THROUGH AGGRESSION AND PERFIDIOUS LAND GRABBING THROUGH AGRARIAN REFORMS AND COLONISATION
Lecture by Adamir Jerković PhD at the International Conference in Warsaw (Colloquia Jerzy Skowronek – Polish State Archives, Naczelna dyrekcja archiwow panstwowych, Instytut pamieci narodowej)
Bosniak population from the territory of former Yugoslavia was facing constant terror coming from Belgrade ever since the first Serbian Uprising in 1804 all the way through the aggression of Serbia against Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995. Only in recent history, for a shorter period during the Tito’s Yugoslavia, this extremely negative treatment of Bosniak people, namely the Serbs position towards Muslims, was interrupted.
As is known, both Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were integral parts of Ottoman Empire until the year 1878. In eleven nahis of so-called Belgrade Pashalik, the Muslims were the majority population because they constituted 58 percent of the total population. Serbian markings of Muslims as “Turks” was, in fact, stemming from the context of the religion of this population. Since both the Turks and Bosniaks shared the same religion, Islam, the Serb population referred to the latter as “Turks”. Bosniaks-Muslims have been through incredible sufferings, starting from Karađorđe’s uprising against Ottoman Empire. It is known that Muslims were forced to leave their homes four times, and each time they were left without anything in their possession. Muslims of Belgrade accounted for four-fifths vs other populations, while in Užice they represented almost 97 percent of the total population and in Morava region it was 65 percent. This topic has also been addressed by Dr. Safet Bandžović, a prominent historian from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The collapse of the Muslims in the Principality of Serbia
The collapse of the Muslims in the Principality of Serbia, which has not been officially in the composition of Ottoman Empire, took place in 1867 and 1882 in parts of South East of Serbia. This was done through direct campaigns of persecutions of the population from their homes, and the government of Mihail Obrenović upon arrival to power in Serbia had undertaken an extremely negative campaign against Ottoman Empire. In 1860, Serbia was shaken by the riots. The Serbian Orthodox population attacked the Muslims, and the real street battles have been historically registered. Serbian politician of that time, Nikola Hristić, wrote an account of those horrible days for Muslims. In his book “The Records of an Old Belgrade resident”, /Original: Zapisi starog beograđanina/ he makes the record of this event: “the shooting spread in all the places populated by Turks. Our men attacked Turkish homes, while the Turks were shooting back defending therefrom. They were very frightened… did not dare to stay overnight in their homes… our people were breaking into Turkish houses and robbed them…”
Hristić further writes that “In Turkish tekki, only across the street from the Serbian police, lived a Muslim priest with his wife and a daughter of 16-17 years of age. Serbs attacked this family, climbed over the wall to the roof, broke the ceiling and broke inside, ‘the priest was assassinated, and his daughter was slaughtered.” This is a culmination of tensions caused by the Serbs in their intentions to definitively expel the Muslims. International Conference in Istanbul suburb of Kanlica that took place in 1862 was dedicated to the issue of conflicts between Serbs and Turks, but its conclusion was known in advance. It is the historical fact that France and the Russian Government have agreed on a joint approach to defend Serbian interests. In 12 items, the Conference decided on Soko and Užice breaking down, and that ‘Turkey exits from Serbia from everywhere including the city of Belgrade’. On this Protocol, Serbia maintained a garrison in Belgrade, Smederevo, Kladovo and Šabac. The messages from the Protocol were quite clear to the Muslims — they must leave, as soon as possible, Sanjak of Smederevo, ie Belgrade Pashalik respectively. This is extremely unjust, but the force is stronger than the law.
Here are the statistical data.
In Belgrade in 1862 there had been 2.382 buildings and houses of which 842 Serb and almost double of Muslim houses (1.486). After the riots in the streets of Belgrade in the year 1862, people from the city, which were in ethnic terms predominantly Muslim, were escaping to the Belgrade fortress. Around 600 Muslims found their shelter there and then a massive emigration of the Muslim population started. From 13 September 1862 the steam tows came to Belgrade carting in the Muslims expelled from the city. These people were expelled forever at first to Lom Palanka, and then to Niš, Vidim and Brčko and further. Almost nobody was spared. Even those who swore loyalty had to leave without return. They were expelled into the neighboring Bosnia. It is known that in 1862, 8.000 “Turks,” as Serb referred to local Muslims, were expelled from Serbia, and the remaining several tens of thousands Muslims had to flee in 1867 from Belgrade and other cities, as they were definitively handed over to the administration by the Serbian authorities.
Devastating consequences of being expelled from their homes were felt also by inhabitants of Užice, which was together with Belgrade a distinctly Muslim city with “3500 Turkish and 600 Serbian houses” and the Muslim population moved to Bosnia in 1834. Plundering of Muslim property started, while houses of expelled Muslims were predominantly torched, and in the writing of Vladimir Karić, Užice in the year 1844 had 3.697 “Turks” and only 707 Serbs. Results of Kanlica Conference were reflected quickly in Užice as well. Immediately after the end of the Conference, there was an arson; fire was planted by the Serbs and Muslims were accused, and this served as a pretext for the Serbs to accelerate with expelling the Muslims. In his memoirs, Miladin Radović, and his words recorded by S. Ignjić in the book Užice and its Surroundings dated 1862-1914, says:
“Empty and open stands the magnificent Šeh’s mosque, and no one is thinking of turbehs, tombstones and sanctity, there are no more gatherings in Musal, which used to be all green, in the most beautiful part of Turkish Užice”.
In the negotiations on the status of Užice, the Turkish and Serbian envoys discussed, Ali Bey and Ilija Garašanin. The latter is considered a creator of Greater Serbia concept. The two of them, Ali-Bey and Garašanin, signed the Treaty that “Užice city shall divide without delay and delis to move to Bosnia”. According to the author, the Muslims of Užice heard the news on the handover of the town and their relocation to Bosnia quickly after the Sultan has ruled and despite the disappointments and objections, they could not change anything. There was no way back. Their journey was already defined, destination Bosnia. Serbia was overwhelmed with strong emotions because of migrations of their countrymen Muslims. It was felt as a triumph of its historical dream to see humiliated Muslims leave its territory while they were gloating. This was a national project to eradicate everything that is Muslim, in particular Serb terminology referred to as “Turkish”. The significance of this project for Serbs is corroborated with the fact that Serbian authorities sanctioned the bullwhackers and transporters who failed to participate in implementing the expulsions of Muslims. Muslims from Užice and other parts of Serbia were transferred towards Bosnia in an organized transport. Miladin Radović, contemporary to these developments, writes that the wage carriers arrived quickly from Belgrade, Valjevo and Kragujevac district, around 700-800 of them, and Muslims, having loaded their possessions, left escorted never to return”. It was a massive and thorough expulsion corroborated also with the length of the column of those in exile followed by the
Serb soldiers singing triumphantly, that moved from Užice towards Bosnia. The head of the column, testified by the contemporaries, was in Kadinjača, while the tail was in the city. Muslims from Užice were expelled mostly to Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia and fewer to Priboj. It is known that, from Užice, close to 3.000 adult Muslims were expelled and just below 1.000 children. Exiled Muslims from Užice, city of Soko, village of Gračanica, Aluga Zakucani, Mala, Donja Poštenja, Bučja region and other had settled in the Eastern and North Eastern Bosnia. The historical facts of that time show that Ottoman Sultan had exempted the evicted adherents who found their home in Bosnia from taxes and from military service. It is also known that six towns were created: Kozluk, Šamac, Orašje, Brezovo Polje, Kostajnica and Orahovo.
Sidki Hadžihuseinović Muvekkit in History of Bosnia and Tepić in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Russian sources 1856-1878 are amounting the data on resettlement of the needy who are deported to Zvornik area, Tuzla, Bijeljina, Bosanski Šamac (Gornja Azizija), Gračanica, Srebrenica, Donja Azizija (Orašje), Vlasenica, Sarajevo, Brezovo Polje… The Serbs were left with the prey: houses, farms, land. This was followed by robbery of private property. The authorities in Užice note in one document: “houses and remaining Turkish fencing, left after the fire and migration of the Turks are subject to infringement by our people, who are ripping off and taking floors, ceilings, doors, etc”. There was no mercy for the Muslims, who were being violated, including also by the mere fact that they were called “Turks,” but these are minor insults by the frustrated ‘winners’. In the writs by Jovan Skerlić, the Montenegrins, as partners of the Serbs in indecent operations called these unfortunate people “Turkish bastards” and “Asian plague”. There were many fairytales and fantasy stories glorifying Serb victory against the Turks in such as ‘the outlaws attack the Bey castle, beautiful Serb lady is saved, Turks are burned in flames’ and the like. All these stories and tales are full of negative emotions, sadism and severe hatred.
Although all Muslim inhabitants were expelled from Serbia, Serbian authorities that were in control over the entire area felt uncomfortable due to the presence of Turkish garrisons on its territory. It has constantly pressed Porta, demanding its departure from Fortress in Belgrade, Smederevo, Šabac and Kladovo. As Ottoman Empire was fading away in 19th century, it no longer had the power to preserve its Serbian prey captured in 14th century, so the Sultan adopted a Decree in 1867 on the handover of these cities to Serbs. The Muslims who wanted to stay had to waive their identity, i.e. “to return to grandfathers faith or to be Serbs of Islamic beliefs”, and if not, then they would have to be registered as “Gypsies”. If they choose to decline this, then they would have to flee from Serbia. Majority chose a departure from their ancient hearths. There are many similarities with the exodus of Jews around hundred years later, which indicate the emerging of Fascism in Serbia prior to Hitler racial laws. Consequently, the era of Muslim presence in Serbia had come to an end.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Ottoman Empire remained until the Berlin Congress in 1878, when this territory came under the authority Austro-Hungarian monarch.
After the collapse of Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was established on 1/12/1918 to change the name to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929. Serb plundering over the ownership of Bosniak/Muslim land was institutionalized in the early years of the Kingdom. Previously, in the Balkan wars 1912/13, Serbs extended their territory during the negotiations to Kosovo, part of Sandžak and Macedonia. The territory was expended at the negotiating table.
In fact, the Serbs have for years committed war crimes against Bosniaks, Albanians, Macedonians. In all these aggressions, they have killed those people, massacred and tortured them, persecuted and raped and forced them to leave. Alone, humiliated and unprotected Bosniak/Muslims have fled, thus changing demographics. Serbs brought their countrymen to these “cleaned” territories. Bloody crimes remained determinants of Serbian national policies and an integral part of their national beings in all the wars in which they have been involved. They were key players to all aggressions in South Slavic area including the last Yugoslav wars.
But now to go back to the substance, in order to start understanding the essence of Greater Serbia policy which remains vivid even today, 25 years after signing the peace agreement in Dayton, after the bloody aggression of Serbs against Bosnian State, Bosniak/Muslims, and other non-Serb peoples. What used to be honorable Yugoslav Peoples Army, which enjoyed everybody’s trust in the then country, has now, in the 90s of the last century became a hostage of Belgrade Great Serbia regime and military responsible for implementing these policies. The hegemonistic Greater Serbia idea leaned on the positions outlined in and ideological file known under the name of “Načertanije,” which had been developed in 1844 by above mentioned Ilija Garašanin. The intention of grand hegemonistic programs designed in the days the fight of the people of Serbia against the Turks and implemented within 200 years from Belgrade, was to renew and revitalize the Empire of Dušan and this hazardous policy has been directed towards neighboring nations. The conquering and fascist Načertanije document unequivocally underlines that Serbia cannot be satisfied the prey obtained in the First and Second Uprising. We have seen already what a horrendous terror has been used by the Serbs to occupy the territory. Serbia has, in this document, “targeted” Bulgaria and Montenegro, Northern Albania and for the first time the territories that were not covered by the crown of Tsar Dušan: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Banat, Srem and Bačka. The ideology of Great Serbia infected the dynasties of Obrenović, Karađorđević, the Chetniks (quisling) of Dražo Mihajlović and even openly academics’ of Serb Academy of Arts and Science at the end of 20th century. This ideology and strategy remained exactly identical for almost 200 years. We can agree with professor Philip S. Cohen that Serbian fascism is older then Hitler’s and that it has its roots from the First Serbian Uprising in 1804. The ideology from Načertanije has not been destroyed even today, although Serbia has lost all of the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s. Tt is still alive, it paces through South Slavic territory camouflaged, but the very core of these Great Serbia ideas has never been destroyed. It is like a Hydra, if one arm is cut off the new one grows back, it never gives up, it still has the force feeding from the evil idea of Serbian nationalism, following the echo of the twisted-minded chauvinistic sound. The basic aim of this policy, quiet from time to time, and then loud again, is conquering new territories, through a strong penetration to the West across the river Drina, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and winning parts of the neighbouring Croatia, persecution of non-Serb people, total destruction of people who happen to be on their way, because they are aimed at creating Great Serbia, where all Serbs would live together. Serbian leaders, through centuries, are using cunning strategy. In the territories occupied in aggressive wars they alter ethnic image through agricultural reform and colonization.
Perfidious land grabbing through agrarian reforms and colonization
Major changes of ownership of the land property were recorded during the agricultural reforms of 1918 and 1919. After the establishment of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the Muslims/Bosniaks ended up in a very inferior position. They are reduced only to religious minorities, religious groups, and thus have been deprived of political autonomy. They lost also their cultural autonomy, as well observed by Prof. Dr. Dženana Efendić Semiz. The situation of tenure over the land property has changed drastically. This can be monitored from the comparative data.
According to the list of the land ownership prior to the agrarian reforms implemented, eight years before, in 1910, Bosniaks/Muslims had 91.1%, Serb-Orthodox 6%, Croat — Catholic 2,6 l% and so-called “others” 0,3% land tenure. In fact, according to the reasoning given by historians, these figures show that the cunning genocide has been executed against Bosniak – Muslims, whose property has been taken away or purchased for a symbolic fee, which has not been paid, in fact, as Muslims have been deprived of their land. There has been mass impoverishment of Bosniak landowners. Overnight, very many people were left landless and in poverty. Many of them were trying to find salvation from their misery in emigration to Turkey. There were cases recorded where even land around their homes was taken. The usurped land fund was allocated to Serb families from different parts — from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Krajina, Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro. In this situation, the Serbs were entered in the land register as the owners of the land without any compensation.
Here are more still statistical data.
Thessaloniki soldiers became the owners of the looted Bosniak land
During the agrarian reforms in 1918/1919, Muslims/Bosniaks were robbed off their land, 1.175.305 hectares of agricultural and forestry land had been stolen from them. Then the 249.518 Serb families were given this land completely free of charge. If one starts from the fact that one family has 4 members, as accounted by Dr. Semiz, then there is one million Serb colonists who have come from other parts of the Kingdom, and in particular the Thessaloniki soldiers who were to be rewarded, and became the owners of Muslim land.
They got the Muslim land free of charge, because they were members of the strongest and privileged ethnic group. The architects of Great Serbia design had the task to bring the Serbs, and thus change the demography. The aim was to show Bosnia and Herzegovina as a Serb country. The intention of ideology of Serb hegemonistic policy was to create opportunity, when a suitable moment in history comes, that Bosnia and Herzegovina as a so-called “Serbian country” is attached to Serbia. The whole project was anti-Islamic, as the Serbs do now, and they could never step away from the backwards ideology to eradicate the smaller nations and to achieve this by working continuously on the supreme principles: One religion and one people in the same country. That this was deeply anti-Islamic project best be seen from the data that the agrarian reform implemented in a small extent in Slovenia and Croatia, statistics show a total of ¼ of seized land.
After the socialist revolution in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was an integral part of the SFR Yugoslavia, and after fifty years of peaceful life in which the equality of people was considered sacred, the year 1992 came and aggression from east of the common state. Greater-Serbian concept which never disappeared and which had secretly been kept under the mask of Yugoslavia, has burst in its full power, first through the views and principles of Serb Academy of Science and Arts in 1986 that had the support of the government headed by Slobodan Milošević. All those who have not supported the Serbian aggressive policy were removed without mercy. Old Great Serbia concept was free of all limitations and hinges that had ‘captured’ it for fifty years in Tito’s Yugoslavia. The so-called YNA, which has for years been a stronghold for all its peoples, became a Serb only army and also became a force to clean the area from non-Serb peoples. Overnight five-pointed star on the cap has been replaced by Serbian symbols.
A blatant example of the robbery of the land can be seen in 1999 in the aggression by Milosevic’s police when one thousand ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, of the Islamic faith, were forced to leave their own homes. Television news showed people fleeing in tractor trailers and in long queues. Cleaning the territory from the Albanian people and attempting to create a different demographic structure, was actually the realization of revitalizing Greater Serbia aggressive ideologies of Dušan Empire, ordered to Serbs in Načertanije by Garašin.
The same strategy is applied in all aggressions launched by the Serbs from the First Serb Uprising until today, as I underlined in this thesis. To clean the area intended to include in the Great Serbia through killing, intimidation, torture and rape. Then the colonization of the cleaned area should follow. The Serbian authorities have partly already done this by relocating the Serb population from Knin Krajina and other areas of Croatia to the space of Bosnia and Herzegovina in which they have control. In areas under the Serbian authorities, Republika Srpska, most of the Bosniak/Muslim and Croat population has never returned to their homes because there are no conditions necessary for the normal life and Bosniak children are deprived from the right to call their language at school Bosnian. Or after the break-up of Yugoslavia there was open interference by the Serbian Government in internal relations of Muslims in Serbia with a view to divide the Muslims of that country, as that was convenient for the Belgrade regime. Today, there are two Islamic Communities in Serbia. If they keep reiterating that they are a democratic society, then why is Serbia constantly trying to cut the ties among Bosniaks with their roots in Bosnia and Herzegovina? This even more, since the Serbian Government represents strong position on single Serbian Orthodox church in Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and the diaspora. They are manifestly applying double standards for the same thing.
Serbian politics is waiting for the favorable opportunities to, in a space they have identified, perform the destruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina and connect it to another country. If the world does not wish to see a new destruction in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it must not wait forever and ask the complacency from the Serbs and wait for them to come to their senses and keep letting them constantly to think about perspectives for cohabitation. The problem is that Serbs have designed a plan from long ago, which I have mentioned above, and which they will not abandon. However, the difference is that Bosnia and Herzegovina is not Yugoslavia, which was a Federal Republic and consisted of six countries, which in 1943 chose to live together. Bosnia and Herzegovina has state and political territory. It has a thousand year history through which it existed and has always been a single political and national community and was treated as one state even by foreign colonists. The world therefore needs to become more actively involved in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the whole territory of Balkans, in particular in Kosovo, because it is clear that the idea of Great Serbia has not been defeated and is lurking for the opportunity to fully regenerate.
(Lecturer in subjects: General History of State and Law, Propaganda, Public Relations)
In Ottoman documents there is no mentioning of Belgrade Pashalik because it did not exist. The Sanjak of Smederevo was mentioned and contained the City of Belgrade.
S. Ignjić, Užice Nahi, Belgrade, 1961, p. 81-82, S. Cirić, Old Užice in Records, Titovo Užice 1985, M. Imamović, History of Bosniaks, Sarajevo 1997, 330
Vladimir Karić, Serbia, 695-696.
S. Ignjic, Užice and Surroundings, 22-23
/rabadžija/ – the man who transfers something with bull cart. Today, when the transport has evolved, this is one of the toughest and most vulnerable professions. Used for transporting something through forest or on poorly accessible terrain, where the tractor or truck cannot pass. (rabadžija – arabaci)) ((tur.),
/kiridžija/ — carrier of goods
H. Suljkić, Exile of Muslims from Užice, 164
Priboj is the city in Serbia today.
S. Ignjić, Užice and Surroundings, 24; H. Suljkić, Exile of Muslims from Užice, 168
In the Socialist common country the agrarian reform was carried out. All big land owners were deprived from private land, again Bosniaks came out poor because they passed after the first agricultural reforms in the Kingdom 1918/19, now there was nationalisation of homes, shops, factories. Thus remained without major resources which is later reflected in their overall position in BiH. Historians agree that this is continuing the policy of reducig wealth of Bosniaks and their further economic decline.After the Yugoslav temporary People’s Assembly unanimously on 23 August 1945 adopted the Law on agrarian reform and colonization, ans a similar law was adopted on 5/1/1946 by the National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Implementation of the agrarian reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina has created the Land Fund covering area 1.345.129 (134.513 ha), of which 1.063.769 (106.377 ha) of arable and 281.360 (28.136 ha) of forest land.
SANU Memorandum is a document which was created by the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts —as a strategic programme of Serbian Intelligence. It envisioned solutions of the Serbian issues in the SFR Yugoslavia. It was published in the public newspapers “Vecernje novosti” 24. and 25. September 1986. Memorandum has had a far-reaching impact on development and reconstruction of nationalistic movements in Serbia under the auspices of the Communist Union of Serbia. It has played and direct on Slobodan Milosevic, the ideas outlined in the Memorandum were attempted to be put into action through the so-called antiburocratic revolution in Vojvodina, Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro. Ideas on the Grat Serbia later caused the war in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.