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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In Milosevic's Hometown, Dissent Thrives

POZAREVAC, Serbia -- For weeks now, the Communist regime of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has focused its political hopes on the "real Serbia."


As depicted by state-run television, the real Serbia is populated almost exclusively by honest, hard-working citizens who support their government and have little patience with the demonstrations for democracy that have been snarling the streets of Belgrade for weeks.


If this almost-mythical state could be said to have a capital, then it is probably Pozarevac, a market town of 60,000 people in central Serbia that also happens to be the hometown of Milosevic and his politically influential wife, Mirjana Markovic.


Last month, Pozarevac was one of the towns where Milosevic supporters were rounded up and bused 50 miles to Belgrade on Dec. 24 to show their love for the president.


"Belgrade is an excited and disturbed city," said Vaslav Andjelkovic, a senior local official of Milosevic's Socialist Party who organized transportation for the counter-demonstration. "There are a lot of young hooligans there with no job, ready to do anything for a small amount of money. ... The real Serbia is the Serbia that showed up in Belgrade on Dec. 24."


But if it is true that there are two Serbias, it also is true there are two Pozarevaces.


Traditionally, the town has been a bedrock of support for the Milosevic government, the last surviving communist regime in Eastern Europe.


At the same time, however, Pozarevac has not been immune from the political upheavals sweeping the rest of the country.


An invitation to a reporter to come look for the "real Serbia" in the nearby village of Lucica, supposedly a Milosevic stronghold, quickly turned into an embarrassment for Andjelkovic.


Of the first six people stopped at random on the ice-covered main street, four attacked the government for "lies" and election fraud and expressed support for the opposition coalition known as Together.


"Change, any kind of change," urged Jovan Janjic, a prosperous-looking farmer out on his tractor. "The Communists have tried to pass the same tests for 50 years now and have always failed. Now they are trying to use violence."


"Many elderly people support Milosevic because they are scared. They think life can get even worse," said Dragan Jovanovic, the owner of a small shop. "But the young people are different. We want life to get better."


Zoran Jovanovic, a fruit juice producer, said he did not trust state-run Belgrade television.


"They never show the other side," he complained.


Instead, he said, he gets his news from the Voice of America, which broadcasts in Serbian.


Finally, a wizened 63-year-old peasant came down the road on a bicycle, carrying a bag full of yogurt and bread, for which he had traded his milk and eggs in Pozarevac.


Zivorad Jevremovic greeted Andjelkovic warmly, explaining that he had gone to Belgrade to join the pro-Milosevic rally.


"Of course I voted for Slobo. He is our boy," he said. "Everything we have, we owe to him. I do not need anything more. I get my salary from the agricultural cooperative. My wife gets her pension. We have enough to live on."


The anti-Milosevic sentiment that has swept Belgrade erupted after opposition electoral victories Nov. 17 were disallowed by the government. But here in Pozarevec, pro-Milosevic parties won the Nov. 17 election with some 60 percent of the vote.


Many of the votes appeared to have come from people like Jevremovic, who think that the Socialist Party is somehow "looking after" them.