Women were prominent within the anti-war movements and pacifist circles throughout history-even when the wars they opposed were widely considered holy, as in the Middle Ages.1 Closer to our time, there was a high presence of women in both 19th- and 20th-century pacifist and anti-war movements. Finally, the notable prevalence of women in peace movements on different sides involved in the Yugoslav War-in Belgrade, Zagreb and Sarajevo-was one of the more conspicuous features of this conflict.


War still remains a masculine pursuit, although numerous men evade conscription or desert from the military in all wars. War is, thus, predominantly, but by no means exclusively - and certainly not biologically - a masculine affair.. How masculine any particular war may turn out to be largely depends upon the power of patriarchal values in the culture of the societies involved in the conflict. The stronger patriarchal residues in the culture, the more warlike its members' attitudes are likely to be.

These patriarchal residues are unevenly distributed across the social strata, ethnic groups, and genders. In the prewar Yugoslavia, patriarchal values continued to linger on more persistently among men than among women.2 In the last years of Yugoslavia's existence, many women were in fact characterized by a more or less self-unaware feminism that, before the 1980s, only some of them could articulate. This kind of feminism could be found in most Eastern European countries but especially in Yugoslavia, where women's emancipation went farther and cut deeper than in most other East European countries.

This generic feminism was largely due to the ambivalent nature of the Yugoslav communist regime in the 1945-1990 period, when the emancipation of women was largely ideological, as were so many other proclaimed emancipations under communist rule. It involved precious little actual and meaningful emancipation from either the precapitalist or quasi-capitalist patriarchy. Nonetheless, even that dubious emancipation made women feel that they were at least declaratively equal to men-equal in terms of political and legal principles. In this respect, women could be compared to the working class: both women and workers were subjugated and exploited-while in principle, they were or should have been equal to all other citizens.

But women were often relatively equal to men in their pay and sometimes even in the kinds of work they performed. The latter equalization was at times marked by debates about whether women should be equally represented among tractor or locomotive operators. The presence of partially declarative and partially concrete points of equality created a general impression that women were not quite equal, and a widespread belief that they would relatively soon become equal to men in reality as well. Thus, we used to have a mixture of declarative and real equal opportunity in the former Yugoslavia.

In this respect, Yugoslavia was quite different from many other countries, including those in the West. Men in the former Yugoslavia received higher incomes and better life chances than women. However, if one looks at the universities and many other areas of social life, women had some grounds for an impression that they were equal to men. This was the first, sociopolitical precondition for women's preponderance in the anti-war movements of 1991- 1995.

Another precondition was the existence of self-conscious feminism that distinguishes Yugoslavia from all other Eastern European countries. Although there are factual grounds to trace the beginnings of the latest wave of Yugoslav feminism to the early 1970s,3 the more commonly identified years are 1978 or 1979.

The first post-World War II feminist conference was held in Belgrade in 1978, encountering the bitter enmity of both the League of Communists and the official women's organization of the day .4  The conference was international in character, bringing together people from Western countries as well as those from Yugoslavia. In 1979, Yugoslav feminists formed their first organization, "Woman and Society, " which started off as one of the sections of the Sociological Society of Croatia. That was the only way that feminists could find to both legalize and legitimize their nascent movements.5 Among the early members of that group were Vesna Pusic,6 Vesna Kolaric,7 and Vesna Kesic,8 later active in the anti-war and human rights movement in Croatia. Vesna Pusic was the first regular representative of what became colloquially known as the "Female Section”9 of the Sociological Society of Croatia. As the deliberately liberal constitution of that society allowed virtually any citizen of Yugoslavia to become a member of its sections, feminists from all over the country soon flocked to it.10 By the early 1980s, this Section had more members than its formal parent organization, and they came from all walks of life, including some working-class women. Many were from other Yugoslav republics, mostly from Serbia.11 Although there were other feminist initiatives in Yugoslavia at that time, this was the most prominent one.

Like the 1978 international feminist Belgrade conference, "Woman and Society" was instantly confronted with the animosity of the regime's Women's Conference for Social Activities of Women. In spite of that, this first post-1945 feminist organization continued with its work, while its endless polemics with the Yugoslav women's officialdom represented at least some kind of an open, if not political, dialogue.

This dialogue with feminism-albeit in the form of an ongoing conflict- did not take place in the open in Eastern Europe and Russia until the late 1980s.12 Feminism was an absolutely dirty word throughout the region; in Yugoslavia, it was a relatively dirty word. Women who declared themselves as feminists appeared in the public cultural life and even had some institutional legitimacy behind them in Yugoslavia.13 They were, thus, able to promote feminism both as a social theory and a world view. This was the second, cultural-political precondition for women's preponderance within the peace movement(s) of the 1990s.

The third, socio-psychological precondition was of no lesser importance. It is our impression that women have harbored a fear of the breakup of Yugoslavia more than the men. This may have been related to women's still far larger role in family, which is where interethnic conflict hit with a vengeance. Its primary target were the so-called ethnically mixed families that constituted most of the 5 percent of Yugoslavs who did not see themselves and their children as members of particular ethnic groups, but as Yugoslavs. In the census of 1981.14 these (non)ethnic Yugoslavs numbered about 1.2 million.15

Most of these self-identified Yugoslavs lived in Serbia (36.3%), Croatia (31.1%), and Bosnia-Herzegovina (26.8%).16 In the 1977-1981 period, 13 percent of all new marriages in Yugoslavia were ethnically mixed. 17 The highest percentage of mixed marriages was in the Province of Vojvodina (27.3%). Croatia (17.0%) and Montenegro (13.8%) occupied second and third places, respectively.

The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was not the pillar of multiculturalism, that has been commonly claimed since its independence. With 12 percent of mixed marriages, it was in fact below the J 3 percent average of Yugoslavia as a whole.18 The Croats and Serbs had almost average rates of intermarriage, but all other ethnic groups had less: Macedonians (9.3%), Slovenes (8.4%), Muslims (7.6%), and Albanians (4.2%). Mixed marriages as one of the pillars of Yugoslavism depended upon ethnic openness of the minorities rather than its major constitutive ethnic groups.

Italians were far above all others in this respect, with 87.4 percent of them living in mixed marriages. Even the traditional South Slavic nemeses like the Turks (18.5%) and Hungarians (26.6%) were less ethnically closed than the South Slavs, according to this criterion.19

Heterogamous Croats most often married Serbs (59..0% of all mixed marriages involving Croats).20 Also, almost half of the heterogamous Muslims' marriages (48.7%) were with Serbs.21 As for the Yugoslavs themselves (understood as an ethnic or non-ethnic group), they mostly married Serbs (38.5%), other Yugoslavs (29.4%), or Croats (25.2%). Slavic Muslims were far behind with 7.5 percent. This was below their percentage of 8.9 percent in the total population, unlike the Serbs (38.5% marriages with Yugoslavs compared to 36.3% in Yugoslav population) and Croats (25.2% compared to 19.7%), both of whom were chosen by the Yugoslavs more than their share in the Yugoslav population.

Before its secession, Croatia had a large Serb minority, the Croats and Serbs mostly choosing each other, principally because they were two largest ethnic groups in Yugoslavia. Moreover, Croats and Serbs lived in large numbers across the mixed areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and there was a sizable Croat minority in Serbia. Consequently, there were hardly any regions in the former Yugoslavia where Croats and Serbs would not encounter each other.

No other group was as dispersed across Yugoslavia as the Croats and Serbs, and Slavic Muslims were the only other ethnicity that was numerous in more than two republics. Yet, Muslims were not nearly as heterogamous as the other two groups, although they mostly lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina which had no ethnic majority and where Muslims lived side by side with Croats and Serbs. On the other hand, most Slovenes lived in Slovenia, where they represented about 90 percent of the population, while Macedonians lived mostly in Macedonia, where there is a large ethnic minority of Albanians, but the two groups coexisted in something of a self-imposed apartheid.

With such a high percentage of (non)ethnic Yugoslavs and mixed marriages involving members of principal ethnic groups and minorities, the breakup of the country along ethnic lines would necessarily impact a vast number of families, causing divisions within them. Women in Yugoslavia were apparently more apprehensive of the possible consequences of ethnic conflicts than their male counterparts, since women generally accept the idea that maintaining the intact family is their responsibility. The destruction of families would leave them more destitute and more socially vulnerable than men. And along these lines, one could argue that family is still their primary source of belonging, while nationalism provided men with a broader second identity.

In the early 1980s, the nationalist movements started regaining political space lost after the defeat of the 1971 "Croatian Spring." First came the Albanian uprising of 1981, followed by the spectacular rebirth of Serbian nationalism in the second half of the decade. When he took power in 1987, Slobodan Milosevic was just another ambitious and opportunistic communist apparatchik, but Serbia was not just another land within the domain of the Yugoslav communist oligarchy anymore. Serbia became the hotbed of the pan- Serb nationalism that contributed a lion's share to the ultimate downfall of Yugoslavia. Contrary to widely held popular beliefs, Milosevic did not reinvent Serb nationalism; he only learned, quite quickly indeed, how to harness and ride it in order to gain and retain political power.22

When the conflicting nationalist elites started developing their political platforms in the late 1980s, they commenced an attack that appeared to be quite coordinated, against the above portrayed relative equality of sexes and relative emancipation of women achieved under the communist regime. Each ethnic group began wailing over its tragic destiny, while implying that everybody else wallowed in milk and honey. The first demands appeared that women return home and deliver as many new Croats, Slovenes, or Serbs as possible.

Because this demand for an increase in population was so crucial for all conflicting ethnic nationalisms of the former Yugoslavia, their elites were bound to clash with women's movements and organizations. Higher natality would produce more soldiers to support ethnocratic elites' territorial claims. The new demand for this signaled the return of patriarchal values and attitudes that jeopardized the gains in women's equality achieved under the previous regime.

The return of patriarchal values was already condoned by the latter-day communist governments of the Yugoslav republics. Some of them believed that they could solve the fast growing problem of unemployment by returning women to housework. By the end of the 1980s, Yugoslav society witnessed a hardening struggle over the issue of free choice versus women's obligation to give more births and be "good mothers" and housewives again. During these debates, nationalists were the ones who dictated the overall tone, but many others (including significant segments within the communist regime) accepted it timidly.

The debate over the future role of women in society is important in accounting for women's preponderance in the anti-war movements of 1991- 1995. Toward the end of the 1980s, there was a spontaneous development of women's lobbies, women's parliaments, independent women's societies and so forth, in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and particularly in Slovenia, which had a number of diverse feminist groups. This new phase in the development of women's movements went far beyond the activities of the Woman and Society group. Although historically important, this group nonetheless remained within the relatively narrow confines of academic and professional circles, limited mostly to women intellectuals.

These new women's initiatives sprang forth during the campaign against changes in the Serbian family law that introduced additional committees to scrutinize and restrict the pregnant woman's right to an abortion. That legislation spelled the end of an exceptionally liberal law that had been in place since the late 1950s.

This abortion debate coincided with the rise of the new political parties, some of them anti-abortionist. At that time, in 1990, the Women 's Lobby was founded in Belgrade and one of its first actions-apart from demanding that the Serbian parliament should reject the new family law proposal-was to demand that a Ministry for Women be established by the government. The women who issued this demand were not convinced that it was the only way to fight against the advancing erosion of women's rights, but they wanted the parliament to pay significantly more attention to the issue.23 Their campaign encountered many problems. It was difficult to induce any legislators to represent their counterproposal in the parliament and so it was rejected. But that episode nonetheless made women more aware of the need to struggle for their rights.

The Women's Parliament was founded on March 8, 1991, in Belgrade. Women from different organizations and political parties joined, since they considered it crucial for them to create a women's forum that would represent their basic interests, since the Serbian Parliament, as most of the newly elected parliaments, were almost without any female representation. The Women 's Parliament was a response to the fact that the parliamentary life was legitimizing the concept of male democracies throughout the region. It was joined by women from other cities as well, while the Lobby was composed of women living in Belgrade. Those were the two basic new women's organizational structures founded before the war. The third one competed in electoral politics under the name of Women 's Party, but without much success.

The Party was founded by a number of women who were already active in other women's organizations, with the idea that this form of political struggle could help women to be more present in the political arena. There was a debate among the women: Should they join the other non-nationalist parties such as the Social Democratic Union of Serbia/Yugoslavia, the Reformist Party, or any other civic, non-nationalist political group? Or should they form their own? All these parties proved to be very unsuccessful in competing with the nationalist political parties, including the ruling socialist Party of Serbia (the former communists turned into nationalists as well). Obviously, it was too early, at the very beginning of the era of pluralism, to expect a strong coalition of all the non-nationalist forces, when the overall political atmosphere was not inclined toward a civic option. The ruling power structures (including the political police) were also very active to destroy all the civic parties.


The first anti-war demonstrations were organized by an alliance of three women's organizations: Women's Parliament, Women's Lobby, and Women's Party. The rally was held in front of the Serbian parliament building, apparently making little impact on the occupants. Those women became the engine behind the anti-war movement in Serbia, which emerged spontaneously after the outbreak of war.

The situation was similar in other Yugoslav republics, where women played a vanguard role within the peace movement. In April of 1991, an attempt was made to create an Independent Alliance of Women of Yugoslavia (founded in Zagreb), but that organization could not become active because soon after its founding the country broke up. Communications became difficult, to say the least, and this initiative -meant to preempt exactly that which followed - failed.

Another women's initiative, known as the Mothers Movement, erupted apparently spontaneously with the outbreak of war in Slovenia. It received enormous attention from both domestic and foreign media, which demonstrated ill will and misunderstanding of what happened in Yugoslavia.24 In the early days of the war, the media concentrated heavily on the Mothers Movement in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, although that movement existed in Serbia as well. At one moment, its members even broke into the Serbian legislature, demanding that their sons be brought back from Slovenia, where sporadic low intensity fighting was taking dozens of lives, mostly of federal army conscripts.

Although the mothers held a few spontaneous protest actions against the war at the very beginning of the armed conflict, as a movement it was thoroughly manipulated by the political elites. It was, in fact, used by those elites as an instrument that would fracture the nascent grass-roots peace movement. This fact can be seen from the circumstances surrounding their rally in June 1991, when they broke into the Serbian Parliament, delivering their demands to the legislature. We must suspect that it is possible to break into a parliament building during a time of war only if one has permission to do so.

At that exciting moment, of course, it was possible to really believe that this was, indeed, all spontaneous. It became clear only later that whole episode was arranged in order to prepare public opinion for the Yugoslav People's Army withdrawal from Slovenia. The Mothers Movement's assault on the parliament had political blessing from above, if it was not actually organized from the same direction.

Nena Kunijevic, who led the Mothers Movement in Yugoslavia (soon to be reduced to Serbia and Montenegro), was also an activist of the Women's Movement of Yugoslavia, unofficially known as "Women in Furs " because quite a few of them would deliver public speeches dressed in fur coats. The same women held demonstrations against the last federal government of Prime Minister Ante Markovic, accusing it of treason. Many of them subsequently joined the League of Communists - Movement for Yugoslavia, nicknamed the "Generals Party" because of the support it received from high-ranking federal army officers.

This was never spontaneous, but an initiative manipulated by the warring governments of the Yugoslav republics, though some women must have joined with the purest of motives. Probably with the support of the Yugoslav People's Army, the Mothers Movement was given a number of buses to seek their sons in the federal barracks in Slovenia, where the federal army and local territorial defence went through the motions of warfare most of the time. (The autonomous anti-war movement never received as much as a single bicycle.)

Mothers were seen off during a rally at the federal parliament building in downtown Belgrade, where they were given all kinds of promises, and then the bus convoy drove westward, straight into the war. When they reached Slovenia, many of their sons were in their barracks, awaiting kisses and home-baked cookies.

The mothers were then taken back home, hopefully anticipating the speedy return of their sons. After several weeks, however, the federal army did leave Slovenia but, instead of going to Serbia or Montenegro, it was sent to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. When the soldiers failed to return, really spontaneous demonstrations broke out. This time they were not led by "Women in Furs," nor did they receive any support from above. They never broke into the parliament, either.

The Mothers Movement, thus manipulated, was used to justify the decisions of the military-political elites. It is important to keep this in mind to understand the early phases of the Yugoslav Civil War(s).

The same kind of women's initiative appeared in Croatia. As the Croatian regime enjoyed enormous international support at the time, the same kind of manipulation happened there as well and went even further. The Croat Mothers rode allover Europe in their state-procured buses, attending rallies and conferences and delivering patriotic motherly pleas to the sympathetic Western audiences. Twenty buses or so were provided for them to go to Strasbourg (the seat of the European Parliament), Brussels (the European capital city and the seat of NA TO), and other places. The anti-war grapevine reported that the whole action was supported by the office of the Croatian President.

The Mothers Movements of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia had a single demand: that their sons be released form the Yugoslav People's Army. Not one of these women uttered a single word against the mobilization of their sons to their republics' armed forces, which were speedily built up at that time,25 armed and equipped by the governments of Germany and Hungary.26 In the late summer of 1991, Bosnian-Herzegovinian and Croatian Mothers came to Belgrade, demanding that General Njegovanovic release their sons from the Yugoslav People's Army. They remained in Belgrade for about 24 hours, making no attempt to contact the Serbian peace movement.

While Serbian Mothers demonstrated against paramilitary formations in other republics, Bosnian-Herzegovinian and Croatian Mothers protested only against the Yugoslav federal army. In other words, Mothers on all sides were siding with their respective nationalist government, the only partial exception being the Mothers Movement of Serbia, at least in its second phase.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was a unique case because the peace movement was initially stronger there than anywhere else. Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against the war in the cities of Mostar, Banjaluka, and Sarajevo as well as in a number of other places. At that time, there was a united peace movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. People kept acting together across ethnic lines, apprehensive of what they saw as a tragedy that would engulf their republic if Yugoslavia should fall apart. There were numerous cases of fraternization between ethnically diverse villages in an attempt to retain a multiethnic unity of the republic. Bosnian- Herzegovinian peace demonstrators even crossed the then still existent bridges over the Sava river into Croatia,27 pleading for peace as the Serbo-Croat war in that republic was raging in earnest.

The Mothers Movement of Bosnia and Herzegovina was broken up by President Alija Izetbegovic's support for two out of three ethnic women's groups, which helped break up the peace movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and we have no reason to believe that this result was not intended. Namely, President Izetbegovic supported ethnic Muslim and Croat Mothers versus ethnic Serbian Mothers-that is, he supported those who demonstrated against the Yugoslav federal army, demanding their sons' release from its ranks. On the other side, the Bosnian Serb Mothers demonstrated in support of the Yugoslav federal army, demanding its protection from the Croat and Muslim separatists. That drove the final wedge between women of the three largest ethnic groups of the republic. The collapse of the peace movement in that republic made any wider peace movement in Yugoslavia impossible.

In our view, two manipulations occurred here: First, none of the ruling ethnic elites within the ethnocratic pandemonium of the time actually wanted peace. Therefore, they wanted no strong and authentic peace movement. All of them were preparing for war, hoping that the martial option would benefit their respective ethnocratic causes. This is why only the patriotic Mothers Movement (which did not oppose war but only their sons fighting on the ethnically wrong side) received their support. (It would be useful to analyze the circumstances in which mothers movements are particularly manipulable. This may be the case when they are concentrated on only one issue and when they lack the necessary political dimension. This was not the case in Argentina, for example, but it was the case in the former Yugoslavia.)

Moreover, the Mothers Movement was in fact used to increase ethnic tensions. This was never fully understood in the West, where mothers movements were covered in the media instead of the independent peace movements that existed in all Yugoslav republic: the strongest in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the weakest in Slovenia.

There was a peculiar and quite specific situation in Slovenia at the time of its secession from Yugoslavia. Slovenia was well ahead of all of the rest of Eastern Europe in terms of belief in and the practice of the civil society. Slovenia was also the only Yugoslav republic that actually had a peace institute. Yet, there was hardly any peace movement in Slovenia when the war started, and whatever movement spontaneously appeared was not led by the Slovene alternative groups but by former members and even leaders of the League of Communists of Slovenia, such as Sonja Lokar.


In September of 1991, a Peace Caravan of the citizens of Europe was organized by the Helsinki Citizens Assembly .28 It was ironic that the Slovenians, who led the peace movement before the war, could not be persuaded to join that Caravan.29 The Caravan was organized with enormous support from ARCI, one of the biggest nongovernmental peace organizations in Italy. That, in turn, mobilized Italian alternative public opinion in support of the peace movement in Yugoslavia.

The idea behind the Caravan was not to stop the war, because that was clearly impossible. What was possible was to establish communications between the citizens of Europe and those of the former Yugoslavia. The aim was to demonstrate to the Yugoslavs that Europe cared about what went on in their country and, at the same time, to send a message to Europe that the Yugoslav conflict would be more prolonged and difficult to resolve than they thought. Another goal was to establish a direct contact between various nongovernmental organizations, peace groups, and movements in Europe and those that were just springing up in Yugoslavia.

The Caravan took off from Trieste, with about 400 people on board buses. The chief organizer in Slovenia was Sonja Lokar.30 When the Caravan reached Ljubljana a meeting was held and some workshops were organized, but Slovenian participants were reserved, obviously adhering to the Slovene national program of separation. That was the actual background of the whole story concerning the Slovene peace activists' refusal to participate in the Peace Caravan.

To set this issue in historical perspective, let us go back to the mid-l980s, when the young Slovene Civil Movement was beginning to speak about a national civil society. At that time, most people could not see that this was a self-contradictory notion. A national civil society increasingly became an ethnic society movement, which finally precluded the possibility for an authentic peace movement to develop when war broke out in Slovenia. The ethnic civil society protagonists refused participation in a wider peace movement, explaining that they had no need for it because they were victims of aggression.

We did not support then, and will not justify now, what the federal army did in Slovenia. An armed response to the Slovene armed secession was an improper move with tragic consequences, and it may well have been intended as such. At that time, we faced mutually exclusive political decisions made by two parties to the conflict: the Slovene regime was aiming for the violent unilateral secession from Yugoslavia, while the federal army response represented an attempt of unilateral violent preservation of Yugoslavia by an unintelligent use of force.

When the press announced that Ljubljana was about to be bombed, a statement was immediately issued by 13 different organizations from all Yugoslav republics, from Istrian Democratic Union and Dalmatian Action in Croatia to various Serbian organizations, such as the European Movement, Women's Lobby, and others. Before the statement was sent to Ljubljana, there were negotiations with the Slovene peace activists about some formulations contained in it. They opposed any questioning of the Slovenian government's actions, arguing that separation from Yugoslavia and aggression by the Yugoslav People's Army could not be placed on an equal footing.

The statement had said that no human life and no human rights should be jeopardized in order to achieve any of the conflicting goals of the parties involved. The tone of the statement was somewhat pathetic, perhaps, but it was meant to be evenhanded and critical at once toward the means used to secede from Yugoslavia and those used to preserve its integrity.31 The peace activists of Slovenia, on the other hand, never acknowledged that there might be anything problematic about the way Yugoslavia was destroyed. Before the Slovenian parliament declared its republic's secession from Yugoslavia, they were critical toward the Slovenian government. After that, they firmly lined up behind the decisions of the Slovenian government.

When the Peace Caravan arrived in Ljubljana, its delegation was received by Slovenian government representatives, who delivered bellicose speeches. The same was repeated in Croatia, where the authorities even isolated the Caravan participants, receiving them at the outskirts of Zagreb. The chief Caravan organizer for Croatia was Gordana Grbic, another reform communist, as in Slovenia. There was some cooperation with the Anti-War Campaign, which was then making its first appearances? As in Slovenia, Croatian government representatives delivered the official Croatian government stand and left.

After stopping in Subotica and Novi Sad, the Caravan arrived at downtown Belgrade, greeted by no officials but by some 600-800 citizens carrying their placards, many crying. A rock concert was held later that evening, as well as discussions with members of the independent civic initiatives and some opposition parties. Among them were representatives of the Anti- War Centre and representatives of independent media. At the very end of its stay in Belgrade, a Caravan delegation was received by a representative of the Serbian parliament. Contrary to the case in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, where the Caravan representatives were received by high officials who were eager to present their points of view, in Belgrade this meeting was organized at the last moment after a lot of pressure from the Caravan organizers. On the next day, the Caravan drove off to Uzice in western Serbia and then to Sarajevo. Everybody was expecting the encounter with the citizens of Sarajevo to be the highlight of the whole trip. Late in July, a peace concert, organized by the only Yugoslav TV, had brought 300,000 people to the streets of Sarajevo. It was the capital of the Yugoslav peace movement during the first few months of the war. All the peace-loving non-nationalistic people felt that this was the place that would be decisive symbolically for the future of the entire region.

The Caravan reached Sarajevo in late September of 1991 and remained there longer than in any other Yugoslav city. The citizens of Sarajevo received the Caravan more massively than citizens of any other place. They formed a human chain of 8.000-10.000 people, yet it was not possible to get 300,000 people into the streets of Sarajevo for the cause of peace, while it had been possible to do so only two months earlier.

The Caravan rally fell on a sunny Sunday. People sat around in the coffee shops, skeptically watching the peace activists form a human chain around all four religious temples of Sarajevo: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish. The Caravan organizers declared the rally a real success - the high point of the whole action. True, there were more people involved in the Sarajevo rally than anywhere else, and its organizers had reason to be satisfied. They were Ibrahim Spahic and Zdravko Grebo, the latter being the one who did the strategic planning.

In Sarajevo, participants of the Caravan were received by representatives of all three major parties, as well as of the government. Among them were Momcilo Krajisnik and Nikola Koljevic, who were still members of Bosnia and Herzegovina's government. Talks were also held with President Alija Izetbegovic.

These four pictures-from Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia- Herzegovina-show the situation that prevailed in Yugoslavia in September of 1991. The Caravan participants met apprehensive stiffness in Ljubljana and Zagreb; relaxed joy in Belgrade, in spite of the low turnout (those who did come out really believed in peace activism); and exceptional enthusiasm in Sarajevo. The Caravan organizers were fearful, however, because even in Sarajevo the turnout of peace activists had dropped so much since July.

The 500 Caravan participants came from 13 countries: 400 rode the buses, others flew to Sarajevo from Italy, and still others joined in at different points. There were about 200 Italians and 30 Germans, plus several people from almost all the Scandinavian countries and from France, Hungary, and a number of others.

Some 20 seats were left empty for the Yugoslavs, but nobody joined the Caravan either in Ljubljana or Zagreb, although five or six were expected to do so in each city. About 20 people came on board in Belgrade. That revealed the state of peace movement in those three republics. As for Macedonia, the original idea was to have a two-pronged Caravan that would start from Trieste and Skopje, but only a few people from the West booked their departure from the Macedonian capital, because this republic was still beyond their horizon at that time.

Finally, a number of people went to Skopje and took a bus to Sarajevo, accompanied by a group of Macedonian peace activists. The main goal of establishing communications between different peace groups and movements was thus achieved. Women in Black, for instance, one of the most active anti- war groups during the war, was literally created under the influence of the Caravan. There were some Women in Black from Italy on board, continuing the tradition of the Israeli Women in Black, and they provided the first funds necessary to start off the Belgrade Women in Black. A whole Women in Black movement spread after that, reaching the United States and many other countries-primarily in solidarity with the Belgrade Women in Black and other anti-war groups in Serbia.

Women in Black were among the most persistent peace activists. They demonstrated against war in downtown Belgrade every Wednesday. Their group developed into an autonomous women's organization that holds conferences, some of them international, and maintains its own publishing service. Their movement was a Quiet civil protest against war, ethnic cleansing, and violations of human rights that went on from late 1991 to the present. Although they enjoyed some popular support, they mostly met animosity in the Belgrade public and the establishment. Yet, they persisted.

Personal communications established during the Caravan suddenly opened a whole gamut of possibilities. For example, passing through Novi Sad, the capital of the Serbian Province of Vojvodina, the Italian peace activists became acquainted with some local people, including an anti-war group and the Union of Independent Journalists. Ever since then, a number of Italian groups and peace initiatives have remained in communication with their counterparts in Novi Sad. The same happened in Pancevo, Subotica, and Sarajevo. The first truly international contact was established by the Sarajevo Centre for Peace when Caravan members came to visit the Centre. And the Caravan established one of the first international communications with the Zagreb Anti-War Campaign as well. While the Caravan received support from some people, it was also resisted by others, probably because of their fear that Caravan may have carried some kind of "Yugo-nostalgia".33


The following section is devoted entirely to women's anti-war initiatives in Serbia. During the winter of 1991, the country fell apart and the flow of information, including some basic channels of communication such as telephone lines, were broken. Since this paper is based on personal testimony, we are unable to give a full account of the development in other republics of the former Yugoslavia. As the military-political situation changed, mobilizing more and more chauvinist nationalist movements, there was also a growth of diverse women's groups in Serbia that opposed war even if they were not formally speaking, anti-war organizations. Examples are Women in Black and Women's Aid Centre for War Victims (concentrating on women and children). An Autonomous Women's Centre was founded, as well as a Centre for Women's Studies and Centre for Young Women.

Even before the war, an SOS telephone line was established in 1990 for women and children victims of violence. At the same time, the Women's Lobby and Women 's Parliament were also created. All these groups directed a major part of their activities to various anti-war actions and projects. One permanent action was the Candle Lighting Ceremony, held in front of the Serbian Parliament building every evening between October 8, 1991 and February 8, 1992 - for all those who lost their lives in the war. Another action was directed against military mobilization.

The Candle Lighting Ceremony managed to survive for four entire months, gathering between 50 and several hundred participants. Two women were principal organizers of this manifestation - Natasa Kandic and the late Biliana Jovanovic - and women also made up the bulk of its participants. Natasa Kandic stood there lighting candles every evening for four months. When Cyrus Vance was in Yugoslavia at the end of 1991, he decided to come to Belgrade to join the New Year's Eve midnight vigil by the candles.34 His presence brought in more people than ever before.

Some people were quite skeptical about this way of widening the circle of anti-war activists. However, the fact is that a former extreme nationalist, Vuk Draskovic,35 came to the Candle Lighting Ceremony when Cyrus Vance was there and returned several times later on. That is one of the successes of the Serbian peace movement.

One type of peace movement puritanism demands that everyone should be a pure pacifist in order to take part in its actions. There was another view within the movement, however. Its proponents believed that every new person converted to the peace movement contributed to the realization of its fundamental goalS.36

Some peace activists were unhappy because their numbers would at times dwindle to about 50. However, the Candle Lighting Ceremony was repeated several times during the first three years of war and also was used to organize other actions. One of those was a petition related to the case of Miroslav Milenkovic, later published as a book.37

Miroslav Milenkovic was a working-class man from Sabac, Serbia, who was mobilized by the Yugoslav People's Army in the fall of 1991. Transported to Eastern Slavonia (Croatia), Milenkovic and other conscripts were issued their weapons. Some men took the guns, while others refused to fight their fellow Yugoslavs. Milenkovic apparently found it both unmanly to refuse to take a weapon and unacceptable to fight in that war, so he took the gun and shot himself in front of all the soldiers and officers of his unit.

Another action was a petition demanding that nobody should be mobilized to fight beyond the territorial boundaries of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, by then reduced to Serbia and Montenegro. Natasa Kandic was the one who suggested this petition. Some long-time dissidents and activists (who later became politicians) argued that no more than 2,000 signatures could be collected in support of such a demand. At least 100,000 signatures were needed to oblige the parliament to debate whether to put the issue on the agenda. In the end, almost 80,000 signatures were collected. Some people considered this a failure but it now appears that this was one of the most massive anti-war actions during the entire Yugoslav War(s). There was no parliamentary debate, of course, but this action did cause a perceptible ripple in the social consciousness at the time.

There was a whole series of peace actions in 1991 and throughout 1992, mostly in Belgrade. When the shelling of Sarajevo started, peace demonstrations were organized in Belgrade in May of 1992, demanding that the Bosnian Serb Army cease firing on the city. The principal organizer was the Civic Resistance Movement. One of its most active members, Borka Pavicevic, along with other women in the movement, suggested that a black ribbon would be carried through the main street of the city. A hundred thousand people participated in this demonstration, because the demonstrators' ranks were swelled by the Serb Movement of Renewal38 activists who joined the peace movement on this occasion.

Many peace activists felt uneasy about marching for peace together with uniformed members of the Serb Guard.39 Acting on its own, however, the peace movement could never attract more than 5,000-6,000 people. It was hard to assess the future political impact of the fact that Serb Movement of Renewal joined ranks with the pace movement. Moreover, that rally pitched one Serb nationalist movement (of Serbia), against the military actions of another Serb nationalist movement (of Bosnia and Herzegovina), which is not a common historical occurrence. All that made the peace movement actions (and compromises) worthwhile, if not entirely justifiable from the point of view of principled peace activism. Yet, even such mass anti-war demonstrations were completely ignored by the Western media, bent upon their task of creating a good-guy / bad-guy dichotomy badly needed by their respective governments, whose behavior toward Yugoslavia could otherwise be difficult to explain, let alone justify. Within this scenario, Serbia was labeled as the "bad guy, " so the media would simply not report the existence of "good guys " - and certainly not "good girls" - within its borders. If they had done so, they would have lost a comfortable dichotomy that worked well for them and for their governments. Their reporting was terribly detrimental for the peace movement - and by no means only in Serbia - because it directly fueled the furies of war on all sides in the conflict.

Another successful peace movement action was a rock concert held in April 1992 under the slogan "Don't Count On Us”..40 This action was intended as an act of solidarity with citizens of Sarajevo and all victims of war. N o media wished to report on mass anti-war actions, because by then Serbia was depicted as an aggressor nation. Throughout the war, Western media successfully suppressed the fact that there is another Serbia, opposed to the Serbian warmongers and warriors and absolutely opposed to war.

The May 1992 demonstration was recorded, to be sure, by everybody's TV crews, from the BBC to CNN. Yet, in the evening, the BBC devoted about two minutes to a pro-democracy demonstration in Hong Kong and less than 30 seconds to the Belgrade rally, which was filmed at such an angle that the huge number of demonstrators could not be discerned.

In all these events, women by far predominated numerically. The one notable exception was the "movement" of conscription dodgers and deserters who were, of course, all men, because Yugoslavia had no conscription of women. This "movement" was quite sizable, to be sure, because in 1991-1992 hundreds of thousands of men refused to go to the war.

Here is an example: in Aleksinac (Serbia), a rally of several thousand conscripts collectively refused to go, declaring that this was not their war. If Serbia were to be attacked, they said, all of them would go, but they refused to fight in Croatia or elsewhere in Yugoslavia. Even here, the people who supported and hid deserters were mostly women.

Women predominated in the Anti-War Centre as well. Founded on July 15, 1991, this Centre developed a whole series of projects. One of the early ones was to examine school textbooks, tracing the rise of chauvinist and patriarchal content in them. All four authors of that project were women.41 They also worked on conflict resolution, educating teachers of elementary schools about tolerance and confidence building, but one of the most significant projects of the Anti-War Centre was called "Hi Neighbor, "initiated by three women. By 1995, they had perhaps 120 women volunteers working with refugees of all ethnic groups in refugee centres all over Serbia. They mainly worked with children, setting up creative workshops and helping children through the difficult process of social reintegration and resocialization. Jelena Santic and other women activists of the Centre started a separate project for refugees, for whom it organizes all kinds of educational and economic activities.

The SOS telephone line for victims of ethnic and racial violence involved much the same people-and, once again, mostly women. The most active person in this project was Elena Popovic.

The Humanitarian Law Fund, established later on, was led by Natasa Kandic. As those various working projects sprang up, the mass peace movement was over. Its activists were absorbed into high-demanding and time- consuming projects that were hard work. The peace movement had, therefore, turned to low-scale but pervasive forms of action, and women continued to predominate in all of them, until the very end of the war.

Particularly important was the fact that women spontaneously started setting up SOS telephones for women and children victims of violence in smaller towns as well, such as Kraljevo, Nis, and Leskovac (all in Serbia). This can partially be explained by the fact that violence against women and children sharply increased during the war. The economic crisis, caused by the war and by the socially devastating international sanctions, as well as the fact that many men participated in the war and were brutalized by it, exacerbated this problem. There was an obvious increase in violent modes of behavior in society in general.

The Serbian peace movement is preponderantly made up of women who opposed the war as part of their existential stance, their world view, and their human obligation. The beginnings of this process were innocuous and modest, related to something that happened well before the outbreak of the war or the breakup of Yugoslavia, and far away from Yugoslavia-in Canada.

In early December of 1990, Vuk Draskovic and his Serb Movement of Renewal held a huge rally in downtown Belgrade. This was three months before the March 9, 1991, demonstrations that ended in violence, took two lives, and briefly appeared to be able to topple Slobodan Milosevic from power. The December 1990 rally was one of the heavily nationalistic election manifestations that led up to the first free elections in Serbia later that same month.

At the same time, no more than thirty women and one man demonstrated in front of the Canadian embassy, commemorating the December 6, 1989, Montreal massacre of 14 women by one Marc Lepine.42 It was a snowy day, and the passers-by had difficulty understanding what these demonstrators and their flyers were all about. The Canadian ambassador was also confused, because while tens of thousands of people were attending the nearby political rally, there was this. tiny manifestation going on in front of his diplomatic door . That little December 1990 action demonstrated that people with a different stance toward the world and politics were continuing to act for peace, even after their country had been largely taken over by xenophobic camps arming themselves for the coming slaughter. The fact that this alternative existential stance was assumed by more women than men can help explain why.

Women loomed large in the entire Serbian anti-war movement, including the anti-militarist and anti-nationalist projects and initiatives.. Although there were many women in the dissident movement of the 1970s and 1980s as well, they had tended to disappear as former dissidents created political parties after 1989. An important exception may be the Civic Alliance, whose most prominent leader is a woman, Vesna Pesic, and where the male-female ratio is roughly 50-50, but women's participation in all political parties (including the Civic Alliance) is lower than in the peace movement. The question is whether this is the consequence of the patriarchal context in which these societies live, where women are seen as outsiders in public life, or whether they feel uneasy joining the political battlefield, since women are more easily brutalized than men. Or, perhaps this is the result of a certain political purism, which compels women not to join political parties since parties require compromises. These questions are still waiting for answers. Similar questions might be put forward when analyzing the dissident movement and the role of women in transition politics throughout Eastern Europe before and after 1989.

When real change does finally take place in Serbia, many peacenik women may, in fact, refuse to be involved in mainstream politics. It goes without saying that mainstream politics should be criticized for its shortcomings. It is also true that women almost always have to pay a higher psychological price if they become public figures. However, refusal to participate in mainstream politics leads to "extremist civility, " which is as uncompromising as it is ineffective. Of course, it is necessary to establish the full range of visions of the future, but this kind of civility locks its adherents within their self-imposed socio-political ghetto and stifles any social movement.


Serbian society has become brutal toward women, because of the huge wave of largely patriarchal nationalism that swept over it and because of the militaristic spirit that prevailed over all the former Yugoslavia for about five years. When people speak about the brutality against women, they always bring up the stories of rape. Most of the media and other interest in this issue was sensationalistic and politically manipulative. The number of victims on one side only was blown up to not less than 200,000 raped women in a total pre- war population of less than two million, reduced by all the refugees who emigrated. We were told that many of those women were forcibly impregnated and held captive until it was too late to perform an abortion. Yet, when it was time for the world to take care of the legions of rape victims, offspring, the issue suddenly disappeared from the media. There were too few children being born to match such massive waves of forcible impregnations. The authors of this story blew it out of proportion, if they were not outright lying. The story, meanwhile, was politically instrumentalized, much as Serb nationalists had instrumentalized the stories of rape of ethnic Serb women by the ethnic Albanians in the Province of Kosovo in the mid-1980s. While this issue was instrumentalized, not only in the former Yugoslavia but all over the world, it has hardly brought anything good to women. Rape in war is still not defined by the Geneva Convention as a war crime, despite the hullabaloo. Perhaps the Hague War Crimes Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia will bring the issue to its proceedings, but there is obviously a strong resistance to place war rape alongside other war crimes. Some Turkish feminists remarked some time ago that the rape of Bosnian Muslim women was a big issue in the Turkish media in 1992-1993, but those same media paid no attention to the regular rape of female political prisoners by the Turkish police officers. The Yugoslav War(s) resulted in the distortion and instrumentalization of this issue, obliterating true stories of rape that did happen. There were even private dungeons for women (military-political brothels of sorts), but there was little genuine mass media interest in them or reportage about them. Stories about them were regularly one-sided (everyone does it but our guys, according to the standard media line) and employed as political instruments rather than to help the victims or prevent further victimization. Women involved in the SOS telephone services testify that since they started their work in March 1990, the level and forms of family violence have changed, especially after the outbreak of war. Family relations became brutalized, an increasing number of people were mentally disturbed and haunted by horrendous war experiences, and violence intensifies in refugee families as the result of poverty. Besides that, crimes-including black market and contraband smuggling - were fueled by the war and by the international sanctions against Yugoslavia. The war indirectly generated a spiral of family violence against women and children.

Between 90 and 95 percent of all refugees during the Yugoslav War(s) were women and children. Men were either dead or fighting somewhere in the battlefields, getting shell-shocked and, hence, becoming prepared to vent their problems against their nearest kin when they get back. This psycho-social problem will remain with us for decades.

Family violence on ethnic grounds is common in ethnically mixed families. Many mixed families broke in two, with half of their members joining one side, half another. In less fortunate cases, mostly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, families broke up into three antagonistic camps. Family violence is so pronounced that SOS telephone services sprang up even in patriarchal, conservative places with no feminist tradition to speak of, such as the Serbian towns of Leskovac and Nis. A few autonomous women's organizations were founded even in the patriarchal and predominantly Islamic Kosovo in 1994. It appears that women went through an accelerated process of emancipation there from the 19605 to the 1970s that are evident in various forms. But after the Albanian population was economically marginalized in Kosovo and the political repression of Albanians was increasing by the Serbian regime, after two parallel societies started to exist, the process of emancipation was basically halted or diverted in some forms that are praiseworthy, others not. Thus, we have, for the first time in history, so far as we know, a phenomenon of prostitution among young Albanian women in Kosovo. An article was published about that in the Albanian language weekly Koha, triggering off a flurry of polemics.43

All this is caused by a combination of factors: social change, protracted economic recession, and abnormally tense ethnic relations, combined with an occupation-like security climate. The highly visible repressive apparatus consists mostly of special anti-riot police forces, permanently stationed in the province for years.


Disturbed ethnic relations adversely affect women's emancipation. Albanians' refusal to attend schools in Kosovo 44 resulted in many ethnic Albanian girls dropping out of the educational system altogether. That, in turn, has reinforced the traditional patriarchal family with its gender inequality, obliterating even those ambiguous gains in women's emancipation achieved under the communist regime. Moreover, as fewer Albanian women receive any liberal education, their presence in public life gradually diminishes, leaving fewer of them capable of defending women's freedom to make their own existential choices without male tutelage. There are very few women's groups independent from ethnic Albanian parties, all of which are male dominated and most of which are separatist and traditionally patriarchal. This is another case in which it is obvious that women need both to be inside and outside the main political current if they are to change the dominant mode of behavior. But it is also essential that they keep their own agenda, for otherwise they might be assimilated into a politics that pays no attention to their needs or to their human rights.

Elsewhere in Serbia, there are 40-50 independent nongovernmental women's organizations that refuse to work within any political party. They include several hundred activists, directly or indirectly involved in the peace movement. SOS telephone has 30-50 volunteers at any given time.

The anti-war movement was far stronger in Belgrade and Novi Sad than in other places, especially in the south. There is a north/ south cultural and political split in this respect. Montenegro had a peace movement but with scant participation of women. Toward the end of war, Montenegro had next to nothing in terms of any kind of women's activism. One reason for this is an exceptionally strong patriarchal mentality. Another is an enormously intense political mobilization around ethnic and national issues.

There is a conflict going on there between the separatist Montenegrin Liberal Party on one side, and two unionist pan-Serbian parties - the Serb Radical Party and the People's Party - on the other. The political space in the middle, where civic initiatives could develop, has been narrowed there more than anywhere else. Several attempts were made at organizing women's initiatives, but with no success. It was impossible to gather even the tiniest groups of four or five women prepared to work on an SOS telephone. There were women ready to do that work, but they asked to be paid and that went against the SOS telephone principles, because all those groups consist of volunteers. The women who could not accept such an absence of women's initiatives have left Montenegro.

The Soros Foundation made an issue of having a young woman run its office in Montenegro. She passed, somehow, but patriarchal Montenegrin society finds it very hard to accept women in executive positions. Montenegro is still characterized by tribal-family organization, where woman's place-at home- remains as well known today as it was for centuries. In this respect, Kosovo and Montenegro compete for the position of the least developed part of the former Yugoslavia.

In Montenegro, the peace activists were all men. The same picture is reflected in the Montenegrin Parliament. The same goes for the Serbian Parliament, to be sure. All former Yugoslav republics' parliaments look monotonously male. But Montenegro is the worst of them all.

Overall, women's activism appears to be more resilient than other forms of peace activism. True, women have their own internal problems, confrontations, and conflicts. Other nongovernmental organizations experienced serious breakdowns in their internal structures, as well as fragmentation. Women 's groups were as a rule more stable, showing a higher degree of ingroup solidarity. That is very important in a society where only remnants of anything resembling solidarity continue to exist.

Women's organizations are now the strongest and most stable organizations. This is due largely to women's sense of solidarity-which rests upon their feeling of being threatened. That, in turn, keeps them above the general feelings of apathy and depression. Namely, people in Yugoslavia feel exhausted. The Yugoslav Wars lasted longer than World War II had lasted in the Balkans. On top of that, there are the sanctions: people therefore started to doubt that any changes for the better would occur in this respect, no matter what the Yugoslav government might do or refrain from doing regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, or Macedonia. Consequently, people became subdued and introverted, busy with their ever-harder day-to-day survival.

Furthermore, there is the momentous fact that some 300,000 urban, young, educated people left Yugoslavia. That shows everywhere, including the peace movement. A high percentage of young people answer the question of what would they like to do in life by saying that they would like to leave their country. And they do leave in droves, voting with their feet.

All that has created an atmosphere worse than that of Poland in the late 1980s, when many young Poles wished to leave their country for the West. The percentage may easily turn out to have been higher in Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

Such a brain drain siphons the creative energy out of society, and that has been painfully felt in all social strata, especially in the middle classes, which hardly exist any more. That has an effect on women's activism, but apparently less so than on activism in general. There are also more young people in women's groups than elsewhere. It appears that women's groups have more cohesion and even more elan vital, at least by this criterion. The struggle for survival is the worst possible enemy of most kinds of political activism. International sanctions harmed the peace movement and people's will to engage in peace activism more than they hurt the Yugoslav regime.


The sanctions were in place for so long that they destroyed much of what is known as the public sphere of social life. The Belgrade regime was aware of that fact and acted accordingly, making political gains from it. The deregistration and banning of the Soros Foundation in 1996 was not aimed only against independent media. The regime does not want anyone supporting independent initiatives that will be the basis of the future civil society.

If isolationist policies of Western powers against Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav regime's own isolationism vis-a-vis the West should continue much longer (and those two go together), the open civil society project in Yugoslavia would continue to decline. There were many indications in the 1990s that this would indeed be the case. People were apparently losing energy for the continuous struggles, internal and international.

On the other hand, the Soros Foundation of Belgrade had never before received so many applications for support from as many grass-roots projects as in 1995, during the worst political campaign against the Foundation. There are new local media springing up. People finance independent newspapers or radio stations from their meagre personal funds. So, while on one side there is an ongoing exodus to the West or into privacy, there is also a realization that no return to a quasi-one-party system should be allowed to happen, and that it should be resisted together with its twin sibling: political single-mindedness.

The struggle that the Yugoslav regime wages against all that is independent produces its own opposition by creating destruction and misery. By maintaining its political monopoly of power through extra-legal means, the Yugoslav regime works against its own interests. The rulers can cut down most of their opposition momentarily; they can raze the beginnings of a civil society, but that actually undermines the very social structures they rule over.

The Belgrade regime was both maintained and undermined by war and international sanctions during all these years. What fell victim in this paradoxical situation were the bridges between Yugoslavia and the world, which are constantly torched by the oppressive Belgrade regime on one side and by Western powers on the other.

The Western policy toward the former Yugoslavia involves a frenzy of king- making and nation-making (or unmaking) that contains two dangers. First, it reintroduces neocolonialism into the areas of the former "Second World. " Second, it draws a large number of powers with contradictory interests into local conflicts, often fueling them from abroad. Crises like the Yugoslav one increase the danger of regional and continental warfare. It requires little military-sociological imagination to see how a Yugoslav-style crisis would look, say, in the Indian Subcontinent, Central Asia, the Middle East, or Africa. The European Union created certain precedents in Yugoslavia that bode ill for Canada and possibly even for the United States. The precedent has been set in Yugoslavia that local subnational ethnic majorities (or coalitions of minorities) have the right to secede unilaterally and violently. Upholding this precedent would lead to military-political chaos in much of the world. Reneging on it would mean that we have returned to the state of international lawlessness where might is right once again, and the only problem is how to become stronger than one's neighbors and their friends. If such lawlessness is admissible in international politics, why not internally?

The experience of the Soros Foundation and several major independent media in the murky Yugoslav legal system shows that the Yugoslav regime behaved as if it had every right in the world to register, deregister, permit, or ban each and every segment of civil society, according to the whim of its alpha male. One of the preconditions for such autocratic behavior is the atmosphere of lawlessness that began in 1990, when United Nations member states started arming the separatist governments of its republics (to recognize them as independent states a year or so later), with perfect impunity. Such acts fall into the category of subversion directed against other states and violate what the United Nations stands for: "the maintenance of international peace and security," as the representatives of China, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the USSR put it in Moscow on October 30, 1943.45 Lawlessness by the interstate system can hardly encourage local regimes and potentates to behave lawfully, and insistence on lawfulness in such circumstances amounts to hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy feeds on hypocrisy, until it becomes standard behavior. Both the interstate system and Yugoslav political system have come close to that point. The interstate systems' leaders demand lawfulness in Yugoslavia, while the Yugoslav regime demands lawfulness in interstate relations. Each demands of the other what neither of them is prepared to do in its own domain.

An important lesson to be learned from the breakup of Yugoslavia is that international media and observers should not ignore the alternative movements and groups fighting their authoritarian nationalist regimes, as they ignored them in the former Yugoslavia. There were several waves of anti-war and pro- democracy movements in Serbia and Montenegro, both ignored by foreign observers, who seemed unable to find their way to Yugoslavia. The story of the "bad Serbs" and "good others" reduced this conflict to a simplistic ethnically based dichotomy that actually precludes any understanding of the issue.

Richard Falk said at a conference in Belgrade that as soon as someone in the United States dares to say that this is an exceptionally complex conflict, he or she is labeled as pro-Serb. There was an enormous resistance to admit a more complex picture of events to public viewing and scrutiny. This persisted in spite of the multinational Caravan for Peace and numerous subsequent international initiatives, in spite of peace activists' efforts on all sides, and in spite of the fact that this is not the most remote region of the world. Information was always readily available. Most observers did not want to receive information from all sides. Politically, Yugoslavia was turned into a black hole, and black holes are dangerous not only to those inside them, whose societies are destroyed by their annihilating power. Black holes have the power to suck in their environment - even the distant environment.

This is not a crisis that can be localized and resolved by the repression or destruction of one or two local ethnic communities, which seems to be the aim of the present scramble for the Balkan region by its peace brokers. Any lasting solution in the former Yugoslavia will have to be politically imaginative and creative: military intervention and occupation (regardless of how pacific a label may be slapped on it) cannot solve the problems. Additional military inputs only lead to future conflicts. The only lasting solution for the former Yugoslavia and the whole Balkans is total disarmament.

Total disarmament is a serious utopian idea, of course, and no serious ideas are ever realized overnight. We should, therefore, start slowly moving in that direction, beginning with renewing-and this time enforcing (without any exceptions) - a total ban on arms trade in the area of the Balkans: from Italy, Austria, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova, to Turkey, Albania, and Greece. And this time, Germany or the United States should not mediate in a peace process in the Balkans while arming two or more sides in a three or more sided conflict. Switzerland should not lend its soil to peace initiatives while selling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of armaments to Croatia. Slovakia or Ukraine should not earn hard currency soaked in blood. And the United Nations should not be wielded as a hammer by five or l0 ad hoc member groups to drop down on the heads of this or that ethnic group.

It is hypocritical to hold war crime trials for the shelling of Sarajevo but not for the shelling and/ or bombing of Dubrovnik (by the Yugoslav People's Army in 1991),46 Knin (by the Croatian army in 1995),47 Mostar (by the Yugoslav People's Army in 1992 and the Croatian and Muslim armies in 1993- 1994),48 Pale (by NATO warplanes and Muslim artillery),49 Vukovar (by the Yugoslav People's Army and Serb militia in 1991),50 and Doboj (shelled by Muslim artillery),51 and when war crime tribunals are not even contemplated for the bombing of other cities in the world, at the same time. We cannot hope to establish a legitimate interstate system upon double standards and deceptions.

It should not be possible for Turkey, for instance, to continue occupying northern Cyprus, economically blockading Armenia, threatening military action against Greece, arming Muslims in Bosnia, repeatedly invading northern Iraq in order to exterminate ethnic Kurds, and having peacekeeping troops in Bosnia Herzegovina. If Yugoslavia should have been suspended from the United Nations in 1992, then Turkey should have been suspended at any time between 1963 and today.

It should not be possible for Germany to sit on the UN Security Council after having subverted another member country of the UN and continuously violated the 1991 UN arms embargo on arms trade in the former Yugoslavia. Germany should have been suspended from the United Nations at any time since 1990, when it started arming Croatian and Slovenian separatists.

The Hague International War Crimes Tribunal should put on trial the President of Bosnian-Herzegovinian Serb Republic Radovan Kardzic and his Army Commander-in-Chief Ratko Mladic, for their role in the shelling of civilian targets and expulsions of civilian population. Bosnian-Herzegovinian President Alija Izetbegovic should also stand trial for his role in the alleged shelling of Sarajevo by the Bosnian Muslim Army in order to blame the Serbs. His ministers and army commanders should stand trial for their role in the 1992 Muslim militia massacre of the federal army soldiers in downtown Sarajevo. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman should stand trial for his role in the repeated shelling of Croatian Serb towns, villages and fleeing civilians, from 1991 to 1995. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic should stand trial for his role in atrocities allegedly committed by various Serbian forces in Croatia and Bosnia- Herzegovina. Slovenian President Milan Kucan should stand trial for starting armed violence in Yugoslavia and his role in the killing of those federal soldiers. Justice should never be administered without blindfolds.

Western leaders should realize that there always were people in the former Yugoslavia who think and act differently from their warmongering governments. Those people were largely left to themselves, and yet they never gave up their struggle for peace. The question is, however, how long can the peace movement-and the whole alternative social milieu-hold out without primarily moral external aid.

Political legitimacy should be removed from all governments and politicians in the former Yugoslavia who continue to promote ethnic intolerance and practice ethnic discrimination, because that was exactly why this tragic war broke out and lasted five long years. Why should the present Yugoslav regime become more democratic if that will not enhance its international standing? On the other hand, why should Croatian or Bosnian-Herzegovinian regimes be more democratic if failing to be so would not diminish their international support? It seems that if the local regimes in the former Yugoslav republics accept foreign political solutions for the area, they will be allowed to continue ruling regardless of how undemocratic or even dictatorial they may be. Unfortunately, they would not be the first dictators ever embraced as political partners by the free and democratic West. That practice must be discontinued and replaced with a respect for law if peace is to last in the Balkans.


1. Women loom large in the medieval opposition to the crusades, as we can see in Palmer A. Throop, Criticism of the Crusade: A study of Public Opinion and Crusade Propaganda (Amsterdam: N. V. Swets & Zeitlinger, 1940).
2. Although there are indications that quasi-patriarchal bellicosity may have been stronger among lower social strata, and that some ethnic groups harbored them less than others, we are leaving those issues aside in this paper.
3. In 1972, a group offourwomen held the first feminist meeting in the Republic of Yugoslavia that we are aware of; the group included Gordana Cerjan (now Letica), and the late Lydia Sklevicky, but we are not sure who the other two participants were.
4. Named, with typical bureaucratic unimaginativeness, Konferencija za Drustvenu Aktivnost Zena [Conference for Social Activity of Women], a successor to the more vibrant Antifasisticki Front Zena [Antifascist Front of Women], a women's organization within the anti-nazifascist Narodnooslobodilacki Front [People's Liberation Front], led by the Yugoslav Communists during World War II.
5. As a member of the collective Presidency of the Sociological Society of Croatia, Slobodan Drakulic represented the 10 founding members required to register a new section of the society. One of the reasons for this was that there were no feminists on the Presidency at the time, while women were still a minority in most governing academic structures and professional associations.
6. Vesna Pusic, who teaches sociology at the University of Zagreb, is among the founders and editors of Erasmus, an independent academic review that represents views at odds with the extreme nationalist Croatian regime of President Tudjman.
7. A psychologist by training, one of the Zagreb's Women in Black, and member of the Sociological Society of Croatia. Her late husband, Rudi Supek, was President of the Sociological Society of Croatia when "Women and Society" was founded.
8. A prominent journalist and feminist, the principal founder of Babe, perhaps the most interesting feminist group in Croatia today. The name is an acronym standing for Budi Aktivna Budi Emancipirana, or "be active, be emancipated," but in Slavic languages "babe" means old women, grandmothers, or hags. See more on this group in Patricia Albanese's paper in this volume.
9. Zenska Sekcija in Serbo-Croat.
10. Among them was Zarana Papic, one of the original organizers of the Belgrade 1978 international feminist conference. A sociology professor from Belgrade, she was also active in the anti-war movement of the 1990s.
11. There were some 400 feminists in the section by mid-1980s vis-a-vis perhaps 200 active members of the society. This happened because members of sections did not have to become members of the society itself.
12. In Russia, a parallel early group in the late 1970s was suppressed and its members were forced to leave the country.
13. As a section of the Sociological Society of Croatia, Women and Society could hold conferences and meetings. They were also entitled to the University of Zagreb's faculty association premises (an old downtown mansion) and some of the sociological society's meager funds, whenever they were not withheld from the society by the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Education.
14. Ruza Petrovic, Etnicki mesoviti brakovi u jugoslaviji [Ethnically Mixed Marriages in Yugoslavia] (Belgrade: Institut za Socioloska Istrazivanja Filozofskog Fakulteta u Beogradu, 1985), p. 26.
15. Let us note that the Yugoslav Federal Statistical Bureau discouraged the citizens of Yugoslavia from declaring themselves as Yugoslavs. The U.S. and Canadian statistical authorities similarly discourage their citizens from declaring themselves as Americans or Canadians. One of the lessons of Yugoslavia may be that authorities of multiethnic federations should not prevent ethnic identification with their nationality. When they do, we can have a relatively new religion (e.g., Sikhs) accepted as an ethnicity, but not Americans or Canadians, because there is a practical ban on the creation of these two ethnicities.
16. Petrovic, p. 28.
17. Petrovic, pp. 57-58.
18. The highest percentage of Yugoslavs was in Croatia and in Serbia's Province of Vojvodina, with 8.2 percent each. Serbia's Province of Kosovo was at the opposite extreme (0.2%). Macedonia (0.7%) and Slovenia (1.4%) were close to Kosovo, while Serbia without provinces stood in the middle (4.8%); Petrovic, p. 60.
19. Petrovic, pp. 76,78.
20. Petrovic, pp. 78, 83, 89.
21. Petrovic, p. 76.
22. As late as December 1986, he spoke in the presidency of the central committee of the League of Communists of Serbia about the "struggle against our own nationalism" in the past and in the future. See Slobodan Milosevic, Godine raspleta, 6th ed. (Belgrade: Beogradski izdavacko-grafički zavod, 1989).
23. Sonja Licht was among these women.
24. On bias in reporting on Yugoslavia, see, for example, Peter Brock, "Dateline Yugoslavia: The Partisan Press," Foreign Policy, No.93 (1994), pp. 152-172.
25. Sonja Licht talked to the Bosnian-Herzegovinian and Croatian Mothers in Belgrade.
26. This was related to Slobodan Drakulic in a 1992 interview by the Croatian Minister of Defence of the time-the former Yugoslav, retired Croatian General Martin Spegelj - who subsequently published a memoir concerning this period of time in the Croatian weekly, Globus. For example, see Globus, No. 240 (1995), pp. 49-55. In this memoir, General Spegelj even tells how much he paid for those weapons. Weaponry of Warsaw Pact origin (particularly East German) was being used by the Croatian forces from the early phases of the war, as noted at the time by the British arms expert Paul Beaver. See Paul Beaver, "Slovene Force's Imported Arms,"Janes Defence Weekly, Vol. 16, No.2 (July 1991), p. 49; and Paul Beaver, "Croatia's Arms Revealed," Janes Defence Weekly, Vol. 16, No.14 (October 1991), p. 599.
27. At the time of this writing, the only bridges that span Sava River between Bosnia and Croatia are the U.S. army pontoons.
28. Sonja Licht organized that caravan.
29. Matko Hren was the head of the Ljubljana Peace Institute at the moment of Slovenian secession from Yugoslavia and later on.
30. Sonja Licht was with the caravan, so this is an insider's report.
31. Sonja Licht wrote the statement, and she would write it in much the same fashion if she were to write it again.
32. Anti-war Campaign became one of the most important peace groups in Croatia. It still publishes its own paper, Arkzin.
33. Yugo-nostalgia is a pejorative political label used mostly by various nationalists to disqualify the remaining supporters of the Yugoslav idea.
34. Sonja Licht was there as well.
35. A journalist and writer, founder and leader of the Serb Movement of Renewal, who led his followers from the program of a Greater Serbia in 1989 to opposition to war in 1992.
36. Sonja Licht adhered to this view.
37. Titled Grobnica za Miroslava Milenkovića [The Tomb of Miroslav Milenkovic] (Belgrade: Metem, 1991).
38. A Serb nationalist movement/party led by Vuk Drasković.
39. A paramilitary wing of the Serb Movement of Renewal, far more militaristic in 1992 than later on.
40. "Count On Us" was the title of the patriotic ballad written by the composer and singer Djordje Balasevic, popular during the communist regime. Balasevic himself opposed the 1991- 1995 war, singing anti-war songs such as "We Are to Blame" or "If Only There Were No War" (this last one sung with a chorus of little children).
41. Ruzica Rosandic et al., Ratnistvo, patriotizam, patrijarhalnost [Warriorship, Patriotism, Patriarchy] (Belgrade: Centar za antiratnu akciju, 1994).
42. Sonja Licht was one of those women. The "one man" was her spouse, Milan Nikolic, a well known left-wing Yugoslav dissident for decades.
43. The article appeared in Koha (February 15, 1995), the most important independent Albanian language weekly in Kosovo.
44. Albanian nationalist leaders demand separate educational programs and institutions to be introduced for ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The Serb nationalist government has so far refused to do so.
45. Although it violated the UN charter vis-a-vis Yugoslavia, Germany recently joined the UN Security Council. At the San Francisco celebration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995, Yugoslavia (one of the founding nations) was absent (suspended since 1992), while Germany (accepted to the United Nations in 1973) was present, celebrating 50 years of the Allied victory against the Third German Reich.
46. A coastal Croatian town in southern Adriatic, renowned for its medieval walled city and, more recently, for being the seat of Inter-University Center, an international graduate school.
47. Capital of the Serb Republic of Krajina, a separatist Croatian Serb enclave consisting of two separate territories, one along the Bosnian-Herzegovinian and Serbian border. Knin is in northern Dalmatia, to the north of Zadar.
48. Regional capital of Herzegovina and capital of the separatist Croat Republic of Herceg- Bosna, south of Sarajevo. Mostar was among the first ethnically cleansed major towns of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its Serb population of about 20,000 (20% of a total population of 100,000) was reduced to 2,000 or so in 1992. The Croat-Muslim struggle for control over the city continued ever since, resulting in one of the worst urban destructions of the whole war.
49. Pale is a mountain tourist resort town to the east of Sarajevo, chosen as the seat of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian separatist Serb Republic. Pale was bombed by the American air force on several occasions, but most heavily in 1995. There were several civilian casualties.
50. Vukovar was a major harbor town on the Croatian side of Danube that separates Croatia and Serbia at that point. Most of Vukovar was literally razed to the ground by shelling, and its ethnically mixed population largely left (mostly Serbs and others) or was expelled (Croats). Vukovar belongs to the remaining separatist Croatian Serb enclave left after the fall of Krajina in 1995.
51. Doboj is a northwestern Bosnia city, between Tuzla and Banjaluka. The Bosnia Muslim army shelled this city for two years, and there were many civilian casualties.

Research on Russia and Eastern Europe, Volume 2, pages 111-139.
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