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.

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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

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One thought on “SERBIA: October 5, 2000 & the West: a new book

  1. The problem of the “conspiracy thinking” rose up and gathered momentum as the postmodern economic and social changes did not actually produce the results which people on the Balkans had expected. The worldwide economic slump of 2008 which also hit Europe’s southeast in a way finally dispelled all illusions of quick development. I myself have been observing the birth of more and more nostalgic and conspiracy narratives in Bulgaria during the past couple of years even though the country is a EU member and does receive significant financial support. Serbia’s case is, of course, much heavier due to the Yugo-collapse, Kosovo, and the stalled Eurointegration. This limbo situation and lack of economic progress is a perfect environment for soc-nostalgia and “conspiracies” considering also that time is distancing people from the realities and emotions around the actual events in 1999/2000. Balkan people are masters at pondering over their historical hardship and blaming external forces for their own failures. Certainly corruption, nepotism, and lack of strategic horizon are our own ruling elite’s vices and no conspiracy made them such. The postmodern democratic society just exposed their ugly face which was well hidden behind the totalitarian mask before. In my humble opinion marginal progress in the right direction is being made every year, but those excluded from it will resort to finding explanations and excuses to explain recent hardship. Anti-western powers also willing exploit this opportunity through targeted propaganda.

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