Cultural Revolutions

Taking to the Streets

The Serbs, after a decade of being treated as the designated demons of Europe, were, in the first week of October, transformed by Western media and politicians into a nation of Walesas and Havels. The ethnic cleansing and mass rape stories were gone, replaced by those of freedom, democracy, and gallantry. As Matthew Parris remarked in the Times of London, "We love them/We love them not. If I was a brave Serb/beastly Serb, I'd be feeling confused this morning." The entire Serbian nation was humanized in about five minutes, which must be a record even for CNN's spin doctors.

But most Serbs did not care what the rest of the world thought of them as they took to the streets to depose Slobodan Milosevic. That misshapen communist apparatchik—who had never been any kind of nationalist, let alone a "greater Serbian chauvinist"—was determined to maintain power for as long as he could feed on the ever-shrinking innards of Serbia. But he finally overplayed his hand when he hastily called an election for September 24. In spite of controlling the media and the money, Milosevic was beaten, convincingly and on the first round, by an unassuming lawyer of integrity and intellect, Vojislav Kostunica. Having lost the vote, he tried to steal the election by fraud.

Until election day, even Milosevic's enemies had grudging respect for his creative deviousness. But when he found himself reduced...

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