Preparations of the platform for cultural policy to be used as a facade for the „pacifist” regional policy of Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic have been ongoing for months. He recently announced his idea of writing a Declaration on the survival of the Serbian nation. That this document is derivative of a much wider Serbian cultural development strategy is clear to everyone who had the opportunity to read the draft. Namely, President Vucic and Milorad Dodik, at the joint press conference at the beginning of September, explained that this was a program document that would “include the right to use the Serbian language and the Cyrillic alphabet, to study and cultivate Serbian culture, history and the tradition of freedom, the preservation of national geography, the protection of Serbian cultural and historical heritage and the right to information in Serbian language”. All these topics are already elaborated in the Strategy, so it can be understood as a kind of proto-declaration, the abuse of which is already well-known in the Serbian “tradition of freedom”. But, unlike the SANU Memorandum, which was a part of conspiratorial activities of one faction within the Academy, the new document is the result of public actions by the president of Serbia and the president of Republika Srpska. Only the authors of the documents are unknown, just like the authors of the Strategy. So, only party intellectuals, who are now busy writing paragraphs to legalize Vucic and Dodik’s illegal activities across the Drina, are guaranteed the right to anonymity.
Yesterday, SANU and its president Vladimir Kostić issued a statement saying that the Academy did not participate in the writing of this document. In fact, he said that SANU has not yet received a public (or secret) invitation to participate in the drafting of this document. By the way, Kostic has spent the last two years distancing himself from the unlawful activity of Cosic’s wing of SANU during the 1980s, which resulted in a “program for the survival of the Serbian nation”, which was “accidentally” released to the public, and then “accidentally” supported by Slobodan Milosevic and his leadership. Some analysts may claim that the context of the Memorandum and the one of the Declaration are not the same: one was a secret document initiated by a group of intellectuals, while the other is a public matter of the president of Serbia run by an unnamed group of state intellectuals. Serbia was part of the SFRY at the time, and, today, it is on the eternal path of European integration. However, the common denominator of both documents has been the topos of Serbian politics for the last hundred years – “survival of the Serbian nation”. The mere fact that Vucic’s Declaration focuses on this topic publicizes the programmed fear of extinction as the cheapest tool for mobilizing citizens. Also, a thesis thus formulated points to a near future in which large-scale disasters that can jeopardize the “survival of the Serbian nation” are to come, which can only be prevented by Vucic and Dodik’s identity politics. Such announcements of “difficult times” that must be premeditated by a clearly defined cultural policy, are usually just a façade for economic collapse, as was the case in the 1980s, when they all searched for that Unknown Someone to blame for the emerging misery and poverty. It is interesting that Vucic’s declaration came in the middle of his long-standing campaign celebrating Serbia’s economic prosperity and a permanent increase in GDP, which must not be challenged by anyone, even on Twitter. However, economic boom and the Declaration on the survival of the nation exclude each other, just like European Vucic excludes Vucic the radical nationalist and vice versa. The question of which of the two is real remains. The truth about the economic development of Serbia may offer the best answer to this question.
Despite SANU’s refusal, there are many institutions in Serbia which would jump to welcome this Vucic-Dodik Declaration. One of them is Matica Srpska, which was the first to open its doors to the public debate on the Strategy on cultural development. The debate that’s been going on for a month and a half between the Union of Anti-Fascists of Vojvodina and the President of Matica Srpska Dragan Stanic started because two German right-wing politicians were guests in this institution: Götz Kubitchek (Pegida) and Mark Jongen (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD). They held a lecture which, with certain adaptations and accommodations to Serbian conditions, may fit into the Declaration on the survival of the Serbian nation perfectly. Namely, Kubitchek held a lecture titled “Identity and self-examination”, while Jongen’s lecture was titled “The ideologization of science through gender, queer, postcolonial whiteness and other studies”. If we compare Pegida’s and AfD’s platforms with Vucic’s policy, the differences are only regarding relationship with the EU and migrants. But they are highly compatible when it comes to political and military power, the state, populism, media, control, and Nazi/nationalist past.
During his rule, Vucic has been successfully strengthening the myth on the innocent nineties and a demise which started with the fall of Milosevic. This U-turn has abolished war criminals, promoters, profiteers, but also authors and promoters of the Memorandum. On the other hand, a practice of developing such documents has been established and normalized, which represents a continuity of Milosevic’s policy based on the abuse of Serbian minority in the region for its (de)stabilization. Vucic’s stabilocracy needs such a program document to continue creating tensions which, paradoxically, promote him as a stabilizing factor. Public announcement of this document best illustrates the operating mechanism of Vucic’s rule. On the one hand, Dodik has said that the Declaration is “an attempt by all Serbs to look back onto this fact because someone has deliberately created a mess and started separating us”, while, on the other, Vucic has remained in the registry of good neighborly relations with Bosnia & Herzegovina with crossed fingers behind his back. And consequences of this policy will be felt by everyone, including the EU which is now turning a blind eye to Vucic’s playing with memorandum fire.
Translated by Marijana Simic