The Moljevic Memorandum
by Dragoljub Todorovic
Following a prolonged campaign, at times open and at others clandestine, waged by supporters of the World War II Chetnik movement, the Serbian parliament has finally adopted a law equalising the rights of members of the Chetnik formations in 1941-5 with those of Partisan fighters from the same period. This act formally acknowledged the Chetnik movement as an anti-fascist force. The adoption of the law, however, does not remove serious doubts in regard to Chetnik anti-fascism, based on their collaboration with the occupying Axis armies during much of the war.
For example, there is Stanislav Krakov’s monographic text General Milan Nedić, which shows the significant logistic and other forms of support extended by the German military to Draža Mihailović’s Chetnik formations via General Nedić’s government, with the aim of destroying the Communists and ending Partisan resistance. Krakov was neither a Partisan nor a Communist, but Nedić’s nephew and a high official in his government. A proof of the accuracy of Krakov’s account is the widely known and verified fact of the Chetniks’ avoidance of conflict with the invaders during much of the war, on the grounds that this would save the Serb population from German reprisals. There remain many murky and - from a historical and scholarly point of view - contentious questions regarding the Chetnik movement. What is certain is that it had an openly nationalist character, driven by an ambition to right the injustices under which, in the popular Serb view, the Serb people had suffered since the end of World War I and the formation of Yugoslavia under the Serbian Karađorđević dynasty.
It is in this context that one should study the tendency on the part of Croats and Muslims during the recent war of 1991-5 to identify as Chetniks all members of the Serb forces without exception. Followers of the World War II Chetniks in Serbia, meanwhile, insist that their ideology, programme, basic positions and war aims had nothing to do with these new Chetniks or the recent war in the former Yugoslavia. They argue that those who inspired, organised and took part in the latter were the former Partisan commissar Dobrica Ćosić, the former Communist party official Slobodan Milošević, the doctoral laureate on the Marxist conception of defensive war Vojislav Š ešelj, the high officer of the Communist JNA Ratko Mladić, and the son of a JNA air-force colonel Željko Ražnjatović Arkan. This argument is only partly correct: it is incomplete, obfuscating, and misrepresents the 1991-5 war. For it is obvious and unquestionable that the latter was started on behalf of a Great Serbia whose western border would run along the Karlobag-Ogulin-Virovitica line.
The main Chetnik ideologue and Mihailović’s most trusted confidant, whose exposition was adopted formally at the St Sava Congress held on 27 January 1944 at the village of Ba as the main congress resolution, was the lawyer Stevan Moljević from Banja Luka, who on 30 June 1941 had published a booklet with the title On Our State and Its Borders. This was Moljević’s notorious project for a future Yugoslav state arranged on a federal basis, and composed of three federal units: Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. The Serbian unit was to include the whole of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a large part of Croatia (including Dubrovnik, Metković, Ploče, Š ibenik, Zadar, Karlovac, Osijek, Vinkovci and Vukovar), all of Macedonia, northern Albania and parts of Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Moljević wrote in his booklet: ‘The Serbs are today faced with a primary and fundamental duty: to create and organise a homogeneous Serbia that is to embrace all Serb ethnic areas; and to secure for this the necessary strategic and communication lines and crossings, as well as economic areas, in order to guarantee it a free and inviolable economic, political and cultural life and development for all times. Serbs must fulfil their historic mission - which they can do, however, only by being brought together in a homogeneous Serbia within Yugoslavia, which they will imbue with their spirit and impress with their stamp. Serbs must have hegemony in the Balkans, but in order to gain hegemony in the Balkans they must first exercise hegemony in Yugoslavia.’
Moljević published his work in mid 1941, i.e. when Yugoslavia was under occupation and after its army had capitulated, and when Hitler was at the height of his power. Moljević assessed the circumstances in the following manner: ‘One must take the opportunity of the war conditions and at a suitable moment take hold of the territory marked on the map, cleanse it before anybody notices and with strong battalions occupy the key places: Osijek, Vinkovci, Slavonski Brod, Knin, Š ibenik, Mostar, Metković and the territory surrounding these cities, freed of non-Serb elements. The guilty must be promptly punished and the others deported - the Croats to Croatia, the Muslims to Turkey or perhaps Albania - while the vacated territory is settled with Serb refugees now located in Serbia.’
Throughout the war Stevan Moljević remained the main advocate and official interpreter of the war aims and national goals of the Chetnik movement, and of the Chetnik vision of the postwar state. At the start of 1944 he took part in the work of the preparatory council for the Congress, during which time he came into conflict with Živko Topalović, who argued that Bosnia should be a fourth federal unit, and that after the war a referendum should be conducted on its form of government (whether monarchy or republic). Topalović also argued that the Congress should be attended by members of [prewar Serbian] political parties as well as the [Chetnik] Ravna Gora movement, whereas Moljević insisted that it should be limited to the Ravna Gora people. Moljević rejected the suggestion of Slobodan Jovanović, prime minister in the Yugoslav government-in-exile, that the Congress should adopt a Yugoslav orientation, and went so far as to demand the severing of relations with the government-in-exile.
Draža Mihailović sided with Moljević, which is why the latter made the key speech at the Ba Congress, subsequently distilled into the congress resolution. Moljević became president of the executive council of the Central National Committee, and Draža Mihailović.’s chief adviser. This ended all influence on the part of his opponents Dragiša Vasić and Živko Topalović on the Chetnik movement. A paper was launched called United Serbdom, in which Moljević wrote the programmatic texts. It was Moljević, obsessed with the idea of Serb unification, who chose the paper’s name. To sum up: Moljević’s project for a Great Serbia, drafted in 1941, was adopted in full by the Chetnik congress in the village of Ba on 27 January 1944.
The SANU memorandum of 1986 accepted all of Stevan Moljević’s ideas, which at the congress in the village of Ba had become the official position of the Chetnik movement regarding the final solution of the Serb national question, with the difference that the Memorandum borders for Great Serbia did not include non-Yugoslav territory. As the Serb armies lost wars the borders of Great Serbia retracted, until today when they describe the extent of an enlarged Belgrade pashalik. Serbs went to war armed with the Chetnik project as the solution for the status of the Serb people in Yugoslavia, which - in a somewhat reduced and modified form, expressed in Aesopic language, and embellished with more modern rhetoric - had to all practical purposes been revived in the SANU Memorandum of 1986.
1. Serb fighters in both the so-called Republika Srpska and the so-called Republika Srpska Krajina, as well as the volunteers from Serbia who joined them, openly proclaimed themselves to be Serb Chetniks.
2. They wore Chetnik-style beards, fur caps and insignia, and carried the old Chetnik black flags inscribed with ‘Unity or Death’ or ‘For King and Homeland.’.
3. They observed Chetnik festivities and hailed Draža Mihailović and other Chetnik commanders.
4. They gained ranks, titles, medals, money and every other kind of support from surviving Chetnik warlords from World War II, such as Momčilo Đujić.
5. Like the Chetniks in the previous war, they - along with priests, bishops, metropolitans and the patriarch himself - offended and demeaned the Orthodox faith and the religious feelings of true believers, whom they manipulated for political purposes. War criminals, killers of civilians, executioners of women and children, arsonists, bullies, destroyers of the churches and holy places of other faiths - all enjoyed the full support of high prelates of the [Serb Orthodox] Church, who allowed them to come into their churches, blessed them and thanked God for their crimes committed against members of other faiths.
6. Exploiting Serb history and historical personalities, they created and promoted myths, legends, epic poems and lies as true and real historical events and personalities, and manipulated them for political purposes and for the realisation of their war aims, fanning and inciting war and racial, confessional and national conflict and intolerance.
7. Like the old Chetniks, they sanctified the Cyrillic script, the old Serbian anthem Bože Pravde [God of Justice], and traditional Chetnik heraldry and symbolism. Thus, for example, in Republika Srpska they wrote city acronyms on car registration plates in the Cyrillic script, as opposed to the EU standard Latin letters. They also tried to eradicate the established Bosnian ijekavski language, by ordering the exclusive use of Serbian ekavica.
8. The Church hierarchy - personified in the bishops, the synod and the assembly - openly declared itself against marriage between members of the Orthodox faith and those of other confessions. The Sarajevo metropolitan Nikolaj and the bishop of Tuzla Vaslije Kačavenda were particularly militant in this regard.
9. The significant likeness between the old and the new Chetniks is manifested in the fact that the commanders of lower army units behave like autonomous individuals, who in their arrogance appear not to be controlled by the high command, particularly when it comes to killing civilians, raping women, torching houses and destroying places of worship.
10. Both the original and the derived Chetniks favour the same technique for killing people - throat cutting. Milan Lukić, one of the most active and brutal killers in the 1991-5 war, used to revel in cutting the throats of perfectly innocent people.
11. Serb fighters for a Great Serbia in 1991-5 inherited the complete Chetnik folklore, imitated their rhetoric, took over their symbolism and dress, and generally imitated them in every way.
12. On 22 October 1992 a group of 9 or 10 members of the RS army led by Milan Lukić at Mioče near Sjeverin stopped a bus on the Rudo-Sjeverin-Priboj route and dragged 16 Muslim passengers from it. They threw them into a canvas-covered truck and took them to Višegrad. The whole of the Serb part of Višegrad welcomed them at the city centre. They proceeded to torture them in full daylight and in the presence of numerous Višegrad citizens at the reception entrance of the nearby hotel Vilina vlas, after which they shot them - also in public - on the bank of the river Drina. Those who were not shot dead had their throats cut by Lukić. The corpses were thrown into the river. On the way to Višegrad, the kidnappers forced their victims to sing: ‘I’m a Chetnik proud and wild/Alija [Izetbegović], I fuck your child.’
13. On 23 February 1993 a group of some twenty armed RS soldiers, headed once again by Milan Lukić, at the station of Š trpci stopped the train travelling from Bar to Belgrade and took off it 19 Muslim passengers. On entering the train they greeted the Serb passengers (soldiers, policemen and civilians) with: ‘Hi, brother Chetniks! Tell the Muslims that they need passes to cross our territory.’ When inspecting the passengers’ documents, they introduced themselves as Chetniks. The kidnapped Muslims were first tortured, then robbed and finally murdered. Lukić cut the throats of two wounded Muslims. During the torture the kidnapped Muslims were forced to kiss the cross; given [Serbified] names derived from their own, and so on.
The foregoing shows conclusively that the Chetnik movement defeated in World War II experienced a near complete reincarnation in practically all its aspects (ideology, aims, behaviour, symbols, folklore, even the name) during the wars waged in 1991-5 on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The correspondence between the new and the old Chetniks was observed down to the smallest detail.
Advocates of rehabilitating and re-affirming the role of the Chetniks in World War II must view their efforts in this direction in the context of the phenomenon of the resurrected Chetnik movement during the latest wars.
Translated from Helsinška povelja, Belgrade, no. 85-86, July-August 2005.