Among the handful of non-anti-Serb Balkans-observers in America, all eyebrows raised last Friday when the leftist ivory tower New Republic outdid its own famous fabulist Stephen Glass with two new ones. A pair of Eastern Europeans named Vera Mironova and Maria Snegovaya, who penned an opinion article clunkily headlined “Putin is Behaving in Ukraine Like Milosevic Did in Serbia.”
Set aside that virtually no one outside the Balkans knows how Milosevic actually did behave in Serbia. And set aside that the headline and article read as if TNR is outsourcing style and copy-editing to non-English-speaking countries. (Just check out the ‘correction’ at the bottom: “This piece…mistakenly identified Stepan Bandera as an Ukrainian Greek-Catholic priest, rather than the son of a Ukranian Greek-Catholic priest.”) Set aside also TNR’s government-lockstep stance on every 90s war we waged against Orthodox Christians in the Balkans (a September 1999 article-rejection I got from a senior editor there: “…the problem is that tnr has a fairly firm editorial line on the balkans, and i’m afraid your piece doesn’t quite match it…”)
Set aside all that, along with the consistent pattern that Balkans material in the U.S. is exempt from the usual editorial checks and balances when it’s written from the ‘correct’ perspective, giving writers free rein to make stories up out of whole cloth and, alternately, to graft their sources’ yarns directly from the reporter’s notebook onto the newspaper.
One supposed it was only a matter of time before the deceased Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic was yet again dredged from his grave, this time in service of some pathetic attempt at a Putin analogy. But if you can imagine, this product was a notch more ridiculous even than the usual.
“Understandably,” write Vera Mironova and Maria Snegovaya, “both Croatia and Ukraine resisted what they perceived as invasion, and in the 1940s this resistance translated into substantive support for fascists in both countries.”
Now that support for Hitler is finally understandable, the writers proceed to keep mum about the atrocities that Fuehrer Ante Pavelic’s Croatia as well as Stepan Bandera’s followers in Ukraine committed against minorities. The newly formed REISS Institute—whose unprecedented mission is precisely to challenge the “fictions, fabrications and fantasies” that pass for Balkans history in America and elsewhere and whose name honors the Jewish forensic scientist who came to Serbia in 1914 to investigate Austro-Hungarian atrocities—responded to the TNR article with “Holocaust Denial at The New Republic.” In it, director Nebojsa Malic points out that the writers go on to imply that the 1940s atrocities are “old myths” and that Serbs and Russians have created ethnic conflict “where none existed before”:
“Russian and Serbian propaganda referenced the old myths of Croatian (and Ukrainian) fascists” [and conjured] the imagery of Bandera and Pavelić to unjustly accuse modern Ukrainian and Croatian nationalists….The clear implication is that…any such connection is purely a product of Serb and Russian propaganda. In actual fact, not malicious fantasy, present-day Croats routinely give Mass for Pavelić and his Ustasha, whom they have promoted to Christ-like martyrs (e.g. Bleiburg), while modern “Ukrainian nationalists” organize torchlight parades carrying Bandera’s portraits…This is not something the Serbs or Russians made up.
Indeed, the writers attribute the 1990s Ustasha revival to a “Serb portrayal” of modern Croatia. Whence came, then, all the hard copies of 1990s articles that I have in my drawer, put out by mainstream media and Jewish news agencies and making the same inescapable observations about Croatian streets being renamed for Ustasha “heroes;” about actual Ustasha who’d served in WWII being brought back from Latin America and the Arab world and given official positions; about the popular band Thompson’s songs serenading concentration camps, Pavelic and the Black Legion. The MSM outfits who reported on such a “modern” Croatia aren’t named Slobodan Milosevic. And that’s without mentioning the busts to the Croatian fuehrer Pavelic which still adorn Croatian cultural centers across the globe. And what did Snegovaya and Mironova make of the sieg-heiling by FIFA-sanctioned Croatian soccer player Joseph Simunic last November, or of Croatian soccer player Mario Mandzukic doing the same a year earlier? Do they think Bob Dylan was just talking out of his rear in a 2012 Rolling Stone interview when he compared blacks vis-à-vis KKK to Serbs vis-à-vis Croatians?
The REISS article concludes:
Stephen Glass made his stories up to advance his career. Mironova and Snegovaya go a step further, making up or outright inverting facts in order to whitewash the atrocities of the Kiev junta today, and those of the Croatian and Ukrainian fascists in the 1940s, by accusing the Russians (and ethnic Ukrainians in the East) trying to defend their lives, property and identity from attack — as well as the Serbs who tried to do the same in the 1990s — of being the real aggressors. Mironova and Snegovaya need to be sanctioned for their gross misconduct, while the The New Republic owes both the Serbs and the Russians an apology. However, having seen the impunity with which the Serbs and the Russians have been demonized in the Western press for almost 25 years, we’re not holding our breath.
And this is all without mentioning the incongruity of the Putin-Milosevic analogy to begin with. Milosevic acted within his country, and to keep it whole. The very comparison gives Putin claim to Ukraine. And as a uniter. Which makes it all the more interesting that Mironova and Snegovaya don’t actually mention how Milosevic acted in Serbia per se. Just in Croatia, which would imply that the writers consider Serbia to rightfully encompass the “Greater Serbia” they accuse Milosevic of setting his sights on. Had they written “Yugoslavia”—or even “Croatia”—it would have made sense. But they wrote “Serbia” – why? Because “Serbia – Milosevic” has to be paired as a propaganda meme, a magical phrase invoking the ‘designated evil.’
And how did the Serbian side come to be the designated evil in the West? In her letter submitted to TNR in response to the article, author Diana Johnstone reminds us that “after World War II, many Croatian pro-Nazis, and even more Ukrainian Nazis were welcomed into the United States and Canada for their ardent anti-Communism. They readily spread their own version of events.” An observation, incidentally, made even by some Congress members as early as the late 40s and early 50s.
And so we have “reputable” publications like The New Republic, considered an important left-leaning alternative to the off-the-charts The Nation, “reducing Eastern European Nazi slaughter of minorities to a mere propaganda narrative used by Orthodox Christian Russians and Serbs for their own nefarious purposes,” writes Johnstone, and alternately as an “’understandable’ patriotic reaction to aggression—by the Orthodox Church!”
Yet another inversion, as Johnstone points out. The writers refer to Serbia and Russia as “‘both countries of Eastern Orthodox religion that considered themselves alternative, non-Western civilizations—imposing their rule upon the Catholic and much more pro-Western Croatia and Ukraine.’ [But] Orthodox churches are national churches, and as such are not expansive, contrary to the Vatican, whose historic policy is to impose the authority of the Bishop of Rome on all of Christendom – notably in contested Eastern European borderlands. In reality, far from ‘imposing’ the Serbian Orthodox religion on Croatia, the Yugoslav Kingdom negotiated with difficulty a Concordat with the Catholic Church which preserved the rights of Catholics…Catholic clergy were better treated under Tito than Orthodox clergy, no doubt because of strong international support for the former.”
Just as importantly, Johnstone echoes about Serbs what Billy Joel said about Russians just two weeks ago on “The Tonight Show” (paraphrasing himself from the 80s when he was touring there: “The people love everything American–these people aren’t going to bomb us!”). The implication of anti-Westernism about Serbs rings even more hollow and mendacious, as Johnstone illustrates: “Serbia’s last king, Peter I (died 1921), while in exile fought with the French army in the Franco-Prussian War and translated John Stuart Mill’s ‘On Liberty’ into Serbo-Croatian for his compatriots.”
And never mind that Serbia’s last “nationalist” president (Kostunica) was a Constitutional scholar; never mind the Serbian delight with Hollywood (even for some time after they became its go-to villain); and never mind that Serbia recognized American independence as quickly as it did the Balfour Declaration, and provided us one of our earliest loans. And never mind that Belgrade houses the world’s oldest Jewish choir and that the Balkans’ first piano was delivered to Serbs, who also set up the Balkans’ first parliament and established the first-ever scientific society there.
Indeed, some would say that at times Serbia out-Americas America. The country doesn’t deserve to be not only betrayed violently but accused of being something it isn’t, in order to justify the countless betrayals.
Julia Gorin is an opinion columnist with a focus on the Balkans. Her articles have appeared in Jerusalem Post, Wall St. Journal, NY Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, NY Post, Washington Times, New York Observer, Christian Science Monitor, American Legion Magazine, and scores of others. She blogs at www.RepublicanRiot.com. When not trying to set the record straight on self-destructive Western interventions in the former Yugoslavia, Julia is a recognized name in conservative comedy.