The decision to ban EuroPride in Belgrade is deeply synchronized with the Russian militaristic policy that manifests itself daily in Ukraine, while also highly destabilizing countries under its strong ideological influence, such as Serbia. The work on this joint project involved not only the president and members of the new-old government, but also a better part of the opposition, the Serbian Orthodox Church, as well as countless associations gathered in an organization called United for tradition and family.
Who are the United for tradition and family? One could say that they represent a copy of a right-wing organization in neighboring Croatia which stands against the minority rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, but also all forms of civil liberties. I am talking about an organization called In the name of the family, led by entrepreneur and conservative activist Zeljka Markic, who has managed to gather a lot of similar organizations under her umbrella and impose herself as a regulatory political factor when it comes to these topics. The Croatian version of the street protest of right-wing organizations is called the Walk for life, which symbolically summarizes the entire spectrum of right-wing policies, dominated by traditional and Christian values in defense of the majority ethnic group.
The Serbian version of this organization is called United for tradition and family and the manifest form of their politics, quite in line with their (Orthodox) ideological background, is called a Lity. They held one such march against EuroPride on Sunday, August 28, in Belgrade. Zeljka Markic’s doppelgänger is Nada Gladovic, who entered the political scene through Dveri, where she holds the position of president of the Women’s Council. For a time, she worked in the Ministry of Culture, during the mandate of Vladan Vukosavljevic, and since the start of the covid-19 pandemic she has acted as an ardent anti-vaxxer and promoter of veterinary medicine against covid.
She advocated for the arrest of Dr. Predrag Kon due to the introduction of covid passes, while, at the same time, running the tourist agency “Simvol”, which organized pilgrimage trips throughout the Orthodox world. During the pandemic, she founded the association Doctors and Parents for Science and Ethics and tried to destabilize anti-covid measures which were in force back then. Finally, in June of this year, she joined United for tradition and family, an umbrella organization that gathered over 45 right-wing associations, whose walk for life began to take shape during the summer, when they turned against EuroPride, announcing most of their propagandistic agenda at a press conference. They began with apocalyptic warnings that the end times are upon us, that our country was under attack, that it was an “us or them” situation, and that a minority of 0.03 percent, well networked with corporate capital, was attacking the majority and deciding on most laws in Serbia. The highlight of their propaganda was when they connected the appearance of monkeypox in Europe with the LGBTQIA+ community, and called for the introduction of restrictive measures in tourist organizations and other institutions, when it comes to contact with representatives of this community.
At the end of July, this conservative association announced a whole series of activities against EuroPride in Belgrade. A month later, they held a performance entitled Lity for the salvation of Serbia, walking the route from the Patriarchate to the Temple of St. Sava, with prayers in Pop Lukina Street and in front of the monument to Tsar Nicholas in Srpskih vladara Street being a key part of this walk for life. They had banners with church, Kosovo, Chetnik and Putin iconography, including the inevitable letter “Z”. The procession was led by representatives of Putin’s Night Wolves. On that occasion, Bishop Nikanor of Banat greeted the “emperor of the planet Vladimir Vladimirovich” and praised his ingenious solution when it comes to dealing with “anomalies in society”.
And so, this pro-Russian cohort paraded through Belgrade under the auspices of president Aleksandar Vucic and his mentor Vladimir Vladimirovich, ostensibly demonstrating the attitude of the majority of Serbian citizens, whom the president and prime minister had, for the umpteenth time, “brought into a state of emergency” over the past days. Not by chance, the second group of the Night Wolves organized a small parade in Moscow at the same time with Russian and Serbian flags, which Vecernje Novosti reported as proof of Russian support for Serbia. In the end, the signing of the Petition against EuroPride took place on the Vracar Plateau, with calls from Nada Gladovic to believers-activists throughout Serbia to organize similar events in their cities, so that signatures could be collected across the country.
However, the Belgrade version of the walk for life had almost no banners against EuroPride – it was primarily a symbolic message to Brussels that Putin is present and easily managing the ideological apparatus of the regime in Belgrade. He can influence the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, he can stop European projects, he can drastically influence the weakening of Serbia’s ties with the EU. His fingerprints are not hidden, on the contrary, they are practically visible from space, which was the goal of this whole undertaking. What the Night Wolves and Russian foreign cultural and political institutions are doing is visible at every step. Putin is also present in the Assembly of the city of Belgrade, as well as in the National Parliament. The culture of political graffiti in Belgrade is also under his control. Murals and graffiti with his signature keep popping up as reflections of the ideology that governs the Kremlin, and are based on the conflict between the Atlantic and Eurasian (Russian) worlds. On that geopolitical map, the Kremlin’s special interest is occupying border zones in the clash of civilizations, as defined by Putin’s ideologue Alexander Dugin. There is no doubt that Serbia is one such border zone, control of which allows the long-distance undermining of the opposing side. This was clearly evidenced in the mural that appeared under Branko’s Bridge just a few days before the Lity: it shows the image of Darya Dugina, the recently killed daughter of Putin’s chief advisor.
Translated by Marijana Simic