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Russia in the Serbian media: between the myth and the Serbian Western propaganda
Material posted: Publication date: 19-11-2016
Why ordinary Serbs believe that Russia is the biggest friend of Serbia, despite massive anti-Russian propaganda of the local Pro-Western media? About it as about the distinctive features of Serbian opinion on the Russian and the unexpected result of Russophobic propaganda, says famous scientist and analyst portal "New Serbian political thought" Nikola Tanasic that on 2 November he participated in the International conference "Civil society, the media and the authorities". It was held at the Russian state humanitarian University in Moscow.

I want to tell you about one aspect of Serbian political life, which, I think, can be very interesting from the point of view of Russia and Europe. It may not be the most interesting fact about our country, and I am particularly pleased that Serbia is so often remembered. However, many times the aforementioned Pro-Western media in Serbia, we have persistently convince us that we are small and insignificant nation that neither we nor our problems are not interesting. But here I saw and heard a large number of intelligent and educated people who understand our problems, what we feel, and what we're up against.

I wanted to draw your attention to a phenomenon that some do not fit at all what we had the opportunity to hear, and we heard a lot about the media in Europe. And Serbia is in this sense not very different from the information we learned about Bulgaria, Slovakia or even developed countries such as Germany and France. However, there are variations and specific aspects of the Serbian political life who stand out against other countries. You should understand that Serbia, in spite of our heroic history and traditions that we are so proud of, is a semi-colony of global capital, like most countries in the modern world, except those few who are able effectively to defend its sovereignty.

Anti-Russian propaganda in Serbia is doomed to failure

Although our media system works the same way as in other countries, the results of its operations are somewhat different. Undoubtedly, today Serbia, like most countries of the modern world, located on the border of eternal civil war, as in society there are so many ideological differences that are so sharp that it may as well lead to open conflict. So it's hard to say whether we talking about a common understanding of the Serbian national interests, but if you go to the polls for the last 15-16 years, it is easy to see that there are several constants, and the positions, relative to which all the people share the same opinion. First of all, this applies, of course, Kosovo, and secondly, rejection of membership in NATO and, thirdly, Russia and attitude to it.

In Serbia Russia consider to be the best friend and among the citizens of Serbia, Russia has the highest rating. To the question: "do you Support the Union with Russia?" — a stable majority, and that more than 60% replied in the affirmative. The number of citizens who support Union with Russia, is almost always exceeded the number of those who support entry into the European Union. The gap in the number of supporters of these two political objectives is extremely significant. Most importantly, there is the constant, which the Serbian public arena does not change, despite the fact that the last 16 years the Serbian people is under huge influence of a very active propaganda of Western and Pro-Western media, the mechanism of which there is already so much was said.

Why is this paradoxical? It's ironic because it is clear: in Serbia, the media is able to affect public opinion. So, the Serbian public has changed its stance on many issues, but the attitude to Russia is the only thing that does not change, and society even force the politicians to take a separate course on Russia. Of course, our politicians always say that they are very brave and are willing to personally fight for friendly relations with Russia, but the main reason for Pro-Russian politicians in Serbia was and remains the Russian popularity, and the fact that it explains the high ratings of the current Serbian authorities.

Where did this attitude towards Russia? We can say that it has its real roots and two sources that are largely modified by the nature of the Serbian national consciousness. The real source is an age — old historical connection and cooperation between Serbia and Russia. In this room are outstanding historians who can tell you about these relationships more than I do. I want to tell you that the Serbian people, despite their strong historical memory and culture, is not "historical" people. His great historical events, we honestly remember and love, but first and foremost we are the nation, creating myths.

We love to do because of its history, myths and retell them so as to make it more picturesque and easier to remember. This is the problem, and the greatness of our nation and culture. The only reason we have a number of specific Serbian myths about Russia, and they lie at the heart of a high opinion of Russia, which adheres to our people. However, a second source of positive Serbian attitude towards Russia, and it is particularly interesting is the Western anti-Russian propaganda.

The Serbs perceived the Russians as the bad guys from Hollywood movies of the cold war, and that they like

The Serbs have long subjected to the influence of Western propaganda. Once it was Austro-Hungarian propaganda, because the modern Northern Serbia was once under the control of this Empire, like Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the Communist era, the relations of Yugoslavia with the Soviet Union was not very friendly, and the Yugoslav authorities are very actively used elements of the Western anti-Russian propaganda to fight the euphoric attitude of its own citizens (especially Serbs) to Russia. On the other hand, the Serbian myths about Russia always had the same leitmotif: Russia they looked like "great Serbia". In these myths meant that all the Serbian values, of national reflection, culture and mentality coincide with the Russian.

During the wars in Yugoslavia, the best known cry of Serbian nationalists was "Serbia to Tokyo!". It's not about what they wanted so to expand the territory of Serbia, that it had reached Japan. They just believed that Russia is part of their cultural space. Often, this has become a huge problem for the Serbs when they face to face met with Russian and Russian culture, because, as a rule, they were disappointed: they understand that actually all is not as they imagined.

In all of this is interesting also the factor of Western propaganda. Yugoslavia was opened to American pop culture: we watch American movies, thrillers in which the bad guys were always Russian. It was direct and crude propaganda against the Russian people, which in many countries led to the formation of a negative image of Russia. What happened in Serbia? In these Hollywood bad guys, the Serbs found themselves. These characters are actually more like Serbs than Russians: they were noisy, spontaneous, always ready to fight. This painting was very appealing to the Serbian mentality, and Serbs liked those bad guys that gave a start to a special mechanism to neutralize the American anti-Russian propaganda in Serbia.

If some element of this propaganda was too harsh, made to thus Russian to wash, it is simply ignored. The Serbs took only those aspects of the image of Russia that are consistent with them, is far from reality and a mythologized, expectations. If such elements of propaganda, it was impossible to ignore, they were interpreted as: "Americans are lying, this can't be true." But if propaganda picture consistent with Serbian expectations, perceived it as additional confirmation of its (positive) image of Russia, "because even the Americans admit it". This is why the Russian in the minds of average Serb today is very similar to the image of Russia, which we presented in Hollywood films. Although the image in his base the negative, the Serbs took it in unchanged form as a confirmation of their positive perceptions about Russia.

Understanding the positive attitude of the Serbian people for Russia can lay the foundations for the real soft power of Russia in the Balkans and in Europe

This led to interesting consequences for the Serbian media sector. First of all, it became clear that Serbia cannot be successfully engaged in anti-Russian propaganda. It is absolutely impossible. If you are going to represent Russia in a negative light, the Serbs or not you will read and listen to, or are a priori to assume that you're lying, or they perceive you present the image as a positive and say that "it should be". It made the Western media in Serbia to change my strategy. And although it is still the same Western liberal media, which in other parts of Europe are all from the same position and bear the same values, in Serbia they have to offer the Pro-Russian materials or at least materials that Serbian audience will perceive as Pro-Russian. These media are forced to do it, because otherwise no one will read.

And really, if you look at how the Serbian media write about the Syrian crisis, about Ukraine, you will see that this is the most objective and the most complete of all texts that can be found in the foreign press. This is partly due to the fact that Serbian citizens are watching these events very well aware of them, so they tend not to listen to one-sided propaganda. But Pro-Western media in General got the chance to convey to the Serbs some anti-Russian views that are common to the media of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia or France, they first have to "throw" a lot of the Pro-Russian materials and thus to obtain the trust and credit of patience from the audience.

"We can't prevent people to contact with Russia"

I'll give you just one example. On the cover page of our most Pro-Western media portal B92 a few days ago the text was published under the title "Five Russian missiles could completely destroy the East coast of the United States." If it appeared in any newspaper in America, the readers, undoubtedly, would have taken these words as a threat. But the typical Serbian reaction is this: "What these Russians have done, what they have a great rocket!" So the reaction of the Serbs. And that's what we call soft power. I often hear from Russians, how Russia needs soft power. But understand that soft power is not propaganda. If you spent millions to any newspaper repeated you everything you say it is not soft power is a common power, is violence. And anyone who hears or reads it will feel the violence.

Soft power is when watching a film about some American poor man who sleeps in a trailer somewhere near Los Angeles, drives a huge car is over 30 years old and plays basketball on a concreted area, and I think "how to live well in America, there is some freedom." It is soft power and this soft power is at the disposal of Russia in Serbia.

What would Russia do, how much would it nor attacked, the Serbian public is always responsive, nullifying all the attacks and exposing the situation in the most favorable for Russia in the world. And in this their position in the Serbian public mind, Russia has not invested a penny, but America itself unwittingly helped her millions of dollars. In this sense, the attitude of Serbian public towards Russia is unique because this "credit" Russia is not in any other country. But this factor is Russia neglecting and not paying the attention I should, although this is a very interesting phenomenon, which can serve as a model for understanding, and the gradual development of Russian soft power in other countries of Europe. Thank you!

Nikola Tanasic


Tags: Russia , Balkans

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