Sunday, April 24, 2016

This Is Serbia Calling

In all wars and under all authoritarian regimes that I have heard of, there has been an underground movement of some sort or another.  I admit that I know very little of many of them.  Whether it be the Underground Railroad of the American Civil War period or the resistance efforts during Germany’s World War II-era conquest of Europe or the people in the former Soviet Union who yearned for freedom and did what they could, the stories are spell-binding.  Some, of course, are better than others, but I find it hard to pass judgement on those who made only small contributions to resistance movements; they did what they could in an atmosphere where even the littlest action against a tyrannical government could and often did result in death, sometimes for one’s family and friends, too.  I hadn't really heard about such people when it came to the Bosnian War, but I figured there had to be some.

Book cover.This Is Serbia Calling: Rock 'n' Roll Radio and Belgrade's Underground Resistance by Matthew Collin (ISBN: 1-85242-776-0), tells about a few of the people who tried to change the minds of Serbians during the war with Bosnia & Herzegovina.  I found the very idea of someone going against what Serbia's ironically-named (his first named means free) despot, Slobodan Milošević, worth reading about.  The book tells the story of how what is now Serbia's second-largest TV and radio station came to be, how it presented a constant message that went against the ultra-nationalist propaganda of the Serbian ruler.  It was often a dangerous message, one that resulted in jail time, seized property, and the constant fear of death and beatings.  Most of the radio station's personnel suffered only lightly, but others in the political opposition were murdered.  B92 struggled to present a message that would galvanize the people of Serbia against the war, and once that was over, against the government that had brought so much trouble to their land.  B92 was no great supporter of NATO or the West when they started bombing Serbia during the Serbian campaign in Kosovo, but mostly stayed on message as they continued to denounce the their corrupt president.  They brought a message of hope and freedom to the people, which ultimately resulted in the people of Serbia taking to the streets and quickly, with minimal bloodshed, throwing Milošević out of power.

The book was an interesting history told from an unusual perspective (and in the highly charged vocabulary of the Balkans).  The other resistance movements I've read about have not had such an open presence as B92, a radio station, did.  Milošević had a strategy that left those dissenting voices around that he figured didn't really matter, so there's probably an argument to be made about the real threat B92 presented the regime, but the fact that they were eventually taken over, probably means they were too effective for the regime's liking at the spreading of their pro-democratic message.  I was intrigued by their dislike for the West, even though Western governments were pumping money and manpower into keeping B92 and other anti-Milošević organizations relevant.  I liked reading about how, once Milošević was deposed, most people involved in the movements against him just returned to their everyday lives.  They weren't seeking power or fame, just freedom.  They were willing to stand up for what they believed, some at considerable risk to their physical safety or even lives.  It was great to read about people desiring freedom, taking matters into their own hands, and working to get it.

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This work, including all text, photographs, and other original work, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives 3.0 License and is copyrighted © MMXIV John Pruess.

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