news 25 Jan 13

Serb Nationalists Deface Brotherly Love Graffiti

The appearance in Belgrade of graffiti hailing a new era of Serb-Croat brotherhood has drawn an angry - if familiar - response from Serbian nationalists.

Bojana Barlovac
 Graffiti on the wall of Belgrade University's building

"Serbs and Croats are brothers!" So read a surprise message in Cyrillic letters, sprayed on a wall of Belgrade University in the centre of the Serbian capital.

A heart and the words "I love my Hrvoje" [a Croatian male name]" were added above the graffiti.

But the message, welcoming a new era of Serb-Croat brotherhood, while harking back to the old Yugoslav era, did not appeal to some Serbian nationalists, who erased it almost as quickly as it appeared - and put their own messsage there instead.

By Friday a new-old message, reading "Death to the Ustasha" [Croatian fascists]  - a familar refrain of Serbian nationalists - had appeared overnight on the same wall, right next to "Serbs and Croats are brothers!", which in the meantime had been covered over.

The earlier, more hopeful message appeared just days after the Croatian and Serbian prime ministers, Zoran Milanovic and Ivica Dacic, met in Belgrade on January 16 to heal the widening rift between the two former Yugoslav republics.

"Brotherhood and Unity" among the southern Slavs was a popular slogan during the long era of President Josip Tito ofYugoslavia after World War II.

Talk of brotherly love faded fast after Yugoslavia dissolved in the early 1990s, and after Croatia's declaration of independence resulted in a bloody Croat-Serb war.

At their meeting, the Croatian and Serbian leaders agreed to take steps to address the currently tense relationship between their countries.

Relations, which had warmed after the overthrow of the Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, became distinctly icy after a more nationalist coalition replaced the centrist Democratic Party-led government in Serbia last year.

Serbia's new government is made up of the Serbian Progressive Party, Dacic's Socialists and the United Regions of Serbia.

Croatia's President Ivo Josipovic did not attend the inauguration of his Serbian counterpart, Tomislav Nikolic, after the latter appeared to express support for a "greater Serbia".

Relations worsened again last November after the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, acquitted two Croatian wartime generals - causing an outcry in Serbia.

Some Belgraders had welcomed signs of a thaw, even if only in the form of an anonymous message sprayed on a wall.

A street wendor selling books next to the graffiti told Balkan Insight that the time had come for such words to be displayed in the Serbian capital. As of yesterday, however, they appeared to have disappeared once again.

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