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Dusan T. Batakovic


Institute for Balkan Studies, Belgrade

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

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