Today marks the 70th anniversary of the battle of Sutjeska. The battle, named after the Sutjeska river where it took place, is one of the most epic episodes of the partisan war efforts during the second World War. Among the sixteen partisan brigades that fought at Sutjeska, three were from the area of present day Serbia, and out of 22,148 soldiers who participated in the battle, 11,851 were Serbs; although most came from Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, many of them were from Serbia as well. The Commander of the First Proletarian Division, Koca Popovic, was born in Serbia. These would be sufficient grounds for today’s supposedly “nationally reconciled” and “doubly anti-fascist” Serbia to proudly acknowledge the participation of its combatants who fought alongside partisans from other parts of former Yugoslavia against the occupier and defended the country’s honour. But this remembrance was absent, since the bizarre concept of “national reconciliation” between the Chetniks and Partisans is equally bogus as the Chetnik or any other type of nationalized anti-fascism.
Today’s Serbia is a result of another type of “national reconciliation,” namely, the national reconciliation of the followers of the Ravna Gora and Milan Nedic’s “government of national salvation”. This was the one actual reconciliation and ultimately the only plausible one because they share the tradition of collaboration with the Nazis. This reconciliation in collaboration is portrayed today as the ultimate national wisdom (what other kind could it be?) to recognize a realistic “level” of resistance to the fascist occupiers: a balance of not accepting the occupation but taking no action until the appropriate time comes. Nedic honourably defended the “biological substance” of the Serbian people and Draza Mihailovic, honourably and honestly hated the Germans and was unaccepting of the occupation – and in an equally honest and honourable fashion waited for a better time to pick a fight with the invaders. Unlike them, the Partisans were the ones who were dishonourable and heinous and thus, in the process of “national reconciliation”, could at best hope for forgiveness because they fought against the enemy and against fascism – things which do not necessitate commemoration.
The present concept of “national reconciliation” in Serbia (and the culture of remembrance that is grounded on this concept) does not include the need to honour those who lost their lives in what was undoubtedly one of the most important battles of the National Liberation War (NLW). This fact alone speaks volumes about the true character of “reconciliation”. When nonexistent injustices are “mended”, that will surely lead to actual injustice. However, the only thing more unjust than not remembering Sutjeska would be to have it celebrated by a country that is devoid of any type of dignity. With the glorification of King Peter II, the Ravna Gora melodramas, the rehabilitation of Nazi collaborators and state funded funerals of members of the royal family, Serbia is condemning itself to rotten roots and narrow horizons. Compared to the minuscule plateau of Ravna Gora and the Oplenac yard, Tjentište in Sutjeska resembles a continent.
And indeed, the inescapable reality, however tolerant and susceptible to absurdity, cannot adapt to the impossible. In that regard, there is not and there never will be any reconciliation between the Chetniks and the Partisans. The same applies for the commemoration of the NLW jubilee in Serbia – a country obsessed with subverting the NLW legacy, often with orgiastic ecstasy, since this legacy encompasses victory over the invading army and its collaborators. After the war the Chetniks were given amnesty, which was the best they could have hoped for. Anything else would have been, and is, violence against history. Equally celebrating or commemorating, in the spirit of “national reconciliation”, Ravna Gora and the “national salvation” of Nedic, and Sutjeska is in every way a sign of complete lack of genuine values and conviction, and is ultimately impossible. For this reason the saccharine slogan “national reconciliation” is only a euphemism for a phenomenon that can only adequately be defined by medical science, but which cannot be reflected in reality. This is why there is no, and there cannot be, public commemoration of the partisan struggle in Serbia. Because if there was, it would be grotesque.