Damn them. They had the revolution without me!by Aleksa Djilas / November 20, 2000 / Leave a comment
Last spring, when Nato bombs were falling, I was in Belgrade. This autumn, when Milosevic was falling, I was in Washington at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars. The Centre is heaven for research and the riches of the Library of Congress are at my disposal. But in my spacious office I felt left out and lonely when the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) triumphed in the elections. It really is impossible to live by email and telephone alone. My homesickness increased when the protests and strikes erupted and finally the federal parliament and the state television were stormed.
From afar, I am proud of my people and my country. Serbia has finally said “no” to more than a decade of authoritarian rule. It was a bloodless, velvety revolution, with the army and police quickly understanding that the will of the people cannot be resisted. Even Milosevic seemed almost dignified when he appeared on television to congratulate Kostunica-the unassuming 56-year-old lawyer-on his victory.
I am not a member of any of the 18 opposition parties which form the victorious DOS, but I have supported the creation of such a coalition for many years. Indeed, I have publicly asked the question many times: why do we need so many parties? The party leaders, with their selfish interests (often financial), egotism and sheer irrationality, allowed Milosevic to rule unchallenged, even though he had the support of less than a quarter of the electorate. Most Serbs have long been fed up with the bickering among opposition leaders, and finally this frustration somehow found political expression.
I suspect, however, that the leaders’ conversion is temporary. Soon they will be at their old games and Kostunica will face huge divisions and personal rivalries. Because he defeated Milosevic, his authority is great. Yet as president he has few powers-closer to the powers of the German president than the US one. So Serbian politics will remain chaotic. The most important thing, however, is that no one will have the unchecked power that Milosevic and his clique had over the state.
I have been visiting the US for many years to give lectures on Yugoslav history and politics. My audiences are usually students, who mostly do not know much, but are interested and open-minded. It is more difficult to explain events and personalities to the members of the US foreign policy establishment. Often I am not…