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Serbia: emerging from a bitter past.

On March 11, 2006, Slobodan Milosevic (SLAW-bah-duhn mee-LOH-shehv-itch) died in a prison cell in the Hague, a city in the Netherlands. Less than a week later, his funeral in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and Montenegro, drew more than 50,000 mourners.

Prisoner or President? In his time, Milosevic was both. A short distance from the funeral, a smaller crowd cheered the loss of a man whose bloody reign devastated his country.

Tamara Berger and Jovana Kos, both 15, went to that gathering. The girls were only 9 years old when voters stormed the Parliament building and forced Milosevic from power in 2000.

Tamara and Jovana say that the day Milosevic stepped down, Serbia began a long journey on the road to democracy.


One of the war-crimes charges against Milosevic stemmed from his campaign of ethnic cleansing. People accused him of wanting to build a "greater Serbia"--a nation of Christian Serbs in his country and in parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (see map, p. 13).

During nearly a decade of civil war, tens of thousands of Croats (KROH-ats), Muslims, Gypsies, and ethnic Albanians were killed. Hundreds of thousands of others fled from their homes. Mostly civilians, these people simply belonged to the "wrong" ethnic group. In parts of Croatia and Bosnia, minority Serbs were expelled or killed.


Serbia and Montenegro and its neighbors form a region in southeastern Europe called the Balkan Peninsula. (Balkan is a Turkish word meaning mountain.) For more than 1,000 years, most Balkan people were Christian--either Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic. In 1483, Ottoman Turks invaded and took control. Over time, some people converted to Islam, the faith of the Turks.

For centuries, religious and cultural differences led to conflict and violence in the area, which has been called the "powder keg of Europe." Most Serbs were Orthodox Christian, most Croats were Roman Catholic, and most Bosnians were Muslim. In addition, Gypsies, Jews, ethnic Albanians, and several other minorities lived in the region.

In 1929, the Balkan states were organized into a kingdom called Yugoslavia. After World War II, Josip Broz Tito, who was half Croat, half Slovenian, re-established Yugoslavia as a country with six republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.

Tito, a Communist, ruled with an iron fist. During his long reign (1945-1980), he held the various groups together as one nation. After he died, ethnic resentments came to the surface. In 1991, Yugoslavia split into five different countries. For the rest of the decade, warfare ripped apart large areas of the peninsula.


Many of the people who escaped the bloodshed during the 1990s now live in refugee camps. Mirko Petrovic (PET-rahv-itch), a Serb, fled from Croatia as a boy. Today, he lives with his mother, his wife, and son in a large refugee camp outside Belgrade.

"It is horrible here," Petrovic told JS. "Four of us are living in a room only 20 square feet. No bathroom, no job, and just pitiful financial help." When asked why he doesn't return home, Petrovic said, "Return? Where to?"

Besides Croatian and Bosnian Serbs, refugees from Kosovo also live in the camp. They have been there since 1999, when violence shattered Kosovo, a province of Serbia. First, Milosevic crushed a rebellion by Kosovo Albanians. Then came three months of bombing by NATO to force Milosevic to end his Kosovo campaign. After the bombing, he agreed to surrender Kosovo to the protection of United Nations peacekeepers.

Not everyone blames him for the devastation of Kosovo. "Milosevic had nothing to do with that," said Alma Bajramovic (bye-RAH-mohv-itch), 16, a Muslim Gypsy from Kosovo. "World politics is to blame too."

Dragica Miljkovic (MEEL-kohv-itch), a teacher from Kosovo, takes a middle stand. "If Milosevic had been a better diplomat," she said, "maybe we could have stayed in our houses."


NATO's bombing of Kosovo targeted Milosevic's regime (government in power). But innocent civilians suffered the most. More than 1,000 people were killed. In Belgrade, more than 100 structures, including homes and hospitals, were destroyed.

"I was so afraid," Emir Hadzic (HAH-jeech), 15, told JS. As he spoke, Emir, a Muslim, stood in front of a demolished building in the center of Bdgrade. "I live very near that house," he said. "When it was hit [by a bomb], I thought the sky was falling."

Milosevic's funeral procession had passed through the street where Emir now stands. He saw it, but, he said, "I didn't really care. I was neither sad nor joyful."

Emir's mother does care. "Citizens of Serbia wanted Milosevic prosecuted [tried] here, to have him pay for all he did to us!" she said.

From 1991 to 2000 in Serbia, citizens organized protests against Milosevic's rule. However, Milosevic controlled the army, police, and all the media. He also kept power by rigging elections in his favor.

But by 2000, his people had had enough. Late that September, Milosevic lost the presidential election. After he refused to accept the results, nearly a million protesters took to the streets. Some occupied the Parliament and other government buildings. This time, the police and army sided with the people. Without their backing, Milosevic's power crumbled. His democratic opponent became President.


In 2001, Serbia's new Prime Minister turned Milosevic over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. Milosevic became the first head of state to stand trial for war crimes, including genocide (the murder or intentional destruction of a people).

Other leaders in the Balkan conflicts have also been charged with war crimes. For now, many people in Serbia have turned their attention to more urgent needs, especially reducing poverty and unemployment. "Milosevic is not important anymore," Olga Batakovic (BAH-tah-kohv-itch), 14, told JS. "We need better-equipped schools, and well-paid teachers who won't have to give private lessons or do other extra work just to survive!"

A picnic site on the river Sava is a popular hangout for teens, especially athletes. Three rowing teams practice there, and some of the members have won gold medals in the Olympics and other international competitions. Several of them agree that the sport helps strengthen their will to work for future success--for their country as well as for themselves. "We will win even more medals," one rower told JS. "We will repair the image of Serbia, and show others that the decent and diligent can be successful!"


* civilians: people who are not part of the military or police force.

* ethnic cleansing: the mass expulsion and killing of one ethnic or religious group in an area by another nearby ethnic or religious group.

* NATO: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance of Canada, the U.S., and 24 European countries.

* tribunal: court of justice.

Your Turn

1. civilians A. mass expulsion and
 killing of minorities
2. ethnic B. government in
 cleansing power
3. NAT0 C. court of justice
4, regime D. nonmilitary people
5. tribunal E. a military alliance

1. D

2. A

3. E

4. B

5. C


1. Describe life in Yugoslavia under Tito. What happened to the country after his death?

2. Are there examples in your school or community where people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds don't get along? Describe constructive ways in which these groups can resolve their conflicts.

Serbia and Montenegro All the countries shown in green on this map were once part of one nation: Yugoslavia. In 1991, Yugoslavia began to break apart along ethnic lines. Today, what was Yugoslavia is now five different countries. The largest of those countries is Serbia and Montenegro. The country is a federation of two distinct republics. Study the map and facts, then answer the questions.


AREA: 39,448 square miles, slightly smaller than Kentucky.

POPULATION: 10,700,000.

GOVERNMENT: Parliamentary democracy (transitional); led by President Svetozar Marovic.

ECONOMY: Serbia's economy suffered from civil war and the breakup of Yugoslavia. Progress has been slow in changing from government ownership to a market economy. Despite signs of an economic recovery, unemployment is more than 30%.

PER CAPITA GDP *: $2,600.

RELIGION: Christian Orthodox, 65%; Muslim, 19%; Roman Catholic, 4%; Protestant, 1%; other, 11%.

LANGUAGE: Serbian 95%; Albanian 5%.

LITERACY RATE: Males, 97%; females, 89%.

LIFE EXPECTANCY: Males, 71 years; females, 76 years.


1. What do the areas shown in green represent?

2. What is the capital of Serbia and Montenegro?

3. Is Kesovo an independent country, a republic, or an autonomous province?

4. The Danube River forms part of the border between Bulgaria and which country?

5. Which city is closest to 46[degrees]N, 14[degrees]E?

6. Sarajevo is the capital of which country?

7. What is the distance in miles between Sarajevo and Belgrade?

8. Serbia and Montenegro borders which large body of water?

9. To travel from Belgrade to Zagreb, in which direction would you head?

10. In which city does the sun set last: Belgrade, Sarajevo, Skopje, or Zagreb?--

1. former republics of Yugoslavia

2. Belgrade

3. autonomous province

4. Romania

5. Ljubljana (capital of Slovenia)

6. Bosnia and Herzegovina

7. just under 125 miles

8. Adriatic Sea

9. northwest

10. Zagreb (It is the farthest west.)

* GDP stands for cross domestic product; per capita means per person. This amount is the value of all items produced by the country in a year, divided by the population, and is often used as a measure of a nations wealth.


Students should understand

* why the recent death of Slobodan Milosevic made headlines.

* which groups were in conflict in Serbia and other Balkan countries.


The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague did not end with Milosevic's death. ICTY has charged six other leaders with war crimes, and is pursuing them. The six include Ratko Mladic (MIAHD-itch) and Radovan Karadzic (KAHR-ah-jeech), two Bosnian Serb leaders who are in hiding. If Serbia does not help find the suspects and turn them over to authorities, it could face international sanctions.


NOTING DETAILS: Why was Slobodan Milosevic charged with the war crime of ethnic cleansing? (In his campaign to forge a "greater Serbia," he armed and supported Serb rebels who killed or expelled great numbers of Muslims, Croats, Gypsies, and other non-Serbs in several Balkan countries.)

DETERMINING POINT OF VIEW: Reread comments by Alma, Dragica, and Emir (p. 12) about Milosevic. How do their feelings about him differ? (Alma blames world politics for destruction in Kosovo; Dragica thinks Milosevic's lack of diplomacy was a problem; Emir was "neither sad nor joyful" about his death.)


RECOGNIZING PARALLELS: Ask students which former leader, like Serbia and Montenegro's Milosevic, is being tried for war crimes? (Iraq's former dictator, Saddam Hussein) Have them list and/or discuss similarities and differences in what they know about the two leaders. (See the Iraq articles in the 9/19/2005 and 2/6/2006 issues of JS.)



* People, places, and environments/Culture: How historic differences in religion, ethnicity, and culture contributed to recent Balkan conflicts.

* Global connections: How other countries (by way of NATO, the UN, and the International Criminal Tribunal) have participated in recent Balkan conflicts.



* Marcovitz, Hal, The Balkans: People in Conflict (Chelsea House, 2002). Grades 8-10.

* Milivojevic, JoAnn, Serbia (Children's Press, 2003). Grades 5-10.


* Serbia and Montenegro [Click on Serbia & Montenegro for info in English.]

* Slobodan Milosevic time line

* Write the letter of the correct answer on the line before each question.

--6. Some people of the Balkans converted to Islam after the area was invaded by whom?

A. Gypsies

B. Kosovo Albanians

C. Ottoman Turks

--7. Who ruled Yugoslavia from the end of World War II until 1980?

A. Slobodan Milosevic

B. Mirko Petrovic

C. Josip Broz Tito

--8. In 1980, Yugoslavia split into how many different countries?

A. three

B. five

C. nine

--9. Which group of people did Slobodan Milosevic want to unite into a greater nation?

A. Bosnian Muslims

B. Croats

C. Serbs

--10. Where is the International Criminal Tribunal that charged Slobodan Milosevic and other Balkan leaders with war crimes?

A. Belgrade

B. The Hague

C. Kosovo

6. C

7. C

8. B

9. C

10. B
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Title Annotation:WORLD
Author:Wilmore, Kathy
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Date:Apr 24, 2006
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