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In the 19th century several organizations were formed that campaigned for the unification of Slavonic peoples in the Balkans. These demands increased at the end of the First World War. On 4th December 1918, a new kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was established. This included Serbia, Montenegro and lands taken from Austro-Hungary and Bulgaria.

The monarch of Serbia, Peter I was the first ruler of the new kingdom and Nikola Pasic became the country's premier. Pasic successfully held the different groups together but his death in 1926 resulted in political turmoil. In January 1929 the new king, Alexander I, established a royal dictatorship and renamed the country Yugoslavia.

In the 1930s the Yugoslavian government headed by Prince-Regent Paul allied itself with the fascist dictatorships of Germany and Italy. However, on 27th March 1941, a military coup established a government more sympathetic to the Allies. Ten days later the Luftwaffe bombed Yugoslavia and virtually destroyed Belgrade. The German Army invaded and the government was forced into exile.

Resistance to the German occupation came from two rival guerrilla groups, the Chetniks led by Drazha Mihailovic and Josip Tito and his partisans. At first the Allies provided financial assistance to the Chetniks but when they began to collaborate with the Germans and Italians this aid was switched to the partisans.

By the end of November, 1943, Josip Tito was able to establish a government in Bosnia. After the war Tito created a federation of the socialist republics of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. In March 1945 Tito became premier of Yugoslavia. Over the next few years he created a federation of socialist republics (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia).

Tito had several disagreements with Joseph Stalin and in 1948 he took Yugoslavia out of the Comintern and pursued a policy of "positive neutralism". Influenced by the ideas of his vice-president, Milovan Djilas, Tito attempted to create a unique form of socialism that included profit sharing workers' councils that managed industrial enterprises.

Although created President for life in 1974, Tito established a unique system of collective, rotating leadership within the country.

In Yugoslavia, right from the war's end the government was well organized and firmly in the hands of the Communists. It had sprung from the grass roots, from the gradual development of party and guerrilla formations. Despite the upheavals and hatreds of war and revolution, after two or three years of peace Yugoslavia became a secure country. Secure, but hardly well ordered. Administrations were quickly set up and a cultural life emerged, but all within a framework of party ideology. It was still wartime when old theaters reopened and new ones started up, and many magazines and newspapers made their appearance. Their content, however, was controlled. Yet though the nation's younger generation was fired with enthusiasm, its working class loyal, and its party strong and self-confident, Yugoslavia remained a divided, grief-stricken land, materially and spiritually ravaged.

The consolidation of the new regime and new land and property laws - the continuation of the revolutionary process - found expression more in Tito's prominence than in that of the Communist party itself. This did not come about simply because Tito was the head of the new regime, whereas the Communist party still operated semi-legally. No, a "cult of Tito" had begun during the war. The aroused masses needed a leader and the party was "Bolshevized" - that is, Stalinized. Those demands and needs, emotional and practical, were built into the military and other hierarchies step by step. Actually, the cult of Tito was made official and institutionalized at the second session of AVNOJ (Antifascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia) in Jajce on November 29, 1943. Tito, an agent of the Comintern since 1937 with veto rights over the Central Committee, was confirmed - thanks to the Bolshevization of the party, his own resourcefulness, and, above all, the revolutionary process - as an autocratic leader. He had conducted himself as such from the start, in 1937; after Jajce he enthroned himself through his own sheer will, the will of a revolutionary leader.

The cult of Tito was not just Tito's doing, but also the result of organized political action. It was the product of a Tito faction, which gradually emerged within the leadership. It was the product, too, of a certain mood among the people, a people led by a single totalitarian party and accustomed to charismatic monarchs.

It goes without saying that Tito was not the only one ensconced in luxury, privilege, and exclusiveness, though in such matters no one could match him. The rest of the top leaders, federal, republican, and more than likely at -the municipal and district levels too, behaved similarly, indeed identically. A new ruling class was materializing spontaneously, systematically, and along with it the inevitable envy and greed. The top leaders not only failed to halt the process but, themselves wallowing in privilege, corrected only the worst excesses.

Regardless of whether or not such articles are basically accurate, none of us can always give a one-hundred-percent correct assessment and analysis before grasping the causes of certain phenomena, and before those causes have had a chance to filter down into the consciousness of the majority. Theoretical articles should not be discussed at party cell meetings as something prescribed and definitive; accordingly, party members should feel free to talk them over - not as the party line, not as something given and axiomatic, but as material that must make its impact on the mass development of theoretical thought... Accordingly, it is a mistake to confuse free discussion about questions of theory within a party organization with decisions already adopted on individual issues... In such discussions we dare not, we cannot judge people or make hasty decisions. Therefore, before bringing in a definitive judgment, it is quite correct to have discussions along democratic lines. Disciplined acceptance of a position taken by the majority on individual issues can come later.

The roots of the present state o£ affairs in the world go back to the imperialist method applied at Teheran, Yalta, Moscow, and Berlin during the war, when an attempt was first made to solve international problems.

No one in this country or in the world was surprised when at Teheran, Yalta, Moscow, and Berlin the Western powers approached the solution o£ world problems in their accustomed way. But for all who credited the rumor that the U.S.S.R. was the protector of little peoples, this came as a real moral blow, as the first strong doubts about the Soviet Union and the correctness of Moscow's policy. From Teheran to this day, Moscow has flaunted its imperialist majesty. Today we can boldly assert that the whole of Soviet foreign policy - setting aside ordinary propaganda tricks like their alleged struggle for peace and the rest - has been such as to contribute eminently to present international tension.

It was Moscow, was it not, who created colonies in the heart of Europe where there had once been independent states like Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, and so on. Not to mention the enslavement of the Baltic countries back before the war.

The USSR has pushed North Korea into an aggressive war, so as to bring South Korea under its sway while letting others get their hands dirty. In saying this I do not in the least diminish the responsibility of the Western powers. They are just as responsible for the situation in Korea since the war began in 1950. This Korean war - which could turn into a world conflict - results from a division into

spheres of interest.

After two or three days I was asked to come to the White Palace where I found Kardelj and Rankovic waiting with Tito. As I sat down, I asked for coffee, complaining of lack of sleep. As Tito got up to order it, he snapped at me. We aren t sleeping either." At one point I said to him "You I can understand. You've accomplished a lot and so you're protecting it. I've begun something and am defending it. But I wonder at these two (I meant Kardelj and Rankovic). Why are they so stubborn?"

Tito remarked that there seemed to be no movement organized around me, as indeed there was not. My only intention, I said was to develop socialism further. Tito's rebuttal consisted of trying to point out that the "reaction' - the bourgeoisie-was very strong still in our country and that all sorts of critics could hardly wait to attack us. As an example he cited Socrates, a satire, Just published, by Branko Copic, in which voters elect a dog by the name of Socrates, quite unconcerned with the object of their choice because they are convinced that this has been mandated "from on high." I maintained that topic's satire was an innocent joke, but no one agreed. Kardelj added that a few days earlier the funeral of a politician from the old regime - I forget who - had been attended by several hundred citizens! Rankovic sat the whole time in somber silence. His only comment, when my resignation as president of the National Assembly came up, was

that I ought to see to that myself, so that it wouldn't look as if it had been extracted under pressure or by administrative

methods. Finally Tito asked me to submit my resignation, adding decisively, "What must be, must be." As we said good-by he held out his hand, but with a look of hatred and vindictiveness.

As soon as I returned home, I wrote out my resignation, in bitterness. At the same time I asked my driver, Tomo, to deliver my cars to the White Palace. I had two - a Mercedes and a Jeep, which I used in isolated areas. Two days later Luka Leskosek, my escort, came looking for the suitcases that belonged to the Mercedes. In my haste I had forgotten them, and now I felt awkward because my initials had been engraved on them.

In the course of our conversation, Tito had remarked that my "case" was having the greatest world repercussion since our confrontation with the Soviet Union. I had replied that I didn't read the reports from Tanjug any more; they were no longer sent to me. "Get hold of them and see for yourself," Tito had said. That same day I went to Tanjug to look over the foreign press reports regarding my case. Reluctantly the news agency people obliged me. The volume and variety of reports had a twofold effect: I was impressed and encouraged but at the same time embarrassed and bothered that Western "capitalist" propaganda was so obviously biased in my favor.

Even the most fearful dream gets forgotten, but this was no dream. The Third Plenum was reality, a vain and shameful reality for all who took part. My main accusers, Tito and Kardelj, though seemingly concerned for party unity, were in fact concerned for their own prestige and power. To innate the peril, they fabricated guilt. After they had had their say, it was the turn of the tough, sharp-sighted powermongers - among them Minic and Stambolic, Pucar and Mannko, Blazo Jovanovic and Maslaric; then came the party weaklings, like Colakovic, and the hysterically penitent "self-critics," like Vukmanovic, Dapcevic, Vlahovic, Crvenkovski, and even Pijade - yes, Pijade, too, who until the day the plenum was scheduled had been sweetly smacking his lips over my articles. It could all have been foreseen. I had foreseen it. But reality is always different, either better or worse. This reality was more horrible, more shameless.

I was more prepared intellectually than emotionally for that plenum and its verdict, sure that I was in the right, yet sentimentally tied to my comrades. But that, too, is an oversimplification; the inner reality was more complex. My aloofness, my indifference to functions and honors - to power itself - helped account for my intellectual readiness, the ripeness of my understanding. What is more, having often in the previous months felt altogether sick of power, I had been relinquishing functions and plunging into reading and writing.

I knew at the time the importance of power, especially for carrying out political ideas, and know it even more clearly today. But at the time, I was repelled by that power, which was more an end in itself than the means to an end, and my disgust grew in proportion as I gazed into its "unsocialist," undemocratic nature. I couldn't say which came first, disgust or insight; they seemed mutually complementary and interchangeable. Even before the plenum was scheduled, I wanted to be "an ordinary person," I wanted to withdraw from power into intellectual and moral independence. Obviously I was deluding myself. This was only in part because the top leadership of a totalitarian party is incapable of releasing a member from its ranks except for "betrayal." My delusion owed just as much to my own intransigence, to my perceptions, which continued to mature, and to my sense of moral obligation to make them known.

The Third Plenum was held in the Central Committee building, which gave it an all-party character. (All plenary sessions of the Central Committee had previously been held at Tito's, in the White Palace.) The proceedings were also carried by radio, to give them a public and national character. I walked there with Stefica by my side; Dedijer accompanied us part of the way.

I arrived feeling numb, bodiless. A heretic, beyond doubt. One who was to be burned at the stake by yesterday's closest comrades,veterans who had fought decisive, momentous battles together. In the conference hall no one showed me to a seat, so I found a place for myself off at one corner of a square table. Nor did anyone exchange so much as a word with me, except when officially required to do so. To pass the time and record the facts, I took notes of the speeches. These I burned once the verbatim notes from the plenum were published.

Though I knew that the verdict had already been reached, I had no way of knowing the nature or severity of my punishment. Secretly, I hoped that, even while repudiating and dissociating itself from my opinions, the Central Committee would not expel me from the party, perhaps not even from the plenum. But all my democratic and comradely hopes were dashed once the contest was joined. Tito's speech was a piece of bitingly intolerant demogoguery. The reckoning it defined and articulated was not with an adversary who had simply gone astray or been disloyal in their eyes, but with one who had betrayed principle itself.

As Tito was speaking, the respect and fondness I had once felt for him turned to alienation and repulsion. That corpulent, carefully uniformed body with its pudgy, shaven neck filled me with disgust. I saw Kardelj as a petty and inconsistent man who disparaged ideas that till yesterday had been his as well, who employed antirevisionist tirades dating from the turn of the century, and who quoted alleged anti-Tito and anti-party remarks of mine from private conversations and out of context.

But I hated no one, not even these two, whose ideological and political rationalizations were so resolute, so bigoted, that the rest of my self-styled critics took their cue to be rabidly abusive - the Titoists aggressively and the penitents hysterically. Instead of requiting them with hatred and fury of my own, I withdrew into empty desolation behind my moral defenses.

The longer the plenum went on with its monotonous drumbeat of dogma, hatred, and resentment, the more conscious I became of the utter lack of open-minded, principled argument. It was a Stalinist show trial pure and simple. Bloodless it may have been, but no less Stalinist in every other dimension - intellectual, moral, and political.

On August 9, President Tito arrived in Prague for an official visit and received an enthusiastic welcome from large crowds along the route from the airport to Prague Castle. I could not suppress the memory of his welcome in Moscow twenty years earlier. During our conversations, Tito expressed full support for our policy and our cause. Like many politicians worldwide, he believed that the Bratislava conference was a sign of Soviet retreat. Nevertheless, we agreed that the Soviets would continue to harass us in various ways, trying to slow down and narrow the scope of our reforms. I told him that this had been going on since March and April, that we had had to look over our shoulders before making important decisions about almost anything.

Our system was built only for Tito to manage. Now that Tito is gone and our economic situation becomes critical, there will be a natural tendency for greater centralization of power. But this centralization will not succeed because it will run up against the ethnic-political power bases in the republics. This is not classical nationalism but a more dangerous, bureaucratic nationalism built on economic self-interest. This is how the Yugoslav system will begin to collapse.


Yugoslavia ( / ˌ j uː ɡ oʊ ˈ s l ɑː v i ə / Serbo-Croatian: Jugoslavija / Југославија [juɡǒslaːʋija] Slovene: Jugoslavija [juɡɔˈslàːʋija] Macedonian: Југославија [juɡɔˈsɫavija] [A] lit. 'South Slavic Land') was a country in Southeast Europe and Central Europe for most of the 20th century. It came into existence after World War I in 1918 [B] under the name of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes by the merger of the provisional State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (which was formed from territories of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire) with the Kingdom of Serbia, and constituted the first union of the South Slavic people as a sovereign state, following centuries in which the region had been part of the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary. Peter I of Serbia was its first sovereign. The kingdom gained international recognition on 13 July 1922 at the Conference of Ambassadors in Paris. [2] The official name of the state was changed to Kingdom of Yugoslavia on 3 October 1929.

Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis powers on 6 April 1941. In 1943, a Democratic Federal Yugoslavia was proclaimed by the Partisan resistance. In 1944 King Peter II, then living in exile, recognised it as the legitimate government. The monarchy was subsequently abolished in November 1945. Yugoslavia was renamed the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia in 1946, when a communist government was established. It acquired the territories of Istria, Rijeka, and Zadar from Italy. Partisan leader Josip Broz Tito ruled the country as president until his death in 1980. In 1963, the country was renamed again, as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY).

The six constituent republics that made up the SFRY were the SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, SR Croatia, SR Macedonia, SR Montenegro, SR Serbia, and SR Slovenia. Serbia contained two Socialist Autonomous Provinces, Vojvodina and Kosovo, which after 1974 were largely equal to the other members of the federation. [3] [4] After an economic and political crisis in the 1980s and the rise of nationalism, Yugoslavia broke up along its republics' borders, at first into five countries, leading to the Yugoslav Wars. From 1993 to 2017, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia tried political and military leaders from the former Yugoslavia for war crimes, genocide, and other crimes committed during those wars.

After the breakup, the republics of Montenegro and Serbia formed a reduced federative state, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), known from 2003 to 2006 as Serbia and Montenegro. This state aspired to the status of sole legal successor to the SFRY, but those claims were opposed by the other former republics. Eventually, it accepted the opinion of the Badinter Arbitration Committee about shared succession [5] and in 2003 its official name was changed to Serbia and Montenegro. This state dissolved when Montenegro and Serbia each became independent states in 2006, while Kosovo proclaimed its independence from Serbia in 2008.


U.S. Recognition of Serbian Independence, 1881 .

The United States recognized the Kingdom of Serbia as a sovereign nation on October 14, 1881, with the signing of consular and commercial agreements between the two nations.

U.S. Recognition of the Independence of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, 1919 .

On February 7, 1919, the United States recognized the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes through a statement released to the press by the U.S. Acting Secretary of State Frank Polk. The United States considered this new state as the successor state to the Kingdom of Serbia.

Tito’s Yugoslavia

Josip Broz Tito, leader of communist Yugoslavia.

As the ruler of Yugoslavia, Josip Tito steered the country on a course that was independent of the Soviet Union and the other communist states of the Cold War-era Eastern Bloc. In fact, at times, his relations with the USSR were quite frosty. At the same time, Tito maintained some ties to the West, whose aid helped his regime survive. Tito’s regime was initially highly centralized, but under pressure from leaders of Yugoslavia’s constituent states, Tito was forced to give up powers. Eventually, he devolved powers to the point that the country was held together only by him and his cult of personality.

Economy Of Tito’s Yugoslavia

The economy of Yugoslavia under Tito functioned differently than those of other communist states. Tito put his own stamp on communism by initiating a policy known as self-management. Under this economic model, the workers themselves controlled the running of industries through workers’ councils. It was under this model that Yugoslavia managed its reconstruction after WWII. The result was rapid economic growth and a significant rise in the standard of living. By no means, however, was Tito’s model of self-management a recipe for a utopian society. Although workers controlled industries in Yugoslavia in theory, the reality was that full participatory democracy in the workplace was not able to take shape because of the monopoly of the Yugoslav Communist Party.

Yugoslavia: History

Yugoslavia came into existence as a result of World War I. In 1914 only Serbia (which included present-day North Macedonia and Kosovo) and Montenegro were independent states Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. (The earlier histories of Yugoslavia's six component republics are treated in more detail in their respective articles.)

Slavs settled (6th–7th cent.) in the Balkans and were Christianized in the 9th cent. Slovenia was under Frankish (8th cent.), Bavarian (9th cent.), and Austrian (14th cent.) rule until 1918. A Croatian kingdom existed from the 10th to 11th cent., when it was conquered by Hungary, and Croatia was subsequently under Hungarian rule until the end of World War I. Bosnia was independent from the 12th to 15th cent., when it fell under Turkish rule. In the late 19th cent. it passed to Austria-Hungary, and its formal annexation (1908) was one of the irritants that led to World War I.

The region of Macedonia was contested between the Byzantines, Bulgarians, and others until conquered by Serbia in 14th cent., and like Serbia it fell to the Turks (late 14th cent.). Serbia gained control over the region during the Balkan Wars. A Serbian kingdom emerged (13th cent.) and under Stephen Dušan (r. 1331–55) became the most powerful Balkan state. Defeat (1389) at Kosovo Field brought Serbia under Turkish domination from the 14th to 19th cent., with Serbia securely in Turkish hands by 1459.

At the time of the defeat at Kosovo Field what is now Montenegro was the virtually independent principality of Zeta in the Serbian empire. The mountainous principality continued to resist the Turks, but by 1499 most of it had been conquered Venice held the port of Kotor, and the Montenegrin princes ruled their remnant stronghold from Cetinje. Montenegro's independence was recognized by the Ottoman Empire in 1799, and in 1829 the Turks granted the Serbs autonomy under a hereditary prince. Montenegro and Serbia were recognized as independent by the European powers at the Congress of Berlin (1878). Serbia was proclaimed a kingdom in 1882, and it emerged from the Balkan Wars (1912–13) as a major Balkan power.

A movement for unification of the South Slavs (see also Pan-Slavism) was led by Serbia and was a major cause of World War I. When a Serbian nationalist assassinated (1914) Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Bosnia, Austria declared war on Serbia, thus precipitating World War I. Serbia and Montenegro were overrun by the Central Powers, but Serbian troops were evacuated to Allied-held Corfu, Greece, where representatives of the South Slavic peoples proclaimed (July, 1917) their proposed union under Serbian king Peter I. Montenegro's last monarch, Nicholas I, was deposed in 1918, and Montenegro was united with Serbia. In Dec., 1918, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was formally proclaimed.

The Paris Peace Conference (see Neuilly, Treaty of Saint-Germain, Treaty of Trianon, Treaty of) recognized the new state and enlarged its territory at the expense of Austria and Hungary with Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, and other territories. King Alexander, who had been regent from 1918 for his invalid father, ascended the throne on Peter I's death (1921). In order to protect itself against Hungarian and Bulgarian demands for treaty revisions, Yugoslavia entered (1920, 1921) into alliances with Czechoslovakia and Romania, the three states forming the Little Entente in close cooperation with France. With its western neighbor, Italy, relations were strained from the first over the Fiume question (see Rijeka). Although this was settled in 1924 with Fiume given to Italy, Italian nationalists continued to entertain hopes of appropriating part or all of Dalmatia, which had been secretly promised to Italy in 1915 by the Allies in exchange for joining them in World War I. Yugoslav nationalists, on the other hand, claimed parts of Venezia Giulia on ethnic grounds, and relations remained tense.

Internal problems were still more acute. Late in 1920 the Serbian Pašić became premier and obtained enactment of the centralized constitution of 1921. The Croats, led by Radić, demanded autonomy. In 1928 Radić was shot and killed in parliament. After the Croats had set up (1928) a separate parliament at Zagreb, King Alexander in 1929 proclaimed a dictatorship, dissolved the parliament, and changed the name of the kingdom to Yugoslavia (sometimes spelled Jugoslavia). The royal dictatorship officially ended in 1931, but the new parliamentary constitution provided for an electoral procedure that insured victory for the government party. Troubles with Croatian and Macedonian nationalists culminated (1934) in Alexander's assassination at Marseilles, France. His son, Peter II, succeeded under the regency of Alexander's cousin, Prince Paul. The Croatian problem had been eagerly exploited by Hungary and Italy, which encouraged particularist movements against the Serbian centralists.

Prince Paul's gradual rapprochement with the Axis powers thus had the paradoxical effect of leading to the restoration (1939) of a more democratic government and the establishment of Croatian autonomy. In Mar., 1941, Yugoslavia adhered to the Axis Tripartite Pact. Two days later a bloodless military coup ousted the regent. The new government proclaimed a policy of neutrality, but in Apr., 1941, German troops, assisted by Bulgarian, Hungarian, and Italian forces, invaded Yugoslavia. Striking swiftly, the Germans joined with the Italians in Albania a week later organized resistance was over. A Croatian puppet state was proclaimed under the leadership of Ante Pavelić, chief of the Ustachi (a fascist Croatian separatist organization see Croatia). Dalmatia, Montenegro, and Slovenia were divided among Italy, Hungary, and Germany Serbian Macedonia was awarded to Bulgaria. Serbia was set up as a puppet state under German control. Atrocities were committed by the Axis occupation forces and by the Ustachi.

While Peter II established a government in exile in London, many Yugoslav troops continued to resist in their mountain strongholds. There were two main resistance groups: the chetniks under Mihajlović and an army under the Communist Tito. In 1943 civil war broke out between the two factions, of which the second was more uncompromising in its opposition to the Axis. Tito was supported by the USSR, and he won the support of Great Britain as well. King Peter was forced to transfer the military command from Mihajlović to Tito. By late Oct., 1944, the Germans had been driven from Yugoslavia. The Soviet army entered Belgrade. Tito's council of national liberation was merged (Nov., 1944) with the royal government. In Mar., 1945, Tito became premier. Lacking real power, the non-Communist members of the government resigned and were arrested. In Nov., 1945, national elections—from which the opposition abstained—resulted in victory for the government. The constituent assembly proclaimed a federal people's republic.

The constitution of 1946 gave wide autonomy to the six newly created republics, but actual power remained in the hands of Tito and the Communist party. The Allied peace treaty (1947) with Italy awarded Yugoslavia the eastern part of Venezia Giulia and set up Trieste as a free territory conflict with Italy over Trieste ended in a partition agreement (1954). Within Yugoslavia a vigorous program of socialization was inaugurated. Opposition was crushed or intimidated, and Mihajlović was executed. Close ties were maintained with the USSR and the Cominform until 1948, when a breach between the Yugoslav and Soviet Communist parties occurred and Yugoslavia was expelled from the Cominform.

The Tito government began to pursue an independent course in foreign relations. Economic and military assistance was received from the West. In 1954, Yugoslavia concluded a military defense pact (independent of NATO) with Greece and Turkey. More cordial relations with the USSR were resumed in 1955, but new rifts occurred because of Soviet intervention in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968). Domestically Yugoslavia's national communism or Titoism included the abandonment of agricultural collectivization (1953) and the centralization of administrative and economic controls. Important economic power was given to workers' councils, and the republics were subdivided into communes. In 1966, Aleksander Ranković, the vice president and Tito's long-time associate, was purged for having maintained a network of secret agents and for opposing reform. Friction with the Roman Catholic Church ended with an accord with the Vatican in 1966.

Yugoslavs under Tito possessed greater freedom than the inhabitants of any other Eastern European country. Intellectual freedom was still restricted, however, as the jailings and harassment of Milovan Djilas and Mihaljo Mihaljov showed. In the early 1970s, agitation among the nationalities revived, particularly among the Croats, and controls over intellectual life were stiffened. The autonomy of the six republics and two autonomous provinces of Serbia slowly increased through the 1970s as the economy began to stagnate. With the death of Tito in 1980, an unwieldy collective leadership was established. The economic problems and ethnic divisions continued to deepen in the 1980s, and the foreign debt grew significantly.

In 1987, Slobodan Milošević, a Serbian nationalist, became the Serbian Communist party leader. To the alarm of the other republics Milošević and his supporters revived the vision of a Greater Serbia, which would consist of Serbia proper, Vojvodina, Kosovo, the Serb-populated parts of Croatia, large sections of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and possibly Macedonia (now North Macedonia). In early 1989, Serbia rescinded Kosovo's autonomy and sent in troops to suppress the protests of Kosovo's largely Albanian population. Slovenia and Croatia elected non-Communist governments in early 1990 and, threatening secession, demanded greater autonomy. Serbia and Montenegro were the only republics to retain Communist leadership Milošević was elected president of Serbia in 1989.

After attempts by Serbia to impose its authority on the rest of the country, Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence on June 25, 1991. Fighting immediately broke out as the federal army (controlled largely by Serbs) moved into Slovenia. A fragile peace was negotiated by a European Community (EC) delegation, but fighting soon resumed. By the end of July, 1991, however, all federal forces had left Slovenia, although fighting continued throughout the summer between Croatian forces and the federally backed Serbs from Serb areas of Croatia. In Sept., 1991, Macedonia declared its independence, and the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina voted for independence that October.

In Jan., 1992, with Serbs holding 30% of Croatia, a cease-fire was negotiated in that republic, and the United Nations sent in a peacekeeping force. In that same month the EC recognized Croatia and Slovenia as independent states, and in April the EC and the United States recognized Bosnia and Herzegovina's sovereignty. The Serbs, with about 30% of the population, seized 65% of the latter republic's territory and proclaimed the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Croats, with about 20% of the population, seized about half the remainder of the land and proclaimed the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna. The poorly armed Muslims, who comprised more than 40% of the population, held the rest of the republic's territory, including the capital. In a campaign of ethnic cleansing carried out mostly by the Serbs, thousands of Muslims were killed, and many more fled Bosnia or were placed in Serb detention camps.

In May, 1992, the United Nations imposed economic sanctions on Serbia and Montenegro and called for an immediate cease-fire in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Macedonia was widely recognized the following year (though Greece withheld recognition and imposed an embargo until after an agreement was reached with Macedonia in 1995). Although Serbia and Montenegro declared a new Yugoslavian federation, the EC announced in June, 1992, that the new government could not claim the international rights and duties of the former Yugoslavia, because those rights and obligations had devolved onto the different republics. This opinion was affirmed by the United Nations in Sept., 1992.

The United Nations also imposed a naval blockade on Yugoslavia, which along with the sanctions resulted in severe economic hardship, including hyperinflation for a time. After Serbia reduced its support for the Bosnian Serbs, the United Nations eased sanctions against Yugoslavia. In late 1995 Yugoslavia (in the person of President Milošević of Serbia) participated in the talks in Dayton, Ohio, that led to a peace accord among Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia (Yugoslavia). Milošević became president of all Yugoslavia in 1997.

Tensions increased in Kosovo in 1997 and 1998, as a period of nonviolent civil disobedience against Serbian rule gave way to the rise of a guerrilla army. In Mar., 1999, following mounting repression of ethnic Albanians and the breakdown of negotiations between separatists and the Serbs, NATO began bombing military targets throughout Yugoslavia, and thousands of ethnic Albanians were forcibly deported from Kosovo by Yugoslav troops. In June, Milošević agreed to withdraw from Kosovo, and NATO peacekeepers entered the region. Demonstrations in the latter half of 1999 against Milošević failed to force his resignation. Meanwhile, Montenegro sought increased autonomy within the federation and began making moves toward that goal.

In July, 2000, the national constitution was amended to permit the president to hold office for two terms and to institute direct presidential elections the changes were designed to permit Milošević to remain in power beyond a single term and reduce Montenegrin influence in the federal government. When elections were held in September, however, Milošević was defeated by Vojislav Koštunica, who was supported by a coalition of 18 opposition parties (Democratic Opposition of Serbia DOS). The election commission initially refused to certify Koštunica as the outright victor, but Milošević conceded after a general strike was called, demonstrators took over the federal parliament building, and Russia recognized Koštunica.

A coalition consisting of the DOS and Montenegrin Socialists formed a national government, and in early Serbian elections (Dec., 2000) the DOS won control of the Serbian parliament. Koštunica replaced several top military officers—a move designed in part to placate Montenegro—but he initially refused to hand Milošević over to the international war crimes court in the Hague. In early 2001 Milošević and some of his associates in the former government were arrested on various charges. The former president was turned over to the war crimes tribunal by the Serbian government in June, prompting the Montenegrin Socialists to resign from the federal coalition. Relations between Koštunica and Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjić became strained, with the former concerned more about preserving the federation with Montenegro and the latter about winning Western foreign aid and reforming the economy.

By 2002 Montenegro's drive for greater autonomy had developed into a push for independence, and a referendum on the issue was planned. In Mar., 2002, however, Serbian and Montenegrin representatives, under pressure from the European Union and other nations opposed to immediate Montenegrin independence (fearing that it could lead to further disintegration and fighting), agreed on a restructured federal union, and a constitutional charter for a state community was adopted by the Serbian, Montenegrin, and federal parliaments by Feb., 2003. Following the federal parliament's approval of the charter, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was reconstituted as Serbia and Montenegro.

Most governmental power shifted to the two republics, as the union became a weak federal republic. Although the two republics shared a common foreign and defense policy, they had separate currencies and customs regulations, and after three years either republic could vote to leave the union. Svetozar Marović, of Montenegro, was elected president of the union in March, and was its only president.

Despite the increased autonomy accorded Montenegro, Montenegrin leaders generally avoided any moves that would be supportive of the union and continued to call for Montenegro's independence. In May, 2006, after three years had passed, Montenegrin voters approved independence in a referendum, and Montenegro declared its independence on June 3. The government of Serbia and Montenegro then dissolved itself and, on June 5, Serbia declared itself a sovereign state and the political heir to the union. Serbia's proclamation brought to an end the prolonged dissolution of Yugoslavia into the constituent republics that had been established by Tito following World War II.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Former Yugoslavian Political Geography

Yugoslavia Flag Map and the Flag Meaning

The design of the flag consists of three equal horizontal bands, blue, white and red. The flag was first used by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1918 to 1943. In the Second World War, a red star was placed in the center by the victorious Yugoslav Partisans, and it was used until the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

The Yugoslavian flag consists of three colors, blue (top), white (middle) and red (bottom). The design and colors are based on the Pan-Slavic colors adopted in Prague at the 1848 Pan-Slav congress. After the end of World War I in 1918, the Southern Slavs became a single state of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians, later known as Yugoslavia. The monarchy chose the pan-Slav design to symbolize the newly established unity of all the South Slavs. The red star in the middle of the flag symbolizes communism.

My Mother and the Failed Experiment of Yugoslavia

It has become fashionable to hate the late Yugoslavia, or to diagnose it retroactively as a kind of Frankenstein assemblage of mismatched parts whose dissolution was thus inescapable and inevitably bloody. But, a few decades from now, when some historian on a think-tank sinecure looks at the devastation in America left in the wake of Trump and his troops, she might discover abundant evidence of hundreds of years of hatred and inherent American racism, with all kinds of historical inevitability leading to the catastrophe. She would be wrong, just as are those who disparage Yugoslavia, for, in both cases, there is a history of conflicting traditions and tendencies, of struggles against the worst of the people’s instincts for a better polity and a kinder country. The bad guys won in Yugoslavia and ruined what they could, as soon as they could the bad guys are doing pretty well in America, too. But nothing is inevitable until it happens. There is no such thing as historical destiny. Struggle is all.

Yugoslavia, a country of the South Slavs, was formed as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, on December 1, 1918, in the immediate aftermath of the First World War. Three major empires had just disintegrated after centuries of eventful existence, allowing for the creation of obscure small states whose people experienced the post-imperial chaos as freedom. The idea of a compound state had a history and had inspired South Slav leaders who believed in the benefits of unity. In 1929, the kingdom became Yugoslavia, as King Aleksandar changed the constitution to make himself an absolute monarch. In 1934, His Majesty was promptly assassinated on a visit to Marseille. The propagandistic story had it that the King’s last words were “Take care of my Yugoslavia.” My paternal grandfather travelled to Belgrade to be there for the grandiose funeral. Both of my parents were born as subjects to a teen-age heir, Peter II, who escaped the German invasion, in 1941, to end up in the United States.

The Second World War was bloody in Yugoslavia, but was there a place in Europe where it wasn’t? The Germans found many willing servants among local fascists and nationalists whose main historical modus operandi, like that of their masters, was genocide—their descendants would be at it again a couple of generations later. But the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, illegal before the war, was versed in resistance and underground networks and sparked, under Josip Broz Tito’s leadership, a national resistance movement that outlasted the Germans, despite their efforts to extinguish it in waves of unspeakable atrocities.

Say what you will about Tito and the postwar regime that was so centered on his personality that it barely outlived him, but, under his leadership, the Party organized a resistance movement and liberated Yugoslavia. He also managed to keep the country at a safe distance from the Soviet Union, breaking away from Stalin and his absolutist control in 1948. Tito was a clever, if authoritarian, leader, positioning the country between the East and the West in such a way—making it nonaligned—that it could benefit from each side.

Tito and the Party came out as not only the winners but also as the historical force that carried Yugoslavia into the twentieth century. With the doctrine of “brotherhood and unity” to counter the post-genocidal traumas and resentment, the country strove to create a civic identity that overrode ethnicity. This took some suppression, but, in retrospect, it may have been worth it, if only for a little while. The country had a defined utopian goal toward which its citizens could strive. There was optimism a better future could be conceived of. For a few decades, the socialist Yugoslavia was a common project that everyone could work on. My parents belong to the generation that took a crucial part in that work, only to discover that it was all in vain.

It’s hard today to comprehend the magnitude of the leap into a better life that someone like my mother made in Tito’s Yugoslavia. Back in 1946, in the wake of a cataclysm, the new regime instituted gender equality and mandatory and free education, so a peasant Bosnian girl, born in a house with a dirt floor, could go to school. Had she been born a generation before, she wouldn’t have gone to school. She would’ve worked the land with her parents until she got married, whereupon she would’ve popped out children into her middle age, unless she died giving birth or from sepsis after a homemade abortion, like one of Mama’s father’s sisters. Mama’s future was entangled with Yugoslavia’s, enabling her to leave behind the poverty that had lasted for centuries.

Yugoslavia provided a framework into which my mother fully grew, having departed, at the age of eleven, from her more or less nineteenth-century childhood. She built the country as she was building herself. After the war, a practice of “Youth Work Actions” was established, in which young people in Yugoslavia volunteered to build roads and railroads as part of “youth brigades.” In 1960, while in college, Mama was one of the young women and men who spent their summer constructing a road that would connect Belgrade and Niš, part of a larger project of uniting parts of Yugoslavia by way of a highway known as the Highway of Brotherhood and Unity. She would tell her children stories of shovel-inflicted blisters and solidarity and friendship and joy, or so we imagined it, because the truth was that the youth brigades were not always given the hardest tasks. They’d shovel soil and help the professionals, but, more than anything, they’d sing patriotic songs and chant slogans in praise of hard work: “Comrade Tito, you white violet, all of youth loves you!” and “In the tunnel, in the darkness, shines a five-point star!” There would be celebratory bonfires, around which there would be more singing, and probably some comradely making out. For years, she would be proud of taking part in building the country—even if symbolically—and of the sweat she spilled with the best of the Yugoslav youth to construct the highway.

The practice of youth work actions lasted into the eighties, and she often suggested that I should do it, too, because I’d cherish the experience of sharing goals, taking part in common projects, and singing by the bonfire. I always defiantly refused. For not only did voluntary youth actions become, by the time I was young, a parody of the great ones from my mother’s youth but my teen-age politics were indistinguishable from my precocious cynicism. For one thing, I never cared for that kind of shared work-related ecstasy no blister or sunburns could ever make me proud and joyous. I thought that youth brigades were a form of forced labor whose main goal was indoctrination. I deplored what I called their “primitive patriotism.” I committed myself early to a life of contemplative, productive laziness and hated singing along with other people, being one with a collective, even at rock shows. I was what they call an individual.

After the war, to our mother’s dismay, my sister and I started referring to the Highway of Brotherhood and Unity as the Highway of Youth and Foolishness. But now I envy her I envy the sense that she was building something larger I envy the nobility and honor that comes with being part of a civic endeavor.

It was while attending a youth work action that my mother became a member of the Communist Party. Many of her friends and fellow-volunteers joined the Party, too, for it was a cool thing to do. She was a devout Party member thereafter, and it became part of her personality, as much as a religion might be for a religious person. She believed (and still does) in social justice, generosity, and a fair distribution of wealth. She believed in the system committed to making the country better Tito and the Party were that system. Before the Second World War, she liked to say, there had been only seventy-five kilometres of paved road in all of Yugoslavia, while the Highway of Brotherhood and Unity alone was more than a thousand kilometres.

Much like any other state, Yugoslavia trained its citizens by way of public rituals to be patriots, taught them to be enthusiastically obedient. While the kids of America had to (and many still do) pledge allegiance to the flag, we had Tito’s picture in every goddam classroom. From the very beginnings of Yugoslav socialism, the cultural enforcement of patriotism depended on ideological pageants like the Relay of Youth, which was important for the maintenance of Tito’s personality cult. A baton that symbolized best wishes for his birthday would start in the city of Kumrovec, his birthplace, and travel around Yugoslavia, carried by the hands of the youth, stopping in various towns and cities for a worshipful speech and rally, allowing the youth to pledge their faithfulness to their beloved leader.

The Breakup of Yugoslavia, 1990–1992

Issued on October 18, 1990, National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) 15–90 presented a dire warning to the U.S. policy community:

Yugoslavia will cease to function as a federal state within a year, and will probably dissolve within two. Economic reform will not stave off the breakup. [. ] A full-scale interrepublic war is unlikely, but serious intercommunal conflict will accompany the breakup and will continue afterward. The violence will be intractable and bitter. There is little the United States and its European allies can do to preserve Yugoslav unity.

The October 1990 judgment of the U.S. intelligence community, as Thomas Shreeve noted in his 2003 study on NIE 15–90 for the National Defense University, “was analytically sound, prescient, and well written. It was also fundamentally inconsistent with what US policymakers wanted to happen in the former Yugoslavia, and it had almost no impact on US policy.” By January 1992, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ceased to exist, having dissolved into its constituent states.

Yugoslavia—the land of South (i.e. Yugo) Slavs—was created at the end of World War I when Croat, Slovenian, and Bosnian territories that had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire united with the Serbian Kingdom. The country broke up under Nazi occupation during World War II with the creation of a Nazi-allied independent Croat state, but was reunified at the end of the war when the communist-dominated partisan force of Josip Broz Tito liberated the country. Following the end of World War II, Yugoslavian unity was a top priority for the U.S. Government. While ostensibly a communist state, Yugoslavia broke away from the Soviet sphere of influence in 1948, became a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961, and adopted a more de-centralized and less repressive form of government as compared with other East European communist states during the Cold War.

The varied reasons for the country’s breakup ranged from the cultural and religious divisions between the ethnic groups making up the nation, to the memories of WWII atrocities committed by all sides, to centrifugal nationalist forces. However, a series of major political events served as the catalyst for exacerbating inherent tensions in the Yugoslav republic. Following the death of Tito in 1980, provisions of the 1974 constitution provided for the effective devolution of all real power away from the federal government to the republics and autonomous provinces in Serbia by establishing a collective presidency of the eight provincial representatives and a federal government with little control over economic, cultural, and political policy. External factors also had a significant impact. The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, the unification of Germany one year later, and the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union all served to erode Yugoslavia’s political stability. As Eastern European states moved away from communist government and toward free elections and market economies, the West’s attention focused away from Yugoslavia and undermined the extensive economic and financial support necessary to preserve a Yugoslav economy already close to collapse. The absence of a Soviet threat to the integrity and unity of Yugoslavia and its constituent parts meant that a powerful incentive for unity and cooperation was removed.

Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia’s president from 1989, took advantage of the vacuum created by a progressively weakening central state and brutally deployed the use of Serbian ultra-nationalism to fan the flames of conflict in the other republics and gain legitimacy at home. Milosevic started as a banker in Belgrade and became involved in politics in the mid-1980s. He rose quickly through the ranks to become head of the Serbian Communist Party in 1986. While attending a party meeting in the Albanian-dominated province of Kosovo in May 1987, Serbians in the province rioted outside the meeting hall. Milosevic spoke with the rioters and listened to their complaints of mistreatment by the Albanian majority. His actions were extensively reported by Serbian-controlled Yugoslav mass media, beginning the process of transforming the former banker into the stalwart symbol of Serbian nationalism. Having found a new source of legitimacy, Milosevic quickly shored up his power in Serbia through control of the party apparatus and the press. He moved to strip the two autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina of their constitutionally-guaranteed autonomy within Serbia by using mass rallies to force the local leaderships to resign in favor of his own preferred candidates. By mid-1989 Kosovo and Vojvodina had been reintegrated into Serbia, and the Montenegro leadership was replaced by Milosevic allies.

The ongoing effects of democratization in Eastern Europe were felt throughout Yugoslavia. As Milosevic worked to consolidate power in Serbia, elections in Slovenia and Croatia in 1990 gave non-communist parties control of the state legislatures and governments. Slovenia was the first to declare “sovereignty” in 1990, issuing a parliamentary declaration that Slovenian law took precedence over Yugoslav law. Croatia followed in May, and in August, the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina also declared itself sovereign. Slovenia and Croatia began a concerted effort to transform Yugoslavia from a federal state to a confederation. With the administration of George H. W. Bush focused primarily on the Soviet Union, Germany, and the crisis in the Persian Gulf, Yugoslavia had lost the geostrategic importance it enjoyed during the Cold War. While Washington attempted during the summer of 1990 to marshal some limited coordination with its Western allies in case the Yugoslav crisis turned bloody, Western European governments maintained a wait-and-see attitude. At the same time, inter-republic relations in Yugoslavia spiraled out of control. Slovenia overwhelmingly voted for independence in December 1990. A Croatian referendum in May 1991 also supported full independence. Secretary of State James Baker traveled to Belgrade to meet with Yugoslav leaders and urge a political solution to no avail. Slovenia and Croatia both declared formal independence on June 25, 1991.

Serbs within the province of Croatia, armed and financed by the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav National Army, revolted in August 1990. They blockaded roads and train tracks. Order quickly dissolved as the local Croatian government began trying to disarm the Serb population and dismiss them from employment. In January 1991 the Yugoslav National Army started arresting Croat officials for their anti-Serbian actions while talks aimed at avoiding civil war broke down. Armed conflicts increased as more talks between Croat leaders and Milosevic only further emphasized their differing points of view.

Finally, Croatia along with Slovenia declared independence from the Yugoslav federation on June 25, 1991. Though the Croat leaders promised equal rights for Serbs within the country, conflicts immediately broke out in Croatia. Serbs living in Croatia, about 12 percent of the population, joined with the nearby Serbian military to halt the independence move by the Croats. Serbs from Serbia and Croatia immediately began attacking Croatian targets with weapons while the Yugoslav National Army provided air support. Able to fend off the Serb forces through the rest of 1991, Croatia received official recognition as an independent nation by other European nations on January 15, 1992.

Following the path of Croatia and Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina led by the Bosnian Muslims and Croats living in Bosnia and Macedonia also announced in late 1991 their intention to break from the Yugoslav federation. As a result, the war expanded to Bosnia-Herzegovina when Bosnian Serbs joined with the Serbian military to halt the move toward independence.

After engineering the control of Kosovo, Milosevic used his appeal to Serbian nationalism (a belief that a particular nation is superior to other nations) to attract support of Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Croatian Serbs attempted to establish an autonomous (the right to political independence) Serbian cultural society in Croatia. However, this effort only served to increase public support for a Croatian nationalist government that reaffirmed the sovereignty of Croatia.

As a result, the long history of ethnic differences among the Serbs, Bosnian Muslims, and Croats exploded into ethnic war over who would govern whom and what territory would be controlled. All three feared dominance by the other. They believed that dominance by one of the others would mean forced changes in their ethnic traditions.

During the winter of 1991–92, the Yugoslav National Army built artillery camps around Bosnian government-controlled areas, including the city of Sarajevo. The Serbian leader put in place by Milosevic created a Serbian national assembly in place of the Bosnian parliament. Bosnian leaders held free elections in their controlled areas. The vote was nearly unanimous for independence from Yugoslavia. In response, Serbian paramilitary groups began setting up barricades in Sarajevo and taking control of sections of Bosnia. The Yugoslav National Army also began using Bosnian territory to conduct offensive operations against Croatia, while secretly arming Bosnia Serbs and disarming the local Bosnian defense forces.

The resulting war was brutal on all sides. Serbian forces tortured, raped, and murdered Croats and Bosnian Muslims in Serb-controlled regions. Croats and Bosnian Muslims fought back with equal brutality. Homes and businesses were looted and destroyed. Churches including hundreds of mosques, museums, public buildings, architectural and historical landmarks, and cemeteries, all symbols of ethnic identity, were destroyed. Included was the Oriental Institute in Sarajevo, which had housed and preserved thousands of valuable documents and artifacts chronicling the Ottoman history of Bosnia.

On April 6, 1992, Bosnia-Herzegovina joined Croatia and Slovenia in gaining international recognition. The total disintegration of the former Yugoslav federation was nearly complete. In only one year after the fall of Soviet influence the previous six Yugoslav states became five independent countries. Only Serbia and Montenegro remained together as one nation called Serbia. The new nations of Slovenia and Macedonia proved somewhat stable, but conflict raged among the Serbs, Bosnians, and Croats in the other three nations of Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia. The ethnic war would eventually be the bloodiest war in Europe since World War II.

During the following three years of war the fighting grew more unpredictable. Local paramilitary bands formed, some no more than groups of thugs, and fought neighborhood to neighborhood. It was frequently difficult to tell who—Serb, Croat, or Bosnian—was fighting whom. The once beautiful city of Sarajevo, which hosted the televised 1984 Winter Olympics, was reduced to a death trap with residents living in basements. It was destroyed. After two years of the fighting that began in Bosnia in 1992, more than two hundred thousand Bosnians died and two million more became refugees.


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