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Addressing the “All-Serbs-are-War-Criminals” Stereotype—Part 1 in a Mini-Series

by Laura on October 8th, 2012

The Elephant in the Room

Oh no …. She did not just go there. War criminals? Seriously?

To all four of my precious readers who may be thinking: Laura, for the love of God, why are you spoiling a perfectly good Expat Mommy blog with politics?

This is not a political rant, believe me. But where Serbs are concerned, there’s an elephant in the room. Namely, the 1999 bombing of Serbia. I can’t go much longer writing about Serbian mentality in contrast to American without that elephant becoming so obvious, it must be addressed.

 

US Media Portrayal of the Balkans

Let me back-up a bit. During the 1990s, living close to DC, I read voraciously about the Balkans.

The information I was fed was this: The President of Serbia (or Yugoslavia, depending when in the 1990s is was) Slobodan Milošević enforces ethnic cleansing. Serbs support Milošević. Serbia is responsible for war crimes, ethnic cleansing, the break-up of Yugoslavia, and possibly more, we’ll let you know.

 

Overcoming (Mis)perceptions

Did you know that Slobodan Milošević was ultimately ousted by his own people?

Throughout the 1990s, anti-government groups tried to gain footing. About a year after the bombing ended, a largely non-violent youth protest movement organized by the Serbian people overthrew him. The October 7, 2000 anniversary of Milošević’s resignation was yesterday.

The idea that the Serbian population supported ethnic cleansing is based on neither observation nor proof. Are the civilian men, women and children who lived in Serbia during the bombing war criminals? That’s absurd. (More on this in later posts.)

Even today, thirteen years after the 1999 bombing, mention the Balkans to an average American, and you’ll find the “Serbs are war criminals” stereotype in there somewhere.

Along with the actual war, Serbia lost the media war. After all, history is written by the winners.

 

The Serbian Mentality

The breakup of the Balkans is obviously too complicated to explain in one post. So is a discussion of Serbian mentality.

The reality is that the two are intrinsically linked.

The generation of my friends and family that survived the sanctions and bombing had their youth taken away. Many don’t talk about that time with foreigners, perhaps to bury the memories, perhaps to avoid a heated argument.

Understanding the effect of the war on the Serbian mentality is part of what my research for my next book—set in Belgrade in the 1990s—is about. In addition to plenty of reading, I’ve started talking informally to people about their experiences during the bombing.

So, for the next few Monday blog posts, I’ll be doing a mini-series on the Serbian Mentality. Of course, it will be from the perspective of an expat Mommy, because, how could I not be subjective?

Just FYI … The schedule is as follows:

  • Monday—Serbian Mentality Mini-Series
  • Wednesday—Adoption issues
  • Friday—Weekly news round-up 

If you’re not interested in one of these topics, please do continue to subscribe, just skip the day that doesn’t fancy you. If you have a question for me about living in Serbia, or the Serbian people, perhaps I could address it in a future post. Please don’t hesitate to write me with your ideas!

Also, you can type your email address in the right-hand column to receive these blogs directly into your inbox. Read on-the-go from your mobile!

Thanks to photobucket for the photo.

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24 Comments
  1. I admire your courage in tackling difficult and sensitive issues that you've encountered in your life and being willing to be so open about sharing them with others in the hopes that you'll spread some enlightenment and understanding. I'll be reading ALL your blog posts! :-)

    • admin permalink

      Cathy! Thanks for being the first to write … I was/am nervous about this post, but I truly believe it needs to be talked about. I feel I can't just keep on going on writing about my experience as an American mommy here in Serbia, without mentioning that my country (U.S.) pretty much bombed theirs (through NATO). There are pre-conceived notions that still exist. I think if we can address it, we can dispel some of these stereotypes.
      Thanks again! — Laura

  2. Cynthia permalink

    Serbs. Croats. People are people. I'm looking forward to reading about your new topics!
    Cynthia recently posted..Please Forgive MeMy Profile
    Cynthia recently posted..Please Forgive MeMy Profile

  3. admin permalink

    Cynthia,

    Very true! Thanks for the "writing support" :)

    Laura

  4. Hi Laura. I just tagged you in a blog challenge that may help to promote your book. I hope it helps!
    Sylvia Morice recently posted..The Look ChallengeMy Profile
    Sylvia Morice recently posted..The Look ChallengeMy Profile

    • admin permalink

      Sylvia, This is so fun! Thanks for thinking of me and for "tagging." I'm going to participate right away. –Laura

  5. Very interesting, I do think that many Americans don't really know about what happened in the Balkans in the 90s, and may have been fed very limited information, like yourself in Washington DC. The Serbs were definitely painted as bad guys and there seems to be very little information out there as to what was going on with regular every day citizens as opposed to a psycho dictatorial government. I'm interested to read more on your opinions of this.
    Jessica Holt recently posted..British words you should incorporate into your vocabularyMy Profile
    Jessica Holt recently posted..British words you should incorporate into your vocabularyMy Profile

    • admin permalink

      Jessica,
      Thanks for visiting and writing! It's true, there was very little information about what was really happenening on the ground. I'm trying to educate myself, but it's very difficult.
      Laura

  6. It was really something interesting to talk about and I really want to say that these criminals are the worst part of the society. We should be doing something about resolving these issues.

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