When the signing of the petition was initiated, Vojislav Kostunica appeared before the DSS main party board and held an incredible speech. He said that the regime was attacking him, that the regime was endangering our history, culture, faith, language, church, tradition. And then you look at the names of people who signed that petition. I have counted, there are 156 names so far: 20 academicians, 29 university professors. Thus, 30% of these people receive money directly from the state, from that regime. They are state employees. What is the role of these state employees? They work in institutions which, by their definition, protect history, culture, language, tradition, maybe even faith and church, in the twisted way they comprehend it. Thus, this regime is paying people to do a job, the same job Kostunica blames the regime of not doing. On the contrary, according to Kostunica, the regime is placing him in danger. How did it happen, that they said – trials do not matter, the law does not apply, only those we believe should appear in court will appear, the state – it is us. Who else do we have here? The petition was also signed by Emir Kusturica. That same state gave a hill to Kusturica as a present. That same state is paying each year for a festival that Kusturica is organizing for his own promotion. Accidentally, this is a closed festival. Not every citizen of Serbia is allowed to visit, although every citizen of Serbia pays taxes which are used to fund this festival. And now, this man chooses to sign a petition claiming that the state is attacking culture. Of course the state is attacking culture, considering that it paid for his festival. And gave him that hill. But it is absurd that he signs a petition and claims that the state is no good. This is a man who received 25 million convertible marks from Republika Srpska to construct Stone City in Visegrad. He will employ three thousand workers. Hey man, like in ancient Egypt, when they were building the pyramids. They are building Stone City, filming “Bridge over the Drina” (based on the book by Ivo Andric). He too now has a problem with the state and is protecting Kostunica. Let us proceed. You remember that journalist Marina Savic-Rajevic, who was the hostess on that TV show “While the angels are sleeping”. She also signed the petition.  All the shows were published in the Official Gazette. Who owns the publishing house Official Gazette? The state does.

And, of course, Dobrica Cosic. I do not know any other man who permeates the state as much as he does. Where does he publish his books? In that same Official Gazette. Who accompanies him to his promotions? The father of our president. However, the President may not be the regime, maybe Kostunica did not refer to him. They are displeased with the entire state. What is the problem? You want more? Two Stone Cities? This exchange of kindness it touching – when Dobrica Cosic protects Kostunica and when Kostunica addresses Cosic in his speech. But this is disastrous for the rest of us. Let them love each other, but we shouldn’t suffer the consequences of their love.

And then Dobrica Cosic explained to us what this regime really is, and to whom they refer to. And you suddenly understand, the regime is Srdja Popovic. Is Srdja Popovic an academician? Does he teach at the university? As far as I know, the man has a private law firm. What does he have to do with the regime and the state? But in their twisted minds, he became the personification of the regime, because, lo and behold, he asked for the bombing of Serbia. From their perspective, it looks like this – NATO did not know what it was doing. They were bored and Srdja Popovic came along and said – Hey, why don’t you bomb Serbia. And they said – How did we not think of that before. This is how it looks like. Nothing was happening, there were no wars, no year 1992, 1995, no Bosnia, no bombing of Dubrovnik, no Vukovar. Like the bombing is the outcome of someone’s bad mood, not a string of events which led to the situation where they did not know how to talk to people here anymore, and decided – you know what, we cannot talk with you, we are going to force you to be reasonable.

When I listen to them, I never know what they are really talking about. How can it be the regime at one moment, and then three paragraphs later, Srdja Popovic. They are asking in a panicky way – where are we the victims, where are we the victims. When they find where they are victims, it is their position and then they start attacking, slandering, threatening. Kostunica’s speech ends with – we will not retreat anymore, we will not keep silent, we will answer. And I asked myself the question –when was it that you kept silent? Were you silent when you set fires to embassies? Were you silent on October 10 when you clashed with the police and set fire to the headquarters of the Democratic Party? Is that silence? If they had weapons, they would have fired at the embassies. Kostunica says – nationally responsible intellectuals have risen up, we will start answering. Now when I read articles from 1989, 1990, these are calls for war, and there is no other way to interpret it. This is frightening. The only question is whether there is any real power or they have gone completely off their rocker and are saying anything that comes to their minds. But this does not concern anyone anymore. Let’s say that 99% of people in Serbia don’t care. But there is this 1% of these poor souls, members of right-wing groups, who will read this and say – hey, there is no more silence, we were silent until now – and we saw how they kept silent – and now we will fight. And who will be guilty then? Then Kostunica will say – no, no, it was not me. He is not behind the assassination, he is not behind this. How are you not behind this? You are. You are now. This speech is sufficient for someone, if an incident occurs, to claim you are responsible and say – excuse me, what were you referring to when you made that speech? This is a direct threat to anyone who does not agree with you.  Do you decide what Serbian history is? How do you know what Serbian history is? He will be the one to tell me – don’t touch Serbian history. This is not normal. Wait a second, you made political life in Serbia pointless. You ridiculed the institutions in Serbia. They finally came to their senses and gathered the little courage they had left and decided to raise their voice. And what did they decide? To make a symbolic gesture and award the biggest liberator in the entire world, Vladimir Putin, a honorary doctorate. These same people, these academicians and professors. What kind of a gesture is that? This is a gesture of a servant. Putin rides horses, drives Formula 1, planes, helicopters – all he needs is a honorary doctorate. Better if we gave him something to fly while he was here in Belgrade. We would all have much more fun.

I did not see a petition against awarding a honorary doctorate to Putin. But someone did think of signing a petition against Michael Walzer – we won’t give you a doctorate because you were in favor of bombing Serbia. And Putin – like he gave his last breath preventing the bombing of Serbia. This Michael Walzer believes group identity is more important than individual identity, thus, everything that they believe. He is the ideal person to be awarded honorary doctorate at Belgrade University. But no, he is no good. And you realize that what they are paid for and what they should be doing does not interest them at all. People, did you ever sit down and say – let’s see how we are doing our job. What do these children know when they finish Serbian schools? Belgrade University was removed from the list of good universities around the world. There is a list of 500 top universities in the world, and Belgrade University is no longer on that list. Where is a petition, did you organize yourselves? Did you decide to do something? That is your job, this is why you are being paid. You are the ones who endanger this state because you don’t do your job, but you do other, disastrous things. And what you should be doing, what you are paid to do, the reason why you are respected and have the reputation you do in this society – this is something that you don’t do at all, something that doesn’t concern you the least bit.

The most dangerous thing in this entire story is that you have, on one side, a government which is entirely uninterested, they don’t care about anything. They care about setting each other with good jobs and enjoying a good life. This is roughly the ideological profile of our government. And then you have these others as an alternative, and they actually can’t solve any of the problems that we have. And because people are unsatisfied with this government, which is perfectly legitimate, some of them will change to the other side and look for a solution there, not even asking what the other side really offers. When they don’t receive a solution from that other side, they will become completely desperate. And when they become completely desperate, then we cannot know what to expect any more, because you cannot make plans with people who are completely desperate. You can’t organize a society with people who are completely desperate. This government is not criminal in the same way as the regime of Slobodan Milosevic was. This government is no more a thief than the government led by Kostunica was. But it is obviously not capable of organizing the society. And then, instead of getting some kind of alternative where someone will say – if we do this and this it will be better, you get someone who acts in the name of Kosovo, tradition, church, faith and language.

And now I ask people – are the biggest problems that you have in this country history, tradition, culture, church, faith and language? Are these the only problems you have when you wake up in the morning? Are these the only problems we are facing? These academicians and professors – is that really your only problem? For them, it is, because they have a good life. They are paid to offer this society visions and alternatives, to analyze, to offer solutions. They feel great. In reality, they can only play a game of authority, state, a game of imposing their will. Which is what they are doing. Secondly, where did they get the idea that history, culture and tradition can be protected by threats and that no one is allowed to object. How can that be? The entire history of mankind consists of different kind of parody and mockery concerning these issues. This is the road traveled to reach some kind of freedom, what we today call civil liberties. But he says – no, back to the Middle Ages, because this is the way they feel. That they are this elite, this class which must be on top. And now, this position they have is threatened. It is no longer a joke. This state really doesn’t look like anything, mostly thanks to them. And now they realized that this is slipping away from them, and that maybe next year, they won’t be paid. Maybe there will be no money for the Stone City.

If anything good came from this, it is that we have them all in one place. We too are growing old, we don’t know how long we will be able to read, write, work and explain what really happened. But if some children, who are interested for some reason, wonder how Serbia went to war, if they wonder who the people who made the matrix which justified this war and these crimes were – let them pick up this petition and start going over the names. Let them study the life and work of each of these individuals, and everything will become clear. We never had them in one place in such a way. We could never hear Kostunica say this explicitly, that the weekly paper Pecat is the place of freedom in Serbia. That Pecat is the torch protecting free thought in Serbia. Now he said this.

The problem with lustration is that we don’t know which criteria to use in order to determine who will no longer have the right to participate in public life for a certain period of time. My advice for the next person who wants to work on lustration – take that list and find what these people have in common. And there are your criteria for lustration. This list is a fantastic thing.

Now I will speak a little roughly. I will try to paraphrase the new book by Nenad Dimitrijevic, which was recently published in English, which goes like this – period of preparation for war consists of respectable members of the group, these being academicians, professors, writers, movie directors, whoever has that symbolic status within the group, reinterpreting group identity, basic group values and goals. They interpret them in such a way as to completely pervert and twist them, so that they can be used when the time comes to justify crimes. All, or at least the majority of people who are on that list, participated in this. At some point, they believed that they had the right to interpret who and what Serbs are. What is Serbian tradition, what is Serbian history, what are the goals of Serbia. And then that right was recognized. Everything that Kostunica said in his speech, they did during the seventies and the eighties. All that we are now trying to do is reinterpret who we Serbs are, what is our history, and what is our tradition. What are our goals and what values should we have. And what Kostunica is saying is that this matrix, which Serbia went to war with, is in danger. And our answer to this should be – yes, it is in danger, and it should be in danger. And the people on that list should just step back and never again assume the right to interpret anything, because they caused enough evil and suffering. They cost many people their lives, while making their lives perfectly nice and comfortable. And then they have the audacity to ask for respect, reputation and more privileges. Maybe they felt that this matrix was finally loosened, shaken, and finally maybe in real danger. Let them protect themselves, we will continue eroding it and offering something else, someone else will offer another thing, and the state, like before, will do nothing. And then we’ll see where we will get.

From the radio show, 25.03.2011.

Translated by: Bojana Obradovic

Peščanik.net, 31.03.2011.


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Saša Ilić
Saša Ilić, rođen 1972. u Jagodini, diplomirao na Filološkom fakultetu u Beogradu. Objavio 3 knjige priča: Predosećanje građanskog rata (2000), Dušanovac. Pošta (2015), Lov na ježeve (2015) i 3 romana: Berlinsko okno (2005), Pad Kolumbije (2010) i Pas i kontrabas (2019) za koji je dobio NIN-ovu nagradu. Jedan je od pokretača i urednik književnog podlistka Beton u dnevnom listu Danas od osnivanja 2006. do oktobra 2013. U decembru iste godine osnovao je sa Alidom Bremer list Beton International, koji periodično izlazi na nemačkom jeziku kao podlistak Tageszeitunga i Frankfurtera Rundschaua. Jedan je od urednika Međunarodnog književnog festivala POLIP u Prištini. Njegova proza dostupna je u prevodu na albanski, francuski, makedonski i nemački jezik.
Saša Ilić

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