Support for nationalist Chetnik leaders convicted of inciting hatred, generals convicted of genocide and war crimes, as well as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are just some of the content Chetnik Youth Gacko shares on its social media, which is followed by about 6.000 people. This group invited citizens to participate in a motorcade, after which the local police penalized one of the participants for harassing the returnees. The research reveals details about this informal group and why the returnees in Gacko fear it.
“All the guards belong to General Draza”, echoed on the night of September 8th from a cinema stage in Gacko, where a flag of the Chetnik movement was displayed, and a large number of guests and citizens arrived for a history lesson on the Chetniks from Gacko.
Many young people attended the event, where the Mayor of Gacko, Ognjen Milinkovic, in his opening speech – addressing him as “honorable warlord” – greeted Slavko Aleksic, whom the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) convicted because of his activities at a gathering of Ravna Gora Chetnik Movement members in Visegrad caused national, racial or religious hatred, discord and intolerance.
Chetnik Youth Gacko has about 6.000 followers on Instagram, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), and Facebook. They have the most followers on Instagram, where since 2018 they have published over 1.100 posts, in which they often glorify persons convicted of war crimes in BiH, and mark important dates for the Chetnik Movement. In addition, the group supported Rista Lecic and Slavko Aleksic, members of the Ravna Gora Chetnik Movement who were convicted by the Court of BiH for inciting hatred, and invited people to participate in the motorcade to mark the Day of the Republika Srpska (RS) in 2019. One of the participants of this motorcade was penalized by the police for insulting a returnee.
In an earlier research on Chetnik associations in BiH based on registration documents – it was revealed that a total of 16 such associations formally operate in the country. The registration documents revealed that among the founders there are those accused of war crimes, and the research also revealed that Chetnik associations from Serbia were involved in arrangements for people to go and participate in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, in Donbas, in 2014.
Provocations that instill fear in returnees
In January 2019, the Chetnik Youth Gacko invited people to the celebration of January 9th, an unconstitutional holiday – the Day of the RS, stating that after the gathering on Sava Vladislavic Square in front of the Orthodox Church in Gacko, a festive column of cars will start circling around the city.
One of the few Bosniak returnees who currently live in the city center of Gacko is Effendi Sadet Bilalic, who said that the incident in January 2019 was intended as a show of force to intimidate returnees.
“The Chetnik Youth Gacko abused the third day of the Christmas holiday and the Saint Stephen’s Day, and the location of the church itself as a gathering place for the motorcade of flag-bearers towards the Kula Fazlagic”, says Bilalic and adds that the existence of groups such as the Chetnik Youth Gacko is one of the “the symbols of a political story that has gone on for three decades”.