Jasmina Tešanović: The Day After / Kosovo

The Day After
Jasmina Tešanović


The day after: the streets are suspiciously clean. The local government has taken care to obscure the shame of the rioting, because obviously, it has echoed around the world and Serbia is once again the leading news in the foreign press.

The Serbs, with their legitimate right to mourn for the loss of Kosovo, were transformed into vandals who loot their own city. They broke into many foreign shops, stealing off with the foreign branded goods, made by those powers which gave away Kosovo. It's a greedily practical turn to the famous "inat" and spiteful defiance that Serbs generally offer the world community.

Images and footage of the broken windows, burned flags, demolished embassies, and drunken teenage patriots is cruising the world on YouTube. Our newly elected president, who wisely and rather obviously retreated to Rumania during the ruckus, asked for decent behavior and peace last night.

Other participants of the rally have no such regrets. The truest "heroines" of this charade are two young blondes filmed by candid camera and posted on YouTube in a long snippet called "Kosovo for tennis shoes."

These wannabe global consumers are relentlessly looting sports clothes from broken windows and dragging them in heaps through a town in chaos.

I am not surprised, although the spectacle of aggressive teenage girls seizing loot at "total discount" while coordinating on their cellphones is like my worst fears came true.

And not only mine. Today on the streets I saw the worried faces of local people who survived the night of the "popular rally" in deep anxiety. Some other young girls -- they obviously didn’t loot for shoes -- were talking in low voices: there were not enough police. We are done.

The American embassy evacuated much of its personnel, the German, Slovenian, and Croatian embassies closed today their consulate departments.

No visas for bad Serbs, who shun the world to be swiftly shunned in turn. Police have arrested 190 people. The impressive damage to the town is still being estimated: burned cars, destroyed traffic lights, burned apartments, smashed shops. Five hundred people were hurt, mostly Serbian riot policemen. One Czech citizen is in critical condition.

Last night during the escalating violence my friends from Italy, Norway and Kosovo phoned me: Nora from Kosovo offered me her own home if I don’t feel safe within Belgrade. Nora admitted that it sounded nonsensical, but it was a sincere offer.

One group of dissident Serbian students from Belgrade wanted to join in solidarity with students in Kosovo for a Kosovo rally. The peacemakers weren't allowed into Kosovo, though, being "potential troublemakers."

There is one known fatality: a severely burned body was found inside the vandalized American embassy. He has no name, no face and is probably a Serbian hooligan overwhelmed by his own arson. The latest victim of a lethal myth.

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Jasmina Tešanović is an author, filmmaker, and wandering thinker who shares her thoughts with BoingBoing from time to time. Email: politicalidiot at yahoo dot com. Her blog is here.

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Previous essays by Jasmina Tešanović on BoingBoing:

- State of Emergency
Jasmina Tešanović: Kosovo
- Christmas in Serbia
- Neonazism in Serbia
- Korea - South, not North.
- "I heard they are making a movie on her life."
- Serbia and the Flames
- Return to Srebenica
- Sagmeister in Belgrade
- Jasmina Tešanović: What About the Russians?
- Milan Martic sentenced in Hague
- Mothers of Mass Graves
- Hope for Serbia
- Stelarc in Ritopek
- Sarajevo Mon Amour
- MBOs
- Killing Journalists
- Jasmina Tešanović: Where Did Our History Go?
- Serbia Not Guilty of Genocide
- Carnival of Ruritania
- "Good Morning, Fascist Serbia!"
- Faking Bombings
- Dispatch from Amsterdam
- Where are your Americans now?
- Anna Politkovskaya Silenced
- Slaughter in the Monastery
- Mermaid's Trail
- A Burial in Srebenica
- Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
- To Hague, to Hague
- Preachers and Fascists, Out of My Panties
- Floods and Bombs
- Scorpions Trial, April 13
- The Muslim Women 
Belgrade: New Normality
- Serbia: An Underworld Journey
- Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
- Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
- Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
- The Long Goodbye
- Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
- Slobodan Milosevic Died
- Milosevic Funeral


  1. Round 2!

    First, as I said, I find is suspicious that the US embassy was empty before the protest last night… just my own paranoia…

    And I think it’s sad that dissident serbs were not allowed into Kosova to express solidarity with other activist. This is just what Albin Kurti has been talking about, reinforcement of ethnic tensions, which leads to only more tension. This independence is not going to work… If I could be more paranoid, I’d say that was the plan all along, to show that these people can’t work together and need a “guiding hand” to control them.

    I’m sorry all of this is happening. I’m really ashamed of the Western role in all of this as well. I wish there was more I could do than write about it.


  2. There are riots and looting everywhere all the time. They rarely have anything to do with the issue at hand. The Rodney King riots quickly became an opportunity to steal a new television. The Serbian riots are about disaffected youth, theft and thuggery. Although I support Kosovo’s full sovereignty, it would be unfair to blame the whole nation of Serbia because of a riot. As to inadequate police response, ordering the police to contain a riot rather than break it up has proven to be a much better strategy. When the cops start beating or shooting, the next night’s riot will be ten times bigger.

  3. Whoknew: Who cares? What difference does it make what her personal position is on the Kosovo issue. That isn’t what this post is really about.

  4. @Antinous
    There is a difference between this and the examples you mentioned.

    Demonstrations in Belgrade were organized by part of the government that is controlled by nationalistic parties. Similar incidents were happening in days before the demonstration. So, everybody knew that this was going to happen.

    Right-wing politicians in Serbia are trying to create atmosphere of emergency by creating this chaos as preparation for possible parliamentary elections.

  5. Al, this is not exactly a opinion-neutral piece so I think Whoknew’s question was entirely appropriate. The word selection does not make the authors POV clear.

  6. Dragisak,

    Yeah. I know. But I’m counting on the fact that Tadić was elected as a sign that the majority of Serbians want a peaceful solution. Although there’s been a fair amount of huffing and puffing (particularly from Russia – big surprise there), the situation could already be much, much worse. Attacking US embassies is a rite of passage for most of the world’s youth.


    I agree with you. It’s a journal piece, not op-ed. I find the absence of clear political statement to be helpful.

  7. Yeah, Bob, Wnoknew, Jasmina simply may have her own reasons for not hammering in an opinion one way or the other. I’m not altogether sure how I’d feel if, say, a US state wished to withdraw from the union today. (Not that it would be analogous, really)

    Anyway, uncivilized displays of violence, hate, and raw anger mixed with petty acts of self-interest are not uncommon elsewhere. As always, to be condemned.

  8. The Serbs, with their legitimate right to mourn for the loss of Kosovo, were transformed into vandals who loot their own city.

    It’s not like Kosovo disappeared or was wiped out by an atomic weapon. It’s still there. The people living there (generally) just chose to quit from participating in Serbian government. Why are people so down on secession?

    Time and time again cultural borders have proven far more stable than colonial occupations. Let Iraq divide into Sunni, Shia, and Kurd nations. Help Africa finally heal itself by restoring cultural borders instead of the artificial lines handed down from European colonization to modern day lineages of brutal military dictatorships. And if Albanians don’t want to be ruled by the Serbian government anymore, that’s their freedom of association to do so.

  9. How would the Canadian province of Quebec seceding from Canada go down with Washington? Especially if say they closely allied with China?

  10. @ #7 Antinous: How is the lack of a political statement helpful?

    I very much appreciate the fact that Tesanovic seems to be focusing on the emotions of the situation, which surely deserve much attention. But I would still like to know what she thinks. Her last post included something about a grandmother (mother?) charging her with protecting Kosovo (I think). I’m interested to know if she meant to protect it by helping it secede or by keeping it united with Serbia. Also, if she is recognizing the right of Serbs to mourn the loss, a very empathetic thing to recognize, I’d like to know whether she was able to see this despite wanting to see Kosovo free, or whether it is just a part of the opposite position.

    I’m not reading her post as art, but as a conversation, and in that conversation I would be saying, “Wait, do you think it is right for Kosovo to be free, or not?” Maybe it doesn’t matter as a piece of art, but I read it as more than that.

  11. Because it would be more information and less polemic. If everybody pushes their agenda, nobody will have any idea what’s actually happening. Taking a position makes it much harder to change your mind later. Because questions are more valuable than answers when the answers involve the military. Because the whole crisis is essentially psychological in nature (You’re stealing our national identity! No, you’re stealing our national identity!) Because reporting it subjectively is less likely to lead to war.

  12. How would the Canadian province of Quebec seceding from Canada go down with Washington? Especially if say they closely allied with China?

    Last I checked, Canadia was outside the jurisdiction of the USA. :P

  13. Well, I am truly sorry for the foreign readers of Jasmina’s text, and observers of complete situation. The biggest handicap to understand current events for those people is because they are not Serbs. Don’t be depressed about that, that’s good fortune for you. You lucky bastards….

  14. @ Antinous
    One can’t help but push ones agenda. So why hide your hand?
    If your primary goal is to convey what is actually happening, then tell people what your tertiary agendas are so that they can judge your reporting fully.
    You can’t help but take a position (including one in the middle). Just because it is hard to change doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken–just the opposite, in fact.
    “Because questions are more valuable than answers when the answers involve the military.” I don’t understand this.
    “Because the whole crisis is essentially psychological in nature (You’re stealing our national identity! No, you’re stealing our national identity!)” Maybe it starts here, but those riot police weren’t worrying about the psychology . . .
    “Because reporting it subjectively is less likely to lead to war.” I don’t agree. I don’t think the subjectivity/objectivity of reporting has much corellation to whether or not it contributes to the start of a war.

  15. You can’t help but take a position…

    I would consider that a statement born of male territoriality. And incorrect. It is completely possible not to take a position on something, even when you have very strong feelings about it. Completely challenging, but definitely possible.

  16. @ WhoKnew

    I think it is possible to have a perspective other than the pre-defined (and nationalist) pigeonholes of “Kosovo” or “Serbian”. Observing and characterizing the riots, looting, and jackbooted thuggery of police could be construed as a perspective of “look at how civilized behavior breaks down under pressure” — similar to what Rod Serling did in The Twilight Zone with “The Shelter” and “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street“.

  17. I think that humans have a really hard time existing in that limbo of having knowledge but not forming an opinion, stating that opinion, turning that opinion into action. And I think that humans with testes have an even worse time of it. To me, condemning people and taking sides hasn’t worked very well. I’m not really arguing a moral opinion, but a practical one. There is a point at which intervention might be the best option, but I’m not there yet on Kosovo.

  18. I think her personal opinion would be very helpful as well. She is writing too emotional too offer a neutral viewpoint anyway.
    Plus, I’m curious and I’d just like to know if she thinks the independence of the Kosovo is be a good thing and I’d also like to know why this independence enrages people so much. Because I don’t understand. If Bavaria would declare independence from the rest of Germany next week I’d probably shrug and say “Well, yes, how nice, have a good day”. Being German, I won’t go and break into embassies because I want Silesia back (whole different story anyway).
    I wouldn’t do anything about it, so I don’t get what the Serbs are so angry about they seem fine with the idea of heading straight into the next war.
    TeÅ¡anovićs opinion – and I’m sure she has one – would help to get some insight. Highly subjective, of course, but so what?

  19. Nicely articulated, Teapunk.
    And in reply to Zuzu and Antinous, if I knew that Tesanovic’s position was outside the pigeonholes and in limbo, I’d be happy. I don’t care what she says her position is, I would just like to know what she says. So far, it seems no one knows.

  20. the spectacle of aggressive teenage girls seizing loot at “total discount” while coordinating on their cellphones is like my worst fears came true.

    Welcome to the real world, Jasmina. Time to read up on Gibson and Sterling (btw, need to see if and what Bruce is reporting, last time I checked, he was very partial to Belgrade).

    I also find every occasion of expressing surprise at displays of rejection directed by Serbs towards nation-states meddling in Serbia internal politics (not to mention the so very recent war-grade meddlings around Kosovo), spectacularly funny in some very sad way.

  21. There’s a post on Bruce’s blog with a longish video of Bruce and Jasmina examining an XO laptop and the OLPC project.

    She thinks it would have been great to have during the siege and bombings several years back (sturdy and portable and power-frugal), and the educational equivalent of having a personal spaceship for poor kids. Bruce loves it as a gadget but had great doubts about its political acceptability.

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