It long ago became completely unnecessary to even listen to Milorad Dodik’s speeches on January 9th, the day which pompously celebrates the establishment of Republika Srpska, an entity whose sole products have been horrific crimes, from prosecutions, concentration camps, sieges and shelling of cities to genocide and ethnic cleansing of appropriated territories. That Republika Srpska remains, despite all that, a widely accepted reality that is not really worth questioning, because that conversation would lead nowhere, is a fact I will return to at the end of this article.
So, why do I find it unnecessary to listen to Dodik’s speeches and watch that horrifying event which would serve as a time machine back to the nineties, if only we had ever left them?
Well, it’s because he talks about the same things every year. About the heroic fight of the Serbian people for survival, the ever-endangered Serbs, the necessity and inevitability of unification with Serbia, friendship with Russia, the unnatural existence of Bosnia & Herzegovina, which he mentions in this context only. If it wasn’t for the medal he gave Putin this year, the media could have easily played his speech from last year and nobody would notice.
Putin’s medal, however, is not the breaking news from that day, despite making for an attractive media soundbite. It was expected. If Putin actually came to Banja Luka to receive the medal, that would’ve been something. But, since something like that is impossible under current circumstances, we were left with Dodik’s statement of loyalty to Russia and the man who started a war against a neighboring country. Honoring Vladimir Putin is actually a logical way to celebrate the establishment of Republika Srpska. It is the same rhetoric and practice.
And here, we come to the key moment of Dodik’s speech – banal nationalist anti-Yugoslavism. Croatian nationalists also blamed Yugoslavia for everything, regardless of the fact that the Yugoslav years brought unprecedented economic, demographic and educational growth to Croatia. They turned it into a forbidden word, for all intents and purposes. And now we have Dodik, elaborating on the thesis of two Yugoslavias as anti-Serbian projects. This thesis was best formulated by another political opportunist and convert, Borisav Jovic, in his book “How the Serbs lost a century”. So, we have two former party officials, one a former head of the dying state and another who joined Ante Markovic’s Yugoslav movement, riding the wave of nationalist revisionism and telling us that the country that made their political careers was an anti-Serbian project. It is enough to fully unmask the story of Milosevic and YNA defending the country from the evil secessionists.
The main problem with Yugoslavia and local nationalists is that nothing is ever enough for them. It wasn’t enough that SFRY gave every nation their own state and constituency within the republics which historically contained several Yugoslav nations, thereby resolving everyone’s national question. It wasn’t enough that, after the civil war, Yugoslavia forced the narrative of brotherhood and unity so much that it lost all meaning, all in order to try to avoid the very things celebrated on January 9th.
However, the analysis is quite clear, and that’s the final Serbian tragedy which can’t be averted by Dodik or anyone else who might eventually replace him in that position of political power. Republika Srpska is not only a moral defeat – its final outcome is a catastrophic defeat of Serbian culture as a whole, because Serbs no longer have any demographic or political influence in Sarajevo, Mostar or many other of the most important centers of Serbian culture and life in general. And the reason they don’t have it is because the project Dodik keeps celebrating came with the backwards idea that some things in Bosnia & Herzegovina should belong to some nations exclusively and that one doesn’t have to live together with others and agree about a common future.
For the sake of that common future, I will return to the beginning of this article and the fact that Republic Srpska is not going anywhere any time soon, so there’s no reason to be nervous about anything Dodik says. The tragedy of Bosnia & Herzegovina is that the only way for it to survive is to make some kind of arrangement between its many disparate nationalisms. And the representatives of those nationalists fundamentally do not want that. This is both frustrating and sad.
However, the question nobody has the courage to ask, let alone answer, is what would be the alternative to this arrangement? And that question will make or break the future of both B&H and the entire region.
Translated by Marijana Simic