Milorad Dodik Speech Sparks Protest

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Protesters on the steps

Yesterday evening President of Republika Srspska Milorad Dodik gave a lecture titled “An American Foreign Policy Success Story:  The Dayton Accords, Republika Srpska and Bosnia’s European Integration.” Dodik has attracted controversy over statements about the Yugoslav wars. Specifically, Dodik holds that the Tulza Massacre was staged, questions the reports of the Markale massacres, and, though he does not deny that the killings took place, does not consider the Srebrenica Massacre an act of genocide.

Beginning at noon a group of students and other protesters gathered on the Low steps, chanting and bearing banners. Some stayed until the speech was over to chant as Dodik left the library seven hours later. Opposition to his speaking engagement had been circulating earlier this week in academic and Bosniak expat fora, yet on campus publicity for the event seems to have been minimal. Though the event was open to the public, many non-students who registered online were turned away at the door.

President Dodik’s speech focused on the issue of autonomy for Republika Srpska. Srpska (not to be confused with the country of Serbia) is not an independent country, but one of two autonomous entities (along with the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) that make up the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as Bosnia. The main difference between the two entities is ethnic: Srpska is mostly made up of Serbs, while the Federation is full of Bosniaks and Croats.

This confusing state of affairs is a result of the 1995 Dayton Accords, which ended the Bosnian War by creating the decentralized state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The hope was that the ethnic and religious divides between Serbs and Bosniaks could be overcome if the two groups were part of the same country. But Dodik objects to this idea. He insisted that the Dayton Accords gave great autonomy to Republika Srpska, and it is only recently that “foreigners” have been trying to infringe on his sovereignty by giving the central government of Bosina and Herzegovina more power. While he acknowledged that “peace is the basis of any future solution,” he also argued that “a unified government [of Bosnia Herzegovina] will lead the country to war.” Clearly, he will not be happy until Republika Srpska is its own nation, which is unlikely to happen.

Many Bosnians see Dodik’s desire for a separate Republika Srpska as a dangerous example of Serb nationalism and racism, but Dodik does not see it that way. “I’m not spreading hate speech,” he explained in response to one audience question, “I have a lot of Bosniak friends!” Bosnians also object to Dodik’s whitewashing of genocide. Last night, he tried to dismiss the Srebenica massacre by pointing out that “there were crimes happening elsewhere, too.” After an audience member who asked why Republika Srpska sent a government plane to pick up a convicted war criminal from the Hague, he indignantly replied that “it’s my jet and I can do whatever I want with it!”

Dodik’s chief concern is with the way the international community treats Serbs. He’s worried that Serb culture and nationalism is inextricably linked to genocide, and he’s offended by the idea that Serbs should be kept in the same country as Bosniaks and Croats so they can learn to get along with them instead of killing them. But that does not excuse the insensitivity of excusing war crimes and wanting to secede from a country just to get away from a different ethnic and religious group. Dodik’s speech was interesting, but not terribly convincing.

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  1. Anonymous  

    lol there are like three people there #dontcare

  2. Santa

    I am speechless !!! Its a shame for Columbia, its a shame for those who invited this person and probably received lucrative donation from his government (govt. that spent 14mil USD this yr. for lobbing in USA, second next to Kayman Islands). Not to mention those who were denied entrance on the basis of their Bosniac ethnicity and name that sounded Muslim !!! Incredible! Horror and shame!

  3. Anonymous

    9/11 was Yugo-Crimean blowback. They bombed the poor Serbs, who lost one third of their population, a full million, half a century ago, so they could cover Pacelli's war crimes and make him a saint. Ghooliani had Albanian thugs demonstrating outside Manhattan's Serb Cathedral during 1999 Easter midnight.

  4. Anonymous  

    What in the world are you talking about? Smells like radical Serb propaganda....

  5. Shayla

    Shame on Columbia for even inviting and supporting such a individual. "Republika Srpska sent a government plane to pick up a convicted war criminal from the Hague, he indignantly replied that “it’s my jet and I can do whatever I want with it!”" What kind of response is that?

  6. Sanel

    Banning muslim visitors to attend the lecture in the U.S.A. just because of religion, should not be tolerated anywhere in the world, let alone this prestige campus. This is what our brave soldiers are fighting for, and yet on the steps of the Columbia University, all that is shattered. "Dayton a success?" - isn't that very same Dayton from which Dodik was asking to declare independence for Republic of Serbia (from Bosnia and Herzegovina)...? Isn't he the president of a sub-state which International War Crimes Tribunal declared that they were responsible for genocide? And still defying all International Courts, and their decisions (as long it does not suit them)! Shame on CUNY

  7. Emily

    What a shame for Columbia University and its Chairman. Bringing such a person, full of hatred and natioanalism, who does not have any moral values to admit that his politics did the most horrific genocide in Europe since WWII. Ignorance and boldness of such person and his followers, great efforts for continual denial and his effort to equalize the crimes (between Serbs and Bosnians) is ridiculous. Banning real Bosnian people to enter (no matter on ethnicity) is a great shame on tolerance and democracy. Republik of Serpska is cancerous formation that deepening to Bosnia and its people more nationalistic disease and instability, and at the end that what Mr. Dodik is encouraging -

  8. Anonymous

    I thought that Columbia knew better and the Chairman, this is all great Serbian lobby. Shame, Shame , Shame on Columbia

  9. Anonymous

    He is a pig !!!!!!!!!!!!! The university is worse than him for letting him even show his ugly face there.

  10. Anna

    What's particularly upsetting is that the Republika Srpska constituency keeps re-electing this idiot. His nationalist rhetoric attracts more attention than the economic and social problems plaguing RS; he's perpetually making near-absurd statements to garner attention. Furthermore, his intransigent hate speech detracts attention from the fact that all three ethnic groups vested with political power in Bosnia, not just the Serbs, have done their fair share to curtail the formation of a functional and unified government. It would seem that Dodik could be the Serbian Vladimir Zhirinovsky - by and large, a publicity-craving laughingstock - but for the support he has in RS. It's truly disappointing to see that the citizens of RS are incapable of electing a more reform-minded leader akin to Serbia's Tadic.

  11. Anonymous

    you people are all idiots. Explain to me one at a TIME if you DARE and we'll see if this man is an idiot OR YOU... Starting off with, why would Bosniaks hate Serbs yet want them in one nation. Do you see the future? Do you foresee this as sustainable and politically cognitive? Why is he such a monster? Solely based on the fact that he is a Serb?

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