Independence for Kosovo: What's the big deal?
Yes, I'm grumpy. I love studying Balkan history, but it's rather depressing, filled with petty people killing each over petty reasons. Serbia, for instance, hates the idea of Kosovo breaking away. Kosovo is almost 90% ethnic Albanian, and Muslim to boot, so Serbia, which is, well, Serbian and Orthodox Christian, shouldn't have a problem with letting it go. Except for one small problem - Kosovo is where, in 1389, the Ottomans destroyed the Serbian army at Kosovo Polje - the "field of blackbirds." As the Serbs can't be bothered to celebrate, say, Stefan Dušan, the Emperor of Serbia in the mid-14th century, who was one of the greatest rulers of his time. No, they have to celebrate a cataclysmic defeat that led to a half-millennium subjugation by the Turks. Kosovo Polje, as you might expect, is smack dab in the middle of the new nation. Boy howdy, are those Serbs pissed that they can't celebrate the annihilation of their army 600 years ago anymore!
I have no problem with celebrating your history, really. I'm a freakin' history major - of course I don't! But might it be time for the Serbs to let it go? I may have written about this before, but when I was in college, I took a class on the Crusades. My professor, an odd little man who wore a bow tie and had immaculately coiffured hair but was nevertheless quite interesting and engaging, told us that the next big battle in the Balkans (this was 1992, maybe, when the wars were just getting ramped up) would be over Kosovo, because of what it meant to the Serbs. Lo and behold, six years later, the battle was over Kosovo. Those people need to grow up and let things go.
But why is BBR squeamish about Kosovo's independence? For that matter, why is China? Well, BBR is Serbia's ally, and the Russians have always seen themselves as kind of the Big Daddy of all the Orthodox Christian states, having "taken over" that mantle when Constantinople fell in 1453. More problematic for the Russians, however, is that they have several grumpy republics in their own country, such as Georgia, who would love to be independent. We can't have that! China, too, has some places that would like not to be China - and I'm not even talking about Tibet! So those two powers are nervous about any country, especially one sort of near to them and sort of strategically important (I don't know how strategically important Kosovo is, but it's more strategically important than, say, Alberta), going its own way. Even Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim country in the world and should therefore welcome a new largely Muslim country into the fold, is upset. Yes, they too have ethnic groups that might be inspired by this move.
Other than that, I haven't found any, you know, good reasons why those countries should block this move. Holding onto "holy ground" where your country suffered a horrible defeat over 600 years ago? Not a good reason. Worried that your ethnic minorities might declare independence? Not a good reason. It might cause BBR and China and Indonesia some embarrassment if some tiny republic breaks away from them, but there doesn't seem to be any real, tangible reason they don't like the thought. I mean, does BBR rely on Chechnya for some kind of economic lifeblood? Maybe it does. If a republic breaking away might actively hurt your country in some way (and no, psychological scars don't count), then I could see it. But nobody has given one yet. There's just been a lot of posturing. I doubt if it will lead to war, but a lot of European politicians didn't think Franz Ferdinand's death would lead to war either, and look how that turned out.
Of course, many people say this will lead to many other groups looking to declare independence. Some of these people resort to violence - the Palestinians and Basques come to mind. Palestine, of course, is a special case - they want land that is actively occupied by a completely different group with whom they are at odds (and, of course, they had their chance for a state back in the 1940s, and they rejected it). The Basques live in an area that is almost completely occupied by Basques, and although I don't condone their violence, I don't get why Spain doesn't let them go. There are tons of separatist movements around the world. Scotland, of course, is a famous one, and why not let them become a independent state? I don't know how that's going, but what benefit is it for Scotland and Wales (why not?) to remain part of the United Kingdom? And, of course, there's the Second Vermont Republic, which wants to return to its independent state status that it had before 1791 (yeah, I bet you didn't know Vermont was independent back then, did you?). Why not? Is Vermont necessary for the continued wonderfulness of the United States? Maybe other states would become independent, but why would they? It seems like it's far more advantageous to stay in the union than not. Texas, California, Alaska, Hawaii - they all have secessionist movements (probably more states, too). I doubt it will ever come to anything, but it's interesting to read about them.
The idea of states breaking up and new ones forming is endlessly fascinating. I'm very curious to see what happens with Kosovo. Will it lead to war? Of course I hope not. I imagine there will be a lot of saber-rattling, but nobody's stupid enough to go to war over this, are they? Well, countries have gone to war for far less! In the meantime, let's all salute the Vermont flag:
Don't you feel patriotic?