. The uncomfortable reality is that this enduring peace is also the result of the often violent resettlement of ethnic groups within coherent national borders. The cultural, linguistic, and religious fault lines that exploded into violence during the first half of the 20th century have been largely erased from the map, replaced by a series of uniform national blocs.
It’s no accident that the one place in Europe that wasn’t completely reorganized along these lines is still a tinder box. The Balkans erupted in the 1990s because Yugoslavia temporarily defied this pan-European trend of state building, thanks largely to Marshal Tito’s charismatic authoritarianism.

Tito, of course, was in some ways a reincarnation of the Emperor Francis Joseph, in whose army he had been a footsoldier. Like Yugoslavia, the European Union is an attempt to create a substitute for the Hapsburg empire and the Ottoman empire, the latter in its turn being the legatee of the Byzantine empire. Yugoslavia, so a taxi driver in Belgrade told a friend of mine, 'was the EU before the EU', a precedent that my friend (a big fan of the EU) thought might not augur well.

I think Europe can only become one country if it were conquered by some figure like Napoleon or Hitler, which I hope will not happen. 

A free trade area is another matter, of course. If only the German states had gone no further than a customs union and not united into the German empire how very much happier the world would have been.

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