Recently we witnessed a series of celebrations dedicated to the centennial of the Battle of Kumanovo. From the government-organized ones at Zebrnjak to the para-governmental ones organized by “Obraz” at different levels and by a rather colorful set of individuals. Had these people somehow ended up at Kumanovo itself, it would be a great question what their role would have been. Official academies and high delegations are competing who will speak of Kumanovo with more poignancy and pathos, as if the Balkan Wars personify pure patriotic emotion, and we all have to accept it. It is indisputable that an important battle with far-reaching consequences took place there and then. It is equally indisputable that there was a certain degree of euphoria among the Serbian people who followed the Balkan Wars, which were seen as wars of liberation.
What is disputable one hundred years later, however, are the stories about the heroic Serb army liberating the holy Serbian land, dislocated from the context of our time. Some may say that this is an anachronism and that we may only observe the Balkan Wars in the context of their own time. This is a methodological principle of the historical science, and the scientists should stick to it. However, in social and political life we are not bound to such views. Quite the contrary – it is precisely of essential importance to look at the Balkan wars in the context of 2012. This way we could accurately understand what is left of them and what is it that we are invoking today.
First, it is important to ask whether we really share the values about which the wars of 1912 were fought, given that this is the message from our national leadership? And if we do, what would this mean? Are we still living in 1912, unable to evolve? Or would this mean that the values of a particular time are artificially displaced and politically utilized for manipulation of patriotic feelings in a different temporal and spatial context?
Another important question is whether this is a way to forcibly re-traditionalize the society by blurring its vision with stories about the glorious Battle of Kumanovo and the liberation of Kosovo, at a time when Kosovo is no longer part of Serbia? We cannot help noticing how visibly unnatural are the celebrations of liberation of territories that were lost again in the meantime. What is the goal of this? To announce some new liberation, even if it happens in one hundred, or in mythical 500 years?
It is clear, therefore, that the Balkan Wars – juxtaposed with the results of policies that directly or indirectly resulted from them – may be assessed and evaluated today. When the celebration of the victory at Kumanovo is placed next to the economic parameters of modern Turkey, an impartial observer can only wonder whose victory are we talking about. Isolated observation of military outcomes and the exaltation of war victories necessarily leads us to being blinded by our own achievements. In such circumstances, our inability to realize that victory may be achieved in another manner leads us to a dead end and to being incapable to draw lessons from defeats. Because all too often we gamble everything on military results, and then in the political game when we lose even what was apparently a military victory, we are left without a compass.
Simply put, it seems that we can’t think outside the war framework of either victories or defeats. It is particularly dangerous that the failed concepts are again placed to the fore. They are celebrated as some sort of national holidays, which only proves that even though a century has passed, we did not learn anything from Kumanovo to this day. This is why Kumanovo, although a military victory, is a true defeat of today’s society.
Translated by Ivica Pavlovic