Serbia is well-known for its colorful and controversial cast of characters: Nikola Tesla (inventor), Andreja Pejić (trans model), Željko Ražnatović, a.k.a. ARKAN (gangster), Cece (‘Turbofolk’ singer), Zoran Đinđić (political reformer), Mimi Mercedez (stripper/rapper), etc. Since the end of WWII, wicked ideologies like Marxism, Communism, and Fascism were embraced by strongmen in the Balkans who would use terror and fear to exercise power over people.
These bunk philosophies functioned as political religions, demanding fanaticism, sacrifice and imperial revival — Serbian-style, of course. But it all went south in the 90s when deep tectonic changes thundered through the Yugophere‘s brittle political and institutional arrangements.
Ethnic conflict and mad revanchism erupted across the land generating seething anger in a spiraling centrifugal feedback loop that eventually tore the place apart. As the late Christopher Hitchens wrote, “the principal illness of the Balkans: conflicting dreams of lost imperial glory that culminated in ethnic death orgies and a fetish for the macabre and the scatological.”
Back in 2017, General Ratko Mladić (below in BDUs), a big dog Bosnian-Serb military figure, pogram organizer and prolific blood-splatterer, was sentenced to life in the big house for crimes against humanity and genocide.
General Mladić, a.k.a.“The butcher of Bosnia”, oversaw the bombardment of Sarajevo, the infamous Srebrenica massacre, and a bunch of blitzes and ‘cleanses’ resulting in disfigured lives, tortured bodies, woeful death agonies and zealous ultra-nationalism.
Hotheads like Radovan Karadžić, Arkan and Slobodan Milošević aggravated and accelerated the destructive effects and bloodlust, causing Yugoslavia to crack up into smaller ethnic globs lacking the capital, coherence and the Potemkin veneer it had under the Serbo-Croat socialist dictator Tito.
Belgrade-based artist Vladimir Miladinovic got his hands on the copious musings and meditations authored by General Mladić while in the field, which reflect dark and dour tones in some places to be sure (“the Problem of the Krajina: 14,500 Muslims”) but generally lack the sadistic gusto of Arkan’s Serb Volunteer Guard (Српска добровољачка гарда – above) or the fiery, Hitler-esque speeches of Slobodan Milošević, for instance, who hurled irredentist ideology and called for pan-Serbism and a ‘Greater Serbia.’
Akin to what the philosopher Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil”, Ratko Mladić was arguably humdrum, neither perverted nor sadistic, but ‘terrifyingly normal.’ A bureaucratic functionary who had shallow thoughts and wrote in a mundane manner, the general performed ‘evil deeds without evil intentions’, a fact connected to his ‘thoughtlessness’, a disengagement from the reality of his evil acts.
Like the protagonist in Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger, who randomly and casually kills a man, but then afterwards feels nothing, Ratko Mladić’s notebooks embody a prosaic mystique and perfunctory, almost boring air.
Anyway, the exhibit is a psychological/historical/legal tour de force for anyone interested in exploring internecine violence and the ‘banality-of-evil’ thesis. There are impeccable drawings and evocative audio-visual materials, as well as ink-wash works and photographs. Go check out ‘The Notebook’ at Eugster Gallery in Belgrade. And listen to a fascinating take on the subject here.
This post was authored by VIVISXN’s proprietary AI Thought Bot®
Photography Happy AF Death Squad + Vladimir Miladinovic
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