Dveri and the protests in Serbia

Nationalism in Serbia, like in most countries, cannot be reduced to a single current or strand of thought. Where Dveri stands out is in its adaptability. It has remoulded its image, as well as attempting to widen its appeal. It has been able to adopt the rhetoric of both resentment and real grievances, and then turn it against a specific political actor, or “other”, while creating a political platform.

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By Christian Kurzydlowski

There is something rotten in the state of Serbia. The on-going anti-government protests, which began on November 30th, 2018, are manifestations of major dissatisfaction with the rule of President Aleksandar Vučić. The protests are clearly indicative of a deeper malaise. Popular anger at increasing media censorship, corruption, instances of political violence, and the marginalization of civil society resulted in people taking to the streets. A seeming lack of political alternatives has only added to the widespread anger. This hasn’t stopped attempts to capitalize on the waves of discontentment. Among those looking to capitalize is the Srpski Pokret Dveri (Serbian Movement – Dveri), popularly known as Dveri (Doorway). By actively protesting, Dveri is testing the waters through their attempts at reframing the protest narrative. What is its primary narrative? What is the potential impact?

Initially, Dveri was founded within the Serbian philology department at the University of Belgrade, in January 1999. Organized around the journal “Dveri Srpske”, its initial focus was on a mixture of political conservatism, and clerical nationalism. Its genus can be seen as part of the then emerging Orthodox Christian right in Serbia, and one that specifically sought close links with the Serbian Orthodox Church.

It has been categorized in the nebulous terms of “far right”, and “fascist”, for its anti-LGBT stance and attempts to redefine the role of certain Serbian collaborators during the Second World War. Dveri has attempted to refute any association with fascism, in order to make itself more palatable to the Serbian electorate. It has also expelled Srdjan Nogo, a Dveri National Assembly member, for indiscipline, especially in regard to his quote that Serbian Premier Ana Brnabić should “be hanged” if she signed the Dublin Regulation, outlining rules allowing asylum seekers in Serbia.

Nationalism in Serbia, like in most countries, cannot be reduced to a single current or strand of thought. Where Dveri stands out is in its adaptability. It has remoulded its image, as well as attempting to widen its appeal. It has been able to adopt the rhetoric of both resentment and real grievances, and then turn it against a specific political actor, or “other”, while creating a political platform.

It is in this vein that Dveri’s actions in the ongoing Serbian protests deserve closer attention. Currently it is a member of the Savez za Srbiju (Alliance for Serbia), itself a broad coalition of contrasting political opinions, united in agreement of protesting against Vučić’s rule. Calling for a transitional government, followed by a general election, it is here that Dveri’s adaptability and pivoting has the potential to result in political capital.
This has been enhanced by the creation of a Slobodna zona (Free zone), in Belgrade’s Pioneers Park, directly across from the National Assembly of Serbia. Participating in the protests, and in the Free zone, has given Dveri a chance to reframe the existing nature of the protests.

The issue of Kosovo, and the possibility of a Serbian recognition of its independence is portrayed by Dveri as a national betrayal. Dveri’s leader Boško Obradović, and Dveri member of the National Assembly Marija Janjušević, entered the National Assembly during a session of the Committee for Kosovo and Metohija. Holding placards, Obradović denounced the government for “betraying Kosovo”, and warned the committee that it faced the prospect of a Greater Albanian state. On 21st March of this year, Obradović gave a press conference saying much to the same effect. In effect, Dveri is attempting to redefine the anti-government protests through the lens of “national liberation”, against both the Vučić government, and any attempt at recognition of an independent Kosovo.

Dveri, and its attempts at reframing the anti-government narrative should not be seen as a majority sentiment, at least not for the moment. The fact is that the disparate entities making up the Alliance for Serbia are operating on a supposed rotating leadership. The Democratic Party’s 18 members of the National Assembly overshadow Dveri’s mandate of 4 members in the National Assembly. The initial impetus for the creation of the Alliance for Serbia was through Belgrade mayor and Democratic Party member, Dragan Djilas.

Nevertheless, the amount of publicity that Dveri is able to generate, within a larger popular movement, might well go toward giving the movement not only a wider appeal but also a more general acceptance.

At this stage, it is too early to say with any real definitiveness as to any outcome. Vučić will most likely not step down. Most probably not of his own accord. Tellingly, he might argue as to whom could possibly replace him that could guarantee security? In this light, Vučić can portray Dveri as radical, and a threat to regional security. Slobodan Milošević used similar rhetoric in marginalizing Vojislav Šešelj and the Serbian Radical Party in the 1990s.

Certainly Dveri’s Kosovo narrative is meant to be inflammatory and aimed at evoking an emotional reaction. But does its actions surrounding the expulsion of members deemed too extreme indicate a sense of political reality? How will the folding of Dveri’s parliamentary group affect not only its message, but also its exposure? What, if any stance, will Dveri moderate, and on what stance will it further entrench itself? Will attempts at mobilizing primarily on national integrity, and sovereignty be enough? How nationalist can Dveri be without becoming too exclusionary? With ongoing protests, this remains to be seen.

Christian Kurzydlowski has a PhD in history from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Having previously done a Masters of Arts at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London. He is passionate about interpreting current affairs through historical knowledge, to create scenarios for potential future trends. After a decade of globetrotting, he is back in his hometown of Toronto, Canada.

Footnotes:

  1. It should be noted that “Dveri”, as it is not used extensively in Serbian vocabulary, is not an easy term to translate into English.
  2. Jovan Byford, “Antisemitism and the Christian Right in Post-Milošević Serbia.  From Conspiracy Theory to Hate Crime”, Internet Journal of Criminology 1 (2003), p. 6.
  3. Srđan Mladenov Jovanović, “The Dveri Movement Through a Discursive Lens: Serbia’s Contemporary Right-Wing Nationalism”, in Südosteuropa. Journal of Politics and Society. 66 (2018), no.4, pp. 481-502.
  4. See Dveri Srpske: Časopis za nacionalnu kulturu i društvena pitanja, Year 12, No.45, January 2010. See also Branimir Nešić, Boško Obradović (editors). Nacizam i antinacizam: juče, danas, sutra. (Srpski sabor Dveri, Belgrade), 2012.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of TransConflict.


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