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TIA Janus

Dusan T. Batakovic


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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dusan T. Batakovic

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