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ANTI-EUROPEAN ZONE - Strictly controlled identities in Serbia

In the acclaimed film Stalker (1979) by Andrei Tarkovsky, the director uses a a metaphor of a mystical Zone to which one travels in order to face the unknown, namely to meet one’s own deepest desires which are often hidden from oneself...

In the acclaimed film Stalker (1979) by Andrei Tarkovsky, the director uses a a metaphor of a mystical Zone to which one travels in order to face the unknown, namely to meet one’s own deepest desires which are often hidden from oneself. Even when a person goes there with the intent to save the life of his closest family member, what they percieve as their deepest desire, the Zone can “sense” what they actually desire, thus confronting them with the truth about themselves. One of Tarkovsky’s travellers is the Writer, who sets off on a journey through the deserted and dangerous landscape of the Zone only to realise, at the very entrance to the room of desires, that he is afraid of facing the truth about himself. One could say that the same journey was chosen by the Goverrment of the Republic of Serbia, as it imagines the European Union as a “room of desires” that will make all Serbia’s dreams and wishes come true. However, navigating the Zone is not an easy task. The journey implies transformation and changes, without which the wishes cannot be realised, therefore the outcome is often the one we haven’t expected – instead of getting what we declared we need, we get the very thing we didn’t dare to express, but which was actually our deepest wish.

The cultural policies which have been in place in Serbia in the last decade, under the slogan of “alignment with the European standards”, resemble anything but the European framework of values, standards and aims towards which Serbia allegedly strives. Vladan Vukosavljević, the Minister of Culture, took upon himself the task of “tidying up the sphere of culture” by turning it into a space of conservative and discriminatory ideas. Literature was the first field to be dealt with, having been already in the past similarly damaged by the work of the Ministry of Culture. Namely, Vukosavljević and his team came up with the “Cultural Development Strategy 2017-2027”. He intended to deliver it to the EU, but effectively in his briefcase – resembling those well-hidden desires from Tarkovsky’s Stalker – one could only find an ethno-nationalistic concept of culture, easily discerned in the bigger part of this Cultural Manifesto.

The greatest problem with Minister Vukosavljević’s Strategy, apart from its very badly concieved aims and budget, is its actual abandonment of culture in the name of only one of its ideological offsprings. This ideological offspring is the result of the cultural policies shaped by the nationalistic agenda, which dominated the Serbian political life in the 1990s. Even though it formally advocates European integrations, primarily via its dependence on the EU funds, the Strategy defines culture as the bastion for defending Serbian identity, identity that “comprises language and literature, the awareness about its history and religious affiliation, customs, way of life, authentic forms of spiritual and historical knowledge, dominant mentality models, and the overall image that the nation holds of itself.” This ideological blend further generates the obligations for the contemporary culture in Serbia, which needs to be put in service of preservation and cultivation of the Serbian language and alphabet (favouring the Cyrillic script, at the expense of the Latin script which is uniquelly used in paralel with the Cyrlillic script in Serbia), as well as “to disseminate scientifically established findings on the genocide committed against the Serbian people in the 20th Century”. 

This strategy of cultural development aims to remove the Latin script as equal to the Cyrillic and pushes for its discrimination. This will be regulated by a set of laws once the Strategy is passed in the Serbian Parlament. Hence the Minister of Culture openly offers financial support to publishing houses who print their books in the Cyrillic, as well as openly promoting media outlets which offer their newpapers in the Cyrillic. This leads to the discrimination of literature printed in the Latin script, which has so far always been available in Serbia. The goal of such cultural policy is the complete obliteration of the Latin script from the public domain, which will include the removal of all public signs of the names of streets, squares and cities, traditionally written in both scripts. This will be also applied to the names of various institutions, associations and organisations. This set of discriminatory laws may reflect on the publishing industry, which will resort to printing books solely in the Cyrillic, out of fear of losing the Government subsidies. At the same time, this will be the final blow to the Yugoslav heritage which up until now survivied in the public domain in Serbia. Furthermore, this constitues an attack on many ethnic minorities which articulate their cultural production using the Latin script and in a slightly different cultural code.

The shift to the exclusive use of the Cyrillic scipt would mark the beginning of the control of the publishing industry by the state, which could in the next instance lead to strict monitoring of literary narratives, which is the aim of the serving Minister of culture, given that he would like to reduce Serbian cultural identity to the Cyrillic script and the investigation of the genocide against Serbs in the 20th Century. Also, Minister Vukosavljević himself takes part in the launches of the books he deemes of exceptional literary value. Recently, he spoke at the launch of a book by Božidar Zejak, the director of the Museum of Pedagogy in Belgrade. The Minister took the opportunity to emphasize that the Zejak’s main character (Zejak being so far a completely unknown author, but as the head of an important national institution directly subordinated to Minister Vukosavljević) “stems from the inspiration and the robust awareness of national identity that is firmly embeded in the mother tongue, which makes me greatly value this literary character.” Minister added that the book was written in “solid, juicy, well controlled and balanced Serbian language which is not so common nowadays.” Surely this statement is neither true nor accurate, because there is a range of authors whose use of Serbian language is very creative, as well as their treatment of the contemporary themes which arise from the very real problems that a society in transition, stuck on its way to the EU, faces today.

Finally, the criticism aimed at these cultural policies, raised by several independent media institutions - such as Peščanik.net, Autonomija.info, N1info.com, Vreme.com - is being qualified by the Minister of Culture as coming from the representatives of dangerous acullturation processes and those who deny Serbian cultural identity, as conceived by the new Cultural Development Strategy, now being presented to Serbian MPs as the ultimate expression of the Serbian regime’s “European cultural awareness”.

 

Tranlated by Svetlana Rakocevic

  

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ANTIEVROPSKA ZONA

Strogo kontrolisani identiteti u Srbiji

U poznatom filmu Andreja Tarkovskog Stalker (1979), oblikovana je metafora o mističnoj Zoni u koju se putuje da bi se suočilo sa neizvesnim, odnosno sa najtajnijim željama koje čovek sa sobom nosi. Pa čak i kada tamo odlazi s namerom da spase život svog bližnjeg, Zona „oseti“ šta on u stvari želi, suočivši ga time sa istinom o njegovom životu. Jedan od putnika Tarkovskog je i Pisac, koji kreće na put kroz pustošni i opasni predeo da bi na pragu sobe želja osetio strah pred suočenjem. Moglo bi se reći da je sličan put odabrala i Vlada Republike Srbije, imaginirajući o Evropskoj Uniji kao o „sobi želja“ u kojoj će se samo po sebi ispuniti sve što poželi. Međutim, vođenje kroz Zonu nije nimalo jednostavna stvar. Put podrazumeva i promenu, bez čega nema dosezanja željenog pa se vrlo često događa da umesto onoga što deklarativno želimo dobijamo ono što nismo smeli da izgovorimo, a što je bila naša najdublja misao.

Kulturna politika koja se ovih godina vodi u Srbiji, pod geslom „usaglašavanja sa evropskim standardima“, liči na sve samo ne na evropski oblikovanu agendu u smislu usvojenih vrednosti, standarda i ciljeva ka kojima se teži. Ministar kulture Vladan Vukosavljević, preuzeo je na sebe zadatak da „uredi kulturno polje“ u Srbiji tako što će ga pretvoriti u prostor konzervativnih i diskriminatornih ideja. Prva na udaru takvog ambijenta dolazi književnost, koja ni u prethodnim periodima nije imala previše sreće sa radom ministarstva kulture. Naime, ministar Vukosavljević je sa svojim stručnim timom osmislio „Strategiju razvoj kulture 2017-2027“ kojom se deklarativno zaputio ka EU, ali je zapravo u svom bagažu, dobro skrivenu kao želju u filmu Tarkovskog, poneo etnonacionalistički koncept kulture koji se može pročitati iz većine paragrafa ovog programskog dokumenta.

Najveći problem ove Strategije razvoja kulture, pored loše projektovanih ciljeva i budžeta, može se videti i u njenom odustajanju od kulture i okretanju ka jednom njenom ideološkom derivatu, koji je rezultat kulturne politike kreirane na osnovu nacionalističkog stanovišta, dobro poznatog iz politike koja se vodila u Srbiji tokom devedesetih godina. Naime, iako formalno zagovara evropske integracije, doduše samo preko korišćenja EU fondova, Strategija definiše kulturu kao nešto nalik na bedem za odbranu srpskog identiteta, koji „čine jezik i književnost, svest o istoriji i religijskoj pripadnosti, običajima, načinu života, osobenim oblicima duhovnoistorijskog saznanja, mentalitetski obrasci, te svekolika predstava naroda o samom sebi“. Ovakav ideološki amalgam generiše dalje prava i obaveze savremene kulture u Srbiji, koja se mora podrediti čuvanju i negovanju jezika i pisma, odnosno samo ćirilice, kao i „širenju naučno utemeljenih saznanja o genocidu nad srpskim narodom u 20. veku“.

Ova strategija razvoja kulture odustaje od ravnopravnog latiničnog pisma i propisuje njenu apsolutnu diskriminaciju, koja će biti uređena setom zakona nakon usvajanja ovog dokumenta u parlamentu. Stoga ministar otvoreno zastupa finansijsku pomoć izdavaštvu na ćirilici kao i otvoreno zagovaranje i podršku medijima koji se štampaju na ćirilici. Ovo dalje vodi ka diskriminaciji literature koja se u Srbiji oduvek, pored ćiriličnog pisma štampala ravnopravno i na latinici. Cilj ovakvog kulturnog planiranja je potpuno čišćenje latiničnog pisma iz javnog polja, skidanje tabli na dva pisma, kojima su oduvek bila obeležena imena ulica, trgova i gradova u Srbiji. Takođe, imena institucija i udruženja. Ovakav set diskriminatornih zakona mogao bi se dalje odraziti na ukupnu izdavačku produkciju koja će silom prilika, u strahu da ne ostane bez neophodne finansijske potpore, morati da pređe na ćirilicu. Ujedno, ovo je konačni udar na bogato jugoslovensko nasleđe koje je u Srbiji sve do sada opstajalo u javnoj sferi. Istovremeno, ovo je atak i na mnogobrojne manjinske zajednice, od kojih većina artikuliše svoju kulturu na latinici i u drugačijem kulturnom kodu.

Prelazak isključivo na ćirilicu, bio bi početak državne kontrole izdavačke produkcije, ali u daljem toku događaja ovo bi moglo dovesti i do strogo kontrolisanog trasiranja književnih narativa čemu ministar kulture i teži, budući da je izvršio radikalnu redukciju kulturnog identiteta na ćirilicu i istraživanje genocida nad Srbima u XX veku. Takođe, ministar i sam učestvuje u promociji knjiga koje po sopstvenom nahođenju smatra vrhunskim književnim proizvodom. Tako je nedavno govorio na književnoj promociji romana koji je objavio direktor Pedagoškog muzeja u Beogradu  Božidar Zejak. Ministar je tom prilikom istakao da je književni junak ovog, do sada neotkrivenog pisca, koji je kao čelnik važne institucije direktno podređen ministru kulture, „potekao iz inspiracije i čvrste svesti o nacionalnom identitetu iz duboke utemeljenosti u svom maternjem jeziku i zato ga smatram dobrim“. On još dodaje da je pisan „čvrstim, sočnim, upregnutim, izbalansiranim srpskim jezikom što danas nije svakodnevna pojava“. Svakako da ova konstatacija nije tačna, jer postoji čitav spektar pisaca koji imaju vrlo kreativan odnos prema jeziku ali i prema savremenim temama koje proističu iz realnih problema jednog tranzicionog društva, zaglavljenog na putu ka EU.

Konačno, kritike koje ovakvoj kulturnoj politici u Srbiji upućuje nekolicina nezavisnih medija, kao što su Peščanik.net, Autonomija.info, N1info.com, Vreme.com, ministar karakteriše kao predstavnike opasnih akulturacionih procesa i negatore srpskog kulturnog identiteta kakvim ga je konstruisala nova Strategija razvoja kulture, koja se sada nalazi pred poslanicima u parlamentu, kao najviši izraz evropske kulturne svesti režimskih elita.