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Institutions at Bay in Serbia

Project facts

  • Funder: Ministry of Foreign Affairs: MATRA
  • Partner(s): YUCOM
  • Project period: August 2008 – January 2012
  • For information mail to: office@nhc.nl

The transformation of Serbia into a peaceful, pluralist and democratic society is an ongoing process, of which the acknowledgement and critical examination of its recent past is an important aspect. The heritage of the Milošević-regime is still influential in active politics in Serbia, and a broad, unbiased and qualified public debate on the roots, mechanisms, and consequences of the Milošević system has not taken place yet. Instead, most of the discussion on this period has focused solely on the wars of the 1990s and their consequences on the parties involved. Although Serbia’s responsibility for these wars has been discussed in the process, it is also important to examine the inner mechanisms of the political and social environment of the period. The Netherlands has been involved in many projects in Serbia over the past years, supporting access to information and an open debate as a way to transform Serbian political culture. The NHC’s involvement with this issue can be seen as part of this focus.

This project was set up by the NHC and its initial partner YUCOM, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, to contribute to a greater historical awareness and reflection on the Milosevic period. The project was designed to document the Milosevic Regime (1987 to 2000) and its central actors and disseminate this knowledge publicly, so that it can function as a historical resource to support an informed public debate. The central activity of the project was writing and publishing a book with information on people who had held high positions in the period from 1987 to 2000. It further involved spreading awareness by holding public events and by making the information available in a database on the internet. This online resource developed into the most important part of the project. The project was initially planned to finish mid 2011, but it was extended with six months after the unfortunate death of Biljana Kovačević Vučo, who had co-designed the project and led the local project implementation team. The book has been dedicated to her. The project was continued after her death in cooperation with the Fond Biljana Kovačević-Vučo, which is named after her.

The book, with the final title Institutions Abused: Who Was Who in Serbia 1987-2000, was published in June 2011. Two thousand copies of the Serbian language edition and one thousand copies of the English edition have been printed. The final edit of the book contains the profiles of 1407 persons. It includes a note on the methodology, a directory of profiles of the nomenclature from 1987 to 2000, a chronology of important events that shaped the research, and a list of institutions that, effectively, made up the institutional apparatus of the Milošević regime.

The database was made available online to enable further use of the data by interested parties, such as academics, students, civil society and the international community. The importance of this web portal increased during the project and it is now considered at least as important as the book. The online resource consists of a highly accurate and fully evidenced database of information about 1600 of the key members of the Milošević regime, published into the public domain. Efforts to sustain the project’s achievements will be pursued through the establishment of an ongoing documentation and publication process, based online.