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

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

Collaboration, Resistance and Retribution, 1st Edition

By Jelena Đureinović


164 pages

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Hardback: 9780367278045
pub: 2019-11-21
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pub: 2019-11-19
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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 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 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.


"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

Collaboration, resistance and retribution in Yugoslavia

Memory politics in post-Milošević 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 Milošević 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-Milošević 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 Mihailović Commission

The State Commission for Secret Graves

The quest for the grave of Dragoljub Mihailović

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 Mihailović

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

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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