CROATIA: MYTH AND REALITY
C. Michael McAdams

MYTH: "BORDERS WERE DRAWN TO BENEFIT CROATIA"

Myth: Serbia's borders with Croatia and Bosnia were drawn up secretly by Tito, a Croatian, in 1943 benefiting Croatia at the expense of Serbia.

Reality: Croatia's border with Serbia is essentially the same as in 1848 and 1918, with the exception of those lands taken from Croatia and given to Serbia and Montenegro under both Yugoslav regimes.

From the launching of wars of aggression against Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Hercegovina, Serbia attempted to rationalize seizing the lands of others by asserting that the internal borders of the former Yugoslavia were merely administrative lines drawn after World War II. The myth is that Tito, a Croatian, drew the internal boundaries of Yugoslavia to the advantage of the Croatians and Bosnians and to the disadvantage of Serbia. The objective of the myth was to stress to the world that the borders of the former Yugoslav republics were merely administrative boundaries with no historical significance. Once this myth was taken as reality the reasoning follows that such trivial borders are subject to change, by force if need be, to favor Serbia.

Although sections of Croatia and Bosnia were governed by different branches of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, the eastern borders of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina were established in their current form with the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718 and, with the exception of those places where Serbia has seized land from Croatia, those borders have changed little since 1848.

Serbia has expanded its borders after each of its numerous wars since 1813. Today Serbia controls more territory than at any time in modern history. In the north, it has annexed the lands of the Hungarians and Croatians. In the south, two hundred thousand Serbs rule over two million ethnic Albanians in the absolute police state of Kosova. Montenegro became a mere Serbian province. In the west, one half of Bosnia was sacrificed to Serbian aggression by the "Great Powers" in 1995.

The myth that Serbian lands were held by Croatia was employed by the Serbian government to launch a war of aggression to seize valuable gas and oil fields, rail and shipping corridors and port facilities. Eastern Slavonia, where Serbian aggression resulted in the complete devastation of the ancient city of Vukovar, had a Serbian population of 16.4% according to the 1991 census. Dubrovnik, which endured months of siege by Serbian forces, had a Serbian population of only 6.2% in 1991. Neither region was ever a part of Serbia.

Croatia's Ancient Borders

Like most European nations, the borders of Croatia changed over the preceding thousand years reflecting the ebbs and flows of the great empires. When King Tomislav united Pannonian and Dalmatian Croatia in 925, the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus chronicled that Croatia encompassed some 100,000 square kilometers (38,600 square miles), with a population exceeding two million, and fielded 60,000 horsemen, 100,000 foot soldiers, 80 galleys and one hundred cutters, a formidable state for tenth century Europe.

At that time, the Serbs were dominated by Bulgar Byzantine rulers and establish their first state in 1170. Serbia attained its zenith under Czar Stephen Dusan who died in 1355. His death resulted in civil war among Sersbian chieftains, leading to a Turkish invasion. The Serbs suffered a staggering defeat at the battle of Kosova in 1389 and another at Smederevo in 1459. Serbia remained only as an Ottoman vassal province well into the nineteenth century when it was wholly reestablished as an self-governing state by the Treaty of Berlin in 1878.

Bosnia and Serbia have been separated by the River rina since Theodosius the Great deemed it so 395 A.D. boundary divided the Eastern and Western Roman Empires and was always the dividing line between East and West, Orthodoxy and Catholicism, Latin and Cyrillic. The Bosnian border, far from being a creation of Tito, is without doubt one of the oldest on earth.

The expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century also had enormous effect on the size and character of Croatia. The Croatian lands of Bosnia and Hercegovina were absorbed by the Ottomans in 1463 and 1482, diminishing Croatia to a 16,000 square mile crescent defending Europe from the Turks. In 1699, the Habsburgs regained all of Croatia and Slavonia and colonized Germans and a substantial number of fleeing Serbs into Slavonia and Vojvodina. Upon the defeat of Napoleon, the; Congress of Vienna incorporated Illyria into Austria.

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Edición electrónica de Studia Croatica, 1998