The patriotic tradition of the Serbian Radical Party
In the parliamentary elections taking place today in Serbia, the neo-Nazi Serbian Radical Party looks set to win the largest number of votes, as indeed it did in the last parliamentary elections in 2007. Only this time, it is more likely to have a chance actually to enter government, as it is now likely that the nationalist faction headed by the incumbent prime minister Vojislav Kostunica will be ready to defy Western pressure and form a coalition with it.
The Radicals present themselves as patriots who will take a hard line in resisting Kosova’s independence, and who will redirect Serbia away from the EU and toward Russia. However, the tradition of ‘patriotism’ from which the Radicals derive was that which expressed itself through collaboration with the Nazis and Italian Fascists during World War II, against those Serbs and other Yugoslavs who were fighting the occupation of their country.
The leader and founder of the Radicals is Vojislav Seselj, currently indicted for war-crimes by the UN tribunal in The Hague. In 1989, Seselj visited the US and was awarded the honourary title of ‘Vojvoda’ (warlord) by Momcilo Djujic, President of the ‘Movement of Chetniks of the Free World’. Djujic was an Orthodox priest and Chetnik warlord who, during World War II, had distinguished himself by having fired not so much as a bullet against the German or the Italian occupiers. He was one of a number of Serb warlords who had sprung up in 1941, when the Croatian fascist Ustashas had begun a genocide against the Serb population of Croatia and Bosnia and the Serbs had risen in resistance. The epicentre of the resistance was the Serb-majority area of western Bosnia and central Croatia (Banija, Kordun, Lika and northern Dalmatia), where Djujic among others operated.
On 1 September 1941, the Yugoslav Partisans convened a mass assembly, in the town of Drvar, of the overwhemingly Serb guerrilla detachments of western Bosnia and the adjacent Croatian region of Lika. Djujic attended the assembly – at this point in time, the rebels had not yet split into the rival camps of Partisans and Chetniks. The assembly was convened to represent the ‘Liberation struggle of the Serb nation’ from ‘Proud Bosnia and stout Lika’. It declared that ‘we Serbs are fighting for the national liberation of our nation from the occupiers and their hirelings.’
The assembly entrusted Djujic with the task of resisting an Italian advance against the rebels from his native Knin. Upon receiving this task, this great Serb patriot, Seselj’s hero, made an agreement with the Italians that granted them free passage through his fiefdom. His troops carried Italian flags to indicate their loyalty to the occupiers. With resistance sabotaged by Djujic and other traitors, the Italians occupied on 25 September the rebel base of Drvar, where the rebel assembly had declared its task of Serb national liberation less than a month before.
For the rest of the war, Djujic, as a Chetnik commander, loyally served the Italians and Germans while persecuting and killing Croats and anti-fascist Serbs. He was no mere opportunistic collaborator, but an ideological fascist-sympathiser and anti-Semite. A recent Serbian biographer of Djujic has this to say about him: ‘During 1944 Momcilo Djujic was in contact with Milan Nedic, the president of the government of Serbia. Of him, Djujic spoke only good words. He deemed that Nedic, along with Ljotic and Dragoljub Mihailovic, are doing the same work for the Serb nation, but each in his own way.’ (Veljko Dj. Djuric, ‘Vojvoda Djujic’, Belgrade, 1998, p. 49). Nedic was the Nazi-quisling Serbian leader who served Hitler directly and who helped implement the Holocaust. Ljotic was the Serbian fascist leader, whose Serbian Volunteer Corps formed part of the Nazi SS during 1944. Mihailovic was the Chetnik commander, therefore Djujic’s leader. Djujic described the Yugoslav Communist leaders as ‘paid Jews’ and ‘Communist Jews’, whom he pledged to ‘crush’.
In late 1944, Djujic, with his force of Chetniks, stood shoulder to shoulder with the troops of the German Wehrmacht and the Croatian Ustashas – the same Ustashas who had slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Serbs over the course of the previous three and a half years – in a defence of Knin from the attacking Yugoslav Partisans. The Partisans were victorious despite enormous losses; Djujic was routed and retreated alongside the Germans. He eventually emigrated to the US, where he would bestow his decoration upon Seselj in 1989.
Djujic’s story was far from exceptional. The Chetnik movement, of which he was a part, collaborated with the occupiers throughout the war.
Chetniks and German soldiers posing together in a village in Nazi-occupied Serbia.
Another expression of Serb patriotism on the part of the Radicals’ Chetnik forebears.
Seselj honoured the Chetniks by naming his own militia after them. Seselj’s Chetniks murdered and raped their way across East Bosnia in 1992, under the command of Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslav People’s Army.
Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party, wearing a Chetnik hat.
Should the Radicals, under Seselj’s underlings Tomislav Nikolic and Aleksandar Vucic, take power in Serbia after today’s general election, they will not recover Kosova, which everyone knows is permanently lost to Serbia. But they are likely to expand the existing Serbian government policy of selling the country to the Russians, thereby patriotically serving Putin as Djujic once patriotically served Mussolini and Hitler.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the Radicals’ likely front-man, Vojislav Kostunica.
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