The UN has apologized after Ban Ki-moon and other senior officials gave a standing ovation to "March on the Drina," unaware it was the unofficial anthem of the Serbian troops who massacred Bosnian civilians in the 1990s.
According to The New York Times, many Bosnian massacre survivors protested the playing of the song and Ban's reaction, leading to the organization's apology. "March on the Drina" was performed during the encore of a concert by the Serbian choir Viva Vox and is said to have not been listed in the official program.
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"We sincerely regret that people were offended by this song," the agency’s spokesman, Martin Nesirky, told reporters.
Newser reported that the subject is particularly problematic because the 8,000 civilians who died in the Srebrenica massacre were under the protection of UN peacekeepers at the time.
The Times noted that the Drina is Bosnia's main river. The song's lyrics include references to fighting: "Near cold water/Blood was flowing/Blood was streaming: By the Drina was freedom!"
"March on the Drina" was originally a World War I anthem when the Serbians were fighting Austro-Hungarians, but it later became a favorite among ultranationalist Serbian forces during the war that broke up Yugoslavia.
General Assembly president Vuk Jeremic, also a former Serbian foreign minister, issued a statement about the song on Thursday: "We are very proud of it, and we wanted to share it with the world with a clearly stated accompanying message of reconciliation for present and future generations."