1st Edition

The Politics of Memory of the Second World War in Contemporary Serbia Collaboration, Resistance and Retribution

By Jelena Đureinović Copyright 2020
    188 Pages
    by Routledge

    188 Pages
    by Routledge

    Exploring the concepts of collaboration, resistance, and postwar retribution and focusing on the Chetnik movement, this book analyses the politics of memory.

    Since the overthrow of Slobodan Miloševic in 2000, memory politics in Serbia has undergone drastic changes in the way in which the Second World War and its aftermath is understood and interpreted. The glorification and romanticisation of the Yugoslav Army in the Homeland, more commonly referred to as the Chetnik movement, has become the central theme of Serbia’s memory politics during this period. The book traces their construction as a national antifascist movement equal to the communist-led Partisans and as victims of communism, showing the parallel justification and denial of their wartime activities of collaboration and mass atrocities. The multifaceted approach of this book combines a diachronic perspective that illuminates the continuities and ruptures of narratives, actors and practices, with in-depth analysis of contemporary Serbia, rooted in ethnographic fieldwork and exploring multiple levels of memory work and their interactions.

    It will appeal to students and academics working on contemporary history of the region, memory studies, sociology, public history, transitional justice, human rights and Southeast and East European Studies.

    1. Introduction

    Collaboration, resistance and retribution in Yugoslavia

    Memory politics in post-Miloševic Serbia: between anti-communism and ethnicisation

    The context of the book: postsocialism

    Memory and law: Serbia’s pseudo-transitional justice



    2. Exploring politics of memory

    History of memory

    Politicality of memory

    State agency

    Pluralities, struggles and layers

    Post-Yugoslav Serbia as a case study

    3. Yugoslav memory culture and its downfall

    Yugoslav war memory

    Main mnemonic agency

    Reception of memory politics beyond compliance and rejection

    Remembering the collaboration

    When history outpoured

    4. The Miloševic era

    Changes and continuities

    The anti-communist opposition

    Between the Chetnik revival and commemorations of the postwar retribution

    Ravna Gora gatherings

    5. Memory politics in post-Miloševic Serbia

    The war and its aftermath in the hegemonic narratives

    Purging Yugoslavia from the public

    National reconciliation: ending the civil war within the Serbian nation

    Imaginations of the Chetniks

    The Chetniks as victims of communism

    6. Unearthing the past

    The Mihailovic Commission

    The State Commission for Secret Graves

    The quest for the grave of Dragoljub Mihailovic

    Informalities and failures of official fact-finding endeavours

    7. Anti-communist memory politics from below

    Symbolic nature of state efforts

    Non-state actors

    Commemorative practices from below

    The symbolic power

    8. History, memory and law

    Equalising the Chetniks and the Partisans

    Rehabilitation legislation

    Telling histories in the courtroom

    Judicial abolishment of the uprising

    Rehabilitation from below

    9. Rehabilitation of Dragoljub Mihailovic

    Agency behind the court case

    The Second World War in the courtroom

    Historians as expert witnesses

    Interventions against the process

    Discussing the 1946 trial

    Plaintiffs’ claims summarised: the court decision

    10. Conclusion


    Jelena Ðureinovic holds a PhD in Modern and Contemporary History from Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, where she teaches in the Department of History. Her research deals with the history and politics of memory of the Second World War in Yugoslavia and the post-Yugoslav space with the focus on the process of reinterpretation of the Chetnik movement in Serbia. She was a visiting research fellow at the Moore Institute in Galway, the Centre for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz and the Institute of Culture and Memory Studies in the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. She has published on Europeanisation and memory politics, memory laws, discourses of victimhood under communism and relations between memory cultures in Croatia and Serbia.

    "Firmly situated in the discipline of history, but drawing upon a wide variety of theories, methodologies, and case studies from memory studies, transitional justice, and other interdisciplinary fields, Jelena Ðureinovic’s timely book is an excellent and ground-breaking study into the problematic issue of memory politics in contemporary Serbia and its ramifications for other Yugoslav successor states. Ðureinovic’s cutting edge research will be eye-opening for scholars working not only on the Balkans but for those outside the region, revealing how post-conflict and post-communist societies like Serbia are susceptible to manipulation by politicized mnemonic actors." – Vjeran Pavlakovic, University of Rijeka, Croatia

    "In this well-researched and very convincing book, Jelena Ðureinovic demonstrates the processes of systematic politics of right-wing revisionism in Serbian history politics, adding new insights to our understanding of strategies, agency and power within history and memory politics. Ðureinovic’s thought-provoking work draws our attention to the dangers of forgetting, deliberately ignoring and downplaying crimes of the past, and to the dynamics of reinterpreting history to fit political demands and needs in the present. We should remember that such revisionism inevitably contributes to changing society’s understanding of the present and thereby also to shaping fears and expectations of the future, and Ðureinovic’s excellent research is an important reminder about how this works." – Tea Sindbæk Andersen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

    "This outstanding book is the first comprehensive look at the remarkable transformation of political memory of World War II in contemporary Serbia. Ðureinovic convincingly demonstrates that in its commitment to anticommunism, Serbia has embarked on a full scale revision of its WWII memory. This study is a timely warning of the seriously political consequences of playing politics with the past." – Jelena Subotic, Georgia State University, USA