GRACANICA, Kosovo (Reuters) - Twelve years after he died during his trial for war crimes, Slobodan Milosevic, the one-time Serbian strongman, divided his audience again, this time as a character in a musical that made its debut on Tuesday.
“The Lift - The Slobodan Show,” written by Belgrade-based writer Jelena Bogavac, focuses more on Milosevic’s personal relationship with his powerful wife Mirjana, his daughter Marija and his son Marko than on the politics that made him infamous.
Milosevic rode a wave of nationalism to power in Belgrade in 1989 as communism was collapsing across eastern Europe. He then led Serbia through a decade of wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. Hailed by Serbian nationalists as their champion against Catholic Croats and Bosnian and Kosovar Albanian Muslims, Milosevic was seen as a brutal dictator by the West.
Around 200 Kosovo Serbs attended the show at a theatre in Gracanica, a Serb enclave just outside Kosovo’s capital Pristina. They expressed mixed feelings about it.
“There’s nothing there, it’s simply a great manipulation ... a political theatre which actually tricked us,” said Zivojin Rakocevic, a former journalist from Gracanica.
In one scene Milosevic comforts his daughter over the poor financial state of her radio station. In another he tells Marko not to overheat the water in the family swimming pool.
Milosevic lost power after a NATO bombing campaign in 1999 and popular unrest in October 2000.
The play ends with his war crimes trial in the Hague, where he died of a heart attack in 2006.
“I’m delighted ... the point of the whole show is in one sentence, when a young man says ‘Sloba (Milosevic) didn’t get under my skin’,” said Viktorija Zivkovic, who works in a local school.
“We tried to show through their personalities what happened both in Kosovo ... and in Serbia of the 1990s,” Belgrade-based actress Tamara Tomanovic said.
The play frustrated ethnic Albanians who form the majority in Kosovo, which declared independence from Belgrade in 2008 in a move still not recognised by Serbia and Kosovo Serbs.
An estimated 800,000 ethnic Albanians were displaced and about 10,000 killed by Milosevic’s forces in the brutal 1998-99 counter-insurgency war.
Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Toni Reinhold