Vuk Drašković (Serbian: Вук Драшковић) (born 29 November 1946 in the village of Međa, Žitište municipality, Serbia, FPR Yugoslavia), leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, is a Serbian politician who served as the Deputy Prime Minister of Yugoslavia and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia.
He graduated from the University of Belgrade’s Law School in 1968. From 1969 to 1980 he worked as a journalist in the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug. He was also a member of the Yugoslav Communist Party and worked as the chief of staff of the Yugoslav President Mika Špiljak. Drašković also wrote several novels.
Early life and career
Born in a small Banat region village to a family of settlers from Herzegovina, Vuk was only six months old when his mother Stoja died. His father Vidak quickly remarried and eventually had two more sons – Rodoljub and Dragan, and three daughters – Radmila, Tanja, Ljiljana with his new bride Dara Drašković, meaning that young Vuk grew up with five half-siblings.
Shortly after Vuk’s birth, the entire family went back to Herzegovina where he finished primary school in the village of Slivlje, before secondary school studies in Gacko. On his father’s insistence Drašković considered studying medicine in Sarajevo; however, the city was too “uptight and cramped” for his liking, so he went to study law in Belgrade instead.
Between 1969 and 1978, Drašković dabbled in journalism. He first worked for the state newsagency Tanjug as its African correspondent, before taking a job as press advisor in the Yugoslav Workers Union Council. During the same period his novels The Judge and Knife were published, raising quite a controversy among Yugoslav ruling communist elites. Soon afterwards, due to popular demand, Prayer and Russian Consul were published as well.
Because of his controversial literary engagement, Drašković was considered somewhat of a dissident even though he had been a member of the Yugoslav Communist Party since his 4th year of university studies.
Career in politics
Together with Mirko Jović and Vojislav Šešelj, Drašković founded the Serbian National Renewal party (SNO) in 1989. However, the trio soon found themselves at political crossroads and their party disintegrated in three pieces.
Drašković’s relationship with Šešelj is particularly interesting. Despite sharing Herzegovina roots as well as the godfather personal relation, the two quickly became bitter foes and fierce political opponents.
In 1990, Drašković founded the Serbian Renewal Movement (Srpski Pokret Obnove, SPO), a democratic nationalist party. They participated in the first post-communist democratic elections, held on 9 December 1990, but finished a distant second amidst the total blackout from the pro-Milošević state media. Following that failure Drašković kept the pressure on Serbian President Slobodan Milošević via street protests, organizing mass demonstrations in Belgrade on 9 March 1991. The police intervened, and clashed with demonstrators with some damage to public buildings resulting in the Yugoslav People’s Army having to be brought in.Franjo Tuđman, then President of Croatia, publicly stated after the 9 March 1991 riots that Drašković had phoned his government in order to “seek help in toppling the current Serbian regime” , which Milošević and his party members used aggressively and frequently to whip up public sentiment against Drašković. However, many in Serbia felt that this was an indication of a subtle but growing symbiosis between two totalitarian leaders in both republics.
Drašković fostered strong nationalist feelings (attempting rehabilitation of Serbian Chetniks, Kingdom of Yugoslavia’s legal army during WWII) to complement his pro-Western tendencies. His additional political engagement at this early stage of his political career is full of inconsistencies and seemingly diametrically opposing views and actions. He insisted that Serbian government should promote radical democratic shift, renew traditional alliances with Western nations as a way to preserve some form of Yugoslav confederation rather than pursue direct confrontation with the Croats. On the other hand, he and his party SPO organized a paramilitary unit called the Serbian Guard led by known criminals such as Đorđe “Giška” Božović and Branislav “Beli” Matić all of whom later fought in Croatia. And although Drašković initially claimed this militia was an incitement to Serbian authorities to form a national armed force outside of Yugoslav People’s Army (see last quote), he eventually distanced himself from the paramilitary formation altogether.
His rather emotional and poetic rhetoric also often brought accusations of extremism and hardline nationalism. There is a contentious quote from his speech at SPO rally in Novi Pazar during the summer of 1990, in which Drašković said: “Those who, on Serbian land, lift any flag other than a Serbian one, whether it’s a Muslim, Albanian, or Croat flag, will be left without the flag and without the hand”. Many took such usage of vividly poetic medieval imagery to be very threatening and menacing, especially considering the fact it was delivered in a town with a large Bosniak population. Drašković’s supporters, however claim he was merely pointing out Serbia would not tolerate separatism and partition of its territory. They also say this particular quote should not be viewed outside of context of his entire speech that day, which they say was very much calling for traditional tolerance and peace between Orthodox Serbs and Muslims living in the Sandžak region.
Drašković’s anti-war views came to the fore in mid to late 1991, particularly in November of that year when he wrote a passionate accusation of the Serbian bloody assault on Vukovar in a Serbian daily Borba. But also in the same period he espoused many nationalist, even bordering on extremist, views through interviews, soundbites and op-ed pieces.
In early 1992 he called on citizens of Bosnia to reject nationalism and was the first political figure in Serbia to openly point to crimes by Serb forces. Always in the thick of anti-Milošević struggle, Drašković and his wife Danica paid dearly for their activism. In 1993 they were arrested, savagely beaten and thrown into a high-security prison. Only his hunger strike, pressure from some opposition parties and the international community’s outrage forced the Serbian regime to set the Draškovićs free.
Mid to late 1990s
In 1996 SPO formed the opposition alliance Zajedno (“Together”) with the Democratic Party of Zoran Đinđić and the Civic Alliance of Serbia under Vesna Pešić, which achieved some success in the local elections of November same year. The coalition soon split up as Zoran Đinđić and Vesna Pešić reneged on the signed coalition document to support Drašković as a joint candidate in the subsequent Presidential elections. Drašković’s SPO participated on its own at the September 1997 election, boycotted by his former partners despite an array of local electronic media outlets being in opposition hands.
In January 1998, the SPO was asked to join a coalition with Milošević’s Socialist Party of Serbia as tension with US and NATO increased in order to use his influence in the West. In early 1999, Drašković became the deputy prime minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He did so in response to Milošević’s appeal for national unity in the face of Albanian uprising in Kosovo and a looming confrontation with NATO. He was sacked by the Prime Minister Momir Bulatović on 28 April 1999.
Unsuccessful attempts at assassinating Drašković took place on 3 October 1999 on the Ibar highway when four of his close associates were murdered, and on 15 June 2000 in Budva. As of 2006, Milorad Ulemek is on trial for this murder and those of Đinđić and Ivan Stambolić; Milošević was also being prosecuted for it until his death.
Drašković has had lukewarm relations with just about every figure of note on the Serbian political scene, with frequently alternating periods of vicious feuding and open cooperation. In what he himself later termed “a bad political move”, Drašković kept his SPO out of the wide anti-Milošević Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition that formed in 2000, meaning that his candidate in the 24 September 2000 federal presidential elections, Vojislav Mihailović, achieved little success and that SPO also was not successful in the subsequent parliamentary election where the DOS won overwhelmingly. Because of this, Drašković and his party were pretty much marginalized over the next three years.
In the fall of 2002, he attempted a comeback as one of the eleven candidates in the (subsequently unsuccessful due to low turnout) Serbian presidential elections. Despite a polished marketing campaign that saw Drašković change his personal appearance and tone down his fiery rhetoric, he ended up with only 4.5% of the total vote, well behind Vojislav Koštunica (31.2%) and Miroljub Labus (27.7%), both of whom moved on to the second-round runoff.
His next chance for political redemption came in late 2003. Fully aware of SPO’s, as well as his own, weak political standing after more than 3 years in political oblivion, Drašković entered his party into a pre-election coalition with New Serbia (NS), thus reuniting with old party colleague Velimir Ilić. Joining forces for the 2003 parliamentary election, they achieved limited success, but more importantly managed to get into the coalition that formed the minority government (along with DSS, G17 Plus), providing it with critical parliamentary seats to keep the far-right radicals (SRS) at bay. In the subsequent division of power, Drašković received the high-ranking position of Serbia and Montenegro’s foreign minister.
In response to Montenegro’s vote for independence, Drašković called for a restoration of Serbia’s monarchy: “This is an historic moment for Serbia itself, a beginning which would be based on the historically-proven and victorious pillars of the Serbian state and I am talking about the pillars of a kingdom.” After the breakup with Montenegro in June 2006, Drašković served (until May 2007) as the foreign minister of the Republic of Serbia, a successor to the state union of Serbia-Montenegro.
In August 2010, Vuk Drašković argued in favour of changing the Serbian Constitution of 2006 to remove references to Kosovo as a part of Serbia because according to him “Serbia has no national sovereignty over Kosovo whatsoever. All of Serbia knows that Kosovo is not really a province within Serbia, that it is completely beyond the control of the government and the state of Serbia”
Vuk and his wife, Danica, met in the 1960s as students at the University of Belgrade Faculty of Law, but she was reportedly unresponsive to his clumsy advances. They would run into each other again during 1968 student demonstrations, but this time it was politics that kept them apart. Danica reportedly did not appreciate Vuk’s soft stance and no-questions-asked acceptance of Tito’s supposed concessions to student demands for democratization. Finally on New Year’s Eve, 1974, they ran into each other at a supermarket and Danica invited him to a party at the apartment where she lived with her brother. “I forgot about my fiancée who waited for me to come back from grocery shopping and ended up playing chess the whole night with Danica’s brother Veselin Bošković”, Vuk would later admit.
Vuk and Danica (née Bošković) married on 10 June 1974, and according to those close to the couple, she became the most important figure in his life, both personally and professionally. She was by his side at all the street protests he later became famous for, and from the very beginning she wielded a lot of power in her husband’s political party, SPO. Danica hails from Montenegro, coming from Bijelo Polje.
He speaks English and Russian.