Dimic: If radical Islam from Kosovo enters Albania, it will destroy it
Historian and age-long member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Ljubodrag Dimic, believes that the headquarters of all Albanians are in Tirana, not in Kosovo, although it has been trying to assert itself for a century to be the "head of Albania". In an interview with the weekly newspaper Ekspres, Dimic warns that if "radical Islam from Kosovo enters Albania, it will destroy it". He states that the time will surely come for the reconciliation of the warring nations and countries in the Balkans because, as he points out, "permanent hostilities are unnatural and do not benefit anyone", and he calls for the Serbs to resolve the divisions among themselves first, and then with the Albanians, as well as with other nations in the region, start reconciliation talks.
In an earlier conversation, you told me that our historians should talk to their colleagues from Bulgaria. Why first with the Bulgarians among all the other nations and countries in the Balkans that were in a bloody civil war less than 30 years ago?
First of all, we have had good relations with neighboring Bulgaria for decades, which is a good starting point. And it is important that we have a time distance from the last war conflicts, which would give the historians of the two countries the opportunity to look critically at the causes of the conflict, as well as the benefits of sincere reconciliation. Will we agree on all dilemmas? We probably won't, but it's important to try because every conversation is binding, every conversation carries with it a certain degree of seriousness and obligation that you can't judge something based on I don't know what, but based on facts, based on circumstances, and based on data.
Did we fight four or five wars with the Bulgarians?
We had four wars. Since 1878, when an independent Serbian state was created after Turkish slavery, we have had a war in 1885, then two Balkan wars in 1912 and 1913, and then we had the First and Second World Wars where we were on different sides. We also had agreements and misunderstandings from the 90s. It was not a conflict, but there were sanctions. In principle, enough material to sit down and have a serious conversation - in Belgrade - and even in Sofia. The same must be done with the Albanians, but also with the Hungarians. We have good or decent state relations with these countries, which is an encouraging starting point for discussing some unresolved issues. Let's rationalize it. People should dispel misunderstandings by talking, based on scientific facts. Despite the fact that we have never been in conflict with Romania, that is no reason to talk to them.
When you mention Albanians, do you mean the country of Albania?
Yes, I mean the country of Albania. When I say with Albanians, I mean that the headquarters of all Albanians are in Tirana, not in Kosovo. Unless Kosovo imposes itself on Tirana, which it already does in many ways. Kosovo wants to be the "head of Albania" for a century. And that head of Albania would be, as things stand now, primarily Islamic. Islamist. Which deviates from Albania, the country of three religions, and deviates from the rule that the Albanians have imposed on themselves that Albanianism is the only religion for Albanians. Be Muslim, Orthodox, or Catholic, but Albanianism is your only religion. Albanians in Albania have such a vision of national-state unity. And if this radical Islam from Kosovo enters their country, it will destroy them.
You say that it is crucial that reconciliation talks begin, that mutual goodwill is shown, regardless of who is sitting at the negotiating table?
I think it is crucial that they start, that people sit down and talk. Without any obligation to agree or disagree, but to talk. That awaits us both with the Croats and with the Muslims, perhaps even before the mentioned environment is in question. If we can talk, it goes without saying that we don't have to fight anymore tomorrow, the day after tomorrow. So if you start that initiative, it is extremely noble, it is for the long term, but it would be good for us within Serbia, maybe that is the first step, to sit down and see who we are, what we are.
There is a belief that the Serbs, before all others, would have to settle among themselves. The Chetniks and Partisans, the Karadjordjevic family, and the Obrenovic family, the First and Other Serbia are still at war in Serbia...
We historians have been troubled by this question for a long time: how to reconcile among ourselves. First of all, we would have to locate - what is rational and what is manufactured fiction. Let's put an end to the question for and against Tito. We cannot avoid that question, the main figure from the past. There should be no more against Tito, for Tito, etc. He is a figure from the past; he was the main boss for 50 years. To factually determine what was good and what was bad in his time, and for history to investigate those questions. And we are totally divided, we are in conflict with ourselves, to the point of imbecility. Well, it started from there, from Serbia, then the Serbs in the surrounding area: in Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and finally Macedonia. Only then should we start talking about reconciliation - Bulgarians, Romanians, Hungarians, Greeks, Albanians, Croats, and Muslims. But, now I am quite sure, the essence is to start from our inner reconciliation, to delimit it on scientific and historical facts... and then to talk critically, seriously, and critically about our divisions...
I believe that it would be easier to come to an agreement and reconcile with the Albanians and Croats than to reconcile the divisions in Serbia?
"Today, when you turn on the television, you recognize exactly who is a Chetnik and who is a Partisan, who is for Europe and who is for Serbia, who is for the Russians and who is for NATO... The problem, I believe, is that few people have a critical opinion about everything. We need to determine what is the common denominator and in a time when there was one, the other, and the third. What collaboration is, what the victory of the side in the war is, and which side you were on. The loss and the defeat of the side in the war you were on. It continues, and order was established in 1945, so it continued until 1985 or until the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Where did so many divisions in the country come from, they existed even in Jovan Skerlic's time, and even before him?
"Serbia is divided into dozens of threads. But literally dozens of them. They are for the king, against the king. For Pasic, against Pasic. For radicals, against radicals. For democrats, against democrats. There is a for and against. And that's it which, it seems to me, is the most tragic in our country, and it causes us enormous problems. It is not a matter of one century, everything is being canceled, and everything is being rendered meaningless. Destruction is being carried out everywhere. When you start with the Serbs, from the name, from the Orthodox church to which it belongs, the collective prejudices of the people are annulled. Or they are glorified. Individuals are either respected or disrespected. Or they are diminished, attributed to some other individuals or some other people. We laugh at everything. A new time that is coming, a new generation. Generational energy and its consumption are not respected. Modernization is interpreted in different ways. The defense of the state is sometimes considered treason, sometimes it is considered madness, etc. The choices made by the Serbs in the 20th century, those in '14, '18, '48, and '89, you pick a side. These are all factual milestones we have to think about. And to talk about. At least five or six in a century. Second, we have the fact that a new history is now being constructed. From the textbook literature that the West markets to you, to the political party that offers you each its own vision... And when you add it all up, it takes away your dignity. It takes away the identity; it changes the national consciousness..."
Our divisions do not only endanger us, they are also dangerous for other nations?
"Our experience is our pain, our divisions. Well, maybe we know that; other nations are probably divided similarly. The Croats, Hungarians, and Romanians too. But for us, our tragedy is the greatest, and if we can reduce it a little bit with common sense, that would be good. It is a Serbian issue. But it is not a marginal issue; it is also a European issue. Its solution simultaneously transcends both the internal and external borders of the Serbian state and Serbia. Its transcendence refers to the nations on which the Serbs live sometimes mixed to such an extent that you can't separate them. Look at the environment we live in, in Serbia itself, it takes on European proportions somewhere. When it has European proportions, those are European wars, and we gladly interfere in them, even though no one calls us. When one such war breaks out, like this one in Europe, a new order is created after the war, 1918, 1945, 1989, etc. The question of the Serbs often arises in international politics. The interests of the great powers in the Balkans, in the Mediterranean, and in Europe are permanent, and the Serbs want to be important there, to be present there. It has economic, cultural, and political dimensions. The political potential and those issues in that vertical have been present for 130-140 years, which produces severe consequences and they must be seen both comprehensively and rationally and then try to regulate them. Because if you lead the revolution from 1804 to 1835 and until 1875, the Balkan wars of 1912-1913. year, the First World War, the Second World War, and until the time when the Berlin Wall fell, you actually have a permanent process that somehow concerns the Serbs. It concerns Serbia and Serbian states... It concerns the issue of Kosovo and Metohija and in general... etc. When you say the Serbian question, it is a state-legal, historical, international, internal political and spatial aspect, it has an economic, ethical, ethnic, demographic, territorial, regional, and linguistic, I don't know which ideological dimension, etc. It is a serious complex, and if the Serbian dialogue were to start solving it, solving numerous issues, perhaps organizing some topics, gatherings, conversations, and lectures. To solve that question, to think about it for the next year, then you can go to the Serbs in the surrounding area, the Serbs... the people, that's a topic until you retire... The history of us and the people in the surrounding area in the 20th century is really impressive. There are the causes, and reasons for wars, there are states that arise, that disappear. Some individuals are permanently embedded in the vertical... There are ups and downs, and milestone events. These are events that determine the meaning of an entire century, such as the beginning of the First World War. The whole 20th century was the First World War. When you have all that in mind, the voice of the historians must be heard. In the entire century behind us, it has often been stifled either politically, ethically, religiously, economically, or irrationally, and it is constantly being stifled. And that scientific knowledge and it is both theoretical and empirical when it comes to the Serbs... the protocol of the century, studied and melted so that with the departure of an era, what comes scientific, what non-scientific... Then you need 30 years to correct it, and then again... and everything collapses in one night, starts... etc. Essentially what we stand for as historians is the truth about the past. It must always be based on sources, and those sources always defeat lies. And the grounding, the ultimate outcome is to defeat the lie about the past and try to communicate the rational..."
Where is politics in that story, what do they say and what will the politicians say?
It is permanently present. It always wants to be in charge; it always wants science to confirm what politicians say. When you look at our history vertical in the 20th century, you had many times periods when science listened to politics, and you also have periods when science tried to emancipate itself from politics. And secondly, in those periods when science and scientists have emancipated themselves from politics, he is never the desired interlocutor of the authorities. A scientist is not an interlocutor of the authorities. The one who praises, the one who is a poltron, the one who perverts the truth is easy for the government, but the one who thinks critically is the enemy of all authorities. Because it is the truth by nature of things that rationalizes the government. As soon as it rationalizes it, it frees it from some capacities that allow it to be stronger and greater than in principle a rational society can be.
In the projects we are talking about, reconciliation between the peoples of the Balkans, it is a science and it costs money. That would have to be monitored by the state as an interested party because it represents the people's interests?
"That's right. That's how it should be. A serious state should ask serious science and hear what serious science says. And not hear what it wants to hear. Serious science must always have a dose of criticality in it. That dose of criticality usually does not please the government. It should be remembered that states suffer serious damage if these disputes between people and societies are not clarified scientifically and accepted by both sides. Otherwise, it always leads to some new conflict. The revival of some old prejudices, lies, misconceptions, and untruths, which are beginning to dominate, and are gaining space in the media. I look at what is happening in Ukraine, and they are not Slavs, they are not Orthodox... So what are you, man? That engineering that a political moment imposes by force on a society, it always repeats, more or less sophisticated, but it always repeats itself.
The West today has a philosophy that relies on several pillars, one of which in any case is the minimization and denigration and removal of religion and heterosexuality, the annulment of nation-states, which erases almost everything that civilization has brought to date.
It's true. And that is what erases historical memory, historical consciousness. You become an immature witness. Simple dumbing down, formation of some quasi-elites. These elites who are now in Europe, who lead the European Union, you don't have half a man who is educated. Half a man formed. Half a man who is himself. You don't have half a man who isn't a criminal. But it's easy to mess with them. It's the same as half of the politicians are creatures of some deep state, I don't know what it is... states that don't want their individuals and names to be mentioned, they rule the world, make moves, wage wars, determine interests, determine where civilization is headed etc. Something they consciously forget, something they consciously affirm, encourage. All these classical sciences will be considered superfluous, unnecessary in the coming time where there is only a computer, give me computer information, give me an artificial human. And to reflect on the past critically - who needs that? No one needs it. It cancels out the future of humanity.
Let's go back to the story of reconciliation, where, as you say, it all starts with scientists - historians. Practically, this means that things start from some agreement between the science of two countries and two sides, to talk?
The science of consensus agreement within a nation, within a state, and society. When that consensus, if it finds it, the state is serious, it knows what to do. It knows how not to make the same mistakes again. Those who do not want to understand it rationally are condemned to repeat those mistakes both within the corps and in the neighborhood. And that always comes with sacrifices, both economic and human.
When you say "among historians, we started a story about the necessity of those conversations". That is the Association of Historians, the Historical Institute...?
That association, I don't feel their influence except in competitions for children in elementary school. In the circle of thinking people that we meet at the university, the academy, in the archives, in the museums, there is this interest to look at the past as soon as possible, to look at the situation without any feeling, without fueling differences, revanchism and new conflicts. Ignorance usually fuels revanchism and knowledge forms a tolerant consciousness that knows how something happened in the past, how mistakes were made, how exits were sought, and how solutions were found. And if you adopt that, you have a certain future, that the past does not repeat itself, and that we do not make the same fatal mistakes. It doesn't matter if it's the 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, or any century, it will happen again...