The village of Karakaj near Zvornik has two claims to fame: it lies near the border-crossing through which one enters the marvellous world of Republika Srpska; it is also the place where one can leave this world behind. On 23 and 24 September many citizens of FRY had crossed this and other border-crossings in order to attend, at Sarajevo's Kosevo football stadium, a rock spectacle such as has not been seen in these parts since the Rolling Stones' prewar visit to Zagreb: the concert of the Irish mega-stars U2. It was not difficult to reach Sarajevo; it was quite easy being there, even for those afflicted with a Belgrade drawl; but the way back to the bosom of the mother country turned out to be quite traumatic. For, at the said crossing-point, the RS policemen extracted all passengers under the age of 30 from the Romanijatrans bus, for some appropriate pedagogical harassment.
Strahinja Maksimovic - a Tuzla-born inhabitant of Belgrade, somewhat older than 30, in his spare time a music critic for Radio Index - found himself among the young folk selected in this way. Four uniformed frontier guards took him to the prefabricated hut where Power was Exercised, and a pleasant conversation began. 'Where were you?' 'In Sarajevo.' 'What were you doing among the balije?' 'I went to a concert.' 'What concert?' 'U2.' 'Why didn't you go to a concert in Pale, instead of giving your money to Alija?' (No answer possible.) 'So you were born in Tuzla? Where were you during the war, why didn't you defend Republika Srps- ka?' 'I've been a citizen of Serbia for a long time now, and in any case Tuzla was never part of RS.' 'Don't provoke me into hitting you.' (No comment.) 'Out with you and never let me see you in Srpska again!'
The exit of the unsuitable citizen from the office for the Exercise of Power was accompanied by a powerful kick from the policeman's boot into the citizen's backside, so that he would not forget his temporary stay in the forest realm. Deana Maksimovic, a journalist from the magazine X-Zabava, was next to be led into the office, and after her other selected targets, all of whom underwent similar (mal)treatment from the uniformed devotees of the Zvornik concert scene. They twisted the arms of a Radio Index journalist and several other young men in a vain quest for needle-marks, convinced as they were that only drug addicts would go to the terrible Muslim Fundamentalist state in order to listen to decadent Western screeching. There were examples of other original methods not normally found in the police manuals, such as using passports to smack cheeks or throwing them in the faces of their treacherous, a-national owners. After forty-five minutes of free instruction in Serbdom, just when everyone thought it was all over there was a new scandal: the policemen, their faces like those of children watching their first Halloween entertainment, were horrified to discover that passenger Maksimovic had in his possession such papers as Dnevni Avaz, Oslobodjenje, Vecernje novine: personally edited, as every child in RS knows, by Ayatollah Khomeini working from the grave. First the papers were taken away with appropriate curses, then they were generously returned in a crumpled state, thrown at their owner's feet in the hope that he would bend down to the level of the police boot - the same one so fond of contact with the rear end of the human body.
As the bus trundled back down the road towards the Capital of Serbdom, the surviving passengers were finally able listen to a radio pot-pourri of patriotic songs and jokes, which they accompanied with the usual lament: 'God Almighty, wherever are we living?!'. But the answer is simple: just where we deserve. This bizarre introduction to the twilight zone of Republika Srpska was doubtless nothing but a mirror image of our own future. A land in which every third person votes for people for whom RS represents an ideal state and an ideological consolation will soon experience for itself what such a place is like. Those who have already experienced it know: it is painful.
Vreme (Belgrade), 2 October 1997