There is no peace for history! It is overused daily, invoked all the time, used to create national fantasies, abused for daily purposes. And, as it was said many times before, this says nothing about the past itself. It always and solely speaks about our present.

What does this present time look like if we analyze the speech made by Prime Minister Ivica Dacic in Draginjac village, near Loznica? It looks bleak. The Prime Minister revealed several signs of totalitarian way of thinking. He revealed that he does not view history as an ever-changing process, but as a frozen picture of the past. In his view, the time stands still, and there is no change. The roles have been assigned a long time ago, the lines of separation drawn, enemies written in stone for times to come. This is an epic concept of time, in which all people are together – always have been and forever will be – ancestors and descendants continuously keep repeating the roles defined since ancient times. And everyone is there in the same moment of time: Karadjordje and Prince Marko (Marko Mrnjavcevic, a Serbian ruler in the XIV century), Milos Obilic and Milos Obrenovic, Emperor Dusan and Slobodan Milosevic, Serbs and Germans.

And, as far as the Prime Minister is concerned, nothing in this story can change. He did not believe what either Adenauer or Willy Brandt said. Nor did he ever fall for the story that contemporary Germany was founded on the revolt against the Third Reich. That Germany has become what it is today, by taking a fundamental step away from the past. That the success of Germany is based on a fundamental change of politics – turning away from the obsession with territory and towards internal development and European integrations. For the Prime Minister, none of this is convincing – for him, time stands still, changes do not happen.

Another totalitarian aspect is visible in the fact that the Prime Minister speaks about “Germans”, without making a difference between the Nazi regime and “all Germans”. As every true totalitarian, he believes that nations have a single thought, that they are homogenous and share only a single idea. He starts from the anti-plural premise that societies are not divided, that different currents do not exist and that a nation can only breathe through its collective lungs. Such generalization, reducing entire nations to one “character”, are typical for all regimes close to the one established in Germany in 1933. It was the very regime founded on the idea that entire nations have the same characteristics and that those with worse characteristics are not desirable.

Another well known idea is present here. The Prime Minister said that the nations which were defeated became more important today than Serbia and the Serbian people. There are two levels present here: one is well-known – that those who were defeated defected to the winning side. However, he forgets that “those who were defeated”, in the majority of cases, went though tectonic internal changes following their defeat, and that, after being fundamentally changed, they were accepted by former enemies. I have never fully understood this concept, but it probably means that you don’t have the right to change and, in a new situation, take a different standpoint from the one which led you to defeat. I suspect that this is the reason why Serbia constantly refuses to change its side, and why, out of spite, it stands by those who were defeated, without any intention of moving from the spot.

In addition to this, another idea, even more famous than the previous one, can be glimpsed from the Prime Minister’s statement – that Serbia wins in war, and looses in peace. For, according to him, those who were defeated are more important than us – who were victorious. This idea, founded in the times of dying, led Serbia directly into the wars of the nineties, carrying within itself the militaristic enthusiasm and the conviction that Serbia cannot loose a war. It was a war cry calling for a rectification of all injustices inflicted in peace through a new war. This idea carried within itself that national arrogance which grants the “winner” the right to slap others in the face, preach and set his conditions, which, the last time it happened, with Dacic’s boss Milosevic at the fore, led us to sanctions and bombing.

And, finally: what defines modern states today is not what happened in Second World War, but rather the attitude of these states towards that war today. If we accept this, then Serbia is today closer to the fundamental basics of Second World War than Germany. For Serbia is the one which rehabilitates people who collaborated, fought, ruled and ideologically agreed with the Nazis. The government which supports the opinion that it would have been the smartest move had we signed the pact with Hitler’s Germany and which rehabilitates a prince who supported the signing of that pact, is a government deeply at odds with antifascist Europe and antifascist Germany. And this is why the Prime Minister once again reveals his anachronous intellectual frame of mind when he complains about there being no place for Serbia, which fought on the antifascist side, in the Europe of today. In this way, Dacic shows that he fails to understand that Europe does not accept new members based on the merits from 1941, but on the basis of what these states have to say on this subject today. And Serbia keeps repeating that it never left the Second World War, and that it still hasn’t got a clear idea as to what place it should take in that war. Such a view of the past reflects not only a bleak present, but also promises a dark future.

Translated by Bojana Obradovic

Pešč, 22.10.2012.

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Dubravka Stojanović, istoričarka, magistrirala 1992 („Srpska socijaldemokratska partija i ratni program Srbije 1912-1918“), doktorirala 2001 („Evropski demokratski uzori kod srpske političke i intelektualne elite 1903-1914“) na Filozofskom fakultetu u Beogradu. Od 1988. do 1996. radi u Institutu za noviju istoriju Srbije, pa prelazi na Odeljenje za istoriju Filozofskog fakulteta u Beogradu, gde 2008. postaje vanredna, a 2016. redovna profesorka na katedri za Opštu savremenu istoriju. U saradnji sa Centrom za antiratne akcije 1993. radi na projektu analize udžbenika. Sa Milanom Ristovićem piše i uređuje školske dodatne nastavne materijale „Detinjstvo u prošlosti“, nastale u saradnji istoričara svih zemalja Balkana, koji su objavljeni na 11 jezika regiona. Kao potpredsednica Komiteta za edukaciju Centra za demokratiju i pomirenje u Jugoistočnoj Evropi iz Soluna, urednica je srpskog izdanja 6 istorijskih čitanki za srednje škole. Dobitnica je odlikovanja Nacionalnog reda za zasluge u rangu viteza Republike Francuske. Knjige: Iskušavanje načela. Srpska socijaldemokratija i ratni program Srbije 1912-1918 (1994), Srbija i demokratija 1903-1914. Istorijska studija o “zlatnom dobu srpske demokratije” (2003, 2019) – Nagrada grada Beograda za društvene i humanističke nauke za 2003; Srbija 1804-2004 (sa M. Jovanovićem i Lj. Dimićem, 2005), Kaldrma i asfalt. Urbanizacija i evropeizacija Beograda 1890-1914 (2008), Ulje na vodi. Ogledi iz istorije sadašnjosti Srbije (2010), Noga u vratima. Prilozi za političku biografiju Biblioteke XX vek (2011), Iza zavese. Ogledi iz društvene istorije Srbije 1890-1914 (2013), Rađanje globalnog sveta 1880-2015. Vanevropski svet u savremenom dobu (2015), Populism the Serbian Way (2017), Pola veka XX veka. Zbornik radova povodom 50 godina Biblioteke XX vek (ur, 2021), Prošlost dolazi. Promene u tumačenju prošlosti u srpskim udžbenicima istorije 1913-2021 (2023).

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