The Politics of Memory of the Second World War in Contemporary Serbia: Collaboration, Resistance and Retribution, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Politics of Memory of the Second World War in Contemporary Serbia

Collaboration, Resistance and Retribution, 1st Edition

By Jelena Đureinović


216 pages

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Hardback: 9780367278045
pub: 2019-12-10
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Exploring the concepts of collaboration, resistance, and post-war retribution and focusing on the Chetnik movement, this book analyses the politics of memory.

Since the overthrow of Slobodan Milošević 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 romanticization 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.


"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

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

1.1. Collaboration, Resistance and Retribution in Yugoslavia

1.2. Memory Politics in Post-Milošević Serbia: Between Anticommunism and Ethnicization

1.3. The Context of the Book: Postsocialism

1.4. Memory and Law: Serbia’s Pseudo-Transitional Justice

1.5. Approach

1.5.1. Chetniks as Ideal Antecedents

1.6. Outline


2. Exploring Politics of Memory

2.1. History of Memory

2.2. Politicality of Memory

2.3. State Agency

2.4. Pluralities, Struggles and Layers

2.5. Post-Yugoslav Serbia as a Case Study

2.5.1. Contemporality and Troubles with Materials

2.5.2. Oral Sources


3. Yugoslav Memory Culture and its Downfall

3.1. Yugoslav War Memory

3.2. Main Mnemonic Agency

3.2.1. The Day of the Uprising

3.3. Reception of Memory Politics Beyond Compliance and Rejection

3.4. Remembering the Collaboration

3.5. When History Outpoured

3.5.1. The Second World War Reconceived


4. The Milošević Era

4.1. Changes and Continuities

4.2. The Anti-Communist Opposition

4.3. Between the Chetnik Revival and Commemorations of the Postwar Retribution

4.4. Ravna Gora Gatherings


5. Memory Politics in Post-Milošević Serbia

5.1. The War and Its Aftermath in the Hegemonic Narratives

5.2. Purging Yugoslavia from the Public

5.3. National Reconciliation: Ending the Civil War within the Serbian Nation

5.4. Imaginations of the Chetniks

5.4.1. The Chetniks Televised

5.4.2. War Musealisation

5.5. The Chetniks as Victims of Communism

5.5.1. Images of the Dark Past


6. Unearthing the Past

6.1. The Mihailović Commission

6.2. The State Commission for Secret Graves

6.2.1. Purpose

6.2.2. Results

6.2.3. Informalities

6.2.4. The Epilogue

6.3. The Quest for the Grave of Dragoljub Mihailović

6.4. Informalities and Failures of Official Fact-Finding Endeavours


7. Anti-Communist Memory Politics from Below

7.1. Symbolic Nature of State Efforts

7.2. Non-State Actors

7.2.1. Communism That Will Not Go Away

7.2.2. Narrating Yugoslavia

7.3. Commemorative Practices from Below

7.3.1. Commemorating the Chetniks

7.3.2. The Struggle for Recognition

7.4. The Symbolic Power

7.4.1. The Royal Support

7.4.2. Religious Dimension of Anti-Communist Memory Work


8. History, Memory and Law

8.1. Equalising the Chetniks and the Partisans

8.1.1 Implementation of the Veteran Law

8.2. Rehabilitation Legislation

8.3. Telling Histories in the Courtroom

8.4. Judicial Abolishment of the Uprising

8.5. Rehabilitation from Below


9. Rehabilitation of Dragoljub Mihailović

9.1. Agency Behind the Court Case

9.2. The Second World War in the Courtroom

9.3. Historians as Expert Witnesses

9.3.1. Historians of the Second World War on the Stand

9.4. Interventions Against the Process

9.4.1. Reactions in the Region

9.5. Discussing the 1946 Trial

9.5.1. Closing Words

9.6. Plaintiffs’ Claims Summarised: The Court Decision


10. Conclusion

About the Author

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.

About the Series

Southeast European Studies

Southeast European Studies

The Balkans are a region of Europe widely associated over the past decades with violence and war. Beyond this violence, the region has experienced rapid change in recent times though, including democratization, economic and social transformation. New scholarship is emerging which seeks to move away from the focus on violence alone to an understanding of the region in a broader context drawing on new empirical research.

The Southeast European Studies Series seeks to provide a forum for this new scholarship. Publishing cutting-edge, original research and contributing to a more profound understanding of Southeastern Europe while focusing on contemporary perspectives the series aims to explain the past and seeks to examine how it shapes the present. Focusing on original empirical research and innovative theoretical perspectives on the region the series includes original monographs and edited collections. It is interdisciplinary in scope, publishing high-level research in political science, history, anthropology, sociology, law and economics and accessible to readers interested in Southeast Europe and beyond.

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