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.


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

  1. well done, I am happy for the kosovo people. I hope they will be able to rebuilt their nation peacefully. God bless them

  2. Big, big problems for Tadic’s government. This is what you get for letting your annoying foreign minister take you places where you shouldn’t go.

  3. Umm, what immediately comes to my mind is, in fact, certain other Balkan states.

    I can certainly see Dodik grabbing this opportunity to declare independence for Republika Srpska. It shares many of the same characteristics of Kosovo: It has had more or less self-rule for a long time, it has state institutions in place, and it is bound to the rest of Bosnia by an agreement that is somewhat similar to UNSC 1244.

    Further, What would it take for the Kosovo Serbs north of the Ibar to use this opportunity as well? Some countries would certainly recognize, and then we have the same all over again.

    Cyprus is also an interesting case, but I do not know much about that issue. The same could be said about Bolivia, which have certain active secessionist movements.

    There are also some other territories I can imagine will use this opportunity. the Palestinian Authority is one, Iraqi Kurds are another.

    This cases are different, at least to some degree, but if my understanding of the essence of the ruling is correct – that anyone can declare independence, and that it is up to those who choose to recognize this independence to enforce it as long as they stay within international law in doing so – this do indeed open up a Pandora’s Box for powerful states, as they can now support various secessionist movements around the world in order to gain influence.

    And then Nigeria comes to mind…

  4. Doug, come on. You can’t be serious.

    Why, “well, damn” in the title?

    Kosovars never claimed that the declaration of their independence was legal under international law and never presented their case for independence as such. It was always presented as a political argument based on historical and political grounds. For Serbia to give them the platform to establish beyond doubt that the declaration of the independence is not illegal (double negation implies that it is legal) is an incredible success. You cannot underestimate this argument next time Kosovar diplomats lobby for more international recognitions.

    This decision may not imply immediate and automatic recognition of Kosovo by the majority of UN member states, however Serbia has lost its main and pivotal argument in its opposition to the declaration of the independence of Kosovo. More importantly, for Serbia, its road to eventual EU membership has just become a lot more — hmm… how shall I put it — difficult. And it’s all of their own making. Talking of shooting yourself in the foot.

    The declaration of the independence of a country is by definition a unilateral act, i.e. no one can declare the independence on your behalf. You have to declare yourself what you want and Kosovo did. And it did so legally.

    It’s been a long time since I have seen such a biased coverage of a story by the media. The formerly liberal B92 could only bring themselves to cite the whole title “Kosovo UDI not in breach of intl. law” — the quotes are not mine, they’re B92’s (incidentally, the same as the Iranian Press TV: “Kosovo did not violate intl. law” — the whole title in citation, again). The Daily Telegraph had a particularly bad report where they seem to quote not only every word uttered by Jeremic but also mentioned every absurd theory put forward the most radical Serbian xenophobes. It only mentioned the Kosovar president’s reaction in a sentence or so. Even BBC News and Euronews were using quotes, i.e. Kosovo independence “not illegal.” Well, if you have to use quotes even after the decision of the highest legal body in the UN then when are you supposed not to? Gutless.

    The best reaction has come from Serbia and Russia. A Serb in Mitrovica, Kosovo, said that they “all expected this outcome.” So, why did you ask for their opinion in the first place? Russia Today immediately launched an anti-UN wave around the ‘biased’ International Court. But, everyone is entitled to be upset and unhappy, and I accept that. But I can’t help think that the more they protest the more it must hurts and since it’s self-inflicted there will be a shortage of sympathy.

    Briefly, regarding Bosnia, the Dayton agreement explicitly forbids the break up of the country. UNSC Resolution 1244 did not, clearly. Last time I checked, Serbs signed up to the Dayton agreement.

    Congratulations to Kosovars, the people of Kosovo, and I wish them well in their efforts to build a just and prosperous country. Peace, paqe & mir!

  5. My thoughts on this:

    1. I bow to Doug’s superior knowledge, but I think this would be a disaster for Tadic. It’s a huge failure for Serbia on every possible level.

    2. The judges voted in an unexpected way – especially considering how clear-cut the verdict was. The BRAZIL (!) judge voted for, as did the Mexican and Somali ones (alright they were probably pressured to by the US). And for whatever reason, China abstained.

    (Had Brazil and {Mexico or Somalia or Jordan} voted no, as one could have expected, then there’d have been a tie, and the ICJ would have had to settle for something less clear-cut).

    3. Russia benefits, paradoxically. Tadic is weakened. Serbia’s ties to EU-Atlantic weakened. The case for S. Ossetia & Abkhazia independence (in practice Russian protectorates) made far stronger rhetorically, if not practically.

  6. Sublime Oblivion Says:
    //1. I bow to Doug’s superior knowledge, but I think this would be a disaster for Tadic. It’s a huge failure for Serbia on every possible level.//

    As I look at Serbian reactions, I think you are completely correct. The peaceful way of restoring any sense of self-respect for Serbia – remind you that restoring self-respect is the No. 1 political issue – has utterly failed.

    I am quite certain that both Tadic and the DS are dead politically. And with them, I am afraid, goes peace. What are the EU and the US going to do when Nikolic & co have a 50% majority in Parliament, and the relevant opposition is headed by Vojislav ‘war-crimes’ Seselj?

    Probably, impose a new round of sanctions and bombing – lets make the wounds deeper.

  7. “It’s been a long time since I have seen such a biased coverage of a story by the media.”

    It hasn’t if you take into consideration mr Muir’s coverage on this topic.Haci and Berisa would be more moderate.

  8. @23skidoo, thanks — fixed.

    @Tord, most of the examples you give (Bolivia, Nigeria) have not formally declared independence, so it’s not really relevant here.

    @Fidel, “well, damn” is an American English idiom that expresses, not disgust or disappointment, but simple surprise.

    More in a bit —

    Doug M.

  9. Fidel, taking your points in order —

    2) “Kosovars never claimed that the declaration of their independence was legal under international law and never presented their case for independence as such” — umm, that’s wrong. They did make such a claim. Go back and look at the statements submitted to the ICJ: it wasn’t their first and strongest argument, but they made it.

    3) I agree that Serbia has lost a potentially strong argument and damaged their case.

    4) “The declaration of the independence of a country is by definition a unilateral act” — well, no. Countries can break up by mutual agreement. Recent examples would include Czecheslovakia and Ethiopia/Eritrea. North and South Sudan will probably join them next year.

    5) In the last couple of years, Serbia has really raised the game on public relations. Kostunica’s people were horrible. The Tadic administration is much, much better — better at messaging, better at outreach, better at managing the narrative.

    AFAICT, the Kosovar Albanians have not raised their game in return. Do they think they’re still dealing with Vuk Draskovic?

    That said, this is still a significant win for the Kosovars.

    Doug M.

  10. @ Anatoly / Sublime

    1) It’s not really a disaster for Tadic. Bad, but it will be explained away as “the great powers fixed the decision”. Also, poll after poll has shown that most Serbs are more concerned about other issues (i.e., the economy) than Kosovo. And, of course, the decision to submit the case to the ICJ was pretty much unanimous — the opposition voted in favor.

    This is not to say that all is well for Tadic. But if he loses the next election, it won’t be because of Kosovo.

    2) “The judges voted in an unexpected way” — can’t judge this until I read the decision (the ICJ site is STILL down). That said, keep in mind that the judge from, say, Brazil does not necessarily represent Brazil’s own formal position. Judges are unlikely to render decisions sharply at odds with their own country’s interests (though it has happened once or twice) but on a relatively minor and narrow case such as this one you’d expect to see some flex.

    BTW, there’s zero evidence of direct US influence over the ICJ. And if the US could so influence the judges, I’d expect them to save their powder for something a bit more important than Kosovo. I like a good conspiracy theory as well as the next man, but in this case it seems a stretch.

    3) “Russia benefits, paradoxically. Tadic is weakened. Serbia’s ties to EU-Atlantic weakened.”

    — Firm disagreement. Everyone in Serbia still desperately wants to join the EU; that hasn’t changed, and won’t. And Russian investments notwithstanding, the process of integrating Serbia into Europe economically continues apace. Serbia imports about three times as much from the EU as from Russia; it exports about seven times as much to the EU as to Russia; and EU-sourced FDI outnumbers Russian by about four to one. Those figures will only grow, and nothing in this decision will change that.

    “The case for S. Ossetia & Abkhazia independence (in practice Russian protectorates) made far stronger rhetorically, if not practically.”

    I’d agree! But rhetoric doesn’t go very far in these cases.

    Doug M.

  11. Doug:
    //@Tord, most of the examples you give (Bolivia, Nigeria) have not formally declared independence, so it’s not really relevant here.//

    True, but if a declaration of independence is considered legal to international law, a future declaration of independence is certainly not less likely. Although, I do not think that we will see a wave of separatists declaring independence, we could see some interesting effects over the next decade, with reference to this ruling.

    //This is not to say that all is well for Tadic. But if he loses the next election, it won’t be because of Kosovo.//

    I think that depends on what happens next. Yes, the economic integration with Europe is a very important issue for people, but as far as I can see, people also care a lot about self-respect. Unless the general economic outlook improves in the near future, and I doubt it will, I am afraid that ‘since the economy is f**** anyway, lets throw all-in for self-respect mentality’. The road to serfdom, no?

    //“The case for S. Ossetia & Abkhazia independence (in practice Russian protectorates) made far stronger rhetorically, if not practically.”

    I’d agree! But rhetoric doesn’t go very far in these cases.//

    Agreed. I think this is more important for would-be secessionists than the Russian protectorates. But also, as I see it, you need to have control of the territory you claim to be independent. If not, I doubt it would be ‘illegal’ to simply arrest you for whatever the original state finds offensive. And then, what is the point of declaring independence?

  12. I am not sure what to make of the timing of this incident.

    Perhaps it will bring some reality into this issue, or simply provoke ever more instability?

    Any ideas?

  13. This is probably the point in the discussion where I note that this is a moderated forum.

    Play nice.

    Doug M.

  14. Nagorno Karabagh is the place to watch after the ICJ decision. It has unilaterally declared independence from Azerbaijan, it fully controls its own territory, has solidly voted for independence from Azerbaijan in at least 2 referenda, had a unique status prior to the break-up of the Soviet Union, etc.

    Azerbaijan of course insists on territorial integrity and has been arming itself to take it back. This decision could hasten an Azeri attempt to reclaim NKR.

  15. It may be true that a better Serb administration combined with an inefficient Albanian one has a role in the media bias. However, in the face of the widely covered genocides of its last three wars, a complete failure to process the previous decade and yet to deliver war criminals there is not much place to improve on the narrative for any Serb administration.

    I think the bias has much more to do with the fact that since the march of NATO troops in Kosovo the EU sets practically the agenda and the deep-seated (and so misplaced) European perception of Albanians as muslims makes ears much more receptive for any Serb argument. You can feel it and sometimes even hear it slip out of diplomatic lips. The few European voices that favor Kosovo seem forced and artificial, are clearly defensive and concentrate on “stability”.

    In retrospect, I think the Albanians were very lucky to have at the time an American government committed in the Balkan. If it were for European governments we would still be seeing for stability’s sake last minute negotiations with Milosevic (most probably still president) after some 250k killed, a couple of millions of permanently displaced and everybody else perfectly happy the Albanian issue was “controlled” for good.

  16. @Richard, Aliyev Junior is probably too conservative to ever roll the dice on a military assault. He inherited vast wealth and power from his father; he can be President-for-Life for, well, life. Why would he take a chance on war?

    @eni, time is gradually eroding the memories of Serbia’s actions in the 1990s. And hey — this is a good, peaceful, pro-Western government of modernizing reformers! No connection to those horrible nationalists!

    In all seriousness, they’ve done a surprisingly good job of managing their PR. No previous Serbian government had shown much talent for this. (Djindjic, some, but he was very distracted.)

    The Albanian image in Europe is indeed a problem, and one that needs a lot of work. It’s unfair, but there it is.

    Doug M.

  17. Doug, I am biting. Name me one positive thing that came out of Albania to Europe in the past 500 years. And yes, I am excluding Skanderbeg with this time frame. It is the country that has been forgotten in time and space. Maybe the Turks have fond memories of it?

  18. @Doug: Yes, the Tadic government is pro-western and one of modernizers compared to the previous Serb governments. But they have also been far too quick to shake off the recent past of their country without any kind of reflection.

    The Milosevic wars were largely supported in Serbia and the ethnic cleansing did not come out of the blue but unfolded by plans carefully developed from that fearful Serb academy of “sciences” and dating more than 100 years back. The Serb elite and society have a big stake in those terrible deeds which they are still unwilling to accept.

    The Serb commitment towards the EU is in my eyes not only a way to economic development but most importantly a shortcut to forgetfulness. A way to detach from the memories of their recent past. But as we know, the EU is not a cure for extreme nationalism and discrimination. Indeed, Europe is itself seriously endangered by the recent emergence of extreme right wing politics.

    The Serb society is in many respects very similar to the society in Albania most notably in its refusal to deal with its past legacy. Serbs with their turbo-nationalistic and Albanians with their Stalinist legacy.

    The ruling of the ICJ is a moral victory for Albanians but not much more. They still have to face new generations of Serbs grown up with the “stab-in-the-back” and “cradle-of-civilization” narratives now reproduced in medias and in school textbooks.

  19. @IF: a few years ago, I might have pointed to Ismael Kadare, Ferid Murad, Fan Noli, Bekim Fehmiu and the Mountain Wreath. Or to John Belushi, Eliza Dushku, and Blla Blla Blla.

    But it’s 2010, man. Asking a question like that? When 30 seconds with google will give you long articles on Albanian music, Albanian science, Albanian literature, Albanian art, and the Ten Greatest Albanians… well, you’re not just showing ignorance; you’re showing deliberate, willed ignorance.

    Doug M.

  20. I know you like those guys a lot. But this is kind of worse than arguing that Cher is *actually* Armenian. If Albania would duke it out with Moldova you would truly have a height comparison between peanuts, as Yves like to write. Except that Moldova seems to be the more modern country.

    I know I am ignorant, but maybe slightly less so than the average European. And this is the context that we are arguing here. When I grew up in East Germany I’ve read the old Albanian fairy tales and absolutely loved them. Then I learned about the actual country in geography lessons in school (Enver Hoxha) and my illusions slowly evaporated. I’ve kept an eye on them in the 90s and read in the papers how the nation collapsed under a Ponzi scheme and the army was virtually privatized when people raided the depots (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1997_unrest_in_Albania). A little bit later Kosovo started, a connection that I hardly see discussed in press. (Maybe I see issues where there are none, but then again you might have a word to say about it.) Finally the resurgence of blood feuds that show (to me) an even more tribal/feudal society than the rest of the Balkans.

    Then again I’ve never met an Albanian, and even my Bulgarian girlfriend says she only knows one (which is ok in her words, who is a professor in the US – an actual immigrant unlike Belushi, who was born in Chicago). I admit that my impressions are completely based on my media exposure of the past 30 years. I’ve never traveled to that neck of the woods in the Balkans. Hence it is fair to call me willfully ignorant. But Albanians have a little bit more ahead of themselves than just “working on their image” if they want to have any standing with the average European. How about actually changing who they are (modernization)?

  21. This is like saying “I know I don’t know anything about this topic, but I will speak about it anyway as if I’m an expert. I know im prejudiced and not informed, but I will pretend as if the case is the complete opposite. I’ve never met one of these people or been there but I’ll still talk about the “actual country” and my “evaporating illusions”. I know that I don’t know anything but I don’t want to believe that. ”

    Oh in what strange ways irony works…

  22. Maybe. What I tried to describe is how I started very Albania friendly and became more and more disillusioned. Doug’s problem is “Albanian image in Europe”. But Europe does not know Albania and never will, as it is tiny and unimportant. What I read here is the intent to change the perception, e.g. spin for whatever reason. ‘Nuff said.

  23. @IF, If anything, Albania is – to quote Berisha – a miracle of freedom. The progress it has made since the end of communism is something to be proud of. Sure, there were challenges on the way, but huge progress nonetheless.

  24. IF raises a number of interesting points, one of which might turn into a post someday. Let me nibble around the edges a little bit.

    Belushis: the question was “what good has come out of Albania”. So immigrants of the first and second generation surely count. Note that I didn’t mention ethnic Albanians not from Albania proper; that would open up a great many more names, including Mother Theresa, Sinan (the architect who built the Taj Mahal), a bunch of Ottoman viziers, several Popes, several Greek Prime Ministers, and Mohammed Ali, ruler of Egypt and founder of the dynasty that ruled it until the 1950s.

    But this is a rather silly sort of nose-counting. When I moved to Romania some years ago, a Hungarian acquaintance said to me something like “Hungary has ten Nobel prizes; Yugoslavia had two; Romania has never had a single one.” I was impressed by this at the time; a year or two later, I decided that it was actually pretty stupid. Late 19th century Hungary had an excellent educational system that was particularly good at producing world-class mathematicians and physicists; this tells us pretty much nothing useful about early 21st century Hungary.

    Albania got hit with a historical one-two punch. First, it got stuck as the most stagnant backwater of the decaying Ottoman Empire. Shackled to a corpse, crushed under a corrupt, incompetent, distant government that had no interest whatsoever in doing anything with Albania but squeezing gold from it, Albania arrived at independence in 1913 with no railroads, universities, newspapers or power plants; a mountainous country of just over a million people, it had a literacy rate of around 10% and less than 50 km of paved roads.

    The second punch came after WWII, when Albania fell under the control of Europe’s dumbest, meanest, craziest Communist dictatorship.

    Consider, by way of comparison, the Koreas. South Korea is a First World country that produces all sorts of fun and useful things, from automobiles to video games; South Koreans are educated and energetic; a South Korean is currently head of the United Nations. North Korea is a hellhole that produces nothing anyone wants. Yet they’re the exact same people, and up until 1945 they had the exact same history.

    A comparison closer to home might be East Germany. Let me turn your question around: name one positive thing that came out of the DDR to Europe. Easily answered, or must you think a moment?

    Doug M.

  25. I’d say more, but I haven’t read the decision yet – hmm. at least that makes you honest.

  26. “But Europe does not know Albania and never will, as it is tiny and unimportant.”

    Sure they will. They’re already getting to know them. That’s why theyre accepting them in their midst. It was NATO last year, and it’ll be the EU in a few more. That’s why they supported the independence of albanians in kosovo, against all odds. That’s why they bombed the serbs to step in and help out the albanians. Europe is accepting them, even with all their drawbacks.

  27. Do you have a reference for Sinan building the Taj Mahal? The most famous Sinan was an Armenian (not Albanian) devshirme slave known for designing many Ottoam buildings including the Suleiman Mosque in Istanbul.

    As far as East Germany – what about Katarina Witt:)

  28. If you’re talking about the Blue Mosque of Istanbul, then its architect was Sinan from Elbasan, Albania.

    I think Doug confused Sinan with Mehmet Isa, the albanian chief engineer that oversaw the building of the Taj Mahal. To be politically correct with those times I guess we’d have to call him “ottoman” instead, but he was spawned from the area now known as albania.

  29. Richard, you might be right. I just ran a search for Sinan, and there seem to have been more than 1, so there is some confusion there. Wiki says armenian, but ive read many other sources that say albanian. So they’re probably different guys.

  30. Pingback: Global Voices in English » Serbia, Kosovo: More on ICJ’s Ruling

  31. Pingback: Global Voices em Português » Sérvia, Kosovo: Mais sobre a Decisão da CIJ

  32. Doug, Having read most of the verdict I think you have to withdraw your impression that the decision is “was clear, strong, and favored Kosovo”.

    My impression was that of a political verdict. The whole verdict feels like it supports Albanian arguments. Yet the court consistently avoids clear conclusions. Its only conclusion is that international law does not forbid independence declarations – because there are no international laws covering this specific subject.

    As a consequence everyone tries to read the verdict in its own favor. A Quebecan nationalist already drew the conclusion that Quebec can now also declare independence and if negatiations with Canada don’t produce results it can do it unilaterally.

  33. Wim continues to spread his hate of Albanians across the internet. Just like Jeremic, he expects the truth to be split 50-50, for one party can’t get everything of their own country and the other be left with none of the invaded country. Anything else and it’s a world court conspiracy in favor of Albanians and against the crestfallen Serbs. As proof, he might even try to quote a random nationalist from some corner of the world stating the obvious, while in the same breath being unsatisfied that more nationalists from more corners of the world could not use the judgment to their own benefit.

    The obvious lesson here is to make strong political friends and let the losers whine.

  34. “My impression was that of a political verdict.”

    Of course it was, Wim.

    Doug M.

  35. An interesting discussion. I will not go into “what good has come out of” discussion, although
    I am amazed at some of the names that came up, e.g. that butcher, “Mohammed Ali, ruler of Egypt and founder of the dynasty that ruled it until the 1950s.”
    This would be like mentioning Saddam Hussein as one of the best things that came out of Iraq!
    My main point though is that the entire independence issue was a bad decision-I mean practically Kossovo had its independence, so what is the point of adding insult to injury instead of waiting for time to heal old wounds?
    Furthermore, the moral of the story is:
    1) Because the Serb withdwrawal was based on the NATO promise that Kossovo would remain a Yugoslav province, this is a very bad precedent for NATO credibility. It simply means that people who are **much** worse than Milosevic, like Ahmadinezad(or any even more moderate Iranian government), will be even more hesitant to take western assurances seriously. It will also mean that building nukes will
    be even more justifiable in their eyes, because “if Milosevic had nukes, they would not have been able to attack Yugoslavia”
    2)It also makes a strong case for other areas like S.Ossetia and Kurdistan(Turkey wants the special priviledges of vetoing not just an independent Kurdistan on its soil, but also on the soil of neighboring countries!). Conversely, we have the Nagorno-Karabakh case where there will be pressure on Adjerbaizan to recapture it before it is recognized. Cyprus is not relevant, because it is a case of invasion and occupation along with mass murders(the g-word). Its only relevance is that because Cyprus went for 36 years through the legal UN channels and got nothing, is a lesson that the UN simply does not work unless you are strong enough to impose your will. But then, the strong do not really need the law, do they?
    this is a bad decision

  36. Hans, meet an egyptian first and ask them how they feel of mehmet ali(aka muhammed ali), then we can talk about it. Ask an iraqi how they feel of hussein too. If they tell you theyre very proud of those people, who are you to judge them?! The west is gonna impose national figures on the east now as well??

    As for your point #1)Nukes don’t ensure a favourable solution to problems. The USSR had nukes, A LOT of nukes, and still lost the cold war and was split up in 15 pieces.
    2) What’s wrong with kurdistan having a stronger case? Those people deserve the right of selfdetermination as well. If kosovo’s case helps them in anyway then we’re on the right path to slowly, one by one, right all the wrongs of the past. What’s your complaint about that?

  37. Mirakulous: The point on mehmet ali: Well, Egypt (or Albania if you wish, or any other country) has a lot more to be proud of than people like that. Ordinary people would make a much better example than this guy. I might add that I really doubt that having a pope or a greek PM is something to be proud of, unless it would be a really special case, and I really doubt that a ruler of any country would feel of a different nationality(I do not think Obama feels Kenyan for that matter). But all this is not the point; A country does not need great historical figures to be proud.

    As for my points, well 1) yes, nukes do tend to ensure that you will not get bombed. It has never happened thus far. Rulers far worse than Milosevic who happened to have nukes did not get bombed. And 2) There is nothing wrong with Kurdistan having a stronger case. Except that the corresponding government strongly objects -40000 dead strongly to be more precice- not just to autonomy or independence on its own soild, but also anywhere else. You may want to note a certain hypocrisy about countries that do recognize Kossovo, but to whom the corresponding UCK/KLA in Kurdistan are just terrorists(so was of course George Washinton to the british, not to mention a certain Yasser Arafat). But the main point is that we basically annul Helsinki, which means one thing: more wars. Perhaps nothing wrong with that either, except we were hoping to be able to move on without more wars. Which typically may correct the “wrongs of the past”(which has a very different meaning for different people) with more wrongs. “Wrongs of the past” have been done to many people. American Indians perhaps may be clear. But what about wrongs of the past done to people who themselves have done “wrongs of the past” to others. Take Arabs and jews for example. The Arabs did not exactly arrive in Palestine peacefully. Or Turks in the Balkans. Or Slavs in the Balkans. Does “correcting wrongs of the past” mean sending Arabs to S.Arabia, Turks to Central Asia or Slavs to the Russia?

  38. Hans, mehmet ali IS a special case for egypt. He’s not just some typical PM. He’s the father of the state of egypt. He gave egypt its independence. And I say all this because I personally have known many egyptians, and have not come accross even 1 that was not very proud of him. He is their version of George Washington. I don’t think you can judge them for choosing to be proud of this guy. It’s their prerogative. Nations are usually proud of people who do great things, not just “ordinary people”.

    As for righting wrongs of the past, I agree that its up to debate and interpretation to a large extent. But there is also rationality to be employed. We’re on the case of righting the wrong of kosovo which was done in 1913, less than 100 hundred years ago, and you’re putting it on equal footing with the coming of the slavs to balkans which happened 1400 years ago. I don’t think you can equate both things. And that’s why there has been large international support for Kosovo, but not for sending the slavs back. Let’s stick with modern history, rather than ancient history.
    I realize that so many people have died for ‘kurdistan’ but if they keep fighting that means they really want it. Either 1 of 2 things will happen; they’ll get kurdistan or they’ll be wiped out as a peoples due to assimilation and death. Either it will cease to be an issue eventually. This is true for all minorities who want their right of selfdetermination recognized.

  39. As for Mehmet Ali, those who experienced his attrocities have very different views, of course.
    As for righting past wrongs, you put the bar at 100 years; but this is your call. There is nothing in international law or anything else in history that puts this bar at 100 years. If that were so, then the Balkans would be turkish for example. And by that criterion, Kurdistan also is “rightfully” turkish. In effect you are advocating a Helsinki moved 100 years ago, so that territory that one got more than 100 years ago, no matter how, is “rightfully” his. I hope you understand what I am saying: By your criterion, an “injustice” has been done to the Turks , who were kicked out of the Balkans 100 years ago, when they had been there for over 4 centuries, ignoring the fact that they did not arrive as friendly tourists. And it’s not just your criterion: I really do not think there is any good criterion. Of course, just like nature has a way of solving problems(species aither survive or perish), so does history. The only question is: Should we attempt to change this (by a Helsinki-type agreement) or not?

  40. I understand what you’re saying, as i said before. But clearly the “international community” has set a limit on things, and to “their” judgement kosovo fit the criteria. Like I said, eventually all these problems will be solved, because there comes a point at which no one can look away anymore (such as south sudan for e.g.). As for setting the bar, I didn’t set it at 100 year, I just said let’s use modern history rather than ancient history as a basis. And I believe that’s what being done. A good reference point would be to use the creation of modern nations as a basis for things. So to apply this to the case of kosovo for e.g., we can say that in the late 1800s and early 1900s the albanian nation was formed and that’s the crucial point in history where albanians in kosovo can start being considered different from serbs and be treated separately with their own right to their selfdetermination. And that right was not given to them then, so it was righted now(this is debatable as well as they did not get a referendum of any sort,but its a step forward). Should they have rights recognized for things that happened in the 1600s? NO, because it was much harder to define an ‘albanian’ and a ‘serb’ then.
    So I think there are rational bases we can use for this, so its more acceptable to everybody.

    Some of the analogies you used to reply to me are not legitimate. The turks being kicked out of the balkans is not the same as they were never actually there. Turks never settled the balkans, they just invaded and kept standing armies there, but most local administration was actually local. The lands they populated they kept, such as constantinople and the rest of that little piece of turkey which is on the european side of the straight of bosphorus.This cannot be compared with for example the slavs who settled in the balkans, and that’s why no one is kicking them out, but they did “kick out” the turks.

    As for mehmet ali; I’m not aware of one famous freedom fighter, or father of a state who created an independent state for his people and did not kill anyone in the process. I’m pretty sure it comes with the territory, and I’m pretty sure the people he killed aren’t happy about it. But I’m also sure that to egyptians he’s the father of their state, and they revere him.

  41. Starting with Mehmet Ali, the point is that as you said back in those days the Albanian, Serb, Bulgarian etc ethnicity was secondary to the religious one. The best example is Albanians at that time: Moslem/islamisized Albanians though themselves as turks and fought with them, butchering Christians, including christians of perhaps albanian origin(as you rightly said ethnicity was not defined that clearly back then”), while Christians or perhaps albanian origin fought with fellow christians against the turks/moslems. This religious distinction has apparently survived up until today for instance in Bosnia(‘bosniaks’ are islamisized Croats/serbs)
    Same with Mehmet Ali, who in the eyes of his opponents was just another turk/moslem. And, it is one thing to build a state and another to act as the Sultan’s henchman and attack rebels in land that has no relation to one’s own.

    Now as for your criterion, it has some points.
    However, I do not agree that Turks never settled in the Balkans.
    One counterexample may be Attaturk who was born in Thessaloniki. Whether his bloodline is turkish, albanian, greek or whatever we may never know, but the point is he is the founder of modern Turkey, i.e. as “real” a Turk as it gets. Is there also an “injustice” to be corrected by returning Thessaloniki to Turkey?

  42. We were discussing whether mehmet ali was respected by egyptians or not; not what label of ethnicity we should slap on him. At least by my understanding…

    Although natonality wasn’t really defined as i said, all the people of the balkans, call them what you may, knew that the turks were different from them. The turks it was known came from deep into asia, so although nationalities may not have existed, the fact that they weren’t the same as those people who were then living in the places today called greece, albania, serbia, etc was clear. Ataturk was not a turk in any sense; he wasnt from deep into asia. One Ottoman functionary from their foreign office, Eqrem Vlora, who’s autobiography I read, said that Ataturk had presented his background to him as from Nis, and Thessaloniki. His father being albanian from Nis, who moved south when the serbs expelled the albanians from there, and his mother from thessaloniki. This could totally be a myth; but i think it’s clear that he was “different” from the rest of the so called turks of the time. Also, if he was a native of the balkans, then he didn’t settle there from turkey, but he did the opposite. He sprung from the balkans and went and settled into turkey(as many people did during the days of the empire). Even if he was a turk, i wouldn’t make the argument that thessaloniki should or should not be returned to turkey because of 1 guy. We have to use rationale in these touchy issues.
    So I’m sorry but I don’t agree that turks settled the balkans, at least not in any considerable numbers, not how slavs settled the balkans.

  43. Well, the original Turks that came from deep Asia were too few. The Ottoman empire grew by islamisizing and then assimilating many people from the places it conquered. So at the end of the day, moslem and turk were more or less identical. This is similar to the Roman and Byzantine empires.

  44. Maybe slightly similar, but a lot more different. I can’t put my finger today and tell u who the romans are. But i can definetely show u some turks!!

  45. No offense, guys, but you’re both wrong.

    Mirakulous, large numbers of Turks settled in the Balkans. Most of them left during the Christian reconquests — over 100,000 were driven out of Serbia in the early 19th century, for instance, after the two Serbian Rebellions. The only large Turkish population left is in Bulgaria, where there are still about 800,000. There are also Turks in Greece (about 90,000), Macedonia (about 80,000) and Romania (about 30,000).

    However, all these groups are the remnants of much larger Turkish populations that lived there during Ottoman times. For instance, in 1923 Greece exchanged about 350,000 Turks for the remaining Christian population of Anatolia. The Turkish population of Bulgaria is probably about half of what it was before independence. There used to be Turkish minorities in what’s now Bosnia and Albania. And so forth.

    Very broadly speaking, in 1800 — just before the first nationalist rebellions broke out — something around 10 percent of the population of Turkish Europe consisted of ethnic Turks, distributed thinly but broadly across the whole penninsula.

    Hans, you’re right that the Ottoman Empire grew by islamizing and assimilating other peoples. The “original Turks from deep Asia” were always a minority, even in Anatolia.

    However, it’s not correct to say “Moslem and Turk were more or less identical”. There were plenty of non-Turkish Moslems — Albanians, most obviously, but also various Slavic groups who converted to Islam, but kept their language and culture and did not self-identify as Turks. Bosnians (what we call today Bosniaks) and the Pomaks of Bulgaria would be the largest, but there were others.

    Meanwhile, there were significant minorities who called themselves “Turks” but who were nonetheless Christian. Most of these groups eventually either Islamized or came to identify with a non-Turkish group, but that was a development of the 19th and 20th centuries. (Greece received significant numbers of Christian Turks in the 1923 population exchange, to the confusion of all concerned.) At least one large Turkish Christian group still remains today, though — the Gagauz of Moldova and Ukraine. There are about 200,000 of them, they’re Orthodox Christians, and they’re Turks.

    I said earlier that in 1800, about 10% of the population of Ottoman Europe was Turkish. Well, about another 10% – 15% consisted of non-Turkish Muslims. And the loyalty (or lack thereof) of these groups would be critical to the destruction of Ottoman Europe. You look at the revolts of the Bosnian Muslims in the 1870s, or the role that various Muslim Albanians played in the Greek Revolution, and this is very clear.

    So it’s really not accurate to say that “Moslem and Turk were more or less identical”. There were a lot of non-Turkish Muslims in the Balkans, and they played a huge role in Ottoman history.

    Doug M.

  46. Doug, you should know, and I believe that you do(as I’ve seen you refer to this in other articles) that in the population exchange of 1923 Greece exchange muslim albanians(chams) for christians from Anatolia.

    And yes, certain places had minority turkish populations, and they still do (like kosovo and bosnia) but I was talking about massive settling of people. Above, me and Hans were evaluating whether the “settling” of turks in the balkans was comparable to that of the slavs. And however much %age of turks there used to be (I’ll take your figures for granted and give them the benefit of the doubt) it’s not even close to significant enough for the turkisht settlement to hold the same weight as the slavic settlement of the balkans. The slavs settled in a way and in numbers that they totally wiped out and assimilated the populations that were there before so that now the places they settled are generally slavic cultured nations. While the settling of the turks was short lived and had no higher status than that of a minority population, as you referred to them as well.
    As for bulgaria, they’re on the border with turkey proper; its understandable for them to have such a high population of turks. This is standard with countries who are bordered by imperial nations. Obviously in montenegro for e.g. we don’t see the same numbers due to the distance from the turkish homeland.

  47. We have really drifted from the original post, so this discussion is only relevant to “rights” or “undoing the wrongs of the past” as Mirakulous said.
    Now as to the point whether “Moslem and Turk were more or less identical”, it depends what you mean. The point is that much like in the Roman and Byzantine empires, moslems who worked/fought for the Sultan were eligible and did rise to high places, regardless of “ethnic origin”. Many such examples exist.
    I would imagine that if today in any country someone of a different origin were eligible for any position, then this would be an indication that this country does not discriminate on the basis of origin.

    Now, as to ” the loyalty (or lack thereof) of these (non-turkish muslims)groups,
    would be critical to the destruction of Ottoman Europe”(which was also a factor for the Byzantines, e.g. their Petschenegs and other groups, some turkish-speaking which defected to the turkish side), I think the point is that yes, at various points moslem troops fought the Sultan, but only because of the ambition of the local moslem Pasha(e.g. Ali Pasha of Ioannina or Mehmet Ali was also a good example-he had his own ambitions).
    ” You look at the revolts of the Bosnian Muslims in the 1870s, or the role that various Muslim Albanians played in the Greek Revolution, and this is very clear”
    I also think it is very clear, but only because Moslem Albanians fought on the turkish side against the greek side(the distraction provided by Ali Pasha keeping the Sultan’s troops busy for some time notwithstanding, as it was not done for the purpuse of aiding the greek revolution, but for saving his own hide). Like I said the main distiction at the time was a religious, not ethnic one. One did not care where the guy fighting next to him was from, what mattered was his religion.
    Interestingly enough, this distinction has survived in part even to these days: I was walking about a decade ago with a greek colleague in the old City of Jerusalem, he heard from a yard someone speaking greek, so he entered and asked for some directions to the Orthodox Patriarchate only to be told that he could not go because “the Turks were on strike”(meaning the Palestinians). He was very surprised at this identification.

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