Kosovo | News | Novak Djokovic | Serbia | Tennis

Novak Djokovic Stands with Serbia on Kosovo Independence

Prominent Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic stood with the Serbian people who have been rioting since Kosovo's declaration of independence, which the U.S. has stood behind. He release this video message (translated by a YouTube commenter):

Hello to all of Serbia and all who are with us
This is the toughest of times in the history of Serbia
and I want to thank eveyone who has come here to this meeting
and to show the world that we are not small and weak,
that we are united and willing to defend what is ours
I am sad I can not be with you physically right now
and I want eveyone to know that my family and myself are with kosovo always
entire situation is very hard on me as entire history of serbian nation is stemming from kosovo
kosovo is serbian and shall remain so forever.

Meanwhile, during the burning of the U.S. Embassy some of the rioting Serbs had this message for CNN:


That clip, AFTER THE JUMP...

Tensions high as Serbs reject Kosovo independence [iht]

(Djokovic via down the line)

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  1. I wonder whether they were trying to shoot something out at our embassy.

    And why was mooning so popular among young white guys? It never really caught on in the black commnunity...DAMMIT! I think, when the GIANTS come to play the EAGLES next year, they should moon the entire stadium for about 5 minutes...the Cowboys & Redskins should do the same.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Feb 22, 2008 3:39:48 PM

  2. Good lord these people love to fight. Just give Kosovo its independence; it's been essentially independent for several years anyway. I hate when people use "it's been this way throughout history" as an excuse for doing ANYTHING.

    We can probably all think of a few examples from our own lives...

    Posted by: Paul R | Feb 22, 2008 3:56:29 PM

  3. Of course he "stands with Serbia." He's a Serb, not a Kosovar. I don't know if he's made any political comments before, but I've always gotten the impression that, in spite of his playful demeanor, he's probably a bit of a nationalist fascist.

    Posted by: The Other Jordan | Feb 22, 2008 4:55:56 PM

  4. Before the murderous muslim horde invaded Europe in the 1300s, what is called Kosovo today was just the southern part of Serbia. It was as Serbian a place as Belgrade is today.

    When you label this tennis player a fascist, say the Serbs should get over it or make some other statement that these people are not justified in their position, you're saying that there's a statute of limitations on genocide. Thousands of your people were murdered, but it was a while ago, jeez get over it already!

    I guess the Serbs don't agree.

    Posted by: Chris | Feb 22, 2008 5:13:39 PM

  5. It seems to me to be a pretty carefully worded statement, and it was made for a gathering that was a peaceful meeting. As I understand, the rioting came afterward and in a different part of town.

    Unfortunately he's right that the history of Serbia was written in Kosovo, and that very history was exploited by the nationalists in the leadup to the wars in Yugoslavia. Unfortunately as well, Milošević screwed any chances of maintaining Kosovo as part of Serbia when he started ethnically cleansing it. That rather major miscalculation led to the current situation, which to Serbs looks like the international community (except Russia) is ignoring international law and allowing/encouraging secession of part of Serbia.

    A few inaccuracies in the translation: he says "we are not small" -- not "and weak"
    And it ends with "Kosovo is Serbia" not "Kosovo is Serbian."
    Kosovo is Serbia has been a popular slogan of late in Serbia.

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Feb 22, 2008 5:25:59 PM

  6. And Chris, I suppose the Serbs didn't exert any retribution in recent years? To the point that snail's pace NATO was forced to respond? Perpetuating a cycle of violence doesn't sound like a solution to me.

    Kosovo was mostly autonomous until Milošević. These various groups don't even get along. Why should they be combined?

    So yes, I am saying that they should get over it. And it's not like the United States is the only major power supporting Kosovo's independence.

    Posted by: Paul R | Feb 22, 2008 5:32:27 PM

  7. now there's some real astronomical news... those serbian moons are far more important and beautiful than any lunar eclipse my dear...

    Posted by: the queen | Feb 22, 2008 6:25:30 PM

  8. Can you really blame the U.S. for siding with the Kosovars?

    As a client state of Big Brother Slav (Russia), the Serbs don't care for America anyway. It's not as if relations between Belgrade and Washington were "warm and fuzzy" before the Kosovo crisis in 1999.

    Besides, there's a giant statue of Bill Clinton in the middle of Pristina. This is one of the few Muslim nations that still loves us. We're going to take what we can get.

    Posted by: John | Feb 22, 2008 6:34:42 PM

  9. How disappointing but not entirely unexpected. What would have been news would be if he had stated the obvious - that Kosovo is no longer part of Serbia and hasn't really been for more than 100 years.

    Posted by: Shane | Feb 22, 2008 7:10:39 PM

  10. Milošević really fucked over Yugoslavia. If he hadn't divided and killed so many people this might not have happened. But thanks to him, there is no way Kosovo could sanely remain part of Serbia. Similarly, how does Russia expect the Chechens to love the Russians after they almost wiped out their capital?

    Posted by: Hephaestion | Feb 22, 2008 7:16:40 PM

  11. "Murderous muslim horde invaded Europe in the 1300s.." vs the murderous Christian hordes that invaded Asia, Africa, and the Americas?

    A.D. Thirteen-hundred is 600 years ago. How much of Europe is exactly as it was then? How long are people supposed to hate each other over past sins? Isn't this why Europe has been a bloodbath up until the last few decades?

    Posted by: noah | Feb 22, 2008 7:21:26 PM

  12. Yeah, the historical argument is absurb too. That area hasn't been Serbian for centuries. The Turks conquered it in 1455, and it has been mostly Muslim ever since. Besides, wasn't that entire region part of the Roman Empire?

    Using that logic, perhaps we should give all of "Serbia" back to Italy.

    Posted by: John | Feb 22, 2008 7:33:21 PM

  13. Why don't black guys moon people? Doesn't it have something to do, understandably, with wanting to avoid "dark side of the moon" jokes?

    Posted by: coolbear | Feb 22, 2008 7:37:33 PM

  14. Why don't black guys moon people? Doesn't it have something to do, understandably, with wanting to avoid "dark side of the moon" jokes?

    Posted by: coolbear | Feb 22, 2008 7:38:33 PM

  15. The idea that Kosovo "hasn't really been Serbian for centuries" is very much revisionist history. It was part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes and of Yugoslavia after WWII. So that's roughly the last 100 years right there. Before that it was under the Ottoman Turks, but then for about 500 years so was all of Serbia, including Belgrade -- does that make Belgrade also "not Serbia"? The ethnic mix of populations in Kosovo always fluctuated, with Serbs concentrated in certain parts, but probably at no point in the past 1000 years was the Serb population 10%, as it is now.

    Under Tito, Kosovo became an Autonomous Region in 1974, but in Yugoslavia nationalism was ruthlessly suppressed, so "autonomy" doesn't mean they were de facto independent as the NATO protectorate made them recently.

    Unfortunately Milošević staked his reputation on Kosovo and revoked its autonomy in (I think) 1989. Hephaestion is right that Milošević is ultimately to blame: if he hadn't started ethnic cleansing in the late 90s, Kosovo might have remained within Serbia.

    Religion was less of an issue in Kosovo than language and nationality: the Kosovo Albanians are or were not particularly attached to Islam. On the other hand, the Serbs do indeed have historic sacred sites there: Gračanica, Dečani, and the Peć Patriarchate, so it's hard to give those up. Thanks to the nationalists, though, they'll have to.

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Feb 22, 2008 8:08:03 PM

  16. I have to say, disputes like this have always baffled me. Being willing to trade who knows how many lives for a parcel of land is beyond my comprehension.

    I understand the roles and forces of politics, nationalism, pride, geography, history, and (likely most important) religion. But it still doesn't add up to me. And it's not like Kosovo is of any economic significance.

    Posted by: Paul R | Feb 22, 2008 8:13:09 PM

  17. @Paul R...

    Kosovo might not be of any economic significance but the political stakes are huge. There are many countries with secession-minded minorities that do not like the precedent this sets.

    Is it any wonder that countries like Russia (with its Chechen rebel state), China (which has Tibet), and Spain (with Basque separatists) are not particularly enamored with Kosovar independence?

    Posted by: RJ | Feb 22, 2008 9:59:57 PM

  18. @Paul R...

    Kosovo might not be of any economic significance but the political stakes are huge. There are many countries with secession-minded minorities that do not like the precedent this sets.

    Is it any wonder that countries like Russia (with its Chechen rebel state), China (which has Tibet), and Spain (with Basque separatists) are not particularly enamored with Kosovar independence?

    Posted by: RJ | Feb 22, 2008 10:02:30 PM

  19. There's no black-and-white, 100% good-vs.-evil picture in this case, at all.

    I side with recognizing Kosovo's independence from my viewpoint.

    But, I recognize that if I was a Serb, I would stand on the other side: what would happen to my fellow Serbs as a part of an independent Kosovo?

    I think it's really hard for those of us who aren't native to the Balkans to have a complete understanding....

    Posted by: deibu | Feb 23, 2008 1:58:40 AM

  20. Thanks to Andy for posting this and to Kevin for straightening out the history. I'm very impressed with Novak - he's not just a quick wit, handsome face and champion sportsman but a noble knight and serious citizen of his beleaguered homeland.

    Posted by: Spyro | Feb 23, 2008 3:10:06 PM

  21. RJ, I understand that. But I also think that Russia should give up Chechnya (they will never be able to live with one another, given the vicious war) and China should give up Tibet AND Taiwan. (I wouldn't look to Russia or China for models of governance in any realm! Not to mention, the Soviet Union dissolved, making Russia lose about a dozen states---so why not let Chechnya go too? And Taiwan's lack of official independence is intolerable.) With Spain the picture is a bit harder to parse, mainly for geographical reasons.

    I basically think that if people want to be independent, they should be allowed to do so. But I understand that politics, natural resources, pride, etc. often make that impossible.

    And yes I realize that if my view had won out, the U.S. South would be separate from the North. But that was a different time. Given all the bloodshed we've seen in history over stupid things, I'd just prefer doing anything to avoid it, anywhere.

    For that matter, I think Iraq should be split into three parts. Maybe I'm just not a fan of big countries!

    P.S. to Kevin: your knowledge is impressive.

    Posted by: Paul R | Feb 23, 2008 6:23:19 PM

  22. Well, I lived in Yugoslavia for two years in the '70s, and just came back from spending the fall in ex-Yugoslavia (Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia). The whole thing just tears me apart (as it did the country).

    I visited Kosovo in the 70s precisely because Serbian medieval sites are there.

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Feb 23, 2008 6:54:51 PM

  23. Kevin, your comments are very well stated and I back them 100%.

    I have been to Serbia in the past three summers and can safely say that the people there are the friendliest I've met in all Europe. The image of Serbs that the media has painted is false and down right derogatory. Condi Rice's comments the other day that 1389 was 600 years ago and that Serbs should move on is beyond the pale. That goes for the rest of everyone who says the same thing.

    Kosovo is an integral part of Serb history. It is a region that harkens to the likes of Pearl Harbor or the Alamo for Serbs. Many historical and religious sites are located there. From March 15-18, 2004, Albanians in Kosovo engaged in a region-wide campaign of destruction against 150 churches and monasteries while the UN sat by and watched. It was done to intimidate and drive out the last of the Serbs in the region. It's true that Serbs are not innocent in the actions of the '90s, but neither are the Albanians.

    How Serbs are portrayed on TV is only a small percentage of the population. Most Serbs in Serbia are poverty-stricken small villagers who scrape by everyday with items made 20+ years ago. They don't support the likes of Tomislav Nikolic and Vojislav Kostunica, as proven by this last presidential election of the country.

    What's really sad about the rally that happened on Thursday is that what was under-reported was the fact that before the small group of hooligans began looting and attacking the embassies, some 300,000 Serbs showed up at a peaceful rally to protest the illegal (and, yes, it is illegal) act of Kosovo's declaration of independence.

    Good for Djole for standing with his people.

    Posted by: Tread | Feb 25, 2008 1:24:14 AM

  24. Excuse me, but what we are seeing is actually the result of WWI and a core part of President Wilson's (and the most geo-politically troublesome) 14 Points: that people have the right of self-determination. So, Secretary Rice is correct that 1389 is not a valid starting point in this discussion. It has been generally accepted (athough frequently with lip service) since 1918 that self-determination is a right of people everywhere. Having said that, the general position of the international community, i.e. the major powers, has been to avoid the break-up of states and to particularly avoid the creation of non-viable states, such as East Timor. Yet, in cases such as Timor's -- and Kosovo's -- where the ruling state's behavior has been so egregious, the major powers have backed independence. The Serbs really have no one to thank but themselves for this situation. They tolerated Milosevic's thuggish behavior towards Kosovo, so it's too late to cry foul now.

    Posted by: Will | Feb 25, 2008 4:41:49 PM

  25. From what I've seen, a number of queer Serbs were at the peaceful demonstration. There was even a rainbow flag in the crowd (see http://blog.b92.net/user_stuff/upload/252/miting.2252.jpg).

    At the same time other gay Serbs, who are tired of all nationalist nonsense and have experience with street hooliganism, stayed home.

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Feb 25, 2008 9:04:54 PM

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