A Study Of The Formation Of Yugoslavia Politics

Essay add: 19-06-2017, 19:06   /   Views: 14

In this essay I intend to discuss the balkanization of SFR Yugoslavia. My focus will be placed on what forces that drove these countries to unite in the early stages of the 20th century and later to separate, also how these countries later have tried to form their own individual national identities.

Overview of Yugoslavia's formation

For there to be any true understanding of why Yugoslavia eventually was to fall apart I think it is first important to note which forces that drove the unification and to give an idea of the demographic makeup of the region. In 1867 the last Ottoman troops had been driven out of what was then known as the principality of Serbia, an area today covering most of Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo. This meant the establishment of the first independent Slavic state since 1389 in the Balkans; this state was however still surrounded on all side by its former oppressors whilst most of the Slavic population in the region was still under either Ottoman or Austro-Hungarian control. In 1916 this changed when the remaining regions which later would form republic in SFR Yugoslavia separated from the already weakened Austrian-Hungarian Empire, to from the kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, colloquially know as Yugoslavia meaning south Slavs. The Yugoslavian kingdom had 4 different religious groups speaking 3 different languages belonging to 8 different nationalities; there was no group within the country that could claim a majority.

As can be seen above, the main force behind the unification of Yugoslavia at the time was the need for a strong state which could defend against any potential attacks as the Yugoslav republics were all on the frontlines in between the two kingdoms. Although there seemed to have been a general will, mostly on the side of the Serbs, to unify the Slavic people of the region as one united people, all people within the state were not Slavic nor did they support pan-Slavism. Serbia would take the helm of this newly established kingdom as it prior to its establishment already had a functioning army, government etc.

In the years following its unification and until the start of the Second World War the kingdom saw border disputes and wars with most of its neighboring countries and many failed alliances trying to insure peace in the region. The kingdom seemed despite its strength to lack a common consensus which was needed to keep the country united.

The years of relative stability

During the Second World War the country was once again seemingly unified against the Axis occupation, through the resistance movement headed by Supreme commander Joseph Broz Tito. There were however groups such as the Ustasa and the Chetniks which although being predominantly Croatian and Serbian respectively supported the fascist forces and performed genocides against other yugoslavs on their behalf. The importance of Ustasa and Chetniks would become prevalent during the civil wars that finally tore the country apart.

By 1943 most of Yugoslavia had reclaimed its freedom and a temporary government was established. The newly installed socialist government saw a surge of confidence amongst the general populous, thanks in part to Tito, who was now the Prime minister, whose reputation as a skilled general who had played a pivotal part in the partisan resistance against the fascist occupation. The newly established state placed all 6 republics as equals in the parliament no matter population, economic development or ethnicity.

During his tenure Tito has been quoted as saying "I am the leader of one country which has two alphabets, three languages, four religions, five nationalities, six republics, surrounded by seven neighbors, a country in which live eight ethnic minorities", [] giving some insight in to the daunting task of providing one unified leadership for the country.

In 1953 Joseph Broz Tito became the president for life of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, known as SFR Yugoslavia. Tito himself being of mixed descent, Slovenian and Croatian, saw it important that Serbia's position within Yugoslavia be weakened for Yugoslavia to remain a unified state, Serbia which had until the war controlled Yugoslavia for most of its existence. It should be noted that Serbia was at the time the most populous region within Yugoslavia, with sizeable Serbian minorities being found in all other provinces.

The years of destabilization

This idea that Serbian influence needed to be weakened was during his tenure of power enforced throughout the country. This could be seen particularly through the 1974 constitution which gave Vojvodina and Kosovo the status of autonomous provinces with independent votes in the Yugoslav parliament, provinces which had previously counted as part of Serbia. During Tito's presidency the republic as a whole was held fairly stable and prosperous, but a large economic discrepancy had continued to develop between the catholic north of Yugoslavia (Slovenia and Croatia) and the rest of the country. Although this difference in economic development had always existed it became a particularly prominent issue in the wake of Tito's death in 1980.

Tito had long been seen as the only thing truly keeping Yugoslavia unified, after his death the post of president for life was not continued. A new system of one year presidencies that followed in succession between republics and its leaders was instead installed. This system was once again seen by Serbia as weakening its position as Serbians at the time accounted for approximately 35 - 40% of the population in SFR Yugoslavia yet they would hold the presidency as often as Slovenia which only accounted for 8% of the population. [] 

At this time Kosovo, with a predominately Albanian population, also started demanding the status of Republic not just autonomous province amidst accusations by the Serbian minority of persecution of Serbs.

Reasoning's behind the breakup

As can be seen in the examples stated above there were several driving domestic forces propelling the country towards its eventual disintegration. In part the financial reasoning of Slovenia and Croatia which had grown tired of paying for less prosperous republics which they perceived as nothing more than financial burdens. In part Kosovo seeking greater autonomy and self control further undermined the already weakened the legitimacy of the country's regime. Also a growing Serbian resentment against the established rule of SFR Yugoslavia was becoming more organized and seemingly spreading across all the republics. Furthermore nationalism was on the rise in most of the republics~~~~~~. But these are only a few of the factors behind the breakup of Yugoslavia, there were many contributing international factors behind the break up as well.

In the decades that follow the Second World War much of Yugoslavia had seen rapid economic development, but due to the oil crisis of 1973 and new trade barriers imposed by the West in the mid 1980's the economy started to stagnate. To provide the funds needed for further development the government amassed loans which would later prove crippling to the economy. As Yugoslavia continued to not repay these loans within the given timeframes, ultimatums were imposed demanding the country to now become a market economy. Yugoslavia would eventually concede to these terms, yet the transition from closed to market economy did not go as planned adding to the previous sentiments of the Croats and Slovenes that the rest of the country was not pulling their fair share of the financial burden.

Aside from this, the lack of foreign aggressors on Yugoslav lands left the country starting to look inwards more and more for enemies. The establishment of Yugoslavia had to a large extent come due to the necessity of unification against the dominant power which surrounded and in some cases still controlled the republics. With the Kingdom of Austria-Hungary to the north and the Ottoman Empire to the south the republics of the Balkans could not exist as independent states with any amount of security as previously mentioned.

Tito had managed to hold SFR Yugoslavia as a separate state from the USSR but this in affect meant that after his death the USSR could do little to meddle in the boiling disputes the were erupting now regularly in Yugoslavia. During his presidency Yugoslavia had been seen favorably by the west as a buffer zone between the west and the USSR. Yugoslav citizens had readily been given passports by its government something no other socialist country could claim and the economy even during the worst of times was faring much better than its other socialist counterparts. But as the Soviet Union was soon to enforce the new concept of Glasnost under the leadership of Gorbachev, Yugoslavia's role as a buffer zone diminished in importance whilst the economy continued to worsen as new economic sanctions were lashed out by the Americans during Reagan's term. Yugoslavia at this time needed stricter control of its lands to maintain unity; but it could no longer look to strong domestic leadership as an affect of the rotating presidency nor to the Soviet Union as the principals of glasnost was enforced from 1987 onwards.

It should here be noted that in contrast to the forces that drove the unification, namely foreign hostility, what was now lacking was that foreign aggression. The Soviet Union was facing problems of its own and could hence not focus on Yugoslavia whilst America had to a large extent lost interest in Yugoslavia as its strategic position now had lost importance and economic ties were no longer sought after.

Another problem that was facing Yugoslavia in international affairs was the question of loyalty. As nationalism was on the rise the various ethnic groups in the country were claiming different foreign allegiances. Serbia which had always seen Russia as its closest ally, even more so after the Soviet aided liberation of Belgrade, wanted to move closer to the Soviet Union. Slovenia and Croatia had always had sense of ambiguity as to their Slavic identity, many arguing that they were in fact closer related to Germans and Italians(in the case of Istrian Croatians). Bosnians on the other hand were starting to find their national identity through Islam to a greater extent. In Kosovo the Albanian community wanted to move closer to Albania and to becoming a separate country altogether. It is also noteworthy that Albanians were the only people in the region who did not seek to become an independent nation from the Ottoman Empire but rather only sought greater autonomy as they had a privileged position within the empire. Also the term Yugoslav (meaning south Slav) which was used to encompass all the people of the nation did not in actuality include Albanians as they are not a Slavic people, in some small sense showing how important the Albanians were viewed by the government.

Personality cults

However, after the death of Tito with the rise of Gorbachev, perestroika and glasnost in the Soviet Union, the West felt secure enough in the USSR's intentions that Yugoslavia was no longer of pivotal strategic importance. Despite Belgrade's non-alignment and its extensive trading relations with the European Community and the US, the Reagan administration specifically targeted the Yugoslav economy in a Secret Sensitive 1984 National Security Decision Directive (NSDD 133), "U.S. Policy towards Yugoslavia." A censored version declassified in 1990 elaborated on NSDD 54 on Eastern Europe, issued in 1982[2]. The latter advocated "expanded efforts to promote a 'quiet revolution' to overthrow Communist governments and parties," while reintegrating the countries of Eastern Europe into a market-oriented economy.

The 1973 oil crisis coupled with Western trade barriers, dramatically hindered its thirty years of breakneck economic growth. In order to counter this, Yugoslavia took on a number of International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans and subsequently fell into heavy IMF debt. As a condition of receiving loans, the IMF demanded the "market liberalization" of Yugoslavia. By 1981, Yugoslavia had incurred $19.9 billion in foreign debt. Another concern was the unemployment rate, at 1 million by 1980. This problem was compounded by the general "unproductiveness of the South," which not only added to Yugoslavia's economic woes, but also irritated Slovenia and Croatia further. A decade of frugality resulted in growing frustration and resentment against the both Serbian 'ruling class,' and the minorities who were seen to benefit from government legislation.

"At home and abroad, Serbia's enemies are massing against us. We say to them 'We are not afraid'. 'We will not flinch from battle'." Slobodan Milošević, November 19, 1988.[7]

On another occasion, Milošević privately stated:

"We Serbs will act in the interest of Serbia whether we do it in compliance with the constitution or not, whether we do it in compliance in the law or not, whether we do it in compliance with party statutes or not." Slobodan Milošević

1974 constitution

There is need for constitutional changes of Yugoslavia because of its unfair mistreating and weakening of Serbia. (page 46)

The unification and balkanization of former yugoslavia and the search for a national identity.

Interior minister Ilija Garašanin published The Draft (for South Slavic unification) Načertanije, which became the standpoint of Serbian foreign policy from the mid-19th century onwards.- Serbian will to unify one state,

The formal independence of the country was internationally recognized at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, which formally ended the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78; this treaty, however, prohibited Serbia from uniting with Principality of Montenegro, and placed Bosnia and Raška region under Austro-Hungarian occupation to prevent unification

On 28 June 1914 the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria at Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina by Gavrilo Princip (a Yugoslav unionist member of Young Bosnia) -

The Ustaša - Croatian Revolutionary Movement

the autonomous provinces

tito and "Brotherhood and unity"

On June 28, 1989, Slobodan Milošević delivered the Gazimestan speech in front of a large number of Serb citizens at the main celebration marking the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo. Many think that this speech helped Milošević consolidate his authority in Serbia.

young Croatian writers gathered in Zagreb and established the Illyrian movement for national renewal and unity of all South Slavs within the Habsburg Monarchy.

On 1 December 1918, the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, colloquially known as Kingdom of Yugoslavia, was created. This decision created public outcry among Croats, which started a political upheaval for the restoration of state autonomy by the leadership of the Croatian Peasant Party.

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