Branko Miletic

The Balkan War drums are beating once again

Balkan War drums beating once again / Image: Kosovo Online

“The whole world order broke down. After this, there was a very strong desire for war in Austria. People had already had enough of the Serbian provocation.”Otto von Hapsburg

110 years ago almost to the day, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie fell victim to an assassination orchestrated by Serbian-backed terrorists on 28 June 1914.

The repercussions of this act reverberated far beyond the borders of south-east Europe, propelling the continent into a devastating global conflict that cost some 17 million lives.


The rest, as they say, is history.

In the end, it led to another war, the sequel, or World War 2 as it became known, with a further 80 million bodies needing burial.

Going back to 1914, prompted by German encouragement, Austria-Hungary swiftly declared war on Serbia on 28 July, sparking a chain reaction that drew major powers into the escalating crisis. that would reshape the course of history for generations to come.

‘Serbia must die’ says a 1913 German cartoon. From: 

In a tip of the hat to the domino theory, Russia’s intervention in support of Serbia brought France into the fray. Subsequently, Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August and on France on 3 August.

Seal of the Serbian Black Hand, instigators of World War 1.
Source: Wikipedia Commons.

Moreover, Germany’s infringement of Belgian neutrality and British apprehensions regarding German hegemony in Europe compelled Britain and its vast empire to enter the escalating conflict on 4 August.

The decision to escalate the conflict underscored deep-seated fears, ambitions, and strategic calculations of the European powers at the time. It became apparent that the spiral into war was fuelled by a potent mix of rising nationalism, militarization, imperial rivalries, and power dynamics among the nations.

The Battle of the Somme (1916). Source:

These critical decisions were influenced by a complex interplay of long-term strategic objectives, domestic political pressures, prior diplomatic crises, and the intricate web of opposing alliances that had gradually taken shape over the preceding decades.

Fast forward to June 2024, more than a century after Bosnian Serb anger and frustration caused a global conflict, and it seems we have not moved that far at all.

Or have we?

Reintroduction of mandatory military service in Serbia: Who hears the sound of war drums?
Source: Kosovo Online

A few week ago, the leader of the Serb-controlled territory in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, renewed his threat to secede from the country, days after the United Nations established an annual Memorial Day to commemorate the 1995 Bosnian genocide that claimed 8,372 lives in Srebrenica.

Dodik, a nationalist and opportunist with suspected criminal ties, continues to maintain that secession is the only option for the Serb-majority entity and has been lobbying against the proposed UN resolution, which has been sponsored by Germany and Rwanda and supported by the Bosniaks.

The move has sparked protests in the country but at the same time, drawn support from the populist president of neighbouring Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić.

Serb PM Aleksander Vucic / Times of Israel

As in 1914, support is also coming from Serbia’s erstwhile ally, Russia.

The UN vote on Srebrenica was seen by relatives of the victims as an important step towards ensuring that the atrocities committed during the genocide cannot be denied or forgotten.

The UN resolution now establishes an annual commemoration to honour the lives lost in Srebrenica and sends a strong message condemning genocide and its perpetrators.

Serbian war criminal from the picture showing him hitting dead body of a Bosnian woman he killed is currently performing in Serbia as DJ Max in Nightclubs.
Source: Reddit

However, the debate over the resolution has also highlighted the deep-seated tensions and divisions that still plague Bosnia and Herzegovina, more than two decades after the end of the bloody war that tore the country apart.

While the now-passed resolution has garnered support and recognition for the victims of the worst European genocide since World War 2, it has also brought to light the continued struggle for unity and reconciliation within Bosnia.

Milorad Dodik, the President of Republika Srpska, a Serb-majority administrative unit encompassing almost half of Bosnia and Herzegovina, took to the social media to voice strong opposition to the UN resolution commemorating the 1995 Bosnian genocide.

Milorad Dodik / source:

Dodik also depends on the support and patronage of Vučić, himself a one-time information minister of Serb strongman and convicted war criminal, Slobodan Milosevic.

In his statement, Dodik proclaimed that, “Bosnia and Herzegovina has reached its end, brought to an end by those who swore to it. All that remains is for us all to make an effort to be good neighbours and to part in peace.”

Dodik’s rhetoric underscores the persistent tensions and desires for autonomy within the complex Bosnian political landscape.

Dodik has previously issued similar threats regarding the secession of the Serb-majority entity from Bosnia, potentially aligning with neighbouring Serbia.

His defiance has drawn international scrutiny, with both US, UK, German, and other sanctions imposed on him and some Bosnian Serb officials for jeopardizing a US-brokered peace plan that concluded Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war.

The Srebrenica massacres marked a tragic apex of the conflict followed the disintegration of Yugoslavia and inflamed nationalist fervour and Serb territorial ambitions.

The name Srebrenica has become synonymous with those dark days in July 1995 when, in the first ever United Nations declared safe area, thousands of men and boys were systematically murdered and buried in mass graves.Source:

This horrific chapter in European history stands as a stark reminder of the consequences of unchecked hatred and violence since the Holocaust in World War II.

Otto von Hapsburg. Source:

But the question remains as Otto von Hapsburg statement of 110 years ago: “People had already had enough of the Serbian provocation”.

 The question hangs in the air, much like the executioner’s axe – Have they?

Time will tell, or as the Holocaust poem The Executioner’s Song asks:

Will that common ground be reached before the
executioner’s song comes to a soul-wrenching end,
before its sweet melody is finished,
before the prophecies of old come true?

 Time will tell, but let’s hope for sake of the Bosnian people that history does not repeat.

About the Author
Journalist and editor with 25 years experience, including reporting from Bosnia, Japan and all over Australia--- focus includes IT, ethics and geopolitics.
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