Serbian War Propaganda: This 19th century masterpiece painting by Uros Predic, known as "Orphan Upon His Mother's Grave", was used as an incitement to hatred. In 1994, during the brutal siege of Srebrenica, Belgrade's newspapers "Vecernje Novosti" published this picture and claimed it to be one-and-a-half-year-old photo of an orphaned Serian boy whose entire family was killed by "Muslims (Bosniaks) around Srebrenica. (Image courtesy: DANIEL TOLJAGA)
The 115-Year-Old Orphan
by Nenad Lj. Stefanovic
November 28, 1994.Vreme News Digest Agency No 166
How Belgrade’s “Vecernje Novosti” daily brought Uros Predic’s 115-year-old painting to life and pronounced the boy in the painting as “suffering as a result of present Muslim misdeeds”
“As a journalist, I’m not ashamed to lie for Serb interests,” an editor at Radio-Television Serbia (RTS) said in 1992 to explain the principles of “patriotic journalism”.
That logic has been carefully nurtured by all of the warring sides and has caused a large number of criminal reports that satanized other nations, fanned hatred and freed possible guilty parties among their own politicians and soldiers in the interest of the nation. The same people who said they were prepared to lie also claimed that truth was the victim in this war and added that the entire world was against the Serbs and was spreading lies about them.
“Vecernje Novosti” falls into that category. On November 19, the daily changed its theory and said that children were the victim in wars. That sudden discovery came in an article that was illustrated with a picture of an orphaned boy lying on a grave covered in snow. The article said:
“The greatest victims of war are children. This war in which the Serb people are fighting for their existence is no different. This picture was published throughout the world last year. The orphan boy is mourning his mother and other relatives killed in a Muslim offensive and it’s still causing grief to anyone who knows about suffering children. The boy has been adopted by a family from Zvornik and he’s now enrolled as a 9th grader in a military high school“.
“Vecernje Novosti” was once considered a highly professional newspaper and would never have published something like this without an interview with the boy and his adoptive parents. Professional instincts seem to have gone haywire this time and that part of the story wasn’t published. A pity because, as it turned out, reporters didn’t have to go to Zvornik for the story. A short walk to Belgrade’s national museum was enough.
The orphaned boy isn’t 15 years old and he isn’t enrolled in a military school. He’s 115 years old and he’s been hanging in the national museum for a long time. His parents aren’t from Skelani [municipality of Srebrenica] and they weren’t the victims of ethnic cleansing in the Serb people’s fight for survival. The boy’s father is Serb painter Uros Predic and the photograph “Vecernje Novosti” published is actually a watercolor titled “Orphan on His Mother’s Grave”, painted in 1879. The boy’s mother wasn’t killed by Muslims [Bosniaks]. The painting was made as an illustration for a poem by Hungarian poet Janos Arany, says academic Dejan Medakovic in his history of Serb painters. So it’s not a painful reminder that toured the world, but an amateurish forgery and the worst possible abuse of children. It is the same as the stories about 30 dead babies in Vukovar and necklaces made of the eyes and bones of Serb children.
Medakovic’s book says that Predic intended to be moral and practical and provide examples of evil to prevent it or, in the case of children to show their unblemished innocence. “Vecernje Novosti” probably published the picture in an effort to point out evil (not prevent it) and be practical in mobilizing people. The only thing that is still unclear is why some more subtle technique wasn’t used, as well as a less famous illustration which cannot be recognized by anyone who has spent even a day in high school. Instead, we received another installment of lying in the national interest.
In December 1991, when the orphan was just 112, “Vecernje Novosti” published a long interview with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, a man often quoted in the daily. Milosevic was asked how an entire nation could be satanized in the international press which also spread lies about the just struggle of the Serbs, i.e. what they used to spread those lies and manipulate people. His answer: “Blackmail, bribery and disinformation”.