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Anti-bureaucratic revolution as a term, refers to a series of mass protests against governments of Yugoslavian republics and autonomous provinces during 1988 and 1989, which led to resignation of leaderships of Kosovo, Vojvodina and Montenegro, and capture of power of politicians close to Slobodan Milošević.

While its name is derived from its proclaimed revolt against bureaucratic, corrupt and alienated governing structures, it is widely recognized as part of Milošević's strengthening of power through populism, and expansion of centralized influence to its autonomous provinces Vojvodina and Kosovo (which after 1974 were not dependent on Serbia's central government) and neighboring Montenegro.

The revolution was condemned by communist governments of western Yugoslavian republics (especially Slovenia and Croatia).


Prelude: Milošević's rise to power

Milošević took control of Yugoslav Communist League's Serbian branch in September 1987, when his nationalist faction won over the relatively liberal one led by Ivan Stambolić. His rise to power coincided with Serbo-Albanian tensions in Kosovo, as Kosovo Serbs felt oppressed by Albanians and Albanian-dominated leadership of the province. The tensions were further boosted by inflammatory reports in Serbian media.

According to the 1974 Constitution of Yugoslavia, the autonomous provinces of Serbia (Vojvodina and Kosovo) had very little dependence from the central Serbian government, and both of them had a seat in the federal Presidency, along with 6 constituent republics. In effect, their status was almost equivalent with the one of republics, and provincial leaderships have led practically independent policies.

In late 1987 and 1988, a populist campaign started in Serbia pointing out to untenability of such situation. The leaderships of the provinces were being accused of bureaucracy and alienation from people. Popular slogans like "oh Serbia from three parts, you will be whole again" (Ој Србијо из три дела поново ћеш бити цела, oj Srbijo iz tri dela ponovo ćeš biti cela)[1] caught up. The atmosphere was further stirred up by numerous articles and readers' letters in Serbian press, the most notorious being Politika's rubric "Odjeci i reagovanja" (Echoes and reactions), letters to the editor type of astroturfing.[2][3]

The main points of the campaign were the theses that:[4]

  • Serbs in Kosovo are being harassed by Albanians and suppressed by the Albanian-dominated Kosovo government
  • Due to the 1974 Constitution, Serbia has no effective control over its provinces, whose leaderships are bureaucratic and estranged from the people
  • It was also alleged that this Constitution was created by influence of other Yugoslav republic, especially Slovenia and Croatia, in order to suppress Serbia's power and create an environment for exploitation of Serbia's goods and natural resources
  • The Constitution has also, in effect, created a confederal type of government, as no decision could be made without consensus of all 6 republics in the federal parliament; therefore, a system with more direct influence of popular majority is called for (the slogan "one man-one vote" was one of most popular)
  • Therefore, a thorough change of federal Constitution and enhancement of Serbian control over its provinces were necessary.


The mass protests actually started as early as February 1986, with several meetings of Kosovo Serbs in Belgrade and in Kosovo, pleading for settlement of situation on Kosovo. These were relatively small, with 100-5000 participants, and were mostly reactions to individual inter-ethnic incidents. The largest such protest was held in Kosovo Polje in April 1987, gathering around 20,000 people.[3]

However, the real outburst of protests began in second half of 1988. In June, the protest of workers of Zmaj factory gathered 5,000 protestors; in July, meetings were held in 7 towns with tens of thousands, and in August in 10 towns with 80,000 people, and in September they affected 39 towns with over 400,000 attendants.[3]


October 1988: Vojvodina: Yogurt revolution

On October 5 1988, around 150,000 people gathered in Novi Sad to protest against the Vojvodina provincial government. The gathering actually started a day earlier in nearby town of Bačka Palanka, and, as Politika explained it, the mass spontaneously gathered and moved to Novi Sad.[3] The protest in Palanka was led by Mihalj Kertes, a mid-level official of the Communist Party, ethnic Hungarian which would later become famous for his remark "How can you Serbs be afraid of Serbia when I, a Hungarian, am not afraid of Serbia?"[5] (and later still, as Milošević's money man). Protestors from Novi Sad and other parts of Serbia gathered in huge numbers, and began the protest in front of Parliament of Vojvodina.

The provincial leadership, led by the provincial party president Milovan Šogorov, Boško Krunić and Živan Berisavljević, were caught by surprise. Before the event, they tried to find a middle ground and negotiate with Milošević, expressing cautious support for the constitutional changes while trying to keep their and Vojvodina's position intact. However, the avalanche of media campaign orchestrated from Belgrade was about to overwhelm them; they were labeled as power-hungry "armchairers" (foteljaši) and "autonomists" (autonomaši).[6]

In vain, someone from the government tried to cut off the power and water supply to the protesters, a move which enraged the mass further still, and caused even more people from Novi Sad and vicinity to join. When the electricity supply were returned back, they tried a different tactic: in order to cheer the demonstrators up, they gave them bread and yogurt: thousands of yogurt packages were soon thrown at the Parliament building by the angry people. The term "Yogurt revolution" for the protest was named after that episode.[7]

On October 6, the entire presidentship of Vojvodina resigned. They would soon be replaced with Milošević's men of trust, Nedeljko Šipovac, Radovan Pankov and Radoman Božović.

The Ušće rally

The rally in Belgrade, at Ušće (the large field at confluence of Sava River into Danube) was held on November 18, 1988. According to the state press, it gathered about a million people, and according to others, several hundred thousands. It was conceived as a "mother of all rallies", and a huge crowd of people come from all parts of Serbia by public and factory buses taken just for this opportunity. Milošević reaffirmed his and Serbia's confinement to the principles of liberty and Serbian equity within Yugoslavia:[8]

We will win the battle for Kosovo regardless of the obstacles placed in front of us in the country and abroad. So, we will win regardless of the uniting of our enemies from abroad and those in the country. And that this nation will win the battle for freedom, is a fact well-known even to the Turkish and German conquerors.

October 1988 - January 1989: Montenegro

Rallies and media were also similarly used in Montenegro with the first rally in support of Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Montenegrins taking place in Titograd on August 20, 1988.[9] The leadership of the Montenegrin Communist League was on the defense at the time, claiming that it was also "protecting Kosovo", but their restraint in direct support for Milošević was deemed not good enough by the putschists.

What eventually proved to be the coup's first act occurred on October 7, 1988, when Montenegrin police intervened against protesters in Žuta Greda who demanded resignations from the current Montenegrin leadership. In order to deal with the situation the leadership proclaimed the state of emergency. The state of emergency didn't last long though, as it was taken as act of hostility towards Serbia by media outlets controlled by Milošević as well as Milošević's supporters in Montenegro.[10]

The second act started with joint rallies consisting of workers from Radoje Dakić state-owned factory and Veljko Vlahović University students. On January 10, 1989, over 10,000 protesters gathered in Titograd and the old leadership, confused and disorganised, soon gave in; none of them later played a significant political role.[10] The new "young lions" of the Montenegro, Momir Bulatović, Milo Đukanović and Svetozar Marović, became the new leadership, strongly allied with Milošević in the years to come. The League of Communists of Montenegro was subsequently transformed by the "triumvirate" who had full control over the (Socialist) Republic of Montenegro into the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro, which vigorously maintained its grip over Montenegro and does so to this day more than 20 years later.

Gazimestan rally



  1. ^ Petar Ignja (1997-08-01). "DUH BELOG DVORA". NIN.  
  2. ^ Aleksandar Nenadović (1993). "Politika in the Storm of Nationalism".,M1.  
  3. ^ a b c d Olivera Milosavljević. "Antibirokratska revolucija 1987-1989. godine" (in Serbian) (PDF).  
  4. ^ Ian Kearns (1999). "Western Intervention and the Promotion of Democracy in Serbia". The Political Quarterly (The Political Quarterly) 70 (1): 23. doi:10.1111/1467-923X.00201. ISSN 0032-3179.  
  5. ^ Michael Dobbs (2000-11-29). "Crash of Yugoslavia's Money Man". Washington Post Foreign Service.  
  6. ^ Petar Ignja (1998-10-15). "Vojvodina:Užegli jogurt" (in Serbian). NIN.  
  7. ^ Emil Kerenji (edited by Sabrina Petra Ramet (2005). "Serbia Since 1989: Politics And Society Under Milosevic And After (pp 350-379)". University of Washington Press.,M1.  
  8. ^ "Disintegration Years 1988-2000". Assembly of Belgrade.  
  9. ^ Bili Srbi, a sada ih svrbi, Dan, August 21, 2009
  10. ^ a b Milan Milošević, Filip Švarm (1994-08-29). "Serbian President: The Technology Of A Showdown". Vreme.  


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