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Opinions Archive 1999
Who are the leaders of third Serbia?

Interview with Milan St. Protic, historian

Milan St. Protic, historian, one of the heralds of the new sensibility in the Serbian politics, decided to end his three months long media boycott, that he promised when the bombardment started. When we asked why he decided to remain silent during the war, Protic said "I don't want Vucic [Aleksandar, Serbian minister of information], tails my sentences". While we speak about the impressions of the war, this descendant of the former Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Serbia, Stojan Protic, speaks about his family tradition, explaining why he didn't go to the shelter under the bombs: "The house I live in is the house of my grandfather. It already felt the bombs back in 1944. It is situated near the demolished RTS building. I'm living in Belgrade all my life, and I decided, that if I should be hit, that happens in my own home".

Reporter: I must ask you right away, what do you think, as a historian, have the Serbs ever been in worse position?

Historical comparisons are dangerous. Serbs have certainly never been more affected or resentful then they are now. Maybe they have been in worse position, but certainly not ashamed like they are at the end of twentieth century.

Reporter: Do you believe there are chances that Serbs will remain in Kosovo?

The regime will do everything to keep the Serbs in Kosovo, only to prove that the province isn't lost forever. The most of Kosovo Serbs, worked for the army or the police, or they had some kind of administration job. There are not many of those who have the independence to bring their own decisions. It is very possible that exodus of Serbs from Kosovo will happen, although the regime will do everything to prevent it. With blackmails. Very simple. When people live in fear you can do everything with them. They haven't got anyone and this regime appears to them with their angel faces, but inside they are devils. We already have seen such a thing, this is not a news. We had Krajina, Bosnia.

Reporter: Is that an explanation of that tasteless "celebration of peace" on the streets of Belgrade?

In the hard times like this, it's easy to abuse people. But that was minority and always is minority of people. I couldn't help noticing that in the night when the "peace" was celebrated, only the most expensive cars were on the streets. Jeeps, BMWs, Mercedeses... Rich people were joyful. Those are parts of the class that enjoyed all the privileges during the last ten years, and that was the most protected during the bombardment. People who were forced on the bridge depend on them for the last ten years.

Reporter: Do you agree that Serbia is dispersed between the discredited regime and the exhausted opposition?

Those expressions are too subtle. On one side we have the destructive, criminal regime which produced enormous damage and evil to its own people during the last ten years, and there is no other way to say it. On the other hand, we have the opposition that is, firstly, corrupted by the system, because it accepts the role in the framework of the system, more or less. It accepts to fight for small privileges, which are results of the current weakness of the regime.

Reporter: Is there any political potential beyond these two, and which is the way to reach it?

Serbia has the potential to make deep internal turn. There is potential among people, but so far the political power that could bring that energy to some results didn't show up. I think that this is the best moment for that turn to be done. We wondered for a long time: where is the bottom? When will we reach the bottom? Well, here it is. The country is destroyed, people have suffered, we are in the total isolation, we have indicted war criminals on the head of the state, the relations in the federal government are completely disorganized, and part of the country is under occupation. Someone will have to find the courage to face the reality and to tell the people what really happened.

Reporter: And who is that someone?

Some new people. People that haven't belong to the political establishment, so far. Someone that people will trust, and that would be loyal to one and the only aim - total transformation. Here we have only the question will there be a possibility for something like that. Will the regime keep the monopoly, will they revoke the state of war, and will they create a military dictatorship in the country? In that case it will be horrible. Otherwise, somebody will stand against the regime, in the moment when it becomes too weak to prevent that with force. I believe in the later. I think that the regime counts its last days. That can last for couple of months more, but the regime can't stand the pressure. Then will only have the question, will that political power show up, the power that is at the same time nationally correct and enough loyal to the interests of the ordinary people, and that means it shared their destiny.

Reporter: Can you name those people?

I do. It's not the matter of one man. Goran Svilanovic, president of GSS, man that is part of the active political life, was the first one to be drafted when the war begun. During the war he was an active Yugoslav Army officer, but he remained the passionate opponent to the regime. There are people that can be example of the right manners. Velimir Ilic, Cacak mayor...

Reporter: Where is he?

That's the proof of the regime we live in. He will come back. At least he is in the country but because of his uncompromising attitude during the war he's indicted for the treason. Zoran Zivkovic, Nis mayor. War at least, discovered what the people really are. There are more brave people.

Reporter: Does SPS have such people?

Maybe they do. But I don't know them. I don't say there are not. But, just the fact that they were in the SPS makes them partly responsible. They could be abettors, but not the leaders.

Reporter: In the end, who has won in Serbia, and who has lost?

People lost at the first place. Those stories "people are heroes"... It's so hypocritical and disgusting... On the political side, the regime has lost the most. They are in the much worse situation then they were in, before the last elections, when they hardly managed to make 50 percent of voters, together with Draskovic and Seselj. And more then that, they don't have RTS anymore, as the general monopoly that can reach every village, every mountain in Serbia. Those who joint the chorus and played the national heroes, are also losers. Seselj's stories that this is not the worse stage just prove that he doesn't understand anything politically. Draskovic and SPO acted according to their mentality - shifty. MP's of that Party voted for the war in the federal parliament on the March 23, and few days after that they started to act like the peacemakers, defending Milosevic, 'til today. Even of the international indictment for the war crimes. For them the most important thing is to preserve the pieces of the power they have in Belgrade and few other cities in Serbia.

Reporter: How do you value the position of Slobodan Milosevic?

He will have to face all the consequences of his moves. The one that has absolute power takes the absolute responsibility. The democratic principles exist so they could protect individuals from the absolute responsibility. He abandoned those principles, and therefore he is the only one responsible. Is he going to stand the trial in The Hague or in Belgrade? We'll see...

Reporter: How exactly do you see that?

He has two ways. To make a deal with international community, like Karadzic, and to get some sort of guarantee to move from the power, but at the same time to protect physical and material safety for himself and his family, or to risk and face the condemnation of public opinion in Serbia.

Reporter: What kind of condemnation?

I hope legal and lawful. I am a historian, and no matter how hard I try, I can't remember anyone in Serbian history that produced so much suffering for the Serbian people. The difference between him and the leaders of the countries that took part in the bombardment of Belgrade is that they are not against their own people. They are bombing Belgrade, not their own cities. Milosevic is evil to his own people. That's the crucial difference between them.

Reporter: The denacification of the Serbs is often mentioned lately, as a way to the healthier society. What do you think about that?s

Serbia doesn't need the denacification. Serbia needs decommunisation. We don't have the problem with Nazism, but with communist's mentality. There are special rules for the regime, and another for ordinary people. Even in war, they were protected in all ways. Milosevic appeared at the end of the tragedy and gave us 5 minutes lecture about the victory. And he lied barefaced: that the agreement is signed with UN not with NATO; that we won the war, while our Army and police withdraws; he lied about the number of casualties, and haven't even mentioned civilian casualties. Only his wife whipped about her daughter's TV station that has been hit. And what about other things, are they really matter?

Reporter: In some circles there are thoughts about you as a man which political career would be profitable investment. What do you think about that?

I haven't met many people, interesting in investment in my political career, nor I see myself as a politician. But, circumstances are so terrible, that I would have to try to make things different, for my own conscious.

Milan St. Protic Born: in 1957, in Belgrade Education: Belgrade University, Faculty of Law, with the master degree in Contemporary European history at University of Santa Barbara, California Languages: English and French Family: married, has two daughters

Vanja Mekterovic, Reporter's journalist

Source: Free Serbia

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