That’s almost as impressive as I am: Not only do I speak some Russian, but also English, American, Canadian, Australian, and even Pennsylvanian and New Yorkan! (And I understand some Texan.)

As Liz, who circulated this November item below, commented: “Wow, look at all of them-there languages of Yugoslavia.”

Ex-Kosovo author makes new start in Edmonton (By Michael Hingston, Edmonton Journal, Nov. 14)


Author Kadrush Radogoshi with his works at the library at Norquest College
John Lucas , Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - Kadrush Radogoshi has been many things in his life. Teacher in the former Yugoslavia. Translator. Union leader. Political dissident. Political prisoner. And, most frequently, author — of 16 books of Albanian poetry, fiction, literary criticism and non-fiction.

Radogoshi moved here with his wife and their three adult children from Kosovo on Sept. 1, 2010, and it hasn’t been a seamless process…Radogoshi himself arrived in Edmonton with next to no knowledge of English. Thankfully, he has some experience with other languages: back home he studied and has long been fluent in many of the languages of the former Yugoslavia, including Albanian, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin. To help with his English here in Canada, Radogoshi takes classes at NorQuest College.

After the Kosovo War concluded in 1999, “Kosovo became a new country, but it is difficult to be an established country,” Radogoshi says. “It needs more time to build democratic institutions. It’s too hard. Because Serbia crushed everything in Kosovo. After the war, it was very difficult.”

So while some of his fellow Kosovo Albanians have made the first step to national maturity by admitting here and there that Kosovo is a bigger, more dangerous mess, with less freedom of the press, than under Serbian rule, this supposed intellectual is still playing the Blame-Belgrade card.

Among Radogoshi’s literary credentials are the Pjetër Bogdani Prize, the highest award for literature in Kosovo…as well as the prize for Kosovo’s best poetry collection….Before immigrating, he also served for two years as president of the Writers’ Union of Kosovo.

(Imagine. President of the writer’s union, yet nothing from him about the muzzling of the press and attacks on journalists in Kosovo, which even its international makers are honest about.)

If life here in Edmonton has sometimes been difficult, it’s nothing compared to what Radogoshi has already endured. In 1981, amid a wave of protests against the ruling Communist party [does he mean the fascio-Ottoman-nostalgic Albanian race riots of 1981?], Radogoshi was teaching high school in his hometown of Gjakova. One evening, Radogoshi says he witnessed the Yugoslavian police provoke and then shoot two of his students, point-blank, in the middle of a busy street. One died of his injuries.

The next day, however, government officials showed up at the school and tried to argue that it was the deceased student who was, in fact, to blame.

“It was nonsense,” Radogoshi says, “and I disagreed, publicly.” He was thrown in jail for his efforts.

And on March 28, 1989, as Kosovo’s nascent autonomy was effectively revoked by Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic [really?], Radogoshi was one of more than 200 Albanian intellectuals rounded up and imprisoned.

Now, after so many years fighting against censorship and tyranny in Kosovo [apparently giving up once the censorship and tyranny emanated from the “former” KLA now running Kosovo], Radogoshi is ready to try something new in Edmonton… “My goals are to publish something in English,” Radogoshi says. “I will try. I treat many universal motifs. They are the same everywhere. But my point of view is different, because I came from another reality. I came from hell.”

At least he’s honest about that. Albanians usually claim they came from Illyrians.

Now, I recently brought up the farcical American faux informed-ness vis-a-vis “the Bosnian language.” When I did, I heard from Draga, who wrote the following note:

As you are aware, the languages are used as political tools. As early as 1980, The New York Times reported that approximately 12,000 new words had been injected into ‘Croatian” in order to separate it from Serbian. In the early 90’s Bosnian ambassador Mohammed Sacirbey was interviewed by Vladimir Posner, who asked the ambassador what language is spoken in Bosnia-Hercegovina, to which Sacirbey responded “Bosnian”. Not skipping a beat, Posner said it is not listed among the world languages, and asked what language they had spoken there the year before. Sacirbey cleared his throat and sheepishly admitted they spoke “Serbo-Croatian”. To that Posner responded something to the effect of: In other words, an entire country learned a new language in one year? The Bosnian language also has additional words reflective of the Islamic faith. In Montenegro the Serbian language has been thrown out, although it is the language of the revered prince-bishop Njegos. In Montenegro, they added a new letter or two to reflect their particular dialect. At first they wanted to call their language ‘mother’s tongue’ until they were ridiculed. It is now called Montenegrin.

Don’t know how authoritative this Pravda article below in Serbian is for you, but roughly translated it essentially says:

“A proposal of the German linguist and member of the Parliament of Europe, Michael Shatsinger, is that upon admission to the European Union, countries once comprising Yugoslavia, for the reward of better relations and ‘peace in the EU house’, should forget their differences, most reflected in language. That way, official correspondence among ex-YU republics will not utilize Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian or Montenegrin, but rather the “formerly Yugoslav language’. ”

Naturally, this sort of idea traditionally hasn’t gone over well with the Serb-distancers: Croatia upset over EU language proposal

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro, Apr. 9, 2007 (IPS/GIN) — Many Croats are seething about an European Union parliament member’s suggestion that EU institutions should use a single Serbo-Croatian language for residents of the West Balkans, rather than translating everything into four different languages.

Croatian media commentators called the proposal a sign of “disrespect” and “lack of goodwill” towards the small nation. The daily Vjesnik called for the EU to “respect [the] particularity for Croatia” once it joined the union.

The proposal to introduce a single Serbo-Croatian language in EU institutions came from member of the European Parliament Charles Tannock, who suggested that the single common language be introduced, mostly for practical reasons, once the nations join the EU.

“I hope you’ll not burden us with expenses for translations into Croatian, Bosniak, Montenegrin or Serbian,” Tannock said at a recent discussion in the Parliament, attended by officials from Western Balkans countries. “People from Western Balkans have to agree on the language they all understand, and that is Serbo-Croatian.”

The EU spends about 800 million euros ($1.04 billion) a year of its 100 billion euro ($130 billion) budget for translation into languages of its 27 member nations.

Language is a sensitive issue in the West Balkans, where several ethnic groups are seeking to distance themselves from each other.

Some Croatians are trying to forget the past because the language it left in the Balkans is too mixed up with Serbs and Bosniaks. Croat linguists are now producing a language of their own. [A language of their own: ‘Sieg Heil’]

The varieties spoken are distinct due to region, not ethnicity. Serbs in Croatia speak as Croats, Croats in Serbia speak like their Serb neighbors. Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks in Bosnia cannot be ethically distinguished by the language they speak.

Croatia has been moving towards a separate language that is distinct from Serbian and other influences. Its leading linguists have turned to history, old literature and their own imagination to invent new terms that would detach Croatian from Serbian.

New expressions were introduced for fax, which became “dalekoumnozitelj” (distant reaching copy device). Helicopters were named “zrakomlat” (air beater), phones became “brzoglas” (quick voice), and it was decided that “zoroklik” (cry at dawn) would replace the Croatian “pijevac,” which sounded similar to Serbian “pevac” for cock. [And the internationally used French word for “airplane,” also used by Serbs, became ‘zrakoplov’ (plough the air).]

But some of the new language has been chilling, rather than amusing. New language for military ranks has been taken from the days of Croatia’s Ustashi regime…. [Gee, didn’t see that coming.]

The International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, founded by the United Nations, translated all its documents into one language called “B/C/S” [or B/H/S], or Bosnian, Croat, Serbian…

(Notice the order of that acronym: first, the UN-revered Balkan belligerent; second, the acceptable belligerent; and last, the actual but reviled originator of the language.)

I must say, it’s cute the way Croatians think they have their own language and distinct culture. It’s sort of poignant that the uniqueness of their culture consists of killing off the people they derive from in order to have an identity. They just tweaked a few words so they could differentiate a Serb from a Croat, so they’d know whom to kill.

It seems the U.S., like the UN and EU, also wishes to simplify matters by regarding the people whose separation it fomented, as speaking one common language. A 2011 Tanjug article appears below, translated by Draga, who added she’s not sure if ‘Inspector’ is the correct title of the position named below or if she got the spelling of the last name ‘Gejsel’ right (I tried looking it up, but wasn’t successful):

14 February 2011 US: Serbian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Bosnian - one language

The General Inspector of the Secretary of State in September 2009 sent an internal document to the Department of Human Resources and the Institute for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, entitled “Balkan Linguistic Problems” in which he expressed concern about the practice of treating Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian as three different languages.

Zagreb’s “Jutarnji List” reports that the deputy chief inspector Harold V. Gejsel [Geissel?] informed the authorities that their office visited U.S. embassies in Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia and on that occasion came to the conclusion that the languages spoken in those countries are basically the same language. It is a matter of “dialects of one language” …

The U.S. diplomats came to the same conclusion which the reputable Croatian linguist Snjezana Kordic proved with authority in her book “Language and Nationalism”. Namely, she argues that language rights on the territory of the former Yugoslav republics became justification for extreme nationalism.

“In linguistics, it is defined that it is the same language if at least 81 percent of the basic vocabulary treasure is in common, and the Croats, Serbs, Bosnians and Montengrins, when they speak the standard language, have 100 percent of the basic vocabulary treasure in common,” said Kordic.

Noting that it is easy to understand the slight variations that can be overcome by brief conversation, the suggested conclusion is “if an officer who has been trained, for example, in the Croatian language, and is going from Zagreb to Sarajevo, it is unnecessary that he must pass the whole Bosnian language course as though it is a new language”.

The conclusion, namely, is that all American universities with well-established Slavic language programs, including Harvard and UCLA, treat it as dialects of one language…U.S. administration had significant savings in training employees, and [is demonstrating] tangible evidence of U.S. support for strengthening cooperation among the peoples of the former Yugoslavia.

Strengthening cooperation among the peoples of the former Yugoslavia? Too bad we didn’t think of that in 1991. So after separating them, now we support unifying them.

A related excerpt from a 2010 article:

War, peace and the Virgin (Guardian, Andrew Brown’s Blog, Aug. 20, 2010)

…[In Medjugorje, Bosnia] there is a Franciscan monastery a little distance away where a particularly zealous Croat catholic was presented with a prize for cutting the throats of more than 1,400 “schismatics” as the orthodox Serbs were then known…

Twenty nine years ago, in the week after 24 June 1981, six village children started to see the Virgin Mary… “She speaks purest Croatian”, explained one enthusiast on Crossing Continents, an important point since when I was growing up the language did not exist at all: rather, it was known as Serbo-Croat, and the two girls who looked after us children, one Serbian and one Croat, understood each other perfectly well, as we understood them. Nowadays…children who have grown up in Serbia and Croatia seem genuinely unable to understand one another.

Medjugorje was a Franciscan parish, and the Franciscans are deeply implicated in Croatian nationalism, and correspondingly suspect to the authorities in Rome. The official church refuses to recognise that apparition….None of the others has the same association with blood soaked nationalism…I don’t doubt the sincerity of the people who believe they find peace there, and that they can spread it…But that is, in a way, the really frightening thing about the whole story. The pilgrims and believers seem to suffer from a kind of migraine there, which blocks out half the world in a bright interior light, so that they see the Virgin’s presence in their hearts, and don’t see her picture pasted on the soldiers’ gun butts or hear the rantings of the politicians. […]

The farce of treating one language as three or four is even appreciated by Washington mouthpiece Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Or Montenegrin? Or Just ‘Our Language’? (RFERL, February 21, 2009)

…The distinctions sometimes reach extremes even locals find absurd. Street signs often give multiple versions of the same designation, to accommodate all likely users. Bookworms look for translated works by writers from neighboring states. Films produced in Serbia are released elsewhere in the Balkans with subtitles.

Zhivko Bjelanovic, a linguist based in Split, on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, says to the trained eye, the languages are fundamentally distinct.

“Serbs and Croats can understand each other on the level of basic communication. [Isn’t that fundamentally?] But when experts start to actually analyze the languages, there are in fact a lot of differences — in grammar, syntax, and every other way,” Bjelanovic said.

Croatians have coined entirely new words, Bosniaks have peppered their speech with Turkic terms and phrases, and Serbs throughout the region remain committed to using the Cyrillic alphabet instead of Latin script. [Damn originators. Always depriving usurpers of satisfaction. Meanwhile, should the Russians and Hebrews also switch?]

The issue becomes even more complicated….Entry into the European Union entitles member states to have their languages recognized as official tongues, obligating the EU to provide translations in all formal settings.

Egon Fekete, a linguist in Belgrade, says most academics still say a single language is spoken in the Balkans — albeit one with numerous dialects. But he says the issue is more about politics than it is about language. “…If you take a scientific approach, you can’t accept that there are distinct Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin languages.”

Ah, but the scientific approach would interfere with the whole point of creating new languages out of one: to create fictitious new nationalities, which will then want to fictitiously claim land from the original thing:

LINGUISTS’ DISPUTE: Croatian Language Causes Dispute in Bosnia (Javno (Croatia)/Dalje.com, March 10, 2009)

An association of young linguists and translators in Bosnia-Herzegovina several months ago created a web site ‘bosanski.ba’, but lately they are being attacked by linguists from the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska.

They were angered by a statement by the association’s executive director, Djermana Seta, who said that the web page was created to enable the studying of the Bosnian language. Mirjana Vlajisavljevic, a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Republika Srpska’s Banja Luka, said the Bosnian language was nothing but a Sarajevo version of the Croatian language and that the Sarajevo authorities are using young people to achieve the goal of a unitarian Bosnia-Herzegovina. [Mirjana calls it “Croatian” because she is likely Croatian herself, given that Bosnian Croats have been flocking to the Serb Republic since we ‘fixed’ Bosnia.]

Academician Slobodan Remetic thinks that history from the Austro-Hungarian occupation is repeating itself, when Benjamin Kalay tried to create a hybrid nation and language, that is, Bosnian language, to separate the territory from Croatia and Serbia.

Also targeted were Serb politicians in Republika Srpska, who are slammed for using “Croatisms”. Linguist Milorad Telebak claims Serb politicians do not have a developed awareness about their culture and tradition. […]

Or we’ve successfully taught them to have an aversion to it.

Weighing in on the issue in January of last year was Bosnia’s former ambassador to Turkey, Hajrudin Somun, though he seems to be espousing two opposing views on it at once:

Confused Balkan Languages

There was and still is, in fact, one common language that is written in two alphabets and spoken in four countries, but with different names. As was emphasized in an Academy of Finland study, Balkan languages…are a reflection of the regional developments that “seem only to resume the aggressive nation-building process which had partly been in check during the Cold War era,” according to Croatian linguist Snjezana Kordic. “…Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin are the same languages,” she concludes…In Belgrade’s elevators, for example, floors one and two are written “sprat 1” and “sprat 2.” But in Zagreb, they are written “kat 1” and “kat 2” just to be different from Belgrade. Most people probably don’t know that “kat” is neither Croatian nor Slavic, but a Turkish word.

All nations have the right to call their languages as they want, of course. It is normal that Serbs and Croats call their languages Serbian and Croatian. But denying the same right to Bosnians and Montenegrins recalls old, still-existing nationalist ambitions…Bosnian Serbs and Croats think that Bosnian Muslims, officially Bosniaks, should call their language Bosniak. [Which is already too generous.] They think Bosniaks are striving to call it “Bosnian” because this implies it is the language of all the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of ethnicity, and accuse them of pursuing a policy of “majorization,” whereby Bosniaks can dominate the country.

(Gee, when have they ever tried to do that before?)

…In all historical documents and travel books from before the Ottoman arrival in Bosnia — during the rule of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires…the Bosnian language was not Bosniak, but Bosnian. It was spoken by Bosnian Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Jews. It was the third official language of the Ottoman Empire. Bartol Kasic, author of the first Croatian grammar book from the 16th century, noted that people in Bosnia were speaking Bosnian. The Bosnian poet Muhamed Hevai Uskufi is the author of the first Turkish-Bosnian dictionary, completed in 1632 and written in Arabic script…Evliya Çelebi, the famous Ottoman writer from the 17th century…noted that the people in Bosnia spoke a Bosnian that was similar to Latin. Austro-Hungarians, ruling Bosnia from 1878 to 1918, encouraged the official usage of Bosnian, but they switched to Serbo-Croatian under pressure from increasing Serb and Croat nationalism…

In other words, ‘Don’t take my Bosnian-Muslim word for it, take the Ottomans’ or a few assorted Arabists’ and Croats’.’ If we’re supposed to be impressed by some ancient-sounding dates Somun cited for the “Bosnian” language, one wonders where that language was being spoken in the year 50 A.D., when Serbs were already around and speaking either Serbian or something that would evolve into it. Or in the year 1217, when Rome recognized the Serbian kingdom. What language were those ancienter Serbs speaking? Bosnian?

Mirko Kovac, a celebrated Croat novelist, who says: “Foreigners have a better relationship than we do with our languages. They consider them as one language, which is what is most correct from the linguistic point of view. The state [Yugoslavia] fell to pieces, but not the language.” Bosnian writer Nenad Velickovic believes language should not be used as a marker of national identity, explaining, “In my opinion, that means adopting the ideology of nationalism — something I despise.”

So why can’t they all just admit they speak Serbian? And why can’t Somun figure out which side of the issue he’s espousing: Speak one language but let anyone call it whatever they want?

So, rather than the Ottomans’, Arabists’, Croats’ or Austro-Hungarians’ word, I’ll take Irish-American linguistics Professor Emeritus John Peter Maher’s word for it, in his 2009 article “What did they call it before they called it ‘Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian-Montenegrin’?

In 1958 the U.S. Army called it “Serbo-Croatian”. That was during the Cold War. I was a soldier in Military Intelligence, just beginning to learn the major language of Yugoslavia at the US Army Language School, on the old Spanish Presidio of Monterey in California. Thirty-some years later the Berlin Wall came down. In Slovenia in the year 1990 I learned from an American working there (it was still Yugoslavia then) that the Army had closed down the Monterey course. The Pentagon apparently had not yet received their orders to attack Yugoslavia. They thought the Cold War was over.

Someone in Washington had other ideas. The old contingency plan to dismantle Yugoslavia was taken off the shelf, updated and implemented by the mercenaries of MPRI, and invisible government countermanded the shut-down. In 1992 a call went out for teachers of “Serbian and Croatian” at the re-named US Defense Language Institute. The announcement was a classic farce. Some petty bureaucrat at a loss how to phrase the official advertisement took his phraseology from want-ads for interpreters. It was spelled out that job applicants must be able to teach the “two languages” simultaneously or consecutively. “It” was now two languages.

One colonel took the Monterey course in Croatian and/or Serbian; he developed the Pentagon plan for the big ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Croatia in 1995.

At the University of Michigan the linguistics department chairman opposed the New-Speak and retained the designation “Serbo-Croatian” …The University of Calgary in Canada ran with the political-correctness. Doctoral candidates there could now fulfill the requirement of reading ability in two foreign languages by passing exams in Serbian [and] Croatian. Queuing up to apply for the test in “the two languages,” Croats and Serbs were united in laughter.

Then there were three. At the ICTY in The Hague “it” became “Bosnian-Croatian- Serbian”, all three spoken simultaneously. Consequently, Vojislav Šešelj demanded that court interpreters should turn Croatian testimony into Serbian for him.

Then “it” was four. Americans applying for Fulbright Grants in 2005 and 2006 were “informed” that the language of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro/Srbija I Crna Gora ought to be to be called “Montenegrin”, a separate language, if Montenegrins wanted it so. Language teachers in Montenegro were ordered to call “it” Crnogorski/Montenegrin or Mother Tongue, if they wanted to keep their jobs. Dozens of honest Montenegrin teachers felt otherwise, that the language they were teaching was in fact Serbian. They were fired and stripped of their pensions.

The linguistic theory of Vuk Stefanovich Karadžich, that south Slavs – Catholic and Orthodox – spoke the same language, was declared passé. The policy of the multi-ethnic Austrian Empire and, later, the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918) was both liberal and reactionary. It was liberal in that subject nations had the right to be schooled in their own languages, use them in court and see them printed on the currency. The policy was reactionary in that this was a measure to keep the Slavs, who were a 60% majority in the Dual Monarchy, subject to German and Hungarian rulers.

Both Vienna, with an eye to coherence of the Empire, and Rome with an eye to conversion of Eastern Orthodox “schismatics”, smiled on the efforts of Archbishop Strossmayer to teach a new auxiliary language to the Croats to hasten their integration into a broader society and function as missionaries. It was some time before many Croats at all could speak their new literary language…

…Muslim Bosnians take no united stand in practice. In Chicago a school for Muslim Bosnian children displays a big banner “Govori Bosanski! – Speak Bosnian!”. At Northeastern Illinois University in 1992 the debate “got physical”. I watched as a Junoesque blonde gave a good shove to a young man who had called “it” “bošnjaèki” [’Bosniak’]; she told him in no uncertain terms that “it” was “bosanski”.

At Truman College in Chicago I asked students with Muslim names “what country do you come from?”–“Bosnia” they all said. “What language do you speak?”. “Bosnian.” Then I responded (in Serbian) that I too speak – “… bosanski i bošnjaèki i hrvatski i hrvatsko-srpski i srpski i crnogorski…” They always laughed. One smiling man flatly said: “it’s the same language”.

At a nearby grocery store, a clerk with the Muslim name Amira revealed the stress normal people are put under. When we first chatted at the check-out counter, she asked me if I was of Yugoslav origin. Her surprise was great to hear I was “irskog porekla”. Since then she always greets me with “moj irac / my Irishman”… One day she remarked that she was pleased that I always greeted her in srpski. She then hesitated, rolled her eyes and said the PC word “bosanski”…

The literary Croatian word for “wedding” is vijenchanje, derived from the noun vijenac “wreath”, which in turn is from the verb viti “to twine, braid, wreathe”. One infers from this example…that the literary Croatian language is historically a Serb dialect, since the Eastern Orthodox (Serb) wedding ceremony in its traditional form involves the crowning of bride and groom with wreathes of green, while such a custom is not found in the Roman Catholic (Croat) wedding rite.

Conclusion: Abraham Lincoln in his Illinois lawyering days once asked a witness in court “if you called a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs would a dog have?” The witness: “Five.” Lincoln: “No, even if you call a dog’s tail a leg, it’s still a tail.”

Closing with two anecdotes, the first from Melana in 2011:

I ran into a Croat guy who owns a winery up here [California], who said that the Croats have “gone back to the old words again”. When I asked him what he meant, he admitted that Croats actually made up new words so linguists could declare “Croatian” a separate language from “Serbian”, but the problem was that Croats couldn’t understand each other when one was using the old words and another was using these made-up words which never caught on.

I once told a Montenegrin separatist that if he wanted to be a Montenegrin and not a Serb, then he better be prepared to trade in every Montenegrin hero he ever knew — from Njegos (my great-great-great uncle) to Prince Danilo — because all of these heroic Montenegrins considered themselves “Serbs” first.

And from a 2011 Diana Johnstone email:

‘Serbian’ and Serbia are being pushed into oblivion.

Yesterday I was in the languages and literature branch of the Gibert Jeune bookstore in Paris to buy Spanish books, and went downstairs to the “small languages” section to see what there was for Serbian. On the floor-level shelf I spotted an Assimil package of book plus CDs for learning Serbo-Croatian. Since I have an old Assimil Serbo-Croatian with tapes which I consider one of Assimil’s least successful efforts…I asked whether the closed package contained a new version or the old one. The woman clerk told me that this was the last copy of the old Assimil Serbo-Croatian which was being terminated. A new Assimil Croatian is due to come out soon. No Serbian.

I informed her that this was a political choice, since for one thing there are more Serbs than Croats. “I don’t know about that”, she said, obviously not eager to learn.

This is no doubt linked to the expectation that Croatia will soon be admitted to the European Union. Not Serbia.

Check.