Thursday, 16 October 2014
Memories of Serbia
Most of the damage from the 1999 bombing had been repaired - though there still are ruined buildings in the centre of Belgrade - but there was an understandably suspicious attitude, at least at first, in much of the population to foreigners. Happily Poles are pretty welcome as brother-Slavs, and whatever initial suspicion people had towards us seemed to melt away when they heard we were travelling from Poland (I thought it best not to mention that I was British unless necessary).
One particularly striking memory was walking through the lovely quiet of a Belgrade night-time near the fortress, and looking across the Sava to see the massive Gazprom building with its giant neon sign on the other side. Here, it seemed to say, was an outpost of Russian influence in a country which, judging by the growing willingness of its people to display the EU flag and engage with the rest of Europe, was very slowly slipping away from them.
I claim no real expertise about Serbia or the Balkans as a whole, but still it is not a surprise, given what I saw there last year, to read of Serbian politicians simultaneously feting Putin in what appears to have been a trumped-up excuse to meet him with a parade (the anniversary it is supposed to celebrate does not even fall for four more days), whilst on the other hand talking of how they are irrevocably set on the road to Europe. The Serbs have already been through the grinder of war and want no more of it, though some of their people may have a sentimental attachment to the kind of politics of nationalistic pride amongst Slavs that Putin represents, and which he has used to slice bleeding chunks out of his Georgian and Ukrainian neighbours.
[Picture: The crypt in the church at Topola, final resting place of the Kings of Serbia, where we made a relaxing stop after Belgrade. The wine from the neighbouring vineyard was also well worth sampling]
Posted by Gilman Grundy at 14:32