Articles on
Serbian Nationalism and Anti-nationalism



Below - Serbian Feminism: Against Serbian Nationalism

The President, the Soccer Hooligans and an Underworld "House of Horrors" A grisly trial in Serbia has raised questions about connections between the country’s top leadership and its violent drug gangs. By Robert F. Worth, The New York Times Magazine, May 3, 2023

What a Textbook is Teaching Young Serbs About the Balkan Wars Within the nearly 400 pages of a widely used Serbian textbook, college-age students can learn that neighboring Montenegro and Republika Srpska, one of the two main entities that compose Bosnia-Herzegovina, are "Serb states." They won't learn that Serb forces committed genocide at Srebrenica in 1995, killing more than 8,000 mostly unarmed civilian men. Other war crimes by Serb forces in the post-Yugoslav wars get hardly any mention. By Nevena Bogdanovic, RFE/RL, November 30, 2022

In Bosnia’s Prijedor, Party in Power Spawns Right-Wing War Crimes Deniers In the Bosnian town of Prijedor, site of some of the worst Bosnian Serb crimes of the 1992-95 war, members of a party in power helped create a right-wing organization committed to rewriting history. By Enes Hodzic, BIRN, September 26, 2022

In Belgrade, a mural of war criminal Ratko Mladic has a city divided Whether or not Belgrade will be a capital that allows street art honoring convicted war criminals has plagued the Serbian public debate. By Aleksandar Brezar, euronews, November 26, 2021

How Europe’s far-right found friends in SerbiaThe Serbian president is accused of using activists to silence opponents, communicating regularly with the leader of a violent far-right movement. Also, former Trump strategist Steve Bannon had hoped to build a right-wing bloc in Europe. The Times (London), March 24, 2021

Arrests Shake Up a Soccer Scene in Serbia Ruled by Gangsters and ‘Gravediggers’ A reputed gangster and leader of an “ultras” fan group, who also reportedly had ties to the government, has been arrested following a series of gruesome murders connected to a Belgrade soccer stadium. By Andrew Higgins, The New York Times, March 20, 2021

Genocide denial leaves Bosniaks stuck in a violent past Genocide denial is spreading and the narrative so firmly entrenched inside Serbia and Republika Srpska is now easily found all over the West more broadly. Bosnian genocide denial and antagonism in the West has become really a kind of bellwether of the broader crisis of democratic discourse in the political west. At times it seems like these revisionist discourses in the west have become almost as mainstream as they have in Bosnia and the region itself. CBC Radio, December 22, 2020

Conspiracy Theories, Denial, and the Coronavirus During the war, Serb nationalist leaders had spread conspiracy theories in order to maintain popular support for both the conflict and their hold on power. At the time, I blamed the embrace of denialism on the trauma that people experience in wartime. Telling the big lie works, I thought, when a population fears for its safety. A diplomat based in Bosnia who asked not to be named told me that, decades after the war’s end, corrupt nationalist leaders and the media outlets they control have been perpetuating the rhetoric of mistrust and fear in the country, particularly before elections. The glorification of convicted war criminals, the denial of genocide and war crimes, and bitter disputes around conflicting commemorations all create an environment of perpetual division that is gradually becoming the norm. By David Rohde, The New Yorker, July 18, 2020

How Radovan Karadzic Led an American Scholar Into a Labyrinth of Genocide Denial  Author Jessica Stern recently published an unusual book about Radovan Karadzic, who was convicted in 2016 for committing genocide against Bosnian Muslims. Based on 12 intimate prison interviews, she naively endorses his position that there is “some truth to … Karadzic’s claims that [Bosnia's wartime president] Izetbegovic had cultivated jihadis,” and that Serbs committed genocide out of a fear that Bosnian Muslims were planning to impose a sharia state. Stern also gives validity to allegations that Bosnian Muslim military leaders shot at their own people, or manufactured scenarios that were likely to put citizens in the crosshairs of Serb snipers, in order to garner international sympathy. Yet, her presentation of these long-contested claims contradicts the international tribunal’s judgment in the trial of Karadzic. We  are in a climate of renewed denial of the Bosnian genocide. A few months ago, the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to the Austrian writer Peter Handke, whose books on Bosnia have been widely criticized as engaging in genocide denial. Stern could be fairly accused of framing the Bosnian war as one of “very fine people on both sides.” By Edina Becirevic, a genocide scholar at the University of Sarajevo, January 29, 2020

Srebrenica, Racak, and the triumph of the lie Only a concerted effort to preserve and promote the memories and truths surrounding the atrocities committed in the breakup of Yugoslavia can overcome the rise of the "alternative fact." Serbia is wresting back control of the dominant narrative on the past, the present, and the future. This leaves Kosovo – and more importantly the victims and survivors – in a very vulnerable position. By Aidan Hehir, Prishtina Insight, December 23, 2019

From El Paso to Sarajevo How white nationalists have been inspired by the genocide of Muslims in Bosnia. By Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept, September 1, 2019

Rewriting Yugoslav history: Serbian war criminals-turned authors There is an entire self-sustaining structure perpetuating a historical delusion: that, contrary to the established proof unearthed by investigators and prosecutors, Serbs did not mastermind and execute the crimes of Bosnia and Kosovo wars. Video report here (10 minutes) Produced by Hasan Rrahmani and Johanna Hoes for Al Jazeera, July 22, 2019

State of Denial: The Books Rewriting the Bosnian War The 1992-1995 Bosnian war spawned a new literary genre -- books that fly in the face of established facts, written by or about those convicted of the killings. By Mladen Lakic, Anja Vladisavljevic, and Filip Rudic, BIRN, October 19, 2018

Serbia has scarcely tried to escape Milošević’s poison After the '90s, the process of denazification in Serbia never really began, writes a Serbian educator and human rights activist. By Milos Ciric, Kosovo 2.0, September 28, 2018

Bosnian Serb president bans teaching about Sarajevo siege, Srebrenica genocide Reuters, June 6, 2018

Dodik keeps denying scope of Srebrenica atrocity HINA Croatian news agency, July 10, 2018
The Bosnian Serb leader denied that Bosnian Serb forces besieged and attacked people for years during the 1990s war. Denial: the continuation of genocide by other means.

The arrest and conviction of Ratko Mladic, 2011-2017

Serbia "In Denial" Over Srebrenica Genocide Ignorance and denial of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide is still widespread in Serbia, a debate at Belgrade’s Centre for Cultural Decontamination was told this week. Nemanja Stjepanovic from the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre said that 21 years after the genocide took place, all the facts about the massacres have been established in detail thanks to court testimonies and evidence. “Ignorance and a lack of information could have been the excuse for not accepting the crimes back then. Today, there are no more excuses. Every denial of the Srebrenica crime means approval for it,” Stjepanovic said. By Ivana Nikolic, BIRN/Balkan Insight, March 8, 2016

Serbia's Future: Back to the Past? Interview with Sonja Biserko, by John Feffer, November 14, 2012

Tadić's Serbia as Noah's Ark Interview with Žarko Korac, a former Serbian deputy prime minister. "Srebrenica is our moral obligation! Imagine that after 1945 the Germans told the Allies: Hitler is dead, you have bombed our cities, you have leveled Dresden to the ground, you have arrested the criminals, what do you want now? But the fact is that the Germans remain ashamed to this day of what was done in their name. Here in Serbia, however, there is no such awareness. Our politicians are beach guards in the winter season, third-rate personalities devoid of vision. Bearing in mind who its leaders are, I am at times quite astonished that Serbia has made any progress at all." September 16, 2011, translated from Dani (Sarajevo)

Mladic was not alone Justice in the Balkans must encompass not just war criminals, but their whole communities. Denial that crimes took place at all, especially that genocide occurred in Srebrenica, still pervades much local discourse. A culture of denial is still the leading paradigm of Serbian social cohesion; on the social value meter, he who deceives is far ahead of she who exposes the truth.
The author is a professor of political science at Sarajevo University, well respected in progressive (anti-denial, anti-nationalist) circles. By Nerzuk Curak, July 3, 2011

Nationalism in Serbia - Dangerous dream of a great empire Belgrade has still not cut itself loose from the nationalist ideology of Greater Serbia, which in the 1990s led to the worst genocide in Europe since the Second World War and resulted in the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. Europe still does not want to admit how much harm it has caused with its constant concessions to Serbia's policies, and how much this has contributed to the current disastrous situation in Kosovo, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Serbia. By Christian Schwarz-Schilling, Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich), August 15, 2010

Only Integrating Bosnia Will Complete the Balkan Mosaic Fifteen years since the Srebrenica atrocity, people’s consciousness in Serbia remains largely unchanged, blocked by organized amnesia and relativization. The younger generations in Serbia need to know the truth about the 1990s, even though they themselves are not responsible for the crimes committed during the period. These generations must progress beyond the interpretation that Serbs were only victims. Only the creation of a lasting peace will prevent repetition of those crimes, which involves remembering and telling the truth about the wars of the 1990s. By Sonja Biserko, Balkan Insight, July 8, 2010

Radovan Karadzic's New-Age Adventure His fictitious fugitive life as a quack medicine peddler. By Jack Hitt, New York Times Magazine, July 26, 2009

Dealing with impunity in Serbia: options and obstacles (Executive summary) The brutality of the wars of Yugoslav dissolution in the 1990s took the world, and many Yugoslavs, by surprise. While the region is certainly not the only one in recent times to experience mass violations of human rights, its location in the heart of Europe provoked a special sense of shame and responsibility among the international community, which led to its engagement in conflict resolution, peace-building, and development measures, not least in the field of transitional justice. Yet despite this investment, willingness in the war-affected states to confront their past and end impunity for the crimes then committed remains weak, sustained only by the persistence of democracy and human rights activists, and the range of carrots and sticks offered by the international community to take up the measures it proposes. By Impunity Watch, July 2009

Action to Combat Impunity in Serbia: Options and Obstacles Examines the root causes and nature of impunity for crimes committed by the Serbian state and citizens during the wars of Yugoslavia's dissolution during the 1990s. The 86-page document presents research findings, along with policy recommendations drawn from wide-ranging policy consultations with state and non-state actors for better achieving truth, justice, reparations, and guarantees of non-repetitions of grave crimes against international law. By Impunity Watch, December 2008 (PDF)

The Renegade Smug in their ethnocentricity, certain of their own superiority, indifferent to the cultural, religious, and political concerns of their neighbors, all the Serbs needed in 1990 was a leader to lead them into disaster. The most repellent crimes in the former Yugoslavia had the enthusiastic support of people whose education and past accomplishments would lead one to believe that they would know better. The role of the patriotic intellectual in Serbia was to make excuses for the killers of women and children. As for journalists and political commentators, their function was to spread lies and then prove that these lies were true. I was being asked by my own people to become an accomplice in a crime by pretending to understand and forgive acts that I knew were unforgivable. By Charles Simic, New York Review of Books, December 20, 2007

The Denial Syndrome and Its Consequences: Serbian Political Culture since 2000 Since the outbreak of the War of Yugoslav Succession in 1991 and the subsequent atrocities, a significant portion of Serbian society, including the upper echelons of the government, has displayed symptoms of the denial syndrome, in which the guilt is transposed onto the Croats, Bosniaks, and Kosovar Albanians. This syndrome is also associated with a veneration for the victimized hero. In the Serbian case, it has also been associated with efforts to whitewash the role played by Serbs such as Milan Nedic and Draza Mihailovic during World War II and has reinforced feelings of self-righteousness in Belgrade’s insistence on its sovereignty over the disputed province of Kosovo. By Sabrina Ramet, 2006

The Case for Kosova: Passage to Independence This collection of essays examines and demolishes numerous Serbian nationalist myths about Kosova. Edited by Anna Di Lellio, 2006

Bosnia-Herzegovina will win its law suit in The Hague Perspective on Serbian war crimes. By Srda Popovic Translated from Dani (Sarajevo), 12 May 2006

The Dark Side of Serbia Milosevic was not solely responsible for the malign energy in Serbia that caused so much death and destruction in the region. I refuse to lend exclusive importance to a man who was only the executor of forces behind him - the dark and dangerous forces of Serbian nationalism. By Gordana Igric, Balkan Insight, March 15, 2006

Winking at a blind man By Miroslav Filipovic. Translated from Helsinška Povelja (Belgrade), nos 91-92, January-February 2006

The Wall of Denial Despite mountains of evidence, many Serbs refuse to accept that a massacre took place. By Nerma Jelacic, Stacy Sullivan and Ed Vulliamy in Srebrenica, IWPR, July 6, 2005

Serbia Struggles to Face the Truth about Srebrenica "The truth has been smashed in our faces, painfully and mercilessly." So thundered Serbia's venerable newspaper Politika on June 4. It was three days after Serbian television had broadcast a film of Serbs executing six young Muslims after the fall of the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995. "The Serbian public is aghast, because it has finally seen that someone…actually committed bestialities in uniform and with Serbian insignia."
Ten years after the fall of the enclave and the massacre of up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in the days that followed, Srebrenica has returned to haunt the Serbs. But the screening of the now notorious executions video was neither the beginning of the uproar about Srebrenica in Serbia nor the end. While it is true that Serbs were initially taken aback by the film, it seems that some have quickly recovered from the shock. While many commentators in Serbia and abroad predicted immediately after the showing of the video that it would radically change Serbian attitudes about the crimes committed in their name during the Yugoslav wars, it is far from clear that this is happening.  By Tim Judah, June 17, 2005

Serbia in the vicious circle of nationalism This study is an effort to bring to light new forms of nationalism in post-Milosevic Serbia and show that Serbia has not yet found an alternative to nationalism. -- Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, December 2003

Political Propaganda and the Plan to Create "A State For All Serbs." Consequences of using media for ultra-nationalist ends. Report compiled for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) by Professor Renaud De la Brosse, February 2003 Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5 (PDF)

Under the Holy Lime Tree: The Inculcation of Neurotic and Psychotic Syndromes as a Serbian War Strategy, 1986-1995 The article looks at some of the recurrent themes in Serbian propaganda, including Victimization, Dehumanization of designated "others," Belittlement, Conspiracy, Entitlement, and Superhuman powers and divine sanction. By Sabrina Ramet, Polemos (Zagreb), December 2002

The Disintegration of the Yugoslav Intellectual Community With the erosion of the Yugoslav centralist system, nationalism found a home in the official scientific institutions. In this article, the 1986 Memorandum of the Serbian Academy is analyzed in detail. The Memorandum started the definitive transition of the country’s leading ideology from communism to nationalism and later became useful to Milosevic in his rise to power, when he adopted the national program included in the Memorandum as his own. By Robert Stallaerts, 2002 (Published in Secession, History and the Social Sciences, edited by Bruno Coppieters and Michel Huysseune)

Saviours of the Nation: Serbia's Intellectual Opposition and the Revival of Nationalism Discusses why the strong and apparently democratic opposition movement subsequently turned towards an extreme form of nationalism and had by the end of the 1980s accepted Milosevic's undemocratic policies. By Jasna Dragovic-Soso, 2002

Serbian Nationalism in the Twentieth Century, submitted to the ICTY May 29, 2002. Available in six parts: 1 2 3 4 5 6 Expert Report of Audrey Budding (PDF)

Serbia is sick with indifference The Serbian people have spent thirteen years listening to Milosevic's media, the state and private TV stations which, by order of the Leader, spouted hatred against their neighbors and made them indifferent to war crimes. The same media, using the same frequencies and managed by more or less the same individuals, are now in the service of the new government. They do not forget the heroes from the past. Thus BK TV forwarded New Year's greetings from its viewers to Radovan Karadzic in the Bosnian mountains. -- By Bozo Nikolic, Monitor (Podgorica, Montenegro), February 8, 2002

What did your dad do for Milosevic? The author finds collective amnesia in Serbia, as people assure him that, all along, they hated the dictator and supported the resistance. -- Tim Luckhurst, The New Statesman, October 16, 2000

The Forging of Schizophrenia "I know that Fascism is a historical term; that the history of Nazi Germany is not the same as that of Milosevic's Serbia. However, in post-modernist and feminist theory we speak of so-called `sliding concepts', when a new epoch inherits with some additions concepts belonging to an earlier one. In my view we should not fear the use of `big terms' if they accurately describe certain political realities. Serbian Fascism has its own concentration camps, its own systematic representation of violence against Others, its own cult of the family and cult of the leader, an explicitly patriarchal structure, a culture of indifference towards exclusion of the Other, a closure of society upon itself and upon its own past. It has a taboo on empathy and a taboo on multiculturalism. It has powerful media acting as proponents of genocide; it has a nationalist ideology; it has an epic mentality of listening to the Word and obeying authority." -- Interview with Zarana Papic, prominent Serbian feminist and supporter of the Belgrade circle Women in Black. Bosnia Report, May 11, 2000 

Milosevic Is One Problem. National Denial Is the Other. The thousands of Serbs marching through the streets are not calling for Mr. Milosevic's resignation because his forces executed or expelled hundreds of thousands of Albanians in Kosovo. No, the protesters are angry with Mr. Milosevic because he has driven Yugoslavia's economy into the ground. They are angry that he turned their country into a pariah nation. Yet, perhaps most telling, they are angry with him not because he fought wars in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Croatia but because he lost them. Stacy Sullivan, The New York Times, August 21, 1999

Serbia Under the Threat of Fascism Former mayor of Belgrade Bogdan Bogdanovic discusses the nature of Serbian nationalism. Published in Monitor (Podgorica, Montenegro), June 18, 1999

Serbian aim to kill all Kosovans is nothing new After Milosevic came to power, on the back of his promises to "defend" the Serbs of Kosovo, Kosovo's autonomy was withdrawn and a systematic oppression of the Kosovars was resumed. This was not oppression for its own sake. It was aimed at the actual removal of the Albanians. Arkan, the notorious gangster and war criminal, who was elected to the Serbian assembly as a "representative" of Kosovo in elections boycotted by the Albanian population, made this quite clear. Most of the Kosovars, he explained, had come in from Albania in the last 50 years and they ought to be regarded as "tourists". This claim is, of course, utterly ludicrous, even by the standards of Serb nationalist rhetoric. But it's not meant as a rational argument. It is an implicit demand for the mass expulsion of the vast majority of the population of Kosovo. Tourists, after all, go "home," in this case presumably to Albania. -- Fintan O'Toole, Irish Times, April 30, 1999

Beyond Victimhood On the Serbian opposition to Milosevic By Lawrence Weschler, April 12, 1999

A Serb who backs the Bombing As the former editor of the Sarajevo newspaper Oslobodenje, she lived and worked under the fire of Serbian guns on a daily basis from 1992 to 1994. Now living in Toronto, she supports NATO air strikes over the situation in Kosovo, even though she is a Serb. By Gordana Knezevic, The Toronto Star, April 11, 1999

The Complicity of Serbian Intellectuals in Genocide in the 1990s The war against Croatia and Bosnia in the 1990s was planned by Serbian intellectuals and authorities long before the first Serbian attacks. In the fall of 1986, the Serbian Academy of Science and Art, representing Serbia's most prominent intellectuals, issued a memorandum demanding that Serbia's borders be expanded. By Philip J. Cohen, in chapter 2 of This time we knew: western responses to genocide in Bosnia, edited by Thomas Cushman and Stjepan Mestrovic, 1996. (Excerpts available at the link shown.)

The Serbian Blueprint for Cleansing Kosovo Voislav Seselj, Serbian deputy prime minister and leader of the Radical Party of Serbia, outlined this plan for the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo in 1995. It bears a close resemblance to what happened there in 1998-99.  October 14, 1995

Srdja Popovic: an exiled Yugoslav speaks The Serbian anti-nationalist human rights lawyer discusses the evolution of Milosevic's political power and his exploitation of nationalism. Milosevic's "policy will end in a catastrophe. The weakness of the opposition makes it more probable that it will be the catastrophe of the Serbian people. ... The military defeat of the Milosovic government is in the best interest of the Serbian people. It is something that every good Serbian patriot should wish for. ... If I see somebody trying to murder somebody else, of course my duty is to try to stop him. I'm not saying that by doing so and applying violence to the situation, I'm actually trying to help those people lead a good life. I don't know what they will do once they leave the scene. What I see Serbs doing in Bosnia is committing an act of aggression against a state that has been recognized by United Nations, and I see them committing genocide. I think that both of these things should be stopped. Of course, stopping it would not solve the problem of how these people will live next to each other in the future, but first you have to stop the crimes. The international community has an obligation to do so, under the Convention on Genocide and the Charter of the United Nations. They have an obligation to use force to stop aggression, and to stop genocide." Interviewed by Slobodan Drakulic, Peace Magazine (Toronto), March-April 1994

Programme Declaration of the Serb Radical Party  " ... to expel without delay all 360 thousand Albanian emigrants and their descendants," [along with specific steps for the complete annihilation of all Kosovar Albanian culture, society, social benefits, property benefits, educational benefits, employment, industry, domicile, and existence]. Adopted February 23, 1991

    Serbian Feminism: Against Serbian Nationalism

Thinking, Creating, and Living Feminism - Zarana Papic By Dejan Georgievski, September 13, 2012

At home with Lepa Mladjenovic, Serbian anti-fascist feminist. By Joan Nestle, 2000

Making feminist politics among women of two sides of the front lines The war in former Yugoslavia did not start because people hated each other, but because the hatred was manufactured by the states. The notion of nationalism as well as racism is a construction. It is racism that constructs race, and hatred against women that constructs inferiority of women, and hatred against the ethnic other that constructs nationalism. By Lepa Mjadenovic, June 1999

Feminists in Serbia Collected articles, 1998-99