The ceremony was organized by the Government Serbia’s Board for nurturing the traditions of the Serbian liberation wars.The ceremonial academy gathered the state leadership, clergy and guests from the region, and opened with a recitation of a song written by a member of the Yugoslav National Movement (aka United Militant Labour Organization, or Zbor), an interwar fascist movement and organization led by politician Dimitrije Ljotić. Ljotić was a fascist ideologue and leader of SS volunteers in Yugoslavia who was active before and during World War II.
First occurrence of revisionist politics in Serbia can be traced to as early as the early 1990s. Revisionism was established more clearly through legal regulations formulated at the beginning of the so-called democratic changes. Historical revisionism seems to be one of the points on which all political structures that have been in power since the break-up of Yugoslavia agree. It seemed as if it was difficult to surpass the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Victory over Fascism, which was held almost simultaneously with the end of the process for the rehabilitation of another fascist Serbian leader, Dragoljub Mihajlović and the processes of general restoration. Lo and behold.
Scandal at the Ceremonial academy
As if it wasn’t enough that the gathering was almost opened by reciting the song “You’re not dead” dedicated to the Yugoslav National Movement, but Ljotić’s songs were obviously an integral, and very prominent, part of the whole protocol. In fact, several controversial songs were recited by the end of the academy: “You’re not dead”, “All for one” and “We know the struggle that awaits us” and “The hour is already ticking”.
The ceremony held on the occasion of the 76th anniversary of freedom from fascism was also marked by speeches that dealt more with the geopolitical position of Serbia and the Republika Srpska than with anti-fascism. Anti-fascism was hardly mentioned a few times. That is why we were told that “Victory Day is not a day that celebrates a single ideology.” It seems, though, that one ideology has prevailed over the truth after all.
Both Milorad Dodik, president of Republika Srpska, and Aleksandar Vučić, president of Serbia, addressed the assembly. Dodik reminded the guests that he, as a descendant of Kozara mountain in Bosnia and Herzegovina (the site of the Kozara Offensive and Yugoslav partisans’ resistance during World War II) is proud and sad because of the victims of the offensive; but also, as he added, proud because of the fact that shortly after the bombing of Belgrade in 1941 the Yugoslav Royal Air Regiment rose in the place where he now lives. According to Dodik, this fact was hid by the former (aka: communist), regime.
“We must finally supplement our history of victory with the fact that the Serbs had two allied armies during the Second World War – the army in the homeland and the people’s liberation army” said Dodik.
This year’s commemoration of Victory over fascism and the end of the Second World War in Serbia was held against the backdrop of crisis caused by the COVID-19. The economic crisis is slowly drawing out all of its weapons, against whose attack only solidarity can shield us. However, the speeches delivered at the Ceremonial academy also spoke about international intolerance, neighbourly disagreements and the interests of the great powers. It was stated that the anti-fascist struggle in the region was primarily led by Serbs, there was talk about the revision of history and the necessity to oppose the revision, but still a lot was left out.
The fight against fascism was led by male and female partisans, fighters of the national liberation struggle of all peoples and nationalities. One of the things the speeches forgot to mention is that the courts in Serbia have already ruled on a new history and rehabilitated Nazi collaborators. The “facts” that nationalists of various backgrounds are trying to teach us were not hidden in the past – but widely known – and boil down to the question of who prevailed on May 9 and why. For the last thirty years, they have been questioned and twisted through abuse of historiography. Poorly educated historians have long spoken of collaborationists and quislings with reverence, both on TV and in classrooms, in newspapers, and in history textbooks. Politicians, on the other hand, like to emphasize their anti-fascism at every opportunity, sometimes at the same time praising those who stood on the other side.
The speeches omit that in 2003, the Serbian Orthodox Church canonized a proven anti-Semite, bishop Nikolaj Velimirović, the spiritual leader of Ljotić’s Yugoslav National Movement (ZBOR).
However, Ljotić, like other collaborators, was an anti-communist, thus maintaining a political stance which today occupies a hegemonic position not merely locally, but worldwide. Not two years ago has the European parliament adopted a resolution on the Importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe, a consistent ideological successor to all previous resolutions totalitarian regimes fabricated many times over; a resolution which falsified history, trivialized suffering during World War II and essentially criminalized communism.
In that race to democratize anti-fascism and steal it from communism, the entire political spectrum shifted dangerously to the right. That’s why Ljotić’s presence at the ceremonial academy commemorating the Day of Victory over Fascism represents nothing more than a political continuity of the developments of our times. Historian Olivera Milosavljević spoke wisely when she said that in year 2059 historians will have the opportunity not only to read but also to watch on recorded materials how ideology tries to crush science, and how “for the thousandth time, without knowledge and without any awareness of their own place in time and space, drop-outs from school try to prove that history begins with them and ends with them.”
Translation from Serbian: Iskra Krstić
This article was ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED in Serbian on May 10, 2021.