The names of the two men who came after him were known to Raznatovic. How could they not be; out of, say, 20-odd men in three Serbian-Montenegrin country who have the courage, artifice, reason, responsibility or stimulation to stand before him and shoot, Arkan knew every one of them by name. From the war, from business, from his native region, from some government office or from abroad. Whoever planned his liquidation knew that only a familiar face could approach him without his perfect instinct of self-preservation, which kept him alive for almost 50 years, kicking in.
With the departure of Raznatovic, the most well-known Serb on the planet - in addition to, of course, Milosevic - the introduction to the last, closing act of the Serb drama comes to an end. Namely, what all the analysts are missing, in their haste to guess the name of whoever gave the order or paid for the murder, are three things which make this more than yet another human sacrifice to a system which survives by producing death.
First, Arkan was killed while he was Number Two on the Serbian list of social power. After Milosevic, he was the only other person who could live according to his own rules. This was something that could not be achieved nor dared by prime ministers, chiefs of police or Army generals. There was not a person of high authority within the Serbian administration who did not avoid coming into conflict with him. He was enveloped by the myth of being the owner of a private army, a man who paid with his good favor for what others had to pay with money, who in business made offers which could not be refused - an old business formula going far back to Chicago, who did not take many prisoners in war and whose opponents during the so-called peace had the nasty habit of suddenly and without apparent reason succumbing to terminal illness.
Second, no one as completely, authentically and, in the end, as hopelessly, represented a portrait of the New Serbia, a hypnotized state and a people sacrificed in the bloody birth of the New Elite, as Arkan. His every metamorphosis during the last 15 years perfectly illustrates the aimless wandering of Serbia through the sewers of history and the garbage dumps of the modern world. He died in the same way, his death a herald of our collective fate.
When gambling was a deadly socialist sin, Arkan was a big-time gambler; when bank robberies became fashionable, he led a group which opened safes exclusively with guns; when Dolanc was selecting loyal and competent people to knock out enemies throughout Europe, Zeljko was, they say, included in the project; when Serbs and all things Serb became the vogue, this Yugoslav transformed into a passionate Serb, bought a uniform in a museum, was christened at a ripe old age and declared Patriarch Pavle his commander-in-chief; when the holy war for the defense of all the Serb lands began, he was there with his "Tigers", primarily a group of Zvezda [Red Star soccer club] soccer fans; when the "unmasking of Turkish renegades" became truly unfashionable, he disowned Karadzic, and with the aura of "a war hero and the fame of a Serb knight" dedicated himself to politics, founded a political party, easily got himself elected to parliament and spent a year or two there; when he saw that this was not bringing in any money, he went into business thus closing the circle of the holy trilogy of the formula for Serbian power: fortune, force and fear!
All through his transformations, so spectacular, dangerous and sudden in turnabouts that any other living being would have broken its neck, there is a common thread which leads analysts to conclude that until recently, the strings of his career were pulled from the specialized Service for the Supervision of Serbs. If this is correct, then that is the connection which the Hague was seeking in connecting Arkan with Milosevic.
Third, completely ignored, is the fact that Raznatovic, for the young generation of Serbs, represents the most desirable role model. While he was living, if you were to give ten young boys a list with ten famous Serb names on it (if we have that many), and add Arkan as the eleventh name and ask them to identify who they most wanted to be like when they grew up, seven of them would circle his name.
Life in the fast lane, life on the edge, wealth, private guards, a palace, jeeps, a beautiful and successful wife, numerous children, nice clothes, a soccer club, guns, casinos, business deals, oil, real estate, managers for players, guest spots on Pink television, cover stories, a sports center, a hotel, power, strength, fame, a war hero, a Serb patriot, a man who trampled Zvezda [Red Star] and Partizan soccer clubs, the fear which spreads around him - for kids this represents the Hollywood dream of a glamorous life which is worth any price.
If, in many ways, Arkan was the catalyst of a certain system but also its ultimate victim, his greatest form of revenge is the installation of himself and his model of living as an incurable virus, an example, into all generations of the last decade of the twentieth century and for as least as long into the New Age. Such a role model carries with it a certain moral code, rules of behavior and a system of values which have little in common with the traditional, middle-class, stable systems in effect in normal states. He is not survived by nine children but by two million adherents of a cult which will cause many of their lives to be enchanted, rich and short.
Was Raznatovic close to this regime? Yes, he was! I think that several people from the above mentioned Service believed that he was their product and that they were his true parents. How else would anyone be allowed to possess a fleet of 30-odd jeeps, to keep a private army of 50 people, to have bodyguards who carried, I assume, automatic weapons and to be able to guess with a precision bordering on prophecy the results of the first soccer league? But this theory of the cloned Arkan cannot be correct for all those who knew him.
While he was still a representative in the Serbian parliament, he had a steel safe installed in the window of his office in the Parliament because Slobo's office was across the street, and Zeljko didn't like Senta [Milosevic's personal bodyguard] watching him through the curtains. When conflict broke out with the Mountain People [the Montenegrins] Raznatovic on more than one occasion supported Milo [Djukanovic, current president of Montenegro]. When reprimanded because of this, seeking the compromise that no one touch his business while in return he would not get involved in Serbian-Montenegrin duels or form pacts with the opposition, he dissolved his party and sought security in complete withdrawal from politics. Those near him knew that he was unhappy because of the isolation of Serbia, the results in Kosovo, the collapse of industry and that his grumbling reached attentive ears. Then conflicts began in connection with deals, which previously had gone through incomparably more easily and without competition, to be followed by invitations to see the magistrates for - for someone of his stature and status - comical matters. In the end, everything ended with skillfully planted rumors that he would be extradited to the Hague as a part of a general trade agreement.
Then the opposite side countered with rumors of material submitted to the Hague and threats against lives of the Serbian leadership in case something were to happen to Zeljko. What am I trying to say? Arkan was killed a time when his relations with the Serbian regime could certainly not be called good. But at the same time this does not mean that from this fact one can conclusively determine the name of the person who gave the order. The method of assassination, the death of the State Security officer who was, they say, assigned to Arkan to reinforce his personal security force, the place of the assassination and, if it is true, the capture of one of the gunmen - do not suggest that the unraveling of the mystery is going to be simple.
However, that is a completely different topic; namely, the regime is not better if it does not do the killing itself but only creates a system where such and all other murders are normal, occur with regular frequency, with hidden murderers and judges from the shadows who proclaim but a single judgment. The important matter is that the death of Raznatovic marks the end of an era, the departure of the last mammoth from the days of Communism, and that this death is spreading fear throughout this state. We, I mean the Serbs, are simply the walking dead who accept everything that happens to us without resistance.
The question with which others will concern themselves - whether he was a war criminal or a war hero - is too simplistic for debate. He was both: for many Serbs, he was model of Serbiandom; for others, he was an exterminator and a murderer. Built in the altar of the New Serbia as its most encompassing fresco, his death, like all other deaths, has no message. His life story, however, is the story about us, him and that thing.