Desimir Tosic: Serb politician and commentator

Desimir Tosic was a Serb politician who lived in Britain between 1958 and 1990. At the end of Communist rule, he returned to Yugoslavia to help re-establish the Democratic Party (DS), of which he was one of the best-known members, as well as its vice-president for a while.

Leader of the DS youth section in the late 1930s, Tosic provided a rare link with the original Democratic Party of Ljuba Davidovic and Milan Grol. This might explain why he was tolerated by the new party leadership in the 1990s, in spite of his outspoken criticism of Serbian nationalism and of the influential Orthodox Church, and despite his not being part of the inner circle of the opposition leader, and later prime minister, Zoran Djindjic. Elected to the federal Yugoslav parliament in 1992, Tosic joined a breakaway group of the DS which stood on the sidelines from the mid-1990s, until it returned to the party fold in 2004.

As an émigré, Tosic was opposed to the Communist regime of Marshal Tito, but he was no ideological or vindictive anti-Communist. Unlike most Serb émigrés, he never advocated a return to the ancien régime and argued that Communists had genuine support in the country. In the 1970s, he wrote that when changes eventually took place, they should be carried out, initially at least, together with reformed Communists. This is indeed what happened across most of east-central Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but not in Serbia, where Slobodan Milosevic took control of the renamed ruling party.

Born in 1920 in Bela Palanka, southern Serbia, in what was then the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Tosic was the son of a civil servant. He moved to Belgrade in order to complete his education. The capital was politically highly polarised at the time, but Tosic joined the centrist Democrats. The Second World War and the German invasion interrupted his studies at Belgrade's Law Faculty.

During the war and the German occupation, Tosic supported General Mihailovic's resistance movement, as did many of his fellow Democrats. As a Mihailovic supporter, he was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and sent to work in Germany. He survived the war only to find himself a refugee in France. There he met his future wife Coral, with whom he settled, eventually, in her native Britain.

First from Paris and then London, Tosic gathered like-minded Serb refugees around a group that called itself Oslobodjenje – "Liberation". He edited the Nasa Rec ("Our Word") monthly between 1948 and 1990, with contributions from among others, the dissidents Milovan Djilas and Mihajlo Mihajlov, and academics including the historian Stevan Pavlowitch and the economist Ljubo Sirc. The group also published books, including the first Serbo-Croat edition of Milovan Djilas's Conversations with Stalin (1986). Tosic was the driving force of the organisation which spread itself across Western Europe, North America and Australia. Its activities were self-funded, as western institutions were careful not to antagonise Tito's regime.

Tosic was a believer in a democratic and federal Yugoslavia, as well as in a united Europe. He was an early member of Jean Monnet's European Movement and was also among the founders of the Democratic Alternative in 1963 – a group of pro-Yugoslav Bosniak, Croat, Serb and Slovene émigrés that called for the democratisation of Yugoslavia.

He returned there on the eve of its violent break-up and chose to remain in Serbia, where he became a distinguished voice against war and nationalism. Although advanced in years, he regularly published books and articles, gave interviews and took part in debates. His numerous writings offered fresh, non-nationalist perspectives on Serb-Croat relations, on the Second World War and on Yugoslav Communism. Tosic opposed Serb policies in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, but also spoke out against the 1999 Nato bombing of Serbia.

A Serb patriot who criticised Serbian nationalism, Tosic was an unconventional figure. He was a Christian and an Orthodox believer who publicly confronted the Serbian Church for promoting nationalism. Although formally a politician, he was an enlightened educator whose ideas often clashed with the party line, despite his overall loyalty to the DS.

His critical thinking, sharp words and warm smile will be missed – by family and friends but especially by Serbian society, still emerging from the traumas and upheavals of the past several decades.

Dejan Djokic

Desimir Tosic, politician and writer: born Bela Palanka, Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes 19 February 1920; married 1952 Coral Rust (two daughters); died Oxford 7 February 2008.

News
people

Arts and Entertainment
JJ Abrams' seventh Star Wars, The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of Episode VII has gone online after weeks of anticipation
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
art

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager -Healthcare Software-£70,000 OTE

£40000 - £60000 per annum + £60,000 OTE+Car+Mobile: h2 Recruit Ltd: Business D...

Cancer Research UK: Volunteer Area Manager Mentor/Coach

Voluntary : Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for volunteers who will use thei...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: National Commercial Manager - Buyer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This waste services provider is...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game