On Sun, 8 Oct 1995 wrote:
Hereby, I would like to respond to Mr. Bila Liptak's article, and to
clarify some historical facts wrt Vojvodina region. It seems that that
there have been some misinterpretations of the facts. I will do a sort
of reply since I believe it's good to "face" a Serbian and a Hungarian
point of view on an issue such as this.
> Bila Liptak > 84 Old N. Stamford Road, Stamford, CT 06905-396
> T:203-357-7614, Fax:203-325-3922,
> It might seem that the Holbrooke-Milosevic pact will deliver justice, as it
> makes the Bosnian Serbs to taste their own medicine. Unfortunately, the
> domino-effect of this pact creates worst problems than what it solves and the
> new victims are innocent third parties: Hungarians and Albanians. Because the
> American public is totally unaware of this, I prepared the attached OP-ED
> piece. If you need it, I can also fax you maps: Bila Liptak.
> The Balkan Tragedy: Our Blind Spot For Vojvodina
> Vojvodina's population is greater than Bosnia's. A multi-cultural tapestry of
> Hungarian, Croatian, Serb, German, Roma, Slovak, Romanian and Ruthenian
> cultures flourished here for centuries. Yet, many maps don't even distinguish
> Vojvodina from Serbia and few know what is happening there, because few
> reporters ever visit Vojvodina. Yet, the process of ethnic cleansing, which
> caused the Bosnian tragedy, has also reached Vojvodina. The majority of the
> over 200,000 Serbs dislodged from the Krajina region of Croatia and from
> southern Bosnia are being used to extricate the Hungarian population of
> Why is it, that by attempting to solve one problem (Bosnia), we manage
> to create two: the de- stabilizing of both Vojvodina and Kosovo? Why is it,
> that the ethnic cleansing of the Krajina Serbs from Croatia, which our State
> Department called a window of opportunity for peace , and the ethnic
> cleansing of the south-Bosnia Serbs, which is a byproduct of NATO's bombing,
> might not facilitate peace, and in fact, could draw the neighboring countries
> of Hungary and Albania into the conflict. Why is it, that in order to make
> Slobodan Milisevic to sign on to the American-led Contact Group's peace
> proposal, he has to be offered a trade-off, at the expense of the Hungarians
> in Vojvodina and of the Albanians in Kosovo?
A little remark. First of all, Albanians in Kosmet currently make 90% of
the population (about 1.8 million). There are only 2,000 Serbs who went
to Kosovo. That can't in any way change anything. Albanian
natality is the highest of Europe (38 promiles). Their population
rised from 200,000 in 1945 to 2 million in 1991.
Problems of Kosmet and Vojvodina are two separate and different
problems. The problem with Kosmet is historical because Serbs face the
extermination at their historical region. Albanian way of life counters
the Serbian, and a compromise is very hard to find except some
Vojvodina is quite different. Both Andras Agoston and Ferenc Csubela
(leaders of Hungarians in Serbia) advocate forms of autonomy which don't
oppose Serbian sovereignty. They have wisely stated that it's more
important to solve Hungarian problem for all of Vojvodina by providing
three forms of autonomy - personal, territorial (for all of Vojvodina),
and ethnical. All three exist on the paper, but they are not implemented.
All in all, Vojvodina problem can easily be solved if Serbia shows
neccessary flexibility. Those days are coming as Milosevic is leaving.
Serbia as a whole can prosper only if decentrilized and not directed
through Milosevic's office.
> To find the answers, we have to understand the mind-set of the
> bureaucrats in the State Department. In the Kissinger-Eagleburger cookbook,
> the recipe for solving international problems is to mix one part of selective
> justice with two parts of alternating determination against and appeasement
> of the aggressors. The recipe avoids the salt of an overall plan or of a long
> range regional concept. Bureaucrats believe that only the victors deserve
> justice and only the losers can be found guilty. Therefore the Serbs deserve
> full autonomy within Bosnia, but the minorities in Serbia, or elsewhere in
> Central Europe do not.
Incorrect. Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina are not a "minority". Or to
put it your way, there are 3 minorities in BH - Muslim, Croat, and Serb.
All three have the right to self-determination.
Minorities in Serbia do deserve the autonomy, though.
> For most of the last 1100 years, Vojvodina was part of Hungary. Only
> after the dismemberment of the Hungarian Kingdom and the creation of such
> unnatural entities as Yugoslavia in 1918-20, did Vojvodina become an
> autonomous region of that federation. According to the 1974 Yugoslav
> constitution, Vojvodina should be an autonomous province of Yugoslavia (not
> Serbia!) This autonomy, and that of Kosovo, were arbitrarily rescinded in
This paragraph is very much misleading. The fact is that region k.a.
Vojvodina has been mostly part of Austrian and Hungarian countries. But,
the region of original Vojvodina (Banat, Backa, Baranja) declared its
unification with Kingdom of Serbia in 1918. First it became a part of
the Kingdom of Serbia (which militarilly took over the region), and then
Kingdom of Serbia got united with Austrian dominated areas of Yugoslavia
to form the SCS Kingdom ("Yugoslavia").
Your statement w.r.t. Vojvodinian autonomy as part of Yugoslavia, but not
Serbia is a misinterpretation. Since 1918, Vojvodina ("the land of
Dukes" in Serbian) was in every Serbian constitution regarded as its
The "yogurt" revolution in 1988 (NOT 1990!!!) led to the Vojvodinian loss
of the previous form of autonomy. The "revolution" was led by
Vojvodinian politicians loyal to Milosevic, primarily Mihaly Kertesz and
After all, your country (U.S.) has taken an active part on dismembering
Yugoslavia, so why do you refer to a "Yugoslav" constitution which was
heavily violated by the U.S.?
> Vojvodina is the breadbasket of Serbian-Yugoslavia. It is already it's
> most densely populated region, consisting of the Srem, which was part of
> Croatia-Slavonia until 1918, Backa, which was part of Hungary and the western
> part of Banat, also part of Hungary. The Hungarians did not get involved in
> the Bosnian war. They did not side with any of the warring factions.
> Consequently they are being treated as enemies by all.
Srem was a part of Austria until 1918. Parts of Belgrade (Zemun, Novi
Beograd) are in Srem.
It is not true that Vojvodina is most densely populated region. It is
Kosovo and Metokhia (not just "Kosovo"). Kosmet, twice smaller in size,
has 2 mill. people as well as Vojvodina.
> Today Croatia and Serbia are getting ready to fight over the Hungarian
> villages of Eastern Slavonia. Croatia is also furthering her ethnic purity by
> quadrupling the taxes on the Adriatic vacation homes of Vojvodina Hungarians,
> which, under the present economic conditions is the same as confiscating
> them. Yet, this is nothing compared to what the Serbs are doing to the
> Vojvodina Hungarians.
Appendix: "Comparing" is always a bad business. Hungarians have paid a
big price in Slavonia once already. Their villages in Baranja region were
emptied in 1991 when Serbs and Croats clashed.
> At the time of Hungary's dismemberment in 1920, Vojvodina's Serb
> population was only 25%. Through expulsions, and other forms of uprooting of
> the non-Serb population and by importing Serb colonialists, the Serbian
> population by 1948, has increased to 55%. During the Communist era, this
> ethnic cleansing process has further intensified, and by 1991 the Hungarian
> population of Vojvodina was reduced to 17%. Today, only 350,000 Hungarians
> remain in Vojvodina and the only compact cluster of Hungarian presence that
> survives is in the north-central part, along the Tisza river. It is this
> problem that the Serb refugees from the Krajina and south-Bosnia are
> supposed to solve .
This is more less correct. But you disregard that today's Vojvodina
includes Srem (which was predominantly Serbian prior to 1918) and
excludes Baranja. In 1920, there were 29% of the Serbs in Baranja,
Banat, and Backa. Today's Vojvodina has 57.7% of Serbs. The number of
"Serbian" Hungarians is higher than stated (they number about 450,000), but
many have left Serbia due to war draftings (as well as 250,000 young Serbs).
Milosevic' regime still doesn't grant them amnesty, but amnesty is a part
of the Holbrooke-Milosevic deal.
It is quite true that different methods of colonialism were introduced to
Vojvodina, but it's silly to blame only Serbs for that. First of all,
Banat region had some 450,000 Germans which were all brutally expelled in
1945 due to "their involvement in Nazi genocide", as Tito's Communists
stated. That was a genocide itself because today no traces of German
culture can be found- churches, cemetaries, etc. -traces of German
culture are not detectable anymore.
Please note that colonialism which took place in 1945-1950 was mainly
directed towards these formerly German regions. It's quite clear today
that Croat Josip Broz Tito started bringing Krajina and Bosnian Serbs to
these regions in order to "homogenize" Croatia. The fact is that
Hungarians and others pay the price, but things are not black-white; it
wasn't exactly the Serbs who should be blamed.
> According to the Democratic Community of Hungarians in Vojvodina: The
> Hungarians of Vojvodina are facing the danger of a FINAL SOLUTION, because
> Vojvodina is being purged of its non-Serb popula tion. According to them,
> the Croat victory in the Krajina and in south-Bosnia was so swift, because
> this population transfer has already been agreed to by both the Serbs and
> the Croats.
> Bila Csorba, a Hungarian MP in the Serb-Yugoslav Parliament, described
> the ethnic cleansing of a small Hungarian village named Svilojevo (Szilagyi)
> in this manner: The Krajina Serbs cruised up and down the streets of Apatin,
> Sombor, Sonta and Svilojevo. On August 11, 1995 homes were confiscated from
> their owners. By the time we have arrived to investigate, the village was
> almost completely abandoned by its original inhabitants.
That is unfortunately an outcome of the war. Criminals should pay for
that, and people should go back home. "Highlander Serbs" (as Bosnian and
Krajina ones are called) certainly should go back home. But it
unfortunately seems unlikely as long as Tudjman's regime is in place, and
as long as Milosevic is in power.
To my knowledge, Serbian police has kicked the refugees out, and houses
were given back to their owners. But your point is clear - it is very
hard to feel free when things like that happen.
> Part of the problem is due to the difference in the personalities
> between the Krajina Serbs and the Vojvodina Hungarians. The Krajina Serbs
> have a warrior mentality, they carry guns, for centuries they have been in
> uninterrupted conflict with the Croats, their view of life is based on
> constant struggle and hate for one's neighbors, their personality corresponds
> to the rugged terrain they have inherited. The placidity of Vojvodina
> Hungarians corresponds to the openness of their fertile plains. Yet, their
> friendly and mild personality does not mean, that their patience is
> unlimited. They are a strong and determined people. Monica Seles is a
> Vojvodina Hungarian.
Absolutely true. The same is for Vojvodinian Serbs.
> Politicians who push Hungarians to the limit, should remember 1915,
> the only time when Serbia was occupied in this century, or 1956, when the Red
> Army learned, what happens, when Hungarians lose their temper. Hungary has
> already accepted some 50,000 Hungarian and some 100,000 non-Hungarian
> refugees from the disintegrating Yugoslavia. This economic burden, combined
> with the loss of Hungary's southern markets, is testing her frail economy to
> the limit. She has already protested the ethnic cleansing of Vojvodina and
> will have no choice, but to defend her interests more forcefully if this
> process continues.
> So what should be done in the microcosm of Vojvodina and in the
> macrocosm of Central Europe?
> To Vojvodina, UN and NATO observers should be dispatched immediately,
> and the restoration of her autonomy should be made an integral part of any
> overall peace agreement.
Autonomy should be redefined, that's for sure. But if "NATO" or any
other Serbian declared enemies (NATO killed more than 1,000 Serbs,
wounded several thousand, destroyed bridges, communications, and many
civilian buildings) come, that's certainly not good. That will only stir
the Balkan mixture even more. Think about it. "Dispatching" troops or
"observers" won't change anything. If Krajina Serbs and other radical
elements remain in Vojvodina, they will even more frighten the minorities
by their individual actions, and that will lead to an even worse
situation for Hungarians. The solution must be found in democraticizing
Serbia. Americans all think that humiliating Serbs and Serbia is the
answer. That's been proven wrong last 5 years and indirectly caused
horrible sufferings of the Balkan peoples. Serbs as whole are quite
different by the region they come from, but all have one thing in common -
that is "pride". Even usually peacefull Vojvodina Serbs have shown
to be very nationalistic with regard to the war.
> As to the whole of Central Europe, it is essential to replace the
> practice of selective justice and appeasement of aggressors with clearly
> defined overall goals and with uniform standards that are applicable to all.
> Richard Holbrooke is right, when he wants to provide group rights to all
> three ethnic groups in Bosnia, but he is wrong, if he wants to limit these
> rights only to Bosnia. There will be no peace in Central Europe, until all
> ethnic groups are guaranteed their autonomy.
> On the other hand, once the ethnic tensions are eliminated through the
> universal guarantee of cultural autonomy, the root cause of the upheavals in
> the Balkans can also be solved. It is power vacuum in the region.
> Throughout history, the Balkans were stable only, when a local power in the
> Danubian Basin guaranteed it. The present power vacuum can only be eliminated
> through the formation of an economically self-sufficient, politically stable
> and militarily neutral Danubian Confederation.
You are right, but contradict yourself. Your way is "slap Serbia, and
then it's all OK". Yes, from a Hungaro-centric point of view, you are
right. All you wrote would be so great if it didn't have negative
consequences to it. The history can't be reversed, and Serbs will never
get their "heart" back (Kosmet, the heart of medieval Serbia), they are
kicked out of their Krajina (the "fender" Austro-Hungarian empire against
the Turks). Also, Vojvodinian pop. ratio from 1918 can't be reclaimed.
The least civilized people can do in Serbia is fight through the democratic
institutions. Serbia needs help, it needs democracy.
> In 1920, President Wilson felt, that only through the formation of a
> Danubian Confederation can a peaceful and prosperous Central Europe be
> reestablished. It would be a tribute to Wilsonian vision, if President
> Clinton, when, on the 26th of September, he meets the President of Romania,
> he would use the occasion to express his support for the Danubian
Only closer ties between Serbia and Hungary (which can be materialized
through such a confederation) can fully solve the problem. Giving
Hungarians their personal autonomy, territorial where needed (in counties
of Backa), and all other forms of autonomy which are of both their and
Serbian interest, is the way to go. That's for sure.
Thanks for the article. I suggest you introduce this to the Serbian
news-groups or organizations because only dialogue can solve the problem.
You see what bad has done ignoring of others' interests in the Balkans'
> Bila Liptak is a former Yale professor, who has published many technical
> books and has recently been invited to Budapest as a Fulbright Scholar.
native of Montenegro and Belgrade
senior in Electrical Engr. at Oregon State University