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About this book

Yugoslavia was a phenomenon of the 'short' twentieth century. Its two incarnations fell between the cataclysm of the First World War which destroyed the old order, and the transformation of Europe which followed the collapse of communism in 1989. The task of building a viable, unified state was complicated not only by Yugoslavia's diverse cultural composition, but also by the pressures which the evolution of international society have placed on the modern state.

Yugoslavia
- explains and examines the key themes in the history of the former Yugoslavia
- synthesises the main strands in contemporary debate about the origins of the Yugoslav crisis
- presents a truly international history, exposing in full the role played by other countries in the rise and fall of the nation

Focussing on both domestic and external factors, Ann Lane presents a balanced analysis of this ultimately failed attempt at state-building in a region of cultural diversity.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
Yugoslavia was a twentieth-century phenomenon. Proclaimed in December 1918, its history as a sovereign state spanned some seventy-three years of the most troubled and violent in Europe’s history. Just as this period of turbulence in Europe could be said to have begun with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his consort in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, so too, the dawn of a new era of uncertainty and international instability coincided with the refocussing of world attention on the Bosnian capital, then engulfed in the violence which accompanied Yugoslavia’s dissolution in 1991–92. The symbolism of these events was not lost on observers: the ‘Sarajevo century’ and the ‘Short Twentieth Century’ became metaphors for a distinct historical epoch the boundaries of which seemed to be delineated by conflict in the Balkans.1 After the West’s initial triumphalism occasioned by the collapse of the communist system in 1989, and the subsequent demise of the Soviet Union itself just two years later, the discovery that the post-Cold War world could spawn political violence in Europe on such a scale, and so quickly, was deeply shocking. On 28 June 1992, François Mitterrand, the octogenarian President of France, made an unannounced visit to Sarajevo to draw attention to the seriousness of the Bosnian crisis. Eric Hobsbawm refers to this event in the opening paragraphs of his study of the twentieth century, observing that for those educated in European history, ‘the coincidence of date and place could only be a reminder of the catastrophic consequences of the political miscalculation by Europe’s major powers which followed the assassination in 1914’.2
Ann Lane

1. The Emergence of the South Slavs

Abstract
Yugoslavia, as a sovereign state, was a purely twentieth-century phenomenon. However, the manner in which its constituent peoples emerged from imperial rule during the nineteenth century had a great influence on the course of Yugoslav history after 1918. This process drew strength from the past, particularly the histories of medieval statehood which were resurrected in this period to give legitimacy to the notion of South Slav identity as a distinct cultural and political entity. The primary motivation of South Slavs during the nineteenth century was to achieve and preserve a measure of autonomy if not always independence from powerful imperialist states. Such endeavours were necessarily defined by recourse to the language of national self-consciousness, precisely because European political discourse following the late eighteenth century revolutions determined that the coincidence of nation and state was the measure of political legitimacy. By demonstrating the existence of a nation, so the tribes of south-eastern Europe might also persuade the great powers to acknowledge their right to self-governance. Nationalism was therefore a means of achieving leverage over the strong by appealing to the very foundations from which European statehood drew its strength.
Ann Lane

2. The Collision of Ideals

Abstract
What sort of state had the South Slavs proclaimed on 1 December 1918? Even the key players would have found it difficult to answer this question directly. From the outset, the Kingdom which eventually came to be known as Yugoslavia (South Slav) was characterised by imbalance and paradox. The Serbs turned to the state-building process full of hopeful expectation. They had fought gallantly on the winning side during the war, emerging with international respect, and had been granted their now century-old ambition of the unity of at least a proportion of South Slavic peoples within a common frontier. What they could offer to the state-building process was expressed in their existing institutional structures — the monarchy, the army and the bureaucracy — together with a clear conception of political organisation. Their primary demand was that Serbian identity be protected.
Ann Lane

3. Dictatorship and Compromise

Abstract
The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes had proven, in effect, ungovernable owing to the failure of its politicians to accept the necessity for compromise and concession implicit in parliamentary government in an environment characterised by a series of strongly held cultural identities. Despairing of the politicians, King Alexander saw the solution in an autocratic government, appealing to the people over the heads of the political process as the one source of power with sufficient legitimacy in the wider community to command the ordering of the state. What the 1920s had demonstrated was that Yugoslavia was viable as an economic unit but that it lacked any one group with sufficient legitimacy in the population as a whole to function as the focal point around which the state could be organised. The principal element giving it cohesion was the threat of external enemies who saw the South Slav state as the factor in the way of dominance of the Balkan peninsula. This combined with the economic crisis which afflicted the world economy at the end of the 1920s to drive the monarch to adopt more autocratic methods of government. Retrogressive though this solution was, it was in keeping with the general tendency in the region in this period towards stronger royalist influence, which resulted from disappointments with early experiments with democracy that had been made difficult by the international uncertainties both political and economic which threatened to worsen the already weak condition of the south-east European domestic economies.
Ann Lane

4. Civil War and Communist Revolution

Abstract
The invasion and partition of Yugoslavia in April 1941 began three and half years of harsh occupation which destroyed the embryonic political structures established during the latter years of Prince Paul’s regency. During this period elements among the Yugoslav peoples openly fought one another, leaving a legacy of violence and bitterness which festered beneath the surface of the post-war régime. Two principal and paradoxical impressions of the occupation emerge. The first, and more conventional view is that German rule was a colonial conquest sustained by dismemberment together with an active policy of ruthless suppression in a manner designed to keep the country divided and at war against itself. The second view is that the Reich’s interest in this region was its use as a thoroughfare and that what the Germans wanted to achieve primarily was the pacification of the Balkans so that it would not be a drain on German manpower resources. The truth, as so often, was a mixture of the two. Initially, the occupiers parcelled out land to parties aggrieved by the First World War settlement. They also sought to appease disaffected elements within Yugoslavia itself, the Croats being the most notable example of this strategy in action. However, this proved unworkable, for reasons arising from the behaviour of the assortment of quisling and fascist Yugoslavs who were placed between the occupation authorities and the people, and as a result of the shortcomings in the relationship between the Italians and the Germans in the region. In short, the lands of Yugoslavia were to provide a constant source of concern to the Third Reich, driving them to implement a progressively more punitive occupation with deleterious results both for the occupiers and for the Yugoslavs themselves.
Ann Lane

5. Stalinism and Heresy

Abstract
Post-war Yugoslavia existed within a framework which taught the necessity of the obedience of people to history — that is, to history as a process of social and economic development. Yugoslavia in its second incarnation was created ostensibly to serve such ends. However, it was created by and organised around, a small group of personalities, of which Tito was supreme. A statesman by temperament and outlook, he required a state over which to govern. Yugoslavia, reincarnated, provided just such an entity, and the people, willingly or otherwise, were obliged to follow.
Ann Lane

6. Tito’s Yugoslavia Consolidated

Abstract
Stalin’s death on 5 March 1953 marked the end of the tension and uncertainty which had characterised the previous five years. Henceforth Yugoslavia’s experiment with communism proceeded within a more stable division of Europe. While its international position remained in some sense ambiguous since it had interests in developing and sustaining working relationships with both East and West in the Cold War, its domestic organisation was innovative, dynamic and highly experimental. Above all, Tito’s Yugoslavia was, by the regime’s own admittance, peculiar to the specific circumstances of Cold War, retarded economic development and multi-ethnicity with which the LCY leadership had to grapple.
Ann Lane

7. Market Socialism and the Resurgence of Nationalism

Abstract
Following his personal triumph at the Belgrade Conference of the non-aligned states in September 1961, Tito spent the early months of 1962 on an extensive tour of Africa, particularly the Mediterranean states on which Yugoslav foreign policy would focus increasingly as the decade progressed. On his return to Yugoslavia he was presented with an economic crisis that could no longer be ignored.
Ann Lane

8. The End of Illusion

Abstract
Yugoslavia in its post-war incarnation was an expression of two ideals, those of communism and ‘Yugoslavism’. The vesting of political power in a single party which maintained an omnipresent control over all aspects of the society’s development was key to its ability to define and shape the historical reference points on which the state was founded and which were intended to supersede secular nationalisms with one collective nationalism common to all. But just as communism succeeded only in generating new forms of age-old miseries, so Yugoslavism proved as illusive to the communists as it had to the parliamentarians and monarchists.
Ann Lane

9. Nemesis

Abstract
Yugoslavia began to disintegrate at a moment of profound disturbance in European politics. Disorientated by the sudden and unanticipated ending of the Cold War, the major European states were unprepared either institutionally or politically to provide firm direction to a demanding and complex state at its periphery. Yugoslavia’s dissolution was just a part of the difficult process of transition from communism experienced by all the states of eastern Europe in the early 1990s. However, Yugoslavia was exceptional. Of all the east European states created after the First World War, it was the most ethnically convoluted and intermingled. It carried the bitterest of legacies of multifaceted ethnic violence which the Second World War generated among European peoples. Its experiment with communism was also exceptional, as was its transition not least because it was controlled and directed from outside. Yugoslavia in 1990 was a multi-ethnic sovereign state without a functioning centre of power. While its constituent parts recognised the need for internal reorganisation, none had the power to coerce the remainder into co-operation and the international ‘community’ did not attempt to supply the necessary power until the process of dissolution was already beyond the point of return.1 Although reform rather than dissolution remained a possibility up to the secessionist crisis of 1991, the centrifugal forces generated by rising nationalist sentiment in the absence of effective leadership or the will to mediate inter-republican disputes, placed any course other than dissolution ultimately beyond reach.
Ann Lane

Conclusion

Abstract
Yugoslavia’s history spans a distinct historical epoch in European history bounded by the beginning and end of the experiment with communism. It was created a little over a year after the October Revolution of 1917, and dissolved some eight months before the Soviet Union’s demise in December 1991. This was an age of ideology, of the pursuit of radical new ideals, a reaction to the certainties of political stability and economic growth that characterised Europe in the nineteenth century. Yugoslavia was in 1918 a product of its times. It was an idea, developed by intellectuals and the seekers of political power, which was translated into reality because events, somewhat unexpectedly, created the opportunity for its attainment, and because no one could suggest an alternative.
Ann Lane
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