The News from Yugoslavia is not All Bad


Fifth Estate # 343, Fall-Winter, 1993

The news from the former Yugoslavia is not all bad. Disaffection is showing among Serbian soldiers, though their aims are at present confused. Serbian soldiers have taken control in Banja Luka, northern Bosnia, and are holding local officials and demanding an end to war profiteering and government corruption. Similar actions, supported by local populations, have occurred in other towns.

In Serbia, trade union officials, under pressure from workers, called a general strike in early August to protest 50% daily inflation, 50% unemployment, and production drops of 60% since sanctions were imposed. Recent strikes have included 18,000 miners, 10,000 chemical workers and actions by engineering and transport workers. Farmers in annexed Vojvodina have blocked roads to protest low grain prices offered by the Belgrade government.

At the end of 1992, Serbian reservists refused mobilization against Croatia. In Kragujevac 6,700 reported for duty without weapons and refused to go to the front; in Valijevo, 200 returning from the front forced commanders to discharge them; at Markutsika, 700 refused further duty after their 45-day service ended in December. After a three-day hunger strike, 150 reservists from Belgrade were sent back from the front.

Citizen groups have formed to oppose the conflict and to help the victims of war, documenting human rights abuses, giving counseling for rape and other war victims, and supporting conscientious objectors. In Serbia, Radio 852 broadcasts alternative news and information. To support such groups contact Women in Black, c/o S. Zajovic, Dragoslava Popovica 9/10, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia. (Information from Oct.-Dec. ’93 Counter Information, Pigeonhole CI, C 0 11 Forth St., Edinburgh EH1 Scotland.) Also, see “On Gogol Boulevard” section, this issue.

Another Serbian village, Oromhegyes (Serbian name: Tresnjevac), with about 2,000 inhabitants, has become one of the most inspiring examples of resistance to the war machine anywhere. In May 1992, 200 village men were drafted, which sparked an antiwar movement.

On May 10, 1992, village women organized a demonstration of 700 people to demand the withdrawal of call-up orders, the return of soldiers from the front lines, and the free return of people who had fled to escape the draft. They declared their refusal to disperse until their demands were met.

Tanks surrounded the villagebut no force was used against the demonstrators. The demonstrators stayed in the Zitzer Club, from which they established the “Zitzer Spiritual Republic” in June. The republic has citizens, a president, a constitution, a hymn (Ravel’ s “Bolero”), and a coat of arms (the image of a pizza between three billiard balls). It does not possess territory. Since then, hundreds of people from several countries have joined the republic.

The planned recruitment was not carried out until January 1993. Afterwards, the police captured five men of 40 who had signed an antiwar declaration stating their intention to refuse military service, and turned them over to the army. The NYC group Neither East Nor West has agreed to be the U.S. embassy of the Zitzer Spiritual Republic, and is presently organizing fundraising parties to support struggles against racism/ethnic hatred/violence/fascism, with Chattanooga (see article in this issue) and Oromhegyes as sister cities. All such parties may declare themselves Zitzer embassies or consulates (something like temporary autonomous zones). Send checks or cash to support the Zitzer Spiritual Republic and Chattanooga’s Concerned Citizens for Justice and the Justice Alliance, to Aspect Foundation c/o Neither East Nor West-NYC, 528 5th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215 (tel: 718/499-7720).