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

Hits: 122

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!
Crimes of Genocide Against Serbs in Croatia
The controversial film director has been reported to authorities by the Antifascist League. A criminal complaint against film director Jakov Sedlar has been filed due to historical counterfeits that he used during the production of his documentary “Jasenovac – The Truth”. The complaint has been filed by the Antifascist League of Croatia due to criminal offense of incitement to violence and hatred, reports tportal.hr on July 15, 2016. In the explanation of the compliant, the Antifascist League states that Sedlar in the film publicly denied and significantly reduced the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, primarily directed against members ...
READ MORE
The Russian War Crimes in Syria in 2016-2019: Exclusive Photo Evidence from the Cabinet of Boris Johnson & Theresa May
Exclusive photos of the Russian war crimes in Syria and the Middle East by "Free Media Group" volunteers, 2016-2018 with a proper illustrations of the Russia's militant imperialism. The authenticity of photos and their descriptions are certified by the UK Cabinet of Boris Johnson & Theresa May:  The My Lai Massacre by Russian soldiersThe Russian soldiers at the spot of My Lai Massacre with their victimsAleppo citizen with a daughter during the Russian destruction of the cityRussian Orthodox monk in Moscow in protest against the Russian invasion of SyriaSyrian children of war and the Russian occupant soldier Killed Russian student in ...
READ MORE
The Strategy of the Intermarium
May 12 to 14 marks the 90th anniversary of the coup by Józef Piłsudski in Poland with which the Polish bourgeoisie tried to save its rule from the threat of socialist revolution. Today, he is being idealized by large sections of the Polish bourgeoisie and the US imperialist elite.In large measure, this is bound up with the increasing popularity of his conception of the Intermarium, a pro-imperialist alliance of right-wing nationalist regimes throughout Eastern Europe that was primarily directed against the Soviet Union. The resurgent interest in the Intermarium has been bound up with the increasing drive toward a new ...
READ MORE
The U.S. War Crimes against North Korea: Sinchon Massacre by the U.S. Military Exposed
SINCHON COUNTY, North Korea–Over the past few years the Korean people have been able to expose the truth about a number of atrocities by Washington’s military forces during the 1950–53 Korean War. Many others, however, remain covered up and receive virtually no mention outside the Korean peninsula. One such massacre took place in Sinchon, a city located in what is today North Korea.During the Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists leadership delegation’s visit to the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), we toured the Sinchon Museum, which documents what north Koreans consider the worst atrocity to have taken place in ...
READ MORE
My Grandfather (Jonas Noreika) wasn’t a Nazi-Fighting War Hero — He was a Brutal Collaborator
Eighteen years ago, my dying mother asked me to continue working on a book about her father, Jonas Noreika, a famous Lithuanian World War II hero who fought the Communists. Once an opera singer, my mother had passionately devoted herself to this mission and had even gotten a PhD in literature to improve her literary skills. As a journalist, I agreed. I had no idea I was embarking on a project that would lead to a personal crisis, Holocaust denial and an official cover-up by the Lithuanian government. Growing up in Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood — the neighborhood that had the ...
READ MORE
Kosovo and Systematic Persecution by KLA
The former Yugoslavia was engulfed by many conflicts and ethnic and religious differences tore away at the very fabric of this nation. Like all wars, atrocities took place on all sides but the mass media in general focused on Serbian atrocities, while neglecting brutal crimes committed against the Serbian community. This certainly applies to the glossing over of war crimes done by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). However, more and more evidence is coming to light about brutal KLA death camps and killing people for organs. Therefore, will former KLA members be charged with war crimes and will the “real truth” ...
READ MORE
Fascism and Islamic Fundamentalism
The rise of Fascism and Totalitarianism Just over 100 years ago, Britain, France, Germany and Russia ruled half of the world – most of Europe, all of Africa, South Asia, most of Southeast Asia, and most of the Pacific region. They dominated China and were of course influential everywhere else. During the past century, including the two devastating World Wars when the West resorted to mechanised butchery and industrialised slaughter, more than 170 million people, mainly civilians, were killed. The West introduced unprecedented levels of totalitarianism and oppression by inventing and ruling through Communism, Fascism, Nazism, slavery and apartheid. Some six million Jews perished ...
READ MORE
The Vatican Role in the Ustasha Genocide in the “Independent State of Croatia” (1941-1945)
What role, if any, did the Vatican play in the genocide committed in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a Roman Catholic state sponsored by the Vatican? This has been a controversial topic regarding World War II historiography. Renewed debate was stirred in 1999 with the publication of Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII (New York: Viking, 1999) by John Cornwell. Vatican Knowledge The nature of the Ustasha NDH regime was well-known by the Vatican and by the US government as early as 1941. It was no secret that the Ustasha government sought to exterminate the entire Serbian, Jewish, and ...
READ MORE
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
In examining the future, we must look to the past. As we watch the media today, we are spoon fed more and more propaganda and fear of the unknown, that we should be afraid of the unknown and have full faith that our government is keeping us safe from the unknown. But by looking at media today, those of us who are old enough will be reminded of the era of Cold War news articles, hysteria of how the Russians would invade and how we should duck and cover under tables in our kitchens for the ensuing nuclear war. Under this mass ...
READ MORE
Catalan Independence: 5 Things to Think About
Headlines and commentary across both Eastern and Western media have mainly focused on the Catalan independence referendum and the actions of Spanish police and the Spanish government's attempts to disrupt polls.However, little is being said about what the real implications of Catalan independence may be.  What do those politicians in Catalonia in favor of independence seek to do with it should they succeed? Will they create a Catalonia that serves the best interests of the people? Or serve the EU and NATO more efficiently and eagerly than a united Spain ever could?There are 5 points those following this conflict should ...
READ MORE
Kosovo Wants to Establish its Own Armed Forces
RT: Kosovo wants to establish an army and has received several Humvee armoured vehicles from the USA. Although there was official NATO restraint, how much is the establishment of a Kosovo Army a fixed development?Marcus Papadopoulos: Kosovo is, effectively, a NATO protectorate today – and has been ever since Belgrade lost control of this Serbian province in 1999. It follows, therefore, that the illegal entity which is the Republic of Kosovo will begin the process of creating its own armed forces so that, in time, Kosovo will gain entry into NATO.RT: The EU has rejected the introduction of Kosovo sanctions ...
READ MORE
Twisted History Against Russia and Serbia
The June 20 Gray Falcon commentary “Failure to Communicate” has this excerpt, that led me to an extremely anti-Russian and anti-Serb article, from a venue which has previously slanted in that direction: “The latest example of this ‘flipping the script’ is a New Republic feature comparing Putin to Milosevic. In reality, it is the West acting towards Russia the same way they acted towards the Serbs two decades ago. I’ve argued before that Putin is aware of this, though the Russian public and media in general may not be.” Whether the issue is the Caucasus or Ukraine, bombing Russia hasn’t been considered, unlike ...
READ MORE
Srebrenica: 19-Year-Blueprint for US Intervention
On July 11, 1995, two NATO warplanes bombed Serbian forces, advancing on Srebrenica. But due to the bad weather and the fact that Serbian forces were holding French and Dutch prisoners of war, NATO called off what was to be a massive bombing campaign. Late in the afternoon, Serbian general Mladic and other commanders entered into Srebrenica. They had won, for the moment. This loss by NATO could not accept and through indirect manipulation and false representation of the facts, US and NATO slandered the Serbs and successfully changed the presentation of a legal military operation. Radio Voice of Russia ...
READ MORE
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
It is hardly a coincidence that the Declaration of Independence, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, and Johann Friedrich Blumenbach’s On the Natural Variety of Mankind were all published within a year of one another, for each supports a necessary aspect of a larger, integrated project. Not only was the rationale for seizing political power (provided by the Declaration) supported by Smith’s popular text (which justified rule by the wealthy business class). Because this wealth and power was contingent on slavery, and territories seized by conquest, Blumenbach’s theory that the “Caucasian race” (a designation he coined, by the way) was the supreme race was ...
READ MORE
Remember March 24th-June 10th, 1999
Remember NATO's aggression on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from March 24th to June 10th, 1999 when several principles and articles of the Charter of United Nations were blatantly violated by the NATO's gangsters led by the US' bandits. Serbia is the only country in the whole world that was bombarded by Germany (1941), US/UK (1944) and NATO (1999). Here, you can see a basic photo collection of the event: PHOTO COLLECTION Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, ...
READ MORE
A Book Review: George Szamuely: “Bombs For Peace: NATO’s Humanitarian War On Yugoslavia”, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013
George Szamuely.  Bombs for Peace: NATO’s Humanitarian War on Yugoslavia.  Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013 (Distributed in the U.S. and Canada by the University of Chicago Press).  Paper.  Pp. 611. In Bombs for Peace, George Szamuely, a senior research fellow at the Global Policy Institute at London Metropolitan University, has produced a revealing and sharply argued analysis of Western intervention in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.  The primary focus of the book is on Western diplomatic and military interventions, which played a crucial role in the breakup of Yugoslavia and the plunge into conflict.  Continued intervention fueled deeper conflict, as ...
READ MORE
NATO & the Humanitarian Dismemberment of Yugoslavia
On March 24th, 1999, NATO launched its 78-day round the clock aerial assault on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia without the approval of the United Nations Security Council. Over a thousand NATO warplanes delivered over 2,000 airstrikes in nearly 40,000 sorties, dropping over 20,000 bombs over the former Yugoslavia, killing thousands of civilian men, women, and children, as well as upwards of a thousand Yugoslav soldiers and police.[1] [2] [3] NATO employed weapons considered criminal by international law such as depleted uranium and cluster bombs.[4] [5] [6] [7] The popular narrative is that is that the Western powers dropped these bombs ...
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
One Hundred Years Ago, in the Spring of 1917: Why Did America Go to War in 1917?
1917 was not a good year for any of the belligerent countries, but for the members of the Entente – France, Britain, and Russia – it was nothing less than catastrophic. The main reasons for that were the mutinies in the French army, which made the situation on the western front extremely precarious, as well as the revolution in Russia, which raised the spectre of Russia exiting the war, leaving Britain and France bereft of the ally that forced Germany to fight on two fronts. Add to this the fact that civilians as well as soldiers in France and Britain ...
READ MORE
The International Rogue Nation: America
In 2003, America (and its lap-dog UK) invaded and destroyed Iraq on the basis of lies to the effect that the U.S. (and UK) regime were certain that Saddam Hussein had and was developing weapons of mass destruction. These U.S. allegations were based on provable falsehoods when they were stated and published, but the regime's 'news'-media refused to publish and demonstrate (or "expose") any of these lies. That's how bad the regime was (and its media's 'news' were) — this was virtually a total lock-down against truth, and for international conquest (in that case, of Iraq): it was mass-murder and ...
READ MORE
Crimes of Genocide Against Serbs in Croatia
The Russian War Crimes in Syria in 2016-2019: Exclusive Photo Evidence from the Cabinet of Boris Johnson & Theresa May
The Strategy of the Intermarium
The U.S. War Crimes against North Korea: Sinchon Massacre by the U.S. Military Exposed
My Grandfather (Jonas Noreika) wasn’t a Nazi-Fighting War Hero — He was a Brutal Collaborator
Kosovo and Systematic Persecution by KLA
Fascism and Islamic Fundamentalism
The Vatican Role in the Ustasha Genocide in the “Independent State of Croatia” (1941-1945)
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Catalan Independence: 5 Things to Think About
Kosovo Wants to Establish its Own Armed Forces
Twisted History Against Russia and Serbia
Srebrenica: 19-Year-Blueprint for US Intervention
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Remember March 24th-June 10th, 1999
A Book Review: George Szamuely: “Bombs For Peace: NATO’s Humanitarian War On Yugoslavia”, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013
NATO & the Humanitarian Dismemberment of Yugoslavia
Washington’s “Humanitarian” War and the KLA’s Crimes
One Hundred Years Ago, in the Spring of 1917: Why Did America Go to War in 1917?
The International Rogue Nation: America
Global-Politics.eu

Written by Global-Politics.eu

SHORT LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The website’s owner & editor-in-chief has no official position on any issue published at this website. The views of the authors presented at this website do not necessarily coincide with the opinion of the owner & editor-in-chief of the website. The contents of all material (articles, books, photos, videos…) are of sole responsibility of the authors. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the contents of all material found on this website. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. No advertising, government or corporate funding for the functioning of this website. The owner & editor-in-chief and authors are not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the text and material found on the website www.global-politics.eu

Website: http://www.global-politics.eu