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The Hidden Hand of Violence
 
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The Warning - Propaganda effort spread ominous threat of ''the white plague.''


T
he Serbian nationalist movement of the 1980s and early ’90s relied heavily on propaganda designed to create fear of aggression by Muslims, Croats and Bosnians.

One aspect of that effort was to impart a threat that the Serbians were going to be outnumbered by the differing ethnic groups.

“The development of this propaganda may be divided into two phases, although they are constantly intertwined,” wrote Stasa Zajovic, author and president of a women’s association in Belgrade, in “Birth, Nationalism and War” in 1994.

“The first phase started as early as the middle of the eighties. It consists of the preparation of various projects aimed at the ‘suppression of the white plague’ [the name given to a reported decrease of childbirth rates among Serbian women]. The second phase is the propaganda about childbearing for patriotic reasons, that is, for the enhancement of national security.”

At the beginning of the “first phase,” continued Zajovic, “demographers followed territorial principles, asserting that in central and eastern Serbia, as well as in Vojvodina, the birth-rate was dropping at an alarming rate, while in Kosovo it was rising disturbingly. At this time, demographers had not yet introduced the ethnic aspect. The imbalance of the demographic development was explained instead either by economic factors or by changes in the system of values. As a solution, mostly administrative measures were offered.

“The demographic discourse — in accordance with the expansion of the nationalist ideology — soon acquired a repressive, racist character,” Zajovic wrote.

It also soon permeated Serbian officialdom. “Official documents started multiplying,” said Zajovic. Among them was a Resolution on the Renewal of Population, which contained a paper of June 30, 1992 entitled “The Warning” — composed by nine national institutions and adopted by the Socialist Party of Serbia at a subsequent congress as an official document.

“The Warning” heralded the ominous “threat” that minority peoples posed to the Serbian majority, declaring per Zajovic that since “Albanians, Moslems and Gypsies, with their higher birth-rate, deviate from rational, human reproduction, [they] threaten the rights of other peoples.”


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