Current Events & Trends: Balkan floods wash up landmines and memories

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Balkan floods wash up landmines and memories

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The relentless flooding in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia is considered to be perhaps the worst the region has ever seen.

As of this writing, the death toll had risen to 74, with more casualties expected to be recorded as the cleanup continues. The flooding is just the latest event in the often-difficult and tragic past 100 years of Balkan history.

After drawing the wrath of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when a young Yugoslav nationalist terrorist named Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Balkan nations have experienced decade after decade of violence and unrest.

World War II saw Croatia adopted as a puppet Nazi state. Croatian fascists, referred to as the Ustashe, committed countless atrocities against Serbs, Romanies, Balkan Jews, and non-fascist Croats. The seeds of ethnic hatreds and divisions were planted in the battlefields and concentration camps of the Balkan Peninsula of World War II.

These tensions flared up in a deadly way once again in the mid-1990s in the Bosnian War. This time Bosnian Serb and native Muslim Bosniaks shared atrocities in a bloody, three-year war that left over 100,000 dead. An uneasy but mostly unbroken peace has seen no major conflicts in the two decades since the war.

Many old wounds are being washed up in the recent wave of deadly floods, however. Reuters reports that one of the ugliest reminders of past conflict—leftover landmines—are being washed up and are threatening the residents. Reuters reports that “more than 120,000 landmines remain planted across Bosnia” (Maja Zuvela, “Balkan Floods May Have Undone Years of Landmine Detection,” May 20, 2014). In a region with such fragile ethnic and religious relations, reminders of past violence can be dangerous. (Source: Reuters.)