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Milosevic: A Biography Hardcover – 7 Oct 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; First Edition edition (7 Oct. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747560900
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747560906
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,448,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Fascinating….well written, thoughtful, accessible and often compelling." -- Brendan Simms, Sunday Times.

"LeBor charts with dexterity and black humour the rise, and eventual fall of this provincial Communist functionary." -- Marcus Tanner, The Independent.

"Taut, well-constructed….LeBor presents more than a useful history of the Balkan
wars." -- Stephen Robinson, Daily Telegraph.

"The best Milosevic biography so far….pacey, highly readable." -- Tim Judah, The Observer.

'a haunting portrait of the man the West said it "could do business with"’ -- FERGAL KLEANE, Mail on Sunday

 "This is a valuable account, written with journalistic vigour but also with a solid command of the facts." -- Sunday Telegraph, 13th October 2002

From the Author

This book was born out of my experiences as a correspondent in Croatia and Bosnia in the early 1990s, first for The Independent, and later for The Times. But whichever side of the front lines I found myself on, one name was always to the fore: Slobodan Milosevic.

For many, Milosevic has now become a hate-figure, a Balkan Saddam Hussein. But it is often forgotten - not least in the Serbian capital Belgrade – that all through the 1990s, Milosevic and his Socialist party won and held power through a decade’s worth of elections.

The book is my attempt to understand the man blamed by many for the collapse of Yugoslavia and its descent into four bloody wars, and the forces that shaped his life. It is the first full-length authoritative account of Milosevic’s life, from his child-hood in the drab Serbian city of Pozarevac to his current incarceration in UN detention centre in The Hague. I did not set out to demonise Milosevic, but rather to unravel and illuminate both the forces that created him, and those that he and his allies unleashed in their bid to maintain power.

For example: few now remember that back in the early 1980s, Milosevic was seen as a reformer. As a successful international banker turned politician, he was viewed by many as an ideal candidate to steer Yugoslavia out of Communism into capitalism. Yet he was psychologically unable to make the transition from one-party state to freedom. Nor was he alone in this. The destruction of Yugoslavia, a once-sophisticated multi-national country, was not organised solely from the Serbian capital Belgrade. At varying times Milosevic had de-facto allies in the Croatian leader Franjo Tudjman, and his Slovenian counterpart Milan Kucan.

In its pages I have attempted to recreate the now vanished world of Tito-era and post-Tito Yugoslavia, from 1945 to the present day, so as to present the reader with a colourful and vivid context in which to understand the course of tragic events that marked the Milosevic decade. It is authoritative enough to take its place on university bookshelves, but also lively and full of human interest, enough, I hope, to capture the attention of the general reader who is not a Balkan specialist, and keep the reader turning the pages.

I also take a critical look at Milosevic’s relations with the west, including Britain and the United States. Now that he is a prisoner of the Hague tribunal, many in both the Foreign Office and the State Department would prefer to forget that for a decade, Slobodan Milosevic was treated as a respected statesman by a succession of world leaders and their envoys, such as Britain’s Lord Owen and the United States’ Richard Holbrooke. War criminal, or bastion of Balkan stability? The difference, it seems, lies not in deeds, but the fluctuating demands of western realpolitik.

I carried out dozens of interviews with those who had first hand dealings with Milosevic, such as Croatian president Stipe Mesic, Slovenian President Milan Kucan, as well as several former close associates and his wife, Mira, and brother Borislav, who spoke frankly for the first time about their childhood and the tragic deaths of their parents, both of whom committed suicide. The life and times of Slobodan Milosevic make a lengthy and complicated and tragic story. I hope my book succeeds in illuminating this dark and complex era of modern European history.

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Slobodan Milosevic arrived in Serbia just over four months after the Wehrmacht, on 20 August 1941. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By RM on 14 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found Lebor's book to be very good; it grabs the reader's attention from the first page and once that happens, it is very difficult to put down. Lebor's book charts Milosevic's life from his hometown of Pozarevac, to his career in banking, to his famous 1989 Gazimestan speech, to the bloody Balkan conflicts and finally to his internment in the Hague.
I believe it is more of a general history book, than a biography, however. We get to read about Milosevic, the loving father and family man as well in this book, which makes a nice change from the constant evil and news-worthy "Butcher of the Balkans" persona. However, after reading this book, there is no real way that those people who reserve sympathy for Milosevic can be sympathetic to him any longer. It clearly demonstrates that Milosevic knew and gave the go-ahead for violent Serb paramilitary groups, such as Arkan's "Tigers" to operate freely in Bosnia and Croatia and how Milosevic clearly sold out the Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia by 1993.
Saying that, the book also reveals the extreme hypocrisy of Western leaders, from labelling Milosevic as an evil tyrant in 1992-1993, to a "peacemaker" in 1995 at Dayton, Ohio and back to "Butcher of the Balkans" during the Kosovo conflict in 1999.
Well-worth the read!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Carnegie on 25 Jan. 2003
Format: Hardcover
It is entirely appropriate that this book should start and end with the story of Milosevic’s family: the opening paragraph describes his mother and father, whilst the final sentence tells us that ‘Like Yugoslavia under his rule, Milosevic’s family has been rent asunder’. Without an understanding of his family we are none the wiser about Milosevic and in this regard LeBor does not disappoint, focusing on his parents (both of whom ultimately committed suicide), wife and children. And it is a telling indictment of the man that he was willing to sacrifice the unity of his family, as well as his state, in his quest for power.
Milosevic’s father left his mother when Sloba was only six. In a conservative country where single parenthood was disapproved of deeply, this must have affected Sloba deeply. LeBor gives us a very readable account of Milosevic’s early days (‘friendless and fatherless’), suggesting that a lonely childhood, and ambitious single mum must have been significant factors on his later lust for power. Though perhaps not as significant as his obsessive wife, Mira, whom he met and fell in love with at school.
And it is the extensive interviews with Mira that lend the book much of its weight. Unable to speak to Milosevic himself, LeBor goes to the power behind the throne. Indeed, if one accepts the ‘Lady Macbeth’ hypothesis – and LeBor provides compelling evidence that Mira was the catalyst for her husband’s lust for power – then we arguably learn more from her about her husband’s rule than we would from Milosevic himself.
As well as giving us a rich portrait of the rise and fall of Sloba, LeBor tells us the post-war history of Yugoslavia.
Read more ›
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By R. Macdonald on 8 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
It has been several years since I read this book. A great read if you are interested in anything to do with the Former Yugoslavia and the rise and fall of Slobodan Milosevic. Fairly interesting with plenty information which is written well. A recommended read!!
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Nov. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Adam LeBor has accomplished that difficult task of revealing the complex and very human reality beneath the popular charicature of a disgraced and deposed dictator.
LeBor skillfully guides us through Milosevic's rise through the communist party apparatus in 1980s Yugoslavia, traces his role in the destruction of Tito's creaking creation, and assigns Milosevic his due responsibility for the worst atrocities committed in Europe since World War II.
But the account is balanced, not only in assigning guilt to leaders in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, but also in squarely blaming Western governments for failing to stop the Balkan conflicts sooner. Indeed, some Western politicians emerge more as cynical enablers of Milosevic than as skilled diplomats or peacemakers.
In addition to all this, LeBor manages to capture a three-dimensional Milosevic. He is a heartless political thug and a man with a tragic family history. He is an accused war criminal, yet a warm and caring husband and father. In short, LeBor captures reality, rather than regurgitating established cliches. In the end, we have a clearer picture of the man in the Hague and the events that led him there.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The Juggler 1 Jun. 2012
By Mike B - Published on
Format: Hardcover
We are given a vivid and grim portrayal of the Yugoslav-Serbian dictator. From this book it is quite clear that it is Milosevic who drove Yugoslavia to self-destruction in the name of Serbian nationalism. Without Milosevic, Yugoslavia may not have disintegrated or the partitioning may have been more peaceful.

The author also provides us with details of how the Serbian state in Belgrade became increasingly dysfunctional and corrupt - with several mafia-style killings of government and police leaders. We are also given a view of the personal life of Milosevic; his wife, Mira, exerted a strong influence on the political outlook and the decision making processes of her husband. During the 1990's they both became increasing deluded and unwilling to recognise the violence and racism spawned by their actions in Croatia, Bosnia and then Kosovo. They initiated territorial acquisitions to spread the Serbian state that led to violent wars and hatreds they were unwilling to control. They failed to constrain any of these incursions. As the Western powers eventually found out to their detriment, a Milosevic promise or agreement was merely words.

Mr. LeBor gives us a good historical background of the tragic events that occurred in Yugoslavia. We witness the gradual rise of Milosevic to power - he carefully analyzed the bureaucracy of his place of work - whether it was a bank, a company or the government. He knew well how to manoeuvre himself into a position of power.

We are never sure with Milosevic what the priority was: Serbian nationalism or the lust for power. In the end, his juggling act was a resounding failure and the scars of war will remain for a long time to come.
7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A deep understanding of the past and future 6 Jun. 2004
By Christian Jacobsen - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The disintegration of Yugoslavia into a horrible series of wars and battles that pitted formerly peaceful neighbors against each other is a very important part of modern European history. It tested the relationship between America and Europe on all levels. And it was where the strengths and weaknesses of the NATO alliance have been most clearly illustrated.
Getting your head around this incredibly complex situation can only be done by examining the man who methodically tore a once-proud country and people to shreds: Slobodan Milosevic.
How was this drab functionary able to completely destroy a prosperous nation? How was he able to create civil wars between villagers that had lived peacefully side by side for generations? Why was he supported and even admired by the Western politicians while simultaneously overseeing some of the worst atrocities against humans since WWII?
Through interviews with all of the key figures that surrounded Milosevic - including his wife Mira Markovic! - Adam LeBor paints a vivid picture of the man at the center of this terrible tragedy.
As a reporter in the Balkans during the wars, Mr. LeBor saw first hand the results of Milosevic's terrible reign. As a proven history writer, he has managed to take his first hand experiences and meld them with historical perspective, so we wind up with an incredibly sharp picture of the key events themselves, but framed within an understanding of the event in the overall historical narrative.
This book is the only work I have seen that makes the Balkans understandable to the common Westerner, and is important for that very reason. However, it also resonates particularly clearly in the world we live in post 9/11, where we again are partnered with NATO and involved in wars in foreign lands with tribal people in a land and culture that are driven by a web of beliefs and interconnectedness that we do not understand.
Read this book to understand what the world lost when Yugoslavia disintegrated, and how it happened. And read this book to gain an understanding and insight into our current conflicts. And finally, read this book for Mr. LeBor's skill at writing. You will not be disappointed.
Five Stars 2 Dec. 2014
By Emilia L. - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
good book
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Nonsense 2 April 2014
By Boki - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
I'm sorry, but the accusations against Slobodan Milosevic in this book are pure nonsense. Theres no difference between this book and cheap mass media propaganda.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Useless 2 April 2014
By I. Trefilov - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is completely useless, because its based on falsification of facts and history. Mister LeBorr is simply misleading the reader by spreading propaganda.
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