Extremists and self-isolation: the case of the daily rallies in Trg Republike, Belgrade.

It’s been more than two weeks now since I arrived in Belgrade. This is my sixt trip to Belgrade, which makes Belgrade the city I know best other than my home city Lisbon.

When I am in Belgrade I try as much as possible to live like the belgraders do. I stay at my friend Jelena Markovic, I go to the market and to the supermarket, I watch TV, read the newspaper, go to the caffee, take the bus, have family dinners (Jelena’s family adopted me, and Jelena’s mother is a fantastic cook), hang around with friends.

The only differences between my life in Lisbon and my life in Belgrade is that my husband stays in Lisbon when I come to Belgrade and that the car stays with him, so I don’t drive in Belgrade.

Not driving in Belgrade, I failed to grasp to which extent the daily rally in support of Radovan Karadzic is disrupting the routine of Belgrade citizens. That is, until yesterday…

Yesterday, about 6h p.m. as I was walking to the centre, I was surprised to see that Terazije, Belgrade’s main square, was blocked to traffic. Although I already knew about this, I haden’t yet realized what it meant to be stuck in traffic because a few dozens of people decide to make a marca during rush hour, to protest against the fact that their government, the serbian government, arrested and extradited war-crimes indictee Radovan Karadzic, something that the government was legaly bounded to do.

The rally is organized by the extremist nationalist movement 1389. Besides the daily meeting in Trg Republike, the 1389 members ‘visit’ anti-nationalist organizations, that they identify as traitors to the nation, in order to intimidate them. Last week, they visited the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, where they daubed a swastica. Some time before, they had also been at the Humanitarian Law Fund, I was informed, and I also saw on a website the photos that they took themselves of their visit to NUNS, the serbian independent association of journalists.

The traffic on Terazije was cut by the police itself, who escourted the ‘crowd’ of no more than a hundred people (I counted them myself) until Republic Square. Then, when the ‘croud’ arrived, the Soviet Union Russian anthem was played. There were participants waving the flags of Venezuela and Cuba. All of this took at least 40 minutes, if not more.

My point then is: why is it that 1389 is treated by the competent autorities as a legitimate organization? Why is it authorized to daily disrupt the routine of the heart of Belgrade in order to protest against the arrest and extradition of Karadzic, something which, it’s important to stress this, the serbian government is legally bounded to do.

Not only the rallies, which fail to attract more than one hundred participants, disrupt the routine of the city, but, above all, serve as a legal cover to acts of harrassement and intimidation against persons and organization who promote Human Rights and Democracy.

I have posted on this blog that a neo-nazi rally had been called to be held in Belgrade this saturday (11 October). Well, the rally was not authorized. That is good news.

However, the fact is that, every day, a fascist rally is held in Belgrade. It is so because it is allowed. They are allowed because they fulfil a useful function. When they ‘visit’ civic-minded organizations, they are ‘confirming’  the idea that civic minded organizations and people are really the mirror of neo-nazis and extremists nationalists. This then allows the ‘moderate’ sectors to comfortably denounce the civic-minded organizations activities as extremists and to discredit their perspective. It is important to stress that this serves the interests not only of the conservative elites, but also a part of the pro-european elite.

In fact, this is the measure of the degree of self-isolation in which the serbian elite lives. A substantial part of the political elite of the pro-european sector supports the idea that there is no need for confrontation with the past. For them the problem is not that problems exist, but that they become visible when someone decides to talk about them.

This becomes particularly clear when attacks such as the recent campaign against Sonja Biserko, which Marko Hoare analizes here, fail to provoke a strong reaction within the pro-european ranks.

Final remark:

for those who claim that 1389 has nothing to do with neo-nazis, i would be glad to show them the photos of skin-heads in their rallies, photos that I took myself. I just don’t publish them because I think there are limits to bad taste and don’t want my blog to look repelent.


Filed under Belgrade, Serbia

43 responses to “Extremists and self-isolation: the case of the daily rallies in Trg Republike, Belgrade.

  1. Ivan

    Hi Sarah,

    I honestly feel that you and your friend Marko really need to keep a much more open mind, if you feel that more people should support your beliefs in the future. The fact that Marko twists the truth, loops around with his answers, and holds bias beliefs on only one particular group while giving everybody else the benefit of the doubt, proves that he and even you are far away from being humanitarians. Considering that nobody in the Balkans has a clean record on both the past and the present, I find it hard to understand how people like yourself is also not fighting for humane right in places such as Turkey. I am also suprised how a person like yourself is not critizing people such as Albanians who did quite a damage on many occasions throughout history, including the war in Macedonia 2001, something that they clearly started.

    More issues and tensions are going to follow in Europe, especially Western Europe with their minority groups. Do you care that these Arab minority groups, for example, have a rich history of being clear victims of English and French colonization and abuse. How come people like yourself never pay attention on something like that, but instead in your dillisional world the only place and people that have issues are the Serbs. Go figure………………

  2. Owen

    How come people like Ivan always find a reason for looking anywhere else but in Belgrade? He seems to have found his own loop away from what you had to say.

    Sarah, Ivan is clearly one of those educated, intelligent Serbs that I’m sure you have come across, like I have, who always insist that outsiders have no business being concerned that after genocide took place in Europe and the worst massacre on European soil since World War II, their government and their society supported and sheltered and continues to support and shelter the perpetrators.

    We know very well that Serbs are not the only place and people that have issues but we know – as he obviously does – that Serbs have a very major issue. Fortunately we also know that there are many Serbs who understand that issue and don’t try to pretend that it doesn’t exist. Thanks to their courage and persistence even Ivan will eventually have to come back from his loop.

  3. Sarah Franco


    I am a political scientist and I am free to choose whatever topic I want to analyse and I don’t have to justify why am I studying Serbia and not Turkey or other place in the world, neither am I obliged to display my commitment to anti-colonialism.

    However, in case you want to know why am I writing about Serbia and not Turkey or Albania, you can read my post “Why Serbia”.

    As for Marko Hoare twisting the truth, I think I know very well how to evaluate the credibility of the sources I use.

    Owen, this is a classic… but I have find much more sofisticated arguments than those that Ivan presents.

    I don’t know whether Serbia will come out of its culture of denial any time soon, what I do know is that its ability to harm its neighbours is being reduced everyday. The recognition of Kosova by Montenegro and Macedonia is but another example. That’s good news. In the end, the serbian citizens are the ones who will have to push for change or keep living in isolation. But the rest of the region needs to move on and stop being set back by Serbia’s policies. I support the integration of Serbia in the euro-atlantic space, but not at the expense of its neighbours.

  4. Ivan

    Hello Sarah,

    As a young kid I used to get buzz cuts from time to time. It made my hair roots thicker and fuller. It sure did not label me as a Nazi. As a high school kid growing up in the US, our homecoming high school football game was always a big deal. It was a tradition for the football players to get thin buzz cuts; some even got Mohawk cuts a day or so before the big game. Hey it was just tradition, and nobody labeled us as Nazis just because what we looked life. Military men all over the world have buzz cuts, similar to skin head type, however that does not make them Nazis just because of their appearance. Somebody who thinks like that has very poor judgment.

    As for a sophisticated argument here is one. Kosovo’s independence will cause a dismantlement of a puzzle. With Kosovo independence, nationalism within Albanians in Macedonia will raise high again. This will increase the tensions, and increase the possibility of another war in Macedonia. War which Albanian nationalists will start again! What about Albanians hurting its neighbors???????????????? How come you overlook that?

    Also with the problems in Macedonia, it will lead to increase tensions between the local Greeks and the fairly fast growing Albanian population in Greece. Tensions will quite possibly spill into Greece sooner or later. Something like that will get Turks involved. If the Turks get involved, other countries supporting the Greeks will get involved. Then other countries supporting the Turks will get involved and then all hell will break loose.

    Given the circumstances that the Arab/Muslim population is also growing, throughout Western Europe, at a fairly fast pace and the western Europeans are far away from appreciating it, we could be looking at a major war at two major fronts in the future. Bear in mind that WWI started due to a conflict in the Balkans and then spread. In the long run if Kosovo was meant to be independent it happened too soon. Independence should have waited until (hopefully) tensions died down. Now the future of the whole region and some extend the whole Europe looks uncertain….But anyhow, it is important to note that throughout the history of Europe over the course of the last two thousand years, Europe was always at war, always in civil conflicts, and the borders in Europe always changed. If the same tradition follows in Europe, from one century to another, why should the current time period be any different than before?

    On another topic related to Marko Hoare, I also feel that I know how to evaluate the credibility of the sources I use. And here is my opinion, for starters Marko is a bias individual who picks his battles and selectively pick his points. As an example unlike the Serbs in which he constantly labels them as racists and fascists, the rest of the groups that he discusses all get the benefit of the doubt.

    As an example, my personal favorite is his discussion on the Kurds in Turkey. He ignores the racist issues that involve the Turks over the Kurds, nor does he call Turks racist or fascists despite the fact that there is more than enough evidence to support that theory. To top even that off, he has the nerve to analyze an alternative reason on why it would be for the best for the Kurds to remain under Turkish rule. To add even more to the insult, he fails to mention that the key reason why Kurds don’t have their own country is because of English interference in the 1950’s/60’s, in which they re-constructed the borders in order to ensure major conflict in the region today.

    To even add more to the insult, despite the fact the Marko Hoare is very careful not to say anything against his own people (the English), he on the other hand is more than happy to write articles in which he uses words such a Muslim Fascists/Terrorist in order to describe the Islamic groups that carry on terrorist attacks on Western Europe. The irony to that is that once again he does not even make a note of it that the key reason why there is so much hate on Western Europe. Let alone why there are terrorism attacks against places such as England and France is mainly due to the hash abusive treatment that the English/French put Muslim groups through in regions of North Africa and the Middle East. Both of those regions were kept under enslavement of England and France throughout the course of 19th/20th century.

    Throughout my travels, I meet people in both England and France, who will jump up and down like little brats expressing their hate for the Arabs that are living in their country. However they ignore and even refuse to discuss the actions that their countries took in those regions throughout the past.

    To continue, Marko’s article “Fascism and the Hatred of Women” also is written through loop hopes. For example if those Serbian Hooligans (Movement 1389) are Nazis then you (Sarah) better bring it to their attention, since they are under the impression that Sonja Biserko and her associates are the ones that are the Nazis and criminals to the Serbian people. Or at least that’s what the article with the swastika photo states. When those Serb Hooligans placed that Swastika signs on Biserko’s window they did that as a derogatory way to insult her and her associates and label them Nazi/Fascist. It wasn’t in order to label themselves that. Same as the German Groups did not label themselves as Jewish, when they were spray painting the ‘Star of David’ symbols in 1938 on Jewish businesses windows/doors.

    To add even more humor of Marko Hoare’s writings, in another article a link that he provides he uses a quote from former footballer Dusan Savic which states “The former Serbian footballer Dusan Savic recently accused Sonja of having been given ‘the task from Washington and Brussels’ of ‘destroying the Serb identity’ and ‘killing the Serb nation’”. But the irony of this is that he overlooks to translate that the article is called “Sonja Biserko is a Fascist!” Nor does he mention that the first paragraph in the article also has a statement from Savic that “Sonja Biserko is Fascist”. This is something that Marko clearly overlooked to translate, then again if he did play fair, his blog article would not have been convincing enough for English speaking readers.

    One of your famous quotes from you Sarah is Serbs “forget the content but keep the ideology”. If that statement is true, then how is Marko any different? Better yet how are you any different since you support Marko???? And that’s that.

  5. Sarah Franco

    Not a Slave:

    The content of your comments are clearly offensive and I will therefore erase them.

  6. Not A Slave

    What a delicate intellectual milieu you inhabit, Ms. Franco.

  7. Slavonic

    “But the rest of the region needs to move on and stop being set back by Serbia’s policies.”

    That’s it. Blame everything on the Serbs.

    What crap.

  8. Typical Serb-nationalist rhetoric; any criticism of the fascist/racist/ultra-nationalist elements within Serb society are twisted into an attack on all Serbs. The collectivist mentality of Serbian ultra-nationalism can only conceive of people as members of clearly defined groups, therefore they cannot understand that one can criticize certain elements within Serbian society without “hating the Serbs” or other such gross generalizations.

    And yes, Slavonic, the rest of the region does need to move on. The history of the modern Serb state in the region is a history of aggression and interference. Serbs need to take charge of their own state and their society, and take power away from the nationalist elements which seek to forever blame the outside world for problems of their own making and atrocities committed by their own hands.

  9. Sarah Franco

    Kirk, this is just the usual stuff…

    Anyway, the fact that I have decided to have comments on this blog and not to activate moderation before publication does not oblige me to allow my blog to be the veicule for ad hominen attacks and hate speech. Whoever wants to have his comments published will have to respect the rule written on the top right of this blog.

    This space is mine and not only I have the right to define the rules but above all I have the responsibility to keep a certain standard.

  10. hasan prishtina

    “With Kosovo independence, nationalism within Albanians in Macedonia will raise high again.”

    Ivan might like to reflect on why nationalism is much rarer in Albania than in Kosova. He might start with the thought that in Albania, Albanians have not been victimized for 95 years on the basis of race and have not had to struggle for the most basic of human rights…Anyway, Kosova has been independent for eight months now. Most of the foreign governments with observers there comment on the maturity of Kosova’s behaviour. No sign of destabilization of anyone.

    Anyone can spin war fantasies but real destabilization is what happens to Kosova; look at the courthouse in northern Mitrovica. And now the diplomatic offensive against Montenegro. And yes, if Serbia is unwilling, it’s time for the rest of the region to get on with normal life.

    Marko never criticizes Britain? Nonsense.

  11. Slavonic

    What a great blog. All criticisms go unanswered (eg. Ivan) and others are deleted. So all we are left with is “high-fives” between Sarah and Kirk. Alot we will learn from this in the name of “certain standards”.

  12. Sarah Franco

    Slavonic, yes, that’s it! I am not forced to reply to comments and this is not one of those ‘lovely’ forums where serb nationalists go to indulge in hatred with like minded people.

    As much as it displeases you, serb nationalism is being defeated, and even some of its main promoters, such as SPS, are giving a hand.

    And as much as it may displease you, serb nationalists don’t have rights of property or ownership over serb national identity. As soon as Serbia starts opening up, and it will do so because opening up is in the interest of the economic elite, as soon as this happens, people like you will increasingly find ourselves very lonely…

  13. Marko Attila Hoare

    ‘Ivan’ is Ivan Sokolov, a crank who lives in Hartford, Connecticut. I made the mistake of responding to an email he sent me, since which I have been receiving a stream of abusive emails full of racist comments about Muslims and Arabs. Among other things, Sokolov wrote:

    ‘I feel that the Orthodox people had every right to burn all the mosques they could throughout the 19th century.’

    So that is the kind of person who objects to our defence of Sonja.

    If a sixty-year-old Serbian woman and human-rights activist is physically harrassed by neo-Nazi thugs, then people like Sokolov have no problem with that. But if anyone should condemn the neo-Nazi thugs, then people like Sokolov will view it as an attack on all Serbs, and are concerned that the neo-Nazis are being unfairly and inaccurately presented.

    In other words, the Sokolovs believe that the neo-Nazis are the ‘true Serbs’ and the ones who need defending, and that their motives for attacking women should be sympathetically explained.

    I really can’t think of anything sicker than that.

    Sokolov claims that I do ‘not call Turks racist or fascists despite the fact that there is more than enough evidence to support that theory.’

    I have written on my blog:

    ‘Turkish democracy is not under attack only by the secular establishment, but by fascist terrorist elements – both from the ranks of the secular ultra-nationalists and from the ranks of the Islamists.’


    Sokolov accuses me:

    ‘Marko Hoare is very careful not to say anything against his own people (the English)’

    I have written on my blog:

    ‘Beginning in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the emergence of a modern nation-state of England, Britain and the United Kingdom and their evolution over hundreds of years involved the colonisation, dispossession and forcible assimilation of the Irish, as well as an almost unrivalled programme of imperial aggression and expansion overseas.’


    So what Sokolov has written about me is untrue.

    Funnily enough, though, no English person wrote to me to complain about this. I’ve never met any educated English person who’d waste his or her time writing to deny England’s historical crimes. Yet large numbers of ‘educated’ Serb nationalists appear to be obsessed with the need to deny or apologise for Serbian crimes. Which is indicative of just how far Serbian democracy still has to go before it heals itself of the national-chauvinist poison.

    Sokolov writes:

    ‘When those Serb Hooligans placed that [sic] Swastika signs on Biserko’s window they did that as a derogatory way to insult her and her associates and label them Nazi/Fascist. It wasn’t in order to label themselves that. Same as the German Groups did not [sic] label themselves as Jewish, when they were spray painting the ‘Star of David’ symbols in 1938 on Jewish businesses windows/doors.’

    He therefore admits that the people who attacked the Helsinki Committee’s office were equivalent to the Nazis in 1938. Which is funny, because he began by trying to deny that they were neo-Nazis.

    (NB for the record, I made no claim in my article as to precisely what excuses or motives the neo-Nazis had when they painted the swastika).

    Contrary to what Owen says above, Sokolov is neither educated nor intelligent:

    1) He doesn’t understand the difference between ‘England’ and ‘Britain’ – something that every schoolchild here knows (our prime minister is Scottish, by the way).

    2) Sokolov claims the ‘key reason why Kurds don’t have their own country is because of English interference in the 1950’s/60’s, in which they re-constructed the borders in order to ensure major conflict in the region today.’

    Yet the borders between the Kurds were drawn in the 1920s, not the 1950s or 60s, and the UK actually wanted to establish a Kurdish territory, but was prevented from doing so by Turkey’s repudiation of the Treaty of Sevres.


    3) Sokolov claims:

    ‘terrorism attacks [sic] against places such as England and France is [sic] mainly due to the hash [sic] abusive treatment that the English/French put Muslim groups through in regions of North Africa and the Middle East. Both of those regions were kept under enslavement of England and France throughout the course of 19th/20th century.’

    First of all, this is historically false. None of these regions was under British or French rule throughout the course of the 19th or 20th centuries. Egypt and Tunisia were not colonised by Britain and France until the 1880s; Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Palestine not until after World War I; Saudi Arabia (bin Laden’s country) never really was under European colonial rule; Iraq was only under British rule for about thirteen years; etc. etc. etc.

    Secondly, Hindu Indians and African Christians were under European colonial rule for much longer than Middle Eastern Muslims, yet they aren’t producing the anti-Western terrorist movements today. While the US, which didn’t rule over Muslim Middle Eastern colonies, is viewed as the principal enemy by al-Qaeda.

    Which all goes to show that Sokolov’s theory about Islamic terrorism is as ill-informed as the rest of his opinions.

  14. Sarah Franco

    Marko, thank you for the reply.

    I don’t intend to allow my comment box to become a place where people are allowed to attack others.

    Still, I thought the comment should not be erased, despite its offensive content, because the comment it is self-revealing. You link me on a post and I get a ‘warning’ that I am associating myself with the ‘wrong people’.

    This is not the first time something like that happens, and for me such ‘warnings’ and that only confirms my feeling that I am on the right track.

  15. Sarah Franco

    …and by the way, the reader signing ‘Slavonic’ is using the same IP as the reader whose comments I have erased, who signed ‘Not a Slave’.

    It is possible that it is not the same person, but highly unlikely.

  16. jelenamarkovic

    given the fact that there is some discussion about your posts, sarah, quite some discussion, i mean, proves that what you write matters. that you go to the point, to the core.
    i wouldn´t have things to fill in, but am way too amused by persons like ivan, who for some reason unknown to me ask “why that topic?” people, i mean, “why that topic”, right? then he offers a whole paragraphs of topics to write about on blogs, recomending that the issue of serbia is to be left alone. in my mind, i laugh… situations like this always make me wonder where have people like ivan lost their basic common sense. why would his concern be who chose a certain topic, instead one of all possible topics that he, ivan, offers as important? He would find significant answers if he really wanted to know why that topic is chosen to be analysed by many, instead who chose it. why, not who. because something hapened in serbia, and now it is the historic truth. and everybody has the right to know it, and to research upon it. because serbian example of recent genocide over bosnians, ethnic cleansing over albanians, and other atrocities of serbian paramilitaries has to be scientifically researched and overviewed by worldwide experts, so that we and generations to come learn something from it! what a question: why do you chose the topic of serbia? well, not chosing it would be a crime against researching, against scientific, historic truth! bringing sarah´s choice of a case studdy into question only means cheering to ignorance and silence.

  17. max

    Sarah, that does not surprise at all 🙂 I think we all had guessed that out!! 🙂

  18. Sarah Franco

    Yes, Max, it comes with the business…

    tonight I was travelling by train from Belgrade to Zagreb, and a man that travelled in the same compartment decided that, as a good host, he should explain me what it means to be a Serb, and how Serbs are endangered by all kinds of threats, such as the internet that is corrupting the youth, albanian babies, gay people, the americans… but still the serbs manage to stay pure and resist.

    so, having spent many hours in trains and buses with average serbs I pretty much grasp this kind of mentality.

    these people are obsessed with the idea that they are surrounded by enemies. they need to invent enemies, such as Sonja Biserko, or, in this case, Marko, in order to find confirmation to their obsessive thoughts.

    I think that Jelena Markovic gives the proper reply to such comments.

  19. Sarah Franco

    Slavonic aka Not a Slave,

    your comment will be deleted because of its clealy offensive content.

    As much as I admire Marko Hoare and appreciate his support, I shall not admit the insinuation that I am not capable of thinking for myself.

    neither shall I accept that you call me anti-serbian because you don’t have the monopole over serbdom. you are offending all my serbian friends who have been supporting my work.

    not only this comment will be erased, but from now on, comments with your IP or others that I may identify as yours will be sistematically erased, regardless of its content.

    you don’t respect me, therefore you are not welcome on my blog’s comment boxes.

  20. Owen

    Sarah, I think it’s always enlightening to hear these people expose their soul. The crucial thing is not to waste your time on the planet dealing with their issues when they can’t be bothered to deal with other people’s.

  21. Sarah Franco

    Owen, we say :

    os cães ladram e a caravana passa!
    I hope you know this expression.

    But I will not allow bullying in my blog.

  22. Owen

    Similar in English “The dogs bark but the caravan moves on”.

  23. András

    It’s originally an Arabic saying, so apt that it has been adopted by many languages and cultures.

    Its roots in the Balkans go back to 1931, when Miroslav Krleža used it to begin his poem “Noć u provinciji” [Night in the Province]. The first lines go:

    “Psi laju a karavana prolazi. (Stara arapska poslovica).
    Zašto tako laju psi po našim mračnim noćima?”

    You can find the rest of this poem posted at —

    Krleža’s poem has become a classic, one that many people in the former Yugoslavia know by heart. Through it, the old Arabic proverb has entered the speech and folklore of the region. Although some now have come to insist that it’s an old Serbian, Croatian, or Bosnian saying, that seems unlikely. The passing of caravans is more evocative of the Arabian desert than of the Balkans. But dogs bark in the night wherever one goes.

    Even in Connecticut.

  24. Sarah Franco

    Andras, thank you for the comment and the support.

    I know the proverb from the Portuguese language. Now I am curious about when it was adopted by the portuguese culture…

  25. If it wasn’t sad, it would be funny. There is a culture of denial in Serbia instigated by radical ultra-nationalist organizations. Dr Marko Attila Hoare is by far the most credible and the most respected Balkan historian, and Ivan can learn a lot from.

    As Dr Attila correctly observed, “The fascists have long argued that they should be free to kill, rape and torture; wage wars of aggression against neighbouring states and carry out genocide; destroy mosques or burn libraries – but nobody should condemn or even mention this behaviour, because to do so is to be ‘anti-Serb’; to engage in ‘Serb-bashing’. Today, failure to respect the right of fascist thugs to bully and harrass human-rights activists is likewise ‘Serb bashing’. On the other hand, if you want physically to assault a Serbian human-rights activist, murder a dissident Serbian journalist or even assassinate the democratically elected Serbian prime minister, then not only is this not seen as ‘Serb bashing’, but it is seen as the height of patriotism.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  26. Ivan said: “The fact that Marko twists the truth, loops around with his answers, and holds bias beliefs on only one particular group while giving everybody else the benefit of the doubt, proves that he and even you are far away from being humanitarians.”

    Oh please Ivan… you are in such a denial. Dr Hoare does not twist the truth (how many of his books and political commentaries have you read?). He is on the record for condemning Islamic extremism, Serbian fascism, Srebrenica genocide denial, and other evils. This is a deeply respected historian that you are talking about, so please show some respect.

    Those who criticize Dr Hoare are discredited Srebrenica genocide deniers. If you don’t believe me, then do some research. It will take you few seconds to uncover their names on Google. Srebrenica genocide deniers and pro-Milosevic war crimes apologists are NOT QUALIFIED to speak or write about Dr Hoare.

  27. Sarah Franco

    Daniel, thank you for the comment.

    I don’t think Ivan Sokolov is in denial. I think he is actually proud of everything evil that was done by Serb nationalists. I believe we are here upon a case of someone who only regrets that they didn’t go far enough.

    There are two types of denial. There are those persons who deny because they perceive that there is something shameful about such acts, so deny and pretend things didn’t happen or at least relativise them in order not to feel guilt and to be forced to question one’s own national identity…

    then there are those who only deny it because of tactical reasons…

    in this post https://cafeturco.wordpress.com/2008/07/10/srebrenica-and-serbia-some-thoughts-on-moral-monsters-bystanders-and-civic-minded-people/

    I quote this comment that I saw on you tube about the skorpioni:

    “they were a good unit but they shouldnt of filmed what they did because it makes us srbe look bad” (sic)

    Sokolov has nothing to learn with Marko because in order to learn something you need to have an open mind. I remember talking to a psychologist in Serbia once, she was working with school children on a programme about facing the past. Her work consisted in helping them gain awareness of their prejudices, and only after that they were ready to receive and process factual information about the wars and related issues.

    This is a matter of values. If a person considers, say, Albanians, to be inferior to Serbs, you cannot expect that person to have any empathy with their suffering…

    I could go on to say that our emotions are shaped by our values, and our emotions in turn shape our perception of reality… but that would take me too far for a comment.

  28. Jacko

    Dr Hoare is clearly on the right track with much of what he says about this particular matter. There can never be any kind of defence for violent thugs who physically attack or harass their opponents!

    However, in a more general sense, it would be rather hard to say that Dr H writes about this whole situation in the former Yugoslavia from a standpoint which is completely neutral and unbiased, wouldn’t it!? Isn’t it very clear that he has a pro-Croatian ‘take’ on things?

    (Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that! On balance most English people – apart from the “Balkans Specialist”, Neil Clark – would probably tend to agree that the restaurants and the bookshops are nicer in Croatia…)

  29. Sarah Franco

    Jacko, I really don’t know what he mean by ‘pro-croatian take’. About neutrality, knowledge is never neutral. If you are a medical scientist, maybe you are researching in order to improve the efficiency of bottox, or you can research on cancer. You may be a plastic surgeon because you want to make a living by taking out rinkles or you can reconstruct the face of someone who suffered severe burning…

    In the context of former Yugoslavia, neutrality usually means relativisation. If you defend the values of truth an d justice, then neutrality is not an issue, you have to assume whatever conclusions you have reached and that is always related to your values.

    So instead of neutral I prefer the word uncompromised. It’s very easy to dismiss or at least underevaluate someone’s claims by pointing at his nationality.

  30. Jacko

    “I really don’t know what (you) mean by ‘pro-Croatian take’ ”

    Okay Sarah, I just noticed that English isn’t your first language – so I’m sorry if this wasn’t clear.
    The use of the word ‘take’ in this context just means that I think Dr Hoare generally sees things from a Croatian standpoint. (As I also said, there is not necessarily anything wrong with this!)

    “If you defend the values of truth and justice, then neutrality is not an issue, you have to assume whatever conclusions you have reached and that is always related to your values.”

    Yes, I agree with this.

    As a rule, I have always supported NATO. And I have always supported the efforts of the international community to bring all of the war criminals in the former Yugoslavia to justice.
    If Serbian military and/or political leaders targeted and killed civilians, then they should be made to answer for these crimes before a court of law – no question.

    But I have a little problem.

    NATO also targeted and killed civilians by bombing the Serbian TV centre.

    Therefore (because I defend the values of truth and justice) I can only conclude that our NATO generals and our political masters should also be made to answer for this crime – just like all of those Serbian bad guys answer for their crimes.

    But that isn’t going to happen any time soon, is it?

    (BTW No, I’m NOT drawing an exact moral equivalence between NATO and the Serbs! But – at some level – war crimes are war crimes.)

  31. Sarah Franco

    Jacko, it’s always good to clear misunderstandings… it’s not so much that I have a problem with english, which I do, it’s more that I am extremely cautious with comments due to unpleasant experiences with comments.

    I prefer not to go into the issue of Nato’s strategic and tactic options, because my focus is on local actors in the region. As an outsider to the region, I try to see things from the inside, that was my option. That said, I am not avoiding the issue, and it’s clear to me that Nato’s goals were very different from Serbia’s goals, I just don’t have time to discuss it…

    about the bombing of the TV building in Belgrade, you are surely aware that those persons could have been removed and were not:


  32. Jacko

    Sarah, it’s true that the staff could (and, I guess, should) have been removed from the building.

    But a TV centre with civilian staff was not a legitimate military target!

  33. I think Sarah is quite correct–people like Sokolov are not in denial–they know what happened and they only regret that the foul deeds they support were not completely succesful.

    Sarah, your decision to not publish abusive or hateful comments is your own and I appreciate it–these things can get out of hand. But I tend to do as Owen suggests–to expose their stupidity and bile for all to see. I honestly believe that giving such a people a public forum actually hurts their cause.

    But I respect your editorial decision.

  34. Ivan

    Last time I checked the ‘Chinese Embassy’ in Belgrade was also “not a legitimate military target…..”

    A certain wise man once told me:

    “All crimes should be exposed, regardless of whether they are British, Serbian or other.”

  35. sackcloth and ashes

    Except, Ivan, that the Chinese Embassy was bombed because it had been erroneously identified as a Yugoslav MOD building.

    But then if you happen to be an obnoxious, moronic bigot (as indeed you are) you will naturally compare an act committed under the ‘fog of war’ with the acts of genocide committed by the Serbs against the Kosovar Albanians from March-May 1999.

    Sarah, I read your paper on Serbian far-right groups – I’ll get feedback to you directly in due course. Don’t let the fascist trolls on this site get you down.

  36. Sarah Franco

    Sackcloth and ashes, thank you for your support.

    Kirk, I understand your point of view regarding abusive comments … it’s a matter of balancing the different aspects.

  37. Much as I respect Kirk’s and Owen’s opinions on this, I must disagree on the question of deleting vulgar or abusive comments.

    One would like to believe that allowing fascists to post disgusting comments would discredit them, wouldn’t one ? So it would, in the eyes of anyone civilised reading the thread. But I tend to feel that allowing such comments to remain only lowers the entire tone of the debate and the blog.

    In general, it’s not just fascists, but a large section of the people who post comments on blogs, who seem to be incapable of expressing themselves except in the most disgusting, vulgar and abusive way.

    The more bloggers tolerate this sort of thing, the more it’s seen as acceptable behaviour. And it does seem, increasingly, to be viewed as acceptable behaviour. So few bloggers take a stand on vulgarity and abuse by commenters, that I can see no evidence that such vulgarity and abuse do discredit those who use them.

    What kind of example does this set for children or young people who read blogs ? Even in the second-rate schools I attended when I was a child and a teenager, I was taught that vulgar abuse was wrong.

    I think bloggers have a duty to take a stand against this sort of thing, and in defence of civilised values. One can’t ban savages from using the internet, but one can at least ban them from one’s own blogs.

  38. Sarah Franco

    Marko, I think you’re right. Abusive comments, even when they are not openly offensive, create an environment that disrupts any constructive debate.

    I prefer not to have moderation, so that people’s comments are immediately published, so I have to be very strict about what kind of comments I should allow to remain or to erase, but it’s comforting to see that the bullies that came here had a proper reply by the other readers.

  39. Ivan

    The former ‘Chinese Embassy’ was located in the center of a suburban neighborhood of New Belgrade. The site is surrounded by hundreds of apartment buildings. It is highly unlikely that NATO was unable to distinguish the ‘Chinese Embassy’ from a military post. A ‘Chinese Embassy’ of all things, which to top everything off was located in a suburban neighborhood.

    Also the Albanian invasion of Macedonia was the third war they stated….something that they got nothing more than a slap on the wrist…

  40. Sarah Franco

    Ivan, I believe sackcloth and ashes already replyed to that in his earlier comment. Regarding the Albanians in Macedonia, the attempts to disrupt the country’s fragile balance have been properly dealt by NATO, the US and the EU, who clearly showed the Albanians that they would not tolerate a civil war in Macedonia. However, I have good reasons not to believe in the sincerity of your concerns for the stability and well being of Macedonia, given the fact that serb nationalists also have territorial ambitions over Macedonia, which they call Old Serbia and whose macedonian national and religious identity is systematically disrespected by serb nationalists. Serbia and Greece are much more of a threat to Macedonia than Albania and Kosova could possibly be.

  41. Owen

    Thanks for that informative explanation, Andras. There aren’t very many caravans in London, but it’s still an evocative saying.

  42. Owen

    Jacko, I’d have thought that of the many issues relating to the NATO campaign the bombing of the television station is one of the less contentious.

    Serbian television was employed as an instrument of genocide and as best I understand in Kosova it was also used as a more specifically military tool.

    From what I have heard adequate advance warning of the bombing was given to ensure that there would be no staff present but the senior staff chose not to take appropriate action except with respect to themselves.

    I don’t know the truth of the Chinese embassy missile strike but I heard an explanation to the effect that an individual within the Chinese embassy was working with Serbian military intelligence to transmit information to forces in Kosova.

    The issue had been raised with the Chinese authorities but transmissions continued. Eventually the transmission room was destroyed with a missile, which fortunately seems actually to have been on target (seems to have been a pretty risky measure to take).

    I don’t know whether the member of staff who I think was killed was the individual responsible, but the relatively muted response from the Chinese government suggests that for whatever reason they chose not to make as much of the event as they might have.

    According to this version the attack wasn’t part of the “fog of war”, it was a military event that in the longer run both sides preferred to treat as an isolated incident. It’s be interesting to know if anyone has any better information.

  43. sackcloth and ashes

    Another rebuttal for Ivan is that the Milosevic regime deliberately sought to destabilise Macedonia and provoke a civil war by driving hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians out of their homes and across the border.

    It’s also worth noting that the Slav Macedonians also treated their ethnic Albanian population as second-class citizens, although it’s worth noting that they were nowhere near as barbaric or as genocidally inclined as the Serbian elite was between 1991 and 2000.

    Oh, and it is a matter of historical record that CIA analysts providing targeting data for the USAF were the ones who misidentified the Chinese embassy as a Yugoslav MOD target (see Tim Weiner, ‘Legacy of Ashes’, Penguin 2008, pp.546-547). But then if you read proper history rather than neo-Nazi websites you stand a better chance of getting your facts right, Ivan.