Đinđić: The movie

A group of young people in Serbia has been distributing, by any way they can (CD, P2P servers, handing it out at sidewalks, giving it as a gift in bookstores...), a documentary assembled from various public speeches and statements of the murdered prime minister Zoran Đinđić, in the belief that his words do have a message for people who have forgotten him or never heard him when he was alive. I have just downloaded and watched it, but will hold myself back from offering an opinion until you have watched it.

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You can get it in AVI or Real Player format (AVI is higher up on the "CD" page, Real Player is a bit lower) at the site of the group Kapiraj i kopiraj. The film is about 30 minutes.

New on East Ethnia: All the news I've linked so far

Have a peek to the right of the screen and downward, and you will see that I have finally done what I have been meaning to do for some time: added links to the Balkan news sources I read regularly. Now East Ethnia is your one-stop buvljak for commentary, debate, sour humor and the events of the day.

In the plan for some fine day: links to research institutes.

Academic titles we all want

The older generation of endowed professorial chairs were named in honor of inspiring individuals or in the last instance in honor of individual donors who established the chair. More recent endowed chairs have been given corporate names: I vaguely recall seeing an advertisement for a "BMW professor of German studies" at a US university. This sparked me to think what I could aspire to as a Balkan boy. The Naxi-Taxi professor of mobility? The Čokolino professor of development? The Šipad professor of stability?

But Dillard University in Louisiana is asking for applications for what may just be the best job title on the planet: the Ray Charles professor of African American material culture. Take a moment to kick yourself for having chosen a different field. Then think: my new ambition is to be the Disciplina Kičme professor of multiplicity.


Cold is cold, but this is cold

Have people seen how US vice president Dick Cheney dressed for the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz?

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Did the corrupt old cretin think he was going skiing?

Universities of all lands, linkajte se

It is now possible for students at the University of Mostar to receive lectures from the University of Zagreb through an internet video link. This opens up the possibility for many more connections throughout the region and beyond. I'm for it.

<--This is the "Balkania" tag, follow the link and see how easy it is to use!

People, this is a fantastic thing!

Peter Patnaik's Honey where you been so long is offering a song a day (mp3 format) of prewar blues, as well as some surprises. He also hosts a radio program on WUAG 103.1 FM in Greensboro, North Carolina, which does indeed have a live feed. Thanks to Bifurcated Rivets for the link.

Koštunica produces a surrender

Looks like I was wrong in predicting that the news this week would be the surrender of Sreten Lukić. Turns out it's Vladimir Lazarević. We will see whether this surrender encourages others.

This is not likely to put the controversy to bed. For one thing, judge Schomburg's critique (quoted in the previous post) applies to this indictment, which is based entirely on command responsibility. It is possible to win a conviction on command responsibility, but not automatic, and the ICTY prosecutors would need to show a level of skill they do not always show. For another, the big fish remains Ratko Mladić.


Tomorrow's Danas today...

Friday's edition of Danas has an interview (translated from Der Spiegel) with ICTY judge Wolfgang Schomburg. He has criticisms of ICTY's work, complaining, for example, about "...shaky indictments. One gets the impression that first they issue an arrest warrant, and only then start the real investigation." He also has reservations about uneven sentencing, about the control of information by the prosecutors, and about the public engagement of the ICTY prosecutor Carla Del Ponte.

This is my summary, with a little translation into English of their translation from the German. The Danas article can be found at their web site (click "Dijalog" on the menu). Or if you read German (sorry to say that I do not), you can find the entire interview in Spiegel.

Football and politics

Serbian finance minister Mladjan Dinkić has a sports metaphor for the state of relations between Serbia and the EU:

"Right now, we have a clear penalty shot and there is no goalie. All we have to do is decide whether we will kick it into the goal or off the field. I think that anyone who is reasonable would choose to score the goal and to keep playing in the EU tournament, and not to switch to some tenth-class Balkan league."

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Here's a photo of Roberto Baggio. Although maybe Mr Dinkić was thinking of a great old film.

The export market for democracy

Down Histologion way, Talos has a great quotation from Eric Hobsbawm about the difficulties associated with "exporting democracy," as so many people like to call it. The core of Professor Hobsbawm's critique seems to be that powerful states do not take major decisions in a democratic manner themselves, plus that what is sent abroad as democracy is often just attractive packaging for states advancing their self-interest in the context of power politics.

The war in Iraq could be used as an example, although it would be easy to challenge the notion that that the US or UK derives any benefit from that fiasco. Outside of a few small groups which have derived financial benefit -- but that is not just conspiracy theory, it is the problem with contemporary democracy generally. Look at surveys in any democratic state, or the Eurobarometer, and you will find high levels of discomfort in established democratic states. Most of it is derived from alienation from institutions, which are seen as dominated by powerful interests and nonrepresentative.

In the EU candidate countries or the countries that would like to be candidates, the problem is magnified by weak credibility of the new elites, and also by the feeling that "democracy" is being imposed as a set of demands from above. Europeans and Americans might be surprised that not everyone is so sure that their empire is necessarily more attractive than the Soviet one. What keeps the "transition" process going is that there is also very little nostalgia for the old authoritarianism or aspiration toward a new one in most places. This is a precarious foundation, and marginality, poverty and unemployment whack their hammers at it every day.

Academic reality show

When I read this fine satire piece on the site of Bitch, Ph.D., I laughed heartily. You might, too.

Out of the mouth of Beba

None of the people who said that they were going to sue Vladimir Popović-Beba have done it yet. Yesterday I offered a translation of some bits of his very provocative interview. On the other hand, it looks as though prosecutors are starting to look into his charge that Milorad Vučelić embezzled "donations" to State Security. It is not clear whether anything will happen with his claim that he has video of Radical party deputies accepting envelopes with bribes from a Socialist party official on the floor of the Parliament.

Today's Vreme has a cartoon by Predrag Koraksić that nicely summarizes the situation. The nickname "Beba" translates to, of course, "Baby."

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The courage of their convictions (and acquittals)

The uproar over television host Petar Vlahov interviewing widow and has-been krimobarbie Ceca Ražnatović has already been nicely reported by Drax. Now it seems that Nova TV is responding to public pressure from people who love her songs but hate her web of associations and cancelling the broadcast of the interview.

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Because, you know, if a heavily made up singer who is associated with fascists can be shown on television, the next thing you know you could have figures from the far right all over the public sphere. Wouldn't want that, right.

Housekeeping: The list continues to grow

Time for that periodic post to draw attention to the new links that have been added. If you look to your right, you will see that the Balkan link list is growing, and these are all good ones, I think:

Balkan-scissors: News, comments and lovely historical photos from Seesaw
Chapati mystery: Where the empire is resisted
Džabalebaroš: Good things from Belgrade, and sav taj rokenrol
Kakanien: Mostly Balkan-related academic news
Kushtrim Xhakli: The secret connections between Sweden and Kosovo
Novalas: Soda with your Citroen?
Sylvie la dilettante: Direct from Bruxelles, to places further east

As always, please let me know if I have forgotten yours or have neglected to find out about something good.

Edo Maajka's North American tour

According to his official biography, Edin Osmić "embodies the good spirit of the Bosnian people and the area he comes from."

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Now the North American audience can experience the good local qualities that made Edo Maajka Iskon's "person of the year" at the following clubs:

11 February: Toronto, The Opera House (735 Queen Street East)
12 February: Atlanta (CBS Ctr Platinum Room, 4001 Presidential Parkway)
18 February: Detroit (no location announced)
19 February: St Louis (Europe Nightclub, 1521 Washington Avenue)
20 February: New York (Club Casino, 26-44 Borough Place, Woodside-Astoria)

Unfortunately, it looks like he will not be coming to Boston. If he is not coming to your town either, at least you can enjoy the video for "No Sikiriki" (.ram file, requires Real Player), not only sort of hippie-dreamy, but also the only rap tune of which I am aware that contains a mention of burek.

<--This is the "Balkania" tag, follow the link and see how easy it is to use!


Proven by science!

I don't know whether you think that waiters and bank clerks are politer in some regions of the world than others. But now data are available on how polite they are in Croatia, writes Ljiljana Hlača in Glas Slavonije. The "Heraklee" agency sent "mystery shoppers" (apparently this is a term of art) in October and November of last year to banks, shops and restaurants around Croatia, and found:

13% of bank clerks did not "politely greet" their customers, and only 7% gave "clear and understandable" answers to questions.

In 17.5% of shops, prices were not "properly displayed," but 64.2% of shop clerks greeted their customers, while only 39% did not thank customers for purchases.

71.87% of waiters offered their customers additional drinks, but only 41.94% offered dessert.

Did I say science? I meant "information-gathering."

Update: Just to note that I have generally found that things like restaurant service in all of the countries of the region are far better than here in the US. When I told this to my dear wife, she said "yeah, but that's not saying much."

Will there be news this evening?

Serbian deputy premier Miroljub Labus is promising that it will be known by this evening what will happen with the four generals who have been charged by ICTY and whom the governments expects to "voluntarily surrender." However, nobody else seems to have the same information or to be willing to corroborate his statement. His discussion with journalists included this exchange:

Labus: The courts should act on [the issue of ICTY indictments].
B92: The court sent a warrant to the police.
Labus: Then the police has to carry out that warrant.
B92: But the minister of police says they will not.
Labus: That is now the question, do we have a state or do we not. That is what our discussion is about. The catalyst is the question of cooperation with the Hague tribunal, but the theme is whether we respect our own laws and whether our institutions exist as state institutions. That is a much more serious question than whether some general will give himself up or not.

The question remains open as to whether Labus's party G17+, which favors sending indictees to ICTY, would leave the governing coalition if its immobility were to continue. It is a high risk calculation for Labus, who is probably aware that if elections were to be called, his party could probably not hope to do as well as it did the last time around.

Update: It's evening, and looks like no news. Probably the "surprise" will be the surrender of Sreten Lukić sometime in the next week.

Corruption: Let the charges fly!

A bitter and public back and forth of accusations has been set off by a rare interview which the late Zoran Đinđić's confidant Vladimir Popović-Beba granted to Brankica Stanković for Radio B92's program "Insajder." Beba Popović is widely regarded, rightly or not, as having been a grey eminence of the Đinđić government, and hardly ever speaks to the press. In this interview he comes out with some revelations that, if true, are bound to spark controversy.

Mr Popović describes the contacts between Mr Đinđić, former interior minister Dušan Mihajlović, and criminals from the Unit for Special Operations (JSO or "red berets") and the Surčin criminal clan, the difficulty that police had in controlling well-connected criminal groups, and the difficulty that the government had in controlling the police. I will offer a few longish quotations--the conversation was informal, so please excuse the heavy use of ellipses and brackets (also the translation is a little free, check the original before quoting it):

"The key events around 5 October [2000, the day the Milošević regime fell] were a secret meeting of all the leaders of DOS [the Democratic Opposition of Serbia], and a meeting between [then incoming federal president Vojislav] Koštunica, [Slobodan] Milošević, [Russian foreign minister Igor] Ivanov, [head of military general staff Nebojša] Pavković, and now we hear that [head of military security] Aca Tomić and a journalist from the Beta agency were also present. [...] I don't know when the text of that discussion with Milošević from 6 October will be released, but I know that Nebojša Pavković secretly organized the taping of that meeting. [...] There was a fight between Koštunica and Slobodan Milošević. Milošević charged that he had formed Koštunica's party and helped him, which Koštunica denied, but [Milošević] insisted that he gave him publicity, that he allowed the people who financed him to get some contracts which made it possible for his party to receive money, that he allowed him to become popular by giving him access to state television. Koštunica assented at one point, and Ivanov managed to insist to Koštunica that he owed Milošević after all."


"I think it is not fair to mention only [director of State Security] Radomir Marković when talking about politicians who were protected after 5 October. Maybe he was justifiably a symbol of the most repressive side of the rule of Slobodan Milošević, but Koštunica and the people around him did not only protect Marković. If we want to be truthful about it, then we have to say that after 5 October Koštunica protected all of Milošević's apparatus, that means the army, Milošević's media, Milošević's institutions, the members of Milošević's family, and everything else. Koštunica protected them all."


"What none of us knew was that after 5 October there there would be a property fight between State Security, Milošević's politicians and Milošević's tycoons who had for ten years under the mantle of war and patriotism been doing business over the territory of the former Yugoslavia. I mean, we all knew that more or less, but we did not think that relations were the way they were.

"We fell into that and did not know and we needed a lot of time to figure out what was going on. It became clearer to us about a month after Zoran [Đinđić] became prime minister, when Jovica [Stanišić, former head of State Security] at one of our meetings told Zoran, I was present, that Zoran should do something about getting money from [former Milošević confidant] Milorad Vučelić, who had stolen some 40 million marks from State Security. He took out a folded piece of paper from his wallet, it was there with the photos of his kids, and on it were written the numbers of ten bank accounts and the exact amount of how much money was where and he said that that was the money that State Security had got from various business operations and from the donations they had got from individuals who in the war years had given them money to buy equipment, helicopters, and so forth. And Vučelić was some kind of connection between State Security and those people, he was supposed to take half and give the rest, but in the end he took it all and did not give any."


"If you ask me whether [the organized crime figure from Surčin] Ljubiša Buha had some connections by which he got contracts [for paving highways], I will tell you -- yes, he had a connection, but that connection was not anybody from the government but [Milošević confidant] Milutin Mrkonjić, who worked in his firm for a year. A person who for five or however many years was involved with paving jobs in Serbia. Who did Zoran Đinđić know in the paving business in Serbia? Or any of us from the leadership of DOS? Nobody, and still the story goes around that Zoran said to him, okay, that capital you got from crime, fine, I have no problem with that capital, as long as you stop doing crime I will give you the permits to invest that capital in legal businesses. Now, why would he ask the prime minister? Who asked anybody anything, do you think that Ljubiša Buha is the only person who made millions on the black market under Miloševic? From crime, smuggling, kidnapping, whatever. Look at [the luxurious Belgrade neighborhood] Dedinje, in Dedinje there are 500 houses, every one worth 4-5 million euros. How many people do you know about who got there with dubious capital? The Karićes and who else? You don't know about any others. Well, whose are those 400 houses? Who are those people? Are those people who had 5000 euros or marks as a monthly salary under Milošević and earned it? No, those are people who made that money in a suspicious way. Nobody talks about them, and none of them needed permission from Zoran Đinđić to buy into anything."

The story has its incredible moments, and there are times when it is hard to be credulous about Mr Popović's professed naivete. At one point even the reporter tells him, "now you are really talking like you are from Sweden or something." It is also clear that Mr Popović has reason both to argue against the portrayal of himself and Mr Đinđić as being close to criminals, and also to discredit Mr Koštunica.

But the detective-novel elements should not be dismissed out of hand. Less likely stories have proven to be true. Judging from the initial reactions (also in Blic) of people named in the interview, there are a lot of heated denials but no formal charges of slander.


Patriotism in action

This morning I already shared news of one youth political organization's action to pressure the Serbian government into action on the Hague question. Now there is another. The youth organization of the Civic Alliance of Serbia (GSS) showed the indictees how to give themselves up voluntarily, knocking on the door of the Government offices with passports and suitcases in hand. Spokesperson Jovana Tavčar explained, "we demand that the government arrest the indictees and begin to deal with the country's other problems."

GSS has redesigned their web presentation, and the party's former president Goran Svilanović, also the former foreign minister, gave an interesting and revealing interview to Ivana Stevanović of B92.

Multiple intelligence shell game

Fascination has been developing about The Washington Post's report on Sunday that US Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld had established secret intelligence units ("strategic support teams") independent of the CIA, charged with carrying out clandestine operations. After denying the story, the Defense Department confirmed the existence of these units today.

What seems to be at stake here is not that new things are being done, but that they are being done by a different agency. There are probably two main reasons for the Defense department to want to take over this type of job from the CIA: first to avoid oversight, and second because Bush administration officials have been unhappy with the CIA failing to tell them the things they want to hear.

Another motivation seems to be for the Defense department to exercise greater control over "human intelligence," which would include interrogations. Considering the growing evidence about the way Defense has been conducting interrogations at such places as Iraq and Guantánamo, the desire to avoid oversight is understandable. Destructive and doomed to failure, but understandable.

Update: Thanks to TK for this interesting detail. Tom Gjelten of National Public Radio reports that "This has not been reported, but already these special teams have been on assignment in Bosnia working closely with the CIA and with special operations forces. In Bosnia, the mission has been to go after Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, the two Serb leaders who have been at large for such a long time. And this is one of the countries where these teams are already operating." The audio of the report is available from NPR.

Who's who on the far right

Over at Osservatorio sui Balcani, Danijela Nenadić has a useful overview of extreme right groups in Serbia, who their main actors are, and what they are up to. It's worth a peek. Članak je na talijanskom.

Wakeup call

Today's Danas leads with a photo of the action "Waking up from the nightmare" by the Democratic Party (DS) youth organization. They delivered alarm clocks to prime minister Koštunica and charged him with "setting a record in returning Serbia to darkness."

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Konstantin Samofalov, president of the Belgrade DS youth group, says that they brought Mr Koštunica alarm clocks to help him wake up, transistor radios to hear the news, and (toy) mobile telelphones to communicate with the people. I think that the sign the fellow with the hat is holding reads "Ko to tamo zeva?" ["Who's that yawning there?"], a reference to Slobodan Šijan's much-loved 1980 film about petty competition between people oblivious to their fate.

Back from the blue mountains

Just a quick post to let everyone know that the blizzard has ended, and we have come back from our lovely stay in the very cold Berkshire mountains, where the local populace was duly fascinated with the Balkan cabbage-centered creations. Posting to resume once I get the daughter, delighted by school being cancelled two days in a row due to snow, to bed. This might be a while, as nobody has to wake up early and her father is inspired for a long bedtime story.

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Photo by David Ryan, Boston Globe.


Turns out there are a lot of good weblogs!

You can vote for your favorites over at the site of A Fistful of Euros, which is hosting the First European Weblog Awards. Should you feel inclined, this site is nominated in a couple of categories, but there are also tons of other favorites. In fact it was through the first call for nominations that I found some of my favorites.

Introducing the "Balkania" tag

The Technorati service has introduced a neat little feature that might make it possible to follow new posts on a subject on any weblog. The feature is described on the Technorati tags page. This looks like a pretty decent way, with a small bit of human memory and the finger effort involved in cutting and pasting, to see what people are saying on a particular day.

I have opened the "Balkania" tag as a way of marking and getting listed posts related to, broadly speaking, the Balkans. There is probably no need for a debate over what Balkans are, let the definition develop through usage of the tag. For now, if you go to the "Balkania" page, you will only find listings for this site. But there are are also astonishingly simple instructions for getting your own posts listed under this category if you want.

Have a look and see whether it interests you.


Our delay will continue for another day

But the snowy landscape is very lovely indeed! Not so great for travel, however. Good thing that even this side of the Appalaichian Trail has wi-fi.

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Photo courtesy of Glas javnosti, which also provides a very amusing accompanying article.