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The Balkans: “Finally, the Post-Milosevic Era”

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Belarus, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Ethnicity & Race, History, Human Rights, Law, Media & Journalism, Protest, War & Conflict

Slobodan Milosevic, former Yugoslav leader and a war-crimes defendant, died of a heart attack in his prison cell in the Hague on March 11. After much debate, it was decided to bury him privately in his hometown of Pozarevac, 80 km of Serbia's capital Belgrade, on March 18. Until then, following the government's controversial decision, his coffin has been placed on display in Belgrade's Museum of the Revolution.

Below are some bloggers’ reactions to Milosevic's death, his upcoming funeral, and the future of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [1] (ICTY).

“Finally, the Post-Milosevic Era,” writes [2] Eric Gordy of East Ethnia:

The news is probably good news for Serbia, which will be hostage to one person fewer. […]

It is bad news for ICTY […]

[…] the Tribunal will complete its activity without having completed its most important trial. The decisions which led to a frequently interrupted trial lasting years will be questioned far into the future, and will probably be used as a negative example for future tribunals.

[…] while anybody's death is a cause for regret, what is to be regretted most about Milosevic is that during his life, he was able to take so many other people down with him.

srdjankosutic.com notes, too, that, hopefully, a new era has begun for Serbia [3]:

[…] His death ends a whole era of modern Serbian history, and as someone who participated in the silent 5th October revolution when we overthrow him in 2000 I just wish to let the past behind, and move forward. […]

Henry Shepherd of Thayer and Charlesfield offers a compilation of responses [4] from a number of Balkan bloggers, including this one [5] from Seesaw of Balkan-Scissors [6] and Sarajevo Photoblog [7]:

[…] Personally I can say I did not follow his trial – I was a living witness of his political career and saw enough with my own eyes. I did never think well of his ideas…

To me Milosevic was nationalist and populist, and the politician who played the main role in dissolution of Yugoslavia.

I must add I spent the war in Sarajevo (1992-1995) and saw so much suffering… I am not Moslem but visited Srebrenica and could not believe my eyes…

But I also saw many graves in Republic Srpska of Serb soldiers, and for a decade now I have been witnessing the poverty of people from former Yugoslavia – Serbia particularly – all that being – mostly – the result of ambitious, nationalist and populist policy of Slobodan Milosevic.

But as you could notice on my blog I am not willing “to join the company” so to say and prefer to keep my mind focused on other things. After all Milosevic does not deserve so much publicity, never did, and always had it.

Other bloggers who contributed their opinions to Henry Shepherd are Rachel Long [8] of Pustolovina: Adventure in Serbian, Sasa Nikolovski [9] of Bečej – Óbecse: My town, my river, my people, Zeljka Grzinic [10] of green-mind.com, Ed Alexander [11] of Balkan Baby, and Aleksandar Macasev [12].

An American in Belgrade reports from the scene in Belgrade [13] one day after Milosevic's death:

[…] It looks like, so far, international news agencies are having to really scratch around to find any visible signs of public reaction. […]

Viktor of Belgrade Blog makes a similar observation [14] four days later:

Although some world media report as if the whole Serbia is sad because dictators departure, the truth is somewhat diferent: only one thousand people gathered in front of the museum to give their last respect to the dictator. Now i know that this is about one thousand people too much, but in a country of more than 8 milion people, one can say that this is really an unsignificant support.

Viktor also posts a March 14 letter [15] announcing the “‘anti burial’ event planned to coincide with Mr Milosevic's burial in Belgrade,” before it was clear that the funeral would take place elsewhere:

[…] the guiding idea has been born for a symbolic staging of an ‘Anti Burial’, the motive being to show the rest of Serbia, the Balkans and the world one last time that Milosevic was never really representing the free thinking, democratically oriented citizens of Serbia and therefore the Serbian government should not allow for Mr Milosevic's burial to take place in Belgrade or his family members to return to Serbia while still being issued with the Interpol arrest warrant.

And, Viktor's advice [16] to those who happen to be in Serbia's capital at the same time Milosevic's body is there:

[…] Anyway, if you are this close like i am, you better prepare some garlic, holy water and other protection, just in case.

Rachel of Pustolovina: Adventure in Serbian also notes the undesirable proximity to the body [17] – and finds it hard to believe that there existed a place Milosevic could have escaped to, Moscow:

slobodan means freedom, how ironic

I just sat with coworkers drinking beer watching Slobo's coffin being taken off the airplane in Belgrade. It felt very much like watching the State of the Union and cursing my dumb president. So he's being buried here [most likely – anything can change.] with a service this saturday a few blocks from my house. I might wander by, but I don't want to see anyone there. I would love for there to be a service and have no one show up. . . very unlikely.


As someone quoted in the article said, “from there, he is not likely to return. . .” It is where his wife, brother, etc. live. I would dismiss the story, but it was in the NY Times. It seems too strange to be believed, but so did last year's Ukrainian dioxin poisoning. What is it about this place that makes everything seem like a badly written thriller plot? […]

Estavisti – who calls Milosevic “the last of the unholy trio” – anticipates “Serb-bashing” in the Western media [18]:

The last of the unholy trio has died. [19] I’m pretty indifferent about that, but I’m not looking forward to the Serb-bashing about to flood the obituries. The BBC got off to a good start there, repeating the claim (shown to be false by a Bosniak/Bosnian Muslim before you attack me) that 200,000 people died in BiH during the war. On the other hand, news of his trial will stop smara-ing me at every turn and one more link to the past has been severed. Contrary to what a lot of Westerners seem to think, his death will have absolutely no effect on Serbia and Serbian politics, apart from allowing the SPS to further distance themselves from him and continue on the road to relative political normalcy. […]

“Place your bets on how long it will take for the Serb Orthodox Church to give him a sainthood,” writes [20] Ed Alexander of Balkan Baby:

[…] over the coming years his memory will fade, and no, that won't be straight away, but nonetheless, it will diminish over the decades, especially outside the Balkans. This man should have died with the tag ‘War Criminal’ officially given to him, not just known by us all so that his memory is forever tainted by the murders, rapes and sickening crimes he instigated. Most importantly, this one single death, the death of an evil man who has the blood of thousands of others on his hands, must not be used by warped supporters of other criminals to in any way diminish the power of the International Criminal Court. […]

Ed also discusses Milosevic's political opponents: Franjo Tudjman, former president of Croatia, Dr. Ibrahim Rugova, former president of Kosova, and Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the UN war crimes tribunal.

Balkan Ghost of Finding Karadzic looks at Milosevic's death in the context of the ongoing trials [21] of the former Yugoslav war criminals and the attempts to capture those who still remain at large:

[…] Slobo's death, though, is a good thing for the Karadzic hunt. The world will re-live the Yugoslav wars for the next month and focus on its leaders. This renewed attention will bring heat on war criminals much as the 10th Srebrenica anniversary did last summer.

Moreover, Slobo's drawnout trial was a drain on the resources and mission focus of the ICTY. With the Milosevic headache effectively over, they can focus on what is most important: finding and arresting Karadzic and Mladic. And once Karadzic and Mladic are arrested, ICTY prosecutors should have learned enough lessons from Slobo to bring the trials to a quick and decisive conclusion.

And with increased publicity for the ICTY, even more lessons [22] would likely be drawn:

[…] Slobo's death has brought perhaps more attention on the ICTY than ever before. By its mistakes, it seems to have already secured its legacy and changed the way the world views the best ways to handle transitional justice and post-conflict reconciliation. For example, the ICC (International Criminal Court) in Rome has had lots of its momentum in response to the clunkiness and expense of the ICTY's model as a country-specific, treaty-based method of resolving atrocities through a limited criminal process. In Iraq, the ICTY's tactical blunder of combining Milosevic's charges for Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo is credited as the principal reason why Saddam's prosecutors started with the straightforward but relatively minor Duleil charges. […]

Wu wei reports a minor distortion in a BBC report [23] and continues with a story of a memorable interview with Milosevic's widow, also on BBC:

Interesting how news reporting distorts or perhaps it is just me.

Carla del Ponte was asked whether he had committed suicide or been poisoned. BBC reports that she dismissed this as just rumours, but actually she said (as anyone might have said) “lets wait till the result of the autopsy”, not wanting to say anything.


There was a scary Hard Talk interview with Mira and Tim Sebastian a few years ago, after he was taken to the Hague. […] The answers she gave showed she clearly did not have her world view challenged very often, and it was scary. Clearly she was a major influence over her husband, but that doesn't make him any less to blame.

YakimaGulagLiteraryGazett [24] has a comprehensive and regularly updated compilation of links, news stories and personal observations on Milosevic and his death.

The AP's Belgrade correspondent William J. Kole writes a blog on Milosevic funeral [25].

Related media stories can also be found at BALKAN UPDATE [26] and KOSOVAREPORT [27].

Finally, here are two almost indentical reactions from bloggers covering Belarus, the land of “Europe's last dictator” Aleksandr Lukashenko:

br23 blog [28]

“Found dead in his cell”

I hope someday we’ll read in the newspapers that “Alexander Lukashenka was found dead in his prison cell in Minsk.” I realize the chances of that are very slim, though I think he committed enough crimes to earn a life sentence. First of all it’s the murder of several opposition activists which Lukashenka ordered (at least four counts: Hanchar, Krasouski, Zachranka, Zavadzki; and maybe Karpienka). Second, it’s the illegal imprisonment of many political opponents for many years which Lukashenka undoubtedly also ordered (Lavonau, Klimau, Marynich, Skrabiec to name just a few).

And, yes, whatever the cause of death was, I am glad to know that Slobodan Milosevic who organized mass-genocide in former Yugoslavia is no longer with us.

litota [29]‘s (BEL) LiveJournal…

[…] I turned on the news on STV and went to the bathroom. When I came back, there was Lukashenko's picture on the screen, and the host was saying: “A prominent political leader has passed away…” Well, I was about to run to get some champagne, but it turned out to be nothing but a quote from a condolences letter sent by our president on the occasion of Slobodan Milosevic's death. […]