Project “Dissent”


Platform “Dissent. 1990s anti-war Serbia” is a digital archive dedicated to the history of Serbia’s anti-war movement and independent media in the 1990s. The platform’s goal (project holder Kulturni centar GRAD, Belgrade, director Dejan Ubovi) is to preserve the memory of anti-war activists and groups that have opposed chauvinism, ethnic exclusivity, war propaganda, destruction, and crimes in various ways. “Dissent” aims to provide a representative overview of the most notable anti-war individuals, groups, media, documents, and publications in Belgrade and parts of Vojvodina. The initiative will be expanded to include the entire territory of the former Yugoslavia in the future. This platform is the first step toward installing the exhibition “Labyrinth of the 1990s” (scheduled for spring 2023) and developing the 90s Museum (planned for 2025).

The “Dissent” project’s first goal was to locate and digitize documents, manifestos, proclamations, letters, documentary material, and images held in private archives. We are immensely thankful to Staša Zajović, Lepa Mlađenović, Lina Vušković, Dubravka Velat, Jelena Trpković, Lula Mikijelj, Irina Subotić, Irina Ljubić, who selflessly shared with us the materials they possessed. Without them, the story of the nineties would not be possible. In the “Gallery” section, there are photos of Goranka Matić. On this occasion, we would like again to thank Goranka for her help and generous contribution.

Furthermore, within the methodological procedure of oral history, interviews were conducted with participants of the critical actions to shed light on ideas, organizational challenges, and obstacles encountered during anti-war activities in Belgrade. Although oral history has its methodological limitations, it does provide insight into subjective viewpoints and conclusions, personal perceptions, interpretations, and feelings that help researchers to reconstruct the atmosphere of the past, activists’ values, principles, and ideas. “Dissent” also mapped the most prominent independent media that opened space for anti-war voices and a critical approach to social reality.

Who is represented in this project? Oral history interviews were conducted with Vesna Pešić (Center for Anti-War Actions), Nataša Kandić (Humanitarian Law Center), Staša Zajović (Women in Black), Sonja Biserko (Helsinki Committee for Human Rights), Ana Miljanić (Centre for Cultural Decontamination). In addition, there are Lina Vušković and Lepa Mlađenović, feminists involved in several feminist organizations, who were part of the anti-war movement. Lepa Mlađenović was also a prominent lesbian activist. Ljiljana Spasić is the most representative of activists from Pančevo; Filip David and Ivan Čolović, who spoke about the activities of the Belgrade Circle. The platform also features an interview with Biljana Kovačević – Vučo, the prematurely deceased president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM). That interview can be found on the audio-photo Archive of journalist Dragoslav Simić (there is a link to this conversation on the platform). The Archive contains documents from the activities of the Center for Anti-War Action, parts of Jelena Šantić’s fund (the entire fund is located in the Historical Archive of Belgrade), documents and publications: Belgrade Circle, Humanitarian Law Center, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Woman in Black, YUCOM, CZKD and various feminist and lesbian organizations.

As for the media, the “Dissent” project presents interviews with B92 founders Veran Matić and Saša Mirković, as well as with the editors of Kikindske, Naša Borba, and Vranjske newspaper – Željko Bodrožić, Zdravko Huber and Vukašin Obradović. In addition, we digitized all issues of Our Struggle (Naša Borba)published during February and March 1995; made available the covers of the weekly newspaper Bečkerek and pointed to websites where other critical-minded and anti-war media can be found. Although our initiative is still in its early stages, we hope that over the years, the database of interlocutors and documents will continue to increase over time, eventually becoming a comprehensive and well-rounded entity.

Why is this topic important for researchers now, and what role did peace movements and activism play in the 1990s? The ranges are varied but also difficult to quantify. Socio-historical processes show that activism is essential and ideas are unyielding. Public space to express disagreement with the political mainstream has always been important. As scholars, historians, and project participants, we believe it is critical to make this collection publicly available to help future research and remind everyone of the importance of courageous and persistent voices under challenging times.

Concept: Dejan Ubović, Dubravka Stojanović, Snježana Milivojević, Igor Štiks

Project coordinator: Dubravka Stojanović

Research, collection of documents, interviews, texts: Sanja Radović

Research and production: Ana Radaković

Collaborator on the project (independent media): Mila Bajić

Web design and development: Faust agency

Design of the site: Sanja Radović