Friday, February 24, 2012

The Submission of Serbia: No Deal or A Raw Deal?


Oxford dictionary defines “deal” as “an agreement entered into by two or more parties for their mutual benefit, especially in a business or political context.”  It defines “submission” as “the action of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.” Tell me, according to these definitions, did Borko Stefanović make a deal or did he sign a submission to Edita Tahiri in Brussels on Thursday?
Serbia’s government officials, Eurofanatics and other NGO mercenaries in Serbia are gloating over the fact that Serbia de facto recognized the independence of its southern province of Kosovo, confidently rewriting dictionary entries to conform to the current needs of the spin machine. Of course, they can’t admit that Serbia indeed recognized Kosovo as equal to Serbia in international relations with this “deal,” so it’s best to redefine the actual term. No, what you thought of as a “deal” is not “deal” anymore; if you get raped, we’ll call it a “deal” because we feel you could have gotten killed, so in effect, you cut a “deal” with your rapist, who decided it’s for the mutual benefit that he just rapes you and spares your life. Borko Stefanović, in the meantime, successfully auditioned for a job in Brussels, just in case the whole EU candidacy farce deservedly crumbles again. also defines a “deal” as “a secret or underhand agreement or bargain” and in this sense, Stefanović did make a deal. If Stefanović gets hired, Božidar Đelić, the former Minister for European Integrations, will be pissed because he had to audition for 12 years, and he can make the case that he was at least as successful as Stefanović, maybe not in the domain of Eurointegrations, but definitely in the area of disintegration of Serbia. Who screwed Serbia more, Đelić or Stefanović, is a question history will answer, I’m afraid incorrectly, since it looks like Noel Malcolm will write our history.
Going back to the original question, it is important to dwell on the definitions for a moment. I didn’t draw the two words out of a hat. The official Serbia has been flaunting the word “deal” to describe the cunnilingus that took place in Brussels yesterday. According to Oxford dictionary, “cunnilingus” means “stimulation of the female genitals using the tongue or lips.” If we want to be honest, Borko Stefanović did just that to Edita Tahiri, but I needed a term with less of a personal and more of a political connotation, so, after checking several potential matches, I settled on “submission.” Let us not misinterpret it, still. The key difference between the figurative cunnilingus performed and the submission I will describe, was in that the cunnilingus was not a forced act, while submission can be forced and unforced. Therein lies the defeat of Serbia: Stefanović’s submission was not forced, but deceptively incentivized, deceptively for the naïve people of Serbia.
What exact gains did Borko bring Serbia in the advertised “deal?” I remind you, in order for it to be a deal, it had to bring mutual benefits of the parties involved.  The Albanian side clearly won all the concessions, but how did Serbia benefit? There were three conditions, in this round of the subjugations process, upon which the granting of the EU candidacy stood, and all three involved Kosovo: (1) stop blocking the Albanian separatist “state” from taking part in regional conference, i.e. stop pretending it is not independent; (2) the execution of the December agreement on the integrated operations of the administrative crossings, i.e. let Albanian customs officer control the crossings they didn’t control before; and (3) remove the roadblocks from North Kosovo, i.e. allow EULEX to occupy the area and to exercise its imposed mandate over the majority Serb-inhabited part. With the footnote of without it, Kosovo, whose independence Boris Tadić “staunchly” and “adamantly” does not recognize, will be sitting next to Serbia, as an equal, in 36 international initiatives, according to Kosovo’s Deputy Foreign Minister. (Hey, I don’t like calling him that either, but how else will the official Serbia address him in regional conferences?) If that is not recognition, then I don’t know what is. According to Glas Srpske, Petrit Selimi, the man holding the title above I uttered with heaviness of the heart, said the following to Serbian reporters (in my translation):
“Kosovo will not be an observer, not an adjoined member, but a full-fledged member, with the ratification powers… The footnote is just a word, and it is more important that we’ve become a member of the [international] organizations.”
Boris Tadić, saw the “deal” quite differently:
“Kosovo will not be presented in regional fora and institutions as an independent country, but in line with UN Resolution 1244 on Kosovo and the opinion of the International Court of Justice.” (Source: B92)
Did they read the same agreement? 
Now, if Serbia is an independent state and Kosovo has the same participation rights as the independent Serbia, or, in other words, if Serbia will not have any influence over decisions and attitudes such Kosovo puts forward in these international initiatives, aren’t they equal? Did Boris Tadić not allow Kosovo to have the same international status before the world as Serbia has? If the footnote in effect does not abridge Kosovo’s participation in any way and if Hashim Thaci has said numerous times that the UN Resolution 1244 did not bind him, which dumb Serb will believe Tadić’s rhetorical gibberish? What has changed the official position of Serbia from Vuk Jeremić’s insistence on blocking Kosovo to Stefanović accepting it gladly? The footnote? Give me a break.
Borko Stefanović inadvertently revealed how much of a “deal” this actually was:
“It is clear now that all the criteria set by the European Council for Serbia to get the EU candidate status have been fulfilled.” (Source: B92)
So, he signed off on all the demands, literally going down on not only Tahiri, but the rows of Brussels eurocrats, effectively bringing Serbia down with him for all the cunnilingi and the fellatios. The Oxford linguists would probably support my figurative references to the oral sex instances, but the long English faces would frown upon the “deal” redefinition, in any language. What Borko Stefanović did in Brussels was in no way a deal, and did not benefit Serbia in the slightest, but it was subordination to the will of Serbia’s Western European and Albanian enemies.
While Stefanović was performing the cunnilingus in Brussels, Serbia’s special police hidden behind face masks attacked and removed the roadblock at Jarinje. It was a clear sign that the official Belgrade meant business, that both Brussels and Priština could trust it in advancing their agenda. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be hilarious.
And while the EU candidacy was again positioned as the paramount goal, worth all the humiliations and masochism, didn’t Tadić claim that all the conditions had been met before the December Ninth decision as well? 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ninety Nine Percent Against the Fourth Reich and Its Belgrade Proxy


Since the North Kosovo Serbs unequivocally refused to recognize the institutions of the self-proclaimed independent Kosovo in the Sretenje Referendum, a democratic expression the official Belgrade condemned in a very undemocratic manner, there is a question of legitimacy of Serbia’s further involvement in negotiations with the Kosovo Albanian representatives.  It is very unclear whom Borislav Stefanović, Serbia’s representative in the negotiations that resume tomorrow in Brussels, actually represents. Not Serbia’s interests in Kosovo, that much is understood. The Kosovo Serbs said so in the Sretenje Referendum on February 14 and 15. The interest of Serbia in its province of Kosovo naturally corresponds with the best interest of the Serbs living in Kosovo, and if they, in areas where they still enjoy a semblance of physical and political freedom, decided to democratically express their disagreement with the agenda Boris Tadić’s government continues to pursue, there could be only one interpretation of such an action: Serbia’s president is working against the interest and wishes of Serbia’s citizens in Kosovo whose very existence as a free community holding onto their ancestral homes hangs in balance. In no way can Tadić’s stance be more justified than the stance of the very people who are directly affected.
Stefanović and Edita Tahiri will meet and continue to negotiate the best and the least painful way – the least obvious way, that is - for Serbia to surrender Kosovo, finally and officially. No one expects this to be the last round of the talks that solidify the surrender, but the signs of intent are posted all over and the only trouble is in selling it to the Serbs in as veiled a form as possible. Any negotiation with a party whom one doesn’t recognize in the form that party represents itself must be about the basic terms of the recognition, i.e. the adjustment of that representation that is acceptable to the counterpart.  Following this logic, if Serbia didn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence, the subject of the conversation could only be the very framework under which Serbia would agree to even talk to the Kosovo Albanians. This would be logical, but straying away from logic wouldn’t be isolated to this particular case when it comes to Serbia’s national politics. Serbia did not recognize the independence of its southern province, yet it engaged in bilateral talks with it, not about the nature in which such an entity would come to the negotiating table, but about its international functionality, thus effectively recognizing its separate political existence and aiming to find ways to ease its own province into the international relations. This is not all - Stefanović has already all but transferred over the border control authorities at crossings which Serbia controlled and the birth registers that are the exclusive property of Serbia’s government, thus effectively binding the North Kosovo Serbs to the Albanian separatist authorities’ administrative functions. We all remember the failed status talks and the reality that Brussels never wanted to negotiate Kosovo’s status as it masterminded Kosovo’s current de facto separation from Serbia. This reality makes the logic moot, but it doesn’t make it non-existent.
However, a new reality has hit home on Serbia’s Statehood Day: the North Kosovo Serbs have used their democratic right to freely chose not to recognize either Priština’s authority over them or Stefanović’s concessions to the Albanian separatists. They effectively abandoned the line imposed on them by the Tadić government as they realized that the official Belgrade was not working to preserve their status as a free community under the sovereignty of Serbia. If the Albanian separatism in Kosovo is a reality that has to be reckoned with, why would the will of the Kosovo Serbs be seen as anything less than that? Why would their free and democratic expression be ignored? Can any expression be more democratically viable than the 99% representation in the rejection of the separatist Kosovo institutions by the North Kosovo Serbs, accompanied by a 75% popular response to the referendum in spite of extraneous circumstances created by weather elements?
Kosovo’s independence is not a done deal. Most of the world did not recognize it, including two permanent UN Security Council members, five EU member-states, Israel and the majority of Islamic countries, and new recognitions came to a standstill or a trickle at best. Serbia’s government in all actuality appears more than willing to give in to the Albanian separatists if the reward is to be the EU candidacy it longed for. On that front, nothing has happened between the December Ninth rejection (the emphasis is due to the date’s potential significance to the Serbian history as a modern-day Vidovdan) to encourage the hope of the smaller part of Serbia’s public that placed all their eggs in the EU-acceptance basket.
Sure, Wolfram Maas, the German ambassador in Serbia, continued the best tradition of the “warm” German-Serb relations by openly meddling in Serbia’s party politics via a personal attack on Vojislav Koštunica, the former Prime Minister who is not even a major opposition leader anymore, betraying frustration and impatience. Koštunica was not a random target; he recently published a manifest of what I called the Koštunica Doctrine, an in-depth articulation of his matured political philosophy that advocated a political and military neutrality of Serbia between the East and the West and elaborated on the position he’s held for some time that it is against the interests of Serbia to move towards joining the European Union, not only because of the Confederation’s economic failure, the uncertain future, and the traditional hostility towards the Serbian people by some key EU members, but also because of Serbia’s natural opposition to losing its independence to a foreign, undemocratic super-state. The war of words expanded onto other points, but the larger point shouldn’t be missed: Germany’s increasing colonialist tendencies do not tolerate opposition, especially such an eloquent one and especially at the moment in which such ideas can undermine the German consolidation of power in EU countries with an already considerable political and philosophical opposition to what many perceive as the Fourth Reich. Democracy is but a collateral in this German onslaught.
While Maas has been engaging Koštunica, other EU diplomats have been cajoling Serbia’s leaders into believing that the EU candidacy is within reach, at the fingertips, and that all Belgrade has to do is let Kosovo go. Of course, no one in Brussels and Berlin is asking Serbia to recognize Kosovo, and after Serbia agrees to unblock Kosovo’s participation in regional conferences and helps remove the barricades in the North, no new demands will be set. Maybe just the annulment or an adjustment of the trade agreement with Russia, a demand that the EU Ambassador in Serbia, Vincent Degert, hinted at several times, but that is all. While Maas said there will not be any new demands, Laszlo Surjan, the vice-president of the European Parliament, all but guaranteed Serbia will become a candidate by March 1. Nicolai Wammen, the Danish EU Minister, on the other hand, insisted that Serbia will only win the candidacy on March 1 if it showed progress in fulfilling demands in the interim. In the interim? The only thing happening in the interim is the Brussels meeting between Stefanović and Tahiri.
The common denominator is that the pressures, hard and subtle, are mounting in the run-up to the talks and especially in the light of the Sretenje Referendum. Even Hashim Thaci is playing nice these days, showing willingness to accept the crazy arrangement of subtitles and asterisks under Kosovo’s name in the regional conference representations. At the same time, Serbian news media report on an alleged communication sent by the Albanian separatist authorities to certain EU destinations, urging them to deny Serbia a candidacy. Only Vuk Jeremić "inexplicably" insists on a hard stance – Wammen’s warning came after a meeting with Jeremić. A coincidence? Jeremić is Stefanović’s boss, believe it or not, and one who doesn’t have any control over his underlink, apparently. You can’t make this stuff up.
And in the same interim, the North Kosovo Serbs have to be reckoned with. The referendum showed they will not bow to Stefanović’s concessions. The entire premise of Belgrade negotiating on their behalf has fallen. They know it and Boris Tadić knows it. That is why he did not even mention Kosovo in his Statehood Day remarks on the day of the Sretenje Referendum. The Sretenje Referendum was the day his Presidency hit the rock bottom and he knows that too. If he recovers from that embarrassment, Serbia will not recover from him.
As for the Kosovo Serbs, there are no guarantees that KFOR will not simply expel them from their homes if they decide to disobey the Brussels’ marching orders Stefanović and Tadić most definitely will have accepted on their behalf. There are no guarantees the Albanian separatists will not attempt another pogrom of Serbs of the March 2004 variety, out of a “justified” frustration their “legitimate” desires have not been fulfilled. There are simply no guarantees for the Serbs; not even life and liberty, let alone a pursuit of happiness. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Falling off the Shoulders of Giants: A Moral Ditch of the Ungrateful Nation

The Fourth of July is the Independence Day in the United States, a country and a people proud of its short, and aggressively imperialist, history. On this day in 1776, their Founding Fathers, a group of local Englishmen, landowners, signed a piece of paper that carved in stone the conviction that they and the causes they represented were exceptional. And, reading Jefferson, Adams, Madison (he was not the signer of the Declaration of Independence, but he was Father of the Constitution), and studying the example of Washington, these men were exceptional indeed. As I said, these were Englishmen, local elites, making a break from their mother country that was thousands of miles away because its laws were impeding their desire to play by their own rules. The principles of that split, however, paved the way for the entire nation they founded to embark on a way of progress, emancipation and, eventually and unfortunately, imperialism.
Karađorđe Petrović, Stanoje Glavaš, Janko Katić and Vasa Čarapić were hunted men in 1804 when they got together in the village of Orašac and decided to fight for their lives and to put a stop to centuries-old oppression and occupation. They were also elites; they were peasant elites of a peasant people that rose against the enslavement, against all odds, with the only assistance coming from the Serb leaders from outside the Ottoman Empire, almost as enslaved as they were. On the shoulders of these giants, the Serbian liberation and unification was to be carried out and it almost was.
The Fifteenth of February was to Serbia what the Fourth of July was to the United States. The Manifest Destiny of the North American English elites is still being pursued, only not in the Appalachian, where it began, but in the Hindu Kush, where many such enterprises met their end. Karađorđe’s covenant was broken by his great-grandson in 1918, when he misunderstood it. Could that be the reason Serbia, restored in 2006 to its 1878 borders - de facto - celebrates its birthday so shyly? (Although it doesn’t change the sentiment of this article, it should be clarified that Serbia’s Statehood Day unites both the memory of the First Serbian Uprising in 1804 and the adoption of the Sretenje Constitution on this day in 1835. The Sretenje Constitution was one of the first democratic constitutions in Europe, but it was abolished due to the pressure from the Ottoman government, as Serbia was still not fully independent.)
Let’s get back on track… On the Fourth of July, the sky between the Atlantic and the Pacific is covered in blue, red and white, in stars and stripes, and in fireworks. You just know it’s someone’s birthday. Everybody and their mother parade under some kind of a patriotic banner. Every July, Hollywood, that Parthenon of the American culture, pops out another creation full of American nationalist chest-bumping. And that is the way it should be. Tell a Vietnam veteran - who fought a lost war and probably got spat on and called a baby-killer when he came back - that it is pathetic to celebrate the loyalty to his country and you better duck or run, because he’d be reaching for his gun rack instantly. Any geezer that charged the Omaha Beach in 1944 will punch you in the face if you insult his sacrifice and show anything but respect for the causes his comrades jumped the machine gun nests for. Serbia celebrates her memory of heroes by cowardly questioning and impeding the democratic right of the Kosovo Serbs to decide their own fate in the face of extermination and while standing at the Alamo of Serbdom in the 21st century. Should Karađorđe come alive, he'd puke before dispatching many a Serb to the eternal hunting-grounds for treason, cowardice and plain thievery. Oh, wait, this Serbia would send him to the Hague before he could draw his cutlass out.
Granted, Jefferson and Washington are probably turning in their graves looking up at what has become of the society they helped found, but the state they delivered still at least pretends to be standing on the principles they set. Boris Tadić’s Serbia cannot even fool itself into thinking it stands for anything its founding fathers, Karađorđe and knez Miloš, set the course for. Whether thrusting his sword into the occupier's flesh like Black George did, or weaseling and bribing his way into freedom like Miloš Obrenović did (after the heroic victories in the battles of Dublje and Ljubić, to be just), the common denominator was in that they both acted to make crucial gains for Serbia and Serbia did gain, up until 1918.
I know, Serbia that was restored in 2006 is not Serbia of the Sretenje Constitution of 1935. I know the 90 years of the cancer called Yugoslavia and the 45 years of the plague called communism have eaten away at the Serbian brain and heart and it is not easy to recover from such blows. But the people in power should expedite the healing process, not keep throwing wrenches in it.
Karađorđe has been a dead man for 200 years, and so has been George Washington, but to negate his greatness, his true significance while he lived and acted and his symbolic significance today, is not only embarrassing and humiliating, but unbecoming of a progressive nation. By shying away from a full-blown national celebration of the nation’s birthday and of the greats that delivered the people from the chains of oppression, Boris Tadić’s government is indeed diminishing their greatness. Of course, the Americans have never negated Washington’s greatness and, in fact, they built themselves into a superpower because their state-building generations propped themselves up on the shoulders of their giants, like Washington and Jefferson, and continued on their course by furthering the sensible nationalist ambition the Founding Fathers embodied. And what has become of Karađorđe's and Miloš's vision? A gay parade in Belgrade draws more attention from media, supporters and opponents, and state agencies, i.e. the police, than the Statehood Day. The Statehood Day is marked by museum expositions, medal reception ceremonies and wreath-laying, all accompanied by cocktail hours in which mentions of the heroic past this day should celebrate are considered party pooping by the elbow-rubbing hypocrites and sycophants in attendance.
But where is the people of Serbia in this embarrassment? It is the people's holiday, after all. Serbia of 1804 was ruled by the Ottoman oppressors, and Karađorđe, Jakov Nenadović and Milenko Stojković were the people that rose against that oppression. The people do not need the state to throw their birthday party. Where are the patriotic parties and organizations? Where are the Serbian nationalists? Did they succumb to be represented by a bunch of outraged youngsters who saw in the shy celebration yet another opportunity to rebel and ridicule their irresponsible and cowardly elders? It took 16 years of booing and mocking to bring back the Serbian national anthem Bože, pravde, so I guess yesterday's incident at Marićevića Jaruga (the location of the Orašac meeting in which one of yesterday’s commemorations was held; translates as the Gully of Marićević or the Ditch of Marićević, i.e. of Teodosije Marićević, the host of the meeting) is going to have to be repeated for many years to have any effect. OK, Serbia is several feet deep in snow, but do you cancel your national birthday celebration because of weather elements? Are you proud of any bit of your history, my Serbian brothers and sisters? If Dino Merlin - whom I'm ashamed to mention in this context, but I have to – can fill the Belgrade Arena with Serbs, his mental patients, three times over, why can't Karađorđe, who fired the bullet that killed the beast to set us free(If the Americans had Karađorđe and Hajduk Veljko, Hollywood wouldn't need to invent William Wallace and the studios would kill for such stories.)
I’ll tell you where the real patriots were yesterday and the day before. The seventy five percent of the North Kosovo Serbs defied the nature, their so-called government and their fear, to say a loud “No” in the referendum against the occupation and oppression, on the birthday of Serbia, in the best tradition of Karađorđe, while their government disowned them, not only failing to resume the state-building tradition of the Orašac meeting and the Sretenje Constitution, but reversing it. Where Karađorđe erected roadblocks before foreign warlords and where Miloš pushed them out with slick peasant diplomacy, Boris Tadić is begging them to come and take what they please. Where Miloš humiliated himself to save and free Serbia, Tadić humiliated Serbia to better himself and his sycophantic cohorts. I see, making too much noise about Karađorđe and Miloš might screw up the process of brainwashing the Serbs into believing that everything good, honorable and heroic about their past is in fact detrimental to the higher principle of obedience to foreign masters for the sake of being shown mercy and thrown crumbs from the imperial kitchen.
The nations that have no respect for their past heroes cannot hope to give birth to future heroes. What can Serbia hope for?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Heroism Reduced to "Inat" and the Lost Parts of Serbdom

Inat is a Serbian word for “defiance.” A word and a trait of national personality Serbs are very proud of, without a doubt, ask any Serb. Any Serb can name a number of historical instances in which the Serbs heroically defied a powerful enemy or two, or three. You don’t flip the bird to Adolf Hitler just because you don’t like his mustache. You don’t go dancing under NATO bombs just because the bridges were closed for traffic. However, inat is also a Turkish word for “defiance.” I’m not an etymologist and I can’t tell you which language the word originated in. What I can say is that defining inat as a Serbian national trait is misleading and traditionally costly, although very emboldening. No, I’m not diminishing heroically righteous feats – and sacrifices – some Serbs tend to ascribe to inat, but there must be a word said about the other side of the coin that is this inat thing.
Mihajlo Latas, a Serb from Janja Gora, Lika, became Omer-pasha, the most fearsome and celebrated general of the Ottoman armies of the mid-19th century and a man who almost suffocated the free Serb principality of Montenegro in 1853. No, he wasn’t a devshirme victim; he converted as a grown man. About 20 Ottoman grand viziers were of Serb descent. Numerous other Serb converts served in the Ottoman armies since the time of Ahmed Hercegović, the son of Herceg Stjepan Vukčić Kosača, conquering and pillaging the very lands they were born in. Some very bold estimates project a figure of 9 million of present-day Turks descending from the Serbian people. The accuracy of the number is not even relevant, the principle is: Serbs converted to Islam as much as they defied Islam and the Ottoman rule. For every Lazar, there was a Konstantin Dejanović and even Marko Kraljević, that fought against the Serbs, if not in Kosovo, than in other battles. Which inat are we talking about?
Thousands of the Military Frontier Serbs converted to Catholicism due to political and economic pressures as well as opportunities. The fact that there is no Catholic Serbs today tells us a little something about the ancestry of a large chunk of the Croat nation. I’m sure the Serbs that were expelled from Croatia in 1995 would claim inat as one of the determinants of their rejection of the renewed Croat hegemony. But where was inat when their relatives chose to cross over or succumbed to the pressures of the Vatican agents a century or two back? 
Where was inat in the Arnautash Serbs out of which at least one third of Kosovo Albanians descend? 
Where was inat in Sandor Petofi, born Aleksandar Petrović, the greatest Hungarian poet of the 19th century? Communist partisans were overwhelmingly Serbs that turned against Serbdom for the advancement of a hostile foreign ideology, not for the sake of inat.
Where is inat in Montenegrin Serbs that are openly betraying Serbdom for a job offer in the Djukanovic mafia state? Where is inat in Vojvodina Serbs who are way too easily allowing the ideas of separation from Serbia to take root? Where is this famous inat in Serbian leaders and their NGO accomplices who are eagerly handing Serbia over to her enemies, who are aiding and abetting foreign interests in dismembering and ravaging Serbia? Is this inat thing exclusive to Serbs who claim it or is it somehow applicable to all of Serbdom, as one would be prone to conclude from boisterous chest-bumping of some among us? Which Serbs are inatli, Tadic’s sycophants, Čeda Jovanović’s fifth column, or perhaps Nenad Čanak’s separatists? The only thing these Serbs are in defiance of is Serbdom itself.
In every generation that defied, there was a pretty large contingent that succumbed, in one way or another. Succumbing didn’t only mean openly betraying, joining the enemy and taking up arms against your own. Succumbing didn’t always mean converting to an occupier’s religion, either. Succumbing meant inflicting damage to the vitality of Serbdom by abandoning it, turning against it or failing to defend it. After each of these processes of inflicting the damage ended, Serbdom found itself poorer for the contingent that succumbed. We came out of all of these battles smaller, sometimes ostensibly victorious, but always boasting defiance, conveniently forgetting those that didn’t defy. 
As a side note, there was most often a formula to this dual response to foreign advances. The advance came in two ways, the physical assault and the soft power. The head-on attack would inflict comparatively lighter losses on Serbdom than the process of a gradual takeover. Most Serbs didn’t convert to Islam as a way to avoid that head-on assault, but during the post-conquest centuries, when they attempted to get integrated into the Ottoman society and pursue social and economic opportunities. Conversions didn’t always have as their goal the protection of estate or the continuation of privilege, but were considered a legitimate social mobility option. To avoid being frowned upon, a convert would simply have to move to less diverse Muslim areas and blend in. In the Military Frontier, most Serbs who converted to Catholicism were offered “a middle ground” option of the Church Union, which only served to eventually catholicize the Serbs completely. Cajoling and conning historically worked much better against the Serbs than aggressive physical power. And it had nothing to do with inat.
Again, I’m not here to downplay the heroism of those generations of Serbs who, wisely or unwisely, stood up and defied oncoming assaults, but I am trying to put inat, an attribute that caused a lot of false perceptions about Serbian reactions to hostile advances, into a perspective that shows the banality of ascribing this trait to all of Serbdom. I will even question its application to Serbdom as an identifying trait at all. The feats of heroic generations should be seen for what they were, isolated from any kind of superficial inscriptions on our collective Zodiac card. These feats were not caused by inat, but by the natural need of our people to defend itself, to correctly respond to assaults on its freedom and dignity…      
Kingdom of Serbia did not reject the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum in 1914 for the sake of defiance – let’s not diminish the act. Serbia was a free country whose independence would have been seriously undermined if she succumbed to the pressure from Vienna. It was not an irrational response; it was a conscious, deliberate, political decision, albeit an extremely brave one. If we would write it off to inat, we would seriously devalue it. The defiance of Hitler in 1941 was expressed with the purported egging on from the intelligence agents of the British Empire, but it was still completely within the Serbian ever-present desire to reject foreign rule, again, not for the sake of defiance, but for the sake of freedom. General Draža Mihailović wasn’t the only anti-fascist resistance fighter in the entire Nazi-occupied Europe in 1941 because he wanted to defy and stop Germans and Croats, but because he wanted freedom for his people. It would be unjust to ascribe his heroic struggle to such an irrational reaction as inat. Even in 1999, Slobodan Milošević, for all of his ill-advised decisions, did not reject the first Rambouillet “agreement” because he was playing a defiant warlord, but because it imposed such unjust terms which no self-respecting independent state could afford to succumb to. (In a more current example that Serbs like to cite, Novak Djokovic is not wreaking havoc atop the men's tennis world out of Serbian inat, but after years of hard work and tightening his skills, he reached the mental and physical heights that allow him to be one of the most dominant players ever.)
Defiance for its own sake is an irrational reaction and while Serb leaders committed many a nonsensical, irrational decision in their history, most of them were not due to a defiant nature of their character, but due to a plain amateurism and an inability to lead. As I said, our history is replete with examples of ambiguous responses to foreign advances. In every case, only one part of the Serbian nation could claim inat as its trait, and even that would not be warranted. We, as a people, should begin looking at our history in less of a romanticized and superficial way to recognize its real values and to judge it more honestly.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Deretic Against Porphyrogenitus: Advantages of Guerrilla Warfare


Serbs were a Slavic tribe that settled in Macedonia at the beginning of the 7th century, invited by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. They didn’t like it there and decided to make a U-turn and ride back to the unknown parts of Central Europe - Bohemia, most likely - that they came from. As they were passing Singidunum, they changed their mind and asked the Byzantine commander of the fortress to broker another deal with the Emperor and give them another land to settle. Heraclius obliged and directed them to Dalmatia. This is according to Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, a Byzantine Emperor from the 10th century, who wrote it in De Administrando Imperio, the most relevant source about the origins of the Serbs. Can anyone with a bit of knowledge of historical circumstances at various times actually believe this? How many of these Porphyrogenitus’ Serbs were there, fifty, no women and children? I mean, expecting me to believe that an entire people could move this fast and this large in numbers, on horses or on foot is plain offensive to my intelligence, let alone economically impossible.  But this is what’s become the official Serbian history kids learn in school. 

A people’s history is what shapes its identity, for the most part. Not knowing your history means not knowing who you are and why you are the way you are; in other words, it means not knowing your own self.  Serbs, so proud of their history, appear to have generally known very little of it. Entire premises that our understanding of our own past is mainly based on, stand on very shaky legs, are easy to challenge and should be revisited and revised, if found false.
I am not going to dissect and try and overthrow the Serbian historical delusions. The point I want to base this diatribe of mine on is that the Serbian history, including its oldest periods, is crucial in crystalizing dimensions and components of our identity, that these delusions were a great contributor to the Serbian disorientation of the present and that an effort must be made to renew the study of our history earnestly, honestly and scientifically, to identify and remedy the errors, even it meant revising the entire school of historical thought.
While understanding the ancients’ lack of sources and a lack of knowledge of the world beyond Greek colonies of the Pontus and Danube, I cannot accept or condone historical fabrications intended to fill this vacuum. The fabrications, generalizations, misinterpretations and substitutions, so outrageously abundant, are especially unacceptable in the light of the political motivation behind them. And of course, there has hardly ever been historical knowledge, and especially a lack thereof, that wasn’t manipulated to political ends. I know this because I and all my contemporaries are witnesses to the manipulation and fabrication of information going on presently. If a Serb in Belgrade in 2012, influenced by a set of fabrications, has a hard time believing that the Army of the Serb Republic did not commit genocide in Srebrenica only 16 years ago, how can we ever expect that the events of 1500 years ago haven’t been misconstrued and one point or another to serve a political purpose?
The central question of the Serb origins deals with the determination of whether Serbs were native to the Roman province of Illyricum or we settled it as invaders. This is a watershed question as the correct answer to it opens a truckload of conclusions that undermine the entire established school of not only Serbian history, but of our understanding of the Late Antiquity and the Great Migrations. Assessing historical sources and conclusions about this period necessarily lead to Jovan I. Deretic, the standard-bearer of the so-called ''Serbian historical school.'' Deretić claims that Serbs are the autochtonous people of the Balkans and the oldest civilized people of Europe. He added to the Serbian history entire eras, stretching back to the Vinča civilization of the 6th millenium B.C. I won't even touch trying to prove or disprove his theories, not necessarily because I agree or disagree. All I can say is that I strongly support his challenges and accusations directed towards the official version of the history of Serbs, although I do have a thing or two to object to his chosen ways.
The information age didn't start with the advent of new technology. It's a trick played on the common people to make them think they are more informed now because their access to more voluminous and diverse sets of information is easier and more versatile.  The points of this access have indeed multiplied in numbers, but so have the controls of the access points. The relationship between the access points and their controls is under an investigation that is greatly influenced by those same controls. Essentially, we are still being fed the information about our world, no matter how many different capabilities, aiding us towards obtaining the feed, we have acquired in the meantime. The basic assumption of Deretic's “historical school” is that the Serbs have been fed their own historical data and conclusions from sources unfriendly, even hostile to our identity and our integrity as a nation. Of course, we know who our historical enemies were and we must assume that a physical obliteration has not been the only manner in which they have tried to subjugate us. In accord with some of my earlier writings, one of the key problems of the Serbian psyche is that we are not capable of seeing an enemy assault until it manifests itself physically, which often is too late. This being said, Deretić correctly proposes reconsideration of the value of information about our own self that we have been fed in the past and that we have based the knowledge of our history on, mainly because our enemies have been providing us with that information and that fact alone should make the reconsideration a must. One has to be stupid to take the information provided by an enemy for granted, right?
Thus far in this diatribe, I have stood by Deretić and his frame of thought. Where we differ is crucial. Deretić came up with a whole alternative version of the Serbian history, intending to replace the knowledge generations of Serbs acquired. According to him, everything the young Serbs have been taught since the Berlin Congress of 1878 was based on false premises stemming from falsified, misinterpreted or incomplete historiography. Where we differ and what I oppose is the way he has chosen to attempt the substitution.
I do want future generations of Serbs to learn their history presented in as accurate a manner as possible. Now, we don’t have to know what’s impossible to know and we don’t have to present a clear picture if the clear picture just isn’t available. For that reason, an attempt to entirely replace one, dominant and standing version, albeit built on shaky foundations, with another version, which, I have to notice, possesses some fairy tale-like traits, points towards amateurism in both historical methodology and strategic negotiation of educational and marketing hurdles. Needless to say, the confirmation of the latter amateurism calls into question the strength of the building blocks of the Serbian historical school as a whole. If Deretić is going about educating the public and marketing his findings in an amateurish way, how could we take him for his word that he went about his research in a scientific way? If I have a reason to doubt efficiency of the educational approach, it will lead me to doubt the validity of the historical research the theory as a whole was based on.
The official version of the Serbian history is not only accepted by most of the living and educated Serbs, but also by the relevant international scholarship, as no people’s history is an island. It is not simple to overthrow it. No substitute can take its place in a meaningful and lasting way until the standing theory is overthrown, however. Of course, a change in the political climate can lead to a ruling political option imposing one theory over the other, but isn’t that what Deretić claims happened in 1878? Does he propose his version to come to dominate in the same way? Does such an overthrow make his version more legitimate just because he will support it with a set of data and notions that will go unchallenged? How does that make him different from Stojan Novaković, whom he accuses of planting the Trojan Horse that became this official version? It doesn’t.
I know he’d say that he disproved every one of the historical fallacies we have been taught, and that alone makes his version legitimate. Even if he did so, which relevant scientific or educational circles have accepted his claims, his research and his version? To many quite educated Serbs, his claims sound off the wall, and I don’t mean it in any kind of derogatory or condescending way. Confronting an established historical knowledge, accepted by almost entire relevant scholarship for over a century and taught in school for generations, with an alternative version of that knowledge that, honestly, does sound far-fetched in many of its elements, is not a very good strategy. Deducing that every place name in Europe and Middle East containing an S and an R in a sequence somehow has Serb associations attached to it is plain linguistically unfounded and indeed amateurish. Deretić should have first attempted to overthrow fallacies in the official version through a scientific debate acceptable by the relevant mainstream historians. Many of his claims do sound legitimate and valid and are logical, if isolated from this greater theory, but it is hard for me to accept the greater theory whose other elements are just far-fetched and grounded in premises that are not solid. The Serbian public first had to accept the logic by which Dušan’s Empire did include Bulgaria, that Serbs did win the battle of Kosovo, that there were evidences of tampering with the relevant chapters of Porphyrogenitus’ De Administrando Imperio… These specific notions had to be adopted, had to enter textbooks, in order for the official version to be undermined further. A series of small battles had to be won before someone like Deretić could become an authority that could claim the entire official version of the Serbian history is based on false premises. A gradual conquest of the field would have accelerated the acceptance of the very idea that there was something inherently wrong about what we have been taught. Trying to overthrow the official version from the position of weakness, Deretić only caused further confusion in the mind of common people. He has his followers, but are they going to be capable of effectively furthering his war for historical revision or will they just be another current in the Serbian ocean of incoherent ideologies? Are they just going to parrot his findings until veins pop out?
Strategically undermining rather than frontally assaulting the enemy is the main trait of the guerrilla warfare. The Serbian historical school is incomparably weaker than the official version, the so-called Berlin-Vienna school, and some form of guerrilla warfare would be the only manner in which a gradual substitution may take place. ‘’Substitution’’ is probably too strong a word; ‘’merging’’ of the versions in which fallacies get scientifically removed is the optimal way. Serbo Makeridov should be left for some future generations of archaeologists and historians to search for.
Finding of the Serbian organic self would be greatly expedited by filtering through our history, weeding out fallacies and confirming what can be confirmed. An arrival to more solidly founded conclusions would strengthen our belief in who we are, which in turn, would do wonders for the purification and reorientation of our national being. Proving, for example, that we, as Serbs, or under another name, did live in our historical lands before the 7th century, that the arrival of smaller or larger number of Slavs or some other invaders under other names were just additions to our nominal, racial and cultural definition, that our ancestors, born in Sirmium, Salona or Naissus actually got to rule as Roman emperors, would solidify our historical rights to our lands, better our understanding of historical cycles and improve our functioning in unity and in our surroundings. In order for this rise in consciousness to occur, the true history has to penetrate Serbian minds from the earliest age, through formal education, and that can be accomplished only if both the fallacies and the truth are officially accepted as such. Positing the two versions like Deretić did, as standing against one another, in confrontation, in mutual denial, the official one way stronger the one challenging it, only did a disfavor to the effort to recognize the organic self, by dividing the Serbian public further and facing it with a referendum on its own history.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dodik v. Jovanovic: Whose Rules of Engagement?


Milorad Dodik has his faults. The effective and aggressive defense of the Serb Republic’s right to exist outside the domination of the fundamentalist Sarajevo is, however, not one of them. As the president of the Serb Republic he firmly stands by the historical legacies of the state, going back to her conception, not merely by the policies he himself authored and enforced during his mandates, and by the unalienable right of the Serb people in Bosnia-Herzegovina to determine its political status independently. And so he should.
He made a mistake today though. A minor one, but a mistake nevertheless, at least in the PR sense. He was completely out of line in going to Belgrade to debate issues of importance to the legacy of the Serb Republic with an irrelevant Belgrade politician who insulted him and the Bosnian Serbs. Čedomir Jovanović was at an advantage before the debate even began because he was able to draw Dodik out to a duel of unequal prerogatives. For Jovanovic, who irresponsibly, but not surprisingly, called the Serb Republic “a genocidal creation” earlier in the week, it was a match all but won in advance not because he’d go on to win his arguments – I heard no meaningful argument or a statement of facts from him for the entire duration of the debate – but because he, a leader of a party that hardly has enough popular support to go above the parliamentary threshold, the fact that renders his LDP irrelevant, matched up with an elected president of the Serb Republic, who fell for his bait. Milorad Dodik had no business going to Belgrade to prove anything to anyone short of maybe the Serbian Patriarch, let alone humiliate himself and his official capacity by even responding to Jovanović’s provocations.
I’m not going to go into Jovanović’s motivation for making statements that confirmed his status of a political rogue he is viewed to be by the overwhelming majority of Serbia’s electorate. The foreign mercenary accusations frequently leveled at him received more credence than ever with this attack on the Bosnian Serbs. Perhaps it was an electoral tactic. Perhaps it was just a jab in a broader PR offensive against the Serb Republic. In any case, it was a major amplification on the radar of Jovanović’s generally consistent anti-Serb tone veiled in self-accusatory, ever-apologetic “Serbianism” of the sort almost no one in Serbdom really appreciates and rallies to. This attack on the Serb Republic, combined with Jovanović’s inability and unwillingness to adequately back it up in today’s debate with Dodik, was too harsh and, I’d say, inexplicably out-of-place even coming from such a nefarious source. But the very nefarious character of the source made me get the eerie feeling that the attack on the Bosnian Serbs by Jovanović couldn’t have been a random rant.
I watched the debate. Yes, it was a debate, although Dodik started by saying he didn’t come to debate. Then why did you come, Mr. President? Did you not know that Jovanović’s provocative rhetoric, backed by nothing but an attitude, would not leave you unfazed? I was startled from the get-go by moderator’s insistence on undermining Dodik’s position by unnecessarily, thus calculatingly, trying to explain and justify the context behind Jovanović’s slanderous rant against the Bosnian Serbs and their historical experience. She went on and on defending the slanderer, reiterating that Jovanović's words were taken out of context, when it was clear that his statement was standing free of a context and its essence wasn't affected by the intended broader message. He said, unequivocally, that the Serb Republic was built on a genocide, not conditioning this core qualification on the rest of the message, not countering it and not leaving any room for misinterpretation. And while it is necessary to put statements of this kind into a broader context, the context of Jovanović’s address to his party’s main committee didn’t change the meaning of the controversial core. It was controversial, I’d add, only because it stirred the Serbian public in a protest, not because there is a doubt about the fallacy and malevolence of such words. To his credit, even Jovanović didn’t try to play the context card. This being said, from the very beginning, the tone of the Tanjug-sponsored event was anti-Dodik. The comparably higher audio levels on Jovanović’s microphone didn’t help Dodik’s position either.
Dodik, visibly incensed throughout, made a further mistake of trying to argue points with Jovanović, who apparently wasn’t making any, outside of Amanpourian clichés and the range of anti-Serb advocacy paroles that would make Mustafa Cerić envy him. Dodik fell into the trap of having to stoop to the level of a loudmouth and to oppose judgmental disqualifications without substance using facts and established notions that Jovanović rejected as irrelevant or perfidiously span as counterintuitive. A clear rhetorical difference between the two emerged: Jovanović’s proneness to ridiculing his opponent’s reliance on the selfish national interest as a political motivator appeared to have dominated over Dodik’s insistence, somewhat clumsy in comparison, on the self-evidence of that interest, natural to all pragmatic politicians. Dodik defeated Jovanović’s insinuations time and again, reaching for facts and logical arguments, but he also lost patience with Jovanović’s bullying with superficial attitudes and shallow arguments in the face of facts that spoke so convincingly. Despite the starting positions stated at the top of this article, there is no doubt as to who won this debate: no one. The debate itself was unfair from the outset, not because of Jovanović’s superiority in any area, but because Dodik was an elected leader whose legacy, well in the public eye and a subject to accountability, was susceptible to questioning and criticism, and who had a history of governing that could be scrutinized. Jovanović, on the other hand, had no such burden and he could swing at Dodik and the Bosnian Serbs freely and without concerns such as accountability. That is why Dodik's coming to Belgrade baffled me. There is no doubt that facts on this matter are on the side of the Bosnian Serbs and that Dodik presented  them in a way that would convince a rational and well-intentioned person, but he should have sent Staša Kotarac to wrestle with the absurdity of Jovanović’s dog bites, if he wanted to respond in such a direct way at all. Milorad Dodik and the Serb Republic had nothing to prove to Jovanović and his kind of Serbs and not only that, but the president of the Serb Republic couldn’t allow himself to discuss state politics with a leader of a minor and extremist political party in Serbia.
The right response to the attack was, actually, to invite Jovanović to Banja Luka to debate with Kotarac, Drago Kalabić or more appropriately, Milanko Mihajlica. If he refused and came up with some bogus denial of responsibility, he’d be seen as a coward who didn’t stand behind his words. Dodik, on the contrary, showed he could put his money where his mouth was, but it was still unwise to agree to such a charade. Unless Dodik wanted to sharpen his teeth, which I can’t say he did successfully, this debate was totally unnecessary. Those Serbs that follow Jovanović will not have their minds changed by Dodik, who they see as not much different from Radovan Karadžić anyway. The majority of Serbs don’t pay any serious mind to Jovanović's verbal diarrhea and no rational Serb would start believing all of a sudden that the Serb Republic was what Jovanović said she was just because he said it. I also doubt that this was some kind of a setup for Dodik to publicly denounce the attackers on the Serb Republic and repeat his attitude towards the Srebrenica events, since he looked way more uncomfortable than his counterpart.
I am baffled and it’ll probably take several days and additional information that is sure to come out for me to get a better grasp on why Dodik would stoop to the level of Čedomir Jovanović. The Serb Republic is a reality and while the defense of her existence and her historical legacy in the face of continued assaults is of utmost importance and a task of every rational Serb out there, I do not think her president did himself a favor by lending political relevance  to one Čedomir Jovanović. This debate was, after all, the second greatest political success of Jovanović’s career, just for the fact that he got to participate in it.