Contemporary Southeastern Europe
Fragmentation as a Silencing Strategy: Serbian War Veterans against the State of Serbia
This article draws on Lev Grinberg’s notion of political space, understood as symbolic spheres in which political actors represent and further their interests, identities and agendas. The political space notion is designed to analyze and criticize political power and its dynamics in cases such as the Serbian one, where governments do not rely on heavy-handed control of civil society. I suggest here that following the wars of the 1990s, the democratic governments in Serbia have excluded the war veteran population from the political space of representation, since gaining control over this population was perceived as a crucial step in the attempt to silence any public reckoning of the nation’s criminal past. Through the case study of a decade-long “Per Diem Affair”, designated to alienate the war veteran population, I show how the mechanism of fragmentation has served the ruling elite to close the political space for open debate regarding the role of Serbia in the wars of the 1990s, first and utmost, in order to maintain control over the narrative of the recent wars. This, I suggest, comes as a result of the alteration in the role of the state: from being the direct source of power to becoming a mediator between the opposing local and international demands for particular national images and identities.