A Short History of An Interwar Yugoslavia (1918‒1941)

Share

Hits: 245

Yugoslavia (the “land of South Slavs”) was a Balkan multi-ethnic state which emerged from the ruins of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy (est. 1867) and was officially announced to exist on December 1st, 1918 under the original name of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.[i] The name was changed in June 1929 to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The country existed under such name till April 1941 when it was destroyed, occupied, and divided by the Axis Powers and their Balkan satellites. Legally, the state emerged from the 1917 Corfu Pact signed by the Government of Serbia on one hand and the South Slavic political representatives from Austria-Hungary (the Yugoslav Committee) on the other. Up to the end of WWII, there were recognized three branches of the same Yugoslav tree: the Serbs, the Croats, and the Slovenes. That was for the first time in history that the South Slavs began to live together in their own national state.

Administrative division of Yugoslavia from 1929 to 1941

The Serbs and the Croats were all the time two biggest ethnonational groups in Yugoslavia, either before or after WWII. There were confessional differences between them too – the Serbs were the Christian Orthodox, while the Croats were the Roman Catholics. In the middle between them, in Bosnia-Herzegovina lived the Bosniak Muslims of the Serb or/and the Croat ethnic origin. Both the birth and all years of the state were difficult, as the Croats eyed with suspicion the Serb efforts to predominate in political life. However, for the unification, Serbia during WWI suffered mostly out of all Yugoslav lands and peoples as Serbia alone lost 270.000 men, or almost 40 percent of those mobilized, half of its industrial equipment followed by 1/3 of its plants.[ii]   

The country’s ethnonational, confessional, and cultural diversity and differences were politically expressed in two contrasting and opposing designs upon the nature and political system of the new state. The Slovenes and the Croats joined the Yugoslav union with Serbia (enlarged at the very end of WWI with Vardar Macedonia, Kosovo-Metochia, Vojvodina, parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro) primarily for defensive reasons in order to protect their ethnographic lands against both the Austrian and Italian post-war irredentist and revisionist territorial pretensions especially by the Italian side. Nevertheless, the Slovenes and the Croats demanded the Federal Republican state, which would provide an extensive territorial, national, cultural and political autonomy for each component: Slovenia, Serbia, and Croatia. However, by contrast, the Serbs required the centralized monarchy with royal Serbia’s dynasty of the Karađorđević’s.[iii] Serbia, contrary to both Slovenia and Croatia, entered a new state as an independent and internationally recognized political subject. Finally, the centralized constitution (the Vidovdan Constitution, June 28th, 1921) was adopted by a narrow parliamentary majority.

A new Parliament was dominated by the Serb parties as the Serbs were the most numerous ethnic group in Yugoslavia but not having an absolute ethnic majority. The Croats formed with some representatives of other national groups a permanent parliamentary opposition protesting that they were being politically and nationally discriminated. However, in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Slovenes and the Croats enjoyed an economic and financial privileged position and, therefore, exploiting the rest of the country. The strongest bank in the country was in the Croatian hands (Prva Hrvatska štedionica, est. 1846). The same situation was in the second (Socialist) Yugoslavia in which economy and finance were directed to work to Slovenia’s and Croatia’s favor.

The country in foreign affairs tried to maintain the “Versailles Order” in the region after WWI signing treaties of friendship and cooperation with Czechoslovakia (in 1920) and Romania (in 1921) and, therefore, creating a group of states known as the “Little Ententé”. However, at the same time, there were constant disputes about the borders with Italy and Bulgaria and to a certain extent with Greece too. Formal treaties of friendships were signed with Italy in 1924, Greece in 1929, Poland in 1926, France in 1927, and Bulgaria in 1937. Nevertheless, despite the treaty with Italy, the Yugoslav Government was always very suspicious of Benito Mussolini’s Balkan policy especially after the Italian occupation of Albania in April 1939. Belgrade knows very well that Mussolini was encouraging the Croatian ultranationalists (Ustashi) to act against Yugoslavia and trying to encircle Yugoslavia from the south by tightening Italy’s grip on Albania.  

After the political assassination of the Croatian leader Stjepan Radić in the People’s Assembly (Parliament) in Belgrade by a Montenegrin MP Puniša Račić in 1928 (after Radić’s public provocations on the ethnic basis), the Croats announced their boycott of parliamentary life and set up their own Government in Zagreb. There was also an idea to proclaim the independent Republic of Croatia. However, the King Alexander I Karađorđević (born in Montenegro in 1888)[iv] responded to such secessionist tendencies by dissolving the Parliament, proclaiming himself a dictator, and banning all political parties (till 1935) on January 6th, 1929. In fact, he introduced a royal authoritarian regime.[v]

The modernization of the economy after the unification was hampered before 1929 by the exigencies of the post-war reconstruction, by the need to get into position the basic institutions and infrastructure and finally by the preoccupation of the Government with purely political issues but not by economic development. Yugoslavia, like many other European countries, was terribly affected by the Great Economic Depression (1929‒1933). Being largely agricultural, the Yugoslav economy had been reasonably prosperous in the 1920s, but in 1930‒1933 world’s agricultural prices collapsed and, therefore, causing, widespread hardship among farmers and workers. 

The royal personal dictatorship strengthened the growth of different ethno-terrorist organizations of which the most significant and later the most notorious became the Croatian Revolutionary Organization (the HRO) – known as the Ustashi (Insurrection), under the leadership of Bosnia-Herzegovina born Roman Catholic Ante Pavelić (1889−1959), known as the “Butcher of the Balkans”. The Ustashi were accusing the King of running the policy of a “Greater Serbia” followed by the oppression of the Croats but at the same time, the Croatian Revolutionary Organization struggled for the creation of an independent Greater Croatia in which there was no place for the Serbs. The organization became worldwide known after carried out the assassination of the Yugoslav King together with a French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou on October 9th, 1934 in Marseille as he arrived in France for a state visit. The murderer was a Bulgarian who was connected with the Croat Ustashi living and training in Hungary who, in fact, organized the crime. For some time the tensions with Hungary were high and even there seemed to be war.     

The following years are remarked by extreme political tensions on the relations between Belgrade and Zagreb as the Croats required at any price the creation of an autonomous (in fact, semi-independent) province of (a Greater) Croatia within Yugoslavia. The ethnopolitical conflict between the Croats and the Serbs in the second half of the 1930s was not so much a product of some natural hatreds and tensions rising to the surface, but were rather a consequence of the growth of nationalist ideologies and doctrines in the power vacuum that had been created by the assassination of the King Alexander I Karađorđević in 1934.[vi] At the very eve of WWII in order to prevent Croatian separatism and siding with Germany and Italy in the case of the war against the Axis Powers, Belgrade finally agreed on the Croatian autonomy apparently under the pressure by London and Paris. Subsequently, a huge and ethnically mixed Banovina Hrvatska (the Banat of Croatia), incorporating a large part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was created on August 26th, 1939 by the signed agreement between the Yugoslav PM Dragiša Cvetković (of a Roma origin but not Serb) and the Croatian national and political leader Vladimir Vlatko Maček. Nevertheless, the greatest part of the Serbs, Serbian political parties, and the Serbian Orthodox Church did not support the agreement as they understood it as a “Serbian Münich” – the capitulation under the Croatian ultimatum and the Western (French and British) political pressure. Nevertheless, this asymmetric semi-Federal system enabled six Croats to join the common Yugoslav Government with the focal task to find a compromise with a Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.  

Banovina Croatia in 1939-1941

Being disappointed with the economic help Yugoslavia received from France, and being frustrated of Mussolini’s political intentions in the Balkans, the Regent Prince Paul (whole life being Anglophile), started to look towards Nazi Germany for trade and protection from the Italian territorial aspirations in Dalmatia and Albania (Italia irredenta). As a matter of success, a German-Yugoslav trade treaty was reached in 1936. As a consequence, the treaty led to a significant increase in trade, so that in 1938 Germany took 40 percent of the Yugoslav export. Undoubtedly, the Yugoslav treaty with Germany reduced the threat from fascist Italy which signed the Rome‒Berlin Axis agreement with Hitler in 1936. In 1937, therefore, Italy signed a treaty with Yugoslavia that was of enormous significance for the latter as two countries agreed to respect each other’s borders, to increase trade and to deal with the terrorists (i.e., with the Croatian Ustashi). As the international situation drastically deteriorated during 1939, Yugoslavia found herself uncomfortably aligned with the Axis Powers on one hand but on another, practical support by the Western democracies was totally missing.[vii]  

 

Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirović

www.global-politics.eu/sotirovic

sotirovic@global-politics.eu

© Vladislav B. Sotirovic 2019

 

Endnotes:

[i] Snežana Trifunovska (ed.), Yugoslavia Through Documents: From Its Creation to Its Dissolution, Dordrecht−Boston−London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1994, 157−160.

[ii] John B. Allcock, Explaining Yugoslavia, New York: Columbia University Press, 2000, 54−55. About Serbia in WWI, see in [Mira Radojević, Ljubodrag Dimić, Serbia in the Great War 1914−1918: A Short History, Belgrade: Srpska književna zadruga−Belgrade Forum for the World of Equals, 2014].

[iii] Norman Lowe, Mastering Modern World History, Fourth Edition, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

[iv] The future King was born in Cetinje (Montenegro) on December 17th, 1888 as a son of Serbia’s Petar I Karađorđević (the King of Serbia from 1903) and the Princess of Montenegro, Zorka (the oldest daughter of Montenegro’s ruler Nikola I Petrović-Njegoš) [Бранислав Глигоријевић, Краљ Александар Карађорђевић, I, Уједињење српских земаља, Београд: БИГЗ, 1996, 24].

[v] On the authoritarian regime of Alexander I Karađorđević, see in [Bridžit Farli, “Aleksandar Karađorđević i kraljevska diktatura u Jugoslaviji”, Bernd J. Fišer (priredio), Balkanski diktatori: Diktatori i autoritarni vladari jugoistočne Evrope, Beograd: IPS−IP Prosveta, 2009, 65−104].

[vi] Similarly to this case, the ethnic conflicts in Yugoslavia in the 1990s were very much the consequence of the collapse of socialism which created the power vacuum [Andrew Heywood, Global Politics, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 188].

[vii] On this issue, see more in [Aliaksandr Piahanau (ed.), Great Power Policies Towards Central Europe, 1914−1945, Bristol, England: E-International Relations, 2019].

Destruction and division of Yugoslavia in April 1991
 
READ MORE!
The Idea of Pan-Slavic Ethnolinguistic Kinship and Reciprocity in Dalmatia and Croatia, 1477–1706
Abstract: This paper sets out to examine and clarify the historical development of the ideological concept of Pan-Slavism, which was created by the writers of Dalmatia and Croatia at the time of the late Renaissance and early Baroque (from the end of the 15th century to the very beginning of the 18th century). The literary works of that time by many of Dalmatia’s and Croatia’s writers deal with the ethnolinguistic aspect of Pan-Slavic unity, solidarity, kinship and reciprocity. Their writings established an ideological framework for making both Pan-Slavic common national identity and program of the united single national state of ...
READ MORE
The Srebrenica Massacre: Some Victims are More Equal than Others
Last month was the 18th anniversary of the attack on the Serbian village of Kravica committed by Moslem forces from Srebrenica under the command of Naser Orić on Orthodox Christmas day, January 7, 1993. Several dozen villagers were killed in the attack, the remaining Serbian population was forced to flee to safety, and many homes were pillaged, demolished and torched during the several weeks that Kravica was forcibly occupied by neighbours from nearby Srebrenica. Regardless of arcane debates of who started the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on a human level the attack on the village of Kravica and the ...
READ MORE
Zoran Djindjic: The Quisling Of Belgrade
Tributes to Zoran Djindjic, the assassinated prime minister of Serbia, have been pouring in. President Bush led the way, praising his “strong leadership”, while the Canadian government’s spokesman extolled a “heralder of democracy” and Tony Blair spoke of the energy Djindjic had devoted to “reforming Serbia”. In western newspaper obituaries Djindjic has been almost universally acclaimed as an ex-student agititator who bravely led a popular uprising against a tyrannical dictator and endeavoured to steer his country into a new democratic era. But beyond the CNN version of world history, the career of Zoran Djindjic looks rather different. Those who rail against the ...
READ MORE
If NATO Wants Peace and Stability it Should Stay Home
A curious op-ed appeared in The National Interest, penned by Hans Binnendijk and David Gompert, adjunct senior fellows at the RAND Corporation. Titled, “NATO’s Role in post-Caliphate Stability Operations,” it attempts to make a case for NATO involvement everywhere from Libya to Syria and Iraq in fostering stability in the wake of a yet-to-be defeated Islamic State. The authors propose that NATO step in to fill what it calls an impending “vacuum left as the caliphate collapses,” heading off alternatives including “chaos or Iran, backed by Russia, filling the void, with great harm to U.S. and allied interests in either case.” The op-ed never explains why ...
READ MORE
Confession of a CIA Agent: They Gave Us Millions to Dismember Yugoslavia
We bribed parties and politicians who have enticed hate between the nations. Our ultimate goal was to enslave you! WebTribune publishes their interview with former CIA agent Robert Baer during his promotion tour in Quebec for upcoming book “Secrets of the White House” last week. My boss, who was formerly a US Senator, stressed repeatedly that some kind of scam would go down in Bosnia. A month before the alleged genocide in Srebrenica, he told me that the town would be headline news around the world and ordered us to call the media. Robert Baer, a former CIA officer, has authored many books ...
READ MORE
The Great War in 1914 and the Balkans
The WarmongersThe war, which began in August 1914 – to contemporaries the Great War, to posterity the First World War – marked the end of one period of history and the beginning of another. Starting as a European war, it turned in 1917, with the entrance of the US into a world war. The spark that triggered it off was the assassination of the Austrian heir-presumptive, Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1864−1914), by a Bosnian nationalist of Serb origin – Gavrilo Princip[1], a member of the Young Bosnia (Mlada Bosna) movement, in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914 on his official visit to ...
READ MORE
The West Against the Rest or the West Against Itself?
What is the bigger story? The West Against the Rest or The West Against Itself? The Illiberal Quartet of Xi, Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan is in the line of fire of haughty homilies about Western “values.” Illiberalism is arrogantly and provocatively depicted in the West repeatedly as a Tartar Invasion 2.0. But closer to home Illiberalism is responsible for the social, civil war in the U.S. as Trump’s America has long ago forgotten what the European Enlightenment was all about. The Western view is a maelstrom of a Judaeo-Greco-Roman, pseudo-philosophy steeped in Hegel, Toynbee, Spengler and obscure biblical references decrying an Asian attack ...
READ MORE
Washington’s “Humanitarian” War and the KLA’s Crimes
Revelations of fascistic crimes carried out by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) prior to, during and after NATO’s war against the former Yugoslavia should provide a salutary lesson whenever Washington again cites humanitarian concerns to justify its predatory war aims. A new report prepared by Swiss Council of Europe deputy Dick Marty slams Kosovo leader Hachim Thaci for organ trafficking and other abominable crimes, deftly shaded by the U.S. in pursuit of their own self-interests. A report by the Council of Europe describes Kosovo today as a country subject to “mafia-like structures of organised crime”. It accuses KLA commander and current ...
READ MORE
Making America Great Through Exploitation, Servitude and Abuse
The public denunciation by thousands of women and a few men that they had been victims of sexual abuse by their economic bosses raises fundamental issues about the social relations of American capitalism.The moral offenses are in essence economic and social crimes. Sexual abuse is only one aspect of the social dynamics facilitating the increase in inequality and concentration of wealth, which define the practices and values of the American political and economic system.Billionaires and mega-millionaires are themselves the products of intense exploitation of tens of millions of isolated and unorganized wage and salaried workers. Capitalist exploitation is based on ...
READ MORE
The 2014 Coup d’État and the Ukrainian Crisis
The current Ukrainian crisis and in fact civil war which stared at the very end of 2013 are grounded in for decades lasting internal interethnic antagonisms primarily on the Ukrainian-Russian relations including above all the “Crimean Question” as an apple of discord from 1954 between Ukraine and Russia.[1] The crisis came from Lithuania’s capital Vilnius were in November 2013 an Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine had to be signed. Lithuania at that time (July 1st−December 31st, 2013) presided the European (Union) Council and formally had full political responsibility for the breaking out of the crisis as being the ...
READ MORE
The CIA: 70 Years of Organized Crime
On occasion of the CIA’s 70th anniversary, Lars Schall talked with U.S. researcher Douglas Valentine about the Central Intelligence Agency. According to Valentine, the CIA is “the organized crime branch of the U.S. government”, doing the dirty business for the rich and powerful.Douglas Valentine is the author of the non-fictional, historical books “The Hotel Tacloban”, “The Phoenix Program”, “The Strength of the Wolf”, “The Strength of the Pack”, and “The CIA as Organized Crime”. 70 years ago, on September 18, 1947, the National Security Act created the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA. Douglas, you refer to the CIA as “the organized ...
READ MORE
Zionist Israel Hides its Crimes Behind its Smears of Truth-Tellers
Several years ago two very distinguished American scholars wrote a book, The Israel Lobby.The book made a very understated case that the Israel Lobby has far more power over the US government and media than is good for America or Israel, as it silences constructive critics who are Israel’s friends. The two scholars were demonized by the Israel Lobby as advocating the return of the Holocaust.The Israel Lobby presented itself as just a poor little weak thing unable to stand up to all the Nazis assailing Israel. Meanwhile the US Congress was unanimously passing outrageous resolutions handed to it by ...
READ MORE
Kosovo and Columbine: Are We a Nation of Gun Nuts or are We Just Nuts?
In Bowling for Columbine (2002), Michael Moore analyzed the culture of violence in the US and examined its relationship to the illegal US and NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. Following the bombing, US and NATO forces occupied Kosovo-Metohija militarily. The US and its allies acted unilaterally in bombing and occupying Yugoslav territory. There was no UN approval for this criminal aggression by the US and its allies. The illegal bombing did not represent “the international community”, but was the illegal action of the US government. The US goal was not to prevent “genocide” or human rights violations but to ...
READ MORE
The Brexit Vote: What does it Mean?
The EU and NATO are evil institutions.  These two institutions are mechanisms created by Washington in order to destroy the sovereignty of European peoples.  These two institutions give Washington control over the Western world and serve both as cover and enabler of Washington’s aggression.  Without the EU and NATO, Washington could not force Europe and the UK into conflict with Russia, and Washington could not have destroyed seven Muslim countries in 15 years without being isolated as a hated war criminal government, no member of whom could have travelled abroad without being arrested and put on trial.Clearly, the presstitute media ...
READ MORE
Obama and the Bombing of Hiroshima
Later this month, Barack Obama will become the first sitting US president to visit the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima by the American military on August 6, 1945, and the destruction three days later of the Japanese city of Nagasaki, rank among the greatest war crimes of the 20th century.One would think that after 71 years, the United States would finally be prepared to acknowledge that the incineration of two defenseless Japanese cities, causing some 200,000 deaths, was a militarily unnecessary act.Nothing of the sort will happen. Obama “will not revisit the decision ...
READ MORE
Diagnosing the West with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)
Western culture is clearly obsessed with rules, guilt, submissiveness and punishment.By now it is clear that the West is the least free society on Earth. In North America and Europe, almost everyone is under constant scrutiny: people are spied on, observed, their personal information is being continually extracted, and the surveillance cameras are used indiscriminately.Life is synchronized and managed. There are hardly any surprises.One can sleep with whomever he or she wishes (as long as it is done within the ‘allowed protocol’). Homosexuality and bisexuality are allowed. But that is about all; that is how far ‘freedom’ usually stretches.Rebellion is ...
READ MORE
Target Orthodox Church: NATO’s Eastern Crusades
Needless to say, the important and portentous story of the attempted subversion of the Orthodox Church using the intelligence and political instruments still at the disposal of the moribund post-Christian West has gone virtually unreported, uncommented, and uncondemned. It concerns the multi-front offensive currently being unleashed against the most ancient and authentic Christian communion, the Orthodox Church.The epicenter of this externally induced commotion is at this moment in Montenegro, NATO’s latest “catch” in its persistent effort to secure or at least neutralize the Balkan rear, with a view to the projected conflict with Russia. One of the major remaining targets in ...
READ MORE
Fake Solidarity by NATO
On the 16th anniversary of the country’s accession to NATO, Lithuanian Minister of Defense Raimundas Karoblis came up with a well-known myth: our state is an equal member of the alliance. “We are stronger than ever before and we are grateful to the Allies for their efforts in strengthening the defense capabilities in the region and their willingness to help when it necessary” said Karoblis.If you look at the facts, Lithuania is fighting alone with the epidemic of COVID-19 infection. However, like all other countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.You just need to look at Italy, which does not ...
READ MORE
Dysfunction in the Balkans: Can the Post-Yugoslav Settlement Survive?
The political settlement in the former Yugoslavia is unraveling. In Bosnia, the weakest state in the region, both Serbs and Croats are mounting a concerted challenge to the Dayton peace accords, the delicate set of compromises that hold the country together. In Macedonia, political figures from the large Albanian minority are calling for the federalization of the state along ethnic lines. In Kosovo, the Serb minority is insisting on the creation of a network of self-governing enclaves with effective independence from the central government. In Serbia’s Presevo Valley, Albanians are agitating for greater autonomy. In Montenegro, Albanians have demanded a ...
READ MORE
Montenegro’s Corrupt Party of Socialists is Killing the Country
Milo Djukanovic’s thirty-year-old authoritarian kleptocracy is killing Podgorica's Democratic efforts.Largely unnoticed in the wake of events in the Middle-East and the impeachment drama, another crisis is brewing in the Balkans. In Montenegro, thousands of people have been protesting a new law passed by the Montenegrin parliament and signed into effect by the country’s longtime strongman, Milo Djukanovic, which gives the government authority over properties that religious organizations in the country have been using for at least a century. Evidence of the problems the controversial new law creates can be seen in the widespread condemnation it has received from individuals such ...
READ MORE
The Idea of Pan-Slavic Ethnolinguistic Kinship and Reciprocity in Dalmatia and Croatia, 1477–1706
The Srebrenica Massacre: Some Victims are More Equal than Others
Zoran Djindjic: The Quisling Of Belgrade
If NATO Wants Peace and Stability it Should Stay Home
Confession of a CIA Agent: They Gave Us Millions to Dismember Yugoslavia
The Great War in 1914 and the Balkans
The West Against the Rest or the West Against Itself?
Washington’s “Humanitarian” War and the KLA’s Crimes
Making America Great Through Exploitation, Servitude and Abuse
The 2014 Coup d’État and the Ukrainian Crisis
The CIA: 70 Years of Organized Crime
Zionist Israel Hides its Crimes Behind its Smears of Truth-Tellers
Kosovo and Columbine: Are We a Nation of Gun Nuts or are We Just Nuts?
The Brexit Vote: What does it Mean?
Obama and the Bombing of Hiroshima
Diagnosing the West with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)
Target Orthodox Church: NATO’s Eastern Crusades
Fake Solidarity by NATO
Dysfunction in the Balkans: Can the Post-Yugoslav Settlement Survive?
Montenegro’s Corrupt Party of Socialists is Killing the Country
FOLLOW US ON OUR SOCIAL PLATFORMS
Share