Slobodan Milošević (20 August 1941, Požarevac, German-Occupied Serbia – 11 March 2006, The Hague, Netherlands) was President of Serbia (1990-1997) and of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1997-2000). He served as the President of SR Serbia from 1989 until 1990, then as President of the Republic of Serbia from 1990 to 1997, and finally as President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1997 to 2000. He was also the President of the Socialist Party of Serbia from its foundation in 1990 until his death in 2006.
- No one is allowed to beat you! (Нико не сме да вас бије!)
- Remark to Serbs in Kosovo Polje. After Serbs who were rallying in front of the building Milošević was in were pushed back and beaten by the Kosovar provincial police force composed of Albanians. The leader of the Serb rally Miroslav Solević in the BBC documentary The Death of Yugoslavia stated that in organizing the rally the Serbs prepared for a confrontation with the police as they brought two trucks with stones in them and used the stones to throw at the police. Milošević stepped outside, followed closely by TV and newsreel cameras, and walked directly into the crowd where Serbs approached him saying that they were being beaten by the police in which he proclaimed the above-mentioned words. (24 April 1987)
- I can tell Albanians in Kosovo that in Serbia, no one had trouble living for not being Serbian. Serbia has always been opened for all, and for those who had no other place to go—and for those who had no other place to go, for the poor and rich, for those who are happy and sad, and for those who are only passing through, and for those who wish to stay. Serbia only doesn’t want evil people, even if they be Serbian.
- Speech in Belgrade (1988)
- Serbia has never had only Serbs living in it. Today, more than in the past, members of other peoples and nationalities also live in it. This is not a disadvantage for Serbia. I am truly convinced that it is to its advantage. National composition of almost all countries in the world today, particularly developed ones, has also been changing in this direction. Citizens of different nationalities, religions, and races have been living together more and more frequently and more and more successfully.
Socialism in particular, being a progressive and just democratic society, should not allow people to be divided in the national and religious respect. The only differences one can and should allow in socialism are between hardworking people and idlers and between honest people and dishonest people. Therefore, all people in Serbia who live from their own work, honestly, respecting other people and other nations, are in their own republic.
After all, our entire country should be set up on the basis of such principles. Yugoslavia is a multinational community and it can survive only under the conditions of full equality for all nations that live in it.
- Borders are always dictated by the strong, never by the weak.… We simply consider it as a legitimate right and interest of the Serb nation to live in one state. This is the beginning and the end.… If we have to fight, by God we are going to fight. I hope that they will not be so crazy as to fight against us. If we do not know how to work properly or run an economy, at least we know how to fight properly.
- Remarks at a meeting with Serb leaders (16 March 1991), as quoted in Doder and Branson (1999) Milosevic: Portrait of a Tyrant
- I tell you, Izetbegović has earned Sarajevo by not abandoning it. He's one tough guy. It's his.
- Remark at the Dayton Conference (November 1995), quoted in Richard Holbrooke, To End a War, p. 291
- By adding three lies, one does not get the truth — only a bigger lie.
- Well, I want him to answer the following question: Where in my speech was there any reference to anything that would jeopardise the rights of Albanians? So I’m quoting this to him. “In this area there should be a policy of national equality of rights, a spirit of tolerance should prevail. Everything that characterises a humane, democratic society.”
- So in addition to what I’ve quoted to you just now, in Prizren, I say particularly in this place and in this town, I want to tell you something that I consider to be the most important in this town, because in it, there are Serbs, Albanians, Muslims, Turks, Roma, and others. Every one of the ethnic groups, to a large proportion. That is why I believe that this town and this region should be an example of carrying out the policy of national equality of rights, a policy that would make it possible for all people to give — to live on a footing of equality and under humane conditions, that there should be a high degree of mutual understanding and that a joint life of all citizens should be built successfully.
- I read to you parts of the indictment claiming that I was part of a joint criminal enterprise to expel Croatians from Croatia, Muslims from Bosnia, Albanians from Kosovo, in order to create some sort of Greater Serbia. Now, if you have in mind that the greatest part of that Greater Serbia would be precisely the Republic of Serbia, which did not see any expulsions at all throughout the crisis, do you find it logical that Serbia should initiate expulsions from territories outside of Serbia?
- This is a political trial. What is at issue here is not at all whether I committed a crime. What is at issue is that certain intentions are ascribed to me from which consequences are later derived that are beyond the expertise of any conceivable lawyer. The point here is that the truth about the events in the former Yugoslavia has to be told here. It is that which is at issue, not the procedural questions, because I’m not sitting here because I was accused of a specific crime. I’m sitting here because I am accused of conducting a policy against the interests of this or another party. The nature of he proceedings here is such that a lawyer cannot deal with it.
Kosovo Polje Speech (24 April 1987)
Remarks as entered into the record during the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal:
- This is your country. These are your houses. These are your cultivated fields and gardens, and your memories lie here. You are not going to leave your country, are you, just because you live hard there or because you have been weighed down by the injustices and humiliation? It has never been typical of the Serbian and Montenegrin people to yield before obstacles and to become demoralized when facing a problem, when coming upon hard times.
- I do not suggest to you, Comrades, that in staying you put up with the suffering and the situation that you're not satisfied with. Quite the contrary. You must change the situation together with all other progressive people here in Serbia and Yugoslavia.… We in Serbia and everybody else in Yugoslavia will strive to change the situation.
- If we legalised this state of lawlessness, then all those who are exposed to lawlessness are endangered. Today it is the Serbs and Montenegrins that suffer most from that, but tomorrow this could be the Albanians, too, and that is why, unless law and order is introduced and respected in the broader social and historical sense, this will be the interest of all of the inhabitants of Kosovo.
- Yugoslavia cannot exist without Kosovo! Yugoslavia will become disintegrated without Kosovo! Yugoslavia and Serbia will never give up Kosovo!
Quotes about Milošević
- But in a nation governed by a man renowned for his ruthlessness in wielding power, what makes Micko's performance remarkable is that he is still a free man. Milosevic has allowed a remarkable degree of artistic expression at home, especially in film and theater, that would be unthinkable by many other authoritarian rulers.
Even his enemies acknowledge that Milosevic isn't a tyrant in the classical sense of locking up those who criticize him. He exercises almost total control over the electronic media and carefully calibrates the degree of permissible commentary. He can crack down on opposition newspapers by imposing hefty fines for minor infractions, yet may allow controversial, even insulting, works to reach audiences if he believes they will help let off steam and mitigate threats to his government.
- I know that he was personally very upset and angry, and I think that he was very sincere in his behaviour and conduct, and he even said at one point that that leadership from Pale, that they were mad, if they had actually done that. And I’m quite sure that as far as he is concerned, he could not have issued an order of that kind. I do believe that Srebrenica, unfortunately, is the result of individuals who allowed themselves to perpetrate an act of that kind, and it is my deep conviction that it cannot be placed in the context of any participation on the part of the Yugoslav army at all, and that is why I said that Mr. Milošević, which was exceptionally angry, his reaction was very strong, and he considered that this kind of behaviour and conduct would worsen our positions with respect to preparations for the Dayton Conference. I think he even said that at one of the meetings. Of course, nobody would take on this great burden on the side of the Bosnian Serbs, that is.
- Zoran Lilić (2003) "International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia"
- Slobodan Milošević, more than anyone else, caused a division within the Left and Centre Left, dividing the pacifists, anti-imperialists and anti-Americans from the anti-fascists and the internationalists. He reminded too many of us that inaction can be as toxic and murderous as action. He prepared us - for weal or woe - for the new world.
- David Aaronovitch, "The meaning of Milosevic: how the Butcher of the Balkans changed us", The Times (March. 14, 2006)
- The story of Slobodan Milosevic is the story of a communist appartschnik in old socialist Yugoslavia who saw that the system was collapsing and decided to ride the tiger of nationalism in order to get to and preserve power. He wasn't really much of a nationalist. I dealt with him extensively during a number of years. He had his prejudices, but probably somewhat less than the regional average. He was an opportunist and a tactician. He was a man of power and ambition. He was never much of a man of principles, and history shows that he was an extremely poor strategists. He was extremely keen in winning the small battles – but he failed to see that he was losing the wars … He played on the fears. His was the propaganda of fear and prejudice. His duel with Croatia's Franjo Tudjman brought war first to Croatia and then, most fatefully, to Bosnia in 1992. They both tried to carve out their own pieces of that complex country at the centre of the Balkans. More than 100 000 people are likely to have died in the carnage, and millions had to flee their homes … He will be judged by history. Harshly. He brought disaster to his own Serbia.
- Many tyrants have committed war crimes, but Slobodan Milosevic was the first to be put on trial for them. He was a grey apparatchik who would never have attracted international attention had he not exploited the disintegration of Yugoslavia by advocating a ferocious Serbian nationalism. His devastating campaign of 'ethnic cleansing' finally attracted a military response from the West. He ultimately had to face an international tribunal, but died in prison before he could be brought to justice.
- Clive Foss, The Tyrants: 2,500 Years of Absolute Power and Corruption (2006), p. 201***
- I got the impression that he behaved very differently when he was with you, than how he actually felt about you. He is someone who will flatter you, but doesn't care at all about you, a man who will use people.
- Braca Grubacic, editor of Mladost, as quoted in Adam LeBor (2002) Milosevic: A Biography, pp. 101-102
- We never fully understood why Milosevic decided to give Sarajevo to the Muslims. Certainly he had many good reasons. But in retrospect, the best explanation may be that he was fed up with the Bosnian Serbs and had decided to weaken their Pale base by giving away the Serb-controlled part of Sarajevo. By giving the Federation all of Bosnia's capital, perhaps Milosevic wanted to weaken Karadzic and stregthen the Serbs in other parts of Bosnia, especially Banja Luka. This explanation was consistent with one of Milosevic's main themes at Dayton: that the Bosnian Serb leadership had become an impediment, even though he had earlier made common cause with them. Milosevic had often talked of strengthening the "intellectuals" and businessmen of Banja Luka in order to weaken Pale; now he seemed to be putting his theory into action.
- Richard Holbrooke, To End a War, p. 293
- A remarkable challenge to Milosevic unfolded in the street of Belgrade in December , led by three politicians who banded together in a movement called Zajedno, or the Together Movement. For weeks, hundreds of thousands of Belgrade citizens braved subfreezing weather to call for democracy. But Washington missed a chance to affect events; except for one ineffectual trip to Washington, Zajedno had no contact with senior American government officials, and the Administrations sent no senior officials to Belgrade for fear that their visits would be used by Milosevic to show support. For the first time in eighteen months, Milosevic felt no significant American pressure, and turned back towards the extreme nationalists, including Karadžić, for support. His tactical skills saved him again, and within weeks, the Together Movement was together no more, as its leaders split among themselves.
- Richard Holbrooke, To End a War, p. 345
- Milosevic did not have quite the psychopathic power of a Saddam Hussein or an Osama Bin Laden. He was that most dangerous of people: the mediocre and conformist official who bides his time and masks his grievances. He went from apparatchik to supreme power, and though he rode a tide of religious and xenophobic fervor, it is quite thinkable that he never really cared about the totems and symbols that he exploited. In office and in the dock, he embodied the banality of evil. In the excellent 1995 book The Death of Yugoslavia, written by Laura Silber and Allan Little, and in the fine BBC TV series that accompanied it, you can actually see the petty tactics and cynical opportunism that he employed like a sluggish maggot at the heart of the state that just keeps eating remorselessly away. He apparently had only one true friend, his adorable ideologue of a wife, Mirjana Markovic, who used to cheer him up about his big-eared and stone-faced appearance and about the suicide of both of his parents. Beware of those resentful nonentities who enter politics for therapeutic reasons.
- Christopher Hitchens "No Sympathy for Slobo: Let's not forget Milosevic's many crimes", Slate (March 13, 2006)
- A bureaucratic and vindictive despot who, if he survives, will end up in a psychiatric ward one of these days. He is not a communist. He has used the party to climb the ranks. He possesses a vocabulary limited to slogans which nevertheless flow freely and swiftly, having no intellectual impediment or nuances. His sentences are composed solely of four or five words.… He is not accustomed to being contradicted. He can't tolerate opposition. He responds to the first insurrections because he has prepared himself, but he finds himself in difficulty at the second wave, when one must react swiftly. It will be difficult to compromise him. He holds the suggestive force of the fanatical Serbian mentality and, in some way, manages to charm his western correspondents.
- Milan Kučan in Demetriu Volcic (1993) Sarajevo: Quando la Storia Uccide
- In some ways the young Milosevic resembled Stalin, a man initially - and how wrongly - categorised by his rivals as so unremarkable, he was dubbed "the grey blur". Like Stalin, Milosevic initially preferred to operate behind the scenes. Both men spent much time studying and mastering the mechanism of the apparat - as the party structure was known - its cell structure, the party hierarchy, and the way the party 'line' was developed, as a prelude to eventually taking power.
On a personal level, Milosevic and Stalin also share a history of parental deprivation, together with a whole range of twentieth-century political leaders, including Bill Clinton and Saddam Hussein. Psychologists argue that an absentee father is likely to produce feelings of low self-esteem in a young boy. A child will question why his father has left, or does not want to be with him. The lack of a suitable domestic male role model also means the child is deprived of guidance following relationships in the wider world. In later life this can create a powerful drive to overcompensate. Some will seek to validate their self-worth through sexual promiscuitiy. Others enter politics.
- Adam LeBor (2002) Milosevic: A Biography, p. 25
- In fact, many of the old conflicts and tensions remained, frozen into place just under the surface of the Cold War. The end of that great struggle brought a thaw, and long-suppressed dreams and hatreds bubbled to the surface again. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, basing its claims on dubious history. We discovered that it mattered that Serbs and Croats had many historical reasons to fear and hate each other, and that there were peoples within the Soviet Union who had their own proud histories and who wanted their independence. Many of us had to learn who the Serbs and Croats were and where Armenia or Georgia lay on the map. In the words of the title of Misha Glenny’s book on Central Europe, we witnessed the rebirth of history. Of course, as so often happens, some of us went too far the other way and blamed everything that was going wrong in the Balkans in the 1990s, to take one of the most egregious cases, on "age- old hatreds." That conveniently overlooked the wickedness of Slobodan Milosevic, then the president, and his ilk who were doing their best to destroy Yugoslavia and dismember Bosnia. Such an attitude allowed outside powers to stand by wringing their hands helplessly for far too long.
- Margaret MacMillan, The Uses and Abuses of History (2008)
- This is a catastrophe for Serbia. This is the worst person who could have been chosen to lead Serbia at this moment and I am afraid for the future... He has no patience, he has all the qualities that will lead us to disaster.
- Draza Markovic, uncle to Milosevic's wife, as quoted in Adam LeBor (2002) Milosevic: A Biography, p. 110
- The relationship between Slobodan and Mira is very strong and quite pathological. Milosevic was intelligent enough, but Mira gave him the love for power, and the ambition. She made him what he is.
- Dusan Mitevic, as quoted in Adam LeBor (2002) Milosevic: A Biography, p. 22
- The 'Butcher of the Balkans', Slobodan Milosevic brought genocide and slaughter back to Europe for the first time since the Nazi death camps. Unleashing a vicious regular army and bands of his personally coordinated militias onto a bemused civilian population, he started a series of wars aimed at eradicating un-Serbian nations from what he regarded as Serbian soil, often ordering wholesale massacre and rape. It was as if the murderous warlordism of the 17th-century Thirty Years’ War had returned to the civilized continent of Europe.
- Simon Sebag Montefiore, Monsters: History's Most Evil Men and Women (2009), p. 360
- I think you're a damn war criminal and you should be tried as one.
- Joe Biden, as quoted in Promises to Keep (2008), p. 266.
- Milosevic, the head of Yugoslavia-become-Serbia, was certainly a supremely opportunistic politician. Nonetheless, he and his followers did articulate an ideology, actually, two ideologies. As the Yugoslav federal state system dissolved and communism collapsed all around Europe in the late 1980s, Milosevic positioned Serbia as the last defender of the communist ideal, the worthy successor to the post–World War II Yugoslavia founded by Josip Broz Tito. He melded this claim with another ideology, one that might have lacked philosophical depth on the order of Marxism-Leninism but was, nonetheless, deeply rooted in modern European history and in the specific historical experience of Serbs. It was, of course, an ideology of nationalism.
- Eric D. Weitz, A Century of Genocide (2018), p. 191
- By the mid-1990s, the original ideological synthesis of communism and nationalism seems to have faded and was replaced by a Serbian nationalism couched in such extreme terms that it barred the participation of other peoples in the exclusive Serbian state that Milosevic and his supporters attempted to construct. Genocide was most likely not Milosevic's original intent, certainly not in 1987 when he began to make his bid for power. As in the other cases discussed in this book, the genocide, in this instance of Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims, emerged at moments of extreme crisis, which were largely self-generated by the Milosevic forces and their counterparts in Slovenia and Croatia. But the genocide also developed because of a set of deeper historical factors, notably, the potency of the ideology of nationalism, the continued commitment to communism on the part of important segments of the Serbian elite, and the typical— certainly by the 1990s—communist reliance on a powerful state to engineer the transformation of society.
- Eric D. Weitz, A Century of Genocide (2018), p. 191