Bicycle Diaries: Kosovo/a

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18.2.08

Kosovo/a

the final divorce
& what it cost

Yesterday, Kosova's parliament unanimously proclaimed independence. Today, the Serb parliament declared the proclamation invalid and illegal. Sporadic Serb protests have taken place in both nations. What began in 1989, during the heady days of Communism's European demise, is now over: Yugoslavia is no more.


This sometimes peaceful, but mostly brutal, divorce of Woodrow Wilson's shotgun marriage, actually began in Kosovo, Yugoslavia's poorest autonomous province. Slobodan Milošević, the erstwhile gigolo, wooed those Kosovo Serbs who both feared democracy and loathed Albanian (Kosova) nationalism. But he soon lost interest in favor of other unhappy Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

But many of us who worked in Yugoslavia during those violent, terrible years knew Milošević would eventually return to the Cradle of the Serb Nation. When my colleagues and I finally pulled out of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1998, we joked that we'd see each other in Kosovo/a next year. Few of us did go back. We were done with all this. But everyone had to wait for the final divorce until yesterday. Here's the final settlement:

Kosovo
1989
25 casualties
100% civilian

Croatia
1991-95
40,000 casualties
60% civilian

Slovenia
1991
63 casualties
0% civilian

Bosnia-Herzegovina
1992-1995
102, 622 casualties
approx. 50% civilian

Macedonia
2001
137 casualties
50% civilian

Montenegro
2006
0 casualties
0% civilian

Kosova
1999 - 2008
11,200 casualties
89% civilian

154,047 total casualties
6% of Yugoslavia's 1989 population:
24,000,000

*This photo of a bike on a blood-stained Sarajevo street comes from A Photographers Life, Annie Leibovitz's 2006 book. I found it over at The Washington Post.

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