navigation bar Houghton Mifflin History-Social Science United States History: Early Years
Primary Sources

Power to the People

For many years, the people of the former Eastern European nation of Yugoslavia suffered under the rule of Slobadan Milosevic (mee LOH si vich).

On September 24, 2000, it appeared that the country would finally get some relief when Milosevic lost in a national election to Vojislav Kostunica (VOY i slahv kosh TOO neet suh). But Milosevic refused to step down. Naturally, Yugoslavia's citizens were extremely angry.

Ten days after the election, about 7,500 miners working at the Kolubara coal mine in Yugoslavia protested by dropping their picks and shovels and refusing to work.

The miners knew that their strike would have a powerful impact. The coal that is mined at Kolubara powered Yugoslovia's largest electric plant. Milosevic ordered hundreds of troops to arrest the leaders of the strike and reopen the mine.

The striking workers called for help on their cell phones and radios. About 20,000 supporters marched toward the Kolubara mine to stop Milosevic's troops. When these supporters arrived, the troops retreated.

“After ten years of dictatorship, our stomachs were empty and our spirits were ready,” said miner Aleksandar Karic.

Victory! Victory!

The protest spread to other cities, including the capital, Belgrade. Thousands of farmers, factory workers, and students marched to the parliament (congressional) building.

The angry protesters took over the state-run television station. Soon many police officers and soldiers joined the protesters, forcing Milosevic to finally resign. On October 7, 2000, the winner of the September election, Kostunica, became Yugoslavia's new president.

“Victory! Victory!” shouted the protesters.

“A Great Moment for Our Country”

Why were the people of Yugoslavia happy?

For 13 years, Milosevic made life extremely difficult for the people living in that region. To end the suffering, the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization stopped trading with Yugoslavia. Milosevic clung to power until the people threw him out of office.

“This is a great moment for our country,” said Kostunica. “After all the suffering, this may bring us peace.”

Rebuilding a Nation

When Kostunica became Yugoslavia's president, he was forced to deal with many problems. After years of war, the nation's economy was struggling. Many sections of the country wanted to break away from Yugoslavia and form their own countries.

In 2003, Yugoslavia became a loose federation known as Serbia and Montenegro. The two nations cooperate in some areas, such as national defense. However, they use different kinds of money and have different leaders. Kostunica serves as the prime minister of Serbia, while Montenegro is governed by its own prime minister.

Although progress has been made since Milosevic's rule, Serbia and Montenegro are still recovering from those dark days. Even so, the people of those nations will not forget that the revolution began at the Kolubara mine.