Best seller on Serbia's 'royal couple' explains why they are hated, feared Milosevic portrayed as power-obsessed, his wife as vengeful

February 08, 1997|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- The hot best seller in Serbia these days is not a manual on how to get a man or the story of a celebrity trial.

At bookstores not owned by the government, and especially at street-corner kiosks, the book that has captured the attention of Serbs is a new expose on the ruling couple -- President Slobodan Milosevic and his influential, reviled wife, Mirjana Markovic.

The pair is so secretive, and so all-powerful, that any details on how they live and govern fascinate a country in turmoil over demands for political change and an end to one-man rule.

Milosevic and Markovic have been the focal point of more than two months of street demonstrations triggered by election fraud and sustained by hope for the introduction of some democracy in a land that has known little.

Already the subject of endless speculation and gossip, the "royal couple" (as critics call them) are now the subject of a 304-page book by respected former journalist Slavoljub Djukic, who has written two earlier biographies of Milosevic.

Djukic's new work, "He, She and Us," contains few earthshaking revelations but confirms many of the suspicions people harbor about Milosevic and Markovic and their unusually close relationship.

It also offers insights about how the Serbian president is responding to the most serious challenge to his power, a crisis Milosevic finally moved to resolve this week by saying he would recognize opposition victories in Nov. 17's municipal elections.

'Will rule forever'

"He believes he will rule forever," Djukic writes. "He doesn't even consider the possibility of stepping down or losing elections. Those kinds of conversations make him very nervous."

The author recounts a conversation in which a friend of Milosevic reminds him, gently, that his term as president of Serbia expires at the end of 1997 but that he should consider the presidency of Yugoslavia, which would give him another seven years in power.

"Who is he to count my years!" Milosevic angrily responded to the suggestion. "I will rule as long as I want."

Milosevic is made nervous by crowds in the streets, Djukic says; he fears out-of-control crowds more than a coup d'etat or a challenge by organized political parties.

Djukic apparently based his research on several people, none named, who are close to Milosevic and, to a lesser extent, Markovic.

Djukic found the Serbian first lady, who he said considers herself a "rare intellectual," to be a more difficult character to analyze. Milosevic confides almost exclusively in his wife and receives many important pieces of information through her filter, Djukic writes.

'He creates disorder'

"Normal circumstances paralyze him," Djukic writes. "He creates disorder and manages to convince people only he can resolve it. He is both the pyromaniac and the fireman."

Djukic describes Markovic as spoiled, troubled and consumed with revenge, in contrast to Milosevic, who keeps people around while they are useful, then discards -- but never destroys -- them.

While Markovic thrives on publicity, Djukic says, Milosevic is uncomfortable in the spotlight, shuns public appearances and avoids crowds. He also becomes nervous if anyone takes notes in a private meeting.

Markovic decorates her office with pictures of Lenin and former Yugoslav leader Tito, Djukic reports, while Milosevic has only a picture of his wife. Cold and cunning, Milosevic practically turns to putty in the presence of his "baby, his little chubby one," Djukic says.

Pub Date: 2/08/97

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