After three nights at Jahorina, my mountain hideout in Republika Srpska, near the war time Serb capital of Pale, I moved on. And after a long day of driving, where should I find myself as darkness fell but back in the capital of yet another rogue Serb state – Republika Srpska Krajina (RSK).
Or rather, what was the RSK. Knin, Croatia was the capital of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina, which lasted about four years until it was vaporized in the five day offensive Operation Storm, 4-8 August 1995, during which Croatia took back the roughly 25% of its territory that had been controlled by the Serbs since 1991. See the Croatian War of Independence for a full timeline.
Before the war, Knin was about 80% Serb. After the war it’s 80% Croat. The Serbs here like 150-200 K others throughout the Krajina all had to flee when the Croats rolled in. The Serbs were ethnically cleansed, their homes destroyed and burned down. Driving in today, many ruined homes are still visible. For the most part, they were left as is. Most Serbs did not come back, and the economy is so weak there is no market for anyone else to buy or do something with the former properties. So there they sit as reminders of the war.
Though the Croats (along with the Slovenes) were the big winners in the overall Yugoslav meltdown, they did not escape prosecution for war crimes at the Hague for their treatment of the Krajina Serbs. On April 15, 2011, Croatian General Ante Gotovina was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Interestingly, the owner of the hotel where I am staying tonight is a Serb. He was born in Knin and served in the Serb Army here during the war until 4 August 1995. Then he lived in Republika Srpska (in Bosnia) for five years. Then he decided to come back, because opportunity is better here, and this is his home. He says things today are mostly ok now between Serbs and Croats. But the economy is not good.
It must be strange to live in a town where the vast majority of inhabitants are recent arrivals. Most of the Croats who live here now were moved in from Bosnia.