bosnia report
New Series No: 19/20 October - December 2000
Serbian liberals play same old tune - I
by Milka Tadic-Mijovic

Liberals play same old tune - I

Milka Tadic-Mijovic

‘It would be good for Montenegro to gain not one but eight seats in the UN, one each for its tribes, in accordance with the country’s planetary importance’, was the ‘half-joking’ comment recently made by Serbian writer Mileta Prodanovic. By jeering at Montenegro’s planetary insignificance, Prodanovicwished to stress, of course, Serbia’s own planetary importance. This is a pale echo of the message that his colleague Momo Kapor sent to the Slovenes back in the early 1990s, warning them that they would go hungry while Serbia would be another Switzerland.

Prodanovic is a representative of the ‘other Serbia’, i.e. those who fought against the dictator. So the question is why those people fought; was it because he had lost wars and failed to conquer territories, or because he had initiated them and committed crimes. As things stand it seems that the nationally-minded Serbian opposition got rid of Miloševic in the hope of rectifying his failures. It is not at all coincidental that Miloševic’s road to power was accompanied by the parading of Prince Lazar’s bones, while Koštunica’s enthronement involved those of the poet Jovan Ducic. The obsession with the past and one’s own greatness has remained, with the difference that prose has been replaced by poetry. Serbia can no longer resort to wars of conquest, but it will do what it can to fulfil its imperialist dreams by at least securing Montenegro.

One should recall that the electoral campaign was not conducted under the banner of condemnation of the prior policy of chauvinism, a demand that war criminals should be brought to justice, the need for a dialogue with neighbours, or creation of a multi-ethnic Serbia. DOS and their supporters condemn Miloševic for what he has done to the Serbs, not for the crimes committed against others. That the spirit of Miloševic still hovers over Serbia is illustrated by Koštunica’s statements, such as that The Hague was the last of his priorities or that everyone has committed crimes.

Miloševic is politically-speaking dead, but the victors have taken up the defence of all his system’s institutions, including the federal state and government. Those who do not share this enthusiasm are made the target of attacks. ‘Djukanovic Assailed by Critics’, ‘Miloševic’s Fall Makes Montenegrin President Nervous and Insecure’, ‘Germans Critical of Djukanovic’, ‘The Symbolism of Djukanovic’s Collar’, were typical headlines in the Belgrade press the day after DPS announced that it would not enter the federal government. This combative criticism comes from Djukanovic’s old friends - the Serbian independent media. The real problem, however, is not Djukanovic but Montenegro’s growing demands for independence, which Belgrade treats in the same way it treated similar demands by the other former Yugoslav republics at the start of the 1990s. In the post-revolutionary Serbian press, the methods of the ‘anti-bureaucratic revolution’ have enjoyed a renaissance.

Serbia, of course, is once again a victim. Nataša Odalovic, columnist in the liberal Danas, writes: ‘The people of Serbia, wounded and bled white, no longer have the patience to tolerate the provocations and intolerance coming from those who are under no threat whatsoever. Whatever Djukanovic wishes to do, and in which the population of Montenegro supports him, is fine by us, but let him do it now.’ This angry riposte was inspired by the cool treatment which the new Serbian saviour Koštunica had received from the Montenegrin authorities on his visit to Podgorica, and by their refusal to join the federal government. Odalovic writes: ’No one can deny that Miloševic decided the electoral rules, but Serbia had no choice: it was either elections or the grave.’ What she forgets is that Montenegro too was faced with a choice - between boycott and the grave. Today as ever, the dominant Serbian political culture refuses to understand that for Montenegro its own interests come first, and these need not coincide with those of Serbia.

This is how Zoran Lucic, a member of the CESID management committee and a fighter against Miloševic, justified his view that there should be no referendum in Serbia in regard to its future relations with Montenegro: ‘Serbia is the central land which draws to itself all the satellites in its vicinity.’

The Serbian media war against Montenegro conducted under the auspices of the new government is in its nature and aims no different from that of the Milosevic era. It is as anti-Montenegrin, offensive, cynical and aggressive as the old one. The only difference is that its most fervent protagonists are the former opposition media and their editors, including those who during the height of Miloševic’s terror found refuge in Montenegro for themselves and their firms.

Danas writes in one editorial: ‘The new Yugoslav president Vojislav Koštunica has offered his hand. He has visited Montenegro. And whereas throughout Europe statesmen and politicians of the highest rank have waited to meet him, he was met at Podgorica airport by the deputy prime minister, who is not even a member of DPS. Koštunica’s statement was peaceful, conciliatory, not excluding any possibility. Djukanovic, by contrast, was resolute: Montenegro will not join the federal government. The official Montenegro which used to be against Miloševic is now turning itself into a wall.’ This comment led to the resignation of Danas editor Veseljko Koprivica. ‘The paper which used to take the lead in asserting the ideal of an open society in the struggle against Miloševic has become, to judge by this editorial, an instrument of attack on Montenegro, including by recourse to the language of hatred that has brought such calamity to the peoples in this area.’, he wrote in his letter of resignation - which the paper refused to publish.

Milka Tadic-Mijovic is editor of Monitor

Monitor (Podgorica), 27 October 2000


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