It is widely presumed that allusions to Nikolai Bellic's past place him as a Croatian or Serbian Army veteran who fought in the Bosnian War, albeit unclear to his exact birthplace in the former Yugoslavian states (though he is unquestionably Serbo-Croatian). Throughout his early adulthood in the midst of the war, Niko witnessed, and committed, unspeakable and traumatic acts of war. The most traumatic event that occurred during the war was when his close-knit unit was almost completely wiped out in an ambush. After a member of the squad had secretly passed along the unit's route to the enemy, they were caught at just the wrong moment to be attacked. Every member of the unit died save three, Niko and two others, one of whom had to be the traitor. After the conflict in Bosnia came to a difficult and bitter end, Niko was thrust into the post-war criminal underground, where he spent ten years seeking his two surviving squadmates in order to uncover and punish the traitor, hoping to close the brutal chapter of his life. After a brief imprisonment, Niko was released and again entered the criminal underworld, this time working for human trafficker, Rodislav Bulgarin.
Performing an illegal shipping run for Bulgarin while at sail in the Adriatic Sea, Niko had become the sole survivor of a shipwreck, sinking the vessel he had manned. Bulgarin, obviously suspicious, decided Niko had stolen the money off the ship, sunk it, and fled. Hiding at sea for seven months under the guise of the merchant navy, Niko finally decided to take up an offer from his wealthy cousin Roman Bellic, who lived an opulent life in Liberty City. Roman's descriptions of the high life and the possibility of uncovering the truth behind his wartime betrayal motivated the emigration, as well as a hint that both the men he'd been searching for had fled to America. With high hopes and a strong sense of vengeance, Niko sets sail for the land of opportunity.
Liberty City: The American Nightmare
Unfortunately for Niko, Roman's emails bragging of women, expensive cars, and luxurious mansions in Liberty City were completely misrepresented. Upon arrival, Niko finds his cousin living in squalor, buried in gambling debts, and continuously bullied by mobsters of varying backgrounds. Niko soon learns that he will be unable to atone for his violent past if he is to make a new life for he and his cousin, which will, seemingly, only be attainable through continued violence. Throughout his quest, Niko forges friendships with various denizens of Liberty City, such as the oft-incomprehensible Jamaican drug dealer Little Jacob, the over-the-top fitness "expert" and car thief Brucie Kibbutz, and Irish mobster Packie McReary; as well as a host of other characters who help, or hinder, Niko during his experience. (It should be noted that, despite only encountering each other on a select number of occasions, Niko and The Lost vice-president Johnny Klebitz's paths, unbeknownst to either of them, are inextricably intertwined, as detailed during the "The Lost & The Damned" campaign.) Though Niko struggles with his demons of the past, he manages to find some degree of resolve through some fairly difficult decisions along the way. Ultimately, his tragic tale prevails, as he is rewarded with the untimely murder of a loved one, leading Niko to a streak of rage, frustration, and a distant, fading image of the American Dream.
Niko Bellic’s personality is entirely dynamic and is vigorously controlled by his past experiences. Niko can be understood as a refugee, running away from the violence that has afflicted him as an adolescent in war time. In an effort to escape his old life as a soldier and assimilate into his new peaceful life in America with Roman, Niko unknowingly fuses a variety of morals together. On one hand, as revealed though a conversation with Ilyena Faustin, Niko believes that man is creature capable of terrible things and such creature can not have a soul. On the other hand, Niko has strong family ties and would go through absolutely any obstacle to protect this bond.
Niko’s actions reflect on the contradiction of his morals. In the earlier stages of the game, Niko can be heard criticizing people for being a loan shark and mercilessly killing but later on throughout the game he is guilty of his own allegations. But despite being a highly wanted criminal and murderer in Liberty City, Niko reveals his true thoughts and feelings in cut scenes with some of the major characters. And despite flip flopping on some of his morals, Niko remained staunch on not taking drugs when offered to him. At the core, Niko is a caring and compassionate character who does the only thing he is good at for the benefit of his cousin and of his family.
- "A bullet in the head is as natural as it gets in this city."
- "I think you better look at a map, Playboy. Dubai isn't in Africa."
- [when drunk and hailing a cab] "Yellow car!"
- "Capitalism is a dirty business."
- "We are all looking for that special someone."
- "After you walk into a village and you see 50 children, all sitting neatly in a row, against a church wall, each with their throats cut and their hands chopped off, you realize that the creature that could do this doesn't have a soul."
- "Yes. And for an annoying dick... you're really an annoying dick."
- "I have nothing to lose."
- "I always need more money."
- "All I see in Liberty City is fat people and fake titties."
- "My hands are already dirty, my presence in city is to make them dirtier."
- "I just feel empty."
- [when getting a lap dance from two ladies in the strip club] "I am a lucky man to be the meat in this sandwich."
- [when killing someone] "You're pathetic!"
- [when getting hurt] "Not fucking funny!"
- "You fucking bitch."
- "So this, is what the dream feels like. This is the victory we long for."
- "You should not have fucked with me."
- "During the war, I did some bad things, and bad things happened to us."
- "War is where the young and stupid are tricked by the bitter and old into killing each other."
- Niko's voice is that of Michael Hollick, who was paid about $100,000 over the course of 15 months from 2006-2008.
- Niko's character might have been based off Sasha from the film Behind Enemy Lines.
DLC Mission Appearances
- Clean and Serene
- Buyer's Market
- Collector's Item