- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 6, 2004

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro — They led an uprising that toppled Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, and last year they played a major role in ousting another autocrat in Georgia.

The group of youthful Serbs is offering advice on how to carry out peaceful revolutions, and their latest clients are people trying to shake off oppression in Ukraine and Belarus.

“We knew there would be work for us after Milosevic,” said Danijela Nenadic, a program coordinator of the Belgrade-based Center for Nonviolent Resistance.

The nongovernmental group emerged from Otpor, the pro-democracy movement that helped sweep Mr. Milosevic from power by organizing massive and colorful protests that drew crowds who never previously had the courage to oppose the former Yugoslav president.

Otpor, which means “resistance” in Serbian, knows the price of struggling for its beliefs.

More than any other group, Otpor activists took the brunt of the Milosevic regime’s repression in the pro-democracy movement that led to his ouster in the popular revolt of October 2000.

About 9,600 Otpor activists were arrested by police during the massive uprising. Many of them were beaten.

Otpor’s symbol — a clenched fist on a white or black flag — appeared on buildings, signs and shop windows everywhere in Serbia. Though it had thousands of members, Otpor’s strength was in its reach: The loose-knit organization had chapters even in the tiniest villages around the country.

Otpor gained attention with colorful publicity stunts intended to make ordinary people reconsider longtime political beliefs. It inspired optimism in a nation almost without hope for its future.

The group, which once erected a giant cardboard telescope in Belgrade to let people watch a falling star dubbed “Slobotea,” and offered people a chance to punch a Milosevic effigy for a penny, says it has “well-trained” followers in Ukraine and Belarus.

“Our goal is nonviolent action,” said Sinisa Sikman, one of the group’s activists who was involved in training protest leaders in Georgia, Ukraine and Belarus.

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