Life before PoliticsSlobodan Milosevic was born in 1941 in Serbia, to parents of Montenegrin ancestry. When he was eighteen he joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia: the country was at that time a communist state, with Tito and the Communist Party in charge. Milosevic soon graduated with a law degree, and pursued a career in business, eventually becoming head of a state run gas company and the president of a bank.
Rise to PowerThroughout his business period, Milsoevic followed a friend he had made at university, and for whom he was at first a protégé: Ivan Stambolic . In 1984 Milosevic entered political life, and used his experience in bureaucracy as well as Stambolic’s influence to become head of Belgrade’s local communist party. He positioned himself as against the Yugoslavian trend for increasing free market reforms, favouring socialism’s traditional state intervention and, crucially, argued that the two autonomous regions within Serbia – Kosovo and Vojvodina – should be taken into full Serbian control. However, he preferred to stay low key and instead he used his position in the party bureaucracy to fill other important positions with his supporters, and developed a large power based. Comparisons with Stalin in this regard are not undeserved, Milosevic was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to give a televised speech attacking Kosovo’s Albanians and encouraging Serbian nationalism and his grandstanding proved popular. Consequently, Milosevic was able to take over the League of Communists of Serbia in 1987.
WarMilosevic’s popularity grew along with a new wave of local nationalism in Yugoslavia, and in 1988 he was able to establish Serbian domination of the autonomous regions by crowding their organs of government with his own supporters. In 1989 Milosevic became the president of Serbia, at the expense of the man who had once supported him. Milosevic crushed opposition – which might have bought him down had the opposition targeted him directly - censored the media, and purged elements of society who were against him. As the pressures within Yugoslavia began to cause the country to split apart into smaller sovereign states – a process Milosevic fought against – he was himself re-elected thanks to vote rigging and diverting Yugoslav funds to Serbia, and then began to pursue a policy towards a Greater Serbia, encouraging the Serb minorities within the newly independent Croatia and Slovenia to agitate for a split. The result were three years of bloody war, in which the army of the former Yugoslavia, Serbian paramilitaries and Bosnian and Croatian Serbs fought against their former neighbours. The conflict was bloody, and filled with attempts at ethnic cleansing.
Milosevic and his fellow leaders were persuaded to end the war in 1995, and he survived in power having had to use troops to stop demonstrations. In 1998 war again came to the region when Serbia fought the Kosovo Liberation Army, which had started a campaign of terrorism against Serbia. After an ineffectual aerial bombing campaign by NATO, Milosevic was persuaded to accept peace by the threat of both NATO ground troops and Russian pressure. Amazingly, Milosevic remained in power, aided by control of the media, political repression, and pragmatic political alliances.