The Balkan Dialogue – 2020. Day 1

15 September 2020

On September 15, an opening ceremony of the annual educational and research program of the Gorchakov Fund “Balkan Dialogue – 2020” took place online. The main topics of the event were problems of falsification and distortion of history of World War II. 

The event was opened by Executive Director of the Gorchakov Fund Leonid Drachevsky. He welcomed participants of the conference and thanked the ambassadors of the Russian Federation for their participation in the discussion. Mr.   Drachevsky emphasized the broad geographical spread of the attendees and said that it was the first time when the Gorchakov Fund was organizing the Balkan Dialogue online.

“We have decided not to step away from the rule accepted earlier when the Balkan Dialogue did not last just for one or two days. It usually lasted for several days as it will be the case with the current event. Everyone will have an opportunity to share their thoughts… The Balkans have always been a key region and any serious turmoil affected not only Europe, but the whole world. Today, some serious events are taking place, which involve elections and changing policies”.

Leonid Drachevsky wished the participants success in their discussions.

After that, Head of the Executive Committee of the “Immortal Regiment of Russia” – one of the largest NGOs in Russia – Artem Khutorsky addressed the participants. This year, the Immortal Regiment has become an official partner of the event.

Mr. Khutorsky mentioned importance of the conference organized by the Fund as it brings together a large number of people and countries, and is crucial for development of the dialogue. “Such initiative will serve as one of the cornerstones in confrontation of wars, conflicts, antihumanism and political ambitions”.

The agenda of the Balkan Dialogue – 2020 was opened by a session dedicated to Serbia, which started with a presentation by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Serbia Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko. The ambassador thanked the head of the Gorchakov Fund for organizing the Dialogue despite the pandemic and emphasized importance of the event. “Results of the previous discussions were very useful for practical, day-to-day and diplomatic work, both at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow and at the representative offices in the Balkans. From the point of view of preserving historical memory, commemorative work, not allowing glorification of Nazim and rewriting the history, Serbia is taking a unique place, not only in the Balkans, but in Europe overall. Here, strong and enduring anti-fascist traditions are present as well as careful and attentive treatment of the memory about our joint liberation struggle for Yugoslavia and Europe. The Victory Day is our common holiday, which is still celebrated in Serbia with grandeur and on a high level, as in Russia. This has always been the case, even during the period of development of Serbia’s sovereignty”.

The ambassador added that the main goals of rewriting history is to undermine sovereignty and independence of a country, deprive it of its culture and memory, of its national characteristics.

Nikita Bondarev, Associate Professor at the Department of Foreign Regional Studies and Foreign Policy at Russian State University for the Humanities, in his speech, urged to remember the fact that the Balkans were a complicated region. We should know those complications and take them into account if we want to maintain a level of trust between Russia and Serbia.

Research Associate at the Institute of Recent History of Serbia Dr. Milana Zivanovic presented her book to the audience, which is dedicated to the contribution made by the Red Army into the liberation of Yugoslavia and includes data on the number of victims that had died on that territory and the burial sites of the soldiers.

Director of the International Center “Memorial” Antonela Bijelic-Milojica told the participants about leaders of the militia; she mentioned importance of preserving the historical memory, emphasized the fact that the society and the youth were demonstrating interest in those events and expressing desire to serve as volunteers.

Correspondent of Novi Standard Andrej Cvijanovic spoke about consequences of the media war, which had been accelerating, at least, over the past decade, and mentioned importance of confronting falsifications of history in mass media.

After that, a session dedicated to Croatia took place and was opened by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Croatia Anvar Azimov.

“During my 5-year mission in Croatia, we have opened 6 monuments to Russian poets, writer and astronauts. 13 monuments to Soviet soldiers and officers on the territory of Croatia are maintained in a good condition. Many NGOs, for example, the Union of Anti-Fascists help to preserve the historical memory. In April of the next year, we will be opening the 14th monument to Soviet soldiers, which symbolizes a sign of gratitude of Croatia to the Soviet Union and Russia for its help”, said the Ambassador.

The ambassador mentioned that there had not been a single case of vandalism of monuments in Croatia; rewriting the history in Croatia is also absent; the crucial role of the Red Army is mentioned in the textbooks.

He added that the Russian-Croatian relations serve as a great example of how relations could be developed, both with a country-member of NATO and a member of the European Union. “We have signed two contracts with Croatia in the military-technical area. I urge Russian citizens to treat the sincere Croatian people with gratitude”.

Read more in Russian here