Tuesday, December 21, 2004

WW2 Revision In Serbia

In October 2000, immediately after the fall of Slobodan Milošević (Slobodan Milosevic) the world media was concentrated on images of Serbian people celebrating. One tiny detail of those celebrations, totally insignificant to anyone outside former Yugoslavia, made many people in countries neighbouring Serbia somewhat less enthusiastic about those events. A group of mostly young people was celebrating the end of Milošević by singing songs celebrating Dragoljub "Draža" Mihailović (Dragoljub "Draza" Mihailovic).

As regular readers of this blog probably know, "Draža" Mihailović used to be controversial (to say the least) leader of Serbian WW2 paramilitaries. While most history books in former Yugoslavia describe his Chetnik movement as bunch of Nazi collaborators and thugs responsible for all kinds of atrocities against Muslims and Croats, in Serbia itself he is hailed as a brave resistance fighter, "first guerrilla leader of occupied Europe" and anti-Communist martyr.

Today Serbian parliament decided to grant surviving members of Chetnik movement pensions, thus making them equal to veterans of Tito's Partisan army.

To say that this decision won't sit well in Croatia is an understatement. It would only continue to poison relations between two countries and fuel the flames sparked by Milan Gurović (Milan Gurovic) and his controversial choice of body decoration.

On the other hand, this decision is only a logical conclusion of the process that has been happening in the last two decades and accelerated after the fall of Milošević. Although Milošević came to power on the wings of resurrected Serb nationalism and although he used Serb nationalism, he, as a nominal leftist and successor of ideology that executed "Draža", was never seen as a genuine Serb nationalist. In Milošević's years rehabilitation of "Draža" was tolerated, but not state-sanctioned. Serb nationalists who replaced Milošević in 2000 used his fall as an opportunity to reinvent Serb nationalism in new, "pure" anti-Communist form. Revision of WW2 history was part of that process.

In many ways, what happens in Serbia now is very reminiscent of what used to happen in Croatia in the first years of Tudjman's regime. Less burdened by continuity with Tito's past, Croatian nationalists also tried very hard to reverse the historical verdict and present WW2 losers as morally equal, if not superior, to WW2 winners.


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