The Revolution Wasn’t

Serbia, Five Years Later

The Official Truth goes that five years ago on the streets of Belgrade, the disaffected citizenry of Serbia rallied in support of the Democratic Opposition (DOS), charged the parliament, and forced the hated dictator Slobodan Milosevic out of power: a glorious, democratic revolution. As usual when it comes to the Balkans, the official truth proves to be rather different at a second glance.

Five years on, the promises of the "October Revolution" remain unfulfilled, not so much betrayed as empty to begin with. Perhaps it is because it was never a real revolution at all, merely a coup d’etat organized by the Empire.

Almost Violent

Scions of the "revolution" disagree, naturally, claiming the real problem was the absence of "October 6," a lack of follow-through by those who betrayed the revolution – pointing the finger first and foremost at Vojislav Kostunica, the current prime minister. Facts get in the way of that story as well; Kostunica never had any real power in the post-coup regime, and what he had was quickly seized by Zoran Djindjic.

It was Djindjic, in fact, who ran the Serbian end of the operation, even though officially Kostunica was the single candidate supported by the coalition of 19 parties that made up DOS. Kostunica was the choice of American pollsters, who realized that Djindjic enjoyed almost no support among the electorate. However, it was Djindjic who received "suitcases of cash" from the U.S. government, made contact with the criminal syndicates, and plotted a violent overthrow of the Milosevic government under the cover of "popular discontent." The demonstrations on Oct. 5 were organized by DOS following their accusation that Milosevic had "stolen" the Sept. 24 presidential election. That charge, by the way, has never been substantiated one way or another; the ballots all too conveniently perished in the fire set by the demonstrators at the federal parliament building.

Before events could spiral into bloodshed, however, Kostunica surprisingly took initiative and negotiated Milosevic’s resignation. It was a political masterstroke, a defeat both for Milosevic and for Djindjic’s ambitions. Unfortunately, Kostunica was never to repeat the feat. Over the next two years, he sat back and mumbled while Djindjic proceeded to seize power and smash Serbia to bits.

Absolute Power, Martial Law

Having become prime minister of Serbia in December 2000, running on a ticket bearing Kostunica’s name, Djindjic did everything he could to implement his "revolutionary" agenda. Aiming to please Washington and Brussels, he ordered the arrest of Milosevic, and on June 28, 2001, orchestrated his abduction and transport to the Hague Inquisition, in clear violation of Serbian and Yugoslav law. The next target was Kostunica: by 2002, his DSS party had been kicked out of DOS, and some of its members even had their parliamentary mandates suspended. The speaker, a DSS man, was nudged out in a sex scandal. Djindjic filled the void with a naive provincial lawyer, Natasa Micic, who was then elevated to Serbian presidency when Milan Milutinovic "surrendered" to the ICTY. His control of Serbia complete, Djindjic shifted aim to Yugoslavia. In March 2002, he made a deal with Montenegrin separatists to abolish Yugoslavia, which came into effect in February 2003. Kostunica was finally out of a job and out of the picture; he had tried to run for Serbian presidency, but Djindjic deliberately sabotaged the elections to prevent his victory. By March 2003, Zoran Djindjic had the kind of absolute power he wanted on Oct. 6, 2000. Then he was killed.

Djindjic’s death unleashed the most ferocious revolutionaries in DOS, who proceeded to declare martial law, jail thousands, and impose total censorship in the media. They claimed the assassination was part of a grand conspiracy by Milosevic’s allies to regain power (even though by that time Milosevic was busy defending himself at the Hague Inquisition), and even tried to frame Kostunica for "supporting" them. Eventually, the Empire had to rein them in, as they had become an embarrassment.

Without Djindjic, the DOS fell apart within months, utterly routed in the December 2003 elections by the Radicals. But it was Kostunica who assembled the new government from various political flotsam, including some parts of DOS.


Even though DOS had crashed and fragmented into a dozen unviable parties, several of its remnants embedded themselves in the new government. The most notable has been G17 Plus, a "pocket party" dominated by a cabal of Keynesian economists who had written the DOS economic platform and proceeded to implement it with disastrous results. As part of Kostunica’s government, they have achieved a near-total control of Serbia’s economy. Needless to say, entrepreneurship has hardly flourished as a result.

Djindjic’s own Democratic Party rallied around Boris Tadic, a former phone company manager who became a DOS defense minister under careful Imperial tutelage. In July 2004, Tadic became the president of Serbia. His American-style inauguration ceremony, along with a trip to Washington immediately thereafter, spelled out his loyalties quite clearly, even had there not been embarrassing letters and endorsements of the illegal occupation in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, Kostunica’s choice of allies meant that the eccentric, paranoid, and opportunistic Vuk Draskovic came back from the political grave to become Serbia-Montenegro’s foreign minister, with devastating results.

Five years after Milosevic was ousted from power, the promised prosperity has failed to materialize. On the eve of yesterday’s anniversary, Philip Cunliffe of Spiked wrote:

"[T]he overwhelming sentiment is a pervasive sense of stagnation. The scale of people’s political disenchantment is monolithic. … Serbs are confronted with a bewildering array of squabbling ‘fronts’ … and venal political leaders more concerned with chewing the bones tossed to them by the EU, World Bank and IMF, than with responding to the concerns of their electorate. …

"Serbian political leaders have repeatedly confirmed their anti-democratic impulses. They prioritise foreign relations over making connections with their own electorate, and readily submit to the programme of national humiliation espoused by the EU and UN war crimes tribunal in the [sic] Hague…."

Empire’s Weapons

Those "anti-democratic impulses" should not be surprising. For all that the Imperial media attempt to paint them as "reformers" and "democrats," most Dossie revolutionaries are in fact political heirs of the old Commies ousted by Milosevic in 1987. They had been disconnected from their people then, and remain disconnected now. Their power base has always been external – in this case, the Empire they so eagerly serve.

Serbia is not unique in this respect. Throughout Reichsmarschall Rumsfeld’s "New Europe," the very same people who now support Washington once eagerly served Moscow. Some have even served Hitler instead.

Serbia’s "revolution" was a prototype for subsequent coups in Georgia, Lebanon, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, and a failed coup in Belarus. Georgia and Ukraine are already exhibiting Serbian symptoms: a Djindjic-like cult of Saakashvili in Tbilisi, corruption and scandals in Kiev. And therein lies the lesson of Oct. 5: "people power" and "democratic revolutions" are nothing but weapons used by the Empire to create a global Balkans. Even if Serbia refuses to learn from its own disaster, others should – so they don’t suffer the same grim fate.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.