Anarchism in Serbia

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Anarchism is a political theory, that is anti-authoritarian in nature, and focuses on the rejection of government, state and societal control.[1] These anarchist ideas and movements have been present within Serbia for many years and have acted as a catalyst for the political and social turmoil that has embroiled the country throughout the years. Through every government and period of political ruling from the control of the Ottoman empire, to the first Monarchs of Serbia, Karadjordje and Milan Obrenovic, as well as the control of the axis powers during World war II[2] they have been meet with opposition and resistance. This opposition has come from key figures and anarchists groups that have fought against this authority. Anarchist groups such as the Anarcho-Syndicalists, and movements including Otpor have provided resistance[3][4]. This anarchism continues in Serbia today against the current President Aleksandar Vucic and his government with protests against their authority being held weekly.[5]

History[edit]

Throughout various periods the territory that is now known as Serbia, has experienced many periods of changing government and control as well as geographic boundaries.[6] From the ruling of the Ottoman Empire, came the First Serbian uprising, led by George Petrović (Karađorđe), who would later become the first Monarch[7][8].

1880s - Milan Obrenovic[edit]

King of Serbia (1882-1889): Milan Obrenovic

Milan Obrenović assumed the title of King of Serbia in 1882-1889, and remained in charge of the Habsburg Monarchy.[9]. His ruling over the Principality of Serbia was met with much opposition as his close relations with leaders in the Austrian empire were considered to be unfavourable[10]. Milan Obrenović sided with the Serbian Progressive party that held government, and proclaimed reforms based in western principles [11]. On the opposing side of this conflict was the new People's Radical Party which was centred around the idea of political self-government[11]. Obrenović and the progressive party viewed the Radicals as anarchists that presented danger to the law and order held within the country[11]. While the radicals viewed the progressive party and Obrenović as abusing the power of the state[11]. The Radical party became a movement, instead of just a political party, that the progressive party attempted to stop[11]. This political tension came to a head in January 1882 when the parliament was obstructed by the Radicals[11]

In 1883, the Timok Rebellion (Timoka buna) occurred as the King, Milan Obrenović, refused to offer the government to the radical party who held the majority of the votes, in the September 7 election[11]. Instead he appointed Nikola Hrstic, to become the head of the government[11]. Struggle between the king and the radicals ensued, and the radicals had planned to assassinate the King, but failed[11]. The fear of an uprising from the radicals was believed to be a possibility by the government.

The tensions between the peasants in eastern Serbia and the government were at an all-time high when the Progressivist Parliament enacted new laws relating to the establishment of a modern military as opposed to the popular army that was established previously.[11]. This law placed emphasis on the collection of old riffles from peasant-soldiers who had formed previous armies[11]. Through this the progressivist government attempted to lessen the strength of the radicals and gain the full control of the army[11]. The radicals actively opposed this change and the president of the Radicals, Nikola Pašić, published an article condemning the government and accusing it of acting in favour of the Austro-Hungarians, which many people had severe distrust of [11]. Conflicts between the authorities that were sent to collect riffles and the peasants occurred [11]

Early 20th century[edit]

In the early twentieth century, the monarchy was still at the head of the Kingdom of Serbia, with the grandson of George (Đorđe) Petrović, King Peter I of Serbia, to ascend to the throne[2]. He brought democracy to the forefront of leadership in Serbia[2]. The disdain in Serbia for the ottoman empire and the Austro-Hungarian rule lead to the Balkan wars of 1912-1913 that was fought by the Balkan League against the Ottoman empire.[12]

Post First World War[edit]

In 1918, the territory of Serbia was claimed by mutual consent to be a part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, with the former Monarch King Peter I stepping aside for his son Crown Prince Alexander who become King Alexander I of Serbia in 1921[2]. He had to impose a Royal dictatorship due to the increasing internal rivalries between the Serbs and the Croats in 1929[2]. This came as potential tensions in the 1920s resulted in many changes in government ministers as well as the murders of several Croatian deputies that formed part of the government of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.[13] The murders resulted in the withdrawal of the Croatians from the parliament (Skupština) and meant that King Alexander I could not form an effective government[13]. In another attempt to unify the people of his kingdom he renamed the territory to become the Kingdom of Yugoslavia [13]. He also instated new reforms that included the outlawing of all political parties based on ethnicity, religious or area divisions[13]. In 1932 the increasing political dissatisfaction resulted in his assignation in France[2]. The assassin was identified as a Vlado Chernozemski who was apart of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation[13]. They were also helped by the Macedonian and Croatian separatist group Ustaša[13]. The monarchy was then passed down to his son who was eleven years old at the time and later became King Peter II[2].

Rise of Communism and the Abolition of the Monarchy[edit]

Before the beginning of WWIl, all of Yugoslavia’s surrounding countries were under Nazi control[2]. In March 1941, Yugoslavia was invaded by Germany and their allies including Bulgaria, Hungary and Italy, forcing the surrender of the government[2]. The government, along with King Peter II were exiled to London[2]. The Axis control of Yugoslavia, established a Puppet Government in Serbia[14]. The first was the regime of Milan Nedić, set up under German control[14]. Many Serbs were displeased and looked to resistance movements that prevailed despite fall of the Royal Yugoslav army[14].

Chetniks (Četnik)[edit]

Chetnik Flag

The Chetniks, led by former Colonel of the Royal Yugoslav Army, Dragoljub (Draža) Mihailovic, was established in order to resist the axis invaders[2]. The Chetnik Strategy was to create forces out of the disbanded former Yugoslav army that would assist allied forces when they were to arrive in Yugoslavia, to defeat the axis occupation in the territory[15]. The rise of the Yugoslav Communist party and their call for resistance from the people posed an unexpected challenge for the Chetniks[15]. They were faced with communist uprisings and feared the loss of lives as well as the potential for a communist revolution [15]. Chetnik nationalism became anti-communist and radicalised, with anti-Croat and anti-Muslim attitudes[15]. The increasing tension in the territory between the ethnic and religious divisions led the Chetniks to believe that the Croatians and Bosnian Muslims where responsible for the political genocide that Serbians where experiencing[15]. Chetnik leaders created strategies that sought to create ethnically pure Serbian territories in the surrounding states[15]. Thousands of Muslim civilians where killed with towns burnt, and communist sympathisers being targeted[15]. They also began to co-operate with German forces in order to flush out the Communists[16]

Communist Partisans[edit]

Josip Broz Tito in 1942

The communist partisans were a part of a larger resistance movement against the axis occupation of Yugoslavia[17].The leader of the group Josip Broz Tito, led small-scale sabotage against the axis powers and claimed the Serbian Town of Užice as a free republic[17]. The axis powers would retaliate against the resistance movements[17]. This attracted more recruits to the movement leading them to establish the People’s liberation army (PLA), Tito also lead the Anti-fascist Council for the national Liberation of Yugoslavia, eventually forming a provisional government[17]. The Battle of Sutjeska, was important in the Partisan movement as it gave them credibility in the eyes of the Allies, instead of the Chetniks[17]. In 1944, the Partisans took part in the liberation of Belgrade and resulted in them coming into power. This led to a long run of communist power in Yugoslavia[17].

When the communist party came to power it resulted in the permanent exile of the monarchy[2]. King Peter II never abdicated and remained in exile for the rest of his life[2]. His son Crown Prince Alexander has recently returned to Serbia however has not been reinstated as Monarch.[18]

Anarchist Groups[edit]

Anarcho-Syndicalists[edit]

The anarcho-syndicalism initiative (ASI) is present and currently one of the more active anarchist groups operating in Serbia. They are known as the Union Confederation Anarcho Syndicalist Initiative section that forms part of the International Workers Association.[4]. They have committees in many Serbian cities and towns including Kragujevac, Kula, Crevenka and Vrsac[3]. They spread their ideology through their magazine, Direct Action (Direktna Akcija), which is distributed through various channels to workers instead of being sold in stands[4]. They share their dislike for the state, authoritarian control and capitalism[3]. There is believed to be approximately one thousand anarchists part of this group mainly consisting of students and workers, present within Serbia[3]

Arrest of Anarcho-syndicalists[edit]

On September 3rd 2009, six members (Tadej Kurepa, Ratibor Trivunac, Sanja Dojkić, Ivan Vulović, Nikola Mitrović and Ivana Savić) where charged with international terrorism, after they were involved in a Molotov attack on the Greek embassy in Belgrade.[4]. This attack was conducted in response to the brutality of the Greeks in dealing with people that opposed their authority[4]. This charge carried the possibility of 3-15 years imprisonment[4]. The state was opposed to the actions of the anarcho-syndicalists and viewed them as a threat to public security[4]. The six were imprisoned for a total of five months[4]

Otpor[edit]

Symbol of the Otpor movement

Otpor was a movement driven by cumulative civil resistance in Serbia which began with anger over the alleged corruption and vote rigging in the Slobodan Milosevic government in 1991[19].  By 1996, students organised demonstrations and protests that where held across the country for four months[19].  Otpor (the Serbian word for resistance), attempted to achieve change but was met with large amounts of resistance from Milosevic’s government and eventuated in a political stalemate [19].They used a variety of techniques and events to subvert the authority of the government, not just through protest but also satire, parody and black humour in order to spread its message using humour [19]This movement established student networks in the major cities across the country[19].The disregard by the government to acknowledge the 2000 election results in Serbia, resulted in increasing number of protests[20].  

Anarchism today[edit]

Aleksandar Vučic, the current President of Serbia

The most recently elected president, Aleksandar Vucic and his party the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), have been faced with controversy over the alleged censorship and manipulation of the media.[21]. There have also been claims of corruption and the forceful silencing of anyone of their opposition[22]. The catalyst for these protests started with the attack of the opposition politician and leader of the Alliance of Serbia, Borko Stefanovic [23]. The Alliance of Serbia is a group of 30 opposition parties and organisations that claim that the current government is corrupt[23]. Stefanovic, was attacked and struck on the head by unknown attackers on the 23rd of November, 2018 in Krusevac[5]. The first protest was held on the 8th of December 2018 in Belgrade where thousands of people emerged in order to express their anger against the authoritarian control of the president and his party[5]. These rallies have been held every weekend since the first rally in December. Protesters however have been upset be the limited coverage that the rallies have received in the media[5]. They broke into a state-run television network’s building in December in a sign of protest against the control of the media coverage[24]. These protests are continuing to be held weekly[22]


References[edit]

  1. ^ McLaughlin, Paul (2016-04-15). Anarchism and Authority. doi:10.4324/9781315566948. ISBN 9781315566948.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "History of the Dynasty". Royal Family of Serbia. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  3. ^ a b c d BBC (2009). "Belgrade daily examines leading anarchist groups in Serbia". BBC Monitoring European.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Belgrade Six - Serbian Anarchists Arrested for 'International Terrorism'". libcom.org. Retrieved 2019-05-24.
  5. ^ a b c d Reuters (2019-03-17). "Thousands Protest in Serbia to Demand Free Press and Elections". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-05-24.
  6. ^ Ćirković, Sima M. (2004). The Serbs. Tošić, Vuk. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub. ISBN 0631204717. OCLC 53232011.
  7. ^ Fine, John (1994). The Late Medieval Balkans. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. doi:10.3998/mpub.7807. ISBN 9780472082605.
  8. ^ "Djordje Petrovic, known as Karadjordje". Royal Family of Serbia. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  9. ^ Armour, Ian D. (2012). "The Sensitivities of Small, Backward Nations AustriaHungary Serbia and the Regulation of the Danube 1870-71". Canadian Journal of History. 47 (3): 515–544. doi:10.3138/cjh.47.3.515. ISSN 0008-4107.
  10. ^ "Milan IV (or II) | king of Serbia". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-05-24.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Djordjević, Dimitije (1979). "The 1883 peasant uprising in Serbia". Balkan Studies. 20 (2): 235–255.
  12. ^ "Balkan Wars | European history". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  13. ^ a b c d e f "Alexander I | king of Yugoslavia". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  14. ^ a b c "Serbia - Government and society". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g SindbÆk, Tea (April 2009). "The Fall and Rise of a National Hero: Interpretations of Draža Mihailović and the Chetniks in Yugoslavia and Serbia since 1945". Journal of Contemporary European Studies. 17 (1): 47–59. doi:10.1080/14782800902844693. ISSN 1478-2804.
  16. ^ Trifković, Gaj (2015-07-03). "The Key to the Balkans: The Battle for Serbia 1944". The Journal of Slavic Military Studies. 28 (3): 524–555. doi:10.1080/13518046.2015.1061825. ISSN 1351-8046.
  17. ^ a b c d e f "Partisan | Yugoslavian military force". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  18. ^ Rowley, Tom (2013-06-11). "Crown Prince Alexander II: the man who would be king of Serbia". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  19. ^ a b c d e Sombatpoonsiri, Janjira. (2015). Humor and Nonviolent Struggle in Serbia. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0815634072. OCLC 994456566.
  20. ^ Thompson, Mark R.; Kuntz, Philipp (2004). "Stolen Elections: The Case of the Serbian October". Journal of Democracy. 15 (4): 159–172. doi:10.1353/jod.2004.0074. ISSN 1086-3214.
  21. ^ "Thousands march in Belgrade in anti-government protest". Reuters. 2019-01-16. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  22. ^ a b "Serbian Protesters Face Dilemma Over Movement's Goals". Balkan Insight. 2019-01-04. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  23. ^ a b "Thousands rally in Belgrade against Serbian president". Reuters. 2019-01-05. Retrieved 2019-05-24.
  24. ^ Srebotnjak, H (2019). ""All as One – 1 out of 5 million": Serbian protesters mobilise against growing authoritarian rule". Open Democracy.