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Dr Peter Radan
Macquarie University
Sydney, Australia



Vol. XXXVI, 1/2018, pp. 9–34


ABSTRACT/RESUME: The collapse of the Berlin Wall witnessed a renaissance for the romantic theory of self-determination in that it underpinned a flurry of claims to statehood, especially in Eastern Europe. Nowhere was this more vividly illustrated than in the Balkan lands of the South Slavs. The fragmentation of Yugoslavia during the early 1990s led again to the great powers of the day focusing their attention on the ‘Eastern Question’s’ latest iteration. In so doing, the disintegration of Yugoslavia became a laboratory for these great powers to reformulate and enforce a new understanding of the right of peoples to self-determination. The declarations of independence of the Yugoslav federal republics of Slovenia and Croatia in June 1991 marked the first formal steps towards the secession of these two republics from Yugoslavia. Croatia’s declaration of independence prompted the recursive secession from Croatia of Republika Srpska Krajina (Krajina) in December 1991. Despite the holding of referenda within defined territorial spaces to establish popular support, both the secession of Croatia from Yugoslavia and Krajina’s secession from Croatia were instances of statehood based upon the ‘romantic’ theory of self-determination. The recognition of Croatia’s independence and the denial of Krajina’s independence amounted to an application of the romantic theory of self-determination for the Croat people in Croatia and its denial in the case of Croatia’s Serbs. Against this background, Krajina’s claim to independence based upon the romantic theory of self-determination could only have succeeded if it had had the support of a state with the military strength and influence to maintain and, if necessary, defend Krajina until such time as her independence was formally recognized.


KEYWORDS: Republika Srpska Krajina, The break-up of Yugoslavia, War in Croatia 1991–1995, International Law, Self-determination, Secession, Inter-ethnic relations, National Minorities, Serbs in Croatia, Nationalism



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