Novelist Discards Nationalism for Open Politics, Free Press

Article excerpt

Vuk Draskovic, a former writer, leaped like an Old Testament prophet into Yugoslav politics as a nationalist but emerged as a "staunch defender of an open political system and free press," in the words of Warren Zimmermann, former U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia. Mr. Draskovic spoke to Washington Times correspondent Ben Barber in Belgrade.

Question: The opposition parties recently tried to meet in parliament and form a united shadow parliament but failed to agree on a common agenda or candidate. Why?

Answer: The opposition remains divided because we have parties that [espouse] Nazism, ethnic cleansing and a continuation of the war. I mean the Serbian Renewal Party [of Vojislav Seselj, a former Draskovic ally]. Suppose [President Slobodan] Milosevic is Stalin: I have no right to make coalition with Hitler.

Q: Didn't you begin politics as a nationalist, calling for a Greater Serbia and for sending paramilitary troops to Serbian regions of Croatia or Bosnia?

A: I realized five years ago that nationalism is not good.

I committed a lot of mistakes six years ago. I spoke with metaphors because I am a novelist. I ignored that 90 percent of the people were not ready to follow metaphors. I said don't kill Yugoslavia, because it is the only house with a lot of rooms to create Greater Serbia. But you can't approach Greater Serbia by war.

Milosevic said to do it by war. Then I called on young Serbs not to go to the army.

Q: What was the respose to your anti-war efforts?

A: I was in jail a few days in 1991 and two months with my wife in 1993 after an anti-fascist, anti-war demonstration at the federal parliament. I was tortured. [President] Clinton, [Russian President Boris] Yeltsin, [German Chancellor Helmut] Kohl and Danielle Mitterrand [wife of the late former president of France] saved me.

I lost consciousness during torture, and it vanished from my memory, but in dreams at night I see a few things - they grab my hair and beat me with sticks. …