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April 11 2013

Croatia's Sports Lesson for Ukraine

Ukraine, with its population of 45 million people, has much to learn from Croatia, population just over 4 million, in terms of organizing affordable and accessible sports activities for children.

This is one of the conclusions that Denis Oleinikov, a Ukrainian businessman who lives in Croatia with his wife and two children, has recently shared in a Facebook post [ru] comparing the attitudes towards sports in Ukraine and in Croatia. Oleinikov received political asylum in Croatia – which he now calls his “new, cozy and friendly home” – following the 2011 crackdown on his goods-on-demand company that had been printing t-shirts with slogans mocking the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

First, Oleinikov compared the demographics and financial resources of the two countries:

[...] Ukraine has a much higher level of urbanization. We live predominantly in large cities – which means that it is possible to build [sports facilities] that would accommodate [...] hundreds of thousands of people. [...]

In Croatia, people live mainly in small towns. [...] Our town's population is 10,000 people. There are only about 30 kids my son's age there – [in Kyiv], there'd be more kids his age in just two streets [of any given neighborhood].

In Ukraine, there are [large industrial corporations] that fund not just professional clubs, but also “corporate” sports facilities of a rather high quality. My daughter [played tennis] a couple of times at the gym that belongs to the [Odessa-based] Shustov Cognac Factory – they have tennis courts and a swimming pool there, and all is up to the mark. The whole Croatian region doesn't have a swimming pool [that could compete with Shustov's].

Local [Croatian] oligarchs are poor beggars compared to their Ukrainian counterparts. [...]

Next, he did a quick assessment of how the two countries fare against each other in sports:

[...] Football, FIFA rankings: Croatia – 9, Ukraine – 48.
Basketball, men: Croatia – 16, Ukraine – 50.
Basketball, women: Croatia – 21, Ukraine – 61 (shares this position with Rwanda and Madagascar).
Handball, men: Croatia – 10, Ukraine – 28.
Handball, women: Croatia – 18, Ukraine – 22.

Ukraine is ahead of Croatia only in winter sports, which isn't surprising as much of Croatia lies in the subtropics :). And not in all winter sports, too – Croats are ahead of us in alpine skiing. [...]

Croatia wins bronze medal at Handball World Championships. Photo by Pau Barrena, copyright © Demotix (26/01/13).

Croatia wins bronze medal at Handball World Championships. Photo by Pau Barrena, copyright © Demotix (26/01/13).

Oleinikov kept wondering about Croatia's enviable athletic achievements. Then, when his little son got a chance to spend a week at a free-of-charge sports camp organized by his school during spring break, he understood what the key to Croatia's success must have been:

[...] We would drop our son off at 8 AM and pick him up at 3 PM.

The city provided sports facilities and lunch [...]. Sports federations provided the coaches [...]. A children's sports psychologist was invited from [Croatia's capital] Zagreb.

And FOR A WHOLE WEEK the kids have been joyfully trying different types of sports, for free: football, basketball, volleyball, handball, tennis, ping-pong, karate, fencing (!!!), yachting (!!!), bocce… that's it, I guess.

[...]

In our “village” (by Ukrainian standards, it wouldn't even be the biggest one), 100 percent of children are involved in extracurricular sports activities. [...]

Oleinikov sees a lesson for Ukraine here – and for Ukraine's opposition politicians, too:

[...] It shouldn't cost too much to reproduce it all in Ukraine. [...] Schools and some municipal organizations could provide gyms. Dinners can be organized somehow as well.

What's needed is that someone has the need to do this. Even if the state doesn't give a damn.

Enthusiasts, volunteers, activists.

Finally, one camp like this would bring five times more loyal supporters (from the parents’ ranks) to the respected opposition politicians than ten protest rallies would. Only this camp has to be organized every six months for five years in a row – and not just once three months before the election [...].

Some of Oleinikov's readers (and he has over 2,750 Facebook friends and followers) weighed in on the situation with sports in Ukraine – showing little or no optimism, however.

Aleksandr Yaremenko wrote [ru]:

Denis, children's sports barely exists in our country now. It is either the “elite” types of sports that parents pay huge amounts of money for [...], or it's pure enthusiasm of [state-funded] coaches who survive on peanuts from the not-so-rich parents.

Alex Gureev wrote [ru]:

People in the well-to-do Europe tend to forget the Ukrainian realities a bit too quickly. Here, people are busy just trying to SURVIVE! They cannot be bothered with sports and other attributes of the well-to-do West… We've had more than one attempt to apply the [theory of "small deeds"] – and, in most cases, these attempts failed after just a couple of months… ((

February 20 2013

New e-Journal Highlights Balkan History and Archaeology

The inaugural issue of Haemus Journal, an academic e-journal devoted to the history and archaeology of the Balkan Peninsula, also covering a wide range of related interdisciplinary topics, was published recently. It follows the principles of Free and Open Access and publishes its content under a Creative Commons license.

Haemus-journal-1-2012-cover

Haemus journal Vol.1 (2012)
http://haemus.mk

(more…)

February 08 2013

Protesting Cyrillic, “Collectivising Guilt” in Croatia

Balkan Anarchist weighs in on the protests against the use of the Cyrillic script in Vukovar‘s public spaces:

[...] I believe that we, decent and honest Serbs, should be ashamed of what was done in the name of Serbdom during the '90s and condemn it all unequivocally! And I also agree that it's wrong that most Serb war crimes suspects have yet to be apprehended; it should not stay like that any longer. However, it's one thing to seek justice for serious offences that were committed in wartime, and a completely different thing to deny every sign of another culture and language in peace time, just because some dispicable members of that community did something horrible to you or a loved one. [...]

January 24 2013

Parallels Between Religious and Copyright Wars

Rick Falkvinge, the founder of Pirate Party, reinterprets the wars of religion that devastated Western Europe in the XVI and XVII centuries in terms of the current struggle to control information through overbearing legislation related to copyright and freedom of expression:

The religious wars were never about religion as such. They were about who held the power of interpretation, about who controlled the knowledge and culture available to the masses. It was a war of gatekeepers of information.

November 17 2012

Croatian Senior Generals Acquitted of War Crimes

Eric Gordy of East Ethnia comments on this Friday's UN appeal court's judgment acquitting Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač of war crimes:

[…] Some people are delighted with the judgment and other people are outraged, with divisions following predictable political lines. The appeals chamber itself is no less divided. The five judges on the panel made most of their decisions by a 3-2 vote. […] So consensus about the law and the facts of the case is not any greater among the members of the appeals chamber than it is in the public. This gives us a result that does not settle controversies, but keeps them burning for a good long time. […]

September 11 2012

Kosovo: “Cinematic Darkness Knows No Nation”

At Kosovo 2.0 blog, Belgrade-based journalist Dušan Komarčević writes - here and here - about his July 2012 trip to Prizren, Kosovo, to attend the DOKUFEST International Documentary and Short Film Festival:

[…] The cinemas were filled with movie lovers from Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, … Serbs and Albanians together!, will exclaim in unison ethnocentric builders committed to multiply the concept of the Berlin Wall in as many locations as possible. Unlike diplomats from Belgrade and Prishtina, who are seated around the same table by some Brussels bureaucrat […], moviephiles don’t need any intermediaries. Of course, with the exception of celluloid film. […]

September 10 2012

Croatia: Promoting Solar Energy at Terraneo Music Festival

UNDP's Voices from Eurasia blog reports on the ecological education program of this year's Terraneo music festival in Šibenik, where guests, among other things, could “test-drive Croatia’s only solar-powered car and bicycle.” In charge of the festival's “solar booth” were Marko Capek and Robert Pašičko, who “also sang songs about [solar energy], changing the lyrics of Sunshine Reggae and other favorites.”

[…] Just to illustrate, Austria, which has only two thirds of Croatia’s sunshine, uses 20 times more solar power than Croatia. […]

June 17 2012

SEE: Social Media Use Study

Growth in social media activities has slowed down, indicates the research of Wave6 [sr; en], which surveyed active Internet users in 62 countries: Macedonia and Croatia are more involved in the social media than Serbia, where watching video clips is the most popular activity (91%). For the first time, there is a decrease in blogging, though social networking activities still prevail.

April 20 2012

02mydafsoup-01

Zagreb (Croatia) - The Subversive Forum : the Future of Europe - Le Courrier des Balkans

Kino Europa & ZKM Theatre
Publié dans la presse : 5 mai 2012
Mise en ligne : samedi 19 mai 2012

Under the umbrella of Subversive Forum a number of events will take place in May 2012 in the Croatian capital, including an international conference dedicated to the main theme The Future of Europe, numerous debates The Crisis of Europe (May 14 – 15), The Struggle for the Commons (May 16) and Towards the Balkan Social Forum (May 17 – 18), the Subversive book fair and, during the introductory week (May 5 – 12), the 5th Subversive Film Festival.


DEBATES :

With more than 100 participants from Greece, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Serbia, BiH, Macedonia, Albania, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Austria, Italy, UK, India, Senegal, Hungary etc.

The Crisis of Europe
May 14 – 15, ZKM Theatre, 10h – 18h
The Struggle for the Commons
May 16, ZKM Theatre, 10h – 18h
The Balkan Forum
May 17 – 18, ZKM Theatre, 10h – 18h


It is no news that the European Union is facing its biggest crisis since it was created. It is at the same time an economic, financial, social and ideological crisis of this project. Across the continent, instead of solidarity we are witnessing a resurgence of national selfishness, the rise of extreme right, intolerance, and racism. The Mediterranean countries who have been hit the hardest by the crisis show us also a possible response to it : the appearance of strong social movements demanding social justice, a different economic model, and direct democracy. Almost everywhere we see the youth on the streets, in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Romania, but also in the future EU member Croatia.

Through a critical examination of Europe’s current crisis, the Subversive Forum will try to outline realistic possibilities for its transformation and the creation of another political, social and economic project across the Old Continent. The keynote speakers include Stéphane Hessel, Michael Hardt, Tariq Ali, Gayatri Spivak, Slavoj Žižek, Saskia Sassen, Christian Marazzi, Samir Amin, Bernard Cassen, Ignatio Ramonet, Eric Touissant, Costas Douzinas, Renata Salecl, and more than 100 participants from 20 different European, African and Asian countries. For one week in May, Zagreb, the town placed almost exactly on the EU’s shifting border, will become both a center of the world’s critical thought and a laboratory of possible political, social and economic alternatives.

Toutes les informations sur le site : http://www.subversiveforum.com 

The Subversive Forum is endorsed by the World Social Forum.

March 25 2012

Serbia: Controversy Over Draža Mihailović's Rehabilitation

Dragoljub Draža Mihailović was a commander of the Yugoslav Army in the Homeland, also known as the Chetnik movement, during World War II. In 1946, he was captured by the communist Yugoslav authorities, convicted of high treason and war crimes, sentenced to death and executed.

The tribunal for his rehabilitation, which began in June 2010 on the request by Draža's grandson Vojislav Mihailović, is nearing the end now. Although the request has been supported by some academicians, professors and politicians, the public in Serbia is divided. For some, Draža Mihailović is an innocent victim, for others, he is a justly convicted collaborator of the occupiers, who committed crimes not only in Serbia, but in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia as well.

Some politicians, NGOs and citizens from these countries have also reacted to the news. They have a more or less unified view of Draža Mihailović, considering him a criminal and a nationalist who had the idea to establish the so-called Greater Serbia.

Draža Mihailović. Photo: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Muzej Revolucije Narodnosti Jugoslavije, in the public domain.

Draža Mihailović. Photo: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Muzej Revolucije Narodnosti Jugoslavije, in the public domain.

Ivo Josipović, the President of Croatia, said to the Croatian daily Jutarnji List:

Draža Mihailović was a war criminal… I could remember a lot of cases where [Chetniks] collaborated, not being anti-fascists, but collaborated with the Germans, Italians and [Ustaše] fighting against the [partisans]… If the trial is finished as the media are announcing – but wait for the end of it -
it will be a bad step in regard to the Second World War and anti-fascism.

The Movement of War Victims from Bosnia issued a statement, in which they said this, among other things:

Bosnia and Herzegovina paid dearly for the Greater Serbia ideology, one of whose trademarks Draža Mihailović is. On the occasion of his rehabilitation we are seriously worried about sovereignty and peace in our country and we are afraid because we don’t know whether the atrocities and deaths which we experienced 20 years ago are behind us forever. Equaling the fascist and anti-fascist movements is the same as equaling victims and criminals from the period of aggression on our country.

However, Vuk Jeremić, Serbia's minister of foreign affairs, thinks the rehabilitation of Draža Mihailović is an internal issue of Serbia.

Serbian blogger Filip Mladenović wrote in his post:

[…] However, I am particularly irritated with the revision of history. It’s not clear to me who is in favor of relativizing our ancestors’ anti-fascist fight during the Second World War now by attempting to rehabilitate the Ravnogorski movement and its leader Draža Mihailović. Why does Serbia throw itself out of the winning anti-fascist coalition by these auto-goals? Why does it disown so many victims who perished honorably and courageously during the fight against Hitler’s Nazi regime? […]

There are more than 350 comments on Mladenović's post. Below are some of them.

Johnnyt wrote:

You are spitting at the man who was a genuine fighter against fascists and communists, while criminal [Tito], the president of the genocidal country of SFR Yugoslavia, is loafing in the House of Flowers […]

Dextera said:

Filip, you don’t know a lot of things. You have exclusively read and cited official history created by Tito’s regime. You don’t know that the trial of Draža Mihailović was a fixed [political] trial, you don’t know what kind of documents there are, you don’t know the role of the [Comintern], you don’t know who Dragić Joksimović was, you don’t know that Draža’s sister was killed by the Soviet soldiers when they entered Belgrade in 1944, etc. You would like to make things to be black and white, just the way Tito was doing.

Cult said:

It has to banned by law to falsify history and rehabilitate national traitors and collaborators with the occupiers.

niccolo said:

It’s futile to discuss again who killed more civilians – the Chetniks or the Partisans. However, does any of the participants in the discussion realize that the procedure of rehabilitation is not related to the question of whether someone committed a crime or not, but to the question of whether the accused one had a fair trial or had no trial at all?

A Belgrade-based historian Ljubinka Trgovčević said this to the Slobodna Evropa (Free Europe) web site:

If it was only about the reconstruction of the court trial, then the problem would be much less anyway. In this way, it goes without saying that he was acquitted, as well as his movement, of everything that he did or did not do.

Mirko Kovač, a well-known novelist from Croatia, said this to the same source:

Super. People could hardly wait for it to be done, so they could rehabilitate their own ones. This region is the same as Serbia. People here dream of rehabilitating [Ante Pavelić].

Dušan Stefanović from Chicago left this comment to the Slobodna Evropa article:

I don't see who was betrayed by Draža in the war. He was fighting against Tito's communists, Pavelić's soldiers [the Ustaše], Hitler's fascists… all enemies of the Serbian people during the war. He saved thousands of American pilots, more than 500 of them were evacuated only from the village of Pranjani in 1943. De Gaulle and Truman decorated him with the highest medals for his role in the war. Above all, General Mihailović did not betray Serbia.

March 14 2012

Europe: Will ACTA Treaty Pass After Protests?

[All links forward to French articles unless stated otherwise.]

As of the end of the month of February 2012, the mobilization efforts of Internet users against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) [en] were still going strong. In fact, they may have begun to bear fruit.

By including infringements against the author's rights in its scope, this international treaty, which addresses intellectual property rights, also affects Internet content.

The ratification debates which were placed on the European Parliament's agenda on February 29, were put on hold in expectation of the opinion of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The issue of the treaty's conformity with European Community law was brought before the court on 22 February by the European Commission.

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo by Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo by Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

Taurillon, the “magazine of young Europeans -France” describes “Europe's about-face on ACTA“:

Si l’avis est négatif, l’ACTA n’a plus aucune chance en Europe. Mais en cas d’avis positif, le recours à la CJUE représente le double avantage de redonner au traité une certaine crédibilité, et de repousser son adoption à une époque suffisamment lointaine pour que la polémique se soit tassée et que l’opinion publique regarde ailleurs.

If the opinion is negative, ACTA no longer stands a chance in Europe. However, if there is a positive opinion, appealing to the ECJ would mean a double advantage by giving the treaty a certain credibility, and also pushing back implementation to a time that is far enough away when public debate has settled down and the public's attention is focused elsewhere.

Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson for la Quadrature du Net urges on the European deputies:

Les eurodéputés doivent résister à la stratégie de la Commission européenne, qui cherche à gagner du temps et à transformer le débat en une simple discussion juridique, et pour cela continuer à travailler au rejet d’ACTA. ACTA vise à imposer une tendance pour une politique globale du droit d’auteur qui est toxique pour l’Internet libre et pour les libertés. Le Parlement européen est le dernier rempart : il doit agir et adopter une position claire et forte, faute de quoi il laissera le champ libre à la Commission pour imposer une répression inacceptable.

The Eurodeputies must resist the European Commission's strategy of attempting to gain time and turning the debate into a simple legal discussion, thereby continuing to work towards ACTA's rejection. ACTA aims to impose a tendency for a global policy of author's rights that is toxic for the free Internet and for freedom. The European Parliament is the last line of defense: it must act and adopt a firm and clear position, otherwise it will leave the field wide open for the commission to impose an unacceptable repression.

For trucbuntu, there is no question of remaining passive while waiting for the Court to adjudicate:

Les citoyens de toute l’Europe peuvent contacter leurs représentants dans les commissions Commerce International (INTA) et Industrie (ITRE), qui se réunissent cette semaine pour discuter d’ACTA, et leur demander de continuer à travailler au sein de leur commission pour le rejet d’ACTA.

Citizens of all of Europe were able to contact their representatives in the International Trade (INTA) and Industry (ITRE) Committees, who met on February 29 to discuss ACTA. Many citizens requested their representatives to reject the proposal.

The website of the European Parliament explains the procedure and the issues of the treaty [en] that are under scrutiny, and has published ‘What you should know about ACTA‘ [en], a page of questions and answers. The ACTA workshop of the European Parliament has been the object of a storify [en] made by the Parliamentary services (link via Global Voices contributor Asteris Masouras [en]).

The organization AVAAZ submitted a petition to the European Parliament on 29 February with 2.4 million signatures against ACTA. The petition is still open:

Nous sommes vraiment proches de la victoire — notre pétition forte de 2,4 millions de signatures a ébranlé les responsables politiques partout en Europe et stoppé les censeurs. La Commission européenne est à présent en position de faiblesse et espère que la Cour de justice donnera son feu vert au traité ACTA en lui soumettant une question juridique très limitée qui recevra certainement une réponse positive.Mais si nous faisons résonner nos voix aujourd'hui, nous pouvons faire en sorte que la Cour examine tous les impacts légaux du traité ACTA et publie un avis qui fera toute la lumière sur cette attaque contre nos droits qu'est ACTA.

We are really close to victory — our petition, with 2.4 million signatures has shaken up those politicians in charge throughout Europe and stopped their censors. The European Commission is currently in a position of weakness and is hoping the Court of justice will green light the ACTA treaty by bringing before the court a very limited legal question, that will without doubt receive a positive response. But if we make our voices heard today, we will be able to get the court to examine all the legal implications of ACTA and publish an opinion that will bring to light the real attack against our rights that is ACTA.
No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

Anti-ACTA parties continue to  strengthen their resources. New protests were set for 10 March, and torrentnews gives a list, with this appeal:

La liste n’est pas exhaustive, n’hésitez pas à nous contacter pour la compléter ;)

si certains se sentent l’âme d’un reporter- photographe en herbe, nous recherchons également des personnes pour faire un petit article photo du déroulement de la manif, rien de bien compliqué, comme fait ici pour Nice, Marseille,Bordeaux et Strasbourg.

The list is not exhaustive, do not hesitate to contact us to complete it ;)

If any individuals see themselves as budding photojournalists we are also looking for people to do a small photo story on how the protest unfolds, nothing too complicated, as it happens in Nice, Marseille, Bordeaux, and Strasbourg.

For details on the elements of the debate, see also these linked articles from the Tribune on February 29, and Myeurop, on March 3. On Global Voices, see the laws SOPA/PIPA that set a precedent in the USA, here [en] and here [en]. Since the beginning of the protests, ACTA seems to have lost a lot of political momentum.

The title of this post is inspired by the end of the article “La liberté sur Internet : le filtrage de la discorde” which was published by the Institute of Research and Legal and Information studies and Communication (I.R.E.D.I.C.). It puts into perspective Internet blocking and debates the adoption of ACTA.

The original article in French was published on March 4. For background on the ACTA proposal, more articles can be found here [en].

March 13 2012

The Balkans: Debating Angelina Jolie's Film and the Legacy of War

Angelina Jolie’s In the Land of Blood and Honey, a film set in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War, has received much publicity, both positive and negative, in the Balkans, adding fuel to the ongoing debate on the legacy of the bloodshed that took place in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

It appears that many of those participating in the discussion of the film haven't had a chance to actually watch it.

Belgrade-based blogger Viktor Markovic wrote this on his Belgraded blog:

For starters, I have to say that even though it was labeled as “a propaganda movie” I must say that the propaganda failed on the very first step as it was extremely difficult to even find the movie to see it in the first place. It’s like it’s being shown in just a couple of cinemas in the world – one could say that because of this poor marketing, the movie is a disgrace to proper propaganda movies. […]

UK-based Marko Attila Hoare wrote this on his Greater Surbiton blog:

Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey, is difficult to watch. Difficult to watch in the sense that, here in the UK, it hasn’t been released, and there doesn’t appear to be any information about when or where it will be – certainly not on the movie’s official website, nor in any of the reviews that have appeared in UK newspapers. I spent the first three days of this week in Washington DC, where I found that the film was no longer playing in that city either, and that Amazon.com would not sell me the download since my debit card had a UK address. I have now managed to see the film – unfortunately, only the English-language version – via a link posted by a friend on Facebook.

In the Land of Blood and Honey‘s unavailability for viewing is odd, considering the widespread publicity it has received, the controversy that has surrounded it and the fame and popularity of the director. […]

For UK-based Alan Jaksic of Balkan Anarchist, who has blogged at length about In the Land of Blood and Honey, not watching the film in its entirety was a conscious choice:

[…] I haven't seen the film myself; I've only seen clips of it on YouTube. And I'm not really sure I want to watch it — not because I'm afraid that I'll be deeply offended by it, but because I'm not that keen to see such an emotionally-charged war movie wherever it's set on the planet! […]

Markovic wrote this about Jolie's depiction of the war:

[…] There are some really disturbing scenes in the movie. This was one of the things that upset the public opinion in Serbia most, because the public opinion doesn’t accept that anyone on Serbian side was that cruel. Unfortunately, I believe real war was even more cruel and disturbing than any movie can describe. […]

And here is Hoare's take on the same aspect of the film:

[…] Nor, however, are the horrors and violence portrayed here of the comic-book, caricatured variety. Inevitably, this film has come under fire from the Great Serb, genocide-denying lobby for supposedly being ‘anti-Serb’, and portraying ‘the Serbs’ as monsters. Well, it is ‘anti-Serb’ in the same way that films like Schindler’s List or The Pianist are ‘anti-German’. […]

Australia-based Ina Vukic wrote this in her post about Jolie's film:

[…] In all its history, movie making has been about bringing to the world portrayals of factual as well as fictional events. Jolie has brought a factual story of horror told by fictional characters. There’s no propaganda in that. But even if it were propaganda then it’s high time for more of it because justice has not yet been served to all the innocent victims, and especially not to rape victims in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. […]

Jaksic explains why Jolie's film is considered “offensive” by many in Serbia:

[…] Many of us Serbs feel that the film revamps that deeply negative, media image about our people, which Western viewers had become accustomed to during the '90s, that we are a nation of cruel, sadistic, war criminals, hell-bent on ethnic cleansing, and as such, we were as bad as the Nazis of World War Two! Now, I don't deny the seriousness and the gravity of all those allegations of war crimes etc. against a whole host of Serb leaders, both political and military, all of which has coloured people's negative views on us as a people. However, it must be borne in mind that all this negative press from that time left us Serbs, both back home and in the diaspora, feeling dehumanised and demonised, but most of all, misunderstood by the world. […]

However, what really offends and frustrates a lot of us Serbs about Jolie's film, whether we've seen it in full or just clips of it, is how it mainly depicts the suffering of one side of the war, i.e. the Bosniak side. This doesn't mean that we object to the production of any film that may portray the Bosniaks as the main victims; after all, they did suffer greatly during that war from 1992 to 1995, and we shouldn't deny that at all. However, what bothers a lot of us Serbs is how very little is known about the suffering of our own people during that conflict and others in the '90s. […] Of course, we Serbs are aware of war crimes committed by our own against others, and many of us do feel ashamed of all that. But we are also concerned about the fate of our own victims from those conflicts too, and it displeases us how even now very little is known about them. […]

Markovic, in his turn, explains why it is wrong to treat In the Land of Blood and Honey as “an anti-Serbian movie”:

[…] Yes, the movie has only the Serbian military as bad guys. But, and this seems to be hard to grasp for great majority of Serbs: this fact doesn’t make the movie anti-Serbian. This is because – are you ready for this – one Serbian military squadron does not represent even the entire Serbian army, let alone the entire Serb population. But it’s the trap majority of Serb population tends to fall into: we defend ourselves even if no one is really attacking us, and by doing so we end up defending the real bad guys – the war criminals. […]

Jaksic also writes on the “tendency among all Balkan nations to feel offended by another nation's sense of victimhood”:

[…] On many occasions while surfing the net, reading messages on various Ex-Yu forums, comments under YouTube videos and discussion pages of Wikipedia articles, I've seen how easily offended, for instance, my fellow Serbs can feel when they hear Croats accusing them of war crimes against them, and unsurprisingly, the same is the case the other way round! And it's not just the recent conflicts that cause heated disputes; even different interpretations of distant periods of history can rouse offense, such as the Serbian and Bosniak view of Ottoman rule in the Balkans! And as we can see with the reception of Jolie's In the land of blood and honey, even films by outsiders can offend local nations, and not just some YouTube comments!

Angelina Jolie received a Person of the Year award from the Bosnian newspaper Dnevni Avaz, prior to attending the premiere of 'In the Land of Blood and Honey' at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Photo by EUROPA NEWSWIRE, copyright © Demotix (10/01/12).

Vukic hopes that “Jolie’s movie will trigger more investigations and prosecution of all rapists from the war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina”:

[…] So, I say: “good on you, Angelina! Now make a movie on the thousands upon thousands of rape victims in Croatia because Croatian women who were raped by the Serbs during the 1990’s war still await their justice. […]

Markovic points out that the film isn't likely to serve as the closing argument in the painful post-war debate:

[…] the thing that puzzles me the most, and I know I am not the only one is – how is this movie supposed to contribute to reconciliation? Which is, according to Jolie’s statements, her goal with this. […]

***

For an overview of some of the online Serbian reactions to Jolie's film, please see this GV text by Sasa Milosevic, who has also written about the film on his Huffington Post blog, here.

January 08 2012

CEE: “Spotted by Locals”

Spotted by Locals: Experience cities like a local features a few dozen locations, including CEE cities of Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, Krakow, Ljubljana, Prague, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius, Warsaw, and Zagreb. A random sample post from Zagreb, Croatia: Hrelić Flea Market – The Aleph of Zagreb; from Bucharest, Romania: The Haunted House – Armenian Neighbourhood; from Sofia, Bulgaria: Nissim – A True Old-School Bookstore.

December 09 2011

Macedonia: Ajvar, Glorified

Jovana Tozija wrote lovingly about making ajvar, a traditional favorite winter provision in Macedonia and some other post-Ottoman countries.

November 15 2011

Macedonia: Veles Says “No” to Lead Poisoning, Government Remains Ambiguous

After the massive protest against restarting of the lead smelting factory in the city of Veles, the citizens feel cheated by the declarative support shown by the politicians from the ruling parties, and demand clear answers from PM Nikola Gruevski on whether the poisoning will continue.

The protests announced in the previous Global Voices article took place on Nov. 9. Estimates of the number of the protest participants range from 10,000 to over 15,000 [ba], a huge turnout for this community of less than 44,000 inhabitants.

Samoglaska and Vancho Dzambaski published Creative Commons-licensed photo galleries from the event.

Protest march through Veles streets. Photo by Samoglaska (CC-BY).

People gathering on Veles square. Photo by Vancho Dzambaski (CC-BY-NC-SA).

Twitter tags #Veles or #Велес are still in use, and the seasoned local blogger Jovan Petrov provided comprehensive coverage of the protest:

…the families, school children and elders joined forces. Being there I saw people from all backgrounds - the non-governmental sector, doctors, blue collar workers, politicians including former and current mayors and members of the parliement and local council, mothers and daughters, from all ranges of age, social and ethnic background. They protested in unison, NO RESTART! for the smelting factory.

I was never good at guessing numbers, but the group of NGO's called “Green coalition” have managed to gather more participants than any party on a political rally even when they want to boast with numbers carrying people from other cities to enrich the scenery. Some guesses were in the range of 10.000 participants.

The organization was quite good, the people were loud but very polite, the whole process finished without any recorded incident. The protest was lead by an excavator, symbolic image of the vision of the citizens - to dig up the old shadow factory and plant the perimeter with trees in order to decontaminate the land from cancerogens and active chemicals that modify the DNA of the unborn children.

The message was clear and far-reaching - NO MORE POISONING! Now, the state should show its support for the locals not only by speeches and through columnists, but by clear actions. And the solution is simple - rejecting the application of the investor to restart the factory - which everyone is sure that must be done based on strict following of the environmental legislation. Even the investor has admitted that they will pollute in their environmental impact study submitted to the Ministry of environment of Republic of Macedonia (image of the table follows, and remember the fact - the author of this document is the investor itself):

Table on environmental impact from the study with added explanations in English.

After this night - it should be clear to all, whoever tries to do more harm to the citizens of Veles will be punished severely.

A short documentary about the protest [mk] is available on YouTube:

And while the area's politicians and religious leaders turned out in force for the photo-op, they expressed declarative and noncommittal support for the Veles' cause. However, not all protest supporters received media attention, and were not credited at the event. Vladimir Milchin, the executive director of the Foundation Open Society Institute, wrote [mk] on his Facebook profile:

Yes, members of GEM (Citizens for European Macedonia) were at the protest. And the Soros' foundation supported the NGOs that organized it by supplying funds for 2,000 vests. Just like it supported them in the long bygone year of 2003 with a USD 6,100 grant for the first analysis that proved presence of the toxic materials in the hair of 80 local children.

Dimce Velev, one of the organizers, added a comment:

A reason for this is that road to the truth around the environmental exodus started with FOSM support at the point when the smelter was a taboo topic!

Milchin concluded:

And now some people want to use the protest to build their careers.

GEM activists in the crowd during the Veles protest. Photo by Vancho Dzambaski (CC-BY-NC-SA).

Several Twitter users shared a screen capture of a statement [mk] by former mayor, Ace Kocevski, published on his Facebook profile [mk]:

Citizens of Veles expressed their position against restarting of the smelting factory with dignity. But statements of the representatives of the Ministry of the Environment indicate that the appeal has not been taken seriously.
Self-censorship of the speakers at the protest and pointing fingers at Metrudhem only did not produce the expected results.
The goal is clear: Veles without a smelter.
The battle for healthy living environment in Veles must continue in more organized, more realistic manner, without improvisations, through the institutions of the system and if needed outside of them.
The municipality must urgently change the General Urban Plan and enact an Detailed Urban Plan to change the zoning of the area into light nonpolluting industry only.
The court process of Veles and the Green Coalition against Republic of Macedonia must continue. EUR 50,000 must be found for judicial analysis of the impact of pollution over the health of the citizens, and the level of intoxication of the soil and waters.
Ask the [Macedonian Bar Association] for pro bono representation.
The pressure must be directed towards the Ministry of the Environment and the Government - they must stand on the side of the people of Veles, to correct the errors of decade-long pollution and selling of the smelter, and to prevent its restart. They must provide funds from the state budget and from international donors to solve the problem of the slag landfill, and to clean the poisoned soil.

In the days after the protest, organizers and participants started expressing concern via the official FB group. Nenad Kocic shared the above video and asked the following questions:

1. Is Veles in Macedonia?
2. Does this state have a Government?
3. Does the Government work for the people or not?

After the Minister of the Environment failed to come to the protest and stated [mk] that it was too early to say that the request for license by the factory owners would be denied, the Green Coalition of NGOs asked to hear the truth in person from the “big boss” - requesting a meeting with PM Gruevski, who keeps maintaining detached, eery silence on the matter.

The news [mk], that the PR agency Republika will commence an advertising campaign on behalf of investor, has been taken as a clear sign of support for the investor by the government. During the past few years, this company has been the dominant implementer of numerous advertising campaigns that funneled millions of Euros from the state budget to pro-government media and other beneficiaries (in a setup compared [mk] to the collusion of the Croatian ruling party and Fimi Media).

Veles protester holding a cartoon. Photo by Samoglaska (CC-BY).

In other news: another Macedonian city has been subjected to a similar environmental disaster [mk], apparently due to criminal negligence. On Friday, Nov. 11, Kriva Palanka received an influx of poisonous slag full of lead, arsenic, zinc, cadmium and other toxic materials from the upriver mine Toranica.

November 02 2011

Croatia: Relations With the EU

Croatia Online examines some of the past and present hopes and concerns related to Croatia's plans to join the EU in July 2013.

October 26 2011

Croatia: Alcatraz of Yugoslavia

Bill Kralovec of Bill's Blog recounts the story of the Adriatic prison island of Goli otok - the Alcatraz of Yugoslavia - where Yugoslavia held its political prisoners during the reign of Tito.

October 09 2011

Croatia: Court Forbids Homophobic Priest From Blogging

Serbia Insajd, a Hungarian blog about South-Eastern Europe, reports [hu] that the Rijeka Court has banned Franjo Jurčević, a Kastav-based Catholic priest, from writing homophobic blog posts [Jurčević's blog, hr: http://zupnik.blog.hr/]. The court has also ordered Jurčević to publish the court decision in two national dailies at his own expense.

October 01 2011

The Balkans: Homophobia

Alan Jakšić of Balkan Anarchist writes about LGBT and homophobia in Serbia, Croatia and elsewhere in the Balkans.

September 10 2011

Croatia: The Largest “Welcome” in the World

Benita Hussain of Matador Network interviews Daniel Lacko, “a sponsored outdoor adventurer writing the largest ‘WELCOME' in the world while exploring the Croatian coastline”; Lacko's travel blog is here.

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