Foreign Agencies on December 9th, 1996

Student Foes of Belgrade Leader Embrace Fierce Serb Nationalism
By: Chris Hedges

BELGRADE, Serbia, Dec. 9

The front door of the Philosophy Department at Belgrade University is guarded by several curt young men with tags on their jackets identifying them as "security." The students frequently turn away visitors and at times verbally abuse them as "liars" or "American scum." Students who attempt to speak to outsiders are told by the security detail that only "the committee" has the right to make statements.

On Sunday night, Jack Lang, former Minister of Culture in France, arrived to express his support for the student protesters. He was escorted by young men in green fatigue jackets to a room where he was declared "an enemy of the Serbs" and ordered to leave.

Mr. Lang stumbled unwittingly on the virulent Serbian nationalism that has increasingly colored the anti-Government protests by students here. The incident, intellectual dissidents in Belgrade say, illustrates that the challenges for those who want to change Serbia do not lie in overturning the rule of one man, but in transforming a society that considers racist remarks to be acceptable and has learned to express itself in the language of hate.

"Students, professors and many Serbs have simply switched their ideological iconography," said Obrad Savic, the head of the Belgrade Circle, a dissident group. "They have shifted from a Marxist paradigm to Serbian nationalism. We have failed to build an intellectual tradition where people think for themselves. We operate only in the collective. We speak in the plural as the Serbian people. It's frightening, especially in the young. It will take years for us to rid ourselves of this virus."

The demonstrations, which pull some 25,000 students into the streets each day at noon, are separate from the ones later in the day that involve the political opposition coalition. In fact, the students, who say their movement is outside politics, refuse to even meet with the coalition.

Tens of thousands of students occupied university buildings two weeks ago to protest the Government's nullification of local elections that would have given the political opposition coalition control of 14 of Serbia's 19 largest cities.

This afternoon, student leaders gave a variety of reasons for Mr. Lang's expulsion, saying that he had supported a call by French intellectuals to bomb Belgrade during the war in Bosnia, although Mr. Lang, at the time, denounced the suggestion. Others said that he had come unannounced and that he had "violated the rules" by arriving with reporters who wanted to "manipulate" the visit for Western propaganda. They also said that since Mr. Lang had addressed a gathering by the opposition coalition he had no right to address student protesters.

"Lang, like everyone who comes into this building, must respect our rules," said Viktor Farcic, a gaunt 22-year-old in a long black overcoat. "He violated our rules and he was asked to leave. We run things here."

The students say their movement, unlike protests by the opposition coalition known as Zajedno, is apolitical, although their demands certainly have a political cast. They include the Government's acceptance of the original vote count and the resignation of Dragutin Velickovic, the pro-Government rector of the university.But student leaders also attack President Slobodan Milosevic, not for starting the war in Croatia and Bosnia, but for failing to win it.

"Milosevic betrayed the Serbian people," said Goran Kovacevic, a 19-year-old student. "We go to class with Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia who lost their homes because Milosevic sold us out to the West."

Student organizers are calling on women to march in traditional Serbian costumes. There are a growing number of Serbian flags in the crowd and the central student committee is considering starting rallies with "God Give Us Justice," the anthem of the old Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Although the students have shunned the opposition politicians, they have requested an audience with Patriarch Pavle, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the institution that gave birth to the modern Serbian nationalist movement.

The students rejected a suggestion that they also see Belgrade's Catholic Cardinal and the Mufti, the leader of the tiny Islamic community.

"This is no longer a student movement, but a Serbian student movement, and those who are not nationalists are not welcome," said Kristina Horjak, whose father is from Slovenia. "People ask me, since my last name is not Serbian, why I am participating."

She said that although she is not a Serbian nationalist, she supports the opposition to Mr. Milosevic for other reasons.

The destruction of the country's educational system began under Tito's rule. Departments were purged of professors who refused to teach subjects like "Marx and Biology" and adhere to party doctrine. Many of the best academics were blacklisted or left the country.

For two or three years following Tito's death in 1980, academics, freed from party dogma, reached out to Western intellectual traditions. But this was swiftly terminated with the rise of Serbian nationalism.

By the mid-1980s the History Department, giddy with the new orthodoxy, was exalting Byzantine culture and using it as a tool to bash Western ideas. The works of Serbian nationalist writers were taught in literature classes and Serbian philosophers, who espoused theories of racial superiority, including the idea that the Serbs were the oldest human race, dominated university classrooms.

The war only accelerated the decline in the educational system. More than 400,000 Serbs, many of them young and talented, left the country in the last five years. And academic standards fell as Mr. Milosevic put party hacks in charge of schools and departments and sliced Government spending for education.

Miladin Zivotic, a former professor of philosophy, was blacklisted in 1968 after he expressed support for students protesting against the party's control over the university. He was not permitted to teach again until 1987. But he was soon embroiled in another war with rigid ideologues.

"I could not stand to go to work," he said. "I had to listen to professors and students voice support and solidarity for these Bosnian fascists, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, in the so-called Republic of Srpska. It is worse now than it was under Communism. The intellectual corruption is more pervasive and profound."

Anti-Milosevic protests enter third week
U.S. hints at new sanctions
December 9, 1996
Web posted at: 3:00 p.m. EST (2000 GMT)

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Tens of thousands of student-led demonstrators marched through Belgrade on Monday, furious after the Serbian Supreme Court confirmed the annulment of opposition victories in local elections.
Student demonstrators presented a petition to the police headquarters demanding the immediate release of Bulatovic, who was sentenced to 25 days in prison for "violating the public order."

December 9, 1996
U.S. Says It Retains the Option To Impose Sanctions on Serbia
Associated Press

Thirty thousand students were on the streets Monday, this time to protest the arrest Saturday and beating of 21-year-old Dejan Bulatovic. Foes of Mr. Milosevic said he was fingered for being one of several protesters in Belgrade who stood atop a jeep with an effigy of Mr. Milosevic in a prison uniform.

"Must we bow our heads and take all of this?" said a statement issued by the students. "Tomorrow it could be one of us. Let's rebel against their brutality."

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