by Ljubisa RAJIC
Most speeches shared two prominent characteristics. One was promotion of ideology advocated by Justin Popovic and Nikolaj Velimirovic [bishops of the Serb Orthodox Church]. Participants of the congress called for the creation of a Serb state based on the spiritual example of Popovic and Velimirovic, based on the tradition of the Serb medieval state. Today, the most zealous advocate of that idea among the ideologists of the Serb nationalism is Vasilije Krestic. The second characteristic of the speeches was political and it consisted of calls for reconciliation of followers of [Dimitrije] Ljotic [leader of Serbian fascists], [Milan] Nedic [prime minister of Serbia during Nazi German occupation], and Draza Mihajlovic [head of Chetnik forces in Serbia, royalist guerillas who alternately fought against and collaborated with German occupying forces in WWII] and, among other, subjugation of education and teachers to the mentioned ideology. For starters, this was to be accomplished by mandating that all educators fill in questionnaires that would be used to establish their "moral-political suitability".
Wormed over ideals: Both the ideological and political program of that group of students and youth can be at all times found at the web site of the organization Obraz. It represents nothing else but wormed over ideas of Serb fascism in which collectivity, monarchism, clericalism (involvement of religion in politics), conservativism, and patriarchal mores play the key role, and which can today be found in writings of modern ideologists of Serb nationalism, in certain publications of the Serb Orthodox Church, and is advocated by some parties on the nationalist right.
It is very difficult to debate their ideas because it is very difficult to debate from the perspective of the twenty first century ideas mostly based in medieval ideology. In their criticism of the modern world they are capable of offering some correct observations, but their solutions' shelf life expired at least two centuries ago. From that point of view, we may even pity those youths; their thorough lack of education, ignorance even of history of their own nation, obvious fear of challenges of modern life, and blind escape in the seeming security of fascist ideas and patriarchal relations shut off almost every possible path forward and condemn them to waste their days on the fringe of social and cultural development fighting (on the Internet!) a battle against enlightenment and modernity.
Their position is not in any way unique. Similar fundamentalist Christian movement can be found all over the world and their originators, from the Christian right in the US to Eastern Orthodox fundamentalists in Russia, can almost without exception be classified as frustrated parts of the middle class. Even the ideas and arguments they offer are similar; they mostly differ based on whether they do or don't support neo-liberal economic ideas.
Frustration: In case of Serbia (and neighboring countries) it is clear that significant portions of the middle class are frustrated. If one takes into account the history of ideas in this region, it is clear that the same type of frustration and the same type of search for solutions in reconstruction of old values and old relations of patriarchal and clerical society is older even than fascism, which later supplied an all-encompassing ideological apparatus. However, one can also spot a clear characteristic of such fundamentalism based on religion - the intent to resolve political problems unrelated to religion with help of religion, and to bring things back to seemingly easily understood, stable and potentially long-lasting order and system by return to feudalism.
Such mixing of value based and political conservativism indicates that the "Congress of Eastern Orthodox Christian and National Serb Youth" was formally struggle for souls, while essentially it was struggling for earthly power and theocratic monarchy as a type of social organization. That is why it is justified to ask whether being as it is it is a politically dangerous movement that can set us back in our development. About 300 gathered students, the capacity of the lecture hall number 11, are definitively a small number compared with more than 80,000 students of the Belgrade University. Together with their archaic grammar and vocabulary, which they abundantly use, they have a hard time provoking anything but pity. However, the support they receive in the promotion of their ideas from the Serb Orthodox Church and the nationalist political parties, Association of Serbian Writers, and some other organizations with similar views, is definitely a political problem that cannot be resolved within the University. If they do incite religious intolerance and indirectly incite other crimes, and they did do so during the congress, they should be dealt with by the state prosecutor's office (which unfortunately does not react to much more serious violations of the law). And if they advocate the idea that multi-party democracy is one of the worst evils of the modern world and propose abolishment of political parties, than that is a serious political problem that must be addressed by the political parties themselves.
Freedom and responsibility: However, there is something that affects the University. Hate speech and expressed intolerance towards those who dare to think differently should not be permitted at the University, especially now that, after so many years of struggle for autonomy of the university we have finally started opening up towards the world academic community and they in return towards us (the way we are). There must be some clear rules to what extent hate speech and abuse of autonomy of the university can be tolerated. Autonomy and academic freedom also imply academic responsibility. We still do not have ethical rules for the academic community, but such rules exist everywhere in the world and we should stick to them. There is no sense in debating content that had nothing to do with the academia. There is no sense in trying to convince these students that they are wrong, because their ideas are not based on science. They are based on faith and frustration, and there common sense, analysis and arguments can do very little. But, that is why we have faculty deans who should make sure that hate speech is not permitted at the University. The dean of the philology department not only ignored that duty, but also indirectly gave support to hate speech by his presence at the congress.