November 16, 1992 Vreme News Digest Agency No 60

False Witnesses

Limonov & Co.

by Dusan Reljic, Predrag Markovic, Janko Sebor (Athens) & Vlastimir Mijovic (Moscow)

Ideological kinsmen and brothers in Slavic soul are to testify that the "truth" about Serbia is "getting through" to the world

An increasing number of bizarre characters from abroad are again marching by Belgrade, which officials and their media, in the first place the television, are presenting as "our friends and allies". Now, they are no longer just superficial kinsmen in beliefs , but brothers in soul, if possible Slavic and Eastern Orthodox. Their assignment is to be the living proof that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's conviction that "the truth about Serbia and the Serbian people will win" is accurate.

As Aris Musionis, M.D. told a press conference on September 22, on the occasion of the founding of the Society of Greek-Serbian Friendship in Athens (whose president he is), "the proud Serbian people are today fighting not only to defend their altars and hearths, but to defend the very Balkans and Orthodoxy". This Society attracts a variety of people: clergymen, Stalinists, pacifists, ecologists, anonyms ... They all, it would appear, are inspired by the burning need to get together and get down to strengthening the friendship between two nations in Europe's south-east. On this same occasion another speaker, the president of the Center for Hellenistic Research, Dimitrios Panu said: "The Germans are coming again and, if the Serbs fall, we are next". He added to his analysis the assessment that "the Balkans and Russia are dancing like bears which, for one banana, roll over in front of America, their new keeper". The Center of which he is president, informed people in Athens describe as "both marginal and nationalistic".

The Greek media, apart from two sentences in one newspaper, did not devote much attention to the founding of the Society, which is highly disproportionate to the great coverage given to Dr. Musionis's visit to Serbia at the beginning of November. Eulogies to President Milosevic ("he enjoys the undivided sympathy of the Greek people - both of the right and of the left) and his favorite MP (the meeting with Seselj also evoked very agreeable emotions ...) and reproaches for the democratic opposition were repeated ad nauseam among the interested portion of the public here.

The fame which "foreign friends" win in Serbia is in high contrast to their anonymity at home. Thus the "parliamentary candidate" John Kennedy was shown on Belgrade television who knows how many times, yet it seems hardly likely that the voters in the London constituency, in which he was to be nominated once upon a time, know of him. The fact that Mr. Kennedy, half Montenegrin on his mother's side and half Irish on his father's, did not even appear at this year's elections in Britain did not prevent Belgrade Television from again calling him "a parliamentary candidate" directly after the elections. His engagement in the Serbian cause is largely as a satellite to Dr. Radovan Karadzic and his satellite Klara Mandic, when this couple visit London.

Similar is the destiny of a group of radical atheists rallied around the "Ariman" pygmy publishing house in the German university town of Freiburg. They based their engagement in Yugoslav issues on their association at one time with the late Vladimir Dedijer, whose book on the Vatican and Jasenovac they translated and published. The Belgrade "Ekspres Politika" daily particularly lauded two members of this sect during their stay in Belgrade last spring as "rare friends of Serbia in Germany". Lawyer Gottfried Niemetz and historian Peter Priskel had no influence on public opinion in their country. They succeeded only in drawing some degree of attention when the Munich "Süddeutsche Zeitung" daily refused to publish an advertisement for "Ariman" editions, explaining that they evidently publicize intolerant and aggressive nonsense.

The importance of false witnesses in the patriotic media of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is negligible, however, compared with the appearance of Slavic, especially Russian, superstars. Admittedly, the sheen of some quickly tarnishes if it becomes too apparent that they are losing their mental balance. Such was the case of Yaroslav Yastrebov, over whom the regime and nationalistic opposition fought. Luckily, the influx of Serbophiles from Moscow appears to be inexhaustible, so the disappearance of certain individuals passes unnoticed. The domestic public had learned long ago to evaluate best by the regime in Serbia and its leader who are the ones who favor it abroad and what they are like. And vice versa: Russia, in particular, recognizes the "Belgrade friend" if his politics are advocated at home by such figures as Yastrebov, Limonov, Filatov, Roumeyantsev, Ambartsoumoff, Zhukov and Volodin . Their trouble is that they have not managed to break through to the media which shape the Russian public, except to Bolshevist and neofolk Greater Russian publications. They are mostly heroes of the Belgrade, not Moscow, media.

The hubbub created by the most extreme nationalistic-Bolshevist part of the Russian right-wing in Moscow did not manage to draw out a single word of understanding, let alone praise, for the Serbian President's political course. Should it do something of the sort, Yeltsin's leadership would saw off the branch it itself was leaning on. It would pave the way for increasing the popularity of its own extreme nationalists.

The unreturned love has not, for now, decreased the enthusiasm of the Belgrade champions of a Serbo-Russian alliance. The Socialist Party of Serbia's main ideologist Mihailo Markovic, but also Yugoslav President Cosic's most influential advisor Svetozar Stojanovic, do not conceal their conviction that Serbia will "light up" when Yeltsin's regime in Moscow "dies out". Even in talks with Western diplomats they point out that, at one time or another, Russia will, in its unavoidable conflict with the West, have to look for support again in its "natural" allies, among which Serbia is the most reliable.

There is a price to be paid for every love, even the most honest. Perhaps, it is this knowledge that gives food to the rumors in Belgrade that the Moscow National Salvation Front and other "healthy forces" can count on concrete financial support from Serbia. Money orders via the "Cypriot connection" are being mentioned, and more imaginative collocutors conjecture that certain Belgrade companies in the Russian capital could continue their business activities with third countries, now that Serbia and Montenegro are in quarantine.

In any event, Albanian President Sali Berisha has thought up a fine stratagem: He has coined the accusation that "Orthodox fundamentalism" is at work in Serbia. He could irritate his adversaries in Belgrade even more with, for instance, stories about "Orthodox crusaders" (to counterpart the "jihadians"), that he read a report in the Belgrade "Vecernje Novosti" daily about "Don Cossacks" fighting on Mt. Romanija and in Herzegovina. Cossack General Atamanov's aide-de-camp Ilya Limanov boasted to a Belgrade newspaper that the Serbian population is bringing them, to their positions at the front, "everything from coffee to roast oxen" and stressed: "There is vodka too, and when that is gone, there will be plum brandy".


The Restless General

Retired Brigadier General Viktor Filatov disturbed the Serbian Television audience on November 5 by appearing in a mental embrace with the leader of the Serbian Radical Party Vojislav Seselj. He promised the arrival of a large number of Russian volunteers "to help the fraternal Serbian people". Presenting Filatov with a cockade, Seselj expressed his conviction that "only God and the Russians can help" Serbia now.

Soon afterwards, the Russian Embassy in Belgrade announced that "V.I. Filatov was paying a private visit and that as a retired brigadier general he cannot, in any way, represent the armed forces of the Russian Federation". Nonetheless, even the Czech newspaper "Lidove Novini" reported that the meeting between Filatov and Seselj "intimates an alliance between Serbian and Russian nationalists".

The Russian state news agency "Novosti" (RIA), specialized since Soviet times for propaganda abroad, immediately gave the Belgrade daily "Borba" several pieces of information about this restless Moscow pensioner. Recalling that until 1991, Filatov was the editor-in-chief of a military historical journal published by the Soviet Defense Ministry, RIA pointed out that in that capacity, he approved the publication of paragraphs from Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf". The news agency stressed that "on the pages of his magazine" Filatov "led an active propaganda against the democratic press which, he believed, considerably destabilized the Soviet Army". It also pointed out that because of the international sanctions against Iraq, which the Soviet Union supported, Filatov gave support to Saddam Hussein and said that Moscow had betrayed the Iraqi people.

Filatov's Belgrade appearance seems to have aroused most the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement Vuk Draskovic. He sent an open letter to Russian Ambassador Genadii Shikin, in which he asked him to inform the domestic public that Filatov was "only a self-inviter and adventurer". Almost one year ago, Draskovic was host to Yaroslav Yastrebov, a person already mentioned in this article.


Patron Of the Repugnant

The Soviet authorities banished him because of crime, the Serbian authorities in Bosnia enabled him to shoot at Sarajevo unchecked. Eduard Savenko, alias Limonov (49), is Ukrainian on his father's side and Russian on his mother's. The protection of his father, a high-ranking KGB official, absorbed the first conflicts of young Savenko with the authorities, but after several scandals in Moscow, this now 32-year-old, with the reputation of a criminal and a poet of the underground, was "asked" to leave the Soviet Union. He has been living in New York since 1975, as a non-political immigrant, on social welfare and the generosity of his ex-wife Yelena.

His novel "It is I, Edichka", about the other side of the American dream, which at first averted 35 publishers because of its lasciviousness, brought him world fame in Paris in 1980 when it was published. It was later translated into 14 languages. He stayed in Belgrade for the first time, unnoticed, in 1988 as a guest of the October Meeting of Writers. However, after the translation of his "Edichka" was published in 1991 Limonov became a cult writer in this environment in just a few months.

During 1991, the independent daily "Borba" began to publish his controversial political essays full of consistent unitarianism ("If a civil war in the Soviet Union takes away thirty million human lives, who has the right to say that Stalinism is worse than democracy", is a typical Limonov argument). The Moscow "Izvestya" showed interest in his articles and he soon began to play a certain political role in Russia as a publicist.

As the guest of "Borba" and the Serbian Literary Society, he paid his second visit to Belgrade in December 1991. He appeared as a guest on the Studio B radio station, and his literary evenings filled the hall of the Yugoslav Drama Theater, in addition to all the tickets sold. Under the impression of the questions posed by the viewers of the Independent Studio B Television Network and at the literary evenings, on December 7 he set out on a tour of the Slavonian battlefield. "Impressed" by Vukovar and his meeting with Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan and, as witnesses say, after a detailed examination of dozens of Vukovar bodies, he returned to publish in the "Sunday Borba" an article in which he relinquished his unitarian-leftist stand for the newly adopted pan-Slavic Orthodox activities in the battle against "the fascism of the new world order".

Vojislav Seselj set up for Limonov the "authentic" atmosphere of a Serbian cafe, where with his "unswerving logic" he left an admirable impression on his guest, as Limonov noted in his newspaper text.

In summer 1992, he was appointed "defense minister" in the shadow government of the Patriotic Front, a diverse coalition of Yeltsin's opposers from ultra-rightists to former communists.

Before Yeltsin banned this organization in October 1992, Limonov paid another visit to Belgrade. This time the occasion was his articles in the "NIN" weekly, and the host was the organization of young Socialists. After being received by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and President of the Serbian National Renewal Party (SNO) Mirko Jovic, he left for the battlefields of Bosnia. In Pale, he was received by President of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) Radovan Karadzic.

Limonov was offered, by his Serbian hosts, the opportunity to "take a shot" at Sarajevo from a "Browning" anti-aircraft machine-gun. In the evening of October 17, a spree was organized in his honor at "Sonja's" cafe in Vogosca. They brought a guitar player, a captured Muslim who performed a potpourri of Russian and Chetnik songs. All the while the guitarist was playing, the gathered officers of the "Serbian army" made jokes at his expense such as "is he digging?" The "joke" lies in the fact that before shooting them, the criminal armies force the prisoners to dig their own graves. The status and fate of the Muslim guitar player are clear to Limonov. Before parting, he begged one of his fellow travelers: "Don't remember me just for this".