Ever since Slobodan Milošević held his speech at Gazimestan on 28 June 1989, commemorating the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, it has been elevated by Milosevic’s enemies, the media and the ICTY Prosecution into one of the key moments in his political career. This is because of a glancing reference he made to battles which the Serbs faced: the Prosecution alleged that the speech was a disguised call to arms. These allegations of nationalism persisted even though throughout Milosevic’s decade-long political career, none of his very numerous enemies ever once managed to produce a single quotation from him which could be called “nationalistic.”
This is of course something Milošević himself brought up at his trial on occasions when he was accused of being a vicious nationalist. Testimonies at the trial from influential people such as Lord Owen, stating that Milošević was the only leader in the region who wanted peace, and who referred to him as being not a “nationalist” but “pragmatic”, prove that Milošević was not what he is still portrayed as. (Ironically enough, Lord Owen was called to stand witness by the Prosecution, but like in the case of many of the Prosecution witnesses its expectations backfired).
The speech, well it was in the style of this: “Serbia has never had only Serbs living in it. Today, more than in the past, members of other peoples and nationalities also live in it. This is not a disadvantage for Serbia. I am truly convinced that it is its advantage. National composition of almost all countries in the world today, particularly developed once, has also been changing in this direction. Citizens of different nationalities, religions, and races have been living together more and more frequently and more and more successfully.”