Serbia in the vicious circle of nationalism
(Formerly at http://www.helsinki.org.yu/doc/reports/eng/Nationalism-post-October.zip)
By Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
English version of Srbija u zacaranom krugu nacionalizma
(Formerly at http://www.helsinki.org.yu/doc/reports/srp/ZacaraniKrugNacionalizma.zip)
This paper is based on a larger project, "Fighting Nationalism in Post-October 5 Serbia," realized thanks to the assistance of the Heinrich Böll Foundation
This study by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia is an effort to bring to light new forms of nationalism in post-October Serbia and thus show that Serbia has not yet found an alternative to such nationalism.
The third failed presidential election in Serbia has cleared a political scene which had been rather blurred. The outcome of the election finally refuted the thesis about Serbia's democratic potential and tradition - a thesis which, due to the Serbian elite's skillful maneuvering - stood in the way of a deeper insight into the society's state of mind. The Serbian elite's twenty years old endeavor to create a new cultural model - characterized by a totalitarian mindset - still stands as the biggest obstacle to democratization. Nationalism did not disappear in Serbia after October 5 2000, it has only taken a new form. However, it is easily detectable whenever the issue of facing the past or that of thoroughgoing reform are on the table.
As far as the past is concerned, it has been given rationalizations of its own - ranging from the denial of crimes committed and of the existence of the Greater Serbia project to putting all the blame on the Communist regime. Military defeat and the absence of an account of what happened in the past decade, the refusal to abandon the Greater Serbia program, an identity crisis and overall frustration have revived traditional conservatism. The bases of Serbian conservatism are: an absolute lack of economic reflection and commitment to economic progress, an absence of political pluralism; democracy confused with anarchy and xenophobia. Given that such a value system runs counter to the contemporary achievements of European societies, every new government will face the same basic dilemma: for or against Europe.
The DOS was a very heterogeneous coalition (of anti-war and radically nationalistic parties) which had only one common denominator: to bring down Milosevic. This explains all its subsequent difficulties when it came to fundamental political decisions and Serbia's reformist course. Over the past three years, Serbia's political scene has been flooded with scandals and affairs which have weakened political parties, and to a certain extent, undermined the very idea of a pluralist political system. And yet, in this extremely unfavourable environment, a reformist wing had emerged from the coalition, under the impetus and strategic planning of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic,. With strong support from the international community, this wing turned out to be rather efficient, managing even to improve Serbia's relations with its neighbors - a fact that greatly influenced developments in the region. Unfortunately, the Djindjic assassination has not only blocked or slowed down the entire reformist endeavor, but also dealt a death blow to such an alternative trend. Also, their insistence upon ethnic and centralistic principles is an unsurmountable obstacle to the very kind of Serbia nationalists are striving for. Their denial that Serbia is a composite nation pushes it toward further fragmentation.
Unwillingness to face the past has prevented society from acquiring the moral backbone it needs so badly. The haggling about and trivialization of The Hague Tribunal have enabled the "defeated forces" to restore their influence and make a political comeback. The fact that Milosevic and Seselj lead two candidates' lists for the early parliamentary election scheduled for December 28, 2003, is a perfect illustration of such recent developments.
An unrealistic assessment of the international situation, that of our neighbours and our own persists in spite of the change in discourse. To be sure, the plan for a Greater Serbia has been defeated but Milosevic's logic has won: the multiethnic and multicultural fabric of the Balkans has been rent asunder, and it will take decades for it to recover. That logic has prevailed because, among other things, the international community reacted too slowly, failed to understand the process that led to the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia , while the very existence of the Republika Srpska at the expense of Bosnia-Herzegovina is still weighing down the completion of that process. For, by establishing Republika Srpska, the international community has practically given its seal of approval to the war crimes and genocide which are now being tried at The Hague Tribunal.
Political continuity and discontinuity
More spontaneously, rather than in an organized fashion, the shock created by the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic led the nation to unite around the reforms he had started. Yet, immediately after the state of emergency was lifted, the real effects of that tragic murder began to appear. Fundamental reforms are stalled, cooperation with The Hague Tribunal - and thus, indirectly, confrontation with the recent past - is once again put into question, as well as the government's policy which, in a Serbia with no other valid options - in spite of all its objective limitations, frequent meanderings and counterproductive moves, proved to be the only alternative for Europeanization.
The assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic could have been a watershed in which the public could have started to see in its true light the policy of crime and with it Serbia's most recent history. Unfortunately, judging by the charges in the indictments against direct executioners of such crimes, this will have to count as another missed opportunity.
The tragic destiny of Zoran Djindjic (and before him of Ivan Stambolic) is the paradigm of Serbia's continuity with the Milosevic regime after October 5, 2000 - a continuity built on crime. The murder only laid bare the reality and weight of a huge and dangerous Milosevic legacy, and showed that a fragile coalition such as the DOS - had little chance to confront it to begin with. October 5 took place without a bloody settlement of accounts only because a consensus had been reached to remove Milosevic. The Serbian nationalists' interpretation of October 5, whereby Serbia
"under the weight of further threatened sanctions and political pressure decided to exchange its position as an European pariah' with the one of an European protectorate,"
largely describes the essence of the October 5 event.
The assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic on March 12, 2003, was a blow to the government's whole reformist policy, and to its reform-oriented wing in particular. The assassination confirmed that Serbia was a hostage to organized crime, and revealed the fragile nature of its stability and internal security. The attempt took place precisely when he was planning a showdown with organized crime and the mafias which had obstructed cooperation with The Hague Tribunal and a process of real reform since the DOS coalition had come to power. A watershed in the relationship between politics and organized crime, the Djindjic assassination called for a reinterpretation of October 5, 2000.
On October 5, the DOS missed a unique opportunity for a radical breakup with the Milosevic legacy. Differentiation within the DOS in this matter practically bought time and opened perspectives for a consolidation of Milosevic's financial and economic mafia which had a significant, if not crucial influence on further developments. The Serbian society was impregnated with crime. The connection between organized crime and the nomenklatura of the SPS (Socialist Party of Serbia) was more than obvious, as shown by their many joint ventures. In neighbouring countries, the criminalization of the national question expressed itself through mass crimes and, in Serbia itself, through the criminalization of the police, the customs administration and other institutions. The system of Government control created a favorable setting for the smooth operation of organized crime, which led to the hookup between the mafias, the police, the prosecutors and the courts.
Today, the months-long media campaign against the Prime Minister appears to have been a well thought-out strategy involving parts of the former regime, but parts of the DOS as well. Denial of war crimes is a common denominator for such a "natural coalition". We are dealing with an effort to maintain the status quo by all means and at all costs. The constitution of such a so-called "patriotic block" still comes along with a campaign to give the last decade, and the entire 20th century as well, a new interpretation. Thus, the whole responsibility for the past decade is blamed on the Communists and Slobodan Milosevic, while the Chetnik movement is being promoted and presented to the public as exclusively anti-fascist. This is the pattern that sets benchmarks for Serbia's future: for,
"over the 20th century, Serbs lost their way on two occasions - first into Yugoslavia, and second, into Communism."
The "patriotic block" sees "integration into Europe" as a utopia and puts it on an equal footing with the Yugoslav idea and with Communism.
Insistence upon rationalizing defeat is the hallmark of nationalism in today's Serbia. On the one hand, the public is entertained with the illusion that the present borders are not final, while one attempts to shun responsibility for the fact that the national question had been turned into a criminal enterprise. While the Left, as ever, verbally condemns nationalism and rejects it entirely, the Right meticulously adds new forms to it and labels it as democratic. Now when the role of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences SANU in promoting the idea of Greater Serbia is exposed day after day before the Hague Tribunal, its academicians busy themselves with playing down the importance of its Memorandum in shaping Milosevic's policy. Today's nationalism mostly originates in some influential circles within the Belgrade University, particularly the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Political Sciences, and the Faculty of Philosophy. These circles do not deny that crimes took place, but their strategy is focused on reinterpreting, i.e. minimizing the responsibility of the Serbian side. This is how not only the recent past is remodeled, but also young people's perceptions shaped.
Some nationalistic circles which are not without influence on the overall social atmosphere seriously discuss "what should the Serbs do in the next 10 years?" The Serbs are called upon to demonstrate their national solidarity, since
"the idea of Vidovdan the myths around the Battle of Kosovo and heavenly Serbia has been demonized and vulgarly assaulted,"
and call them to maneuver "for the sake of survival," while bearing in mind long-term goals. While waiting for
"the US to lose interest in the maintenance of the new Balkan order," for "Russia's comeback as a great power," and for "Western Europe to lose its present missionary appetite for creating hybrid nations,"
the Serbs should get ready, they say, to challenge their historical defeats. Until all this happens, "Serbian spiritual and moral renewal" should be seen as a preconditions for the nation's biological recovery and cultural survival.
Such messages clearly point to the following strategy: Serbia should not let its future options being restricted by joining the Partnership for Peace or NATO; it should not formally accept the status of a state with limited sovereignty; it should not get rid of its armed forces; it should not let the Constitution shrink its future political and constitutional framework to the size of the present government; and, the status of Kosovo should not be addressed before the Serbian state has stabilized. Further, the course of radical economic reforms (based on the Washington consensus) should be renounced, as
"the naïve belief by free-market fundamentalists" that stabilization, liberalization, and privatization will "automatically solve all problems."
This expresses the cowardice of the political elite and its inability to offer Serbia a serious vision of a modern society, based on the values of modern civilization. Therefore, to serve the needs of petty politics, nationalism is just being redesigned and inevitably returns to its notorious populist forms. Only admission of defeat and the start of a serious public debate could create the potential for change in Serbia. The option for an independent Serbia - though not for an independent and resentful Serbia, as understood by the group G17 Plus - is the only way to catch the train of reality, i.e. to accept defeat.
Obviously, the Serbian neo-romanticism from the late 20th century was not an appeal for the future, nor did it fit with the imperatives of modern times. Reviving the myths of Kosovo and Jasenovac only pushed toward a distorted perception of the past. Simultaneously, this meant that nothing would be done in terms of the challenges facing Yugoslavia and its diverse nations. Slobodan Milosevic's nationalism and populism further wasted the potential and energy needed for necessary reform. Serbia, exhausted as it is by such a policy is today weighted down by its own nationalism: the anachronistic nationalistic project has failed to assemble all Serbs in a single state. And the borders of Serbia have not even been settled.
The sources of Nationalism in Serbia after October 5, 2000
The Serbian nationalism of the late 20th century has a meager ideational core made up of stereotypes on the "chosen people," the "holy land," the "bloody and primal Foe," and on the mission entrusted to a Great Leader. Apart from rational political purposes, this scant notional core also includes ideological, religious, mystic and pathological elements. The mutual relations between those elements are blurred, instable and dynamic, that is polyvalent, which was the basis for its transformation from an organic and religious nationalism to an ideology or religion of crime.
Furthermore, this relationship between ideology and religion cannot be precisely determined, given that we are dealing with "holy criminals", aka "heroes". You may still meet young people openly wearing T-shirts with the caption "Mladic - Serb hero", which proves that the prevalent "liberal" or "democratic" nationalism in today's Serbia is neither a civic choice nor an option for reform, but the mask for national trauma or humiliated nationalism. This is actually the essential face, mask or disguise of contemporary nationalism in Serbia. When you add to this the fact that in the latest census at least 95 percent of the population declared itself religious, and 80 as adherents of the Orthodox faith, you may conclude that today's liberal or democratic nationalism in Serbia represents a cover for an ambivalent, resentful one. That is why Dobrica Cosic could say that the criminals recently arrested in the police operation ("Sabre") following the murder of Zoran Djindjic were "criminals, to be sure, but also Serbs", while a recent text in the weekly "Vreme" called the small, weak reformist forces in Serbia the "keepers of the chest".
The bottom line here is whether Serbian nationalism with such a basic intellectual poverty has the ability to overcome all social, confessional and regional limitations, given that it is itself a product of those same limitations. Thus Mihailo Markovic, fully in line with this humiliated nationalism, says over an interview,
"We had planned everything so well, but for the irrationality of the international factor!"
on another such declaration, see http://www.bosnia.org.uk/news/news/120799_4.cfm
Yet, unlike Hitlerism, Serbian nationalism, no more than the other nationalisms in these parts, has not been defeated. The impression which has been created - that everyone has somehow both won and lost, only makes the situation more confused. That is why, as seen from such a nationalist angle, the trial in The Hague is perceived as a rewriting of history. Like Jünger wrote,
"The father of this nationalism was the war, but it was itself born out of the conscience of communities of blood; it wishes blood to come to power."
Today's Serbia is in an ambivalent situation (something that probably applies to the whole region) - neither completely defeated nor victorious. Today's transfer (transitional) nationalism has reached a substation somewhere between crime and vague contours of a post-national society, between organic and constructive nationalism, according to which the state creates the nation, rather than the other way round. That is why the prevalent Serbian liberalism is actually a nationalism without a nation and without a state.
1. Based on Nenad Dakovic's discussion at the round table titled "Nationalism Changes Its Clothes", Belgrade, 15 July 2003.
Nationalism and Post-Nationalism
Serbian nationalism is to be envisioned on two levels. It is a concept, an ideology with a historical foundation. It will go on existing at that level for quite a long time, since ideologies are not that easy to change. Beyond that, Serbian nationalism is also a political project, i.e. an applied ideology. As such, it has been at work over the last two decades of the 20th century. It has been implemented. The sum of phenomena characterizing the present moment would be more appropriately described as "post-nationalism" Without this specification, it is difficult to tell the causes from the consequences. This differentiation is, moreover, made more difficult for a number of reasons.
First, the project of a Greater Serbia drew a consensus unparalleled in modern Serbian history. The rounding off of the Serbian state territory within ethnic borders enlisted the whole Serbian national body throughout the former Yugoslavia. The wars have proved that the project was irrational and the Serbian question complicated, all of which can be seen in the current position of the Serbian people.
Second, said national project is indivisible from the social one. Before the wars, an alliance of state socialism and nationalism had been formed through the so-called "anti-bureaucratic revolution" - which was essentially yet another rejection of needed economic, political and social reforms. This rejection has been paid for not only with a fifteen-year delay in the transition, but also with new difficulties in devising a strategy for reform.
Third, after October 5, no account of the policies pursued in the previous period has been drawn. Moreover it could not have been, because of the consensus described above. That accounts for the differing interpretations interpretation of the October 5 mutation. The forces of continuity saw in the removal of the key person in the regime a way to safeguard their political project, while the reformist forces were in fact the bearers of discontinuity. It turned out that the Europeization of Serbia would be fatal for the nationalist project. It would have to shrink to its archaic, reactionary essence. It began losing its aggressive power and entering a stage of decay. The assassination of the pragmatic reformer was one last attempt to revitalize it. However, a new consensus, only possible around the reforms and inclusion into the European Union, has not been reached. increasingly, it is the international community and not its own forces which pushes Serbia towards reform The trivialization of political life prevents Serbian society from perceiving the real dilemmas it is facing.
Fourth, the attitude towards the Hague tribunal is Serbia's litmus test as regards its recent past, that is the nationalist project. The Hague tribunal is dissecting that project and writing the history of the "wars for the unification of the Serbian people". The reformist forces themselves failed to perceive the issue of punishment for the crimes committed in any other manner than as a bargaining chip. Disregarding the moral dimension of crime is, as Nenad Dimitrijevic rightly concludes, a mistake for a reformer. But there is more to it, since it elicits suspicion about their actual resolve to part with the project which had crime as its constituent element.
Fifth, ignoring the changes in the neighborhood is a reflex from the old consensus, a refusal to acknowledge the new reality, which deprives the nationalist project of all its strength.
That is why the new initiatives from Croatia are met with suspicion. Serbian nationalism has for decades instrumentalized the genocide against the Serbs in Croatia during World War II through the fact that no apology had come from any representative of the Croatian people. And now the speech President Mesic gave in Jasenovac went almost entirely ignored by the Serbian media. Except at The Helsinki Charter, the integral version of the speech is nowhere to be found. The visa regime has been changed and the Serbs invited to return to Croatia: the invitation was preceded by a series of laws (on property, the reconstruction of houses, etc). the response to all this have been that it is not sincere," or that "it only came as a result of pressures from the international community." If in previous times books (by the Serb Bogoljub Kocovic, the Croat Vladimir Zerjavic, the Croat Ivo Goldstein) have changed nothing, and now neither do the long awaited apologies, one cannot but wonder what it is that we really want.
2. An excerpt from (historian) Latinka Perovic's keynote address at the round table "Nationalism Changes Its Clothes," July 15, 2003, Belgrade.
The Role of the Serbian Orthodox Church in fostering Nationalism
The fall of Slobodan Milosevic and the arrival of a new government - which clearly and openly based its legitimacy on anti-communism, lifted the ideological obstacles to the legalization of a process which had already started, that of a return of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) into public affairs. That started a speedy process of institutional removal of the principle of secularism at all levels of state and society.
In the post-October period, overtly supported by top officials of the new regime, particularly by the then Federal president, Vojislav Kostunica, the Serbian Orthodox Church increasingly set out to impose itself as the supreme moral and ideological arbiter in matters ranging from the education of children to the overall culture and civilizational values of society as a whole. The ideas which it promotes are marked by archaism, collectivism, xenophobia and hostility to the West. The manner in which these ideas are promoted is marked by a high degree of intolerance and even aggressiveness.
An extreme intolerance to everything belonging to the Western culture is one of the most important messages the Serbian Orthodox Church sends to its charges. The Church thus follows in the footsteps of its newly revived idol, Vladika (bishop) Nikolaj Velimirovic, whose interpretation of Serbia's modern history boiled down to a complot the purpose of which was to
"turn the liberated Serbian reâyâ the former dhimmis of the Ottomans into those of the rotten West."
The Church justifies its encroachment upon the public sphere by its concern for the people's spiritual health, and the need to have all areas inhabited by Serbs spiritually, culturally and politically marked as Serb. That is why it has lately been building churches which have nothing to do with the prevalent architectural style throughout Voivodina. Eager to expand its influence, the Serbian Orthodox Church has not only ignored the specificity of Serbian Orthodoxy in Voivodina, but also challenged the state by proposing that Mt. Fruska Gora be proclaimed a holy place.
The proponents of such a project were obviously not bothered by the "insignificant" fact that said state had already turned Fruska Gora into a national park, or that there was not a single canonical basis for declaring a mountain "holy".
3. Fruska Gora as a monks' republic - that's not exactly easy to implement here and now, writes Orthodox theologian Mirko Djordjevic,
"since, if our old culture started with a flight to a monastery - that of a young prince from the Nemanjic ruling house, modern Serbian culture and its recognizable European face started from that same Fruska gora when Dositej Obradovic escaped from the Hopovo monastery. The confusion is further increased by the memory of President Ivan Stambolic and his tragic death there at the hands of the Milosevic Gestapo..."
Republika, Nr. 320-321, 1-30. November 2003..
Ongoing developments point to a general clericalization and the Church's determination to play a leading part in society. This was also proved beyond doubt by the scandal related to anniversary of the infamous "raid on Novi Sad" (during WW II). Should Nenad Canak, the President of the Voivodina Assembly, also address the memorial service, then it would organize a separate commemoration, the Church said. Further, addressing the second assembly of the Svetozar Miletic Serb National Movement, the Bishop of Backa Irinej (Bulovic) provoked heated reactions when he pointed to the threat,
"to the very idea of our nation's congregational unity, and its national and cultural identity is in jeopardy," adding "It (the nation) is now more threatened from the inside than from the outside, and is threatened by people of burned conscience, by un-Serbianized Serbs who deny their own national identity and are, as a rule, atheists.
3. In short, was the Church intent to do something to stop these people's doings, exorcism would be the only solution." (Nasa Rec No. 6, p. 2, February 15, 2003.)
Since it perceives itself as a strong factor of integration, the Serbian Orthodox Church opposes the idea of Voivodina's autonomy.
4. its advocates are being accused of wanting to create a "Voivodinian" nation and establish a separate Orthodox church.
The assembly of the Svetozar Miletic Movement referred to in the above paragraph and of which Mr. Bulovic happens to be a member also called for an early election to the Voivodina legislature. The request was based on the claim that the Voivodina legislature and Voivodina Serbs were not even in minimal accord.
5. See "Human Rights in the Shadow of Nationalism," 2002 annual report of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, p. 85, Belgrade. http://www.helsinki.org.yu/report_contents.php?lang=en&idpub=150
The Church's reaction to ever more frequent desecrations of Catholic graveyards, particularly in Novi Sad, is also most illustrative. The Secretary of the Backa Eparchy declared that this act of vandalism (in Novi Sad) should be ascribed to "excessive liberalization" of the town where the Music Festival Exit was taking place for the third successive year. The Secretary put the music festival on an equal footing with the desecration of the Catholic graveyard by saying,
"We all know that it is, in a way, a hotbed of drug addiction and every other possible vice."
6. Gradjanski List, October 2003.
As a matter of fact, Exit is the biggest music festival in the Balkans assembling performers from all over the world and visitors from the entire ex-Yugoslavia. It is obvious that what bothers the Church most is the festival's liberal spirit and its openness to "the Other." Instead of pointing a finger at Exit and liberalism, the Church representatives had better blame nationalism for the desecration of the Catholic graveyard - i.e. the nationalistic policy they had been wholeheartedly supporting. For, this is the very same policy that never refrained from turning Serbian "graves and bones" into instruments of political mobilization and nationalistic homogenization
7. "Wherever Serb blood is spilt, and wherever Serbian bones are buried, this must be Serbian territory," said Vladika Nikandor. See "War Cross of the Serbian Church: Facing Democracy" by Mirko Djordjevic, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, Belgrade 2002, p. 79..
The Serbian Orthodox Church strongly opposes The Hague Tribunal and actively participated in its disqualification by labeling it a political and pseudo-judicial institution.
8. According to Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic, for instance, The Hague Tribunal is a mouthpiece of those that bombarded Yugoslavia and are eager to thus "justify their evil and crime before God and history."
Insistence on the Tribunal's alleged ethnic bias proved to be sufficient to assemble a variety of actors - lay, ecclesiastical, political, military and civilian. The initial rejection of the Tribunal and the denial of the war crimes was later replaced by a reluctant cooperation and the constant relativization of the crimes committed. The discovery of mass graves in Serbia did not lead to a recognition of the past, but was simply blamed on the former regime and blanket accusations against the Communists. However, resistance to cooperation with The Hague Tribunal appears at its strongest when dealing with the officers of the former Yugoslav People's Army and the all-out efforts to have an amnesty granted to them. That is why the opposition and discontent expressed on the occasion of the latest four indictments against Army and Police generals come as no surprise.
10. The rally to support Police General Sreten Lukic was organized by the Police itself, and backed by none other than Prime Minister Zivkovic. According to what Minister of the Interior Dusan Mihajlovic said over the interview in the October 10, 2003 issue of the daily Novosti, Serbia would be lost if the four generals were extradited to The Hague, since "it would be bereft of both Police and Army." On this occasion, minister Mihajlovic said:
"I will certainly not be the one who sends General Lukic to the Hague. Because, I repeat, I cannot accept indictments against officers of the Police and the Army on the mere basis of hierarchical responsibility".
Another meeting was held in Leskovac to support the four Police and Army Generals. organized by The Defenders of the Fatherland 1998/9 with the slogan:
"We will put our lives on the line to prevent the extradition of our war commander general Lazarevic and all the others to the Hague."
- Dnevnik, 2 November 2003.
The revival of nationalism has increasingly expressed itself through the commission of crimes, which the Church has never condemned or even criticized Frequent releases issued by the Church's Press Service repeated a cliché to the effect that,
"With increasing frequency, campaigns against the Church are being launched by more or less the same centers."
10. Danas, 7 July 2003
Those "centers" are the NGOs and public figures who have been critically monitoring the developments in and around the Church. However, there have been no campaigns of any kind, even less based on militant atheism. Since the early 1980s, the state and a substantial portion of society have manifested a remarkably favorable predisposition towards the Church. Not only believers, but also laymen - and especially the state - build a temple in the Vracar downtown area of Belgrade. The above-mentioned Press Service is in bad need of such "campaigns" even when it is clear that the highest church officials (the Synod) are rather unable to cope with a considerable part of public opinion. This creates an artificial tension. Not only from within the Church but also from without, particularly on the part of increasingly influential "para-clerical formations." which hold, among others, Karadzic and Mladic as cult figures. According to Lavrentije, Bishop of Sabac and Valjevo, the two "shall never be arrested, since they are sheltered by the people." Dubious warriors are thus turned into heroes and harboring them proclaimed a virtue.
It is not only a mater of clues but special documents behind which a part of the Church actually stands. Only recently - in May 2003 - a so-called Studenica Declaration of the Serbian Orthodox Youth Summit came out of press, along with another document, which merits attention in every respect. This document, titled "A Letter to Haralampi on St. George's Day," had been signed by two bishops. The latter is addressed to Haralampi - a correspondent of Dositej Obradovic - but also to the governments of "all Serb territories." It accuses Dositej Obradovic of having created a "godless school" in Western fashion while all those who follow in his footsteps "look for the sun where it sets down." The letter lists all those who brought evil on the Serbian nation such as the
"followers of Vuk, Markovic and Skerlic, communist ideologists and modernists."
This is how a cultural tradition with identity components has been reduced to a single model and all who fail to comply with this exclusive pattern are called "Euro snivelers." This term is what the most reverend bishop Anastasije Jevtic will be remembered by. This is the primitive pattern which is currently in vigor. What it offers is "a healthy nationalism, evangelistic and organic," which is also referred to as "St. Sava's evangelistic nationalism." No one has ever derived nationalism from the synoptic gospels, let alone the apocryphs. This is the first time you can hear a thing like that. All of this is done deliberately - to reinforce an ideological pattern, which is essentially obscurantist.
Another example is even more unusual and comes from Kosovo and the recent celebration of Vidovdan, Never before in its whole history had the Church stood against education, enlightenment or culture. It used to oppose the remnants of pagan consciousness that revive aggressive nationalism. It bravely resisted the inclusion of the essentially pagan and apocryphal Vidovdan into the Church calendar, which was only done after the battle of Kumanovo in 1913, since it did not have the status of a "compulsory holiday." That holiday has nothing to do either with the Roman Catholic Church's celebration of St. Vitus Day - or with Eastern Orthodoxy, since, according to the new Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodoxy Vid, a pagan god, is "unknown to the Eastern Orthodox tradition,". This did not prevent the reverend Anastasije Jevtic from saying in an interview that it was a Christian holiday since
"here suffered the holy martyr Vid, in whose name this day is celebrated."
11. Vecernje novosti, 29 June 2003.
This aspiration to an anti-Christian and pagan model of nationalism can be felt around the church and away from it. Here, myth and superstition mix with cheap conservative politics. Thus a kind of "St. Sava Orthodoxy" is being created, though it has nothing to do with St. Sava. So it happens that Vojislav Kostunica, until recently the head of state, said in his message to the nation supports a "middle way."
12. Politika, 5. January 2002.
That was an idea of Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic, our "pathfinder," according to Kostunica, whose proposal to introduce a Day of Struggle against Culture which the Church opposed. This is precisely what is advocated now by of part of the Church hierarchy, but also by the laymen-ideologists who call themselves "patriotic forces." This hookup between parts of the church hierarchy and para-clerical and para-statal organizations promotes the most aggressive nationalism.
Nationalism is deliberately produced to push us into self-isolation from the world, from Christians who are only different from us. The misunderstanding between these forces and a substantial part of the public is presented as a dangerous tension that weights the public life of a country, which has not yet healed the wounds of four lost wars.
13. The three last paragraphs of this section are based on (theologian) Mirko Djordjevic's keynote address at the round table "Nationalism Changes Its Clothes," July 15, 2003, Belgrade.
Nationalism in the Army
Nationalistic activities of national institutions such as the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Army - that act almost as a unique organization - plays a particular role in the constant promotion of nationalism in today's Serbia. The Church has practically overtaken the Army's role in Republika Srpska, Montenegro and Kosovo. Given that the dispute on the autochthony of the Macedonian Orthodox Church is still under way, the Church strongly influences developments in Macedonia. And, if one bears in mind that Serbian Eastern Orthodoxy equates the Church with a nation, its dispute with the Macedonian Church amounts to a refusal to acknowledge the existence of the Macedonian nation. The two institutions, therefore, are crucial when it comes to the maintenance of the delusion that "Serbian ethnic territories" Macedonian is a Bulgarian dialect will smoothly unite with the motherland, Serbia, once a change in international circumstances takes place.
Though expressed in hushed tones today, nationalism is still the dominant ideology in the army of Serbia and Montenegro. The collective consciousness of the officers corps can be depicted as a state of unreadiness and dismay. This is the outcome of some changes that were made lately in the process of transformation of the army.
This primarily refers to the decision of the Supreme Defense Council, which had the General Staff integrated into the Defense Ministry; to the decision to have military intelligence also put under the command of the Defense Minister and submitted to democratic control. Furthermore, the Minister of Defense disbanded a "phantom commission" that has been formed under the General Staff ostensibly to cooperate with The Hague Tribunal. Everything indicates that that same commission was gathering and dispatching documents and other material for the defense of Slobodan Milosevic. Finally, the third member of the infamous "Vukovar troika" was arrested - colonel and the 'hero' of the patriotic forces, Veselin Sljivancanin. The Minister of Defense took some more decisions, which put an end to a practice used by both the army and other governmental agencies - the practice of pretending cooperation with the Tribunal.
These changes in the Army's organizational scheme still have to be put into practice - a task that will be far from an easy one. Either camouflaged or overt, nationalism will be erecting a number of barriers to hinder the Supreme Command and Defense Ministry's moves which are a precondition for integrating the Army's into Euro-Atlantic institutions.
The army - bulky and poorly organized anyway, burdened with a heavy "war mortgage" and other problems, now finds itself at historical crossroads. It has to opt between two roads: one leading to the Partnership for Peace, i.e. to a radical transformation and collective security, and the other to traditionalism, whereby it will preserve its present, individual model of defense and security, based on the well-known principle of self-reliance
Considering that the incumbent Defense Minister and the Chief of the General Staff advocate the former, modern option and take decisive acts on those lines, the officers' corps -through the inertia of military obedience or servility -has kept quiet. One has the impression, therefore, that a majority of the officers are behind Minister Boris Tadic and General Branko Krga. Still, there are a lot of signs that point to the contrary. In the best of cases, the Partnership for Peace and collective security programs are accepted as a imposed by necessity.
The "patriotic bloc" overtly opposes Minister Tadic's course of action, calling it fatal for both the army and the country. Extremist circles communicate along the following lines,
"We will join the Partnership for Peace only on our own terms. First, NATO should pay war reparations. Second, our army should return to Kosovo. Third, the country and its army should be given a privileged position and status, given that the union of Serbia and Montenegro is the strongest military force in the Balkans and thus entitled to military leadership, and given that the army of Serbia and Montenegro showed its best in the fight against 'Albanian terrorism.' The latter should earn it a privileged status in the anti-terrorist alliance."
This argumentation is presented through broadcast media as well. The most hard-line proponent of this theory, and also its creator, is the retired, but nonetheless hyperactive General Radovan Radovanovic - the mastermind of almost all the battles Serbia has lost.
Furthermore, the "Second Battle of Kosovo" (this is how Radinovic titled one of his books from the "Kosovo series") is a paradigm or, so to speak, a myth, which is often joined in an artificial and vulgar manner to the Kosovo myth from more than 600 years ago.
*actually, this would make it the fourth battle of Kosovo, since the second took place in 1448 and the third in 1832
Thus, for example, the former head of department for morale, now a retired general, Milen Simic, claims that the current request to have the Army radically transformed downplays its "human factor," especially its commanders. So he says,
"It's a paradox that quality of human potential is brought into question, when the army has successfully resisted the most powerful military force in the world. Such a potential can hardly be found in any country in the world."
14. Vojska, 13 February 2003
In addition, the former professor at army academies, retired Colonel Dr Vidmir Veljkovic, wrote for the issue of February 20 of the Vojska (Army) magazine the following paragraph:
"Many of our local critics fail to see our ethno-psychological milieu - Serbs are special people who have behaved extremely defiantly, self-confidently, often provocatively, defending their home (which has been built 'on the crossroads'), against great powers. Serbs, even though a small nation population-wise, and great when it comes to bravery and military skill, were forced to defend themselves at the end of the second millennium, once again, alone, with no help from others, against a far mightier NATO. Actually, Serbs are the only people that haven't, as it was evident at the time of the aggression, killed with hate but laughter; the only people that took Pasic's slogan 'Don't worry, it wont be good anyway' as a historic inevitability. After all, in that war, figuratively speaking, a 'Lilliputian" Serbia was attacked by '19 Gullivers.' The army, with its high morals, knowledge and skill defended its dignity, honor and the pride of its people."
16. Ibid. 20 February 2003.
Referring to national identity, Professor Nenad Dimitrijevic notes that it is based on tradition and that there are two halves to it. One half comprises glory, uniqueness and invincibility of the "heavenly people," while the other includes the myth of equally "glorious" defeats, historical continuity of suffering and "the hatred of the other's" for "us" - here the former apparently results in a variety of anti-Serbian conspiracies, and, ultimately, in "our" innumerable victims 15. Republika, June 2003..
Inspired by this second half, Vojska weekly, in its issue of June 26, 2003, carried an article under the title of "Verticals of Serbian History." The feature, dedicated to Vidovdan, quotes,
"...Many people believe that far too many Serbs perished in vain in senseless wars against by far superior enemies. Those people always give an upper hand to megalomania over diplomatic efforts. Still, there's just as many of those who believe that national honor, dignity, sovereignty of the state, and, above all, freedom, are priceless and that every sacrifice to attain these ideals is small and incommensurate to its value."
With the arrival of Vojislav Kostunica to the position of the supreme commander, the Army, in the search for its own identity, found a safe haven in the warring tradition of Serbian Eastern Orthodoxy. This perfectly suited the flourishing of various forms of nationalistic ideas.
Slobodan Milosevic was acceptable to the officers' corps as a "supreme commander" at both rational and emotional levels. Firstly, because he was truly capable of playing a commander's role even though he had never put on an army uniform. Secondly, officers were thankful to him because in the "Second Battle of Kosovo" he gave them a chance to prove themselves professionally and at least somewhat remove the heavy losers' burden they had carried throughout all those wars "in which Serbia never took part the Belgrade-launched offensives against Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina."
Kostunica applied the same model of commanding the Army - the model of its deep politicization and, in a way, misuse. This was partially evident in the infamous army scandals, notably in the "Pavkovic affair." And yet the biggest difference between the two 'supreme commanders' is that Kostunica, unlike Milosevic, opened the gates of the Army to the Serbian Orthodox Church and thus gave nationalism wide opportunities to grow both openly and by stealth.
Just after the October change, the Department of Morale urgently organized a a round table under the title "Solving the military issues in the Yugoslav Army." The main idea was formulated this way:
"Since, after the October 5 change even fiercer attack at the spiritual being of the Serbian people could be expected with certainty, it is necessary to build strong dams against spiritual colonization resulting from activities by various religious sects, cults and occultisms of all sorts and thus preserve our spiritual and national identity..."
Actually, this was what the then head of the Department of Morale, General Simic, said at the round table - as if only Serbian Eastern Orthodox believers lived in Serbia and as if they were the only ones in the Army service. Thus, General Simic's opening speech was discriminatory towards people of other religions and atheists, as well as detrimental to their fundamental human rights.
The cooperation between the Army and the Church is probably best illustrated in the former's publishing activity. It was only natural that the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic should draw the attention of the Army press. However, all the Army's mouthpiece, Vojska ("The Army"), carried about it fit into one page, one-third of which dealt with Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic and his obscure speech at the memorial service in the St. Sava Temple.
The "Vojska"publishing house issued in 2002 a book titled "Eastern Orthodoxy and War" by Colonel Borislav Grozdic, which the weekly Vojska also carried in a series of articles. One of the book's reviewers Dr Miodrag Petrovic of the History Department of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences advised the readership on how the book should be read. So, he said,
"Eastern Orthodoxy is deeply rooted inthe national consciousness of the Serbian people and their identity cannot exist without it. The book ought to be read in the spirit of devotion to Serbian patriotism that is inspired by the love for God and Man. According to Eastern Orthodoxy, one should love his enemies too, but only if they are not evil to our brethren. "
16. Vojska, 14 February 2002
Thus, such "Humanism" implies concern for "our brethren" only, while the others should be of no concern to us.
Then, in 2003, the Army publishing house issued another book by the same author, titled "Battling for Faith and Motherland." From the title, one can sense the basic content and tone of the work. In 2002, the Army Publishing Center, in tandem with the Novi Sad "Pravoslavna Rec" ("The Word of Eastern Orthodoxy") publishing house, issued a major edition under the title "Monasteries of Serbia." Despite the fact that this work is considered most significant not only to the culture of the Serbian national body, but also as a valuable addition to overall culture, one cannot but wonder why the Army figured as a co-publisher at the time when its budget could have hardly cover the food expenses for privates.
In the last three years, army officers participated in almost all important manifestations that were organized by the Serbian Orthodox Church (transfer of the remains of Prince Lazar who died at the battle of Kosovo, from Ravanica to Lazarica; top army members also went on a 'pilgrimage' to Hilandar; the celebration of St Sava's Day is also the 72nd Special Brigade's day, etc.).
17. This section is based on Stipe Sikavica's contribution to the round table discussion of July 15, 2003.
The Constitutional issue as a source of Nationalism
The ever more burning issue of a new constitution 'reveals the immaturity of the Serbian elite. Once declared, the new constitution will certainly radicalize mutually opposed political positions and may bring about further tension, even conflict. Bearing in mind the composite organization of Serbia's complexity (e.g. Voivodina as an autonomous region), a conflict as such might be internationalized. In spite of that, Serbia's attitude to the constitutional issue is about the same as it was at the time of Yugoslavia's dissolution and then in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Serbian political elite keeps insisting on re-centralization and dramatically lags behind real life and history. In the summer of 2000, Milosevic attempted to re-centralize the federation of Serbia and Montenegro, which only resulted in further disintegration. The opposition then - now in power - welcomed Milosevic's Constitution regardless of its illegitimacy.
The same behavior pattern is visible in Serbia proper. The regionalization projects that are being drawn turn a blind eye to reality, try to effect change by means of a constitution, and attempt once again to re-centralize Serbia - to abolish Voivodina's autonomy in particular. Such attempts are veiled by allegedly contemporary regionalistic solutions. Liberal nationalism linked to the formula "one man, one vote" is once again on the table. In the same way as a "modern federation" was advocated at the time of the former Yugoslavia's dissolution, a "modern" regionalization is now put forward. Most paradoxical of all are the projects that, while dealing with regionalization, envisage an utterly unnatural and inexplicable division of Serbia into autonomous regions, the status of which would be equal to Voivodina's and even with Kosovo's. A belief that the separatist aspirations in Kosovo or serious autonomist trends in Voivodina could be dampened by a regionalization of Serbia sounds incredible. A false symmetry is being used to disqualify solutions such as a special status or even turning Serbia into a federation.
One should note here that Serbia's delusion about the possibility to negate historical reality through the drafting of constitutions is being nourished, and systematically so, by the international community; which prevents the dissolution process of the former Yugoslavia from reaching its conclusion, which is doing violence to reality. The manner in which the international community deals with the state issue in the territory of ex-Yugoslavia just prolongs the region's agony and wastes the energy of all factors included - this probably mostly refers to Serbia that is anyway incapable of coming face to face with itself. And, moreover, this manner fuels Serbia's delusion about ethnic borders - a delusion that it not characteristic of Serbia only
18. Historian Olga Popovic-Obradovic, the Helsinki Committee's public debate titled "Kosovo: Standards and Status," Belgrade, November 12, 2003.
Nationalists - particularly the Svetozar Miletic Serb National Movement - argue that the actual composition of the Voivodina provincial parliament "is illegitimate", since it "overtly acts against the interest of the Serbian state." This non-governmental organization fears that the new constitution would turn Serbia into a state governed by national minorities, and that the introduction of a bicameral legislature, i.e. the Chamber of National Minorities, would lead Serbian parliamentary representation into a stalemate since their counterparts from minority communities would be in a position to vote them down at will. Dragan Nedeljkovic one of the members of that movement, takes that a solution as such would lead to the same situation that resulted from the 1974 Constitution. In other words, as Nedeljkovic puts it, Serbia would be controlled by all, while unable to keep itself under control, let alone the others. Autonomy, argues the movement, made sense at the time of the "foreign", Austro-Hungarian Empire, but not today. Therefore, autonomy for Voivodina is a Communist delusion, and its advocates are Communists in disguise pursuing a policy that is lethal for the Serbian people. Further, members of minority communities are entitled to all democratic rights, given that Serbs are not intent on threatening anyone, particularly not in Voivodina. According to the Movement, Serbs are tolerant and often to their own detriment. However, Serbia's claim on Voivodina is best illustrated by the argument saying that Voivodina's remembrance naturally flows into the Serbian one, since the Serbian collective consciousness has always been the strongest in Voivodina, and all to the benefit of the Serb factor and all those whowish to live with the Serbs.
The circle of Serbian nationalists assembled in the magazine Prizma (Slobodan Samardzic) denies the Voivodina legislature the right to discuss the future status of Voivodina. Their criticism particularly focuses on the possibility of Voivodina having a tax policy of its own. They deny any historical justification for any kind of a wide autonomy, since they claim Voivodina has no specific cultural heritage that is independent from Serbia. These considerations around the draft for a new Constitution show that a retrograde approach to government that is, the Constitutionalism of the 19th and not of the 20th century, is still the starting point,
However, Voivodina is far from being the homogeneous community nationalists believe it is. In spite of all the ethnic engineering, Voivodina has remained a multiethnic community - for, the last census showed that Serbs amount to only 65 percent of the province's population. This fact only calls for serious consideration of Voivodina's autonomy. Voivodina' political parties are polarized around the question of its autonomy, while Voivodina's electorate has entered the so-called expectation stage. The number of undecided votes grows. Advocates of autonomy pinpoint the province's specificity and try to prevent further degradation of its towns to some "petty regions." While opposing assimilation of minority communities, they call for the principle of "positive discrimination," which implies minorities' mandatory participation in local self-government. Professor Stanko Pihler takes that local self-government and territorial autonomy are based on the same principle - the principle of citizenship, rather than on collectivistic perception of the state that, as a rule, implies "unity," togetherness and centralism, as well as undemocratic political climate overwhelmed with totalitarian tension. On the other hand, nationalists fear that a full autonomy of Voivodina will be nothing but its separation from Serbia. According to Prof. Cetkovic, Voivodina's political elite and a part of its intelligentsia pursue a shortsighted policy that, under the pretext of regionalism, attempts to impose "narcissistic," political separatism and provincialism.
Manipulation of Social Discontent, Populism and Nationalism
What unifies today's Balkans is grinding poverty, particularly in the South (Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo in the first place). Along with the absence of democratic traditions and accountability, this poverty is a stumbling block in the way of true democratization. It reduces democracy to a meaningless form. An increasingly unified Europe is permanently running ahead of the Balkans - the Balkans simply cannot fulfill its standards as they grow higher and higher. Apparently, the Balkans lacks the substantial enlightenment necessary to accept European standards. The requests made on those societies such as the free market and the rule of law but radicalize them further, as they are incapable of genuine modernization. Therefore, as Brzezinski puts it, a fundamental transformation of these societies asks for "historical patience."
However, even in such poverty-stricken Balkans the process of transition is not the same everywhere. The wars waged over the past decade of the 20th century made Serbia the epicenter of crisis - for, as it resists changes, Serbia holds hostage the entire region. Serbia's policy of war and its refusal to face the past have unavoidably resulted in its radicalization. Radicalization then leads back into archaism. Attainments such as secularism are questioned, while the Church and the Army get the upper hand.
It was the international community that helped nourish the illusion about Serbia's equal place in the region and in its relations with Europe. Serbia will hardly be able to set a reasonable course for itself, unless it comes to grips with the experiences of the first and second Yugoslavia, as well as with the developments over the past decade. For, unless radical reforms take place - which is hardly probable - Serbs will once again try to compensate by going for the territories they allegedly "lost". In an interview publicized these days, Academician Veselin Djuretic said,
"Is it really possible that Albanians and Croats believe that the Serbs could ever, just like that, give up what belongs to them?"
Serbia has always been in a latent conflict with Europe. As it seems, this conflict is now stronger than ever before. In addition, in an attempt to further work its way up, the Serbian elite relies on a possible conflict between Europe and the United States, and on Serbia's "indisputable" geostrategic significance. Serbia's inability to come face to face with itself results in both apathy and rationalization. So, some circles, particularly those within the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, are nowadays claiming that the Former Yugoslavia didn't need to be destroyed. Academician Djuretic, referred to in the paragraph above, takes that "the Yugoslav option is the only way out for all the nations of the former Yugoslavia."
What Europe must do really to help Serbia at this point is to assess the real state of affairs and give up its imaginary wishful thinking image of Serbia, on which it builds its strategy. To be sure, the European Union and the United States have brought peace to the Balkans. But that is not enough to really bring the Balkans closer to Europe.
Politicization of the Trade Unions
Trade unions have always been politicized. This is why today the trade unions, particularly those connected with the former regime, demand ever more frequently the government's resignation. The fact the trade unions are so much engaged in politics manifests that other political factors are either incapacitated or too weak to come to grips with social problems.
Serbia's politics is "unionized." Various political parties attempt to "profit" from social discontent. The G17 Plus that used to be a very liberal-democratic organization has been riding the waves of fierce populism ever since it turned into a political party. And this dangerously opens the door to demagogy of all sorts.
19. Sociologist Stjepan Gredelj, the Helsinki Committee's public debate titled "Manipulation of Social Discontent, Populism and Nationalism," Kragujevac, October 30, 2003.
Against the backdrop of general social discontent, socio-economic problems boil down to the distribution of poverty. What matters in such a situation is which of all trade unions is better organized than the others. According to economist Miroslav Prokopijevic, everyone is fully aware of what it is that should be done, but
"since voters are apathetic, no political party able to carry out such needed reform has emerged so far." "This is not about the lack of know-how," says Prokopijevic, "but about the lack of the necessary will that marks the electorate and political parties alike. As both the former and the latter are aware of it, manipulation is mutual and unending."
20. Miroslav Prokopijevic, ibid.
The problem of poverty - perceived as a political resource - is that the worst stage iis still ahead. Transition in Serbia still hasn't showed its bleakest effects. Aware of it, political parties are now swarming from the center tothe left , hoping to make some profit from this segment of the ideological specter.
The DOS coalition was incapable of breaking with the Milosevic era, let alone that of Tito nor even the early 20th century of Prime minister Nikola Pasic. Egalitarianism plus mother-state is the problem facing all primitive societies. It has turned out that even the former Serbian opposition was incapable of radical reform, which is evident in all domains.
As time goes by, trade union leaders engaged in politics will lose the game while those fighting for workers' rights will be winners. However, commanding trade unions to keep away from politics will not pacify them. For, the trade unions gain in popularity when they oppose the government, since said government still is the main employer.
21. Journalist Dimitrije Boarov, the Helsinki Committee's public debate titled "Manipulation of Social Discontent, Populism and Nationalism," Kragujevac, October 30, 2003.
The poorest strata gradually become the most vulnerable to the influence of political parties and religious organizations. With a rudimentary value system and a tendency only to look after their daily personal needs, they are easily manipulated. The sense of ethnic belonging is noticeably growing. For instance, the Serbs who have fled from Kosovo gettogether to "glorify Serbia" everywhere - even in Kragujevac, they believe themselves to be better and more loyal citizens of any town they inhabit than the rest, and see themselves as the best "representatives of the Serb nation." The Roma also distinguish themselves according to their ethnic origin. For the masses, receivers of social services national identity becomes a way to satisfy their daily needs, as no other, better or more appropriate way is available to them. They can easily be led into any purpose with a national trait in it. For instance, they used to massively enroll themselves as volunteer fighters in 1999. And most of them volunteered at the behest of some political party. Many of them died or came out of the war as invalids. Their families nowadays live on welfare or the assistance provided by humanitarian or non-governmental organizations. On the other hand, political parties and religious organizations take poor care of their handicapped members.
Many people capable of working are now jobless and will hardly be able to find themselves new jobs in near future. Some join political parties hoping to thus improve their chances of employment, while others go on strikes hoping to thus draw public attention to their problems. Ever more frequent hunger strikes, suicide threats or leaving babies behind in social care centers also reflect this manifold manipulation. All those people were manipulated - and now they manipulate others by presenting themselves as victims of the system, social crisis and transition. They call themselves "a collateral damage" of their own fate - which they probably are.
22. Pedagogue Borika Petkovic, the Helsinki Committee's public debate titled "Manipulation of Social Discontent, Populism and Nationalism," Kragujevac, October 30, 2003.
Kosovo: Generator of Permanent mobilization for Serbian Nationalism
Kosovo, i.e. the 19th century myths around the first battle of Kosovo in 1389, has in recent history been more a means than an end for the Serbian national and state policy. In the service of much larger and more serious territorial aspirations, Kosovo is actually a constant of the modern Serbian state's national policy. What figures as the core of this policy, from the beginning, is the unification of all territories regarded as "Serb", by virtue either of historical or ethnic right. Throughout history, this policy has been labeled as "the revenge for the allegedly lost first battle of Kosovo" or, more often today, "the return of Kosovo." As a rule, the policy of "revenge for Kosovo" implied in principle warring for territories, not necessarily over the territory of Kosovo. In the 20th century, when the Greater Serbia project was launched after the Karadjordjevic family came to the throne in 1903, Kosovo became not only the symbol, but also the strongest mobilizing force for territorial expansion, the historical area with which the expansion of the Serbian state started but by no means ended. Father Milan Djuric, a well-known member of (Nikola Pasic's then governing) Radical party roared in the Serbian parliament on the eve of WW I,
"The duty of the teachers in Serbia has always been to instruct the children in the sworn thinking of the Kosovo heroes... to teach the youth how the citizens to come will avenge Kosovo and build a Greater Serbia. For centuries has the Serbian people have slaved and fought, just to avenge Kosovo and set free its disintegrated ethnicity. It was this Kosovo pledge that pulled our ancestors up at the beginning of the past century. We should not sit on our hands while the heart of the Serbian nation is being torn off Bosnia, the ancient Serbian kingdom sic and Herzegovina, the dukedom of St. Sava."
After several wars and inspired by the myth of Kosovo and the slogan "revenge for Kosovo," Serbia managed to create the Yugoslav state in 1918. In the new state the slogan lost its primary function, but was not forgotten. It was kept on the shelves of collective consciousness just to be revived each time Yugoslavia faced a crisis. At the end of the 20th century, when Serbia once again placed on the agenda the redefinition of national interests, "revenge for Kosovo" was restored as a national-political slogan supposed to legitimize the project of territorial expansion. Like on previous occasions, the formula was utilized regardless of whether such territorial aspirations could be based on historical or ethnic rights, and regardless of whether it was the South or the West of the Balkans they were aiming at.
The latest large-scale recomposition of the ex-Yugoslav territory was triggered by the infamous 8th Session of the League of Communists of Serbia where Milosevic wrested control of the League from the hands of his "friend" Ivan Stambolic and which put Kosovo back on the agenda, demanding its unconditional reintegration into Serbia's constitutional jurisdiction, as the Federal, Republican and Provincial Constitutions of 1974 had effectively removed it from Serbian control. As it turned out, the issue of Kosovo's constitutional status was only an excuse, the main objective being to put into question the whole Yugoslav Constitutional order.
When it had introduced the issue of Constitutional reform only as the reintegration of the autonomous province of Kosovo, Serbia obtained the political support and the legal assent of all the Yugoslav Republics (but not that of Kosovo itself, which the Constitutions mandated). That is how amendments to the Serbian Constitution were made in 1989, a change imposed upon the Albanians through the use of force under a state to of emergency introduced by the Federal government.
It appeared, however, that Serbia was not only intent upon re-centralizing power within "its" own borders,, but in the whole of ex-Yugoslavia as well. and that the Eighth Session was not just an insignificant event in Yugoslav history or a mere internal party showdown. Actually, that was a U-turn in the policy of official Serbia towards Yugoslavia. The policy of consensus was rejected in favor of another aimed at Serbian domination over Yugoslavia at all costs, genocide included. This is how the slogan "revenge for Kosovo" once again became a battle cry.
The ideologists of a centralized Yugoslavia - who had become omnipresent in public debate in those years - kept on expounding that a confederal Yugoslavia by itself implied a war for territorial redistribution from Hungary to the Adriatic Sea, a war that could cost the region over one million human lives. This dreadful threat from Serbian intellectuals soon turned into a Yugoslav reality. The "revenge for Kosovo" ended up as a revenge upon Yugoslavia.
The role of Kosovo as the means, rather than the end of the Serbian national program is revived today regardless of the suffering and hardships it has already visited upon the territory of the former Yugoslavia.
Namely, in early 2003 - two years after the overthrow of the Milosevic regime - Serbia opened once again the question of state borders in the Balkans. And, as it had done throughout the past two centuries, Serbia did it through the issue of Kosovo: should Kosovo continue to insist on independence, threatened Serbian officials, Serbia would demand a "new Dayton," i.e. a redefinition of national borders in the Balkans. A year ago, Vice-premier Covic was quite explicit about the official stand as he said about a year ago
"If they (the Albanians) stand for independence, we (the Serbs) will stand for the partition of Kosovo-Metohija."
Thus he, for the umpteenth time, reiterated the idea of dividing Kosovo which the Serbian nationalists from Dobrica Cosic's entourage had been promoting since the mid-1960s. So, to the request for an independent Kosovo Serbia responded by a list of its own territorial claims, topped as usual by Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now, the question of the status of Kosovo is being opened once again with the idea of imposing an exchange of territories, Kosovo, or rather part of it, in exchange for Republika Srpska in Bosnia. However, apart from the division of Kosovo and Bosnia, such policy of territorial compensations puts into question national boundaries throughout the region. The Serbian nationalists and creators of the national program can now hardly conceal that they have never given up their historical tendency to treat Macedonia - or at least some of it-as part of their territory. If you add to this Montenegro as "the other Serb state" or "the Sparta of the Serbs" , it is more than obvious that Serbia has not put to rest the issue of Balkan borders and is still counting on a new cycle of border redrawing along ethnic lines. There is no doubt that, today's strategy, the same as the one before October 5, is based on a refusal on principle to recognize the so-called AVNOJ borders, i.e. the federal project for Yugoslavia announced by Tito in November 1943 which has led to the intra-republic borders laid down in the Constitutional order of 1974. Only thus is it possible to put Republika Srpska born in the mid-1990s as a result of conquest and extermination at the expense of the internationally recognized independent state of Bosnia-Herzegovina, on an equal footing with Kosovo which Tito only joined to Serbia as an autonomous province in 1945 and which had a quasi-Republican status in the Constitutional framework of 1974 http://www.bosnia.org.uk/bosrep/marmay98/serbia.cfm.
23. Historian Olga Popovic-Obradovic, the Helsinki Committee's public debate on "Kosovo: Standards and Status," Belgrade, November 12, 2003.
In Serbia's recent past, the manipulation of Kosovo began in 1970s when the amendments which led to the 1974 Constitution were under discussion. Dobrica Cosic was the first to come public with a statement about Serbia having lost Kosovo for good. But this is why the reopening of the Kosovo question in the 1980s and its instrumentalization was primarily intended to reopen the issue of Serbia within the whole of Yugoslavia. The Kosovo problem is probably the most difficult of all because, on the one hand, it implies irrationality and emotions, while, on the other, there is a general understanding that Kosovo is already lost. It is precisely because the issue has been on the table for over a century, and solutions to it have always been utterly wrong -based on intolerance and some imaginary, collective rights that were, logically, exercised exclusively through brute force - that Serbia has been incapable of devising an exit strategy.
24. Sociologist Olivera Milosavljevic, Ibid.
In that sense, a good illustration may be given by a Serb from Prizren who understood the manipulation of Kosovo 110 years ago:
"We are willing to lock horns with the entire world, though it's only natural that in conflicts as such the entire world would by far more easily beat us than we could beat them all. And then we behave like children -we kick against the pricks and cry at the top of our lungs calling the entire world 'hostile' to us, claiming that this world will not let us live, let alone develop and grow stronger. No one is such a fool to take our fist for an orange or a lemon...So, behaving like a mad bull, we've turned an issue of a nation's humane existence into an European problem, and did it all to our own detriment...That was the first bitter pill of our modern and infamous 'statesmanly wisdom' and provincial patriotism...One who genuinely wishes to help the Serbian people should give up all those inflammatory phrases, for threatening and challenging the entire world is nothing but an act of suicide...We must finally realize that we cannot convert Europe and that Europe's decisions are not the decisions made by some village assembly that would easily be annulled with hue and cry...And, we must realize that we should give up our claims based on force, but claim our rights, while respecting the rights of others at the same time... We've become used to swelling with fury and being at odds. And this could have produced nothing but turmoil actually originating from the smoky pubs throughout Belgrade and other cities. With everyone politically drunk, it was that poor people who had to pay the cost and up to this very day pray, 'Dear God, please protect me from my alleged friends so that I can protect myself from my enemies!' That people over there cannot be taken responsible for the political mess created by the bigmouths from Belgrade pubs and taverns. The bigmouths' are acting on their own and the responsibility is theirs."
25. M. Djordjevic Prizrenac, "Moze li se pomoci nasem narodu: odgovor na savremeno pitanje s pogledom na opsti politicki polozaj" ("How to we Help our People in Old Serbia?") Belgrade, 1891.
Serbian Nationalism in the Context of Regional Security
From the point of view of regional and European security, the Balkan nationalisms remain an obstacle to the establishment of a stable security arrangement in the Balkans, but in Europe as well. This refers to the Kosovo issue, too. Given the way it has been radicalized in the last two decades, it will take years of patient efforts to bring peace to the region, primarily through the process of joining the European Union. Membership in the European Union is the strongest motive for most Balkan states to push for bolder reform. Serbia exhibits a strong opposition to such an orientation. Were it not for the international community, Serbia would be in a chaos and that chaos would be spreading to the EU through organized crime, human trafficking, terrorism, etc. Bearing such scenarios in mind, at its Salonika meeting of June 2003 the European Union decided to treat all Balkan countries as candidates for membership. This is probably one of few good circumstances for Serbia and its future.
Weakened and paralyzed as it is, Serbia is unable to solve key problems of its society: to pass a new constitution, to define its borders, let alone come to grips with the problem of the final status for Kosovo. And in addition to its impotence, the Serbian political establishment, when Kosovo is the issue, do not abandon the old matrix. On display are two contradictory approaches to Kosovo: one backed by the international community, which is still in the process of its definition, though its basic frame will not change; and the other, the Serb one, which neither recognizes nor accepts the new reality which will in any case decisively influence the final status for Kosovo.
The Western Balkans is now entering the final stage in the resolution of its crisis and the process of setting the framework for the whole region. This final stage focuses itself on the Albanian question. This is the way to understand the recent visits to the region by Holbrooke and Kouchner, which can also, in a certain sense, be interpreted as an advance party. What they put on the table for Serbia was a determined position the international community. Belgrade is challenged to choose now "between Kosovo and Europe." Holbrooke was quite explicit about that choice. the Serbs are at historical crossroads for, as he put it, if they "opt for Kosovo, they will loose the one and the other", while they know pretty well that "Milosevic has lost Kosovo". This was also a way to highlight the status of Kosovo.as the main problem of Balkan security - During his visit to Belgrade, Mark Grossman, one of the top people in American diplomacy, even gave a hint about the deadline for solving the Kosovo problem -by 2005. Apparently, official Belgrade is not ready for such a close deadline, as it has wasted too much time using the Kosovo issue to mask its inability to solve its internal problems.
The Contact Group has been revived and proceeds with its terminal work. There are differences within this group between the positions of the USA, the EU and Russia. For the time being the European Union insists on implementing the standards before the status, the U.S. goes further in planning for independence, while Russia's position is determined by the situation in Chechnya - all the three members have reached a consensus on basic problems of the region: weak economies, poor cooperation with the Hague Tribunal and political problems related to Kosovo. The European Union is particularly sensitive to unresolved territorial disputes - one of its main conditions is that "no one shall come into the EU with a territorial problem".
Objections from the Serbian side are limited to the state of affairs in Kosovo after the intervention and the present situation of the Serbs and other minorities. Though such concerns are fully legitimate, they cannot eliminate the reality which has put both Serbs and non-Albanians in such a situation. Over the past four years, Serbian policy was focused on demonizing Albanians, compromising the international community's efforts and building parallel institutions to put the international community before the fait accompli of a partition. Such a strategy implies looking very hard on the Albanian side for a partner that would advocate the idea of a Greater Albania, in order to partition Kosovo. However, no such advocate has been found so far either in Kosovo or in Albania- which doesn't mean that such aspirations do not exist at all.
On the other hand, the Kosovo Albanians have reached a complete agreement on the issue of independence and they are fully aware that, as President Rugova puts it,
"Serbia cannot hold Kosovo hostage, since Kosovo too has the potential to hold Serbia hostage."
26. Chair of the Helsinki Committee Sonja Biserko, in the public debate "Kosovo: Standards and Status," Belgrade, November 12, 2003.
Nationalism and the relationship to the Past
Confrontation with the recent past and genuine cooperation with The Hague Tribunal are of strategic significance to Serbia. This primarily implies:
to establish the responsibility of those who have committed war crimes and of their commanders;
to accept responsibility to make a moral reconstruction of society possible; to implement all the declared foreign policy goals (joining European integration processes, membership of NATO, etc.); and,
to enable economic development taking into account that thiis depends on the attainment of foreign policy goals.
However, the Serbian elite has opted for "commercialization," which means bargaining with The Hague Tribunal on the one hand, and denying or minimizing war crimes on the other. Defying expectations, this attitude was maintained even after October 5 and even if the democratic regime extradited a number of indictees to the Tribunal. Among President Kostunica's first public statements was the one wherein he referred to cooperation with the Tribunal as "the least of his concerns."
The government extradites the suspects, but justifies itself in front of public opinion by letting it known that it does so "under pressure" and "as a condition for financial support", while openly counting the days until the Tribunal ceases to operate. it is obvious that the Serbian government had rather be perceived as the government which extradits its innocent citizens to "the pseudo-tribunal in The Hague" and does so for "a handful of dollars" than as the one which cooperates with The Hague Tribunal in good faith, genuinely convinced that crimes have been committed and should be punished." 27. In an interview to the daily "Danas" former British Ambassador Charles Crawford remembers that the Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic, upon his remark that the Government gave the impression that it was co-operating under pressure with the Hague, answered that the Serbian public would not be able to accept such co-operation otherwise. On another occasion, as he returned from a trip to the U. S. in July, the Prime Minister boasted that he had asked from his counterparts that they put an end to "political conditions and pressures". Clearly, the Prime Minister himself does not wish co-operation with the Hague.
The media in Serbia play a significant role in promoting that stand on the part of the political and cultural elite. This is particularly evident in the Milosevic case. Superficial reports from the Tribunal are usually reduced to truncated and off-handed excerpts from witnesses' testimonies, noting, as as rule, that Milosevic "refuted" them all. Not a single analytical piece attempting to summarize the proceedings and pinpoint the counts which have been proved (and many have) has been written so far. No reporter has ever challenged the many lies Milosevic has been telling in the course of his "defense," not even when they were blatant and recognizable by all.
At the same time, by carrying opinions of alleged legal experts, the media regularly criticize the Tribunal primarily as a political institution manifesting an extreme anti-Serb bias. Almost as a rule, the media do not report the innumerable testimonies which incriminate under their full names people who still live a quiet life in Serbia, let alone raise the issue of their responsibility before domestic courts. This is best illustrated by the testimony of General Krstic. Though he precisely and nominatively exposed the main culprits for the Srebrenica massacre, none of them has been questioned in Serbia, let alone prosecuted in any way.
The new regime particularly discredits itself with its false statements about the whereabouts of General Mladic. It first claimed he was "not on the territory of Serbia" and then that he was "no longer on the territory of Serbia." The claim that was not under the aegis of the Army was followed by the statement that he "was no longer under the aegis of the Army." The promise about "arresting Mladic immediately, if anyone told us where he was" was followed by the statement according to which Mladic's "arrest could trigger a civil war." Everyone was involved in the game - from Djindjic and Kostunica to Dusan Mihajlovic, the Minister of the interior. (Only Nenad Canak the reformist from Voivodina openly admitted that the government was horsing around.)
So this is what the elite puts across at home: crimes against non-Serbs are "not real crimes;" they may be regarded as crimes according to the standards of another world to which we do not belong, though sometimes we do have to pretend to belong to it for financial reasons.
The Serbian administration's cynicism when it comes to the charges of aggression and genocide Bosnia-Herzegovina has pressed against Milosevic's "Yugoslavia" before the International Court of Justice is about the same story. Not long ago, the state's legal representatives requested the Court to revise the decision about its competence in the matter - for, allegedly, it was just recently that Yugoslavia "learned" it was not a UN member-state, i.e. this is what it learned when it was admitted to the UN. The bottom line here is to deny the genocide with which Slobodan Milosevic has been charged among other things. Not only the people from the former and the incumbent regime , but also those from the former anti-war movement.
The latest indictments against four generals (Nebojsa Pavkovic, Vladimir Lazarevic, Vlastimir Djordjevic and Sreten Lukic) for the crimes committed in the course of the 1999 armed conflict in Kosovo have further sharpened the attitude towards the Hague Tribunal. Cooperation with the Tribunal had stalled after the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic. The fact that Slobodan Milosevic and Vojislav Seselj figure on the top of candidates' lists for the early election in late December 2003, as well as that two indicted generals, Pavkovic and Lukic, are candidates for parliamentary seats, clearly show that nothing has changed when it comes to The Hague.
National Minorities, Xenophobia, Racism and Anti-semitism
In an attempt to present post-October Serbia as a respectable and cooperative member of the international community, and thus emphasize the break with the old regime, the authorities also demonstrated their readiness to pursue a novel policy with regards to national minorities. The task of addressing the minority question presented them with the opportunity to put across two messages: one addressed to the international community and the other to minorities themselves. The international community was thus told that it would be cooperating with a new elite, ready to abide by international standards. The minorities were told that they would no longer be treated as public enemies but, on the contrary, as partners and valuable associates in the process of building a different, more tolerant society.
28. "With this law we are sending a strong message to the national minorities that we will treat them as an integral part of society and state", Rasim Ljajic, Federal Minister for National minorities and ethnic communities, Novosti, 27. 1. 2002.
The fact is that in post-October Serbia minorities have had less and less reason to fear. Massive repression against minorities is a thing of the past. However, this doesn't mean that ethnically motivated violence is gone or that a revival is to be ruled out. For, the nationalism which has so long and so strongly influenced developments in Serbia and the position of its minorities has not disappeared nor suffered a final defeat.
In early 2002, the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) met a major precondition set down by the Council of Europe to which it was admitted in the aftermath of the Djindjic assassination. The Federal Assembly adopted a Law on the Protection of the Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities. The adoption of the Law drew a favourable response particularly from the international community. In its letter to Minister Rasim Ljajic himself a Bosniak from the Sandjak,, the OSCE Mission called the Law "one of the most liberal and comprehensive minority laws in Europe".
29. Danas, 2-3 March 2002.
The fact is that the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities was a necessary but not sufficient step in the process of building a new policy for minorities. According to Federal Minister Rasim Ljajic, a new policy should mean new institutions, a reformed educational system freed of the views that encourage discrimination, and a transformed climate in society.
30. Danas, 12 April 2002.
What marks Serbian society is a pronounced distance between ethnic groups. According to the findings of the public opinion survey commissioned by the Federal Ministry for National Minorities, 3.3 percent of respondents displayed an extreme distance to people from minority communities, 28 percent strong distance, 54.8 moderate distance, and only 10.3 percent of respondents expressed no distance at all. Over 70 percent of respondents in Central Serbia, Belgrade and Voivodina believed that one should be on one's guard with Albanians, 50 percent said the same about Croats and Bosniaks, and 30 percent about Roma. In the South of Serbia, for instance, 73 percent of Albanians and 61 percent of Serbs exhibited ethnic distance: 56 percent and 43 percent respectively said they could not be on friendly terms with one another, and as many as 96 percent and 95 percent respectively would forbid intermarriage to their children.31. Gradjanski list, March 2002. It particularly disturbing that people between the ages of 20 and 29 exhibit greater ethnic distance than those between the ages of 50 and 57.
It comes as no surprise that, in a society weighed down with ethnic mistrust and xenophobia, some politicians such as Velimir Ilic, leader of the New Serbia party and Mayor of Cacak, should seek to make political capital from such tendencies. Instead of striving to bridge ethnic distance and build confidence, they appeal to the prejudices of the most conservative segment of society, insisting that the key posts in the state be made the ethnic monopoly of the majority nation.
What the "union" of ethnic elites offers to minorities is assimilation in the case of small minority communities, and enclosure in their ethnic identity in the case of the larger ones. Small minorities have to cope with the problem of interethnic solidarity, while the big ones face the issue of a poorly developed national identity. the endeavor by some minorities to complete their own educational system from pre-school up to university level will certainly help them preserve their national identities.
The coalition of nationalists is turning Serbia into a kind of federation of ethnicities, dividing it into parallel worlds independent of each other. Such a coalition distributes benefits and expenses unequally - benefits go to the large minorities, but not to small ones. When members of small minority communities criticize the Law on Minorities, they are right. For, the rights that are provided, for example, to the Hungarians are denied to the Germans. Considering that under the current dispensation, the Germans are deprived of the possibility to form a national council, but need a body to represent them, the question is which of their present ethnic factions will monopolize that role and spark a process of mutual rivalry.
However, the coalition of the nationalist elites does not free Serbia of ethnic violence. Such violence exists, and in some places, such as the neighborhoods of Adice and Veliki Rit, it has been going on for a long time; as illustrated by the letter sent recently by the Union of the Ashkalis to Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic asking for the police do all it could to prevent future conflicts and protect from violence the Roma and the Ashkalis.
Tolerance for hate speech is still regarded as the natural consequence of an underdeveloped democracy and a relic of "the Communist era", rather than a danger that might take on a new dimension. The failure of the state authorities to act appropriately was criticized by, among others, the Society for the Truth About the Anti-fascist Struggle, in connection with an incident during which copies of the dailies Danas and Politika were publicly torn up in the Cacak town square by members of the Ravna Gora 'Sloboda' Freedom Movement as they commemorated the execution of General Draza Mihajlovic.
32. "This time newspapers are being destroyed... tomorrow, books will be burned at the stake, and then the attacks on people with different opinions will become more frequent and brutal", Danas, 19 July 2002
"We are not against media freedom," members of the Movement said and justified their action by claiming,
"These newspapers are saying the vilest things about our Serbian traditions, religion and nation. They are anti-Serb and imbued with hate speech. Their hatred is directed in the first place against Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic and the Ravna Gora Chetnik Movement of General Mihajlovic.' Another reason why the newspaper copies were destroyed, according to Vladimir Stegnjajic, the president of the movement's District Committee, was that Danas and Politika wrote critically about the Mayor of Cacak Velimir Ilic. 'We regard any malicious article about him as an assault against Cacak," he said. In his appeal to Cacak residents to boycott Danas and Politika, Stegnjajic said, "This is just a beginning."
33. Danas, 18 July 2002.
It was in Cacak too that a panel discussion on anti-Semitism was disrupted by visitors who not only opposed such a topic being discussed in the town but also called the Jews "the most corrupt and filthiest race on earth." Another incident followed shortly when a member of the local extreme Right, who objected to the staging of an exhibition of works by the American photographer Ron Haviv under the title 'Blood and Honey', beat the exhibition organizer and activist of the Civil Parliament of Serbia, Ivan Zlatic.
34. The Cacak police declared that the brawlers were neither skinheads nor members of any extremist group but hooligans and people prone to making trouble, Danas, July 20-21, 2002. The attackers were fined 5,000 dinars each except for their ringleader, Igor Ivanovic, who was sentenced to 10-days' imprisonment.
Similar incidents took place in other towns staging Haviv's exhibition, notably in Uzice and Kragujevac, where supporters of Radovan Karadzic chanted nationalistic slogans, insulted visitors, and blocked the opening ceremony. There were also incidents in Novi Sad where, according to Dnevnik, some twenty young members of the Fatherland Movement 'Obraz' and the Serbian National Movement "Svetozar Miletic" were prevented by a strong police force from disrupting the opening ceremony. Before and during the opening of the exhibition, protesters distributed leaflets bearing slogans "This exhibition is in the service of filthy anti-Serb propaganda" and scrawling various messages on the exhibition boards such as "Ustashi!", 'Kill a Muslim!", "Down with Canak!" "We are children of Serbia!," "The more of them are killed, the less work there is for us," "What about Serbian churches and icons?," or "Death to the traitors!". When someone reacted by scribbling, "Shall we ever see the end of wars?" his question got the following answer "Until minorities realize that the Serbian people are in the majority in Serbia and do not want to be in the minority." The Novi Sad exhibition had been inaugurated by Nenad Canak, the president of the Voivodina Assembly, and Slavisa Grujic, editor of the TV channel Apollo. After the exhibition was declared open, a group of protesters booed Grujic, crying he was not "a true Serb" and was married to a Hungarian.
35. Dnevnik, September 11, 2002.
Indeed, incidents accompanying the Haviv exhibition as it toured Serbia - in Prokuplje, for instance, the difficulties of the organizers to find appropriate premises amounted to an unofficial ban - bore evidence that every effort to publicly discuss and raise the question of responsibility for recent crimes was not only resisted but came up against a campaign in support of people accused of war crimes. In all bigger towns, for instance, the Serb Fatherland Movement "Obraz" posted Radovan Karadzic's portraits bearing the caption "Every Serb is Radovan."
Standing out against revival of radical nationalism, a group of intellectuals wrote at the end of October 2002 a "Letter of Warning to the Serbian Public." The authors warned against the unjustifiable delay in confronting evil and condemned in particular the promotion of the school of historical and historiographic revisionism, the publicity given to conservative, organicistic thought, the rehabilitation of collaborationists from WWII and the societal shift to
"a new uniformity... marked by the totalitarian and undemocratic ideology of Milan Nedic and Dimitrije Ljotic and by the triumph of the parochial philosophy of Nikolaj Velimirovic."
36. Danas, October 29, 2002. The letter was signed by (Orthodox theologian) Mirko Djordjevic, Milan Djordjevic, (Vreme Journalist) Filip David, Dragan Velikic, Predrag Cudic, Vladimir Arsenijevic, (former Mayor of Belgrad architect) Bogdan Bogdanovic, Radmila Lazic and Laslo Vegel.
The bad economic situation also fuels nationalism as it makes people in the street turn to manipulated identity references as a way out of their present troubles. This trend became obvious following the entry into force in Hungary of the January 1, 2002, Statute, designed to protect Hungarians living in neighboring countries. Actually, the law seeks to preserve the national identity of Hungarians living in Slovenia, Croatia, the Federal republic of Yugoslavia (now Serbia and Montenegro ), Romania, Slovakia and the Ukraine, to slow down or halt their emigration, and to encourage their spiritual and political integration without a change of borders.
Unlike the sharp reactions of the Slovak and Romanian governments, the response of the Yugoslav authorities was one of utmost reserve. In mid-2002, at a conference in Belgrade, Federal Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic had set out certain objections to the Status Law, but did not elaborate on them. When asked explicitly by a number of non-governmental organizations to declare its position on it, the federal government failed to respond. Participants in a round table in Novi Sad, organized by the local branch of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, found it inexcusable that the citizens were better informed about how Bratislava and Bucharest viewed the law than about the position of their own government on the same issue. They complained that the government's policy of ignoring non-governmental organizations in this respect was incompatible with its oft-repeated assurances of transparency, and warned that such an attitude could hardly offset the homogenization based on anti-Hungarian feelings. That such feelings were on the rise was testified to by, among other things, inquiries made at the Helsinki Committee's Novi Sad office, when people were calling in to ask what the law was about and then providing commentaries such as "How long will Serbs be discriminated in this country?" or
"What kind of democracy is this, given that Hungarians can work in both Hungary and Serbia, while there is no work for Serbs even in Serbia itself?"
Out of six offices set up to deal with applications for Hungarian documents, those in Becej and Sombor received anonymous threats, their employees being warned that bombs would be thrown into the premises unless they stopped receiving applications. The opening of the KMH office in Temerin was resisted by local members of the Serbian Radical Party, who saw the move as a ploy to "wrest land away from the Serbs."
That xenophobia and racism have deep roots is illustrated by a similar "concern" for the country's future some anonymous authors expressed in a leaflet circulated in densely populated Block 70 in New Belgrade. The leaflet warned the residents against "the yellow pest" and called for "the boycott of immigrants." In mid-2002, an organization calling itself The Patriotic Wing of the Young Serb Skinheads circulated a proclamation saying that skinheads were
"neither beer-guzzlers nor haters, but young people who champion the interests of a healthy Serbian community."
The objectives of this "healthy" segment of Serbian youth, enumerated under the slogan "Serbia to the Serbs," include revival of the traditional Serbian family, survival of the white race and restoration of its racial pride, and a crusade against the new world order, drug addicts, homosexuals, miscegenation and the flood of colored people. The nature of said "struggle" came to light at the end of 2002 when two Chinese shops were burned down in Kragujevac.
At the round table organized by the Croatian Academic Society, sociologist Srecko Mihajlovic drew attention to the fact that "hatred of foreigners is more common among Serbs than fear of them.
"The view that everything coming from abroad is dangerous and suspect, and, therefore, one should keep away from foreigners, is in evidence in nearly all the research into the matter. For instance, the idea that foreign influence is dangerous for our culture is shared by as many as half the citizens of Serbia...To make things more absurd, one-quarter of the citizens regard foreign investment as a danger to our country," said Mihajlovic.
37. Danas, 14 October 2002.
As for anti-Semitism in the post-October 5 Serbia, it comes in the "nationalistic package," carefully wrapped along with racism, xenophobia, and intolerance. In parallel with a part of the Serbian elite's attempt to rehabilitate nazi collaborators in the World War II and their ideology, and discredit anyone siding the anti-Hitler coalition, new organizations such as "Obraz" or "St. Justin" popped up on the social scene. Assembling mostly young people and some students from the Faculty of Theology, these organizations have "mastered" anti-Semitism. Moreover, they have been propagating racism, Hitlerism as "a vision for the future," as well the ideas of notorious domestic adherents of the Third Reich.
According to Aleksandar Lebl, president of the Commission for monitoring anti-Semitism of the Federation of Jewish Communities (in Serbia and Montenegro), judging anti-Semitism on a scale 1 to 10 (wherein 1 stands for non-existent anti-Semitism, while 10 for the Holocaust) would get Serbia a mark of 4 (on the same scale the situation in the world today would be ranked 5 to 6, compared with 4 to 5 yesterday, when Serbia's ranking would have been 3).
On another scale where one would measure the fight against anti-Semitism, Serbia would rank 4 to 5 for the sake of comparison, a very high ranking 7 to 8, would be that of today's Germany.
38. Aleksandar Lebl, Round Table "Extremism in Serbia," European Movement in Serbia, February 2003.
In other words, Serbian authorities do react, but not appropriately and not to the point - everything boils down to verbal protests over drastic incidents, issued by officials, political parties, and non-governmental organizations. As a rule, says Lebl, the police never manage to detect authors of anti-Semitic graffiti or those who demolish Jewish tombstones and monuments. Regardless of Article 134 of the Criminal Code that penalizes publishing of anti-Semitic literature and spreading hatred, no one has been called to account so far: prosecutors have not launched any suits against such authors or publishers. Recently asked to ban the umpteenth edition of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the Belgrade Public Prosecution Office replied that it didn't take this fabrication as an anti-Semitic narrative and, therefore, saw no reason to ban it.
"This would have been unacceptable in a law-abiding state," says Lebl.
39. Lebl, Ibid.
Here one should bear in mind that major advocates of retrograde ideas are not to be found only among marginal conservative groups or minor, extremist political forces, but in key opinion makers and presumed pillars of society such as the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Army, the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, University circles, etc.
To illustrate the above if suffices to say that the Church advocates Vladika Nikolaj Velimirovic's positions about "the return to traditional roots." Such conservatism that, among other things, propagates gender discrimination and "sticking to our culture and tradition as values that would never abandon us" takes root in the minds of ordinary people who have been too long isolated from the outside world. To make a bad situation worse, this particularly affects the younger generation - future decision-makers and the supposed vanguard of liberal ideas.
Pluri-national communities such as Serbia are all the more complex since, as is often tha case they also have different religions. Small religious communities are often branded as cults that resort to all kinds of insidious practices. When early in April 2002, Olga Ivanis of Radio-television Indjija committed suicide by throwing herself from a three-story building, the media quoted people as saying she had been under the influence of a cult but nobody could say which one.
40. Dnevnik, 7 April 2002.
A particularly serious incident took place in Belgrade in late 2002 when a group of some thirty youths prevented an Anglican priest and about twenty believers, including the British ambassador, Charles Crawford, from entering the Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarchate for a traditional Christmas Eve service. The incident was given wide media coverage and was condemned by the Serbian Orthodox Church, non-governmental organizations and political parties. Interestingly, the Serbian Minister for Religious Affairs, Vojislav Milovanovic, called the affair a " a remnant from the Communist past", whereas it is difficult to understand why the youths gathered outside the building did not chant Communist slogans but church canons and hymns
41. Danas, 26. 12. 2002.
When the Broadcasting Law was drafted, the Serbian Orthodox Church insisted on being allotted air-time on the state RTS channel; it also wanted the drafters to throw in a provision making it obligatory for republican and provincial broadcasting services to allocate four hours of prime-time a week to religious programs anytime between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The request, signed by Patriarch Pavle, also insisted that live broadcasts of religious ceremonies should not be interrupted by commercials.
42. Danas, 18 January 2002.
Normalizing the Balkans
The uncertainty about the Balkans' future casts doubt on the process of normalization and, possibly, reconciliation. Most Balkan countries are still dominated by nationalistic policies, which are, ipso facto, xenophobic and intolerant. Such ethnic entities or states have not yet shown their ability to elevate themselves to the level of modern nation states that guarantee equality and rights to their minorities. This is why the present activities of the international community and its institutions such as the United Nations, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and NATO are of crucial importance. These institutions lay down the framework and the system of values for the newly-established countries, which can truly enable them to join the European family of nations.
The foundations that would guarantee reconciliation between the former warring sides and, consequently, ensure stability in the Balkans have not yet been laid. The international community has over the past ten years invested strong efforts to find a solution to what was at first a Yugoslav crisis but could now be termed a Balkan one. The Hague Conference and the Stability Pact were separated by a time-span of ten years. All the solutions offered in the interim -from the 1995 Dayton Accords, the UN Resolution 1244 (1999) to the Framework Agreement for Macedonia - were, nevertheless, half-measures allowing continual manipulation by local warlords. Besides, peace agreements are not enough in themselves to bring about reconciliation. What is necessary is a political will to implement them and the will of the peoples inhabiting the region to repair their coexistence.
In the last ten years, Serbia has made no decisive attempt to achieve reconciliation with its former "enemies". For one thing, there can be no genuine reconciliation with Croatia while a number of questions remain unsolved; these involve, among others, the silence about the fate of 1,500 now 1,240 missing Croats, the dragging of feet in returning the Prevlaka Peninsula, and the reluctant delivery to The Hague of the last member of the "Vukovar troika". As regards relations between Belgrade and Bosnia, the state of affairs is even more uncertain and complex. To begin with, the Dayton Accords essentially cast in concrete the defeat of the victim, i.e. the Muslims. Dayton was framed according to the situation on the ground, not the principles of justice. In other words, the Accords themselves have not created any of the preliminary conditions for a process of reconciliation. Republika Srpska is the daughter of crime and, therefore, essentially doomed. Seven years after Dayton, only a small number of refugees have returned to Republika Srpska, and Mladic and Karadzic, the symbols of ethnic cleansing and of mass murder, are still at large. Furthermore, while paying lip service to an integral Bosnian state, the Bosnian Serbs are busy hacking away at its very foundations with a view to a union with Serbia. This project is now being promoted as the ªrounding off of the Serb cultural and spiritual space." Republika Srpska has already been incorporated in the economic, educational, military and media structure of Serbia and Montenegro. While pretending to be willing to be part of multiethnic Bosnia, which has paid off in terms of Western donations, no one has the least intention of confronting the past.
Thus, as far as Bosnia is concerned, a basic error has been committed. The first Commission for Truth and Reconciliation has failed in its task because, as it turned out, each of the three parties had its own version of the truth and consistently propagated it. And that was totally contrary to the spirit of the Dayton Accords. Actually, it was contrary to the spirit of a just peace. A new Commission under UN auspices was set up only recently. But unless the truth is established and the character of the war qualified, the new Commission is not likely to make any progress either.
A similar situation is evident in Serbia following Milosevic's fall from power, especially since his transfer to The Hague. After ten-years of frustration with Milosevic, the West has settled for a "normalization of Serb nationalism" - blaming on the Communist Milosevic all the crimes committed by Belgrade. No attempt has been made to fathom the much deeper roots of Serbian nationalism, which, throughout the twentieth century, had threatened the survival of the former Yugoslavia and in the end was the ultimate cause of its break-up. Indeed such efforts have been discouraged even by Western diplomats, who are all to eager to have normal relations with Belgrade and to give the new leaders the benefit of the doubt. Instead of making a break with the policy of its predecessor, the new leaders have perpetuated it if only by other means. In expectation of a change in international circumstances the map of the Balkans is yet been re-drawn. As Dobrica Cosic, the most popular Serbian writer, once said,
"That would be a war for ethnically-based states. We have nothing to lament, for we have created an ethnic state of our own. To be sure, its boundaries have not yet been defined."
The 11th of September, it seems, served Belgrade as a new excuse to reinterpret the recent past in its favour, obstruct real analysis, and try to mask the most crucial problems. The bigger the mistake and the bloodier its consequences, the harder for people to own up, says the historian Sforza. The assassination of Prime minister Djindjic, who symbolized Serbia's reformist endeavor, is the best evidence that conservative and nationalistic forces are ready to do anything to prevent Serbia from opening to the world.
Serbia has not come to terms with the recent changes in the world and the end of the Communist delusion, which has opened up the space for disappointment but also for new manipulations. The Serbian resistance to new challenges has resulted in lengthy and thorough preparation for a new "egalitarian" ideology, through party dogma urging unity, through the Church preaching about the superiority of Orthodoxy and of East over the West, a military doctrine extolling the Serbs as warriors, through literature, historiography... Without a viable alternative and with no possibility for retreat, indoctrination could not but result in the use of force. The prevalent cultural pattern has wreaked unprecedented destruction: the razing of towns, the obliteration of centuries-old monuments, the mass murder of civilians, etc. As one prominent Serbian architect remarked,
"This lunacy also oozes a resentful hatred for urban life and urban civilization."
The development of a new cultural pattern will require both time and the engagement not only of the small marginalized segment of the Serbian elite who consistently opposed nationalism, but also of the international community. Up to now, the preference has been for simple solutions ensuring peace rather than investing in efforts to fundamentally change the cultural pattern that is essential for reconciliation.
The ad-hoc Hague Tribunal established in 1993, is a key mechanism for the individualization of crimes and the satisfaction of justice, but it is not sufficient in itself to bring about reconciliation. The Hague Tribunal is in the interest of the people because it gives every crime a name and a surname. This is where evidence is given for said crime, which should also help a nation from deluding itself and building a new myth in which it figures as the victim. Another important feature of the Hague Tribunal is that it compels states to accept a limitation of their sovereignty with regard to humanitarian law and human rights violations.
On the other hand, The Hague tribunal has its limitations. For example, it has no built-in moral dimension, which contributes to glossing over the issue of responsibility. Thus the extradition of Milosevic under outside pressure was presented to the Serbian public as a necessary concession for financial support from the West. Such an approach devalues the moral component. In other words, The Hague Tribunal is potentially problematic in that it may leave the government with the impression that it has fulfilled all its moral obligations. Furthermore, the Tribunal deals with individual responsibility without condemning the policy which caused the crime as the Nuremberg trials did.
A Truth Commission therefore, may redress these shortcomings. However, a Truth commission cannot by definition qualify as a valid state institution if the state in question does not acknowledge its own responsibility for the crimes committed. The commission which president Kostunica set up was basically composed of people whose writings had provided the arguments for the wars. It was ready to establish what happened, but not to assume responsibility for it. It did not take the indictments against Milosevic, Mladic, Karadzic and others into account as a relevant starting point for establishing the responsibility of the state.
The task of a truth commission is, among other things, to diagnose the political context in which a policy of crime was adopted and implemented. Unless this is done, a society as a whole cannot reexamine its responsibility for such a policy. We are dealing here not with collective guilt but rather with the historical responsibility of a society that gave its assent to such a policy, elected the leaders who set it in motion, or merely kept a low profile. We are dealing with the policy that brought about the siege of Sarajevo, the massacre of civilians at Srebrenica and ethnic cleansing. Confronting this is the hardest of tasks for a society which is trying to come to grips with itself.
Even if a truth commission made the necessary diagnosis, the process of squarely facing the past could not proceed without the support of the Government, Government institutions and the media, above all the broadcast media. The Government must adopt a set of values as a guidance to the commission and must build these values into the overall system including education, the media, etc.
The impression is that Serbia has not made a single step in the desired direction. The reality of today's Serbia is fragmented, as are the activities of the international community. Everything is taking place at several different levels at the same time. There is no succession of events that could set into motion a reconciliation process. At one level, Serbia is being saved from implosion, while, on the other, the union of Serbia and Montenegro is artificially maintained; on the third level, the decentralization of Serbia is blocked by Belgrade's politicians; and, on the fourth level, an idea to partition Bosnia and Kosovo circulates in the hope that the international community would ultimately consent to such a "sensible and realistic" solution.
Mass graves of Kosovo Albanians are being discovered in Serbia, but are never publicly connected with the events in Kosovo - as if all those corpses came out of the blue. Although many were shocked by such discoveries, the question of what actually happened to all those people was never publicly opened. Public reaction has basically been one of indifference to this evidence of appalling war crimes. A segment of the population still cannot accept the fact that Serbia was bombed because of what its troops and paramilitary were doing to Kosovo Albanians, and that the West was trying to protect them from an extermination attempt. Such perception would never fit into the prevalent perception of Kosovo Albanians as third-rate citizens. The NATO intervention is never associated with the plight of the Albanians but always invoked to remind the West of its own supposed guilt. This is why the West is supposed to pay for Serbia's democratization without Serbia having to lift a single finger.
Turning a blind eye to the crimes committed, glorifying criminals like Mladic and Karadzic, and extolling an army which was responsible for crimes is the hallmark of Serbia's conservatism and retrograde tendencies. Unless this link is exposed, it could set the stage for a new war. However, The Hague Tribunal has become the mirror of Serbia because it is reconstituting its recent past and this, in turn, contributes to creating the reality of today.
It is of paramount importance that Serbia faces its recent past and draws a moral lesson from it. Only then Serbia will be genuinely prepared for reconciliation. The well-known German historian, Holm Zundhausen, said,
"No society can avoid confrontation with the dark pages of its past. Every democratic community must sort itself out. Silence is destructive."
This presupposes a break with the project of a Greater Serbia. Unless this project is de-legitimized, there is no way the crime can be condemned. With the defeat of the Greater Serbia project the region can restore its balance and start its painful process of reconciliation.
1. Even after the change of October 5 no socio-political alternative able to articulate a radical break with conservatism, traditionalism and nationalism has emerged in Serbia.
2. Though a certain economic progress has been made in terms of transition (e.g. in the domains of privatization and the financial system), Serbia has not changed in its dominant political pattern which also manifests itself in the people's state of mind.
3. Three years after the change of the regime, Serbia shows that it doesn't have enough democratic potential and energy to face its recent past and thus to create the indispensable conditions for the establishment of a strong moral backbone.
4. The Serbian elite still clings to the illusion of a possible revision of peace agreements, i.e. the unification of all "Serbian territories," which is more than obvious in its attitude towards The Hague Tribunal, Republika Srpska and Kosovo.
5. In the post-October period, the Serbian Orthodox Church has been the main promoter of anti-modern and anti-European trends, which is evident in its general activity. The Church is quite candid about its political ambitions and, in tandem with some circles in the Army and the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, actively supports the restoration of the monarchy. Against the backdrop of an overall identity crisis, the Church advocates a bygone value system by promoting figures who symbolize a patriarchal, anti-market and anti-European social model. Its definite anti-Hague stance and refusal to criticize war crimes are aimed at relativizing its own responsibility and that of the Serbian elite.
6. The Army which used to be the pillar of the Milosevic regime's Greater Serbian project still actively encourages the illusion that Serbia will expand to "its ethnic territories." In this, the Army is close to the Serbian Orthodox Church in terms of ideology and action.
7. Focused on ousting Milosevic's regime, the international community has neglected to perform an adequate analysis of Serbian society and its trends and this has prevented it from assessing correctly the progress Serbia has made in its transition.