The Controversial Legacy of Slobodan Milošević
1. Early life and education:
Slobodan Milošević was born on 20 August 1941, in Požarevac, Yugoslavia. His father, Svetozar Milošević, was a Serbian Orthodox Communist official who served in the Yugoslav People’s Army; his mother, Stanislava Quaisser ( Serbian Cyrillic: Станислава Кваисер), was a schoolteacher. As a child, he lived with his family in the village of Obrenovac, near Belgrade. He had two older brothers, Borislav and Savo.
Milošević studied law at the University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Law. He graduated in 1964 and married Mirjana Marković the following year. The couple had two children, Marko and Marija. Milošević joined the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (SKJ) in 1961. From 1966 to 1968, he worked as an economic advisor in the Beograd City Committee of the SKJ. In 1969, he became president of the Serbian Republic’s executive council’s working group on economic reform. From 1974 to 1977, he was head of the Beobanka, the Belgrade branch of the Bank of Yugoslavia.
2. Political career:
In 1977, Milošević was appointed as president of the powerful Serbian Communist Party by Josip Broz Tito. As president, Milošević promoted himself as a reformer who would fight corruption and revive the Serbian economy. He also pushed for more autonomy for Serbia within Yugoslavia and advocated for the interests of ethnic Serbs living outside Serbia’s borders. In 1986, Milošević sparked what came to be known as the “anti-bureaucratic revolution” when he led mass protests against alleged Croatian chauvinism and corruption. The protests resulted in the ousting of several top Croatian officials, including party leader Stipe Šuvar.
In 1989, Milošević oversaw changes to Yugoslavia’s constitution that gave more power to Serbia and lessened the role of other republics within the country. The changes were widely seen as a step towards full Serbian domination of Yugoslavia. In 1990, Milošević helped engineer a merger between the Serbian Communist Party and two other political parties to form the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). In December 1990, Milošević was elected president of Serbia by its parliament after serving as its prime minister since 1989.
3. Presidency of Yugoslavia:
In May 1991, Croatia and Slovenia held referendums on independence from Yugoslavia. When Bosnia-Herzegovina followed suit in February 1992, Milošević used his position as president of Serbia to block all three republics from seceding peacefully. Instead, he supported ethnic Serbs living inCroatia and Bosnia who were opposed to secession. This policy led to the outbreak of war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in April 1992.
As violence spread throughout Yugoslavia, international pressure mounted on Milošević to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict. In July 1992, he helped broker a ceasefire agreement between Croats and Bosnian Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The following year, he signed the Vance-Owen Peace Plan, which would have divided Bosnia-Herzegovina into 10 semi-autonomous provinces. However, the plan was rejected by Bosnian Serbs and never implemented.
In 1994, Milošević helped broker the Dayton Agreement, which ended the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. As part of the agreement, he agreed to send Serbian troops to help implement a peace settlement in Bosnia. In 1995, he also helped negotiate the Kosovo Albanian-Serbian ceasefire agreement, which ended the war in Kosovo.
4. Involvement in the Yugoslav Wars:
Milošević’s involvement in the Yugoslav Wars led to charges of war crimes and genocide being filed against him by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). In particular, he was charged with responsibility for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which Bosnian Serb troops killed over 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys. He was also charged with orchestrating a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Croats and Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.
5. Later life and international criminal charges:
In October 2000, Milošević was ousted from power after losing the Serbian presidential election to Vojislav Koštunica. He was arrested in April 2001 on charges of corruption and abuse of power. In June 2001, he was extradited to The Hague to stand trial at the ICTY on war crimes and genocide charges. His trial began in February 2002 but was repeatedly postponed due to his poor health. In March 2006, Milošević died in his prison cell before a verdict could be reached in his trial.
Milošević died on 11 March 2006, while awaiting trial at the ICTY on war crimes and genocide charges. His cause of death was officially listed as a heart attack. However, there were allegations that he had been poisoned while in prison. An autopsy later revealed that Milošević had high levels of arsenic in his body at the time of his death.
Milošević’s legacy is highly contested. For his supporters, he is a hero who defended Serbia and other Orthodox Christian Slavs from Islamic fundamentalism during the Yugoslav Wars. For his detractors, he is a war criminal responsible for the deaths of thousands of people during the wars in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.
In Serbia, Milošević’s Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) continued to be a major political force after his death, winning the most votes in several parliamentary elections. However, the party’s support has declined in recent years and it is now in opposition. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Milošević is reviled by Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Croats for his role in the war. He is also widely blamed for the economic collapse of Yugoslavia during the 1990s.