Will Serbia Turn to the East? , by Joaquin Flores

The Real Significance of Putin’s Visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic walk during a welcome ceremony at the airport in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. (RIA-Novosti / Alexei Nikolsky) / click to expand
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic walk during a welcome ceremony at the airport in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. (RIA-Novosti / Alexei Nikolsky) / click to expand

[C]heered by tens of thousands of citizens, columns of Serbian tanks, armored cars, and thousands of infantry men paraded down Nikola Tesla Boulevard, Thursday, in New Belgrade.  The parade’s destination was the Palace of Serbia, where international leaders, dignitaries and high ranking generals of foreign militaries stood in bleachers to look on.  Among them, most importantly, was Russian President Vladimir Putin.  In a ceremonial event surrounding this occasion, he was awarded the Order of the Republic of Serbia, the nation’s highest honor [1].

Today marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belgrade from occupying Nazi forces. A few of the remaining WWII veterans also stood in the dignitaries section, to remember fallen comrades in the great anti-fascist war of liberation.

The event was not just one commemorative, it was in its own right quite historic.  For one, it was the first Serbian military parade since 1918, and the first military parade in Serbia since 1985, when it was the core republic of the Socijalistička Federativna Republika Jugoslavija (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, or SFRY).   A “Strizhi” air show of Russian MiG fighters over the Belgrade skies captivated the audience below, while Serbian armoured personnel carriers crawled in formation to the WWII partisan march, Po Šumama i Gorama  (“In the Forests and Mountains”)

But the event’s significance was greater—much greater than a historical reflection and national celebration of a great victory of its people over the most powerful, aggressive, war machine in Europe at the time.  This event’s significance went beyond being just a display of national resolve and remembrance.  It was symbolic of a turn that Serbia was taking in the direction of its historic ally, Russia.  With Putin as honored guest, Serbia seemed to be announcing a new course forward, while overtly and unashamedly celebrating the past.

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