Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Long Live The People's Reconstruction

Serbia is rebuilding its bridges - and its minds. Academics are reviving the spirit of Brezhnev. China supports Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bu La To Vic. And our president boasts: "Our country is the freest and most democratic in the world."
By Petar Lukovic

We have triumphantly defeated NATO, defended Kosovo, and managed to return the United Nations to its rightful place. Now we have embarked on the glorious Reconstruction.


"It is quite possible that the results of the Reconstruction will be a positive surprise not only to us but to the entire world," Dr Mira Markovic, wife of the Yugoslav president, told Radio TV Serbia. The courageous Reform and intimate co-operation with "the progressive and democratic part of humanity," such as North Korea, China, Russia, and Belarus, have proceeded apace."


"Our country is the freest and most democratic in the world," Slobodan Milosevic has stated. This is why we go on, why life continues. We preserved our sovereignty, confirmed our independence, and ensured that the American and French armada could not roam throughout our country. They will beg us to forgive them. Anyhow, state opinion polls say that only 25 per cent of the population want reconciliation with the NATO countries.


In the first outbreak of the popular enthusiasm, Presidents Milosevic and Milan Milutinovic, the president of Serbia, competed over who would erect more marble plaques proclaiming the start of the Reconstruction. Television viewers were showered with promises that everything that was destroyed will be rebuilt by tomorrow.


We do not need foreign aid, we can do everything ourselves, we are clever, we are capable, we have a wise leadership. We are lucky to be led by Comrade Slobodan. According to the Association of Late Soldiers, he "has grown into a world leader in the struggle for freedom and became a symbol of the resistance of the 20th century."


In the post-victory euphoria, it seemed as if we had slept through 77 days of bombing. As if nothing had happened, as if we picked up from where we stopped on 24th March, as if it is true that only several hundred of our soldiers had died. As if it is self-evident that no crimes were committed against Albanians. How could we, the Serbs, who have only defended ourselves for centuries, harm anyone?


This is the country ruled by dance-patriots from Radio Kosava (director and owner: Marija Markovic, the President's daughter), the newly-opened Bambiland of her brother Marko Milosevic, mother Dr. Mira Markovic and above all her husband, Slobodan. They preach that "readiness for the Reconstruction is such that it will be as efficient as the Defence." They are persuading us that everything is under control in Kosovo, that the dinar will survive, that reforms will be here soon, that the ruling coalition of Socialists, Communists and Radicals will look after us eternally.


Just now Radio Belgrade is broadcasting frightening news that puts it all into perspective: a huge fire has swept through Sweden, the production of steel in Holland has dropped by 20 percent, the harvest has not started yet in the United States, not a gram of rice can be found in Pakistan. Everybody in the Czech Republic regrets having even started privatisation and demands a return to the Warsaw pact. People in Hungary are starving, the return of Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena is being organised in Romania.


Serbian academics are working to revive the spirit of Leonid Brezhnev. The Poles are demanding that Russian soldiers occupy Warsaw. China supports Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bu La To Vic. The North Koreans adore us. Cuba is sending us congratulations.


At the moment the Reconstruction began, the Yugoslav president bestowed awards on more than a thousand soldiers and policemen, and as many factories and companies and their workers. The names of the lucky winners were read out for 20 minutes on the prime time television news. Only those who did not want to win were not awarded.


Politika announced on its first page that it had deservedly won the "Honour of Merits of FRY" for demonstrating "patriotism, courage, self-initiative, sacrifice, humanity, solidarity, expertise, and a particular effort in fulfilling its tasks in war conditions."


The Medal of Courage was awarded to "the defenders of bridges", a group of citizens employed and paid to tell the reporters of the state television Serbia that they are ready to swim in the Sava River if the enemy hit them. The medal was also awarded to the manifestation "With the Song against the War", in which all singers who were intelligent enough to open their mouths and deride Clinton took part.


A number of lieutenants, colonels and captains of the People's Police have been presented a pile of decorations: the order of "the long barrel of security of the first degree", the order of "merits for truth covered two meters below the ground", the order of the "paramilitary death squad" . . .


And then it started. The opposition rally in Cacak: 20,000 protesters. The demo in Uzice: 10,000. In Leskovac, erstwhile SPS-bastion, 20,000 furious participants who dared demand the list of those killed and missing in the victorious war. In Prokuplje: 5,000 citizens. In Novi Sad, 25,000 people on the city square. In Kikinda: 6,000 dissatisfied with the triumph in Kosovo. Rallies in Krusevac, Kraljevo, Valjevo and Nis are scheduled.


The basic demand: the resignation of Slobodan Milosevic. Petitions are being signed. They say that the president is dead only no one has told him yet.


But the government daily Politika has an explanation. It informs us that the president's resignation is being demanded by traitors, mercenaries, CIA-informers, fifth-columnists, moral trash, mondialists, minor politicians, internal enemies, deserters, cowards who fled from bombing, the so-called peacemakers, provocateurs, American sympathisers, the enemies of their own people.


Meanwhile, Serbia is falling apart along the seams. It is ready to sell itself at the lowest possible price. It has gathered around the soup kitchens, and dived into garbage containers from which no one is collecting the garbage any longer.


It is angry, and unable to face the truth: we committed crimes, killed, threw people into mass graves. We believed, as Politika had announced three days before the war, that there will be no more of "Shiptars" (the derogatory term for Albanians) when NATO comes. We wanted to "liberate" each Albanian from the ruined foundations of his home, and to repeat everything that we have so successfully accomplished in Croatia and Bosnia.


As for me, I am sitting in front of the computer screen and summing up my personal decorations-merits: I was patriotically carrying canisters with water and patiently waiting in the dark. I heroically smoked all the cigarettes I could get my hands on and drank everything I could afford. I showed my courage in front of web-sites, waging my own information battle...


It seems to me that something called civil war is inevitable in Serbia. The only question is whether this art-happening will take place tomorrow or in six months' time.


"We endured the sacrifice heroically and we have always embarked on the Reconstruction," the voice from the radio is saying. But will anything seriously change soon? Are you kidding: it is summertime. Who could possibly topple the regime in this heat?


Petar Lukovic is a Belgrade based columnist for Feral Tribune in Zagreb and editor of XZ, a cultural magazine, produced in Belgrade and on the web at www.beograd.com/xz.


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