Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Waiting for the Sixth

Today marks eleven years since the one-day revolution that ousted President Slobodan Milošević from power.

There aren't any festivities, no celebrations, not even any commentary from major politicians. Aside from a few news stories, it's a typical Wednesday.

It's not that people here don't consider the 5th of October Revolution a good thing-- most agreed with it at the time, and most still do now. But it didn't go far enough.

The story of the October 5th Revolution is quite inspiring. Отпор/Otpor, a resistance movement whose name is literally "resistance," worked a grassroots campaign to ensure fair elections and to show that the Milošević regime was vulnerable. The opposition parties put aside their differences, and the Democratic Opposition of Serbia fielded a single compromise candidate, Vojislav Koštunica. When Milošević attempted to steal the election, Otpor and the DOS called him out on it. Two weeks later, one million people from all over the country showed up on the streets of Belgrade. The police, after some scuffles, and the army supported the protesters, and the courts declared Koštunica President.

This is the part of the story that's supposed to go, "and they all lived happily ever after." But they didn't. The fall of Milošević didn't bring the fall of corruption and bureaucratic hindrances, or restore pride in the idea of Serbia, or guarantee all Serbians a living wage. It didn't even keep Yugoslavia from disintegrating further: in 2006, Montenegro became independent; in 2008, Kosovo declared independence (current status subject to debate).

The phrase I've most often heard when I ask about the legacy of the revolution is, "We're still waiting for October 6th." The revolution happened, but for the average Serbian, not too much is different. The sweeping changes promised by the DOS were never implemented.

In many countries, major democratic revolutions are turned into national holidays. Here, there's simply no reason to celebrate October 5th.

(B92 English story on the anniversary)
(Radio 021 [Serbian] story)

Edit: President Boris Tadić spoke on the anniversary. He disagrees with the Serbians I talked to, and instead claims that Serbia has moved forward "драматично" (dramatically). Even he concedes that he's disappointed by the lack of progress in some areas, especially the country's "system of values," but notes that it's only been just over a decade.
(B92 English)
(Radio 021 [Serbian])

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