It took a generation of 20 year-olds without a manifesto or leader to shake Serbia out of its lethargy. Armed only with slogans and spray paint, they dealt a fatal blow to the dictatorship
Slobo, say Serbia: kill yourself," chanted a band of youth in the streets of Belgrade, Yugoslavia's capital city. Defeated in the presidential election on September 24, 2000, Slobodan Milosevic--Slobo for short--kept clinging to power. On October 5, the dictator fell.
Opposition parties, international pressure and mass demonstrations contributed to Milosevic's doomsday. So did Otpor ("Resistance" in Serb), whose story is unique in the annals of eastern European protest movements. Without leaders or a clear cut political ideology, the group played a decisive role: like a termite colony, Otpor gnawed away at the regime's foundations before the top realized that the whole edifice was rocking.
Founded by a handful of libertarians in October 1998, Otpor counted 4,000 members by the end of 1999, a number that has swelled to 100,000 today. The overwhelming majority can't even remember when the movement was born.
Vague memories of the war's early days
All it takes to meet them is a visit to 49 Knez Mihajlova Street, Belgrade's most stylish pedestrian thoroughfare, where anti-NATO demonstrators sacked the French, British, German and American cultural centres during the March 1999 bombing campaign. Otpor squatted an old, run-down Belgrade university annex there. In this tiny beehive of activity, covered with stencils of the resistance movement's famous black fist and jam-packed with files, leaflets and posters, initiatives were hatched that brought a 13-year-old mafia-ridden political system to its knees.
Sofia, Ana, Milos and Mihailo are between 17 and 24 years old. When a western journalist arrives, many of their friends in the office join in the discussion, held in a small, narrow room. Soon the tiny desk is …