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South Slavic: June 27, 2002

27 June 2002, Volume 4, Number 20


Part II

This is a recent program of RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) by Omer Karabeg of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service with Ugljesa Krstic, who wrote the script for a recent Serbian television series on Mihajlovic, and Todor Kuljic, who is a professor in the Sociology Department of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade.

The recent television series "Ravna Gora Reader" about Draza Mihajlovic, which was broadcast by state-run Radio-Television Serbia, has led to controversy. Some say that the real truth about the royalist commander based in Ravna Gora during World War II has finally been presented to Serbian viewers, while others say that the broadcast is a whitewash of a collaborator.

Ugljesa Krstic: So many things you have just said are simply not true. No agreement was ever signed between Draza and Ljotic, and Draza never agreed to any form of cooperation. Ljotic's men killed more of our young people during the war [than anyone else did]. Draza Mihajlovic refused Ljotic's invitation to meet him in Slovenia; he did not even want to discuss it.

Professor Kuljic, your sources are historians and men of honor, but if you go back and read some of their writings from the past, you will get a different picture.

However, what I would like to talk about is how many Serbs fell victim to the communist authorities. I would like to tell the real truth about the number of people killed by the communists.

Figures for the total vary. Historian Mark Willer talks about some 40,000 Serbs killed by the communists, while Count Tolstoy and some other researchers claim that there were 250,000 to 350,000 victims.

I have also heard that some 586,000 people were killed, but that figure has not been confirmed. A member of the [former] Yugoslav State Security Service told me that figure once when his tongue was loosened in the coffeehouse in Miloseva Street near the building of the State Security Service.

There is a report in the U.S. Embassy according to which between 13,000 and 30,000 people were killed in Belgrade between October and December 1944.

One should dig up [various sites] all over Belgrade, in places like Manjez, Dvorski Park, Tasmajdan, Belimarkovic's orchard in Banjica -- there were prewar fuel depots there -- Lisicji Potok, Zeleznicka Kolonija, Ada Ciganlija, etc., and see how many human bones there are. One can then make a DNA analysis and find out who those people were by matching the results with the blood samples of their descendants.

Some 5,000 young conscripts were killed in the village of Krupac near Aleksinac after they surrendered with Tito's promise that they would be pardoned. When I was on a hiking trip in 1953, I personally saw some shallow graves on the Zelengora Mountain, near Stirinsko Lake. The shepherds and lumberjacks told me: "They surrendered in good faith, and then they were all killed."

People say that some 7,000 people were buried there, while one young historian claims that there are some 9,300 bodies. In another case, some 4,000 people were killed in Valjevo.....

Some 2,000 people were killed near the River Sava and on the bridge that was later destroyed. They were killed with bats and thrown into the Sava to make it look as if they had come from the concentration camp of Jasenovac [upstream in Croatia].

This is one of the reasons why the truth must be told, since they were all members or sympathizers of Draza Mihajlovic's movement.

Todor Kuljic: I agree that the cases that my respected colleague has just mentioned should be thoroughly investigated. Rather than take things for granted, one should determine facts based on witnesses' testimony and documents. The truth must be told.

However, one should bear in mind that victims constitute the most sensitive asset for every political ideology, providing easily acquired political capital.

Mr. Krstic has objections to the sources I mentioned. My sources are not some communist writers, but rather those who belonged to the opposite side, Ljotic's men, as well as the transcripts of their hearings about the collaboration between Nedic, Draza, and Ljotic.

Correct me if I am wrong, but the "Ravna Gora Reader" is based on sources representing only one point of view. They are Branislav Stranjakovic, Konstantin Fotic, Jovan Ducic, and other Chetniks who survived the war.

I did not notice any effort to create a more complex picture of the chaos and confusion that reigned in the Balkans between 1941 and 1945, and which was later skillfully packaged by the communists into their questionable doctrine of the seven offensives. For me, this "Ravna Gora Reader" is also a sort of a "Chetnik seven offensives." It is not about discovering suppressed historical truth, but rather a one-sided response to some important and deliberate omissions in communist history writing....

Ugljesa Krstic: If you would allow me, I have another quote. It is from "The Revolutionary War" by Djilas: "OZNA [the State Security Police] kept executing people until Tito became indignant and shouted during a meeting of the Central Committee: 'Those death sentences and killings must stop immediately. The death sentence has no point anymore, nobody is afraid of dying.' This is what Tito said; therefore, he was sick and tired of all that killing. We cannot become part of a European future unless we make [such facts] known to the broad masses.

As far as the "Ravna Gora Reader" is concerned, let me draw your attention to the unusual name of the series. Its name is "Reader." Why have we chosen that name? Because, there is no anger in the series. There are only facts, and facts provoke only the anger of those who have a different opinion. Therefore, the anger is not in us; it is in those whose system of values has [now] been thrown into doubt, shaken, and destroyed.

The "Ravna Gora Reader" was made in order to collect and present for a broad public the works of some young researchers such as Bojan Dimitrijevic, Kosta Nikolic, and others.

An unbiased history still needs to be written. However, that cannot be done while the old communist six or seven offensives and the corresponding black-and-white mindset are still being taught in our schools....

Todor Kuljic: I would rather not discuss whether there is anger in the "Ravna Gora Reader" or not. But I find a lot of shallow, stereotyped anticommunism.

Ugljesa Krstic: Of course there is anticommunism in the series.

Todor Kuljic: You claim in the series that the communists were demagogues who used all available means to crush national values and that they were blinded by hatred of the Chetniks. But were the Chetniks less blinded by hatred of the communists?