When the Premier Sings

I feel sad that Zarana Papic is not with us anymore: she would have been able to explain what happened that night with the Premier. In one of Zarana’s uncompleted texts, she observes turbo-folk culture within the context of petty fascism in Serbia. This text was recently published in the journal Gender and Identity, and somehow it is distressing that Serbia never finished a story that should have been finished a long time ago. Now we can only discuss responsibility. Is an artist responsible for her or his work? This question has been repeatedly posed after the Holocaust. This is a breaking point for all of us who think like postmodernists.

There are various opinions, many female and male authors write about this subject... but the final dilemma comes down to: are we responsible as professionals? I listened recently to a radio report about fado music. The report claimed that fado was essentially a music of love but, at a certain point in Portuguese history, fado music was used as the official music of the fascist regime in Lisbon. Let us remember Wim Wenders and his “Lisbon Tales.” However, when you go to Lisbon today as an ordinary tourist, you can enjoy that same music at numerous, specialized cafes and bars... and that is when some of us are unavoidably reminded of the problems of guilt, responsibility and transitional justice in many European countries. How did these other European people reconcile with their difficult and unpleasant past?

How do we face shame? What ethics are we talking about? If you ask anybody in Serbia what are they ashamed of, the majority will answer: corruption, lies, sex, poverty — or they simply shrug their shoulders or shake their heads... and continue on. There are some who are not ashamed at all.

...and so, in the local Serbian New Year’s Eve celebration in the main Belgrade square, in front of what used to be the Yugoslav parliament some time ago... Ceca is singing, Bora is singing, Beckovic, Velja, Dodik, Kostunica and others are singing... but also, Sanda Raskovic-Ivic is singing... Well, she is the one I am most ashamed of.... I am ashamed of her whenever I see her on TV, also the way she dresses.... I am ashamed... I am embarrassed... because I know that she had a chance to condemn crime but did not do so. She, as a psychiatrist, has the power to determine the lives of so many people; and at a crucial moment, she had a chance to choose between fidelity to the nation or fidelity to justice and chose the former. In her role as expert witness on September 12th, 2000, at the Tribunal in the Hague, she sided with four men of Serbian nationality, war criminals accused of crimes of rape in war, and against women of non-Serbian nationalities raped in war.

This is a turning point at which we pose to ourselves ethical questions, we take into consideration our profession, or we hide behind it, but we decide as human beings.

Jelena Miletic and Lepa Mladjenovic
Belgrade, Serbia
18 January 2007
translation: Smiljka Bogunovic
editing: Shebar Windstone


New Year’s Eve in Belgrade, 2007

Sanda Raskovic Ivic makes nationalist sign while standing next to Kostunica at concert-celebration

The New Year’s Eve celebration discussed above was a concert held on 13 January 2007 (in accordance with the Eastern Orthodox/Julian calendar) in the square and plateau in front of the national parliament building (Doma Narodne skupštine). There was some controversy over the use of public funding for such an event, organized by the Demokratska stranka Srbije (Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS) and serving particular party and religious interests and the neo-nationalist agenda, only two weeks before the first national election was to be held in the new nation of Serbia recently divorced from (by) Montenegro. This controversy was not significantly allayed by Ceca and Bora’s offer to donate their services as performers, since their huge popularity would only serve to draw large masses of fans/voters — over 100,00 persons — to the event and deliver them to the DSS. (In Serbian language see, e.g., http://www.kurir-info.co.yu/arhiva/2007/januar/17/V-03-17012007.shtml , http://www.b92.net/info/komentari.php?nav_id=227606 , and http://arhiva.glas-javnosti.co.yu/arhiva/2007/01/15/srpski/P07011401.shtml.)

SerboCroatian spellings, pronunciations and info about people

Bećković, Matija [pron. “ma-ti-ya betch-ko-vitch”] — Writer and poet, nationalist leader, an early critic of Slobodan Milošević, friend of the Premier Vojislav Koštunica (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matija_Be%C4%87kovi%C4%87).
Bora, or “Bora Čorba” [pron. “bo-ra chor-ba”] — Stage name of Bora Đorđević, singer with the longtime popular ex-Yugoslav rock group Riblja Čorba, misogynist, nationalist, homophobe, (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bora_%C4%90or%C4%91evi%C4%87)
Ceca [pron. “tse-tsa”] — Stage name of Svetlana Ražnatović , turbo-folk icon who was married to the paramilitary war criminal and nationalist folk hero known as Arkan until he was gunned down in front of a New Belgrade hotel in 2000. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceca)
Dodik, Milorad — Premier of the Republike Srpske and a member of the ruling nationalist coalition. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milorad_Dodik)
Jelena Miletić [pron. “ye-le-na mi-le-titch”]
Koštunica, Vojislav [pron. “vo-yi-slav kosh-tu-ni-tsa”] — Premier/Prime minister of Serbia under the outgoing regime, clerico-nationalist leader of the Demokratska stranka Srbije (Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS). (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vojislav_Ko%C5%A1tunica and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Party_of_Serbia)
Lepa Mlađenović [pron. “le-pa mla-dye-no-vitch”]
Sanda Rašković Ivić [pron. “san-da rash-ko-vitch i-vitch”] — Psychiatrist, president of the Coordinating Centre for Kosovo-Metohija for the Government of Serbia, friend of Vojislav Kostunica; previously Serbian Commissioner for Refugees. Regarding her testimony in the Hague at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, see http://iwpr.net/?p=tri&s=f&o=164515&apc_state=henitri2000 and http://www.un.org/icty/transe23/000912ed.htm (pp. 5449-5477).
Velja [pron. “ve-lja”] — Nickname of Velimir Ilić, current Minister of Capital Investment in the Serbian government and president of the party New Serbia, another clerico-nationalist populist leader. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velimir_Ili%C4%87)
Ernst Wilhelm (“Wim”) Wenders [in Serbian, the phonetic spelling Vim Venders is used] — German filmmaker. (See http://www.wim-wenders.com/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wim_Wenders)
Žarana Papić [pron. “zha-ra-na pa-pitch”] — 1949-2002, Pioneering feminist activist, anthropologist and scholar, editor (with Lydia Sklevicky) of Antropologija zene (Anthropology of Woman), and author of Sociologija i Feminizam (Sociology and Feminism) and Polnost i kultura — Telo i znanje u savremenoj antropologiji (Gender and Culture: Body and Knowledge In Contemporary Anthropology). (See her CV at http://www.policy.hu/bagic/zaranacv.htm)

Notes written by Shebar Windstone
24 January 2007