Zoran Djindjic

In His Own Words: Zoran Djindjic

Zoran Djindjic leads the Democratic Party, one of the largest political parties in Serbia, and arguably the most important party in the DOS coalition, which supported Vojislav Kostunica against Milosevic for president of Yugoslavia in the September, 2000 election. However, present-day Yugoslavia consists of only two constituent republics, Serbia and Montenegro, and Serbia greatly overshadows Montenegro by almost every measure: geographic size, population, and economy. In January, 2001, Zoran Djindjic became prime minister of Serbia, which is many ways is a more powerful position than the president of Yugoslavia.

On support for Milosevic and his ideology in Serbia:

In the beginning, he was supported by 80% of the people in Serbia although his ideas were not so much different than from three years before. His idea was that the Serbs are special. And that they can set new rules, that they must not accept common rules. Not only borders, but they can decide what their rights are and what are the rights for other people, for their neighbors.

And I think Serbian politics has something radical inside of it, for all of the twentieth century. Maybe also the century before. Just feeling themselves as a chosen nation, as something different from other nations and chosen to fulfill some mission. And if you have a mission, you cannot accept limits — moral limits and other limits. You have rights and these are not only human rights, not rights from society, this is special right.

You are a historical nation, but you are oppressed by your neighbors and you are a victim. You are victim of the Turks for five centuries and you were chosen to protect the European Christian civilization against the Muslims. But you are not satisfied. Your right was not recognized by others. And you have the right to take what is yours.

And this kind of radical politics in Serbia was the base on which Milosevic was possible. And he just manipulated these present elements of the Serbian common mind. But I think that people in general [were] not affected. People in general are able to accept a normal state, a normal civil society, but at the same time we have inside of our national ideology this element where we are able to be manipulated by radical ideologies. And Milosevic was just a manipulator. He didn't create this element in our national mind, he just increased that, he repressed other parts of our mentality.

We are open to the world and generally the Serbian people are individualists, open to the world, very quick in reacting, not passive and satisfied with an isolated position. But at the same time, we have another element and this element is to feel like a victim [of history]. And we are waiting for our rights, to get to the right position after a few centuries of oppression by others nations and historical conspiracies, the Catholic conspiracy and other conspiracies in the world.

And through time, I think Milosevic believed in that kind of world conspiracy. He's not just a very able manipulator, he believed really that it is true and, in this sense, he is maybe the end of one stream of our history.

Milosevic is maybe a very tragical end — and maybe it was necessary to finish this part, this dimension, this stream in our collective mind and to accept reality. To accept the reality that we are a small nation in a very complicated area and that we must find our place and accept that. We must cooperate with our neighbors and know that we are not strong enough to set the new rules and to be something special.

We must accept the general rules and the Milosevic tragedy — the Serbian tragedy of Milosevic — if something positive is inside of this tragedy, then it's this knowledge that we must be normal people and try to find a normal place in this part of the world.

Excerpted from an interview with Steve York: Belgrade, December 1, 2000.