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Slobodan Milosevic

b. Aug. 29, 1941, Pozarevac, Yugos.

Shorter biography of Slobodan Milosevic

politician and administrator who, as Serbia's party leader (from 1987) and president (1989-97), pursued Serb nationalist policies that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Milosevic was born in Serbia of Montenegrin parents and joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (from 1963, the League of Communists of Yugoslavia [LCY]) when he was 18 years old. He graduated from the University of Belgrade with a law degree in 1964 and began a career in business administration, eventually becoming head of the state-owned gas company and president of a major Belgrade bank. He married Mirjana Markovic, who was a staunch Communist. Milosevic entered politics full-time in 1984 as a protégé of Ivan Stambolic, head of the League of Communists of Serbia (LCS). Milosevic took over as head of the local Communist party organization in Belgrade that year.

Milosevic soon introduced a new populist political style to Serbia, appealing directly to the Serb people over the heads of LCY officials. He used his rising popularity to oust his former mentor Stambolic as leader of the LCS in December 1987. As Serbia's party leader, Milosevic demanded that the federal government restore full control to Serbia over the autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo. And at a time when the federal government was trying to introduce free-market reforms in order to relieve the faltering Yugoslav economy, he emerged as a leading defender of the socialist tradition of state economic intervention, attacking economic reform for its social costs.

In 1988 Milosevic replaced the party leaderships in Kosovo and Vojvodina provinces with his own supporters, and in 1989 the Serbian assembly ousted Stambolic from the republic's presidency, replacing him with Milosevic. In 1990 Milosevic pushed through changes to the Serbian constitution that curtailed the provinces' autonomy. He resisted a growing movement in favour of multiparty elections, and he sought to use the extensive Serb diaspora throughout Yugoslavia in his fight against confederalism, a looser union of sovereign republics that was advocated by the leaders of Croatia and Slovenia. But Milosevic's policies created an anti-Serb backlash in the other republics, and Serbia's continuing resistance to political and economic reform accelerated the breakup of the Yugoslav federation. The LCY split into separate republican parties in 1990, and multiparty elections later that year brought noncommunist governments to power in both Croatia and Slovenia. Milosevic transformed the LCS into the Socialist Party of Serbia and in December 1990 was returned to office by a huge majority. He was reelected to the Serbian presidency in 1992.

In 1991 Milosevic faced popularly elected leaders from Croatia and Slovenia who continued to press for the transformation of Yugoslavia into a confederation. A negotiated settlement proved impossible, and in 1991 first Slovenia and Croatia and then Macedonia declared their independence. In 1992 the Muslims and Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina also voted to secede. In response, Milosevic backed Serb militias who were fighting to unite their portions of Bosnia and Croatia with Serbia. After three years of full-scale civil war in Bosnia, however, Serb militias were unable to overwhelm the Muslim forces there, and in 1995 the Croatian army swept almost the entire Serb population out of their historic enclave in Croatia. By this time Serbia's economy, which had never recovered from the political crises of the late 1980s, was suffering severely from trade sanctions that had been imposed on Yugoslavia by the United Nations in 1992. In order to lift the sanctions, Milosevic agreed to sign a peace agreement on behalf of the Bosnian Serbs in November 1995, thus effectively ending the civil war in Bosnia.

As Serbia's president Milosevic continued to dominate the new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which had been inaugurated in 1992 and consisted of only Serbia and Montenegro. He maintained his power by his repression of political opponents, his control of the mass media, and the opportunistic alliances he formed with parties across the political spectrum. Having served two terms as president of Serbia, Milosevic was constitutionally barred from serving a third term. He retained power, however, by having the federal parliament elect him to the presidency of Yugoslavia in 1997 after he had dropped the post of Serbian president. Meanwhile, Yugoslavia's economy continued to stagnate even after the lifting of trade sanctions, with extremely high levels of unemployment and falling standards of living.

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