Friday, January 08, 2016
BRITISH PEN MIGHTIER THAN UDBa SWORD
Macedonian Lustration process - 1980 - PEN President & British author Dr Michael Scammell spied upon by Yugoslavia over Macedonian dissident Dragan Bogdanovski and Albanian dissident Adem Demaci?
BRITISH PEN MIGHTIER THAN UDBa SWORD
by Sasha Uzunov
Dr Michael Scammell, a prominent British author and academic who as the President of PEN, the Internationalist writers union, was being spied upon by Yugoslav intelligence in 1980 over Macedonian and Albanian dissidents, according to declassified files released some time ago by Macedonia's controversial Lustration Process Commission, now shut down by the European Union. TEAM UZUNOV has recently managed to track down Dr Scammell.
Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski set up the The Lustration Commission in 2009 to uncover informers from the Yugoslavist /communist period in Macedonia (1944-91).
The Commission was criticised at the time for being used by the Gruevski government to target opponents. A western intelligence source has told TEAM UZUNOV that the many intelligence documents declassified by the Commission are genuine but many have also been tampered with or fabricated.
"It's difficult to tell what is fact and what is fiction," the source said.
Another staunch critic of Lustration is Alexander Dinevski, a former Yugoslav and later Macedonian Intelligence officer, who was released a month ago after spending two years in jail on alleged and controversial espionage charges laid by the Gruevski government. He denies his guilt and claims he was set up. There are plans to fight to overturn the conviction.
Dinevski, many years prior to his imprisonment, claimed the process was selective in choosing individuals to "lustrate" and documents open to forgery.
A TEAM UZUNOV investigation, citing declassified Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) files confirmed that a genuine ex Yugoslav intelligence operative, Martin Trenevski, was not put through the Lustration Commission but appointed Macedonia’s Ambassador to NATO (2010-14) by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. see link for story
DR SCAMMELL - specialises in Slavonic studies; is fluent in Russian, Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian. He earn his Phd from Columbia University and is the author of award wining biographies on great thinkers and writers, Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Arthur Koestler.
The Yugoslav intelligence file, written in Macedonian, relates to a 1980 PEN conference in Bled, Slovenia, then part of Yugoslavia. The file, which TEAM UZUNOV has not been able to verify its authenticity or if it is a forgery, notes concerns about the possibility of Macedonian dissident Dragan Bogdanovski and Albanian dissident Adem Demaci having their imprisonment in Yugoslav jails publicised at the PEN conference to Yugoslavia's embarrassment.
Two informers are named, one a Slovenian writer by the name of Boris Pogacnik, now passed away, who Dr Scammell did really know, and a second, a Macedonian who is still alive, who were involved in monitoring Dr Scammell. TEAM UZUNOV has decided not to publish this name for legal reasons. Putting that aside, it would have been normal procedure for Yugoslav Intelligence (UDBa later SDB) to have spied upon a prominent foreigner visiting or working on then Yugoslav soil. It stands to reason there would be a file on him, most probably in the Slovenian archives. TEAM UZUNOV has advised Dr Scammell to approach the Slovenian authorities to get access to his dossier.
Suffice to say, according to the Macedonian document the Yugoslavist authorities breathed a sigh of relief when Bogdanovski and Demaci were not mentioned.
Bogdanovski spent over a decade in a Yugoslav communist jail in Skopje, Macedonia; Demaci did over 20 years. It remains intriguing that Macedonia's Yugoslav Communist authorities were also doing Serbia's bidding over Demaci? He fell under Pristina / Belgrade jurisdiction of UDBa.
Some of these hard core Yugoslavists who came down hard on both Macedonian and Albanian dissidents have reinvented themselves as Macedonian human rights activists post 1991, after the collapse of Yugoslavia and Macedonia’s consequent independence. Likewise, some hard core Yugoslavists became “Macedonian patriots” overnight.
TEAM UZUNOV has published in full, Dr Scammell's response after he was sent a copy of the intelligence files:
"Thank you for that revealing snippet of information, which was unknown to me before, but doesn't surprise me in the least. The fact is that all the PEN centres from communist countries operated in more or less the same way, and the Yugoslav centres were no different from the Soviet-dominated ones, except that party control over their operations was looser and less predictable.
"Strictly speaking, none of these centres should have been in International PEN in the first place. They were there because (with the exception of the Russian Centre) the Soviet bloc centres had inherited the position of their pre-World War II predecessors, operating at the time within more or less democratic societies, and though they were quickly taken over by anti-democratic communists, the polite fiction was maintained that these centres continued to respect (and defend) freedom of expression. Thus among the delegations they sent to PEN's international congresses there would usually be one or two "name" writers, a couple of conformists and at least one "minder" and informer, who would report back to party headquarters.
"The situation of the Yugoslav centres wasn't much different, except for two factors. First, they not only inherited the bona fides of their pre-war predecessors, but also miraculously (and hypocritically) basked in the aura of PEN's 1933 International Congress in Bled, when the German centre was kicked out after being taken over by Hitler (and after Hitler's notorious book-burning orgy). Secondly, Yugoslavia was genuinely more flexible and liberal than the countries of the Soviet bloc by 1980, and that played a big role in the decision to hold a congress in Bled.
"It's worth noting too that there were considerable differences at the time between the Yugoslav centres themselves. By far the most liberal was the Slovenian Centre, which is another reason Bled was chosen, though even the Slovenes had their Bogdan Pogačnik. From there the degree of a centre's freedom generally shrank as you moved from north to south. The Croatian and Serbian centres were somewhat less free than Slovenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina was a lot less free, and Montenegro and Macedonia were still virtually Stalinist, which is why the Macedonians were so agitated.
"As for my own position vis-à-vis the Yugoslavs, it was rather complicated. I had graduated from Nottingham University in Russian literature, with a minor in Serbo-Croatian, and immediately afterward had spent the year 1958-59 working as a Lektor (Lecturer) in English language at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.
"In the early-sixties I worked as a tourist guide in Dalmatia and helped write a tourist book on the region; in the mid-sixties, when I was working for the Overseas Service of the BBC, I met the Slovenian poet, Veno Taufer, there and we translated a great deal of Slovenian poetry into English; and in 1972 I founded the free-speech journal, Index on Censorship, where I regularly published information about the repression of writers in Yugoslavia (including Djilas at one point) and presented translations of some of their work. To cap it all, in 1976 I was asked to chair the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN and turned it into a highly active committee that, I'm pleased to say, was hated by both right and left-wing dictatorships all over the globe.
"As such, of course, I had to deal in even greater detail with the situation of writers in Yugoslavia and was in regular contact with dissidents from just about every republic. It was in this capacity that I learned about the plight of the Kosovar writer, Adam Demaci, who suffered not only politically, but also from the fact of writing in Albanian, which almost nobody knew. I myself didn't know Albanian either, but through my contacts at the BBC I knew a couple of Albanians living in London and was able to get information from them."