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Vujadin Rudić

The Yugoslav idea, the former Yugoslavia and its Social and Geographical Features

Source: The Serbian Questions in The Balkans, University of Belgrade, publisher - Faculty of Geography, Belgrade 1995.

This paper deals with the Yugoslav idea, the former Yugoslavia, its social-geographical features, its formation and disintegration. The former Yugoslavia was situated in the central, northern, north-west, and western parts of the Balkan peninsula. Among the geographical wholes in Europe, the Balkan peninsula has the most heterogeneous structure from the physical-geographical, social geographical or any other aspect. Geographical (and also other) features of the Balkan peninsula were classified by J. Cvijic (1865 1927) into three large groups: Euro-Asian group, the group of merging and imbuing, and. the group of isolating and repelling. The Euro-Asian features of the Balkan peninsula originate in physical-geographical and social and geographical contents. The physical-geographical contents are embodied in the origin and geological structure of both the Balkan and Asia Minor peninsulas, in climatic, biogeographical, and other natural contents and features. The Balkan peninsula " a geographical and geological mediator between Europe and Asia thanks to several of its specific properties". J. Cvijić points our that the properties of the Balkan Peninsula result from the influences of the civilisations from Asia, Africa, and Europe and that the "...islands and the Aegean shores were the hearths of the pre Hellenic civilisation, the civilisations of the Aegean and Mycenae...", the foundation of "...the splendid Hellenic civilisation which radiated throughout all countries and times."[1] According to D. Obolenski "...the Balkan Peninsula was a land bridge between the Byzantine and Latin cultures."[2] The merging and imbuing properties of the Balkan peninsula and Europe, Asia and Africa are conditioned by the geographical position, the strike of the mountain ranges, the river valleys, the communications, etc. The third one, the isolating and repelling property of the Balkan peninsula is also conditioned by the same factors. By its population, size of the territory, location, ethnic and religious structures, diversity of the economic and social development of its parts the former Yugoslavia used to be the most important state on the Balkan peninsula, in which all geographical and other specific features of the Balkans were interwoven.

On the Balkan peninsula overlap the interests and influences of the Germans, Romans, Russians, Hungarians and Turks and of the three great religions - Orthodox, Catholic, Islam Various peoples, ethnic groups and religions on the Balkan peninsula created the basis for frequent inter ethnic wars, divisions and disagreements, which are reflected in the instability of this region, Europe, and the world as a whole The Balkan peninsula lies in the sphere of interest of the Great Powers (Russia, the United States of America, France, Great Britain and especially Germany), and thus, this region was the scene of numerous wars, World wars as well. The Balkan states: the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania, and Bulgaria; the peoples: Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Greeks, Bulgarians, and Shqiptars/Albanians/, the ethnic groups, and the adherents of diverse religions waged war campaigns mostly one against the other. The most numerous people and by some assertions also the oldest people on the Balkan peninsula are the Serbs, for whom the Slovak scientist Pavle Joseph Shafarik (1795-1861) said that their name was "the ancient, primeval, domestic, and general name of all the Slavs." He then continued: "The name of Serbia in its narrow sense was borne by a district on the Bosna and Drina rivers, then Rascia, the valleys of the Morava and Kolubara rivers" and that "in Serbia the district by the name of Croatia is situated."[3] In spite of these facts the Serbs did not succeed in forming the Serbian national state as they were impeded by the powerful countries such as Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, France, and Germany.

Yugoslav the Formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes

The striving of the South Slav peoples to unite into a state is centimes old. Given the previous historical conditions these ideas did not have proper chances for realisation, although there were attempts. In this area, each people, ethnic group as well as each individual, regardless of his adherence to a people, an ethnic group or a religion, have struggled for survival for centimes. In such historical circumstances, the most prominent representatives of the Serbian, Croatian, and Slovenian peoples dreamed about a state-like community of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The fact that these ideas ". were in accord with the political ideas of the Croatian Illyrians..."[4] was also emphasised by academician Milorad Ekmečić.

The great Serbian educator Dositej Obradović (1742-1811) wrote in 1783 in his Letter to Haralampije (the Triestine priest born in Ogulin) about some characteristics of the South Slavs: "Who does not know that the population of Montenegro, Dalmatia, Herzegovina, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Slavonija, Srem, Bačka, and Banat (except the Vlachs) speak one and the same language..." emphasizing that "...the law and religion can be changed but the origin and language never."[5] Writing about the significance of Dositey's work, the writer Jakov Ignjatović (1824-1888) emphasised "Dositey's work was yeast for the future."[6] The literary critic Jovan Skerlić (1877-1914) wrote that Dositej Obradović worked to unite the Serbs regardless of their religious affiliation and also pointed out "the historical role of Serbia in this matter." He set " his work a rational basis for the Serbian nationalism, engaging all three religions..."[7] referring to the Serbs of the Orthodox, Catholic, and Islamic faith. Jovan Skerlić further pointed out that "Dositej Obradović ranks Gist and he is for the new education what St Sava was for the old."[8]

Karadjordje Petrović (1768-1817), the leader of the First Serbian Uprising, meditated on the uniting of the South Slav peoples and their dependent states into one, big and mighty. This is evident from the quarrel between Sava Popović Tekelija (1761-1841), the Serb from Timisoara, popular donator and president of Matica Srpska, with Captain Rade Vučinić, the envoy of Karadjordje, over the issue as to which one of them first mentioned to Napoleon I Buonaparta (1769-1821) the word Illyria, meaning the country of the South Slavs. The term Yugoslav was coined by Jernej-Bartol Kopitar (1780-1844), one of the founders of Slavic Studies, the censor with the Viennese government for Slavic and Greek books, an Austrophyle, a Slovene, when he translated the German compound word Sudslaven (South Slav) in 1816 And in 1845 the writer Mama Ban (1818-1903) pronounced the name of the future country- Yugoslavia.[9] On October 21, 1851, Stefan Mitrov Ljubiša (1824-1878), wilting about Petar II Petrović Njegoš (1813-1851), concluded that the Mountain Wreath ". .is undoubtedly a unique work, dramatic, Yugoslav, perfect..."[10], which means that he, as the writer who contributed to the awakening of the national awareness of the Serbs in Dalmatia, was aware of the terms Yugoslavism and Yugoslavia.

The Croatian ban (governor) Josip Jelačić (1801 1859), the Serb, Uniate, who was appointed governor in Croatia after the outbreak of the uprising in Hungary in 1848 and who engaged Croatia in the fight against Hungary, wrote in the letter to the Serbian patriarch Josif Rajačić (1785-1861): "We are one people, let us forget about Serbs and Croats". In 1833 Ljudevit Gaj (1809-1872), a writer, politician, creator of Illyrism and the man of the Austrian chancellor Klemens von Metternich (1773-1859), sent Teodor Pavlović (1804-1854), editor of the Chronicle of the Matica Srpska, the following message: "It is worthy and quite necessary that each Croat, willing to safeguard the homeland and Slavism, should be aware of and learn about the fine progress that our brothers Serbs made in their literature, for each honest Croat wishes to unite with the Serb."[11] Ljudevit Gaj wished all the South Slav peoples would unite, including Bulgarians, into a single state and speak the Illyran language.

A fighter for the rights of the Serbs in Austria-Hungary, lawyer and journalist Svetozar Miletić (1826 1901) and Franjo Rački (1828-1894),the Croatian historian, politician and the first president of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts, Zagreb, stressed that the Serbs and Croats were "one people with two names", Later Franjo Rački constructed a thesis that it was a "three-named people", having the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in mind. The statesman and politician Ilija Garašanin (1812-1873) in his Načertanije (1844) forecasted an uprising of the Christians in the European Turkey and stressed that "Serbia should not be confined to its present borders but should tend to gather all the Serbian peoples that surround it...", and this is also the desire of the Serbian people today. The Slovenian writer Ivan Cankar (1876-1918) when speaking about the union of the South Slav peoples emphasised: "If it comes to a political union of the South Slav peoples, it can be done only by uniting equal and equivalent peoples. This very simple thought shows us the field that we must plough and sow not only for ourselves but for all Yugoslavs " The politician and journalist Juraj Demetrović (1885-1945) supported the idea of "the united Yugoslav political people", which was to be formed of the Croats, Serbs, Slovenes, and Bulgarians. He then considered "Yugoslavs to be one people" which should have "its political programme", and this thought did not essentially differ from the general position of the Serbian social-democratic party about "a united Yugoslav nation".[13]

The Yugoslavism of the bishop, politician and educator Josip Juraj Štrosmajer (1815-1905) differs much from the many precursors, mentioned earlier, and according to academician Vasilije Krestić: "The most frequent mistake is that the Yugoslavism of Štrosmajer is viewed statically and it is not perceived that in practice it passed through various phases, it changed, adapted and reshaped itself m the same way as the entire policy changed, which influenced the general development of the South Slavs, Clears before all."[14] The supporters of the Yugoslav idea, i.e. Yugoslavism, besides those listed, were Jovan Rajić (1726-1801), Stanko Vraz (1810-1851), Petal II Petrović Njegoš (1813 185 l), Petar Preradović (1818-1872), Svetozar Marković (1846-1905), Dimitrije Tucović (1881-1914) and many others. This citation on Yugoslavism, the Serbs and Yugoslavia will be completed with the thought of the founder of modern Germanics Jakob Grimm (1785-1863), who emphasised "...that there is not a mole glorious name which could be used for all South Slavs.. " because " other South-Slav people has such a history that could be compared with the Serbian."[15] This means that the Serbs, the most numerous and most vital people in the Balkans, are historically "predestined" to be the instigators and the stronghold of the state of the South Slavs.

The wishes of the coryphaei of our history were realised by the formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on December 1, 1918. The kingdom of Yugoslavia was formed owing to superhuman efforts on the part of the free states: Serbia and Montenegro. The union into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was accepted with enthusiasm on the part of the people, particularly the Serbs in Croatia, Dalmatia, Herzegovina, Bosnia, and Vojvodina that were under the rule of Austria-Hungary for a very long time. Further development of Yugoslavism and the united Yugoslavia was left to politicians. However, the authorities of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia and of the state have distorted the ideas of the great men of our past

Characteristics of Geographical Position of the Former Yugoslavia

The geographical position of a region or a state is a variable that depends on the place and role it has in the given historical conditions. It is known how the geographical position of the Mediterranean changed after the discovery of America in 1492. and after the excavation of the Suez canal in 1869. The development of road, railway, maritime, waterborne, and airborne transport among the highly developed regions and states are the main factors of changes of the geographical position of the states in the region. There are no powerful states in the regions where international roads and interests cross in spite of optimum economic conditions for their formation. The geostrategic areas on the globe (south-west Asia, south-east Asia, Central America, and the Balkan Peninsula, which is a "test field" for the new world order being established by Western Europe and the United States of America) are under the surveillance of the Great Powers and international associations.

The geographical position of the former Yugoslavia was primarily conditioned by its location on the Balkan Peninsula, which is a land bridge between Europe and Southwest Asia Yugoslavia was located at the crossroad of the international routes on the Balkan peninsula It was a Mediterranean, Central European, Eastern European and Danubian country Its role and its geographical position were particularly important for linking Central and Western Europe with south-west Asia, north-east Africa, middle and eastern Mediterranean. The international position of the former Yugoslavia was improved after the construction of the Danube-Main-Rhine canal for the water borne transport of goods from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea. This became particularly obvious after socio-economic and political changes in eastern European and Balkan countries and, especially, after the unification of two Germanies and the changes in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The geographical position of a country, as well as of Yugoslavia, lies in the foundation of its international position which consists of" its geographical and demographic positions, its geostrategic and geopolitical positions, its economic and political positions..."[16], and of all other factors of influence. This includes the issues of military blocs, economic associations, relations with the neighbouring countries, political and economic stability in the neighbouring countries, the spheres of interest of the Great Powers and global economic and political stabilisation in this part of Europe and the Mediterranean. In the integration processes in Europe, all countries will be losing their autonomies for the benefit of unity, and those opposing these processes will be exposed to international pressures, isolation, even military interventions The international position of Yugoslavia was defined by its location in the "...geostrategic sensitive regions, in the corridors of wars, in the regions of undecided spheres of interest, in the key zones important for global geostrategic relations, etc. This means independence and calls for specific orientation in foreign policy, in which diverse forms of security are sought, i.e. non-alignment."[17] This view of the geostrategic position of the former Yugoslavia is outlived since an ideological, inter-ethnic, and religious war is waged in it, and not in the corridors, while the policy of non-alignment came to its anticipated end.

The policy of non-alignment conducted by Josip Broz Tito (1892-1980) proved a failure in every aspect, particularly in the aspect of civilisation The policy of non alignment came as a consequence of the wrongly conducted foreign and internal policy by Yugoslavia. The policy of non-alignment was an attempt to form a third bloc which would act between the NATO and Warsaw Treaty The membership in the non-aligned movement was mostly held by the underdeveloped countries of Asia and Africa which was the first indicator of its political failure. Linking Yugoslavia, European country, with Africa and Asia, was a tremendous failure from this aspect of civilisation, economy, culture, and security. Therefore, the exclusion of Yugoslavia from the civilised Europe and its attachment to the underdeveloped countries of the world was not difficult, much less wise. Non-alignment is a true term for the contents of such policy. The countries the members of the Movement of non-alignment, are engaged in long wars which was not characteristic of the countries aligned in the blocs, pacts economic, and other associations. The non-aligned policy of Yugoslavia was often supported by a large number of the states in the world, because it geostrategic and political position in the troubled Balkans was very important. However, the majority of the non-aligned countries in the Organisation o United Nations were overactive in the process of issuing resolutions am introducing sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro, which are endeavouring to preserve the continuity of the former Yugoslavia. It may be concluded that the geographical, geostrategic and political position of Yugoslavia in the Balkan was very delicate in relation to the Mediterranean, Europe, and south-west Asia. Such a position of Yugoslavia was not favourable in the times of wars an< unstable international relations However, in the times of peaceful and civilisation development of the world it was extremely favourable. The geographical position, if wisely used, can be an important factor of the social economic and cultural development of the country or region. One should say that Yugoslavia did not use such an advantage, which was particularly manifested in the last ten and odd years when the disintegration occurred.

Social and Geographical Characteristics

The social-geographical features include, the heterogeneous ethnic and religious structure of the population almost on the whole territory of Yugoslavia, the great mixture of the Serbian and Croatian peoples in Bosnia, Dalmatia, Herzegovina, Slavonija, Baranja, and other minor regions, the mixture of diverse religious affiliations, particularly the Orthodox and Islamized Serbs, the unjust borders between the republics set without asking the peoples or observing any ethnic and historical criteria, numerous national minorities, especially, of the Shqiptars and Hungarians in Serbia, and the Shqiptars in Montenegro, a large number of the Serbs and Croats abroad that emigrated during and after World War II; uneven rates of natural increase of the population belonging to different peoples and national minorities (1981 Serbs 14.60%o, Croats 15.40%o, Slovenes 13.90%o, Montenegrins 15.80%o, Hungarians 11.70%o, Shqiptars/Albanians/ 34%o and Muslims/Islamized Serbs/ 22.20%o); different national incomes in US Dollar equivalent (data for 1988): Slovenia 2739, Croatia 1581, Serbia 1018, Montenegro 837, Bosnia and Herzegovina 772, and Macedonia 736, unequal volumes of natural resources by republics, conditioning disparate economic, cultural and other development. Differences and contradictions were even more obvious between the regions within one and the same republic. One of major contradictions of the former Yugoslav geo area is the dispersion of the Serbian people, which was, together with other factors, in the background of the non-existence of a Serbian state. Matija Bećković, academician, when speaking on the dispersion of the Montenegrins remarked "Now we have our homeland everywhere And when one has it everywhere he has it nowhere"[18] which is ascribable to all the Serbs, too.

The diversity of the Yugoslav geo-area brought about the disintegrating processes in Yugoslavia. According to V. Djurić "Three powerful fetishes alternatively rule our society. At one moment it is a state plan considered by some as a solution to all the problems of disharmony in the Yugoslav area. At another, it is the market, the laws of which can ensure a healthy economy and rational use of land (proclaimed here are also the centralised and market economy but neither of them functions). The third fetish is resorted to - channelling the economic flows by self-managing agreements and compacts. This led to agreed economy which pushed the fragmented Yugoslav economy into even worse position in the global division of labour "[19] Yugoslavia was so much partitioned that "codes of laws and regulations were valid only on a restricted territory."[20] Some articles of the Constitution of S.F.R of Yugoslavia (each republic and each province used to Slave then own Constitutions, nine altogether) were forcefully suspended by the Communist Party and State authorities as they appeared to impede the implementation of the planned disintegrating processes and the break-up of Yugoslavia. The programme how to disintegrate Yugoslavia was inherent to the social political system, so the state was being disintegrated by legally passed laws.[21] The system of education became the foundation of a dangerous and monstrous policy pursued by the leaders of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia and state authorities. National subjects in the teaching curricula degraded the educational objectives so much that the purpose of studying could be seriously questioned. This particularly referred to the contents of history and social geography, the curricula of which contributed to the disintegration of Yugoslavia and Yugoslav geo-area.

Numerous contradictions on the Balkan peninsula and in Yugoslavia imply that there are no conditions for the formation of any larger state in this area, the former Yugoslavia being understood The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was formed in World War I and the S.F.R of Yugoslavia in World War II The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was the victim of World War II though efforts had been made earlier to demolish it (The Communist Party of Yugoslavia, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation /V.M.RO./, the separatists from Kosovo and Metohia, the Ustashi, etc.). The S.F.R of Yugoslavia perished in peace time because of numerous internal contradictions that were sanctioned by legal regulations and thus led to disintegration. No dilemma, the states that are formed in war and perish in peace have no historical reasons for existence.

The world understood correctly the processes in the former Yugoslavia in spite of the fact that the state leadership asserted the opposite. Therefore, it is not a question of separatism, but of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, as an imminent social process. Had it been separatism, the federal state institutions (Government, Presidency, General Staff, Federal Secretariat of Internal Affairs, and the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia) would have reacted in another way. In the case of separatism territories are either defended or lost on the battlefield. They are never delivered with toasts at lunches as it was the case with some territories of this country. The great Serbian writer and diplomat Jovan Dučić (1871-1943), giving a definition of homeland said that "a homeland is neither soil, nor people, nor language, but the collective spirit of a people." In the case of the former Yugoslavia, neither it had a united territory, one people and one language, nor the collective spirit of the people. So, it was doomed to perish.

As the S. F. R. of Yugoslavia exists no longer the Serbian people should refrain from making the same mistake that cost them more than three million victims in the two world wars. The Serbian people should draw their own national programme focusing on the formation of the national Serbian state. The national programmes should also be formulated by other peoples in the restless Balkans. The boundaries between the peoples and national states should be delineated by agreements with the full observance of ethnic and historical criteria. When the national states are constituted, there would be conditions for interest-based unions between them and with other states in Europe and the world. It is necessary to allow civilised leaving of all the peoples on the territory of the former Yugoslavia and enable each people to live (if possible) in one state organising their own life as they please. This is the only way (provided the Great Powers abstained from interference) in which the order in the Balkans and on the territories of the former Yugoslavia can be reinstated. All the peoples in Europe have the right to self-determination and this will have to be acknowledged to the Serbs, the most numerous people in the Balkans. Serbia and Montenegro should normally be the core of the future Serbian state as they laid their statehood into the foundations of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.


1. Jovan Cvijić, Balkansko poluostrvo i južnoslovenske zemlje /The Balkan Peninsula and the South Slav Countries/ (Belgrade: Zavod za izdavanje udžbenika, 1966), pp. 10-11.

2. Dimitrije Obolenski, Vizantijski komonvelt /Byzantine Commonwealth/ (Belgrade: Prosveta & SKZ, 1991), p.72.

3. Olja Luković-Pjanović, Srbi... Narod najstariji /Serbs... the Most Ancient People/ (Belgrade: AIZ-dosije, 1990) I, 65-85.

4. Milorad Ekmečić, Stvaranje Jugoslavije 1790-1918 /The Formation of Yugoslavia/ 1,2 (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1989), p.482.

5. Dositej Obradović, Pismo Haralampiju /Leters to Haralampie Selected works/ (Novi Sad-Belgrade: Matica srpska & SKZ, 1969),p.49.

6. Jakov Ignjatović, Odabrana dela 2 /Selected works 2/ (Novi Sad-Belgrade: Matica srpska, 195 9), p. 341.

7. Jovan Skerlić, Istorija nove srpske književnosti /History of the New Serbian Literature/ (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1967), p. 102.

8. Ibid., p. 109.

9. Blažo Perović, Jugoslavenstvo i nacional-feudalizam /Yugoslavism and National-Feudalism/ (Belgrade: Gardoš, 1988), pp. 7-8.

10. Stefan Mitrov Ljubiša, Djela III/Works/ (Cetinje: Obod Cetinje & Kulturni centar Budva, 1974),p.34.

11. Perović, op. cit., p.9.

12 Ivan Cankar, "Odabrani kritički i polemički spisi" /Selected Criticism and Polemics/ in Slovenci i Jugosloveni (Belgrade: Novo Pokolenje, 1950), p.30.

13. Perović, op. cit., p.23.

14. Vasilije Krestić, Srpsko-hrvatski odnosi i jugoslovenska ideja u drugoj polovini XIX veka (Belgrade: Nova knjiga, 1988), p. 120.

15. Jakob Grimm, Wuk's Stefanovitsch kleine Grammatik verdeutscht mid mit einer Vorrede J. G. 1824, p. xxiii.

16. Momir Stojković, "Značaj geografije u razumevanju medjunarodnog položaja Jugoslavije," /Importance of Geography for Understanding the International Position of Yugoslavia/ in Idejne i društvene vrednosti geografske nauke (Belgrade: Centar za marksizam Univerziteta u Beogradu, 1987), p. 127.

17. Radovan Pavić, "Teritorijalizacija političkog...," in Idejne i društvene vrednosti geografske nauke (Belgrade: Centar za marksizam Univerziteta u Beogradu, 1987), p.93.

18. Matija Bećković, Poeme /Poems/ (Belgrade: Srpska književna zadruga, 1983), p.301.

19. Vladimir Djurić, "Geografski pogledi ...," /Geographical Views of the Regional Development of the S. F. R. of Yugoslavia/ in Idejne i društvene vrednosti geografske nauke (Belgrade: Centar za marksizam Univerziteta u Beogradu, 1987), p. 234.

20. Vujadin Rudić, Metodika nastave geografije /Teaching Methods in Geography/ (Belgrade: Naučna knjiga, 1991), p.39.

21. Vujadin Rudić, "Politika i dezintegracija jugoslovenskog geoprostora," /'Politics and Disintegration of the Yugoslav Geo-area/ in Jugoslovenski geoprostor (Belgrade: Centar za marksizam Univerziteta u Beogradu, 1989), p. 137.

Dr Vujadin Rudić is Professor of Methodic of Teaching Geography at the Faculty of Geography, University of Belgrade. His major area of research is Geography of Population and Settlements. In addition to numerous scientific papers (about forty), he has published Stanovništvo Toplice /The Population of Toplica/ (1978), Stanovništvo Prokuplja /The Population of Prokuplje/ (1992), Metodika nastave geografije /Methodics of Teaching Geography/ (1991), and Bijelo Polje /Monograph/ (1987, one of the co-authors).

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