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Ivan Andric

In His Own Words: Ivan Andric

Ivan Andric was the "marketing director" for Otpor.

On Otpor's campaigns:

We had two different, totally separate campaigns. One was the Otpor campaign, and the main message was, "He's Finished." And the other one was the "get out the vote" campaign, which was totally and visually different from the Otpor campaign. It didn't even have a fist on it. We did that other campaign with 37 different organizations: non-governmental organizations from Serbia and it was by the book, the Get Out the Vote campaign. A campaign for motivating young people to go out and vote, to take part in the elections.

And they were the two biggest campaigns in Serbia at that moment. And they were totally different. And the public didn't know that Otpor [was] standing behind this other campaign, because the name of that campaign was, "It's Time." And the public didn't know because I personally think that for the Get Out the Vote campaign and all those motivating campaigns, you must be totally independent. You must be above the fight, even the fight against Milosevic.

Also because some people were afraid to take part in something which [was] organized by Otpor, because of arrests and all this. So you must make something for them, to motivate them. We knew that the people who [liked] Otpor, they [revolted] against Milosevic. But we needed some more people. And in the end, 87 percent of young people got out in the elections, and I think that the number was 80 percent of the whole population.

And I think that that's why — it was for the first time in ten years. And most of them voted against Milosevic. And that's why we changed the dictator.

Developing Otpor's slogans and stickers:

You know, from January of [2000], our inside story was that a dictator is finished when everyone in Serbia thinks that he is finished. When they think that and they have it clear in their minds that he's finished and he must go, then in real life, he's really finished. He can't do anything to stay in power. So that was our story.

And our first poster in that huge campaign was "This Is The Year." "Happy New Year," and "This Is The Year." Of course, we meant the year that Serbia will become free. So, after that, we had a huge campaign for the elections, which was "He's Finished" — "Gotov Je," in Serbian. And I can now say, that was the main slogan of all protests, of rallies, of all happenings in Serbia.

We decided that it should be on all the stickers, only that sentence with our fist at the end. So, it was "He's Finished," with a fist. And we printed almost a million of those stickers. So, it was everywhere in Serbia. For example, at rallies, people put those stickers on themselves. So when you look at the pictures, you always see people with our stickers on them. All of them are not our activists, of course, but it was the most interesting material they had at the moment, so they were putting it everywhere. I saw some very interesting photographs of police cars with our stickers on them. And it was very nice and brave to do that.

You "invented" the story that Milosevic was finished.

I can't say it was fiction. It came at the end. After all the things he'd done. First of all, to our country, and after that to every other country, in our area — you know, to every country, except, for example, Romania. But he did not have the support of the people. And then, I don't know why, he decided to hold the elections. He didn't need to. He could have just had the previous law and [he'd] probably still be the president of Yugoslavia.

But he decided to go and run the elections. And at that moment, I knew that he was really finished. Because he didn't have support. In every poll, every survey, every focus group, you could see that the people were really mad at him. They hated him at the moment.

On marketing and deciding to target particular groups:

We decided that our target groups would be people between 18 and 30 years old. Our focus groups were organized by our partners or friends at the private firm, Strategic Marketing and Media Research Institute. They've been doing that kind of thing for six or seven years and they are very experienced in that. They liked us very much. They liked what we represent and all of our work. So they did it for us nearly for free.

So we had at that moment, 16 different focus groups in eight towns, with city populations and village populations of different ages and different interests. And it was very professional. At that moment, I [had] more than nine thousand pages of different surveys, polling, our focus groups and some other focus groups.

The manager of Strategic Marketing was giving me every focus group, every survey that he did. So, he had more than 12 different surveys in [that]last year. So I had all the results in my hand. So it was very easy to do things, to do the PR of Otpor. Because at every moment, we knew what people [were] thinking in Serbia. And we were just saying what most of the people were thinking. It was easy, like the conscience of the people.

On free local media:

It was more a question of is there a free local media, like a local TV station or a local radio station, and by free, I mean independent. And it was a question of that, more than the city and village. Because during the last 20 years, most of the people from the village came to the cities to get a job. So you don't have urban populations in the cities. It's very heterogeneous.

We cannot divide the population like that, into the city and the village, because every family in the city has someone in the village, and the connections are very strong between cities and villages. So, I can tell you, it's more like information. That was the reason. Do they have their information? If they don't, they were more for Milosevic. And if they have free media, they are against Milosevic.

On local Otpor branches:

We have, of course, our main slogan, our headline slogan, and that was "He's Finished." But we had more than, let's say more than one hundred panel discussions with our activists all around Serbia. So, we are a very decentralized organization, the Otpor movement.

We have lots of different local campaigns. And I don't know a thing about those campaigns, because it's just a matter of the people from that town or village. And they developed it in their own way. We just gave them materials with the headline slogans, but I know for sure that they have different slogans for their environments. And it worked.

Why were students able to do this?

Because you are not confined in some ways. You can do things, first of all, you think that you can do everything, you know. And that's the big advantage. And after all, you know, why students are first in protests, because they have [fewer] things to lose. We don't have families, meaning that don't we have to get money to have them eat or something like that. We don't have that kind of responsibility at all. But the first thing is that we can [cross] all kinds of borders in different ways. And we can do the things that someone who is older thinks that he cannot do, but he can, but he doesn't know that.

So, we've done so many things. And someone calls it bravery, but I think it's a matter of the question that we are young and do not have all the bad experience that our older friends have had in their lives. And, now I think that we are in [the] position that people do believe in us, and in our views on some points. But they don't think that we can solve the problems. Just point to the problems. And that's our force, in a way — just to point to something. And we are very clear. None of us [have] money, or anything like that. We are doing this because of the country. I can say that, you know, because of the whole society.

And, you know, not having any personal interests in a way — for example, a personal interest is if you want to become a member of parliament. And you're saying something bad about someone else, they say it's your "personal interest" to say that. But when I'm saying something bad and I'm not personally involved in that political fight, people believe me in a way, you know. Now we have that authority to say who is right and who is not.

On working with the opposition:

We had many connections, personal connections with [the] opposition. We do not have any connections with the regime, [the now] ex-regime. We h[had] some betrayers among them, who were sending us e-mails at some very key points in the campaign, to say something about their strategy.

But we had connections with opposition in — I can say it was some kind of technical way. For example, it was very dangerous to distribute our material in Serbia. So, we used opposition cars, and we distributed our material with their, for example, posters in the same truck with our posters. And you have on top their posters, and when police stop the car, they see, for example, SPO, Vuk Draskovic's party posters, and they say, "OK." But a whole bunch of posters under it were our posters. So, we have that kind of cooperation.

And I must say that some people from the opposition who are not leaders, you know, but some, you can call it staff — key organizational people in all positions helped us a lot. We used their stores, for example, their trucks, their protections, you know. At our concerts, we used their security. And those kind of connections, which are not in public, like party symbols or something. We used everything which we didn't have. We didn't have party symbols, you know, every kind of help. But we helped them more, I think. We had the biggest campaign. And at the end of the day, it was a campaign for them. It's a campaign for Kostunica.

You didn't organize large protests, but concentrated on smaller actions?

Yes. It was important because you cannot organize big protests and big rallies. Because power will not be changed at a rally. We understood that. You don't have an opposition rally, and then Milosevic says, "OK, I'm resigning."

We decided not to have protests with large numbers of people, but that it was better to have many smaller protests. That it's more important to have a protest for example in Nis, Kraguevac, Novi Sad. It's better than having one big one in Belgrade. And we changed the strategy, of course. The image of those protests was, you know, of some funny things, colorful, [things] like that.

Now we changed them to say, we must act in this way. And only resistance is the answer, you know, to all of those things. Not to accept anything from the regime. Not to cooperate in any way. You know, everything is black and white. That may be our main message. You are for them or you are against them. And at this point, you must be against them. Don't be on the black side, be on the white side.

On the opposition and political parties:

We had all those efforts all the time from different people. But the atmosphere in Serbia was something like a fake democratic country. And you had the different parties, but you didn't have the atmosphere.

And in the beginning, in the grass roots, you need a clear field for the political parties. And here, that was not the case. And so the political parties were not in a serious place. They didn't have, for example, controllers [monitors] at the polling stations until now. Maybe they [the opposition] were stronger these past ten years than Milosevic, but there was no one to count the votes. Milosevic counted the votes.

Now they have controllers, people who are counting the votes at the polling stations. And that's one point. And you had 16 or 20, different important political parties. And when you have 20 leaders, it's a very small possibility to get them united. There are 20 different programs, 20 different political interests, 20 different points of view. And they didn't have any chance to succeed until now.

We had one major [opposition] political party, which was Vuk Draskovic's party. And they were not in a coalition with the others. But the people finally understood that they must vote for the bigger party — vote against Milosevic.

I'm just explaining the political scene, and besides that, you have Otpor. That's how I see the political scene. And Otpor is independent because it doesn't have its own political interests involved in elections, to be elected, first of all. So, Otpor is something which is covering the whole scene. It's bigger or wider than the political parties. Because you can be a member of Otpor and you can be a member of a party at the same time. And there's not any kind of collision.

So Otpor needed to stay clean, but only in the eyes of the public. We were very connected to the opposition. But to stay clean and to cooperate in public only with the united opposition. You know, not with the parties themselves, but only with the united opposition. And that was the big message. When you are sitting in a meeting with the united opposition, it's like you are supporting them. And it's a message to the people that you're saying you can vote for them. But you can't vote for the different parties. The only way to beat Milosevic is to vote for all of them. That was the message to the people.

At the same time, we had a message for them, for the united opposition, that they must stay together. Because that's the only way to win — to be better than Milosevic. And they stayed together. I'm not saying it's because of us. I think that they personally, finally, understood that there is much more than to be an opposition leader in Serbia. We have so many other things. I think they finally understood that it's better to rule the country or the government than to be in the opposition.

On October 5th:

We had also the second part of the story, about defending our votes. It was on the fifth of October and when you [look at] the surface, it was a nonviolent day. I think that's the first time in modern history there was a revolution without victims. No one died that day, except two people. One of them had a heart attack, and the other girl was in some traffic [accident]. It was nonviolent. And I think that was a great day for Serbia. For me personally, it wasn't so much because I was so tired. I hardly understood what was happening. I was in different places on the street, of course. And, you know, I understood what happened five days after that.

And I must say that the leaders of Otpor were acting totally, surprisingly, in a positive way. They were very wise. They were acting very wisely. And, step by step, getting their victory. And it was totally amazing for me to help them. And I knew them in some other occasions. And some of them were totally idiots, I must say.

But in those seven days, everyone had the best time of their lives. Like defending their own victory. They were revolutionists, revolutionaries, in the end. And, you know, on the 5th of October, everything was clear. I was there in front of the Federal Assembly at noon. I was waiting for the guys from Cacak, the Velimir Ilic guys, because I had a message from Goran Svilanovic.

I was waiting in front of Federal Assembly, and then five or six buses came from Cacak and they start to get out of the buses. And I understood that they were only men, no women and no kids. And I understood that that's it.

They came to fight, nothing like nonviolent protest rallies or something. They came to finish the job that day. All guys, all middle aged and some other younger guys. But ready to fight, like the army. It wasn't like the people who we saw at other rallies and protests. Those were the guys with the wife and kids. But that day, everyone came alone, with the clear idea of to finish the job that day.

On the general strike and Kolubara:

You know, we were trying all the time to make that nonviolent thing the first thing and the only possible thing. We didn't want to have civil war on the streets of Belgrade, because we thought it was very bad, for example. And we tried to make only one way possible. And it was the nonviolent way. And then it came, you know. On the 25th of September, Kostunica called when we saw what the results were like — that DOS won and Kostunica won. He called people to civil disobedience. When he understood that SPS [Milosevic's party] and the regime will not be accepting the results, he called for civil disobedience.

And there is one idea which has been here for five or six years, about people coming from all different cities in Serbia, to Belgrade to one rally. It's a very old idea. Then, first of all, they decided to make blockades on all the main roads in Serbia. It was really impressive, how people reacted. There was a very big response to that.

In three days from the first call of Kostunica, all roads in Serbia were blocked. The manager of the biggest newspaper in Serbia called me, and asked me if we have some special [Otpor identification] cards, you know. Because his trucks with the newspapers could not pass the blockades. And those newspapers are independent. And those people on the blockades read those newspapers. But they didn't want to let him pass. We don't need your newspapers. So it was like that. I know that there were many rallies during those ten days. Everyone who was involved in politics was going to all different towns in Serbia and making speeches, or some panel discussions and rallies. But small rallies, like a few hundred people. And make speeches at the blockades, on the roads.

And finally, that thing [the coal miners' strike] at Kolubara happened. You know, it's the first time — we had a joke that only once has everything stopped in all of Serbian history. And it was the moment when Tito died. And it was the only general strike we had in Serbia. So we thought it was not going to happen, the general strike. And then, at that moment, we had the general strike in Serbia. No one went to their own job, or went to his workplace. And then, just to meet friends, colleagues, and then go out of the building and join the protests.

And in Kolubara, those miners, they made a blockade in their mine. They made barricades and all that stuff, and they didn't want to let anyone into their area. So in that mine, a big thing happened. Because we had that kind of situation in several different areas, but we decided to make Kolubara the top issue. And we decided to make it very, very famous in public, and to make those people in Kolubara, those miners, their image like they are very brave, and they are risking their lives. And we made that by having many leaders of DOS visit them, go to Kolubara. And all the time, they were going to Kolubara, sitting with those people, making conversation, explaining to them what was happening in Belgrade and in Serbia. And the whole thing started from Kolubara, because the people from that region came to defend the miners of Kolubara, when the army started to ruin their barricades.

So it wasn't a protest, it was just a gathering of people around the gates of Kolubara. And there were so many people. Kostunica himself went there. And Svilanovic spent one night there. And, I don't know, Milan Protic, the mayor of Belgrade, also spent a night there. Everyone was there. And Otpor people were there to organize things outside. Our activists were outside and organizing people to stand there, to be there the whole night. To in some way give protection.

And then we decided to call all the people to Belgrade. And it was the 5th of October. And it was clear, from that morning, it was clear that by the end of that day, it will be all finished.

Excerpted from an interview with Steve York: Belgrade, November 30, 2000.