Far right grows on Serbian campuses

February 28, 2003

Rightwing anti-western and anti-democratic student groups are rising in popularity among Serbian students.

History students at Belgrade University have founded a group to campaign for the rehabilitation of Serbian second world war Nazi collaborators and anti-communist resistance leaders. The organisation is called St Justin the Philosopher after Justin Popovic, the Serbian head of an orthodox religious community. Theology and philology students are also particularly active in rightwing bodies.

These groups dislike not only communists, "non-Serbs" and gays, but also Otpor (Resistance), the student movement that led the struggle against Slobodan Milosevic but is now much weakened.

The rightwing students appear to be linked to Obraz (Face), which propagates a xenophobic brand of romanticised ethnocentric Serbian history, orthodox Christian fundamentalism, anti-communism and anti-Semitism.

Obraz, which is openly supported by several Serbian priests but not the church, has been involved in several high-profile incidents in the past two years. These include an attack on a gay parade, a campaign against an allegedly anti-Serbian exhibition by a US photojournalist, and anti-Semitic and anti-Roma graffiti.

On Christmas Eve, a group of young men, believed to be students of theology and Obraz members, stopped the traditional Anglican service inside the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade.

The Association of Serbian Student Unions has distanced itself from the far-right groups.

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