THE KOSOVO MYTH CRUMBLES
By Sonja Biserko
The Belgrade rally against the proclamation of the "false
state" of Kosovo was the latest manifestation of the fatal nationalistic autism and
denial of the realities. By defending Kosovo rhetorically Vojislav Kostunica tried to
impose it as a "fundamental state and national question" so as to fog over his
political defeat but also to prevent Boris Tadic from taking over the leadership of the
so-called democratic bloc.
The Kosovo myth played an important role in the creation of a modern
Serb state in the 19th century. Ever since the Balkan wars in 1913 St. Vitus Day (assumed
to coincide with Serb defeat in the battle of Kosovo) has been marked as the day of
"heroism and conquest of the evil." It became a paradigm of bloody and ruthless
revenge against everything "Turk" or Muslim in general. Liberation of Kosovo and
the Kosovo pledge, as Radomir Lukic put it, became "a vertical of the Serb history
since the Serb have never forgotten that they had been expelled from the land that had
been a treasury of everything precious in their history." For Serbs, therefore,
liberation of Kosovo and Metohija in 1912-13 was "a return to the homeland once
snatched away from them."
Such attitude towards the Kosovo myth was skillfully misused for
political homogenization of the Serbs in early 1980s despite the fact the realities in
Kosovo had changed long before. The Kosovo myth was used to "transfer the conflict
from the sphere of politics, economy and history to the timeless sphere of myth."
Back in 1970s Miodrag Popovic indicated the possibility for misuse of the Kosovo myth.
"The cult of St. Vitus Day that merges historical and mythical realities, and actual
struggle for freedom and the remnant of pagan affiliations (revenge, slaughter, sacrifice
and revival of historical ancestors) potentially includes all the traits of the
environments with untamed mythical impulses. It was historically unavoidable as a phase in
the development of national thought. However, when turned into a lasting state of mind the
cult of St. Vitus Day might be fatal for those unable to free themselves from its
pseudo-mythical and pseudo-historical meshes. In those meshes modern thought and human
spirit could experience another Kosovo, an intellectual and ethical defeat," wrote
The Kosovo myth - that is, the loss of Kosovo - was this time in the
function of "internal aggression" and showdown with liberal forces in Serbia.
Vojislav Kostunica also uses the Kosovo question to secure his own political future.
Simultaneously, he uses Kosovo to curb European orientation of the citizens of Serbia.
"We want to join the EU, but Europe must first decide to have in its membership a
whole than a dismembered Serbia," he messaged Europe.
Under the pretext of Kosovo Kostunica tried to negate the outcome of the
presidential elections. The rally itself was meant to delegitimize Tadic's presidency.
Vojislav Kostunica had not sided with his coalition partner in the presidential race.
Namely, Kosovo independence has consolidated the conservative bloc and laid bare its
opposition to changes in Serbia, particularly those taking Serbia closer to Europe.
Tomislav Nikolic was the bloc's favorite - they hope he would take over the presidency
from Boris Tadic. Despite the fact that he lost the election (from the same opponent for
the second time) Nikolic behaves like a co-president of Serbia. He manifested his power by
organizing the rally. And the rally passed on clear political messages to international
and domestic publics. The main message was the one that Serbia would respect no rules. And
threats were conveyed to the world but to "domestic traitors" as well.
The very fact that the rally was scheduled for late afternoon indicates
that the timing was so planned to suit best para-formations creating chaos. Whereas
Kostunica was invoking "dignity" TV cameras were testifying that para-formations
had clearly defined target. The CIA made no bones about taking the Serbian government
responsible for everything that happened in the streets of Belgrade. The action plan
(assuming they called it so) was not carried through in full since crowds did not reach a
critical mass. The Serbian Radical Party had organized buses, trains and trucks to bring
people from all over Serbia. Citizens of Belgrade mostly stayed at their homes. And the
Belgrade fiasco failed to generate violence in other towns in the days that followed. It
turned out that citizens were more mature than their leaders - and they instinctively shun
violence. Organizers of the rally announced new protests but obviously do not enjoy
popular support. This indicates that there must be a serious political drama behind the
scenes. Minister Velimir Ilic cynically explained to the Serb public that "the
Liberal Democratic Party was directly responsible for the outburst of violence in the
streets since it supported Kosovo's independence."
Nontransparent political scene adds to citizens' anxiety - for, Serbia's
course is still uncertain. Serb nationalism and radicalism are obviously exhausted. Serbia
is now in the process of self-destruction. Its inability to cope with the past and the
present alike isolated it from everyone, even from its own citizens. Petty political
interests have brought Serbia to the verge of economic collapse. Inflation threatens to
spiral and annihilate not only everything that has been achieved at home but also the
international community's efforts over past several years. Vojislav Kostunica's plan to
destabilize Serbia by inciting disorder and provoking the alternative failed. Yet another
attempt to prevent a public forum Pescanik organized in Pancevo was also abortive as both
the audience and speaker strongly opposed the intruders from the Dveri organization. In
Sombor, an anonymous group of citizens organized "bread distribution" to prevent
citizens from shopping in local bakeries run by Albanians. For their part, the police
tried to prevent students' action titled "There is no alternative to Europe."
Actually, the epilogue of the Serb drama in the late 20th century and
the early 21st is only logical - it logically derives from Milosevic's legacy and denial
to give up the Greater Serbia project. Though not military defeated, Serbia is defeated
from within. The entire period from October 5, 2000 to this day laid bare the ideological
orientation of Milosevic's opposition. That is why breakthroughs are almost impossible -
the once opposition to Milosevic has been doing its utmost to finalize the project by
diplomatic means and by invoking its democratic legitimacy. The international community's
attitude notably after Djindjic's assassination (who paid his breakthroughs with his life)
almost played into the regime's hands. Nicolas Burns warned the Serbian government and
Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic that turning a blind eye to the history of crimes committed
in the 1990s in the Balkans was hypocrisy.
A part of the government has not given up "production of
chaos" yet. Even the state-run media remark that "the line has been
crossed." A columnist warns that "the anti-European front exceeds the circles of
the new patriotic rights, frustrated clericals and Russophiles.It enjoys strong support
from the rear by those swimming perfectly in the chaos: from tycoons to corrupted
bureaucrats dreading regulations and order."
Serbia is a threat to the stability of the entire region and, therefore,
needs to be "saved." CIA Director also prognosticates that Kosovo's independence
declaration "could aggravate interethnic relations in Bosnia-Herzegovina." The
international community will have to adjust its strategy to new circumstances and, in the
first place, take into account the fact that Serbia lacks energy for change. Russia that
has been fueling Serbia's delusions will also have to find a way out of the maze Serbia
had led it into, and start searching for that exit pretty soon. Serbia has no more room
for lies production. Now that some 70 percent of Serbia's citizens opt for Europe their
positive sentiments should be seen as a welcome opportunity for starting a "a
citizens' coalition for Europe." All segments of the society looking forward to
Serbia's move towards the EU should make up the coalition: civil society, small and
medium-size enterprises, the media, youth and student organizations, professional
associations, trade unions, etc.