Serbia and Montenegro - History
The Serbs, one of the large family of Slavic nations, first began settling in the Balkans around the 7th century in the areas now known as Bosnia, Kosovo, and Montenegro, straddling the line that since AD 395 had divided the Eastern and Western halves of the Roman Empire.
Tracing the origins of the Serbs (and Croats) has fueled many debates among historians, but there seems to be a consensus on their Sarmatian (Iranian) origin. Having assimilated into the Slavic tribes, the Serbs migrated with them west into central Europe (White Serbia) in the Saxony area and from there moved to the Balkans around AD 626 upon an invitation by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius to assist him in repelling the Avar and Persian attack on Constantinople. Having settled in the Balkan area the Serbs organized several principalities of their own, made up of a number of clans headed by leaders known as zupans . Both the Byzantine Empire and the Bulgars tried to conquer them, but the Serbs were too decentralized to be conquered.
Between the 9th and 12th centuries, several Serbian principalities evolved, among them Raška in the mountainous north of Montenegro and southern Serbia, and Zeta (south Montenegro along the Adriatic coast), whose ruler Mihajlo (Michael) was anointed king by Pope Gregory VII in 1077.
In the late 10th century the Bulgarian khan (leader) Samuilo extended his control over Bosnia, Raška, and Zeta, north to the Sava River, and south over Macedonia. Raška became the area from where the medieval Serbian empire developed. Stephen Nemanja, grand zupan of Raška, fought against the Byzantines in AD 1169, and added Zeta to his domain in 1186. He built several Serbian monasteries, including Hilandar on Mount Athos. His son, Rastko, became a monk (Sava) and the first Serbian archbishop of the new Serbian Autocephalous Church in 1219. The second son, Stephen, received his crown from Pope Innocent IV in 1202. Stephen developed political alliances that, following his death in 1227, allowed Serbia to resist the pressure from Bulgaria and, internally, keep control over subordinate zupans. Archbishop Sava (later Saint Sava) preferred the Byzantine Church and utilized the Orthodox religion in his nation-building effort. He began by establishing numerous Serbian-Orthodox monasteries around Serbia. He also succeeded in turning Zeta from Catholicism to Serbian Orthodoxy.
The medieval Serbian empire, under Stephen Dušan the Mighty (1331–55) extended from the Aegean Sea to the Danube (Belgrade), along the Adriatic and Ionian coasts from the Neretva River to the Gulf of Corinth and controlled, aside from the central Serbian lands, Macedonia, Thessaly, the Epirus, and Albania. The Serbian Church obtained its own patriarchate, with its center in Peć. Serbia became an exporting land with abundant crops and minerals. Dušan, who was crowned tsar of "the Serbs and Greeks" in 1346, gave Serbia its first code of laws based on a combination of Serbian customs and Byzantine law. His attempt to conquer the throne of Byzantium failed, however, when the Byzantines called on the advancing Ottoman Turks for help in 1345. Even though Dušan withstood the attacks from the Turks twice (in 1345 and 1349), the gates to Europe had been opened, and the Ottoman Turks had initiated their campaign to subjugate the Balkans.
Under Ottoman Rule
Dušan's heirs could not hold his empire together against the Turks and the Nemanja dynasty ended with the death of his son Stephen Uroš in 1371, the same year his brothers Vukašin and Ivan Ugleš were killed at the battle of Marica. The defeat of the Serbs at Kosovo Polje in 1389 in an epochal battle that took the lives of both Sultan Murad I and Serbian prince Lazar left Serbia open to further Turkish conquest. Following a series of wars, the Turks succeeded in overtaking Constantinople in 1453 and all of Serbia by 1459. For the next three-and-a-half centuries, Serbs and others had to learn how to survive under Ottoman rule.
The Turks did not make any distinctions based on ethnicity, but only on religion. Turkish Muslims were the dominant class while Christians and Jews were subordinated. While maintaining their religious and cultural autonomy, the non-Turks developed most of the nonmilitary administrative professions and carried on most of the economic activities, including internal trade and trade with other countries of the Christian world. There was no regular conscription of non-Turks into the sultan's armies, but non-Turks were taxed to pay for defense. Christian boys between the age of eight and twenty were forcibly taken from their families to be converted to Islam and trained as "Janissaries" or government administrators. Some these former Christians became administrators and even became grand viziers (advisers) to sultans.
Urban dwellers under Ottoman rule, involved in crafts, trade, and the professions, fared much better than the Christian peasantry, who were forced into serfdom. Heavy regular taxes were levied on the peasants, with corruption making the load so unbearable that the peasants rebelled.
Two distinct cultures lived side by side—Turkish Muslim in cities and towns as administrative centers and Christian Orthodox in the countryside of Serbia. The numerous Serbian monasteries built around the country since the Nemanja dynasty became the supportive network for Serbian survival. The Serbian Church was subjected after 1459 to the Greek patriarchate for about a century until a Serbian patriarchate emerged again. The Serbian patriarchate covered a large area from north of Ohrid to the Hungarian lands north of the Danube and west through Bosnia.
The Serbian Diaspora
Over the two centuries 1459–1659 many Serbs left their lands and settled north of the Sava and Danube Rivers where Hungary had promised their leader ("Vojvoda") an autonomous arrangement in exchange for military service against the Turks. The region is called "Vojvodina" by Serbs, even though the Hungarians had reneged on their promise of autonomy. Fleeing the Turkish conquest many Serbs and Croats settled in Venetian-occupied Dalmatia and continued fighting against the Turks from fortified areas. The wars between Austria and the Turks in the late 17th through the mid-18th centuries caused both mass migrations from Serbia and the hardening of Ottoman treatment of their Christian subjects.
Following the defeat of the Turks in 1683 at the gates of Vienna by a coalition led by Poland's king Jan Sobieski, the Christian armies pursued the Turks all the way to Macedonia and had a good chance to drive the Turks off the European continent. Turk reprisals were violent and many Serbs fled, leaving Serbian lands, particularly Kosovo, unpopulated. Albanians, whom the Turks favored because they were mostly Muslims, moved in. Conversion to Islam increased considerably.
A second large-scale migration took place 50 years later, after the 1736–39 Austrian defeat by the Turks. All these movements of population resulted in the loss of the Kosovo area—the cradle of Serbian nationhood—to Albanians. As a result, the Serbs were unable to give up control over an area to which they feel a tremendously deep emotional attachment, even though they represent only about 10% of its population. This situation persisted and remained unresolved as of the early 21st century.
Serbian Revolts and Independence
Meanwhile, two areas of active Serbian national activity developed, one under the Turks in the northern Šumadija region and the other in Hungary. Šumadija, a forested region, became the refuge for many hajduks (Serbian "Robin Hoods") that raided Turkish establishments. These hajduks were legendary heroes among the Serbian people.
In 1805, the Serbs defeated the Turks and gained control of the Belgrade region. The sultan agreed to Serbian terms for political autonomy in September 1806. A partially elected government structure was established, and by 1811 the Serbian assembly confirmed Karadjordje as supreme leader with hereditary rights. The drive of Serbia for complete independence was thwarted, however, because Serbia was still under Ottoman rule. The Turks reoccupied Serbia by 1813, retaliating against the Serbs by pillaging, looting, enslaving women and children, while killing all males over age 15, and torturing any captured leader.
A second uprising by the Serbs occurred in 1815 and spread all over Šumadija. It was led by Miloš Obrenović, who had participated in the first revolt. Successful in repelling Turkish forces, Miloš gained the support of the Russian tsar, and after some six months he negotiated an agreement giving Serbia a de facto autonomy in its internal administration. By 1830, Serbia had gained its full autonomy and Miloš was recognized as an hereditary prince of Serbia. Serbia was internationally accepted as a virtually independent state.
Miloš Obrenović was an authoritarian ruler who had to be forced to promulgate a constitution for Serbia, establishing a council of chiefs sharing power with him. In 1838 a council was appointed to pass laws and taxes, a council of ministers was created, and provisions were formulated for an eventual assembly. A succession of rulers were installed and deposed over the next decade until, in 1848, the Serbian assembly demanded the incorporation of Vojvodina into Serbia.
The 1858 assembly restored Miloš Obrenović to power, but he died in 1860 and was succeeded, again, by his son Mihajlo. Mihajlo built up the Serbian army to fight a war of liberation against the Turks as a first step towards the goal of a Greater Serbia. Mihajlo developed a highly centralized state organization, a functioning parliament, two political parties, a judicial system, and urban educational institutions prior to his murder in 1868. Mihajlo's cousin, Milan, succeeded him, and accomplished total independence from the Ottomans in 1882. Despite this success, during the same period Austria conquered Bosnia and Herzegovina, badly wanted by Serbia. Milan became dependent on Austria when that country saved Serbia from an invasion by Bulgaria.
Milan Obrenović abdicated in 1889 in favor of his son Alexander, who abolished the constitution, led a corrupt and scandalous life, and was murdered along with his wife, the premier, and other court members by a group of young officers in June 1903. The assembly then called on Peter, Alexander Karadjordjević's son, to take the crown. Under Peter Karadjordjević, a period of stable political and economic development ensued, interrupted by the 1908 Austrian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the 1912 and 1913 Balkan wars, and World War I (1913–18).
The Balkan Wars
Austria's annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was carried out in 1908 with the full backing of Germany. The Serbs saw Austria's move as a serious blow to their goal of a Greater Serbia with an outlet to the Adriatic Sea through Bosnia and Herzegovina. They turned to the only other possible access routes to the sea—Macedonia, with its port city of Salonika, and the northern coast of Albania. The Balkan countries (Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Greece) formed the Balkan League and attacked Turkey in 1912, quickly defeated them and driving them to the gates of Constantinople. Austria and Italy opposed a Serbian outlet to the Adriatic in Albania, supporting instead an independent Albanian state and assisted its establishment in 1913. Serbia, deprived of access to the sea, requested it from Bulgaria. Bulgaria responded by attacking Serbia and Greece, hoping to obtain all of Macedonia. The resulting second Balkan War ended with the defeat of Bulgaria by Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, Romania, and Turkey, which gained back Adrianople and Thrace. Romania gained northern Dobrudja, Serbia kept central and northern Macedonia, and Greece was given control over the southern part with Salonika and Kavalla in addition to southern Epirus.
Austria viewed Serbian expansion with great alarm, and the "Greater Serbia" plans became a serious threat to the Austro-Hungarian empire. The Austro-Hungarians felt Serbia had to be restrained by whatever means, including war. They needed only a spark to ignite a conflagration against the Serbs. World War I and Royal Yugoslavia The spark was provided by the 28 June 1914 assassination in Sarajevo of Austria's Archduke Ferdinand and his wife. The archduke's visit to Sarajevo during large-scale maneuvers was viewed as a provocation by Bosnian Serbs, and they conspired to assassinate him with the assistance of the Serbian secret organization, Black Hand, which had also been behind the murder of Serbian king Miloš and his wife in 1903.
Austria presented an ultimatum to Serbia on 23 July with 10 requests that were accepted by Serbia in a desperate effort to avoid a war. Austria, however, declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914. They began bombing Belgrade the same day and sent armies across the Danube and Sava rivers to invade Serbia on 11 August 1914, taking the Serbs by total surprise. The Serbian army twice repelled the Austrian forces in 1914, with tremendous losses in men and materials and civilian refugees. In addition, a typhus epidemic exacted some 150,000 victims among Serbian soldiers and civilians throughout Serbia, where there were almost no doctors or medical supplies. Still, an army of some 120,000 men joined the Allied forces holding the Salonika front in the fall of 1916. From there, after two years, they were successful in driving the Austrian forces out of Serbia in October 1918.
The Serbian elite's political goal for the main outcome of World War I was the same—a greater Serbia, with the liberation of their South Slavic brethren, particularly Serbs, from the Austro-Hungarian yoke. The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire was not yet an operational concept. On 20 July 1916 the Corfu Declaration delineated the future joint state of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes while treating both Macedonians and Montenegrins as Serbs.
But Austro-Hungary was losing the war and disintegrating from the inside. In May 1917, the "Yugoslav Club" in the Vienna parliament, consisting of deputies from Slovenia, Istria, and Dalmatia issued a declaration demanding the independence of all Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs united in one national state. (The phrase "under the scepter of the Hapsburgs" was added to their declaration for safety reasons, to avoid prosecution for treason.) Poles, Czechs, and Slovaks were also agitating for their independence, and they all had received support from their communities in the United States. On 20 October 1918, US President Woodrow Wilson declared his support for the independence of all the nation subjects of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.
Under the leadership of Monsignor Anton Korošec, a council of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs was formed in Zagreb, Croatia, to negotiate a union with the Kingdom of Serbia. The Serbian army entered Belgrade on 1 November 1918 and proceeded to take over the Vojvodina region. The armistice ending World War I was signed on 3 November 1918, and on 6–9 November a conference was held in Geneva by Serbia's prime minister Nikola Pašić, Monsignor Korošec, and the Yugoslav Committee.
The conference was empowered by the Zagreb Council to negotiate for it with the Allies. Prime Minister Pašić could not ignore the provisional government set up by elected representatives of the Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs. Thus, Pašić signed a declaration setting up a joint provisional government with the right of the National Council in Zagreb to administer its territories until a constitutional assembly could be elected to agree on the form of government for the new state. However, the Serbian government reneged on Pašić's commitment. The National Council delegation with Monsignor Korošec was detained abroad and, given the pressures from the ongoing Italian occupation of Slovene and Croat territories and the urgent need for international recognition, the National Council sent a delegation to Belgrade on 27 November 1918 to negotiate terms for unification with Serbia. But time was running out and the unification was proclaimed on 1 December 1918 without any details on the nature of the new state, since Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vojvodina, and Montenegro had already voted for their union with Serbia.
The Corfu declaration of 1917 had left open the issue of the unitarist or federalist structure of the new state by providing for a constitutional assembly to decide the issue on the basis of a "numerically qualified majority." Serbs interpreted this to mean a simple majority whereas others advocated a two-thirds majority. Following the 28 November 1920 elections, the simple majority prevailed, and a constitution (mirroring the 1903 constitution of Serbia) for a unitary state was approved on 28 June 1921 by a vote of 223 to 35, with 111 abstentions out of a total of 419 members. The 50 members of the Croatian Peasant Party refused to participate in the work of the assembly, advocating instead an independent Croatian Republic.
After 10 years of a contentious parliamentary system that ended in the murder of Croatian deputies and their leader Stjepan Radić, King Alexander abrogated the 1921 constitution, dissolved the parliament and political parties, took over power directly, renamed the country "Yugoslavia," and abolished the 33 administrative departments.
A new policy was initiated with the goal of creating a single "Yugoslav" nation out of the three "tribes" of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. In practice, this meant the Serbian king's hegemony over the rest of the nation. The reaction was intense, and King Alexander himself was assassinated in Marseilles in 1934. Alexander's cousin, Prince Paul, assumed power and managed to reach an agreement in 1939 with the Croats. An autonomous Croatian banovina (territory headed by a leader called a ban ) headed by Ivan Subašić was established, including most Croatian lands outside of the Bosnia and Herzegovina area. Strong opposition developed among Serbs and there was no time for further negotiations, since Prince Paul's government was deposed on 27 March 1941 and Germany's Adolph Hitler and his allies (Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria) attacked Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941.
World War II
Yugoslavia was divided up and occupied by Germany and its allies. Serbia was put under the administration of General Milan Nedić who was allowed to organize his own military force for internal peacekeeping purposes. In Serbia the resistance was led by the "Cetniks," the "Yugoslav army in the homeland." The Cetniks recognized the authority of the Yugoslav government-in-exile, which, in fact, promoted Draza Mihajlović to general and appointed him its Minister of War. In the fall of 1941 Mihajlović and Josip Broz Tito, who led the Communist partisan movement, met to seek agreement on a common front against the Nazis. However, Mihajlović saw that Tito's goal was to conquer Yugoslavia for Communism. Mihajlović could not go along with this, nor could he accept Tito's request that he subordinate his command to Tito.
A civil war between the two movements (under foreign occupation) followed. Meanwhile, large numbers of Serbs fled Croatia, either to join the partisans or to seek refuge in the Dalmatian areas under Italian control. British leader Winston Churchill, convinced by reports that Mihajlović was collaborating with the Germans while Marshal Tito's partisans were against the Germans, decided to recognize Tito as the legitimate Yugoslav resistance. Though aware of Tito's Communist allegiance to Stalin, Churchill threw his support to Tito.
When Soviet armies, accompanied by Tito, entered Yugoslavia from Romania and Bulgaria in the fall of 1944, military units and civilians that had opposed the partisans had no choice but to retreat to Austria or Italy. After the end of the war, the Communist-led forces took control of Serbia and Yugoslavia and instituted a violent dictatorship that committed systematic crimes and human rights violations. Thousands upon thousands of their former opponents who were returned from Austria by British military authorities were tortured and massacred by partisan executioners. General Mihajlović was captured in Bosnia in March 1946 and publicly tried and executed on 17 July 1946.
Such was the background for the formation of the second Yugoslavia as a Federative People's Republic of five nations (Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Macedonians, Montenegrins) with their individual republics and Bosnia and Herzegovina as a buffer area with its mix of Serb, Muslim, and Croat populations. The problem of large Hungarian and Muslim Albanian populations in Serbia was solved by creating for them the autonomous region of Vojvodina (Hungarian minority) and Kosovo (Muslim Albanian majority) that assured their political and cultural development.
Tito attempted a balancing act to satisfy most of the nationality issues that were carried over, unresolved, from the first Yugoslavia. However, he failed to satisfy anyone. The numerically stronger Serbs had lost the Macedonian area they considered Southern Serbia; lost the opportunity to incorporate Montenegro into Serbia; lost direct control over the Hungarian minority in Vojvodina and Muslim Albanians of Kosovo (viewed as the cradle of the Serbian nation since the Middle Ages); were not able to incorporate into Serbia the large Serbian-populated areas of Bosnia; and had not obtained an autonomous region for the large minority Serbian population within the Croatian Republic. The official position of the Marxist Yugoslav regime was that national rivalries and conflicting interests would gradually diminish through their sublimation into a new Socialist order. Without capitalism, nationalism was supposed to wither away. Therefore, in the name of their unity and brotherhood motto, any nationalistic expression of concern was prohibited.
After a short post-war coalition government, the elections of 11 November 1945—boycotted by the non-Communist coalition parties—gave the Communist-led People's Front 90% of the vote. A Constituent Assembly met on 29 November, abolished the monarchy and established the Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia. In January 1946, a new constitution was adopted based on the 1936 Soviet constitution.
Yugoslavia was expelled from the Soviet-dominated Cominform Group in 1948, and was forced to find its own road to Socialism, balancing its position between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance and the Soviet bloc. Tito quickly nationalized the economy through a policy of forced industrialization, supported by the collectivization of the agriculture.
The agricultural reform of 1945–46 included limited private ownership of a maximum of 35 hectares (85 acres) and a limited free market (after the initial forced delivery of quotas to the state at very low prices) but had to be abandoned because of resistance by the peasants. Collectivization was initiated in 1949 but had to be abandoned by 1958 because its inefficiency and low productivity could not support the concentrated effort of industrial development.
By the 1950s, Yugoslavia had initiated the development of its internal trademark: self-management of enterprises through workers councils and local decision-making. Following the failure of the first five-year plan (1947–51), the second five-year plan (1957–61) was completed in four years by relying on the well-established self-management system. Economic targets were set from the local to the republic level and then coordinated by a federal planning institute to meet an overall national economic strategy. This system supported a period of very rapid industrial growth in the 1950s. But public subsidies, cheap credit, and other artificial measures led to a serious crisis by 1961, leading to the introduction of market socialism in 1965. Laws abolished most price controls and halved import duties while withdrawing export subsidies. Councils were given more decision-making power on investing their earnings, and they also tended to vote for higher salaries to meet steep increases in the cost of living. Unemployment grew rapidly even though political factories were still subsidized. The government responded by relaxing restrictions on labor migration particularly to West Germany, encouraging up to 49% foreign investment in joint enterprises, and removing barriers to the exchange of ideas.
Yugoslavia began to develop a foreign policy independent of the Soviet Union. In October 1949, Yugoslavia was elected to one of the nonpermanent seats on the UN Security Council and openly condemned North Korea's aggression in South Korea. Tito intensified his commitment to the movement of nonaligned "third world" nations in cooperation with Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Gamal Abdel-Nasser of Egypt, and others.
With the September 1961 Belgrade summit conference of nonaligned nations, Tito became the recognized leader of the movement. The nonaligned position served Tito's Yugoslavia well by allowing Tito to draw on economic and political support from the Western powers while neutralizing any aggression from the Soviet bloc. Tito condemned all Soviet aggression. Just before his death on 4 May 1980, Tito condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In the 1970s and 1980s, Yugoslavia maintained fairly good relations with its neighboring states by playing down or solving pending disputes and developing cooperative projects and increased trade.
As an integral part of the Yugoslav federation, Serbia naturally was impacted by Yugoslavia's internal and external political developments. The main problem facing communist Yugoslavia was the force of nationalism.
As nationalism was on the rise in Yugoslavia, particularly in Croatia and Slovenia, Serbs were facing a real dilemma with the rising of Albanian nationalism in Kosovo. After World War II, Tito had set up Kosovo as an autonomous province and the Albanians were able to develop their own political and cultural autonomy, including a university with instructors and textbooks from Albania. Immigration from Albania also increased and after Tito's death in 1980, Albanians became more assertive and began agitating for a republic of their own, since by then they comprised about 80% of Kosovo's population.
The reverberations of the Kosovo events were very serious throughout Yugoslavia since most non-Serbs viewed the repression of the Albanians as a possible precedent for the use of force elsewhere. Serbs were accused of using a double standard—one for themselves in the defense of Serbs in Kosovo by denying the Albanians' political autonomy and violating their human rights, and a different standard for themselves by demanding political autonomy and human rights for Serbs in Croatia.
In 1986, the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences issued a draft manifesto that called for the creation of a unified Serbia whereby all lands inhabited by Serbs would be united with Serbia while bringing Kosovo under control to be eventually repopulated by Serbs. To accomplish this goal, the 1974 constitution would need to be amended into an instrument for a recentralizing effort of both the government and the economy.
Recentralization vs. Confederation
In 1986, work was begun on amendments to the 1974 constitution that, when submitted in 1987, created a furor, particularly in Slovenia and Croatia. The main points of contention were the creation of a unified legal system, the establishment of central control over the means of transportation and communication, the centralization of the economy into a unified market, and the granting of more control to Serbia over its autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. These moves were all viewed as coming at the expense of the individual republics. Serbia also proposed replacing the bicameral federal Skupština (assembly) with a tricameral one where deputies would no longer be elected by their republican assemblies but through a "one person, one vote" nationwide system. Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina strongly opposed the change, just as they opposed the additional Chamber of Associated Labor that would have increased the federal role in the economy.
Meanwhile, Slobodan Milošević had become the head of the Communist Party in Serbia in early 1987. An ardent advocate of the Serbs in Kosovo (and elsewhere) and a vocal proponent of the recentralizing constitutional amendments, he was able to take control of the leadership in Montenegro and Vojvodina and impose Serbian control over Kosovo.
The Slovenian Communist Party had taken the leadership in opposing the recentralizing initiatives and in advocating a confederate reorganization of Yugoslavia. Thus a political dueling took place between Slovenia and Serbia. Slobodan Milošević directed the organization of mass demonstrations by Serbs in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. Serbs began a boycott of Slovenian products, withdrew savings from Slovenian banks, and terminated economic cooperation and trade with Slovenia. The tensions with Serbia convinced the Slovenian leadership of the need to undertake protective measures and, in September 1989, draft amendments to the constitution of Slovenia were published that included the right to secession, the sole right of the Slovenian legislature to introduce martial law, and the right to control deployment of armed forces in Slovenia. The latter seemed particularly necessary since the Yugoslav Army was largely controlled by a Serbian and Montenegrin officer corps.
A last attempt at salvaging Yugoslavia was made when the League of Communists of Yugoslavia convened in January 1990 to review proposed reforms. The Slovenian delegation walked out on 23 January 1990 when their attempts to broaden the reforms was rebuffed.
In October 1990, Slovenia and Croatia published a joint proposal for a confederation of Yugoslavia as a last attempt at a negotiated solution, but to no avail. The Slovenian legislature also adopted a draft constitution proclaiming that "Slovenia will become an independent state …." On 23 December, a plebiscite was held on Slovenia's secession from Yugoslavia if a confederate solution could not be negotiated within a six-month period. An overwhelming majority of 88.5% of voters approved the secession provision, and on 26 December 1990 a Declaration of Sovereignty was also adopted. All federal laws were declared void in Slovenia as of 20 February 1991 and, since no negotiated agreement was possible, Slovenia declared its independence on 25 June 1991.
On 27 June, the Yugoslav army tried to seize control of Slovenia under the pretext that it was its constitutional duty to assure the integrity of Socialist Yugoslavia. The Slovenian "territorial guards" surrounded Yugoslav army tank units, isolated them, and engaged in close combat along border checkpoints, and the Yugoslav units often surrendered. Over 3,200 Yugoslav army soldiers surrendered, and the Slovenes scored an international public relations coup by having the prisoners call their parents all over Yugoslavia to come to Slovenia and take their sons back home. The European Community negotiated a ceasefire after ten days, with a three-month moratorium of Slovenia's implementation of independence.
The collapse of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989 had a deep impact in Yugoslavia. Communist leaders there realized that, in order to stay in power, they needed to embrace the goals of nationalistic movements. In Serbia and Montenegro, the Communists won on 9 December 1990 on the basis of their strong Serbian nationalism. In its last years, Yugoslavia became a house divided, prompting the parliament of Slovenia to pass a resolution on 20 February 1991 proposing the division of Yugoslavia into two separate states.
Suppression of Kosovo and Revolt in Croatia
On 2 July 1990, Albanian members of the Yugoslav legislature declared Kosovo a separate territory within the Yugoslav federation. Three days later, on 5 July 1990, the Serbian parliament countered the Albanian move by suspending the autonomous government of Kosovo. The next month (August 1990), an open Serb insurrection against the Croatian government was initiated apparently with the support of Slobodan Milošević. On 17 March 1991, Milošević declared that Krajina, a region in Croatia, was a Serbian autonomous region. Clashes between the Serbian militia and Croatian police required the use of Yugoslav army units to keep the peace.
The Serbian determination to maintain a united Yugoslavia hardened, while the determination of the Slovenes and Croats to gain their independence grew stronger. This caused the closing of ranks by the Yugoslav army command in support of the Serbian leadership and Slobodan Milošević. Since there was no substantial Serbian population in Slovenia, its secession did not present a real problem to Milošević, but secession by Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina would necessitate border revisions to allow land with Serbian populations to be joined to Serbia.
The new constitution promulgated by Serbia in September 1990 provided for a unicameral legislature of 250 seats and the elimination of autonomy for Vojvodina and Kosovo. The first elections were held on 9 December 1990. More than 50 parties and 32 presidential candidates participated. Slobodan Milošević's Socialist Party of Serbia received two-thirds of the votes and 194 out of the 250 seats. The Movement for Renewal, headed by Vuk Drašković, received 19 seats while the Democratic Party won 7 seats. With the mandate from two-thirds of the electorate, Slobodan Milošević had complete control of Serbia. Having gained control of Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Vojvodina, Milošević controlled four of the eight votes in the collective presidency of Yugoslavia. With the collective presidency stalemated, the top army leadership became more independent of the normal civilian controls and was able to make its own political decisions on rendering support to the Serbs in Croatia and their armed rebellion.
On 3 June 1991 Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia proposed the formation of a Community of Yugoslav Republics as a compromise. In this community, national defense, foreign policy, and a common market would be centrally administered while all other areas would fall to the jurisdiction of the member states (except for the armed forces and diplomatic representation). But it was already too late. Serbia disliked the confederate nature of the proposal and objected to leaving an opening for the establishment of separate armed forces. In addition, Milošević and the army had already committed to the support of the revolt of the Serbs in Croatia. At their meeting in Split on 12 June 1991, Milošević and Croatia's president Tudjman were past the stage of salvaging Yugoslavia when discussing how to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina into ethnic cantons.
The international community stood firmly in support of the preservation of Yugoslavia, of the economic reforms initiated by the Marković government, and of the peaceful solution to the centralist vs. confederate conflict. The United States and the European Community had indicated that they would not recognize the independence of Slovenia and Croatia if they unilaterally seceded from the Yugoslav Federation. With the then-Soviet Union also supporting Socialist Federal Yugoslavia, Milošević was assured of strong international backing. Slovenia and Croatia proceeded with their declarations of independence on 25 June 1991.
As a shrewd politician, Slobodan Milošević knew that a military attack on a member republic would deal a mortal blow to both the idea and the reality of a Yugoslavia in any form. Thus, following the Yugoslav army's attack on Slovenia on 27 June 1991, Milošević and the Serbian leadership concentrated on the goal of uniting all Serbian lands to Serbia.
This position led to the direct use of the Yugoslav army and its superior capabilities in establishing the Serbian autonomous region of Krajina in Croatia. Increased fighting from July 1991 caused tremendous destruction of entire cities (Vukovar), and large scale damage to the medieval city of Dubrovnik. Croatia, which was poorly armed and caught by surprise, fought over a seven-month period. It suffered some 10,000 dead, 30,000 wounded, over 14,000 missing, and lost to the Krajina Serbs (and to the Yugoslav Army) about one-third of its territory, from Slavonia to the west and around the border with Bosnia and south to northern Dalmatia.
The intervention of the European Community (as earlier in the case of Slovenia) and the UN brought about a ceasefire on 3 January 1992. UN peacekeepers were stationed by March 1991 to separate the Serb-controlled areas from Croatian army and paramilitary forces. Milošević had very good reasons to press the Krajina Serbs and the Yugoslav army to accept the ceasefire because the Serb forces had already achieved control of about one-third of Croatian territory. He was confident that the UN forces would actually protect the Serb-occupied territories from the Croats.
Aggression in Bosnia and Herzegovina
In the meantime, a far worse situation was developing in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Following the deployment in Croatia of UN peacekeepers, the Yugoslav army moved into Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia and Herzegovina held a referendum on independence in February 1992 in accordance with the European Community's conditions for eventual international recognition. In 1991, Bosnia and Herzegovina was about 44% Muslim, 31% Serbian, 17% Croatian, and 6% Yugoslav. Milošević's goal of unifying all Serbian lands would become impossible with an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina. Therefore, Bosnian Serbs abstained from voting, while 64% of eligible voters approved of an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina by an almost unanimous 99.7%.
At the same time, a provisional agreement had been reached at a conference in Lisbon in late February 1992 on dividing Bosnia and Herzegovina into three ethnic units, with related central power sharing. This agreement was rejected by the Muslim side, and the Bosnian Serbs, who had earlier organized their territory into the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, prepared for hostilities with the support of the Yugoslav army and volunteers from Serbia and Montenegro.
International recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina came on 6 April 1992, the anniversary of the 1941 Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia. The fear of another genocidal orgy against Serbs steeled the Serbs' determination to fight for their own survival. On 1 March 1992 a Serbian wedding party was attacked in the Muslim section of Sarajevo. This was the spark that ignited the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbs pounded Sarajevo for two years, reducing it to rubble. They took control of two-thirds of the territory, and carried out ferocious "ethnic cleansing" of Muslims in areas they intended to add to their own. Under international pressure, the Yugoslav army moved to Serbia, leaving to the Bosnian Serbs an abundance of weaponry and supplies.
Serbia and Montenegro formed their own Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on 27 April 1992. Despite the lack of international support, Milošević was elected president of Serbia in December with 56% versus 34% for his opponent, Milan Panić. Inflation, unemployment, and savage corruption convinced Milošević to support the various plans for bringing about peace to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Even with the eventual settlement of hostilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia faced serious internal political problems in addition to its ruined economy: the tradition of independence in Montenegro, the Albanian majority in Kosovo, the Muslims of the Sandzak area, the Hungarians in Vojvodina, and independent Macedonia.
Montenegro is the other constituent member of Serbia and Montenegro. Montenegro's early history is as part of the medieval development of Serbia, known as Duklja or Zeta, north of Lake Scutari (Skadar). Montenegro became completely surrounded by the Turks and subjected to continuous fighting for 400 years, from the mid-1400s to the mid-1800s. Living in a very harsh mountain territory, the Montenegrins were natural and fierce fighters, and not even the large Turkish armies could conquer them. Until 1851, Montenegro was ruled by bishops. The bishops' role strengthened the Montenegrins' loyalty to the Orthodox Church and prevented their conversion to Islam, except in the lowlands and coastal areas occupied by the Turks. In 1696, Danilo Petrović Njegoš (1696–1737) was elected "Vladika" (bishop), and his dynastic family ruled Montenegro until its unification with Serbia into the first Yugoslavia.
The Montenegro area was an almost impregnable mountain fortress with some limited access from the Adriatic coast where the Turks had taken hold. In 1714 the Turks were able to occupy the capital of Cetinje, but they could not sustain their hold because of difficulties in getting supplies and constant guerrilla attacks by the Montenegrins.
Meanwhile, Peter the Great of Russia had recognized Montenegro's independence in 1715, viewing it as an allied Orthodox country valuable in his struggle against the Ottoman Empire. Having gained a greatly supportive ally in Russia, Danilo was successful in opposing the Turks with occasional support from Venice until his death in 1737. His successors had to struggle with the blood feuds among key Montenegrin families. Peter I (1782–1830) was able to bring together the feuding factions, reorganize his administration, issue the first Montenegrin Code of Laws in 1798, and defeat the Turks in 1799. Peter also obtained from the Turks a formal recognition of Montenegro's independence. During the Napoleonic wars, Montenegro, Russia's ally, fought the French over Dubrovnik and, in 1806, occupied the Gulf of Kotor, thus gaining access to the Adriatic sea. But Montenegro had to relinquish Kotor to Austria following the Congress of Vienna decisions in 1814–15.
Peter I died in 1830, having repelled again Turkish attacks in 1819–21 and 1828–29. Peter II, considered by many to be the greatest Serbian poet, established a senate of 12 members and centralized his authority by abolishing the office of civil governor, which had existed since 1516. However, his successor, Danilo II (1851–60), effected a radical change by proclaiming himself an hereditary prince in 1852. Danilo II introduced a new legal code in 1855 that guaranteed civil and religious freedoms based on the constitution of 1852. Danilo died in 1860 of a wound inflicted by an exiled Montenegrin rebel.
Danilo's nephew Nicholas took over as the last independent ruler of Montenegro from 1860 until the 1918 unification with Serbia and the first Yugoslavia. During his 58-year reign Nicholas gained the nickname of "Father-in-Law of Europe" by marrying six daughters into Italian, Russian, Serbian, and German royal families. Through a series of wars with Turkey (1862, 1876, 1912, and 1913), Nicholas succeeded in more than doubling Montenegro's territory. Following the 1913 Balkan War, Montenegro and Serbia divided the Sandzak area and became neighbor states, both primarily populated by Serbs. Montenegro also gained access to the Adriatic Sea south of Lake Scutari (Skadar), which was divided in 1913 between Montenegro and the newly formed Albanian state.
Between 1880 and 1912, Montenegro took advantage of an era of relative peace to develop roads, education, agriculture, postal services, and banks, mostly with foreign investment especially from Italy, whose queen was Nicholas's daughter Elena.
The first Montenegrin parliament met in 1905, with 62 elected and 14 ex officio members. Following the successful Balkan wars, Serbian-Montenegrin relations grew closer, and by 1914, the two Serbian kingdoms proposed a union in which they would share their armed forces, foreign policy, and customs while maintaining their separate royal dynasties. World War I (1913–18) interrupted this process. Montenegro's poor defense led to Austrian occupation for the better part of the war; thus Montenegro ceased to officially participate in the war.
A Montenegrin Committee for National Union was formed by exiles in Paris who supported the 20 July 1917 Corfu Declaration on the establishment of a Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. The Montenegrin Committee felt the time had come to unite with the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. King Nicholas opposed such a move and was deposed. On 24 November 1918, a resolution was passed in favor of Montenegro's union with the Kingdom of Serbia. Thus, Montenegro became part of the first Yugoslavia on 1 December 1918. Montenegrins participated very actively in political life, mostly supporting the centralist Serbian positions.
During World War II (1939–45), Italy controlled Montenegro and attempted unsuccessfully to revive the old kingdom. In the post-World War II Socialist Federative Yugoslavia, Tito reestablished Montenegro as a separate republic due to strong Montenegrin representation in the circle of his closest collaborators. Most Montenegrins took the side of the Serbian centralists against the liberal elements in the League of Communists and, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, supported Slobodan Milošević. With the demise of Yugoslavia, Montenegro joined Serbia in forming the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which, in 2003, became Serbia and Montenegro.
In the early 21st century, a new conflict was emerging between Montenegro and Serbia. The Montenegrin government demanded sovereignty, and some Serbian officials claimed that they would actually allow the republic to break away.
On 14 March 2002, under mediation by the European Union, Serbia and Montenegro agreed to form a new federal union, called Serbia and Montenegro. Montenegro's president, Milo Djukanovic, was reluctant to sign the agreement, being the leader of the drive for independence of Montenegro's population of 660,000.
Kosovo and Vojvodina
Kosovo was the center of the Serbian kingdom in the Middle Ages. Firmly attached to their Christian faith and opposed to conversion into Islam, large numbers of Serbs were forced to leave the Kosovo region because of Turkish persecutions. In their place Muslim Albanians were settled in increasing numbers so that liberation of Serbian Kosovo in 1912 actually liberated an almost entirely Albanian area. By the end of World War II, the Kosovo area was already about 70% Albanian. Tito granted Kosovo a special autonomous status, keeping Serbian hopes alive that eventually Serbs could repopulate Kosovo.
The Albanians clamored for their right to self-determination and a republic of their own (still within Yugoslavia). Albanians increased their pressure on the remaining Serbian population, which had dwindled to some 10% of the total by 1991. Cries of genocide were raised by Serbian media, and a series of bloody clashes justified Slobodan Milošević's administration to develop a new Serbian constitution of September 1990, drastically limiting Kosovo's autonomy. Albanians then organized their own political parties, the strongest of which became the Kosovo Democratic Alliance led by Ibrahim Rugova.
In a street meeting on 2 July 1990, the adjourned Kosovo Assembly adopted a declaration proclaiming Kosovo a separate republican entity. Serbs reacted by suspending the Kosovo Assembly on 5 July 1990. Most of the Albanian delegates had to flee the country to avoid imprisonment.
Serbia found itself in a very peculiar and dangerous situation. Through several past centuries the Serbian people expanded their reach by forced mass migrations and wars that have contributed to the depopulation of its own cradle area—Kosovo. The Serbian claims to these lands were being contested by neighboring states or other older populations. Serbia and Montenegro became isolated and were facing adversary states.
The Ongoing Conflict
The quest to create a "Greater Serbia"—that is, to unite the Serbs under a single Serbian government—resulted in continued fighting, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were summarily executed at Srebrenica in July 1995. On 8 September 1995, the leaders of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina agreed on a new governmental structure for Bosnia and Herzegovina; the three parties soon afterwards refined their agreement to include a group presidency, a parliament, and a constitutional court in which Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia would share power with the Serbian republic.
In October 1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina accused the Bosnian Serbs of war crimes, leading to international suspicion that Serbian soldiers had massacred thousands of Muslims. Pressured by air strikes and diplomacy, Serb authorities joined leaders from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia on 31 October 1995 in Dayton, Ohio, for a round of peace talks sponsored by the United States. On 21 November 1995, the three presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia finally agreed to terms that would end the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina after four years and an estimated 250,000 casualties. The agreement was formally signed in Paris in mid-December and called for 60,000 UN peacekeepers. The United States then ended its economic sanctions against Serbia.
Enforcement of the peace was difficult, and problems arose over the exchange of prisoners. The United States ordered the leaders of the former warring parties to meet in Rome in February 1996 to recommit themselves to the Dayton agreement. Meanwhile, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague set out to find and prosecute Serbian soldiers accused of atrocities. In March 1996, the UN Tribunal filed its first charges. Among those cited were Serb generals Djordje Djukic and Ratko Mladic, and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. The latter two remained at large, spurring accusations by the United States and Europe that the Serbian government was protecting the international outlaws. In May 1996, Serbian President Milošević pledged that Karadzic would be removed from power. The presidents of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina agreed to hold Bosnian elections in mid-September 1996.
While international suspicion swirled about him for his role in the Bosnian conflict, Serbian President Milošević was not very successful in delivering promised reforms for Serbia. In March 1996, a demonstration in Belgrade brought out 20,000 protestors against the Milošević regime, which opponents charged with starting the Bosnian conflict and devastating the Serbian economy.
Mass demonstrations against Milošević flared later in 1996 when he voided local elections won by the opposition. In December, the Milošević administration shut down Belgrade's independent radio station, which further alienated Serb citizens. Thousands of protesters met in the streets of Belgrade, hoping to topple the Milošević administration. In February 1997, Milošević relented and agreed to recognize the results of the previous local elections, in which opposition parties won majorities in 14 of Serbia's 19 largest cities. In July 1997, Milošević was appointed to the presidency of Yugoslavia by the federal parliament, allowing him to maintain control for another four years.
During early March of 1999, Albanian moderates led by Ibrahim Rugova (president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo) and representatives of the Yugoslav government held talks in Ramboullet, France; they came up with a plan to give Kosovo back its autonomy under a three-year NATO occupational guarantee. The Serbs refused to sign the accord, and Yugoslav forces grew to 40,000 in Kosovo, continuing hostilities. Beginning 24 March 1999 NATO forces bombed Serbia and Kosovo, in an attempt to check human rights violations and end fighting. NATO bombs and cruise missiles fell on military targets in Belgrade and Pristina. Fears ran high that other European nations would get involved in the conflict and take sides, resulting in a third world war. Russia disagreed with the NATO bombing runs, attempting its own peace process. After 11 weeks of bombing, casualties reported by the Yugoslav government amounted to 462 soldiers and 114 police officers, but NATO estimates claimed 5,000 had died including 2,000 civilians. On 3 June, the Yugoslav government accepted a peace plan that involved removing Yugoslav troops from Kosovo, and giving some autonomy to the province. NATO troops entered Kosovo on 12 June to enforce the peace plan. Some 170,000 Kosovar Serbs were thrown out of Kosovo by the ethnic Albanian majority during the conflict, adding to an already large refugee population.
Milošević banned international observers from the process of monitoring the 24 September elections. The opposition to Milošević was strong, and a crowd of 150,000 turned out for the final pre-election rally against him. The opposition claimed victory in the election, with Vojislav Kostunica proclaiming himself the "people's president." The Federal Election Commission called for a second vote, stating that neither candidate had won an outright majority; this plan was met with world-wide opposition. On 27 September, 250,000 people took to the streets to demand that Milošević step down. On 28 September, the Electoral Commission announced that while the Democratic Opposition group had won the largest single block of seats, the Socialists and their coalition partners had won an absolute majority. By 2 October, protesters had called a general strike, were blocking Belgrade's main streets and had caused a halt to economic activity in other Yugoslav cities. On 4 October, the Constitutional Court annulled the election results and ruled that Milošević should serve out his last term in office. Tens of thousands of opposition supporters stormed and burned the parliament building on 5 October and captured the state television service; police joined the crowds. Kostunica told approximately 500,000 supporters at a rally in Belgrade that Serbia had been liberated. On 6 October, Milošević conceded defeat, and Kostunica was sworn in as president on 7 October. He stated his first objective as president would be to right the economy and lead reconstruction efforts. Milošević was indicted for atrocities in Kosovo by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague. A bounty of US $5 million was offered by the US government to find the war criminal, but he remained in power even after losing the war. On 29 June 1999, 10,000 Serbian protestors gathered in Cacak, in northern Serbia, to demand the resignation of Milošević. In August, more than 100,000 Serbians called for an end to his rule in a march on Belgrade. The UN began the unwieldy task of reconciliation in the region during the fall of 1999. Kosovo was to remain under the sovereignty of Yugoslavia as a Serbian province, but with some future determination of further self-government (scheduled to follow the fall of the Milošević regime). The next regular presidential elections were set for 2001. Sweeping constitutional changes in July 2000 changed the presidential term so that Milošević could run for two additional four-year terms. They also made the weight of the Montenegran vote in the Yugoslav parliament equal to its population, or only 7%. Milošević called presidential elections early, for 24 September 2000; most believed that they would be rigged in his favor, and were planning to boycott the elections.
The European Union (EU) and United States lifted their economic sanctions against Yugoslavia, and in November the country rejoined the UN; Kostunica indicated the country wanted to join the EU as soon as possible. In January 2001, Yugoslavia and Albania reestablished diplomatic relations after they had been broken off during the crisis in Kosovo in 1999.
On 1 April 2001, Milošević was arrested at his home in Belgrade after a tense standoff in which shots were fired; he had been charged with corruption and abuse of power within Yugoslavia. Kostunica had originally ruled out extraditing Milošević to the war crimes tribunal at The Hague. Milošević was formerly indicted by the tribunal in May 1999 for alleged war crimes in Kosovo; other indictments later included war crimes carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, including charges of genocide carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992–95. This was the first time a sitting head of state had been charged with war crimes. In May, US president George W. Bush called on Yugoslavia to hand Milošević over to the war crimes tribunal, saying US aid to the country was dependent upon such action. In June, then-Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic authorized the extradition of Milošević to the tribunal, exacerbating a rift between him and Kostunica, who favored a trial for Milošević in Belgrade. Milošević's trial at The Hague began in February 2002.
On 14 March 2002, in an agreement mediated by the EU, Serbia and Montenegro agreed to consign the Yugoslav Republic to history and create a loose federation called "Serbia and Montenegro." Both republics would share defense and foreign policies, but would maintain separate economies, currencies (the dinar for Serbia and the euro for Montenegro), and customs services for the immediate future. Each republic would have its own parliament with a central 126-member parliament located in Belgrade. Montenegrin president Milo Djukanovic reluctantly agreed to the union, commiting Montenegro to a three-year moratorium on an independence referedum, but in April, the Montenegrin government collapsed over differences on the new union. Kosovo, which remained under UN administration, would remain part of Serbia. This angered many Kosovo activists, although the agreement looked to some as possibly accelerating the process of independence for the province. The parliament of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia voted to disband itself on 4 February 2003, dissolving the country and introducing the new state of Serbia and Montenegro. Both republics can hold referendums on full independence in 2006.
Serbian presidential elections were held on 29 September 2002, with 55.5% of registered voters casting ballots. Kostunica won 30.9% of the vote, and his opponent Miroljub Labus finished second with 27.4%. The second round of voting was held two weeks later, with Kostunica winning 66.8% of the votes, to 30.9% for Labus. However, voter turnout failed to reach a mandated 50% (it was 45.5%), and the elections were declared to be invalid. Natasa Micic, formerly the speaker of parliament, became acting president. She stated Serbian presidential elections would be held after the adoption of the new Serbian constitution, after it was harmonized with the constitution of Serbia and Montenegro. Montenegrin general elections were held in October 2002, and in November, Djukanovic resigned as president to take on the job of prime minister. Presidential elections held in Montenegro in December 2002 and February 2003 were invalidated due to low voter turnout. A new elections law does not stipulate the requirement of 50% voter turnout for successful elections, and Montenegrin presidential elections were scheduled for 11 May 2003.
On 7 March 2003, Svetozar Marovic, deputy leader of the Montenegrin Democratic Party of Socialists, was elected the first president of Serbia and Montenegro after Kostunica stepped down as president of the former Yugoslavia.
On 12 March, Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic was assassinated outside the main government building in Belgrade. Members of criminal organizations were suspected of carrying out the assassination; Djindjic had declared war on organized crime in Serbia, which was said to flourish under Milošević. After the assassination, Serbia was placed under a state of emergency, and police arrested some 1,000 people, including members of Serbia's secret service and policemen. Zoran Zivkovic, a leading official of the ruling Democratic Party, was elected prime minister to replace Djindjic.