16 February 2008

Greetings From Serbia - Protest

Ahh Saturday. I give myself one day a week off here and this week it was today. I slept in, watched the Beast Master (TV show not movie) on B92 and did not leave my room until about 12:30. I bundled up against the cold and bitterly sharp winds, grabbed my camera, and headed off for one of my favorite parts of the Old City, Kalemegdan.

On my way to the fortress I passed a small van blaring Serbian folk music and a small gathering of people with flags and realized that this must be the protest I'd been reading about. Interestingly enough, to me at least, the protest was taking place in from of the Slovenian embassy. I am not at all certain what the Slovenains have done to piss off the Serbs. I mean, I understood the big protest last spring in front of the American embassy, but Slovenia? By the time I'd have enough of being buffeted this way and that as I meanered around the fortress the small group of men had grown and there were multiple flags waving, banners, and more and more people on there way. I snapped a few pictures but beat it out of there pretty quickly.

I think my friends' paranoia is catching and combine that with the skitishness I developed after my last protest experience I beat it out of there pretty quickly. Sunday is already being called Independence Day for Kosovo and my friends have advised me to stay indoors as much as possible tomorrow and while outside, to pretend that I am Russian. This is definitely an interesting time to be in Serbia and while I know what could happen tomorrow from minor protests to full-blown riots, if my Serbian were at all better than 'cheese omlette' and 'strawberry jogurt frappe' I would be out there with them. If Kosovo actually declares tomorrow and is recognized by the international community then it will be a day for the history books. Granted it would be a paragraph in American history books if it even makes it in since history at Coopersville grades 1 through 12 ended with the Allied victory in World War II, it will nonetheless be a day. Kosovo has been trying to gain independence from Serbia since even before the breakup of Yugoslavia and the war in the 90s. The general international community including the United States and the EU are for it while Russia remains Serbia's last voice of protest. Of course Russian only protests because independence for Kosovo could likely mean independence for all the Russian satellite nations who have been trying to free themselves from Russian control.

Like any city there is grafitti everywhere here but what I find really fascinating is all the political grafitti:

This for example says: Never EU

This would be the Hammer and Sicle of the former Soviet Union, spray painted, no doubt, by somone nostalgic for the old days who is too young to remember them if he was even alive for them.

Appropriate for this weekend, this one says: We will never give up Kosovo

The top line of this one is common slogan in Serbia and is actually part of the flag. Loosly translates to something like 'Only unity will save the Serb' I guess can also mean somehting about a Serb killing another Serb with an axe (don't ask). The bottom says 'Slobodan (Milosevic) or Death.' Also no doubt written by one of those nostalgic people.

I'm glad I caught the protest as early as I did since later in the afternoon I recieved a text message warning me to stay away as the gathering had swelled so dramatically that polica vans were being sent in for crowd control. Yeesh.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. History does not begin from you, and is not created by you.

Just a few facts:

* The graffiti says: Sloboda ili Smrt, and translates to Freedom or Death (nothing to do with the ex-Yugoslav president as much as you would like it to mean that)

* The protests took part in front of the Slovenian embassy because they were/are one of the major supporters of the independence of the province of Kosovo.

* You might be young, so you are not aware of the living standards of people in former Yugoslavia during socialist/communist times. Under Tito, in the 70s, and later in the 80s, the living standard was as good as that one in the countries of Western Europe, and people had the freedom of travel to whereever they wanted.