Even in the turbulent BiH political scene, it is rare for an event to trigger so many negative comments as the traditional gathering of the Chetniks movement supporters in the city of Višegrad, in the easternmost past of the country.
The gathering occurs every year, marking the events from WWII, glorifying Chetniks and their leader, Dragoljub Draža Mihailović. The latter is a controversial historic figure, commander of the Armed Forces of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and sentenced to death by the communist government right after the war. Four years ago, the Belgrade court reinstated Mihailović, making the assessment that the trial was “political and ideological” and made serious errors.
Chetniks committed many atrocities during the WWII on Muslim and Croat civilians, fought against Tito and the Partizans and, allegedly, supported German troops during the occupation of Yugoslavia. Since history is often more complicated, it is necessary to add that, at some point, Chetniks fought against the Partizans “side by side” with Ustashas, the armed forces of Croatian nationalists and the Nazi puppet state, Independent State of Croatia. In addition, at the very beginning of the war, Mihailović met with Partizan commander, Josip Broz Tito, who later became the head of communist Yugoslavia. At the meeting they negotiated the possibility of joint military operations against Nazi forces, including Ustashas. The negotiations were unsuccessful and that was the beginning of the hostility between the two armed forces.
After WWII the Chetnik movement was banned and most of its members, veterans and supporters escaped the “Uncle Draža” destiny fleeing in the USA, where this movement was strong until the war in Yugoslavia at the end of the 20th century. During the 1992-1995 war, Chetniks’ descendants returned to the Motherland, and many of them joined paramilitary units and fought on the sied of Serbs in Bosnia.
At the same time, it marked the gathering in Višegrad, becoming a tradition, which triggers reactions every year, but not as strong as this year.
“Uncle Draža proved with his life he was a true patriot of his people and his homeland, and marking this anniversary is extremely important for the Ravna Gora movement”, said Dušan Sladojević, the movement’s top representative.
“We decided to restore all memories and all sites of the suffering of the Yugoslav army in the fatherland, wherever possible and wherever we had information on the suffering and historical events”, Sladojević said.
However, bitter reactions came from the Bosniak (Muslim) organizations of victims and their families who during the Bosnian war suffered a lot from the supporters of the Chetniks movement.
The Bosniak member of the BiH Presidency, Šefik Džaferović, also condemned the event, saying that it is against the spirit of reconciliation. What’s interesting is that the Bosniak members of the Presidency did not react in the same manner when one of them, the Croat member Dragan Čović, participated in the mass in Blajburg, Austria, where thousands of Ustashas at the end of WWII were captured and executed by Partizans. A lot of Chetniks, in an attempt to avoid death, were executed in Blajburg. It is the same place where the Ustasha movement gathered every year until the Austrian government banned the event on the grounds that it is a neo-Nazi gathering.
The Višegrad event was condemned by all international organizations, including the US Embassy and the new Ambassador Eric Nelson, but the fact is that US president Truman decorated Mihailović during WWII, as Chetniks saved US pilots whose planes were downed in Serbia.
The majority of the Serb politicians in BiH condemned the gathering as well, while the BiH Minister of Security, Dragan Mektić, announced that the police agencies would investigate the case and submit a report to the state Prosecution Office./ibna