Poet Matija Bećković is one of the most recognizable members of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (SAAS). He is seen as someone whose views grab the attention of the public, whose opinion on him is divided, as it is on everything else. This is why some claim that he has ‘overly right-wing views’, while others are impatient to hear what he has to say on issues of the day. One thing is certain though: Bećković leaves no one indifferent, whatever he touches on. In the interview that he gave to Kurir, he talks, among other things, about the situation in Montenegro, the attacks against the Serbian Academy, the coronavirus, and Red Star Belgrade.
The Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences is often the butt of attacks motivated by its alleged silence on the important issues of the present day. What is your response to such allegations?
- Attacks against the Serbian Academy are obligatory, regardless of whether it says something or stays silent. While the Academy membership included Tito, Moša Pijade and Kardelj, no one was attacking it.
What is your first association with Yugoslavia’s lifelong president Josip Broz Tito?
- No one would have noticed that Tito had died had Richard Burton been offered to succeed him. And when Burton died, then you could have Yul Brynner, Plácido Domingo, Jamie Oliver, Bjela, … That’s how we would have avoided the bombing.
What about Yugoslavia?
- The Greater-Serbian hegemony with JBT as its lifelong president. A state where Serbs thought they could be Serbs.
You said once that, ‘If you were born Serbian, you must be involved in both the Serbian fate and the Serbian guilt. That is the only guilt that I accept and acknowledge.’ Do you still stand by this?
- That is the guilt that we are born with.
What is your take on the increasing attempts to revise history, in this country as well as globally?
- Young people revising history is better than young people taking drugs.
Is the European Union the future of the Balkans?
- Just imagine the future of the EU with the Balkans in it.
What should Serbia do if it is asked to choose between the EU and Russia?
- There is no Europe without Russia.
What does Kosovo mean to Serbs today?
- The same thing as in 1389.
The writer and Serbian Academy member Dobrica Ćosić proposed partition as the best solution for the Kosovo problem some twenty years ago. Should we have listened to him back then?
- Luckily it was no more than words.
I believe you are following the events in Montenegro. What are your views on the banning of religious processions and the detaining of the clergy, as well as the Montenegrin authorities’ insistence on the contested Law on the Freedom of Religion, which mounts an attack against the property of the Serbian Church in that state?
- The religious processions in Montenegro and the protests in the US are useful for making a comparison. Both are against discrimination. Religious and national discrimination in the former case, and racial in the latter. The former carry icons and sing troparia, while the latter burn and destroy. The peaceful gatherings are banned, and the destructive ones allowed. Monks and clergymen are arrested at the processions, while police officers and offenders are arrested at the protests. One group defend the shrines, while the other tear down monuments. To quote the Montenegrin minister of the interior, the chetniks have appeared at the processions - some are female, and others don’t yet shave …
Has something changed or are you still on the list of those banned from entry into Montenegro?
- Depends on the day, I’m finding myself in better and better company. I was lucky to be one of the first ones to be banned, while seats were still available in the waiting room. The newcomers have to stand. We’ve just had Đoković arrive. Well, if I can’t go to Velje Duboko, he shouldn’t be able to go to Jasenovo Polje either.
How will the rule of the Montenegrin president Milo Đukanović go down in history?
- There is nothing new or original there. These things have been seen millions of times. Except that Lucky Luciano didn’t concern himself with theology. If anyone’s interested in what happens next, they should watch a film by Coppola. They will find all the symbols and see that what goes on in Montenegro today has been shot in advance.
And what would the great Njegoš say to what is happening in Montenegro now?
- ‘You rule the throne you've unjustly taken, And are prideful of your bloody sceptre, What is this talk of 'sword' and 'Kosovo', Weren't we both on the Field of Kosovo, I fought then and I am still fighting now, You were traitor then and you are one now.’
For months now, the world has been fighting the coronavirus. What has this crisis taught us?
- That all the festivals, conventions, and congresses can be held without leaving the shed or garage. No matter where you are, in the bathroom or a treetop, or away from home, you will get your square on the screen. And you can choose the background yourself, from the Library of Congress to the Parthenon, as you see fit and as you imagine yourself in different parts of the world.
How did you spend the time in the quarantine imposed due to the coronavirus epidemic?
- It was easy for me. Those who the corona forced to remember where they lived took it the hardest.
A memory of the poetess
These days Desanka would be removed from her home for a sandwich
- So, what were your thoughts when you found out that poetess Desanka Maksimović was to be removed from the school reading?
- She was lucky not to be alive. Someone could have taken it literally, and removed her from her home for a sandwich too.
How do you remember Desanka Maksimović?
- Small, fragile as a bird, yet strong as the granite that her monument is made from.
What poetry night has stayed with you the most?
- In Ravni Kotari, by the Stojan Janković Castle. She read ‘A Bloody Fairy Tale’. She would say a verse, and 10,000 voices from the audience would lift up as one, and say the next verse. She: ‘It was in a land of peasants …’ They: ‘In the mountainous Balkans.’ She: ‘A company of schoolchildren died…’ They: ‘A martyr's death in one day.’ It is one of my most haunting experiences.
I wanted to be disappointed in Red Star Belgrade, but I just don’t seem to be able to
How much does Red Star Belgrade mean to you today?
- The love for Red Star is unconditional and does not depend on anything, and least of all on the results. I have tried many times to be disappointed , but I just don’t seem to be able to.
The greatest Red Star’s star is ...?
- Rajko Mitić.
(Kurir.rs / Boban Karović / Photo:Marina Lopičić)