By Latinka Perovic
I am always pleased to come to Zagreb, this time especially for the
occasion to speak about people from Serbia, who are no longer among us but who left
lasting traces in the books I've prepared for the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in
Serbia along with introductory studies. I am referring to eight authors and nine books.
Why have we published these books in the first place?
I'll use some statistics to answer this question. Out of eight authors
only one is alive. By force rather than by his own free will, he lives not in Belgrade but
in Vienna. Two of them were murdered: one was the President of the Republic of Serbia and
the other the Premier. Five authors have died of cancer.
All of them are outstanding individuals and all of them together provide
a unique intellectual and moral portrait.
So, we have here Bogdan Bogdanovic, university professor, architect,
writer, builder of monuments, drawer.A Belgrader. The Bogdanovics are among the oldest
Belgrade families. They've been there for over 180 years. The Bogdanovics are among the
families with most university professors.
Bogdan Bodganovic was among the first Serbian intellectuals that
deciphered the ominous Eight Session and emergence of Slobodan Milosevic. In his book
"Mud and Blood" he says, "Had I kept silent my life today would have been
peaceful and shameful. But I couldn't have kept silent. The cipher was too obvious."
And so he continued decoding it.
Novak Pribicevic, a child of a diplomat and a diplomat himself:
ambassador of the former Yugoslavia in Vienna and Tirana, secretary of state in the
Foreign Ministry.And then, a jobless person. He wrote about the war in Croatia, in
Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Kosovo. He wondered like in the title of his book, "Is
there any resonance?" He knew there was none but never gave up. He left behind him a
testimony of an era of atrocities and an individual's possibilities to do something in
Slobodan Inic, Bosnian Serb, politicologist and one of founding fathers
of the Democratic Party he distanced himself from because of its national program. From
his huge literal legacy, we have singled out "Portraits" of people from the
regime and the opposition. By making no difference between them - as there were no
differences between their goals - he left behind him a valuable testimony of the people
who, in late 20th century, handled the bloody engineering against millions of citizens of
In his book "The Origin of Evil" Ivan Stambolic wrote,
"The borderline between life and death was erased over here long ago.And once you
cross that line no other line can stop you." He wrote these lines unaware or probably
aware that his own fate would justify them. Intuitive even at his deathbed, Slobodan Inic
told his friend Stambolic when the latter asked him whether or not to engage in politics
again, "They will not be capable of organizing the state, and they will kill
Zoran Djindjic, philosopher, translator, a founding father of the
Democratic Party and premier, was gunned down while entering the building housing the
government of the Republic of Serbia. His understanding of Serbia's history was
exceptional and his sense of the spirit of times infallible. Hence the book "Zoran
Djindjic: Ethics of Responsibility."
Olga Popovic-Obradovic, scientist, who strenuously researched and
ingeniously understood Serbia's major historical controversy - "The Type or the Size
of the State" - modernization of the real state or permanent territorial expansion,
made a breakthrough in the Serbian historiography.
Ivan Djuric, historian, Byzantologist, descendent of an old family with
prospects for an exceptional academic career, became politically engaged in 1990s. He
neither sided with the regime nor with the opposition, but was in search for an
alternative that implied a confederal context for Yugoslavia. Rejected by the regime and
the opposition alike, he was forced to emigrate. He died in Paris before his 50th
And at last, Marko Nikezic - not last by the order the book
"Fragile Serb Vertical" was published but by the mark he left on the beginning
of the end of a political order and a state. In early 1970s Yugoslavia was at the
crossroads between regression, re-Stalinization and centralization on the one hand, and a
fresh advance towards a modern society on the other. In 1971-72 the character of post-Tito
era was decided on in Croatia and Serbia.
All these books together stand for a legacy that hinders oblivion and no
longer allows to be sidelined. Their authors have set high intellectual and moral
standards. The community's attitude towards them mirrors its attitude towards these values
that are diametrically opposite to lies and crimes. Alexander Herzen said that history,
like justice, never places everything on one pan only. This is why the legacy of the
Serbian intellectual elite that was and still is unwelcome for its criticism must be
preserved. That is why we have prepared and published the books I have presented on this
(Address at the launch of the editions by the Helsinki Committee
for Human Rights in Serbia, Zagreb, November 27, 2009).