Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Let's Hope for Last Gasp

From the NY Times.

Memo From Belgrade
Serbian Rage in Kosovo: Last Gasp or First Breath? BELGRADE, Serbia — Nationalist hooligans may have been behind the burning of the United States Embassy here, but the feelings of anger, sorrow and betrayal over the loss of Kosovo cut across all segments of Serbian society.he world is waiting to see whether the riots on Thursday were the final spasm of anger in Serbia or the first tremor in a new Balkan earthquake. The deep-seated disappointment of even the most staunchly pro-Western Serbs suggests that there will be no easy reconciliation in the wake of the declaration of independence by Kosovo’s overwhelming ethnic Albanian majority.

Jasmina Petkovic, 31, is the kind of young Serb that European Union leaders are counting on to lead the country back into the Western fold. She favors rapid entry into the European Union for her country and was actively engaged for years in the demonstrations against Slobodan Milosevic, marching in the cold and choking on tear gas to help rid the country of its dictator.

As an organizer of arts events at the Belgrade Cultural Center, Ms. Petkovic works with foreign artists. She has an Italian boyfriend.

“If you were here on Sunday,” Ms. Petkovic told a foreign reporter over the weekend, referring to the day of Kosovo’s independence declaration a week earlier, “I would be spitting on America, cursing Europeans, saying, ‘You are stealing our territory, just because you are bigger and you can do it.’ ” The depth of her sadness and anger surprised even her, she said.

Yet on Thursday night, when she heard the breaking glass and caught the all-too-familiar scent of tear gas in her nearby apartment during the embassy attack, all she felt was disappointment and shame at the violent actions of her countrymen. “You always think this is the worst thing possible and it isn’t true,” she said in excellent English. “It’s always getting worse.”

The meaning of the Kosovo Province to Serbs is neatly encapsulated in phrases like “ancestral heartland” that do little to capture its depth and centrality as a symbol of national pride. The declaration was akin to foreign powers forcing the United States to give up the Alamo, only worse.

Supporters of Kosovo’s independence argue that Mr. Milosevic’s brutal subjugation of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo forsook Serbia’s moral and legal claim to rule the territory...

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