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Serbia: Anglophone Bloggers on Belgrade Rally, Riots, Kosovo

Below is a selection of the English-language posts about last week's events in Serbia and Kosovo, which appeared on Feb. 21-23. For additional coverage, please visit Global Voices’ Serbia page.

Viktor Marković of Belgrade 2.0 summed up what happened in Belgrade on Thursday, Feb. 21, following the Kosovo is Serbia! rally:

Belgrade was pretty much devastated tonight. Well organized groups of hooligans trashed at least ten locations almost simultaniously – American and Croatian embassy were demolished the most, Turkish embassy stoned, two MacDonald’s restaurants trashed completely again, couple of ambulance cars got smashed for some reaseon, together with several other cars, several shops in Terazije smashed and robbed, several shops in Knez Mihajlova, particularly those that did not have the sign “Kosovo is Serbia” in their windows and one bank in Resavska street. And there were attempts to trash the buildings of B92 and Mercator on New Belgrade side.

Around one hundred injured and one dead, burned alive in American embassy. [...]

He blamed the government for failing to prevent the chaos:

[...] Riots that happened tonight were directly provoked, encouraged and fueled by the government. The government also did almost nothing to stop this obvious madness from happening – on the contrary. In comparison to an average number of policemen we had on protests during Milosevic regime, you could practically say that the streets of Belgrade were policeless today. [...]

Viktor's co-blogger bganon shared a firsthand account of the riots in the comments section, and noted, too, that the police could have done a better job:

[...] The conclusion is that this could have been prevented, without any question – that the police were deliberately moved out of harms way. On top of this senior police officers (upon instruction from their ministry) had deliberately left their policemen unprotected by not calling in reserves. Riot police were hugely outnumbered and could have quite easily been overwhelmed. We pitied the police, which in Serbia, is not a natural instinct, after all in the 1990’s the police had a habit of beating the living daylights out of protesting students. (who did not indulge in crime) They were under strict orders this time. [...]

He concluded:

Its a pity that this is the main story and its not a story of a legitimate, dignified and well organised protest.

In another post, Viktor drew attention to a virtual protest by seven Serbian bloggers, who had placed a “picture of darkness on their blogs.” Here is how Viktor explained some of their possible motivations to a reader and fellow-blogger who questioned the validity of this approach to blogging:

[...] Some have it because they are afraid of another war, some because they are simply sick of it all, some cause they are tired, and some maybe even because they are sorry for Kosovo loss. [...]

Nicholas Comrie wrote on his B92 blog that the Feb. 21 rioting in Belgrade has “succeeded in setting Serbia back five years”:

[...] After all the progress that Serbia has achieved over the last ten years to move towards the international club of nations, one night of state ‘green-lighted’ violence has recreated what should have now been, tired, negative stereotypes of Serbs. After all the positivity created by the likes of Djokovic, Ivanovic and Serifovic, Serbs are once more at the centre of violence which has been internationally reported and condemned. [...]

Another B92 blogger, Rosemary Bailey Brown, wrote about a “completely one-sided and simple-minded” Washington Post piece (Serbia's Thugs, Feb. 22) – and called to “Serbs or Friends of Serbs” to become more outspoken in order to counter the negative publicity that the country and its people were getting:

[...] My question is, why are almost no Serbs or Friends of Serbs posting comments or editorial replies on the vast majority of these stories??? Almost all the major US, UK and Canadian press now allow online readers to post comments. You may have to register to do so, but it's free. It's your chance to fight a the PR battle, and no one on the Serb side seems to be taking advantage of it – AT ALL! It's like an entire nation is laying down and saying, “Oh poor me, what nasty things they are saying about me again, I am far too victimized to defend myself at the moment.”

A word of advice – if you do decide to fight the good fight and bring the other side (or at least more relevant information) to these media, then to be taken as a credible writer, you must write in a manner that Western readers find, well, credible.

That means no polemics. No emotion. No long rants. Calm-sounding facts and a few bullet points poking a hole in the editorial's argument will be 1,000 times more powerful. You are not a poor victim, you are an intellectual politely explaining facts and background to a not-so-bright student. [...]

Three bloggers – Eric Gordy of East Ethnia, Jasmina Tesanovic at Boing Boing, and Marko of Reluctant Dragon – concluded their posts noting that a state of emergency was not unlikely.

Gordy wrote:

[...] My fear was that perhaps a decision had been made to allow a public outrage that would provide a pretext for declaring a state of emergency. [...]

Tesanovic wrote:

[...] The country may be on the verge of a state of emergency.

Marko wrote:

[...] I am afraid of what this crystal night will bring. I am afraid for the lives of people who are still voices of reason. I expect that the aforementioned villains will use the chaos to introduce a state of emergency and take control officially as a government of “national unity”. This is the end.

Writing about the issue of international recognition of Kosovo, Kosmopolit offered this scenario:

And finally the idea of partition: diplomatically this could become a solution in a few years. The deal could be: Serbia takes control over the north of Kosovo, in return it recognises Kosovo as a state (which also means Russia drops the veto in the UN). At the same time the EU could offer Serbia some sort of fast track EU membership (again).

Gray Falcon wrote this about the rioting in Belgrade and the subsequent statement by the State Department's spokesman Sean McCormack:

[...] Neither the U.S. nor the EU are interested in “political dialogue”; they demonstrated that by organizing and recognizing the secession of occupied Kosovo. “Differences”? Is that how we're calling it now? Well, Mr. McCormack, I have a feeling that the angry young men who threw a Molotov cocktail at your embassy thought they were engaging in political dialogue over their differences and disagreements with the U.S. government, in a fashion that very government taught them was the right and proper way of doing things. I mean, when Washington has differences and disagreements with people, there's usually blockade, bombing and occupation in those people's near future. [...]

Luboš Motl of The Reference Frame wrote at length about the volatile history of the Balkan region and explained why certain people in the West should think twice before giving their governments the authority to recognize Kosovo's independence:

[...] But is it really necessary for them to try to influence things that they obviously cannot understand? Shouldn't the citizens of those Western countries that want to recognize the Kosovo Republic admit that they have problems to remember the location of the countries that exist today and the situation only becomes worse when new countries are created? [...]

Ruslanas of Lituanica reported on the sighting of a “Kosovo is Serbia” banner at a recent Lietuvos Rytas basketball club's game in Vilnius:

[...] We have one or two ex-Yugoslav basketball players here and our Lietuvos Rytas team is trained by a Serb Trifunovic. As we know the sports could be very political. A great manifestation of that was a match in Vilnius when some of the Lietuvos Rytas’ supporters raised a banner with a slogan ‘Kosovo is Serbia!’ The Serbian coach refused to comment on it.

I am not convinced that the supports thought about the politics, more likely they thought about a moral support for their coach. Same as the Kaunas’ Žalgiris suporters raised the Palestinian flag during a game with the Tel Aviv Maccabi team. I am quite convinced that when the Lietuvos Rytas will change the coach to not a Serbian, we will see the Kosovo flags flying during a match against a Serbian team. The Lithuanian sports fans are notorious of their Political Incorrectness. [...]

In the comments section to this post at A Fistful of Euros, a reader named Geoff reported that the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) was “now considering moving the Eurovision song contest to another country”:

[...] I know that may seem like a very minor point considering everything that’s gone on, but if this is true then Serbia could well lose what should have been a golden opportunity to present a positive image of themselves to the rest of Europe.

South East Europe Online reported that “Kosovo has been added to the list of independent countries on the U.S.. Department of State website, and assigned the KV code, by which countries are identified.”

***

Two “bonus” links, from earlier dates.

- Dr Sean's Diary wrote this about Kosovo's new flag:

The new state in the making/EU protectorate of Kosova/o has a new flag [...], selected through a competition, but designed to have no associations with any ethnic group or historical tradition. It comes out a rather anodyne blue and yellow creation with a star design vaguely resembling that of the EU. Very similar colour scheme and design to that adopted, for similar reasons, by Bosnia-Herzegovina (below)and, I suspect, likely to be no more successful in bridging ethnic divisions.

Also noted in the post were the EU's new member states’ positions on Kosovo's independence:

[...] Romania and Slovakia are firmly against (large Hungarian minorities), those without national minorities and eager to stress their Atlanticism (Poland) are edging towards recognition, while near neighbours and EU President Slovenia seems to have a position of studied neutrality/indecision expressing understanding for just about everyone’s point of view. [...]

- Corina Murafa, a Romanian blogger, summed up Romania's position on the situation in Kosovo and Serbia:

Kosovo has never really been on the public agenda in Romania, except for today. In addition to this, Romania’s foreign policy has been everything but coherent with respect to Kosovo and to the former Yugoslavia in general. Starting from “oh Serbia… our old friend and ally” to “oh NATO… welcome us in your bossom” years ago, today’s Romania is torn between siding with the EU [...] and disapproving Kosovo’s recent declaration of independence. It might be a proof of the fact we’re still elegantly swinging back and forth between the West and rest. [...]

  • sara

    as usual, Serbs are always the hooligans right?
    Americans think that Kosovo is just a piece of land blah blah get over it
    its easy for Americans to criticize because they have Bono history whatsoever, so they dont know what’s its like to lose a piece of land over 1000 years old. While there was buffalo roaming all of north america, serbs or should I say “hooligans” were eating with golden forks in castles in Kosovo. And another thing…Americans go around the world making bigger problems for countries like Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba,etc and then they are outraged by 9.11 and the burning of their embassy. What the hell do u expect? Mind ur own business

  • http://the-vigil.blogspot.com/ Vigilante

    All you are saying Sara, is that Serbs are acting just like Americans, except they do it in their own back yard. Not much daylight nor a dime’s bit of difference there.

  • http://uzar.wordpress.com Raf Uzar

    Very, very interesting blog you have here. Raf

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