General Draza Mihailovich – a lightning rod for anti-Serb propaganda / Michael Djordjevich responds to Srdja Pavlovic
Aleksandra’s Note: It never ceases to amaze me what a lightning rod General Draza Mihailovich was and remains. The following “opinion/editorial” written by Professor Srdja Pavlovic, who teaches modern Balkan and European history at the University of Alberta in Canada, incorporates the same boilerplate propaganda in reference to Serbs, Chetniks and Mihailovich that has been propagated over and over again since 1941. As we wait for the results of the May 11, 2012 Mihailovich rehabilitation hearing that will be taking place in Belgrade, Serbia, I’m providing Professor Pavlovic’s exact text here as it appeared in the Edmonton Journal on May 9, 2012 followed by a response that was sent to the editor by Mr. Michael Djordjevich, founder and trustee of the Serbian Unity Congress. It will be interesting to see if they print Mr. Djorjdevich’s response, and if so, how much of it stays intact upon publication.
My thanks to Michael Djordjevich for taking the time to respond.
Op Ed: Rewriting the past a bad idea
Don’t use Nazi-era figures for modern agendas
By Srdja Pavlovic, Edmonton Journal May 9, 2012
Last month, citizens of Sarajevo marked the 20th anniversary of the barbarous siege their city endured in the early 1990s from the army of the Bosnian Serbs. At the same time, in Serbian’s capital Belgrade, a court deliberated on a motion to rehabilitate the Second World War leader of the nationalist Chetnik movement – convicted war criminal and Nazi collaborator Dragoslav Mihailovic.
The era of “sniper alley” in Sarajevo and calls in Serbia for “historical justice” for Mihailovic are two stories connected by the thread of nationalism, and are also reminders of that ideology’s potential longevity and brutality.
In truth, the entire former Yugoslavia has been the place where past and present has often merged into an explosive mix of emotions and mythologies, and all nationalist ideologies in the region have taken advantage of this. The attempt in Serbia to rehabilitate a convicted war criminal is just the most recent one. Many are worried that if successful, it might be followed by similar court proceedings in other former Yugoslav republics.
Bosnian Serb forces laid siege to Sarajevo for 1,425 days, from April 5, 1992 to the end of February 1995. The city was hit by an average of 329 mortars per day, with a record of 3,777 mortars landing on July 22, 1993. Some 69.5 per cent of all civilians who died were Bosnian Muslims, 20 per cent were Serbs and 7.8 per cent were Croats. The first victim of sniper fire by the Serb forces was Suada Dilberovic. She was killed while peacefully protesting violence and war with a group of her fellow citizens.
Greater Serbian nationalism inspired the growth and actions of the Bosnian Serb army during the Yugoslav dissolution. The siege of Sarajevo was the central episode in a war for territory and ideology that called for the elimination of the unwanted other who prayed to a different god. Tools for completing the imaginary landscape of Greater Serbia included shelling cities, killing and starving civilians, summary executions, torture, ethnic cleansing, death camps and using rape as a weapon of war and genocide – tools not much different from those used in the Second World War.
By and large, it was this nationalism that motivated the killing in Bosnia in the 1990s and presented it as an act of defence to preserve an endangered Serb nation. Bosnian Serb general and accused war criminal Ratko Mladic is still a hero to many Serbs and his deeds are celebrated as major national accomplishments. The court proceedings against him are seen as the result of an international conspiracy to symbolically put the entire Serb nation on trial in The Hague.
Even though separated by 46 years of peace and stability in the former Yugoslavia, the events in Sarajevo are linked by nationalist ideology to the actions of Mihailovic’s Chetniks in the Second World War.
Mihailovic adhered to and fought for achieving nationalist aims of expanding Serbia’s territory. According to the Instruction to Chetnik Units in Montenegro, signed by Mihailovic on Dec. 20, 1941, the aims were the “creating of ethically pure Greater Serbia” that would include Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Vojvodina as well as the cleansing of the Croat, Albanian, and Muslim populations from those areas.
This document was based on the manifesto “Homogeneous Serbia” written on June 30, 1941 by one of the Chetnik movement ideologues, Stevan Moljevic. To that end Chetnik forces under Mihailovic’s command collaborated with the German and Italian armies occupying Yugoslavia. In July 1946, Mihailovic was convicted by the Yugoslav Supreme Court of treason, collaborating with the occupying force, ordering the killing of non-Serb civilians and terrorism.
Among those calling for his rehabilitation is historian Miodrag Jankovic, who argued that in 1946 not only Mihailovic but “the Serbian nation that still today gives birth to saints” was on trial. Vuk Draskovic, a prominent nationalist, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement as well as a former foreign minister of that country, said that Mihailovic was not a collaborator but the “first anti-Fascist guerrilla fighter in Europe.”
Such views reflect the growing trend of historical revisionism in the entire former Yugoslavia. The effort to rehabilitate war criminals has a contemporary component. While the focus appears to be on the war years in the 1940s, the scope is much broader and includes the most recent wars of the Yugoslav succession. By attempting to rehabilitate Mihailovic, revisionists are also defending the actions taken by Bosnian Serb political and military leaders in the 1990s.
To conclude, it bears repeating that these events should be placed in a broader context. Many post-communist Eastern European societies have been animated in part by efforts to turn Second World War collaborators into national heroes because they exploited the conflict to further nationalist agendas. We are witnessing a dangerous push toward historical revisionism that aims at rehabilitating ideology militarily defeated in 1945. I believe that such attempts to rewrite history of the anti-fascist struggle in the Balkans in particular, and Europe in general, should not be observed silently either by scholars of history or governments.
Srdja Pavlovic teaches modern Balkan and European history at the University of Alberta.
Letter to the Editor
By Michael Djordjevich
Regarding Op-Ed by Srdja Pavlovic in your paper (May 9, 2012), I am compelled by so many inaccuracies and biased statements aimed to rewrite history to respond. My responses follow his assertions shown in italics.
…in Serbian’s capital Belgrade, a court deliberated on a motion to rehabilitate the Second World War leader of the nationalist Chetnik movement – convicted war criminal and Nazi collaborator Dragoslav Mihailovic.
General Mihailovic was convicted by the communist so-called court, in a staged trial, which did not allow defense witnesses, including the 513 American aviators saved by the Chetniks during the war. And, this professor does not even know that the general’s name was Dragoljub not Dragoslav.
Bosnian Serb forces laid siege to Sarajevo for 1,425 days, from April 5, 1992 to the end of February 1995.
Military experts, such as French General Pierre Gallois who visited Sarajevo during the war have asserted what is a known fact that there was no siege of Sarajevo but rather a fight between two parts of the city – the West controlled by the Moslems and the East by the Serbs, divided by the river Miljacka.
Tools for completing the imaginary landscape of Greater Serbia…
There is not a shred of documented evidence that the Serbs wanted and fought to create “Greater Serbia.” This was an old lie originated in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the early 1900s and given new life by the Croat-Moslem war propaganda in the 1990s.
Mihailovic adhered to and fought for achieving nationalist aims of expanding Serbia’s territory.
This is an obvious fabrication, for General Mihailovic was a confirmed Yugoslav and advocate of South Slav unity. He was the War Minister in the Yugoslav Government in Exile during the war. His record on this issue is clear.
In July 1946, Mihailovic was convicted by the Yugoslav Supreme Court of treason, collaborating with the occupying force, ordering the killing of non-Serb civilians and terrorism.
It is indeed shameful to talk about that communist conducted trial as anything resembling justice. What treason? If General Mihailovic were a Nazi collaborator, why was he decorated with the highest American military decorations by President Truman and the French by General and President de Gaulle, for example? Why would he save 513 American airmen who had been shot down by the Germans? And so on.
I believe that such attempts to rewrite history of the anti-fascist struggle in the Balkans in particular, and Europe in general, should not be observed silently either by scholars of history or governments.
Here again we see selective indignations and false condemnation. The professor says not one word about the Nazi Ustashe Government in Croatia which declared war on the USA and England and France in 1941 and committed unspeakable atrocities in Yugoslavia, murdering over 700,000 Serbs and others. The Croat survivors of WWII and their children were in the Tudjman government during the last Yugoslav civil-religious war.
May 9, 2012
If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org