In the historical memory of Central and Eastern European peoples, the words “Muslim” and “Islam” often evoke images of terror and violence. Derided by leftist and liberal intellectuals as “xenophobic,” these negative images are still associated with the Turks and their centuries-long military incursions into the heart of Europe. Even the verbal derivatives of the word “Turk” in Slavic and Germanic languages often carry pejorative meanings. In Austrian Carinthia, Turks are remembered as Renner und Brenner (“runners and fire-setters”), who, while burning their way into the Alps, left terror and destruction in their wake. Far worse was the case of the Northern Italian region of Furlany, whose ransacking was depicted by the late Italian filmmaker and writer Pietro Paolo Pasolini. Shortly before the Croatian catastrophe on the field of Krbava in 1477, from the top of St. Mark’s in Venice, observers could witness the flames and smoke billowing all the way to the town of Udine. In their incendiary incursions, the Turks used the Balkan Wallachs, Albanians, and scores of marauding gypsies as front-line ethnic cleansers. Even the recent war in the Balkans and the killings of Bosnian Muslims cannot be understood unless we take into account the centuries of Turkish terror in the Balkans.
The onslaught of Islam resulted in massive transfers of populations. It was pure historical coincidence that Hungary and Croatia did not become part of the Ottoman Empire. Thanks to foreign volunteers from all parts of the Holy Roman Empire, including large numbers of Krajina Serbs and Danubian Germans, these regions still preserve their Central European and Catholic heritage. Still, it is a great shame that the role of Prince Eugene of Savoy, the liberator of Central Europe, is widely ignored in politically correct school syllabi and by the European media. After the expulsion of the Turks from the Panonian fields and the Danubian basin, the Holy Roman Empire decided to repopulate these devastated but fertile European regions with hundreds of thousands of German settlers who, until 1945, were known in Hungary and monarchic Yugoslavia as Donauschwaben. During World War II, many Danubian Germans volunteered for the Prinz Eugene Division of the Waffen SS, named after their patron hero. On May 18, 1945, 1,600 disarmed German legionnaires were swiftly executed by Tito’s victorious Communist partisans; the rest were shipped to the zinc mines in Bor. In monarchic and conservative circles in modern Europe, Prince Eugene remains a Christian hero. Born in France, Eugene strayed very early into the intrigues of Louis XIV’s corrupt court. The French king mocked Eugene’s flat nose, shrunken body, and huge head (and homosexual inclinations), and suggested to his royal coterie that Eugene was cut out less for a military career than for the life of a village priest. Out of hatred for Louis XIV, Eugene, who originally came from Italian-speaking Savoy, left France and offered his services to her mortal enemy: The Holy Roman Empire. In 1683, he participated in the defense of Vienna against the Turkish siege, and in the following decades, he liberated the entire Danubian region- including Belgrade, in 1717. Thus, the armed empire halted the anti-Christian invasion and the Turkish destruction of European civilization. Unfortunately, Eugene failed to liberate Sarajevo and to chase the Turks out of Europe for good. Battle along the Rhine forced him to pull back his troops to defend the empire against the French. The Islamic Sublime Porte maintained close ties with Catholic France, whose age-old obsession was to disrupt German-controlled access to the Black Sea via the Danube. He who controls the Danube, it is often said, controls Europe.
Despite their Asian origin, Turks absorbed many ethnic Europeans, particularly through the importation of white slaves from Turkish-occupied Central European regions to the Anatolian Peninsula. The Ottoman regime provided excellent career opportunities to young Islamicized Europeans-a development encouraged by the Turks in the Balkans and exemplified by the Bosnian Muslims. Suspicion lingers today among Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs in Bosnia toward the Slavic Muslim government in Sarajevo. It is entirely possible that some type of reconciliation will take place between the Serbs and Croats despite a century of mutual enmity. Such a development seems much less likely between either of these groups and the Slavic Muslims. The founding father of modern secular Turkey, Kemal Pasha Ataturk, resembled a German patriarch more than an Asian despot. His place of birth in the Balkans suggests that he was either of Slavic or Albanian descent. No insult can be worse to a Turk than to call him an “Arab.” By contrast, Turkey has close ties to modern Israel. After Isabella II expelled the Jews from Spain in the 15th century, many Sephardic Jews took refuge in the vast Ottoman Empire, which encompassed not only the Balkans but a solid chunk of Arabic North Africa. The state of Israel closely cooperates with Turkey’s military intelligence. Turkey’s appalling human-rights record is usually overlooked, and the European Union, pressured by the United States, must go to great lengths to accommodate the never-ending Turkish bid to enter the union. For the United States, both Israel and Turkey are important allies in the NATO-controlled eastern Mediterranean. Turkey is vital for access to the Central Asian basin, and she serves, with her powerful half-a-million man army, as the chief arbiter of “hydropolitics,” controlling the main water routes to the Middle East. During the war in the Balkans, with the full blessing of the United States, Turkey provided covert support to Bosnian Muslims and Albanians. Turkey’s memories of her lost European “glacis” are vivid, and she still longs to restore the past glory that once stretched to the doors of Vienna.
Despite the prominent role of the Turkish military apparatus and the high prestige of the Turkish military in public life, Turkey has been plagued for decades by the separatist Kurds, who make up approximately 15 million of Turkey’s population and whose goal is secession. Turkey is often annoyed by Armenian and Greek lobbies in France and America who openly demand a public apology for the Turkish genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915. Without exception, Turkey’s political and intellectual class rejects any allegation of genocide. While Germany must publicly demonstrate atonement for her sins in World War II, Turkey seems to be light years away from apologies for her genocidal practices against Slavs and Armenians. Over eight million Muslims live in the Balkans today, an autochtonous population that once converted to Islam, either out of opportunism or sheer terror. Well over ten million Muslims reside in the states of the European Union, mostly immigrants from North Africa and Turkey. Germany alone boasts three million Muslims, mostly immigrant Turks and Kurds. In the United Kingdom, there are over 2.5 million Muslims, mostly immigrants from Pakistan and Arabic countries, and France has a staggering four million Muslims, mostly immigrants from North and Central Africa. Modern liberalism preaches racial tolerance and multicultural conviviality. Yet after the terrorist strikes against the United States, and in the wake of the U.S. bombardment of Afghanistan, the multicultural utopia is beginning to show its dark side. It is a great irony of history that national socialists and fascists had many supporters and avid military volunteers in the Balkans and in the Middle East during World War II. In hindsight, Croatian fascist and Catholic leader Ante Pavelic appears the true advocate of liberal multiculturalism. In the center of Catholic Zagreb, he built a large mosque-whose minarets were pulled down and destroyed by the victorious Yugoslav Communists in 1945.
Tomislav Sunic, a writer and former Croat diplomat, resides in Europe.