Following Zoran Đinđić’s assassination, many interpreters turned to the past in search for examples with which to compare the premier’s murder. The names most frequently mentioned in this context were those of Prince Mihailo Obrenović, King Aleksandar Obrenović, and King Aleksandar Karađorđević. It is my conviction view that it was [Bishop] Amfilohije Radović who understood the deeper historical meaning of Đinđić’s assassination far better and far more accurately than any other analyst, as was borne out by the speech – which he called a requiem – delivered at the prime minister’s funeral. In his speech Amfilohije Radović linked Zoran Đinđić to the Obrenović dynasty, which under King Milan Obrenović became a symbol of Serbia’s pro-Western orientation and thus also of the policy of the country’s modernisation. For the vast majority of the Serbian population at the time, i.e. the end of the nineteenth century, the policy of turning to the West was equivalent to treason. This is why the murder of the last Obrenović [in 1903], which was followed by the long rule of the National Radical Party, was judged not as a criminal act, but as a legitimate and heroic deed whose perpetrators should be hailed as heroes and national saviours. It is precisely this history that Amfilohije Radović has well learned and understood; and with his speech he sent a message to all those in Serbia who could hear and understand it: ‘This is what happens to those in Serbia who try to take her to the West; they always have been and always will remain traitors, which is why they represent a legitimate target for elimination.’ This then is the red thread linking Zoran Đinđić’s murder with a more distant Serbian past, which Amfilohije Radović exhibited to the Serbian public, in the largest Orthodox church in the world, in a truly diabolical manner.
There exists, however, a closer and I would say more relevant historical context than that alluded to by Radović in his requiem. One has to move forward one hundred years, to the time when the idea of a modern Serbia promoted by Đinđić became problematical, for reasons that were no longer simply – nor primarily – principled, ideological or cultural. There had emerged a far more prosaic cause of resistance to such a vision of Serbia : one linked to the fact that Serbia at that time, following the end of the war and crimes of unimaginable dimensions, had inescapably entered a period of accountability. It turned out that Serbia was not ready for such a confrontation, and that there were too many people who wished to avoid it, who feared it, because they dreaded moral responsibility and responsibility before history, because they feared political responsibility and perhaps also criminal responsibility. All of them rightly recognised the threat posed by Đinđić and, rejecting his conception of a modern Serbia , opted instead for a policy of ‘legalism’, which meant continuity with the regime of Slobodan Milošević. This amounted in reality to passing a death sentence upon Zoran Đinđić, because the policy of legalism, which in reality was that of continuity with the previous regime, could only rely – and actually did rely – on the so-called patriotic bloc, i.e. on the anti-Hague lobby and organised crime, which were, of course, symbiotically linked: a bloc that re-consolidated itself soon after 5 October and whose importance grew day by day. The basic state institutions, which had been systematically and thoroughly destroyed, and later criminalized, were placed in the service of defending the criminal war mafia. Their interests had intertwined and gelled together into a unique evil. The situation was, so to speak, desperate.
Cooperation with The Hague was systematically blocked, lustration was rejected, and the courts were incompetent or corrupt and involved with organised crime.
Serbia at the time was drowning in crime. Zoran Đinđić tried to tackle this, alone, with just a group of colleagues. Such then were the results of the legalism used after 5 October to justify the blocking of all the reforms that Đinđić’s government tried to implement. It was clear from the start, of course, that the policy of legalism was just an insult to common sense; but at that time, on 12 March, it became clear it had a more serious aim, which was to replace Milošević’s regime by another Milošević’s regime. The murder of 12 March destroyed the myth of 5 October. It was thus after 5 October, not before 5 October, that the vision of a modern Serbia received the most grievous – if not the decisive – blow, because it was then that Serbia was made to face up to the fact that the struggle for a modern Serbia would be a labour of Sisyphus, and one that would exact the maximum price.
I find myself, you know, in daily conflict with myself [over how to judge Serbia today], because we lack indicators. The recent elections, to be sure, have shown the enormous power of the Radical Party. Its electoral rhetoric is alarming, with its war programme, the programme of Great Serbia, which appears as something still valid and unquestionable; and it still holds onto a president who is imprisoned at The Hague . It is a truly large party, an organised party, and this is a strong sign. Another important sign is what has been happening in recent days, the anti-semitic wave and the use of terror against individuals. On the other hand, however, there are the comments you can read on the B92 website regarding current news and events, such as the interview with Beba Popović, for example. These comments display a good deal of common sense,and suggest an acceleration of political maturation. I cannot say that something dramatic has happened or will happen, but it seems to me that less and less time is needed for some new fact of political life to be realistically observed. It takes a relatively short time after the appearance of a new and apparently democratic political figure for it to be seen that this figure is not quite so democratic. It takes little time for public opinion to react in a correct manner. It seems to me that the public is less and less willing to follow the authorities blindly, but that it is increasingly ready to question them. Suspicion is a very important thing, a primary condition for thinking politically. My impression is that suspicion emerges also as a political fact. In this sense there are certain signs of change for the better, and there is reason to hope that maybe we are moving faster in a direction that promises survival. Not so much a good life, to be sure, as survival, because our vital interests are at stake. We find ourselves once again in a situation where we must worry about mere survival, and I think that a growing number of people realise that. That’s my impression.
I have a certain confidence in the people of Serbia. This is hard, thanks in the first instance to the fact that we are emerging from an immense evil, the responsibility for which lies with society but also with every individual, including ourselves, the two of us now talking to one another. That is how I see things. But like every normal person I have to live, and to believe that it is possible to change things. That is my only hope.
Peščanik, Radio B92, 02.02.2007.
Translation from Bosnian Institute