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Serbia

Serbian Nationalist Named Premier-Designate On Country's Sacred Day

Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej (second from left) arrives to celebrate St. Vitus Day in Gazimestan, where Serbs mark the 1389 Battle of Kosovo Polje.
Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej (second from left) arrives to celebrate St. Vitus Day in Gazimestan, where Serbs mark the 1389 Battle of Kosovo Polje.

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Serbian Socialist Gets Gov't Mandate

A potential nationalist-socialist coalition would mark the return to power of the Socialists for the first time since the late autocratic ruler Slobodan Milosevic, who led the Socialists, was ousted in a popular revolt in 2000.
By Robert Coalson
BELGRADE -- It is likely no accident that Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic chose June 28 to nominate nationalist Ivica Dacic as his prime minister.

The controversial choice of a longtime ally of the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic came on one of the most important days on the calendar for Serbian nationalists. Not only is June 28 celebrated as St. Vitus Day by Orthodox Christians, it is also the date of one of the most momentous events in the country's history: the Battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389, when Serbian forces battled and were defeated by an invading army of Ottoman Turks.

That event has formed the core of Serbian national identity ever since. The Kosovo narrative has morphed into a morality play of patriotism, betrayal, self-sacrifice, and the need for national unity in the face of ruthless outside enemies.

And it was on the same date in 1989 when Milosevic delivered a fiery and provocative speech marking the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo Polje to a crowd of about 1 million people, an event widely seen as a key spark that ignited the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

Milosevic made the speech in the shadow of a memorial to the battle that bears a legendary curse, supposedly uttered by Prince Lazar, who led the Serbian forces at the Battle of Kosovo Polje and died there.

Whoever is a Serb and of Serb birth
And of Serb blood and heritage,
And comes not to the Battle of Kosovo,
May he never have the progeny his heart desires,
Neither son nor daughter!
May nothing grow that his hand sows
Neither red wine nor white wheat!
And let him be cursed from all ages to all ages.

Ironically, it was on June 28, 2001, that Milosevic was extradited from Belgrade to face trial in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes stemming from the bloody Balkans wars of the 1990s. He died in custody in 2006.

Prime Minister-designate Ivica Dacic
Prime Minister-designate Ivica Dacic
At nearly the same time that Dacic's appointment was being announced in Belgrade, dozens of Kosovar police were injured in clashes with Serbian nationalists seeking to visit the site of the Battle of Kosovo Polje. About 20 Serbs were also reported injured in the incident, in which about 70 Serbs carrying banners reading "Kosovo is Serbia" tried to reach the site.

Dacic, who heads the Serbian Socialist Party that Milosevic founded and who served as Milosevic's spokesman in the 1990s, has said he is committed to Serbia's path toward European integration.

Speaking in Belgrade after Nikolic asked him to form a government, Dacic tried to downplay history and emphasize the future.

"I'm not interested in heavenly Serbia. I am interested in how Serbia lives today and how it will live tomorrow," Dacic said. "I will respect our past, but I am more interested in the future. This government -- and myself as prime minister -- will not allow a return to the 1990s. Had I wanted to do that, we would have done that over the last year. Anyway, all that I said and did was granted legitimacy in the [May parliamentary] elections."

Others are not so sure, saying it is likely the new government will go down in history as the "Vidovdan" (St. Vitus Day) government, with all the symbolism that attaches to that name.

PHOTO GALLERY: Serbs mark anniversary of historic battle
  • Ethnic Serbs gather to celebrate St. Vitus Day in Gazimestan, Kosovo, on June 28.
  • Kosovar police officers seized clothes with nationalist symbols worn by Serbs who had gathered in Gazimestan.
  • Kosovar police officers use force as Serbs resist efforts to remove clothes with nationalist symbols on their way to Gazimestan.
  • Ethnic Serbs carry national flags and pictures of ultranationalist leader Vojislav Seselj as they gather in Gazimestan.
  • Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej (second left) arrives to celebrate St. Vitus Day in Gazimestan.
  • A police officer prevents an ethnic Serb from using a secondary road on his way to celebrate St. Vitus Day in Gazimestan.
  • Serbs hold posters of former Bosnian Serb wartime military commander Ratko Mladic at an event to mark the battle anniversary in Gazimestan in 2011.
  • Serbs mark the anniversary of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo Polje in Gazimestan in 2011.
  • Kosovo Serbs attend a ceremony marking the battle in Gazimestan in 2010.
  • Serbian Patriarch Irinej attends an event to mark the anniversary of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo Polje at Gazimestan, near Pristina, on June 28, 2010.
  • Serbian Patriarch Irinej attends a ceremony marking the historic battle in Gazimestan in 2010.
  • Kosovo Serbs attend a ceremony marking the battle in Gazimestan in 2010.
  • Kosovar Serbs attend a ceremony marking the battle in Gazimestan in 2010.
  • A Kosovo Serb holds up a cross as he attends a ceremony marking the Battle of Kosovo Polje in Gazimestan in 2010.
  • A peacekeeper from the NATO-led force stands guard in front of a monument commemorating the Battle of Kosovo Polje in Gazimestan in 2007.
  • Serbs from Serbia take part in a ceremony to celebrate the battle in the town of Gazimestan in 2007.

Franz Lothar Altmann, a senior researcher at Munich's Osteuropa-Institut, says the Kosovo legacy will dog the new Dacic government.

"The party leadership shows us quite clearly that -- particularly regarding the Kosovo issue -- we cannot expect anything new, but rather more of a confirmation of the nationalist course," Altmann said. "And I believe that the Kosovo issue is the crucial question, particularly as it pertains to the European Union. So we should expect the new government -- if it in fact remains [in power] -- to experience more problems than progress [on these difficult issues]."

Aridan Arifaj, an analyst with the Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development in Pristina, says it is just "speculation" that there is some meaning in the Dacic appointment coming on St. Vitus Day, but that if there is symbolism, it is important to get the symbolism right.
Ivica Dacic addresses supporters at a memorial ceremony for Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade in 2007.
Ivica Dacic addresses supporters at a memorial ceremony for Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade in 2007.
"Even more important -- if there is any symbolism at all -- is to remember that this symbolism recalls a defeat. And this was what, basically, destroyed the reign of Slobodan Milosevic," Arifaj says. "But his defeat was not only a personal defeat, but it was a defeat for the whole region and those who wanted to promote prosperity and democracy in the region. Hopefully, this symbolism will not be repeated and this new government in Serbia will not be a symbol of the same failure that we've seen in the past."

St. Vitus Day does seem to be fateful for Serbia. On June 28, 1914, Bosnian Serb and South Slav nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Habsburg Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, plunging the world into World War I.

The same date in 1919 saw the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which redrew the map of the Balkans, with consequences still being felt today.

And on June 28, 1948, the Soviet-led Cominform officially adopted its "Resolution on the situation in the Communist Party of Yugoslavia," kicking Yugoslavia out of the communist bloc.

RFE/RL Kosovo Unit Editor in Chief Arbana Vidishiqi contributed to this report from Pristina; RFE/RL Balkan Service correspondent Nedim Dervisbegovic contributed from Prague

Robert Coalson

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: BFD from: Rozaje
June 28, 2012 19:00
More Serbian aggression. Time for NATO to step in and whip the Serbs AGAIN!

Next time we'll sweep right through to Beograd.
In Response

by: Jack from: US
June 28, 2012 19:47
Sir, are you a Wahhabi supporter?
In Response

by: Demetrius Minneapolis from: My House
June 28, 2012 21:38
Wait... We'll sweep through to Belgrade? We'll?
You get NATO to do your ill-gotten work for you (again) then you prance around like gallant warriors?
Some individuals writing here are real pieces of work. I'm not of Serbian ancestry and have little to do with them in particular, but I think I can see their point more often than not in the past 14 years.

In Response

by: Nenad from: Chicago
June 29, 2012 06:07
Serbs were always on American Side before 1999. we fought both world wars together. Serbs were never on a US terrorist organisation list, but you cant say that about the KLA, which used its drug and human organ traficking money to buy American politicans. so after 1999 Serbs are the bad guys. thats is fine with any Serb. even tho Osama bin ladin's mujaheedeens were training in kosovo and got thier explosives from kosovo albanians to bomb londons busses and trains. sooner or later the world will wake up and see who the bad guys actualy are. Kosovo was, is and allways will be Serbian, one way or another we will be back.
In Response

by: Frank
June 29, 2012 04:06
BFD is in line with the kind of anti-Serb crap spouted by RFE/RL.

Such matter includes the above piece. Albanian nationalist terrorism in Kosovo was a reality before Milosevic's 1989 Kosovo Polje address, which wasn't "provocative", as suggested by some.

As for WW I, the Habsburgites were ones provoking things in Bosnia.

Austria and Hungary which was on the side opposing the Anglo-Americans in two world wars, much unlike Serbia.
In Response

by: Pro-Karadzic Force
June 29, 2012 04:15
Really??... NATO actually survives thx to USA. Europe is facing a tough economic winter xD, with an European Union totally ill. While US is facing a big... big debt problem... as well as a growing domestic opposition to new imperialist incursions.

NATO faced so many questionings in the West during the Libyan crisis, about: 1. All the money spent to support the ''No-Fly Zone''. and 2. All the people killed during their mission... as well as the bad consecuences in this Post-Gaddafi Libya.

NATO fears to attack Iran... and attacking Syria -if they want- will requiere an effort even tougher than Libya.
NATO will have no remaining will to try to impose their law on countries such as Serbia.

NATO earlier or later will face a tough 'winter'.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 28, 2012 19:21
Congratulations to the people of Serbia!!! It looks like the US puppet Tadic and his friends suffered a humiliating defeat in Serbia - and I do not recall the RFE/RL warning us about this one in advance. They were more into talking of the "humiliating defeats" that Putin, Assad and Ahmadinejad were supposedly going to suffer :-)).
The new era is about to start for the Balkans, I am telling you guys!

by: William from: Aragon
June 29, 2012 00:12
Hello BFD. Tomorrow, or one hundred years from tomorrow, the tiny countries in South West Europe will come together to form something bigger. There will be no more "Serbia" nor "Montenegro" nor Croatia". There will be no more celebrations of battles long past and your sons and daughters will intermarry - they will have more pressing matters to attend to.

This tomorrow can begin just as soon as people living there stop listening to politicians that manipulate their populations for political purposes - they too can be a thing of the past. There is no need for NATO intervention to achieve this.

by: Ben
June 29, 2012 12:58
Western "liberal" progressives make the same mistakes for years not noticing the nationalists in Serbia,Russia, elsewhere.Nationalism of the backward nations can be overhelmed just by the totalitarian ideology like communism or Islamism.Their way to the West is never stright.

by: Dr. O. Ralph Raymond from: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
June 30, 2012 17:53
And what of the 1921 Vidovdan constitution, the first "Yugoslav" constitution for the "Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes," which unfortunately already enshrined Serbia as primus inter pares ... or not so equal? This kingdom had a Serbian dynasty (and later royal dictator), a Serbian army, and a largely Serbian-dominated bureaucracy. Serbia's tendency to treat the new political entity as a substitute for a "Greater Serbia" foreshadowed all of the tragic history of Yugoslavia--even under the communists--until the construct fell apart in the second half of the 'nineties.
In Response

by: Frank
July 01, 2012 02:32
All things considered Dr., that royalist Yugoslav government exhibited a manner that deemphasized Serbia in place of Yugoslavia - a process that was nevertheless not enough for some like the folks who became associated with the Ustasha.

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