Friday, June 14, 1996

How the Serbian President spoke about Kosovo: Often, seldom, never

Years of Evolution and - Convolution

It was April 1987, when Slobodan Milosevic proclaimed in Kosovo Polje that Yugoslavia and Serbia would never forsake Kosovo. In November of the following year at the Confluence [of rivers Sava and Dunav, a meeting spot in Belgrade], he declared that the solidarity of Serbia with Kosovar Serbs would unify all of Serbia. In March 1989, he told us we were close to solving the problem of Kosovo. In January of 1993, he claimed that there would be no internationalization of the Kosovo question. In June of 1995, he ignored the invitation to attend the ceremonious opening of the monument to Czar Dusan in Prizren [a city in Kosovo].

The memorable April 1987 proclamation that no one should molest the Serbs anymore marked the start of Slobodan Milosevic's (then the president of Serbian Communists) rise to a position from which, virtually unobstructed for nine years, he has tailored Serbia to his own caprice.

Many have since tried to decipher his secret of successful reign, one of the more insightful ideas being that Milosevic "actually is a leader who knew how to lead his people to where the people would go anyway, even without him, under the sole guidance of its instinct." Milosevic himself supported this theory in his speech at the Confluence in 1988, stating that it was the people who started the battle for Kosovo.

In the period that followed, Kosovo was often mentioned in his statements. Afterwards, he invoked Kosovo less frequently, as it was shoved into the background of other problems that arose during his presidency. Whatever he did, it is safe to bet that he secured himself a place in history.

In order to assess his historical role, it may be helpful to recall his statements about Kosovo: April 1986, Electoral Conference of the Municipal Communist Union

"Serbian nationalists are trying to abuse the condition in Kosovo. A recent attempt of a nationalistic group from Belgrade to use a visit of Kosovo citizens for their own ends, clearly showed how they, in fact, do not care that the problems of Kosovo be solved, but instead aggravated."

April 1987, Kosovo Polje

"Meetings like these are not nationalistic. They are not the meetings of the enemies; and precisely because of that we must not allow that the misfortunes of some be misused by the nationalists, whom each honest man must confront."

"Forced emigration of Serbs and Montenegrins is possibly the last tragic exodus of European civils."

"Albanian separatists and nationalists must know: there will never be tyranny on this soil again."

"You can't possibly leave your home country because the life is hard here, and humiliation and injustice press down on you. It has never been a characteristic of Serbian and Montenegrin peoples to give up before the obstacles, to run when it's time for fight, to lose faith when things get tough. You need to stay here for both, your ancestors and posterity: lest you dishonor your ancestors, and disappoint posterity.

"All of Yugoslavia is with you! Kosovo is not Yugoslavia's problem, it is Yugoslavia itself. There is no Yugoslavia without Kosovo! Yugoslavia and Serbia will not forfeit Kosovo!

(From the masses one hears:" President, come back again!" "Anytime.")

September 9th, 1988. Closing of the joint meeting of Serbian Presidency and Central Committee of the Serbian Communist Party

"The last two months have witnessed numerous meetings of solidarity with Kosovar Serbs and Montenegrins in their battle against the counterrevolution in Kosovo. These meetings have demonstrated a wide-spread, unique, and very honest desire of many citizens to make the conditions of Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo equivalent to those of the Kosovar majority, which is now made up of Albanians.

"Serbs and Montenegrins from Kosovo, like many humane and progressive people, have been sympathetic to the inefficiency of their state and ineptness of their representatives, to an extent that is rare in today's civilized, democratic, urbane Europe. Perhaps, even, to an unprecedented extent."

"And the citizens do not want to hush and suffer in silence, and to endure sanctions anymore; not because they cannot sustain molestation, for example, but because they have been molested enough and will not stand any more such beatings or humiliations."

"People unite on the basis of common enemy. They cannot defend themselves, convene, or emigrate like the Dutch or the Protestants, or the cotton-manufacturers - simply because no one threatens them in that plane."

November 19th, 1988. Meeting of "Brotherhood and Unity" at the Confluence

"Long disinterest for endless suffering of Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo is a sorry blemish on the heart of entire Serbia; yet now is not the time to mourn, but to fight. That idea has spread through Serbia this summer, and became a material force that shall abolish the terror in Kosovo and unify Serbia."

"It is a process that no power can stop, and no terror can bridle. The people would rather live in poverty than without freedom."

"It should not be surprising that Serbia is alerted about Kosovo this summer. Kosovo is in the very center of her history, culture, and memory. Each nation has something it holds close to the heart. For Serbia, that is Kosovo."

March 2nd, 1989. Meeting before the Federal Assembly

"Comrades, I assure you that we will continue - unflinchingly and together with you all, with all citizens of the Socialist Republic of Serbia, and all honest people of Yugoslavia - to strive for the peace and equality to return to Kosovo, and to each corner of our country..."

"Together we have shown that we will not tolerate the removal of those who faithfully fight for the policy of the Communist Party in Kosovo..."

"We are facing constitutional changes, and are within reach of solving all questions concerning Kosovo." The masses roar: "Imprison Vlasi!"[the leader of Kosovar Albanians]

"Let me tell you first, I do not hear well. But I will answer to your demands. I would like to tell you that soon, the names will be shown of all who used and manipulated the people against Yugoslavia; they will be punished and imprisoned. In the name of Serbian government, I guarantee you that. No one can escape responsibility for their misconduct. That is what will happen - that and only that."

June 28th, 1989. Gazimestan (Kosovo)

"Six centuries after, we are still fighting. Not armed, though that is not excluded either."

November 14th, 1989. Interview with the Reuters correspondent

"There still remains a small number of fanatics who believe the borders can be altered to have Kosovo separated from Yugoslavia and annexed to Albania. Their wish to take Kosovo will never come true. By fighting to that end, they can only inflict injuries upon themselves, which is what we see happening. Serbia simply will not give up Kosovo, and there is no force in this world that can defy that, because Kosovo is the heart of Serbia."

March 16th, 1991. Address to the nation after Borisav Jovic's resignation

"Considering the overall attempts at provoking unrest in Sandzak, Kosovo, and Metohija, I have ordered a full mobilization of the reserve personnel of Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs [police], and urgent formation of additional police force. I have asked the Serbian government to make necessary preparations for equipping more police squads, to an extent that will guarantee protection of the interest of Serbia and of the Serbian people."

January 12th, 1993. Statement after Meetings in Geneva

"Our stance is clear: Kosovo is our internal problem. Internationalization of any kind is out of the question."

June, 1996. Interview for the German "Der Spiegl"

"I don't believe there is a minority anywhere in the world that enjoys the rights of the Albanian minority in Serbia. Albanians have their own schools, radio and TV channels, at least 20 newspapers and magazines. And they [magazines] are awfully critical. In one of them I am represented as a dog, but not a single publication was prohibited. Albanians are free here, and they live in a free state."

To the objection that Kosovar Albanians are not a minority, but a majority, Milosevic answered:

"In Yugoslavia, Albanians are undoubtedly a minority. By that reason, even the Mexicans living in Texas could ask for annexation to Mexico. No, this is our own thing, and the topic of Kosovo will not be internationalized. I was happy to hear Mr. Kinkel [German Minister of Foreign Affairs] admit that it [Kosovo] is our internal affair, that we alone must deal with. The Americans and British are of the same opinion, too."


On Vidovdan, June 28th, 1995, as a part of the festivities for University Day, a statue of Czar Dusan was to be unveiled in Prizren. The organizer, University of Pristina, sent an invitation to the President of Serbia to attend the ceremony. His answer never came.

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