Vidovdan 1989 – 2015

Milosevic and his likeminded are here, among us, sometimes even inside us. Every time a Dodik menace the secession from Bosnia, a Macedonian insults Albanians, an Albanian dreams about Great Albania, a Serb deny Srebrenica, a Muslim want an Islamic state in Bosnia…every time the demons and evils of Milosevic, as a symbol, are alive.
This day, 26 years ago, a man was at the apex of his popularity among Serbs of Yugoslavia. This man started his strategy in 1987. At that time nobody in Yugoslavia started to exploit nationalism as he did. Not in Croatia, not in Bosnia or in Kosovo. There was not a Croat Milosevic in 1987-1989, nor a Muslim one. Not even an Albanian one, because Vllasi was not like that. When in 1990, after the first elections in SFRJ appearead the various Tudjman, Izetbegovic etc., the crazy folly was already in motion, they reacted to the Serbian nationalist hysteria with pleasure. But they had the second move, not the first one, because before 1990 they were just illigal dissidents of the regime. Milosevic was not, he was the power, he was a full member of the regime. We can ask “what if” the Berlin wall did not fall ecc., “what if” Yugoslavia had not been recognized as a state in dissolution by Europe, “what if” Germany did not reconize (with Vatican) Slovenia and Croatia. While there can’t be any answer to those questions, there is one answer to “whom to blame” for the chaos of the 90s in former YU. While he is not the only responsible for everything, he is politically responsible for being the initiatior of the conflict/antagonistic way of conducing politics. The very same fact that in 2015 there are people with his own mentality, that support him or his policies and ideas, not just in Serbia, but in every part of former Yugoslavia (there are Croats/Bosnians/Albanians with his same mentality) and, I would say, of the world, Italy included of course.
This mentality is just to blame the others for his/her own fault. To deny his/her own fault. To avoid any minimal change. To use the categories of nationalities/imagined communities to mix and putting on the same level honest citizens and criminals (the Serbs, the Croats, the Italians).
After 26 years I think that we did not learn nothing. Dayton is still there, more as a problem than as a solution today. Macedonia is experiencing a deep political fracture. Kosovo is still quarreling with Belgrade. And just look at Greece.
Milosevic and his likeminded are here, among us, sometimes even inside us. Every time a Dodik menace the secession from Bosnia, a Macedonian insult Albanians, an Albanian dreams about Great Albania, a Serb deny Srebrenica, a Muslim want an Islamic state in Bosnia…every time the demons and evils of Milosevic, as a symbol, are alive.

Christian Costamagna


SERBIA: October 5, 2000 & the West: a new book

I’m going to talk about a book I did not read but I would like to: “Engineering Revolution: the Paradox of Democracy Promotion in Serbia, 2014, written by Marlene Spoerri.

The topic has been already explored eaerlier, as it is pretty normal, but this is not very important, because every author has his/her own sources and working methods. Indeed, the speculations about the October 5 “revolution” is still very attractive in Serbia, and it is often used for comparison with other kind of “revolutions” in Eastern Europe and North Africa. New books about Milosevic and his regime continue to appear on the bookshelves.

But what is the breaking point for a “revolution”? Well, in 2000 the Serbian establishment, and the political elite, were divided. Most probably that’s why the Army did not intervene to beat the people, despite the ex post interpretation, claiming that they wanted to avoid a civil war (strange, but March 9, 1991, this rule did not apply – Borisav Jovic called in the JNA tanks). That it is hard to export democracy (whatever it is, since it is just an ideological concept, because also the Soviet Union was a socialist democracy, but this is another story) it was already known about a century ago, as Bryce writes in his book (2 volls) Modern Democracies.


The author takes in consideration the “two decades that preceded and followed Milosevic’s unseating”, and that’s of course good to expand the chronology of the events. The fact that Otpor or other NGOs did take money from the US was and is not a secret. While I was in Belgrade in 2001, I asked that question to one guy in their (Otpor) office in Kneza Mihailova, and he did not have any problem in saying “yes, we got that money”. The fact that the USA had already, in the first half of the 1990s, plans how to cope with the “troublemaker” in the Balkans, is not surprising, because there must be a plan in every occasion.

This said, it is not possible to deny the intention, from part of the public opinion in the West to change the mentalities of the people in the Balkans, Serbia included. That’s a long term process, as every cultural process, it does exist, and it is under everybody’ eyes, with tens of NGOs and other financial support (such as scholarships for students, training abroad etc.). That’s similar to what the Society of Jesus (and preachers in general) did/is doing for centuries: to spread the verb (of some ideology). In this case, the case of Serbia, there is the spread of the verb of postmodern societies in the Balkans.

There is (not just there, also in Italy today) a part of society that does not want to embrace those postmodern values (because some sort of “tradition” is preferred), and it sees the act of introducing and defending those values as a  “satanic” conspiracy. After all, it is a sort  “conspiracy” (to achieve a goal?), to plan and organize the change of the values of a society, but it is not possible to make it happen like a five-year soviet plan (assuming that this could be a good example, but problably it is not). The “revolution” tend to happen when there is a fracture in the establishment, and this happen when that “rogue” part/faction does not support the “old guard” anymore, because it expects a greater reward in a new order (in Italy we have the problem of “reforms”, that everyone claims, but nobody wants to be the first to cut its own welfare).

The CIA sources, as far as those released in the FOIA website are concerned (I do not know which ones the author adopted) – are quite inconsistent/incomplete as archival fund, and they are heavily censored. The interviews could be very useful, but taken of course cum grano salis, because people tend to forget or simply to lie. They must be crossed and checked with other sources of the time etc. Even more interesting should be the documents of the NGOs involved.

I would love to read this book.

Christian Costamagna

Gruevski does not deserve any more chances

Florian Bieber's Notes from Syldavia

I just published a comment for ELN with Anastas Vangeli on the crisis in Macedonia in which we are arguing that the Gruevski government has lost its legitimacy and that any solution has to involve the resignation of Gruevski. EU mediation in the crisis runs the risk of putting less pressure on Gruevski than on the opposition and ignoring the protest movements for the sake of results. Below is the full version of the comments, I am delighted to have written with Anastas, who is not only a former student of mine at CEU and who wrote about Skopje 2014 when few others had, but who is also an activist with the social movements protesting in Macedonia against the government.

Macedonia has been undergoing a durable legitimacy crisis that was further deepened by revelations about a mass wire-tapping scandal and mass anti-government protests. While the scholarly community had doubts about…

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What is history for? Or: Doing history/ thinking historically

the many-headed monster

Laura Sangha

Last week, I delivered the introductory lecture for a second year undergraduate module, ‘Doing History’, and for various tedious reasons, I also recently spent some time reading, reflecting on and writing about why I consider history to be valuable. In the process, I conducted an entirely unscientific google trawl, trying to gauge what the general perception of the discipline was. I was struck by the fact that the popular or ‘commonsense’ perception of history encourages a rather limited assessment of its social and intellectual usefulness. What exactly do I mean?

Narratives and stories

Drake’s defeat of the Armada – a rollicking yarn!

Perception: The past provides a seemingly endless supply of rollicking good yarns, from Henry VIII’s tortuous relationship status to Sir Francis Drake’s swashbuckling Caribbean adventures. These are easily converted into good reads.

That’s nice, but it doesn’t make history particularly valuable. Anyway, the best stories are…

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Jovan Divjak: Osim tri etničke, u BiH postoji i grupa ljudi koja diše protiv podjela


Jovan Divjak, penzionisani general Armije Republike Bosne i Hercegovine (RBiH) i aktuelni izvršni direktor Udruženja “obrazovanje gradi BiH”, u razgovoru za Anadoliju povodom 6. aprila, Dana grada Sarajeva, ali i dana kad se obilježava početak agresije na BiH 1992. i početka opsade Sarajeva, prisjetio se događaja davne 1992. čiji je i sam bio sudionik.

Jovan Divjak

“Protesti 5. i 6. aprila 1992. godine bili su nada za BiH, u onoj želji da BiH produži svoju historiju tolerancije i ljubavi za drugog i drugačijeg. Nažalost, 22 godine poslije toga, nismo ni blizu onoga što su tada bile nade”, kaže Divjak, dodavši kako je BiH više podijeljena danas nego što je bila tada.

“Sad su nam nametnute podele koje nisu ni prošle kroz Parlament. S druge strane, 20-godišnja vlast nije uspela da stabilizuje odnose koji garantuju poštovanje drugog. Nažalost, podeljeni smo na četiri dela. Pod tim mislim da smo podeljeni na tri…

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