Conflicts & War

Military general Mladic’s diary becomes work of art against war

By Snezana Stanojevic

Belgrade, Jul 2 (efe-epa).- The journal of a military leader convicted of the Srebrenica massacre has been transformed into a work of art against war, denialism and forgetfulness for the 25th anniversary of the genocide.

A total of 400 pages of former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic’s diary have been carefully recreated with ink drawings by Serbian artist Vladimir Miladinovic.

The exhibition, titled Diary, is on display at the Eugster gallery in Belgrade until 29 July.

Miladinovic, who has worked on the project since 2016, tells Efe: “I deeply believe that art can show everything that happened in the past and give us the possibility of heading towards a better coexistence in the present and the future.”

The exhibition includes a series of 400 drawings by Miladinovic, one for each page of the dairy, framed and arranged in rows alongside the first volume of the former general’s journal.

He recreated a version of the diary which was used as evidence against Mladic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

The aim of the exhibition is to display Mladic’s writing on his acts for those who do not believe he was guilty and also the details of what happened.

It also a challenge for visitors as it forces them to confront the past and spend hours reading evidence about the horrors of the war.

“The material is in front of us but the question arises as to whether we are capable of dealing with it,” Miladinovic says.

“What I do is a process of reviving documents that have already fulfilled their objective,” the artist adds.

Miladinovic’s work is based on the first of 18 daily journals by Mladic, who was colonel of the Yugoslav army and later general of the Bosnian Serb troops, written in his own handwriting during the conflict.

The diaries were found in 2010 behind a false wall in the Belgrade house where Mladic’s wife lived.

It was transcribed into English by a team of graphologists and translators who had to decipher the text as it was filled with abbreviations, theses and side notes which were sometimes difficult to understand.

Mladic’s psychological aspects and personal emotions also become more visible, with his handwriting at times visible as a large scrawl deeply indented into the page.

Mladic used bureaucratic, cold and banal language to write about problems and possible solutions, daily meetings, national issues, and practical details such as the amount of fuel needed for any activity or the capacity of a bakery to feed soldiers.

“In the diary you can perceive that very disciplined military language of the officers trained in the Yugoslav People’s Army, which demonstrates how carefully socialist Yugoslavia educated its leaders, who later actually participated in its own destruction,” Miladinovic said.

In one entry Mladic noted the words of Radovan Karadzic, a former Bosnian Serb political leader, at a meeting: “The birth of a state and the creation of borders does not occur without war.”

Mladic was sentenced in November 2017 to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity and genocide during the Bosnian war.

He was convicted of genocide for the killing of around 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica in July 1995 after Bosnian Serb troops under his command seized the area.

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