Serb Biker Club with Neo-Nazi Insignia Registered in Bosnia’s Doboj

Illustration. BIRN BiH

Serb Biker Club with Neo-Nazi Insignia Registered in Bosnia’s Doboj

26. September 2023.12:32
26. September 2023.12:32
The MC Serbs motorcycle club from Serbia, whose members wear Nazi-style death’s head insignias and some have tattoos of a stylised swastika, has officially registered an association to operate in the city of Doboj in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Detektor has learned.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

The association’s stated goals include bringing together bikers and motorcycle sport enthusiasts, improving the quality of life of children and young people in Doboj and Republika Srpska, as well as promoting charity work. 

Stankovic himself has promoted motorcycle sport on social media for nearly a decade, while wearing the most recognisable symbol of the MC Serbs club, a death’s head, on his biker vest. It was used by Nazi SS ‘Totenkopf’ units, and since the end of World War Two, it has been a symbol used by neo-Nazis and extreme right-wingers.  

Seven months before the registration of the association in Doboj, Detektor published an investigation about the MC Serbs Club that showed that the motorcycle club from Serbia had also started to operate in several towns in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska, and that, in addition to propagating neo-Nazi symbols, it spreads “hate and intolerance”, according to Bosnian security sources.   

Stankovic, who blocked Detektor journalists on social media making it impossible contact him on this story, is the only one who entered the Doboj branch of the Serbian-founded club in the court register, Detektor’s new investigation shows. Judging by posts on social media, there are at least four more active branches of the club in Republika Srpska and the Brcko District. 

Detektor journalists obtained a permit to look at the organisation’s registration documents, which are held by the Doboj court, and determined that they do not include neo-Nazi symbols and insignia in the statute and founding statement. Stankovic registered himself as the president, but the documents provided to the court do not contain much information about the organisation’s members, or say how many there are.

Bikers from Serbia a ‘security threat’

Members of “MC Serbs” from Republika Srpska in Belgrade. Photo: Facebook, screenshot

Photographs of motorcycle club members at meetings and gatherings, which are often attended by members of other branches of the MC Serbs club from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, have been posted on MC Serbs Doboj Facebook page for the past year. 

The members’ positions within the club and the cities they come from can be seen in all the photos, but the death’s-head symbol that distinguishes the club from others has been obscured. When members share photographs on their private social media accounts, they don’t hide the skull-and-crossbones insignia, which is also used by members of Blood and Honour, an international neo-Nazi group.

One photo taken in Belgrade in August this year, posted in the MC Serbs Doboj Facebook group, depicts several bikers, one of whom has a tattoo of a stylised swastika, slightly different from the one used by Nazi forces during World War Two. The other bikers wear vests with small stylised death’s heads, the same as those used by Nazi SS divisions during some of the worst atrocities of World War Two, while another has a necklace with a Nordic symbol of a spinning wheel, which is used by extreme right-wingers around the world. 

After Detektor revealed in 2020 that members of the Prijedor MC Serbs club were using the death’s head as their symbol, and that some members have far-right tattoos, the Prijedor branch deleted the organisation’s Facebook profile. Just like members of other branches of the club, in some of their photos the Prijedor bikers conceal the death’s head insignia.  

Late last year, Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted its Strategy for Combatting Terrorism, which, unlike the previous strategies, addresses right-wing extremism. But the action plan for its implementation was only adopted in August this year, so the Club MC Serbs club encountered no obstacles to registering the association in Doboj. 

Mirza Buljubasic, a terrorism expert and author of a study of right-wingers in the Balkans, says that the activities of the MC Serbs motorcycle club represents a security problem and should not be ignored, as they are united by extreme right-wing ideas and “destructive clerical nationalism”. 

“The expansion of the MC Serbs motorcycle club can be viewed also in the context of the spread of Russian influence in the Balkans; contacts between individual members of MC Serbs and the Night Wolves [pro-Putin biker club] from Russia existed before, prior to the official physical arrival of Night Wolves in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Buljubasic said. 

“It is possible that them arriving on steel two-wheelers and parading around increased interest in membership of MC Serbs somehow. But it is more likely that there is a certain strategic support between the Night Wolves and MC Serbs, in terms of strategic activity,” he added. 

Snezana Seslija, executive director of an NGO from Doboj, Tolerance against Differences, ToPeeR, told Detektor that she didn’t know about MC Serbs’ activities, but said that if there is a group promoting symbols of hatred, it should be eradicated immediately for the public good. 

“Those are residents of Doboj, who either lived there before or moved in there, and each of them should feel, not hate, but definitely something like aversion to such symbols,” she said.  

Mayor shows support for bikers

Draško Stanivuković, mayor of Banja Luka, with members of “MC Serbs”. Photo: Instagram, screenshot

In May this year, MC Serbs club members from Doboj travelled to Banja Luka, where they participated, alongside other members of their club and other clubs, in the Moto Fest Banja Luka, which was held at Kastel castle for the sixth time.

The festival is also supported by the City of Banja Luka and its mayor, Drasko Stanivukovic. For the second year in a row, he appeared at the event surrounded by MC Serbs members from Banja Luka, then posted a picture taken with them on his Instagram account.

Stanivukovic did not respond to a request for an interview. When journalists asked him about the photo at a press conference, he said he published the photo “because it was nice”, but denied that he knew about the activities of MC Serbs.

“Moto Fest is an event that Banja Luka has traditionally supported,” said Stanivukovic.

He said that he “probably demonstrated openness towards being photographed” with anyone who approached him politely, and insisted that he “did not look at the [bikers’] insignia”.

He added that he belonged to a nation of people who fought against fascism and Nazism.

But he said he would not recognise the symbols of the Third Reich and promised to check up the allegations presented by Detektor journalists. After that, the city administration will respond in a responsible manner, he said.

The photographs that Stanivukovic published show him surrounded by the same people for two years in a row. In one of the photographs, Detektor journalists identified Djordje Grubisic, alias Crni, who, judging by the published photos, is the vice-president of the Banja Luka branch of MC Serbs.

In the 2016 elections, he was a candidate for the NDP Dragan Cavic political party for the Banja Luka Assembly. During the election campaign, media published a photo that showed him posing with a handgun in front of the Albanian flag.

He is also the president of Bozur RS Association, which aids the most vulnerable Serb families in Kosovo.

In an interview with Detektor, Grubisic said he had become a member of MC Serbs for “patriotic” reasons, insisting that the club “does not give anyone a headache”. He also said he did not consider the symbols used by the club to be related to Nazism.

“For you, the uninformed, all of that refers to Nazism. There is no Nazism there, it is all about patriotism,” Grubisic said.

When Detektor published the first research on “MC Serbs” two years ago, the then director of the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right, CARR, said the death’s head drawn on MC Srbi club vests is usually called by the German term Totenkopf, and shows a smiling skull with crossed bones behind it, and was used by the SS.

“This emblem came directly from the SS and, just like the numbers 1 and 8, as well as Blood and Honour, represents a sort of a reference or allusion to Nazism and veneration of the Third Reich,” Feldman explained.

MC Serbs’ activities in Prijedor

Marinko Zdjelar, upper left i Bojan Dešić, upper right. Photo: Facebook, screenshot

Marinko Zdjelar, president of the MC Serbs branch in Prijedor, often appears in photos in the company of Grubisic and club members from Doboj. 

Detektor published a story in 2020 identifying both Zdjelar, who was the vice-president, and another man called Bojan Desic as members. After the story was published , Desic and Zdjelar blocked Detektor’s journalists on social media and refused to talk officially, answer neither calls nor messages asking them to comment.

In the period when Zdjelar was the vice-president of the Prijedor branch, Nemanja Kerezovic, a boxer working in Germany, held the role of president.  

Asked by Detektor journalists via Facebook if he was still a member of the club and whether he could discuss the activities in which he had been involved, Kerezovic did not respond.  

In 2019, he shared a photo of a Blood and Honour poster on his account, celebrating January 9, the Day of Republika Srpska, which has been declared unconstitutional by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Constitutional Court.  

“Everlasting glory to the bastion of the Serbs, happy birthday Republika Srpska,” Kerezovic wrote in a comment that was published with the photo.

Zdjelar and Desic appear in photos with other members of MC Serbs in Republika Srpska, including bikers from Modrica, who are led, judging by inscriptions on their vests, by branch president Dragan Tanasic. 

Besides the symbols of the club, in one of the photos Tanasic was showing off a spinning-wheel symbol, representing an eight-pointed swastika. According to an analysis by the Reporting Radicalism Initiative, the symbol is frequently used by far-right groups in many Slavic countries instead of the swastika. 

While investigating the situation in Modrica, our journalists contacted Tanasic by phone. At first, he said he was at work and that an interview could be conducted after work. When he was contacted again, he refused to talk, mentioning that he had asked around and learnt that Detektor had previously reported about the MC Serbs group. 

When journalists visited a gathering of Ravna Gora nationalist Chetnik movements at Ravna Gora last year, they spotted members of the MC Serbs club from Serbia among the participants.

A man called Nedo Vasiljevic was also photographed wearing an MC Serbs Modrica vest in May this year. At various points in time, he was wearing club vests with the names of two different places in Republika Srpska, Prijedor and Modrica. 

In the most recent photos, depicting him in the company of Tanasic, Vasiljevic wears the Modrica inscription. He did not respond to a query from Detektor’s journalists about his work and membership of the motorcycle club whose events he attends.  

Support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 

Dragan Tanasić with members of Ravna Gora Chetnik Movement. Photo: Facebook, screenshot

Just like members of the Russian motorcycle group Night Wolves, individual MC Serbs members also display the letter ‘Z’, which has become a symbol of Russian forces during the invasion of Ukraine. 

In April 2022, Dejan Arsenovic, a member of MC Serbs from Doboj, also started using used the symbol, posting a photo on social media of a Russian tank with the letter ‘Z’ on it. 

In photographs taken at a bike rally in Brcko, Arsenovic can be seen in a T-shirt with ‘Russia’ printed on it. On his vest, Arsenovic has insignia indicating that he is the club’s treasurer. As indicated by the photos on Facebook, two members of the MC Serbs Doboj branch are Borislav Janjic and Vukasin Jurosevic.

Detektor journalists tried to locate members of the Doboj branch. They found Borislav Janjic’s father in a dress shop he owns in the town centre near a popular local café in which the MC Serbs member once tagged himself on social media.  

The journalists talked to Janjic over his father’s phone. “I don’t have time, I am on vacation,” Janjic said after the journalists introduced themselves. When they explained they were writing a story about local branches of the motorcycle club to which he belonged, Janjic said he knew all about it.  

“I am not authorised to speak about anything that concerns the club. There’s a president and a vice-president,” he said, adding that the two club officials could be contacted via Facebook. 

Detektor was unable to contact Stankovic, while MC Serbs Doboj failed to answer a query sent to their Facebook page. 

Late last year, Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted its Strategy for Combatting Terrorism, which addresses right-wing extremism for the first time. When asked by Detektor if activities to deal with right-wing extremism are being implemented, the Security Ministry answered that the action plan to implement the strategy had only been adopted in August this year – nine months after the adoption of the strategy itself.

“Following the adoption of the action plan, the implementation of the measures and activities prescribed, which include, amongst other things, the prevention of various forms of violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism, as well as the prevention of hate-filled narratives, will begin,” the ministry said in a written response.

A member of the task force for the development of the strategy action plan, who asked to remain anonymous because of his job, told Detektor that it is a problem that the strategy document does not say precisely which right-wing groups should be monitored in Bosnia and Herzegovina, leaving room for some groups to operate without any restrictions. 

Nermina Kuloglija-Zolj

This post is also available in: Bosnian