Short encyclopedia of the Serbian soul

It would seem that literary circles in Belgrade are atwitter over Viktor Jerofejev's accounts of his epic journey to that most interesting city, which is coming out as a series in Književnost. The newspaper Danas has two excerpts in this place (it's toward the bottom of the page) and this one.

The screamingly hilarious narrative would not be done justice by translation of brief excerpts, you just have to read the whole thing. It includes a blindingly fatuous establishment writer, many drunken publishers, automotive adventures, attractive waitresses, and singing typesetters and philosophers. But no goat milk.

Praise to Ludost for the links.


Letter to the president and ministers

Earlier we reported here that the Serbian Ministry of Defence had decided to leave off, for the summer, arresting and prosecuting people living in other countries who had not fulfilled their military service. Now a group of young people has written to president Boris Tadić, defence minister Prvoslav Davinić and diaspora minister Vojislav Vukčević seeking a permanent solution to the problem in the form of a general amnesty. The following quotations are from the English version of the letter:

"Under a law of the former Yugoslavia, all conscripts who wanted to emigrate where obliged to apply for permission to do so from the Yugoslav Army High Command. In the chaotic situation that existed during the war it was difficult, complicated if not impossible to obtain such permission. Many conscripts had no option but to leave Yugoslavia without an agreement from the army.

To worsen the situation further, during the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, Milosevic’s regime in Serbia and Montenegro, had changed the upper age limit for conscripts from 27 to 35 years of age. This was done to ensure that the men who have so far evaded the military service couldn’t do so any more. This has meant that the men who have emigrated in the early years of the war could not return back to the country without being arrested, sent to serve the military service and any prison sentences.

Under the Dayton agreement in 1995 and the Kumanovo peace accord signed with NATO in 1999, the general assembly of the former Yugoslavia (then consisting of only Serbia and Montenegro) had adopted an amnesty for those men who have refused to fight for the Yugoslav army during the war. However, those conscripts who didn’t serve the military service or have not responded to drafts were still required to join the army."


"We believe that everyone has a right to visit relatives and friends in the country of their domicile. This kind of measure of rebuilding trust has been organized even between enemies of war in the cases of Korea and Cyprus. We truly believe that time has come, the time when this problem finally needs to be resolved."

The organisation maintains a site (with a version of the letter in Serbian) at www.dijaspora-vojna-obaveza.info. There are also versions of the letter in French, in Spanish, in Italian, in German, and in Czech.

Cleanliness is next to the toaster

Having lived in tiny apartments my whole adult life (unless one counts a brief tragic period in a rented suburban house when we first moved to Massachusetts) I have never had a laundry machine of my own. But as of about fifteen minutes ago, the Gordy family is happy to be able to do its own wash.

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This little machine both washes and dries, is small enough to fit in our apartment, and is ready to go after a lovely seven hours with the plumber. We now have to figure out something clever to do with the quarters we have been collecting all these years.

In memoriam: Perica Vučinić

Perica Vučinić, editor of the magazine Reporter and a former correspondent for the magazine Vreme, died today in Belgrade at the age of 46.

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Photo courtesy of B92

He founded Reporter in Banja Luka in 1997, and received the Swedish Federation of Journalists' award for courage in 1999 and World Press Review's recognition as international editor of the year in 2000. Tomorrow a memorial will be held at the Independent Association of Journalists in Belgrade, to be followed by a burial.


"New Europe" rapidly aging

Donald Rumsfeld called the countries that offered their token support to the war in Iraq the "New Europe," even though there is contention for the name of "Old Europe" that includes a German restaurant in Washington, a Polish restaurant in Cucharras, Nevada, a place reputed to have the best pierogies in Pittsburgh and most likely a lot of other places. In any case, Deutsche Welle reports that the moniker is not sticking where Mr Rumsfeld wanted it stuck. DW reports that the formerly willing countries "are gradually turning their backs on the United States as rewards fail to materialize." Complaints include cost, lack of popular support, political friction with other European states, and the failure of the United States to reciprocate with political or economic benefits. Since the adventurists in the Bush administration seem to have exhausted the newness of one Europe and will probably not find a newer one, it could be a good time to listen to the old and middle-aged ones.

A moment of clarity

An advisor to Serbian Prime minister Vojislav Koštunica offers his assessment of the surrenders of people indicted for grave violations of international humanitarian law by the ICTY in an interview in Blic for 27 April. Miša Đurković explains:

"The story with the Hague had to mature. Time had to pass for the indictees to gain confidence in the government. The key thing was the two-directional cooperation with the Hague, however much people laughed at that. The provisional release of Stanišić and Simatović was a sign to all of the people who decide to surrender that the state and the government stand behind them."

So a mature story leads to the fulfillment of the legalist ideal: a state in which criminal indictees have confidence in the government, which gives them reason to believe that the state stands behind them. Why confront the past when you can absorb it?

Update: Interestingly, Mr Koštunica put the matter differently in a speech reported in Politika. He was quoted as saying, "Serbia is ready and able to take up its part of the responsibility to give its contribution for the whole region to move ahead and become a constitutive part of the European Union." You do see how much difference phrasing makes.

A forecast of slow posting

My apologies to the fine readers of East Ethnia, it is a bit of a busy week and I have not been posting much. I expect by the end of the day today to be back to my usual lazy schedule, and to have some new items for you. In the meantime, there are a few new links to the right of your eyes, check them out and enjoy them. By the time new items are up, I should have the papers from my Bologna students (Ciao!) graded, course plans and readings finished for the fall, and a fine new washing machine installed in the kitchen.


Update your bookmarks, again

The exile from Blogger is continuing, with Split's leading blogger Drax settling into a luxurious and comfortable new home at Typepad. Raise a glass to welcome him.