“Srebrenica is famous for the massacre. But it’s time to move on and make a beautiful, inspiring story.” Ismar Poric, the choirmaster of Suprar
With all the violence in the Middle East and Africa a story from Srebrenica is hopeful. Talk about irony!
A group of children from Srebrenica (both Bosnian Serbs and Bosniaks) created a song (Love People) to raise money for the recent flood victims. The choirmaster, Ismar Poric, sees this as more than an opportunity to help the flood victims but also as an opportunity to heal the past. “In one way, the country is poisoned by nationalism – but the children are not. Their parents were in the war and told them stories. But we try to bring them together – put different ethnic groups together so they can learn about each other.”
Read the entire story at the BBC (“Srebrenica children seek harmony in music” By Guy De Launey)
June 28 is Vidovdan (Saint Vitus’ Day), a sacred day for all Serbs. It marks the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo (1389), when the Serbs were defeated by the Ottoman Turks. This is also the anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which kicked off WWI. That these two events share the same anniversary is not accident. The young Gavilro Princip, who shot the Archduke of Austria and his wife Sophie, was a Bosnian Serb and a member of the Serbian nationalist terrorist organization Ujedinjenje ili Smrt (Union or Death also known as the Black Hand). The Austro-Hungarian Empire had recently acquired the Bosnian territories, previously part of the Ottoman Empire, to administer per the Congress of Berlin (1878). But this was an inopportune time to acquire these territories. Nationalism was on the rise and the peoples of these regions desired independence. They didn’t fight to throw off the yoke of the Turks to then gain a new master. The Serbs in the newly independent Serbia were not content with their independence they also wanted their Serbian brothers in Bosnia to have the same freedom that they had. Here’s where the connection between the Battle of Kosovo and the Archduke’s assassination comes in. Ferdinand, knowing full well that June 28 was a sacred day for Serbs, decided to visit Sarajevo on that day anyway. He was already hated as a figure of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but this decision sealed his fate as a target.
It may seem strange that the Battle of Kosovo plays such an important role in Serbian history. But the defeat that marked the beginning of 500 years of oppression (at least in myth) created and cultivated the distinctive Serbian character. As Thomas Emmert explains “the Kosovo ethic…expressed a basic attitude toward life itself: democratic, anti-feudal, with love for justice and social equality.” The myth that grew in the aftermath of the battle, skillfully turned a defeat into a victory. In the most popular version of the myth Czar Lazar, the Serbian prince, choose defeat because he would be rewarded with a heavenly kingdom if he did so, thus making the Serbs a “heavenly” people rather than an “earthly” people.
Slobodan Milosevic in Kosovo