In the first stage of the Croatian nation-state and the Croatian policy formation, there was a 100% possessiveness towards Bosnia: Bosnia was ours completely. The possessiveness was based on ethnogenesis: Muslims are Croats of Islamic religion, because they are of Croatian origin, and Serbs are either Croatian members of the Orthodox Church, or unwanted newcomers whom the possessiveness does not recognize as a participating factor... At the same time, even the Serbs have the analogous policy towards Bosnia, also based on ethnogenesis: only one nation lives in Bosnia, the Serbs, consisting of 3 different denominations... The third solution, which appears already in this first stage, is the Slavs or Yugoslavs "resolution", which purportedly annuls the conflict between the two antagonistic entities, uniting the three ethnicities into a single stream. All this happens while Bosnia is still under the suzerainty of the Turkish Empire.
When the European powers gave Vienna and Budapest the mandate to rule over Bosnia (to which the Croatian Ban/Viceroy Ivan Mazuranic reacted with abjuring the Ban's rule) they tried, with a weak support of the Muslims, to stop the Croatian and the Serbian possessiveness; by fusing all the three ethnicities into a Bosnian nation. They didn't succeed in their intention because none of the three peoples, not even the Muslims, agreed to that. The Muslims emigrated en masse to Turkey, and the Serbian possessiveness culminated in a war. A part of Europe even nowadays wants to create the "three-denominational-Bosnians". And not even to these days do they understand why this isn't possible.
In the new state, the Yugoslav kingdom (1918-1941), which tried to destroy the rivalry between the two entities, the Croats and the Serbs, on all the issues including the Bosnian question, the Muslims cannot find their place in the quasi-conciliatory scheme "one nation, three tribes". They are stuck with religious identity. We can hardly find them anywhere during the entire period of the existence of the first Yugoslavia. Between the two antagonistic nations, they had to choose one as their own. They didn't rush to do so. They saw their chance in the antagonism between the Croats and the Serbs, and they prayed for the two not to come to an agreement, because it could mean a settlement with unfavourable consequences for them. The Serbian party, which considered the term Yugoslavian a synonym for Serbian think that they have already won Bosnia, and that it is only a matter of time when the Muslims will have accepted the Serbian nationality as their own.
When it came to the creation of Croatian Banovina/Province (1939), in the first Yugoslavia, it brought into question the division Bosnia. In this division, the Muslims were just a religion, and a mass doomed to be assimilated. In that moment the division was no more a possibility, but actualization of a possibility. The two possessive centres made a compromise to the detriment of the third party.
During the communist Yugoslavia (1945-1991), the "working class" ideological paradigm is placed above the nations and their possessiveness. It was intended to make superfluous national loyalties, and its motto "brotherhood and unity" had aimed to neutralize the national possessiveness within the state, uniting and giving them the outward impression of an uncompromising "Yugoslavism" as an almost nationlike category. The experiment wasn't a successful one, and in the 1974's Constitution, the nations that were suppressed up to then, attain unwilling recognition, still with the motto "brotherhood and unity" and still under the sponsorship of the "working class" as the hegemon within any nation and beyond all the nations. An unexpected resurrection happened within this system. The Muslims were recognized as a nation. The Serbs define this act as a communist fraud. And they are right to a certain extent: the communists thought that the quarrel over Bosnia and the Muslims could be resolved by declaring the Muslims were a nation, and that Bosnia was the "epitome Yugoslavia". The hypothesis of promoting the Muslims to a nation, although reluctantly accepted on the Serbian, as well as on the Croatian part, was born already in the period of creation of Bosnia as one of the six members of the Yugoslav federation. It could have been expected that once they become a nation, the Muslims would consider Bosnia exclusively theirs nation-state. The other two nations cannot accept that. They won't even take the name of Bosnians which was so cordially offered to them (evidently, lunacies of national engineering/planning die hard).
As soon as Yugoslavia disintegrated and Croatia became an independent state, the conflict between the Serbs and the Croats could have been easily foreseen. It could have also been predicted that this conflict would have two phases: the Croatian fight for freedom and the quarrel over Bosnia. The conflict over Bosnia occurs in new circumstances: the Muslims think that it's exclusively their nation-state, and that the Croats and the Serbs are nothing more than the national minorities. They think that the resistance to such an opinion is a kind of secession, and that the help that Serbia provides for the Serbs and Croatia for the Croats is the interference of the neighbouring countries in their own country's affairs. The world, which took over the intermediation, was confronted with a choice: they either had to recognize to the Muslims their nation-state, and thereby legalize the secession; or they could recognize the frame of the Bosnian state, articulating it from within in the manner to meet the interests of all the three nations. The peace - intermediaries chose the latter. And so did the Croatian policy.
There are two arguments for an integrated Bosnia: the international recognition, and the Croatian interests. The international recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina's integrity doesn't stand in the way of its internal recomposition. And the Croatian interests-regarding both its being a " desirable state" to be Croatia's neighbour, and the status of the Croatian people within this state - require the mechanisms of its internal articulation that would incorporate the territorial autonomy and reciprocity in rights of all the three nations , no matter which autonomous unit they live in. Only such a Bosnia will be a "desirable state" to Croatia.
The main "designer of the Croatian debacle in Bosnia" is of opinion that Tudjman, when he "authorized Lerotic, Sentija and Bilandzic to discuss the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina, did one of the biggest intellectual and political offenses." Lot of people wrote about this meeting , except for its protagonists. It is said that they talked about the division of Bosnia, and that the matter was settled, and that there were documents about it. Even our friends abroad think that an agreement has been achieved there. And when you ask them why do they think so, they ask you in return: "Why - isn't this talked about?" Here's what a good designer means. He sews dresses even when he has no cloth for them. One just has to be stupid enough, like the king from the fairy-tale, to belive in the existence of those dresses.
As far as I know, the task of these 3 who went to negotiate with the Serbs was not to divide Bosnia. Their task was to try to separate peacefully from the Serbs , and the conversation about Bosnia was in this context, too. It is understandable that, during the conversation, the settlement that was valid in times of the 1939 Banovina was mentioned as well. As far as I know, there could be no division of anything there, because the Serbian party didn't recognize a partnership on an equal basis to the Croatian party. And Smilja Avramov, the creator of Serbian attitudes wrote about it on several occasions: "Croatia cannot, for it's seceding, have the status of an independent state if it is not recognized as such by the Serbian party, and it will gain that recognition only when it becomes obedient and satisfied with what is given to it." Whatever was said there, and it was mostly just talk, no agreement could have been achieved, least of all about the division of Bosnia. Not even in this phase of the Yugoslavia's crisis were the Serbs ready to reach any other agreement, except such that would suit their maximalist demands. And the Croatian party could not accept that.
When Izetbegovic was told that the Serbs and the Croatians are negotiating about the division of Bosnia, he replied with something like: "let them negotiate, they can never agree on anything!" And he was right for the moment! Any analyst should understand that at that time the stories about the division of Bosnia were just "emperor's new clothes".The designer's exhibitionism.
When the Serbs move on to the realisation of their intention to take over the entire Bosnia, the Croatians will defend it everywhere they can. Isn't that the defence of Bosnia's integrity? Is the Croatian policy to blame if they couldn't prevent the Serbian conquest in Bosnia? Did Croatia and the croatians have power to prevent this? Likewise, when Bosnia was recognised as a state, Croatia recognised it as well. Could Croatia make the Serbs recognise Bosnia's independence? All the while that Bosnia is defending itself from the Serbian agression, there is no disagreement between the Croatians and the Muslims. It's because they have a common goal - the defence against the Serbs. The defence of Bosnia's integrity. The disagreements appear the moment the question of the internal regulation appears. The goals are no longer in-common, and the conflict, unfortunately, cannot be avoided.
Those who confuse the division of Bosnia with the articulation of inner recomposition of Bosnian state are dead wrong. Ever since Croatia invested all its powers into defence of Bosnia it has not divided it with anyone, neither did it deny Bosnia's integrity. It just participated in finding the best way of Bosnia's internal regulation.
If any state in the world is made of so many parts, if any demands for such a composite structure, then it is Bosnia. It is made up of 3 nations, one of which has no other state of its own, and the other two which participate in its composition but which have their home/nation-states. Besides, what complicates the situation even more is the fact that these two nations feel traditional possessiveness towards Bosnia, which is the cause of their mutual antagonism. Europe was never confronted with a similar problem, not even in the case if Switzerland: there was no nation that considered it its home-state. Here it is not easy to stick to the high ethical and even higher political principles, as for example the demand for integrity and the demand that each nation stay at their ancestral Bosnian homeland, to have the same rights and not to be jeopardized by the other two. The state mechanisms should be found here to satisfy these requirements. The mechanism that would provide the state's integrity, warm fire at the hearths of each nation, and the air of freedom for all. Here the dilemma: leave it whole or divide it, which is mentioned in the "letter of the six" ("hands off Bosnia" - proclamation a handful of Bosnian Croat intellectuals, horrified by the inevitable impending war doom), is a simplification which borders on stupidity.
After having refused the proposal that these mechanisms can be found in a unitary state - even if behind this unitary state there would be no Islamic fundamentalism cloaked - the entire strength of the Croatian policy towards Bosnia, with the help of intermediaries assigned by the European Community and the United Nations, was wasted on the search for the mechanisms that would guarantee for the Bosnia's state frame, for the participation of all the 3 nations in Bosnia's sovereignty, and for the rights of each person to live where he/she had lived up to that moment. Croatia accepted everything that the peace -intermediaries offered - the canton, the province, and the republic articulation. Not because it was a head - nodder, but because it matched Croatia's interests and was in harmony with its principles and its intentions.
And the reason for the Croatian rejection of the unitary articulation of Bosnia, which shall be discussed in more detail elsewhere, is that such a form of state did not stand up to the test of history, and that the peace intermediaries never offered it, for they knew it couldn't insure neither a stable integrity of the state, nor the rights of Man. And those who criticize the Croatian policy should think about that. If someone thinks that the mere agreement to talk about the articulation of Bosnia is at the same time the agreement about its division in the sense of a complete split, which is one of the possibilities that the circumstances seem to impose more and more, then it is his/her problem of not being able to differ among the subtle nuances. We can easily imagine where would such an un-cooperativity and such an opposition to the world's peace offers lead us. It is true that this is a blase world, which has demonstrated, in the very case of Bosnia, its impotence as well as its hypocrisy. But what can we do against such a world!
Besides, where is the factor that will lead to the outcome of events by founding a unitary Bosnia? Is it the war shoulder to shoulder with Islamic fundamentalists, which shall be financed by the centres of the fundamentalist power and which shall leave behind only a cemetery? Or maybe someone thinks that Croatia and Croatian people in Bosnia might take this burden? I think that the graffiti "Sign it Alija, even if it's the size of an avlija (courtyard)" wants to say that what has been offered has to be signed, so that the courtyard wouldn't become a cemetery. One way or another, what can be won by war will not be bigger than a courtyard.
And this ends the conversation about the "tragic breakdowns" caused by the "long-term orientation towards the division of Bosnia", about the distribution of guilt and about the understanding of all the nuances of the division.
Ivan Aralica, 26/1/1994