Early life and family
It is suggested that Niko was born in Yugoslavia and grew up in a small town in modern-day Serbia, close to his cousin, Roman Bellic. His father was an abusive alcoholic, whom Niko despised; his mother, Milica Bellic, was a long-suffering woman, unhappy that her son grew up in such a harsh place. In a conversation with Kate McReary, Niko says that he found his aunt (Roman's mother) raped and murdered some time after Roman's departure to the United States; knowing Roman would be even more devastated if he knew the true circumstances of his mother's death, Niko covered up what happened, telling him that she died in a house fire.
Niko grew up in the harsh environment of the Bosnian Wars, and became a soldier himself as a teenager. Niko witnessed and committed numerous atrocities during the war, which led to his cynical perspective on life, and a certain degree of regret, depression, and emotional detachment. During the war, his unit of fifteen men (most of them Niko's friends from his home town) was ambushed by enemy forces, and all but three were killed: Darko Brevic, Florian Cravic, and Niko himself. Niko concluded that either Florian or Darko had sold the group out, and he vowed to uncover and kill the culprit, not only to gain revenge, but also to hopefully 'close the book' on the incident, and move on with his life.
Work was hard to come by following the war. Niko's cousin, Roman, had already moved to America to start a new life in Liberty City; Niko spent the next decade working in the European criminal underworld, leading to a brief period of incarceratation. After being released from prison, he began working for a human trafficking ring led by Rodislav Bulgarin; when a boat involved in the operation sank in the Adriatic during a smuggling run into Italy, Niko swam to safety, but everything and everyone else was lost. Bulgarin believed that Niko had intentionally scuttled the ship and stole his money; the gangster's reach was too powerful in Europe, so Niko joined the merchant navy to escape his influence.
Life in Liberty City
Niko spent seven months with the cargo ship Platypus, which eventually headed for Liberty City. Niko parted ways with the Platypus crew there, partly to reunite with his cousin, and partly to track down Florian Cravic, who had moved to Liberty City after the war. Roman had been boasting of great success in Liberty City, but in truth his assets amounted to a small taxi depot and rundown apartment, and he was saddled with heavy debts due to his gambling habit. Niko would assist Roman in his taxi business, and protect his cousin from the loansharks who were harassing him. Roman's connections eventually led to Niko taking work with the Russian Mafia, setting in motion the events of the game.
Niko is very protective of his family and loved ones, particularly his cousin Roman, despite Roman's indiscreet nature frequently getting the pair into trouble. He is withdrawn among strangers, but has good manners, and shows a softer side with love interests like Kate McReary and Michelle; that said, the horrors of war, both witnessed and perpetrated by Niko, have given him a great sense of guilt, and an ambivalence about the value of human life — he warns away pursuers and expresses regret over his past violence, but also feels that killing is all that he can do, readily taking on jobs which necessarily involve murder. He has an explosive temper when he is lied to, manipulated, or his loyalty is questioned, but he is also quick to help the defenseless and unfortunate, even those he merely meets in passing; he apparently possesses a sense of idealism which was wounded by his wartime experiences. Unfortunately, such a split attitude leads to hypocrisy — Niko, for example, appears to genuinely sympathise with the McRearys' grief over the demise of one of their brothers, despite having secretly committed that murder himself.
Niko's bitterness at the murder of his friends during the war has consumed him, and he is unable to let it go, taking on several highly dangerous jobs merely to enable his quest for vengeance. He is urged by several of his friends, most notably Roman, to find a new reason to live, but it is only after Niko finally has the opportunity for revenge that the player may choose for him to take it, or let it go.
Niko's businesslike manner usually leads him to behave more maturely and cautiously than his acquaintances, although with acquaintances like Brucie Kibbutz, Bernie Crane and Roman, this is no surprise. He is a binge drinker, but has an apparent distaste for illicit drugs, turning down Little Jacob's offer of marijuana and warning against Packie's cocaine habit; he also finds it distasteful to traffick in cocaine and particularly heroin, although this may be due to the heavy jail sentences they attract as much as any moral qualms. He is skeptical of American mainstream culture, which he sees as shallow, hypocritical and debauched, and has trouble relating to Roman's fascination with the country.
Naming and language errors
The surname "Bellic" would not exist in either the Serbian or Croatian languages, as these do not allow consecutive consonants (ie, the double-L in "Bellic"); "Bellic" is also pronounced with a hard 'C' ("bel-lik") throughout the game -- a proper pronunciation would use a hard 'ch' (as used in-game with the names "Darko Brevic" and "Florian Cravic"). A more authentic rendering of Niko's surname would be Belić. At one point, Florian, speaking in his native Sebian, pronounces Belic correctly, suggesting that "Bellic" is an Anglicised version of his surname.
Niko's first name is distinctively Croatian, rather than Serbian -- the Serbian equivalent would be "Nikola", although "Niko" may also simply be short for such.
Niko's voice actor, Michael Hollick, is American, and the accent he assumed for Niko is not a Serbian one; Niko's spoken Serbian is frequently mispronounced or wrongly emphasized.
GTA IV: TLAD Mission Appearances
LCPD Database Information
- Surname: Bellic
- First Name: Niko
- Age: 30
- Place of Birth: Unknown
- Affiliations: Linked to Russian and West Indian Criminals in Broker
- Criminal Record: 2008 - Grand Theft Auto
- Recent immigrant to Liberty City from Eastern Europe
- Appears to be avoiding allegiance to one particular criminal organization