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South Slavic: July 1, 2004

1 July 2004, Volume 6, Number 22

The next issue of "RFE/RL South Slavic Report" will appear on 15 July.


Part III.

In Tito's Yugoslavia, 15 May was celebrated as the Day of Victory Over Fascism. Almost 60 years after that victory, RFE/RL's topic of the week is extreme nationalism, chauvinism, and various forms of fascism in today's Yugoslav successor states.

Refik Hodzic (former representative of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal in Bosnia-Herzegovina): [The question of mixed marriages is bound up with] the fate of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Making an issue of mixed marriages is an attempt to allow ideology to enter people's bedrooms and create a single world outlook.

Reality, of course, is completely different. The main problem in Bosnia-Herzegovina is that all the positive developments are taking place in spite of our leaders, not thanks to them....

RFE/RL: Finally, what should people in our region do when confronted with extreme nationalism, chauvinism, or even fascism, keeping in mind how these trends have been combated in countries such as France and Austria.?

Pajazit Nushi (head of the Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Liberties in Kosovo): The fight against prejudice and negative attitudes by one nation toward another should become a central theme for all decent political forces in Kosova. The media and education have crucial roles to play in forming positive attitudes and transforming the way people treat others who belong to different religions, races, nations, etc.

Zoran Pusic (president of the Civic Committee for Human Rights in Zagreb): Croatia seems to have turned a corner, and it is unlikely that we will now witness the emergence of a mainstream political figure in the mold of France's Jean-Marie Le Pen or Austria's Joerg Haider.

Hodzic: I am deeply convinced that the present government in Bosnia-Herzegovina is not able to act decisively because it is still at war, meaning that the three partners are still in conflict with each other. The mechanisms used in France and Austria to curb extremism simply do not exist in Bosnia, because none of the three sides has an interest in seeing such controls develop.

Bogdan Bogdanovic (former Belgrade mayor and former Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts member): A number of very wise and brave Serbian men and women are fighting for a cause in Belgrade. We can easily agree about what needs to be done, but what can we do about all the people who vote for [Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav] Seselj? They are locked into a mindset with roots deep in 19th-century Serbian nationalist thought.

Moreover, Serbia has been under a sort of mental blockade, without any alternative view of the world. I think that the world has given up on us. We are not geopolitically interesting. It was one of our illusions that our location makes us important, and that the world has to take care of Serbia, whether it likes it or not.

It seems that other geographical areas now have priority over us. We are slowly being left to the fate of a theme park, albeit not because of any malice.

One recalls the fate of the Danubian island Ada Kale, which is now submerged. It was overlooked by the 1878 Congress of Berlin, which redrew the map of the Balkans. As a result, it became a tourist attraction. Boats from Vienna used to stop there, and everything was done up in an oriental style, straight out of the "Tales of the Arabian Nights." I fear there is nothing left for us except to become a European Ada Kale....

I admire the people in Belgrade and throughout Serbia who continue to offer intellectual and moral resistance [to the nationalist mindset], but I know that they are a powerless minority there. Once again, I know that I should say something encouraging here, but I simply do not know what to say.

Mirko Djordjevic (publicist): Other [ex-Yugoslav] countries are making a break with their nationalist past, but there is no trace of this in Serbia. On the contrary, there are increasing signs suggesting that extreme nationalism and even some forms of racism are beginning to run amok.

Why is this the case in Serbia? Because our so-called democratic government is making no effort whatsoever to encourage the forces that might do something about it.

As it stands, this government will not be able to continue the work begun by the late Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic because it is bogged down in conservative thinking and lacks the courage to move toward a democratic alternative.

I simply hope that Serbia will find the courage to face up to this evil soon enough, whenever that may be.

Sooner or later we will have to find our identity within the civilized code of European values. I pin my hope on our European environment as the decisive factor, rather than on any forces within Serbia.