On this day in 1934, King Alexander I of Yugoslavia was assassinated by Bulgarian Vlado Chernozemski, a member of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO)
One of the nastiest civil conflicts that arose in the immediate aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the fall of that nation’s hegemony over much of Eastern Europe during the Cold War took place in the Balkans. What we had all come to know as the state of Yugoslavia disintegrated as a variety of ethnic groups clamoured for independence. In some ways these movements were merely seeking a reversion to former statelets that had existed for centuries.
The human rights atrocities that ensued – mass killing of men and boys, the rape of women, and the indiscriminate shelling of civilians – are legion and are not the subject of this blog. Whether or not these acts would be classified as terrorism is an interesting question. While they were certainly motivated by a combination of political, ideological and even religious factors they also occurred in wartime.
The ‘fog of war’ makes a lot of things hard to determine, and I would include terrorism in that. Others, I am sure, would label these acts as violent extremism.
King Alexander I Assassination
There is no doubt, however, that an act of terrorism did take place on this day almost a century ago. On October 9, 1934 King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, formally King of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, was assassinated by a Bulgarian named Vlado Chernozemski, a member of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO). IMRO was founded in 1883 to push for Macedonian independence under the Ottomans. Macedonia was later included into post-WWI Yugoslavia and eventually did become a separate state in 1991, the same year that saw the break-up of Yugoslavia, the catalyst for the 1990s wars in the region. Also of note was the fact that this act of terrorism may have been one of the first to be caught live on television: a cameraman filming a newsreel was recording as it happened.
Yugoslavia had been bubbling over with ethnic tension at the time of the assassination, much as it would later be in the 1990s. What I find disheartening is that the violence of the 1930s and 1990s does not seem to have exhausted the hate and animus among some actors in the Balkans. I regularly read in local news of new (renewed?) prejudices and dislike among Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks and fear that the worst of the violations I remember from a quarter century ago may rise again.
I hope I am wrong.