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Markovic, Mirjana (1942—)

Markovic, Mirjana (1942—)

Serbian founder and president of the modern Marxist party Yugoslav United Left (YUL) and wife of Slobodan Milosevic, former president of the Yugoslav Federal Republic . Name variations: Mira; Dr. Mirjana Milosevic. Born on July 10, 1942, in the village of Brezane; daughter of Moma Markovic (a high-ranking Communist) and Vera Miletic; received an undergraduate degree from Belgrade University; University of Nis, Ph.D. in sociology; married Slobodan Milosevic (later president of Serbia and then of the Yugoslav Federal Republic), on March 14, 1965; children: daughter Marija Milosevic (b. 1965); son Marko Milosevic (b. 1976).

Characterized as a "Balkan Lady Macbeth," Mirjana Markovic, known as Mira, is the powerful wife of Slobodan Milosevic, former president of the self-declared Yugoslav Federal Republic who ruled for 13 years. Milosevic's atrocities in the name of ethnic cleansing have made him a pariah in the world's press and among the world's governments. Although he and four of his officials were indicted for war crimes in Kosovo in May 1999, he remained in tenuous rule for nearly another year and a half. Markovic is considered dangerous not only for her own declarations of vengeance, but because of the enormous influence she has with her husband.

Mira Markovic is the daughter of Vera Miletic and Moma Markovic, devoted members of the Communist Party who became partisan fighters following the German attack on Belgrade in 1941. While Moma went off to the mountains to organize partisan resistance, Vera joined the underground in Belgrade. Shortly after Markovic's birth in the village of Brezane in 1942, Vera sent her to live with her grandparents in Pozarevac, while she continued her underground activities. In 1943, Vera was captured by the Gestapo, at which time it is believed that she revealed the names of key Communist officials to her torturers. Even Moma Markovic condemns his lover as a traitor, stating in his memoir, War and Revolution, that she and a fellow prisoner "revealed everything about the work of the party in a detailed report they wrote for the police. Both were executed in 1944." According to Dusko Doder and Louise Branson , in Milosevic: Portrait of a Tyrant, it is likely that Vera was not executed by her Gestapo torturers, but by the Communists who captured Belgrade in 1944 and gained access to the police reports. (All the documents concerning the case mysteriously disappeared when Slobodan Milosevic came into power.) After the war, Markovic remained with her grandparents and was visited only occasionally by her father who married and began another family. She blamed her stepmother for her father's rejection. "If I had been in her place, I would have behaved differently," she later wrote.

As a girl, Markovic idolized her mother's memory and harbored great bitterness over her death. She was in high school when she met Slobodan Milosevic, a lonely outsider with an equally unfortunate childhood (both his parents had committed suicide). The two quickly became inseparable. "We nicknamed them Romeo and Juliet," recalled an old school friend, "because from about the age of sixteen they were never apart. She always dressed like a middle-aged woman." Markovic went on to graduate from Belgrade University and earn a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Nis. She became a university professor, although in her official biography and articles she has written, she claimed that literature was her real love, and she would have liked to have been a writer. She also bemoans her husband's study of the law, having urged him to take up the more "romantic" subject of architecture. Markovic was pregnant with her daughter Marija when she married Milosevic in 1965. The couple later had a son Marko, born in 1976.

During the early years of their marriage, as her husband was serving in the Belgrade city government, Markovic taught Marxist sociology at Belgrade University and raised her children. With her husband's rise to power in the 1980s, she served as his main adviser, though she remained in the background and was seldom seen at political events. She also carefully guarded her husband's privacy, frequently changing their home phone number and giving out the correct number only to a select group of top officials. Markovic began to emerge into the limelight in 1990, the year after her husband was elected president of Serbia, founding the Yugoslav United Left (YUL). An alliance of some 20 Communist groups aligned with her husband's Socialist Party of Serbia, the organization would become a kind of Mafia, doling out favors to high-ranking businessmen.

In 1993, when the deepening Bosnian crisis threatened Milosevic's standing, Markovic began writing a column in the fashionable biweekly magazine Duga, using it to both humanize and defend her husband. Calling him a loving family man "who had never been a nationalist," she also described his adversaries as "lunatics who instead of being in an asylum are sitting in their so-called political parties and who, instead of taking medicine, are making pronouncements." Doder and Branson suggest that Markovic's column added significantly to her sense of power. "She began commenting on Serbia's political life and personalities, weaving in bizarre details about her own habits or observations." She told readers, for example, that she never let her husband see her brushing her hair, and in one column, she waxed lyrical about the season: "The winter is so beautiful, with white trees, bluish mist and the pale light of distant lonely stars." Since Markovic's column was often an indicator of what her husband was thinking, Serbs dubbed it "The Horoscope," especially since she seemed to consult the heavens regularly. "I say often," she wrote, "with a mixture of sadness and irony, that things that some governments or some ministries cannot resolve, may be resolved by the stars."

But, as Doder and Branson point out, Markovic was also in the position to make her own predictions come true. Following a trip to China with fellow Belgrade University professor Slobodan Unkovic, she remarked to a group of journalists that "Unkovic would make a terrific ambassador to Beijing." Not long afterwards, he was indeed appointed to the post. On the other hand, a disparaging word in her column about a Serbian official resulted more than once in a dismissal. Markovic's friends, as well as her husband's closest political cronies, never knew when she would turn on them and begin to negotiate their downfall. "It's like fire," says one political victim. "If you are too close you'll burn. She's a great consumer of people. She wants maximum obedience. She's good at provoking people, and then assesses and judges later, in private with [Milosevic]. You can say everything to him and he'll support it and praise it, but already the next morning everything is different. It will be the way he agreed with Mira in the night." Markovic might well have orchestrated the purge of her husband's innermost circle following the pull-out of troops in Kosovo in October 1998. Amid a popular revolt, Milosevic resigned his presidency on October 6, 2000, conceding his electoral defeat by the people's choice Vojislav Kostunica.

sources:

Chua-Eoan, Howard. "Slobo, Mira and Their Wild Brood," in Time. December 16, 1996, p. 42.

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

Erlanger, Steven. "Slobodan Milosevic's Wife May Influence Outcome of War," in The Day [New London, CT]. May 31, 1999.

Perlez, Jane. "Milosevic Purges his Entire Cabinet," in The Day [New London, CT]. November 29, 1998.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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