A Serb friend, whose family is from Croatia and whose universityrndegree is in engineering, was quick to tell me that althoughrnSlovenia fired the first shots in the civil war, that in itselfrnwas not critical because there were no appreciablernminorities in Slovenia. Hence Slovenian independence camernwithout much bloodshed. Croatia was different, he said, becausernof the large Serbian minority, which did not want to bernin a Croatian state. “That situation might have been resolved,”rnhe continued, “if the Tudjman regime [in Croatia] had beenrnwilling to treat the Serbs as equals. Instead it reduced them tornminority status and then engaged in all sorts of discriminationrnagainst them. In addition, there were anonymous telephonernthreats, ugly signs painted on Serbian homes, and the like. Andrnthere was no chance that the Serbs would be given autonomy.”rnWhen I asked him to amplify, he replied that the worst part ofrnthe regime was its “adopting of symbols and other trappings ofrnthe hated World War II Ustasha fascist state.”rnut/he shouted,rn’you won’t readrnabout these mattersrnin your press, even though Americanrnnewsmen know about them. After all,rnthey are reporting from Sarajevo,rnand if they reported these thingsrnthey would soon be on their way out.rnThat’s like getting your news ofrnWorld War II happenings from Berlin,’rnhe said, with emphasis and a noternof bitterness in his voice.rnA Serb doctor from Zagreb pointed out that under the circumstancesrnmany of Croatia’s Kraina Serbs fled to Serbia butrnthat most of them stayed, organized, and resisted. “Yugoslavrnarmy units in the area,” he added, “came to their defense, andrnthe civil war in Croatia began.” After several months, duringrnwhich Serbian forces occupied a signihcant chunk of territory,rnthere was a cease-fire and a United Nations peacekeeping forcernwas brought in.rnAll of this was familiar to me, so I eageriy moved on to a discussionrnof Bosnia-Herzegovina (which I will simply callrnBosnia), a highly complex and complicated subject. When thernmoment seemed appropriate, I usually began with the question:rn”How did it all begin?”rn”As you know, communism was a failure here as in Russiarnand everywhere else,” was most frequently the opening response.rn”When the Yugoslav Communist Party began to splitrnup into many communist parties along nationality lines, whatrnwe had known but could not say publicly was out in the open—rnTito and his comrades had not solved the nationality problem;rnthey had made it worse. They swept it under the rug, wherernbitterness accumulated until the dam was ready to burst.”rn”You mean . . . ,” I started to say. “Yes, I mean Tito’s vintagernwas where the grapes of wrath were stored,” he replied, lettingrnme know that he was familiar with some Americana.rn”Yes,” I said, “but how did the breakup of Yugoslavia begin?”rn”As far as we Serbs are concerned, you know that we have alwaysrnbeen the strongest supporters of the common state, butrnwhen we saw that others—especially the Croats—were notrnhappy with Yugoslavia, we began to doubt the wisdom of ourrnown position, particularly when we saw that under communismrnwe got the short end of the stick.”rn”But,” added a colleague, “we were not the ones that startedrnto destroy Yugoslavia; we still wanted to save it.”rn”You know. Professor, a few years ago some of our intellectualsrnin the Academy of Arts and Sciences began drafting arnstatement about the problems and difficulties facing Yugoslaviarnand suggesting ways to deal with them, and you knowrnwhat happened? Someone got a draft copy of what was calledrnThe Memorandum, and without the text being published anywhere,rnour communist press viciously attacked it as an expressionrnof Serbian nationalism.”rn”Strange, isn’t it,” another friend added, “that now in thernWest thev call it Miloshevitch’s platform of Serbian nationalism!”rn”Yes,” declared his colleague. “When Miloshevitch becamernhead of the Serbian party, he may have taken somernideas from it. You recall he went to Kosovo in April 1987, andrnin a huge meeting that lasted at least 12 hours he heard the sorrowfulrnwoes of many Serbs and how they had been persecutedrnby the Albanians and even by some of their Serbian colleaguesrnin the government of the province—all of them communistrnparty hacks.”rn”And,” I broke in, “that experience made Miloshevitch a Serbianrnnationalist?”rn”Well,” my friend volunteered, “that is when he made thernstatement heard round the world,” again seeking to impress mernwith his knowledge of Americana. “At that meeting in Kosovo,rnmany Serbs seeking to get into the crowded hall werernbeaten by the police. When Miloshevitch, in response to a disturbance,rnwas told what had happened, he ordered that morernSerbs be allowed to enter and assured them with: ‘No one willrnever beat you again!'”rn”Wait a minute,” I interrupted, “there were other Serbianrncommunists who defended Serbian interests—Rankovic,rnNikezic, Perovic.”rn”But none of them survived politically,” my friend hurried tornsay, “and mavbe they were not really defending Serbian interests,rnand anyway they were all purged! Miloshevitch is the first,rnnot onlv to survive but to rise to the top.”rn”And therein lies the tragedy,” a retired university professorrntold me on another occasion, “because so many of my intellectualsrnhoped that he would launch Serbia on a democraticrnpath, but their trust was misplaced.”rnA voung professional who grew up in Kosovo and whom Irnhad just met for the first time sought to emphasize the importancernof Kosovo to Serbs, calling it “Serbia’s Jerusalem” andrn”the cradle of the Serbian nation,” as well as the area of Serbia’srnsacred monuments—Christian churches and monasteries.rn28/CHRONICLESrnrnrn