The Youth Initiative for Human Rights organized an online discussion with Andrej Nikolaidis, a journalist, writer, and columnist from Montenegro. The motive for this discussion was the denial of the genocide in Srebrenica by the Minister of Justice, Human and Minority Rights in Montenegro, Vladimir Leposavić, but also the wider implications of this incident and the general discourse of democratic changes in Montenegro in relation to the region and the issues of dealing with the past, historical revisionism, and relations among the people of the Balkans, as well.

Andrej Nikolaidis started the conversation by asking how could the international community, as well as Montenegrin and post-Yugoslav citizens, be astonished by this attitude when the Government itself, after the elections in August 2020 in Ostrog, was composed by Amfilohije Radović, known for his nationalistic background. He further stated that, although previous governments distanced themselves from Serbian hegemonic policies in the 1990s wars, and, in the case of Srebrenica, adopted the Declaration in 2009, they did not in any way lustrate and “cleanse” themselves from criminal and war politics. The same people who took part in those wars later just turned towards different policies. Furthermore, political attitudes towards the wars for Yugoslav heritage, the genocide in Srebrenica, and even the recognition of Kosovo were not equal to the attitudes of the population, they did not have wider support among the people, so it is not surprising that they manifest themselves through government officials so quickly after the change of government.

It is devastating, Nikolaidis points out, that the only force of change in Montenegro, both thirty years ago and today, which was manifested through the protests and the fall of Đukanovic’s government, is actually Serbian nationalism.

Since in the previous 30 years the ruling party was the direct successor of the League of Communists, Montenegro was the least advanced country when we talk about historical revisionism, but lately all segments of negation, relativization, revision, and even ridicule of recent historical events, with special emphasis on crimes against humanity, can be heard in public.

Nikolaidis points out that the fundamental defeat of the truth is underway and that although there are alternative ways for us to convey the same truth to each other, the truth becomes reserved for the minority since we know very well that the only truth that lasts is the official, state, truth. Furthermore, Nikolaidis points out that our triumphs are fragile, and that everything that was considered over in Montenegro can not only be reopened but also spinned if necessary.

The genocide in Srebrenica is not an isolated event, which happened because something “clicked” in Mladić’s head, but a consistent project that started in Prijedor in 1992, where non-Serbs were forced to wear white ribbons, which is clear from recently published transcripts of the session of the Government of the Republika Srpska.

Regarding the non-papers and secret discussions about new divisions in the Balkans, Nikolaidis points out the hypocrisy of the international community, as well as the fact that the people in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro would suffer the most, and that they would become like Palestinians and Kurds in that situation.

Nikolaidis speaks about young people and their radical attitudes through the prism of public discourse having in mind the fact that they did not have the experience of living together. On the remark of whether we should bury the past and move on, Nikolaidis answered that would be impossible because the past always finds a way to come to resurface.

“The past refuses to pass,” the guest concluded.

The event was organized by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR Serbia) in cooperation with the forumZFD in Serbia and the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina.

The discusion is part of the project ” Advocacy, Artivism and Education to End Genocide Denial and Strengthen Reconciliation Process” which is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany. Germany supports efforts to establish a participatory culture of remembrance, regional cooperation, and reconciliation in the Western Balkans.