Kosovo and the ICJ: well, damn

So the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”)delivered its opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence (“UDI”)today. (I blogged about this a few months ago.)

To everyone’s surprise — mine included — the decision was clear, strong, and favored Kosovo. A clear majority of the judges held that the UDI was legal. They tried to frame the decision narrowly, but it’s still a big win for the Kosovars. Some people are saying it’s therefore a big loss for Serbia, but let’s get real — Serbia had no prospects of recovering Kosovo or ever getting the Kosovar Albanians to accept rule from Belgrade, however tenuous, again. (It is a hit for the Tadic administration, but probably not a serious one.)

Immediate knock-on effects: a few more recognitions for Kosovo. It won’t make that big a difference, though, in the short run — the few EU members who are refusing to recognize Kosovo are mostly doing so for internal domestic reasons, and that won’t change. Russia will still veto any UN resolution affecting Kosovo’s status, which sharply limits room for maneuver.

That said, it’s a win. And the longer-term effects could be interesting.

Meanwhile, watch for various other frozen conflicts, from North Cyprus to Abkhazia, to claim that this decision validates /their/ UDIs. Of course, to make that stick, they’d have to file and win similar suits before the ICJ. And to do that, they’d have to get a resolution past the UN General Assembly. Good luck with that, South Ossetia.

I’d say more, but I haven’t read the decision yet — it just came out a few hours ago, and the ICJ’s website has crashed. Give me a day or two.

Thoughts?

63 thoughts on “Kosovo and the ICJ: well, damn

  1. 1) While some Chams were exchanged in 1923 — illegally, since the League of Nations only approved the exchange of “Turks” — the majority of the exchangees were Turkish.

    2) The Slavs were also a minority — in many places, quite a small minority — when they first arrived in the Balkans. What are now the South Slav lands were inhabited by a wide range of non-Slavic peoples — Gepids, Illyrians, Thracians, Dacians, Byzantine Greeks, and even Latin-speaking Roman communities along the Adriatic coast. It took centuries to Slavify these groups, and they most certainly were not “totally wiped out” by the incoming Slavs. There were large non-Slavic minorities all over the region well into the medieval period.

    That said, it’s true that the Turks were not “Turkicizing” their European possessions through settlement or mass converstion. That’s because the Ottoman system taxed non-Muslim populations more heavily than Muslims. So converting their European subjects to Islam would have hit the Turks in the pocketbook. In fact, by the 18th century Ottoman Europe provided the majority of the Empire’s tax revenues. So there was a built-in disincentive to mass conversion. And, in fact, none took place after 1700.

    But if you look at the middle Ottoman years — roughly 1550 – 1800 — there’s a pretty consistent equilibrium across the Empire. In round numbers, Ottoman Europe was about 25% Muslim and 75% Christian. On the other side of the Straits, Ottoman Anatolia was the opposite, about 75% Muslim and 25% Christian.

    Doug M.

  2. “(Greece received significant numbers of Christian Turks in the 1923 population exchange, to the confusion of all concerned.)”
    btw, I doubt that a single one of these people identified themselves as “Christian Turk”. After all, the reason they wanted to be exchanged is that Attaturk did not view them as turks either and the fate of such people in Turkey around that time is well-known…. They could obviously speak turkish as well as greek, but that does not make them turks.

  3. Doug, as per your #2)I’m not sure where I can meet an illyrian anymore in Dalmatia or bosnia,etc. This is what I mean by wiped out. And since those turks that did settle the balkans did not manage to assimilate the local populations(in fact the opposite has happened), then I still stand by my argument that they were not colonizers as the slavs were.

  4. @Hans, there were several groups in Ottoman Turkey that self-identified as Turks but that were nonetheless Christian. The largest of these were the Karamanlides, who lived in central Anatolia. In 1923 some of them got to choose between becoming “fully” Turkish — that is, becoming Islamized — or joining the population exchange with Greece. (I say some of them, because many were given no choice.) For a generation after the exchange — and especially under the Metaxas dictatorship — they were systematically discriminated against, though this seems to have dwindled after 1948.

    As for Ataturk not viewing them as Turks… the 1923 exchange took place after several rounds of intense negotiations, and the use of religion as the final determinant was not the first choice. Originally, it was going to be a combination of language and individual choice. Unfortunately, this turned out to be beyond the (very limited) bureaucratic capacities of postwar Greece and Turkey to apply. So they settled on religion, not because it was more correct, but simply because it was easier to administer. This led to stuff like the Karamanlides — who’d been perfectly loyal Ottoman subjects — getting pushed one way, while the Muslim Greeks of Crete got pushed the other.

    @mirakulous Yes, wiped out… after *over a thousand years*.

    Your original comment made it sound like the Slavs descended on the Balkans like the wrath of God, wiping out or assimilating everything in their path within a generation. In fact the numbers of Slavs were small, and the Slavicization process took many centuries.

    In 1800, when the Ottoman Empire started to crumble, the Turks had been colonizing the Balkans for about 250 years. The South Slavs arrived in the late 6th century, so the equivalent date would be something before 850 AD. What little evidence we have suggests that at that point, the majority of the region’s population still had not been Slavicized. In fact, as late as the 1300s, the “Serbian” state under Stephan Dushan included many large groups of non-Slav subjects.

    Also: if we ignore culture, language and religion and just look at genetic markers, we find that the Turks were actually quite successful at spreading their genes across southeast Europe. Bulgarians, Macedonians and Serbs (and Greeks!) are genetically more similar to Turks than they are to Croats and Slovenes, never mind Russians or Poles.

    This is not to say there weren’t differences between the Slavic and Turkish influences. There certainly were. And, as noted, the Turks probably never would have assimilated the majority of the population — because they’d set up a system where it was not in their economic self-interest.

    Doug M.

  5. Thanks, Doug, this is what I was looking for:

    “This is not to say there weren’t differences between the Slavic and Turkish influences. There certainly were. And, as noted, the Turks probably never would have assimilated the majority of the population — because they’d set up a system where it was not in their economic self-interest.”

    We can give them 1000 years as well, but they wont reach an assimilation of the balkans like the slavs did. They just don’t have the numbers.

    “Your original comment made it sound like the Slavs descended on the Balkans like the wrath of God, wiping out or assimilating everything in their path within a generation. In fact the numbers of Slavs were small, and the Slavicization process took many centuries.”

    No, I wouldn’t call it the wrath of god, especially since I pesonally didn’t lose anything in the process of their colonization. I dont much care to label it at all. Maybe people of the area they did affect directly felt differently, but that’s ancient history, and it shouldn’t be opened. This is how the original debate started: where we should draw the line on wrongs that we right, and this is one that needs no righting in my opinion.

  6. i dont see whats the point of that sentence in the title “well,damn”.
    I can understand the writer to be pro-serbia but i dont understand how can one journalist or whatever he is to inform people by taking one sides of them.
    Anyway Kosovo doesnt need help of those people who have no human feelings.
    Kosovo has survived years under serbian genocide and none in Kosovo needs to ask anything about their own land they lived last 3000 years.
    Every person who has some moral,dignity,human feel should support Kosovo because everyday Albanian kosovans dind massive graves of innocent civilians killed by serbian army in 1999.
    Imagine its 2010 and people still find massive graves, there are 12.000 dead people only in some years in kosovo.
    Serbia has simply played like in films by killing innocent civilians.

  7. Doug, again “Christian Turks” is a misnomer at best and a joke normally. The Karamanlides(no relation to the 2 greek PMs who were from eastern Macedonia well before the 1923 exchange) you mention is only a tiny minority of those exchanged. In addition all we know about them for sure is that they were turkish-speaking greek orthodox. How could this come about? Choose your pick: Were they either a) byzantine/Anatolian Christians who learned turkish, but kept their faith, or b)turkish who converted to the faith of the conquered and risked their head(saria law for a moslem converting)?
    If your answer is b) are you telling me that under Ottoman sharia law (where the penalty for converting to Christianity was death), in the heart of Anatolia, they gave up all the privledges of being a muslim and converted en masse to Greek Orthodoxy? This would have meant paying crippeling amount of taxes, sending their children away as Jannisseries to never be seen again??
    It was common practice for the Ottomans to force the christians of Asia Minor to choose between their language and their religion. The Karamanlides chose to keep their religion. thats why their are many Janniseries in the Ottoman records found with the name Karamanli. Only Christian children were taken as janniseries remember.

    As for “perfectly loyal Ottoman subjects”… meaning they had not revolted yet.

  8. @chemboy, go back and look at my very first comment.

    @Hans, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong.

    One, there were about 150,000 Karamanlides in the exchange — not exactly a “tiny minority”.

    Two, while the origins of the Karamanlides are lost to history (they were already around in the 14th century, so they’re older than that), it’s perfectly plausible that they were Turkish converts to Christianity. Remember, the border sloshed back and forth for centuries before the Ottomans established supremacy. Many groups were under Byzantine rule, then Islamic, then Byzantine again. Much of Syria was reconverted to Orthodox Christianity in the 10th century when the Byzantines had a temporary resurgence, then re-reconverted to Islam a few generations later. Some time later, the Turkish Gagauz switched from Islam to Christianity after falling under Russian rule.

    Mind, it’s just as possible that they were Byzantine Greeks who got Turkicized, but hung on to their religion. We simply don’t know.

    Loyal Ottoman subjects: during the Balkan Wars and WWI, Karamanlides served in the Ottoman armed forces exactly like other Turks. Unlike their Armenian neighbors to the north, they remained perfectly loyal to the Ottoman state; there are no records of guerrilla activity or subversion. The Ottoman state treated them exactly like all other ethnic Turks.

    Later, during the Greek offensive of 1921, hundreds of Karamanli communities — including their priests — sent letters and telegrams of support to Ataturk’s government. They distanced themselves from the Greek Patriarchate’s involvement in the Greek national cause, and stated that they wanted to form an autocephalous Turkish Orthodox Church with Turkish, not Greek, as the language of liturgy.

    Given their proven loyalty, the Turkish authorities seriously considered keeping them; but, as noted above, in the end it was decided to make religion the sole criterion, and they were deported.

    Doug M.

  9. Doug, I’m not exactly sure of the relevance of
    “Remember, the border sloshed back and forth for centuries before the Ottomans established supremacy. Many groups were under Byzantine rule, then Islamic, then Byzantine again. Much of Syria was reconverted to Orthodox Christianity in the 10th century when the Byzantines had a temporary resurgence, then re-reconverted to Islam a few generations later. Some time later, the Turkish Gagauz switched from Islam to Christianity after falling under Russian rule.”
    The region we are talking about is east of Ankara. This, to my knowledge was lost by the byzantines shortly after Matzikert and was never retaken. So while some border did switch back and forth, that’s not the region we are talking about.

    About loyalty: If my memory serves me right, the Patriarch in Instanbul also “voluntarily” denounced the 1821 greek revolution(which did not save him). In fact the regions that had any chance of a successful revolt were the ones furtherst away. It is very hard to imagine a sucessful revolt in that region and perhaps this is the origin of loyalty. It is hard to know exactly what they felt, but during the Ottoman times Christians were definitely second-class citizens, to put it mildly. So I would be very reluctant to use a term “christian turks”, much more claim that all those involved in the population exchanges were “christian turks”.

  10. Um. You think all Anatolia was Byzantine until Manzikert, and then boom?

    That border went back and forth repeatedly, surging and receding, from the initial Islamic explosion in the 7th century right up to the Fourth Crusade. (After Manzikert the average moved a few hundred km further west, but the border continued to wobble.)

    The area where the Karamanlides lived changed hands multiple times /before/ Manzikert. And, of course, it may not have been where they lived originally — there were plenty of internal migrations in Anatolia in the middle and late Byzantine periods.

    So, I honestly have no idea what you’re on about here.

    “I would be very reluctant to use a term “christian turks”, much more claim that all those involved in the population exchanges were “christian turks”.”

    Well, they were culturally, linguistically and (AFAWCT) genetically Turkish, loyal to the Sultan and his successors in word and deed, but were Orthodox Christians. What else would you call them?

    And, of course, I never said “all those involved in the exchanges were Christian Turks”. That’s just stupid. I said that significant numbers of Christian Turks were involved — which is true.

    Doug M.

  11. “The area where the Karamanlides lived changed hands multiple times /before/ Manzikert.”
    Agreed: But before Mantzikert, there were hardly any turks or turkicized people in the area.Sure, there was an islamic expansion as well as other invasions; that could make them a number of ethnicities; just turk is not one of them.
    And, while we really do not know the exact origins, the scenario of being originally byzantines who were islamicized looks a **much** more likely scenario to me than turks converting to christianity. The later looks like science fiction to me.

    “Well, they were culturally, linguistically and (AFAWCT) genetically Turkish, loyal to the Sultan and his successors in word and deed, but were Orthodox Christians”
    I think I explained that it would be very hard to not be loyal given the region they were living. The Patriarch example who denounced and excommunicated his revolutionary compatriots
    makes a pretty strong case IMHO.

    ” What else would you call them?”
    Turkish-speaking Christians?

    Of course none of this is too relevant to Kossovo or the ICJ…

  12. “I think I explained that it would be very hard to not be loyal given the region they were living.”

    …the Armenians of Zeitoun — which is right in the middle of the Karamanmarash, the region of the Karamanlides — rose up against the Ottomans in 1862, in 1895, and a third time in 1915.

    So, no.

    Doug M.

  13. So? Even among the people who did rise up or who viewed themselves as distinct from turks, you will find vastly varying degrees of willingness and frequencies. Not everybody is equally brave or impatient. This depends on a number of factors, among which the the local leadership is probably most important.