Serbia, alongside other countries in southeastern Europe, has a longstanding problem of stray animals on city streets, many of which become victims of abuse; alongside this issue, activists have claimed that Serbia’s government fails to enforce animal abuse laws already on the books. It’s an emotionally charged issue for Serbians, and Levijatan has managed to co-opt it.
Levijatan’s activities are not limited to the dog-cuddling photos they post on social media. They use their public platform to insult, bully and threaten their critics — not just because they might abuse or harm animals. Levijatan use any chance they get to inject nationalist rhetoric into their messages, including attacking anyone they consider to be “anti-Serbian.”
For Levijatan, “anti-Serbian” includes everyone from human rights activists and independent media to Romani people and migrants. The group’s leader, directly inspired by U.S. President Donald Trump, has even started labeling his left-wing critics “terrorists.” Though they deny it, Levijatan has also been accused of having links not only to organized crime, but to the ruling party of increasingly autocratic Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic. Levijatan is even running candidates in Serbia’s elections on June 21. (Levijatan did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Bellingcat)
<this is a tweet from Pavle Bihali translated by the author>
“I can swear here. Fuck you in your yellow mouth, self-hater, anti-Serb. Fuck you, fat wire-wearing hog Bojan Savic and the squeaky Polar Bears who commit the most heinous crimes and get away with it. Also fuck all the NGOs and you Oleniks, get stuffed in the ass like a stuffed pepper”
(Bojan Savic is a journalist critical of Levijatan; “Polar Bears” refers to Roma; Aleksandar Olenik is a lawyer and activist critical of Levijatan)
In the video accompanying the tweet, Bihali complains about a video of him singing a song by a Serbian nationalist folk singer being removed. “Of course, there’s no data to support who did this, and all I can say about them is that they’re the most disgusting scum to be found in Serbia. I don’t hate people of any ethnic background or religious background, but I hope that when I see one of those people on the street I can show them what I think of them. They’re idiots, they’re morons, they’re sickos, they’re pedophiles, they’re zoophiles….”