Latinka Perovic honoured on her 75th Birthday

Author: Bojan Toncic
Uploaded: Tuesday, 11 November, 2008

Report translated from the Belgrade-based e-novine website that highlights the pre-eminent role that Latinka Perovic has come to play for the critical, democratic opposition in Serbia

On Friday 7 November in Belgrade, the historian and long-term political activist celebrated her 75th birthday, in the presence of numerous NGO representatives and other public figures, with a promotion of the book Snaga lične odgovornosti [The Power of Personal Responsibility] organised by the publisher, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia. In addition to an extensive interview with Latinka Perović conducted by the historian Olivera Milosavljević, the book also includes a number of texts written by eminent Serbian historians and sociologists.

‘Latinka Perović has achieved something normally unattainable: to become not only the hero of a drama, but also its author. To change position and return [from active politics] to academic work and concentrated rethinking is something that only Latinka Perović has done’, declared the director of the Centre for Cultural Decontamination, Borka Pavićević. The parliamentary deputy and professor at the faculty of philosophy, Žarko Korać, stressed that ‘Latinka Perović is exceptional in the attention she pays to the victims of political conflict in Serbia’s modern history’. He added: ‘The creators of our history have found their protector in the works of someone who has been excommunicated from public life. Like a modern Gogol, she wished to give them their rightful place in our historiography. The work is noble but also hard; it can be accomplished only by someone who has herself experienced political ostracism. As a result, the sincerity and authenticity that imbue her work transform her texts into political biographies which, though written critically and analytically, border upon literature.’ According to the president of the Helsinki Committee, Sonja Biserko, Latinka Perović has invested ‘much labour and effort into the interpretation, understanding and broadening of Serbian reality... This has brought her an authority that few would contest. Though deliberately forced into a marginal position, she has developed a deep understanding of the trends that have decided Serbia’s orientation. She understood where Serbia’s future lay in the 1970s, and understood too the key role that Serbia played in Yugoslavia’s violent break-up. Her primary aim has always been the democratisation and modernisation of Serbian society, and she identified Serbia’s territorial expansionism as a reflection of its inability to fulfil these aims. Latinka Perović’s research has great relevance for the present day, and remains obligatory for all who wish to understand Serbian history and politics.’

Latinka Perović said in response that ‘the conflict between the old and the new is never an easy one’, and referred to international historians who ‘have helped our international friends to understand this and to help us; or, if we remain indifferent, to give up on us’. ‘I thank my Albanian, Croatian and Macedonian colleagues and friends, as well as those in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who came to say that they believed in Belgrade and another Serbia, a country for which so many people worked before us and for which, I trust, people will work in the future, depending on what we do for them today.’ She added: ‘It is most necessary, I think, to invest in the revival of Serbian society, if it still exists. I think that it does, that there exist oases which, though disconnected, are nevertheless felt by the oppressive mode of thought, prompting it to destroy journals, remove editors, seize the media and scientific institutions.’

Dr Latinka Perović was born in 1933 at Kragujevac, Serbia. A graduate of the Belgrade university faculty of philosophy, she gained her doctorate at the faculty of political science. She was secretary of the League of Communists of Serbia between 1969 and 1972, when she was purged - together with Marko Nikezić and other political collaborators - on the charge of ‘liberalism’. Between 1975 and 1998 she worked at the Institute for the Workers’ Movement, subsequently renamed the Institute for Modern Serbian History, and since 1993 has been editor-in-chief of the Institute’s journal Tokovi historije [Historical Currents]. She is editor of the imprint Srbija u modernizacijskim procesima 19. i 20. veka [Serbia in the Modernising Processes of the 19th and 20th Centuries]; also of the CID, Podgorica, imprint Korijeni [Roots]. Her particular interest is Serbian history of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as modern Russian history. She has written numerous monographic books, essays and scientific articles. Her book Između anarhije i autokratije [Between Anarchy and Autocracy] shows well her scientific and ethical credo. Here she analyses the process of Serbia’s modernisation, and the patriarchal responses to the challenges raised by it, paying special attention to the ideology of narodnjaštvo [village-based populism] and its liberal alternative, to the role of the intellectual elite in social and political development, and to violence as a constant in Serbia’s modern history.

Translated from the Belgrade-based website, 7 November 2008

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