Ivan Andric

In His Own Words: Ivan Andric

Ivan Andric was the "marketing director" for Otpor.

Otpor was a response to Milosevic?

Yes, in a way, it was response. But we were proactive, you know. We had the plan, you know. And it was not like a response to something that they've done, but to some big issues in our country, like economics or things like that. But not in a way to solve those problems, but to find the one who is guilty for all of that, and connecting all problems with the name of Slobodan Milosevic and his picture and his wife's picture. Because he was guilty of everything. Because he tried to have everything under his control. And that's OK, but then you're responsible for it. And he was responsible for all different problems. But the major problems were, of course, economics and the NATO bombing, for example. It was a very, very good reason to vote against Milosevic.

You had a slogan: "Live resistance."

That was one of our slogans at the beginning, that you must live the resistance. You know, it's not a matter of spending two hours a day doing something against Milosevic, and then you go home and act normally. It's a state of mind, and you must live the resistance. You're not doing that professionally or in this way or that way. You are living that. Because that's the key point, to be resistant on the street, to be resistant when you're talking to everyone else. To be spreading that idea of the individual fight for the truth in every field.

And after that, you have a whole army of people who are fighting for the truth, individually. And they're spreading that idea in every field. At their jobs, they're going to market. They're going to have coffee with a friend or something like that. And they're spreading that idea all the time, all the time, for two years.

On Developing Otpor's Message:

You know, we are the totally new generation in politics in Serbia. And, we have a totally different view on politics than them. And we understand that politics is a very serious job. And the main job in politics is campaigning.

You know, we've learned everything about campaigning. Especially about guerrilla campaigning, about developing the message. Making the message of the campaign. And believe me, 90 percent of the people involved in politics in Serbia, they don't know the difference between the message and the slogan. And then we came with a totally clear view of what is our purpose here and what we must do. And I think our main force was the discipline we had, you know.

First, the discipline of the message. We were telling the same story for two years. And we had many, many different situations. And many different ways to tell that kind of message.

But our message was the same all the time. You know, this is the bad guy. We must make him go away from our country, or from everywhere. So, we had different packages, but it was, all the time the same slogan.

On spreading the message:

We decided to use those new kinds of communications to spread our message. I was not aware of that at that point. I'm aware of that now. But that was the way we started. We're working more like marketing agency. We have the message, we want to send that message to the people. And we are political, in the meaning that that message is connected with politics. So, we just chose the channels of communications, and we chose those channels in a way to have the image of an illegal organization. But it was just to be more sexy than the other old movements.

So we decided to have our image like that. Like with some illegal organizations from the second World War, which were working in cities. I think that the common name for all them was "resistance movements." So, basically, that's what we are. But we didn't use guns, we used marketing. We used leaflets, posters, graffiti, and all different and various kinds to spread our message.

On recruiting vs. staging actions:

You must make different those two things. It was not difficult to keep recruiting people. They were coming all the time. But it was, at the moment, very difficult to engage people in some actions. Because they were going to have an action, and they knew that they would be arrested. In that time up to August or September, police were arresting everyone who had an Otpor t-shirt. And we were wearing our t-shirts at our actions. So you go to be in an action and you know that you will be arrested. But the people were really brave, in a way.

You know I was scared all the time. I'm not a brave man. I'm a marketing man, I'm not a hero or something, I don't want to be all that, I just want to do my work. But to have a normal life, you must ruin Milosevic.

So, it was a clear idea. We can't stop doing those things. And, OK, I'm scared. For six months, I slept out of my house in different apartments and at my friends' places. We recruited more people. But there were less people in action.

On getting arrested:

The first time was in our first action in November '98. And our first action was spraying graffiti all around Belgrade, with, I think it was just [the word ] "Otpor" or something. And they arrested four of our activists. And they were in jail for 10 days. But the big repression started in February of [2000]. And we had more than 6,000 arrested people and more than 36,000 hours spent in jails, in all of Serbia.

Of course, it was a problem. We had one sentence: "When the repression is growing, Otpor is growing." So, for example, they arrested five activists, and it was on the front page of newspapers. And then you get 20 more activists. More people come to join Otpor. So, it was counterproductive for them [ the government], basically. But it was very hard to work at the time. We were followed all the time, they were listening to our mobile phones. And it was very difficult.

I can remember, when I was arrested the last time. It was one week before the elections, in these offices. The police came and arrested 16 of us. And it was seven days before the election. And this office is different than the Otpor central office. This is the marketing office. And they took everything — our computers, our archives, our press clippings and all that. So, now we don't have anything from that period. And it's not a matter of a fear. When you understand that you could be arrested any time, you start living with that. And you understand that the only idea of harassment is to stop your work.

And then you decide, "OK, I will not stop working, I will do things like I was in the past. But there is a possibility of being arrested. I will not think about that. I will just do my work, and if they arrest me, they will." But the real problem will be if we lose the elections. And then I'm not sure what would happen if Slobodan Milosevic won. They would probably arrest us or kill us on the street, like Mr. Curuvija, the famous journalist. He was killed next door, here on this street. So every time you pass through the door, you remember that you can be killed at any time.

On police interrogration:

At the time, we found out that the police have a paper with questions for Otpor activists. We got that paper from our friends, from the police. And we made answers for all those questions. And we gave it to all our activists in our network. And all our activists, or most of them, were prepared to answer those questions. But in my case, it was not a matter of that. Because you have two kinds of police here. One is public security, which is the ordinary police, criminal or something like that. And you have the secret police. And the people who were the most engaged in all that stuff, we were afraid of the secret police.

My problem is not the public police, because I was not doing anything which was a crime. And they cannot sentence me. But the problem of the secret police is all those killings, all those missing people. And it was a very developed institution in Serbia, the secret police. For example, when I was arrested, I was asked questions by the public police. And it was totally fine. They knew that we were doing the right job. So, he was questioning me, the inspector, about for six minutes. Just getting my name, date of birth and all that stuff.

And then the secret police came. After six hours, the secret police came, and I had an "informational talk," that's what they called it, for six more hours. And it was really bad. Because I didn't know. We had some strange situations before that, because they were accusing some people of terrorism and for attempting to kill Slobodan Milosevic and all this stuff. And it was totally fake. It was just an illusion, for all of the others.

They tried to force me, to [admit] that I was financing some terroristic organization, me personally, not with foreign money. They wanted me to say that I was buying guns for some student terrorist organization. What is very interesting is they didn't mention Otpor. They mentioned it only once, at the end of the conversation. But they were talking in a totally abstract way. Like, 'what terrorist organization do you know?' So I said, 'I know IRA,' and all that stuff. So, he looked at me — and they were yelling.

And, you know, after the conversation, you're so tired. The next day I was ill. I had a temperature and all that stuff. I was in my bed. It's very, very hard in a mental way.

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