Slobodan Milosevic was born on August 20, 1941 in Pozarevac, Yugoslavia. When he was in high school, his father shot himself, and his mother would follow a decade later by hanging herself. After high school, he studied to become a priest, but was never ordained and took on a new direction.
He married a woman named Mirjana Markovic, with whom he had a son and a daughter. In 1959, he decided to join the Communist Party and enrolled at the Belgrade University, majoring in law. While he was there, he met a fellow communist named Ivan Stambolic, who would serve as his mentor over the years.
After graduating in 1964, he was appointed deputy CEO of Tehnogas, serving under Stambolic, who was the CEO. In 1973, Stambolic left the company to become the leader of the Serbian Communist Party and Milosevic was promoted to the position of CEO. In 1978, he switched to a different company and served as the chairman of the Belgrade Bank.
In 1983, Milosevic decided to abandon the corporate world and pursue his true interest, politics. After campaigning, he was elected president of the Belgrade branch of the Serbian Communist Party in April 1984. As leader of the party, he took a very public and active stance towards politics. When the schools debated removing classes about Marxism, Milosevic protested and helped ensure that it was retained as a subject. He also criticized the Serbian youth for failing to participate in communist party events, calling their absence a disgrace.
Milosevic's outspoken nature made him a celebrity throughout the 1980s and gained him much support from the Serbian public. In 1987, his friend Stambolic became President of Serbia and he supported Milosevic as his replacement as President of the Serbian Communist Party. With Stambolic's help, Milosevic was chosen to succeed him, much to the chagrin of his opponents in the party.
Following Milosevic's placement at the head of the party, he was replaced in the Belgrade branch by Dragisa Pavlovic, who publicly opposed Milosevic's policies. A dispute quickly erupted between the two and Milosevic had Pavlovic deposed from the party. Stambolic was embarrassed by the incident since he had spoken against Milosevic and decided to resign from the Serbian presidency in February of 1988.
At that time, there were ethnic tensions within Yugoslavia. Milosevic organized public demonstrations that convinced the leaders of the cities of Vojvodina, Montenegro, and Kosovo to resign. The move caused Albanians to revolt and Milosevic ordered the leader of the the Albanians to be arrested.
In 1989, he was elected president of Yugoslavia and he continued to oppose the Albanian resistance to his rule. On March 28, 1989, he led the communist party in amending the constitution to give Yugoslavia's provinces less power of autonomy. In January of 1990, the party further reformed the constitution to give the majority party, the Serbs, more power and all of the minority delegates left in protest.
In July of 1990, the constitution was totally replaced with a new one that dictated that presidents would be elected directly, rather than by the majority party. In the first elections in December of 1990, Milosevic received 80.5% of the vote, partially because most Albanians boycotted the election in protest.
In June of 1991, Yugoslavia was torn apart when the provinces of Slovenia and Croatia seceded from it. Later that year Macedonia seceded and in 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina seceded as well. However, the large Serbian populations in these provinces did not support the move and organized armies. Soon, war had broken out in Yugoslavia, pitting ethnicities against each other. The war in Bosnia did not end until 1995, when Milosevic proposed the Dayton Agreement for peace.
On July 23, 1997, Milosevic became president of the Yugoslav Federation, which then consisted of only Serbia and Montenegro. Unfortunately, war broke out yet again with Bosnia and NATO began bombarding the Yugoslav Federation for several months in 1999 until Milosevic directed his forces to leave the province of Bosnia.
On May 27, 1999, Milosevic was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war in Kosovo. The United Nations demanded that he surrender himself to stand trial for these charges, but he remained in hiding in Yugoslavia. In the 2000 elections, he accepted defeat by opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica.
On March 31, 2001, Milosevic surrendered himself to the United Nations and he was brought to the Hague to stand trial before the tribunal. He was indicted on additional charges of genocide and war crimes before the trial and on January 30, 2002 he declared that the tribunal was conducting an evil and hostile attack against him.
The trial began on February 12, 2002 and Milosevic began defending himself with the support of numerous lawyers. During the trial, he began to become something of a martyr for the Serbians, who declared that the trial was unjust. The prosecution required two years to present its case and the case gained international attention. After health problems and delays, the defense began in early 2004 with five high profile witnesses. The defense continued presenting its case until March 11, 2006, when Milosevic was found dead in his cell at the Hague.