The New Macbeth Whose Wife Goaded Him to Bloodshed

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), March 12, 2006 | Go to article overview

The New Macbeth Whose Wife Goaded Him to Bloodshed


Byline: MISHA GLENNY

ANALYSIS by Misha Glenny

Former BBC Central Europe Correspondent

SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC was a truly Shakespearean character. The parallels between his political career and Macbeth are astonishing. Together with his unspeakable wife Mira Markovic, who goaded him into ever more insane and bloody acts of destruction, he first toppled and later killed his mentor, the veteran Yugoslav Communist leader Ivan Stambolic, before unleashing a series of hideous wars. There are now few people even in Serbia who will mourn his passing.

At the height of his power, as conflict was devastating Bosnia and Hercegovina, I had a long conversation with a Yugoslav General who explained that Serb leaders had thought they would be able to control this upstart from the provinces.

'Little Slobo, that's what we called him then,' the General said. 'We all thought he was harmless, rather like a faithful dog who would only do the tricks that we taught him. Huh! What we all didn't know then.' Milosevic was nobody's sap and he was prepared to do anything to become the strongman of the Balkans. Ironically, his bid for power came as a rare wind of optimism was blowing through Europe. The Berlin Wall had come down, Communism was finished and we no longer had the threat of nuclear war.

But Milosevic had other ideas. He had already shocked Yugoslavia by playing the nationalist card to depose Stambolic. Later it emerged that Mira Markovic and a coterie of hardliners had planned the end of Stambolic, who had protected and promoted Milosevic throughout his career.

Milosevic and his wife were jealous of the old man's influence.

There was worse to come. As Yugoslavia's republics demanded greater autonomy from Belgrade, Milosevic raised the banner which heralded a decade of blood, 'All Serbs must be allowed to live in a single state'. Croatia and Bosnia could leave the federation, he said, but Serbia would rip away any areas where Serbs lived from the new states.

In Franjo Tudjman, the nationalist leader of Croatia, he had an able assistant in his plan to tear apart Bosnia and Hercegovina. …

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