The Rise and Fall of Yugoslavia:
from King Aleksandar to Marshall Tito, 1918-1980
by Matjaž Klemencic
Twice in the last century there existed a country called Yugoslavia.
Within both, there lived united south Slavic ethno-nations (narodi)
and ethnic minorities (narodnostne manjine) or nationalities
(narodnosti). On both occasions, Yugoslavia’s leaders, during
its seventy-three year existence, aimed at unification and agreement
among its ethno-nations and ethnic minorities on the basis of
equality and a common state. Initially, Yugoslavia was a parliamentary
monarchy (‘a kind of anarchy’, due to the unsolved national
question). Later, it became a personal dictatorship first of
King Aleksandar 1, after 1934 of Prince Regent Pavle. Then in
1939, the leaders of the Serbs and Croats reached agreement
to resolve the Croatian Question by establishing Croatian Banovina:
they planned to establish a Banovina Slovenia and ‘Serbian Lands’
(Srpske zemlje) which would have meant the transformation of
Yugoslavia into a confederation (Fig. 1). The outbreak of World
War II, however, prevented the realisation of these ideas and
saw the revival of ancient inter-ethnic hatreds, especially
among Serbs and Croats. A Yugoslav republic based on the principles
of equality among its ethnonations and minorities was (on paper)
created during the War. It was, however, the communist dictatorship
which made it possible for Yugoslavia’s ethno-nations and nationalities
to co-exist for forty-five years in the so-called ‘Second’ Yugoslavia,
a confederation or federation in one form or another.
Introduction: A Yugoslav Empire
Yugoslavia had been a dictatorship of King Aleksandar and his
successors during the inter- War period, and it was a communist
dictatorship during the reign of Josip Broz-Tito 2. Thus we
can speak also of a Yugoslav Empire. The two leaders were reminiscent
of emperors in their life styles. For example, they had castles
all over Yugoslavia. In addition to palaces in all the republics
of the former Yugoslavia, Tito also reserved to himself an island
off the coast of Istria (Vanga in the Brioni Islands). There
he received all important emperors, kings, presidents, and also
film-stars and other important personalities for his own education
and entertainment. Tito’s uniforms, worn as Marshall of Yugoslavia,
were also imperial in appearance. While Aleksandar had no influence
in international politics, Tito was the leader of the non-aligned
world (founder, indeed, of the non-aligned movement) which in
1970s included more than one hundred states (mostly poor countries,
besides the Muslim and Arab World): he was a communist leader
who succeeded in deceiving both East and West as well as in
charming African and Muslim leaders.
Table 1. Languages, alphabets and religions of the major ethnic
groups in the former Yugoslavia.
Of course, the bloody demise of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, when
the process of democratization started in Eastern Europe, proved
that Yugoslavia could never be a democracy. It could survive
only as a dictatorship. American and European politicians were
naive in insisting that Yugoslavia remain as a democratic and
unified state. In June 1991 James Baker, U.S. Secretary of State,
demanded this of the leaders of the Yugoslav republics. What
followed is known to every one who watched CNN in the 1990s,
viz. bloodshed and millions of refugees …
Yuguslavia as an Ethnically and Religiously Diverse Country
The kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was declared on
1 December 1918, and was erected out of the ruins of Austria-Hungary
and the kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro. It was created from
regions which, before World War I, had belonged to different
countries which and underwent very different economic and cultural
development. This resulted in very different political, cultural
and economic legacies and different regional and religious characteristics.
Table 2. The Ethnic Structure of Yugoslavia in the years 1921,
1931, 1961 and 1981 (in thousands).
REMARKS: 1) Population by Mother Tongue; 2) Population
by national identity; 3) Counted from idem “Serbo-Croatian Language”.
On the basis of: Yugoslavia, Vol. 1: Physical Geography, London
1944, p. 155; 4) In the category “Serbs”; 5) Rudolf Bicanic’s
estimate on the basis of counting from idem “Serbo-Croatian
Language” ; 6) Together with Czechs; 7) Together with Ruthenians;
8) In the category “Czechs, Slovaks and Ukrainians,” 9) In the
SOURCES: Žuljic S, Narodnostna struktura Jugoslavije i tokovi
promjena [The Ethnic Structure of Yugoslavia and Currents of
Changes], Zagreb 1989, p. 23; Petricevic J., Nacionalnost stanovništva
Jugoslavije [Ethnic Structure of Yugoslavia], Brugg 1983, p.
29; Popis stanovništva 1961. Knjiga VI: Vitalna, etnicka i migraciona
obeležja – rezultati za opštine, Beograd 1967; Popis stanovništva,
domacinstava i stanova u 1981. godini. Statisticki bilten 1295:
Nacionalni sastav stanovništva po
Out of the twelve million inhabitants, eight million spoke Serbian
and Croatian (which were considered the same literary language,
Serbo-Croatian). However, Serbs and Montenegrins wrote in the
Cyrillic alphabet, while Croats used the Latin alphabet. Slovenes
spoke their own Slovene language and also used the Latin alphabet.
The authorities denied the very existence of Macedonians as
a specific nation, even though they had their own language which
used Cyrillic alphabet 3.
In spite of these differences, there was a feeling of a community
among Yugoslav citizens who accepted that they were ethnically
related. The official ideology was based on the proclaimed principle
that the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes were tribes of the same
unified Serb-Croat- Slovene nation. The authorities during the
inter-War period did not take account – except as regards education
– of the separate identities of these three ethno-nations. Politicians
and administrators ignored completely the historical and ethnic
diversities of the country when they divided it into administrative
units. They also neglected cultural, linguistic as well as religious
traditions of individual ethno-nations and minorities. The ignoring
of the national identities of some individual ethno-nations
such as Montenegrins and Macedonians should also be mentioned
4. Therefore no one in Yugoslavia – apart from the Serbs and
the pro- Serbian part of Montenegrins who supported Karadjordjevic
dynasty (in opposition to the ‘nationalist’ Montenegrins) –
was satisfied with the concept of Yugoslavia as regards its
implementation. In Karadjordjevic’s Yugoslavia, as well as in
post-World War II Yugoslavia, unity was ordered from above.
In communist Yugoslavia diversity was recognized at least on
paper, and ‘brotherhood’ was added to the slogan of ‘unity’.
‘Brotherhood and unity’ and the equality of the Yugoslav ethno-nations
was enshrined in all of the constitutions of communist Yugoslavia.
Yet it was implemented in the framework of communist dictatorship.
During the existence of Yugoslavia none of its ethno-nations
had an absolute majority. In a complicated constitutional framework,
some minorities were more numerous than some of the constitutive
Censuses of Yugoslavia conducted in 1921 and 1931 suggested
that there were those whose mother tongue was ‘Serbo-Croatian’,
those with Slovene as their mother tongue, and minorities. The
‘political reality’ was that there were only ‘Yugoslavs’ and
minorities living in Yugoslavia. The authorities tried to portray
Yugoslavia as an ethnically homogenous country: they quoted
the censuses and concluded that ‘83 % of the people … identified
[themselves] as Yugoslavs’ 5, obscuring the fact that other
peoples lived in Yugoslavia and that the Serbs did not have
absolute majority. In the post-World War II censuses, the authorities
aimed for more accurate results, but not always successfully
even though the communist regime allowed peoples to express
their ethnic identities freely. The introduction of new terminology
(especially for Muslims and Gypsies/Romanies) and new categories
caused major problems: for instance, the category of ‘Yugoslavs’
(Jugoslaveni), introduced in 1961, now defined a specific (national)
ethnic identity, though previously a category for those unable
to decide on this. The new census categories were resisted by
the Croatian and Muslim populations and some minorities who
were convinced that they were invented to reduce their status
(by minimizing their numbers), so strengthening the Serbs’ position
These changes in census methodologies effectively eroded the
status of the minorities whose numbers – except for Albanians
– continually declined. A particular problem was the Gypsies/Roma,
who were sometimes identified as members of one of the Yugoslav
ethno-nations, sometimes another 7. The absolute number of south
Slavic ethno-nations constantly increased during the period
1921-1981 while concurrently the percentages of the whole population
of Croats, Serbs, and Slovenes in Yugoslavia decreased – the
reason being the increasing number of Albanians, Muslims and
Macedonians. (Table 2 and Fig. 2) This shift in Yugoslavia’s
ethnic structure reflected a differential in the natural increase
of population of individual ethno-nations and ethnic minorities,
plus various forced and voluntary migrations. After 1965 around
million people emigrated: according to the authorities, they
found temporary employment abroad (gastarbajteri) 8 .The first
changes were already apparent soon after World War I when members
of the German and Hungarian bureaucracy and numerous great estate
owners emigrated. From Yugoslav Slovenia two thirds of German-speaking
population emigrated, and their percentage of the overall population
declined from c. 10% to c. 4% 9. From Vojvodina 50,000 Hungarians
emigrated so that their percentage declined from c. 28% to c.
24% 10. After 1921, however, there were almost no significant
changes in Inter-War Yugoslavia’s ethnic composition.
The consequences of the unsolved national question in Yugoslavia
during the Inter-War period were seen during World War II. In
Croatia, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina the Ustasha regime of
the independent state of Croatia massacred a few hundred-thousand
civilians of Serb nationality. An early example of the ethnic
cleansing of the 1990s brought about great changes in the population’s
ethnic structure. From 1945 almost all the Yugoslav Germans
emigrated, fearing revenge by the communist regime, since almost
all had identified with the Nazi-policy of denying the Yugoslav
state. Thus the ethnic structure of some cities in Slovenia
11, the regions of Kocevje/Gotschee and Apaško polje/Abstall
and parts of Croatia and Vojvodina changed significantly. According
to German estimates, 690,000 Germans lived in Yugoslavia in
1940. By 1953, the German minority had declined to 35,000, and
to 8,000 by 1981 12. German emigration was most marked in Vojvodina:
by 1948 c. 250,000 people had settled in Vojvodina, mostly Serbs
and members of other south Slavic ethno-nations 13. Significant
changes occurred also in those regions which from 1947, by the
Paris Peace Conference and the final settlement between Yugoslavia
and Italy (1954), were annexed to Yugoslavia: c. 300,000 persons
emigrated – c. 200,000 Italians and c. 100,000 Slovenes and
Croats opposed to communism 14. Mass emigration of Turks from
Macedonia, Kosovo and Sandžak also occurred: a special agreement
between Yugoslavia and Turkey saw c. 250,000 Turks, Albanians
and Muslims emigrate to Turkey as “Turks” 15. Numerous conflicts
occurred between members of different ethnic groups, especially
in Vojvodina, Kosovo and Macedonia. Also some political and
even private conflicts were painted as ‘national’, i.e. conflicts
among different ethnic groups. The communists instituted repression
to control those conflicts, in the belief that the ‘Yugoslav
Empire’ would last for ever.
The Materialization of the Yugoslav
Idea: WWI (1914–1918) and the Establishment of the Kingdom of
the Serbs Croats and Slovenes
The Austro-Hungarian attack on Serbia and Montenegro, whose
national assemblies had jointly decided on war against Austria-Hungary,
precipitated the first moves towards the unification into one
state of the Yugoslav ethno-nations. The Serbian and Montenegrin
army won the first battles of World War I but was soon defeated
and fled, after great losses, to the Greek Island of Corfu 16.Yet
after the Front of Salonika opened in summer 1918, and the Bulgarian
army was defeated in September, the rebuilt Serbian/Montenegrin
army contributed to ending the war. Serbian politicians following
the Serbian and Montenegrin army were politically active on
the island of Corfu (1915-18). In Austria-Hungary, the activities
of political leaders of the south Slavic nations (Croats, Slovenes
and Serbs) were curtailed by wartime restrictions. The only
exception made was for deputies in the Reichsrat (the Austrian
Parliament). They united in the Reichsrat’sYugoslav Club 17.
Those pro- Yugoslav intellectuals who had escaped from Austria-Hungary
before war began gathered in London as the ‘Yugoslav Committee’
After 1917 many political parties and groups, including those
supporting Austria-Hungary on the outbreak of war, urged the
unification of the south Slav ‘nations’ in one state, but considerable
differences existed about procedures for unification and the
organization of this state. At the start, the president of the
Serbian government, Nikola Pašic, feared that in a future unified
country the Serbian orthodox population would become a minority,
and so sought unification only for such south Slavic lands as
would not jeopardise a Serbian majority in the future state.
His vision was of an enlarged Serbia. Later, he demanded the
inclusion of the Croatian and Slovenian lands and Bosnia and
Herzegovina in this enlarged Serbia but not Macedonia (which
the Allies promised to Bulgaria, if it joined the Allied side).
Later, however, the Allies rewarded Serbian success and suffering
by granting Vardar Macedonia to Serbia. Pašic wanted the future
state to be a centralized monarchy with the Serbian bourgeoisie
in a leading position 19.
By contrast, Slovene, Croatian, and Serbian politicians from
Austria-Hungary who gathered in the Yugoslav Committee in London
wanted to join with Serbia and Montenegro to form Yugoslavia.
They were afraid of pressure for Germanization from the north
and pressure from Italy in the west. To reconcile these differences,
representatives of the Serbian government and the Yugoslav Committee
on Corfu Island signed a compromise Agreement, the Declaration
of Corfu (Krfska deklaracija), in June 1917 for an independent
Yugoslav state 20. This agreed that the new state ‘will be a
democratic and parliamentary monarchy under the rule of the
Karadjordjevic dynasty’, with equality for Serbs, Croats and
Slovenes, (the three constituent ‘tribes’ that formed ‘our nation
of three names’), and for the three flags, coats of arms and
names, the Cyrillic and Latin alphabet, and the Orthodox, Roman
Catholic and Muslim religions in their relations with the state.
It proclaimed that ‘our nation’ should be liberated and united,
on the ‘principle of national self-determination’, with no part
of the territory ‘separated from and united with any other state
without consent of the nation itself’. Yet, these principles
were perhaps unrealistic when considered in the light of later
battles for the new country’s frontiers and also the secret
London Agreement 21.
While the Serbian government and Yugoslav Committee demanded
the establishment of an independent Yugoslav state, 33 Slovenian
and Croatian deputies in the Reichsrat joined together in the
Yugoslav Club and issued the May Declaration (30 May 1917).
This insisted that ‘all territories of the Monarchy in which
Slovenes, Croats and Serbs live unite under the sceptre of the
Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty into an independent state body … established
on democratic foundations.’ Adopted under the strong influence
of the Slovene People’s Party, this document called for the
unification of only those south Slavic nations living under
the monarchy, but not for unification with the Serbs and Montenegrins
In 1918, political leaders of the Yugoslav nations from Austria-Hungary
started to organize national councils to promote an independent
Yugoslavia encompassing all regions in Austria-Hungary in which
Slovenes, Serbs and Croats lived. During his last days, Emperor
Karl conceded demands for reorganizing the Habsburg Empire with
the introduction of ‘trialism’. This principle of ‘trialism’
was based on the empire’s threefold division into ethnically-
and culturally-based entities with the third entity (in addition
to Austria and Hungary) being one which united all south Slavs
of the Habsburg Empire. Anton Korošec, Slovene deputy in the
Reichsrat and chairman of Yugoslav Club there, responded Zu
spät Majestät [too late, your Majesty] 23. In October 1918 the
representatives of all three Yugoslav ‘nations’ in Austria-Hungary
established in Zagreb a joint political representation, the
National Council of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs [Narodni
svet Slovencev, Hrvatov in Srbov]. This Council proclaimed the
State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, consisting of the ethnic
territories of the south Slavic nations of Austria-Hungary 24.
The new state soon faced many political and military problems.
It was not internationally recognized: Serbia initiated diplomacy
to maintain its position as the only state in the process of
the formation of Yugoslavia. The Serbian government seemingly
agreed to negotiations with a delegation of the National Council.
Following the basic principles of the Yugoslav Committee, President
Ante Trumbic demanded the creation of a common state of equal
nations, pressing Nikola Pašic, Serbia’s foreign representative,
to accept the concept of confederation, comparable to the Dual
Monarchy, as the framework for the new government. The Serbian
opposition to Pašic and the Slovenian People’s Party leader,
Monsignor Korošec, joined forces with Trumbic to secure the
so-called Declaration of Geneva [Ženevska deklaracija] which
the Belgrade government repudiated two days 25. In the end,
the articles of this Declaration, assuring equality of the Yugoslav
ethno-nations within the new state, were never realized. The
naiveté of the National Council contributed to this outcome:
it sent a delegation to Belgrade to negotiate, despite the opposition
of leaders such as Stjepan Radic 26. Yet the National Council
was under pressure, since the Italians were advancing into Slovene
Coastland [Primorska] and Dalmatia and the revolution had started
to spread from Hungary 27.
Meanwhile Serbia had already unified with Montenegro. The Montenegrin
parliament deposed Petrovic’s Montenegrin dynasty and declared
the unification of Montenegro with Serbia and other south Slavs
on 26 November 1918. The unification of Serbia with the State
of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs was proclaimed by Regent Aleksandar
Karadjordjevic on 1 December 1918, so completing the establishment
of the Yugoslav state after World War I (Fig. 3) 28.
History of the "Yugoslav Empire”
After the creation of a new state and especially after World
War II, Yugoslav historians debated heatedly whether there were
histories of individual nations in this country. Serbian historians
in particular tried to convince the general public in Yugoslavia
that the history of individual peoples ceased with the country’s
unification. On the other hand, historians from Slovenia and
Croatia insisted that (separate) histories of individual nations,
such as Croats, Macedonians, Serbs, Slovenes, should continue
after Yugoslavia’s creation. In practice, throughout its existence,
the history of the Yugoslav state was essentially the history
of relations between the various Yugoslav nations, relations
between the two largest nations – Serbs and Croats – being the
key factor 29.
On 28 November 1920, the elections for the Constitutional Assembly
were held. The strongest parties were the National Radical Party
(Radicals: Narodna radikalna stranka, NRS) with 91 seats, the
Yugoslav Democratic Party (Democrats: Jugoslovenska demokratska
stranka, JDS) with 92 seats, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia
(CPY) with 58 seats, and the Croatian Republican Peasant Party
(Hrvatska republikanska seljacka stranka, HRSS) with 50 seats
in the Assembly.30 The distribution of votes was very significant,
since the votes were distributed along the ethnic lines. The
NRS gained seats only in Serbia, but had virtually no support
in Croatia or Slovenia. The JDS won seats in Serbia and Bosnia-
Herzegovina, some in Croatia, but also in Kosovo and Sandžak
where, out of fear of Nikola Pašic’s. Great Serbian policy,
the Muslim population voted for them. The Communists gained
most of their votes in Macedonia and Montenegro, not in the
industrially more developed northern part of the country. All
other parties won seats only in one region of the country (e.g.,
the Slovene People’s Party (Slovenska ljudska stranka, SLS)
in Slovenia, the HRSS in Croatia, and the Yugoslav Muslim Organization
(Jugoslavenska muslimanska organizacija, JMO) in Bosnia and
The Constituent Assembly met on 12 December 1920. The leader
of NRS, Nikola Pašic established a government of the NRS and
JDS with the support of some smaller parties. On 5 January 1921,
the government submitted to the Assembly its plan for the Constitution
(Nacrt ustava), a centralized unitary parliamentary monarchy
with a weak parliament and a strong monarch. This constitution,
passed on the anniversary of the battle of Kosovo, was known
as the Vidovdan (St. Vitus Day’s) Constitution. It defined the
Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes as a hereditary, parliamentary
monarchy. The highly centralized unitary political system was
dominated by a monarch with sweeping prerogatives 32.
From the perspective of ethnic relations, unitarism was its
overriding characteristic and was reflected in the constitutional
concept of ‘one nation of three names’, historically divided
into three ‘tribes’ – Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. This concept,
based on Serbian expansionist tendencies, denied the very existence
of Macedonians, Montenegrins and Bosnian Muslims as distinct
ethnic groups in this ‘three-name nation’. The constitution
recognized only one official ‘Serbo-Croatian-Slovene language’
that had never existed in practice. The ‘Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian’
nationality of the individual was required for the exercise
of certain political rights, such as for election to public
office, or for employment as higher public servant. As for other
citizens, they had to meet certain additional demands, such
as the ten-year permanent residence requirement following the
acquisition of citizenship, before they could exercise these
rights. The Constitution did not establish any special protection
or linguistic rights for the numerous ethnic minorities. Nevertheless
it provided that minorities of other ‘race and religion’ had
the right to elementary schooling in their mother tongue under
conditions determined by law.
Territorial organization and division were also determined by
centralist and unitarist principles. There was no ethnic or
regional autonomy, the intention being to divide all distinct
ethnic communities into several administrative units so as to
decrease their internal ethnic coherence. The largest administrative
units were districts, with up to 800,000 inhabitants. Other,
smaller, administrative units were departments, counties, and
communes 33. This Constitution remained into effect until January
During this first period different attempts were made by elected
representatives to reach a peaceful solution to the Yugoslav
national question. All in vain. Quarrels in the parliament reached
their peak on 25 June 1928, when Puniša Racic, member of the
NRS, killed two Croatian deputies with a pistol. Stjepan Radic
and two other deputies were seriously hurt in this fight. The
government resigned soon after these events 34.
King Alexander offered the post of prime minister to numerous
politicians. Initially no one wanted it. In late July 1928,
the president of the SLS, Rev. Dr. Anton Korošec, took the job.
For the first time, the government of the Kingdom of Serbs,
Croats and Slovenes was not led by a Serb. Several politicians
claimed that Korošec, a Catholic priest, was a Vatican agent
so deepening the political crisis and forcing Korošec’s government
– unable to stop violent unrest in Croatia following the death
of Stjepan Radic in August 1928 – to resign at the end of December
1928 35. After the government’s resignation, King Aleksandar
concluded that the only way to retain the state was a personal
dictatorship of the king. The history of the Yugoslav Empire
On 6 January 1929, King Aleksandar annulled the Vidovdan constitution,
dissolved the parliament, consolidated royal rule and took the
government into his own hands. This marked the beginning of
the ‘January Sixth Dictatorship’ and ended a period of constant
political instability (1921–1929) 36. A package of (special)
laws and royal decrees further limited the right to association
and other political rights, including the freedom of speech.
The king forbade activities by all religious and tribal political
parties, other ethnic and religious organizations, as well as
trade unions. All criticisms of the existing system or initiatives
to change were proscribed and liable to prosecution. Centralization
and unitarism were further strengthened.
In October 1929 the Law on the Name and Division of the Monarchy
into Administrative Regions was passed, introducing the monarchy’s
new official name, ‘The Kingdom of Yugoslavia’, thereby confirming
the concept of the unitary one-nation-state of the one ‘Yugoslav
nation’ (jugoslovenska nacija). ‘Tribal names’, ethnic life,
religion and political parties were forbidden. The law also
created a new territorial organization and division so as to
strengthen central authority and promote a uniform nation. The
new, largest administrativeterritorial units, replacing districts,
became provinces, called ‘banovinas’ (banovina, pl. banovine).
Eight banovinas were named after the main rivers (Drava, Sava,
Zeta, Vrbas, Drina, Danube, Morava and Vardar) and one was called
Littoral Banovina. Banovinas were established to reduce the
previous administrative atomization and increase central authority.
Their borders were conceived in such a way as to break up historically-formed
lands and ethnic communities and to divide them between two
or more different banovinas. Wherever possible, banovinas were
so designed to strengthen the proportion of the Serbian population
in their overall population. In this way the king hoped to weaken
and suppress national (ethnic) feelings and popular unrest against
central government in particular regions.
The government, denying the very existence of ethnic diversity,
kept trying to establish a unified ‘Yugoslav nation’, so provoking
further unrest. To resolve this, the king issued a new constitution
on 3 September 1931, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia,
also called the Granted Constitution. This constitution consolidated
‘national unitarism’ together with the ‘Yugoslav (national)
ideology’ based upon it. The constitution further increased
the power of the monarch, and reduced that of the parliament,
the National Assembly. It forbade every kind of political association
on a ‘religious, tribal (ethnic) or regional’ basis, thereby
substantially restricting such political rights as freedom of
association, assembly, and speech. The only trace of linguistic
or ethnic pluralism in the Constitution was the definition of
the official ‘Serbian-Croat-Slovene’ language, based on the
recognition of the actual existence of, at least, three different
Unrest and dissatisfaction among the ethno-nations of Yugoslavia
prompted the proscribed political parties to issue programmes
in 1933 on the reconstruction of Yugoslavia – punktacije. The
Zagrebacke punktacije called for the restoration of the status
quo before 1 December 1918 and the abolition of Serbian hegemony
so as to enable the ethnonations to decide freely on their destiny
38. The SLS, JMO and Ljuba Davidovic (leader of Democratic Party)
issued similar programmes, so highlighting the differences again
between Serbia and the other Yugoslav lands. The authorities
arrested several important politicians (especially) in Croatia
and Slovenia – among them Vlatko Macek and Anton Korošec. They
also continued their repression against the banned Communists
who continued secretly to organize. The king’s authoritarian
policy and police surveillance on the regime’s opponents fuelled
discontent and even armed activities. This gave an opportunity
to Croat and Macedonian nationalists to develop their respective
organizations: the Croat Ustashi (ustaši) and the Inner Macedonian
Revolutionary Organization (VMRO) both conspired against the
regime, culminating in the assassination of King Alexander during
his unofficial visit to Marseilles, France in 1934. A member
of VMRO, Vlada Georgijev, killed the king on the orders of the
Croat Ustashi leader, Ante Pavelic 39.
Alexander’s eldest son, Peter, was then only eleven, so royal
powers were assumed by a regency of three men under the leadership
of Prince Pavle Karadjordjevic, Alexander’s first cousin, as
provided in the king’s will. A succession of short-lived governments
followed during his regency before Milan Stojadinovic was named
prime minister by Prince Pavle. Stojadinovic articulated his
government’s aims in a speech to his party congress in summer
Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, in an atmosphere of confidence,
should build the internal organization of their own house in
unity … I believe that we will create in our country an atmosphere
of mutual confidence in which it will be easier to solve the
Croatian question which today looks so difficult … In our programme
the principle of wide self-government is emphasized. That is
our political ideal. We shall work for its realization. For
eighteen years now a huge misunderstanding has characterized
our political life 40.
Stojadinovic tried to establish a government of national unity,
including the Croats. Vlatko Macek, the leader of Croat Peasant
Party, demanded the establishment of an autonomous Croat entity
and the country’s division into six or seven autonomous (ethnic)
units. This was not acceptable to Stojadinovic.41 Thus, the
central issue concerning ethnic relations in the country, the
‘Croatian question’, remained unresolved, while Serbian nationalists
and other politicians accused Stojadinovic of being too indulgent
of the Croats. Stojadinovic’s government maintained friendly
relations with Fascist-Italy and Nazi-Germany 42. He failed
to solve Croatian Question, and in 1939 a new government was
formed. The new prime minister was Dragiša Cvetkovic, minister
of social policy in the Stojadinovic’s government.
The existing ethnic tensions in the country, tense international
relations, the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe, and pressure
from the British government forced Cvetkovic and his government
to address the ‘Croatian question’ immediately. Their search
for compromise with the Croat politicians resulted in the Cvetkovic-Macek
Agreement (Sporazum Cvetkovic-Macek) signed by Prime Minister
Cvetkovic and Vlatko Macek, leader of HSS and the Peasant Democratic
Opposition, on 23 August 1939. This compromise became possible
because the Croatian and Serbian elite(s) had come to recognize
that ethnic differences would not disappear, and that existing
national identities could not be merged into a new Yugoslav
national identity. The agreement anticipated the formation of
the ethnically defined Banovina of Croatia with wide, state-like
autonomy and emphasized the equality of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes
in a common state as the basis for resolving the national question
in Yugoslavia. Following this, the Croatian Banovina was formed
by a special decree, issued by the vice-regency under the constitutional
provisions of the state of emergency. This Banovina included
all the counties with a Croat majority population. The parliament
(Sabor), of the Croatian Banovina was restored and given substantial
powers and autonomy. The king now appointed the governor (ban)
on the recommendation of the Sabor 43. In a way, the Croatian
Banovina’s creation marked a turning point in Yugoslavia whose
political development had previously been characterized by centralism
and unitarism. It may be interpreted as the beginning of the
process of democratization, decentralization and federalization.
Similar claims for autonomy, decentralization and federalization
could now be anticipated from all the other nations in Yugoslavia,
so providing an opportunity for democratization and for the
official recognition and democratic regulation of the existing
ethnic pluralism in Yugoslavia. Yet, this agreement may also
be seen as just a political bargain between the two largest
national elites so as to assure their future domination 44.
On 1 September 1939, Germany attacked Poland and the Second
World War began in Europe. The Yugoslav government proclaimed
its neutrality. Despite that, Adolph Hitler asked Yugoslavia
to join the Tripartite Pact (Germany-Italy-Japan) at the beginning
of 1941. At first, the government resisted: Great Britain asked
Yugoslavia not to break its traditional friendship with the
Western democracies. Additionally, influenced by the Communists,
there were demands for increased cooperation with the Soviet
Union. Yet, when Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania signed the Pact,
the Yugoslav government yielded, signing in Vienna on 25 March
1941. This provoked mass demonstrations and a coup d’état by
the army under the leadership of General Mirkovic, helped by
the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). Although the
new prime minister, General Dušan Simovic, did not cancel the
Tripartite Pact, Germany, Italy and their allies attacked Yugoslavia
on 6 April 1941 45.
Yugoslav Ethno-Nations During
The attack spelled the end of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The
Yugoslav army capitulated after eleven days. King Petar and
most of the government fled to British-controlled Cairo 46.
Yugoslavia was occupied by Germany, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria
and Albania and divided in accordance with their wishes 47 (Fig.
4). The Independent State of Croatia (NDH – Nezavisna država
Hrvatska) was established in Croatia (without Dalmatia between
Zadar and Split and Medjimurje and Baranja), Bosnia and Herzegovina
and Srem. This was a puppet state, ruled by the Ustasha government
of Ante Pavelic, independent only in name. Its government aimed
at an ethnically-cleansed Croatia with the help of German and
Italian occupation forces. Serbs, Jews, Gypsies (Roma), Muslims
and Croatian political rivals were persecuted and murdered.
Mass murders, especially of the Serb population, took place
in eastern Herzegovina, Lika, Kordun, Banija and some regions
of Bosnia 48. Concentration camps were established. While Jews
and Gypsies could not defend themselves, two million Serbs in
the NDH started to organize their own defence.
Political terror and ethnic cleansing by occupation forces assisted
by some local ethnic political leaders forced many to flee their
homes. Scattered uprisings began. The Communist Party of Yugoslavia
(CPY) also began organized armed resistance, its leader Josip
Broz-Tito fomenting socialist revolution 49. CPY preparations
began immediately after the Axis attack: it established the
military command of its partisan National Liberation Movement
(NLM) under Tito’s leadership 50, and in July ordered the start
of resistance. By August, the partisans had liberated the first
territories in western Serbia, Kordun, Lika and Banija (in Croatia),
Montenegro and western Bosnia. Following partisan occupation
of these territories, the old Yugoslav administrative authorities,
which the Axis forces had left untouched, were abolished and
the NLM began to create new local authorities, the National
Liberation Committees, the nucleus of a new revolutionary administration
The ‘bourgeois’ parties and the Yugoslav Government in Exile
were surprised by this CPY uprising with international Communist
support. Fearing the NLM’s initial successes, the Government
in Exile supported the Chetniks’ resistance movement (officially,
the ‘King’s Army in the Homeland’). Based on the Greater Serbia
programme, the Chetniks presented themselves as a Serbian saviour
ready to attack the occupiers at the ‘right moment’. The first
groups of Chetniks started to gather in southern Serbia, Kosovo
and northern Montenegro in April 1941. They fought first against
the Albanians of Kosovo. Although some Chetniks had wanted to
attack the occupying forces – in accordance with anti- Turkish
traditions of resistance – by August 1941 they had sided with
the Germans out of fear of the NLM. A second group of Chetniks
gathered in May 1941 under the leadership of Colonel Dragoljub-Draža
Mihailovic in western Serbia. Their intention was to preserve
at least a spark of Serbian independence. Out of this nucleus
an uncontrolled army developed, loyal to the monarchy and the
myths of Serbian history, which left deep but ambiguous traces
in occupied Yugoslavia 52. Its members believed they were called
by God to avenge the crimes of the Ustasha army against the
Serbs. They also implemented a programme of ethnic cleansing
in Serbian-controlled regions, and attacked the Croatian and
Muslim populations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sandžak, Dalmatinska
Zagora and elsewhere. In the name of Greater Serbia, they killed
thousands of Muslims and Croats and terrorized the Serbian and
Montenegrin people supporting the partisans 53. The Chetniks
enjoyed the support of the Yugoslav Government in Exile. Draža
Mihailovic became its minister of war in January 1942. The Western
Allies recognized the Chetniks initially as the legal army of
the Yugoslav government, but once Chetnik collaboration with
the occupiers became apparent from 1943, war interests prompted
a change in British government policy. In 1944 the Allies shifted
their support from the Government in Exile and the Chetniks
in favour of the NLM. This provided the basis for their recognition
of the new political realities in Yugoslavia after World War
Although a few Chetnik units had initially engaged the Germans
in some small skirmishes before the collaborationist phase,
the partisan NLM was the only group that led the fight for Yugoslav
liberation throughout the War, resisting the occupiers and their
domestic collaborators, such as Ustasha and Chetniks. The NLM
was part of the global anti-Fascist coalition. Its slogan called
for ‘fraternity and unity’ among the Yugoslav peoples. In ethnically-mixed
territories it resisted the genocide by the occupying authorities
and their domestic collaborators. Its vision was of a Yugoslav
federation of equal nations. However, the Communist-led partisan
NLM also pursued socialist revolution as its goal. In addition
to social justice and equality, its declared revolutionary goals
included just and harmonious relations and equality between
ethnic groups, decentralization and the social and political
reforms unimplemented by the Yugoslav monarchy of the Karadjordjevic
dynasty 55. In September 1941, Tito, as supreme commander of
partisan units, moved from Belgrade to liberated territory in
western Serbia. He met twice with Draža Mihailovic to urge Chetnik
cooperation with the NLM, but the Chetniks saw the revolutionary
Communists as the main threat to their plans for a Greater Serbia
and restoration of the old Yugoslav monarchy. Instead, by autumn
1941 the Chetniks had entered into secret negotiations with
the occupying authorities, and this collaboration became open
by spring 1942, especially in territories under Italian occupation
56. Accordingly, the NLM started to fight the Chetniks as well,
and in effect this determined the fate of the monarchy. Of the
many battles, the most important one was that of Neretva River
in March and April 1943: the Chetniks, with Italian support,
tried to destroy partisan units encircled by the Germans and
Ustasha, but the partisans broke through the Chetnik front.
The Chetniks never recovered from this defeat 57. Partisan military
successes established individual liberated territories, which
survived for varying periods. Some, such as Lika, Bosanska Krajina
and Kordun, existed throughout the War. National Liberation
Committees were established to govern liberated villages, communities
and regions but also operated in halfliberated and occupied
On Tito’s initiative, the AVNOJ (Anti-Fascist Council of National
Liberation of Yugoslavia) was formed as the supreme political
authority of the NLM in November 1942, constituting itself as
the supreme political representative of the Yugoslav nations.
It proclaimed the equality of all Yugoslav nations and the creation
of the Yugoslav federation. The AVNOJ, during its second meeting
in Jayce in November 1943, established a provisional government,
the National Committee of Liberation of Yugoslavia, and elected
Tito, declared Marshall of Yugoslavia, as president. The return
of King Peter and the Government in Exile was prohibited pending
popular decision after the War 58. The AVNOJ also established
the basis for a new post-War social-political order. When the
Western Allies recognized the de facto political situation in
Yugoslavia in 1944, they insisted on a compromise between the
AVNOJ and those political parties which had not collaborated
during the War. This was the essence of the agreement between
Tito and šubašic, on behalf of the Government in Exile, signed
on the island of Vis in June 1944 59. By the end of the War
in Europe, the partisans had liberated the whole territory of
the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia and large parts of historic
Croatian and Slovenian ethnic territories ceded to Italy after
World War I. These territories included Istria, Slovene Coastland,
the city of Trieste, Zadar and islands of Cres, Lošinj and Lastovo,
which the AVNOJ had formally annexed to Yugoslavia in September
1943. These circumstances formed the prelude to negotiations
about Yugoslavia’s post-War borders which remained unchanged
until the 1990s.
The Birth, Life and Death of the Yugoslav Federation: 1945–1991
Four years of occupation and civil wars had hit Yugoslavia very
hard. Material damage was assessed at US$47 billion; casualties
were approximately 1.05 to 1.7 million 60. Reconstruction of
the country was entirely in CPY hands. In spite of the already
widespread support for the CPY among the people of Yugoslavia,
its leaders aimed at complete control. Soon after the War, they
killed a majority of the Ustasha, Slovene Home Defenders and
Serbian Chetniks returned by the Allies from Italy and Austria.
Mass terror continued as they tried to destroy dispersed Chetniks,
Ustasha and Home Defender units and combat speculators, war
profiteers and other real and supposed opponents of the regime.
The authorities put many into criminal camps, confiscating their
property as also that of mines, banks, insurance companies,
railroads and factories which were ‘patriotically nationalized’
Initially, the authorities showed more leniency towards the
peasants, recognizing the importance of agrarian production
to feed the country. The first measure of the Temporary People’s
Assembly was the Law on Agrarian Reform, adopted on 23 August
1945. Under the slogan ‘land belongs to the person who works
on it’, the authorities seized without compensation the land
of great estate owners, the Catholic and Orthodox churches,
monasteries and other religious institutions 62. Together with
the land of Wartime collaborators among the ethnic Germans,
around 1.5 million hectares were nationalized. By a 1946 law,
half of the nationalized land was united in cooperatives which
supposedly formed the basis for future socialist farming 63.
The communists also aimed at complete control over intellectual
life and organized their propaganda accordingly 64. These activities
had their positive side: for example, the communist goal of
popular literacy raised literacy levels from 50.5% in 1921 to
81.0% in 1961.
The third AVNOJ convention, called in August 1945, renamed itself
the Contemporary People’s Assembly. It quickly accepted ten
basic laws that completely changed Yugoslav society and, even
before the new constitution was adopted, legalized CPY supremacy
65. One law dealing with ‘activities against the people and
state’ decreed harsh punishment for any nationalist propaganda
and/or agitation. Though justified as a means of damping down
nationalist passions, particularly in nationally-mixed territories,
it was, in reality, reminiscent of the 1929 decree of King Alexander
aimed at creating an ‘integral’ Yugoslavia. The idea of ‘brotherhood
and unity’ was again top down, and also concealed a characteristically
suspicious attitude to all ideas not deemed ‘Yugoslav’, with
the more or less open neglect of Albanians, Hungarians and other
national minorities. It also inhibited discussion of inter-ethnic
relations and tensions, so precluding solutions to the problems
In spite of CPY’s leading role, the Tito-šubašic Agreement required
free elections. Without elections, the Western powers would
not recognize the CPY as the only representatives of the peoples
of Yugoslavia. Accordingly, the CPY and its allies united into
the People’s Front of Yugoslavia (PFY) and chose Tito as their
leader. Since the Communists controlled the police, judiciary
and media, the opposition refused to participate in the elections
in November 1945. PFY candidates got almost 90.5% of the vote,
so confirming the legitimacy of the ‘new Yugoslavia’ 67. The
convincing PFY victory enabled the Communists, who controlled
the Constituent Assembly, to introduce a Soviet-style Constitution
and so enacted a socialist political and economic order. The
Constituent Assembly met on 29 November. It first deprived the
Karadjordjevic dynasty of all rights and then proclaimed Yugoslavia
a Federated People’s Republic (Federativna narodna republika
Jugoslavija; FNRJ) consisting of the People’s Republics of Serbia
(with the autonomous province of Vojvodina and the autonomous
authority (oblast) of Kosmet), Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia
and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia. In January 1946, the
Constituent Assembly passed the Constitution of the FNRJ, so
enabling the CPY to implement those principles which it had
proclaimed even before World War II 68.
After the Communists gained complete political control, they
started to reshape economic and social development along Soviet
lines. Because the basis for a planned economy was social ownership
of the majority of the means of production, transportation and
communication, the 1946 Constitution proclaimed as the people’s
property ‘mines and other wealth of the land, water resources,
natural power, railways, air transport, mail, telegraph, telephone
and radio’. Laws passed from 1946 to 1948 then nationalized
all other important economic activities — except farming — so
that by 1948 over 90% of private property had become state property.
Changes to the economic system achieved their final form in
a fiveyear economic plan (petletka). In accordance with the
Plan, Yugoslavia’s more developed republics were to progress
more slowly and wait for the less developed republics to catch
up. Industrialization and electricity development became a real
dogma, transforming the state into one huge building site and
causing, inter alia, the migration of 1.2 million people from
the countryside into industrial centres 69.
Understandably, this period was still one of turmoil and conflict
with the regime’s opponents or enemies. In March 1946 the authorities
caught Chetnik leader Draža Mihailovic, who was sentenced to
death on 16 July 1946. A few weeks later in Ljubljana, a process
was started against General Leon Rupnik, leader of the Slovene
Home Defenders 70 and, in absentia, also against the bishop
of Ljubljana, Dr. Gregorij Rožman, and the leader of the Slovene
People’s Party, Dr. Miha Krek. The proceedings against Rožman
and Krek aimed at the Catholic Church, condemned for collaboration
with occupation forces during the War. Individual priests, the
Catholic Church and the Vatican were all targets. One victim
was the archbishop of Zagreb, Alojzij Stepinac: the authorities
accused him of collaboration with the Ustashe, arrested him
in September 1946, and sentenced him to sixteen years in prison
71. Concurrently, prosecutions continued against the Ustashe,
Chetniks, Macedonian nationalists, profiteers and bribed functionaries.
We should also mention proceedings against spies in this period
of so-called ‘mature Stalinism’: those accused were mostly personalities
from intellectual and ‘bourgeois’ circles who in the past had
cooperated in the resistance movement but now represented for
the new rulers the possibility of ‘bourgeois’ opposition 72.
As regards foreign policy, post-War Yugoslavia became an ally
of the Soviet Union. The Yugoslav Army was Europe’s fourth strongest
military power in the anti-Hitler coalition, but Yugoslav Communists
felt threatened, and the CPY leadership led Yugoslavia into
an aggressive foreign policy 73. Tito’s policy inside the Soviet
bloc aimed to make Belgrade the centre of the people’s democracies
and the ideological competitor of Moscow. Tito did not hide
the fact that his vision of socialism was different from Stalin’s.
Instead of the monolithic structure of an International Workers
Movement under Stalin’s control, Tito’s idea was an open and
dynamic socialist society 74. For the United States, however,
Yugoslavia remained one of the Kremlin’s ‘satellite police states’,
assisting the Soviets in their ‘drive toward world conquest’.
The U.S. Administration viewed Tito accordingly, President Truman
informed a group of businessmen in April 1948 that Tito had
allegedly ‘murdered more than 400,000 of the opposition in Yugoslavia
before he got himself firmly established there as a dictator’
75. Within this context, no one appreciated the signs of trouble
surfacing there in early 1948. In January, Stalin suddenly summoned
the leadership of both Bulgaria and Yugoslavia to the Kremlin.
When he met them, Stalin criticized the independent behaviour
of both countries and called for the formation of a Yugoslav-Bulgarian
federation. He had previously promised that Yugoslavia could
absorb Albania, but he now declared that that could only occur
after the federation’s creation. In addition, Stalin later insisted
that the Yugoslavs sign an agreement with the USSR calling for
consultation on foreign policy issues. Kardelj, whose ‘blood
boiled’ at this insult, signed only at Molotov’s insistence
By March, the Yugoslavs had decided to resist Stalin’s demands.
Within a few weeks, the Soviets notified Tito that they intended
to withdraw all military and civilian advisers and technicians.
The two countries’ Communist Party Central Committees then exchanged
letters: the Soviets charged the Yugoslavs with various ideological
errors and anti-Soviet actions; the Yugoslavs proclaimed their
innocence. This exchange underlined the CPY’s unwillingness
to subordinate its activities to Stalin’s vision of socialism
and culminated in Yugoslavia’s expulsion from the Inform-Bureau,
a consulting body, in June, and Stalin’s call on the Yugoslav
people to overthrow Tito 77. The Cominform also gradually imposed
a blockade on trade with Yugoslavia to deprive it of goods vital
to reconstruction and economic development. A proclamation about
Yugoslavia’s expulsion was adopted by the Inform- Bureau members
at its meeting in Bucharest, and was published in the Prague
newspaper Rude Pravo on St. Vitus Day, 28 June. Its aggressive
tone surprised the international community. Tito’s ‘claim to
independent leadership’ raised ‘a basic issue’ for the Kremlin:
he was ‘master in his own Communist house and Stalin cannot
oust him quickly without war’ 78. In this ideological battle
most Yugoslavs accepted and supported the policy of their leaders.
During the 1949–1952 period, Yugoslav politicians started to
reform all spheres of the society. In May 1949 Edvard Kardelj
introduced to the Yugoslav parliament the Law on People’s Committees,
which again gave autonomy to the local authorities at the expense
of the federal authorities. Instead of the Soviet model of state
socialism, they introduced a new self-management socialist system.
They also introduced a model of ‘social property’ instead of
state property, handing administration of industrial enterprises
over to workers’ committees (elected after 1950). They also
mitigated political pressure towards non-communists, abandoned
forced collectivization of farming and allowed private enterprise
in regard to farm products. CPY fears of capitalist-style domination
by large enterprises in the countryside prompted a second agrarian
reform in May 1953 which limited the size of farms to 10 hectares
of arable land. In the name of socialist democracy, party leaders
decentralized even the CPY and renamed it the League of Communists
of Yugoslavia (LCY). Officially, the party abandoned direct
administration of the state; the party was only to give directions.
The life of the state was to be in the hands of communes. The
republics and the state should only be coordinators 79.
These changes did not differ very much from the Soviet socialist
system. The LCY still had all power in its hands. Tito remained
the untouchable Yugoslav leader with the rights and divinity
of an Emperor. Other important political leaders were Edvard
Kardelj, Milovan Djilas and Aleksandar Rankovic 80. Yugoslavia
built economic and political relations with the West and was
able to survive the political isolation that followed the split
with Stalin in 1948. Its foreign policy from the 1950s onwards
was that of equidistance from both West and East. Its allies
came primarily from less-developed states of the so-called Third
World. Yugoslavia intensified contacts with these countries
during the mid-1950s when state visits started in Asia. It became
the cornerstone of the movement of nonaligned countries, and
played a leading role in this movement 81 until the state’s
dissolution in the 1990s. After Stalin’s death in 1953, relations
with the Soviet Union and other East European countries (also
hitherto strained) were normalized. Inside the LCY, Bolshevist
ideology was again revived. The policy’s first victim was Milovan
Djilas, who criticized LCY privileges and politicians and demanded
freedom of speech. Defeat of Djilas’s ideas spelled defeat for
this first attempt at reform of the socialist system in Yugoslavia
82. Despite the increased role for state and party, the leading
Yugoslav politicians were not united in their vision for Yugoslavia’s
further development. Edvard Kardelj emphasized the reform of
the state and system, but the Serbian politician Aleksandar
Rankovic, leader of the secret police, demanded the continuation
of the politics of party control.
In spite of these divisions, social reforms during the 1950s
did contribute to development. Yugoslavia’s economic growth
in the decade 1952–1962 was one of the fastest in the world.
Livings standards increased, as did some civic freedoms, and
levels of education among the population. In culture, science
and humanities, new possibilities emerged 83. And yet, despite
all these changes, Yugoslavia’s basic characteristics remained
a one-party system and a planned economy. State socialism was
still the main hallmark of the system. The republics had no
say in state politics, and they got their money from federal
funds. This led to continual conflicts with the centre but also
between developed and undeveloped parts of the state. The undeveloped
republics of the south condemned the ‘policy of colonial thinking’
in Slovenia and Croatia, accusing them of enriching themselves
through the favour of the regime 84.
The constitutional changes of the 1950s brought new problems.
Communes became the new basic administrative units. Some politicians
from the southern republics thought that, with the communes
and the state as political units, the republics had become unnecessary.
This attitude caused Slovenia to become very reserved towards
any territorial and political redefinition of Yugoslavia. Slovenes
and Macedonians were also angered by the lack of respect for
their languages and cultures; they were unable to use their
languages in the army or in dealing with the federal authorities
and embassies and consulates abroad. New disagreements among
Yugoslav nations occurred in the late 1950s when conservative
circles started to develop ideas of state integration both in
the fields of economics and politics and with regard to culture.
In reaction, the feeling for autonomy of the republics strengthened.
There were also suggestions about dissolving the republics.
This idea did not work; but it prompted the insertion of a special
category of ‘Yugoslavs’ among the ethnic categories in the Census
of 1961 85. Tendencies towards cultural integration caused unexpected
resistance in Croatia and Macedonia, and especially among Slovenians,
who resisted unitarist and centralist tendencies with polemics
– so reopening the national problem in Yugoslavia 86.
At the end of the 1950s conflicts arose within the top Yugoslav
leadership between defenders of centralist and of self-management
models. Neither faction questioned socialism and the party’s
leading role. Defenders of self-management demanded more rights
for republics and economic reforms that would enable the republics
to maintain a more stable economic policy and enterprises and
freely to decide how to apply their profits. On these questions
Kardelj (self-management faction) and Rankovic (defender of
centralism) promoted Slovene interests, on the one hand, and
Serbian interests, on the other. Kardelj was convinced that
Slovenia’s future lay in the community of Yugoslav ethno-nations
and that it was therefore necessary to promote Slovene interests
within the system of socialist selfmanagement. Rankovic favoured
centralization in accordance with traditional Serbian fears
that the ‘Catholic North’ would otherwise get too much at the
expense of the ‘Orthodox South’ 87.
One controversial issue was the concept of an economic plan
for 1962, according to which the federal administration again
tried to secure a decisive role in dealing with the state economy.
Slovene and Croatian enterprise managers resisted, trying rather
to inject some elements of a market into the socialist economy
88. Macedonians also joined, since they were still under the
influence of Serbian rule in inter-War Yugoslavia. Tensions
were exceptionally high, and Tito even threatened resignation.
This encouraged moves by Aleksandar Rankovic, who coveted the
position of secretary general of the LCY, on the pretext of
the need to reduce Tito’s burden. Edvard Kardelj opposed Rankovic
and threatened that Slovenia would secede from Yugoslavia if
Tito resigned. According to the Croatian politician Vladimir
Bakaric, it was difficult to convince Tito not to resign, but
Tito did not like Rankovic’s demand. Tito long hesitated between
the two concepts for Yugoslavia’s future development. Initially,
he favoured centralism as propagated by Aleksandar Rankovic;
leaving Kardelj in disgrace. Later, however, he supported Kardelj,
and Rankovic had to withdraw from Yugoslav politics 89.
In the 1960s, disputes about the future of Yugoslavia in politics
and economics and the question of future interethnic relations
were aggravated by social unrest. The Yugoslav authorities tried
to introduce economic reforms and began to prepare a new compromise
constitution which would, on the one hand, stress socialism
and, on the other, attempt to democratize society and power
structures in Yugoslavia. The new constitution was endorsed
by the Yugoslav parliament in April 1963. The state was renamed
the Socialist Federated Republic of Yugoslavia. There were six
socialist republics and two socialist autonomous provinces inside
Serbia 90. The republics lost no authority. Quite the contrary,
they were strengthened. Slovenes and Macedonians demanded an
enhanced role for their languages at federal level. In 1967
Macedonians got their independent Macedonian Orthodox Church,
hitherto subordinate to the Serbian church. Beginning in 1968
Muslims were acknowledged as a nation (narod), and Kosovo and
Vojvodina gained more autonomy. Old Serbian politicians opposed
this, believing that these changes neglected Serbian interests
91. The new constitution also permitted some changes in the
economy which reduced the state’s authority. The role of the
banks in monetary matters was strengthened. Profits no longer
went to the state but were retained by individual enterprises.
Taxes on imports were lowered 92 so bringing new items (washing
machines, TV sets, small kitchen appliances like mixers) onto
the market and raising living standards. In 1967 the Yugoslav
authorities opened state borders with Italy and Austria: the
authorities issued passports, so giving Yugoslav citizens the
opportunity to travel to the West. Open borders promoted tourism,
especially along the Adriatic shore and in spas. The state was
also very successful in social matters, extending social, health
and pension benefits to most of the people. All citizens could
afford treatment. The pension system was so effective that people
had no worries about their wellbeing in old age.
These reforms enabled Yugoslavia to become part of the world
economy. For socialist enterprises, accustomed to a privileged
position in home markets protected by customs barriers, competition
with highly developed economies came as a real shock. Opening
the economy to free enterprise economics, forced numerous enterprises
— especially those in the undeveloped southern republics — to
lay off workers, a practice hitherto unknown to socialism 93.
With unemployment rising, people started to look for employment
in the West; the opening of the borders also promoted Western
values in Yugoslavia, especially human rights and political
pluralism. These values became part of the value system of younger
LCY members who took over important posts in the Yugoslav economy,
politics and culture in the early 1960s. The older generation
of communists accused them of accepting Western capitalist values
and named them ‘liberals’ 94: they feared that these ‘liberal’
ideas would in the long run permit the restoration of a multiparty
system, and so decided to purge the political newcomers. In
the 1965-75 decade, Tito led a purge of liberal leadership in
the republics, beginning with Croatian liberals who had even
demanded Croatian independence, later expelling party liberals
from the leadership in other republics. This spelled the final
defeat of defenders of economic and political reforms in the
framework of a one-party socialist system 95. After 1971 purges
were a fact of life, and not only in politics. Instead of professionals,
politically-correct people, lacking the necessary education,
assumed leadership. The state again started to direct the economy,
and the army’s role in society was strengthened. Those criticizing
the state could be called before the court of justice. Yugoslavia
returned to the path it had left in the late 1950s. Once again
power rested with the defenders of centralism, who saw the future
of Yugoslavia and its republics in a special type of ‘association
of free producers’.
The ideas of ‘democratic centralists’ were enacted in a new
constitution. With its 406 articles, this was the longest in
the world apart from the Indian one. It gave Yugoslav society
only one leading authority, the LCY. At the same time the constitution
aimed to prevent a convergence between the League of Communists
of Serbia and traditional Serbian hegemonistic tendencies. Tito
and Kardelj were fully aware of the dangers of such a ‘meeting’
96. To curb Serbian influence, under the new constitution the
Yugoslav parliament was divided into two houses (the Federal
Assembly and the Assembly of Republic and Autonomous Provinces),
operated on the basis of a parity system. The new constitution
gave each of the republics and autonomous provinces the right
of veto, so forcing them to look to consensus. Yugoslavia gained
the status of an unofficial confederation. The status of the
autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina, which were part
of Serbia, was also strengthened, so prompting Serbian politicians
to demand constitutional change, but Slovene communists, who
had gained a relatively high degree of independence for Slovenia,
defended the 1974 constitution in every way possible 97.
The constitution of 1974 also established a collective presidency.
In addition to the president of the LCY, one member of the presidency
was drawn from each of the republics and autonomous provinces.
Tito was leader of the presidency for life (after his death,
the presidency rotated, as provided for in the constitution),
and so was concurrently president of the LCY and president of
the presidency of Yugoslavia. Power was again concentrated among
a few leaders, leaders both of the party and of the state 98.
Army officers were increasingly present: the army, it was anticipated,
would stand for law and order after Tito’s death.
The most important law of this period was the Law of Associated
Labour, adopted in November 1976. It introduced the principle
of discussion and arrangement into the economy. All the relatively
independent economic units were organized in the Basic Organization
of Associated Labour, in which the workers, in accordance with
self-management principles, decided what and how much they would
produce and how the money they earned would be spent. This arrangement
replaced the market economy: the price of the final product
would be as calculated and arranged, not according to principles
of supply and demand 99. Republics and communes, which became
responsible for their own development, were forced into extensive
investments. The system promoted production of technologically
less demanding products, allowing for a work force with minimal
education: it provided for full employment, but its effects
were deleterious. Old technology and poor quality products and
performance meant that failure was inevitable 100. The catastrophe
that threatened the Yugoslav economy was postponed by international
loans. Yugoslavia became one of the world’s most indebted countries
101. Money was spent on housing, infrastructure and investment
in undeveloped regions (Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia,
Montenegro) instead of on production investments that would
realise the money to repay the loans.
Despite this, people appreciated the rise in living standards
(private and social) and the absence of unemployment. This situation
lasted until the end of the 1970s when, because of the world
energy crisis, the flow of foreign capital stopped. By then,
the situation was catastrophic: the state’s external debt was
US$20 billion; inflation and unemployment were rising; productivity
and living standards were declining 102. In the shops there
were fewer and fewer articles for general consumption.
Tito’s death in 1980 spelled the beginning of the end for Yugoslavia.
The Yugoslav leadership tried to continue the internal and external
policies of his regime under the slogan ‘Also after Tito – Tito’.
Retaining the old system in Yugoslavia was impossible, however,
because the state now had no leader who could, with his charisma,
paper over regional differences in the state and in interethnic
relations. After Tito’s death, Yugoslavia found itself in a
process of dissolution which ended in the conflagration of the
1990s. Help from the West initially postponed debt crises, but
eventually exacerbated the situation. Fundamental economic change
was needed to help the economy out of crisis, but the communist
old guard was not ready for that. Political crisis exacerbated
the deepening economic crisis; and interethnic relations deteriorated,
beginning with worsening Serb- Albanian relations. This was
the prelude to the bloody demise of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
1 Aleksandar I Karadjordjevic (1888-1934), educated in Geneva,
St Petersburg and Belgrade. In 1909 he became crown prince and
in 1914 regent of Serbia. During World War I he was supreme
commander of the Serbian Army. From 1 December 1918, he was
regent, and from 17 August 1921, king of the Serbs, Croats and
Slovenes. He tried to establish good relations between Yugoslavia
and western European democratic states; in internal Yugoslav
politics he was a staunch defender of a centralist regime, opposing
democracy and national autonomy within Yugoslavia. In foreign
policy he sought help above all from France. He was assassinated
by Croatian and Macedonian nationalists during a state visit
to Marseilles in 1934.
2 Josip Broz-Tito (1892-1980). As an Austro-Hungarian soldier,
Tito became a prisoner of war in Russia and in 1917 became a
soldier in the Red Army. In Russia he became a communist and
until 1928, after returning from Russia, was a leading Yugoslav
communist. From 1928 to 1934 he was imprisoned in Yugoslavia
for communist activities. After his release he went to Vienna
and Moscow. Following the Stalinist purges in the CPY, in 1937
Tito formally became secretary general of the party. During
World War II he organized and led the Partisan Army against
the occupiers. In November 1943, at the second session of AVNOJ,
he was named president of the Temporary Revolutionary Government.
After the signing of the Tito-Šubašic Agreement, he became president
of the unified Yugoslav Government. During the period of 1945-1953
he was prime minister; from 1953 president of Yugoslavia, and
from 1963 president for life. After conflict with the Cominform
and a period of forced collectivization and purges of the followers
of the Cominform, national communism (Titoism, Self-Management)
was developed and Yugoslavia became the first socialist country
to open its borders to the West. Tito was also one of the founders
of the non-aligned movement. He became the symbol of the Yugoslav
multinational state. Yet he was unable to establish a firm foundation
for the new Yugoslavia, which would have enabled its survival.
3 J. Pirjevec, Jugoslavija: Nastanek, razvoj ter razpad Karadjordjeviceve
in Titove Jugoslavije [Yugoslavia 1918-1992, Conception, Development
and Dissolution of Karadjordjevic’s and Tito’s Yugoslavia],
Koper 1995, pp. 12-13.
4 S. Žuljic, Narodnostna struktura Jugoslavije i tokovi promjena
[The Ethnic Structure of Yugoslavia and Currents of Changes],
Zagreb 1989, pp. 6-7.
5 R. Bicanic, Ekonomska podloga hrvatskog pitanja [The Economic
Foundations of the Croatian Question], Zagreb 1938.
6 J. Petricevic, Nacionalnost stanovništva Jugoslavije [The
Ethnic Structure of Yugoslavia], Brugg 1983, p. 56.
7 Žuljic, Narodnostna struktura Jugoslavije cit., p. 149.
8 V. Klemencic, Spreminjanje nacionalne strukture prebivalstva
Jugoslavije v novejšem razdobju [The Changing of the Ethnic
Structure of Yugoslavia during the last period], “Geografija
v soli”, 1, 1991, pp. 7-22.
9 M. Klemencic, Prostovoljne in prisilne migracije kot orodje
spreminjanja etnicne strukture na obmocju držav naslednic nekdanje
Jugoslavije [Forced and voluntary migrations as a tool for changing
the ethnic structure in the territories of the successor states
of the former Yugoslavia], “Razprave in gradivo”, 36/37, 2000,
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Serbian Question in The Balkans, Belgrade 1995, pp. 211-226.
11 M. Klemencic, Im Lichte der sprachlichen Statistik: Slowenisch-
und Deutschsprachige in der Süd- und Untersteiermark 1830-1991,
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15 Petricevic, Nacionalnost stanovništva Jugoslavije cit., p.
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18 G. Stokes, The Role of the Yugoslav Committee in the Formation
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1914-1918, Santa Barbara 1980, pp. 51-72.
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20 J.R. Lampe, Yugoslavia as History. Twice there was a country,
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31 Banac, The National Question in Yugoslavia cit., pp. 387-392.
32 B. Petranovic, M. Zecevic, Jugoslavija 1918/1984. Zbirka
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33 M. Žagar, Yugoslavia: what went wrong? Constitutional aspects
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34 Z. Kolundžic, Atentat na Stjepana Radica (Assassination of
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35 Dragnich, The First Yugoslavia cit., pp. 52-56.
36 Pirjevec, Jugoslavija 1918-1992 cit., pp. 49-50.
37 Žagar, Yugoslavia: what went wrong cit., pp. 77.
38 L. Boban, Zagrebacke punktacije, “Istorija XX veka”, 1962,
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39 Macek, In the Struggle for Freedom, University Park 1957;
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40 Dragnich, The First Yugoslavia cit., pp. 104-105.
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42 J.B. Hoptner, Yugoslavia in crisis, 1934-1941, New York 1962.
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44 M. Žagar, Yugoslavia: what went wrong cit., pp. 77-78.
45 F.C. Littlefield, Germany and Yugoslavia, 1933-1941, New
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46 V. Teržic, Slom Kraljevine Jugoslavije [The fall of the Kingdom
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47 Pirjevec, Jugoslavija 1918-1992 cit., pp. 113-115.
48 F. Jelic-Butic, Ustaše i Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, 1941-1945
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49 Pirjevec, Jugoslavija 1918-1992 cit., pp. 116-119.
50 Lampe, Yugoslavia as History cit., pp. 202-203.
51 Pirjevec, Jugoslavija 1918-1992 cit., pp. 118-119.
52 J. Tomasevich, The Chetniks, Stanford 1975 cit., pp. 113-131.
53 M.J. Milazzo, The Chetnik Movement and the Yugoslav Resistance,
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54 W.R. Roberts, Tito, Mihailovic, and the Allies, 1941-1945,
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55 F. Trgo , The National Liberation War and Revolution in Yugoslavia,
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56 Steiberg, All or Nothing cit., pp. 28-84.
57 Pirjevec, Jugoslavija 1918-1992 cit., pp. 132-133.
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59 D. Biber (ed.), Tito-Churchill: Strogo tajno, Ljubljana,
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60 Lampe, Yugoslavia as History cit., pp. 229-230, 234-236.
61 Pirjevec, Jugoslavija 1918-1992 cit., pp. 156-158.
62 R.M. Brashich, Land Reform and Ownership in Yugoslavia, 1919-53,
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64 C.S. Lilly, Agitprop in Post-war Yugoslavia, ‘Slavic Review’,
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65 V. Koštunica, K. Cavoški, Party Pluralism or Monism? Social
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66 P. Shoup, Communism and the Yugoslav National Question, New
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67 Koštunica, Cavoški, Party Pluralism or Monism cit., pp. 80-97.
68 Lampe, Yugoslavia as History cit., pp. 230-232.
69 N.V. Gianaris, Geopolitical and Economic Changes in the Balkan
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70 Pirjevec, Jugoslavija 1918-1992 cit., pp. 160-161.
71 S. Alexander, Church and State in Yugoslavia since 1945,
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72 M. Milivojevic, The Role of the Yugoslav Intelligence and
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73 E. Barker, Mednarodni položaj Jugoslavije ob koncu druge
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78 Lees, Keeping Tito Afloat cit., pp. 51-52.
79 D. Wilson, Tito’s Yugoslavia, Cambridge 1979, pp. 73-85;
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80 R.A. Johnson, The Transformation of Communist Ideology: The
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81 A.Z. Rubinstein, Yugoslavia and the Non-aligned World, Princeton
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83 V. Dubey, Yugoslavia: Development with Decentralization,
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85 S.P. Ramet, Nationalism and Federalism in Yugoslavia, 1962-1991,
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86 B. Repe, Historical consequences of the disintegration of
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87 Pirjevec, Jugoslavija 1918-1992 cit., p. 245.
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89 Pirjevec, Jugoslavija 1918-1992 cit., pp. 247-249.
90 Petranovic, Zecevic, Jugoslavija 1918/1984 cit., pp. 928-1993.
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96 Pirjevec, Jugoslavija 1918-1992 cit., pp. 139-140.
97 L. Sekelj, Yugoslavia. The Process of Disintegration, New
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Klemencic M., Prostovoljne in prisilne migracije kot orodje
spreminjanja etnicne strukture na obmocju držav naslednic nekdanje
Jugoslavije [Forced and voluntary migrations as a tool for changing
the ethnic structure in the territories of the successor states
of the former Yugoslavia], “Razprave in gradivo”, 2000, 36/37,
pp. 145-172. The English version of the paper is available at
Koštunica V., Cavoški K., Party Pluralism or Monism? Social
Movements and the Political System in Yugoslavia 1944-49, New
Lampe J.R., Yugoslavia as History. Twice there was a country,
Lees L.M., Keeping Tito Afloat: The United States, Yugoslavia,
and the Cold War, University Park 1997.
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Lydall H., Yugoslavia in Crisis, Oxford 1989.
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Pirjevec J., Jugoslavija: Nastanek, razvoj ter razpad Karadjordjeviceve
in Titove Jugoslavije [Yugoslavia 1918-1992,
Conception, Development and Dissolution of Karadjordjevic’s
and Tito’s Yugoslavia], Koper 1995.
Ramet S.P., Nationalism and Federalism in Yugoslavia, 1962-1991,
2nd ed., Bloomington 1992.
Roberts W.R., Tito, Mihailovic, and the Allies, 1941-1945, New
Rubinstein A.Z., Yugoslavia and the Non-aligned World, Princeton
Rusinow D., The Yugoslav Experiment, 1948-1972, Berkeley 1977.
Sekelj L., Yugoslavia. The Process of Disintegration, New York
Shoup P., Communism and the Yugoslav National Question, New
Trgo F., The National Liberation War and Revolution in Yugoslavia,
1941-45: Selected Documents, Beograd 1982.
Woodward S.L., Socialist Unemployment: The Political Economy
of Yugoslavia, 1945-90, Princeton 1995.
Žagar M., Yugoslavia: what went wrong? Constitutional aspects
of the Yugoslav crisis from the perspective of ethnic conflict,
in Spencer M. (ed.), The Lessons of Yugoslavia (Research on
Russia and Eastern Europe 3), Amsterdam 2000, pp. 65-96.
Born in 1955, Matjaž Klemencic studied at the University of
Ljubljana, Slovenia. He is professor of history at the University
of Maribor and also teacher at the University of Ljubljana.
He specializes in history of American immigration and history
of nationalism. His books include Slovenes of Cleveland. The
Creation of a New Nation and a New World Comunity and Jurij
Trunk med Koroško in Združenimi državami Amerike ter zgodovina
slovenskih naselbin v Leadvillu, Kolorado in San Franciscu,