CNN Balkan Conflict News

Serbian refugee

Bosnian Serbs protest negative portrayals

In complex conflict, one man's murderer is another's martyr

September 27, 1995
Web posted at: 9:35 a.m. EDT (1335 GMT)

From Moscow Bureau Chief Eileen O'Connor

PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Drazenko Dukanovic is a Serb fighting a losing battle.

Drazenko Dukanovic The editor in chief of the Serb edition of the newspaper Oslobojenye, Dukanovic feels himself a soldier first, a journalist last. And despite daily images of thousands of Serb refugees fleeing the Bosnian government and Croat offensive, he said, his people are still depicted as aggressors, even at peace talks.

"In every war, there is no black and white," Dukanovic observed. "After the war, people will have the question, 'Serb schools were also bombed.'"

Serbian soldier gets a hug

Every week, he travels by car to Belgrade to print the paper, his only hope that the Serb position will be understood.

Despite popular belief, Bosnian Serbs say they realized they had to make peace before the recent NATO air strikes. Serbia, under pressure from an economically crippling embargo and a politically threatening Russia, had threatened to cut them off.

But those air strikes became the exclamation point for Bosnian Serbs, proof they have no one to turn to, proof, they say, that the entire world is against them.


Forced to accept Serb President Slobodan Milosevic as their voice, the Bosnian Serbs hoped he would leave open the possibility of secession. For now, they are willing to accept some kind of sovereignty over Serb-controlled areas in Bosnia. The say that is the only realistic choice.

With the latest migration of refugees, war rather than negotiation has partitioned Bosnia. In the face of military invasions, Serb civilians have fled to Serb-dominated areas; Muslim and Croats have set out for Muslim and Croat regions. Thus the nation moves toward the ethnic purity they sought.

"We can never live side by side again," said one Serb woman. "I can never go back home."

Bosnian Serb leaders point to these realities when considering the Bosnian government demands for mutual co-existence. They consider such demands ludicrous, and consider the demand for the surrender of the Serb stronghold of Banja Luka even worse.

Ratko Mladic

The Serbs do not claim complete innocence, but they are frustrated that perhaps the world insists on seeing them as the only villain in the struggle.

Even the irascible Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic contended, "It may sound strange to you, but ... nobody likes peace more than soldier."

Not just any peace, however. The Serbs say an impartial agreement brokered by the West is a must for a country where one man's murderer is another man's martyr.

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