News 26 Sep 17

Serbian School Textbook Accused of Ethnic ‘Chauvinism’

A critical review of a school textbook written by a historian and ruling Progressive Party member, Rados Ljusic, accuses it of insulting ethnic minorities and Serbia's neighbours.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
The textbook's author, historian Rados Ljusic. Photo: YouTube printscreen.

A school textbook written ten years ago by a historian and member of Serbia’s ruling Progressive Party, Rados Ljusic, has came under fire after a recent review deemed it insulting to other nations.

The review, published on the internet ealier this month, on www.internetbilten.com, and later picked up by the media, cites as an example a quote in the text book from a 19th-century Russian Slavist which says that many Bosnians became "fanatics" after accepting Islam in the Middle Ages in order to justify the fact that they were religious "renegades".

The review notes also that Ljusic cites a 19th-century writer who wrote that converts to Islam were "worse" for the Christian people than "real Ottoman Turks".

Of neighbouring Montenegro, the textbook says that the three most important factors in its history are its Orthodox Christian faith and its links to Russia and Serbia, adding that Montenegrins "swore by all three of them, but never honestly".

It refers also to Montenegrins as ethnic Serbs, which is disputed.

Nemanja Stjepanovic, from the Humanitarian Law Centre, joined the criticism of the textbook because using offensive language about other peoples, "dehumanising enemies", both in the media and public discourse, had been in a factor in enabling the committment of war crimes during the Yugoslav conflicts.

"If we allow these contents to [make the] transition from media into textbooks, it is a sign that we are preparing young generations for wars and conflicts, and for permanent hostility with nations that surround us, not coexistence and cooperation," Stjepanovic told BIRN.

In his analysis, the historian Aleksandar Miletic concluded that the textbook, which is used in third grade of high schools in Serbia, has "ethno-centric, one-sided, irrational and often completely chauvinistic elaborations and remarks.

"It is unacceptable that these insulting observations, which spread hate and intolerance, can be found in an official textbook for adolescents, approved by the Education Minister," Miletic wrote in the review, published last week.

Ljusic, however, has responded that the criticism was only a "political attack" on him, calling Miletic an advocate of the interests of billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

His critical review "was written under the orders of those who command" Soros's interests, Ljusic told BIRN.

The opposition League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina on Saturday urged Serbia's Minister of Education, Mladen Sarcevic, to remove the textbook from the curriculum.

The Ministry of Education has said that it will conduct an analysis of the controversial textbook.

Stjepanovic said the Humanitarian Law Centre’s own analysis of history textbooks, from 2015, showed that war crimes committed by Serbs during the 1990s remained a "taboo" issue in school textbooks, while the Serbian leadership’s role in them was concealed.

"Combining that approach with the prejudices that professor Ljusic is promoting in his textbook are a safe way to build a foundation for new conflicts in the region," he said.

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