The biggest support for Putin’s denazification of Ukraine comes from the Balkan neo-Nazis
Not every Russophile in the Balkans is a neo-Nazi, but every neo-Nazi in the Balkans is a Russophile. More precisely – a fan of Vladimir Putin, his current, and especially his imagined future Russia. The leader, who set out on a campaign against Ukraine with the goal of “denazifying” it, has his strong foothold in Europe, that is, in the Balkans, and it consists of obscure organizations that nurture all Nazi traditions, rituals and ideas, plus the worship of Vladimir Putin.
Putin’s announcement that he was marching on Ukraine in order to “denazify” it was in itself confusing for all those who were excluded from his propaganda waves, so the whole world minus Russia. His supporters in the Balkans were also confused. They probably thought that nurturing the purity of the Orthodox faith and race, advocating the unification of Orthodox people in order to oppose the decadence of the West, and perceiving themselves as successors to the great medieval Orthodox emperors who ruled the Balkans, as well as attacking migrants from Asia and local Roma was not Nazism.
They certainly did not perceive as Nazism the fact that they like to dress in military uniforms and pose armed in front of flags with medieval symbols and inscriptions in the archaic Russian-Slavic language. And they did not understand that Putin’s war cry for “denazification” was related to them in any way. After all, they cleared their confusion by returning to the axiom – Worship Putin and everything he does, and you will be on the right path.
“Greece, Serbia and Russia should unite in an Orthodox alliance. There is only one leader and his name is Vladimir Putin” – said Christos Alexopoulos, president of a marginal nationalist organization that should gather Greeks in Serbia. It is called Srbiza, which is a clear association with the Greek original Syriza, with which it shares extreme anti-Western ideas.
One leader, one religion, and one nation – this is just one of the common “values” of Balkan extremists, which make them replicates of old, Nazi ideas. There is also the superiority, and the Orthodox Slavs being the chosen ones in relation to other religions and nations. Anti-Semitism is also implied, as is racism towards migrants from the Middle East and local Roma. All pro-Putin groups in the Balkans present themselves as militant and militarized, ready for arms. Like their predecessors in the 1930s, they long for the return of territories that “naturally” belong to Serbia (or Russia). Their role models from the past are quislings from the period of German occupation in the Second World War. In the Balkans, they do not recognize the existence of any nation other than the Serbian one; they celebrate war crimes from the 1990s against Muslims and Albanians, especially the genocide in Srebrenica as a heroic act. After Putin, Ratko Mladić is the greatest idol and authority.
In the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they got the way out of their ideological confusion in which their undisputed leader Vladimir Putin kept them for years. Although they adore and celebrate him, they could hardly “process” Putin’s nostalgia for the Soviet Union, and especially Russia’s nurturing of Second World War traditions. This love was confusing. How to worship Putin while he celebrates the Red Army and the communist “liberation” of half of Europe, and at the same time to worship their own, local war leaders, who all fought on the side of the Nazis?
Convinced that Russia’s fight against the “Nazis” in Ukraine has brought relief to their wandering in search of identity, the Balkan neo-Nazis have in fact reached a common ground with their idol from the Kremlin. He came to their positions.
Pro-Putin marches in Belgrade
During the first month of the war in Ukraine, two major street demonstrations were organized in Belgrade, at which support was given to Russia and Putin for their armed aggression. Both were organized by extreme right-wingers from the People’s Patrols, the Serbian-Russian Movement and the Serbian Action. According to all the characteristics, they are pure neo-Nazis, who also adore the Russian president and consider him the leader of the Orthodox world in the fight against the West.
The example of their long-term activities, especially their actions during Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, shows better than anywhere else the strong connection between the official policy of the Kremlin and the neo-Nazi structure of its most loyal followers in the Balkans.
Organizers of pro-Russian rallies in Belgrade have been known for years for their violent actions against migrants from the Middle East, as well as against local Roma. Members of the People’s Patrols appeared in public with one of those actions, when in February 2020, in the center of Belgrade, while wearing masks they intercepted groups of migrants, forcing them off the streets and into the reception centers. They handed out leaflets stating that “it is forbidden for migrants to move outside the reception centers from 10 pm to 6 am” and in groups of more than three people.
They warned them that “the response will be fierce”, that “they will not go unpunished” if they do not respect their rules and if they continue with “migrant violence”. Forcing them from the center of Belgrade, they shouted at frightened migrants – “Serbia to Serbs”, “Fences to migrants, freedom to citizens!”
Their action was quite shocking for the public in Serbia, which for years has shown high tolerance and empathy towards refugees from Asia, even President Aleksandar Vučić spoke with harsh words – “Fascist scum, stop with that!” They did not calm down; they continued to occasionally harass smaller groups of migrants in Belgrade and other cities, the last time in Subotica, along the border with Hungary, on March 16 this year.
Similar actions were carried out by members of the Leviathan, a neo-Nazi group which uses protection of animals from abuse as a cover. In October 2020, for example, they patrolled the center of Belgrade while wearing masks, armed with batons and, accompanied by a Staffordshire terrier, intercepted migrants and threatened them to leave the city. Roma were systematically threatened through social networks, which is why domestic institutions (the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality) and some international organizations demanded that they remove all threatening messages from the Internet.
Neo-Nazi arms in the Balkan region
Muscular, tattooed and uniformed guys from the Serbian Honor organization, originally registered in Niš, Serbia, are very active in Republika Srpska. There is a Russian-Serbian humanitarian center in this city, officially an interstate hub for quick interventions in cases of natural disasters, but for years under great suspicion of the West that it is actually a Russian intelligence and logistics point in the center of Serbia. It was in that center that members of the Serbian Honor were photographed several times, and according to media reports, they practiced shooting from firearms there.
“We offered help to the fraternal Center in the form of personnel”, wrote the leader of the Serbian Honor, Bojan Stojković, with a photo of his uniformed comrades in the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center taken in 2016. They made a real commotion two years later, in Banja Luka, dressed in camouflage uniforms, carrying Russian and Serbian flags, marching through the city center, and occupying the surrounding restaurants. To make matters more serious, these militant extremists were received as official guests in the Assembly of the Republika Srpska, as well as at the celebration of the Day of the Republika Srpska on January 9, 2018.
There has been an entire extremist movement in Montenegro for years, divided through many organizations and even political parties, which inherits the ideas of all-Serbian unification, and then all-Orthodox integration, with Russia and Putin as the undisputed hegemon. The late Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church Amfilohije, a person of great reputation not only in Montenegro but also among Serbs in the entire Balkan region, had a huge influence on the rise of these ideas. He spoke of Muslims, for example, as “false people with false faith” (2014), of Montenegrins as a nation as “communist litter or bastards” (1992), of NATO as the “Fourth Reich” (2013), that is, “continuation of the Austro-Hungarian occupation” (2016), and the Montenegrin recognition of Kosovo as a “shameful mark and betrayal” (2008).
Regarding Montenegro’s decision to join EU sanctions against Russia in 2014, but also on other occasions when talking about Montenegro’s attitude towards Russia, the Metropolitan repeatedly quoted the words of St. Peter of Cetinje – “Whoever was not faithful to a monolingual, one-blooded Russia, may the living flesh fall away from him, was cursed three times and 3.000 times by me”.
During the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia, he acted as a patron towards extremists and war criminals, so twice during the holidays in the Cetinje Monastery, the seat of his Metropolitanate, he hosted Željko Ražnatović Arkan, a criminal and war criminal, leader of the paramilitary group Serbian Volunteer Guard, together with his armed fighters. According to his own confession, in the war year of 1995, Metropolitan Amfilohije offered refuge to Radovan Karadžić from the international arrest warrant for war crimes.
Support for the final solution
For some of these organizations, Putin’s policy of national and imperial homogenization is even too “soft”. Serbian Action, which in the Balkan neo-Nazi mosaic is at the forefront of creating ideological foundations for the movement, criticizes Putin for allowing Western anomalies, such as corporate capitalism, to penetrate Russia, or allowing immigration, though not from the Middle East, but still allows it. Of course, there is also the “Jewish domination” of the banking sector, to which Putin’s Russia is not immune. But, nevertheless, Serbian Action forgives these sins of the beloved leader, because with the offensive against Ukraine, he still led the fight for – “renewal of historical Russia – the Orthodox Empire, and the fight against NATO Satanists and their servants”.
The aggression against Ukraine is, therefore, the final point in which the neo-Nazis from the Balkans and Vladimir Putin resolved all the doubts they had in the past years, although they did not question loyalty to the Russian leader and his imperial mission at any moment. That was the reason why the relief was marked publicly, with street marches through Belgrade and open support for the Russian invasion. Expectations from this operation are certainly huge, and they are seen as the “final solution”. Here are just a few triumphant expectations:
Serbian Action: “The Russian-Ukrainian conflict is not an ordinary regional conflict, but part of a great mystical conflict of good and evil. In that spirit, we wholeheartedly support this campaign”.
Leviathan: “Serbia is surrounded by NATO enemies and we urgently need talks on joining the Freedom Alliance, that is, the CSTO”.
Serbian-Russian movement: “Our priority is to implement the Russian national interest in Serbia”.
People’s Patrols: “Serbs stand with their mother Russia, which these days is liberating Ukraine from vampire like neo-Nazism and which is freeing the world from the NATO threat”.
Denazification, along with demilitarization, was Russia’s main war goal in Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin announced it publicly in the first days of the invasion. After a month, the goals were rebranded; denazification disappeared from the Kremlin’s rhetoric, and in its place came the “liberation” of Donetsk and Luhansk. However, this term remained as the guiding idea of the Russian delusion that led them to attack independent Ukraine.
The best proof of how false and empty the content of Putin’s “denazification” was, are his most ardent supporters from the Balkans, all convinced neo-Nazis. Expressing their endless love and loyalty, they exposed Putin’s doctrine as an unadulterated ideology of blood and soil, racial and national supremacy, the return of “natural” but once taken territories. The Russian Empire in the big world, the Serbian Empire in the small Balkans, are exposed common goals of Putin and his supporters from the Balkans, while denazification was a ballast that both of them renounced with relief.
In the eyes of Balkan neo-Nazis, the devastation of war and Russian crimes in Ukraine are astonishing and a true picture of everything they would like to do in their region. Putin’s Russia has nothing against that, moreover, it has an interest in helping them realize those visions.