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Saturday, 13 January, 2001, 13:05 GMT
Mira Markovic: Power behind Milosevic
The presidential couple at the polling booth
The couple share a tragic history
Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic's wife Mira Markovic has long been his most trusted and influential adviser.

In recent years he increasingly adopted his wife's stridently anti-Western policies and terminology.


Over the last decade his real influence has decreased and Mira's influence has increased

Dusan Mitevic

The pair have been been married for 35 years and while she owed her political influence to being his closest confidante, she also has her own power base, the neo-communist Yugoslav United Left.

The power of her United Left party was out of proportion to its electoral support
Her influence grew so much that many Serbs compared the couple to the late Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu and his powerful wife, Elena who were overthrown in the revolution of 1989.

They are known to friends and foes alike as Sloba and Mira, the diminutives of Slobodan and Mirjana. Their names translate roughly as Freedom and Peace.

The couple met as teenagers in secondary school in 1958. Friends recall how the couple became entwined:. "At school they were never apart, they always held hands" remembers Seska Stanojlovic, a fellow pupil.

Tragic youth

Tragedy was to afflict Milosevic's youth. An uncle who had regularly visited his home blew his brains out with a shotgun. When Sloba was 21, his estranged father who lived in Montenegro was to commit suicide in similar fashion. When Sloba was in his early thirties, his mother hanged herself from a light fitting in the family home.

The couple have been together since school days
Mira's youth is also stained in blood. Her mother was a Partisan fighter who was captured by the Nazis in 1942.

Under torture, she apparently gave away secrets. One account suggests that after her release, her own father - Mira's grandfather - ordered the execution of his daughter for treachery.

Nebojsa Covic, the Mayor of Belgrade from 1994-7, believes that Mira's past is part of her living nightmare today. "Mira has this central problem. She functions by trying to prove whether her mother betrayed the Partisans or not.

"I think she is imagining that she is Tito's successor and all of us are part of her inheritance with which she can do whatever she wants."

'Mira's in charge'

The former head of Belgrade TV, Dusan Mitevic was a close companion of the family for nearly 20 years. "Mira has become a great leader. Over the last decade his real influence has decreased and Mira's influence has increased," he says.

According to Mitevic, when it comes to the "main political and personnel questions, she's in charge".

The remarkable thing about her role when first lady of Yugoslavia was her propensity to burst into tears while discussing affairs of state. Mitevic is convinced Mira is unstable.

"She draws into herself, becomes passive but harbours great aggression" he says. He describes her as "a drawing room Communist", an ideologue whose mind is "far from reality".


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