Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Statues of Limitations

There is a new trend in monument buildings in the countries of former
Yugoslavia. After the wars that aimed to eradicate the multi-
cultural character of the former society, now the monuments are built
in celebration of that very character to globally recognized
imaginary heroes that fight for justice and protect the innocent:
Bruce Lee in Mostar (Bosnia), Rocky Balboa in Zitiste (Serbia),
Winettou in Plitvice (Croatia), Tarzan in Medja (Serbia) - birthplace
of Jonny Weismueller, and Samantha Fox (before breast-reduction) in
Cacak, the capital of Serbian country music...

Rest of synopsis and full article (in Croatian)

I'm not aware of the creation stories for the other statues; but I do know that the Mostar statue came about as an attempt to bring together the different communities in Mostar; in the words of one person involved :
Lee was chosen by organisers as a symbol of the fight against ethnic divisions.

"We will always be Muslims, Serbs or Croats," said Veselin Gatalo of the youth group Urban Movement Mostar.

"But one thing we all have in common is Bruce Lee."

Unfortunately, as this picture in the article attests to, someone didn't like that idea, or didn't like Bruce Lee, or perhaps was simply drunk and/or bored and vandalized the statue.

I can understand Jonny Weismueller for the regional connection; and I can even (although I've never made it through a "Rocky" film) understand the Rocky infatuation given "Rocky's" tough-guy, never give up message; but Samantha Fox? It isn't like turbofolk is lacking in similarly um, endowed women; is Fox especially popular in the Balkans?


Viktor said...

Samantha Fox monument is actually just a joke... i hope.

Catherine said...

I think she got chosen because she was going to be the foreign guest star at Dani estrade (a big pop and folk event) which is always held in Čačak in April.

Which is a bit of a comedown from having the Greek pop queen Anna Vissi last year, but still....

Owen said...

I think it was going to be the bust of someone famous but something got lost in translation.

Daniel said...

Quote: " celebration of that very character to globally recognized imaginary heroes that fight for justice and protect the innocent: Bruce Lee in Mostar (Bosnia), Rocky Balboa in Zitiste (Serbia), Winettou in Plitvice (Croatia), Tarzan in Medja (Serbia) - birthplace
of Jonny Weismueller, and Samantha Fox (before breast-reduction) in
Cacak, the capital of Serbian country music..."

It is sad that and primitive to build monuments to foreign movie stars in Bosnia, when monument for 1,500 killed Sarajevo children is getting nowhere, because of "city plans" and other excuses.

Sick people, sick societies, sick Balkans - no wonder.

Yakima_Gulag said...

I didn't happen to see a bunch of media attention for Samantha Fox on any of my trips over there. That doesn't mean she isn't popular, just means I personally didn't notice any special media buzz. Johny Wiesmuller is a Balkanac? Hilarious, I danced with him at a really cool party one time, he's a wonderful dancer, we danced twice and my late mother was totally GREEN with ENVY,when she heard about it, and at the time, at the party, so were a lot of women who had more money and perhaps were 'better looking'! :)
I'm lucky I wasn't knifed in the ladies room! :)

Yakima_Gulag said...

@Daniel, I agree monuments to the fallen would be a more appropriate use of the funds expended for statues, maybe they have a theory that no one should remember, that maybe memories led to all the trouble.
I personally think a lack of honest discussion is closer to being the problem. Maybe honest discussion after WWII would have saved the region another war...
Instead the lid was put on people and everyone was forced into a fake 'Brotherhood and Unity' and didn't have their grievances resolved first. That never works. Especially when things have been totally awful, and in fact the lack of appropriate monuments is the same thing all over again.

Daniel said...


I don't know which religion you are and what side are you on. But remember, percentage wise, Bosniaks were the biggest victims of the World War II. Mythologies about "genocide" of Serbs by Ustashe and their self-prescribed numbers of dead (ranging fromm half a million to over a million, depending on which drunk Serbian nationalist you ask) are ridicolous. So, if you think that Bosniaks are responsible for "genocide" of Serbs in the 2nd World War, then you are mistaken. They are generally just a sick society. Serbia is sick nationalist society with hatred and intolerance towards other minorities. There are nice Serb(ian) people (trully there are), but keep in mind, they are in minority, and some of them are even being attacked because their publicly recognize Srebrenica Genocide (ex: Dejan Anastasijevic and there was one more journalist in Banja Luka whose car exploded, forgot his name).

So, what did you mean about "honest" discussion about World War 2? Why don't you ask yourself who started 2 world wars? It was Serbs. They were root cause of major evil. They started World War 1, and then World War 2 was response to World War 1, and the chain of mass killings continued throughout the Europe.

Don't get me wrong. There are decent Serb people, but they are small minority. Most of these people still live in a tribal mentalilty with their minds poisoned with nationalism, intolerance, or hate.

Things will change to the better. Let's be positive.

Shaina said...

With all do respect, I think that this is evidence of how WWII in the Bosnian (and Yugoslav) context is still a highly charged and emotional debate; over 60 years since it ended; and why not having any national healing, understanding, investigating of the past have led to further problems down the road. The fact that nationalist politicians in the 1980s and 1990s have manipulated and used WWII for political advantage certainly does not help the situation; and indeed only serves to antagonize the situation. From an outsider’s perspective, WWII was a very complex affair with Partisans, Ustashas, Chetniks, and others paramilitary and armed groups. And within each ethnic group, at different times, and under different situations, different people aligned both with and against other ethnic groups; and joined various political and military forces; for example some people might have joined the Ustasha and then joined the Partisans; members of all ethnic groups joined various “sides” at one point or another. Within the context of the ethnic groups, it was also complex; and the war and mass killing took on many different phases and forms based on the military and demographic situation in that particular part of the country. The various mass killings and counter killings all make the situation more complex.
When it comes to the WWII the major debate today seems to be the relative suffering of each ethnic group; and in particular the numbers and demographics of those killed at Jasenovac; therefore, my main focus in this post will be on Jasenovac; that isn’t to ignore the sufferings and cruelities that occurred in other places or by other forces other than the Ustashas; such as Chetnik forces (although the particularly unique and extreme cruelty of the Ustasha regime is apparent).
I’m well aware of how some ultra-nationalist Serbs have exaggerated and manipulated the Serb death toll from places like the Jasenovac death camp; and have furthermore, used these atrocities, both real and exaggerated to “justify” the wars and mass atrocities that took place in the 1990s. I’m also well aware of how some ultra-nationalist Croats have minimized the Serb death toll from places like Jasenovac to serve their political purpose as well.
I think that it is disgusting how anyone can purposely manipulate death tolls and human suffering for political purposes; although unfortunately, it seems to be a feature of every war.
I also think that it is even more despicable the way atrocities; both real and exaggerated have been used to justify further atrocities and create an atmosphere of fear and national paranoia that allows these later atrocities to fester.
Taking into account all of the manipulations and even the exaggerated death tolls at times given; I think that there is ample historical evidence to support saying without any hesitation, that genocide did indeed occur against the Serbs under the Nazi puppet regime of Pavelic. In the words of the Holocaust Museum website, there was a campaign of “terror and systematic murder” launched against the Serb population in Croatia. Even taking into account the ideological spin on WWII by ultra-nationalist Serbs; the basic facts of Jasenovac, and the suffering of the Serb community in Pavelic’s Croatia is overwhelming; the fact that some people have manipulated and exaggerated the numbers of this genocide for their own political purposes should not take away anything from what occurred.
The Nazi puppet state run by Ante Pavelic is certainly guilty of genocide and extermination. There were “laws” aimed at the extermination and biological destruction of the Jewish and Roma racial and religious “enemies.” Pavelic’s regime targeted Jews, Roma, Serbs, Bosniaks, and politically oppositional Croats. In the words of the Holocaust Museum: In the words of the Holocaust Museum’s exhibit on Jasenovac says: “During WWII, the Ustasha regime in Croatia murdered Serbs, Jews, Roma, and Muslims for racial and religious reasons…”
Fully recognizing the genocide against the Serb community during WWII in the Ustasha run Croatia does not mean that the suffering of how other communities should be ignored or under-reported (nor over exaggerated as well). For example, I think that there is historic evidence to support that Roma, Jews, Serbs suffered from genocide during WWII; there is also historic evidence to support that Bosniaks suffered from genocide and massacres in WWII; particularly by Chetnik forces; but, also mass killings in places like Jasenovac; as the quote I mentioned above clearly attests to. Unfortunately, the exact numbers of Bosniaks killed in Jasenovac unknown, and their suffering at Jasenovac has been underreported because some of them were “mislabeled” as Croats, Serbs or as Roma. I have heard the statistic that percentage wise the Bosniak community lost a greater percentage of their people; and I’m sure that that is correct. This suffering should not be swept under the carpet either; and it is additional reason of how sweeping what happened under the carpet didn’t work and why there needs to be a greater openness over what happened during WWII to all of the communities in the former Yugoslavia.
However, what I don’t understand is how recognizing the suffering and genocide of one community seemingly prevents from recognizing the suffering of other communities.
Unfortunately, too many seem to have an ethnic group exclusivist view of WWII and the complex situation involved. Some seemingly believe that saying that Serbs suffered from genocide prevents one from saying that Bosniaks suffered from genocide during WWII; and saying that Bosniaks suffered from genocide prevents one from saying that Serbs suffered from genocide during WWII. Or, that recognizing the sufferings and horrific acts committed against one ethnic group, somehow “lessens” the suffering of another ethnic group. I think that this may be a direct result of the effects of the current wars and atrocities; as well as the fact that there is very little general consensus over what exactly happened during WWII. And the little that has been in the public has been subjected to manipulation by politicians and the like. As well as just the plain fact that WWII was a incredibly bloody and complex affair in Yugoslavia.
Just as recognizing the suffering of the Serbs under Pavelic does not prevent one from also recognizing the suffering of other ethnic groups; recognizing that genocide occurred does not mean in any way shape or form one is supporting the twisted logic of the ultra-nationalists who used genocide and mass murder campaigns of WWII to support genocide and mass killings in the 1990s.
All suffering, be it at the hands of Ustasha, or the Chetniks should be fully and completely examined. And the suffering of all communities, Jews, Roma, Serbs, Bosniaks, Croats, Hungarians, Albanians, etc should be fully recognized; as well as the individual (note: not collective!) blame of individual Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks, etc for atrocities. And Perhaps even more importantly than individual blame, the individual acts of resistance, and courage of individual Serbs, Bosniaks, and Croats who risked their lives to save others from slaughter; these stories also must be told. Such as people like Zija Dizdarević; who joined the anti-fascist movement and helped hide Jewish and Roma Bosnians; and was killed in Jasenovac. And for that matter, although it certainly in no way is comparable by any degree to the genocides and mass killings that occurred to ethnic, religious and political groups under the Ustasha regime the mass killing of tens of thousands (I believe at least 20,000) surrendered soldiers by the Partisans needs to also be fully examined and recognized.
Jasenovac was a horror beyond horror. The Nazi puppet state was a fascist terrorist regime. Minimizing or manipulating or exaggerating the death tolls for political purposes does no good either to the victims or the people living today. The victims of Jasenovac, be they Serbs, Jews, Roma, Bosniaks, or politically opposed Croats deserve better than that; as do the people currently living in Bosnia.

I also don't think that an ethnic group can be described as being the "root cause of major evil." Be they Serbs, Croats or the Zulu. Or be wholly blamed as an ethnic group for wars and genocides. And I’m not just saying that because I’m part ethnically German; and my nationality in American; ethnic and national groups that are no strangers to genocide.
Saying that “they” started WWI, seemingly either has one man, Princip, represent all ethnic Serbs; or all ethnic Serbs are represented by Princip. I’m not sure if this blanket statement and condemnation was intended or not; so I’d appreciate you clearing up what you meant.
Even without holding accountable and blaming an ethnic group for the actions of one man; that statement ignores the complex situation leading up to WWI; and in particular the complex sitution within the Austro-Hungarian empire; and in particular, in Bosnia. and the fact that the major powers, Britain, France, Germany were itching for a war (which they all presumed would be a very short affair, obviously leading to their victory) to show off their new weapons. The assassination in Sarajevo of the Archduke might have been the “trigger” which started WWI; but obviously tensions and situations were so great, that the assassination was used as an excuse by the big powers to launch the entire European continent into war.
And as for WWII, I think a guy named Adolf Hitler had something to do with starting that monstrosity.

As for Jasenovac. I'd reccommend the Holocaust museum's site on Jasenovac, located at:
It includes historical, oral, artifacts; as well as information on the various death tolls; and the fact that there is debate and a lack of consensus over these numbers.

Shaina said...

As for statues and memorials etc. I understand the perhaps psychological need to create innocuous and seemignly camp (Samantha Fox!) statues in light of the horror of war, and the bad situation in the 1990s. And in some cases, such as the Jackie Chan case, the statues were created with the hopes of fostering a sense of multi-ethnic unity; certainly nothing to sneeze at, and a very admirable trait, IMHO. However, these statues should not be seen used to cover up, or hide, or manipulate discussions of what happened during the 1990s. In other words, memorials and even more important than memorials, understanding and debate over what happened in the 1990s should also take place.
As for memorials; I think that memorials can be a good thing; in the situation of the Vietman Wall, it can even serve as a catalyst to some sort of national healing; however I do have two points to make. Statues and memorials to the deceased need to also take place within a larger multi-national discussion of the wars. And that there are other appropriate memorials besides physical statues; for example, a scholarship given in the name(s) of some young people who have been killed is just as appropriate of a memorial as a physical memorial.

Shaina said...

On to a much lighter topic:

Catherine, thanks for the info on the statue. Yakima_Gulag, nice story about you and Wiesmuller; what party/event was it?

Yakima_Gulag said...

@ Daniel, for what it's worth, I am Catholic, my ancestry is Irish English, French, Hungarian, Polish and some Bosnian on my mother's side,they were royalty and easy to trace. On my father's side, I am Russian, German and Italian. I think actually the Italian end of the family may ultimately have been of Bosnian origins since their coat of arms had three golden lilies in it.
My former husband was Muslim from India. I do not have anything against Muslims. I had probably an unusual level of contact with Muslim people for an American who grew up when I grew up.(I was born in 1953) I was in total support of an independant, multi-ethnic Bosnia Hercegovina, before any of my friends or relatives.
Stuff happened on all sides in WWII, I agree probably the Muslims had the worst time of it in WWII, barring Jews.

I think too the contributions of Muslims against fascism, Bosnian Muslims, Muslim national minorities in the former Soviet Union, and in the case of France, North Africans who served in the French military services, is not at all respecIted or acknowleged.

In fact last night I heard on the news that 57 Muslim graves in a French military cemetary were defaced and I was really angry to hear of it. These men fought Hitler, defended France, because even though France colonized them, they understood what was a worse evil.

I have three times visited for substantial periods of time both BiH and Croatia. I would have to be totally BLIND not to understand that the Bosnian Muslims took the most damage. I was on a bus trip in 1999, from Zagreb to Sarajevo. I saw where the damage was with my own two eyes. I know who took damage and who took relatively less damage along the route.

I still say that honest discussion of the war is necessary. The only people who will lose by honest discussion will be the people who committed evil deeds.
I think that you and I are in closer agreement than you realize.

Owen said...

"However, what I don’t understand is how recognizing the suffering and genocide of one community seemingly prevents from recognizing the suffering of other communities."

Shaina, understandably a loss can blind you to the losses of others. But the passage of time should bring some perspective. The problem is when an experience of communal victimhood is exploited for current political purposes.

Have you got a link to information about Zija Dizdarević?

Owen said...

Shaina, Princip isn't just an individual figure, he's the public face of a venture that was apparently organised by Serbian military intelligence.

And it wasn't so much the assassinations of Franz-Ferdinand and Sophie that led to the outbreak of war, although obviously their deaths set the train in motion. As far as I understand, it was Serbia's instransigence (encouraged by Russia) over Austria's demands for an investigation of the assassinations and an end to Serbian support for anti-Austrian terrorist activities that led to the outbreak of WWI.

The incident that provided the specific reason for Austria's declaration of war was an incursion by Serbian reservists onto Austrian territory (allegedly accidental).