ANALYZING SERBIAN ANGST
DECEMBER 12, 1996
For more than a week, over 100,000 Serbs have peacefully marched on their capital Belgrade, protesting President Milosevic's decision to overturn victories in recent municipal elections. Despite the turnout, the state run media has either ignored the marchers or portrayed them as violent agitators. Charles Krause discusses the situation with the vice president of Serbia's Democratic Party and leader of the anti- government opposition. His report is followed by a conversation with two writers who have covered the Balkans extensively.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And now we get two perspectives. Dusko Doder is a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and a former "Washington Post" correspondent covering the Balkans, among other places. And Dragin Cicic is an international Nieman Foundation fellow at Harvard University and a reporter for the Belgrade magazine "Nin." Thank you both very much for being with us. You heard what Mr. Perisic just said about the opposition having only minimal nationalist influence in it. Is that the way you read it too?
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
A NewsHour interview with with Serbian opposition leader Miodrag Perisic.
December 11, 1996:
An Online NewsHour forum looking at the protests in Serbia against the government of Slobodan Milosevic.
December 6, 1996:
An update on the spreading protests in Serbia, the resignation of its information minister and the unbanning of Radio station B92.
December 2, 1996:
A panel of Yugoslavia experts including Dragan Cicic and the former U.S. ambassador in Belgrade, Warren Zimmerman, discuss the protests in Serbia.
December 2, 1996:
An ITN report on the protests in Bosnia.
CIA fact book on Serbia and Montenegro.
U.S. State Department summary of the Dayton Peace Accord.
Complete NewsHour coverage of events in the former Yugoslavia.
The Web site for radio station B92, which was recently reopened after being shut down by the government.
The official site of the protest against the Serbian government.
Yugoslavia Online is a Serbian government sponsored site that contains officially sponsored news and history.
DUSKO DODER, U.S. Institute of Peace: Well, I think that nationalism was a way of life in Yugoslavia and Serbia in particular in the last five years. But nationalist sentiments were far stronger among the broad segments of the population three or four years ago. I think that policy has failed. And I see what we see now is that many segments of the society are joining the intellectuals who have not been nationalists from the beginning, and the students who have been against nationalism.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what about--tell me how you would define when somebody says that some students are extreme nationalists? How is that defined in the Serbian context?
DUSKO DODER: Well to my mind, any kind of extreme nationalism borders on fascism when you combine nationalism plus sort of socialist heritage that they--you know, over the past 40 years, that there's a tinge of fascism. And it seems to me that you--both governments of Serbia and Croatia are run by hate mongers, who sparked this kind of nationalism and now try to present themselves as reasonable people.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But within the opposition, itself, you're not worried about that sort of thing?
DUSKO DODER: I think that there is an extreme nationalist element, but I think that the situation is so bad, economic situation is so bad, I think that the rhetoric is such that it does conform to European standards. And I think that we would have a different kind of government from the government that we have now, which is a tyrannical one.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Cicic, what about that? What do you think about the--there were these reports in the U.S. press, most notably in the "New York Times" on the 10th by Chris Hedges about some extreme nationalism within the student movement.
DRAGIN CICIC, Nin Magazine, Belgrade: (Boston) Well, when I read that report, I thought that the best thing for me to do was to call the students and ask them about their position on nationalism. And their reply was that they were sorry about what happened to Mr. Jacques Lang and--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let's explain what that--former minister of culture visited the students, and they turned him away, former French minister of culture.
DRAGIN CICIC: Yes. So they said that they were sorry about what happened with Mr. Lang about that unfortunate episode, as they described it, and that they sent a letter of apology to Mr. Lang, and they said that basically they do not support any kind of extreme nationalism, however, Mr. Milosevic's secret police is present, and it permeates all the pores of the Serbian society. And therefore, it is quite possible that somebody posing as a student might express some extreme sentiments, and, therefore, they insisted that the only statements that should be taken into account are the statements issued by the committee which is in charge of the student protests. Otherwise, they believe that nothing else should be taken for granted.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Mr. Cicic, you heard what Mr. Presic said about the various groups in the opposition, students that--the political parties, and that these divisions should not be taken too seriously. Do you agree with that?
DRAGIN CICIC: Yes. I do. In Serbia, there's a very peculiar situation in that regard. Serbian television, all the television stations in Serbia, as a matter of fact, are under the firm control of Mr. Milosevic's government to the extent that it really deserves a sociological study. It's really an incredible propaganda machinery. And, therefore, any footage of these students meeting with the opposition leaders, or, for that matter, with any other politician, would be a montage in the public television students, and then presented to the nation as propaganda--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Would be edited, you mean, in a way that did not show them meeting?
DRAGIN CICIC: I wouldn't say edited. I would say that we are dealing with montage. It's a film montage.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay.
DRAGIN CICIC: Because, for example, when the public television shown--has shown footage of the demonstration, what it did was not to film what was really happening on the demonstration. They actually had six police arrests, several young men, and then those young men were given stones, and forced by secret police to throw stones at several public buildings, or for the benefit of the cameras of public television. So I wouldn't call that editing.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: No, I guess not. Mr. Doder, the--although, as Mr. Presic said, some peasants are taking part in demonstrations, and some workers have come out in support of the demonstrators. There have been no strikes, no major strikes, no major factory shutdowns. Must that happen for these demonstrations to succeed?
DUSKO DODER: I think for Mr. Milosevic to leave the scene, there has to be a major demonstration which blue collar workers join the students and the intellectuals. This is not happening because there's a policy of intimidation throughout the country. I think the police is working full-time through unions, saying whoever does demonstrate will lose his or her job. And I think the other option for this situation to kind of come to fruition is a push from the outsider. Mr. Milosevic should be declared a tyrant, should be declared an unacceptable person to deal with western partners, but he is very shrewd, he is exploiting the divisions in the European Community and with the United States, and he knows the technology of power.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think that he has to go for these demonstrations to stop, or can there be a compromise of some sort, for example, that there would be new local elections at the first--you know, right after the first of the year?
DUSKO DODER: I don't think it's possible for any kind of compromise. Mr. Milosevic is not a man of compromise. He compromises only when it's in his vital interest to survive. He's willing to do everything to survive politically but he's not willing to give up power. This is a challenge to his authority, to the basic of the Communist system that remains in Yugoslavia. It's maybe not socialism but it's basically the old Communist Party and the old apparat that's in power, and I think he's going to hang in there all the way.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think about that, Mr. Cicic?
DRAGIN CICIC: Well, I fully agree with Mr. Doder. I mean, his analysis is perfectly correct. Mr. Milosevic has full and total control of all the leverages of power in the Serbian society, and he's not going to let go unless he's forced to.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And must he leave for these demonstrations and protests to stop, or do you think a compromise is--you don't think a compromise is possible?
DRAGIN CICIC: I don't think that Mr. Milosevic is prepared for compromise. I mean, Mr. Milosevic said today that there will be no compromise basically, so I don't think that it's possible.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And on the issue of whether these demonstrations can succeed without a much, much larger percentage of workers participating and farmers, peasants, what do you think--do you think they need many more people?
DRAGIN CICIC: Yes. I think that the demonstrations need more people, but I'm not sure that many more people will join because of the elements that we were talking about earlier, both Mr. Doder and I. So it is hard to say, hard to tell at this moment what is going to happen.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And just briefly, is the Clinton administration pursuing the right course?
DRAGIN CICIC: Yes, absolutely. While I would just suggest that the administration exercises more pressure on its allies because, for example, despite the unofficial boycott of Mr. Milosevic, diplomatic boycott, which was basically announced by Mr. Kornblum's refusal to go to Belgrade, the Italian minister of foreign affairs, Lombard Todini, visited Mr. Milosevic today and not only that, he said that it is unrealistic to expect that the opposition will be given back its victory.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And you think that you'd like the Clinton administration to exert a little pressure so that that sort of thing isn't said?
DRAGIN CICIC: Well, I think that this is obviously an encouragement to Mr. Milosevic, and I think that the administration should be more firm with its allies on what's the course of the western democracy towards the processing Serbia's going to be.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Well, thank you both very much for being with us.