SAT, 12 JAN 2002 12:45:32 GMT
Christmas Quarrels in Montenegro
Yule-Logs of Discord
Montenegro started the new year with the old divisions. Events in
Berane, Cetinje and Podgorica showed that the intolerance between the
two blocs is on the rise.
AIM Podgorica, January 7, 2002
A hard smell of gunpowder spread all over Montenegro on the Christmas
Eve. Ever since the summer of 1999, when Yugoslavia was at war with the
NATO, there have been no such shooting, detonations and festivities.
Even the Army of Yugoslavia joined the celebration of Christmas:
sometime around midnight the sky over Podgorica was covered with tracer
bullets of anti-aircraft artillery.
Luckily, when all is said and done, everything went well and without
major incidents: in Cetinje one man was injured due to mishandling of a
gun, in Podgorica a young girl and a boy applied for medical aid because
they had been hit in the head by firecrackers. Nevertheless, it was not
all so harmless either. In Berane, strong police forces stopped a storm
of fanatic supporters of the Serbian Orthodox Church against followers
of the Montenegrin Church (CPC) and thus prevented bloodshed.
Namely, for the first time this year followers of the CPC had the
intention of setting the yule-logs on fire in the north of Montenegro,
in Bijelo Polje and in Berane. And whereas everything went smoothly in
Bijelo Polje, the main point of conflict was in Berane. How far that
dislike goes was best attested to by the sequence of events: the Berane
Mayor Sveto Mitrovic (once a DPS member and now a professional Serbian
patriot) raised hue and cry against the supporters of the Montenegrin
Orthodox Church. To make things even morbid, Smajo Sabotic, former DPS
delegate and prominent defender of the minority Muslim rights, joined
the surge against the Montenegrin Church followers. Now Sabotic is a
member of the Presidency of the National Movement for the Preservation
of the Common State, together with Matija Beckovic, Ljuba Tadic and
other Montenegrins living in Belgrade.
A well-organised group, some two thousand followers of the pro-Serbian
parties, started gathering in the city centre already around 1 p.m.
right on the plateau where the believers and supporters of the
Montenegrin Church were planning to fire the yule-log. They started
singing songs from the old repertoire ("Guards are everywhere..." "Far
away, there...") shouting "This is Serbia". After that those most
extreme charged at some thirty followers of the Montenegrin Orthodox
Church who wanted to burn the yule-log in the centre of Berane. Only the
police cordon prevented a major incident from breaking out, although
followers of the Serbian Orthodox Church, led by Sveto Mitrovic at first
engaged in a harsh clash with the police - a police camera was smashed
and the cordon was showered with stones and snowballs. In that
situation, the CPC's Church Council assessed that it was not wise to
take chances, so they gave up burning the yule-log.
However, the police refused to back away. Quite the contrary - it
launched a "counter-attack" and after a chase through the town arrested
about ten rioters. However, the organisers, i.e. men who were in charge
of organising the riots managed to get away. "Vuk Vulevic (f.Radosav)
and Milan Scekic (f.Danilo), chief initiators of riots were not caught
and found shelter in the barracks of the Yugoslav Army in Dolac", said
the release of the Montenegrin MUP.
It was determined later on that the barrack commanders refused to
surrender the wanted persons to the police. Later that evening they
disappeared from the barracks. The Montenegrin police is still searching
for the mentioned persons because of "the assault on members of the
Security Centre of Berane who were in charge of order at the gathering,
arms threats and the use of axe and for smashing a camera" read the MUP
statement. All this left an embarrassing impression. When the first man
of Berane organises actions against freedom of assembly and freedom of
religion, whereas the state, which should keep order and peace, is
incapable of preventing it, that doesn't represent an example of the
developed democratic relations.
It is hardly likely that an outsider might have thought that that day
Montenegro was celebrating Christmas - a day when those quarreled should
make peace or, at least for 24 hours, forget hate. Actually, judging by
all appearances, this will not end with Christmas arguments. A new duel
has been announced for January 13 when the so called Serbian New Year
according to the old calendar, is celebrated. Until last year, only
pro-Yugoslav parties officially marked that day on the main square in
This time something new will happen! The other side came up with the
idea not to allow a free-of-charge promotion of the common state and
announced a big concert, which will be held precisely on the main
Podgorica square on January 13. Formally, organisers are the Montenegrin
Association of Entertainment Musicians and the Independent Youth
Association, but no one has any doubts that the action is supported and
financed from the highest state level. An impressive team from all parts
of the former SFRY should perform (Bajaga, Hari Mata Hari Band, Tose
Proeski, Sladja Djogani, etc.) Obviously: the idea is to move local
Yugoslavs from the centre to the suburbs, which naturally provoked a
revolt of the pro-Yugoslav parties.
It is now a dead heat and both sides claim that the square is theirs.
Even the President of the National Party, Dragan Soc, announced that
this strategically important point in the centre of Podgorica will be
taken by the Coalition "Together for Yugoslavia" on January 13, at any
cost and that no police will be able to stop them from doing it.
It would be possible to make a comic-satirical collage from the
mentioned pictures, as well as those that are yet to come. But there is
no reason for laughter nor comedy here: days of celebrations have
revealed a sad Montenegrin reality. Two parallel worlds, two
Montenegroes, which instead of getting closer are divided by a wall that
grows bigger by the day.
In other words, Montenegrins have started the new year with old
divisions. Us and them, them and us, as if everything here has been
frozen in 1918. But, the main problem are not different visions of
Montenegro's future, nor different philosophies of life. The actual
Montenegrin problem is that two quarrelled and divided Montenegroes do
not want to see or hear each other, but passionately try to eliminate
That is why if things go on this way not much should be expected from
the announced referendum. In view of the kind of policy that is being
pursued no one would be surprised if two referendums are organised in
the spring: according to one Montenegro would continue to live in the
Federation and according to the other it would become an independent