Saviours of the Nation?
Serbia's Intellectual Opposition and the Rise of Nationalism
The early 1980s saw the forging of a strong intellectual opposition movement in Serbia which contested the communist system and rallied around the defence of human and civil rights. By the end of the decade, this movement had become engulfed in the process of national homogenisation around Serbia’s communist leader Slobodan Milosevic and his undemocratic approach to the resolution of the national question. The Belgrade intelligentsia’s choice of nation over democracy and its de facto abdication of its critical role not only prevented it from representing a convincing alternative to Milosevic’s belligerent and ultimately self-destructive policy, but also helped Serbia’s neo-communist regime overcome its legitimacy crisis. This book examines this trajectory, highlighting both the limitations inherent in the early activism of critical intellectuals and their reactions to a context marked by deepening economic and political crisis, the disintegration of the common cultural sphere and the affirmation of other Yugoslav nationalisms. By focusing on three related areas — the revision of history and reassessment of the Titoist system, the opening of the “Kosovo Question” and the debates with Slovenian intellectuals — it illustrates the elaboration of a new anti-Yugoslav ideology centred around conspiracy theories and notions of victimisation and “genocide”, the transformation of dissident politics into a platform for Serbian “state rights and the search for a programme on reforming the federation according to a narrowly defined Serbian national interest.
Jasna Dragovic Soso is a Research Fellow at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London.
‘Saviours of the Nation? is the story of yet another ”treason of the intellectuals”, of their seduction by a narrow cause at the expense of universal principles. Soso charts the rise and fall of the people who were once called ”the Belgrade critical intellegentsia” — their progress (or regress) from a Yugoslav-wide defence of civil rights and a declared commitment to democracy, to acceptance of Milosevic’s undemocratic solutions to the ”Serbian question”. — Professor Stevan Pavlowitch, University of Southampton