Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Response to comment by "Anonymous" - 23 June 2010 00:01

Following the publication of my extensive article Being a British Serb - living in contrariety, regarding British Serbs like myself, I received a comment from an "anonymous" person, who expressed views regarding recent Balkan history still held by many Serbs today. Here is his comment in full:

Sounds like the Brit Serbs are too cowardly and/or lazy to defend their own people in a negative atmosphere. With "Serbs" like these, no wonder Serbia doesn't do well.
Furthermore I see you push a lot of the mainstream media false accusations and propaganda against Serbs - at least you seem to agree with it or believe it is true unquestioningly - when in fact and true analysis of the claims show they fall apart. The Balkan wars WERE set up and there was bias against Serbia and Serbs from the start. It was planned to break up Yugoslavia into little pure or ethnically divided statelets. Britain was one of the countries involved with this along with the U.S. and Germany, and still others went along. So many of the "witnesses" against the Serbs have proven themselves bald-faced liars at the Hague. Yet the Hague allows these perjurers to get their propaganda set as the official "truth". There were also staged-for-the-cameras incidents in Bosnia and even some UN personnel and international officials testifying for the prosecution (against Serbs) have admitted Muslims DID stage and provoke attacks and further were witnessed killing their own people (other Muslims) to have the Serbs blamed.

23 June 2010 00:01

Putting aside his view on British Serbs' "cowardly and/or lazy" nature and Serbia's progress in the world - and whether the two are linked - I wish to respond to the main substance of his comment, which unfortunately was not about British Serbs. And I will do so in point by point fashion, and I will refer to the anonymous person in the second person, thus creating a dialogue between myself and him/herself.

  1. "…I see you push a lot of the mainstream media false accusations and propaganda against Serbs - at least you seem to agree with it or believe it is true unquestioningly - when in fact and true analysis of the claims show they fall apart."

  2. Interesting assumption you make: you assume that I either agree with or believe "unquestioningly" something you consider to be "mainstream media false accusations and propaganda against Serbs".

    Actually, if you had read my articles Serbs, Media, Justice and Me! and Serbs, Media, Justice and Me! contd., you would've learnt that I used to think the same way as you do: I used to blame the West for the break up of Yugoslavia, and I used to think that all the war crimes accusations against Serbs were "lies", just like you do now.

    Surprised? But what could've changed in me? Well, Anon - if you don't mind me calling you that - I really did do a lot of genuine analysis of virtually all those claims. And what happened? I was deeply moved to discover how my former way of thinking could not stand the test; it could not refute a single aspect of the reality of all those war crimes! Can you believe that?

  3. "The Balkan wars WERE set up and there was bias against Serbia and Serbs from the start."

  4. Ah, but really Anon? 'Cause if that was the case, like a lot of Serbs still believe - and I used to believe, then how come the West only decided to intervene in Bosnia towards the end of the war? Have you ever asked yourself why they didn't bomb the Bosnian Serbs at the beginning of the war? You see, many believe if the West had done that, they would've prevented numerous deaths on all sides and brought the war to a speedier end. What do you think?

  5. "It was planned to break up Yugoslavia into little pure or ethnically divided statelets. Britain was one of the countries involved with this along with the U.S. and Germany, and still others went along."

  6. "[L]ittle pure or ethnically divided statelets", does that include the "Greater Serbia" project? Wasn't that supposed to be ethnically "pure", or do you deny that it happened? I used to be in denial about "Greater Serbia"; I used to think that that was a bare-faced, Western media "lie" used to smear us Serbs. Of course, the West didn't actively support "Greater Serbia", but neither were they resolutely opposed to that campaign earlier on in the conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia, as explained above.

    As for Germany, a lot of Serbs resented Germany's support for an independent Croatia, understandably for historical reasons, i.e. Germany's Nazi past and the fascist Croatian puppet state during World War Two. Some Western politicians were likewise critical of Germany for supporting Croatia's independence. That's all true. But didn't you know that Germany only recognised Croatia at the end of 1991 in December, which was months after the war had started?

  7. "So many of the "witnesses" against the Serbs have proven themselves bald-faced liars at the Hague. Yet the Hague allows these perjurers to get their propaganda set as the official "truth"."

  8. Ah, so you still think those witnesses were "bald-faced liars"? Oh dear, Anon! I was the same; I thought that way too. But the thing that you don't appreciate, which I used to refuse to accept as well, is how these are people who lost everything and are deeply traumatised by what they experienced during war. Because of this trauma, many are psychologically scarred and this affects their everyday life. So if they do contradict themselves, or otherwise come off irrational in your eyes, try to bear in mind that they are victims of war, and don't assume that they are "liars".

    Now, you will tell me, "But look at us Serbs, we are victims too!" And yes, Anon, we are victims as well; many of us have also lost everything that we had held dear, and as a result, there are many Serbs who are likewise deeply traumatised, and living daily with psychological scars. However, I take it that you only care about Serb victims, some Serb victims more than others I bet. I, on the other hand, sympathise with all victims of conflicts, especially with people from the Former Yugoslavia, because that's where I come from and because all of us former Yugoslavs, whether we identify as Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks or anything else, have family histories that are full of war stories from various periods of Balkan history - in fact, there are too many stories of war in our families!

    And finally…

  9. "There were also staged-for-the-cameras incidents in Bosnia and even some UN personnel and international officials testifying for the prosecution (against Serbs) have admitted Muslims DID stage and provoke attacks and further were witnessed killing their own people (other Muslims) to have the Serbs blamed."

  10. Oh yes, blame the victims, why don't you! But ask yourself this question: why would the Bosnian Muslims/Bosniaks of Sarajevo have staged a single shelling incident against their own people on any given day at that time, when they had been shelled constantly for over three years by the Bosnian Serbs? Have you not heard of the Siege of Sarajevo? If not, I can understand how; I heard that people in Serbia during that time had no idea that there was such a siege being laid against that once-Olympic city! And yet you blame the Western media for leading campaign of deception, and not Milošević's régime!

    And as far as I understand, the Bosnian Serbs were found responsible for both attacks on Markale market in Sarajevo, despite a concerted propaganda effort to lay the blame at the Bosnian Muslims. And not only that, Serb General Stanislav Galić was found guilty for the first attack in 1994, convicted of not just one, but five counts for crimes against humanity, including murder and other inhumane acts, and one count for violations of the laws or customs of war.

So Anonymous, you blame the West for breaking up Yugoslavia rather than Serbian nationalism, which caused so much ethnic tension before the wars, and then destroyed millions of lives during those wars? You either deny that our war-time leaders ever committed ethnic cleansing - i.e. expelling people from their homes - or you accept that they did all that, but it all was done for our "safety" to "protect" us from "Ustaše" and the like!

I was just like you - in fact, I used to dream how one day I would liberate my people from "lies"! Alas, that was not to be: those "lies" I detested turned out to be actually true, whereas those "truths" that you are convinced by turned out to be disgracefully false.

So I'm sorry Anon, sorry if I've disappointed you. Call me a "traitor" or whatever you like! Be rude at my parents' expense, why don't you! Think however you want to think, but know that you can never change the truth, especially that which has passed before us, however much you wish you could.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Being a British Serb - living in contrariety

I'm a British Serb, i.e. a person of ethnic Serb origin living in the UK. I personally was not born in Britain, but many other British Serbs were. I can speak Serbian - or Serbo-Croat - fluently as it is my mother tongue and I use it regularly, whereas many of my fellow British Serbs do not speak it as proficiently as I do, but they do understand it in spoken form. Both my parents are Serbs, which, according to most people's understanding of national identity, makes me "100% Serb"; while many of my fellow British Serbs are from mixed marriages, in which one of their parents is a Serb and the other parent is usually of British or other European origin, making them 50% Serb and 50% English or Irish or something else.

Being a Diaspora population, British Serbs are an ethnic minority subject to the culture and language of the majority population. British Serbs tend to live in small communities in big towns, and therefore, their social interactions with other people can sometimes be with fellow Serbs, other times with people who are not Serbs, and occasionally with both Serbs and other people from Britain and the rest of the world! They also tend to spend most of the year in Great Britain and only a few weeks in the year - if ever - in their Balkanian homelands, which they call "zavičaj" or "ognjište".

Serbs have been coming over to the UK from the former Yugoslavia since the end of the Second World War, following the recent Yugoslav wars, and in between the two war-torn periods. They settled into Britain's industrialised environment arriving from a largely rural background, raised in a strongly traditional, patriarchal spirit. Serbs, who were born here, have grown up in those same urban areas settled into by their parents, and have thrived in a vibrantly modern, multicultural society.

Serb immigrants have to various degrees integrated themselves into this Western society, founded on liberal democracy and free-market capitalism; while their children have inherited much of their parents' traditional values stemming from the Balkans based on faith, customs and history. And it is precisely by examining this case of cultural inheritance and cultural dichotomy will we understand what it means to be a "British Serb".

Which language do you speak?

As far as language is concerned, British Serbs born in the former Yugoslavia obviously speak their native language fluently, though many of them can also speak English just as fluently, depending on how long they've lived in the UK - sorry, correction: depending on how much interaction they've experienced with other English-speaking people while living in the UK.

Based on personal experience with members of my ethnic community, I've discovered that living in the UK for many years does not alone make a fluent English-speaker out of a British Serb! In fact, because many Serb immigrants enjoy most of their inter-personal interactions with other Serbs and other former Yugoslavs, both during work and after-work hours throughout their everyday life here, many of them never become fully fluent speakers of the host nation's language, even though knowledge of English is a practical and vital necessity for working and living in this country.

On the other hand, British Serbs who were born in Britain and went to British schools often don't share the same level of proficiency in speaking Serbian that their parents have. Nevertheless, they do understand it when spoken to them or around them, due to exposure to the language within the family and community since childhood.

However, when it comes to passing on the language to the next generation, those British Serbs who can barely speak their parents' language often don't teach their children to speak Serbian as a first language; rather they pass on some Serbian phrases to them once they've already mastered another language, i.e. English, both at home and at school, thus breaking the chain of language transmission linking the generations, while also raising a generation of British Serbs who never attain even a minimal understanding of their ancestors' language (not that they really need it in this country anyway)!

Where d'you come from?

We British Serbs are very proud of our family history and origins, as such pride is instilled in us by our parents and grandparents. Even though we live far away from our Balkanian "ognjišta" (meaning "hearths") on the isle of Britain, we have been raised with Serbian legends and stories about our "preci" (meaning "ancestors") from our various "zavičaji" (meaning "home regions"), that have been passed on from generation to generation, stirring up within us a passionate pride and an indelible sense of glory!

But when it comes to explaining our origins to other people in the UK, we British Serbs tend not to boast about our cultural heritage to other Britons; in fact, for much of the last 15-20 years, many of us have been inclined to keep our Serbian ethnicity a personal secret, as a way of avoiding the stigmatisation surrounding the word "Serb" created during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Unfortunately, none of us can avoid admitting our origins forever, and yet being asked, "Where are you from?" can be such a sticky situation for us!

As a rule, British Serbs from Croatia, like myself, have found it easier to just tell people that they're from Croatia, which is a popular country for Brits, thus conveniently hiding the fact that they're ethnic Serbs; likewise, British Serbs from Bosnia have also found it easier to just tell people that they're from Bosnia rather than admitting the whole truth that they belong to those same Bosnian Serbs like indicted war criminals Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić; and of course, the same rule applies to British Serbs from Montenegro, a land seemingly free of war criminals and wars! But what about British Serbs from Serbia, the former pariah state of the infamous Serbian hard man Slobodan Milošević, the Butcher of the Balkans; how on Earth do they explain to people where they or their parents come from? Why yes, they just say they're from Yugoslavia instead!

Speaking of which, many British Serbs still refer to their country of origin as "Yugoslavia", even though that name is no longer featured on any modern world map! Some of them prefer to use that name to avoid saying "Serbia" (as mentioned above); some use it because they long for those days of living in an internationally respected country, which co-founded and co-led the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War, and which was also home to a relatively decent society - albeit a communist one - that lasted for nearly fifty years since World War Two; while others use that name because they're so out of touch with their homeland, so out of touch with all the current affairs and trends over there, that they can't be bothered to refer to it as anything else!

Your surname is…?

Other than being asked where we come from, another annoying - yet comparatively more essential - question we get asked all the time by everyone we meet throughout our lives is, "How do you spell your surname?" Most of our surnames end in -ić or -ović/ević, just like other Serbo-Croatian surnames from the Balkans written in the Roman alphabet (in the Cyrillic alphabet, it's written like so: -ић and -овић/евић. But since we live in a country whose main language only employs the Roman alphabet and doesn't use accents on any consonant, British Serbs are compelled to write their noble and glorious surnames without those decorative yet honourable ticks like so: -ic and -ovic/evic.

Surnames borne by us Serbs in Britain range in size; some of them are short ones, while others are much longer. Bear in mind, however, that short Serbo-Croatian surnames are not always the easiest ones! Nevertheless, some of us have relatively easy surnames like Popović, Zarić or Radusin; but others amongst us have more difficult to pronounce surnames, which for English-speakers look really unusual, like Stojisavljević, Krcunović and even Brkljač!

Serb immigrants are proud and fond of their surnames, and would never consider changing the spelling of their surnames to make it easier for English-speakers to read or pronounce near-correctly - let alone changing their surnames completely. Afterall, they did grow up in a country where they didn't experience any serious problems with their surnames. And a favourite pastime among Serb immigrants is watching the cast and credits at the end of TV programmes to see if they can spot a Serbian name and surname among the rolling credits!

However, British-born Serbs, who retain their surnames' original spelling thanks to their parents not changing them, have to consider whether to pronounce their surnames the way they're pronounced in the former Yugoslavia in the company of English-speakers unfamiliar with Serbo-Croatian linguistics, or whether to pronounce them in a way that would sound more familiar to English-speakers but unlike the original pronunciations. And of course, it's British-born Serbs who are the ones who are compelled to spell out their surnames time and time again for their whole lives, and whose children and grand-children will have to do the same for years to come, even when their immigrant parents and grandparents are long gone!

What's your community like?

In this country, there are significant Serbian communities in London boroughs like Hammersmith and Ealing, or further north in towns like Bedford, Corby, Leicester and Derby, and Yorkshire towns like Leeds and Halifax. In such places, you will often find a Serb Orthodox church like St. Sava's church in London and St. Elijah's church in Corby, which get packed during Christian holidays like Christmas (or "Božić"), Easter (or "Uskrs/Vaskrs"), and saints' feast days (or as we call each of them "Krsna slava").

If you live in the above-mentioned places, where the largest concentrations of British Serbs in the country are, you can feel like you're part of a vibrant community of like-minded people with whom you share a common origin. But if you live outside of them, being a Serb in Britain can be an especially lonely experience. In fact, there are many of us who live most of our daily lives without seeing a single fellow Serb for most of the year! And because many Serbs have moved around the country over the years, many of them have lost touch with fellow Serbs, whether immigrant or British-born, and find themselves outside of any Serb community in the country. Therefore, it's not surprising that many British Serbs often feel that they're the only Serbs where they are!

Upon their arrival to this country, Serb immigrants tend to conglomerate in areas where there are already existing Serbian communities to keep company with other Serbs, which is practical since many of them come to Britain barely speaking a word of English. Because of that tendency to settle into places where there are already some Serbs, most of their daily interactions with other people are with other Serbs, thus forming close-knit communities of immigrants that maintain strong links with the home country, be it Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia or Montenegro.

British-born Serbs, on the contrary, spend most of their time - and their lives - with people who are not Serbs at all! They go to school here among children from a variety of different backgrounds, with whom they make friends and find girlfriends or boyfriends. When they grow up, they find work among fellow Britons, and later on, get married and raise their own families here, either with Serb or non-Serb spouses. Unfortunately, many of them have few Serb friends - even none - with whom they can celebrate their Serbian culture or discuss Serb-related topics (as indicated above). And although their parents take them to their homeland to visit family over there during their childhood, many of them rarely visit their parents' country of origin as adults, and therefore can easily lose contact with however many Serb relatives they may have back home.

So, what does it mean?

Living my life as a British Serb has so far been an experience full of contradictions. As detailed above: you have Serbs, on the one hand, who've spent most of their lives in the UK but have never become fluent in English; while on the other hand, you have Serbs born in this country who have never attained fluency in Serbian. We are proud of our origins and inspired by our ancestors, but don't boast about either in order to avoid prejudice and exclusion. Moreover, we have wonderful surnames each with a colourful history, but nobody can say them properly except for ourselves! And there are those of us who keep in contact with fellow Serbs and "zavičaj", and others amongst us who've lost all contact with fellow Serbs and "zavičaj"!

But what is the future for our community in this country? Well, it could look a bit like this: at one end of the "British Serb spectrum" will be a community of middle-aged and elderly Serbs, who'll keep themselves to themselves, but will continue to maintain links with their homelands till the end of their lives - unless they go back there to spend their retirement; while at the other end will be younger generations of Serbs, half-Serbs, quarter-Serbs and eighth-Serbs, who will completely assimilate themselves into the mass of British society, and who'll have little to no idea what their ancestral land looks like (to be fair on them, they're better off not going there anyway)!

And the main reason why this could be the case for British Serbs - or maybe is the case already! - is simply because there just aren't that many of us on this island anyhow! According to all population estimates, our ethnic community, made up of waves of immigrants into and natural births in this country, only numbers in the five figures and no higher. And although there are concentrations of Serbs in certain towns and cities in Britain, there are many others who are dispersed throughout this country, isolated from any major community.

But whatever the future holds for us British Serbs, whichever language - or languages - we will speak, and however many of us there will be in the UK, the most important thing for us to do is to remember that we are British Serbs; that we came from the Balkan peninsula, bringing our names, customs and Orthodox faith along to the British isles, where we have adapted to and integrated ever since - or are trying to!

Monday, 31 May 2010

Monday, 24 May 2010

Kistanje Blues - street names leading to controversy

Kistanje is a pleasant and lovely town in the centre of the Bukovica region in northern Dalmatia, that holds a special place in my heart. However, it's been getting a bit of bad press last month, and it's all due to street signs!

You see, national minorities in areas of Croatia where they make up the majority have a right to bilingual signs and the choice to name streets after famous people from their areas and historic events that are celebrated by their community. Recently, the town council in Kistanje has been mulling over which streets to rename and after whom. However, it has not been plain sailing, and it has caused a heated debate and controversy. (See here on Slobodna Dalmacija)

When you go round towns and cities in Croatia, you will always find streets named after the country's wartime president Franjo Tuđman and other controversial individuals like Ante Starčević, and not long ago, there were streets named after Ustaše like Mile Budak (they've since been removed). For Serbs who have returned to Croatia or regularly visit there hometowns and villages, such street signs represent an insult to their national identity and collective memory. They aren't bothered too much by streets named after medieval kings like King Zvonimir or Tomislav, but they would rather see streets in places where their people are in the majority bear the names of famous local Serbs.

In Kistanje, ethnic Serb town councillors have proposed their plan of renaming streets and squares in Kistanje after local Serbs. Ethnic Croat town councillors do approve of some of their proposed name changes, but strongly disapprove over changing Franjo Tuđman's street in the centre of the town leading out to the city of Knin further east.

Most of the ethnic Croats living in Kistanje are Janjevci, who were invited by Tuđman from Kosovo, from whence they came, to settle into houses abandoned by Serbs following the war, as part of his own "humane resettlement" programme in the 90s. Following the return of many Serbs to Kistanje and the restoration of their ownership of their property, a new housing settlement, simply known as 'Novo Naselje', was built for these Janjevci. Not long ago however, Janjevci living in that settlement have protested over their living conditions, raising their grievances about the state of their settlement, the muddy state of streets there, and complaining how the ethnic Serb officials have shown no real interest in helping them.

Most vocal for changing street names in Kistanje is councillor Božo Šuša, member of the Democratic Party of Serbs ('Demokratske partije Srba', DPS), who is one of the authors of the proposal. He has raised his dissatisfaction at the speed of the implementation of article 13 of the consititutional law for the rights of minorities, guaranteeing minorities the right to name "settlements, streets and squares [after] people and events that are significant to the national minority" in Croatia (see the Consitutional law for ethnic minority rights here in Croatian). Veljko Džakula, leader of Šuša's DPS, has also questioned, "Why does 'Franjo Tuđman street' and 'Ante Starčević [street]' have to be everywhere?"

In response to Šuša's - and even Džakula's - comments, there was a protest by Croatian veterans from the recent war led by Tomislav Čolak on Kistanje's town square. Not a Serb was in sight, as Mr. Čolak was asserting that "every place in Croatia will have in its centre streets named after Croatia's fathers" like Ante Starčević and Franjo Tuđman, even dictating to Serbs who they should or shouldn't have streets named after! Unbelievable. Other than that, he resorted to personally inquiring from Mr. Šuša of his whereabout on 4th August, 1995, which is a common ploy used against Serbs in Croatia. (You can hear his superficially mild yet verbally arrogant speach here, followed by a statement by another veteran calling for municipalities like Kistanje to be abolished due to concerns of bureaucracy!)

This looks like a classic case of "two worlds colliding" as far as post-war, inter-ethnic relations are concerned: one community looks at the world in one way, while the other looks at everything in a completely different way! Serbs would like to see street signes bearing Tuđman's name to bear different names, as they have a very low opinion of the late president based on their experiences of his policies towards them, and don't wish to be reminded of him in their hometowns, which sounds reasonable enough. However, many Croats see Tuđman as the man who brought their country independence from Yugoslavia, who fought to win its freedom from Serbian aggressors - a term offensive to Croatian Serbs who fought against the Republic of Croatia. As far as they're concerned, he is a Croatian national hero, even though he proved himself not to be a champion of human rights, and even allowed corruption to flourish after the war! Not surprisingly, any initiative to demote their war-time leader, such as this one with the street names, is nothing short of a "provocation" by Serbs.

This is understandable in plases in the world traumatised by war, in particularly inter-ethnic conflict in the Balkans. But what's worse, and is evident in this case, is the inconsiderate nature of Mr. Čolak, however gentle his tone of voice was, and others like him who wish to impose their view of history and their ideas of how things should be done upon others, even though they know that people in the Serb community don't agree with them. Firstly, he reiterates his view of history, which he has a right to do since he fought for his country Croatia, but then he proceeds to tell Serbs what's good for them and what's not! How bewildering.

The Serbs in Croatia find themselves in a morally difficult position. They do feel the stigmatisation against their people and the scorn of their Croat neighbours over the war-time antics of some of their co-ethnics, which includes serious war crimes against non-Serbs. Those responsible for such offences should be brought to justice, but many still walk free, and that contributes to the hostility that many Croats still feel towards all Serbs. Croatian Serbs do, however, wish to rebuild their communities, and at least moderately assert their identity in a multi-ethnic Croatia. However, ethnic Serb organisations and leaders often find themselves at the receiving end of right-wing Croatian nationalists, who always seem to find every reason under the sun to undermine and degrade their efforts of establishing their voice in modern-day Croatian society. And the disdain towards the general Serbian community in Croatia was obvious in the words and in the voices of Tomislav Čolak and his colleague who spoke at that protest last month.

Džakula says it best, describing this issue and others like so: "Everything that Serbs initiate is a trigger for Croats. But, why did those who named those streets that way not [care to] think [how] that [would be] a trigger for Serbs?" (Original quote in Serbian/Croatian/Serbo-Croat here)

Shockingly, only a few days after that protest, someone or some people devastated a commemorative cross in the village of Varivode near Kistanje. The cross was erected in 2004 to commemorate the murder of nine elderly Serb civilians who had stayed in their homes following 'Operation Oluja' in 1995. As you can see in the comments under that article on the Jutarnji List website, a few of them are genuinely dismayed by this incident. Unfortunately though, one of the commentators felt it was acceptable to end his comment with "ZA DOM SPREMNI", a notorious Ustaša slogan. (Even worse, you can see his name, surname and photo, since the comments came through via Facebook! Shameless.)

As you can see, April has not been a nice month for Kistanje folk. But putting aside these bad news, let's end on a lighter note! St. Nicholas' church in the hamlet of Bezbradice just outside Kistanje has been almost completely renovated, and just yesterday a joyful gathering was held to celebrate the church's renewed exterior and interior. The event was attended by 500 to 1000 locals, religious dignitaries from the Serbian Orthodox Church, folk music and dance groups, Croatian and Bosnian officials, and received coverage from the Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian-Serb media alike. All in all, it went ahead and passed without a single incident. (See pictures of the renovation in action on

Friday, 21 May 2010

Serbs, Media, Justice and Me! contd.

In this sequel to Serbs, Media, Justice and Me! published a couple of months ago, I shall go into further detail to explain my former views on the subject of Serbs in the media and the justice that followed, and further reminisce on my gradual change of thought.

As I explained in the above article, my views on the Yugoslav wars of the 90s were much like the views of many other Serbs then and today: I used to believe that Western politicians supported homegrown separatists at the expense of vast Serb populations in those seceeding republics, and most insulting of all, the Western media was falsely accusing us of starting the wars, thus leading to the break up of the former common state, even though it was NATO that bombed Serbia for 78 days in 1999! I also used to believe that all the stories of Serbs committing war crimes and worse stuff on non-Serb populations to be gross lies and propaganda used to further advance the anti-Serb policies in the region. And finally, I used to look at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at the Hague as a "kangaroo court", a propaganda outfit to disseminate the same lies circulated throughout the world, so that their rulings could be used by anti-Serb politicians at home to implement their harmful and inconsiderate policies against the wishes of the Serbian people.

I no longer think in the way I've detailed above; in fact, I've changed my views by a 180º turn! I now no longer blame the West for the break-up of Yugoslavia. Instead, I acknowledge that Slobodan Milošević, along with his colleagues, were indeed responsible for creating a climate of ethnic tension and fear among the people of Yugoslavia that was conducive of war, and eventually caused wars to happen. I now appreciate how Serbian nationalism created a lot of fear among all the other former Yugoslav nations while blinding Serbs to what was really happening around them, thus, I now better understand why there is a lot of hatred between people there. I now accept that my fellow Serbs in Bosnia did indeed cause the most bloodshed of all the sides, and worse still, planned it all in advance and received lots of support et al. from Belgrade throughout the conflict. And I also now accept that the Hague Tribunal, whatever its faults may be, is a genuine court of law, that has from its establishment strived to uncover the truth of what had happened in those wars, who were to blame for it and bring them to justice.

This change in opinion didn't happen overnight and I certainly didn't accept everything I was discovering in one gulp; it took months for me to completely renounce my former views on the recent history and current affairs, and quite often, I found it easier to just accept one truth at a time, as a lot of what I was discovering was just too much even for me to take in!

However, what I'm detailing here is something that would be deemed deeply "unpatriotic" and even "treacherous" by many of my fellow Serbs even today, thus making my views certainly "contraversial" by Serbian standards! Nevertheless, I believe it can only be a cathartic process for me to explain why I used to think in the ways I thought, which is also the way in which many Serbs still think today.

(I also feel that I missed out a lot of rather important opinions in my original article, which is why I've published this article as a continuation of my previous article on the this issue!)


Firstly and fundamentally, I found the whole idea of "Greater Serbia" as detailed by the Western media utterly repellent, and as far as I was concerned, completely un-Serbian. This tied in with the accusation that it was us Serbs who started the wars, and not the secessionists that we blamed the wars on.

What I could never believe was that Slobodan Milošević was "champion of a Greater Serbia", as claimed in the Western media. Me and my parents, like many Serbs in the Diaspora with access to satellite channels, used to watch RTS SAT (Radio Televizija Srbije Satelitski Program) during the war years and throughout the 1990s. And whenever we saw Sloba on RTS SAT, he always advocated Yugoslavia, never "Greater Serbia". Those who did advocate "Greater Serbia" always seemed to have come from the ranks of the Serbian Radical Party (Srpska Radikalna Stranka) under ultra-nationalist Vojislav Šešelj.

In all his public statements, Milosevic praised Yugoslavia and its multiethnic society, thus giving the impression that he was opposed to the inter-ethnic tensions that were brewing, and instead of secession wanted Yugoslavia to stay together. Šešelj and his Radicals, on the other hand, were openly vocal about the creation of a Greater Serbia, with its westerly border at the Croatian towns of Karlovac, Karlobag, Virovitica.

However, one of Sloba's famous sayings was, "All Serbs in one state". Many people believed he was referring to the formation of a "Greater Serbia" to contain all Serbs, while others thought he was referring merely to Yugoslavia as the state for all Serbs to live in. This is such an ambiguous statement on his part: does he mean "Greater Serbia" or just Yugoslavia? He made quite a few ambiguous statements like that one, which can be interpreted in many ways, and that's one of the reasons why many Serbs still can’t believe that Sloba was part - let alone head - of a "joint criminal enterprise".

I eventually realised that this was the impression that the Serb-nationalist media at the time, and Serb nationalists today, wanted to keep us under (Milošević = Yugoslavia, Šešelj = "Greater Serbia"), when in reality, the Serbian state under Sloba was deeply involved in the wars in the neighbouring former Yugoslav republics, providing support to the Serb nationalist leaders who fought precisely for a "Greater Serbia".

But what you must understand is that most Serbs, like myself, don't support the formation of a "Greater Serbia"; the truth is most Serbs just wanted Yugoslavia to stay together, my parents included. The fact is most sane and intelligent Serbs in the world think "Greater Serbia" is a mad and ridiculous idea; no normal Serb would ever consider "Greater Serbia" a good idea either in theory or in practice, myself included.

However, the Serbian public, at home in the Balkans and abroad in the Diaspora, were subjected to contradictory accounts coming from many media outlets, including the Serbian state media at the time, the Croatian and Bosnian state media, and the wider Western media. Understandably, this has led to a lot of confusion that can be detected even today.

Due to receiving many mixed messages about what was happening, many Serbs living outside of the warzones were particularly confused about what was really going on in Bosnia, Croatia and later in Kosovo. Other Serbs were more certain, placing their faith in their fellow Serbs and dismissing opposing views. However, because Serbs were so chronically misinformed, they did not realise who the real culprits of everything that was going wrong around them were. And because they did not know what was really going on, they could not rise against those responsible for it soon enough. Of course, that's exactly where the leaders of Serbia at the time, and their colleagues in the other republics, wanted us to be: in a state of confusion, so that we could not rebel against them.


Secondly, and for a long time, I used to refuse to accept that Slobodan Milošević was responsible for all the bloodshed of the 1990s and for leading that "joint criminal enterprise"; such accusations I deemed unbelievable and part of a wider scheme of slur and slander at the Serbian people's expense. And I also found constant reference to Sloba and his "henchmen" so ungenuine. Instead, I remember watching his trial on satellite, and I'm ashamed to say this, but at the time, I honestly admired his performance at the dock of the ICTY; I truly believed that what he was sharing with the world from the Hague was the "truth", with which he was "destroying" the "lies" of the Western media!

Long before his trial, I remember watching RTS SAT in the 90s with my parents, as mentioned above, when it was under Sloba's control. My impression of Sloba, based on the image presented by RTS SAT under his state's control, was that of a positive and reasonable statesman, who advocated peace and humanitarianism and once held International Children's Day in Serbia! I was a child/teenager back then, and I chose to believe the Serbian state TV of that time over the "un-patriotic" bloc lead by people like the late Dr.Zoran Đinđić and Nenad Čanak, including B92 TV.

We also had access to RTCG (Radio Televizija Crne Gore) with our satelite, and that channel for us represented the "anti-Serb" Montenegrin bloc led by Premier/President Milo Đukanović, whom we despised as a traitor to the Serbian people and as someone secretly involved in the mafia! But that channel also offered the Voice of America in Serbian, which we likewise disbelieved, as it pretty much said the same things that were being told on the Western media but in Serbian.

However, my change of view regarding Milošević came about by precisely reading what ordinary people who lived in Serbia under his rule had to say on the Internet, as that is my most reliable way of finding out a variety of different opinions amongst Serbs that I cannot readily access living here in the UK.

Although I had heard of how Milošević repressed his political opponents at home in the Western media, I did not consider any of those stories to be valid; I always thought that those accusations were fundamentally "anti-Milošević propaganda" funded by the West that I and many other Serbs blamed, and I'm afraid to say that I also thought that a lot of the unrest in Serbia was the fault of the pro-democratic forces themselves causing trouble!

Nevertheless, I made the plunge and started reading many accounts of democratic activists striving against a régime they saw as the cause of their country's social, economic, political and moral turmoil, and in turn for many problems in neighbouring former Yugoslav republics due to war. What astonished and fascinated me the most while examining their literature was the high moral character of the individuals within the pro-democratic scene in Serbia, something I had previously under-estimated - or rather did not believe was possible, as I used to think that these people and their institutions were supported by Western countries. Their dedication to human rights, the rule of law, freedom of speech and everything else that is conducive of an open and tolerant society was second to none.

Now, I did notice that these anti-Milošević people were obviously people who supported politicians like Đinđić and Čanak and their policies. But I slowly realised that their support for such individuals did not make what they were saying any less real; in fact, it only strengthened it! And I came to appreciate the fact that people who lived in Serbia at that time know far better about what was happening in their own country and society than someone like me who was living in the Diaspora watching a satellite channel run at the time by state that wanted to keep me in the dark.

And by examining their views word by word, it dawned on me that everything that Đinđić, Čanak et al. were saying and had said over the years was actually precisely what millions of ordinary people in Serbia regularly saw and felt going on around them. And so I finally accepted that all the anti-Milošević rhetoric from people in Serbia, people I had thought were "Western-paid traitors", was based on fact, and that the people of Serbia had every right to look upon Milošević and his régime as the cause of all their country's woes and see him as a failed president who brought nothing but trouble to everyone.

This enlightenment was crucial for me, 'cause if Milošević was that bad to his own people at home, then it's very easy to believe that he was no better - and even worse - towards his neighbours!


And thirdly, for me and for many Serbs, the whole idea that we started the wars, and even worse, committed the highest number of war crimes and the grossest atrocities of all the sides, was completely unacceptable as it seemed so impossible on the one hand, but also very offensive on the other.

One of the reasons why it was difficult for me to believe that my fellow Serbs could do so much wrong to our neighbours, was because our parents, grandparents and more distant forebears had been victims of similar wrongdoing in the last one hundred years. In fact, throughout our history, and that of other Balkan nations, we had been at the mercy of many empires, be it the Roman Empire followed by the Byzantine Empire, between the Ottoman and the Habsurg later Austro-Hungarian Empires, and finally Nazi Germany, the Third Reich, whose criminal legacy is still painfully remembered today.

During the Bosnian war, there was a lot of very anti-Serb opinion in the media of Western countries, which influenced the general public's understanding of events in Bosnia. Both televised and radio news bulletins were full of headline stories about what was going on in Bosnia, usually implacating the Bosnian Serbs, such as the Siege of Sarajevo and the snipers who terrorised the people of that city. Now I was too young at the time to understand what exactly was going on, let alone be aware of different sides to the story. But what I did understand as a child was that I didn't want anything to do with it!

As I grew up, I learnt about what was happening in Bosnia and Croatia according to the Serbian side and subsequently based my own opinions on such interpretation of events. I started thinking in much the same way as many other Serbs were thinking, "How could the Western media accuse us of committing such terrible crimes; what about the suffering that our people have endured during those wars and in earlier periods?" It seemed to me that the Western media ignored - even dismissed - our view of history, which was especially hurtful to us Serbs who were and are living in the West. Of course, we don't expect everyone around the world to be expert historians, but most of us Serbs didn't expect the media in Western countries and all its journalists to be so dismissive of our sentiments.

As a British Serb, I remember the anti-NATO demonstrations in London by diaspora Serbs in response to the bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo war. They held placards with comical and/or angry messages like "National American Terrorist Organisation" (a pun on the NATO alliance's abbreviated name), while others held placards with the message "Save Our Serbia" (an alternative definition of the international distress signal SOS).

As mentioned above, we remembered the anti-Serb climate around the country during the Bosnian war just a few years earlier. Many British Serbs felt very uncomfortable with the overt anger expressed against us by our fellow Britons, and our natural, knee-jerk reaction to all of this - regardless of whether we had access to satellite channels or not - was to believe that this hatred was completely based on lies spread by the media. And when Kosovo broke out, we likewise believed that this was another anti-Serb campaign lead by the media in our host country.

In the end, these people, British Serbs, were left feeling disregarded by Blair's government, yet many of them had helped elect him only two years earlier. This feeling of not being listened to by their country's government has lead to a general sense of apathy among British Serbs as far as politics in either the UK or the Balkans is concerned, which is still felt today. No wonder many of us are disillusioned with politics in general, and worse, actually prefer to live in apathy rather than have an opinion!

I, on the other hand, did not become apathetic or lose interest in politics. Following the Kosovo war, I developed a very pro-Serb view of the wars for all the reasons described above in this article and in the previous one. I spent much of my free time as a teenager sojourning websites which promoted the opinion that the West interfered in the internal affairs of Yugoslavia, and which focused purely on Serbian victimhood without any meaningful reference to the victimhood of other former Yugoslav nations - instead, they were openly denying, minimising and/or justifying it! Needless to say, these sites left me in a lot of doubt about many atrocities committed by the Bosnian Serbs et al. during the wars, while cementing my belief that the West was pursuing and continues to pursue anti-Serb policies. Ignorance is bliss!

As I was building my identity, I learnt a lot about Serbian history, Balkan history and European history, not to mention the national histories of certain nations. Afterall, history is one of my favourite subjects, along with linguistics!

As far as history was concerned, I was developing my own opinions on history based on what I was reading on the net, from websites like the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia, visited by people from all over the world, and the Serbian cultural/historical/anthropological website Projekat Rastko, which offers a wide array of literature.

At first, I preferred the comfort of the Serbian point of view, as I was often offended by the mainstream Western opinion on the recent history, and even more by the Croatian point of view, particularly when examining the discussions pages on Wikipedia's numerous articles on the former Yugoslavia, often full of accusations and defamation coming from all sides! But as my skin became thicker, I started researching other interpretations of Western Balkan history, including the Croatian opinion and that of others, with which I became more and more comfortable confronting. On the one hand, I wanted to familiarise myself with their side of the story; while on the other, I wanted to find something in their story that I could disprove and brand as a "lie".

This process of familiarising myself with the other side/sides of the story gained momentum precisely during the time that I started changing my views on Milošević, Bosnia etc. And not only was I discovering how the other former Yugoslav nations felt about what happened to them and all around them, I was also starting to read more "neutral" points of view, i.e. works by internationally-recognised scholars - genuine historians, as opposed to the pseudo-historians out there - like Marko Attila Hoare, Marcus Tanner, Tim Judah, and many more. I read their work with a true sense of inquisitiveness, and I found their work to be highly informative and even inspiring; they explained the various aspects of the recent wars and other periods by focusing on the facts, without resorting to expressing their ethnic hostilities or advocating a national agenda. What a breath of fresh air that was!

Thanks to all my research, which at times was profoundly emotional for me, I developed a more informed view on the recent history and more distant periods of history. In fact, I developed a sense of critically analysing individual interpretations, along with an ability to compare contradicting points of view in order to discover whether they have anything in common!

For instance, when comparing the Serbian and Croatian national narratives, I've found that that these narratives are indeed based on certain historic facts, but what makes both of them unique - or similar, depending on how you look at them - is that they relate specific interpretations of facts. And it is these interpretations that help forge people's national identity, something they share only with a select few.

However, the problem with both narratives is that they tend to concentrate on the favourable aspects of history, while ignoring or just minimising the less favourable bits. And when they relate wars, they always depict their nation as the innocent victims on the one hand, and justified heroes on the other. And because of that tendency, both narratives encourage the people who hold onto them to only want to see things in a way that is favourable to their nation, or as I put it, to have a "self-gratifying" view of history.

In the end, I came to understand that history can be a very complicated thing; it can seem to be full of contradictions on the one hand, and full of anomalies on the other. This is particularly the case with nations affected by constant war throught their histories. At one given moment in time, members of one nation were victimised by members of another; while at another moment of time, members of that originally victimised nation were victimising members of the nation that victimised them first!

I am not trying to in any way relativise any period or event in history, as each has its own gravity. Rather, I wish to point out that different people have experienced a variety of different things, but that's not to say that other people haven't experienced very similar things too. And that's why I believe that it's only when we compare different points of view in an objective manner with a spirit of inquisitiveness, can we finally discover what is true and what is false; what is diffrent and what is similar; and what is unique and what is shared.


And so, it turned out that all the things I used to believe in, like that the West conspired with local separatists to destroy Yugoslavia and blame the Serbs for it with their media to justify further anti-Serb policies, are the real lies. And as I started accepting that, I also came to realise that Serb nationalist propaganda really was propaganda afterall: a combination of truths, half-truths, and outright lies. So many times I've heard Western journalists saying that the régime of Slobodan Milošević fed the Serbian people propaganda, and yet I never believed that! It turns out they were right all along.

I now accept that the two biggest practical problems with the Serb nationalist interpretation of history, constantly peddled back home in the Balkans, are one, it is unreliable when it comes to establishing historical truth, and two, when applying it in a legal setting, it is useless and fruitless.

I mean, let's forget about the Hague tribunal itself; there are loads of courts in the world and plenty of lawyers too! If we were to take anything that has been branded as "evidence" by proponents of the so-called Serbian point of view into any court of law in the world, it would be discredited and any case based on such "evidence" would be thrown out of court altogether. Now why would that happen if such claims were really true? Maybe the whole system and establishment is set up against us Serbs? Why of course, it's all done to spite us! But how can anyone live their lives thinking in such a way? I know I used to think like that myself, but I don't want to think in such an irrational and spurious way anymore. And what good would it do to maintain those same views based on discredited claims anyway? All we'd be doing is embarrassing ourselves on the one hand, and convincing Croats, Bosniaks etc. that we're no better than we were before, and as such not worth bothering with even now more than a decade after the wars.

But I also came to another very important conclusion: not only is the Serb nationalist point of view actually difficult to prove in any court of law - let alone the Hague, more importantly, it was also morally wrong to promote such interpretations of history. Indeed it is a fool's crusade to pursue such a version of the "truth", as it is full lies. But worst of all, it doesn't really help Serbs at all to continue fostering the argument that the West is "guilty" for the break-up of Yugoslavia, that Milošević was an innocent "hero" or that certain war crimes committed by Serbs were "lies", because that can only impede any honest attempt at reconciliation between Serbs and Croats, or Serbs and Bosniaks, etc.

In the end, all my research into recent and more distant history in the Balkans has convinced me once and for all that all brands of nationalism, especially the extreme, far-right variants, are both practically and morally wrong; while blind patriotism among ordinary people I realised is practically unhelpful and morally obstructive.

Minor edit: 13th July, 2010.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Bird flies towards the Tree, rather than the Rosebush!

Britain has a new prime minister and new government since last night. Britain's new prime minister is David Cameron from the Conservative party, and its new deputy prime minister is Nick Clegg from the Liberal Democrat party, replacing Gordon Brown and his Labour cabinet. Britain now has a coalition government, the first since the Second World War, made up of Cameron's Tories and Clegg's Lib Dems.

Following the General Election on May 6th, in which 649 constituencies out of 650 in the whole country went to the polls, none of the parties standing for election won a majority of seats, thus leading to a "Hung parliament". (These constituencies translate into seats in the country's parliament, and in order to win, a party must attain a minimum of 326.)

Briefly put: Cons = 307 (including that one constituency that didn't go to the polls); Lab = 258; Lib Dem = 57; and other parties plus independent candidates = 28.

Following this inconclusive result, the Liberal Democrats first held negotiations with the Tories about forming a pact, as they had won the most votes and seats. It then held negotiations with the Labour a party. If they chose to make a pact with the Tories, they would be able to command a majority in parliament; whereas with Labour, they would not have. Of course, if they had refused either party's offer, the Tories could have gone it alone and formed a "Minority government".

In the end, Gordon Brown stepped down from his premiership, handing his resignation to the UK's sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II at her Buckingham Palace residence, as is the procedure in this country. And within minutes, David Cameron entered the palace to be appointed by the Queen to lead her country's government, and off he went to 10 Downing Street to announce the formation of a new government with the Lib Dems!


On election day, I voted for Luton North's Labour candidate Kelvin Hopkins with a view to keep the Tories out of government and out of Luton, but also with the hope of seeing a Labour-Lib Dem coalition in the even of a hung parliament (see my previous article).

Although mine and my mother's votes did not keep the Tories out of central government, they did keep Luton red! In fact, Luton North and Luton South are now Labour's only two strongholds in the whole of East Anglia following its many losses of seats in the region. Thus, Luton forms an island of red in a flooding sea of blue!

And although I didn't get the coalition I had hoped for, my prediction of a Lab-Lib Dem coalition was at least half right! And when it came down to the election results, even I realised that a pact between the Lib Dems and the Tories would be a numerically stronger one (307+57 compared to 258+57).

So I'm happy that my vote counted in keeping Labour in Luton and wasn't wasted - unless of course, my vote was considered invalid! (Ouch!) I hope Kelvin Hopkins MP continues to serve Luton North as well as he has in his previous three terms (!); and I hope Gavin Shuker MP will do a good job for Luton South as a first-time MP.

I had predicted that the Lib Dems - or even the Independent candidate Esther Rantzen - might win Luton South, but neither did. But still, I hope Esther stays in touch with us Lutonians and doesn't forget about our town, which she, as she puts it, "fell in love with"!


Also, thanks to last Thursday's elections, Britain has its first Green MP in the form of Caroline Lucas representing the constituency of Brighton Pavilion! Finally, the UK has an environmentalist party in parliament - Hooray!

Unfortunately for the UK Independence Party (UKIP), that wishes for Britain to leave the EU altogether, none of its candidates won any constituencies - not even its most famous member Nigel Farage, who is a colourful albeit contraversial character, who would've brightened up the House of Commons with his humourous demeanor and anti-EU views!

Fortunately for Britain's multicultural society, the far-right British National Party (BNP), that wishes to stop immigration completely and offer Britons with foreign origins "voluntary repatration", did not win a single seat in parliament - not even its leader Nick Griffin could win Barking and Dagenham, even though his party received well over half a million votes nationwide.

So all in all, not a bad night for elections then!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

I know that I'm an Anarchist, but I'm gonna vote!

I know that Anarchism advocates the abolition of governments and condemns voting, but I've nevertheless decided to vote in the upcoming General Election in Britain, this May 6th! I registered both myself and my mother exactly on the 20th April deadline! I printed out the forms for me and mum which we both signed on the 19th in the evening, and I handed it on the next day at Luton Borough Council. And just so you know, this will be my first time! Yippee!!

I live in Luton North, which has been headed by Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins since the 1997 General Election, an event I remember very well in which Labour won a landslide victory and ousted the Tories from power! (I was 11 at the time and full of enthusiasm for Labour!)

Luton South has also had a Labour MP for as many years by the name of Margaret Moran. She has become infamous throughout the country for spending £22,500 of taxpayers' money to sort out dry rot (!) at her house in Southampton, around 70 miles away from her constituency in Luton South!

So with all the election campaigning in recent weeks by the three main parties and other national/regional and nationalist far-right parties, I've also been figuring out which part to vote for.

I come from a pro-socialist, therefore pro-Labour family. My late father Stevo always voted Labour, and my mother likewise. I have yet to vote in my life, but I am likewise inclined towards voting for Labour. However, I'm not a hardcore Labour supporter; I'm also inspired by the Liberal Democrat party.

Throughout this campaign, I've been supportive of quite a few Liberal Democrat promises, particularly the promise to raise the tax threshold to £10,000, thus allowing a lot of people on lower wages to keep much more of their income than they do now. This is a truly impressive election promise, and who knows, it might actually save a lot of people a lot of money if it were implemented.

However, I've come to the conclusion that the problem with voting Lib Dem in the constituency of Luton North is that, I believe, it is a very safe Labour seat, and therefore, as the electoral system in this anglophonic country is First Past the Post, my vote for the Lib Dem would be useless in Luton North. However, if I was living in Luton South, then my vote for the Lib Dems would stand a chance, and could actually help the Lib Dems win that seat.

By the way, Luton South is contested by 12 candidates, twice more than Luton North (see here)! Among the candidates for Luton South is the famous TV presenter and ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen, who claims to have fallen in love with Luton and hopes to bring over friends like Andrew Lloyd Webber to help develop the Arts and Music scene in the town, which I likewise think would be a brilliant idea (she said so herself on THE POLITICS SHOW on BBC 1, Sunday, 2nd May, see here).

If the voting system was such in this country that it was all about the parties rather than the seats, i.e. Proportional Representation (PR), I would vote Lib Dem this election (which is something the Lib Dems are actually calling for). However, we don't have such a system, which can be found in European countries and elsewhere in the world. Instead, we vote for candidates who represent constituencies, i.e. seats in the country's parliament. However, one serious problem with the current system is that someone can win a seat without attaining an absolute majority of votes.

And like I've explained above, living in Luton North as I do, my vote for the Labour party would be much more valuable, especially if we want to make sure that the Conservative party doesn't take power. The problem with the Tories is they would introduce numerous cuts in public services here and there as soon as they get in, which I don't believe would be good for this country's economy especially now that we've managed to rise out of economic recession.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't believe that a vote for the Lib Dems would bring the Tories in power. In fact, I find such a claim to be very cynical, and based on the belief that Tory voters form some kind of monolithic block, whose members "naturally" cannot vote for anyone else except the Conservatives!

And considering that the polls are very tight, it seems that a coalition government, which is reffered to as a "Hung parliament" in Britain, will likely have to be formed by two of the three parties that receive the most votes tomorrow. I also have to tell you that I find all these fear stories about hung parliaments/coalition governments really annoying. I think it might lead to more agreement between parties, and looking at Scotland's parliament in which the Scottish National Party head a minority government, a coalition might not be such a bad thing for the rest of the country.

And besides, Kelvin Hopkins MP has, during his campaign for this election and the previous one back in 2005, knocked on my house door and both times had a little chat with my mum! None of the other five candidates for Luton North have done so! And anyway, I think Kelvin is a decent guy who has done a relatively good job representing Luton for all these years.

Therefore, I know who I'm going to vote for tomorrow, i.e. May 6th, even though I would rather we lived in a world without borders and states. And my prediction of the outcome? Let me hazard a guess: a Labour-Lib Dem coalition!


Sunday, 18 April 2010

A mention - or two - in Britić

Hooray! As soon as I received it through the post last week, I tore up the plastic wrapping and left the A5 piece of paper with my address on it to one side. And once I started skimming through its pages in order to find the readers' letters, I found that I got not just one, but two mentions in the British Serb magazine Britić in the Your Letters section of its Uskrs 2010 edition, which you can find on pages 38 and 39 in the current issue!

And if you're not one of the lucky few in the UK to receive this magazine during the year through your post for free (!), then click here for the .pdf version to see it: Britić - Vaskrs 2010!

Friday, 26 March 2010

From Yugoslav to Martian - is that possible?

From a Balkanian bloke to a Martian man - what on Earth am I on about?

Quite a few times I've heard from fellow Serbs how even if a person of Serbian descent were born in a country outside of the Balkans, they'd still be Serbs no matter where they were born. Such a debate regarding identity sometimes rises when Serbs in the Diaspora are in question. Although people who hold such a sentiment are obviously patriotically inclined, that logic does make sense given genealogy and genetics. But some of them even go as far (!) as to say, "Even if I were born on Mars, I would always be a Serb [and never a Martian]!"

Now I was thinking about this the other day, and interestingly enough, I came to a contradictory conclusion: "If I were born on Mars, maybe I'd like to be a Martian", instead of an earthly national like my ancestors were. And, "If we were to send a Serb, a Croat and a Bosniak to live together on Mars, maybe it would be a good idea for all three to become Martians. So in that way, they and their children can all become one people again!"

Thursday, 18 March 2010

War Crimes and Justice - How they affect people's sense of accountability and overall morality

Between grievance and justice, and between law and morality. A look at post-war ethics among Yugoslavia's war-torn people - or lack of, as the case may be

The wars in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo saw war crimes committed on a large scale, resulting in widespread bloodshed, destruction to property everywhere and devastated lives all round. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that, as a result of all this carnage, these same wars also brought to local and worldwide attention alike numerous horror stories from all sides, each side accusing the other(s) of systematic abuses of human rights against its people, while also denying and/or undermining the claims of the other side(s).

The job of verifying the truthfulness of these allegations and counter-allegations fell to International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), simply called "The Hague Tribunal" as it is based at The Hague in the Netherlands. However, this has not been an easy job for that institution, and controversy has struck many times since its foundation. Nevertheless, it has brought forward many convictions, and also a few acquittals.

It has convicted men like Milan Babić and Milan Martić, the political and military leaders of the short-lived Republika Srpska Krajina, of war crimes and crimes against humanity against that entity's non-Serb population at the beginning of the war in Croatia. These two were found guilty of being part of a "Joint Criminal Enterprise" with Serbian president Slobodan Milošević at the helm, that had the aim of forming an enlarged ethnic Serb state, known as "Greater Serbia" (Velika Srbija), upon the territories of four former Yugoslav republics at the expense of numerous non-Serbian communities.

With regards to the war in Bosnia, Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstić was convicted of of the crime of genocide with regards to the Srebrenica Massacre, in which over 8000 Bosniak men and boys were murdered in cold blood by Bosnian Serb troops under his control within only a few days in mid July 1995. It was thanks to that ruling by the Hague tribunal that this atrocity, the worst in all of Europe since World War Two, was recognised as a genocide.

Also regarding the Bosnian war, Milan and Sredoje Lukić were convicted for their personal involvement in a series of mass murders and torture of unarmed civilians committed in and around the Bosnian town of Višegrad envisaged upon that town's Bosniak population. These crimes committed in Višegrad were some of the most awful and appalling committed during that whole war, most of all for their cruelty and brutality. Among the many crimes these two were found guilty of was the murder of five out of seven men tortured prior to being shot on the banks of the river Drina, and two incidents in which dozens of people in each case were locked in and burnt alive. (See this article on the Srebrenica Genocide Blog for more information)

As for acquittals, the court acquitted Bosniak Commander Naser Orić, who was long-accused of masterminding a series of atrocities against Bosnian Serb civilians in villages around Srebrenica prior to the 1995 massacre there. This acquittal came as a shock to people in Serbia, who had long been led to believe that he was responsible for the deaths of up to 3000 Serbs in Eastern Bosnia (that figure has been discredited by the Hague Tribunal itself and by the Research and Documentation Center (RDC) in Sarajevo).

The acquittals of Kosovo Albanian political and military leaders like Ramush Haradinaj and Fatmir Limaj also dismayed Serbian public opinion, but on the other side of the fence, they reaffirmed how Kosovo Albanians felt about these individuals who fought in their name and for their sake against the Serbian police and army, vindicating them of any possible responsibility for any war crimes. Nevertheless, there is still uncertainty with regards to the outcome of Haradinaj's case, as it is believed that witnesses who intended to testify against him were allegedly intimidated by Haradinaj's associates in order not to go to the Hague.

There have also been a number of convictions made at home in the former Yugoslav republics, including the conviction in Serbia of four members of the Serbian paramilitary unit the "Scorpions" involved in the Srebrenica massacre, mentioned above, who were infamously filmed executing six Bosniak men and teenagers. That video recording shook the Serbian public, and helped to some extent undermine the efforts taken by some to deny the very occurrence of that gruesome and heinous crime.

But what I think should be considered more often is how these war crimes, and the justice taken to deal with them, affect ordinary people's views of the conflicts generally and personally; what kind of "moral impact" these events have initially on these people, and also what kind of endless affect their aftermath has upon these people's sense of morality to this day, taking into account how the pursuit of justice influences attitudes about accountability for war crimes. That is what I wish to examine in this article, with particular focus on attitudes commonly expressed by people from war-torn regions of the former Yugoslavia mentioned above.

Based on my personal observations, these attitudes have a habit of sometimes manifesting themselves in interactions between people from former warring sides either in real life on the ground, or in the virtual world of the World Wide Web. From what I've perceived, they are often accompanied by a sense of indignation demonstrated by their feelings of personal humiliation followed by a corresponding desire for justice or vengeance. And let's not forget that vulgarity and profanity can be very obviously noticed in such heated exchanges.

What about our victims; don't they count?!

You will find numerous victims on all sides involved in the wars. But what you will also find is that many people feel that their victims are not being acknowledged enough by people from the other side(s) of the conflict(s); many of these same people feel offended whenever people from the other warring side(s) pay tribute to their own victims, relating how their victims suffered at the hands of their neighbours, believing that they should be more willing to acknowledge the horrible crimes that their fellow ethnics committed against their loved ones!

Relatives of victims understandably feel pain for their lost loved ones who perished under dreadful circumstances brought about by disgraceful people from another side. And when people from that other side commemorate their victims, the relatives of victims from the first side feel very annoyed, especially when their fellow ethnics are being blamed!

Regarding the war in Croatia (which in Croatia is named the "Homeland war" ('Domovinski Rat'), my fellow Croatian Serbs accuse the Croatian army and state of committing ethnic cleansing and other war crimes and crimes against humanity upon them during 'Operation Oluja' (meaning "storm") in the August of 1995, during which around 200,000 Serbs fled their homes forming a column stretching many kilometres across Bosnia towards Belgrade. (During 'Operation Bljesak' (meaning "lightning") that occurred three months before 'Oluja', around 30,000 Serbs fled their homes.) And since many Croatian Serbs still live in Serbia today, where they originally sought refuge at the end of the war (many are now fully-fledged citizens of Serbia - but not all of them!), the Serbian state has a responsibility to uphold their grievances of their Croatian Serb citizens towards neighbouring Croatia, where they originally came from.

However, in response to these allegations by Croatian Serbs, many Croats angrily enquire, "But what about what happened in Vukovar?", the previously multiethnic city home to around sixteen ethnic groups on the Danube river that was raised to the ground by a number of Serb paramilitary formations in collusion with the JNA ('Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija', the "Yugoslav People's Army") sent there from Serbia. And likewise full of indignation, "What about Ovčara and Borovo Selo?", nearby villages in which hundreds of Croatian soldiers and civilians were murdered by those same paramilitary groups.

This is just one example of how discussion concerning the suffering of victims on either side is such a sensitive topic for all people who have lived through these recent wars; as you can guess, there are many, many more examples.

Why us; what about them?!

Whenever individuals from one warring side gets accused and charged for this or that crime against members of another warring side, the people from that side impulsively cry out, "But what about the things that they (the side which the victims of the accused came from) did to us?"

I've already demonstrated to you one example above of how many Croats feel offended by Serbs accusing them of war crimes, and like I've said there, that's just one of many examples. But what is interesting is that people from either side will admit that members of their ethnic group did commit war crimes on the other, and this is more often the case than a straightforward denial. However, many feel more comfortable equalising the crimes committed by their fellow ethnics with crimes committed by other ethnic groups, "Oh, I'm not saying that we didn't commit crimes ourselves, but they did it to us as well". On the other hand, there are others who feel offended by anyone equalising war crimes committed by members of their own people against others to crimes committed by members of other groups against them, "What they did to us and what we did to them are NOT the same!"

And the reason why this attitude prevails is this: even though people from all these sides are victims for whatever reason and to whatever extent, they as members of their ethnic group feel accused of committing war crimes, and as a result, they feel personally insulted! They feel, as part of a collective, accused of having committed crimes similar to crimes committed upon them, and so they often resort to such retorts mentioned in the above paragraph. A classic case in post-war former Yugoslavia of victims feeling accused of victimising others!

Nevertheless, there is also the attitude shared by many victims and survivors of these conflicts regarding war crimes committed by their own people that, "We have been stamped on by all and sundry, while everything we did to them is exactly what they deserved!" And as you can tell, this again shows the pain and desire for justice that these people collectively feel and continue to feel, because what they endured during that tumultuous time was a collective experience. The very use of the word "we" in the above sentences within quotes betrays this collective sentiment among people from each ethnic group from the war-torn parts of the former Yugoslavia.

That never happened to you; you didn't suffer as much as we did!!

In the environment in which accusations flew back and forth like bullets ricocheting, as was the case during and after the wars, denial was a very common propaganda tool, regularly serving as a bridge between accusation and counter-accusation! And along with denial often came contradicting interpretations of events, often serving a certain political agenda.

Even now, the joint forces of denial and revisionism still abound, which often includes minimising the numbers of victims and gravity of certain crimes, or even justifying their occurrence in the first place, treating the pain incurred to the victims as just recompense.

For instance, when Bosnia is in discussion, many Serbs still question the truthfulness of war crimes committed by fellow Serbs like the Srebrenica massacre (Masakar u Srebrenici), even though it has been twice declared a genocide by two international courts. Denial of Srebrenica has been prevalent for much of the past decade, and it was particulary strong within the first ten years following the event.

Surprisingly, many Serbs still find the mere mention of the genocide in Srebrenica, especially how it has been labelled a genocide, an "insult" to their nation. The reason why they feel offence at hearing about Srebrenica on the news and elsewhere is this: for them, the only genocide that occurred in their part of Europe was committed during World War Two against their people, in places like the infamous Jasenovac concentration camp, in which up to a hundred thousand people - half of whom Serbs - were slaughtered by Croatian fascists known as the Ustaše.

Based on the above explanation, as far as many Serbs are concerned, nothing can compare to what they endured in their history, not even anything that their fellow Serbs did to others. And this same attitude is shared by many Croats. For many Croats who lived through the war in Croatia, the crimes committed upon them by their ethnic Serb neighbours far outweigh anything that their fellow Croats did to Serbs during that same conflict - in fact, they couldn't care less! And the same can be easily said for Bosniaks and Kosovo Albanians.

As we've established above, relatives of victims from one side tend to only feel compassion and pain for their own victims, rather than victims from other sides. And you can also notice that such people often show a careless but spiteful ignorance to the suffering of people from other ethnic groups caught up in the wars, founded on an attitude characterised by, "Your people did this and that to my people, and that is all that matters to me!" And when it comes to crimes committed by their own people on other people, this ignorance can sometimes be followed by doubt, likewise coloured by that same spite, "I doubt we did this and that to you; I doubt we were that bad to your people", followed by the belief that, "Your people did worse things to us, you evil people! F*ck your mothers!"

And so you can see, this sense that the terrible things that happened to other people in the wars are unimportant, even if some of it was caused by their fellow ethnics, is very common among people from all the warring sides, including the phrase "F*ck your Serbian/Croatian et al mothers!" ('J*b*m vam mater/majku srpsku/hrvatsku i.d.!') - that's very common! And I believe the reason for this lack of compassion for the other former warring sides' victims is because the victims' survivors feel a sense of duty to maintain the memory of their lost loved ones' appalling end at the hands of others, and also to preserve the memory of their own awful experiences as survivors from that time lest it occur again.


Looking at all that we've examined above, we get an impression that many people's sense of accountability regarding war crimes, specifically those who've suffered from war and the trauma that keeps haunting them, depends on their experiences from that time, but as a result of which, their moral standing is compromised. It also seems that many of these people are inclined to continue harbouring such sentiments with an overt obstinacy, described by the local word Inat.

There is a lot to say about how media stations in the Former Yugoslav republics like Croatia and Bosnia. The media from one former warring side often interprets recent history in a way that befits what the ordinary people they represent on the ground experienced, but also in way that seems self-serving to the interests of nationalist politicians keen on either maintaining the current status quo or changing it altogether.

It would make a worthy debate to consider how the local media in the war-torn regions of the former Yugoslavia contribute to maintaining these attitudes, fanning the flames of hatred and resentment whether intentionally or not - that's also very debateable. But let's not forget that these people themselves are perfectly capable of maintaining such sentiments without too much help from the media to remind them of the very things that happened to them not very long ago. And it is their sense of morality and accountability that is the focus of this article.

Looking at the wider historical context, these people (Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks, Kosovo Albanians et al.) used to live in a much larger country, in which they shared a common identity based on the belief that all people in their country are equal and essentially one people, regardless of the religious distinctions that characterised whole communities or the differing historical experiences that further divided them. Now, thanks to nationalist politics and war, their common identity is long gone and nowadays they live in smaller countries, and worst of all, many of these people still bear the scars from that time.

But you have to remember that the Yugoslav wars of the 90s not only caused so much carnage and loss of life, the turmoil of that period turned these people's worlds upside down; the way they saw the world around them and themselves in it was completely overturned within five awful years. And along with that feeling of everything going upside down, their sense of morality fell apart; their moral compass had shattered into a million pieces. Therefore, it should come as no surprise to anyone that this turnaround has had a huge affect on their interactions with other people, particularly with their former fellow countrymen and women.

These victims of all the wars, brought about by political turmoil and resulting in widespread bloodshed and destruction, do deserve our sympathy for all the suffering that they've endured and for everything they've lost through absolutely no fault of their own. However, without the slightest offence intended to anybody, we should not assume that all these people, who are rebuilding their lives after everything they've been through, are very kind and loving people these days. Instead, it shouldn't surprise us at all that, as a result of this moral breakdown, which has blighted their lives since that period, along with many other factors, some of them have turned into very unkind and even hateful people. But you'll also find many more people who put on a polite and friendly face around people from the other side(s) of the conflict(s), while hiding the scars, pain and hatred they still feel for those people deep inside them, along with an undying desire for justice sometimes coloured by revenge.

The dignity and decency that characterised their lives in Yugoslavia as her citizens have been replaced by selfishness and spitefulness thanks to the politics and wars that destroyed their common country and took away their common identity from them.

So where is the justice for these people; and where is the morality in them? These two highly valued notions in all human societies the world over should, as a rule, go hand-in-hand. But do they always?


See also:

  • History that offends people
  • Monday, 15 March 2010

    Serbs, Media, Justice and Me!

    Since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, and during them, a lot of my fellow Serbs have felt that they had been “disproportionately” accused of war crimes by the Western and local media alike, hearing accusation after accusation blasted at them from their TV screens during the course of the last twenty years. Many high-ranking Serbs have been charged for this and that, eventually getting convicted based on such allegations. Serb after Serb sent to The Hague and then behind bars, and lo and behold, the majority of all the defendants - and convicts alike - at The Hague are and have been Serbs!

    For years, Serbs back home in the Balkans and oustide living in the Diaspora felt that we were "demonised" by the media; depicted as the "bad guys" in the world. And worst of all, being considered as bad as Hitler and the Nazis!

    I used to be bothered by all this as well many years ago as I was growing in Britain, learning my language from my parents and watching Serbian satellite TV to supplement my growing ability to speak my native tongue (I call it Serbo-Croat, but you can call it what you want!). And as I became more and more aware of my Serbian-ness – or Serbdom, or as we say Srpstvo – in my formative years, I developed a high opinion of my people, my “Serbian brothers” (Braća Srbi!), based on the belief that my people are fundamentally “good” people, from whom came many great people who achieved equally great things in their lives.

    However, this was also a time when I often heard bad news about my fellow Serbs on the British news, with the same accusations of war crimes heard time and again, and when it wasn’t about what the Serbs did in recent history, the Serbs in the present time were likewise depicted very unsavourily, in such a way as to invite derision and denunciation from the British public towards my people. All this made me feel offended and even humiliated by my host country’s media, which only caused me to feel even more rebellious against such accusations and the overall "anti-Serb" attitude such accusations foster!

    This attitude led me to immerse myself in the pro-Serb and pro-Milošević websites on the Internet. I’m ashamed to say it now, but back then, I found their literature and attitude inspirational! And I honestly believed that what I was discovering was “the truth” about “Western lies” used to justify anti-Serbian policies that caused harm to my people. I viewed the Hague Tribunal as a “kangaroo court”, which unjustly per-secuted rather than prosecuted my people's leaders on a routine basis, serving anti-Serb Western policies in the Balkans.

    Believe it or not, I naively hoped that one day I might contribute to "freeing" my people from all those lies that demonised my people throughout the world, and I was honestly inspired and motivated by the good intention of bringing about improved relations between my people and our neighbours, with whom our relations have been strained due to recent history. I honestly thought that way.

    I spent a lot of my teens and early adulthood on the net, ’cause well, hehehe (!), I didn’t have much of a social life back then, to tell you the truth!

    But joking aside. There came a point in my young life that turned me around from thinking and feeling the way I describe above. And what was it that brought about this shift in me? Well, it happened when I actually decided to venture into hostile territory: to boldly learn how people in Serbia, who lived under Milošević’s régime and fought against him, view our people’s and their country’s recent history. And for me, living away from the Balkans but with access to the internet, this unknown territory was represented by websites like!

    This venture practically gave me a chance to see things from the other side’s point of view, something I had previously denied myself as I found such terrain just too “anti-Serbian” for me to tolerate! But during this process, this research gave me such an education about my people’s recent history, such that none of the pro-Milošević propaganda could ever give me! And it came from people who lived in Serbia at the time, who actually witnessed the political turmoil that consumed their country for a whole decade, were conscious of the downward spiral their country was going since the late 80s, and actually tried to make a positive difference for their country and people. Looking back, I must say it was actually quite an enlightening time for me.

    But bear in mind that this personal 'revolution' was not a process that started and ended overnight. Years of strongly held beliefs can't be erased so easily, and there was many a time during this journey that I felt offended by what I was reading from both fellow Serbs and people of other nationalities! Although little-by-little I started to accept opinions I had previously reviled, often I came across ideas which I still resisted and found difficult to swallow.

    It felt as though everything I used to believe was true was crumbling in the face of information from people who actually knew far better about what was going on in our former Yugoslavian homeland than I personally did - or could. Each piece of difficult to accept info hit me deep within, and I would resist it by thinking, "That's not true", or, "That just goes too far", and even, "How treacherous can they be to think and write such unpatriotic bile!"

    But slowly, I started accepting as true the very stories and ideas I used to believe for so long were not true, and I also started seeing the very people who "thought and wrote such unpatriotic bile" as intelligent and inspirational people that we Serbs should be proud of!

    After exposing myself to the views and experiences of the anti-Milošević crowd around B92 and elsewhere on the net, I look back now and I realise that a lot of that literature was actually quite radical stuff, radical in the sense of how it differed completely from how I previously thought. And that's probably why that side of Serbia's political stage captivated me in the end!

    And now, whenever I'm watching Serbian satellite TV and listen to anything Serbian nationalist leaders in Serbia and similar folk advocate (which I now know is really just recycled rubbish!), thanks to the critically insightful literature I began exploring only a few years ago, I'm now very critical of anything such politicians have to offer. While on the other hand, I can also recognise reasonable and progressive views and ideas, and also acknowledge their more respectable proponents.


    During this process, my view of the Hague Tribunal, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), also changed. From regarding it as an illegal institution funded by Western governments to further blacken my people's good name, to considering it an important institution with a very important task of shedding light on all the terrible things that have befallen many people thanks to war and nationalist politics.

    For a long time, I used to think that many of the witnesses who testified against my fellow Serbs were paid by the West to lie. I also believed that whenever Serb defendants like the late Krajina Serb leader Milan Babić did plead guilty to their charges, that they did that only so they can receive a smaller number of years to serve in prison at Scheveningnen, and therefore, I questioned the validity of their confessions and considered them as good as traitors.

    Of course, I thought these numerous allegations laid against Serb defendants at the dock there were as false as the original accusations aired on TV and radio years before, with the sole purpose of "dehumanising" my people! I despised hearing about them in the British media, and perhaps even more from the Serbian media!

    But then, during my "period of exploration" I describe above, I visited sites that dispensed information regarding the work of the ICTY. I started reading through profile after profile of Serb defendants on, and I also read through their indictments and many excerpts from trial sessions on the site. And not only that, I encountered many other sites that offered a lot of primary and secondary sources of info to support these allegations from victims themselves, including the renowned Srebrenica Genocide blog, run tirelessly by a Bosniak man living today in Canada.

    And as I exposed myself to all this information, I started wondering, "Are confessions by these Serb defendants only given out so they can receive lesser sentences, and as a consequence, hold no value in truth?" And then I also started asking myself, "How can these witnesses, who claim to have suffered such pain and humiliation, be paid to say those things?"

    What happened was I soon realised that the idea of hundreds of people getting paid to falsely accuse certain people and carry on telling those same "lies" is pratically untenable. How can anyone make hundreds of people who go to such a court to testify against specific individuals - and even more so, thousands more people back home who won't be asked to come testify - maintain a pretense for so long? Even if such a scheme was attempted in real life, it would be such a hard job keeping such people in check; ensuring that these people are subjected to the same "propaganda" year in year out, and also maintaining a level of fear lest any of them choose to shout out, "It's not true!" And many of my fellow Serbs do believe that that's the case, and that it's all happening at their people's expense! But then you've got to ask yourself, "How can you live your life thinking that the world's leaders have nothing better to do than invest millions into maintaining "lies" against your people?" That's pure paranoia, and that's not the way I want to live my life!

    And another thing. There are many Serb defendants and convicts at the Hague. In fact, they constitute the majority of inmates at the Scheveningen prison. That has bothered me like many other Serbs, and I also considered that to be evidence of the Hague's anti-Serb intentions for many years.

    But, during the latter stage of my re-education process(!), I remember reading an interview on the B92 website with some lawyer from the Hague, whose name I can't remember for the life of me. I've tried to find his interview on their great online archives, but I just couldn't find it. But anyway, he said the most logical thing I have ever read with regards to why so many Serbs are on the dock at the Hague.

    For many people, especially where I come from, justice means balance, and even equality. But, as explained by the man in that interview, how can equality be established upon a war, in which there was such great inequality: from the beginning, comparing the military strength of all the warring sides involved; and ultimately, in the number of human beings who actually perished as a result of each side's capability of destroying the other?

    So logical and rational, his interview finally explained to me in an obvious and simple way once and for all why there were so many Serbs being tried at the Hague. And along with everything else I reconciled myself with, his explanation was the icing on the cake!


    Looking back, I can see I've come full circle; from a heroically pro-Serb Diaspora patriot to a more critical, less patriotic Diaspora Serb. I retain my optimism and hope from that time, but as I've changed my attitudes, I've diverted these energies to a different direction. I was never a nationalist in the true sense of the word, not even back then; just patriotic with a sense of loyalty towards my people. But now that I accept the full gravity of my fellow Serbs' ruthless and reckless policies and actions from the 90s onwards, I've become even more anti-nationalist than ever! I've become more critical of Serbian nationalism itself and other forms of nationalism in Balkans, but I've also became critical of blind loyalty to nation and country, something many of my fellow Serbs are still prone to today. I now realise that the more I grow up, the less patriotic I become, and as a result, my views and opinions of people, both individually and generally, have become much more realistic, and therefore fairer!

    I've come to terms with the awful truth, and that there is nothing I nor anyone else can do to disprove it. It was a very profound and moving process, and it wasn't easy for me to change my long held views and beliefs. And what made it difficult was my sincere belief that my people, the Serbs, are a truly good people with a strong sense of justice and a history of liberation, as opposed to imperialism. The truth is many Serbs are indeed very good people with high moral values, but many other Serbs are not so good and don't have that same high sense of morality, while many more Serbs, I believe, find themselves between good and bad and oscillating!

    I believe that coming to terms with the truth, as had been stated for so long and yet denied by so many, has also raised my level of morality to a much higher lever. Of course, my intention is always to be fair towards everyone, regardless of colour, creed or country, as such conduct is fundamentally part of my nature. But it is also my intention to recognise something for what it is, whether I like it or not, and however long it takes for me to accept it.

    Unfortunately, I'm well aware that thinking this way is not popular among many of my fellow Serbs, and certainly not considered "patriotic" either. Nevertheless, in the end, satyameva jayate - truth prevails!

    Minor edit: 17th March, 2010. Second minor edit: 13 July, 2010.


    See also:

  • Serbs, Media, Justice and Me! contd.