Tennis star Novak Djokovic’s controversial visit to BosniaGlobal Voices


Collage made from Wikipedia photos of Novak Djokovic by Carine06 (CC BY-SA 2.0), Milan jolovic by CarRadovan (CC BY-SA 4.0), Milorad Dodik by micki (CC BY-SA 2.0) and Semir Osmanagić by Agneta Geijer (CC0).

Serbian tennis ace last week Novak Djokovic (also written “Đoković”) was involved in another controversial on its links with Serbian extremists. Bosnian media reported that during a visit to the country, Djokovic was seen in the company of both Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and Milan Jolović, the former commander of one of the most notorious units in the Rebel Army of Republika Srpska– the wolves of the Drina.

As the Bosnian press article notes, the Drina wolves participated in the final attack against Srebrenica in July 1995 and were responsible for capturing the fleeing Bosnian civilians and bringing them to the various execution sites after the fall of the city.

The images above, taken during the attack on Srebrenica, show Jolović leading one of the last attacks on the enclave. Images on Twitter, below, show Jolović and his men in the company of the famous Guard of Greek volunteers, composed of members of the extreme right golden twilight and other Greek extremists. This group was stationed in eastern Bosnia and fought alongside the Army of Republika Srpska, including participating in the attack on Srebrenica.

While in Bosnia, Djokovic also met the leader of the Bosnian Serbs Milorad Dodik, arguably one of the most fervent genocide deniers, secessionists and Serbian nationalists in the region. Apart obstruct the work of the country’s institutions and promote war criminals, Dodik’s government has paid millions into shady NGOs that deny the established facts of the Srebrenica genocide.

In July, when the outgoing EU High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Valentin Inzko presented an amendment to the country’s penal code, making war crimes and denial of genocide a punishable offense, Dodik called for the country’s dissolution. Since then he has often say again the claim that there was no genocide in Srebrenica. Dodik has so far enjoyed impunity and has not been questioned by prosecutors, although nine NGOs and individuals filed a complaint against him.

This is not the first time that Djokovic (nicknamed “Nole”) has sparked controversy by supporting deeply problematic Serbian nationalist figures. Last year it was photography with a type of brandy called “Draža”, after the infamous WWII Chetnik Nazi leader and collaborator, Dragoljub “Draža” Mihailović. In addition to the well-documented genocidal campaign against the Bosnians in eastern Bosnia and the Sanjak and the war crimes against captured anti-fascist partisans, the Chetniks also committed numerous atrocities against Croats, Jews and other Serbs.

Again, naive fans kindly comment that Nole didn’t need to do this. I don’t want to rain on your show, but I think he needed it, otherwise he would have just refused to pose with Chetnik brandy.

Quasi-scientific links and quackery

It is possible that the lack of scientific education during his formative years – which he spent honing his tennis skills – and his susceptibility to emotional calls from family, friends and hosts who welcome him to his home. them, make Djokovic sensitive to dubious influences.

It also promotes the work of quasi-scientific and ultra-nationalist pseudo-historians and conspiracy theorists. Jovan Deretić and Milan Vidojevic. Djokovic used his wife’s Instagram account to show his admiration for Deretić and his alternate stories, including a well-known Serbian nationalist trope that Serbs are an ancient ‘heavenly people’ (nebeski narod).

The scientific community has underestimated the impact of such assertions about the historical, ethnic and religious supremacy of Serbs when Deretić began publishing them in the 1980s. Even though such “theories” have been satirized, for example, through the popular play Chauvinistic farce, they were widely accepted by the less educated Serbian population, inspiring ideologies which justified the mass atrocities during the violent break-up of Yugoslavia 10 years later.

Amateur digging and government-backed business building touristic complex based on Hoax “Bosnian pyramids” could have damaged real archaeological and paleontological sites around Visoko in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo by Wikipedia user TheBIHLover, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Another reason for Djokovic’s visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina was the extent “”Bosnian pyramids”Composed in Visoko, thus becoming his most famous most frequent promoter and famous visitor. Managed by Bosnian-American businessman and quasi-archaeologist Semir Osmanagić, the Bosnian Pyramids of the Sun complex has become a major tourist attraction, and although it is clear that the site has some significance in terms of archeology, Osmanagić’s claim of it being the seat of the largest and oldest man-made pyramids was demystified by connoisseurs.

Osmanagić has since changed their sales pitch, claiming that the compound is a place of natural healing and regeneration. Speaking of Djokovic’s last visit, he noted that the long network of tunnels his team dug have regenerative characteristics, “cleaning up viruses and bacteria.”

Osmanagić also used his influence and popularity to engage in conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic on his YouTube channel, as documented by the fact-checkers of

Although he doesn’t openly approve of anti-vaccine sentiment, Djokovic campaign against compulsory vaccinations after being infected with COVID-19 in June 2020 at a controversial conference exhibition tournament he organized in Croatia. The event reportedly included parties that defied anti-pandemic measures recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Opportunities for transcendence

While over the years Djokovic and his father have vocally supported Serbian radical positions against the independence of Kosovo, he also showed that he could transcend the pull of Serbian nationalism. He has often advocated reconciliation between Serbs and Croats, standing up to antagonistic nationalism which caused enormous human suffering during the 90s wars.

When in 2008 a French presenter wrongly called him Croatian, the Serbian tennis champion said in a declaration for the Croatian newspaper Jutarnji list that he did not mind. He has often said that the two peoples are very close, “almost the same” and that it is understandable that “foreigners” cannot tell them apart.

Many people in the Balkans idolize Djokovic because he matches his athletic achievements with philanthropy, financing humanitarian causes thanks to its considerable wealth. At his website, he describes himself as a “holist”, that is, someone who applies a holistic approach to life. Increasing his critical thinking skills on issues related to science and history and broadening the range of his empathy to all the peoples of the Balkans who have suffered from die-hard extremists would be welcome. Unfortunately, as it stands, his adherence to conspiracy theories, revisionist history, quack medicine, and his habit of socializing with Serbian extremists undermines his positive efforts.

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