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news 18 May 14

Serbian Man of Letters, Dobrica Cosic, Dies

The man whom some called the 'Godfather of Serbian nationalism' died peacefully aged 93 in a home for the elderly in Belgrade on Sunday.

Bojana Barlovac

Dobrica Cosic’s family confirmed on Sunday that the famous and often controversial Serbian writer, academic and politician had died in his sleep.

Born in the village of Velika Drenova, near Trstenik, central Serbia, in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in December 29, 1921, Cosic joined a Communist youth organization as a youngster before the Second World War, subsequently fighting with Josip Tito's Partisan forces during the Second World War.

The years of the Second World War served as the inspiration for his novels, "Daleko je sunce" ("Far Away Is the Sun"), and "Deobe", (“Divisions”), while his novel "Koreni" (“Roots”) deals with Serbia's war of independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century.

As a writer, Cosic twice won the prestigious NIN award for literature.

As a member of the Central Committee of the League of Communists and of the government, he was initially close the late Yugoslav leader, Tito.

But in the 1960s, a growing feeling of Serbian nationalism distanced him from Tito and from his concept of Yugoslavia as a federation of six equal republics. 

Like many Serbs, he felt Serbian interests in Yugoslavia were being marginalised as the Yugoslav state became more decentralized. From then on, he became a well-known dissident.

After Tito’s death in 1980, he became ever more outspoken, especially about the cause of the Serbs in Kosovo.

In the Serbian Academy for Sciences and Arts he was an influential figure and was also one of the signatories of the notorious Memorandum, published in 1986, which demanded the recentralisation of Yugoslavia and accused both Croats and Albanians of committing a form of silent genocide against the Serbs in Kosovo and Croatia.

His views were welcome to the new strongman in Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, who took power in Belgrade the late 1980s and who subsequently led Serbia into wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Cosic took an active part in the Milosevic regime, serving as a figure-head president of a rump Yugoslav state, comprising Serbia and Montenegro, from 1992-93.

However, he later became disillusioned with Milosevic and withdrew from frontline politics.

One of his disgreements with Milosevic was over what to do with Kosovo, which was vitally important to most Serbs, partly for historic reasons, but overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Albanians.

Cosic increasingly believed that Serbia could only retain a share of Kosovo if it agreed to a partition of the province - a view that Milosevic would not countenance. Almost until his death he thought that was the only lasting solution to the Kosovo issue.

In his last interview covering 14 pages of Serbian weekly Nedeljnik, in April, Cosic admitted that Kosovo was more or less lost, not least because Serbia now lacked the manpower to go to war again.

"We must not go to war. We no longer have biological or patriotic potential for that. I believe that peace is the only condition for our existence,” Cosic said in his final interview.

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