Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Arkan's Montenegro Link

Could Arkan's ties with Montenegro - including his support for the republic's president - provide a motive for the warlord's murder?
By Milka Tadic

The killing of Zeljko ("Arkan") Raznatovic in Belgrade January 15 has attracted considerable coverage in the Montenegran state and independent media.


Television Montenegro, loyal to Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, dedicated its opening minutes the next morning to Arkan's violent end. This is in striking contrast to the Yugoslav media controlled by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, which has ascribed no special significance to the slaying.


But the Montenegrin media have completely sidestepped speculation voiced in some foreign reports that Arkan's close links with Djukanovic could provide a possible motive for the shootings.


Commenting on these foreign reports Djukanovic adviser Miodrag Vukovic stated: "This is not about close links, but about a journalistic desire for sensationalism."


Yet the links were undeniably close. Arkan's father was a reputable Montenegrin, a partisan and a senior officer in the Yugoslav People's Army. Although Arkan himself was not born in Montenegro and never actually lived there, his ties with the area were very much alive. He was a role model for many Montenegrin "tough guys" in the 1970s and 1980s, and was involved in criminal activity in the small republic.


During the wars in Croatia and Bosnia, Arkan often visited Montenegro and was an open ally to Milosevic's supporters. Latterly he became a supporter and "protector" to Bishop Amfilohije, head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.


In the early 1990s, Amfilohije faced protests from the democratic and anti-war opposition in Cetinje, his seat and the ancient capital of Montenegro. The protestors objected to the militant and nationalist policy of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, a policy openly promoted by Amfilohije. Arkan and his notorious paramilitary group, the Tigers, appeared at the Cetinje monastery to protect the bishop.


In 1997, however, Arkan surprised many people when he backed Milosevic's opponent, Djukanovic, for the presidency in Montenegro. This support for Djukanovic was the first clear indication that Arkan was slipping from the control of the Belgrade regime.


Over the last two years, as the verbal war between Belgrade and Podgorica escalated, Arkan declined to comment on the increasingly sensitive issue of Montenegrin-Serbian relations. Although always keen to stress his loyalty to "Serbdom", Arkan was also proud of his Montenegrin origins. He did not hide his support for Djukanovic's intention to bring Montenegro closer to Europe.


Despite Djukanovic's pledge to co-operate with the tribunal in The Hague, the indicted Arkan visited and stayed in Montenegro without problems. His last visit to Podgorica was in early December 1999, when his soccer club Obilic played the Podgorica team Buducnost. During that visit, Arkan walked the streets freely and stayed in the capital's most famous hotel, the Montenegro - a favourite among the Montenegrin ruling elite.


Novak Kilibarda, leader of the People's Party and a member of the government, said of Arkan's killing: "This is a South American syndrome. Yet unresolved murders and state terrorism are in the past for South America, but are the present and future for Serbia."


Ultimately, Montenegrins are fearful that the "state terrorism" Kilibarda was alleging could spill over from Serbia directly into Montenegro, home to many of Belgrade's opponents and potentially embarrassing witnesses to the regime's numerous crimes.


Milka Tadic is editor of Monitor in Podgorica.


More IWPR's Global Voices

Why Did Cuba Jail This Journalist?
Rights defenders say that unusually harsh punishment reflects wider troubles for Havana regime.
Under A Watchful Eye: Cyber Surveillance in Cuba
Cuba's Less Than Beautiful Game