BANJA LUKA, Bosnia and Herzegovina – Bosnian Serbs honored the controversial 2019 Nobel Prize winner for Literature, Peter Handke, known for his views as an apologist on Serbian war crimes during the 1990s wars in the Balkans.
The Austrian novelist and screenwriter was greeted by Bosnian Serb officials upon his arrival in the northern city of Banja Luka, the main city in the Bosnian Serb side. From there Handke headed to the eastern city of Visegrad where he received the literary prize.
While Handke is adored by Serbs for his support for their nationalist policies, he is seen as persona non grata in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, which is dominated by predominantly Muslim Bosnians.
“I am happy to be here,” Handke said in Banja Luka, according to Bosnian Serbian TV. “It’s a big time for me.”
Bosnian officials in 2019 boycotted the Nobel Prize giving ceremony for Handke, and the Sarajevo regional parliament also denounced the Swedish Academy for awarding him the prize.
Handke was a staunch supporter of the Serbs and their late leader Slobodan Milosevic during his war campaigns in the Balkans and disputed that the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica was genocide. This flies in the face of several rulings of international tribunals, which have characterized the carnage in the eastern Bosnian enclave as genocide.
Serbian mini-state Republika Srpska honored Handke on Friday for “his outstanding work and contribution in the field of cultural and spiritual development, and for his outstanding contribution to developing and strengthening global relations with Republika Srpska”.
President Zeljka Cvijanovic thanked Handke for the “understanding you have shown in representing the right Serbian interests”.
The Republika Srpska was formed under a US-brokered peace deal that ended the war in Bosnia in 1995 after the deaths of approximately 100,000 people. The country’s two federations, one led by Bosnian Serbs and the other by Bosnians and Croats, are linked by common Bosnian institutions.