HELSINŠKE SVESKE №03: Russia, Serbia, Montenegro Cover Image

HELSINŠKE SVESKE №03: Russia, Serbia, Montenegro
HELSINŠKE SVESKE №03: Russia, Serbia, Montenegro

Author(s): Jelica Kurjak, Olga Popović-Obradović, Mijat Šuković
Subject(s): Politics, Law, Constitution, Jurisprudence, Government/Political systems, International relations/trade, Security and defense, Post-War period (1950 - 1989), Transformation Period (1990 - 2010), Geopolitics
Published by: Helsinški odbor za ljudska prava u Srbiji
Keywords: Russia; Balkans; European Policy; Yugoslavia; conflicts; NATO; Constitutionality; Serbia; Montenegro; Federation; Equal States; freedoms and rights, separation;
Summary/Abstract: (English edition) Russia’s long presence in the Balkans - from the eleventh century onwards - can be analysed in terms of its two salient features: continuity and, as far as the role of the Russian state in Balkan (especially Serbian) affairs is concerned, inconstancy. Russia has been trying to push out its frontiers as far as the warm seas ever since Muscovy Russ and the principality of Kiev began to expand. Its imperialistic policy has carried its influence as far south-west as the Adriatic Sea across and with the help of Balkan states. Various Balkan states have found in Russia both friend and foe; this depended on their attitude towards Russia’s rivals among the great powers and towards other Balkan countries at the time. At one time the latter found Russia’s support invaluable, at another they regarded it counter-productive. Russia was particularly adept in capitalising on Balkan crises and wars, in which it took an active part, to strengthen its position in the Balkans; its consequent peace-making efforts were almost always hailed by local populations with great relief. This policy has given rise to a number of myths in some Balkan countries (especially among the Serbs) about there being a selfless "mother Russia" always ready to rush to one’s rescue. However, historical evidence shows Russia to have been far less amiable and benevolent than some local political elites concerned primarily with furthering their day-to-day political objectives made out at the time. In the pursuance of its "Balkan strategy" Russia, i.e. the Soviet Union, sought to realise its political interests; the fact that at some periods these interests coincided with the interests of some Balkan nations cannot be used to defend the thesis that Russia has been an a priori friend of Balkan states, especially of Serbia and/or Montenegro. Once the need for an outlet to the warm seas ceased being a strategic priority, Russia, i.e. the Soviet Union, found another justification for its presence in the Balkans: having emerged from the Second World War as a major world power, it took part in the partition of Europe into two political systems and controlled one-half of the Balkan peninsula for over fifty years ostensibly to protective those parts from the other, imperialistic side. Throughout that period Russia’s political vocabulary and rhetoric abounded with stock ideological phrases to justify this presence in some Balkan country or other. Finally, the closing years of the twentieth century, witnessing the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and the FRY, proved once again that Russia is an unavoidable protagonist in Balkan tragedies. As a great power, Russia strove permanently to add territory and then to protect its gains by all available means. Whenever it found it impossible to expand territorially, Russia sought to widen the zones of its political, economic and military influence. Russia either waged war or played nations against each other to realise its strategic objectives in the role of victor or peacemaker as the case may be; whether on the winning or the losing side, Russia always made the most of a situation. To be sure, besides paying rich dividends this policy occasionally backfired: in times of war, for instance, Russia usually paid a heavy price in human lives as well as found it necessary to deal with increasingly strong separatist movements on its soil (especially in 1991-93). But even in such times of adversity Russia found the strength to make the most of the setback. On the other hand, whenever it emerged victorious it tried to keep all the spoils. This dual line became especially prominent after the cold war and the end of the bipolar division of the world, when Russia failed to learn to play the part of one of the major forces in Europe; it is still finding it difficult to accept its new role of a respectable factor. The contradictory nature of Russia’s imperialistic policy vis-à-vis the Balkans was shown up in particular during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and the FRY. The analyses that follow show that even when Russia seemed to be losing ground it managed to realise its interests at least partially if not in whole.

  • Page Count: 72
  • Publication Year: 2000
  • Language: English