The only truly traditional aspect of Russian-Serbian relations is misconception. Serbia has historically viewed Russia as an ‘elder brother’ who would unconditionally and stubbornly promote its interests. Russia, for its part, used the Balkans as the area in which, competing with others, it liked to play the role of a Great Power. It exploited the small quarreling Balkan states with a view of gaining, through them, access to an otherwise inaccessible ‘warm sea’, and also to bar the ‘drive to the East’ of those states which it perceived to be its enemies. During the past two centuries Serbian foreign policy makers have failed only too often to understand the nature of the Russian interest in the Balkans. The events of the past year show that they have still not learnt this lesson.

The ‘gas crisis’ has highlighted yet again the essence of the relationship between Russia and its ‘addicts’ in the Balkans. The Russian side used its bilateral conflict with Ukraine for a display of power, and to blackmail Europe. As a result Serbia became a victim of this Russian policy, not long after great Serbian expectations of Russia – from Kosovo to [Serbian oil company] NIS – had proved unwarranted. And then, as in a story, while I was just drafting a text on the latest Serbian-Russian misunderstanding, gas started to arrive from Hungary, Germany and Austria. This strongly symbolic occurrence touched off a historical association in my historian’s mind.

I thought back to the Great Eastern Crisis of 1878, one of Serbia’s worst ever. Following joint military operations against Turkey, Russia betrayed its Serbian ally by creating, at San Stefano, a Great Bulgaria that included territories which Serbia believed to be of existential importance for itself. Serbia was then ‘saved’ by precisely Austria-Hungary and Germany – which were, of course, defending their own interests. In the mythical recounting of Serbian history, this key episode tends to be omitted.

Serous policy ought to bear in mind historical experience. And, above all, to avoid committing the beginner’s error of gambling all on a single card when it comes to foreign policy.

Translated from Blic, 15.01.2009.

Translated by Bosnian Institute, 09.02.2009.

Peščanik.net, 18.02.2009.


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Dubravka Stojanović
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) i Populism the Serbian Way (2017).
Dubravka Stojanović

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