How much do students nowadays in Montenegro know about anti-fascist resistance in XX century in Montenegro, region and Europe?

On the occasion of International Day of Fight against Fascism, Antisemitism and Xenophobia, Centre for Civic Education (CCE) presented today findings of research how much Montenegrin students know about anti-fascist resistance in XX century in Montenegro, region and Europe.

Tamara Milaš, CCE programme associate, stated that «surveyed students on general level know the meaning of term anti-fascism – 86,43% of them knew to define this term, but level of knowledge is being reduced as questions are being more specified. Thus, only  ¼ (25.36%) of respondents knew that anti-fascism developed between two world wars, while even 76,64% does not know when anti-fascism as movement has developed».

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She further emphasized:

A little more than half (58%) of surveyed students correctly defines fascism as a movement that developed in Italy in the first half of XX century. The best knowledge was demonstrated by students of Faculty of Philosophy of University of Montenegro (UoM) among whom 82% knew response, and slightly worse were students of University of Donja Gorica (UDG) and Law of Economics of UoM with 60% of incorrect responses. Furtheron, 61% of students differentiate fascism from nazism, while 39% of them believes that there is no difference between these terms. Moreover, 70% of students knows that nazism emerged in Germany, and it is the same number of those who know that quisling refers to traitor, namely, person who is in service of a foreigner, against interests of his/her people (after Norwegian politician Quisling who served German invaders). 

Among personalities who are symbol of antifascism, students most often stated Josip Broz Tito (72.5%), followed by Winston Churchill (61.79%) and Franklin Roosevelt (56.43%). Almost a quarter of Montenegrin students (24%) stated Krsto Popovic as antifascist, although it is a controversial personality of Montenegrin history, who was closely related to fascist Italy. 

Less than half of surveyed students (43.57%) can count at least three countries that belonged to the anti-fascist movement, i.e. 56.43% of them did not know the answer to this question.

Over 3/4 (78.22%) of students believe that anti-fascist movement has its own universal symbol, most often referring to crossed out angled cross, sickle and hammer, or red star, although the official symbol does not exist. It is surprising that there are those who believe (8.93%) that angled cross (the so-called Swastika) is a symbol of anti-fascism.

Most Montenegrin students (64.29%) know that Montenegro was under  fascist/nazi occupation. However, there are differences between them, thus even 60% of surveyed UDG students believes that Montenegro was not under the fascist/nazi occupation, and 42% of surveyed students of Faculty of Political Sciences of UoM deems the same.

A little over 3/4 (76,07%) of surveyed students know that uprising in Montenegro against fascist occupation took place on July 13, 1941. Therein are also variations among respondents – more than half of UDG students (53.3%) and more than 1/3 of students of the UoM Faculty of Law (36%) do not know that at that time there was an uprising according to which Montenegro marks one of the most important national holidays.

More than 2/3 (68.21%) of the surveyed students do not know that the Kragujevac massacre happened in 1941. The lowest level of knowledge was shown by students of technical faculties of UoM (12%), while the best by students of Faculty of Philosophy UoM (52 %) and Faculty of Political Science UoM (44%). 59.64% of total number of surveyed students knows that another name for Battle of Neretva is «battle for wounded». Analysis of answers per faculties shows that more than half of surveyed students of Faculty of Law UoM (56%) and of UDG (53.33%) did not know the correct answer to this question.

Montenegrin students in significant numbers (86.79%) do not know that Declaration of the United Nations was proclaimed in 1941, and the highest level of knowledge was shown by students of Faculty of Political Sciences, although only 34% of them knew correct answer, which is a worrying fact since this document is studied through several subjects in basic studies. Asked to evaluate significance of the United Nations Declaration, only one third (33.57) of Montenegrin students responded briefly, and most frequently listing the following answers: ’for tolerance among peoples’, ’for preservation of peace’, ’for organization of the post-war world’ , ’for purpose of establishing global cooperation among states’, ’for purpose of fighting against nazism’, ’for cessation of wars and further conflicts’, ’for fight against fascism’, ’for proclamation of unity and peace’, ’in order to guarantee human rights and freedoms’.

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Pavić David Radulović, historian and CCE project assistant, presenting also findings of research stated that «most Montenegrin students (59.21%) do not know that celebrated Hollywood actor Richard Burton played Josip Broz Tito in the film ’Battle of Sutjeska’, but gave priority to Bata Zivojinovic instead, and a small number of them to Petar Bozovic». 

He assessed that it is positive that «more than 3/4 students (76,07%) knows that term ’Brotherhood and Unity’ refers to mutual relation between peoples, nationalities and national minorities in the SFRY, while 23,93% of students did not give correct answer, although they had had three offered».

Raduloviće further emphasized:

Asked to name countries that were considered the Big Four of anti-fascist coalition, students in most cases marked: Great Britain (59.64%), USSR (52.86%), followed by France which was not part of the Big Four (52.5%) and USA (45.71%), while only 15.36% of them stated China, which was part of the Big Four.

Asked to answer what they recognize as anti-fascist values, with the possibility of circling more responses, 92.86% of Montenegrin students states freedom, followed by 89% stating solidarity (89%), tolerance (79.64%) and non-violence (68.93%).

Only 40% of Montenegrin students knows that on the island of Lastavica, in the fortress of Mamula, during Second World War there was a fascist camp, and as many as 76% of surveyed students of the Faculty of Law UoM did not give the correct answer even though it is a locality that is for a long time present in the media, and attracts public attention also due to numerous controversies about planned investments, with reactions of civil sector that advocates for establishing a culture of memory.

Asked who Ljubo Cupic was, slightly less than half of surveyed students (46.43%) responded, most often saying that he was ’people’s hero’, ’political commissar’, ’human rights fighter’, ’communist’, ’people’s hero who went with a smile to his execution’,’revolutionary and anti-fascist’, while 40.71% of the respondents do not know who Ljubo Cupic is, and 12.86% did not give any answer. More than ¾ (77.5%) of surveyed students today does not know to name three people’s heros from Montenegro, i.e. only 25% of them knew to correctly name three people’s heros from Montenegro. Not even one of surveyed students of UDG gave full answer by correctly naming three people’s heros from Montenegro. Also, 78% of surveyed students of Faculty for Political Sciences of UoM and 76% of Faculty of Law of UoM did not give full answer, while better knowledge was shown by students of Faculty of Philosophy, among whom 52% correctly named three people’s heros from Montenegro. Asked to name three women who were people’s heros during anti-fascist fight in the territory of Yugoslavia, only 14,29% of students knew their names. Students named mostly following women as people’s heros: Ljubica Popovic, Djina Vrbica, Olga Golovic.

As much as 70% of surveyed students does not know that Charter of OUN was signed in San Francisco.  Asked to state what the objective of Charter of United Nations is, a third (31,07%) of surveyed students gave answer, stating mostly that it is: ’peace’, ’unity’, ’prevention of future conflicts’, ’fight against fascism and dictatorship’, ’freedom and equality of all people’, ’creation of union’, ’peace in the world’, ’respect for independence of every country’, ’establishment of control over countries’.

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Furtheron, Tamara Milaš assessed that it is «encouraging that students in majority (65,36%) recognize that anti-fascism is being learned about rather little through formal education, while 21,01% believes that it is learned enough and 3,21% assesses that it is learned even too much».

61,79% of surveyed students states that, through formal/high education, they had an opportunity to, apart from textbook material, talk to teachers/professors about topics related to anti-fascism. Literature from this area is no longer popular, to which indicates that  71,07% of them reads in their free time any literature relating to these issues. Those who have read anything from this area mostly stated the following: ’works of Milovan Djilas’, ’Mein Kampf – Hitler’, ’Marxism’, ’Sources of Totalitarianism’, ’History of Yugoslavia’, ’Time of the Intolerables – A. Mitrovic’, ’Zlo proljece – Mihailo Lalic’, ’Lelejska gora – Mihailo Lalic’.

Of total number of surveyed students even 58,93% of them states that they have never visited monuments of anti-fascist resistance through formal education system, nor that they have opportunity to learn about anti-fascist movement in that manner. More than half of students (54,29%) estimates that there are no anti-fascist associations in Montenegro. Among those who know that these associations exist, when asked to name them, we got the following most frequent answers: ’SUBNOR’, ’CPMNE’, ’PLM (People’s Liberation Movement), ’Anti-fascists Alliance’, ’Young anti-fascists of Montenegro’, or that there is only one anti-fascist association.

Finally, we wanted to see how much today are known iconic partisan films and songs to young people. Asked what are three partisan films that they know of, a little over one third of students stated three films (37,14%), while more than half (54,29%) gave partial answer and knew to name one or two films, and 22,5% of them did not know answer to this question. The surveyed students mostly stated the following: ’Battle of Sutjeska’, ’Battle of Neretva’, ’Republic of Uzice’, ’Kozara’, ’Written-Off’, ’Walter Defends Sarajevo’, ’Pretty Villages – Pretty Flame’, ’Igman’s March’, ’Bosko Buha’, ’Partisan Squadron’.

Even partisan songs are no longer known to youth, thus only (17,14%) of surveyed students knew to name three partisan songs, while a little over half of students (58,21%) gave partial answer and knew to name one or two songs, while 24,64% did not name even one song. The most stated songs were: ’Racunajte na nas’, ’Ciao Bella’, ’Po sumama i gorama’, ’Od Vardara pa do Triglava’, ’Kraj Sutjeske hladne vode’, ’Nas dva brata’, ’Druze Tito mi ti se kunemo’, ’Oj, Kozaro’.

Milas concluded that the «advantage of Montenegro is that we have neither from the top nor from any other relevant structures any attempt of revision of anti-fascist history and herritage. However, it is necessary to work more so that anti-fascist history and its heritage would become a comprehensive part of education system, and thus to have a stronger expression in the society. Montenegrin students have certain knowledge, but also many unknowns that should not exist about this important topic that gives a value dimension to society.»

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) conducted research within subprogramme Transitional Justice, as part of a broader analysis of representation of issues related to anti-fascism in Montenegrin education system and knowledge of this period and antifascist values that youth obtain from education system, with the aim to highlight the situation in this area and offer recommendations for improving current education system. Field research was conducted from 1 to 6 November 2017, among 280 students, 230 from University of Montenegro (UoM), and 50 from University of Donja Gorica (UDG), aged from 18 to 30.

Milos Knezevic, programme associate/PR