Autonomy for the Croatians

In the editorial "US Role in the Balkans," Jan. 24, the author finds it curious - in light of Croatia's own border disputes - that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman would agree to the partition of Bosnia, a move the author misrepresents by equating it with Serbia's aspirations in that same region.

On the contrary, Mr. Tudjman's position is quite understandable. If Serbian leaders are allowed the privilege to set up their own autonomous units or secede altogether, then the same right should be given to Croats, as well as the Muslims in Serbia's Sandzak region, the ethnic Albanians in its Kosovo region, and so forth. The intractability of such a situation is precisely the reason why borders should stay fixed - and this applies to the Serb-inhabited regions of Croatia. Dubravka Romano, Cambridge, Mass. Dates of the 'Black Death'

In the article on the motives for early European overseas expansion, "The Impetus of Spain's Westward Expansion," Jan. 22, the author, citing historian Juan Gil, writes: "The Black Plague of the middle of the 15th century acted as a kind of 'economic brake' in Europe, says Gil. But by the end of the century the economy had started rolling again."

If, as I assume, the author means by the "Black Plague" the Black Death, this calamity occurred in the mid 14th century, not the 15th.

The Black Death, which was the initial outbreak of the plague pandemic, may have resulted in a population decline of one-third in a region stretching from Western Europe and North Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia.

Since eruptions of plague recurred at several intervals during the second half of the 14th century, demographic and economic recovery got underway only in the first half of the 15th. It was then that the Iberian seaborne expansion was launched, a Castilian expedition landing on the Canary Islands in 1402 and a Portuguese fleet seizing the Moroccan coastal city of Ceuta in 1415. Ross E. Dunn, San Diego Professor of History, San Diego State University

[Editor's note: The author of the article transcribed Mr. Gil's comment incorrectly.]

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