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Serbs Give Enthusiastic Hero's Welcome to Putin, Hold First Military Parade in 30 Years

Putin and Russia hugely popular. Memories of Yugoslav war evoke sympathy re: Ukraine. Struggling under severe economic crisis, many Serbs hostile to EU membership.

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

For the first time in 30 years big military parade is taking place in Belgrade. Military parade nominally marked the 70th anniversary of Belgrade’s liberation from the Nazis and the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

President Putin was the only honorary guest.

Dozens of thousands of Serbs came to see the parade. Many gave Putin a hero’s welcome.

In this video, people are chanting “Serbia Russia, we don’t need the Union (EU)” and Putin name.


Stencils of the Russian President’s face have appeared around town. Posters have referred to him as “Our President”.

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"We intend to support Serbia. Russia does not trade with its friendships... We have a common past and I am convinced and hope that we will also have a common future " Putin said in his speech on the parade.

“Serbia will not compromise its morals with any kind of bad behavior towards Russia,” President of Serbia Nikolic was quoted saying.


Serbs and Russians not only have close ties because of their common Slavic origins, language, religion and culture, but they have overwhelmingly been on the "same side" for the last five centuries.

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"President Putin, save Serbia from NATO occupation"

Serbs and Russians were allies in fight against Turks from XVII until XIX century and in the First and Second World War. Russia also supported Serbia during the 90’s in its fight to preserve Serbian territorial integrity by not recognising Albanian regime in NATO controlled Kosovo.

Serbs are not very enthusiastic about joining the EU, and the current pro-EU Serbian government knows that Putin's visit is popular with many voters, for whom Orthodox Christian Russia is still seen as Serbia's protector.

A majority of Serbs still remember the Western role in the Yugoslav civil war including NATO bombing in 1999. The West also supported the creation of an Albanian independent state in an historically Serbian province.

During the civil war in Yugoslavia, the West has not only armed Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Albanians together with a help of some Muslim countries (in particular Saudi Arabia and Iran), but it was also heavily engaged in anti-Serbian propaganda by demonizing Serbs in the Western media.

Eery parallels to this in the current Ukraine conflict are only increasing Serbian sympathy for Russia.

Throughout their history, Serbs have been known as “the little Russians from the Balkans” in reference to their Slavic roots, common religion and close historical ties and friendship with Russia.

Currently, Serbia has a close relationship with Russia, even though it is a formal candidate for EU membership. That is why many EU countries are suspicious of Serbia and don’t want to see potential Russian “Trojan Horse” with a veto vote right within EU.

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Russia has given low-interest loans to the cash-strapped Serbian government and Serbia has been a staunch supporter of South Stream, a Gazprom pipeline project that would bring Russian gas to Central Europe via the Balkans, against EU opposition.

Serbia also enjoys a free trade regime with Russia’s market as well as the EU’s, trying to position itself between east and west.

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Serbs from Kosovo: President Putin, thenk you for protecting Serbian Kosovo.

Finally, Russia has established “humanitarian centre” in the strategically important southern city of Nis. Many EU and US officials fear that it is a possible precursor of a Russian military base.

Unfortunately things look very bad in this moment for Serbia. Economy is in a free fall, 95% of the remaining companies are in the hands of Western business, industrial production is close to zero, there’s 30% unemployment rate, a foreign owned media monopoly, and wide-spread corruption and moral decadency.


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