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Mira Markovic’s Book and its Riddles

Mira Markovic, the wife of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, gestures during a press conference at the headquarter of her party the Yugoslav Left Party (JUL) in Belgrade Friday 15 December 2000 about the upcoming Serb parliament elections scheduled 23 December 2000.

This installment of host Omer Karabeg’s “Most” (Bridge) for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty features the recent publication of a new book by Mirjana “Mira” Markovic, the widow of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

The book was published in large numbers and was even available at newsstands, a rare occurrence in Serbia. Two journalists, Milos Vasic and Bosko Jaksic discussed the publication with Karabeg, the host of the program.

Karabeg: Mister Vasic, does publishing Mira Markovic’s latest memoirs represent her return to Serbia’s political scene?

Vasic: I believe Mira Markovic officially left the Serbian political scene on February 23 or 24 in 2003, the day her immunity as a federal delegate expired. Then she dropped out of sight and then [later] started speaking occasionally from Russia [where she lives now]. She has a rather small, although loud group of followers here who are trying to promote her participation in the political scene through occasional interviews and book publishing, but that is not going to happen. Nobody needs her. I presume that the Socialist Party of Serbia [Milosevic’s party], aside from its vice-president Milutin Mrkonjic, does not want to even hear about her, let alone the Serbian Progressive Party.

Jaksic: With this book, Markovic is in a way making a bid to return to the Serbian political scene. This is not about her personal return, but the return of an idea she represents. To some she is still an exiled heroine; to others she is the Serbian Lady Macbeth, but I wonder why her memoir is getting so much publicity. In general, all the “literature” related to the wars during the dissolution of the [Yugoslavia] and the war crimes, has been authored by Radovan Karadzic, Biljana Plavsic, Milorad "Ulemek" Legija, Miroslav Toholj, to mention just few. Now they are being joined by Mira Markovic. All of them would like to justify their defeated project. I would prefer to have historians dealing with her biography, not to give her a chance to tell us all this in such a boastful manner -- that she told us so, but we did not listen. That is why we have such a pretentious title of the book -- ‘It was like that’. I believe there are two main reasons for publishing this book. The first is that her husband’s coalition partners and some of her followers have returned to the Serbian arena in style, and this seems a new attempt to minimize the past. Secondly, I do not think this book was published by coincidence by the ‘Vecernje Novosti’ daily, which still represents a stronghold of the’heavenly’ Serbia and its nationalism, so it is not surprising to have the publisher calling [Mira] an exile from Serbia. I doubt it was coincidence that the book was published on the anniversary of the October changes in Serbia.

Karabeg: It is characteristic for Mira Markovic to try to compromise all the people she believes to be her enemies. She says of Zoran Djindjic that he collaborated with German Intelligence, and of Vuk Draskovic that he staged the attempted assassination in Budva even though the attempted assassins were tried and sentenced by a court.

Vasic: She is just repeating lies and nonsense of the regime media from 2000 and she is not offering any facts. She is reactivating those lies. I have read the book thoroughly and there is a lot of unsung nonsense there, but what can we do? This is a free country and anyone can publish books.

Karabeg: But, as ‘Vecernje novosti’ claims, more than half of the books have been sold already.

Jaksic: Well, even Legija’s book was printed in a large number of copies. Today we see the return of inflammatory rhetoric from the 1990s, so books such as the memoirs of Mira Markovic are being published in such large numbers and with a lot of ceremony. That is something that should concern us. She is enthralled by the idea that all the bloody Yugoslavian wars were the result of a conspiracy of NATO and neocolonial capitalism, wars that her husband strongly opposed and, as she claims, won. … [She is not shying away from those she considers the “traitors”] who removed Milosevic from power. When she says that [Zoran] Djindjic was a “logorrheic” fool connected to the German Intelligence and Belgrade criminals – that is far from naïve. She compares the “Operations Sabre” (Sablja) conducted following Djindjic’s assassination with the operations of General [Augusto] Pinochet in Chile following the coup against President [Salvador] Allende. We have serious accusations there. On the other hand, in all those 1,000 pages the book has Mira Markovic carefully avoids the questions of who was doing the killing in the time of Milosevic, why the wars were initiated, whether she knew about Srebrenica. There is nothing in it about [who] dictated punishments, issued warrants, sent people to jail and even to death, which in the end gave Yugoslavia its wars. And as the leader of JUL (Yugoslavian Left-wing Party), she participated in it.

Vasic: Mira Markovic is a woman completely biased and she will stick to her politics, because if she stands down she will expose herself to a number of, moral and then legal consequences. For the rest of her life she has to stick to her claim that they were poor, innocent left-wing anti-globalists and anti-imperialists, but evil people worked against them and forced them to where they ended up. Although I believe they ended up where they did all by themselves without any imperialists or new world order. She has nowhere to go and she will stick to that for the rest of her life.

Jaksic: She kept many things quiet. She most certainly had an insight in her husband’s talks with Tudjman (Croatian President Franjo Tudjman) in Karadjordjevo, but she never mentioned that in her book. She also did not mention Milosevic’s bodyguard Naser Oric whom Milosevic organized a helicopter to go back to Bosnia. She did not mention Frenki Simatovic who prepared Serbs in Knin for the war. It is my opinion that the most interesting parts of the book are those portraying the drama in the authority, in the days of Milosevic’s fall and a period immediately after that. She describes how their long-term friends acted in those moments. She says that some immediately started minimizing their role in the 1990s, while others tried, as she says, to take some of a dead winner’s fame. I would also mention a detail that was new to me; maybe it was not for others. Mirjana Markovic says that the best friend of Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague was not one of the Serb inmates, which she does not even mention, but Pasko Ljubicic[B16] , a Croatian officer responsible for slaughter of Muslims.

Karabeg: How come there is only one indictment against Mira Markovic, a ridiculous one that she allegedly helped her grandson’s nanny to get an apartment, but more serious indictments were never raised. There were talks of her involvement in the assassination of journalist Slavko Curuvija, there were even some witnesses, but it was never investigated.

Vasic: Speaking of the assassination of Slavko Curuvija, there are some details that will appear in the indictments sooner or later. We can talk ofencouraging a crime, but witnesses are needed, and there are no documents or witnesses...I did the last interview with Curuvija prior to his death – in late February 1999 – and he told me some details related to Mira Markovic, but I cannot speak of them because he told me off the record; we were sitting and drinking. From her statements and that shameful commentary in ‘Politika Express’, which was also read on the television, one could see what everything was about and who was targeted. That was absolutely clear.

Jaksic: Obviously there is no willingness to investigate the role of Mira Markovic in all of it. Just remember how attorney Srdja Popovic attempted to breach the circle of those who ordered Djindjic’s assassination, but in vain. That is something reminiscent of the labyrinths of Byzantium. It is clear that the conspiracy of silence is still strong. Mira Markovic has protection and I am not sure we are aware of the influence she has in Russia with her presence. She has been legally protected in Moscow since 2006, when she was given status as a refugee. And now, from a safe distance, not only is she writing memoirs, but she is also out of the reach of justice. You mentioned she is charged of illegally awarding an apartment, but she and her son are on Interpol [documents] under suspicion of cigarette smuggling. Mira Markovic is quite protected and those who would want to expose her would open a front directly with Moscow. I do not think that Russians simply dismissed a request for extradition sent by the Serbian judiciary, and I do not think they accidentally gave her protection. They did not accidentally allow her to enjoy this mysterious financial comfort in which she can write books with the clear ambition to influence the flow of Serbian policy even today. I believe that her moral lectures are, to put it mildly, sad but they have a wider political dimension that is bigger than the framework of this country.

Vasic: We are talking about what Mira’s followers are calling geopolitics. Do not forget that the Russians also protected General Veljko Kadijevic until his death. Mira Markovic is a small pawn in a big chess game that Russia is playing with the Balkans and the rest of the world and they will use her as long as they can. That can be seen with the success of her memoirs among the pro-Russian right-wing supporters here in Serbia. Mira serves them as an additional small pawn that will eventually be activated, but I do not see where she could be activated now considering the political orientation of the current authorities; nevertheless it is good to have someone heating up the story about Milosevic.

Karabeg: Do you think that it is in the interest of current authorities in Serbia to have Mira Markovic return to Serbia?... she does not plan on returning. The authorities do not plan to withdraw the indictment or the Interpol arrest warrant.

Jaksic: I do believe that. This government, like the one before, has been unable to deal with the mysteries surrounding the assassinations of Milosevic’s best man Ivan Stambolic and of Slavko Curuvija. Serbia is not yet ready to face those big truths that could cause turbulence in its social landscape, and Mira Markovic is skillfully using that. She does not have the courage to face local justice, but she can lecture and send messages through her book wrapped in some leadership vision. Many do not want her returning to Serbia.

Vasic: She is going to sit in Moscow for the rest of her life because this government wants want both Mira and Slobodan forgotten. Just like Tadic’s government wanted Zoran Djindjic forgotten, to be only remembered on March 12, the day of his death. These in power now want to see Mira sitting in Moscow – let her stay there and occasionally write something if the Russians agree, and I believe they do want to reactivate the story of Milosevic in Serbia from time to time. …{But] All I need in Belgrade now is Mira.