Zoran Djindjic
Born: August 1, 1952. Bosanski Samac, Bosnia
Died: March 12, 2003. Belgrade, Serbia.

Zoran Djindjic, the prime minister of Serbia and one of the leaders of the resistance movement which toppled the rule Slobodan Milosevic, was assassinated today in Belgrade. The assailant/s is unknown, but there are several theories, from pro-Milosevic supporters, to organized crime (he was attempting to end drug and women trafficking).

Djindjic was son of a Yugoslavian Army officer. A dissident in his youth, he was expelled from school for protesting the Tito regime. In 1974, while in college he attempted to establish an anti-communist student group, and had to flee for West Germany, where he earned a doctorate in philosophy. He did not return until 1989, well after the death of Tito.

In 1989, he joined the Democratic Party, which he soon headed, using it as an opposition party to the growing movement behind Milosevic's nationalist movement. In 1996, he lead street demonstrations against the government; this resulted in his election as mayor of Belgrade. However, the coalition he formed his rival Vuk Draskovic collapsed, he was out of power, and in 1999 was forced to flee to Montenegro to avoid assassination by Milosevic's government.

After the fall of Belgrade during the Kosovo war, he returned to Serbia, and called for early elections. This was ignored. Ironically, it was Milosevic's later call for early elections which caused his downfall. Milosevic lost, Vojislav Kostunica won, and a peaceful coup was held when Milosevic refused defeat. Kostunica became president of Yugoslavia, and Djindjic was prime minister.

The result was a power-struggle between the popular Kostunica and the suspect Djindjic, who had been accused of making back-room deals to shore-up his power. However, Djindjic still had respect, if not trust, particularly for being the man to hand Milosevic over to the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague in 2001. While many objected, Djindjic understood that this would ensure international aid for the floundering state.

With the dissolution of the union of Serbia and Montenegro earlier this year, leaving Kostunica out of power, Djindjic gained full control over Serbia. His policies were to include the arrest of Serbians accused of war crimes during the 1990s, as well as ending organized crime, which runs rampant in Serbia (as it does in the rest of the world).

On February 21, 2003, a presumed assassination attempt was made when a truck swerved towards his motorcade. Djindjic shrugged it off, already well aware of his many enemies. At 11:25 GMT, on March 12, 2003, he was shot in the stomach behind the government building in Belgrade and died in the hospital. His assailant escaped, and a state of emergency has been declared.

March 12, 2003, 20:18 GMT: according the BBC News, it is believed that his assassin is the ex-police chief of Belgrade:
A former commander of a special police unit led the group which assassinated Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, the Serb Government alleges.
In a statement the government said the commander, Milorad Lukovic who is better known as Legija, was among 20 suspects.

shallot says re Zoran Djindjic: oh, and one data point i just heard on the TV. exactly 100 years ago {not on this date--T}, a Serbian king called Aleksandar Obrenovic was assassinated, and ironically because he wanted to align Serbia with Austria-Hungary!

Zoran Đinđić

A leader of the opposition to Slobodan Milošević during the 1990s, and Serbia's prime minister after Milošević's fall in October 2000. His murder on March 12, 2003 made him the first sitting head of government to be assassinated since the Swedish leader Olof Palme was killed in 1986.

Doctor and Democrat

The son of a Yugoslav Army officer from the Bosnian town of Bosanski Šamac, Đinđić was born in 1952 and attended the University of Belgrade. As a student, he became involved with the Praxis group, a circle of Marxist intellectuals whose criticism of Josip Broz Tito's methods eventually came too close to the bone for the ageing dictator. In 1974, he was briefly jailed for attempting to start a student opposition movement with colleagues from Croatia and Slovenia; he had previously been expelled from high school for protesting against constitutional amendments which made Tito president for life.

Moving to Germany, where he took a doctorate supervised by the Frankfurt School philosopher Jürgen Habermas, he supported himself by establishing businesses importing clothes and machine tools into Yugoslavia. The earnings from his commercial activities enabled him to found the Democratic Party, or DS, when he returned home in 1989 to lecture in Novi Sad, the capital of the Vojvodina.

At the time, the Vojvodina, like Kosovo, enjoyed a special autonomous status within the republic of Serbia, with its own assembly responsible for local matters and, crucially, its own vote on the complicated rotating presidency which had adopted Tito's functions since his death in 1980. Đinđić had only been in Novi Sad a few months when Milošević took control of the Vojvodina assembly by surrounding it with thugs and promising to call them off if Vojvodina's leaders resigned in favour of his own placemen.

Although the first Democratic Party collapsed, Đinđić preserved the name for a second coalition of dissidents, many of them writers and intellectuals, who joined the 1996 protests against Milošević's refusal to recognise his own party's defeat in municipal elections across Serbia. After 88 days of marches, which sometimes saw over a hundred thousand people on the streets of Belgrade, Milošević backed down and Đinđić became the city's first non-Communist mayor since Tito's rise to power during World War II.

Together At Last

During this period, Đinđić worked in co-operation with the bearded nationalist leader - but no friend of Milošević - Vuk Drašković in what was known as the Zajedno (Together) coalition. Zajedno fell apart only six months later, when Drašković joined with the Serbian Radical Party of ultranationalist Vojislav Šešelj to vote Đinđić out of office.

During the NATO bombing of Serbia in the spring of 1999, Đinđić was tipped off that he might be highly placed on Milošević's hit list and was persuaded to take temporary refuge in Serbia's disgruntled sister republic Montenegro.

Đinđić had consistently been one of Serbia's most enthusiastically pro-Western politicians, advocating collaboration with the European Union instead of Milošević's isolationism. (Still, he had made his own concessions to the nationalist lobby on occasion, once roasting an ox with the Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadžić.)

During a conflict when Milošević was able to mobilise young Belgraders to attend rock concerts on strategic bridges as enthusiastic human shields, Đinđić's orientation won him few plaudits at the time.

Nonetheless, he returned to Serbia after the immediate crisis to join 17 other parties in the DOS coalition, in which his own Democratic Party was among the most prominent. In October 2000, when Milošević adopted his old tactic of refusing to recognise the election victory of his opponent - in this case, the constitutional lawyer Vojislav Koštunica, who had run against him for president - Đinđić revived the strategy of mass demonstrations, which this time overthrew the Milošević regime.

In recognition of Đinđić's power within DOS, Koštunica appointed him prime minister of Serbia, but a rivalry soon developed between the two men, not least because Đinđić believed it was imperative for Yugoslavia to comply with demands for indicted war criminals to be extradited to the Hague Tribunal.

Koštunica, or so Đinđić believed, was far from co-operative in helping to secure the extradition of Milošević himself, despite American warnings that a $1.25 billion foreign aid package would be at stake if Milošević did not make the trip to the Netherlands. On June 28, 2001 - which happened to be the Serbian national day Vidovdan - Đinđić forced the issue by overruling a Constitutional Court decision forbidding such extraditions. Koštunica swiftly departed from the ruling coalition, accusing Đinđić of carrying out a 'limited coup'.

The Red Berets

The controversy over war criminals had already provided Đinđić, in April 2001, with perhaps the most fraught days of his premiership, when the special forces unit known as the Red Berets staged a display of strength and brought its tanks to the left bank of the Sava River, opposite government buildings on the right. The Berets' commander, Dušan Marčić, had been angered after five of his men had been tricked into arresting two low-grade indictees and not informed that they were destined for The Hague.

Marčić's reticence was understandable, perhaps: the Berets were suspected of having carried out several political assassinations for Milošević before seamlessly changing their spots when Koštunica came to power. Moreover, they had formed a paramilitary unit active, like those belonging to the ultranationalist Vojislav Šešelj and the warlord Arkan, in ethnic cleansing operations in Croatia and Bosnia.

Nonetheless, the so-called October Revolution might well have been unsuccessful if not for the Red Berets' refusal to support Milošević at the eleventh hour. According to rumours, they had only stood down because their commander at the time, Milorad Luković, who owed his nickname of Legija to his service in the French Foreign Legion, had made some kind of pact with Đinđić. Legija, too, led the unit that arrested Milošević at his home in the rich Belgrade suburb of Dedinje, although before beginning his special forces career he had belonged to Arkan's paramilitaries, the Tigers.

After his replacement by Marčić, Legija had turned to - or resumed - a career in organised crime, endemic in Serbia since the economic collapse of the Milošević years turned sanction busting and tobacco smuggling into a national get rich quick scheme. He reportedly took over as head of the Zemun gang, named after the nearby city where it was based.

Gangs of Belgrade

In late 2002, Đinđić had announced a crackdown on the Serbian mafia, leading to speculation that his assassins were connected to the Zemun gang. An earlier attempt on his life the previous month had been carried out by Dejan Milenković, another alleged Zemun man, who drove his lorry into the middle of the prime ministerial motorcade. The same method, curiously, had been employed by persons unknown against Vuk Drašković in 1999.

In the light of Serbians' rumours about Đinđić, however, it might be premature to remember him as the Balkans' answer to Eliot Ness. Đinđić was popularly supposed to have had his own gangland connections, not least because of his supposed agreements with the Red Berets. One theory current after his death was that he had recently dropped Zemun and instead began to favour the Surčin gang, with whom Zemun were in active conflict.

The previous few months had also seen Đinđić under pressure to find and extradite the Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladić, one of The Hague's most wanted men at large. While fearing a nationalist backlash if he turned Mladić over - assuming, of course, that he even knew where to find the general - Đinđić attempted to placate the tribunal by delivering the former Serbian president Milan Milutinović.

Although Đinđić's struggle with Koštunica might have appeared over when the new federation agreement between Serbia and Montenegro robbed Koštunica of his job, the two remained at loggerheads over the Mladić case and Đinđić could not count on a stable parliamentary majority. In an attempt to encroach on Koštunica's nationalist ground, he had associated himself with the building of Belgrade's grand new Church of Saint Sava, and asked NATO to allow Serbian police back into Kosovo.

On March 12, 2003, Đinđić was shot in the back and stomach outside the Military Medical Academy, dying of his injuries an hour later: two sniper rifles were discovered on the roof of a building opposite. The parliamentary speaker Nataša Mičić, only serving as Serbian president because three elections had failed to produce a high enough turnout, immediately announced a state of emergency, which would last until the assassins were found.

Government officials immediately blamed the killing on the Zemun gang, and forty of its supposed 200 members had been arrested the next day, although Legija himself remained at large. Among those interrogated were the founder of the Red Berets, Milošević's old associate Frenki Simatović, and the turbofolk star Ceca, suspected of having sheltered Legija in the run-up to the murder.

Several hundred Belgraders turned the site of Đinđić's murder into an impromptu shrine, bedecked with candles and flowers like the gates of Kensington Palace, and a book of condolence was opened for the premier. His immediate successor was his deputy prime minister Nebojša Čović, who had previously mediated a modus vivendi in Kosovo. On his own, however, Čović seemed unlikely to be able to fill the power vacuum Đinđić left behind, or to dismantle the many-tentacled Serbian mafia.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.