Belgrade today

Belgrade is packed with police, just like the Interior Minister Ivica Dacic promised.

It is impressive how many of them there are in the streets, but besides that, everything seems normal. This atmosfere of tense normality is puzzling, because it is a false normality. People here seem to be used to such environment, but for me it seems very oppressive. Earlier today I was speaking to a young man who was telling me how he doesnt feel free at all because he is not allowed to travel, due to visa policies. The fact is that it is the serbian politicians themselves, in this case the Serbian Radical Party, that are curtailing his freedom, by disrupting the work in the parliament.

This reminds me of a debate that was held in February in Belgrade, where a nationalist academic said that the serbs didnt need visas at all and that they could very well turn their back on the West. Then someone from the audience reminded him that he had had his PhD in Oxford…

I have met some of the chidren of the serbian conservative elite. They all travel abroad, they manage to get grants to study in Western Europe, and they look modern and sofisticated, but in fact they all live in Heavenly Serbia. They dont care at all for the average citizens who hardly know how to speak english because the shcooll system is so bad and who cannot afford a passport and visa. In fact, keeping their co-citizens in darkness and isolation is what makes them look modern and sofisticated.

The more I hang around in Belgrade, the more I meet normal people (and not only priviledge people) the more I get the feeling of how deeply isolated this society is and how dificult it will be to break this pattern. The signals send by the current government are mixed. A certain degree of openess exists, especially if compared to Kostunica governments, but not real signs of a strong commitment for change.

Today at 16h an anti-fascist rally is being held. I think I prefer to watch it on TV later… I am just an observer and I have to remember that. I could go and observe, but after having observed the riots in February, I think I can bypass this. The day is beautiful and I am feeling more like going to a nice place and take some sun. My friends tell me that they dont consider me an outsider anymore… maybe they are right, maybe I am starting to think this opressive environment of fake normality is normal…(Belgrade fascinates me and depresses me at the same time. I miss Lisbon).

Updates later…

Update:

So, the regretable incidents of last year in Novi Sad were not repeated in Belgrade this year. I took lots of photos, of course. I had never seen so many police in my life, and if you bear in mind that I was in Belgrade when the riots after the independence of Kosovo happened (21th February 2008), I think that gives the measure of how much police there was on the streets. It is very strange to see how that didn’t disrupt at all what was for most people nothing more than a sunny Saturday. Here is a photo of the rally. I find it particularly interesting how the Cyrillic letters are used in this context because it is a good way to remind everyone that nationalists don’t have the monopole over nationhood, in this case over serbdom. Here the moment when the anti-fascist rally passed through Republic Square where the rally in support of Radovan Karadzic was being held. The moment they passed, a group of war-crimes supporters started waving their arms and shouting “Volimo Srbiju!” (We love Serbia). What kind of love is this that can only be expressed through hatred? So, there were provocations, and some arrests, but no disruption at all.

5 Comments

Filed under Belgrade, Nationalism, Serbia

5 responses to “Belgrade today

  1. Of course you will find normal people in Serbia. Unfortunately, the society has been hijacked and isolated by extremist radical ultra-nationalist movements, such as Serbian Radical Party et al. It’s not people, it’s politics.

  2. Owen

    That looks quite an impressive police presence in the Square. Was the police protection effective elsewhere?

    The banner looks good. They’ve taken a lot of trouble and it’s worth it – as you say, the medium is part of the message as well.

    Send your friends a respectful salute from Planet Europe!

  3. Sarah Franco

    yes Owen, it was.

    As I mention in the text, I have been in Belgrade in February, and the difference is clear.

    There was police everywhere. Both normal police and anti-riot police.

    I witnessed an arrest. The police was not there just for the sake of being there. They clearly had orders to prevent the smallest problem.

    The extremist and neo-nazis were there too, and did try to engage in provocation, but with no success.

    This is a good sign.

  4. Sarah Franco

    http://www.b92.net/eng/news/crimes-article.php?yyyy=2008&mm=10&dd=12&nav_id=54171

    Owen, more encouraging signs… Let’s give some time and see what comes out of it.

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