Confronting the past

Selim Ibraimi- When echoes of Orthodox brotherhood, memories of past wars, and the power of propaganda are on the rise, especially in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, we always tend to think that something bad might happen. Special units of the Serbian army have been seen near Banjska, announced the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti. Serbian President Aleksandër Vučić, Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik, and Serbian Patriarch Porfirjem met a few days ago to harmonize positions on “the challenges of the Serbian people”.

Further, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic visited Moscow where he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Meanwhile, two senior American diplomats, James O’Brien and Gabriel Escobar, have reiterated their positions regarding Kosovo and NATO. It has been a long time since Serbia and its leader, together with some intellectuals, have been trying to light a new fire in the Balkans through some statements. At the same time, these actions are indicators of the revival of old myths, which during the last two centuries have produced new wars and misunderstandings between nations. Spreading lies along with increasing national and religious sentiments has always been seen as the best way to strengthen a national project.

As is known after 1800, people were able to communicate more easily either for bad or for good. In this context, the ideas of larger nations along with a major religion were the main plans of the powers of that time. In addition to high political and military figures, a strong support for great national and religious ideas came from various elites including poets, writers, etc. For our readers, we can mention the books “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina” by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, as a recall of the history of nationalism and great ideas to help Orthodox brothers everywhere. While for Tsarist Russia the wars in the Black Sea were justifiable, for the Russian people they were not because they paid a high price for the egos of the leaders and military officials.

However, Tolstoy in the reports from the wars in the Black Sea, had objective articles, which you can rarely find today in the Moscow press from a Russian journalist. He later spent time in concentration camps in Siberia. At the same time, Fyodor Dostoevsky, as a great supporter of Russian nationalism, was critical of the country’s slide toward isolation and destruction. After having opposing views, he was exiled to Siberia. Also, the national poet Alexander Pushkin once served in Saint Petersburg, in the offices of the Russian Foreign Ministry, but due to criticism of Nicholas I, he was exiled to Siberia.

At the same time, Russian thinkers have constantly debated the great idea of the Slavic world which had to be done through war. Thus, Nikolai Danilevski wrote in 1869 that* “Slavic independence is impossible without a war against the Germanic world and that Russia must face the difficult task of freeing its brothers”. While important figures like Danilevski dreamed of a strong Russia that would help the Orthodox population even in the Balkans, this happened. In 1877, news in Tsarist Russia of the Serbo-Montenegro uprising against the Ottoman Empire spread rapidly. Russian volunteers arrived in the Balkans to support the Serbo-Montenegrin fighters. Surprisingly, some events tend to repeat themselves in relations between people.

In late 20th and early 21st century Russia, things haven’t changed that much. We have encountered Russian volunteers and other actions in support of the Serbian people during the last years. Even though all regimes in Russia have had great support from all walks of life, there has been no lack of critical voices. Historically in Serbia, there has been a lack of brave figures to tell the truth. In exceptions, there have been writers or journalists who have raised their voices against Serbia’s unjust wars against neighboring peoples. This has not been enough, as Serbian politicians and academics have been involved in wars against other nations. In recent years, Serbia’s policy has not changed that much in terms of subversive actions against other states.

Bosnia, Montenegro, and Kosovo are in the line of attack, especially in the northern part. By supporting Dodik’s policies in Bosnia, Serbia has the same goals as Russia used to, which created situations in favor of big ideas. There is a great similarity between the Serbs and the Russians in the psychological aspect of the war, with blaming others for everything. By exposing more fear, and criticism towards the world community, Serbia and Russia operate with the same page of mentality. Compared to Russia, only one thing is changing here. The behavior of the West in the relations with Serbia is continuing with efforts to get Serbia to some extent close to the EU and NATO. But this is being done at the expense of other Balkan states. In this context, the US once undertook several initiatives to change the course of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. ‘

Unsuccessfully, they were forced to focus on other foreign policy priorities. Some nations have a bright future, and some have a dark history they cannot look forward to. Being stuck in the dark, myths, and ideologies will always guide the uncertain future of those nations with the ambition to spread darkness to other nations. Along with this, you seem to be missing the layer which once, despite the economic and political development, had a critical approach to the wars of the governments like Tolstoy and Pushkin. Here, it seems, Serbia lacks more such voices.

Serbia and countries like it can expect help from outside, but continuing with the old can lead to unnecessary conflicts in the Balkans and beyond. When the Russian Empire became involved in geopolitical competition in the Black Sea, innocent people suffered the most, including the Russians themselves. Can the Serbian people and their elite do more in terms of confronting the past and accepting wrong policies? We will see this in the future, maybe we have to wait a long time.

The article was written exclusively for Portalb. mk. The publication rights belong only to Portalb. mk and the author, according to the agreement between them.