This is a first-hand account of the events leading to the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic as President of Yugoslavia. Vladimir Sukalovic, a research assistant completing a PhD in computer modelling, broke net publishing ground last year when he wrote two despatches for On Line Opinion
from Belgrade, at the same time that it was being bombed by the NATO forces.
Now he returns with a street level perspective of the change of government. Future postings will bring the rest of Vladimir's story in his own words.
Sometimes I dream about life in another country. I wake up, have breakfast, go to work, come back home, kiss my wife, have lunch, read papers, go out, go to sleep ... and again, and again, same story, different day. And then I wake up, because this is Yugoslavia, and that means you'll never know what another night or day will bring.
Slobodan Milosevic ruled Yugoslavia for the past 10 years. He came to power by the will of the people and promised he would rule for the people. But he introduced a phony democracy in Yugoslavia, and became a dictator. The results of his pathetic leadership were the breaking-up of the former Yugoslavia, war in Croatia and Bosnia, and last
year's NATO aggression that ended with the occupation of Kosovo.
During those years people suffered from a poor economy, almost non-existent health care, corruption at all levels of society and organized crime. Instead of democracy, we had dictatorship, instead of economic progress we had hyperinflation, and instead of peace we had war. We still remember 9 March 1991, when Slobodan Milosevic used the army
to break up demonstrations in Belgrade.
In 1996 the democratic opposition formed a coalition called TOGETHER (ZAJEDNO) and won elections at the local level. But acting on the orders of Milosevic, the Supreme Court and election committee proclaimed the elections irregular, and denied victory to the democratic opposition. People all over the country protested, and that protest
turned into day-by-day, night-by-night protest walks all over the country.
After three months Slobodan Milosevic gave up and granted victory to the opposition. But he remembered to punish all who challenged his power. University, news agencies, TV stations, and even individuals suffered when the Republic Assembly (in which he always had majority) voted for the new "University law", "Law about
informing" and many other laws made to protect his power. The University lost its autonomy and all university deans were appointed by his order. Freedom of speech was denied and those who dared to speak against Milosevic, were fined, jailed and even killed.
In 1999, NATO forces tried to bring an end to Milosevic and his regime. They bombed and killed civilians, destroyed bridges, houses, factories. They even bombed the TV station, hospital and Chinese embassy in Belgrade. War ended with the occupation of Kosovo. But NATO forces failed because their war only strengthened Milosevic in this
The loss of Kosovo was the drop that filled the glass, and the democratic opposition raised its voice and demanded that Milosevic should go. But those voices were weak, and Milosevic used every possible means to shut them up. During the war, Slavko Curuvija, owner of the local newspaper, was killed because he knew too much.
Assassins attacked opposition leader Vuk Draskovic two times but failed. What started with targeting small news agencies and local TV and radio stations ended with the closing of major opposition radio station Radio station "B92" and Free Belgrade television "Studio B". Yugoslavia was left blind and mute.
But the people were waiting for the right moment and right leader to lead them to victory. For 10 years, Vuk Draskovic tried to unite opposition and win elections but he failed every time. In 1993. Milan Panic, tried to conspire with the army and police generals, and that cost him his place as Yugoslavia's Prime Minister. Zoran Djindjic was
another leader who walked the streets of Belgrade asking Milosevic to step down, only to face special police anti-riot squads. Students formed the "OTPOR" resistance organization, and many of those who joined were put in jail, beaten and harassed by the police. The list of others who tried to bring Milosevic down is long, but all of
Safe in his house on the Dedinje hill in Belgrade, Milosevic ruled what was left of Serbia. He was convinced that opposition no longer existed, and decided to hold elections for the National Assembly and local level.