Matthew Collin

This article is from 2007.

Matthew Collin

Alternative culture helps fight tyranny

At the turn of the 21st century, uprisings against undemocratic governments in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine benefited from a prominent youth resistance, with groups using humour and satire to undermine the authorities. ‘After Otpor in Serbia, similar youth resistance groups emerged in various former communist states, Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine and Azerbaijan,’ explains journalist and former Big Issue editor Matthew Collin, who followed the rebels in their struggle ‘Some went on to triumph, others failed dismally. And they were copied by groups in places like Zimbabwe, Lebanon and Egypt. Interestingly, a mass youth movement has been set up in Russia, but its intention is to support Vladimir Putin’s government rather than oppose it.’

What impressed Collin most was the creativity and courage he witnessed. ‘They mixed influences from pop culture and new media with established forms of non-violent protest in a theatrical and inspirational way. They made resistance fun. But they were also ready to stand up to the might of an angry state when their struggles became serious.’ In Serbia, rock music and independent radio played an important role. ‘They helped to create alternative cultures,’ says Collin, ‘questioning the militarised nationalism of the Milosevic era. These alternative cultures were at the heart of the movement which ultimately overthrew him.’ (Jay Richardson)

Recommended Reading: This is Serbia Calling focuses on Belgrade’s underground radio movement.

21 Aug (with Ian Patterson), 2.30pm, £7 (£5).

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