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Forgive and Forget?

Aleksa Djilas
Aleksa Djilas

Tim Judah finished his book in the wake of the Kosovo war and this edition was updated in 2002. Since then, much has happened, not least the violence of 2004 and the failure of western countries in 2007 to push the independence of Kosovo through the UN Security Council thanks to the resistance of Russia. Judah ends the book by quoting Aleksa Djilas, the Serbian historian and commentator who says, paraphrasing Stendhal that "The possibility of revenge increases the desire." He was talking about the revenge wreaked on Kosovo Serbs by Albanians after the war. But Djilas, writes Judah "is looking ahead" and what he says appears in some ways to be remarkably prescient.

While Albanians take their revenge today, the time may yet come when Serbs can take theirs. The way the Serbs have lost Kosovo means that, for the foreseeable future, they will have no chance to get it back. How could they while it is occupied by NATO troops? But what will happen in ten or twenty years? A decade ago no one could have predicted the shape of the world today. What if, in twenty or thirty years, America is locked in isolationism, Russia rearmed and strong and Europe weak and divided? Djilas says that the spirit of revanchism may grow. "Of course," he adds, "I would not support such a thing, but the Serbs are not exactly a 'forgive and forget' nation. If they have remembered the 1389 defeat for 610 years, why not his one."

[p. 312]

Kosovo: War and Revenge. 2002, Second Edition. [Yale University Press]

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