25th anniversary of Milosevic’s speech in Kosovo Polje

Tomorrow it is not just the first centenary of the murder of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. It is also the 25th anniversary of Slobodan Milosevic’s speech in Gazimestan.


I already touched the topic and its historical context somewhere else. In this occasion I would like to focus on a small detail of that speech, when Milosevic said:

Sest vekova kasnije, danas, opet smo u bitkama, i pred bitkama. One nisu oruzane, mada i takve jos nisu iskljucene.

This last sentence (about the fact that “armed battles” could not be excluded in the future) was later used, after 1991, to symbolically make sense of war in Yugoslavia. Notwithstanding this retrospective way of thinking, the use of the word “bitka”/”battle” in  (Yugoslav) public rhetoric speeches was not an invention of Milosevic. For instance, Josip Broz Tito, during a speech in Karlovac (October 9, 1971) at the end of the military maneuvers “Sloboda 71”, said that “Therefore, it is not possible to exclude the outbreak of new armed conflicts “. Tito at the time was formally addressing the international conflicts in the world, while “Sloboda 71” was actually aimed at putting under pressure the leaders of the Croatian Spring. So Milosevic in 1989 used almost the same sentence of Tito in 1971.

In 1978, Djordje Balasevic wrote a pro-regime song, “Racunajte na nas”. In that song we can find the following text:

Al’ zivot pred nama 
jos bitaka skriva 
i preti nam, 
preti o duboki vir. 
Ja znam da nas ceka 
jos sto ofanziva 
jer moramo cuvati mir. 
Racunajte na nas. 

So, also for Balasevic in 1978, in the future it was not possible to exclude (armed) battles, while his generation from the 1950s did not experienced the partisan war. My hypothesis is that it was quite common in the Yugoslav regime’s partisan rhetoric to adopt such sentences about a possible outbreak of a war in the future. If this is true, Milosevic’s sentence in 1989 at Gazimestan, should be interpreted not as a omen or plan for the Yugoslav wars (the Yugoslav political milieu was already in turmoil by then).

Indeed none of them, Tito, Balasevic or Milosevic, had the power to predict the future. Milosevic’s sentence probably was a sample of Yugoslav rhetoric, like when he said, at the end of his speech in Kosovo Polje, “Neka zivi mir i bratstvo medju narodima!” (to say, “peace and brotherhood among nations”) Of course, even so, this does not change the historical truth: Milosevic’s readiness to literally embrace armed battles and his political responsibilities in the Yugoslav conflicts.