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Bargaining in Bulgaria: the Aftermath of the June 2005 Parliamentary Elections

By Vassia Gueorguieva*

For more than a month after the parliamentary elections on June 25th, the political forces in Bulgaria have been unable to strike a deal to form a new coalition government.

As predicted by polls, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) won the majority of the votes (34%) followed by the incumbent National Movement “Simeon II” (NDSV), which received 22%. The Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS), an ethnic Turks party, got 14% of the votes.

As in the 2001 parliamentary elections, these were also marked by surprising stunts of new political formations. In 2001, the Simeon II National Movement, which had formed less than six months before the election and was headed by Bulgaria’s exiled monarch Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha, managed to comfortably secure an electoral victory. In 2005, barely two months after its formation, the coalition “Attack” (Ataka) received almost 9% of the votes and positioned itself ahead of Union of Democratic Forces (8%) and the Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (7%), led by former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov.

But while the electoral race in 2001 merely resulted in the bizarre outcome of having Bulgaria’s expatriate king become Prime Minister, the 2005 election raised eyebrows and concerns due to the nationalist character and appeal of Attack’s political platform and its calls for detachment from NATO and renegotiations of Bulgaria’s accession agreement with the European Union. After receiving the mandate to form a coalition government with NDSV and DPS, the Socialists were unable to strike a deal with NDSV, which insisted that the new prime minister should be the incumbent Saxe-Coburg Gotha. After three weeks of fruitless negotiations, BSP opted to settle for a two-party coalition and a minority government. The Socialist leader, Sergei Stanishev, presented his choice for ministerial appointees before the Parliament on July 28 and was sworn as Prime Minister after a vote of 120 for and 119 against him. Just five hours later, the Parliament rejected his proposed government cabinet. Consequently, as stipulated by Bulgaria’s Constitution, the President assigned the mandate for government formation to NDSV, the runner-up.

On August 11, NDSV decided to reject the second mandate to form a government due to the “complicated political situation in the country.”

Political analysts have called for a resolution of the pending negotiations for the formation of a new government. The impasse is destabilizing the country and can also have repercussions for Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union (EU), which is expected to happen in 2007. To join the EU, Bulgaria still needs to carry out reforms of the judicial system and the agricultural and service sectors. The longer the deadlock in forming a government, the more these reforms will be delayed. If the European Commission’s report on Bulgaria, expected later this year, finds that the necessary reforms have not been carried out, the country’s membership in the EU will be postponed till 2008. However, these calls seem to have been largely ignored as evidenced by the protracted negotiations, which are now in their second month.

A third mandate to form a government is to be handed out within a week to a political force in the Parliament, other than the election winner and the runner-up. The Socialists, NDSV, DPS, and the Bulgaria’s People’s Union have demonstrated a willingness to continue negotiations among themselves and form a cabinet. In turn, the Union of Democratic Forces, Democrats for Strong Bulgaria and Attack have expressed a strong opposition against this coalition.

Expectations and hope are high that the stalemate will be overcome and a politically and socially acceptable coalition government will be formed. If this option eludes Bulgarians again, a program cabinet without the participation of political leaders might be the only solution, as has already been suggested by some political forces.

Vassia Gueorguieva is a Ph.D. Candidate at American University, Washington DC. She has worked for the Bulgarian Parliament and in 2001 took part in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Election Observation Mission to Bulgaria.

Al-Qaeda on Trial: The Hague and Bosnian Muslim War Crimes (Part 2)

By Carl K. Savich

The continuation of yesterday’s piece on the war crimes trials of Bosnian Muslim commanders at the Hague, this article provides vivid examples of mujahedin tactics as well as the fallout of supporting their cause for the US, up to and including the war in Iraq.

The El Mujahed Unit: Makeup, Objectives and Tactics

The mujahedin in Bosnia were “incorporated and subordinated” within the 7th Muslim Brigade when it was formed on November 19, 1992. On August 13 of the following year these holy warriors were organized in the “El Mujahed” Battalion, which was made part of the Bosnian Muslim Army.The Battalion of the Holy Warriors, or Kateebat al-Mujahideen, was “officially mobilized… on the personal orders of Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic, to whom the unit was directly responsible.”

The Bosnian Muslim military command put this unit in the 3rd Corps area of operations and subordinated it to the command of that Corps. The mujahedin acted as shock troops to spearhead offensives by the 3rd Corps of the Bosnian Muslim Army. Along with the El Mujahed Battalion, the Bosnian Muslim Army contained other irregular paramilitary forces, such as the Black Swans and the Mosque Doves.

The El Mujahed Battalion has been accused by Hague prosecutors of murder, ritual execution, ritual beheading, torture, and imprisonment of Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat civilians and POWs. Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat civilians and POWS were forced to dig trenches under fire for the Bosnian Muslim Army and were used as human shields during offensive operations of the Bosnian Muslim armed forces. According to the ICTY indictment, “at least 200 Bosnian Croat and Bosnian Serb civilians were killed.” Bosnian Croat and Bosnian Serb POWs were killed and tortured.

The mujahedin unit employed horrific tactics of torture and murder designed to terrify the Christian populations of Bosnia. At the Orasac Camp, which was staffed and run by Saudi and Afghan mujahedin, Bosnian Serb civilian Dragan Popovic was ritually beheaded on October 20, 1993. Other POWs were then forced to kiss his severed head.

ICTY prosecutor Witkopf characterized this as “a beheading that can only be described as a ritual beheading.” Other POWs and civilians were forced to dig their own graves. POWs were terrorized and physically and psychologically abused and mistreated. POWs were also forced to give blood.

The gruesome practice of beheading has long precedent in the Balkans. During the Ottoman occupation of the Balkans, Serbian Orthodox Christians, being kaurin or unbelievers, were ritually beheaded by Muslim Turkish forces in order to terrorize the rayah or Christian population, also defined as dhimmi, a conquered people.

Ritual beheadings were always part of the policies of Muslim occupation forces, who sought to conquer the Christian infidels of Europe. In his propagandizing, Osama bin Laden falsely asserted that the Christians had a lock on crusading. But Islam has been expansionist ever since the time of Mohammed, invading eastern and western Europe, Asia, and north Africa, and forcefully converting the subjugated subjects to Islam. Bosnia was under Muslim Ottoman Turkish occupation for over four centuries. Spain was under Muslim occupation for over 700 years.

Mujahedin Atrocities and War Crimes in Bosnia

Islam is stated to be a religion of peace and compassion. But this is not how Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat Christians experienced it. The al-Qaeda and US-sponsored mujahedin were supposed to be there merely to provide protection for Muslims vulnerable to Serb and Croat attacks. Most of them had posed as workers for so-called Islamic humanitarian and charity organizations in order to enter the country. But far from being a force for self-defense, the mujahedin went on the offensive, with the full backing of the Bosnian Muslim government of Izetbegovic, committing widespread war crimes and atrocities on a massive scale against Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croats, soldiers and civilians alike.

These war crimes demonstrated the contempt the mujahedin had for Christianity and for so-called Western civilization and culture. Evan Kohlmann wrote about “their remarkable fanaticism and blind cruelty.” Mujahedin troops from Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia had “routinely performed crude, disfiguring, non-medical circumcisions on Bosnian Serb soldiers.” An 18-year old Bosnian Serb soldier “was so brutally circumcised that eventually the entire organ required amputation.”

No only were Bosnian Serb Orthodox Christians victims of the mujahedin. Bosnian Croat Roman Catholic Christians were also targeted for torture, death and expulsion. For example, the mujahedin ethnically cleansed all non-Muslims from Zenica, their stronghold and key operational base. In 1992, Dejan Jozic, a 13-year old Roman Catholic Bosnian Croat boy, was captured by the mujahedin and asked: “Why doesn’t your family leave Zenica?” Three mujahedin threw the boy to the ground. The ring finger of his right hand was then amputated. The Jozic family then fled from Zenica after this shocking example of Islamic terror.

The US propaganda machine censored and suppressed these horrific acts of genocide committed by Muslim forces in the name of Islam. The CIA propaganda outlet in Europe, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, similarly covered-up and censored these Muslim war crimes and atrocities committed against Orthodox and Roman Catholic civilians and POWs.

A Bosnian Serb POW described his treatment after the engagements in the Vozuci region on May 27, 1995:

I was captured by a group of 12 mujaheddins including a Bosnia Muslim who served as interpreter… One of the mujaheddins ordered me to kneel down, took out his butcher knife with semi-circular blade and small handle which he held hanging around his neck, on his chest. He wanted to cut my had [sic] off, but the Muslim interpreter intervened, telling him something in Arabic… They put a knife under our necks, as if they were going to cut our throats. Then they brought a cardboard box in which there were two cut off human heads with blood still dripping… One day, they brought us out in the camp area for all the mujaheddins to see us. In my assessment, there were one thousand of them. The lined us up in such a way that we were surrounded by them, and they were singing and shouting something in Arabic. One of them had a knife in his hands and was persistently trying to come close and cut our throats, but two others prevented him. He was foaming with rage.

Another Bosnian Serb POW stated:

As soon as we arrived, the mujaheddins tied us with a hose, into which they let air under pressure, to make it expand and press our legs. This cause terrible pains and Gojko Vujicic swore [to] God, so one mujaheddin took him aside and cut his head off. I did not see what he used for the cutting, but I know that he brought the head into the room and forced all of us to kiss it. Then the mujaheddin hung the head on a nail in the wall.

Bosnian Serb POWs were “held like animals and starved for days, slowly being tortured to death.” Serb POWs were given knives and forced to kill each other or be killed themselves:

[O]nce they fell from wounds, Mujahedeen would decapitate them, with cleavers or chain saws, and those who were still alive were forced to kiss severed heads that were later nailed to tree trunks. Prisoners were hung upside down by ropes, they were nailed, or the Mujahdeen [sic] tied bricks to their testes and penises and pushed them into barrels where they slowly drowned pulled down by the weight of the bricks.

Videotapes were made of these war crimes by the mujahedin and sold to encourage recruits to join their rank
s. Mujahedin also forcefully converted Bosnian Serb POWs to Islam. US reporter John-Thor Dahlburg of the Los Angeles Times was told by a Bosnian Muslim soldier who was a member of the mujahedin forces that the mujahedin “like to kill. Whenever they could kill with their knives, they would do so.”

However, such accounts were exceptional. In general, the US media and Clinton administration censored and suppressed these horrific war crimes and atrocities committed against Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat Christians. Why? The Bosnian Muslims were the proxies of the US government, of NATO, and of the EU. In a world where large parts of the Muslim population have long been hostile to the West and especially to America, Bosnia presented a fine opportunity for the US to show its alleged compassion for Muslims. The US media and government carefully concealed and covered up the war crimes that its Muslim Al-Qaeda proxies committed in Bosnia. If that failed, the appropriate media spin was put on the story by US government-sponsored reporters.

But the US media and government were well aware of the war crimes and atrocities that were being perpetrated by their Islamic proxy troops. Nevertheless, this information was censored and suppressed. Instead, the US media and government focused on alleged Bosnian Serb war crimes against Bosnian Muslim troops in places like Srebrenica. Yet (until relatively recently it was least) the fact that the mujahedin had taken over Bosnian Serb towns and villages, had tortured and executed, had ethnically cleansed and displaced Bosnian Serbs and Croats POWs at will has been ignored. Such examples change the whole complexion of the Bosnian civil war. The same justification the US originally used for the mujahedin presence –that is, for self-defense of a vulnerable population – was never granted to Bosnian Christian forces whose populations were living in equal if not greater danger.

What motivated the mujahedin in Bosnia?

The Jihad combatant was necessarily a shahid or martyr, one willing to die for Islam. Many of the Arab mujahedin sought shuhada or martyrdom in Bosnia, dying for the propagation of Islam. By the end of 1992, out of a total mujahedin force of 300 in Bosnia, at least 22 Saudi Arabian mujahedin were killed in combat, along with 12 others from Egypt. In Travnik, 53 mujahedin were killed. Abu el-Ma’ali justified this loss of human life thus: “…the way of Jihad must have its pure blood which Allah picks and chooses to be a fuel for those who are left.”

Many of the mujahedin left “testaments” in case they were killed in battle. Abu Abd Al-Aziz Muntesib, a Saudi mujahedin killed in the Teslic assault of 1992, left a testament that explained why he was waging a jihad in Bosnia:

In the name of Allah, the Benevolent and Merciful!

Praise to Allah and blessings and salvation to the Servant of Allah. May Allah bless and save Him….

I entreat Allah to convey this testament to you while I rejoice with my Lord in the gardens of paradise, happy that Allah is content with me… with my brothers who died a martyr’s death that I yearned for so long and Allah, may he be glorified and exalted…Moreover to exalt his faith and fulfill my desire with the death of my enemies, may Allah curse them! Furthermore, to rejoice at the sight of an Islamic caliphate that will fill the land with its justice, after so much violence.

Oh, my parents, I beg Allah for you to receive the news of my death with joy, because I shall not die for the sake of liberty or out of patriotism, nor any other false aim. On the contrary I shall die, if Allah wills, for the sake of Allah, and erecting the first pillar of Islam, for Islam to spread and take root in the world…

And you, my father, know that a martyr’s death for the eternal goal is the privilege only of those whom Allah has chosen. And, as Allah the Exalted says: “and among you there will be chosen ones who will die a martyr’s death for the holy purpose.” May Allah be praised three times for bestowing and designating me to die a martyr’s death! …

The Exalted furthermore said: “Do not say of those who died for the sake of Allah that they are dead, but that they are living” …

I entrust you to take care that my brothers are raised in the spirit of the jihad, to instill the love of a martyr’s death in them, the splendour of the faith and its words…

This testament of a Saudi mujahedin gives a good picture of the mindset of the Islamic holy warrior and his motivations. The objective of the jihad is to create a global “Islamic caliphate.” However, this fact has been censored and suppressed in US government and media accounts of the Bosnian mujahedin. US propaganda claimed that in Bosnia, at least, the mujahedin acted in self-defense. But this is not so. Al-Qaeda and related mujahedin are aggressively seeking a global Islamic community, a series of interconnected Muslim states from Spain to China. The notion of the separation of religion and state is unknown in Islam, and the mujahedin perceive martyrdom, whether in battle, suicide bombings or other terrorist attacks, as legitimate and appropriate tactics in advancing Islam. They are thus guided by a religious fanaticism and zealotry that is unknown in the West. In Western thought, religion is seen as only one aspect or dimension in defining man. There is a secular and multi-dimensional component to human identity in Western thought. In Islam, man becomes one dimensional. As noted in the mujahedin testament, man lives and dies for only one thing, “for the sake of Allah.”

Steven Emerson presented a report on July 9, 2003 to the 9/11 Commission in which he detailed the activities of the commander of the Bosnian Muslim “El Mujahed” unit, Abu Abdel Aziz Barbaros:

When senior Al-Qaeda recruiter Shaykh Abu Abdel Aziz Barbaros was interviewed in 1994 about his experiences organizing the Arab-Afghan jihad in Bosnia, he explained: I—alhamdulillah [Arabic, “All praise is due to Allah”] —-met several prominent Ulema [Muslim scholar]. Among them…. Sheikh Abdel Aziz Bin Baz… and others in the Gulf area. Alhamdulillah, all grace be to Allah, they all support the religious dictum that “the fighting in Bosnia is a fight to make the word of Allah supreme and protect the chastity of Muslims.”

Abu Muaz al-Kuwaiti, one of the mujahedin commanders in Bosnia, explained why his men were in Bosnia:

As for why we came to Bosnia-Hercegovina, we did not come here except for Jihad in the Way of Allah (Glorified and Most High), and to assist our Mujahideen brothers.

According to Evan Kohlmann, Barbaros told other senior Al-Qaeda members who were assembled at a meeting in Zagreb that al Qaeda’s objective in Bosnia was not to bring humanitarian assistance to Bosnian Muslims, as US propaganda had claimed, but “to establish a base for operations in Europe against al-Qaeda’s true enemy, the United States.” Thus, Al-Qaeda had been manipulating the US all along. Whether they knew it or not, Clinton and his foreign policy team were playing with fire by enabling the foreign mujahedin in Bosnia.

From Bosnia to Iraqi: Al Qaeda Retaliates Against its Former Enablers

The end result of the American aid for the mujahedin, which as is well known began in 1979 in then-Soviet Afghanistan, manifested spectacularly on Septmber 11th, 2001. However, the blowback of both this aid and its continuation in Bosnia goes on even today. The jihadis once active in Bosnia remain at the front lines of the war against America, on the new battleground, Iraq.

Recent reports have claimed that Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda mujahedin veterans from the Bosnian civil wars of the 1990’s
are now killing US troops and Western civilians in Iraq. In a Tanjug news report from December 29, 2004, “French Journalists’ Captors Were Bin Laden’s Veteran from Bosnia”, it was reported that French journalist Christian Chesnot, of Radio France Internationale, along with Georges Malbrunot of Le Figaro, was held by “veterans of Osama Bin Ladin from Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Chesnot was held hostage for four months in Iraq by the “Islamic Army in Iraq.” Chesnot told Tanjug reporters:

Our captors told us they had fought in Bosnia… One of them, a youngish man, aged 30 or so, told us he had been in Bin Laden’s camp in Afghanistan and that he had fought in Bosnia… We realized that this was one of the Arab war leaders that had fired rockets in Bosnia and chanted ‘Jihad, Jihad.’…   We realized also that some of our abductors were members of what we called Planet Bin Laden.

Chesnot stated that one of their abductors played them a tape of Bosnian music and informed them that two Macedonian hostages and the Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni had been executed by the Islamic Organization in Iraq. One of their Arabic captors spoke about the “international jihad,” “Sheikh Osama,” and “the dream of a Muslim state from Andalusia to China, and the fight against Christians.”

Partial Bibliography

Eykyn, George. “‘Mujahidin rush to join Islamic fundamentalists in war.” The Times of London, September 23, 1992.

—Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Second Report Submitted to the Commission of Experts. 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 28401-29019.

Fisk, Robert. “To Sarajevo, by way of Riyadh.” The Independent, December 22, 1992.

Kohlmann, Evan F. Al-Qaida’s Jihad in Europe: The Afghan-Bosnian Network. Oxford: Berg, 2004.

—”Right of peoples to self-determination: Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination.” United Nations General Assembly Item 106, Provisional Agenda, August 28,1995.

O’Neill, Brendan. “How We Trained Al-Qa’eda.” The Spectator. September 13, 2003.

Post, Tom with Joel Brand. “Help From the Holy Warriors.” Newsweek, October 5, 1992.

Wiebes, Cees. Intelligence and the War in Bosnia, 1992-1995. Munster, LIT Verlag; New Brunswick: Transaction, 2003.

A Lament for Sarajevo (Part 1)

By Gene Glickman

Like most people, I view the recent history of Bosnia & Herzegovina as a great tragedy. But it has a personal poignancy for me because my family and I lived in Sarajevo during the academic year 1969-70 and I have been back many times since then. I have many friends from there, many of whom I do not now know their whereabouts or even whether they are dead or alive.In the late 1960’s I had been drawn to Yugoslavia because of its unique brand of socialism, its independence from military blocs, and its live folk culture. Since I would be on sabbatical leave from the Music Department at Nassau Community College, I wrote to the Sarajevo Academy of Music and was invited to teach there. My family lived as ordinary residents of the city. My three girls, for instance (then aged 6, 8 and 10) all attended the local elementary school. We rented an apartment from a local woman, who stayed at her parents’ apartment while we occupied hers.

Memories of Sarajevo

My initial contact with the Academy of Music was a letter I wrote in September 1968, stating my experience and qualifications. I said that my family and I would like to live, and I would like to teach, in Sarajevo. In about a month I received a reply asking if I would like to teach two two-week seminars. I immediately replied in the negative, saying that my family and I hoped to live there for nine or ten months. I didn’t hear from them for a considerable period of time. When the reply finally did come and it began “Dear Colleague,” I knew things would work out. They apologized for the delay, saying that “such discussions take much time,” and offered me a year’s appointment. I accepted immediately.

When we arrived in September we made contact with the Dean of the Academy of Music, Teodor Romanić, who showed us to our flat. The latter was in a small apartment house complex in a western suburb. We lived on the second floor, sharing the floor with an across-the-aisle neighboring family. The apartment itself was a four-room box. It had three all-purpose rooms in three of its corners; a small kitchen and bathroom occupied the fourth. (There was hot water only in the bathroom.) Each of the all-purpose rooms had convertible furniture; they were sitting rooms during the day and bedrooms at night. Dean Romanicґ also put us in touch with a neighbor of his who taught English — Milica Kajević — who had agreed to help orient us about Yugoslav language and culture.

Sarajevo lies in the valley of the Miljačka, a shallow river which wanders through the city in a generally East-West direction; many foot bridges and a few automobile bridges cross it. The city is surrounded almost entirely by high mountains, which is why it made such an admirable Winter Olympics site. It has three distinct architectural styles, arranged concentrically and chronologically. The oldest and smallest was Baљ čarsija — a maze of alleys with small handicraft shops and market places, surrounded by one- and two-story Turkish-style houses, dating from the era of Turkish control. Further west along the Miljačka were rather pompous Austrian edifices. Then, spreading out north and west were post World War II industrial buildings and high and low-rise apartment complexes. It was in one of these that my family and I stayed.

Snapshots of Sarajevo: My Neighborhood

Our apartment house was one of several in an area known as “Čengić Vila,” named for the wealthy family who had owned all the land in the area and had had a villa there in pre-revolutionary days. We lived on Palmiro Toljatija Street, named after the Italian Communist leader.
On the day we arrived, my children decided to go exploring. As they reached the outer door, as if by magic they were surrounded by forty or fifty curious kids. My girls were like an amoebic nucleus: when they moved, the entire juvenile mass shifted with them.

My children attended the local school. On its first day, three Yugoslav children appeared. It was their self-appointed job to escort my kids around and show them the ropes. Because English was the preferred second language, with instruction in it starting in an early grade, they accomplished this with a certain amount of ease. (Dean Romanić explained to me that, as citizens of a small country, they felt obliged to know one or more “major” languages. The oldest seemed to lean toward French or German, middle-aged people toward Russian, and the young ones toward English. Our neighbors were of all three major ethnicities — Serb, Croat and Muslim — often in mixed marriages. Ethnicity was rarely stressed: often we didn’t know someone’s ethnicity, or we found out about it incidentally. Our across-the-hall neighbors were Muslims and I was touched to see on their wall a picture of Moљa Pijade, a leading Communist then already deceased, who was Jewish, as am I. There was no ethnic segregation, nor was there income or status segregation. In addition to the Romanić family and the Kajević, both of whom were cultured and well-educated, one of our neighbors was a janitor, another was a bus driver, etc.

Our neighbors were actually neighborly: the way baby-sitting was handled, for instance, was that when we wanted to go out, we informed our neighbors and left our door open, so they could listen for our kids. As the postman made his rounds, he carried gossip as well as mail. So within a few days everyone knew of us and curiosity and support were both unbounded.

My neighbor and I often played chess in his apartment. Normally he and his wife were very calm and fairly reticent. But one time we happened to start speaking about World War II. The wife lifted up her skirt to show me her war wound and spoke vociferously about the invaders. I learned afterwards that virtually every Sarajevo family had lost someone in World War II.

Sights often seen from the window: someone beating household rugs on a crossbar set up for that purpose, teenagers playing soccer using this same crossbar as a goal post, two men sitting on a bench playing chess, two children sharing one pair of skates, two young men playing badminton without a net, sheep attended by their shepherd eating the grass around the apartment house. In the warmer months we (along with everyone else) had a marvelous view of the surrounding mountains; in the winter they were totally obscured by the smog generated by the widespread use of locally mined soft coal.

During the winter snows, vehicles similar to oil trucks arrived from hot springs in Ilidћa (the town just to the west of Sarajevo), loaded with hot water with which to melt the ice-bound streets. During the spring, one of these same trucks participated in the making of a TV beer commercial. After the shooting of the commercial was concluded, with many gallons of beer left over, it pulled up at our housing complex to give away beer. Everyone dashed for jars and pitchers to gather up the goodies and an impromptu party developed. (Trucks pulling other trucks were known as “slepers,” a pseudo-Yiddishism I found endearing.)

I didn’t actually experience this, but I was told that there were actually several families in the complex who kept goats in their bathtubs. Whether or not it was true, the story symbolized the rapid demographic transition Sarajevo was then experiencing. It had tripled in size since World War II.

Snapshots of Sarajevo: Everyday Life

The city operated at a very slow pace, probably inherited from the Turkish era. I was a told that during earlier times the postman would sit at a local pub while people brought him mail to deliver. He would place the mail carefully under his bottom and stay seated until the pile got too high; then he would deliver the mail. One of the things I learned over the year was patience — a very hard lesson for a New Yo
rker. Here are some manifestations of the atmosphere:

People got around Sarajevo mainly by means of the trams — electric trolleys dating from the Austrian period (The Austrians experimented with the tram system in Sarajevo before installing it in Vienna). (The trams could not climb the many foothills, however, because many side streets simply turned into stairways. For these parts of the city there were buses.) Often the trams’ electricity would flicker out and people would sit and schmooze while waiting for it to go on again. I also witnessed several incidents where someone on a tram would be reading the newspaper over a stranger’s shoulder, and they would get into a conversation about the news item.

My friend Midћat Riđanovic, who had a doctorate in linguistics from the University of Michigan and who taught English at the University of Sarajevo, told me that time was reserved at each department meeting for joke-telling. Sarajevo seemed to be a joking city. Many were told about a hapless Bosnian Everyman to who would occur such mishaps as an accidental fall into the Miljačka.

A typical joke: A married couple was going to have a baby. They went to a local craftsman and put down a deposit on a cradle, but when the baby came the cradle wasn’t ready. So the couple made do without, and then as the baby grew up they forgot about it. When it became an adult and in turn got married and was expecting, the prospective grandparents suddenly remembered the cradle they had ordered, and went to claim it. But when they reminded the craftsman about their order, he slammed their deposit onto the counter, shouting, “I will not be rushed!”

Every day in the late afternoon there was “korzo” (taken from the Italian word “corso”) – a time when virtually the entire population strolled around town on the main drag — Marshall Tito street. Each family group greeted friends and acquaintances, teenagers eyed each other and joked together. This was a long-standing custom in every Yugoslav city and town I visited.

The national coffee drink was the strong and sweet turska kava — Turkish coffee; every business or social transaction required it. An elaborate ritual surrounded its service: the guest would get most of the bubbly surface and cubes of sugar would be passed around. It was a common sight on the street to see a waiter carrying turska kava on a tray to some gathering or another.

When what I thought the beginning of the academic year had arrived, I was anxious to start teaching, but each time I approached Dean Romanić he told me to “come back next week.” Finally, in the second week of October, I began. I taught my classes through a non-professional — a young man named Slobodan Spirić, who did not know English himself, at least not at the beginning, but who was fluent in French and German and had a good grasp of Latin. Since he himself was a musician and because he could infer a lot from cognates, I was able to communicate with my students quite well through him.

The Music Academy had agreed to provide my apartment with a piano. One day in late October we were greeted by the sight of a man on a tricycle with a large basket attached to its front pedaling up to the apartment house with an upright piano perched on its basket. The neighbors helped us get it up the flight of stairs. The tuner, noting that several notes had been improperly aligned by its Czechoslovak manufacturer, said ironically, “that’s socialism.”

Snapshots of Sarajevo: Economics and Sociology

We perceived a contrast between necessities like food, clothing and rent and luxury items such as washing machines. The former were very inexpensive, the latter very expensive. Entertainment was evidently seen as a necessity. Movies could be seen for a quarter; we could and did hear recitals of leading American and Soviet concert artists for fifty cents a ticket.

It was refreshing to watch TV programs uninterrupted by advertising. Instead there was a period in the early evening devoted solely to commercials, most of which seemed very naive to us. All TV news programs began “Dear Male and Female Viewers. . . .”

There was an absence of class or status distinctions. At the Music Academy where I taught, everyone seemed to relate to each other without formality. The same was true at the school my children attended. The teachers and the janitorial staff treated each other as equals. One of the first Serbo-Croatian expressions my children learned was “Ooh! Ooh! Call on me, comrade teacher!”

At the last faculty meeting of the year at the Music Academy, where they were saying goodbye to me, I witnessed a dispute between a representative of the Ministry of Culture for the Republic of Bosnia & Herzegovina and the faculty. The debate centered on the purpose of the Music Academy. The government spokesperson wanted it to prepare music teachers for the small villages while the faculty was insisting “we need to turn out professional musicians; if you want teachers, get them from the Education Department at the University.” What intrigued me most was not the content of the arguments but the fact that the Music Academy was asserting itself boldly and successfully against the State.

Snapshots of Sarajevo: The Environs

>From every vista during the warmer months one saw the greenery and the flowers on the surrounding mountains, but in winter they were shrouded in “smog” (the word itself had been appropriated bodily into Serbo-Croatian). One day we went with some neighbors by car onto one of them. We suddenly emerged from the smog into brilliant sunshine and saw a goodly crowd of adults and children on sleds no bigger than an adult’s bottom with no steering mechanism — they were controlled with the hips.

As an area influenced by Islam, there was running water everywhere. Often when hiking in the mountains we would come upon a pipe placed on some out-of-the-way trail, with water gushing forth, for hikers or shepherds. We also would often happen upon a small plaque with the name of a partisan, and sometimes a picture, commemorating his or her death during World War

My eldest daughter needed a new prescription for her eyeglasses. We borrowed someone’s health card (which enabled all citizens to receive free medical care) and took her to the eye doctor, where she received a thorough examination involving three separate visits. Then we took her and her new prescription to the store which sold lenses (if you wanted a pencil eraser or an automobile tire, you went to the store which sold rubber goods — if you wanted a pair of glasses, a camera or a microscope, you went to the lens store). When the lenses were ready, Ann decided she didn’t like any of the frame styles, so they put the new lenses in her old frames. Because she didn’t get new frames, we didn’t pay anything.

While I was making a grilled cheese sandwich, the hot cheese fell on my foot, giving me second degree burns. We arranged that I be taken to a doctor, again through the use of someone’s card. His English had been gleaned from American movies — he diagnosed my condition as “the chiiz diziize.” He was the physician for the post office workers, so his office was in the main post office. His waiting room was plastered with posters stressing prevention: cut your hair short, so it doesn’t catch in the sorting machines; get your flu shots, etc.

Milica Kajević was complaining about one of her students, who “just didn’t apply himself.” When we started to talk about his possibly distorted home life, she said, “Oh yes, that’s the psychological explanation.” Our silent reaction: “Is there any other?”

We met some American tourists who had been island-hopping in the Adriatic and had missed a connection. They wer
e trying to thumb a ride on the Adriatic Highway when a bus filled with Yugoslav tourists stopped. When the driver asked them what they wanted, they explained their situation. They were asked to wait for a moment, after which they were invited in. They learned later that the delay had been due to the Yugoslavs voting as to whether they should come aboard.

After getting a flat tire while driving in the hinterlands, I neglected to sufficiently tighten the lugs on the spare tire. After a few miles we broke down again. We had a good tire on a bad wheel and a bad tire on a good wheel. What to do? The first driver who passed — a truck driver — stopped. He explained to us that there was a law that required drivers to aid those in need of assistance. He was able to re-inflate the flat tire with an air pump on his truck, so that it would hold until we reached the next town. When we got there, we went straight for the repair shop. While painstakingly remaking and realigning the lug holes, the repairman said, “We’re better mechanics than those in your country. There they throw things away; here we actually repair them.”

It was the same when we blew a fuse in our apartment. We called my chess-playing neighbor and in five minutes he had put the old fuse back together.

Yugoslav handicrafts are very beautiful, especially those from Bosnia & Herzegovina. A cooperative (operating under the Yugoslav system of workers’ self-management) called “Bosna Folklor” specialized in making and selling these crafts. My wife and I wanted to purchase a tablecloth with a matching set of napkins. We noticed that the napkins did not truly match the tablecloth, and called the saleswoman’s attention to it. In similar situations in the United States the sales person simply puts the item aside, saying “let me show you something else.” There, the saleswoman called all her colleagues around to confer. Their most obvious emotion was anger: they were furious that this mistake made the items unsellable. More than anything else this lack of alienation from each other, and from the process of manufacture and sale of goods epitomized to us what Yugoslav self-management was all about.

At the same time things were far from perfect. There were grave deficiencies. Cavities in children’s first teeth were often neglected; the winter smog was terrible; it was a public scandal that some doctors took money in “white envelopes” under the table to administer better care to the “donors”; the educational system often cultivated rote answers rather than deep thought. Yet what we experienced overall was a warm city in an intact society, one struggling with modernization and technology, but making progress toward a better life.

Gene Glickman (1934-) holds a doctorate in musical composition from Indiana University. He is a choral conductor and arranger. Some of his thirteen dozen arrangements have been published by Warner Chappell and by Earthsongs. He is also a published author, having co-written “The New York Red Pages,” published by Praeger in 1984. He is now retired, after having taught music at Nassau Community College on Long Island for some thirty-five years.

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