Tag Archives: Belgrade

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.

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Filed under Belgrade, Nationalism, Serbia

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.

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Filed under Belgrade, Serbia

Daily protests againts Karadzic arrest in Belgrade.

Please, don’t missinterpret the image. Most of the people in Trg Republike (Republic Square) are passers-by…

Here the announcement of the great demonstrations… Obviously the Belgraders couldn’t care less!

(click on the photos to enlarge)

However, the activities of the supporters of radovan Karadzic don’t satisfy themselvas with orderly demonstrations. Thus, they have been visiting various organizations that publicly call for Serbia t face its past… these are not frieldly visits. Although no incidents have ocured, these are in fact acts of intimidation directed against their liberal oponents.

Yesterday, a group of about 70 went to the office of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia.

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Filed under Belgrade, Genocide, Nationalism