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Milosevic, Slobodan

Slobodan Milosevic

Born: August 20, 1941
Pozarevac, Yugoslavia

Yugoslav president and Serbian political leader

Slobodan Milosevic was president of Serbia (a republic, or member state, of Yugoslavia) from 1989 to 1997 and president of Yugoslavia from 1997 to 2000. In 2001 he was sent to stand trial at the international war crimes tribunal (court) in The Hague, Netherlands, for his actions during the civil war that occurred in Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

The young Milosevic

Slobodan Milosevic was born on August 20, 1941, in Pozarevac, a small town near Belgrade, Serbia, the capital of Yugoslavia. Slobodan was the second of two sons of Svetozar and Stanislava Milosevic. His ancestors belonged to the Vasojevici clan from Montenegro, another republic of Yugoslavia. His father finished Eastern Orthodox seminary (a place where people study to be priests) in Cetinje, Montenegro, and then studied at the School of Theology in Belgrade. His mother was a teacher in Pozarevac. People remember her as a strict, hardworking woman and a devoted Communist (a person who believes that goods should be owned and equally distributed by the government). When Slobodan was young, his parents separated and his father went to live in Montenegro. It is believed that his parents both eventually took their own liveshis father in 1962 and his mother in 1973.

Milosevic finished his elementary and high school education in Pozarevac. According to his teachers and classmates, young Milosevic was an outstanding high school student, always attentive and always neatly dressed. Although quiet and solitary, he was politically active and published several of his writings in the local high school journal. While still in high school, Milosevic met his future wife, Mirjana (Mira) Markovic, whose family ranked among the most prominent Communists in Serbia. Her father was a hero from World War II (193945; a war fought between the Axis [Germany, Italy, and Japan] and the Allies [the United States, Britain, China and other nations]). Her uncle later became one of the leading politicians in post-war Serbia, and her aunt was a personal secretary of Josip Broz Tito (18921980) who was the Communist president of Yugoslavia from 1953 to 1980. The young couple's friends did not doubt that the love between Mirjana and Slobodan was sincere and genuinetheirs was a bond between two similar souls. They raised two children.

A career in the making

In 1960 Milosevic was a law student at the University of Belgrade. He was an excellent student who was active in the university section of the League of Communists (the official name for the Communist Party), where he met Ivan Stambolic, a nephew of one of the most powerful Serbian Communist leaders. Many believe that it was Stambolic who elevated the political career of Milosevic.

In 1964, after graduating from the university, Milosevic was appointed as an economic adviser and a coordinator of the information service in the government of Belgrade. In 1968 he became a deputy director of a state-owned gas company, Tehnogas. After Stambolic left Tehnogas in 1973 and became the prime minister of Serbia, Milosevic rose to the post of director. Five years later he became president of the powerful Belgrade bank Beobanka. In 1982 he became a member of the collective presidency of the League of Communists of Serbia, and two years later a chief of the City of Belgrade Party Organization. The collective presidency of the League of Communists of Serbia elected Milosevic as its president in 1986.

A defining moment

On April 24, 1987, Milosevic visited Kosovo Polje, a suburb of the capital of the self-governing Serbian province of Kosovo, and attempted to calm the group of Serbs and Montenegrins who were protesting the continuous mistreatment by the Albanian majority. When an excited crowd tried to enter the building to speak directly to Milosevic, they were beaten back by the local police. Milosevic strode out and shouted to the crowd: "No one has the right to beat you!" These simple words changed the structure of Serbian politics. Shortly after, in a series of heated sessions of the League of Communists of Serbia, Milosevic succeeded in removing Stambolic and his associates from the Serbian political arena. In 1989 Milosevic became president of Serbia.

The disagreement among Serbia's Communists over the Kosovo province shook the already crumbling Yugoslavia. After Serbia took back authority over the self-governing provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina, the prospect that Serbia might dominate all of Yugoslavia fueled nationalism (a patriotic desire for one's people to have its own nation) in the Yugoslav republics of Slovenia and Croatia and gave a boost to secessionist movements (or movements to withdraw from a nation). Following the collapse of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in 1990, multiparty elections were held in each of the six Yugoslav republics. While Milosevic and his Socialist Party retained power in Serbia, forces that openly desired secession from Yugoslavia came into power in almost all other republics (with the exception of Montenegro).

The nationalist emotions that spread throughout Yugoslavia inspired ugly memories among Serbs who had been subjected to genocide (the intentional destruction of a people by mass murder) during World War II. Milosevic, who had already established himself as the leading champion of Serbian rights, was the natural ally to more than two million Serbs living outside the borders of Serbia. When the talks among the various Yugoslav republics were called off in 1991, the violent breakup of Yugoslavia was near.

Civil war

The collapse of Yugoslavia and the resulting civil war among the breakaway nations brought new attention to Milosevic. In the fighting that began in April 1992, Milosevic avoided personal involvement, leaving Serbian military groups to carry out attacks against the newly established nations of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Nevertheless, many critics, particularly in the West, portrayed him as a merciless tyrant who wanted to create a greater Serbia. At the same time, Milosevic and his Socialist Party appeared to be secure in their Belgrade headquarters.

By late 1995 United Nation-imposed sanctions had destroyed the Serbian economy, and Milosevic agreed to a peace plan during talks at an air base in Dayton, Ohio. He attempted to rebuild his image, since he was thought by many to be the force behind war crimes and millions of deaths. Milosevic began making strides at winning a more favorable public opinion, calling for tolerance, or respect, among ethnic groups and portraying himself as a heroic and peace-promoting defender of Serbs. Despite the near-40 percent unemployment and the overall decline in quality of life among Serbs, he was able to retain supporters.

Losing hold on power

In 1997 Milosevic's second and final term as president was at an end, but he hoped to continue his presidency by using a legal trick. On July 23, 1997, he changed his title from president of Serbia to president of the Yugoslav federation (which now consisted only of Serbia and its junior partner, Montenegro) in an attempt to retain his term. Then, in 1999, Milosevic refused to withdraw troops who were trying to stop an independence movement in Kosovo. In retaliation, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), led by the United States, bombed Serbia for two and a half months. Serbian forces, nonetheless, caused a significant amount of suffering in Kosovo.

On July 7, 2000, Yugoslavia's federal parliament enacted changes to the country's constitution that would allow Milosevic to serve two more four-year terms. However, Milosevic resigned in October 2000 because of the massive popular revolt against him. Six month later, Milosovic was arrested by police after he threatened to kill himself, his wife, and his daughter. Only two months later, in late June 2001, he was sent to The Hague to be tried for war crimes, including genocide.

For More Information

Cohen, Leonard J. Serpent in the Bosom: The Rise and Fall of Slobodan Milosevic. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2001.

Doder, Dusko, and Louise Branson. Milosevic: Portrait of a Tyrant. New York: Free Press, 1999.

Sell, Louis. Slobodan Milosevic and the Destruction of Yugoslavia. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002.

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Slobodan Milosevic

Slobodan Milosevic

Slobodan Milosevic (born 1941) became president of Serbia in 1989. He won two subsequent presidential elections (1990, 1992) and retained his post.

Slobodan Milosevic was born on August 20, 1941, in Pozarevac, a small town on the outskirts of Belgrade, capital city of the former Yugoslavia. His ancestors belonged to the Vasojevici clan from Montenegro. His father finished Orthodox seminary in Cetinje (Montenegro) and studied at the School of Theology in Belgrade. His mother was a teacher in Pozarevac. People remember her as a strict, diligent woman and a fervent communist.

Milosevic finished his primary and secondary education in Pozarevac. According to his teachers and classmates, young Slobodan was an outstanding high school student always sitting in the first row neatly dressed. Although rather quiet and solitary, he was politically active and published several pieces in the local high school journal. While still in high school, Milosevic met his future wife, Mirjana (Mira) Markovic, whose family ranked among the most prominent communists in Serbia. Her father was a hero from World War II; her uncle later became one of the leading politicians in postwar Serbia; and her aunt was a personal secretary of Josip Broz Tito. The young couple's contemporaries did not doubt that the love between Mirjana and Slobodan was sincere and genuine—a covenant of two similar souls rather than a marriage of interest. They raised two children.

In 1960 Milosevic became a law student at the University of Belgrade. He was an excellent student and active in the university section of the League of Communists (official name for the Communist Party) where he met Ivan Stambolic, a nephew of one of the most powerful Serbian communist leaders. Many people think that it was Stambolic who elevated the political career of Milosevic. In 1964, after graduating from the university, Milosevic was appointed as an economic counselor and a coordinator of the informational service in the administration of the City of Belgrade. In 1968 he became a deputy director of a state-owned gas conglomerate, Tehnogas. After Stambolic left Tehnogas in 1973 and became the prime minister of Serbia, Milosevic rose to the post of director. Five years later he became president of the powerful Belgrade bank Beobanka. In 1982 he became a member of the collective presidency of the League of Communists of Serbia, and two years later a chief of the City of Belgrade Party Organization. The collective presidency of the League of Communists of Serbia elected Milosevic as its president in 1986.

On a personal level many people described Milosevic as a very pleasant and witty person, well organized, and a sophisticated politician. While his political speeches were plain and simple, he dressed well, smoked expensive cigars, and did not hesitate to use his fluent English.

On April 24, 1987, Milosevic visited Kosovo Polje, a suburb of the capital of the autonomous province of Kosovo, attempting to appease the mass of Serbs and Montenegrins protesting a continuous mistreatment by the Albanian majority. When an excited crowd tried to enter the building and talk directly to Milosevic, they were beaten back by the local police. Milosevic strode out and shouted to the crowd: "No one has the right to beat you!" These simple words changed the milieu of Serbian politics. Shortly after, in a series of steamy sessions of the League of Communists of Serbia, Milosevic succeeded in removing Stambolic and his associates from the Serbian political arena. In 1989 Milosevic became president of Serbia.

The internal disagreement among Serbia's communists over Kosovo province shook the already crumbling Yugoslav federation. After Serbia reinstated its authority over the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina, the prospect of Serbian domination fueled a nationalist frenzy in Slovenia and Croatia and bolstered secessionist movements in these republics. Following the collapse of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in 1990, multiparty elections were held in each of six Yugoslav republics. While Milosevic and his Socialist Party retained power in Serbia, forces that openly advocated secession from Yugoslavia came into power in almost all other republics (with the exception of Montenegro). The nationalist hysteria that spread all over Yugoslavia invoked gruesome memories among Serbs who were subjected to genocide by the Croatian Nazi regime during World War II. Milosevic, who had already established himself as the foremost champion of Serbian rights, was the natural ally to more than two million Serbs living outside the borders of Serbia. When the negotiations among the various republics were called off in 1991, the violent breakup of Yugoslavia became imminent.

The collapse of Yugoslavia and the ensuing civil war among the break-away nations focused new attention on Milosevic. In the fighting that began in April 1992 Milosevic seemed to stay removed from personal involvement, leaving Serbian militias to carry out attacks against the newly established nations of Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina. Nevertheless, many critics, particularly in the West, portrayed him as a ruthless despot intent upon overseeing the creation of a Greater Serbia. At the same time, Milosevic and his Socialist Party seemed secure in their Belgrade headquarters.

By late 1995, U.N.-imposed sanctions had demolished the Serbian economy and Milosevic agreed to a Balkan peace plan forged during negotiations at an air base in Dayton, Ohio. He has been attempting to rebuild his image, since he was once thought to be the reason behind military crimes, war crimes, and millions of deaths. Milosevic began making strides at winning a more favorable public opinion, calling for tolerance among ethnic groups and portraying himself as a heroic and peace-promoting defender of Serbs against annihilation. Despite the near-40 percent unemployment and the overall decline in lifestyle among the Serbs, he did retain supporters.

In 1997 Milosevic's second and final term as president was to run out, but he hoped to prolong his tenure with a technicality. On July 23, 1997, he changed his title from president of Serbia to president of the Yugoslav federation in an attempt to circumvent the term limit.

Further Reading

Slobodan Milosevic is discussed in the Christian Science Monitor (throughout October 1988), Time (June 8, 1992), and numerous references in periodicals such as the Washington Post (May 4, 1994), Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. For information regarding the 1997 political race, see Calabresi, Massimo, "So Unhappy Together" in Time (June 23, 1997). □

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Milosevic, Slobodan

Milosevic, Slobodan 1941-2006

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Slobodan Milosevic was the president of Serbia from 1989 to 1997, and president of the Federated Republic of Yugoslavia from 1997 to 2000. Milosevic was born in Pozarevac, Serbia, the second son of a former Orthodox priest and a Serbian schoolteacher; both parents later committed suicide. In high school Milosevic met Mirjana Markovic, the daughter of prominent Yugoslav Communist Party members. They married in 1965 and had two children, Marija and Marko. Milosevic completed college at the University of Belgrade, studied law, and then became head of Technogas, the state-owned gas company, and, later, president of Beobanka, the United Bank of Belgrade.

In 1984 Milosevic entered politics as leader of the Belgrade Communist Party. Calling for a centralized federal political and economic system, Milosevic became a spokesperson for Serbian nationalist sentiments and the long-standing desire for the creation of a Serbian republic throughout former Yugoslavia. In 1987, while in the Albanian providence of Kosovo, Milosevic assured the Serbian minority population that Yugoslavias non-Serbian populations would not extract concessions from the Serbians as they sought greater autonomy from the once-powerful Yugoslavian confederation. Soon afterward, Yugoslavias fragile, multiethnic coalitions disintegrated into regional enclaves at war. In 1988, in a wave of Serbian nationalism, Milosevic was elected president of Serbia. By 19921993, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia sought to secede from Yugoslavia to form autonomous governments. Milosevic directed the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav Army to wage war against these movements and protect the Serbian minority population from its non-Serbian secessionists. By arming Serbias minority populations in the provinces, the goal of the war changed from a preservation of the Yugoslav confederation to an ethnic civil war, taking the lives of more than 250,000 people and displacing more than 2 million.

In 1995, in its first military operation against a European nation, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) commenced air strikes against Serb targets in Croatia, bringing Milosevic into negotiations, which became known as the Dayton Peace Accord. In 1996 Milosevic was elected president of Yugoslavia and in 1997 Serbia was at war in Kosovo. In 1999 NATO again bombed targets inside Serbia, including Belgrade, until Serbian forces withdrew from Kosovo. In 2000 economic and international isolation created enough popular unrest in Belgrade to force Milosevic from power. In June 2001 Milosevic was arrested and extradited to The Hague for trial in the United Nations Criminal Tribunal. Milosevic was charged with three indictments: for his role in atrocities committed by Serbian forces during the Kosovo campaign, including the murder of more than 600 people and the deportation of 700,000; for breaches of the Geneva Conventions in Croatia, including the forced removal of 200,000 non-Serbians; and for crimes against humanity and genocide in Bosnia, namely the killing of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats.

The court held that as president of the Republic of Serbia, Milosevic exercised control over the participants in the conflict. After refusing to enter a plea or accept assistance from lawyers provided by the court, Milosevic elected to defend himself. The trial lasted five years and, with less than one month of deliberations remaining, Milosevic was found dead in his cell at the age of sixty-four. On March 14, 2006, his trial was officially terminated, without a verdict. Historians regard Milosevics war of nationalism and ethnic cleansing as one of Europes most destructive conflicts and human rights atrocities since World War II.

SEE ALSO Genocide; Tito (Josip Broz)

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brkic, Courtney. 2005. The Wages of Denial. New York Times, July 11.

Gutman, Roy. 1993. Witness to Genocide. New York: Macmillan.

Traynor, Ian. 2006. Slobodan Milosevic (obituary). Guardian Unlimited Special Reports, March 13. http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,1729460,00.html.

Vulliamy, Ed. 1994. Seasons in Hell: Understanding Bosnias War. New York: St. Martins Press.

Wood, Nicolas, and Judy Dempsey. 2006. Death Poses Challenges as Serbia Faces Past and Future. New York Times, March 13.

James Freeman

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Milošević, Slobodan

Slobodan Milošević (slôbô´dän mēlô´shəvĬch´), 1941–2006, Yugoslav and Serbian political leader, president of Serbia (1989–97) and of Yugoslavia (1997–2000), b. Požarevac, Serbia. He joined the Communist party in 1959, beginning his political career in the 1960s as an economic adviser to the mayor of Belgrade and holding various posts in the party and state enterprises. He became the leader of the Belgrade Communist party in 1984 and Serbian party leader in 1986.

Initially opposed to liberalization, he was elected president of Serbia in 1989 and proceeded to transform its Communist party into the nationalistic Socialist party. Milošević called for the inclusion of Serb areas in other republics in a "greater Serbia" as the price for Yugoslavia's dissolution. He supported Serb forces in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina after the two became independent and was widely blamed for the Serbs' military aggression and brutal "ethnic cleansing" policies, but he ultimately abandoned the Serbs outside Serbia, signing (1995) a peace accord.

Barred from a third term as Serbia's president, he became president of Yugoslavia in 1997. In 1999 his government's refusal to restore autonomy to Kosovo and its harsh tactics there led to NATO air attacks (Mar.–June) on Yugoslavia as Serbian forces deported hundreds of thousands of Albanian Kosovars; Serbia was forced to withdraw from Kosovo. As a result of Serbian actions, Milošević was charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

In 2000 the Yugoslav constitution was amended to permit the president to hold office for two terms; direct presidential elections also were instituted. The changes were designed to permit Milošević to remain in power, but when elections were held he was defeated by Vojislav Koštunica. Milošević only conceded after being forced to by strikes and demonstrations and international pressure, and remained head of the Socialist party of Serbia.

In 2001 he was arrested on charges of abuse of power and corruption and later turned over to the UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague, which tried him (2002) on charges of war crimes in Kosovo, Croatia, and Bosnia. He died, however, before his lengthy trial concluded. His family blamed his death on foul play, but a Dutch investigation found no evidence of this. Some tribunal officials believed he manipulated the treatment of his high blood pressure in an attempt to delay his trial or win release on medical grounds; earlier in 2006 an unprescribed antibiotic that interferes with blood pressure medication was found in his blood.

See biography by D. Doder and L. Branson (1999).

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Milošević, Slobodan

Milošević, Slobodan (1941) Serbian statesman, president of Serbia (1989–97), president of Yugoslavia (1997–2000). In 1986, he became head of the Serbian Communist Party. As president, he confronted the breakup of the federation of Yugoslavia. After his re-election in 1992, he gave support to the Serb populations in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, who fought for a Greater Serbia. Milošević gradually distanced himself from the brutal activities of the Bosnian Serbs Mladić and Karadžić. In 1995, he signed the Dayton Peace Accord with Bosnian President Izetbegović and Croatian President Tudjman to end the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. In 1996, Milošević refused to recognize opposition victories in municipal elections. In 1997 he was forced to concede some of these victories after mass demonstrations in Belgrade. In 1998, Milošević ordered Yugoslav forces to crush the majority Albanian population in the province of Kosovo, provoking NATO air attacks on Serbian military and industrial targets. In 1999, Milošević agreed to a peace plan and a United Nations' (UN) peacekeeping force was sent to Kosovo. Defeated by Vojislav Koštunica in 2000 elections, Milošević reluctantly stood down. In 2001, he was arrested on charges of corruption and abuse of power and sent to The Hague, the Netherlands, to face the International War Crimes Tribunal. For history of Yugoslavia, see Serbia and Montenegro.

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