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The Yugoslav tragedy

As the war in the former Yugoslavia moves towards a denouement, Aleksa Djilas, son of the late dissident Milovan Djilas, disputes the view that it is a peculiarly Balkan horror. Instead, he argues, it is part of the unstoppable process of border formation and ethnic homogenisation already experienced throughout the rest of Europe

By Aleksa Djilas   October 1995

Many years ago I was discussing with a cousin The Mountain Wreath, an epic drama in verse written by Petar II Petrovic Njegos, a 19th century prince and Eastern Orthodox bishop of Montenegro. The drama-the “Paradise Lost” of Serbian literature- is about the early 18th century “ethnic cleansing” of Montenegrins who had converted to Islam.

As a ruler, Njegos did not pursue extreme anti-Muslim policies. But his poetry reverberates with profound enmity to Islam. He considers the struggle against it to be of cosmic significance, beyond considerations of ordinary morality. In macabre and beautiful verse, Njegos warns that the Christian…

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