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Otpor's Legacy Of Resistance

Otpor activists in Belgrade in 2000
Otpor activists in Belgrade in 2000
This October saw the ten-year anniversary of the Yugoslavian opposition movement Otpor (Resistance), founded in 1998 with a few uncompromising goals: the removal of Slobodan Milosevic from power, internationally recognized elections, and the creation of a "Serbia worth living in."

The movement no longer exists, but it left a powerful legacy in its nonviolent -- and eventually successful -- struggle against a repressive regime.

Begun as a student movement that grew to include the wider public, Otpor was remarkable in the power it gathered at a grassroots level. “We were an informal social group with greater influence rather than all the [official] opposition parties together," said one Otpor founder, Srdja Popovic, today an advisor to Serbia's deputy prime minister. Supporters credit the movement with fundamentally changing Serbia, leading to the development of democratic elections and free and independent media.

With the overthrow of Milosevic in October 2000, Otpor's mission was essentially completed, and it began to lose momentum, failing to cross the vote threshold for inclusion in parliament in the 2003 elections. The call for Resistance had become irrelevant.

But the current generation of Serbian politicians -- and activists -- can still learn from Otpor's example, according to another former leader, Ivan Marovic. "They have reason to use all that experience in order to further promote change and reform in society," Marovic told RFE/RL. "We have managed to accomplish a certain level [of democratic reform], but one needs to go further and fix the situation in Serbia even more.”

And not only in Serbia. Otpor's nonviolent grassroots movement can be seen as a model for opponents of repressive regimes worldwide, and its symbol -- a raised fist -- continues to resonate.

-- RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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