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Vidovdan: Serbia’s day of destiny

Today is Vidovdan or St. Vitus Day, one of the most if not the most important days in the Serbian national calendar.

It was on the 28th of June in 1389 that the Battle of Kosovo ended, a heroic struggle for Serbian freedom against Ottoman Turkish colonial oppression. Although Serbia lost the battle, it is widely seen as Serbia’s version of what the Battle of Thermopylae was for the Hellenic world. It was during the Battle of Thermopylae that Spartan King Leonidas I stood alone with just 300 Spartan fighters against the massive attack of the Persians under Xerxes I.

During the Battle of Kosovo, outnumbered Serb forces were able to inflict heavy loses on the much bigger Ottoman contingent, killing their leader Sultan Murad in the process.

Serbia would remain a colony of the Ottoman Empire until the struggle for national liberation which started in 1804 and formally ended in 1878 when Russia and Serbia worked together to secure international recognition for an independent Serbian state.

Indeed it was on the 28th of June in 1876 when the final battle for Serbian independence against Ottoman Turkey commenced.

But these are not the only events that Serbia marks on the 28th of June.

It was also on this day that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austo-Hungarian Empire was assassinated in occupied Sarajevo. This is widely seen as the formal beginning of the First World War.

At the end of the war, it was on the 28th of June on which the notorious Treaty of Versailles was signed, a treaty meant to restore peace to Europe but which in actual fact, helped pave the war for the Second World War, a war where Serbians stood proudly against fascist aggression in southern Europe.

In 1921, the Vidovdan Constitution was ratified in the  Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the state that would become Yugoslavia in 1929.

Later in 1989 on the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, Serbian President Slobodan Milošević gave his much misunderstood Gazimestan speech in which he promised that the state would do more to protect the Serbs of Kosovo and Metohija who had been under attack from Albanian terrorists who were attempting to foment a war in a once peaceful province.

In 1986, it was Milošević who repudiated the SANU Memorandum which asked for Serbs living outside of Serbia, in other Yugoslav republics, to have the same rights as minorities living in provinces of Serbia. The SANU Memorandum also warned of creeping nationalist and far-right aggression against Serbs for the mere ‘crime’ of being Serbs.

In the Gazimestan speech, Milošević was seen to offer contrition for ignoring the grievances of Serbian people from provinces like Kosovo and Metohija. It was there that he made a commitment to defend them against terrorism and violent aggression.

Of course that same Milošević was demonised by NATO, the EU and the wider west when he made good on his word and defended the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia against Croatian nationalists and Sunni Bosnian radicals. Later he also defended Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija  against Albanian terrorist groups like the KLA.

The US took the KLA off the official State Department list of terrorist groups shortly before NATO committed a series of war crimes during its totally illegal war upon Yugoslavia in 1999, a war which killed thousands of Serbian civilians, destroyed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, destroyed churches, a news station, hospitals, orphanages and bridges throughout Serbia and Montenegro.

Adding insult to injury, it was on the 28th of June that  Milošević was sent to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He would die in prison under mysterious circumstances, only to be exonerated after death.

Serbia’s history of struggle against oppression, fighting for justice against extreme odds and being on what most righteous people consider to be the correct side of history whether struggling against Ottoman oppression, fascist imperialism or modern terrorism and nationalism, Serbia can hold her head high, especially on the 28th of June.

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