Friday, June 02, 2006

The long goodbye by Agim Ceku - The Guardian

There is good reason to be optimistic about the western Balkans these
days. By popular referendum, Montenegro just regained its
independence from Serbia and is determined to accelerate its
accession to Europe. We believe that Kosovo will follow suit towards
the end of the year. With the birth of two new democratic states that
look forward to Europe, this is a hopeful epilogue for the tragic
decade that marked the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

We understand the pride that Montenegrins feel. After patiently
waiting for years to express their national aspirations through
democratic means, they restored their statehood. We wish we had been
granted the same chance. Kosovars held their democratic and peaceful
referendum on independence in 1992, with 87% of eligible voters
participating and 99% voting in favour of a sovereign state. It was
our democratic revolution against the last bastion of socialism in
Europe, a legitimate exercise of self-determination against the
Serbian state that, by revoking Kosovo's autonomy, was acting outside
its own constitution and laws. Belgrade rejected that outcome.

We resisted Serbia's occupation, peacefully at first but ultimately
by force of arms. Our volunteers in the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA)
had little more than courage and a shared will to be free, until
Nato's intervention.

Towards Nato member states we feel deep gratitude; for our fighters
we feel pride. We will never forget them. Nor we will forget the
thousands of civilians that were killed just because they were
Albanians. There was no single Srebrenica in our war, only hundreds
of small massacres that devastated the lives of entire communities.

Like other nations that have fought and won their survival and
independence, we treasure our past. But our national pride means only
that we love our language, our culture and our land. We do not want
to impose anything on others.

We have a chance now, for the first time since the collapse of the
Ottoman Empire and the age of the modern European nation states, to
channel our collective aspirations into the creation of an
independent state; we are ready to do so without prejudice against

As prime minister, I am using my office as a pulpit to advocate the
respect and protection of minorities. I regularly meet citizens who
feel marginalised and threatened in order to reassure them. We know
how it feels to mourn loved ones killed because of who they were, or
to return to a burnt home, or to see no future for our children. We
do not want others to suffer as we have suffered. We want to make
sure that incidents like the riots of March 2004 against minority
communities do not happen again.

But as we engage in negotiations with Serbia to discuss shared
concerns, unfortunately we face stubborn obstruction. Serbia's
current leadership is actively opposing the dialogue the government
of Kosovo has developed with Serbs who live in Kosovo. It has driven
a wedge between local Serb residents and their political leadership.
The first, a largely poor, farming constituency, is left without
representation because the latter refuses to recognise Kosovo's
institution and to participate in the assembly and the government,
where it is allotted reserved seats by the constitutional framework.
Belgrade has asked Serbs not to accept payments from Kosovo's budget,
trying to neutralise all our honest efforts to integrate minorities.

For our part, we are being very constructive. We are ready to make
local government more efficient and bring it closer to citizens
through a substantive decentralisation, to protect and restore
Kosovo's cultural heritage and to solve once and for all the painful
issue of missing people on both sides. But these cannot be unilateral
efforts. We cannot achieve good results if we find only deaf ears to
all our openings.

Belgrade is not trying to improve the wellbeing and safety of Serbs
in Kosovo; it is holding them hostage to prove to the entire world
that Kosovo is not ready to be an inclusive society, and thus should
not be a state. This shows instead that Serbia is not an honest
partner in the negotiation on Kosovo's status, and that it should not
be rewarded for this uncompromising attitude.

What Serbia needs instead is a stronger international encouragement
to recognise its new neighbouring democracies and accept the new
reality of the western Balkans. For the people of Montenegro, it was
easy to sever their ties from Serbia. May it be as easy for the
people of Kosovo.


Dardania 2006 said...

Qëndrojmë me juve Z. Kryeministër.

Unë kam besim në Çekun dhe e di që është duke bërë hapa të rëndësishëm dhe vepra të mira për Kosovën.

Më në fund...

PM you're not aloneee (lets make this into a song)

WARchild said...

Nice job! Including the idea of writing itself.

Kristian said...

To: All

Something for all to read :)

Kristian said...

Persistence of the Old Regime in Serbia

Author: Branka Magaš
Uploaded: Wednesday, 31 May, 2006

Comment by a consultant for The Bosnian Institute on the significance of the recent violent press campaign in Serbia against the regime's most distinguished democratic opponent

The recent frontal attack on the respected Serbian historian Latinka Perović by the Belgrade weekly NIN, spread over two issues and eleven pages, reminds one forcefully just how little has changed in Serbia since Milošević’s fall from grace.1 The NIN operation owes much to the old Communist regime’s method of silencing its critics by denouncing them as enemies of the people. Following this recipe, the article portrays Perović and her ‘epigones’ as politically insignificant yet extremely powerful; morally debased yet claiming the moral high ground; harbouring totalitarian ambitions and outlook while pretending to be democrats. . By concentrating on the country’s responsibility for the war and for war crimes, they are destroying Serbia’s chances of becoming a normal, modern, democratic and prosperous state. These ‘civic extremists’ are, in fact, far more dangerous to the country than the Milošević heritage or extreme nationalists like Vojislav Š ešelj (currently in custody at The Hague)

Reliance on the old recipe is visible too in the method used to establish the ‘evidence’ for these and other accusations of a similar nature. It is based on interviews with individuals none of whom wishes to be identified - for the sake of Serbia’s national interest (!). Thus, according to one of these closet sources: ‘Many scholars, researchers and activists are doing wonderful things for Serbia, but they depend for financial support on various foreign foundations. If they were to speak [openly rather than in secret] about these people, the latter would seek to undermine them, and would maybe succeed in discrediting them, which would stop their projects.’ The editor justifies relying exclusively on anonymous sources by claiming that Perović and her co-thinkers are engaged in ‘non-transparent activity’. As for the validity of the evidence, each statement in the article was confirmed by ‘at least three moral people, i.e. credible sources, drawn from various circles’. What these ‘moral people’ supplied the intrepid journalist with turned out to be nothing but malicious gossip. Here we have a nice example of a paper engaged in ‘non-transparent activity’ charging its victims with that very offence.

Enemies of the people

The charges laid against Latinka Perović and her co-thinkers are both numerous and comprehensive. It is thus alleged that Professor Perović has been ‘for years the most influential woman in Serbia’, indeed ‘one of the most powerful women in its history’. Politically, she is a ‘Stalinist Liberal’ (it used to be ‘agent of the KGB and the CIA’). She works behind the scenes ‘cementing lies about Serbia’. She appears ‘at poorly attended meetings’, writes for ‘obscure publications’, and gives interviews to papers that ‘barely sell and nobody reads’. She ‘nurtures the West’s anti-Serb prejudices by supplying it with material which prevents it from forming a rational image of Serbia’. The ways in which her policy and beliefs affect Serbia are ‘quite obscure’: she is ‘semi-visible’, ‘sphinx-like’, ‘non-transparent’. Or maybe not, for she spreads her influence through her group of ‘civic mujahedeen’, ‘hysterical, aggressive and arrogant’ men and women who are blindly loyal to her. Her chief ‘satraps’ are to be found in the Serbian Helsinki Committee (Sonja Biserko et al.), Čedomir Jovanović’s Liberal Democratic Party, and the radio programme Peščenik [Hourglass]. These people are driven by ‘frustration and fury, having succumbed to hatred’. The most vociferous among them, however, are ‘intellectual and moral midgets’. Latinka Perović herself ‘tries to appear nice’, but she too is ‘full of silent fury’.

Her political influence derives not from some great achievement on her part, but from her having ‘marginalised and paralysed’ others. It is her fault that ‘the Other Serbia’ has failed to articulate its voice. Her insistence and that of her circle on Serbia’s guilt has destroyed the option represented by that part of the Other Serbia which believes that cooperating with the government is the best way of helping Serbia make ‘a shortcut to modernity’. She wears ‘the mask of a saint’ and ‘creates a religious atmosphere around her’, but is in reality ‘arrogant and narcissistic’. She is ‘playing an unbelievably dirty game’. ‘The problem lies in her nature’: she is like ‘a religious fanatic’. She used to be shunned, but the Croatians, Slovenians and Bosnians, i.e. people who were ‘on the other side in the war’, have given her a platform. They love her because ‘she attacks Serbia’ while overlooking their own crimes. Their endorsement ‘feeds her ego and causes her to lose touch with reality’. Perović thus believes that the modern Serbia’s future lies in having good relations with her neighbours, and in separating from Russia of which she has ‘a morbid fear’. She applies history selectively to argue that Serbia has no future unless it faces up to its responsibility for the war and the crimes committed in its name, and by doing this she prevents ‘a rational discussion about the country’s future’. Defence of Serbia’s national interests for her is nationalism: she and her circle are ‘anti-patriotic’. Indeed she is co-responsible with the extreme nationalists for Serbia’s present predicament. She and her acolytes instead offer reform based on ‘force and punishment’ and ‘loss of territory’. The Serbian Helsinki Committee is a site of ‘destructiveness and primitivism’. The regime critic and satirical journalist Petar Luković, for example, is ‘a new kind of Pol Pot’. These people are driven by material self-interest and ‘psycho-pathology’.

According to NIN, Perović sees herself as ‘a messiah to whom Serbia will sooner or later turn’. On the other hand, her political fall in 1972 (she had been secretary of the League of Communists of Serbia, LCS) ‘led her to believe that all Serbs are evil’. She ‘has slid into naked hatred’. She and her circle ‘hate’ Tadić and Koštunica - without whom, however, there is no democratisation or return to normality. They hold the entire Serbian establishment to be guilty, thereby propagating the wrong image of Serbia. Unlike Perović, who has never made public self-criticism, Dobrica Ćosić - another person ‘hated’ by her circle - is ready to admit that he has made mistakes. Perović has now adopted Čedomir Jovanović as her ‘political heir’; but if Jovanović wishes to advance politically, he has first to drop her, because she is pushing him into ‘apolitical’, ‘irrational’ and ‘non-pragmatic’ behaviour. In fact, ‘his political marriage with Latinka is a dream for the enemies of modern Serbia.’ Jovanović must choose whether to be a pragmatic politician like Đinđić, or a political loser like ‘these empty moralists’. What Jovanović must do is to ‘marry reason and the nation’. His party, and other small parties of the democratic opposition, must abandon Perović’s type of dogmatism, according to which Serbia must face up to the truth if it is to become a modern state and society.

Character assassination was one of the favourite methods used by the former Communist state security services against political opponents. The trick consists of charging the critics with causing problems that are in reality of the regime’s own making. According to Perović’s critics, she and her circle rather than the Serbian government are responsible for Serbia’s poor relations with the West. It is their insistence on Serbia’s responsibility for the recent wars rather than what Serbia actually did that prevents the country from making a new turn. It is their demand that the political class should account for its role in the war rather than the disastrous policy carried out by that class which is injurious to the national interest. In the view of these critics, the war and its attendant crimes were simply errors committed - wittingly or unwittingly, but always in pursuit of perfectly legitimate aims - by individuals, who either are gone (like Slobodan Milošević) or have mended their ways (like Dobrica Ćosić). It is consequently quite unnecessary - if not downright cruel - to force the Serbian people to acknowledge its country’s role in the recent wars. Only by setting this past aside (and leaving it to ‘objective’ academic research) can Serbia come to feel ‘normal’ and ‘happy’ again.

The trouble with this recommendation is that it cannot work, because Serbia’s past has not passed away. It is still there, choking the country. One of its most glaring manifestations is precisely the regime’s denial of Serbia’s responsibility for the war, despite the great mountain of evidence collected by the Hague tribunal. The tribunal, it is true, has not charged Serbia with ‘crimes against peace’, but, as Professor Paul Garde has recently written in the Paris daily Liberation, the fact that Serbia committed aggression against its neighbours ‘leaps out of the court records everywhere’.2 The attack on Perović and her co-thinkers will not change this reality. Serbia’s real problem lies in the persistence of the old regime, a regime which has generated three wars in quick succession for aims that could not be realised without resort to mass crime, and which continues, moreover, to harbour expansionist ambitions. Key policy makers and party leaders declare openly that the war is not yet over, so that the regime presents a lasting threat to peace in the region. If only for this reason, its nature and durability cannot be treated as a purely internal Serbian affair: so long as it remains in power, it will be a subject of serious concern for both its neighbours and the international community.

When Milošević fell from power in October 2000 Western capitals, keen to see Serbia’s return to international respectability, hailed this as a revolutionary change. It gradually dawned on them, however, that the change was more cosmetic than substantial. Zoran Đinđić, the Serbian prime minister responsible for delivering Slobodan Milošević to The Hague, was assassinated; the genocidal killers Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić are still at large; and the country continues to live in a state of denial. ‘Zoran Dinđić’s murder was possible’, notes Serbian historian Olga Popović-Obradović, ‘not because of the nature of the regime under Milošević, but because that regime was not changed on 5 October, yet had to appear to have done so.’3 Changing Serbia turns out to be far more difficult than many had hoped for or predicted, given the persistence of the old regime. The latter has survived the fall of Communism, successive military defeats, NATO bombings, and dramatic changes in its immediate neighbourhood. Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria have either joined or are about to join the European Union; Croatia and Macedonia are on the road to it; Albania and Montenegro are seeking to do the same. Kosovo will join them as soon as it is allowed independent foreign action. Serbia alone appears determined to stay out.4 Given the regime’s extraordinary tenacity, it makes sense to ask just how far back it goes and what are its roots.

But before attempting to answer this question, let us pause for a moment to consider the proposition that Serbia can move forward with this regime in place. The main message of the article in NIN is not only that it can, but also that this is the only way. The article’s advice to Čedomir Jovanović is to be a hard-nosed politician, like Zoran Đinđić. But if anything can be learnt from Đinđić’s assassination it is that the regime cannot be changed by a pragmatic adaptation to it.5 His murder, which was announced in advance in the Serbian media, was a warning to all those seeking a radical break with the past. The exact circumstances surrounding this political assassination, and especially who ordered it, remain to be established; in the view of most reporters, they never will be. This should come as no surprise, since, as Popović-Obradović adds, ‘all relevant social and state institutions, without exception, took part in it whether directly or indirectly: generals, i.e. the army; clergy, i.e. the church; scholars and poets, i.e. their respective institutions’. With this regime in power there is no shortcut to normality.

Tenacity of the old regime

It is widely accepted that the present regime was created by Milošević, i.e. that it began with the installation of Milošević as head of the LCS in 1987, followed by a mass purge of the party; the adoption in 1989 of a new constitution making Serbia independent from Yugoslavia; and the proclamation in 1993 of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), now - for a little while longer - ‘Serbia and Montenegro’. An important element of the Milošević order was the creation in 1991-2 of two ‘ethnically purified’ Serb ‘republics’, one in Croatia and the other in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Together with FRY these formed the bulk of the Great Serbia that Dragoljub Mihailović’s Chetniks had tried to bring about in the course of World War II. The Chetniks fought for a Yugoslavia centred on an ‘ethnically purified’ Great Serbia, and spent much of the war trying to establish the latter’s borders in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Their enterprise failed, but half a century later it was to reappear as an going concern, thanks to the joint efforts of two generations of Serbian Communists - symbolised respectively by Dobrica Ćosić and Slobodan Milošević.

Sonja Biserko notes in a major essay on the reconstruction of history now proceeding in Serbia that during the 1990s most former Partisans came to identify themselves as Chetniks.6 Serbian democrats protested vigorously against the Koštunica government’s recent rehabilitation of the Chetniks, but given the support of old Partisans and long-standing Communists for the Chetnik project this move in fact appeared quite logical. It is questionable, indeed, in view of this Communist-Chetnik symbiosis, whether the division between Chetniks and Serbian Communists upon on which Communist historiography always insisted was ever quite so fundamental with respect to the issue of Yugoslavia. Milošević, after all, was hand-picked for the powerful post of president of the LCS by senior (high-ranking and elderly) Serbian Communist leaders close to the army and security services, for a very specific task: to transform Yugoslavia into Great Serbia. He in turn gave Radovan Karadžić, who had been recommended to him by Dobrica Ćosić, the leading role in implementing this project in Bosnia. The ‘Milošević regime’, which lives on in Serbia and in the Serb entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina, stems directly from the Serbian segment of the pre-war Communist party-state. The whole Milosević phenomenon was indeed the latter’s creation.

The historiography of the Communist period, both Yugoslav and foreign, tends to downplay the diversity of ways in which Communist rule came to be established in the different Yugoslav countries during and after World War II, the variation reflecting both their individual histories and their specific wartime experiences. There exists in this regard a crucial difference between Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, on the one hand, and Serbia on the other - involving the relative extent of popular participation in the Partisan struggle, the timing and tempo of the creation of new state bodies, and the attitudes to federalism. Whereas in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina the Partisans were able to liberate large tracts of land and place their administration on a more or less solid footing before the end of the war, Serbia never became Partisan territory. Moreover, whereas in western Yugoslavia the federal order grew directly out of the anti-fascist resistance, that order had to be imposed on Serbia, where it was constantly to be challenged.

Serbia’s eventual pacification was made easier by the mass entry of Chetniks into the Partisan army in 1944. At the same time, the dearth of indigenous Communist cadres brought into public prominence a score of relatively unknown men - such as Dobrica Ćosić, future president of FRY, and Mihailo Marković, future vice-president of Milošević’s Socialist Party of Serbia - men with close ties to the powerful state security department created and administered by the Serbian Party leader Aleksandar Ranković. Ćosić, an ardent advocate of ethnic separation and the man who many in Serbia hail as the ‘father of the nation’, became early on Ranković’s close friend and collaborator.7 Between the end of the war and 1966, when Ranković was ousted from power, Serbia was in effect Ranković’s fiefdom. Despite its wartime record, it became under Ranković the dominant Yugoslav state, almost Yugoslavia’s alter ego. During these formative years for Ćosić and Marković (and Milošević too: he was born in 1941), it was easy if you lived in Serbia to think that Serbia and Yugoslavia were one and the same thing. Communist Serb nationalists treated ‘Yugoslav’ and ‘Serb’ as synonyms, while charging all who did not declare themselves ‘Yugoslav’ by nationality with being anti-Yugoslav.8 Many of their generation adopted, with suitable rhetorical modifications, the understanding of Yugoslavia as an expanded Serbia that had been prevalent in the pre-World War II Serbian (and especially Belgrade) middle class.

During his time in office, Ranković established an administrative apparatus with the state security service at its core, which penetrated all spheres of civil society, including the Orthodox Church. This rock upon which the Serbian Communist state rested was to be inherited practically unchanged twenty years later by Slobodan Milošević. Ranković, poised to replace Tito at the head of the Yugoslav Communist party, was instead purged, because of the justifiable suspicion that he was seeking abolition of the federal constitutional order. This is precisely what Milošević tried to do in 1987-9, causing in the process the break-up of both the Yugoslav League of Communists and Yugoslavia itself.

Great Serbia as Yugoslavia

It is commonly held that the Serbian regime fought the recent wars in the name of ‘the liberation and unification of all Serbs’. This indeed is what its leaders and ideologues have been saying all this time. Ćosić was calling for the Serbs to separate themselves from other Yugoslavs and create a separate state well before the start of the war. But they have insisted too that all this time they were fighting for Yugoslavia, against people - i.e. all other Yugoslavs - who wished to destroy it. Ćosić, for example, stated recently that ‘the Slovenes fought for an independent Slovenia, the Croats for an ethnically pure Croatia, the Serbs for Yugoslavia and for their national and civic rights, the Muslims for an Islamic Bosnia, and the Albanians for a Great Albania’.9 For Dobrica Ćosić, in other words, there is no contradiction between insisting on the need for the Serbs to have a separate state and claiming that the Serbs were fighting for Yugoslavia. That the Serbs fought ‘for Yugoslavia and for their national and civil rights’ was the focal point of Milošević’s defence too. Milošević, having destroyed Yugoslavia, promptly gave the Yugoslav name to the state of which he was president. The academic drafters of the notorious 1986 Memorandum, who had insisted that Yugoslavia was Serbia’s graveyard, found nothing amiss with this. For them too this new Serb Yugoslavia was more Yugoslav than the old one with its majority of non-Serbs. Biserko recalls in her essay on historical memory an exchange between one of the Hague tribunal judges and Mihailo Marković, who was testifying on Milošević’s behalf. Presented with a map of Great Serbia published in Belgrade in 1991, Marković denied it was a map of Great Serbia: it was simply Yugoslavia without Slovenia or (a much reduced) Croatia. Some analysts have diagnosed this simultaneous attachment to Great Serbia and Yugoslavia as a form of schizophrenia, but this is to mistake the matter. The war that these Communist Chetniks fought was not for Great Serbia as such, but for a Great Serbia that would be internationally accepted as Yugoslavia. The calculation was that a Great Serbia recognised as Yugoslavia would be in a better position to lay claim to the bulk of the former Yugoslav territory.

This deliberate confusion between Great Serbia and Yugoslavia has a long history, going right back to the middle of the 19th century.10 It found its clearest articulation, however, in the mind-set adopted by the Serbian middle class after the formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918, as a result of which a decade later the kingdom was renamed Yugoslavia. During the intervening decade, this class was completely restructured in size, wealth and ambition. It was in many ways a new class, one that made a fortune out of systematic and unashamed pillage of the new country, and of the former Austro-Hungarian lands in particular. A bloated army, gendarmerie and state security service were its chief tools of wealth extraction. This sudden windfall in the shape of Yugoslavia paid for Serbia’s pre-war and wartime international borrowing; for new factories, shops, banks and railways; for new theatres, museums, galleries and Orthodox churches; and for new palaces and easy living for the new governing class. It paid too for Serbia’s enhanced status in Europe. The achievement of Serb ‘unity and liberty’ paled into insignificance before the glitter of the Yugoslav golden goose: the Serbs of Vojvodina, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were plucked just as greedily as were the Germans, the Hungarians, the Slovenes, the Croats and others.11 For the Serbian elite, ‘Serb unification and liberation’ was an expedient pretext for holding and ruling an area and a population five times larger than Serbia itself. Yugoslavia was the source of its wealth, power and prestige and has ever since remained its great obsession. Ever since 1918, this class has been ‘fighting for’ and ‘defending’ Yugoslavia against all other Yugoslavs.

Serbia’s ruthless exploitation of Yugoslavia caused the latter’s collapse in 1941, but you would hardly be aware of this part of history, if you happened to live in Belgrade after 1945, given the revival of Serbia’s dominance within Yugoslavia and the great Serbian influx into every important department of the federal state: administration, diplomacy, army, police, banking, etc. - indeed into everything spawned by the centralised state set up by the Yugoslav Communist party. Up until 1966, the clock seemed to be turning back to 1918. But then Ranković fell, Serbia’s hegemony became divested of its main props, Ćosić found a new calling as a dissident, while Marković turned into a ‘Marxist humanist’. Much of the Serbian elite experienced Ranković’s fall as a major defeat, and began to hatch plans for restoring Serbia to its previous position. Reacting against the economic and political reforms of 1968-74, which they could not prevent, they spoke increasingly about ‘the liberation and unification of all Serbs’ - who, in actual fact, were neither unfree nor disunited. But what they had in mind was a new fusion of Great Serbia and Yugoslavia.

The Perović way

It is here that the Perović story properly comes in. After Ranković’s fall, she and her party colleague and friend Marko Nikezić, the LCS president, tried to create a new internal Serbian consensus based on the realisation that Serbian domination of Yugoslavia was unsustainable as well as injurious to Serbia itself, since the political, military and police setup needed to keep it going was preventing the country’s (hence also Serbia’s) modernisation and democratisation. They believed that Yugoslavia was for various reasons the most desirable framework for Serbia, which is why it was worth making the union work. By this time Serbia had accumulated sufficient internal resources to feel confident that it should be able to beat the more developed Slovenia and Croatia at their own game - i.e. good economic management - without having to rely on threats or subterfuge. Like other Yugoslav states, Serbia had its own national interests to defend; but any conflict deriving therefrom should be resolved through all-Yugoslav dialogue and consensus. Like so much else at the time, however, this sound policy was put aside after the political purges of the early 1970s, which eliminated the pair from active politics. It was finally buried by the national-Communist reaction that brought Milošević to power and directed Serbia onto the opposite course.

Today, however, with the quest for a Serbian Yugoslavia having failed, the regime in Belgrade finds itself at a loss at the precise time when the country is in most urgent need of a fresh start. Its ideologues and sycophants dislike and fear Perović, not only because she reminds them of their failure - and indeed of the very impossibility of the Great Serbia project - but also because she stands for the only viable alternative: that of a Serbia at peace with its neighbours, integrated into Europe, and busy making up for the lost decades. Serbia is today once again at a crossroads, and it can only be hoped that it will return to the Perović way.

The Serbian malady

Serbia spent much of the 20th century trying to establish itself as the hegemonic state in the Balkans, with grave consequences for its own democratic development. In her magisterial work Parlamentarizam u Srbiji 1903-1914, Olga Popović-Obradović traces the development of the country’s parliamentary system in the decade preceding its integration into Yugoslavia. She writes that despite many problems, stemming mainly from the backwardness of Serbian society, liberal democracy was gradually taking root; but also that it was held back by the growing influence of army officers in domestic politics, a development made inevitable by the determination of the Serbian political parties to achieve ‘the liberation and unification of all Serbs’ (and much else besides). As Serbia came to include territories populated by overwhelmingly non-Serb populations (Kosovo and Macedonia in 1912, Montenegro and Vojvodina in 1918), the army’s role in politics became ever more pronounced. The shift of power from parliament to the army and the court camarilla was completed in Yugoslavia, whose parliament functioned either as a mere talking shop or not at all.

Following World War II, the Communist party justified its monopoly of political power on ideological grounds, but it was motivated also by the fear that free elections would result in Yugoslavia’s break-up. Despite the official rhetoric of ‘brotherhood and unity’, Yugoslavia was in fact an alliance of disparate states kept together by their voluntary adhesion to the AVNOJ compact deriving from World War II, a compact that rested on acceptance of the existing borders and sovereignties and that had Tito as its chief arbiter. Once Tito died in 1981, the Serbian elite felt free to challenge this system, thus opening the road to war. The NIN article attacks Perović for her positive assessment of the Titoist phase of Serbian history; but it is clear that her stance has nothing to do with defence of an undemocratic system, but derives rather from an understanding that peace and cooperation with its neighbours was far more advantageous to Serbia than the post-Tito policy of attrition and war.

The AVNOJ settlement was internationally re-affirmed in 1992 with recognition of the independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia. By acknowledging these states, the current Serbian regime too has recognised, formally at least, this arrangement for the former Yugoslav area. But it has done so half-heartedly and under duress. It continues to hope, in fact, for a situation to arise in which a resurgent Russia might help Serbia to achieve its former war aims. This Communist-Chetnik hybrid has long been governing Serbia by evading democratic control. Though the country is formally a parliamentary democracy, all important decisions are taken by a cabal linked to the Academy, the Army, the police, the Church, the mafia, and various interest groups produced by a decade of war and isolation. It is doubtful that this regime can be reformed from within. Nevertheless, change is slowly taking place under the combined pressure of the international community and the determination of Kosovo and Montenegro to be independent. As these last vestiges of Milošević’s FRY come to be wound up, Serbia, finally freed from the Great Serbia millstone, will be in a good position to fashion a new future for itself.

The country has paid a high price for trying to forge a Serbian order in the Balkans. In the process it has lost many of the political, social and economic benefits that had accrued to it during the Tito period, as well as the trust of its closest neighbours. The European Union, which has - or soon will - supersede the AVNOJ arrangement as the right framework for the former Yugoslav republics and Kosovo, has inevitably taken upon itself also the former federation’s task of curing Serbia of its Great Serb malady. This will not be easy, but it has to be done for the sake of Serbia and Europe alike.

Kristian said...


Bg anon said...

Actions speak louder than words though.

And Im afraid to say I dont get it - this explanation of national pride.

The fact that Im not too proud or too obsessed with history allowed me to see through the lies Serbian politicians were repeating. I think the Balkans has seen far too much pride and (different versions of) history.

Ceku thinks that pride and treasuring the past is a good thing? Thats something nationalists in Serbia would agree with as well.

If I was Ceku I would spend more time talking about improving living standards and the current negative economic effect that Kosovos unclear status has because those are the types of arguments the West likes to hear.

But he says the right thing on minorities though, thats plain to see.

Dont be hard on me for not taking him at his word, he is a politician and we know how many politicians tell the truth. But if he does produce results I will state it clearly.

Serbs In Kosovo are in Danger said...

This is one of the most frightening things I have ever read. Ceku is just scary. He is a genocidal ethnic cleanser and all the serbs in Kosovo are in great jeopardy. Soon Ceku might get his wish that there will be no Serbs in Kosovo and then he will celebrate.

Serbs In Kosovo are in Danger said...

Just the fact that he praised the murderers and rapist of Serbs that made up the KLA is enough to frighten Serbs to leave even more.

armera said...

Correct me if I am wrong but aren't Serbs the one that have commited rape and genocide in former Serboslavia?

This like listening to Germans after WWII, them complaining about genocide and rape.

Even Montenegro the nation which is literaly identical to Serbs doesn't want to live with you together any more. Doesn't this show you how far have you gone.

Start understanding the reality before it is too late and don't worry about the rights of Serbs in Kosove. Even if we don't want to grant them their rights, the international community will make sure we do.

So stop this blind propaganda, and focus on your own country instead. Kosova will prosper with or without you, however it is the choices you make today that will shape your future tomorrow.

I am sick and tired of listening to this crap (excuse my language)

I think there is enough progressive thinking in Balkans to start shaping a better future for us all. Serbs, I hope will join one day.

Serbs In Kosovo are in Danger said...

The International community was all over the March 2004 riots? No Serb property was damaged or Serbs killed? Give me a break. The international community could not care less about Serbs in Kosovo. They want a Serb free Kosovo because it will be more stable. Ceku will be allowed to do anything he wants.

Montenegrins are not Serbs. Where do you get that nonsense.

1defender said...

Kosovo democratic!?!? give me a break. I bet that the majority of ordinary Albanians don't want to live in such a criminal rogue state. Why the hell do you think that the occupiers of Kosovo are moving to Northern Mitrovica? They feel safe there! If they feel safe among their enemies spare a thought about what Kosovo is now. Montenegro got it's independence because so many Albanians voted for it. They are already asking for payback. Little matter of autonomy around Ulcinj. The Montenegrins have been STUPID. Long time to ponder on that stupidity. Anyone who was against Yugoslavia is cultured and distinguished. Well as they say act in haste repent at leisure and so it will be. Many of you who have written on this blog will live to regret your words, whether you are Albanian, Serb or whatever.

Cvijus011 said...

Church near Bujanovac vandalised
2 June 2006 | 16:14 | Source: Beta
BUJANOVAC -- The Serbian Orthodox Church Sveta Jelena in the village of Veliki Trnovac, near Bujanovac, has been vandalised.

According to Beta, a group of Serbs visited the church today in order to prepare it for tomorrow’s patronal feast and noticed the damage done to the church.

“I found the doors unhinged, the windows and chandelier broken, broken furniture, and worst of all, human excrement on the floor.” Beta’s eyewitness said.

The village of Veliki Trnovac is completely Albanian in population. Although the last Serbian family left the village in 1962, Serbian church-goers still visit the village church once a year.

Mir said...

"Church near Bujanovac vandalised
2 June 2006 | 16:14 | Source: Beta
BUJANOVAC -- The Serbian Orthodox Church Sveta Jelena in the village of Veliki Trnovac, near Bujanovac, has been vandalised.

According to Beta, a group of Serbs visited the church today in order to prepare it for tomorrow’s patronal feast and noticed the damage done to the church.

“I found the doors unhinged, the windows and chandelier broken, broken furniture, and worst of all, human excrement on the floor.” Beta’s eyewitness said.

The village of Veliki Trnovac is completely Albanian in population. Although the last Serbian family left the village in 1962, Serbian church-goers still visit the village church once a year. "

No words can express what I feel when I read that.

arianit said...

Shameful, but what does this have to do with Kosova?

armera said...

And you expect someone to believe that Albanians did this?

Only in Serbia, still police controlled country one knows right away who commited a crime.

Well I think soon you don't need any police investigators or courts. Just get 10 Albanians and lynch them, you have shown to be good at it.

I lived long enough in your system to know how things work out.

Once again if I was not clear enough in my last posting. Regardless of what you think the rest of the world already knows what went on in former Serboslav country. It is in your best interest that you start shifting your attitude to positive, and realize something everyone already has.

So get real, and quit this stupid propaganda, neither you nor me can stop something that has already taken shape. Kosova is defacto independent, soon it will be dejuro as well.

Kristian said...

Of all the serbs that comment here I give my respects towards only one:

Bg Anon

Ok there is one more, Mir at times, but not all the time.

Reality is the balkan region has become a shithole. Doesn't matter what region or nationality you are.

Look at things such as the standard of living, economic policy, corruption, and crime.

If there was a contest of who was better at it, guess what every nationality would tie for first position.

There is so much finger pointing that no one is getting anything done. (not entirely true) You have very intelligent ppl on all sides. Ppl that can make a difference but guess what the ppl that are in office are not the most qualified ppl to get the reforms needed for all of us to move forward.

I hope everyone wakes up!

If Kosovo/a gets independence then what? You think that automatically things will change? That is utterly absurd! It will take years for it to get to the level of western europe.

Same goes for Montenegro! Now it has its independence. So freaken what! What is the govt going to do now and what will it do for its ppl?

If Serbia loses Kosovo/a what will it do? Have elections and the communist/nationalists will take power! I sincerely hope not! Will it have internal strife with politicians pointing the finger at each other and blaiming each other for the loss of Kosovo/a! This would be petty and immature. Will it solve corruption or more importantly will politicians have real power instead of being the puppets of the military. I hope they do gain that power and show the ppl that change is good.

I just focused on some of the negatives, not all, but I truly believe that with the right individuals each state can achieve greater things and prosperity for all.

Education is key in my opinion. Its ironic that in the rural areas ppl are so un educated compared to folks in the urban areas. I hope with education this will change.

Peace to all and I'm going to crash since I'm a bit wasted. To much vodka and redbull. I'm wired at the same time drunk! Life is great :)

Cvijus011 said...

"Peace to all and I'm going to crash since I'm a bit wasted. To much vodka and redbull. I'm wired at the same time drunk! Life is great :)"

This is the best formula to achieve peace.

Cheers to you Kristian and have fun

Bg anon said...

Kristian you are a good guy. Some people who post here dont give the impression that they are human beings at all.

I agree with you - so bloody what if Mg or Kosovo gets independence. Take a deep breath and puff oneself up with pride to much that there is a danger one will explode when one finally realises it doesnt really mean anything. Putting up borders a reason for pride? When each and every one of us truly knows there is no difference between each of us and that each border is as artificial as supposed differences between us.
Proud of creating artificial differences between human beings???

On the other side Im ready and prepared to accept what is likely to happen in Kosovo, the rest of Serbia is also, even if people arent happy about it. Lets say something like a third of the Serbian population will never accept the situation but then those people arent known for realistic views.

But and this is a big but, this is about PEOPLE. Until there are concrete actions that will enable minorities (who have it most difficult at the moment in Kosovo) to live in peace, to have freedom of movement, to have basic rights, I can not and will not urge other Serbs to accept the likely outcome and I cannot support that likely outcome - and that outcome is yes conditional independence.

Perhaps it isnt possible to achieve those standards. And because it allegedly isnt possible I am now an obstructionist.

Am I an obstructionist or a supporter of human rights?

Dardania 2006 said...

Supporter of human rights. And you are not alone. But some claiming that Albanians will go on a rampate to destroy everything that speaks Serb is obstructionism.

Well said bg anon.

Serbs In Kosovo are in Danger said...


Why are you being so NAIVE? The Albanian chosen Prime Minister of Kosovo is AGIM CEKU? Ethnic Cleanser of Krajina and leader of the KLA. The KLA committed so many crimes against Serbs and CONTINUES to do so to this day! What is wrong with you? You are being WAY too hopeful and COMPLETELY UNREALISTIC AND NAIVE.

Kristian said...

To: Serbs are in Danger

I think bg anon is more realistic in his thinking then you are.

Your blinded by hate (my opinion) or believe that all the serb politicians had no hand in any of the wars that plagued the FROY.

The military still pulls more strings then any politician in serbia proper. And many had a hand in what happened during the wars. Do you see any of them being accused or prosecuted for their crimes? Even though they still hold power today! Just bc Ceku has a seat in politics means that its against the rules when so many ppl in your goverment played a role in the wars and are not criticized by your ppl. Or held accountable for what they did. Your not being fair bc if you look at it from a statistical point of view there are more serbs responsible for all the things they did then albanians (concerning only the war in kosovo/a).

Its sad bc if I were a serb I'd be concerned about my future if they were to revert to a similar policy in the future. Maybe we'll see the new saga/sequel: MILOSEVIC II COMMING SOON TO THE BALKANS GET YOUR TICKETS BC ITS COMMING TO YOU LIVE VIA SATELLITE And if you were Albanian I'd be worried about extremists getting power in the Kosovo/a govt. No offence to albanains but some of these guys are a bit fanatic and are backwards in their ideology. They dream of the past just like the serb nationalist do. And that is scary.

One man can not do everything-- it takes a collective. Milosevic is not the scape goat of serbia. "Oh, just blame it on him since the man is dead. It was bc of him that so many died and that is why serbia is in the state it is." Come on there were a lot of ppl involved and things went sour. Those that were involved cover their tracks and no one person or party can go after the military or dirty politicians that hand a hand in the war. Look at what happened to Djindic (I think that I mispelled his name). He sent Milo to Hague as was about to send a few other military leaders too but hey they couldn't have that so they murdered the guy. How democratic!

It doesn't matter if your in Serbia proper or kosovo/a politicians are the worst of any creed.

As bg anon said if the things that Ceku talks about do come into fruition then the ppl of Kosovo/a (all ethnicities will be better off as a community). But till then Serbs should have reservations.

Division as is your aim does not help anyone. And individual acts of violence is not the same as a goverment order to systematically displace ppl, murder them, rape them, or commit vicious violations of human rights.

You do know that ppl in the balkans are hot tempered ppl. Might I add trigger happy as well. If you're serb or albanian psychologically they think along similar lines when it comes to pride and ego.

What Ceku should commit to is putting individuals in jail for attacking serbs and any other violations these individuals cause. He should hold them accountable for their actions and jail them if their guilty.

What would be constructive is to hold the man to his word. If he strays from his policy/committment make it known not just to serbs but to albanians as well. If he is trully committed then his actions will be proof of his intentions. So far he's been reaching out to Kosovo/a serbs but again belgrade insists that kosovo/a serbs not join the govt or talk on how to resolve differences and problems that all face. Its sad that when you want to create a better future your so called "big brother" belgrade tells you let it get worse bc we're using you as a pawn instead of trying to mend things. You can't blame only albanians for kosovo/a serb misery, belgrade has a huge hand in their misery as well.

I hope more serb locals will committ themselves in the process to resolve issues. Great example was a few weeks ago when the Bishop of the Orthodox church, Albanian Catholic bishop, and the Albanian Imam held a 2 day conference that had great results and understanding. Those individuals know each other well as they always have in the past. They did agree that they should encourage understanding of each other and quell the ills of the past.

Now why can't Belgrade encourage Kosovo/a serbs to do the same with Kosovo/a albanians?