Vladimir Putin has once again aroused admiration amongst his political colleagues from Serbia by taking decisive action in Crimea. The fact that, like ventriloquists, our politicians show their admiration through their wooden puppets in the media, and not personally, does not make much difference. We had enough time to learn which media our party leaders use to voice their opinions. However, after certain statements Putin made about Ukraine, it was expected that our ventriloquists and their puppets would at least remain speechless, if not even openly show their disapproval. For example, what does President Nikolic have to say regarding the statement of his Russian colleague that Crimea can count on the same rights that Kosovo has? What is the comment of the two Prime Ministers of the technical government, who swear that they will never recognize Kosovo, on the fact that the President of Russia practically accepted the independence of Kosovo?
It is of course clear that Putin’s recognition of Kosovo will not reduce the level of local admiration for that bully from Kremlin. If we are to wonder why this is so, the following answers are possible. Firstly, the Serbian leaders are stupid enough not to understand the contents and consequences of Putin’s statements. This is an attractive theory, but probably incorrect. Secondly, political leaders in Serbia simply don’t care what Putin says somewhere else to someone else, they listen only to what he tells them personally, or through his own dolls. This theory looks more realistic at least for two reasons: firstly, the mentality of the majority of our politicians is servile; secondly, the concept of consistency and principles is alien to our politicians – they simply believe that what you said or did in a given situation does not entail any future commitments. However, this is still not reason enough for admiration.
So, what has Putin done to charm the Serbian political elite and parts of the cultural elite, so that they continue to adore him with the same intensity even when he openly supports the independence of Kosovo? What does the Serbian elite love more than even Kosovo? Brute force – Putin is so attractive because he is powerful enough to demonstrate force against any principles or acceptable reasons. This uncontrolled raving and display of muscles irresistibly attracts our President and our Prime Ministers, as well as all those who aspire to their positions. The only trouble is that our boys don’t have enough muscles to demonstrate force outside the borders of Serbia. This is evident today in the case of Oliver Ivanovic, detained in Pristina. Despite all the concern for Serbs in Kosovo, not one Serbian politician has demonstrated his or her devotion to the hearthstone in the midst of the electoral campaign by offering support to the arrested Ivanovic. Consequently, Ivanovic will have to take care of himself alone, the way all those who are powerless do – by a hunger strike.
All things considered, it appears that the current technical government has enough power to impose its will only –on the dead. Instead of, for example, the abovementioned Ivanovic, whose example exposes the impotence of the key actors in the political arena, Nikola Tesla and Zoran Djindjic have proven themselves convenient victims of unscrupulous exploitation in the electoral campaign.
And while the “case” of Tesla’s urn is, in a sense, only stupid, but not too damaging, the staged investigation of the political background of the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic can certainly have long-reaching consequences. In this case, we are unmistakably talking about the creation of a new reality. The task of the commission is not to ascertain facts (regular investigative and judicial bodies tasked with this job already exist, and, in this sense, the commission is superfluous); it is tasked with creating facts in accordance with the most desirable vision of the world of the current technical and future full-term government. And it is not our first encounter with this phenomenon. This is an ideology which manufactures reality by wielding the levers of the system as a force capable of bending reality to fit the desired picture of reality. This is something that both Zarko Puhovski and Nenad Dimitrijevic wrote about long ago, but what’s the use – when we learned nothing from them.
Of course, someone can now say that the “commission” investigation of the political background has nothing to do with any ideology, but is only a way to avoid giving an account for the events of the past: those who benefited most from the assassination of Zoran Djindjic now have the task of presenting that death as something they in no way took part in. However, even if their reasons are purely selfish, which they probably are, we should wonder how they justify their actions to us, what excuses they use to appropriate the right to create reality. And here we have already entered the field of ideology, where the issue of where Tesla’s urn will be placed becomes important.
Thus, how did it even occur to someone that “the political lives of dead bodies” can be (mis)used in this campaign? What culture do we live in, and what schools have the citizens attended whom the party, which focuses its electoral campaign on dead bodies, addresses and counts on?
Since the eighties until present, there is continuity amongst Serbs in moving and reburying dead bodies. We began doing this two and a half decades ago with the goal of recreating or reorganizing the existing community – affirming its identity and pointing out the key tradition. Furthermore, this was also related to territorial pretensions: the places where dead ancestors are reburied speak about the territory a community claims a right to (let us remember how the earthly remains of Prince Lazar were moved around in the eve of the post-Yugoslav wars). And finally, “dealing” with the dead was closely connected with the rewriting and revision of history. We have already witnessed all this in the late eighties and nineties, and are now watching it once again since the summer of 2012 (for example, the reburial of Milunka Savic; her “fate of a martyr” resembling the fate of Serbia – according to the President; the misfortunate DS had no luck even in this regard – to find their own “identity” dead body on the Sava island).
In the case of Tesla, it is clear that the issue is to redraw the borders of the ethnic community. (I thank Bratislav Petkovic for clarifying it: “This would also put an end to the stories about Tesla allegedly being the most important Croat of all times”). Additionally, this is also about creating a desirable image of that community, that is, “embellishing” the collective identity. The authority of the institution which will put its stamp and thus approve this new picture of “reality” is, of course, very important as well. In our case, this is not a political institution which represents the interests of all citizens, but, of course, the Church. This reveals the outline of a “new” nascent community, which is actually not new at all, but is well-known to us from the nineties. Namely, this is a collective strictly segregated from neighboring collectives, and cannot have anything in common with them. This collective is viewed as special on the global scale, because one genius who changed the entire world – Nikola Tesla – belongs to it. In the center of that community is the Church, the only institution with the right to make decisions about the collective identity. This task has been undertaken by people who have it in their personal interest to remodel the resent history as well, in order to wipe out any traces of their criminal acts.
Let us return now to the initial question and answer: a great force is needed for such an endeavor, even if it is to be carried out in a country like Serbia. Hence the fascination with Putin and the frustration over not wielding a similar power. What should concern us more than their frustrations is the way to confront them. I believe those who think that voting for the Democratic Party on this election is enough to stop SNS, SPS and the Orthodox Church in their attempt to produce new reality are wrong. DS has neither the wit nor the capacity for something like this. In that sense, this election is, in reality, unimportant. We are faced with the serious task of taking on civil action, outside the scope of existing parties. Voting for DS is a cheap way out: it is nothing but a release from civil responsibility by transferring it to this party. And this party is unable to handle such responsibility. The question remains: can we, the citizens of Serbia, handle it?
Translated by Bojana Obradovic
Dejan Ilić (1965, Zemun), urednik izdavačke kuće FABRIKA KNJIGA i časopisa REČ. Diplomirao je na Filološkom fakultetu u Beogradu, magistrirao na Programu za studije roda i kulture na Centralnoevropskom univerzitetu u Budimpešti i doktorirao na istom univerzitetu na Odseku za rodne studije. Objavio je zbirke eseja „Osam i po ogleda iz razumevanja“ (2008), „Tranziciona pravda i tumačenje književnosti: srpski primer“ (2011), „Škola za 'petparačke' priče: predlozi za drugačiji kurikulum“ (2016) i „Dva lica patriotizma“ (2016).