Otpor Barrel Action Favorite 



May 1 2000



The Milosevic regime ruled over Serbia and Yugoslavia for about 13 years. To maintain control, the Milosevic regime was infamous for arbitrary arrests, beatings, imprisonment and even murder of avid opponents.

In 2000, before the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, a government initiative to support agriculture involved placing boxes in shops and public places asking people to donate one dinar (Serbian currency) for sowing and planting crops. In response, Otpor! arranged its own collection called “Dinar za Smenu” (Dinar for a Change). This initiative was implemented several times and in different places in Serbia. It consisted of a big barrel with a photo of Milosevic. People could donate one dinar, and would then get a stick they could use to hit the barrel. At one point, a sign suggested that if people did not have any money because of Milosevic’s politics, they should hit the barrel twice.

When the police removed the barrel, Otpor! stated in a press release that the police had arrested the barrel. They claimed that the initiative was a huge success as they had collected enough money for Milosevic’s retirement, and that the police would pass the money on to him.

In this way, Otpor! left both Milosevic and his supporters with no space for reaction. If the police did not take away the barrel, they would be seen as weak and ineffectual. And even when they did remove it, Otpor! continued to make jokes. No matter what the regime did, it lost.

Through their use of satire, Otpor! was able to remove fear from those who opposed Milosevic’s government. Moreover, they were effective in uniting the oppositional forces and effectively applying nonviolent means of resistance. The use of satire enabled Otpor! to expose and mock the government in its activities. This was a piece of a larger movement that eventually empowered the citizenship to overturn Milosevic, despite mass beatings and arrests.

“Humor is the first step to break taboos and fears. Making people laugh about dangerous stuff like dictatorship, repression, censorship is a first weapon against those fears…without beating fear you can not make any change. So humor is very effective.” – Sami Gharbia of Global Voices online

Posted by crux on

Staff rating: 

While there's no way to measure this particular action's effectiveness, it was one of the many, many ways that Otpor activists ridiculed Milosevic publicly. It's a fantastic case study, too, so it definitely serves a teaching lesson beyond its immediate campaign goals....

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