Otpor - An Organization in Action

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Otpor - An Organization in Action ...

Vladimir Ilić

    The Popular Movement Otpor - Between Europe and Re-traditionalization

    The popular movement Otpor (Resistance) is a phenomenon which has left its mark on Serbia‟s political stage at the very end of the last decade of the 20th century. Having been established in 1998, it attracted media attention, launched various actions and, especially, grew in numbers and organized structurally at the height of a police crackdown against its members in the spring of 2000. Otpor has played a major part in persuading the „silent majority‟ to go to the September 2000 polls in order to bring forward the end the neo-socialist regime. Although the full significance of the part played by Otpor can only be assessed on the basis of comprehensive and reliable information about the events and activities leading to the September 24 election results which greatly facilitated the October 5 overthrow, such data as were available fully justify the assessment given above.

     This study is the result of an empirical questionnaire-type survey carried out in the latter part of October 2000. Irrespective of whether Otpor as such will continue to grow and operate for the situation has changed radically since its

    formative days its organization and the attitudes and frame of mind of its members are a topic which it not without interest. At present, Otpor is highly popular among the general public and is often seen as possessing charismatic attributes. However, it has been pointed out that unreserved praise is sometimes a sign that the recipient is about to perform his swan-song; undivided flattery as a rule is counterproductive in the case of those social actors, especially large political organizations, who are perceived as serious obstacles to groups already controlling large resources of society or at least those who aspire to increase their control of such resources. The absence of any public criticism of Otpor so far may mean that it is regarded as someone who has played his role and is now expected to exit the stage as a relative autonomous political factor; this, of course, does not mean that certain factions and individual members of Otpor may not be recruited by some political parties and other interested organizations. After all, Otpor is still needed as a reserve echelon until the December republican elections in Serbia to throw its weight behind certain political goals such as loosening the grip of the defeated extreme left- and right-wing groupings on these resources, or at least to help the so-called democratic opposition to remain together as the challenge of its political adversaries weakens. However, generally speaking, the absence of any principled opposition to Otpor leads us to the conclusion that its effective influence is less and less; we must bear in mind that the extent of criticism levelled against somebody is a most reliable indicator of his influence on public life. Needless to say, all foretelling is risky; we have all been surprised by events we considered the least likely of a number of possibilities at the time of their prediction. At least we hope that the material presented here will give a true picture of the organization because we believe that it was collected during a period coinciding with the organization‟s developed stage.

Otpor as a Political Organization

    Otpor projects itself, and is also visualized by part of its membership, as a spontaneous and largely diffusely organized movement. This image is fundamentally incorrect. Otpor is a political organization with a rather well-developed structure, a relatively secluded leadership, an invisible but efficient hierarchy, and internal informal censorship characteristic of organizations of this

kind (cf. Pavlović, 2000). According to well-informed members, major, especially

    political, decisions are made by the leadership comprising a rather exclusive circle coordinating the organization‟s political strategy for the whole of Serbia. Communication within the organization is rapid, indicating considerable efficiency: for instance, minor incidents in the interior of the country such as regularly occur during data gathering are publicly reported in Belgrade or Novi Sad within two days. Activists began doing field work without asking prior permission by the organization because it had portrayed itself as a spontaneous movement with a diffuse structure bearing no resemblance to political parties. In launching the project, the author decided to respect this public image of the organization; also, in the absence of any public information about a structure and a hierarchy on a para-political-party basis, he believed that there was no one whom he should approach for consent. However, the leadership of the organization was informed as soon as the gathering of information started. Realizing his fallacy, the author got in touch with the leadership to learn its position on the gathering of data; at the same time all field work was suspended. The author appreciates the leadership‟s prompt agreement

    to go ahead with the project.

     At this juncture it should be recalled that an object of any ambitious study irrespective of its subject is to discover how much heterogeneity there is behind an apparent homogeneity. In our particular case a separate study of the organization leaders would be quite justified to broaden our knowledge. However, the author gave up this idea after gaining the impression during informal meetings with some Otpor leaders that they would be disinclined to answer questions which are usually put to political party leaders, above all those concerning the sources and methods of finance, possible factional differences and any liaison with abroad. Both Otpor leaders and activists insist in their frequent press statements that the organization‟s

    sole or predominant source of funds is the Serb diaspora. However, the author‟s professional experience, his private conversations with some Otpor leaders, and the content of radio broadcasts such as those as Voice of America tell him that this is not so. On the other hand, the organization‟s adamant denial of any Western financial assistance other than that received from the Serb diaspora tells us a lot about the ideological profile of the organization and what image its leaders believe would go down well with the domestic public. The same goes for questions about contacts between Otpor leaders and relevant foreign actors, and about the training of activists abroad. According to activists themselves, such training did take place but any discussion of it among members would be considered an offence against the tacit internal censorship; the author did not insist on gathering information of this kind because he fully respected the principle of voluntariness. For this reason no separate survey of the organization‟s leaders was carried out and the

    questionnaire which served as the main source of information did not contain questions of this kind.

     The foregoing remarks about the Otpor leadership should not be construed as an overstatement of its significance. There can be no doubt that the activists themselves, by virtue of their sheer numbers and the extensive scope of their actions, have contributed largely to the definition of the organization‟s character. Some of them have, either through their work or their media exposure, caused the informal hierarchy within the organization to become less rigid. The very extent of Otpor activities, let alone their frequency, have been conducive to the democratization of its internal structure and have, according to all informal accounts, prevented the creation of concentric circles within the organization. Otpor‟s success in pursuing its main declared objective – mobilizing the public to

    overthrow the regime has largely contributed to the democratization of its internal

    structure. The difference between the organization and the then opposition parties in this regard is apparent (Ilić, 2000a). By the time this analysis was written in

    November 2000, Otpor had not manifested any signs of internal divisions or disintegration characteristic of earlier student movements. Otpor was held together mainly by its determination to oust the key person in the previous regime who was seen as a dictator (we shall here not go into the justifiability of such a perception), and to change the system. A well-informed correspondent whose identity will not be revealed has said that „the idea (of Otpor) embraced all kinds of options and

    positions you could have supported it regardless of whether you were a

    republican, a monarchist, an SDU (Social Democratic Union) or a DSS (Democratic Part of Serbia) man... It gave you the sort of freedom the political party denies by its very definition, and this is probably why many party members joined in its activities. The whole concept of an organization without a leader, a populist approach with nationalistic overtones echoed in messages such as “Otpor, yes, because I love Serbia”, was evolved with the object of rectifying the mistakes in the approach of the (former) opposition and scoring the greatest possible effect in the population at large‟. There is no doubt that such a unanimous and extremely narrow personalization of the enemy was highly effective as a factor of group integration; things were also greatly facilitated by the behaviour of the enemy himself, i.e. his police force, which conducted a broad campaign of low-level repression against members of the organization. Of course, this general level of low repression does not imply the absence of all brutality: the savage beatings of activists in Vladiĉin Han and Poţarevac are but the most notorious examples, and the way in which the police treated others in connection with the shooting of Boško Perošević, a high-ranking member of the Socialist Party of Serbia, in Novi Sad suggested the possibility of much tougher methods. However, the police generally restricted themselves to briefly interviewing large numbers of activists: they questioned a total of over 2,000, including 200 minors, of whom some 300 were interrogated five or more times (According to a report by the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Fund (HLF). The HLF said that „the police applied the following operational and crime-suppression procedures against Otpor activists and other dissentients: arrest and/or detention, the carrying out of informative conversations, picture-taking and fingerprinting, and searching flats and confiscating effects‟. Repression of this kind could only have consolidated the organization and, what is more, helped its growth. But HLF analysts did not quite concur: „The massive

    public arrests, the questioning during informative conversations, and the opening of criminal records of Otpor activists had the object of intimidating young people, their parents and democratically-minded citizens, and deterring them from directly participating in Serbia‟s political life out of concern for their personal safety‟. What they failed to realize is that the detained activists became hero figures in their environments and were particularly looked up to by their peers; their reputation as victims of police repression encouraged ever larger numbers of young people to join the ranks. We still do not know whether the tactics used by the police, i.e. applying repression to the degree to which it was most conducive to the spreading and strengthening of Otpor in particular and of opposition to the regime in general, was a result of incompetence on the part of police leaders, their feeling of impotence to confront the wave of impending change, or a calculated move to precipitate the end of the regime. „An analysis of the police procedures points to an organized and synchronized action with precise orders, instructions and objectives‟, the HLF analysts say in their report, adding that the action was characterized by a „uniform procedure in all the cases‟.

     Other aspects of Otpor were also intentionally omitted from this report because initial contacts in the field showed a disinclination on the part of the interviewees to answer specific questions, above all those pertaining to the interviewing of recruits and the method, content and location of their training. These initial interviews were probably carried out to assess the ability and capacity of recruits for specific assignments; as to the content of the educational courses, especially those carried out abroad, no conclusion can be drawn without first interviewing some of the entrants. Likewise, regarding the distribution of funds within the organization as well as its sections and certain personalities, all research was stopped after initial informal contacts because it had become clear that no information could be obtained without violating the principle of voluntariness. Nonetheless the question of training and funds and their distribution should not be overestimated. From what the author has learnt indirectly or inferred from radio broadcasts from Voice of America and other stations, the alternative in Serbia, comprising both political parties and people coalesced around nongovernmental organizations with the sole or main object of bringing down the regime, has been flooded with money of foreign origin throughout most of 2000. Uneven and non-transparent distribution of resources whereby large sums are channelled into secret funds is fairly common in countries much better organized than ours. Of course, it would be unfair to assume that Otpor is the chief offender in this regard. At the same time, the insistence, however unconvincing, that the organization is funded solely from Serb diaspora resources was largely understandable in view of strong xenophobic sentiments in the former government and opposition and in the population at large following the NATO bombing campaign (cf. Ilić, 2000b). It would

    be wrong to attribute charismatic attributes to Otpor just as it would be wrong to insist on its demystification at all costs and look only at its dark side. Whatever it may have in common with political parties in general, or with the majority of those on Serbia‟s political stage towards the end of the 20th century, it is certain to remain in the forefront for some time on account of its influence and role in bringing down a highly repressive regime.

The Sample and Its Realization

    The planning of the sample was determined largely by the lack of systematic data on the population. At one time lists of Otpor activists were kept in special places and were invariably incomplete. A much greater problem is the marked discrepancy between the composition of the organization as shown by the lists and its true structure. For the purposes of research the lists are irrelevant because many people who have nothing to do with the movement are listed as having the status of activists; at the same time, a great many participants in activities organized by Otpor are not to be found in the lists. The large number of activists who have left the organization bear witness to a great membership fluctuation: the personnel composition has changed considerably since the end of 1999 and especially since the time of Otpor‟s foundation. There are no systematic records on why activists are leaving Otpor; the information obtained from former activists in occasional contacts was not enough to throw light on this matter.

     According to a statement made at the Belgrade headquarters of Otpor, the organization had some 60,000 activists in October, and considerably higher figures have been quoted by the press. But the conclusions drawn by the pollsters, who sought information from relevant people in various Otpor offices, is that the above estimates are greatly exaggerated. The planned sample of 600 activists is regarded adequate because all are active members.

     In order to obtain as varied a sample as possible, care was taken to avoid collecting data solely from either offices so as not to encompass only the latest

    wave of activists in a constant stream of arrivals and departures or from hard

    core members. Instead a method known as snowball was used; the task was greatly facilitated by the fact that nearly all the pollsters had participated in earlier Otpor actions or student protests upon whose programmes, tactics and personnel Otpor has drawn. Upon examination of questionnaires no appreciable difference in responses was detected between those given at the various offices and those given by interviewees personally known to the pollsters.

     Of the 604 questionnaires collected, 573 passed the criteria of logic control. Most of the flippant responses and incorrectly filled out questionnaires came from central Serbia. Admittedly, the questionnaire was in many respects too demanding as a basis for conversation with very young people including many minors who comprise the bulk of Otpor activists. Some of the questions were intentionally formulated so as to appear out of place: although Otpor has defined itself as a popular movement it has been successful in establishing itself as a political actor; however the author was aware that a great many activists have joined the organization with other pursuits in mind than politics, such as amusement, leisure, making friends and social promotion. Furthermore, a survey of a professed political actor seen by others (political allies and opponents) above all as a political phenomenon called for an approach characteristic of research in the sphere of political sociology. The large number of indeterminate answers such as „don‟t know‟, „other‟ and the like was partly due to this incongruity of the political character of the organization and its membership consisting for the most part of young or very young people, predominantly dependants, who would very unlikely engage in politics in an organized manner in a better regulated environment. However, a conservative view of this matter would be inappropriate here: given the character of the previous regime and its inability to generate progress, it is quite natural that young people who would normally be studying or otherwise equipping themselves to earn their own living, should have come to regard political commitment as a matter of personal survival. The influence of various narrow-group and individual ambitions, as well as the fact that in the last twelve years student circles at Serbian universities and others have often concerned themselves with politics more than with their main business, should not be overestimated. Given the bleak prospects offered them by the former isolationist regime, it was no wonder that the students, and even the less politically-minded secondary school pupils, saw opposition political engagement as a way to solve their vital problems.

The Social Characteristics of the Sample

    The following picture of Otpor‟s membership was pieced together on the basis of some basic demographic and social characteristics of the sample.

     The sample comprised 61 per cent males and 39 per cent females (All the percentages here have been rounded). Some 30 per cent of them were around the age of maturity (18 years) or younger, 41 per cent were between 19 and 24 years of age, and the rest were older. Interviewees said informally that as the police repression intensified in the months following May 2000 the organization was joined by increasingly younger people. As regards occupation, the sample was dominated by students (51 per cent) and secondary-school pupils (30 per cent), also including just under 5 per cent workers, some 4 per cent unemployed and professionals each, 3 per cent white-collar workers, etc. Given the age and occupation of the respondents, it is understandable that most of them are yet to

    complete their education, while graduates were mostly from secondary vocational schools (34 per cent), primary schools (32 per cent), „gymnasiums‟ (28 per cent), two-year and four-year colleges (4 per cent), etc. Viewed in the light of these figures, Otpor is truly a popular youth movement comprising an absolute majority of students and a relative majority of young people being trained to engage in non-elite professions and occupations.

     As regards nationality, the sample was dominated by ethnic Serbs (82 per cent), their share in Vojvodina being under 77 per cent. Of course the share of ethnic Serbs of the sample does not necessarily reflect their share of the total because comprehensive and reliable data on the primary cluster are lacking. There is also a strong presence of Otpor in areas dominated by ethnic minorities such as Baĉki Petrovac and Subotica. It is worth recalling that, according to the population census of 1991, Serbs accounted for some 57 per cent of Vojvodina‟s population; it is also highly probable that their number in the province has increased appreciably during the past decade.

     In terms of their social background, which was gauged according to the father‟s occupation, most interviewees were children of professionals (35 per cent), qualified workers (31 per cent), white-collar workers (15 per cent), etc. There is a visible discrepancy between these figures and those relating to the structure of Otpor graduates, because the structure of occupations of Otpor members‟ fathers does not anywhere nearly reflect that of the total adult population. However, it would be rash to conclude that Otpor is a movement of middle- and lower-middle class descendants: given the youth of the respondents, the structure of their fathers‟ occupations differs from that for the whole population because their fathers too are relatively young people. In terms of demographic characteristics, Otpor is undeniably a predominantly urban organization though not a clearly profiled middle-class youth movement. This should be borne in mind by all who would like to make comparisons with earlier opposition movements such as the civic protest movement in the winter of 1996-97. Compared with it, Otpor is much more clearly defined in generational terms and much less in class terms. It is worth recalling that only 2 per cent manufacturing workers took part in the civic protests in Belgrade that winter, as against up to 85 per cent who came from the city centre or thereabouts (Ilić, 1999). By contrast Otpor has an incomparably greater proportion

    of youth of working class origins who are distributed, as far as could be gathered, far more evenly in the suburbs of Serbian towns.

     Success at school among Otpor members was also taken into account. The sample comprised 5 per cent with excellent marks, 15 per cent with very good marks, and 11 per cent with good or poor marks. The proportion of pupils with excellent marks in earlier surveys of the secondary-school population by the same author usually amounted to about one-quarter, or some three-fifths if combined with those with very good marks. It is unusual that excellent pupils should be uninterested in joining Otpor to such a large degree. It should be borne in mind that secondary-school success criteria have been lowered in the past decade so as to be unacceptable: occasionally respondents understood but could not answer certain questions such as those relating to events and personalities from the national history (The reason why such questions should nevertheless be asked was given above). Of the students, most were attending their second or first years or were undergraduates (12, 10 and 8 per cent respectively). The disproportionate number of the last relative to third- and fourth-year students can be attributed to the fact that they are not obliged to attend lectures and partly to an awareness that they have very little to hope for once they have taken their degrees. Interestingly, respondents 25 years of age or older included 15 per cent four-year students and

    as many as 25 per cent undergraduates. The successful engagement of these „veteran‟ students in their organization disproves the general notion that a person who is unsuccessful in his basic activity has no chance of succeeding in politics. The lassitude prevailing in Serbian society at the end of the 20th century has considerably weakened the students‟ motives to complete their education on time; instead they are interested in changing the system in order to be able to improve their prospects.

     31 per cent of respondents said they had up to two hours spare time a day, 45 per cent could spare two to six hours, and 22 per cent over six hours. 27 per cent spent two hours a day either in Otpor activities or on the premises, 35 per cent two to six hours, and also 35 per cent over six hours. The respondents‟ attachment to their organization, judged by their readiness to devote their time to it, was impressive. The students had by far the most spare time of all: as many as 65 per cent could spare over six hours a day, compared with 18 per cent secondary-school pupils. This information shows the degree to which the students are uninterested in serious study as a way of fulfilling their personal ambitions. On the other hand, a great many members of Otpor spend their spare time not only in activities covered by this study but in other public activities as well. For instance, as many as 18 per cent of respondents are members of political parties and 6 per cent are working for nongovernmental organizations, with 9 per cent engaged in these and other organizations, mainly student and sports organizations and societies. So large a proportion of young people putting politics above study would certainly be frowned upon in another country; in Serbia, however, such an attitude is quite understandable because the salary of a highly-educated professional in this country cannot cover his basic needs. That Otpor activists prefer politics to education is reflected by the performance of those who are still attending secondary school relative to their high school and university colleagues. However, they have not given up education for good: asked what they would do in the future, 56 per cent said they would continue their education, 18 per cent were thinking about starting a private business, and only 3 per cent saw a future in active politics. With the exception of some of the organization‟s leaders, who understandably see a chance of pursuing a political career, the majority of respondents are politically-minded because they have been forced to be that way. Asked how they would arrange their lives if they had a very large sum of money, say several hundred Deutschemarks, 31 per cent would invest it in business, 15 per cent would squander it on luxuries, 10 per cent would solve their accommodation problems, and 7 per cent would buy real estate to let.

     It would be interesting to compare the above answers to those in response to an identical question put to a sample of Serbian citizens between the ages of 25 and 35 as part of a survey of a representative sample. The differences are rather interesting. In the second case, a relative majority, though not as great (21 per cent), would have started a private business enterprise, 19 per cent would have bought themselves a flat, 9 per cent would have bought real estate to live on rent, 7 per cent each would either have emigrated or spent it on travel, 5 per cent would have bought expensive things, etc. What strikes the eye is that Otpor activists are much more entrepreneurially-minded than inclined to live on rent. Significantly, notwithstanding their youth, they would about as soon spend their money on better accommodation as the members of the „young middle generation‟. Such a preference indicates a relatively acute housing problem among the families of Otpor members; one would have expected them, given their youth, to be less keenly aware of their low living standards (including housing) than their elders are. More interestingly still, the prospect of living abroad does not appeal to them; the

    idea of emigrating and taking a large sum of money with one appeals to a negligible number of respondents. Unlike their seniors, most of them do not look back with nostalgia to life in a well-regulated and fairly well-to-do European country such as the former socialist Yugoslavia and are at the same time more optimistic about the possibility of change. In drawing comparisons one should bear in mind that the older sample was interviewed in October 1999, i.e. only a few months after the NATO bombing, as street protests were grinding to a halt, whereas the collection of information for this survey took place after the coup of 5 October 2000. People in Serbia do breathe more freely and look to the future with optimism now that the oppressive regime has gone; naturally this change for the better is also felt by Otpor activists, the youngest of all until-recently opposition political organizations in terms of the average age of its members. Besides the difference of timing, in collating the results of the two surveys one should also bear in mind the different ways in which the primary clusters were sampled.

     What about the material well-being of the respondents or rather of their families? Generally speaking, financial problems are the most frequent problems they encounter in their families. Asked to single out the most pressing problem of their family, as many as 47 per cent cited want, some 15 per cent common family problems, and the rest gave very diffuse answers. Most families of Otpor activists are indeed poor. Asked whether their families could collect 2,000 Deutschemarks in a week if hard pressed, 25 per cent said that their family had so much in savings, 49 per cent said it could borrow the sum, 13 per cent said the family would have to sell something, and 11 per cent declared that the sum could not be raised in any way. The question does not only indicate the present financial situation of the families but also their ability to cope with want. The financial situation of Otpor activists‟ families is better than, or more exactly not as bad as, that of members of the young middle generation. Of the latter, only every fifth had 2,000 Deutschemarks in cash and as many as 26 per cent would be unable to find so much money even in an emergency. Judged by these criteria, the financial situation of the families of Otpor activists is better than that of the second group. The difference can be attributed to the fact that the parents of Otpor activists belong to a generation which was in a position to accumulate reserves before the standard of living plummeted and to secure better paid jobs and social status than the considerably younger members of the sample polled in the autumn of 1999. Also, the parents of Otpor activists have benefited, however slightly, from the somewhat improved financial situation during 2000; the neo-socialist programme of rebuilding the country, an unrealistic undertaking in the long run launched for electioneering purposes, appears to have been of some slight benefit though results of research by some economics institutes, which will not be cited here owing to lack of space, suggest otherwise. It is interesting to note that the pauperized citizens showed much less vigour during their protests in 1999 than a year later. However, the difference in living standards between 1999 and 2000 was almost negligible if gauged in a different way. The respondents were namely asked to say what things their families had had to give up in the past year; 10 per cent said nothing, 38 per cent cited things which are usually considered as luxuries in Serbia, 41 per cent cited everyday non-vital necessities (such as petrol, cigarettes, newspapers and the like), and 10 per cent said they had had to cut down considerably on the basic necessities such as food, medicines and the like. The respective figures for the survey of 1999 were 11, 39, 40 and 10 per cent.

     Most Otpor activists are confessed believers: 24 per cent see themselves as dedicated believers, 36 per cent as religious people who nevertheless do not accept everything their faith preaches, 18 per cent as undecided as far as belief in

    god is concerned, 4 per cent as indifferent towards religion, 13 per cent as non-religious who do not oppose religion in others, and 2 per cent as more or less militant atheists. The questions designed to elicit the answers were not methodologically specific; a person‟s description of himself as a believer does not imply true belief and questions such as „Do you believe in life after death and/or in the resurrection of the dead?‟ would have reduced the percentage of believers in the sample. But even the broad questions used elicited a thoroughly positive attitude on the part of the sample towards religion. Comparison with numerous earlier surveys of youth religious attitudes in Serbia carried out under the former regime shows that the percentage of those who have embraced religion has increased enormously. The increase must be due in large part to the new social climate, especially to criticism of militant and „enlightened‟ communist atheism and its apology of the „charisma of reason‟. The change of attitude does not reflect a mere vogue or a longer-term shift in the tenor of the times: Otpor activists have responded to the intrusion of socialist secularized government by distancing themselves from all its ideological values, even those of much greater contemporary appeal than the re-traditionalization advocated by the greater part of the opposition. Now would be an opportunity to find out in what way the respondents‟ religious attitudes relate to their views on the social role of the Church and on other vital political issues.

The Socio-Political Consciousness

    An absolute majority of Otpor activists (50.3 per cent) hold that the Church ought not to engage in politics following the establishment of the new democratic order. On the other hand, a sizeable minority (34 per cent) believe that the Church should play an active part in Serbia‟s political life. The second opinion is shared by 43 per cent of those who declared themselves as dedicated believers, 32 per cent each of those who consider themselves believers with a reserve and those who declared themselves undecided, and 27 per cent of those who are not religious but do not oppose religion. There were too few other categories to merit statistical evaluation. It is obvious that a respondent‟s religious self-concept and his view of the Church‟s

    role in society are related. The percentage of respondents who believe that the Church ought to be politically active, i.e. those whose outlook is less modern than the until-recently predominating secular view of the matter, is by no means small. For analytical purposes the right question to ask would be whether the above attitudes represent an isolated segment of the socio-political consciousness of Otpor activists brought forth by support from the greater part of the Serbian Orthodox Church to youth organizations opposing the former regime, or whether it is part of a more firmly organized syndrome of traits bespeaking a basically non-progressive character of Otpor. One of the few modern characteristics of the neo-socialist government in Serbia during the 1990s was its ability to fine-tune its attitude to clericalism and to manipulate it in order to ensure the right degree of the Church‟s support for its nationalistic policy as well as to prevent a clericalization of society.

    The role of the Serbian Ortodox

    Churche in the new democratic order

    should have an active role34

    50.3should not intervene in politics


    4.9does not know

    9.2no answer


     There is no appreciable difference between pupil and student members of Otpor regarding their advocacy of greater active Church role, the respective percentages being 31 and 33 (other groups were too few for statistical evaluation). A break-down of graduates shows that an active Church role is supported by 30 per cent primary-school graduates (nearly all of whom are now attending secondary schools), 46 per cent secondary vocational school graduates, and 23 per cent „gymnasium‟ graduates. Interestingly, Serb respondents are not more clerically-oriented than their non-Serb opposite numbers, a phenomenon attributable in part to the fact that Otpor has brought together young people equally persecuted by the police of a secular regime. Support for a more active Church role in politics has to do more with respondents‟ social background than with their ethnic affiliation: 39 per cent by children of white-collar workers with secondary education, 38 per cent by children of qualified blue-collar workers, and 30 per cent by children of professionals. Support for the Church is greater in Belgrade at 43 per cent than in central Serbia (33 per cent) and Vojvodina (28 per cent). As already indicated, the respondents‟ attitude towards the Church‟s political engagement calls for an interpretation of their other attitudes. But before we move on to this it is worth noting some of the responses indicating how the respondents perceive the Church‟s active role in the new Serbia: a distinct minority who advocate the clericalization of society described their preferences as follows: „a great role‟, „a state-sponsored religion with religious classes in schools‟, „the role of a spiritual

    leader introduce religious instruction in schools by all means‟, „influence on the development of democracy and assistance in finding (solutions) to the national question‟, „an active part in restoring faith to the Antichrists‟, „being in power together with (Yugoslav president Vojislav) Koštunica‟, „enlightening the people on their cultural traditions‟, „taking things into its own hands and installing a king‟, „a clear strong (role) with emphasis on the preservation of the faith‟, „the same (role) it

    had under the Nemanjić and KaraĊorĊević dynasties‟, „as significant (a role) as in other states‟, „the role of a traditional cohesive factor‟, etc. The more numerous answers, in favour of separating the State and the Church, were less colourful and as a rule more in conformity with standard formulations; the near absence of any criticism of the Church‟s political engagement so far may be due to the

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