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NO 105-106

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Helsinki Charter No. 105-106

March - April 2007



By Nikola Samardzic

In the vacuum of dual authority, the nomeklatura either symbolically or factually reruns March 17 /2003/ in almost daily incidents and thus gradually radicalizes the public discourse and chokes media freedoms. Its threatening messages to reformist opposition are no longer disguised. Now after the elections that have not brought about a new cabinet yet, the nomeklatura turns schizophrenic - it is torn between a superfluous feeling of superiority and the historically defeated policy that isolates it from Europe and the region. The two-third anti-liberal majority that enabled dominance of radical-populist policy probably reflects the bleak continuity of the frustrated sectors of society: frustrated, in the first place, in their collectivistic aspirations turned senseless by modern civilization. One Europeanized community after another encircles Serbia as a whole. The European idea was adopted not only by the segment of the Serbian society that considers reformist moves its own accomplishments but also by those who locate it, almost unconsciously, in major issues of their everyday life. Rather than with crucial national questions the nomeklatura has been imposing on the society ever since the beginning of the Yugoslav crisis and disintegration, social priorities are obviously closely connected with the necessities of life. However, the true needs are once again substituted by pseudo-moral imperatives the collectivistic hysteria of the controlled media has blown out of proportions.

The malign spiral that bound the myths of Kosovo and Russia, again binds the Serbian politics. If history is really repeated as a farce only, the Kosovo myth is now imposed as a mantra the nomenklatura has revived to hush up the ongoing and future foul plays in privatization. The Russian myth indicates its foreign policy course - the one that gives up regional concerns and movement towards Euro-Atlantic integrations. In reality, neither Russia nor any of its satellites are Serbia's neighbors. And Russia's influence on international affairs is limited after all, and its repute more and more questionable. Irrational and isolationistic policy reveals the official Serbia's need for dealing with itself in the first place. But here it also runs into stumbling blocs that tries to overcome with manipulation and, often, violence that mirrors its tendency to restore the authoritarian past.

The mindless slogan about the entire Africa dreading Ahtisaari plan discloses Belgrade's intention to defend human rights in Kosovo and international justice with reliance on authoritarian and totalitarian systems that deny individualism as the basic feature of human nature and the most successful political principle so far. For the last couple of years the planned obstruction of the trial of the accused of Premier Djindjic assassination has drawn the basic profile of Serbian judiciary and security system. Investigation of the crime was conducted and indictment drawn in the semidarkness of a tunnel hiding masterminds some of whom have been amnestied in the meantime. The pressure coming from the then Western diplomats who - either confused or corrupted - insisted the pyramid of rule should not be jeopardized by extending investigation to the associates of today's Premier is not an extenuating circumstance. Through distorted lenses the very nature of the Serbian political scene provides, they almost sarcastically perceived the latter as democratic. As time went by, lawyers of the assassins and mafia, amply backed by the media, were planting various interpretations of the event. According to some, the Premier killed himself with the policy that threatened the will and interests of the nomenklatura. Or, that by announcing such policy he had infuriated Western powers. At the point crucial for the trial the media denounced the key figure of the trial, Judge Marko Kljajevic, by pinpointing his role as a defense lawyer for his brother who was anyway harshly punished. Under brutal pressure and after the arrest of his brother - kept in detention for almost a year - Judge Kljajevic was forced to resign. By discrediting Kljajevic the media discredited the entire proceedings he chaired with piety for the assassinated Premier. Judiciary remained silent even after the lawyers of the damaged parties, Srdja Popovic and Rajko Danilovic, underlined that with assertion of guilt of executioners the process was about to enter its crucial stage.

It was only after the assassination attempt at journalist Dejan Anastasijevic and his family that the first testimonies of tycoons' pressure on the media were brought before the public eye. The incident itself triggered off anxieties and dilemmas. Anastasijevic found himself in the midst of yet another circle in Serbia that easily close tight. When it cannot kill the nomeklatura bribes, pressurizes and blackmails. The logic of its interests is so branched out that any attempt to analyze it borders on bad taste.

The eternal oligarchy that rules Serbia is unsurpassed in such manipulation of the basic political and moral anthropology. "Pacification" of alternatives ranges from the leftist, liberal non-governmental sector - a part of which now overtly sides the official policy - to relativization, to say the least, of the attempt to freeze the history of democratic transition and European Serbia in a single day, March 12, 2003. And this is the context in which the nomenklatura copied the model of Putin's autocracy spread over Russia's diversified political structure. The Belgrade regime is just a bad copy of Kremlin dominated by apparatchiks, KGB-men and oligarchs, and ideologically backed by the figures that used to be - or it seemed so - members of liberal intelligentsia and promoters of alternative culture. The most important of them is Gleb Pavlovsky, a dissident of the Soviet era persecuted for his reformist views. Then comes Marat Gelman, art collector and gallery owner from Moscow, or Sergey Markov, an intellectual renowned worldwide. Pavlovsky used to work for the Soros Open Society Institute and Markov for the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace. Gelman was a favorite source of information for the journalists from the West, etc. Transition - particularly when slow-paced and inadequately efficient, and not based on a comprehensive political agreement, the one that opens up a social gap between its victims and tycoons /predators/ - swallows up people and their beliefs by alluring them with wealth and power.

Studious work to explain Serbia's stumbling on the road to integration and reform is still ahead. Revival of the Kosovo myth indicates the continuity of the abuse of strong national emotions and identity. Revival of the Russian myth indicates the continuity of the communist past at the point when Putin's authoritarian regime is at peak of violation of human rights and freedoms and in the domain of foreign policy mimics the self-consciousness of the once great power and uses the rhetoric of the Cold War. Political problems of the post-communist Serbia are almost the same as those challenging the communities with failed transition that vegetate at the outskirts of the European Union and the former Soviet empire. Nationalism protects all nomeklaturas - and, as the time goes by, they rejuvenate and spread the social basis of their authoritarian politics. Nationalism turned out to be compatible with authoritarian patterns of a traditional society, unreformed and anew paganized Eastern Orthodox Christianity, communist state and totalitarian collectivism. So, occasionally, clampdowns, almost purges of liberal elements of the former communist elite, similar to purges, are on the nomeklatura's priority agenda. The ongoing differentiation in Serbian politics between nationalists and those who are not cannot respond to the need of a much too complex analysis. This is why it brought about simplification of second half of the 20th century but served well national homogenization when it was needed the most. It was to be expected that, after the traumas of interethnic wars, today's surge of nationalism would take the form of anti-Western populism and isolationism. Now that except for North Kosovo it is incapable of generating violence beyond the country's borders, Serbia's ruling elite engaged in a crusade against its liberal, pro-European opposition. For the same purpose it has reinvented "Green Transversal" that, through the police pressure on the Bosniak community in Sandzak, resulted in lost lives. Opening of this new hotbed of crisis is reminiscent of the dangerous developments in the area at the time "the father of the nation" /Dobrica Cosic/ was inaugurated the president of the third, "truncated" Yugoslavia. And it is not by mere coincidence that the most outstanding advocates of the theory of Islamic fundamentalism in the Balkans - of the well-planned propaganda paranoia - are close to him and his ideas.


NO 105-106

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