By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
A state commission’s decision to classify one of Macedonia’s best-known writers, the late Slavko Janevski, as a secret police informer, has sparked an outcry from authors and academics.
Macedonian cultural institutions and literary organisations have expressed outrage after the government’s lustration commission declared at the weekend that Janevski had been a collaborator with the secret services in the former Yugoslavia.
The Macedonian Academy of Arts and Sciences demanded on Monday that the decision to brand Janevski a spy should be revoked.
The move “represents a strong blow from within, against Macedonian national identity”, said an open letter from the academy, of which Janevski was one of the founders.
The Macedonian PEN Centre and the Macedonian Writers’ Association, DPM, have also condemned the lustration of Janevski.
“The DPM wants someone to be held responsible for this anti-constitutional act of the commission directed against one of the brightest figures of contemporary Macedonian literature and culture [that was carried out] outside the norms stipulated in the lustration law,” the DPM said in a statement.
It said that if no one takes responsibility, they will “interpret this act as tendentious and ruthless destruction of the foundations of Macedonian national culture”.
Janevski, an academic who was born in 1920 and died in 2000, was one of the most renowned Macedonian writers of poetry and prose.
He was the author of the first novel written in the Macedonian language, Seloto zad sedumte jaseni (The Village Behind the Seven Oaks).
The Macedonian PEN Centre condemned “the persistent attempts by the lustration commission to become a commission for the determining of sins”.
Under the terms of Macedonia’s lustration law, anyone pronounced a collaborator faces a ban from holding public office, which is the main goal of the legislation.
The PEN Centre says that for this reason, lustrating dead people is absurd because they cannot defend themselves or hold public office.
Other academics also expressed discontent about the commission’s decision.
“I suspect that there are some other goals [behind the lustration], to destroy the pillars of our literature and culture, because Janevski, together with Blaze Konevski and Aco Sopov were the founders of our literature after the [World War II] liberation,” academic Gjorgi Filipovski wrote in an open letter to the lustration commission.
But the commission insisted that its work was grounded in facts, rejecting the compaints as “unfounded”.
However, one member of the commission, Cedomir Damjnovski, said the decision was wrong.
“I have seen the documents and I claim that the late academic was not a collaborator with the secret services for ideological reasons. He only gave statements regarding his colleagues’ values,” Damjanovski told local media.
Following the practice of many former Communist countries, Macedonia adopted a lustration law in 2008 aimed at rectifying injustices from the Communist era, when people were tried and jailed based on information from police informants.
But the process has been controversial, with critics and the opposition claiming it is used to smear critics of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s government. The government denies such claims.
In its latest human rights report in 2012, the US State Department said that the Macedonian government had “used lustration as a means of attacking political opponents and disloyal former associates”.
In December, two members of the lustration commission resigned, saying the body had become a “government instrument”, but its head, Tome Adziev, insisted that it would continue working.