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Royal Yugoslavia: The Winter of Our Discontent (1918 - 1941)

Written 27.11.2009. 11:40
Croatian borders in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes1918 - 1991
The former Yugoslavia had 23,472,000 inhabitants in the moment of its breakdown in 1991. It consisted of six republics, defined by the Constitution as the states. In the structure of the Republic of Serbia there were two autonomous provinces, defined as the federal units by the Constitution with the same status as the republics. As the multi-ethnic state, it was made up of six nations: Montenegrins(600,000 - 2.6%), Croats( 4,650,000 - 19.6%), Macedonians(1,420,000 - 6%),Muslims(2,200,000 - 8.9%),Slovenes ( 1,820,000 - 7,8%),Serbs(8,460,000 - 36.3%). Although treated as an ethnic group, Albanians( 2,150,000 - 8%) were more numerous than three South-Slav nations: Montenegrins, Slovenes and Macedonians. Then followed Hungarians accounting for 426,000 or 2%. Huge differences in numerousness, the largest nation being 14 times greater than the least one, influenced the political life in the country decisevely. The following figures show great differences concering the number of population in the republics:

Territory No.of inhabitants
Bosnia and Herzegovina 4,366,000
Montenegro 616,000
Croatia 4,760,000
Macedonia 2,034,000
Slovenia 1,974,000
Serbia proper 5,754,000
Kosovo(in Serbia) 1,955,000
Vojvodina(in Serbia) 2,013,000

Four official languages were used on the territory of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was also a multi-religious country: Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians are members of the Orthodox Church(45.4%),Croats,Slovenians, then Hungarians, Slovaks, Czechs, Italians are Catholic(30.8%) and Bosnian Muslims and Turks are(Sunni)Muslim(17%).

So Yugoslavia was a conglomerate of nations, languages, cultures and religions.On the top of it,the elements from four different cultural civilization circles from the past have been inherited: Byzantine,Mediterranean,Middle-European and Islamic, which made an inerasable stamp on the social life of the South Slav nations. The differences on the level of modernity were greater than between the most developed and the most backward European countries. So, for example, national income per capita in Slovenia was seven times bigger than its equivalent in Kosovo.

In Europe, and perhaps in the world, there is no such a small geographic territory where so great differences conflated, as it was the case with Yugoslavia. We can say that all the main problems of the modern world civilizations were interweaved in this area. Beside these differences, it must be pointed out that up to the moment of the foundation of Yugoslavia in 1918,its nations had been living separated for a millenium and a half.

For 70 years Yugoslavia was testing all the possible social systems of the 20th century,what is a unique case in Europe. From 1918 to 1941 for eight years it was living in the system of parliamentary democracy limited by the king\'s will(1921 - 1929), then for six years in the system of military-monarchist dictatorship with the elements of fascism( 1929-1935),and then after that for six years in renewed pseudo-parlamentarianism(1935 -1941). During the World War II (1941 -1945), beside the liberation war it experienced brutal interethnic civil war among "Yugoslav" nations, when about a million people perished, more in mutual conflicts than in the struggle against the foreign invaders. For 46 years after the World War II (1945 - 1991) Yugoslavia had had Stalinist system from 1945 to 1952/53. than it changed it and during 26 years (1965 - 1991) from explicitly centralist it became confederal community with more developed mechanism of marketing than any other socialist country in Europe.

So, Yugoslavia had capitalism and communism - both in "softer" and "harder" form - but also fascism, occupation and the civil war 1941 - 1945.

The great powers participated in creation, maintenance,life and death of Yugoslavia, perhaps more than its nations. The victorious forces in the World War I - Great Britain, France , USA and Italy - supported the creation of Yugoslavia in 1918 by attaching the South Slav nations of defeated Austria-Hungary,namely Croats, Slovenes and Serbs, respectively Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Vojvodina, having in mind two basic aims: to create from the new state strong barrier against possible revival of the new German imperialism (Drang nach Osten) and to include it in cordon sanitaire against spread of bolshevism from Russia. In that way Yugoslavia became an important element of European Versailles order between the two world wars.

In 1941 the Axis forces - Germany under the leadership of Hitler and Italy under Mussolini - destroyed Yugoslavia, instrumentalized from the of Antanta between two world wars. This, on another tragic way proves the thesis that its destiny was not in the hands of its nations.

The victory forces in the World War II - Great Britain, USA and SSSR -supported the renewal of Yugoslavia, because their war aim was to restore all the countries which Hitler had destroyed.

At the end of the World War II Tito\'s Communist Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1948 was the most faithful,the most consistent and the most extreme ally of USSR. After the conflict Tito-Stalin in 1948, Yugoslavia got the status of a non-aligned state, but it was in a specific way included in the so called cold war. Namely, in 1948 it succeeded to pull out from the Soviet satellites regime. As it was before the foundation of NATO pact in 1949 and before the creation of Warszaw convention in 1955, both of these pacts tolerated non-aligned position of Yugoslavia, all until the breakdown of the Soviet empire.

The essence of inter-ethnic/national conflicts and the constant 70 years long crisis and the breakdown of Yugoslavia lies in the ideology of the nation-states foundation. In that view the South Slav nations do not differ from the process and creation of the national states in Europe and in the world. All European nations - big and small, developed and undeveloped- gave birth to national ideologies that yearned unsatiably for ever greater land which would cover the farthest branches of their nation and the most distant territory that had been ever in the range of "ancient, earlier" state. It was crucial historical fact that the South Slav nations had been founded before the creation of Yugoslavia in 1918, and they were incorporated in it with their ideology of creating independent states.And then the conflict situation set in. Victorious Serbia experienced the creation of Yugoslavia like realisation of its national ideology, hoping that other nations would merge into one with Yugoslavia, and by the time with the Serbian nation eventually. Because of many centuries old danger from German, Italian and Hungarian imperialism,Croats and Slovenes wanted to save themselves by entering into the "big" Yugoslav state. Nobody asked anything Macedonians-Serbs,Bulgarians and Greeks divided them.Also nobody asked anything Albanians and Muslims.In 1918 Serbia annexed Montenegro.

Therefore, as all the nations had already been formed before, in the new state they continued the struggle for their statehood. The result could not be but bitter fight which will, via the experience of the World War II and the one-party dictatorship, under the conditions of violent politicization and falling apart of communist totalitarianism, end in the final breakdown.

1918 - 1941
The kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later called the Kingdom of Yugoslavia

The basic characteristic of this period is an aspiration of Serbs, using the domination in the army and politics, and relative numerousness (about 38% of the population) to intrude like the dominant actor in the country in order to "Serbianize" non-Serbian nations. In the regimen of limited parlamentariansm, military & police repression, drastic electoral manipulations, state robbery carried out by the means of monetary unification over underestimated money from the countries outside of Serbia, as well as political assassinations and corruption-all energy in the country was swallowed in strained political struggle, which led to the instant collapse of Yugoslavia in the war with Nazi Germany, as the country was worm-eaten inwardly.


The National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs founded in Zagreb.In the adopted Code of rules the Council pointed out that it was the political representative of "all Slovenes, Croats and Serbs who live in Croatia - Slavonia with Rijeka, in Dalmatia,Bosnia and Herzegovina, Istria, Trieste, Kranjska, Goriska, Stajerska, Koruska, Backa, Banat, Baranja, Medjimurje and in all other parts of south-west Hungary".

The foundation of Yugoslav state was proclaimed under the name: the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The rule of the Kardjordjevic dynasty.

On the elections for the Constituent Assembly, the Stjepan Radic\'s Croatian People\'s Peasant party (HSS) got fifty members of Parliament- more than all Croatian political parties put together. In all, the block of the parties with the programme of great-Serbian centralism got 44% of the votes, anti-centralist Croatian parties 23%, while the rest went to Slovenian, Muslim and other parties with generally anti-centralist tendencies, but well-known for corrupted and agreeable settebandiere behavior.

The so called "Vidovdan/Vitus\'s day Constitution" was proclaimed, through which the historical frontiers of the countries which constituted the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes were abolished. The central aim of gerrymandering at the state level was the achievement of Serbian supremacy by outvoting and centralization; the state was divided into 33 regions. The majority of the representatives in the Parliament (HSS, Republicans, Social-Democrats) left Assembly and the Constitution was proclaimed by "buying" the votes, mostly from Muslim parties in Bosnia and Hercegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia, as the Parlament would not have 50% of convocation without them.

Serbian radical deputy Punisa Racic shot in the Assembly in Belgrade into the group of deputies from the Croatian Peasant Party. He killed Pavle Radic and Djuro Basaricek, and Stjepan Radic was mortally wounded. Ivan Pernar and Ivan Grandja were also wounded.On the 8th of August 1928 Stjepan Radic died from the sustained wounds. The assassination of the political leader of Croatian people caused definite rift between Croats and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Immediately after the assassination a group of Croatian nationalists led by MP Ante Pavelic goes into exile to found an extreme nationalist organization, the Ustase.

The king Alexander I abolished the "Vidovdan Constitution" and installed himself as a dictator. Intensified regime of repression (assassinations of the prominent Croats, persecutions of Macedonians and Albanians, Serbian colonization on the non-Serbian territories, terror of political police).

Bosnia and Herzegovina had the following national structure: from 2,323,787 inhabitants, 23.58% were Croats, 30.90% were Moslems, 44.25% were Serbs and 1.02% others.

The king Alexander I was assassinated in Marseilles as the act of "retaliation" for his conspiracy role in the murder of Stjepan Radic.The organizers behind the plot belonged to the extreme Croatian nacionalist movement "Ustasha". His son Petar II inherited him, but the Regency Council ruled instead of him.

Faced with unsuccessful centralization policy, Serbian ruling classes agreed to compromise. An agreement was brought out between the leader of the Croatian Peasant Party Vladko Macek and the Prime Minister Dragisa Cvetkovic. The agreement resulted in creation of the Croatian Banovina, which beside the Savska and Primorska Banovina included the districts Dubrovnik, Sid, Ilok, Brcko, Gradacac, Derventa, Travnik and Fojnica. Therefore, about 30% of the territory of today\'s Bosnia and Hercegovina was included in the Croatian Banovina. Radical Croatian nationalists were against the agreement, considering that Bosnian Muslims, whom they regarded as the integral part of Croatian nation, were let down. The business of economy, trade, industry, social policy and some other were carried over under the authority of the Banovina. Ivan Subasic was appointed the Croatian Ban.

25th March 1941.
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia joined the Tripartite pact.

27th March 1941

On the political initiative and with the support of the Government of Great Britain, the group of Serbian officers under the leadership of general Dusan Simovic dethroned the Cvetkovic - Macek Government. The king Petar II was announced of age, and the Regency Council was dismissed.

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