Back to Bosnia and East Timor Home Page
This is from Bosnia Report

Radovan Karadz'ic':
Work with a Smile on Your Face

The following are extracts from speeches given by Radovan Karadz'ic' to key SDS party activists in the autumn of 1991. Formed in July 1990 and successful especially among rural and small-town Serb voters in Bosnia's first multi-party elections in November 1990, the SDS began to proclaim local autonomy in areas it controlled in September 1991. In the following month it walked out of the Assembly of Bosnia-Herzegovina, as a prelude to organizing a plebiscite in SDS-held areas in November 1991. This was in turn to lead to its proclamation of the 'Serb Republic' in January 1992, just prior to the internationally supervised referendum on Bosnia-Herzegovina's independence. These extracts were first published in the Sarajevo bi-weekly Slobodna Bosna on 7 November 1991, in order to warn people about what was going on in the SDS-controlled areas. In July 1996 the journal republished the original text with additional entries from the same period.

'You must take power decisively and completely. Wherever the party holds power, you must not allow a single enterprise manager to be disloyal to the party. It is impermissible for anybody to be a radio director or newspaper editor, if they do not implement the policy of the party in power. These are state functions.'

'I am asking you, this very week, promptly and decisively to dismiss by decision of the executive council all managers and radio directors who do not obey or respect party policy, or who are unsuitable for any other reason. In all municipalities where we have the radio, we have power as well. You just put in acting chief editors, then you take control. After that, people can complain if they like.'

'Get ready for a prompt and decisive takeover of the SDK [public finances department]; in other words, decisively put in your own man. I am asking you to work tirelessly until the plebiscite - cheerfully, with a smile on your face and without the least resentment - on propaganda for the plebiscite.'

'I shall now suggest some possible outcomes of the crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina. One possibility is that we wake up one day in an independent and sovereign Bosnia-Herzegovina, designed by Broz [Tito] and bestowed on Alija [Izetbegovic’] by Europe. There is little chance of that. Vance has already spent three and a quarter hours with Miloševic’. Miloševic’ has not blinked. Nor will he blink or give in. The Montenegrins at The Hague played a good role today in one of the commissions, because Bulatovi_ had accepted that obligation.1 You have seen how the people and soldiers in Montenegro are one hundred percent with us.

The second variant is for the Croats to secede, and for us and the Muslims to remain in some kind of Bosnia that would be a little bit tied in some way to Serbia. The third variant is for us to secede, thus placing ourselves in the same position as those who want to secede from Yugoslavia but not from Bosnia-Herzegovina - the Croats and Muslims who want to form their own state.

The fourth variant, which is perhaps the most likely, is for a "Serb Bosnia" to be created in the territorial sense, while in the functional sense a Serb power is created to conduct all Serb affairs.'

'Mutual bloodletting is a possibility, and that will be lucky for some, unlucky for others. They know we're not running away from that. There are plenty of Serbs. In Bosnia-Herzegovina alone one could raise almost half a million soldiers armed with light and heavy weapons. Nobody could stop that. I tell foreigners as well that such a war would be bloody and violent.

I can tell you, whatever kind of Bosnia emerges we shall not permit a single Muslim foundation stone to be laid in the Serb areas or in any Serb village, because we shall instruct Serbs not to sell their land to Muslims. The first foundation stone they lay will be blown up. And every foundation stone they lay will be blown up. The world will understand us when we tell them we don't want the demographic picture to be disturbed, whether by natural or by artificial means. No chance! - our territories are ours, we can go hungry but we shall remain on them. It's not always wise to reveal one's plans, but neither is it a bad thing to say we won't allow that, because we shall issue a public pronouncement: "You must not sell land to the Muslims." You must not, because this is a life-and-death battle, a battle for living space. You others have done what you've done in the Assembly, we don't want to talk about anything, just about separation. How to separate while remaining together, so that you have nothing to do with our affairs nor we with yours.

It isn't necessary to have two passports. The currency can be the same. Everything can be joint. But as many things as possible should be separated. A Serb market and a Turkish market, Serb affairs and Turkish affairs - Serb cafes, theatres, schools and everything else. That's the only solution. I said that long ago, as Mrs Plavši_ and Krajišnik both know.

Whatever the outcome of the plebiscite is, we shall be the determining factor in that outcome. Europe will have to accept what the Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina say. They'll have to accept it.

It's important for every Serb to vote. That way it will be shown that in terms of votes we have over a third. They won't be able to vote in Bosnia's sovereignty with a two-thirds majority. It's important for the others to vote as well, it would be good for as many to vote as possible. But that won't bind us in any way. We'll simply be able to say for propaganda purposes: "With Serbs and others, we have over a third - you have no chance. We won't allow you to leave Yugoslavia either." But that can be just a pretence.

There will be foreign observers, everything will be monitored. They'll be hostile, except for some whom we'll import from England and who'll be objective. All the rest will be hostile. That's precisely why we must bring it off. And I'm asking you to say all the same things yourselves that we're saying here today - there must be a geometric progression.

Then on the Sunday our activists can visit the houses where people haven't voted. They register him, he votes, he has the right to secrecy. He mustn't be seen doing it - but must drop it into a box or larger envelope where it will get mixed up.

It's important for us to establish for each place how the vote went, so that we can say in relation to the number of adults and the number of inhabitants that such and such a place - Poz’arnica, for example - has declared itself for Yugoslavia. We shall have our own market there in Jajce, and administratively it will be the Serb part of Bosnia. We're not going to leave and run to the hills and forests.

Just one week! Every diary has to have a list - headed by Mrs Plavši_, Krajišnik, Aleksa Buha, Vojo Maksimovi_, myself, Professor Ekme_i_ - to go, if only for five minutes, and explain exactly what is going on. I guarantee you, this is for all time. We no longer want part solutions. This is for all time. We must create our own state for ourselves, and make it possible for them - Muslims or Croats or whoever - to have their own.

In Serbia, throughout Serbia, we shall have enormous interest in our plebiscite. I must admit to you that the military side was scared, asking: "Will that plebiscite of yours succeed?" I said that it certainly would, and they were relieved, because they too have great problems. There's nobody to back them up. I brought them that map, the blue one, and told them: "Here, gentlemen, is the map." They said they had maps. "No, you don't have the map. Here are maps to tell you where you can spend the night - and there's nowhere for you to sleep over there!" So they have no place to turn, apart from our areas. We're that army, until the others wake up. We shall certainly win this battle - but nobody else will win it, if you don't win it here. All you council leaders, you must do your work - you in particular, if the Army demands it of you. Nobody else, no deputy, just you and no one else, because you head the National Defence Councils and you're the local commanders.'2

'Believe me, in Europe rights don't count for anything; they just accept the de facto situation and look for precedents.

They're already giving in. Mrs Plavši_ got some good news from The Hague just five minutes ago. Vance is coming here tomorrow, and we shall teach him a lesson. Today his embassy secretary came to see me and spent an hour and a half. The Canadian embassy secretary was there as well. It will always be the case and we always tell them - we must keep telling them - that our position is the most principled one, just as the de facto situation is such and such. And since the de facto situation is such and such, we shall create also the de facto situation.

We have right in our hands, and we have the de facto situation as well. And the de facto situation will be such that Izetbegovic’ will be unable to establish his authority over 70% of the territory. He will not be able to establish his authority over a single Serb village, he will not hold power in a single Serb municipality. And at the decisive moment the police will have to obey you. It will obey you and establish order on the basis of the SFRJ [Former Yugoslav] Constitution, not the B-H Constitution. We, of course, shall not accept the B-H Constitution; they, of course, will call a night session and vote it in. But we shall prevent it from leaving Sarajevo - that law and that constitution will be stopped at Kozja _uprija. We must be ready for that, it's the only way to deal with them.

The Serbs have no need for a party-based army. They have the JNA. As it happens, our aims and theirs coincide one hundred percent. We mustn't leave that equipment and that Army alone. By no means! That would be a disaster. We'd lose our state if we lost that Army. For a year, as you've seen at the rallies, the Serbs have been demanding weapons... At last the Army is here, which is three times as strong. It has even taken off the red star, it has the weapons, it has the machinery, it has other material resources, and it has vast war reserves. It has a commanding cadre, and it has an aim that is identical to yours. If you, in other words we, fail to get the recruits to defend their country, then we deserve to become slaves.

Here I must praise the Montenegrins and Herzegovinians. There was really no need to force them into the army. For tactical reasons Serbia had to pretend not to be at war with Croatia. It was very important that Croatia had to be at war with Yugoslavia. If Croatia were at war with Serbia, then foreign troops would come to Bosnia. True, it's not so simple, the opposition back there [in Serbia] too is carrying on its treacherous work, but there are 80% Serbs in the army and it's Serbians who are filling that army.3 Only they're not doing it openly and propagandistically.

So I'm asking two big jobs of you, two big tasks. The real priority is the plebiscite, and after the plebiscite the next priority, related to the plebiscite, is to take power wherever you can take power. Sit down with the managers, good capable managers, sit down and talk to them. It will turn out that your interests are identical, because you're the same people and you want to create the same state.

Just like the Communists used to do, go among the workers and talk about your lack of trust in the plebiscite, I mean the referendum. But only after our plebiscite. When you look at that map, we have an enormous territory in Bosnia-Herzegovina, enormous.'


'The Muslims and Croats are behaving towards the Serbs in the Ustasha manner, they're preparing another 1941 for them.'

'They're preparing a St Bartholomew's Night for prominent Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina.'

'In C”apljina, Višegrad, Foc”a, Serbs are forced to leave their homes, because there's a plan to massacre them with the approval of Muslim and Croat leaders.'

'The Muslim leadership has illegally formed a ministry for settling Turks in Bosnia- Herzegovina.'

'In Mostar and Herzegovina the [JNA] reservists were welcomed with enthusiasm, as liberators. Complaints regarding their behaviour were invented by individuals and media of pro-Ustasha orientation. Everything must be done to ensure they remain in those areas as long as possible, in order to save the Serbs from extermination.'

'Muslims in the Bosnian Krajina are asking me and the SDS to press the army and state leadership to continue with decisive military operations, aimed at suppressing Ustasha activities and eliminating the threat to the population of Bosnia-Herzegovina coming from the Croatian MUP [interior ministry].'

'SDS support for the Army is solid, and we in the party have agreed that we can mobilize as many reservists and volunteers as Generals Uzelac, Torbica and the others need.'

'Dubrovnik will be conquered in the near future only if the [JNA] reservists remain: that's what all Serbs in the crisis area believe. We shan't waste our energies any longer in negotiations with the Muslims and Croats on a future harmonious life. I have done everything for peace, but Izetbegovic’ and Kljuic’ persist in wanting war. If they want war, they'll have it.'

'We have received thousands of telegrams and messages of support related to the constitution of the Serb Assembly, and the interest being shown by Muslims and Croats in the imminent plebiscite of the Serb people is enormous.'

'Alija Izetbegovic’ has travelled to Turkey, Teheran and Libya with the aim of joining Bosnia- Herzegovina to the "Islamic transversal": i.e. a Muslim state that would include Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Turkey and Iran, thus enabling Islam to break through into Europe.'

'The peoples in Bosnia are delighted with the stance of Serbia's delegation in The Hague, and that is why the Serb leadership is winning supporters daily in Bosnia.'

'My contacts in England and France tell me that Europe has lined up fully behind the Serb cause.'

'The Muslims are preparing an attack on places in Serbia and along the Drina. The B-H MUP [interior ministry] controls only the border-posts with Serbia and Montenegro, leaving wide open the area towards western Herzegovina where Croatian MUP-ovci [interior-ministry police] move about as they like.'

1. During EU-sponsored negotiations at The Hague in the autumn of 1991, under the chairmanship of Lord Carrington, Montenegro's president Momir Bulatovi_ provoked general surprise in October by initially accepting Carrington's plan for replacing Yugoslavia by a loose association of sovereign republics. He soon changed his mind, however, after a storm of protest orchestrated by Miloševic’ in Serbia and Montenegro.

2. National Defence Councils were bodies set up by the Yugoslav Constitution of 1974 as part of the system of Total National Defence. Under this system, the republics and autonomous provinces were responsible for organizing (including the appointment of commanders) and equipping their own Territorial Defence units, which were made up of reservists. After the elections in Slovenia and Croatia in April 1990, the Territorial Defence of all republics other than Serbia and Montenegro was disarmed by the JNA.

Presidents of municipal assemblies, by way of local National Defence Councils, were responsible for Territorial Defence at the local level, including mobilization. But they could only order mobilization, of course, if authorized to do so by the relevant republican or provincial presidency - which was not the case here. In areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina under SDS control, the Territorial Defence units were not disarmed, but on the contrary additionally armed - thus creating the bulk of what became the Army of Republika Srpska.

3. After its debacle in Slovenia in June 1991, the JNA effectively fell apart; it was also faced with mass resistance to the draft in Serbia itself. It took about three months to re-establish the army, by calling up Serbian Territorial Defence reservists (as Karadz'ic' mentions here) and dismissing practically all non-Serb officers.