The "Anti-bureaucratic revolution" was a campaign of street protests
ran between 1986 and 1989 in former Yugoslavia by supporters of
Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević. The protests, termed "Rallies of
Truth" (Serbo-Croatian: Miting istine), overthrew the governments of
the Serbian autonomous provinces of
Vojvodina and Kosovo, as well as
the government of the Socialist Republic of Montenegro, and replaced
them with allies of Milošević, thereby creating a dominant voting
bloc within the Yugoslav presidency council.
The name "anti-bureaucratic revolution" is derived from the proclaimed
revolt against bureaucratic and corrupt governing structures, but the
campaign is widely considered as orchestrated by Milošević, in an
attempt to strengthen his power through populist Serb nationalism, and
the expansion of his centralised influence.
The events were condemned by the communist governments of the western
Yugoslav republics (especially SR Slovenia and SR Croatia), who
successfully resisted the attempts to expand the "revolution" onto
their territories, and turned against Milošević. The rising
antagonism eventually resulted in the dissolution of the ruling League
of Communists of Yugoslavia in 1990, and subsequently in the breakup
Vojvodina (October 1988)
2.4 Toppling of Kosovar leadership and reduction of autonomy
2.6 Action North
4 See also
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Since the adoption of the 1974 Constitution of Yugoslavia, Serbia and
its two autonomous provinces
Vojvodina entered into
political deadlock with the provincial governments in
Vojvodina. In 1976 the Serbian government issued its first
complaints of unconstitutional practice of autonomy by the provinces
to Tito and
Edvard Kardelj and issued a subsequent complaint in 1984
on the matter, attempting to resolve the problems within the 1974
Constitution. It was reported that the provinces had repeatedly
denied the Serbian government the ability to enact policies in their
territories, such as regulation of citizenship policy, common defense
law, and social plans.
The situation in
Kosovo became a crisis in the 1981 protests in Kosovo
by Albanians who were heard shouting slogans such as "We are
Albanians, not Yugoslavs", "Kosova Republic", "Unity with Albania",
"Long live Marxism-Leninism, Down with Revisionism" and others. The
presence of ethnic and ideological dimensions to the protestors
demands led to Yugoslav authorities deciding to forcibly stop the
protests, the president of the Pristina League of Communists, Aslan
Fazlia (an Albanian) said that the protests were nationalistic and
counterrevolutionary and announced tough police action against the
demonstrators. This action failed to quell the protests that
instead grew in response with protests by Albanians sweeping across
Kosovo, the President of the League of Communists of
Bakalli decided in response to ask the
Yugoslav People's Army
Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) to
bring tanks onto the streets. Police reinforcements from Central
Serbia were stopped by a roadblock and then Albanian demonstrators
took hostages from thirty-four houses of Serbs and Montenegrins,
demanding that these police forces leave
Kosovo in exchange for the
release of the hostages. Only after additional police forces from
Pristina arrived were the hostages released. The protests lead to
Kosovo including smashed windows of cars, shops,
and state institutions. The Yugoslav leadership declared a "crisis
situation in Kosovo" and all republics were requested to send their
police troops to Kosovo. The Yugoslav leadership was shocked by
extent of the violence used by the demonstrators and the relatively
large participation in the demonstrations.
The aftermath of the
1981 protests in Kosovo
1981 protests in Kosovo resulted in resentment by
Kosovo to the political situation in Kosovo. Serbs
suspected that deliberate
Kosovo and Serbs being
driven out was demonstrated by statistics showing that the population
of Serbs in
Kosovo had significantly decreased from 23.5% in 1961 to
13.2% in 1981, as well as making claims that they were being
persecuted by Albanians including that Serb women were being
systematically raped by Albanians. Many of these claims were not
backed up by factual evidence but built up as popular rumours believed
amongst Serbs in Kosovo.
Milošević took control of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia's
Serbian branch in September 1987, when his faction won over its
opposition, led by Ivan Stambolić. His rise to power coincided with
Serbo-Albanian tensions in Kosovo, as
Kosovo Serbs felt oppressed by
Albanians and the Albanian-dominated leadership of the province. The
tensions were further boosted by inflammatory reports in the Serbian
According to the 1974 Yugoslav constitution, the two autonomous
provinces of Serbia (
Vojvodina and Kosovo) were largely independent
from the central Serbian government, with both of them holding a seat
in the Yugoslav Presidency, on a par with the six constituent
republics of Yugoslavia. In effect, their status was almost equivalent
to the republics', which enabled provincial leaderships of
Vojvodina to have policies that were practically independent.
In late 1987 and 1988, a populist campaign started in Serbia against
this situation, which it described as untenable. Provincial
leaderships were being accused of bureaucratic inefficiency and
alienation from the people. Popular slogans like "Oh Serbia in 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) caught on. 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), a letters to the editor column which was used
as a type of astroturfing.
The main points of the campaign were the following:
Kosovo were being harassed by Albanians and suppressed by the
Due to the 1974 constitution, Serbia had no effective control over its
provinces, whose leaderships were bureaucratic and estranged from the
This constitution was created by the influence of the other Yugoslav
republic, especially Slovenia and Croatia, in order to suppress
Serbia's power and create an environment for the exploitation of
Serbia's natural resources
The constitution had, in effect, created a confederal type of
government, as no decision could be made without the consensus of all
six republics in the federal parliament; and a system with a better
consideration of popular majority was called for (the slogan "one man,
one vote" was one of the most popular)
Therefore, a thorough revision of the federal constitution and the
enhancement of Serbian control over its provinces were necessary
The mass protests started in February 1986, with several meetings of
Kosovo Serbs in
Belgrade and in Kosovo, pleading for a resolution of
the problematic situation on Kosovo. These were relatively small, with
100-5,000 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.
However, the outburst of protests began in the latter half of 1988. In
June, the protest of workers of the Zmaj factory gathered 5,000
protestors; in July, meetings were held in seven towns with tens of
thousands protesters, and in August in ten towns with 80,000 people.
By September they spread to 39 towns with over 400,000 people.
Vojvodina (October 1988)
On 5 October 1988, around 150,000 people gathered in
Novi Sad to
protest against the
Vojvodina provincial government. The gathering
started a day earlier in the nearby town of Bačka Palanka, and, as
Politika explained it, people "spontaneously" gathered and moved on to
Novi Sad, the provincial capital. The protest in
Bačka Palanka was
led by Mihalj Kertes, a mid-level official of the
Communist Party, an
ethnic Hungarian who would later become famous for his remark "How can
you Serbs be afraid of Serbia when I, a Hungarian, am not afraid of
Serbia?" (and later still, as Milošević's money man). Protesters
Novi Sad and other parts of Serbia gathered in huge numbers, and
began the protest in front of the provincial Parliament of Vojvodina.
The provincial leadership, led by Milovan Šogorov,
Boško Krunić and
Živan Berisavljević, were caught by surprise. Before the event, they
tried to compromise 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 labelled as power-hungry "armchairers" (foteljaši) and
Vojvodina government then cut off power and water supply to
protesters, a move which enraged them further still, and caused even
more people from
Novi Sad and its vicinity to join. When power was
restored, they tried a different tactic: in order to cheer the
demonstrators up, they gave them bread and yogurt. However, thousands
of yogurt packages were soon thrown at the Parliament building by
angry protesters. That term "
Yogurt Revolution" for the protest was
named after that episode.
On October 6, the entire collective leadership of
and were soon replaced with Milošević's men of trust Nedeljko
Šipovac, Radovan Pankov and Radoman Božović. The Vojvodina
representative in the Central Committee of SKJ, Boško Krunić,
resigned and was replaced by Stanko Radmilović, while the President
of the Central Committee of the SKV, Milovan Šogorov, resigned and
was replaced by Bogosav Kovačević.
The rally in Belgrade, at
Ušće (the large field at confluence of
Sava River into Danube) was held on November 19, 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:
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.
Rallies and media were also similarly used in Montenegro with the
first rally in support of
Kosovo Serbs and
Kosovo Montenegrins taking
Titograd on 20 August 1988. The leadership of the
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 7
October 1988 when Montenegrin police intervened against protesters in
Žuta Greda demanding resignations from the Montenegrin leadership. In
order to deal with the situation the leadership proclaimed the state
of emergency. The state of emergency did not last long, as it was
taken as act of hostility towards Serbia by media outlets controlled
by Milošević as well as Milošević's supporters in Montenegro.
The second act started with joint rallies consisting of workers from
Radoje Dakić, a state-owned factory, and Veljko Vlahović University
students. On 10 January 1989, over 10,000 protesters gathered in
Titograd. The old leadership, confused and disorganised, soon
gave in; none of them later played a significant political role.
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.
Toppling of Kosovar leadership and reduction of autonomy
Azem Vllasi and Kaqusha Jashari, the two top-ranked Kosovo
politicians, were replaced in November 1988. The Albanian
Kosovo grew restless, and in February 1989 they engaged
in a general strike, particularly manifesting itself in the 1989
Kosovo miners' strike. Meanwhile, on February 28, another major rally
was held in Belgrade, where the chants "We want weapons" and "Arrest
Vllasi" were heard, and three days later, Vllasi was indeed placed
In early 1989, the
Parliament of Serbia
Parliament of Serbia had proposed constitutional
amendments that would have significantly reduced SAP Kosovo's
autonomous status within SR Serbia.
Kosovo Albanians organized
large demonstrations against these moves, but in March 1989,
preceding a final push for the ratification of constitutional changes
in the Assembly of Kosovo, the Yugoslav police rounded up around 240
Kosovo Albanians, apparently selected based on their
anti-ratification sentiment, and detained them with complete disregard
for due process.
Albanian representatives in the Parliament of
Kosovo boycotted the
vote on the matter on March 23, 1989, but regardless of the failure of
the motion to meet the required two-thirds majority, it was declared
to have passed. On March 28, the Serbian parliament approved the
The largest rally of all was held at
Gazimestan on 28 June 1989,
gathering two million according to Politika.
When a "Rally of Truth" (Slovene: Miting resnice) was attempted in
Ljubljana, SR Slovenia in December 1989, in an action named Action
North Slovene police forces prevented it with the help of Croatian
police forces. This action can be considered the first Slovenian
defense action against the attacks of the supporters of Milošević,
leading to Slovenian independence. The members of Slovene
police forces who participated later organized their own veteran
The anti-bureaucratic revolution affected the balance of power in the
Presidency of Yugoslavia. Serbia's
Borisav Jović (at the time the
President of the Presidency), Montenegro's Nenad Bućin, Vojvodina's
Jugoslav Kostić and Kosovo's Riza Sapunxhiu, started to form a voting
bloc. The reduction of provincial autonomy, but not the complete
abolishment of provincial status, was seen as intentional, as
Milošević needed the extra provincial votes to gain influence in the
In August 1990 the
Croatian Parliament replaced its representative
Stipe Šuvar with
Stjepan Mesić in the wake of the Log
Revolution, but Mesić was only seated in October 1990 because of
protests from the Serbian side. From then on, Mesić joined
Macedonia's Vasil Tupurkovski, Slovenia's
Janez Drnovšek and Bosnia
Bogić Bogićević in opposing the demands to
proclaim a general state of emergency, which would have allowed the
Yugoslav People's Army
Yugoslav People's Army to impose martial law in March 1991. When
Sapunxhiu 'defected' his faction in the final vote, Jović briefly
resigned and returned, Bućin was replaced with Branko Kostić, and
Sapunxhiu with Sejdo Bajramović, effectively deadlocking the
Presidency. Soon the country descended into the Yugoslav Wars.
Serbia in the Yugoslav Wars
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