One of Belgrade's nicest parks, the Tasmajdan Park, has recently got renovated – thanks, partially, to a donation of 2 million euros by the Azerbaijani government. The news that has been stirring controversy these past few weeks among Serbian bloggers and on-line community is the condition for this gift from Azerbaijan: in return for the generous donation, Belgrade will erect a monument to Heydar Aliyev, the former president of Azerbaijan, in the park.
The story of Heydar Aliyev's controversial rule has caused some bloggers to ask the question of whether the donation was worth putting up a statue to someone like him.
Vlada Dulovic of Living in Belgrade blog writes [en]:
…putting no less than a 3m tall statue of a single person who died just a few years ago would in any case be highly questionable. And what a person that was!
Until his death in 2003 Aliyev ruled his oil-rich republic for more then 30 years, first as a communist and then as the first democratic president, but with little change in his strong-arm attitude. He left his office to his son Ilham who praises his fathers and his own rule by donations with a catch in poor countries, such as Romania, where recently Bucharest accepted the same arrangement.
Blogger Mahlat also refers to Aliyev's rule as the “worst kind of a dictatorship” and adds [sr]:
But, none of this really matters, because [Jovan Krkobabić, deputy PM in charge of social affairs] stated that we “shouldn't behave like police officers and investigate what's been done in the past. Because we don't have time for such things…” – in other words – never mind the dictatorship, it's two million euros, for god's sake, and that “all this will serve the city and the citizens well.”
Nebojša Krivokuća on his blog wonders [sr] why almost nobody in the media mentions anything from Aliyev's biography – and concludes:
Two million euros obviously allow a significant degree of freedom to the donor.
So now – if among the rich folks we find some with a more twisted sense of humour or different views on things – there could soon be another one who would offer to renovate part of [Kalemegdan], for example, with the condition of putting up a statue of Stalin! We hail to him, occasionally, from time to time anyway. And perhaps there would be someone even richer, who would offer to redecorate the [Ušće] park, with the condition of putting up a 30-meter monument to, ok, let's not say Hitler, he already has [a room in a Belgrade hotel named after him], but let's say Kim Jong Ill would do – his rule is far enough from us geographically that it doesn't really matter how he ruled, right?