26 February 2004, Volume
DOES SERBIA NEED A KING?
A program by Omer Karabeg of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service and Radoslav Stojanovic, professor of the Belgrade Faculty of Law, and Desimir Tosic, member of the Political Council of the Democratic Center
I have just mentioned the fragmentation of Serbian society, and one should not think that it is only divided into monarchists and republicans.
[Tito's] Partisans did not really talk about the monarchy during [World War II], at least not in Serbia, and I think this was also the case elsewhere. [The discussion] started only after two years of fighting, at the Jajce meeting [that laid the foundations for a postwar federal socialist state]....
The monarchy was not really the main reason for our divisions. Mr. Stojanovic said that the king could [now] order the Chetniks to renounce revenge. However, as you know, King Petar II [eventually] ordered the Chetniks to join Tito's forces, and it is well known [that they did the opposite].... Those who remained loyal to the Chetnik movement simply cannot be [considered] monarchists.
Have you noticed that those [Chetniks and their supporters] who [now] gather on Ravna Gora Mountain [where they were once based] don't talk about the monarchy that much?
I am trying to say that our divisions are very complex, and not just those between the Chetniks and Partisans, monarchists and republicans. Serbian society is deeply divided and can overcome these divisions only by a consensus among all the indigenous political forces. As far as I am concerned, this does not include the monarchy.
Our society is fragmented [and highly given to stereotyping and name-calling].... Let us recall that the very first thing [Abraham] Lincoln decided to do after winning the [U.S.] Civil War was to build a monument to his adversary General Lee in Richmond.
The division between monarchists and republicans is far from being one of the most important ones here. Our society is about to decide whether to join Europe or to stay not in the 19th, but in the 18th century. That is our dilemma, and we have to make that decision.
As far as the monarchy is concerned, don't forget that the main enemies of democracy in Serbia were the [ruling] Karadjordjevic family.
Our dynasties never brought peace to our society. First they fought against each other for power, and then squabbled among themselves. It is well known that King Aleksandar confined his own brother to a mental institution, after which his sister Jelena left the country and never returned to Serbia. Eventually, she died abroad.
Look at the Karadjordjevic family today. There are permanent public conflicts among them, and that is not very nice to see. This is why one can hardly talk about the monarchy as a factor for peace, order, and reconciliation.
To restore the monarchy here would only bring more uncertainty to this already traumatized people and deepen the existing crisis. Let me quote a Romanov -- a representative of a major European dynasty -- who was asked some 10 years ago why he had never raised the issue of the monarchy in Russia. He said that Russia already had so many very difficult problems that the Romanov family did not really want to add one more.
I don't think that members of dynasties -- whether Karadjordjevic or any other -- are superhuman. They share all human weaknesses.
As you know, there are affairs at the British court, too. What happened to [Princess] Diana? The doubt persists that she was actually murdered. What about [U.S. President Bill] Clinton's affair with Monica [Lewinsky]?
Affairs are omnipresent because human relations suffer from passions and weaknesses. However, I have more confidence in a man with a pedigree than in someone who appeared out of nowhere to preach to us. Let us not forget the recent legacy of these "nobodies," the crimes they committed and the shame they brought upon the Serbs.
One must bear in mind the difference between a monarch and a president of a republic, who is elected and who can be removed from office in case of wrongdoing. You cannot do that with a monarch.
I agree with you that it is much better to elect a head of a state then to have somebody make a claim for life on the basis of his birth.
But one should not forget about Hitler and other elected leaders who went on to commit crimes. And in the Serbian case, we cannot compare King Aleksandar's royal dictatorship with the much bloodier one the communists imposed in 1945.
How might the restoration of the monarchy affect relations with Montenegro [which had its own dynasty prior to 1918]? Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic recently said that the joint state could not survive the restoration of monarchy in Serbia.
That seems obvious to me.
What about you, Mr. Stojanovic?
I do not consider Filip Vujanovic or his opinion to be authoritative. And Serbia and Montenegro are not a single state, even now.
However, there are different forms of monarchies. There is a so-called personal union, whose members are independent states with the king uniting them in a symbolic fashion. I would like to see Serbia and Montenegro independent but linked by a common monarch, as are England and Canada.
But what if the Montenegrins do not accept the Serbian dynasty?
One could establish a personal union with the Republika Srpska, too, which would not violate the Dayton agreements because such a union would not change anything of substance.
I fear that reactions in Bosnia would be very strong.
They probably would, simply because people do not understand what it is all about. As far as I know, a personal union would mean less than, for instance, those special relations between Serbia and the Republika Srpska that Dayton provides for.
I think that professor Stojanovic is wrong. The Montenegrins would never agree to a personal union through the Karadjordjevic dynasty, even the anticommunist Montenegrins.
And what do you conclude, Mr. Stojanovic?
I say yes to both the monarchy and the republic. Let the citizens decide, and let others not exclude any alternative in advance.
Your conclusion, Mr. Tosic?
I say no to the monarchy.