Pogledaj Full Version : Frustrated Nationalism in Yugoslavia: (Serb Perspective)

Željko Zidarić
13th-June-2012, 10:17 PM
Source: rastko.rs (http://www.rastko.rs/istorija/batakovic/batakovic-frustrated_eng.html)

Frustrated Nationalism in Yugoslavia: From Liberal to Communist Solution (Serb Perspective)

The Yugoslav idea in the nineteenth and twentieth century, widely thought to be essential to the creation of a common state for Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, proved to be little more than an illusion of the liberal and intellectual elite of what was to become the First and than the Second Yugoslavia. It neither corresponds to the low level of political culture of the majority of those who were not members of these elites, nor was it able to encompass within its own rival theories of national integrations. Above all, the Yugoslav idea rarely satisfied one national group - be they Serbs Croats, or Slovenes - while sooner or later it antagonized them all. Some of these dissatisfactions, underlying the repeated disintegration of the common state soon after it was formed, form the subject of this paper.*

The Yugoslav idea, manifested in the first Yugoslav State that emerged in 1918, was based on the nineteenth-century ideals of liberty from tyranny and national self-determination. At that time, it was only valid ideology capable of contesting the legitimacy of the dominant imperial structure on which the multi-national, semi-feudal order of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy rested. The common state of the South Slavs was conceived as a radically new framework for the transformation of the old national identities under the Habsburgs into something completely new. Conforming to the program of the enlightened Croatian and Serbian elites, this new Yugoslav identity was to be achieved by merging those Slav nations and ethnic groups who shared a similar language and ethnic origin into one Yugoslav supra-nation while safeguarding the uniqueness of their respective cultural and religious traditions. This new - as Benedict Anderson put it - "imagined community" recalled the idea of a melting pot along the lines of the nineteenth-century French model of nation-state. The first and the foremost pillar of the new supra-national identity adopted by the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was to be the common culture based on both linguistic proximity and patriarchal values shared by the different Slavic ethnic and religious groups that inhabited the Dinaric Alps, notwithstanding the differences in religious dogma. (1)

It did not take long before the First Yugoslavia of 1918 fell prey to the nationalistic squabbles and dissatisfactions of its federated members. During the two decades of the First Yugoslavia, the Serbian interpretation of Yugoslavism as a concept of an enlarged Serbia that would gradually merge into a new Yugoslav identity was considered as imposed to the Croats and Slovenes who understood the common South Slav state only as a more appropriate framework for further stages of their own national integration. In the end, the First Yugoslavia proved too weak to withstand the internal discord or the attack from the outside.

Dismembered by Hitler's Nazis and racked by the civil and religious strife in the 1940s, the First Yugoslavia was virtually prostrate before it was revived by the communist in 1945, together with an egalitarian ideology and the Croatian federalist version of Yugoslavism. Both solutions, Serbian in 1918 and Croatian in 1945, were imposed from above by the dominant political forces, first by Serbian democratic elite supported by the narrow integralist group of Croats, the second by Croat-led communist leadership. A geopolitical necessity of the European order in 1918 and in 1945, Yugoslavia finally disappeared when its existence proved to be unnecessary. After the communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union collapsed, Yugoslavia has lost its importance as the buffer zone between two rival blocks during the Cold War. European powers failed to halt this disintegration - in some cases they welcomed it - and the communist rulers, having long nurtured the nationalist particularism in the various Yugoslav republics to their own advantage, promoted the fall of the federation. The demise of the Communist Yugoslavia this time final, violent disintegration, came as the result of the communist nomenklatura, which nurtured the nationalist dissatisfaction and dissention in order to maintain absolute power.

This paper examines how the different Yugoslav nationalities have perceived the Yugoslav idea. More specifically, the question raised here is why the idea of Yugoslav unity - as a liberal solution - has had so little chance do develop. In this respect, one of the main arguments I propose is that the Yugoslav idea exhibited only intrinsic weakness from the very start in the mid-nineteenth century, because it was understood by the Croats and Serbs in a completely different scope. More importantly, the Yugoslavism encountered historical conditions which were prohibitive of its unfolding and flourishing.


The Serbian integration finding its first formulation in the famous foreign policy draft of 1844 the Nacertanije (The Draft) by Ilija Garasanin up to the Yugoslav-oriented war aims of the Serbian cabinet and the National Assembly in 1914, developed by combining two basic European experiences - the French and the German one. From the narrower goals of national unity, according to the German model, the Serbian integration had a slow evolution towards the idea of a gradual merging of the Serbs into a larger Yugoslav nation that will inevitably emerge in the future. Serbian unification with regions under direct Ottoman rule (Bosnia, Herzegovina, Old Serbia and Slavic Macedonia) outlined by Ilija Garasanin in 1844, was to be followed by the creation of a Yugoslav state, encompassing not only the Croats and Serbs within Habsburg Monarchy, but also the ethnically akin Bulgarians. (2)

Among its numerous variants the program of Serbian unification was, therefore, considered to be compatible with the later Yugoslav unification, where, according to the French model of l’Etat-nation the state identity will become the national one. For the Serbs in Serbia who obtained their national independence after a centuries-long struggle against the Ottomans, the state itself became a sacred symbol. In the ethnically homogenous Serbia from 1804 to 1914 the very meaning of nation, similarly to French experience, was fully identified with the identity of the state. The intellectual and cultural elite of Serbia strongly believed that Serbs and Croats were but two branches of the same nation, which had become forcibly divided by the foreign domination. For Serbia, who, which, together with tiny Montenegro, emerged as a two independent Serbian states in 1878, the process of gradual unification was considered as both natural and inevitable. Serbia’s profound democratic aspirations, were reinforced with the reestablishment of parliamentary democracy in 1903, gave fresh impetus to that belief. In this respect, two separate but closely linked phases are to be noted. The notion of "Greater Serbia", as a concept of a narrower national integration was considered as the first phase of South Slav settlement. The second phase, "Yugoslavia" was considered as the final settlement. The two notions of "Greater Serbia" and "Yugoslavia", were as complementary to each other as two sides of the same coin.(3)

The greatest challenge to the Serbian approach to national unification and integration came from the Croatian side. Propagating the principle of "historic rights", Croatian political leadership (including those from the Yugoslav committee) envisioned Yugoslav unification in terms of federally organized units familiar from the Austro-Hungarian empire. The Croatian principle of "historic rights", therefore challenged the Serbian approach of unity of three tribes of the same nation By the end of the First World War, however, the Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pasic, was determined to create a united Serbian state that included Bosnia, Herzegovina, Dalmatia, Montenegro, and Vojvodina. In view of the uncertain situation at the end of the war, Pasic worked toward the establishment of a "Greater Serbia" - which would eventually merge with the new state of Yugoslavia - as a necessary step to safeguard Serbian interests. But, the Serbian Prince-Regent Alexander Karadjordjevic however, rejected Pasic's concept, thereby postponing the question of the internal system as a problem to be solved only after unification was finally accomplished.

Serbs accepted Yugoslav state in 1918 as the final stage for resolving their national question. The widespread feeling that the Serbian question is completed in Yugoslavia, blocked the further national integration of the Serbs. They favored the centralized state along French lines which, buttressed by the democratic institutions would in time evolve into a nation state ('our three-name nation' or 'three tribes of a single nation'). With the exceptions of the Radicals who insisted on the Serbian name, all other Serbian political parties, favored the gradual creation of a new Yugoslav nation. Pasic and his Radicals persistently insisted upon the preservation of the Serbian ethnic name within the newly established Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The Radicals were not against the future merging into a new state identity but they feared that the common state would not be viable. It became difficult for the Serbs to separate their national interest from its Yugoslav framework: the only state that they would and could be identified with was Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav state was, therefore, a definite solution to the national integration of the Serbs. (4)

For Croats and Slovenes, lacking a state of their own since the Middle Ages, Yugoslavia though a necessary for their survival as national groups, came to be seen as a strictly transitional solution. It meant a possibility to preserve national identity, to additionally strengthen national homogeneity and to open the way to full national independence in the future. Therefore, only the Serbs, with a small portion of enlightened Croats in Dalmatia who opted for the unitarian state, were historically prepared to accept the new Yugoslav identity.

For the Serbs, renouncing their identity was possible only after general acceptance of the new, Yugoslav one, that will transform from a state identity to a new nationhood. The decade of constant national rivalries and mutual antagonisms - culminating in the assassination of the prominent Croat peasant leader Stjepan Radic in Belgrade during a parliamentary session - ended with the king's coup-d'Etat, the abolition of democratic rights, and the outlawing of political parties with national affiliations. In the name of state unity, democracy - as the major Serbian contribution to the common state - was sacrificed in an effort to establish a single Yugoslav nation. During the period of personal rule (1929-1934) King Alexander Karadjordjevic, failed in his efforts to make a unified Yugoslav state workable model, shaped according to the French nation-state pattern only strengthened the nationalism of the Croats and Slovenes, provoking fresh antagonism and further misunderstandings.

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was the result of the Serbian interpretation of Yugoslavism and state unity. The cohabitation, from the Serbian point of view, was possible only when other nations accepts the new identity, if not as purely national but at least as an supra-national concept that cannot be constantly challenged. Therefore, all those who defied the Yugoslav unity were persecuted, not as members of different national groups but as enemies of the state. For the Croats, that persecution was understood as the abuse of their national rights, in a state dominated by the Serbs. The final failure of the Serbian concept of a single Yugoslav nation was clearly foreseen prior to the Second World War. Ultimately, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was bound to shatter, not least because the Serbian interpretation of Yugoslavism which made it mandatory for Croat nationality in Yugoslavia to accept the new Yugoslav identity. The Croats saw this injunction as a transgression of their own national rights, and shortly before the outbreak of World War Two they were beginning to make their own arrangements for a reorganization of the territory they claimed to be historically, hence rightfully, purely Croatian. The establishment of semi-federal unit of Banovina Hrvatska in August 1939 was the political agreement made to fulfill the demands of frustrated Croatian nationalism. This was the first step towards future federal reorganization of Kingdom of Yugoslavia prevented by the outbreak of war in 1941. (5)


The Croatian national integration that challenged Yugoslav state unity from its very beginnings developed in several phases. In the nineteenth century the Croatian integration evolved from a broader (South Slav i.e. Yugoslav) concept, to a narrower (national) one. If the 'Yugoslav' program of the Croats was initially quite broad in its sweep, being rooted in the Illyrian movement of the 1840s that endowed all Slavs with a common - Illyrian - origin and advocated the common (stokavian) dialect of Serbian language, it quickly narrowed into a specifically Croatian program which enabled the Croatian integration among the Serbian-speaking Slavs within Habsburg Monarchy. The second form of Yugoslav movement among the Croats based on 1848 ideals emerged in the 1860s in a more liberal but ecumenical form, led by the enlightened Bishop of Djakovo, Josip Juraj Strossmayer. For Bishop Strossmayer, who was above all devoted to his Vatican mission, the Yugoslav idea was considered as a necessary phase towards his final goal : uniting the divided Christian Churches in the Balkans - the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox - under the supreme jurisdiction of Rome. (6)

At the turn of the century the third strand of Croatian Yugoslavism appeared in two different places: 1. in Dalmatia, under the influence of the Italian Risorgimento, shaped by the Piedmont type of national integration where Belgrade was considered as the natural center of future unification; 2. among the Croat-Serbian youth educated in Prague, under the influence of the neo-Slavic liberal Thomas G. Masaryk. From these two sources, the bearers of which were the liberal strata of the Croatian and Serbian elite in Austria-Hungary, emerged a unitarian Yugoslav ideology - the theory of a single nation, composed of three "tribes": the Serbian, Croatian, and Slovenian. That theory was welcomed by the ruling elite in Serbia after 1903. (7)

Entrenched among enlightened political leaders and intellectuals, however, this liberal Yugoslavism had little chance of appealing to the broader masses. They tended to adhere to narrower, also more simplistic, notions of national identity. Liberal Yugoslavism could hardly confront the national movement of the Croats that was, on the horizontal level, controlled by the lower strata of the Roman Catholic clergy. The Croatian Roman Catholic Church not only looked toward Rome as spiritual leader, but also incorporated the Roman Catholic dimension into their secular valuation of the Croatian nation. "Croatism" became increasingly infused with the Roman Catholic religious identity. The road to the narrower national identity of the Croats was already traced by Ante Starcevic, the ideologist and founder of the Croat Party of Rights (Hrvatska stranka prava), which was a mixture of the dominant Hungarian model of a "political nation", the local theory of "historical rights" and some racist prejudices drawn from Gobineau’s writings. Facing the rising cultural and political reputation of Serbia after 1903, but also the growing economic rivalry of Serbs within Austria-Hungary the national integration of the Croats was more and more sliding toward identifying Croatism with Roman Catholicism . The bearer of this ideology became The Pure Party of Rights (Cista stranka prava) led by Starcevic's successor Josip Frank. The Croatian national movement also received another strong push toward clericalization from the side of the Croatian Jesuit missionaries, whose militant proselytism scored highly successful marks in Bosnia and Herzegovina occupied by Austria-Hungary in 1878.(8)

The lack of separation of the church and the political ideology - a process that shook France and Germany (Kulturkampf) at the turn of the century, had a significant impact on Croatian politics. The absence of a liberal regime (from the local administration to the school system) produced a religious-national variant of Croatian nationalism under the patronage of clerical circles assembled around the Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Vienna. The whole clerical movement failed to impose itself within official politics only because of the narrow franchise which assured majority to the adepts of Yugoslav unity in Croatia-Slavonia (The Croato-Serb Coalition)

Croatian political leadership, aside from unitarian elite from Dalmatia, accepted the unification of Yugoslavia in 1918 as a transitional solution only. Feeling the threat of Italian interests, which had been left unfulfilled in the wake of the new state, Croats saw the new Yugoslav state as something of a guarantor of its own national interests, above all those in Dalmatia. But there was much that left the broad populace completely dissatisfied.

The first decade after unification in 1918 was marked by a secular variant of mass nationalism of Croats led by Stjepan Radic. His party, the Croatian Peasant Party functioned as a typical national movement, nurtured by the frustration of unfulfilled demands for national sovereignty. Not only was Belgrade the new political center and was, moreover, closely interconnected with the Serbian dynasty privileged to rule over the new country, but the whole political arrangement smacked of the frustrating struggles which Croats had conducted in the Dual Monarchy at the end of the nineteenth century. Then it was Budapest playing the main tune, squashing the political will and wish of Zagreb. Now, however, there was a decisive difference for Belgrade could not act as Budapest once did. This was a classical case of peripheral reaction, which only in struggle against the center renews its strength and its identity. As the Serbian national integration was checked, the Croats and the Slovenes received new impulses, because their nations in Yugoslavia, in contrast to Austria-Hungary, both had equal rights and were proportionally represented. Radic’s successor Vladko Macek (1928-1941) further strengthened the nationalism by reinstating its confessional variant and opting for federal reorganization of the common state. (9)

In the Second World War, Croatian nationalism, while hardly very articulate or aggressive in the nineteenth century, burst forth with hitherto unequaled fury. It found its strongest and most effective ally in the Croatian Roman Catholic clergy which brought to the secular national movement in the homeland their own brand of religious exclusionism, intolerance, and a militant proselytizing thrust that were deemed necessary to create a religiously and racially pure Croatian state within "historical boundaries". Both Hitler's Berlin and Vatican Rome gave their blessing to Ante Pavelic's Independent State of Croatia (NDH) that was set up in 1941 and Pavelic's Ustashas conducted genocidal campaigns against the Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies until 1945. The most appalling crimes in the name of religious and racial purity in which the Croatian Roman Catholic clergy and Pavelic's Ustashas collaborated were directed against the Serbian Orthodox population. Although the sources on the actual numbers of Serbs who were victimized vary greatly, it is safe to say that at least a million Serbs of Croatia (and Bosnia) had become victims of Croatian fascism. Of these, probably three-quarter million were murdered--in a fashion that even shocked and reviled Pavelic's SS protectors-and the rest forcibly converted, expelled, or deported. According to German and Italian sources - between 500.000 and 750.000 Orthodox Serbs were killed, further 240.000 were forcibly converted to Roman Catholicism (many of them were murdered afterwards), and over 180.000 of others were deported to Serbia. (10)


The Bosnian case was particularly complicated by the existence of three nationalities within its boundaries, the long traditions of Ottoman rule, the short but in many ways pernicious colonial rule of the Habsburgs, and the tenacious struggles of the Serbian nationals to establish close national links with their homeland, Serbia proper. If the Serbs and Croats in Bosnia were quite clear of where their allegiance should go, the Bosnian Muslims were quite ambivalent about where their loyalties lay and what their true identity consisted of. The identity of Bosnian Muslims was oscillating between religious affiliation, Ottoman tradition, local identity and their Slavic, Serbo-Croat roots. After Yugoslav unification in 1918, their allegiance torn between the Serbs and the Croats, the Bosnian Muslims collaborated closely with Belgrade as the strongest partner against Zagreb where their local identity was constantly challenged. The Bosnian Muslims moved more and more decisively in the direction of establishing a regional identification that was inseparable from their religious, that is, Muslim, affiliation.

The Second World War marked an important turning point. Aside from a small group of enlightened and tolerant middle-class intellectuals, who maintained their good will toward Belgrade, the majority of Bosnian Muslims, chafing under an unfulfilled national identity, veered toward Croatian fascism with its pronouncements of racial, national, and religious purity and exclusionism. Bosnian Muslim finally established links primarily to the ustashas who, following Starcevic's theories, proclaimed them to be "the cream of the Croatian nobility". Many others joined the Bosnian Muslim militias which were formed on the model of the Croatian Ustashas and contained the infamous 13th SS (Handjar) division. With respect to their religious-national fanaticism and the crimes committed against the Bosnian Serbian Orthodox population, the Bosnian Muslims lagged little behind the Croatian Ustashas. In Bosnia too, the conflict widened into a civil and religious war, with the fascist Croatian and Muslim forces on the one side and the royalist Yugoslav Home Army of General Dragoljub Draza Mihailovic linked to the exiled royal government in London (drazinovci) and independent loyalist forces (the Chetniks) on the other. In this way, the nationalism of Croats and Bosnian Muslims, having experienced frustration in the past half century, went into its most extreme form; Croat and Bosnian SS-type fascists unloaded their genocidal fury against the group - the Serbs - they thought were responsible for all the frustrations of an unfulfilled nationalism. (11)


In 1945, with the decisive support of Stalin's Red Army, Yugoslavia was reestablished as a communist federation along the lines of Lenin's Soviet centralism. Josip Broz Tito, the former communist partisan leader, spearheaded the communist movement for a Yugoslav federation, finding popular support for it primarily in the anti-fascist ranks of the Serbs in Bosnia, Herzegovina, and the Krajina. They in particular had suffered the ravages of the Croatian and Muslim ustashas. Attracted to the new egalitarian utopia as propounded by Moscow, traditionally the protector of the Orthodox Slavs in the Balkans, the Serbs saw in communism with its ideology of "brotherhood and unity" the potential for renewing King Alexander's policy of national unity and for preserving the Yugoslav national state. To the Serbs, the restoration of Yugoslavia meant that the majority of their nation would be again part of a single state. To the Croats who became communists or collaborated with the communist partisan, the restored Yugoslavia meant a federation, allowing Croatia its own statehood and even promoting the fulfillment of its national vision. With respect to the international significance, the Second Yugoslavia was considered (as was the First) a geopolitical necessity created to fit into the postwar European order.

The first two decades of the Second Yugoslavia were marked by the communist leadership consolidating its absolute power (bureaucratic centralism, 1945-1966). In this period, Tito relied heavily on the Serbian cadres (headed by Aleksandar Rankovic), who had been his collaborators in emerging victorious from the preceding civil war. The centralism pursued by Tito had several aims. Above all, it negated the national and political integralism of the inter-war period, so that, in the end, the expectations of the non-Serbian nations, the new republics, within the federation were not fulfilled. Least of all those of the Serbs. Tito's rigidly centralized system was not only counteract, that is prevent, any discussion of the genocide perpetrated against the Serbs in the early 1940s, but also to undermine the position of the Serbs as the strongest national component in the multi-national Yugoslavia. To the communists, including those who were Serbian, the Serbs were nations that professed loyalty to its own dynasty (monarchy, of course, being anathema to communism) and always strove for a "Greater Serbian hegemony," which allegedly oppressed all other nations and national minorities within Yugoslavia. By an ironic twist, if the pre-war Kingdom of Yugoslavia was based on the principle that the Serbian nation was the pillar of the common state, the communist federation was organized around the opposite of this principle, namely, that the Serbs were the biggest obstacles to a federated Yugoslavia.

In order to achieve an ethnic balance in the communist Yugoslavia, clearly directed against the numerical preponderance of Serbs, Tito immediately after seizing power legalized the creation of new nations: The Macedonians were the fist to receive this new nation status which was based on alleged common linguistic criteria. Then came the Montenegrins, who had a tradition of statehood; and in the late 1960s, finally, the Bosnian Muslims were declared a nation whose national identity was predicated on the common bond of religion (first in 1968, and finally in 1971). Tito's system of republics was based less on ethnic criteria and historical precedents, although these counted also, and more on a mixture of certain vestiges of colonial times and internal administrative divisions of different party committees recently created by fiat. Tito himself liked to talk of the boundaries within the republics as merely being lines drawn on granite that served to bond together the nations and minorities of Yugoslavia. Only much later, Tito's former collaborator and later his most vociferous opponent, the dissident Milovan Djilas, admitted in 1971 a different reason for the internal administrative divisions of Serbs in five out of the six federal republics. To scatter Serbs among the republics in this way was Tito's avowed aim in order to undermine their "centralism and hegemonism" as a major "obstacle" to the establishment and triumph of communism in Yugoslavia. (12)

The Leninist type of centralism with prevailing powers of the federation was finally abandoned in 1966. If in the twenty years after the communist take-over the Serbs had cherished Yugoslavism as the highest expression of the unity of state and nation, the non-Serbian nations of Yugoslavia saw it as a crypto-unitarian ideology that masked the real aims of a "Greater Serbia." Croatian federalist aspirations (hearkening even to the time of the Dual Monarchy) and communist aims from the time of the Comintern, all with a decided anti-Serbian edge, eventually propelled Tito's Yugoslavia into the direction of a system of national communism. Pushing for a new constitution after 1966, Tito succeeded in having his constitutional amendments accepted in 1968-1978. With the completion and acceptance of the new Yugoslav Constitution in 1974, the Titoist system, designed by the Slovenian Edvard Kardelj, had reached its final stage, that of national communism. With this system, it was the republican and provincial nomenklatura of the communist parties that from now were the bearers of national, that is, republican and state, sovereignty.(13)


According to Kardelj's principal pre-war study (The Development of the Slovenian National Question, supplemented by new chapters in 1958), Yugoslavia was a conditional alliance that the Slovenes had entered because it fully protected their interests and made possible their unhindered development. The never uttered, but implied conclusion was that it is possible to leave, at one's own will such a conditional alliance when it was no longer needed. In his criticism of bureaucratic centralism, which was to become the official state ideology after 1966, Kardelj warned about its connection with "Greater Serbian hegemonism", condemned the attempts at creating a "Yugoslav nation" and warned that this was only a trap set by "the remnants of Greater Serbian nationalism". (14)

Kardelj had the distinction of being not only the major theorist of the Yugoslav system of self-management, but also the author of Yugoslavia's various constitutions, including the longest (it contained 406! articles) and final Constitution of 1974. From a legal perspective, this Constitution, which granted the prerogative of statehood to the six republics of the Yugoslav federation, was also the world's most confusing document of its kind. A teacher by profession, Kardelj imposed his own vision of the nation state as an autarchic community on his creation of a Yugoslav federal system as well as the economic system of self-management. Kardelj's vision reflected the narrow horizons of a self-sufficient alpine village in the middle of Slovenia, with far-reaching, and devastating, effects for the future of Yugoslavia.

The 1974 Constitution defined Yugoslavia as a loose federation, actually more as a confederation that was united only because of the iron authority Tito exercised over it. National homogeneity, based on the system of national communism installed in the republics, became the sine qua non of their internal order. There had also been efforts to create something on the order of mini nation states within the republics (in the case of Kosovo-Metohija, within provincial boundaries), which were considered as "mother states" of the majority nations. This marked the beginning of ethnic, as well as religious discrimination of the minority nations within a particular federal, that is republican, or provincial entity. In Croatia, for example, in the late 1960s a large and aggressive national movement (maspok) came into being, recalling the features of that of two decades before when nothing less than a politically, religiously, and ethnically pure nation satisfied Croatian nationalists. In multi-ethnic Bosnia-Herzegovina this ideology went in the direction of the tacit creation of the nation-state of Bosnian Muslims. The southern Serbian province of Kosovo-Metohija, to cite another example, the installation of the 1974 Constitution marked the beginning of the Muslim Albanian claim to an ethnically pure national state.

Precisely in those mini-states, in accordance with Tito's and Kardelj's constitutional structure, the Serbs became the objects of open or indirect discrimination. The purpose in creating a series of mini-nations - excepting, of course, Serbia, who was deprived of control over her two provinces - was transparent. In Yugoslavia, the Serbs were numerically the largest and most widespread population group. Historically, they had settled on the largest territorial sections of what later became the federated nation state of Yugoslavia. This fact, of course, was perceived by the other South Slav nations as a real or potential threat to their national goals. The majority rule, rejected as "Serbian hegemonism" on the federal level, became the accepted model within the communist republics.

To undermine this alleged Serbian hegemony and domination, Tito imposed a constitutional arrangement on Yugoslavia that was the virtual mirror image of the old Austro-Hungarian formula of a multi-national state. The major difference lay in the fact that Tito's internal organization was placed within the rigidly ideological framework of national communism, which - however repressive and intolerant the Habsburgs may have been toward their nationalities - was not a conceivable solution in the old Dual Monarchy. But Tito, of Croatian origin, was able to subject the Serbs to an arrangement which the Habsburgs finally failed to achieve, namely reduce their territorial boundaries according to what was acceptable to the powers that be and, at the same time, deprive them of all constitutional and political rights in those regions, for example, Kosovo-Metohija or Krajina, in which they lived for centuries and which were their rightful homelands. In sum, the boundaries of the 1974 constitutional settlement differed only in small degree from those approved by Austria-Hungary at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. (15)

The Constitution of 1974 established - to say the least - a most precarious balance between the Yugoslav nationalities. Only a year after Tito's death in 1980, the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo challenged his arrangement, demanding what they considered to be their rightful prerogative, the status of a republic. As such, of course, Kosovo would also have the right to secede from the Yugoslav federation. For years, the Albanian majority in Kosovo-Metohija had already been using the prerogatives granted them by Tito's Constitution to strengthen their collective rights and, more importantly, to deprive the Serbian minority - step by step - of their civil, political-constitutional, and often human rights.

In Kosovo-Metohija, ideology of national communism manifested to the extreme the anti-liberal and anti-democratic logic of national emancipation. The separatist movement of Kosovo-Metohija's ethnic Albanians, claiming to be acting in accordance with the rights and privileges inscribed in Tito's constitutional arrangement, directed its fury against the Serbian minority, which had no adequate constitutional-political protection in its very own homeland. The force used against Albanian extremists by the federal police was but a token force and the internal purges in the republic and the provinces did nothing to rectify the uneven national-constitutional balance within the federation.

Nevertheless, the Albanian separatist movement unleashed a domino effect over Yugoslavia as a whole. It first called forth a fierce Serbian reaction, in the form of a massive ethnic mobilization for the protection of the Kosovo Serbs. The Serbian move, in turn, provoked the other Yugoslav nations to further mobilize forces against the Serbs. Yugoslavia was teetering on the brink of a civil and religious conflagration even before the outbreak of war in 1992. In this way, the Titoist order, designed above all to nip the alleged hegemonic aims of Serbian nationalists in the bud, called forth exactly those nationalist reactions it had tried to prevent. In the end, the fundamentally inequitable and illiberal order of Tito was destroyed by its very own logic. (16)

Thus, a major reason for Yugoslavia's disintegration can be found in the Titoist solution to the national question. Instead of true liberal reforms, which the constitutional reform movement in the late 1960s allegedly introduced, Kardelj imposed on Yugoslavia an illiberal ideology of national communism. As a result, nationalist nomenklatura, more often than not giving mere lip service to the communist ideology, proclaimed themselves as the sole protectors of "national" interests. In reality, they manipulated them to their own advantage. This was especially the case with the establishment of the neo-communist regime of Slobodan Milosevic in 1989. The national-communism was finally established in Serbia in 1989 by Milosevic, almost two decades later than in the other republics. Continually playing on the national frustrations of Serbs, primarily the unresolved antagonisms they experienced as minorities in the various republics, the Milosevic regime instrumentalized the old communist ideology while, at the same time, challenging the (Yugoslav) house that Tito built. Clearly, by adhering to communism at the very moment it collapsed in both the Soviet bloc and the Soviet Union itself, Milosevic only fueled and legitimized the demands for secession in the Yugoslav republics. The nomenklatura of the early nineties, although - with the exception of those in Serbia and Montenegro - democratically elected and formally non-communist, were hardly promoting democratic and human rights. The old logic of national communism, as had always been in practice, was still firmly in place. Giving precedence to their own nationality, of course, the nomenklatura in the various republics readily lent their support to the rising nationalist demands in the regions they administered. Coupled with increasing ethnic discrimination against minority groups within the individual Yugoslav republics and provinces, the various separatist-nationalist demands in the late eighties and early nineties remained unchecked by the ruling elites, the nomenklatura, who in themselves had not yet shed their illiberal, undemocratic, and dictatorial communist costume. Following the old logic of national communism their support to the rapid radicalization of the national mobilization was followed by the rising ethnic discrimination and finally produced the primitive replicas of the nineteenth century nationalism, now imbued by the communist intolerance. With unconstrained nationalist demands and with inter-ethnic tensions veering out of control, the Second Yugoslavia was thus set on a path that inexorably led to dissolution and disintegration.

Thus far, Europe and the west have paid little heed to the shattering historical experience of the First and Second Yugoslavia as a multi-national state, in which the combination of frustrated nationalism and an illiberal political order led to brutal civil war. The old communist or undemocratic forces, even if occasionally condemned, are receiving renewed support from the West, and many of the old nationalist dissatisfactions - not only in Kosovo-Metohija - continue to defy solution. But if there is anything to be learned from Serbia's and Yugoslavia's historical past it is precisely the fact that without the pacification of national grievances and without the introduction of a democratic order there will never be a stable peace in the region. It is the most potent and the most urgent lesson we can learn from Yugoslavia's long past of a frustrated nationalism.


*This article is the revised version of a paper delivered at the 28th National Convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies at Boston, November 17, 1996. For their helpful suggestions I especially thank Dimitrije Djordjevic, Norma von Ragenfled-Feldman and Zeljan E. Suster. Published in : Serbian Studies, vol. 11, No 2, Washington 1997, pp.67-85.

(1) While there is a considerable general literature on the formation of the Yugoslav nation state, the more specific issues surrounding nationalism in Yugoslavia before and after it became a state are still not researched well. For the general literature and further discussion see: D. T. Batakovic, Yougoslavie. Nations, religions, ideologies, (Lausanne, L'Age d'Homme 1994).

(2) D.T. Batakovic, "Ilija Garasanin's Nacertanije. A Reassessment", Balcanica, Belgrade 1994, pp. 157-183.

(3) On Pasic's ideology: Dj. Dj. Stankovic, Nikola Pasic i jugoslovensko pitanje, vol. 1-2, (Beograd: BIGZ 1985).

(4) S. K. Pavlowitch, The Improbable Survivor. Yugoslavia and its Problems, (London: Hurst & Co, 1988). On Croat concepts see: M. Stefanovski, Ideja Hrvatskog drzavnog prava i stvaranje Jugoslavije, (Beograd: Agencija Draganic 1995).

(5) Lj. Boban, Sporazum Cvetkovic-Macek, Beograd 1965, p. 142 passim; see also original documents in : B. Petranovic-M. Zecevic, Jugoslovenski federalizam. Ideje i stvarnost, vol. I (1914-1941), (Beograd, Prosveta 1987)

(6) On Strosmayer : V. Krestic, "Jugoslovenske ideje J.J. Strosmajera", Istorijski glasnik, Beograd 1969; P. Korunic, Jugoslavizam i federalizam u hrvatskom nacionalnom preporodu 1835-1875, (Zagreb: Globus 1989).

(7) R. Lovrencic, Geneza politike "novog kursa" (Zagreb: Institut za hrvatsku povijest) 1972.

(8) A. Starcevic, Politicki spisi (izbor i predgovor T. Ladan), (Zagreb, Matica Hrvatska 1971).

(9) Lj. Boban, Macek i politika Hrvatske seljacke stranke 1928-1941, vol. 1-2, (Zagreb: Liber 1974); B. Gligorijevic, "Jugoslovenstvo izmedju dva rata", Jugoslovenski istorijski casopis, No 1-4, Beograd 1986, pp. 71-97.

(10) The German evlauations in : H. Neubacher, Sonderauftrag Sudost 1940-1945. Berichte einesfliegenden Diplomaten, (Goettingen: Musterschmidt 1956). General account in : E. Paris, Genocide in Satellite Croatia 1941-1945. A Record of Racial and Religious Persecutions and Massacres, (Chicago: American Institute for Balkan Affairs 1961). See also J. Steinberg, All Or Nothing. The Axis and the Holocaus 1941-1945 (London: Routledge 1990), which, although it doesn't deal specifically with the Croatian Ustashas, documents in important ways their particular vehemence and brutality against the Serbian population.

(11) E. Redzic, Muslimansko autonomastvo i !3 SS divizija. Autonomija Bosne i Hercegovine i Hitlerov Treci Rajh, (Sarajevo: Svjetlost 1987). On Muslim question in Bosnia-Herzegovina after the Second World War: A. Popovic, Les musulmans yougoslaves. Mediateurs et metaphores, (Lausanne: L'Age d'Homme 1990).

(12 ) See interview of Djilas given to: "Le Monde", Paris, December 30, 1971.

(13) B. Gligorijevic, Kominterna, jugoslovensko i srpsko pitanje, (Beograd: Institut za savremenu istoriju 1992); D. T. Batakovic, "Nationalism and Communism : The Yugoslav Case", Serbian Studies, vol. 1-2, Washington 1995, pp. 25- 41

(14) E.Kardelj, Razvoj slovenackog nacionalnog pitanja, (Beograd: Komunist 1973), pp. XXX-XXXVIII

(15) S. Jovanovic, Jedan prilog za izucavanje srpskog nacionalnog karaktera, (Windsor: Canada 1961), p. 31.

(16) For Kosovo, cf. D.T. Batakovic, The Kosovo Chronicles, (Belgrade: Plato 1992); idem, Kosovo. La spirale de la haine, (Lausanne: L'Age d'Homme 1993).

Dusan T. Batakovic

Željko Zidarić
13th-June-2012, 10:18 PM

Institute for Balkan Studies, Belgrade (http://www.rastko.rs/istorija/batakovic/batakovic-nationalism_communism_eng.html)

Nationalism: from Nation-State Model to Integral Yugoslavism

National integration in Southeastern Europe has been effected under the strong influence of several factors. They have varied depending on the local conditions, from historicism to religion, thus shaping particular types of national movements. In the regions where the Ottomans had ruled for centuries, ethnic particularity was expressed in the tradition of the millet-system. It represented the unity of the ethnicity with the Christian Church which was legally ingrained in the administrative structure of the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, the struggle for national rights was resolved by a consecutive series of uprisings and wars. They had a decisive influence onto the profiles of the future national movements. (1)

However, in the further development of the new, mostly secularized national states (Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, Montenegro), these traditions were not an obstacle to their liberal and democratic transformation. For the Orthodox nations in the Balkans the model of the millet-system has proved itself to be a solid base for transition to the standard European type of national integration - the nation-state model, based on Rousseau's ideas and the experience of the French Revolution.

Contrary to this, a basically European model, the Central-European model of national integration arose gradually within the frontiers of another multinational empire, the Habsburg Monarchy. It was a predominantly clerical nationalism, combined with feudal traditions and nation-state claims based on feudal or "historical rights". This model of nationalism was especially apparent in the regions where the Roman-Catholic and the Orthodox Churches coexisted, like Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia and it was coloured by an excessive religious intolerance. The fact that in these parts of Habsburg Empire nation and state remained unseparated until the dissolution of Austria-Hungary in 1918, contrary to secularized states like France and Germany - reduced the national integration of the Croats and Slovenes to a predominantly clerical model of nationalism. That model developed also in Herzegovina and Bosnia, the Ottoman provinces occupied by Austria-Hungary in 1878, where the Christians, both Orthodox and Roman Catholic, lived together with the islamized Slavs - the Bosnian muslims.(2)

The third, supra-national, and essentially cultural model, founded on the ideas of the Enlightenment blended afterwards with the experiences of the Romantic era - ideas shared by the influential ideologists of modern nationalism from J. Fichte to J. G. Herder and J. Kollár to L. Stur. Its basic criterion for national identity was a common language encompassing the common culture as the emanation of national spirit. The Yugoslav idea as a viable political solution for the South Slav national question grew from this linguistic model of modern nationalism which also included the common cultural heritage, customs and folk traditions. (3) Adopted primarily by the liberal intelligentsia among the Croats and the Serbs, the Yugoslav idea could not be implemented in the undeveloped, predominantly agrarian society, impregnated by various feudal traditions, religious intolerance and often a xenophobic mentality. It was the example of "imagined communities" (4), professed throughout the 19th century mainly by the liberal Croats. It was only after 1903 that it was embraced by the Serbian intelligentsia as a model for future unification.

The Croats and the Serbs used linguistic nationalism expressed in a Yugoslav idea as an auxiliary device in respective of their own national integrations. Within the framework of their different political and socio-economic backgrounds, the Serbs and Croats had fundamentally different interpretations of its political meaning. For the national elite of the Serbs, the common Yugoslav state was not only a viable framework for their national unification, but also the first step towards merging of the three-tribe nation (consisting of the Serbian, Croatian and Slovene "tribe") into a new national entity - a single Yugoslav nation. For the elites of the Croats and the Slovenesthe common state was considered only as a suitable protection for their national rights and as a starting point towards their future national integration. Only a small portion of "integral Yugoslavs" was ready to accept the Serbian stands, predominently the Croats in Dalmatia, where the idea of a "three-tribe nation" under the influence of Italian risorgimento mixed with popular neoslavism of Czech politician Thomas G. Masarykemerged.(5)

The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was established in 1918 in the name of national self-determination. Conceived as a bridge over the millennium-wide abyss that had separating kindred nations for centuries, the Yugoslav state, due to different levels of national integration soon became the scene of major disputes. The new state was neither ethnically nor socially homogeneous: it was also religiously diversified and characterized by different political and cultural heritages. Serbia gave the new state its dynasty, its military and administrative apparatus, a centralist manner in organizing administration, as welle as developed and well-established institutions of a parliamentary monarchy. Considering their national question to be permanently resolved, the Serbs, following the French nation-state model, strived for centralized statehood and for democratic competition between various political parties. Contrary to this, the main Croatian and Slovene political parties, fearing "hegemonism" or "Serbisation", resembled national movements more than political parties. Their goal was not to develop democratic institutions, but rather to further strengthen their respective national communities and the political rights resulting not from individual but from the collective - national rights.(6)

The identitity of the Bosnian muslims oscillated between religious affiliation, Ottoman tradition (identification with the Ottomans), local 'Bosnian' identity, and their Slavic, Serbo-Croatian origins. Torn between the Croats and the Serbs after the unification they gradually turned to the evolvement of local religious identity.

A decade of political misunderstanings and severe national clashes erupted in assassination of three Croat deputies in the Parliament, including the Croat leader Stjepan Radic in 1928. The political crisis menacing the state unity was resolved by coup d'Etat by King Alexander I. On January 6th 1929, the King sacrificed democracy for preserving the state unity and imposed his personal rule: he abolished the Constitution, dismissed the Parliament, banned all the parties with national affiliations and, soon afterwards, proclaimed a single Yugoslav nation in a centralized Yugoslav state. On October 3rd 1929, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes became the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. King Alexander considered the French-type centralism, imbued with the idea of integral Yugoslavism, to be the best cure for growing national particularism. (7)

The collapse of this unitarian concept of Yugoslavism, was heralded by the King's assassination, organized by the Ustashas, the Croatian pro-fascist nationalists and assisted by VMRO terrorists in Marseille 1934. The new Croat leader Vladko Macek in the late thirties openly proclaimed the will of his nation: "If the Serbs turn to the left, we will have to turn to the right. If they go right we will go left. If a war breaks out, we will be left with no other choice but to join the opposite side to the one Belgrade chooses to support." (8) The internal, basically federal reorganisation of the country (Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian unities), started after the creation of the Banovina Hrvatska as corpus separatum in August 1939, as a concession to external threat, was prevented by German invasion in April 1941.(9)

The religious model of Croatian national movement, reached its peak during the civil war (1941-1945), when a significant part of Roman Catholic clergy closely collaborated with Croatian fascists, Ustashas of Ante Pavelic. It was under the patronage of Berlin and Rome that the latter took over in the puppet state created in April 1941 - the Independent State of Croatia (ISC). In the name of religious and national purity, in ISC (1941-1945), which included the territories of Croatia, Dalmatia, Krajina, Slavonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, between 300.000 and 700.000 Serbs, according to German and Italian sources, were slaughtered, 240.000 were forcibly converted to Roman-Catholicism, and over 180.000 were deported to inner Serbia occupied by the Third Reich. (10)

Communism: from international proleterianism to national-communism

The victory of the Communists in the civil war, gained with the decisive support of the Red Army in 1944, resulted in a Leninist-type federation, based upon 'brotherhood and unity' of all Yugoslav peoples, in conformity with the new social and totalitarian vision. Yugoslavia's post-war internal reorganisation was based on the national policy of the Communist Party. As a section of the Communist International (the Comintern) since 1919, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia was financially and organizationally linked to the center in Moscow. Operating illegally since 1921, CPY consistently followed the Comintern instructions concerning the resolution of the national question in Yugoslavia.

As early as 1920, the Comintern considered Yugoslavia to be an "expanded Serbia", and for the Comintern's Yugoslav section Yugoslavia was "an agent of French imperialism". At the Fifth Congress in 1924, the Comintern abandoned the principle of federal reorganisation of Yugoslavia which "the western imperialists" used together with other Balkan countries as a "cordon sanitaire" on the south-eastern borders of the USSR.(11)

In order to break this "cordon sanitaire", a new, radical political stand was defined in Moscow according to which "the subjugated nations" in the states of the enemy camp were acknowledged the right of secession. The enemy camp also included Yugoslavia. Family ties with the Romanovs and settlement of numerous troops of tzarist generals in Yugoslavia, labeled king Alexander as one of the most ardent opponents to the Soviet rule. The Fifth Congress of the Comintern explicitly granted Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia the right to secession and of creating independent states. It was also emphasized that assistance should be offered to "the liberation of the ethnic Albanians" in Kosovo.(12)

For the Yugoslav communists, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was a "prison for the nations" in which the Serbian political élite oppressed the other nations and minorities. The stand regarding "Great Serbian hegemony" and "the Great Serbian bourgeoisie" as its bearer, derived from the theses of the former Austro-Hungarian political élite. They considered the "Great Serbian danger" to be the main obstacle to the establishment of Habsburg domination in the Balkans. In the name of the international proletarianism, CPY constantly kept expressing support to "the defense of its rightless brothers in bloody and military-fascist Yugoslavia", also stimulating the Croatian opposition's resistance "caused by the repeated loathsome betrayal of the Croatian nation's interests".(13)

At the Fourth Congress of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, held in Dresden in 1928, a political platform was adopted pointing at the absolute necessity of disintegrating the common South Slav state and stressed the recognition of "the right to self-determintion up to the secession of all oppressed nations - Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians, Montenegrins etc." (14)

Immediately after the establishment of king Alexander's personal rule in 1929, the secretary of the CPY, Milan Gorkic, suggested that in the event of an uprising in Croatia, a "temporary agreement with foreign imperialism" should be concluded; that is, that fascist Italy and Hungary should be given territories only in order that the "Great Serbian hegemony" could be crushed.(15)

The stand regarding the resolution of the national question acquired an even sharper tone at the Fourth Conference of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, held in Ljubljana in 1934: it was stressed that the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was essentially "an occupation of Croatia, Dalmatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina by Serbian troops". For this reason, the party's priority task was considered to be "to drive Serbian chetniks out of Croatia, Dalmatia, Slovenia, Vojvodina, Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo". (16)

Although according to the inter-war ethnic composition the Serbs constituted either an absolute or a relative majority in Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Vojvodina, the CPY considered that the possibility should be left open for each of these regions to become independent units within the future federal and communist Yugoslavia. An important and only strategic turnabout took place in 1935 when the Comintern's policy took the course of joining forces into a "Popular Front" against "the growing danger of Nazism and Fascism in Europe".(17)

J.B. Tito, a Croatian communist trained by Comintern in Moscow, after participation in the purges, was appointed as the provisional secretary general of the CPY in 1937 (not to be officially confirmed by Moscow till autumn 1940). (18) The Comintern's new instructions and the change in the balance of forces in Europe led to a certain evolution in the stands concerning the national question. The CPY, following the "Popular Front" policy, decided to preserve the state unity at its Fifth Conference held in Zagreb in 1940, when the war was already raging in Europe. (19)

The foundations of the country's post-war organisation were laid at the communist assembly held in Jajce (Bosnia) on November 29th 1943, which proclaimed itself the representative of all the Yugoslav nations, calling itself the "Antifascist Council of the People's liberation of Yugoslavia" (AVNOJ). J.B. Tito, communist guerilla leader was proclaimed the marshal of Yugoslavia, and the assembly's decisions were forwarded to the allied forces. The assembly at which the will of all the Yugoslav nations was allegedly expressed, was formed ad hoc from the communist guerilla leaders who were present (including a few pre-war politicians). The audience of AVNOJ mostly consisted of their fighting units. Tito declared that the new, communist Yugoslavia would be based on the federal principle with "all the nations (...) being free and equal" and with other ethnic groups being "guaranteed all the minority rights".(20) The restoration of Yugoslavia in its pre-war borders was the conditio sine qua non of Tito's policy. He promised not only a social reorganisation in the new, Bolshevik state, but also "brotherhood and unity" as the principle that would put an end to all the injustice done by the pre-war regime.

National question: the titoist solution

J.B. Tito followed Lenin's old motto: where there is no developed working class (Yugoslavia was predominantly an agrarian country), the power can be best consolidqted by manipulating the national frustrations. His main goal was to crush the "Great Serbian hegemony", because communist Yugoslavia was conceived as a negation of the Kingdom's regime.

The establishment of the internal borders in Yugoslavia perhaps best illustrated the national policy of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. Through internal decisions, the inner communist leadership created six federal republics, of which Serbia was additionally federalized in order for the rights of minorities (as a branches of nations from neighbouring communist states - Albania and Hungary) to be guaranteed. Internal delimitation was not based on the the ethnic composition or on the existing political heritage, but was a mixture historical (or colonial) boudaries and the regional organization of party committees in the inter-war period.

At the founding Congress of the Communist party of Serbia in May 1945, J.B. Tito explained the reason for its creation: "Various elements, former clerks, scribes, say that Tito and the communists have torn Serbia up. "Serbia is in Yugoslavia, and we do not think that within Yugoslavia we are creating states that will wage war against each other. If Bosnia and Herzegovina is equal, if it has its own federal unit, then we have not torn up Serbia - we have made the Serbs in Bosnia, as well as the Croats and Muslims, happy. This is only an administrative division".(21)

The communist dictator kept saying that the internal borders of the Republics were just lines drawn on granite uniting nations and minorities. Famous Yugoslav dissident, Milovan Djilas, however, admitted as early as 1971 in his interview to Le Monde, that the dividing of Serbs into five or six republics was aimed at weaking "centralism and hegemonism of the Serbs" as the most serious obstacle to communism.(22)

Famous jurist and historian Slobodan Jovanovic, the Prime Minister of the Royal Yugoslav government in exile (London 1942-1943) also pointed at the danger of Serbia being divided up and to the fact that Austro-Hungarian stands were undoubtedly being applied in the communist resolution of the Serbian question: "The most persistently preserved part of the old Austrian propaganda against Serbia is belief that Serbia has nothing to ask for beyond the borders it acquired in 1878 at the Berlin congress (...) There were even Yugoslavs (advocates of a unified Yugoslav nation) who described our requests that went beyond the borders from 1878, as a sign of Serbian chauvinism - and even our protests against Tito's outlining of the Serbian federal unit were ascribed to that chauvinism. According to these and similar views it seems as if the Serbs in Yugoslavia would have to be satisfied with the borders that Austria would have left them if the Yugoslav unification had been carried out under the Habsburg dynasty".(23)

Tito's views owed a lot to the Austro-Hungarian projection of the Serbian question. Having matured in the Austro-Hungarian period and having been its soldier on the front towards Serbia in 1914, Tito, following the similar stands of the Comintern regarding the Serbian question which only had a different ideological option, according to the way in which he resolved the national question in the Balkans, really did deserve to be called "the last Habsburg" as British historian A. J. P. Taylor farsightedly described him in 1948, only to repeat the same assessment after Tito's death in 1980.(24)

An analysis of Tito's speeches and other "Collected works" shows that the expression "the hegemony of the Greater Serbian bourgeoisie", which was frequently used in the first phase of the struggle for power, started increasingly being replaced, in the post-war period, by the expression "Greater Serbian hegemony" which laid responsibility on the entire nation. He always called the kingdom of Yugoslavia "a Versailles creation" denying it autochthony: "The Versailles Yugoslavia, born on Corfu, in London and Paris (...) was a country that represented the most typical example of national oppression in Europe, in which "the Croats, Slovenes and Montenegrins were subjugated, and the Macedonians, Albanians and others were enslaved and rightless". Tito considered the authorities of the Kingdom to be "a handful of greater Serbian hegemonists led by the King, who ruled Yugoslavia for 22 years in their greediness for wealth, and who established a regime of police repression and prisons, a regime of social and national slavery".(25)

The rupture with the Soviet Union in July 1948, which directly endangered his authority, was something Tito, as a pragmatic and very adaptable statesman, turned into his greatest success. The famous schism intimated that Yugoslavia would take its own road, setting aside the experiences of the Moscow regime. Thus, during the Cold War, Tito won the undivided simpathy of the West which was backed up by considerable military and financial support. The Communist Party of Yugoslavia changed its name into the Yugoslav League of Communists (1952), and the system of self-management (1950) was inaugurated as new doctrine of the internal order presenting an ideological challenge to the Soviet-type real-socialism. Although it was an impossible mixture of empty tirades that created an enormous bureaucratic apparatus and blocked economic development, it was for decades that self-menagement kept thrilling, left-wing western intellectuals as an important innovation in socialism. (26)

From centralism to federalism

Yugoslavism which, over the first two decades of communist rule, was cherished as the highest expression of state unity, was experienced by the non-Serbian nations as crypto-unitarianism. Corroboration for such assessments was found in the all-mightiness of the secret police led by Tito's closest associate Aleksandar Rankovic who being a Serb was considered a promoter of integral Yugoslavism.(27)

"The withering away of the state" which was, in 1950, proclaimed the goal of self-management, due to certain constitutional solutions, threatened to turn into the "withering away of the republics". The Constitutional Law of 1953 considerably changed the 1946 Constitution which was in its turn a copy of the 1936 Soviet Constitution. The Constitutional law of 1953 left out the paragraph on the right to secession that was present in the article one of the 1946 Constitution.

The effort to create a common Yugoslav culture that would, apart from the common Communist Party, be the basis for merging the Yugoslav nations into a new entity, was stimulated, as early as 1960, by Tito himself: "In Yugoslavia it is no longer emphasized whether someone is a Serb, a Croat or of some other nationality (...) Today in our country there is no more friction between the republics, but there exists, in certain republics and districts, purely local friction which is positive because it pushes forward."(28)

At the Eight Congress of the Communist League of Yugoslavia, held in December 1964, Tito suddenly abandonned the idea of creating a single Yugoslav nation. He stressed that policy of Yugoslavism was an excuse for "assimilation and bureaucratic centralism, unitarism and (Great Serbian) hegemony." (29)

These newly adopted views were based on theoretical concepts, established by influent Slovene ideologist Edvard Kardelj. His pre-war book The Development of the Slovenian National Question, supplemented by new chapters (1958), became the theoretical basis for the creation of national-communist tate units that would, as some kind of self-managing but, in fact, confederal alliance of states, be formally united in

According to Kardelj, Yugoslavia was a conditional alliance which the Slovenes had entered because it fully protected their interests and made their unhindered development possible. The never uttered, but implied possibility to leave such a conditional alliance when it is no longer needed was obvious. In his criticism of bureaucratic centralism, which was to become the official state ideology after dismissal of Rankovic in 1966, Kardelj condemned the attempts at creating a "Yugoslav nation" and warned that this was only a trap of "the remnants of the Great Serbian nationalism".(30)

Kardelj was the main theoretician of Yugoslav self-management, the author of all its constitutions, including the world's longest (406 clauses) and, from the legal point of view, the most confusing one - the 1974 Constitution. A teacher with some modest experience (short inter-war training in Moscow), Kardelj understood the model of self-management and that of Yugoslavia's confederalization according to his own visions of a nation-state as a rounded off community which produced everything it needed by itself. This was a narrow vision of a self-sufficient Alpine village in Slovenia, a vision that would have a far-reaching effect on the fate of Yugoslavia.

In all of Tito's political showdowns with potential opponents, from Milovan Djilas (1954) to Aleksandar Rankovic (1966), Croatia's nationalistic leadership (1971) and the reform-oriented Serbian "anarcho-liberals" (1972), it was Kardelj who from the shadows prepared their liquidation and provided appropriate ideological explanations. After every crisis, he came out with a new program - after Djilas's fall he drew up a new party program, after the showdown with Rankovic (the Fourth Plenum on the Brioni islands in 1966) Kardelj designed the party reform. After the student unrest in 1968 he worked out the "Guidelines" that seemingly met the students' demands. After the "Croatian mass-movement" and "Serbian anarcho-liberalism" he came out with the 1974 Constitution. Calm, cold-blooded and seemingly moderate, he was the main ideological lever in Tito's immediate circle. While pragmatic Tito reacted to crises instinctively and intuitively, relying mostly on information from the military intelligence service (KOS), Kardelj gave every crisis an ideological content and adequate political weight.(31)

Towards national-communism

By stimulating national tensions in which he was the supreme arbitrator, Tito did not only permanently halt the efforts for reforming the economic and political relations, but he also seriously endangered the unity of the state. Instead of economic and political reforms, he took the Kardelj's model of national-communism as a new principle of his personal rule. This turnabout announced the disintegration of the common state and the establishment of a pseudo-federation which essentially changed the character of the state and the type of its internal order.

The amendments to the 1963 Constitution that were adopted from 1968 to 1971 and included into the 1974 Constitution, confirmed the decomposition of the common state on several constitutional bases: the bearers of sovereignty became, except federalized Serbia, the republics and autonomous provinces; the republics were defined as states based on the sovereignty of the people but, the bearers of sovereignity were in fact national-communist nomenclaturas.

National-communism initiated relative (in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina) or absolute discrimination (in Kosovo) of nations turned into minorities within republic's and autonomus provinces borders. One-nation domination, feared and fiercly rejected on federal level as "crypto-unitarism" and "Serbian hegemonism", by 1974 Constitution became major political ideal within the borders of federal and even provincial units.

The autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina were granted the status of constituent elements of the federation and were, thus, practically removed from the jurisdiction of inner Serbia. The provinces obtained the right to veto on decisions concerning the entire republic of Serbia, while the inner Serbia had no jurisdiction over the provinces.

With the 1971 Constitutional amendments and the 1974 Constitution itself, the achievement of the aspirations for having homogeneous nation-states was made possible for all nations (including ethnic Albanians in Kosovo-Metohija formally a minority) except the Serbs who lived dispearsed in five of six republics and in both provinces: "the trend towards identifying republics with ethnic groups increased the malaise of the Serbs (...) Of all the nationalities they had the highest proportion living outside their own republic (...) The territorial division of Yugoslavia was acceptable to them as administrative structure; it was not acceptable as framework for mini nation-states." (32)

As regards the status of Bosnia-Herzegovina, an ethnically mixed republic (Serbs, Croats and Bosnian muslims), efforts went in the direction of turning it into the nation-state of the Muslims. After long debates on the Muslims becoming a separate nation at the end of the sixties (the Muslims officially declared themselves as a separate nation at the 1971 population census), there soon appeared theories about a separate Bosnian nation, whose bearers would be the Bosnian Muslims, who during the 1950s became relative majority. (33)

After the dismissal of the reformists in Serbia and the nationalists in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina was the ideologically most orthodox communist fort of Titoism in which a narrow circle of Muslim and Croatian apparatchiks (Bijedic, Pozderac and Mikulic families), who excelled in ideological orthodoxy, became "famous" for their persecution of the "enemies". Attacks at those who tried to have a free and critical opinion regularly appeared in the regime's newspaper "Oslobodjenje", thus turning Bosnia-Herzegovina into "a world of perpetual darkness" (tamni vilajet), resembling the period of the Ottoman occupation when one could lose one's head because of a wrong word. The atmosphere of persecution in Bosnia in the 70s and 80s, was best described by Sarajevian philosopher Esad Cimic in his book Politics as a Destiny.(34)

The only ones to stand up against national-communism established by 1974 Constitution were a small group of intellectuals in Belgrade. It was because of its cosmopolitan traditions, that Tito always considered Belgrade to be the most dangerous "enemy hotbed". In their criticism of the 1971 constitutional amendments and the 1974 Constitution itself, those intellectuals stressed that Serbia would be in a subordinated position and that the Constitution with his almost feudal concept would be the source of growing national conflicts and even state unity. They were all condemned and laid off, some were forced into year-long isolation. The ideologists of the conservative national-communist titoism, mostly Croatian and Slovenian communists (from Stane Dolanc to Stipe Suvar), carefully watched for any sign of ideological straying in the capital's culture and science, constantly warning about the danger coming from the disobedient Belgrade intellectuals. (35)

The lack of citizens' responsibility, of the respect of human rights and the absence of democratic institutions in conditions of superficial, symbolic modernization, was fertile soil for the restoration of the old ethnic strife now instutionalized by national-communism. The separate national interests of the republics and provinces (especially in Kosovo), ardently advocated by the local nomenklatura, indicated that, with Tito's physical disappearance, nationalism would burry not only communism in Yugoslavia but also the common state itself.In his later years, Tito was already totally turned to the foreign policy. In the decade that preceded his death, the aging dictator directly became the personification of conservatism and stagnation - he turned into a communist Mogul, into the Yugoslav version of Soviet dictator Leonid Brezhnev. On the internal plan the explosive symbiosis of communism and nationalism nurtured the establishment of exclusive nationalism as a collectivist ideology, giving legitimacy to the discrimination and even persecution of minorities within the borders of federal units.(36)


The structural causes of the Yugoslav crisis from national conflicts to economic backwardness did not disappear during the forty five years of communist rule , but they even intensified. The main intention of the communists has never been to really resolve the basic contradictions in Yugoslavia, but rather to secure their own power. The aging dictator was a master in conducting such a utilitarian, cynical and even hedonistic policy.

The Yugoslav road to socialism and the defense of economic and state independence represented the basis for the propaganda directed towards the world. In a bipolar world, that propaganda was successful and it ensured considerable financial support from the West. On the internal level, the propaganda of the Zhdanov type was at first accompanied by brutal police coercion. In the sixties, when the state apparatus's coercion became a burden in negotiating with foreign creditors, the communists, seemingly liberal, took the national-communism as the basis for their own ideology.

Turning into the defenders of the national interests of their republics, the communists used foreign credits to finance not only the experiment of workers' self-management but also the creation of eight self-suficient national economies. The price of social and political peace was the state's enormous indebtedness and the sowing of the seed of national conflicts through the institutionalization of eight educational, financial and cultural systems. The process of the state's internal decomposition was towered over by the deliberately overemphasized picture of the grandeur of its lifetime president, which became practically the only basis of the common state.

Thus, the foundations of the Yugoslav crisis were laid way before it began. The moment the crisis was to burst out no longer depended on internal factors but on the geopolitical situation. Yugoslavia's (con)federalization was completed by 1989 (when national-communism was finally established in Serbia) and it was only the threat of the Soviet Union that compelled its integral parts to remain within the common state. After the dismemberment of the Soviet bloc the last cohesive factor disappeared.

The way in which Yugoslavia would disintegrate no longer depended on internal factors. Blinded by particularistic interests, the ex-communist apparatchiks turned into nationalist leaders in Yugoslav republics were totally incapable of overcoming the scenario of a 19th century vaudeville which turned into a tragedy with catastrophic consequences. Opting for what seemed the simplest solution - at first for the survival of the Yugoslav federation and then, under Germany's pressure, for its dismemberment along the existing republican borders - the international community, and primarily the European Community, only completed the communist project of Yugoslavia based on the national-communism which meant final implementation of an exclusive and often militant nationalism. The disintegration of Yugoslavia is, thus, the victory of nationalism, imbued by inherited communist intolerance and collectivist 19th century ideals, as opposed to all the principles contemporary Europe is based on - primarily the economic and democratic ones.


* Paper submitted to 18th International Congress of Historical Sciences, September 1, 1995, Montreal, Canada

1) Cf. P. Sugar and I. Lederer, Nationalism in Eastern Europe, Washington 1970, pp. 32-35, 396-420; R.Okey, Eastern Europe 1740-1985.Feudalism to Communism, London: Unwyn Hyman, 1986.

2) D.Djordjevic, "Yugoslavism". Some Aspects and Comments, in: South East Europe, No 2, 1972, pp. 192-193.

3) M.Gross, "Zur frage der jugoslavischen Ideologie bei den Croaten", in: A. Wandruska, R. Plaschka, A.Drabek (ed.), Die Donaumonarchie und die Südslavische Frage, Wien 1978, pp, 32-36; M.S.Spalatin, "The Croatian Nationalism of Ante Starcevic (1845-1871)", The Journal of Croatian Studies, vol. 16 (1975), pp. 111-112.

4) B. Anderson, Imaginied Communities: Reflection on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, London:Verso 1983, chapter V. Cf. also: E.Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780. Programme, Myth, Reality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, chapter II.

5) D. Djordjevic,"The idea of Yugoslav Unity in the Nineteenth Century", in: The Creation of Yugoslavia 1914-1918, Santa-Barbara - Oxford: Clio Books, 1980, pp. 7-10. Cf. R.Lovrencic, Geneza politike "novog kursa" u Hrvatskoj, Zagreb: Sveuciliste u Zagrebu-Institut za hrvatsku povijest 1972

6) More details in: A.N.Dragnich, The First Yugoslavia: Search for a Viable Solution, Stanford:Hoover Institution Press 1983.

7) C. Elain, La vie et mort d'Alexndre Ier, roi de Yougoslavie, Paris, 1968; D.T.Batakovic, Yougoslavie. Nations, religions, idéologies, Lausanne:L'Age d'Homme 1994, pp. 144-172.

8) "News Chronicle", London, August 16th, 193, interview by V.Macek.

9) D.T. Batakovic, op. cit., pp.176-180.

10) From 1941 to 1945 129 Roman-Catholic priests were decorated by Ustashi goverment, including ten bishops and one archbishop. On massacres see: D.T. Batakovic, "Le genocide dans l'Etat indépendant croate 1941-1945", in: Herodote, No 67, Paris 1992, pp. 70-80.

11) See: G. Vlajcic, Jugoslavenska revolucija i nacionalno pitanje 1919-1927, Zagreb: Globus 1987, pp.119-140; see also: D.Pesic, Jugoslovenski komunisti i nacionalno pitanje (1919-1935), Beograd: Rad 1978, pp. 49-73; B.Gligorijevic, Kominterna, jugoslovensko i srpsko pitanje, Beograd: Institut za savremenu istoriju 1992, pp. 106-183.

12) Quoted from: Istorijski arhiv KPJ, Kongresi i zemaljske konferencije KPJ 1919-1937, Beograd: Istorijsko odeljenje CK KPJ 1949, vol. II, p. 421. Serbo-Croat translation of Comintern congressial documents: Komunisticka Internacionala. Stenogrami i dokumenti kongresa, vol. I-VII, Gornji Milanovac: Institut za radnicki pokret 1981-1982."Declarations of the Fifth Congress of Comintern"in: vol.VI, pp. 597-599; vol. VII, pp.907-921. There is also an English translation: 5th Congress of the Communist International: Abridged Report of Meetings Held at Moscow -June 17th to July 18th, London: Communist Party of G.Britain, no date.

13) Istorijski arhiv KPJ, Kongresi i zemaljske konferencije KPJ 1919-1937, pp.422-423.

14)It was stressed during the Dresden Congress that Montenegro "had been deprived of its autonomy as a state and annexed to the Serbian state", and that same happened to "Croatia and Slovenia thanks to French and English imperialism". (Istorijski arhiv KPJ, vol.II, pp. 153-154.)

15) Ibid.

16) Quoted in: B.Petranovic-M.Zecevic,Agonija dve Jugoslavije, Beograd: Zaslon 1991, p. 191.

17) Istorijski arhiv KPJ, vol.II, pp. 399-400.

18) S.K.Pavlowitch, Tito. Yugoslavia's Great Dictator. A Reassessment, London: C.Hurst & Co, 1992, p.23-2. There are eight different versions of Tito himself on his appointment as a secretary general of CPY (P.Simic, Kad, kako i zasto je Tito postavljen za sekretara CK KPJ,Beograd: Akvarijus 1989.

19) J.B.Tito, Sabrana djela,vol V, Beograd 1979, pp. 50-65.

20) D.T.Batakovic,Yougoslavie, pp.233-234.

21) Quoted in: A.Djilas (ed.), Srpsko pitanje, Beograd:Politika 1991, p. 114.

22) M.Djilas,"Les communistes et la question nationale", Le Monde, Paris, 30 décembre 1971, p.4.

23) S.Jovanovic, Jedan prilog za proucavanje srpskog nacionalnog karaktera, Windsor: Canada 1964, p.31.

24) A.J.P.Taylor, The Habsburg Monarchy 1808-1918. A History of the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary, London: Hamish 1948, (Epilogue).

25) J.B.Tito, Nacionalno pitanje u svetlosti NOB, Zagreb 1945, p. 5

26) See: C. Bobrowski, L Yougoslavie socialiste, Paris:A. Colin 1956; G.Hoffman - F. Neal, Yugoslavia and the New Communism, New York: Columbia University Press 1962.

27) P.Shoup, Communism and the National Question in Yugoslavia, London and New York: Columbia University Press, 1968, pp. 209-21; 224.

28) Tito's speech of August 31 1960, J.B.Tito, Sabrana dela, vol. XIII, p. 321.

29) Osmi kongres SKJ, Beograd 1965, p. 9.

30) E.Kardelj (pseudonym Sperans), Razvoj slovenackog nacionalnog pitanja, Beograd 1973, pp. XXX-XXXVIII.

31) See: S. Djukic, Slom srpskih liberala.Tehnologija politickih obracuna Josipa Broza, Beograd: Filip Visnjic 1990, pp.51 passim; D.T. Batakovic, Yougoslavie, pp.251-263.

32) Quoted from: S.K.Pavlowitch, The Improbable Survivor: Yugoslavia and its Problems 1918-1988, London: C.Hurst & Co. 1988, p. 76.

33) A.Popovic, Les musulmans yougoslaves 1945-1989, Lausanne: L'Age d'Homme 1990, pp.35-40.

34) E.Cimic, Politika kao sudbina, Beograd: Mladost 1985.

35) M.Djuric, "Smisljene smutnje", in: Anali Pravnog fakulteta u Beogradu, vol. 3, Belgrade 1971, pp. 230-233.

36) N. Bellof, Tito's Flawed Legacy. Yugoslavia & the West since 1939, Boulder: Westview Press, 1985, p. 201 passim

The article was published in:
Serbian Studies, N° 1-2, vol. 9, Chicago 1995, pp. 25-41.

Dusan T. Batakovic