Written by Marko Pinteric, May 2, 1999.
April 11, 1999.
Independent Serbian newspaper publisher and journalist Slavko Curuvija and his wife enter the lobby in the building where they live. The couple is followed in by unknown men who cowardly shoot Cuvurlija in the back and head after knocking his wife unconscious. Cuvurlija would later die.
This was not merely the insane action of a few maniacs taken against an intellectual who held a different viewpoint. It was the Serbian nation that fired those fatal bullets. It was the the truth that died in a puddle of blood in the far away city of Belgrade.
Understanding that sad moment requires far more just than a simple explanation. It requires the knowledge on the thought patterns of Serbian people and in general the thought pattern of all nations and all people.
We all know that the world around us is hardly a friendly environment. Sometimes it is essential for us to function normal, to survive, to grow on as individuals, not to really know all about hardships and dangers that are threatening us. If we would be aware of them, we would give up living. Instead of that we form some kind of "denial" and wrap it beautifully in the form of the myth about us and about the world.
Serbians were more than 400 years under severe Turkish rule. As Christians, they didn't enjoy the rights of the most of empire's citizens, and they were encouraged on daily basis to convert to muslims. But in their aim to keep their individuality, myths of themselves, national myths, proved to be the best ally.
Only their true believes, about their superiority, about their courage, about their rightness enabled them to resist the severe rule. And the orthodox religion, which tends to mythical view of the world was a great help.
To demonstrate the power and the meaning of the a national myth, there is one of the special interest - the one that strongly influenced things that are now happening in Kosovo.
In 1389 Turkish army defeated Christian, mostly Serbian army on Kosovo polje, a place in nowadays Kosovo. Because of this defeat Serbia lost its independence for more than 400 years and were subdued by strong Turkish empire. This event made the area of Kosovo the area of special interest far beyond its real importance to Serbian nation. Moreover, through following centuries Serbians valued this event not as an grand defeat, but as a grand victory of Serbian people.
It was exactly the grand 600th celebration of "victory" at Kosovo polje in 1989, led by newly established Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, that meant the start of the bloody events that happened in the next 10 years. Milosevic exploited this myth, which was still lively preserved in Serbian people, to distract his people from the realities of modern times, and to turn them against Albanians.
The myth of the Battle on Kosovo polje is far from being the only Serbian national myth, still lively in the mind of Serbian people, and far from being the only myth that was largely exploited by Serbian ruling elite. The other myths resulted in wars and strong disputes against all their neighbouring nations. Finally, they resulted in wars against Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, that Serbia started in the beginning of this decade. Serbia was from the start condemned to lose them all, because the reality was in strong contrast with the message of the myths. The national myths, now deviation from the reality, proved to be a boomerang for Serbian nation.
The arguments above have the far-extending consequences. Unfortunately, they prove that speculations in western media, that the situation on Balkans is a mere result of hegemonistic policy of one man, are wrong. If Serbs ever disagreed with Milosevic, it was not over his militaristic policy, but rather because he failed to complete the very mission he ascribed to himself. It is a wrong belief that the mare leaving of Milosevic will settle the Serbian problem.
Perhaps the real answer can be found in the history of 20th century. The German Nazi regime was also the one that based its power on national mythology, which in the end instructed Germans either to "protect" German minorities, wherever German lived, or to create a "life space" (Lebensraum), wherever Germans didn't live at all.
Therefore, one must see a total and obvious defeat of Serbian policy and army. But as even today historians disagree on whether the huge civil sufferings in the bombing and the occupation of Germany in 1944-1945 were necessary, we are today unable to know how which civil suffering will be inevitable and legitime in war against Serbia in 1999.