A New Storm Is Brewing in the Balkans | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

A New Storm Is Brewing in the Balkans

Well, what else is new? Afghanistan is said to be the graveyard of empires, but turbulence in the Balkans often is also the precursor to an empire or two being buried in its wake. Not for nothing, in the fall of 1918, as the Salonica front was crumbling, Kaiser Wilhelm complained to his General Staff what a shame it was for the outcome of the Great War to be decided by 70,000 Serbs. Some decades previously, his chancellor Bismarck (who himself had more than a few drops of Serbian blood on his grandmother’s side) averred dismissively that the Balkan riff-raff was not worth the bones of a single one of his Pomeranian Grenadiers. By 1918 Wilhelm had learned better.

At the moment, it is Montenegro that holds centre stage in a brewing Balkan political storm. The ostensible provocation – the consecration of the country’s new Orthodox metropolitan – is as unlikely a trigger for a major crisis just as Montenegro (once celebrated in breezy operettas such as “The Merry Widow”) appears to be an unexpected mise en scène for a major geopolitical earthquake.

In the event, most Balkan eyes will be riveted on the old Montenegrin royal capital of Cetinje, where on September 5 an oddly controversial ecclesiastical consecration ceremony should take place in the local monastery, which also happens to be the metropolitan’s residence and symbolic headquarters. Why would a solemn religious rite in a monastery be anything but routine? Because it is scheduled to take place in a part of the world where everything offends someone, or has a double or even triple, or occult, significance which is thought to menace someone’s perceived self-interest, and because in that part of the world where everything is convoluted and simplicity is scarce, virtually nothing can be passed off as routine.