"This is not a history book. It is a book debating history, with the ambition of challenging what Serbia is and may become." In this book Sonja Biserko, Chair of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, challenges the nationalist narratives that have shaped Serbian politics for more than a century, particularly the last two decades, and which still acts as an obstacle to democratization, reconcilation with the surrounding nations of the former Yugoslavia and integration into Europe.
"Serbs cannot live peacefully in a state where non-Serbs form the majority. Serbia can never live peacefully with her hostile neighboring states. We will never join the European Union. We will never acknowledge Srebrenica as a crime. We will never give up Kosovo and Metojiha." There has been, and still is, a lot of "nevers" in Serbian political discourse. However, by the end of 2012 the country is on the path to EU membership. Politicians from nearly all quarters claim to have the best strategic approach to EU membership, despite having to deal with demands that would not long ago have been laughed at as utterly unrealistic. What happened to the aggressive nationalism that not long ago would have crushed all attempts to challenge such "nevers"?
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has worked in Serbia since the early nineties, monitoring and reporting on the human right situation, following the political development and supporting human right defenders. We have chosen to publish this book written by Sonja Biserko, Chair of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, in an attempt to direct attention to exactly how indispensable human rights activists are right now, and how vitally important they are for the time to come.
For two decades, Biserko has persistently and courageously protested against war, nationalism and human rights abuse. Her analysis represents a perspective on Serbian politics that is very much needed among the optimism where all problems can seemingly be solved by an EU-membership.
As Biserko argues in this book – addressing the destructive forces of nationalism is a pre-requisite for real change and lasting peace in Serbia. Where has nationalism gone? Nowhere. It has taken on new forms, but it still shapes the mainstream understanding of the past and maintains perception of values in the Serbian society. Those most in need of tolerance suffer the consequences.
This is not a history book. It is a book debating history, with the ambition of challenging what Serbia is and may become.