Tito as an Ottoman agent and how the earth no longer revolves around Serbia

A few days ago, Deutsche Welle ran a short story on my blog entry with funny exam answers I posted a few months ago. I guess the combination of the silliness of some of the quotes and a slow news day meant that the story was picked up by Tanjug, followed by most Serbian media (Vecernje Novosti, Blic, Danas, B92, Kurir, Politika, RT Vojvodina, and Press, including a commentary, and an interview I gave to RTS evening news), some in Bosnia (Radio Sarajevo, Dnevni Avaz, Glas Srpske), Slovenia (Radio Krka, RTV Slovenia), Croatia (Glas Istre, Vecernji List), Kosovo (Gazeta Express), Macedonia (A1, One.net), Montenegro (Vijesti)  and Bulgaria (Vesti). The original article (unsurprisingly) dramatizes the quotes by suggesting that the students are future diplomats. While this might be true (and some, not quoted in my blog post, certainly would be good diplomats), I am rather confident that ones writing about Tito’s wig are less likely to end up in the foreign office. Of course the original post was self-selected by just listing the funniest contributions to over 400 exams over 4 years.

More interesting are the reactions to the articles in the Bosnian and Serbian press (and the comments I have received since). Of course a number suggest that it must have been my teaching which resulted in such skewed exam response. This grossly overestimates my creativity in making up the geography and history of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Reading through the debates (most comments have been posted on the blic website), I get three different takes on my student quotes.

1. “I would not be surprised if Tony Blair studied at this department…”

The first perspective sees in my student quotes evidence that Western policy towards Yugoslavia, from Tony Blair (above) to another suggesting that the ICJ is as ignorant as the students. Another thinks that “with such students, it is no surprise that they bombed us.” It is of course a creative step from bad student exams to international judges and prime ministers, but this the self-comforting take: We always knew it, the ignorant West mistreated us, if they knew better it would all be different.

2. “For Britain we are like Turkmenistan for us. So I ask you, what we, citizens of Serbia, know about Turkmenistan? … You expect that everything revolves around us.”

A number of comments take a different point of view, as represented by the quote above. They point out that the knowledge of students in Southeastern Europe is not necessarily much better. A comment on Avaz noted that “our students of history  wouldn’t be any better if they were asked about the history of Kyrgystan or Latvia. Nobody studies marginal countries.” Similarly a dear colleague from Serbia wrote to me that some students think the same (maybe less about Algerians in Kosovo, but maybe Tito’s wig?). I think these comments raise the right question. There is strong center-periphery tendency in educational systems. The familiarity of students in Westren Europe about Central and Eastern Europe might be limited (depending of course on where you’re from), but I don’t think an average student from Serbia would know much about Romania or Bulgaria, but know more about France and the UK. I need not to point out that I have also experience rather ignorant views of the West from some students in the Western Balkans.

3.  “The one who mentioned the Ottoman Empire is a pretty clever person. Even in our country people aren’t aware that Islam is slowly colonizing us.”

Finally, a third group see in the quotes evidence of their own conspiracy theories. Thus one person on Blic points out Tito was of course an Ottoman agent by creating the Muslim nation and another concurs as he/she see Islam colonizing the Balkans–I guess confirming the above take on the ability to find confused points of view everywhere–to which a witty reader replied that also gays and aliens are colonizing the Balkans. No further comment needed.

5 Responses to Tito as an Ottoman agent and how the earth no longer revolves around Serbia

  1. Pingback: A history of Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe according to some of my students « Florian Bieber

  2. Brian Day says:

    It’s quite amusing how the press seem to latch onto a story and bizarre how readers get heated about it!

  3. Good job says:

    I translated it into Russian and it’s circulating in our Russian internet communities as well. Black PR is tactics which has been used by the West to demonize Serbs, why not to pay them in their own coin. Unfortunately, it concerns only british students. Samo napred!

  4. Lanckok says:

    I think that it was huge dissapointment for Serbs when they found out that the earth no longer revolves arround Serbia. They will just have to learn to deal with this 🙂

  5. Pingback: Как Тито създаде Османската империя и насели Косово с алжирци? « вестник "Сливен ДНЕС и УТРЕ"

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