Author: Jelena Tasic
Crown Prince Alexander about the reasons for non-participating in the celebration of the centennial of the beginning of the Great War in Serbia and his relations with the government
Maybe I am the problem for the government
I am disappointed with the lack of respect for my ancestors, the government did not even invite me. There is a terrible violation of human rights of my family and me, which should be solved. Fact that we’ve got a monument to the Russian Emperor Nicholas the Second before the monument for the rulers of Serbia is very interesting, and also sad.
This year has been very important for our history, but I find that Serbia has not had much opportunity to see what my ancestors – King Peter I Liberator and Alexander I Unifier did 100 years ago, although they are very important people in our history. My grandfather was the supreme commander of the Serbian army. I did not see his name even at the exhibition “1914” at the Historical Museum. I am disappointed because of this lack of recognition. Almost every member of Karadjordje’s dynasty personally participated in the Great War, and each of the descendants of the Supreme Leader is a part of the iconostasis of our national being and our historical consciousness – says Crown Prince Alexander. In an interview for the “Danas” he speaks about the centennial of the beginning of the First World War in Serbia, relations with the current government, position and circumstances of the Royal Family, whose head he is.
Q: Has Serbia marked worthily and in the right way the Balkan Wars and the beginning of the First World War, which formally started by bombing of Belgrade by Austro – Hungarians?
More could have been done the ideas existed for a long time, but implementation was invariably done at the last minute. There were parts of history missing and lack of more coverage and acknowledgment for what you mention in your question. Unfortunately, it is not in the interest of some people for our true history to be known, they still stick to its cleansed version.
Q: Why were you not seen in the ceremonies in Serbia that marked the centennial of the outbreak of the Great War and its famous battles?
I did not receive the invitation. Not even for marking the Battle of Cer, which is sad, because many of our people respect what my grandfather did. I could not lay my wreath. I complained to the authorities, but there was no effect. A similar case was the marking of the 80th Anniversary of the assassination of King Alexander in Marseilles. The French were very correct. When they found out that I was not included in the Serbian delegation, they took care of us. At the airport we were welcomed by a representative of the French government. The French government is socialist, but has a lot of respect for my family.
Q: What do you say about the City officials’ proposal that monuments of Kings Peter I and Alexander I should be erected in Belgrade. Have you been consulted regarding that?
I heard about it last week from the municipality of the City of Belgrade. I fully support and encourage monuments for King Peter I and King Alexander I to be built. It is about time. There is a spectacular monument in Paris to the two kings, I would be thrilled and very proud if there was such a magnificent monument in a nice location in Belgrade too. I think they should not be at the end of the world. The fact that we’ve got a monument to the Russian Emperor Nicholas the Second before the monuments to the rulers of our blood is very interesting, but also sad. I think that my grandfather and my father should get their streets in Belgrade soon, too.
Q: Why didn’t you come to consecration of the monument to Emperor Nicholas and what are your ties and connections with Russia?
Nice monument. I don’t recall being invited and in any case it was done at the last minute and I had obligations set well in advance abroad. I have good ties with Russia and will always remember a superb memorable lunch my wife and I had in the Kremlin as guests of President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the Russian Patriarch.
Q: Why has the assessment of King Alexander’s personality, his state, military and foreign policy not yet come out of the cliché, which was set, according to historians, by “the communists and political enemies”?
There are a few individuals who still feel uncomfortable when it comes to our uncensored history, but I am certain with more openness and time things will become clearer and much more open. I want to mention that when I came to live in the Royal Compound I kept all the symbols of the past and there are many referring to our communist past. Only dictators cleanse history.
Q: Is such an attitude towards King Alexander I, especially in Serbia, the price to be paid for his forcing of the Yugoslav idea?
That was the deal with everyone after the Treaty of Versailles, and there were pressures from the West. The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was the solution for the time, without which we would have had another war. Ethnic map of the former Yugoslavia was described as “leopard skin”, which showed a remarkable diversity. Now this map is ethnically very clean everywhere, except in Serbia, especially in Croatia and Bosnia. What happened to people’s lives, their homes and property, was really shocking. It was complete madness. When we came here 13 years ago, we had over 500 thousand refugees. We need to know what happened in the past, to avoid repetition of such situations in the future. Our obligation is to respect all religions and all ethnic origins, which is supported by the Patriarch, the dignitaries of other religious communities and politicians who advocate human rights and dialogue. Now we are standing at the door of the European Union and we are showing that we respect everyone, regardless of ethnic origin or religion.
Q: Recent exhibition at Historical Museum of Serbia “In the name of people” and controversial reaction in the public again opened questions whether the civil war among the Serbs is over. What do you think about that and who finally have to deal with national reconciliation?
What happened in the period this exhibition shows was shocking. It mainly dealt with Serbia, but it in fact reflected what happened throughout the former Yugoslavia. It is a pity few people visited this exposition. The civil war is over, but getting to know what happened “in the name of people” will never be over. With education, jobs and more free media a lot will be revealed about our past. There must be national reconciliation and there must be no revanchism. We must pray together for all those that lost their lives regardless of which side they were on. We must be one nation and let the ballot box freely decide our future without threats or pressure.
Q: Professor Oliver Antic said when the remains of your father were brought back that “President Nikolic is preparing the ground for the monarchy and that he is some kind of the substitute for the King at the moment”. How do you estimate Nikolic’s work as “the substitute for the King” and has Serbia moved an inch towards the restitution of monarchy? What do the advisory bodies of the Crown do about that?
My view is that our country would be well served by a constitutional monarchy of which there are many examples across the world. Our politicians would have one less post to contend with that has shown to create political jousting from time to time. But the problem is that many do not understand what constitutional parliamentary monarchy means, because there was so much propaganda against it. The monarch is not a member of a political party, he is not engaged in daily politics – he is a symbol of unity, stability and continuity. Travelling through Serbia, I saw a lot of interest in monarchy. People from all political parties are friendly, warm. In some places, the mayors from parties that are not monarchist, were the best hosts. But, one would have to ask President Nikolic what his views are. I would have thought the answer to perpetual power is to be prime minister after his potential second mandate as president comes to end. The prime minister can be elected many times providing re-election takes place. When I jokingly, mentioned this solution to Nikolic he replied: “Interesting”.
Q: Has anyone in the East or West suggested the restoration of monarchy in Serbia to you?
Many people and even those who are not of monarchist views see constitutional parliamentary monarchy as a good solution for Serbia and mention that it will provide a new desperately needed positive image for Serbia. No country is against it, including the Americans. But it is a matter of our internal policies.
Q: Do politicians still see you as a competition, although you avoid making any political statements, even when it concerns state and national issues? Is such silence counter-productive for monarchist cause or is it a consequence of political relationships in Serbia?
It is possible that I am seen by some as competition and even that they envy me due to my many international connections and friends. There is also a dilemma what to do with me and my family since so far nothing has been solved, a human rights violation, and we are still living in confiscated properties that is a never ending issue and even a difficult situation for the government to resolve in a proper manner.
Q: What seems to be the problem when it comes to the status of the Royal House?
To address this issue, there are examples in Bulgaria, Romania and Montenegro, where special laws were passed. We talked about the new law, similar to the Montenegro’s one, with Tadic’s and Dacic’s government. It was discussed last June, too, at a meeting with the Minister of Justice. The plan was to go through the Office of the Prime Minister, but there it stopped. We keep reminding them, but they say we should wait, because they have a lot of work –important people are coming, drones are coming, too…
Q: With which government you have had the easiest and most productive relations since your first coming to Serbia in 1991, and your definitive return in 2001?
I did not have any contacts with the Milosevic regime, only with the DOS. I have been lucky to have had good relations with every government. There have been difficult moments and there is still much to be resolved and all this comes painfully slow. I am engaged in full negotiations now and hope that something positive will come out of the talks. The Royal Compound is of historical importance and has beautiful priceless objects of art, it is open to the public. Since it is still confiscated property and for that matter so are all properties of my family, it is only fair that the maintenance and repairs are taken care of by the state in a proper budget. We are open to all the requests from the ministries and embassies for almost daily visits. People love coming to visit The Royal Palace and the White Palace, they really enjoy our small Serbian Versailles. We try hard to keep the complex in good shape, but it is not easy. The current prime minister is very polite when we meet, but perhaps the government does not know how to solve our situation. I think that they are not against the Karadjordjevic family, but they do not know how to solve the question of the Palace maintenance budget, and how to preserve this monument.
Q: Has the government profited from the royal funeral in Oplenac last year?
Everyone has profited – my family and the people in power. The fact that the head of state made it possible for my father, the late King Peter, to return – was a sign of respect. It is very important that my mother, my grandmother and my uncle Prince Andrej “came back”, too. It brought together the whole family, and now, they all rest in peace in Oplenac, as King Peter and King Alexander wanted.
Q: Has the state met all of its financial obligations in this regard?
Just last Friday afternoon, the money was paid. Previously the bills were settled in London, the Greek government assisted with my mother’s transfer, and now, finally, the transfer from the United Sates of my father and uncle has now been paid, too.
Q: How do you assess the relations within the Royal House and are there any unhealthy ambitions among the members?
I have good relations with the majority of my relatives, but I am sad about some issues. All members of the family are free to come and many have stayed numerous times in the two palaces. It is of course important to be a united and happy family.
Q: Why are you the only descendent of Queen Maria who didn’t ask for her rehabilitation, which is a legal requirement, as some people claim, for the restitution of assets to Karadjordjevic family, although only Prince Paul was convicted, before the WWII, because of the Tripartite Pact?
I carefully monitor and read all the neverending extraordinary demands and bureaucracy. There are appalling human right violations against me and my family that need to be resolved. What happened in 1947 was appalling and still has not been solved. We have recently received a letter from the Commission for Restitution, in which they say the rehabilitation of Prince Tomislav, Prince Andrej and me is required. I think the Commission is buying time.
Q: How true is the impression that Princess Elizabeth has a “privileged” status with the current government – the remains of her father Prince Paul came to Serbia the first, although at that moment it was certain that the crowned members of the family would return as well, then he was buried, against the protocol of King Peter I, in the main church in Oplenac, and she was the first of the Karadjordjevic’s who got back the estate in Dedinje?
I am not aware of privileges, but rather the Princess Elizabeth’s case and that of her brother Prince Aleksandar being a much easier and simpler one to solve than the rest of the Royal Family. I am very happy that her father, mother and brother “came back” and they were buried in Oplenac. It is good that the villa “Montenegrin” with surrounding estate was returned. I think she is not a problem for the government, while I might have been, so they do not sleep well.
Q: I have not given up my right of king
I have never given up my rights, even though way back in1970, when my father, King Peter died, I decided not to use the title of the king – said Crown Prince Alexander. To the question of whether it was a good decision to educate his children out of Serbia, he responds that “Princes Peter, Philip and Alexander are here often and have helped the victims of the terrible floods”.
Broz and the Karadjordjevic’s
Q: Is it a paradox that the probate hearings started by Josip Broz’s descendants opened the possibility for the Karadjordjevic’s to take part in looking for their assets?
I am certain with good will all issues can be solved in good time. This question needs to be carefully examined and ascertained. When we learned about the safe in the National Bank, I have officially requested, several times, that it should be opened, but I have never received the response. When Joska Broz requested the same, they immediately opened the vault. Although this was done two years ago. It is interesting that inside the safe, there are belongings of the members of the Roya Family. When the Romanoff’s safe was found in Sweden, it was decided to put it for auction in order to avoid conflicts and debates. The family at the initiative of my cousin Princess Lavinia’s husband Mr Austin Prichard-Levy suggested to the government of Serbia that it would be a good solution here, too, but I have received no response. This solution would like the Romanoff safe avoid conflict.