1986: The Memorandum
On 24 and 25 September 1986 the Belgrade newspaper Večernje Novosti published extracts of a draft document which was being prepared by a committee of the prestigious Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Ever since it has been referred to as the Memorandum. Very soon photocopied versions of the document began to circulate across Yugoslavia. Its main theme was that decentralisation was leading to the disintegration of Yugoslavia and that the Serbs were discriminated against by Yugoslavia's constitutional structure. It pointed out that 24 per cent of Serbs lived outside Serbia, while 40.3 per cent lived outside the boundaries of central Serbia, that is to say either outside Serbia itself or in Kosovo and Vojvodina. The language of the Memorandum was strong and many of its points addressed areas of legitimate concern. However the reason that it provoked such a strong reaction and that its publication is rightly considered as a key moment in the story of the destruction of Yugoslavia and thus as a step on the road to war, is the extraordinary language it used to examine the situation of the Serbs in Croatia and Kosovo. "While most," writes Judah, "might have agreed that Serbs in Kosovo were living through difficult times, the Memorandum asserted that they were being subjected to nothing less than 'genocide'":
The expulsion of the Serbian people from Kosovo bears dramatic testimony to their historical defeat. In the spring of 1981, open and total war was declared on the Serbian people…This open war has been going on for almost five years…we are still not looking this war in the face, nor are we calling it by its proper name.
The Memorandum asserted, without evidence, that 200,000 Serbs had been forced to leave Kosovo in the last two decades and continued:
It is not just that the last remnants of the Serbian nation are leaving their homes at an unabated rate, but according to all evidence, faced with a physical, moral and psychological reign of terror, they seem to be preparing for their final exodus. Unless things change radically, in less than ten years time, there will no longer be any Serbs in Kosovo, and an "ethnically pure" Kosovo, that unambiguously stated goal of the Greater Albanian racists… will be achieved… Kosovo's fate remains a vital question for the entire Serbian nation. If it is not resolved… if genuine security and unambiguous equality for all peoples living in Kosovo and Metohija are not established; if objective and permanent conditions for the return of the expelled nation are not created, then this part of the Republic of Serbia and Yugoslavia will become a European issue, with the gravest possible foreseeable consequences.
So, what should be done? "The Serbian people cannot stand idly by and wait for the future in such a state of uncertainty…Naturally, Serbia must not be passive and wait and see what the others will say, as it has so often done in the past."
Kosovo: War and Revenge. 2002, Second Edition. [Yale University Press]