Yugoslavia cracks down


PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- It hit Yugoslavia with the force of an earthquake two years ago -- rioting by ethnic Albanian extremists in southern Kosovo province that left nine people dead.

Aftershocks are still being felt in a nationwide crackdown on any form of ethnic nationalism, an issue officials have branded Yugoslavia's 'enemy No. 1.'


There are almost daily denunciations of the problem or reports of jail sentences or other disciplinary measures for 'nationalistic' offenses ranging from organizing illegal terror groups to publishing suspect poems to singing the wrong type of song.

'The Yugoslavs think any upsurge of nationalism is dangerous, so they try to nip it in the bud,' said a Western diplomat in Belgrade. 'You cannot even say certain things. They see it like shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater.'

Yugoslavia is made up of many of different ethnic minorities, some of them bitter historic enemies. Its 22 million people are divided into six republics and two provinces, largely based on ethnic composition. Ethnic identity now is protected by law.

The Kosovo riots threatened this delicate balance. Extremists demanded an independent Kosovo republic or even union with neighboring, Stalinist, Albania.


Authorities became hypersensitive to nationalistic trends among all ethnic groups.

'The regime is very tense that nothing happens,' said Milovan Djilas, former vice president turned dissident who spent nine years in jail. 'They are quick to act against any sign of malcontent.'

'We have been told we are crazy, that there is no real danger,' said Kiro Hadzi-Vasilev, a member of Yugoslavia's 24-man Communist party presidium. 'But if we let things go when there is no danger, then bit by bit they will come to the point of danger.'

This in fact is what officials say happened in Kosovo, the country's least developed region high in a plateau along the Albanian border, whose 1.6 million population is 79 percent ethnic Albanian.

'One of the mistakes was that there wasn't a clear line between what was affirmation of national values and what was nationalism,' said Beqir Hoti, Kosovo party executive secretary.

Pristina, Kosovo's capital, is a remarkable place. Out of 130,000 people, about 40,000 are students. More than half the population is student age or younger, many facing a dead end as far as jobs go.

Modern buildings like the glass and concrete Grand Hotel and the modernistic university library are cheek by jowl with the colorful peasant market and people wearing turbans and harem pants.


In the countryside and smaller towns, you almost step back into another century.

But the province has 80,000 unemployed out of a nearly 300,000 work force. Grandiose investment projects backfired, creating losses and layoffs.

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