Comment 14 Nov 16

Before Trump and Brexit, Milosevic

Slobodan Milosevic exploited popular grievances to mobilise a mob and seize control, with disastrous consequences for Yugoslavia - now the West can learn some lessons from his rise to power.

Jasmin Mujanovic
Slobodan Milosevic with USA President Bil Clinton. Photo: CIA Archive

There is a spectre haunting the West, the spectre of Slobodan Milosevic.

In 1987, Milosevic, the right-hand man of then Serbian President Ivan Stambolic, was dispatched to Kosovo to ease fraying relations between the province’s Albanian and Serb communities.

A dour party apparatchik, Milosevic encountered a startling mix of resentment and anger among the Serbs in Kosovo, who felt ignored by the central authorities in Belgrade, forgotten in Yugoslavia’s poorest corner, and marginalized by the region’s ethnic Albanian majority.

When local Serb extremists orchestrated clashes with the police, falsely claiming they had been attacked by Albanian officers, the raw energy of their putsch presented Milosevic with an opportunity. As he walked among the seething crowds, fully aware the scenes were being broadcast on screens across Yugoslavia, he promised them “no one will beat you ever again”.

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