Articles on the Bosnia Conflict



Bosnia-Herzegovina Journal #5: Krajina - Banja Luka
By Peter Lippman
November 6, 2012

2012 Journal index

Journal 1: Sarajevo. September 25
Journal 2: Tuzla. October 11
Journal 3: Srebrenica. October 13
Journal 4: Bratunac, Višegrad, Elections. October 26
Journal 5: Krajina - Banja Luka. November 6
Journal 6: Krajina - Kozarac, Prijedor. November 12
Journal 7: Guilt, Responsibility, and Politics. November 20
Journal 8:Travnik, Mostar, Animal Farm. December 13
Journal 9
: Activism in Sarajevo, Return to Srebrenica, Prijedor Revisited, December 19
Journal 10:
Krila Nade; The Missing; Tycoon Arrested; March 1st Coalition, December 26
Journal 11: Macedonia and Kosovo, January 2, 2013
Journal 12: The Roma of Kosovo, January 11, 2013
Journal 13: A Visit to Germany, January 29, 2013

Previous journals and articles

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I've recently been up to the region in northwestern Bosnia called the Krajina. I visited Banja Luka, Kozarac, and Prijedor, all in the Republika Srpska. This report will mostly be about Banja Luka.

While I was still in Sarajevo, I was talking with my friend Dževad. He is from Kozarac and is a concentration camp survivor. We were talking about justice in the face of war crimes, and denial of the history of the recent war, which is an important mechanism in the obstruction of justice. Dževad asked, "How can it be possible that people in Banja Luka [capital of the Republika Srpska] do not know about the concentration camps and the war crimes that took place nearby, in Kozarac and Prijedor?


I have been visiting Banja Luka since early 1999. I used to feel nervous there; I remember seeing, during that first visit, graffiti that read, "I hate Bosnia." I visited the empty lot where the Ferhadija mosque, one of the most beautiful in all Bosnia-Herzegovina, had stood. It was dynamited and demolished one night in May, 1993. There was no warring in Banja Luka; this was just another step in the cultural and ethnic homogenization of the city, during which some 50,000 non-Serbs (Muslims and Croats) were expelled. In the course of the war, fifteen other Banja Luka mosques were demolished as well.

Reconstruction of Ferhadija mosque, Banja Luka

With time I became less nervous visiting the city, as the post-war tension subsided and a new kind of "normal" was established. Some Muslims returned to Banja Luka, and some local Serbs started to mobilize gradually and protest the corrupt and authoritarian regime of RS President (and previously Prime Minister) Milorad Dodik. For some of my earlier writing on these subjects, see

The hateful graffiti becomes just part of the scenery in a strange city. It is still there, although it is hard to tell how much of this is old, post-war material, and how much is new. Graffiti is everywhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and local authorities don't trouble themselves too much about it. (Graffiti is practically an institution - in Stolac I even saw one that read, "Društvo anonimnih pisaca" - Society of Anonymous Writers.)

Pro-Šešelj graffiti in bus in Banja Luka

Practically the first thing I saw coming into Banja Luka, on the bus, was an inscription: "Serbia is waiting for Šešelj." Vojislav Šešelj is a self-styled "Chetnik" (extreme Serb nationalist) who is currently on trial at The Hague. I think Serbia will have to wait a long time for Šešelj. But I don't see why they have to wait, as Šešelj's former confederate and fellow Chetnik duke ("vojvoda"), Tomislav Nikolić, was recently elected president of Serbia.

And if I ask why someone in the RS is so concerned about Serbia, a foreign country, well, here's another common inscription that provides the answer: "RS to Serbia and Bosnia to hell." (That's a very rough translation of "RS u Srbiji i Bosna na k..u! - Patriot Boys".) And regarding the makeup of Serbia, the slogan "Kosovo is Serbia" is also common.

You ignore the graffiti. The people ignore you, if you don't start an argument.

Banja Luka feels like a city to me, more of a Western one than Sarajevo. It is flatter than Sarajevo (which is nestled in the mountains), and, visually, you can't hold its boundaries in the palm of your hand, as they say in Bosnian. There are big buildings, including the notorious RS government building built by Dodik a few years ago with much graft changing hands, and the new Orthodox church in the center of town. There's next to nothing of the Ottoman architectural legacy so visible in Sarajevo; an earthquake in the 1960s took that away and it was not replaced.

Scandal-ridden Republika Srpska government building, Banja Luka

Not only is the physical atmosphere forgetful; so is the cultural atmosphere. You have the sense of a bland city in Western Europe where things have been peaceful for decades and life goes on with people establishing their prosperity and promoting every kind of cultural event. A "festival of Macedonian culture" was taking place while I was in Banja Luka; capoeira classes were announced; and a concert of Fado was promoted as well. Posters at the theater announced the arrival of the new James Bond movie.

But there was no evidence of the observance of Kurban Bajram, which was current while I was there; the Muslims who had returned to Banja Luka were observing that important religious holiday (associated with the culmination of the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca), on the periphery. In fact, there was practically no trace, other than the ongoing reconstruction of the Ferhadija mosque, of the centuries of Ottoman culture that had so influenced this city.

I'm not saying it's much different for Serbs or Croats in Sarajevo.

I had a room near the center of the city, and between meetings I walked around that area. The imposing new Orthodox cathedral is finished; across the street stands a park devoted to Partisan heroes from World War II. I was told that this group of monuments used to be where the church now stands, that it was moved, and that, before WWII, there had been a church, then bombed by the Germans, where the new one stands.

The recently-opened MacDonald's restaurant stood on the main pedestrian walkway, finer and more tastefully decorated than any such place you'd see in the US. It seemed to be just about the most popular place in the center of town. Later I read that 45,000 people had visited it in the week since its opening.

I walked in the open market, a series of stands on a side street off the center. Among the usual scarves, CDs, tennis shoes, and cigarettes I saw a book titled, Falsification at Srebrenica. And there were t-shirts bearing a photo of General Ratko Mladic (now on trial at The Hague), with an inscription honoring his bravery. Another t-shirt showed a photo of World War II Chetnik General Draža Mihajlović, a royalist who started out resisting the German forces but ended up collaborating with them in the fighting against Tito's Partisans, and along the way killing a lot of Muslims in eastern Bosnia. He was executed after WWII by the Partisans. In the last year or so there has been a movement in Serbia officially to rehabilitate his reputation. Apparently that has already taken place, at least unofficially, in the Republika Srpska. You can buy this t-shirt in practically any town in that entity.

Picin Park

There used to be a lovely park in Banja Luka, a full square block in size, a couple of blocks off of the main drag. Picin Park was a favored place for young people to meet and relax. Kids played there, romped with their pets, and teenagers sat on the benches and played guitar. Nearby stood a tall, two-hundred-year-old tree, the "Old Oak" (stari hrast), as everyone called it. It was a symbol of the old Banja Luka - and for that matter, it was symbolic that it is now a dead tree, its water sources having been cut off by nearby construction in recent years.

This spring, somehow, a developer named Milo Radišić received the permits to demolish the park and to build a complex containing businesses and residences. Without public notice, in May barriers went up around the park and the demolition began.

Then something new in the 17-year postwar history of Banja Luka took place. Citizens organized, gathered at the Old Oak, and demonstrated against the park's demolition. They chanted slogans - "Park je naš!" (The park is ours) - and marched through the city.

At the first demonstration, in late May, a thousand people took part. The demonstrations then continued every day for several months, with participants continuing to number at least several hundred. This was the most militant and sustained protest ever to take place in Banja Luka after the war, and it broke the ice. Activists from a dozen local organizations gathered six thousand signatures on a petition against the construction project and delivered them to the city government. Nearly fifty thousand dissatisfied people joined a Facebook page against the project.

The petition called upon the city government to halt the destruction of the park and requested that the mayor of Banja Luka speak with representatives of the protestors. It also asked for evidence about the procedure that led to the sale of the park land, and for documentation of the official decision-making process that led to that sale.

The petition was not answered. Meanwhile, the local pro-government media tried to smear the activists, some of whom were called to the police station for "informational conversations" (informativni razgovor) - this is the same phrase that was used during the Tito era for interrogations, which were never thought of as a pleasant experience.

The citizens kept marching. They acquired the name "šetači," the walkers. They marched from the Old Oak to City Hall and down to the main square, Trg Krajine (Krajina Square). They lit candles in front of City Hall, in mourning for the now destroyed park.

The protests continued regularly throughout the summer. They evolved and adapted to respond to other issues that arose. It was not for long that the activism concerned just a park - it grew into a public expression of discontent about widespread unemployment - to the tune of 150,000 in the RS - and about the pervasive government corruption both at the city and entity level. One analyst, Damir Miljević, said that the protests reflected the fact that "among the citizens there was a growing consciousness that the government had transformed into a regime which, without any responsibility towards those whom it represents, favors the interests of a small group around it to the detriment of the interests of the citizens."

Journalist Gordana Katana wrote that in its disrespect for human and civil rights, the Republika Srpska has come to resemble some reactionary Latin American or Asian regimes, and that in that sense, "citizens have the right more or less to vote freely, and even to think...on condition that they do this behind closed doors and that they keep their thoughts to themselves, if those thoughts do not correspond with the opinions of the government.

"...The good and obedient citizens of the RS thus kept themselves quiet for seventeen full years while in front of their eyes the factories in which they worked disappeared, while the war profiteers and other tycoons took off with everything that was of any value, and while the politicians, in the name of the people, took on debts of billions of marks as they built themselves palaces and bought expensive cars, helicopters, and airplanes."

During the summer there were other protests as well, related but not organized by the same people. Some hundreds of workers came from smaller cities in late June to protest unemployment, saying that they were the "victims of criminal privatization in the RS." And in late August the "walkers" marched from the Old Oak to the main union hall, in solidarity with unemployed workers. They carried a banner that read, "Aren't 160,000 unemployed a reason to protest?"

Going into September, organizers of the protests issued a statement that declared that their actions were not simply about a park, but, "Here we are protecting reason, dignity, and the right to a better life. The declaration announced "a revolt against injustice" in the hopes that "all who feel injustice by the regime know that we are their allies."

The declaration read, in part, "With solidarity in our differences and in our anti-fascist orientation, we have joined in a united struggle against force and the control of our lives, against the self-serving politicians, and for a just society.

"We live in a party-run dictatorship of a criminal oligarchy, and we are the many who resist against that!

"...When fear disappears, tyrants, dictators, autocrats, and false authorities fall. The government has shown that it is afraid of the 'walkers' and we assert that there is a reason: we are Change because we are the voice of each citizen whose rights have been curtailed.

"We come in a time when the ruling oligarchy confirms that we, ordinary people, are the biggest losers in the war and in the transition. That oligarchy puts profit above people under the veil of the national interest; personal interest above justice; and terror replaces equal rights.

"We call for a society arranged according to the citizens' needs, without regard to racial, class, national, birth, sexual, or religious belonging, and for a fairer society for all."

That sounds good to me. It sounds like it's not just about a park. And it reminds me that people everywhere know what their rights are. It's just a matter of choosing to fight for them.

You can find the full declaration here.

Activism in Banja Luka

I talked to Dražen, a Banja Luka graduate student, activist, and member of the organization UNSA Geto. UNSA stands for Udruženje Nezavisnih Stvaralaca i Aktivista, or Association of Independent Creators and Activists. The introduction to this group in one web page reads,

"The Association of Independent Creators and Activists "GETO" is a new organization that was formulated out of a special movement developed from activists within the "mother" organization UNS GETO, The Association of Independent Creators. The mother organization was founded in early 1999 as a grassroots movement established by the young people, feeling pushed in to a "ghetto" because their opinions were too progressive and unaccepted. During the ten years of its work, this organization was the start for many new organizations just like ours.

"The Association of Independent Creators and Activists, GETO is focused on activism and creativity. The feeling of being pushed is unfortunately still present in our society, so the need of being more active and engaged in society is the reason of our existence. By our constant work we have an opportunity to see that changes are possible-and this is our mission. We are developed and centered on the vision that a healthy democratic society is possible with the involvement of all people." (see

Referring to Geto's participation in the Park je naš movement, Dražen said, "Our work on the Park issue for five months constituted a good experience. We created a network of activists. We lack theory, but the movement has provided practice. There are parallels with the Occupy movement.

"They have destroyed the park, they work at night. The investor in Picin Park is Mile Radišić; he was a member of the City Council. At one point he was arrested for criminal speculation, but he was released. That case has not been resolved. Radišić is pals with Dodik."

Radišić is one of those operators known in Bosnia as a "controversial businessman," which is a euphemism for a gangster who wears a suit. He was arrested in the spring of 2010 and charged with creating a criminal organization with the intention of buying the capital holdings of a state-owned company at an unrealistically reduced price. Radišić arranged a deal to lower the price with the RS development bank responsible for managing the state-owned holdings.

There's a lot more to this story, but it will take me down a long winding path away from the story of activism, with no return. Suffice it to say that this kind of criminal, crony arrangement between "controversial businessmen," operators in the state-run development banks, and top politicians, is central to the post-war story of dysfunction in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It's the same among all three ethno-nationalist infrastructures.

Dražen told me, "The brand of capitalism that exists here is a kind of ethno-capitalism. There is a re-feudalization going on."

But the "ethno-" part of that phrase is a bit misleading, as these infrastructures cooperate perfectly well in plundering the socially-created wealth from the post-WWII era. As one activist said to me a couple of years ago, "These days, nationalism is only for the little people. The big politicians are just criminals; corruption is their real work."

In other words, nationalist fervor is dust in the eyes of the ordinary folks, distracting them from the rip-off. In Banja Luka, Radišić gets a special deal with the help of Dodik, steals a park, and then the people who protest it are called "anti-Serb."

Look for the next series of protests, the next activist project, to take place around the old fortress called Kastel, by the Vrbas River that flows through the middle of Banja Luka. This ancient fortress, surrounded by thick stone walls, has long been another lovely, central place for people to gather and eat, drink, lounge, and listen to occasional concerts. Now, Dražen says, this cultural monument is in deteriorating condition. And there is a new construction project pending, within the walls of the fortress, that will cover part of the grounds with concrete and install a structure that will ruin the architectural harmony of the place. Geto and other organizations are planning a campaign to resist this.

Kastel fortress, Banja Luka

Geto is primarily concerned with "culture and community, cultural intervention," as Dražen puts it: "We don't want to be the government. We want to make change happen. People are aware of the problems in this city, but they are not inclined to be active and take risks. Instead, there is a lot of nostalgia, and it is bez veze (irrelevant). People do not have the courage to think differently."

Dražen says, "The ethnicities aren't allowed to communicate with each other, and this makes everything harder for us, and easier for the leaders. The solution is to make space for the different groups to work together. We work locally, but there has to be a space for all, in our cultural and artistic work." And Geto works with other grassroots organizations in many parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in both entities.

Wanting to know about local people's relationship to the war-time history of Banja Luka, I asked Dražen, "Can you talk about the question of memory and memorialization in Banja Luka?"
He responded, "It is a horror. The most active people are abroad. Here there is very little going on. Most of the Croats and Bosniaks were expelled, and even some Serbs who did not agree with what was going on. There was some terror. Some of the Serbs helped the Croats and Bosniaks, though.

"This is an unspoken story of urbicide and culturocide, and zaborav (forgetting, amnesia). And it is as if Banja Luka simply did not exist before Dodik and, of course, Radovan Karadzic. Here, only Serb culture is cultivated. There are financial benefits for the children of Serb soldiers, but no such thing for the children of [Croat and Bosniak] returnees. We need an open dialogue about this.

Q: What do people here know about Prijedor and what happened in that municipality?
A: " professor took me to the Omarska camp. It is a horror, what happened in Prijedor and in Kozarac. But as far as a healthy historical understanding here is concerned, it is ludilo (insanity) here. And the issue of the Park is part of the problem of memory.

"It is difficult for people here to know what's going on. In Germany there was de-Nazification. I am pessimistic. Everything that was done here during the war is being justified: the terror, the crimes, the plunder have all been justified."

For more about Geto, you can check the Facebook page.

Oštra Nula

I met with Dražana from the grassroots organization Oštra Nula (Sharp Nothing), which I wrote about in 2010 (see again). Oštra Nula describes itself as "an association of students, workers, and intellectuals who work to awaken the consciousness of the citizens about their human, civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. Through our activities, we endeavor to discover together a legal route through which we can move towards a resolution to the problems and to let other citizens know that they are a part of the situation in which we find ourselves, and which we can work together to change. (See

I asked Dražana where the name Oštra Nula came from. She said, "In the media there is the idea that the youth are passive, that they are an 'ordinary nothing.' Well, we may be 'nothing,' but we are a 'sharp nothing.' We started out in our activities with using some rough language. This came out of the blue for people. Now, after these three years, people understand what we are. A few people have become involved, but we need more in order to come around to that pobudjenje - waking up.

"We have been doing some street actions, performances regarding unemployment, low pay, problems in agriculture. Diplomas, education, aren't as important as having membership in a party.

"We did actions on Mayday and March 8th (women's day), and are planning something for November 9th, the international day against fascism and anti-Semitism. We are trying to bring these issues into the sphere of public life. We are trying to bring in different themes other than nationalism, to get people to think of something else. There is now more consciousness regarding human rights. But we have seen no change among the citizens.

"On February 5th and March 19th of 2011 there were protests about the fact that the people who were disabled in the war were not getting their pensions. They stopped the traffic. Then Dodik threatened that he would discontinue the pensions altogether. Oštra Nula brought people out to support these demonstrations.

Then there was a witch-hunt. We were accused of being paid by the SDP. They spread vicious lies about us. This scared people from participating.

The neo-fascists, the street thugs, say that "anti-fascism" means we love the gays and the lesbians.

Q: What is anti-fascism?

A: "We are trying to initiate a thought process. This was obstructed, the government said that we did not like Serbs. We have to do this work to connect anti-fascism with other concepts. We start with street actions. At first people didn't understand what we were doing, but now we have been getting a better response on Facebook regarding issues of gay rights."

Q: Is this work dangerous?
A: "Yes, and the work on anti-fascism is dangerous as well. There are people who oppose our anti-fascism work and they are violent. Someone painted over some hate graffiti here, and we were accused of doing it. They threatened us.

"I can't believe that now, more than fifty years after World War II, it is considered 'great' to be a neo-Nazi. Every little stupidity comes to be seen as the truth. This is the mistake in our society. There is great manipulation and no punishment. It has been allowed to become normal to beat someone because they are Roma.

"It is hard for us to do anything, because of the war and because these are very sensitive issues. This is not fascism now, but it is a dictatorship of sorts.

"Here we have the 99% and the 1%, not just in the RS, but in all of Bosnia-Herzegovina. There is a reserve of fascism, and it is okay with the government. No one touches these people.

"My father was born in 1924 and he was a Partisan. During the recent war, they refused to give him his pension. He and some of the other Partisans have tried to preserve the tradition of the anti-fascist struggle. We can't forget what happened then, because the same problems have not been resolved. Many people lost their whole family in the last war, and they can't do or say anything about it."

Q: Is it possible that people in Banja Luka don't know what happened in Prijedor?
A: "People don't know, and they don't want to know. This bothers me because it leaves a big ingredient out. When someone talks about Srebrenica, then they start talking about the Serb victims, and all discussion stops.

"In Banja Luka, people are not ready to talk about these things. It is hard for us to do something about this - it is dangerous too.

"There is no film, for example, that shows all three sides of what happened in the war. We don't have people who will speak openly about all the facts. These are big problems because there are many people who don't think the way the government says they should think, but they don't have an alternative narrative to help them express themselves, to open the path to an alternative solution. To be a support to the solution. It is a tense situation. There needs to be a new paradigm, although I don't like that word.

"Talking about what happened would be a step towards reconciliation. But it might not ever be able to happen. The system uses the story of victimization to preserve itself.

"People are not experiencing their own identity except as part of an ethnic group. I had that experience when I was younger, and there was a moment when I had to realize that the ethnic identity was not primary. It was easier for me to make the change, because of my parents. Now I am so sorry to see that many young people hate."

Speaking of the atmosphere in the city, Dražana said, "There have been big changes in Banja Luka in the last ten years. Before, there were more cultural events, more shows, more creativity. Now it seems sterile. There is a bigger problem with culture, the need to create, to nurture, not just to identify with Serbia or see people crossing themselves whenever they pass a church - you know they aren't from here, that's not a Banja Luka custom. Now we are a real palanka (an overgrown village).

"With the 'Park je naš' movement we have made waves. We have shown the politicians that people are not indifferent to what's going on. The struggle with Picin Park was like a foundation, it showed people that you can go out in the streets.

"We are collaborating with the 'anti-fa' groups in Prijedor and elsewhere around Bosnia-Herzegovina. The basic idea for November 9th is to display photos.there are the heroes of the anti-fascist war, the monuments. A lot have been damaged in Mostar. Anti-fascism is not in the consciousness as it was, but it still exists. There is selective memory, that is a problem. There is not a culture of memory here."

We brainstormed ideas about what to do for the November 9th event. I suggested having a display that simply defines fascism - one simple definition, or several points that list the attributes of it. I asked Dražana if it would be good for Oštra Nula to collaborate with Roma and Muslim organizations in Banja Luka. She answered that it could be good, but that it could also be counter-effective in that it could encourage that much more of a backlash in the dominant population of the city.

We talked about the meaning of "grassroots action" and struggled to find the word in Bosnian for "grassroots." This semantic question has not been solved; there's no equivalent word. But, comparing grassroots action to established non-governmental organizations, Dražana said, "There is a problem with the NGOs, with activists who have gotten a decent income that way. If they have gotten something for themselves, that doesn't mean that they have accomplished anything."

"Maybe it is a mistake that people from the NGOs have not gone into politics," she continued. "There is no humanist element at this time in politics."

I responded, "But everyone knows that all the politicians are dishonest."

Dražana said, "Yes, but what is honest about staying with the NGOs and not working for change?"

More Graffiti

I spotted a stenciled inscription on one wall not far from the center of town, in Cyrillic: "Stop SNSD Terror - Thieves!" [SNSD - the party of President Dodik]

Stenciled graffiti opposing Dodik's party, Banja Luka

Revolt and Memory

I think it is fair to ask, "What is the importance of a park and cultural matters when there has been genocide committed in your vicinity? What about the responsibility of the Banja Luka Serbs to disavow the atrocities committed by their rulers, which made possible the creation of the Republika Srpska and the ongoing plunder and impoverishment of the ordinary people?" It is understandable to be outraged that the mass of Banja Luka citizens have no awareness - or they deny and avoid the history - of the recent war.

But I find it quite natural that, amidst the near-universal economic and cultural impoverishment, and in an atmosphere of enforced amnesia and physical danger, people will choose to remain ignorant. And in that context, I find it quite positive that there are people who do not deny the past and who are willing to take risks to foster the awakening. In that sense, the things that are taking place in Banja Luka are as positive as anything else happening in Bosnia-Herzegovina today.

Dražen shared with me an article titled "Revolt from memory, against forgetting," by Banja Luka activist Srđan Šušnica. I can't resist sharing a rough translation of part of it here:

"One asks if this revolt of Banja Lukans for Picin Park, besides the context of defense of green spaces and the subtextual call for a change of the regime of the criminal and corrupt political oligarchy in Banja Luka and in the RS, perhaps there is a third context. A context of memory and forgetting? Doesn't the message of the 'walkers'.say that the citizens are also revolting against forgetting, against the total disintegration of this city and its symbols?! .What are we revolting about? For defense of the park? Well, there's no park there anymore! All that's left is the memory of the park, memory of one more destroyed public space and city symbol that had a place in the lives and memories of generations of Banja Lukans. Are we revolting because the ethno-political elite of this city stole our memories and enforced amnesia?

"Just as yesterday they did away with the Ferhadija mosque, the clock tower.and tomorrow with Kastel, the river, and who knows what else? are the citizens also, in part, revolting because the ethno-political elite, in place of the ethnic and urban 'incorrect' mementos of old Banja Luka, they have imposed a new, 'correct' symbolic narrative of some 'new" or 'neo-Belgradian' Banja Luka? The 'walkers' are, out of spite, recalling that which the elite wish to force us to forget. The citizens are remembering a park, a stadium, the old names of the streets and schools.a clock tower, a time, people, neighbors, a different order, and different values.

"In Banja Luka the ethno-political elite long ago imposed the postulate that says that which we do not all remember in an identical way and which does not bind us into one ethno-religious whole, must be forgotten. It must not be written; it must be demolished, torched, ignored, or, best, marginalized. It must cease to be part of the cultural memory and part of the cultural continuum of this "new Dayton" city, Banja Luka. However, that with which they most often wish to bind us into a monolith, that is, ethnicity and religion, is too impoverished a thing upon which to construct a cultural memory nor even to prevent the disintegration of any community.That is why the political and cultural practice which constructs collective memory mainly on amnesia and ultra-selective, ethno-religious and politically-correct memory cannot be long-lasting."

There's much more to this excellent article, but I can't impose that on you this far into an already-long posting. You can find the entire article (in Bosnia-Croatian-Serbian) here.

My Landlady

It seems that everywhere I stay, as you may have already noticed, my landlady speaks for at least some significant part of the local population. In Banja Luka my host was a friendly, engaging older woman, originally from central Serbia, who had married and moved to Banja Luka long ago, in the 1960s. She shared breakfast me. She sat on the couch crocheting and watching tennis matches. In the evening she watched the broadcast, from Federation TV, of the massive ceremonies in Mecca upon the culmination of the hajj. Her son-in-law is Muslim. And she said to me, "It was good when we had Yugoslavia, where no one cared who was what religion. But now, I wouldn't want to live in Sarajevo, where there are all those women with veils."

She continued, "What happened in Srebrenica was a tragedy, it's true. But before that, the Muslims killed three thousand Serbian soldiers in the villages around there.

"Kosovo is the cradle of the Serbian civilization. It's Serbian. Why do they want to take it away? How can America take Kosovo away from Serbia? They're building a monument to Clinton there now, because he, like, helped them.

"The Albanians were not endangered in Kosovo, the Serbs were endangered. There was one Serbian woman, they threw her down a well, and then they threw poisonous snakes into the well.

"In Jasenovac [a World War II Croatian concentration camp for Jews, Serbs, Roma, and Partisans] was the only concentration camp for children. One million Serbs died there. [The documented figure for Serbs killed there is actually around fifty thousand, according to the US Holocaust Museum. (Thanks, Andras Riedlmayer.)]

"In the recent war, all were guilty: Serbs, Muslims, Croats. But it was imposed on us from outside.

"And after the war, it's not true that no one returned to Banja Luka. They all got their houses or apartments back, and now they live in Holland, and collect rent on these residences. Then they come here for one month out of the year, in the summer on vacation."

Propaganda Bakery, Banja Luka

Policeman Runs Amuck

On the night of October 21st, a Banja Luka policeman was arrested on suspicion of committing three crimes. Shortly after midnight, the off-duty cop insulted and physically attacked another police official and then took off. About a half hour later, he broke a window on the balcony of a private residence. Soon afterwards he drove his car into the fence of another house, and struck the owner of that house. This policeman was temporarily suspended from duty pending an investigation.

Crims in Charge

Late election results show that yet another convicted war criminal has been elected. Blagoje Simić will take a position on the municipal council of Bosanski Šamac, the same town where during the war he terrorized the Muslim population. Simić was released from a British prison in 2011 after having finished two-thirds of a fifteen-year sentence for "assisting and supporting the criminal persecution, that is, the illegal arrests and imprisoning of the Bosniaks and the Croats, keeping them in inhumane conditions, forcing them to labour and forcing them to move out of Šamac and Odžak between April 1992 and the end of 1993."

Before the war some 2,200 Bosniaks and over 14,000 Croats lived in Šamac. A few hundred returned.

Meanwhile, it took some time, but on November 2nd Dodik's party called for the annulment of the Srebrenica elections based on "electoral engineering."


A friend of mine lives near the Drina river in a middling-small town. He has a college education and supports a wife and child. He had decent employment for a time, but has recently found it necessary to work in a shop. He told me, "I have never done anything illegal, but I am in a difficult situation, and I have to look after my family. The river, the border with Serbia, is right there. People are smuggling across that river all the time. I could get in a rowboat and smuggle too. Other people do it and they come in here with a big wad of 100-mark notes. Are they any smarter than me? I'm going to wait another year and if things don't get better, I'm going to go that route."

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