Slobodan Milošević (20 August 1941 – 11 March 2006) was the president of Serbia and later Yugoslavia from 1989 to 1997 for the former and 1997 to October 2000 for the latter. Milošević is probably known as one of the most controversial presidents in the latter half of the 20th century, his presidency marked by the breakup of Yugoslavia and the subsequent Yugoslav Wars. Milošević's reign was marred by controversy regarding the incredible amount of allegations of human rights abuses and genocide that occurred in the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. Finally, NATO spearheaded an effort against Yugoslavia, leading to a series of bombings. In the midst of the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, Milošević was charged with war crimes including genocide, and crimes against humanity in connection to the wars, the first sitting President ever to be indicted in this manner. Milošević eventually resigned the Presidency in October 2000, due to massive protests throughout Serbia, and was arrested in his villa in March 2001 on suspicion of corruption, embezzlement and fraud. Milošević found himself indicted to International Court to stand trial for war crimes, where he conducted his own defense. After five years of trial, Milošević died in his cell in The Hague due to heart problems; the International Court quietly dropped all charges against him and the trial ended with no verdict.
Milošević was born in Požarevac, four months after the Axis invasion of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to a Serb Orthodox priest who later committed suicide, and was raised during the Axis occupation of World War II. Milošević went on to study law at the University of Belgrade's Law School, where he became the head of the ideology committee of the Yugoslav Communist League's (SKJ) student branch (SSOJ). While at the university, he befriended Ivan Stambolić, whose uncle Petar Stambolić had been a president of Serbian Executive Council (the Communist equivalent of a prime minister). This was to prove a crucial connection for Milošević's career prospects, as Stambolić sponsored his rise through the SKJ hierarchy.
Milošević began his political career as the economic adviser to Belgrade's mayor. He would later marry his childhood friend Mirjana Marković, who later became the leader of Slobodan's junior coalition partner, the Yugoslav Left. Milošević was later able to become the head of Beobanka, one of Yugoslavia's largest banks. A rising star in Yugoslavian politics by 1987, he soon found himself a popular candidate as he declared support for the Serbs in Kosovo who claimed oppression from the ethnic Albanians. Milošević railed against Albanian abuse of power and supported ethnic Serbs first and foremost. Milošević took steps to consolidate power by expelling members of his party who criticized his Kosovo stance. After quietly replacing their supporters with his own, Milošević's ascent to the presidency was assured.
Shortly after taking power, Milošević clamped down hard on civil and constitutional rights. Free media was mostly co-opted by the government, and free speech was restricted enormously. Milošević continued to utilize the Serbian nationalist agenda publicly, while allegations later followed that he had sent aid to 'freedom fighters' in Balkan conflicts. For more information on the conflicts, see The Yugoslav Wars.
In response to the said support for 'freedom fighters', in 1992, UN imposed economic sanctions on Yugoslavia (at this point, consisting only of Serbia and Montenegro) that crippled the country's economy, already severely strained by the conflict. In return, Milošević's government basically allowed the black market to run freely: state-controlled mafia smuggled gas and cigarettes into the country, and the Ministry of Finance secretly organized and publicly supported several Ponzi Schemes, that robbed people of their savings. The crime rate skyrocketed as Serbia and Montenegro faced record hyperinflation, unemployment and influx of guns from nearby battlefields. Several powerful crime groups emerged during this era.
During the Kosovo War, Milošević was indicted for crimes against humanity. Finally, he was defeated in an election by the opposition and was forced to concede power at last. Milošević was later apprehended and forced to stand trial before the Hague, where, as mentioned previously, he died five years into his trial, leaving behind a controversial legacy.
Appears in the following works:
- The Big Bad of the 1992 film The Black Bomber is an Affably Evil Expy of Milošević, called Bogdan Marković.
- The 2021 mini-series The Family portrays, with stunning accuracy, Milošević's last three days of "freedom" he spent barricaded in his villa, surrounded by most of his family and his cronies. The new, democratically elected Serbian government wanted badly to arrest him and extradite him, but in order to do so, they had to rely largely on Milošević's men in the police and the military.