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."
"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.")
"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."
"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."
"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."
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."