This is a story repeated time and again through history. During difficult times, military families from Soviet Russia retired in relative comfort in little Estonia. Today Estonia — now independent — struggles with a big Russian minority that refuses to integrate.
In the 16th century, the Habsburg monarchy planted Serbs — who were escaping from the Ottomans farther south — along the Croatian-Bosnian border, to provide a "human shield" against those same Ottomans. Many centuries later, descendants of those Serbian settlers and the indigenous Croats were embroiled in some of the bloodiest fighting of that war.
Back when Britain ruled Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) and used it as a big tea plantation, they couldn't get the local Sinhalese to pick the tea cheaply enough, so they imported Tamils from India (who were more desperate and willing to work for less). When colonial rule became more trouble than the tea was worth, the Brits gave the island its freedom. And today the Sinhalese and Tamils are locked in a tragic civil war.
When I consider the problems that come with planting Jews in Palestine, Protestants in Ireland, Russians in Estonia, Serbs in Croatia, and Tamils in Sinhalese Sri Lanka, I'm impressed both by the spine of the people who were there first and the hardship borne by the ancestors of the original settlers. When observing this sort of sectarian strife, travelers see that when people from one land displace others from their historic homeland — regardless of the rationale or justification — a harsh lesson is learned. Too often the resulting pain (which can last for so many centuries that many even forget its roots) is far greater for all involved than the short-term gain for those doing the planting.
About This Entry
You are reading "Planting People Brings a Painful Harvest", an entry posted on 17 August 2009 by Rick Steves.