History of Yugoslavia

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Serbien und Montenegro Serbien und Montenegro Sozialistische Föderative Republik Jugoslawien Sozialistische Föderative Republik Jugoslawien Sozialistische Föderative Republik Jugoslawien Königreich Jugoslawien Zweiter Weltkrieg Königreich Jugoslawien Königreich Jugoslawien
Yugoslav territory 1945–1991
Map of the former Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia ( Serbo-Croatian Jugoslavija / Југославија ) was a state in southeastern Europe that existed in various forms, initially as a monarchy from 1918 to 1941, and later as a socialist and federal state from 1945 to 1992. The history of this multi-ethnic state was largely shaped by the conflicts between the peoples living on its territory. The national disputes also contributed significantly to the collapse of the Yugoslav state.


The official names from the foundation of December 1, 1918 until the breakup of the Yugoslav state in 1992 were:

  • Kraljevstvo Srba Hrvata i Slovenaca (Kingdom) - proclaimed by the Prince Regent Aleksandar Karađorđević on December 1, 1918
  • Kraljevina Srba Hrvata i Slovenaca (Kingdom) - First renaming due to the Vidovdan constitution of June 28, 1921
  • Kraljevina Jugoslavija ( Kingdom of Yugoslavia ) - Based on the Constitution of October 3, 1929, until April 17, 1941
  • Demokratska Federativna Jugoslavija (DFJ) - November 29, 1943 to the end of 1945
  • Federativna Narodna Republika Jugoslavija (FPRY) - January 31, 1946 (new constitution) to 1963
  • Socijalistička Federativna Republika Jugoslavija ( SFRY ) - 1963 to 1992

Overview (1918–1991)

The Yugoslav state was founded in 1918 as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes ( Kraljevstvo Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca , SHS state for short). The new state united Serbia and Montenegro with areas of the collapsed Habsburg monarchy: Croatia-Slavonia , Vojvodina , Dalmatia , Carniola and southern Styria as well as Bosnia-Herzegovina .

Even when the state was founded, there were conflicting views about the future structure of the state. The Slovenes and Croats, which had previously belonged to Austria-Hungary , advocated a federal state structure, while the Serbian government wanted to form a centralized, unitary state. Under the pressure of the Italian expansion efforts in Istria and Dalmatia, the state was quickly established, with the influential political forces on both sides postponing the decision on the Yugoslav constitution because they could not agree on it.

Coat of arms of the SHS state

The differences between the different nationalities could never be overcome in the 70 year history of the multi-ethnic state of Yugoslavia. Even the period between the world wars was a succession of existence-threatening state crises, with the fronts of the dispute running essentially along national borders. A second mortgage, which Yugoslavia had to bear heavily, was the different levels of economic, cultural and social development in the united countries. Slovenia , Croatia and Vojvodina (the countries that formerly belonged to the Danube Monarchy) were the most developed. They contributed more to Yugoslavia's gross national product than the rest of the state. The development gap from north to south was still very strong in Yugoslavia's final phase in the 1980s.

When the German Reich declared war on Yugoslavia in April 1941, the state disintegrated within a few days due to its internal contradictions, without the attackers being met with great resistance. The occupants used the disagreement of the Yugoslavs to rule the conquered area. Some parts were annexed , others annexed to Hungary , Bulgaria and the Italian colony of Albania, and finally a fascist puppet regime was installed in Croatia . Partisan units soon formed in Yugoslavia that offered resistance to the occupiers: Initially, Chetnik units loyal to the king were the strongest, but soon the communist partisans under Josip Broz Tito dominated the scene.

The Second World War in Yugoslavia was at the same time a civil war with countless confusing fronts that also ran across ethnic borders. Partisans and collaborators were at war with one another. The Chetniks and Tito partisans also fought each other with great severity . Most of the war crimes in Yugoslavia were not committed by the occupiers, but by the Yugoslavs themselves, who were on different sides. For example, Croatian Ustaše troops murdered tens of thousands of Serbian civilians and Jews in their sphere of influence, Serbian Chetniks murdered tens of thousands of Croats, Bosnian Muslims were recruited for the SS and after the end of the war, communist partisans shot thousands of Slovenes and Croats ( Bleiburg massacre ) who were on the side of the Axis powers had fought.

In the end, the communists prevailed and Tito and his party took over power in the resurrected Yugoslavia. After the violent elimination of his domestic political opponents, the communist leader tried to solve the nationality problem in his state by implementing a federal constitution. The common struggle of the ethnically mixed communist partisan units against the fascist occupiers became the founding myth of the second Yugoslavia. This side of the truth was propagandistically emphasized, while the civil war that had been waged within the population and the crimes committed in it were largely hushed up.

Yugoslavia was re-established as a socialist and federal state after the end of the war. The Yugoslav communists established six republics in 1945: Slovenia , Croatia and Serbia ; Macedonia and Montenegro were separated from Serbia and established as independent republics in order to weaken the Serbs that dominated the first Yugoslavia . In addition, the sixth republic was the ethnically strongly mixed Bosnia-Herzegovina, which Tito did not want to leave to either the Serbs or the Croats. Because Serbia was still by far the strongest republic, the autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo were later established on its territory .

As in all communist countries, the economic system was completely transformed after 1945. Industry and banks were nationalized, and large estates were divided up. However, there was never a collectivization of agriculture in Yugoslavia.

In terms of foreign policy, communist Yugoslavia was a success story during the Cold War . Tito managed to free his state from the influence of the Stalinist Soviet Union , he earned respect in international diplomacy as one of the leaders of the movement of the non-aligned states .

Because Yugoslavia broke away from the Soviet Union, the country also received massive economic aid from the West, while at the same time maintaining close trade relations with Comecon . The socialist economic system of Yugoslavia seemed to be successful for some time, and living conditions in Yugoslavia actually improved. By the 1970s at the latest, however, it became apparent that the southern republics were not able to develop economically, that the improvement of living conditions had been bought with an extremely high national debt and that, although tens of thousands of Yugoslavs had gone to Western Europe as guest workers , unemployment or Underemployment could not be brought under control.

At the end of the 1960s, the national conflicts in Yugoslavia intensified again. The Croatian Spring movement , which demanded more rights for the Croatian ethnic group, developed out of a dispute between philologists over the design of the Serbo-Croatian standard language . She was put down by Tito in 1971 with the help of the militia.

In 1974, Tito initiated a new constitution for Yugoslavia that strengthened the rights of the constituent republics and autonomous provinces. After Tito's death - he was president for life according to the constitution - a collective state presidency was to be at the head of the state. One of the presidents of the republic should take the chair in turn. When Tito died in 1980, this regulation came into force.

Soon after Tito's death, however, it became apparent that only the charismatic and powerful partisan leader had been able to control the centrifugal tendencies and conflicting nationalisms of Yugoslavia so that they could not endanger the existence of the state. The federal organs functioned formally until the late 1980s. But the nationalists - both inside and outside the BdKJ - increasingly set the tone in the republics and dominated the political discourse. The 1980s in Yugoslavia were a constant sequence of mutual accusations between the nationalities as to who was responsible for the apparent decline of the state and which people in the system would have to endure the greatest injustices. In addition, there was widespread dissatisfaction with undemocratic socialism, but without efforts to reform at the national level.

In 1981 an Albanian protest movement rocked the country in Kosovo. It was suppressed by the forces of the Republic of Serbia and a state of emergency was imposed on the province. Because the entire leadership of Kosovo was changed at the same time, this also had negative repercussions on the state as a whole, because the autonomous provinces were also represented in the state presidency, where the voice of Kosovo was now dependent on Serbia.

When the memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences became known in 1986, fear of Greater Serbian tendencies grew in Slovenia and Croatia. In its analysis, the Academy described the Yugoslav system as an instrument of repression directed against the Serbs and called for, among other things, the elimination of the autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo . The realization of this demand would have meant the end of the fragile all-Yugoslav state construction. At the same time, the national movements in Slovenia and Croatia that favored the dissolution of the Yugoslav state association grew stronger, not least because the majority in both countries no longer wanted to subsidize the southern republics, but also because they feared that the Serbs would try to gain power in the To usurp the entire state. The first democratic elections in Slovenia and Croatia in 1990 were won by anti-communist parties that advocated the statehood of these republics; in Serbia, the Serbian-nationalist socialists led by Slobodan Milošević won . This sealed the end of Yugoslavia, because no understanding was possible between the two sides. On June 25, 1991 Croatia and Slovenia declared their national independence and shortly afterwards the Yugoslav Wars began .

The founding of the state in 1918

In 1917, when the imminent collapse of the Habsburg Empire was already becoming clear, Slovenian, Croatian and Serbian politicians began to prepare for the creation of a common state after the war. A Yugoslav committee was formed in 1915 while in exile in London . It claimed the representation of the southern Slavs living in the Danube Monarchy against the Entente . The chairmen were the Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović and Ante Trumbić from Dalmatia . They pursued the idea of ​​a federal state structure for the common state of the southern Slavs.

In Corfu , the place of exile of the Serbian government formulated Trumbić together with the Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić on July 20, 1917, the joint declaration of Corfu that the establishment of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes as a constitutional monarchy under the Serbian dynasty Karađorđević prospect posed. The preamble of the document speaks of the three-named people of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, who are thus imagined as one nation. Pašić rejected the designation Yugoslavia and the state name Yugoslavia. The Corfu Declaration said hardly anything about the future state structure; in particular the fundamental question of central government or federation remained unanswered. Pašić, who had always represented a centralized, Greater Serbian policy before the war, could not do much with the federal ideas of the monarchical Slavs and he did not allow himself to be committed to them.

Division of the Austrian and Hungarian halves of the empire according to the Paris suburb treaties

On October 6, 1918, a National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs , made up of former members of the Reichsrat and Landtag , met in Zagreb to represent the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs living in the Danube Monarchy. The chairman was Anton Korošec from Slovenia , a federalist. In the autumn of 1918 there were three South Slav national representations: the committee in London, the National Council in Zagreb and the Serbian government, which had just returned to Belgrade . At the meeting of the National Council on October 29, 1918, the Croatian state parliament broke off state relations with Austria-Hungary and at the same time transferred state power to the National Council. On the same day, he proclaimed the national state of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs in Zagreb , which was limited to the territory of Slovenia, Croatia and Vojvodina . At a meeting of the three representatives Pašić, Trumbić and Korošec in Geneva in November 1918 ( Geneva Declaration ), however, it was again not possible to agree on the structure of the state, with the Croatian-Serbian coalition under Svetozar Pribićević in particular in favor of a rapid merger with the Kingdom of Serbia .

At the same time, the situation on the war front came to a head. With the support of the Western Allies, Italian troops broke through the Austrian front line on the Piave in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto at the end of October . In the armistice of Villa Giusti on November 4th, the Allied occupation of Istria with Trieste and most of the Dalmatian islands, which Slovenes and Croats also claimed, was determined. These in turn were portrayed by the Italian diplomacy at the Paris negotiations as partisans of the collapsed Habsburg monarchy . The National Council thus came under pressure to act. He would only be able to enforce his claims to Istria and Dalmatia in Paris with the help of Serbia, which had been allied with the Entente from the start and, in contrast to the new nation-state, also had armed forces at its disposal. As a result of this situation, the provisional government of Dalmatia has now called on the National Council to unite with Serbia. Thereupon he decided on November 24, 1918 to send a delegation to Belgrade with the aim of bringing about a union. In addition, so-called national assemblies in Vojvodina and Montenegro decided to join Serbia in the following days .

On December 1, 1918, Crown Prince Alexander proclaimed the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes with the consent of the Zagreb National Council . The Serbs saw themselves as liberators of the monarchical Slavs and they expected gratitude from them. In addition to statehood and the size of the Serbian people, the “liberation of the South Slav brothers from the Austro-Hungarian yoke” was a weighty argument with which the Serbian politicians justified their claim to dominance in the new common state.

From the beginning, influential political groups refused to recognize the new state. The Croatian Peasant Party under Stjepan Radić had voted against the unification in December 1918 in Zagreb. Radić's goal was the establishment of an independent Croatian republic, but because of the attitude of the Entente there was no chance from the start. Four days after unification, the first major demonstration against the SHS state took place in Zagreb.

The members of the Yugoslav delegation also pursued different goals during the Paris peace negotiations. The Slovenes only cared about their claims on Lower Styria and Southern Carinthia , where there had been fighting from December 1918 , the Croatians were mainly concerned with Dalmatia and Istria, while the Serbs cut the border of the SHS state as far north as possible today Hungarian Pécs wanted to move. In the Treaty of Saint-Germain (September 10, 1919) and the later referendum in Carinthia (October 10, 1920) Austria was able to largely enforce its goals, Italy received Istria as well as some Dalmatian islands and the city of Zadar . In the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine (November 27, 1919) Serbia achieved territorial gains over Bulgaria and in the Treaty of Trianon (June 4, 1920) most of the former Voivodeship of Serbia and Timisoara Banat was awarded to the SHS state. For Croats and Slovenes, the borders set in Paris were a disappointment, while the Serbs were quite satisfied with winning Vojvodina and the Macedonian Strumica . With the controversial city of Rijeka between Italy and Yugoslavia , a hotspot arose that poisoned relations between the two states (see also Italian reign on Quarnero ). Here, after the border treaty of Rapallo (November 12, 1920), the independent Free State of Fiume was formed , which fell back to Italy in 1924.

Nationalities in the SHS state .
Yugoslavs as a state nation 9.93 million 82.9%
from that: Serbs
(with Macedonians and Montenegrins)
5.35 million 44.57%
Croatians 2.82 million 23.5%
Slovenes 1.02 million 8.51%
Slavic Muslims 755,000 6.29%
from that: Magyars 468,000 3.9%
German 506,000 4.22%
Albanians 440,000 3.67%
Other 638,000 5.32%

The newly created state had an area of ​​around 220,000 km² and a population of 12 million. 15 nationalities and ethnic groups lived on its soil. Among them, almost 83 percent belonged to the South Slav peoples, who were now referred to as Yugoslavs . Because of this high percentage of Southern Slavs, the government viewed Yugoslavia as a national rather than a multi-ethnic state.

On November 28, 1920, the elections for an all-Yugoslav constitutional assembly were held. The parties supporting the state as a whole clearly won, above all the Radical People 's Party Pašićs followed by the Democratic Party of Svetozar Pribićević . The newly formed Communist Party , which rejected nationalism, was surprisingly strong . It became the third strongest force, while the Croatian Peasant Party was only able to win a narrow absolute majority of the votes in Croatia and only received around 10 percent of the seats at the national level. Nevertheless, the Croatian peasant leader Stjepan Radić interpreted the result as a Croatian plebiscite against the SHS state. In the Belgrade Skupština the deputies of the farmers' party refused to cooperate.

The committee for the drafting of the new constitution met without the Croatian representatives and was therefore dominated by the Unitarian-centralist Serbian parties. The draft constitution presented to parliament looked accordingly. A unitary state, centrally governed from Belgrade, was to be created. The historical parts of the country were not taken into account. On June 28, 1921, this constitution was adopted by a narrow majority in Skupština; the MPs of the Croatian Peasant Party did not take part in the vote.

After St. Veit's day , the basic law of the SHS state went down in history as the Vidovdan constitution . Many Croatians believed that the constitution was not binding on them because their MPs had not voted on it. It meant a heavy burden for the SHS state that a consensus could not even be reached on the basic state order, but that significant minorities rejected this state from the outset.


Chronology 1917–1941
July 20, 1917 Declaration of Corfu
1.12.1918 Proclamation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes
11/12/1920 Rapallo border treaty with Italy
June 28, 1921 Adoption of the Vidovdan Constitution
June 1928 Stjepan Radić is the victim of an attack in the Serbian parliament
6.1.1929 Establishment of the royal dictatorship
10/3/1929 Renaming of the SHS state to Yugoslavia
3.9.1931 New constitution issued by the king, continued centralized state structure and Serbian domination
10/9/1934 King Alexander is assassinated by an IMRO terrorist in Marseille
1939 Agreement between the Croatian Peasant Party and the government, partial autonomy of Croatia
March 25, 1941 Prince Paul signs the accession to the three-power pact, against the military coup on March 27th. successful.
6.4.1941 Germany invades Yugoslavia ( Balkan campaign )
April 17, 1941 Surrender of the Yugoslav army

Foreign policy

Yugoslav foreign policy in the interwar period was shaped on the one hand by the endeavor to neutralize the revision efforts of the former war opponents Hungary and Bulgaria, on the other hand by the latent conflict with Italy, which had appropriated Slovene and Croatian populated areas in the former Austrian coastal region and in Dalmatia (see also London Treaty (1915) ).

When the traditional main ally of Serbia, Russia, was canceled by the October Revolution , France took its place. In the interwar period, Yugoslavia was an important member of the alliance system in Eastern Europe, which was supported by France. From 1920 to 1939 the country was linked to Czechoslovakia and Romania in the Little Entente . This alliance was primarily directed against Hungary. When Hitler's Germany expanded its influence to Central and Southeastern Europe, this union became obsolete. The smashing of Czechoslovakia by the Munich Agreement , in which France was also a party, deprived the Little Entente of its livelihood.

Relations with neighboring Bulgaria were poor throughout the interwar period because of the Macedonia issue. Bulgaria did not recognize the rule of Yugoslavia over Vardar Macedonia . Just as Yugoslavia claimed the Slavic Macedonians for themselves as southern Serbs, Sofia saw them as oppressed Bulgarians and supported the terrorist organization IMRO , which was committed to the liberation of Macedonia. The Yugoslavs built extensive border protection systems on the Bulgarian border. Nevertheless, IMRO people repeatedly managed to break into Yugoslavia from their retreat areas in Bulgaria. In 1934 Yugoslavia concluded the Balkan Pact against Bulgaria with Greece and Turkey . Like the Little Entente, this alliance did not achieve any practical effect either.

Free State of Fiume 1920–1924, orange: old urban area, yellow: 1920 affiliated places

Yugoslavia was also unable to achieve good neighborly relations with Italy . The Italian fascist Gabriele d'Annunzio and his supporters occupied the city ​​of Fiume , which was claimed by both states, in September 1919 and a year later proclaimed the Italian reign on the Quarnero . On November 12, 1920 Italy and Yugoslavia signed the Rapallo border treaty : Italy was confirmed in possession of Istria , in addition it received some Dalmatian islands as well as Zadar (Italian Zara ) on the mainland. In return it gave up its claims on Split (Italian Spalato ) and its surroundings. Fiume was declared an independent free state, but it did not last for four years: in the Treaty of Rome , the area was divided between the two powers. The closer cooperation between Yugoslavia and Italy, which was actually established in Rome, never materialized. The further relationship between the two states was marked by confrontation. So Benito Mussolini supported the fascist Ustasha from 1929 to 1934 in order to destabilize the enemy Yugoslavia in this way. The oppression of the Slavic minorities in the areas that fell to Italy led to many Slovenes and Croats in those regions joining the Tito partisans during the Second World War.

Because of the insecure situation in Kosovo - an uprising against the renewed Serbian rule broke out there after the First World War - Yugoslavia interfered in Albania , because there were exiled Kosovars in the government. In Tirana they demanded the military and political support of their compatriots, although the weak Albania was unable to do so. In order to calm down on this border, the Pašić government supported Ahmet Zogu with troops in 1924 . Zogu put himself to power in Tirana and, in gratitude, stopped any support from Albania for the Kosovars.

On the eve of World War II , Yugoslavia was isolated in terms of foreign policy. After the Western powers had already surrendered Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and had not given Poland any effective support, Yugoslavia was helplessly at the mercy of the Axis powers.

Domestic politics

The domestic political situation was essentially determined by the nationality conflicts. The conflict between the predominantly autonomist Croats and the centralist forces on the side of the Serbs dominated. However, this was not the only source of conflict. Many Slovenes , some of the Bosnian Muslims as well as the Macedonian Slavs, were not satisfied with the Unitarian view of the one South Slavic nation. The members of the German and Hungarian minorities also felt themselves to be second-class citizens. The Albanians in Kosovo were treated particularly badly by the government.

When the state was founded, people spoke of a nation with three names (Serbs, Croats and Slovenes). The Serbian-dominated governments stuck firmly to this construct, which did not coincide with the attitude towards life of most Croatians and Slovenes, because the state was based on this with the “ Vidovdan Constitution ” of June 28, 1921, the day of commemoration of the battle on the Amselfeld , was constructed as a unitary state. The Slavic Muslims and the Macedonians were not even mentioned as relevant parts of the common nation, but referred to as Muslim Serbs and southern Serbs, respectively. The Bosnians were also claimed by the Croats as part of their nation.

Nikola Pašić, Prime Minister of the SHS State 1921–1926

According to the doctrine of the one South Slavic nation, the government pursued a rigorous language policy aimed at aligning the other South Slavic language variants with Serbian. It was easiest for the Slovenes to evade this requirement, since they had long had a written language that was clearly different from Serbo-Croatian . The Croatians had less good arguments, because apart from the different scripts that were both allowed, the Croatian differed little from the standard Serbian language. The arguments on detailed issues were all the harder. In Macedonia , where dialects similar to Bulgarian were spoken but no written language of their own existed, the authorities continued the Serbization that began in 1913.

There was no legal protection of minorities in the first Yugoslavia. According to the Paris suburb agreements, at least the German and Hungarian minorities would have been entitled to this, but the Kosovar Albanians were not, because their settlement area had been conquered before the First World War. The same was true of the Macedonians; according to the Belgrade reading, they were Serbs.

The Serbs were disproportionately represented in all parts of the state administration, as they had brought their own bureaucracy into the new state. In the semi-colonial administered southern Serbian areas of Kosovo and Macedonia, a narrow layer of Serbian civil servants ruled over the non-speaking population, which was, not least, hostile to the state apparatus. After the collapse of the Danube Monarchy, all non-Slavic civil servants in the areas that were now part of the SHS state lost their posts and many of them left the country. (These former Austro-Hungarian officials made up the majority of the non-Slavic emigrants. The German and Hungarian populations were not forced to emigrate.) The vacant positions in Bosnia, Vojvodina, southern Dalmatia and parts of Slavonia were mainly filled with officials from old Serbia. The position of the Serbs in the army was particularly dominant, where they held three quarters of the officer positions.

The party system of the first Yugoslavia was largely divided along ethnic and cultural lines. In Serbia, the conservative and centralist-Serbian-oriented Radical People's Party ( Narodna radikalna stranka ) of long-time Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić dominated . In addition, the socially and Yugoslavian oriented Democratic Party ( Demokratska stranka ) was important there. She was strong in Vojvodina (formerly the Danube Monarchy) and was also elected by minorities of non-Serbs in other parts of the country. The communists, who also appeared in all Yugoslavia, were banned in 1921. In Croatia, the federal-republican Croatian Farmers' Party Stjepan Radićs dominated . In addition, the Croatian Legal Party (Hrvatska stranka prava) was important, from which the Ustasha movement later emerged. The Slovenian Catholic People's Party under Anton Korošec was the leader among the Slovenes . Unlike the Croatian parties, the People's Party did not remain in fundamental opposition, but tried to enforce the interests of the Slovenes through parliamentary channels. Also to be mentioned is the Yugoslav Muslim Organization , which had the most supporters among the Slav Muslims in Bosnia and in Sandžak , but was also elected by Albanians.

After the Vidovdan Constitution was passed in 1921, the members of the Croatian Peasant Party stayed away from parliament for years and Pašić ruled the country at the head of changing coalitions. To maintain power, he also used the means of political trials. His fiercest political opponent Radić was also briefly imprisoned for activities that were dangerous to the state. Nevertheless, Radić joined Pašić's government in 1925 after a coalition with the Slovenes and Muslims had failed. In 1926 Pašić had to resign because of his son's corruption affair. After new elections, Svetozar Pribičević (Democratic Party) and Radićs Peasant Party formed a coalition in 1927. But that did not lead to more political stability either. In June 1928 a Montenegrin MP from the Radical Party shot wildly in Belgrade's Skupština . Three MPs fell victim to him, including Stjepan Radić, who died of his injuries on August 8, 1928. After this act of violence, the political situation became completely chaotic. The balance of 10 years of the SHS state was 30 governments, three early elections, corruption in all camps and the inability of the political forces to compromise. The majority of Croats, Macedonians and Kosovar Albanians rejected the state at all.

The Yugoslavian banks since 1929

In this situation, King Alexander Karađorđević decided on January 6, 1929 with the help of the army to take power. The failed parliamentarism was eliminated, the Skupština dissolved, the parties were banned. The king became the sole bearer of state power. Alexander and the government he set up under General Petar Živković , previously commander of the royal palace guard, now tried other means to unite the state. In the new constitution introduced on October 3, 1929, the state was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia ( Kraljevina Jugoslavija ). The administration was reformed: nine banks were set up, the borders of which were drawn in such a way that the Serbs formed the majority in six provinces, while the Croatian areas were divided into four banks, only two of which were predominantly Croatian. This makes it clear that the king also wanted an unification of the country under Serbian leadership. But even the royal dictatorship was unable to solve the problems of Yugoslavia, which were exacerbated by the global economic crisis . In 1931 there was the next sensational political murder. The Croatian scientist and parliamentarian Milan Šufflay was killed on the street in Zagreb by a Serbian secret police.

The old big parties of the Slovenes, Croats and Muslims demanded the democratization and federalization of the state in programmatic resolutions of 1932/1933 (punctuations from Zagreb, Ljubljana and Sarajevo) . Thereupon the party leaderships were interned. At the same time, the Ustaše and IMRO stepped up their terrorist actions aimed at breaking up the Yugoslav state. A Ustasha uprising was easily suppressed by the police in 1932 due to the lack of participation. The joint terrorist attacks by IMRO and Ustasha reached their climax on October 9, 1934 with the murder of King Alexander in Marseille . But contrary to what Ante Pavelić thought, the government was able to cope with this crisis. Prince Paul, the brother of the murdered king, took over the reign of his underage son Peter II. With the consent of the regent, a new pro-government unity party, the Jugoslavenska radikalna zajednica, was formed, which also won the elections in 1935 and was Prime Minister Milan Stojadinović .

The federal opposition (Udružena oposicija) made up of Slovenes, Croats and Muslims boycotted parliament again. She called for the division of Yugoslavia into seven countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Vojvodina, Montenegro and Macedonia. The minority of the Serbian federalists only wanted to create four states; Montenegro, Macedonia and Vojvodina should remain Serbian.


Yugoslav Banknote (1929)
Loan of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes to repay the agricultural debts of Bosnia and Herzegovina dated June 18, 1921

After the borders of Yugoslavia were drawn in 1919/20, the country had to be united into an economic and currency area. In the former Habsburg areas the crown was valid, in Serbia the dinar . The government had to reduce the money supply to fight inflation caused by the war . The creation of the new single currency, also called the dinar , took place in 1920. The Serbian dinar was exchanged at a rate of 1: 1, but the krona at a ratio of 4: 1. This caused great bitterness in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Vojvodina, as the former monarchy Slavs lost 75 percent of their wealth and in this way paid for the creation of the new currency, while the inhabitants of old Serbia did not have to contribute.

The SHS state in the interwar period was a poorly developed agricultural country. 75 percent of the working population practiced smallholder subsistence farming . There were productive medium-sized and large companies mainly in Vojvodina, Slavonia and Syrmia, as well as in the north of old Serbia. In Vojvodina in particular, many of these farms were owned by members of the German and Hungarian minorities. The Catholic Church was one of the major landowners in the developed areas that had previously belonged to the Danube Monarchy. Slovenian agriculture was also comparatively well developed. The factories in the northern regions mentioned had sold their surpluses to the industrial regions of the Habsburg monarchy before the war. Some of it was previously processed in the local food industry (mills, sugar factories, etc.). Due to the new borders (tariffs) and the declining purchasing power in Austria, these markets were largely closed to the Yugoslav farmers in the interwar period. Since the mid-1930s, National Socialist Germany began importing food from Yugoslavia in the course of war preparations.

In the southern parts of the country (in Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia and Dalmatia but also in large parts of Serbia) there were almost exclusively smallholder subsistence economies that had little development opportunities. The large landowners in these regions lacked the capital and know-how to modernize their businesses and, due to the abundance of cheap labor and the lack of market prospects, they had little interest in change.

There was notable commercial production in Slovenia, in the Belgrade region and increasingly in Zagreb. Industrial products (e.g. machines and locomotives) had to be imported for the most part, but there was a lack of capital for them. The country's infrastructure could hardly be further developed in the inter-war period. Only a few dozen kilometers of new railway lines were built and the road network also remained the same as it was before the First World War.

The extraction of raw materials was important. Various ores (iron, copper, etc.) and coal were mined in Serbia, Bosnia and Slovenia. But there was a lack of factories for further processing. The wood industry was also important. The latter was particularly well developed in Bosnia, where a relatively large amount of investment had been made before the First World War. The problem of bringing raw materials to the world market at competitive transport costs was partially resolved when a treaty was signed with Greece in 1929, which gave Yugoslavia a free port in Thessaloniki . Since the important port cities of Trieste and Rijeka fell to Italy after the war, Yugoslavia built a new port and shipping location in Sušak , a little south of Rijeka.


Like the other development indicators, the educational level of the Yugoslavs also showed an extreme north-south divide. Slovenia already had a well-developed school system in 1918. Over 90 percent of the children attended a state or church primary school. The illiteracy rate was below 10 percent. After the war, middle school education (secondary schools and grammar schools) was improved for the Slovenes, on the one hand, because German-speaking schools in Carniola and Styria had switched to the Slovenian language of instruction, and on the other hand, there were also numerous start-ups, some of which were run by the Catholic Church were borne by the state .

In Croatia, even more than in Slovenia, the school system was a church affair. Although the school network has also been consolidated here, the gap to Slovenia has not narrowed. In inland Croatia the illiteracy rate was over 15 percent, in parts of Dalmatia it was over 25 percent. Vojvodina took a middle place in the development of the school system. In addition to the state, the churches (apart from the Catholic and Orthodox, also Protestant) maintained many schools here. The minority languages ​​German and Hungarian were only taught in private schools. In Bosnia the level of education differed extremely according to religious affiliation. It was highest among the Croatians, who had access to a school system developed by the Catholic Church during the Austrian period, followed by the Serbs, while the Muslims brought up the rear, mainly because the vast majority of Muslim girls were not sent to school at all.

In closer Serbia there was a comprehensive primary school network, but there was a lack of middle schools. In the areas added in 1912, the school system left most to be desired. There were not enough primary schools at all and the minority languages ​​were not taken into account in the existing ones. Since the Muslim Albanians also had no church schools, there were almost no Albanian-language educational institutions. Accordingly, the illiteracy rate was highest in the southern areas. Here, more than two thirds of the population could not read or write.

The Yugoslav state lacked both the financial means and the political will to raise the low level of education, especially in the southern regions. There was no interest at all in promoting the Albanians. These, in turn, stayed away from the existing Serbian schools because they were viewed - not entirely without good reason - as an instrument of Serbization.

Main building of the University of Ljubljana , founded in 1919 , photo from 2005

There was progress in the interwar period, especially in Croatia and Serbia. In Croatia, the Yugoslav state founded secular schools in order to somewhat reduce the predominance of the Catholic Church in education. Overall, however, the state remained dependent on the cooperation of the churches. The SHS state has also not been able to decide to introduce compulsory schooling. This meant a step backwards for the formerly Austrian areas, because before 1918 there had been compulsory education there for eight years.

In 1918 there were two universities in Yugoslavia: in Belgrade and in Zagreb. Immediately after the end of the war, the Slovenes founded the country's third university in Ljubljana in 1919 . This made a long-cherished wish of Slovenian intellectuals come true. Under Austrian rule, they had been denied the opportunity to set up their own university for decades.

State and Religions

Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic state ; Members of different religions lived in it. Almost all of the Slovenes and Croats belonged to the Catholic Church (together with the minorities 41%), the Serbs and Montenegrins were Orthodox (45%). About 11 percent of the population (Bosniaks, Albanians and Turks) were Muslim. There were some Protestants among the German and Hungarian minorities. There was also a small Jewish minority.

Orthodox Ljubostinja monastery near Trstenik

Of particular political importance was the relationship between the Serbian Orthodox and Catholic Churches and the state. In this respect, too, the SHS-Saat assumed an extremely heterogeneous legacy when it was founded:

Apart from the largely marginalized Muslim minorities, Serbia and Montenegro were purely Orthodox countries and Orthodoxy was, as it were, the state religion there. In 1920 the Serbian Orthodox Church was able to gain the Montenegrin eparchies and the Orthodox dioceses in Bosnia, Slavonia, Dalmatia and Vojvodina. At the same time, the Serbian patriarchate was renewed. In this regard, the Serbian National Church had achieved its goals. However, through the merger of Serbia with large Catholic areas, it lost the character of a state church . The unity of church and state, as practiced in the orthodox neighboring countries Greece and Bulgaria, was not possible in Yugoslavia and also not wanted by the government. Materially, however, Orthodoxy was largely dependent on the state, as its history meant that it had relatively few profitable possessions.

Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Stefan in Zagreb around 1905

Religious pluralism prevailed in the Habsburg Monarchy, but Catholics were in the vast majority almost everywhere, including Croatia and Slovenia, and the Catholic Church was a very influential force in society. The Catholicism had almost been regarded as one of the main pillars of the Habsburg Empire, although the relationship with the government had not always been untroubled and even priests and bishops had been involved in the national movement. In Slovenia, the Katoliška narodna stranka , in which Catholic priests were also involved, was by far the strongest party until 1941. In Croatia, too, the church was firmly anchored in the Catholic milieu, but it had less direct influence on the political parties. In any case, the Catholic Church also had to adjust to a new situation. After 1918 it was only one of the two strong religious communities. Due to its rich possessions and the schools, social institutions, publishing houses, etc. from the Austro-Hungarian era, the social effectiveness of the Catholic Church among its believers was significantly greater than that of Orthodoxy among the Serbs. The Croatian bishops only commented on nationally controversial politics after the Croatian parties had been banned.

There was hardly any contact between the two large churches. The state acted secularly and left the regulations on the state-church relationship largely untouched. This also applied to the Muslims in Bosnia. The Muslims in southern Serbia (Kosovo and Macedonia) had no contracts with the state. Some of their foundations were expropriated in order to settle Serbian colonists in the countryside. Direct conflicts with the Christian churches were rare.

In line with the policy of the Holy See according to the Lateran Treaty , the Catholic bishops tried to conclude a concordat in the 1930s, and the Yugoslav government was also very interested in it for two reasons: On the one hand, it was hoped that the Croatian bishops would then On the other hand, the treaty with the Pope would have been a foreign policy success vis-à-vis Italy.

When the Concordat was signed in 1937, a storm of indignation broke out among the Orthodox Serbs. Under the leadership of the Ohrid Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović there were mass protests against the treaty with Rome. The Serbs accused the government of selling out Orthodox interests. The government did not allow parliament to ratify the Concordat for fear of the rise in resistance. That in turn snubbed the Catholic Croats and Slovenes. As a result of the Concordat dispute, the previously very cool Orthodox-Catholic relationship in Yugoslavia was charged with national politics.

The end of the kingdom

Postage stamp on the occasion of the establishment of the Croatian Banschaft (1940)

At the end of the 1930s, Prime Minister Stojadinović recognized the difficult foreign policy situation in Yugoslavia and tried to overcome the country's isolation by moving closer to the Axis powers. His goal was neutrality in the expected next great war. Domestically, too, he orientated himself towards Germany and Italy. He let himself be called a leader and created a uniformed youth organization. In February 1939, Stojadinović was ousted from power.

Under his successor, Dragiša Cvetković , an agreement between the Croatians and the government came about. In the so-called Sporazum (German agreement) of August 26, 1939, which Vladimir Maček had negotiated for the peasant party with Cvetković, the creation of a largely autonomous Banschaft Croatia was provided. Belgrade's approval of this treaty was largely due to the dangerous foreign policy situation. It was known that some Croatian politicians sought contact with the governments in Rome and Berlin in order to reinforce their demands. The defeat of Czechoslovakia and the Slovak independence at Hitler's favor had also frightened the Yugoslav government.

However, the sporazum did not have the desired effect for both contracting parties. For many Croatians, the autonomy did not go far enough; In particular, they accused Maček of having betrayed Croatia's national cause by surrendering Bosnia, which for the most part did not belong to the Croatian bank. The centralist Serbs also accused the government of betraying their national interests.

After Germany's victory over France, Yugoslavia came under increasing diplomatic pressure. Hitler demanded that the country join the Pact of the Axis Powers . On March 25, 1941, the Yugoslav government gave in and signed. As a result, officers who wanted to bring Yugoslavia to the side of the Allies successfully carried out a coup in Belgrade. They declared the young Peter II reigning king and put General Dušan Simović at the head of the government. The enthusiasm for war, which briefly flared up in Belgrade, did not even last until the actual outbreak of war: the population quickly realized that the Yugoslav army had no chance against the German armed forces . Many Croatians, Slovenes and Bosniaks do not follow the draft order because they did not want to give their lives for the unloved state.

Prisoner of War officers in April 1941
Danube bridge in Belgrade destroyed by the German Air Force

The German invasion began on April 6, 1941 , and Yugoslavia signed the unconditional surrender on April 17. The king and government went into exile in Britain, from which they were not to return.

The second World War

The division of the land

Originally, German foreign policy wanted to bind Yugoslavia, like other Southeastern European states (Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria), to the Third Reich via treaties in order to be able to exploit its resources for the planned great war against the Soviet Union . In addition, the entire Balkans should be under German-Italian control so that Great Britain could not land troops and build a front in south-eastern Europe, as the Entente had done in World War I. However, the failed Italian attack on Greece led to the landing of English troops in the Battle of Cape Matapan , and after the coup in Yugoslavia on March 27, 1941, the German leadership decided to subdue the two Balkan states in a short war. This was achieved in the Balkan campaign , which began on April 6, 1941 with the air raid on Belgrade . On the evening of April 17, General Danilo Kalafatović, representing the Yugoslav Supreme Commander, signed the unconditional surrender of the Yugoslav armed forces in Belgrade.

Since this decision had been made at very short notice, there were no plans how to deal with the conquered Yugoslavia. The decision then made to divide up the country pursued two goals: 1. The resources of Yugoslavia should be available for the German war economy without the need for many troops for the occupation. 2. The expansion goals of the allies should be satisfied in order to bind them more firmly to the German Reich.

Italy received the western part of Slovenia with Ljubljana and large parts of Dalmatia. Mussolini's troops also occupied Montenegro . Much of Kosovo, northwest Macedonia and the city of Ulcinj were annexed to the Italian colony of Albania. The Albanian-settled area was thus united in one state, as the Albanians had striven for since the beginning of the 20th century, even if this Greater Albania was only a sub-country of fascist Italy. Support for the new order was correspondingly high, especially among the Kosovar Albanians.

Bulgaria got most of Macedonia. The majority of the local population initially accepted this change, as many Macedonian Slavs hoped for better treatment from the Bulgarians. Many members of the IMRO were employed by them for the administration. The IMRO people replaced the Serbization policy of the interwar period with a Bulgarization of the Macedonians, which over time led to resentment and resistance among the population.

Hungary received the regions of Batschka and Baranja in Vojvodina and the area of ​​the Mur Island as spoils of war.

In Croatia, an independent state (Nezavisna država Hrvatska, NDH) was established under the leader of the fascist Ustasha movement, Ante Pavelić , after the head of the Croatian peasant party Vladko Maček (1879–1964) refused to become prime minister of this state structure. Bosnia and Syrmia were also added to this Croatian state . As with the connection of Austria to the German Reich, the facts created were approved by a staged referendum . In addition to the Croatian people, this state with around 6 million inhabitants was home to large Serbian minorities (19%); about 10% of the population were Muslim Slavs. While the Ustasha regime described the latter as Muslim Croats and tried to win them over, the Serbs, as well as the minorities of the Jews and Roma, were brutally oppressed and persecuted because of their ethnicity. The NDH state set up its own Croatian army . An incomplete German infantry division and an Italian army of 200,000 men remained in the country, which was divided into two zones of occupation.

The former Yugoslav Lower Styria was attached to the Greater German Reich . The area should be Germanized within a short period of time. In return, the occupiers drove 200,000 Slovenes to Croatia. The German minority in the Italian-occupied Gottschee was instead resettled to the Reich, including southern Styria.

Jews interned by the German occupiers, Belgrade 1941

Inner Serbia and parts of Vojvodina came under German military administration. There, the conquerors installed a Serbian government under General Milan Nedić , which collaborated with the Germans. Hundreds of thousands of Serbs and several thousand Slovenes from other Yugoslav regions were expelled to this Serbian area. See also: Serbia in the Second World War

Around 70,000 people were deported to the Reich as forced laborers from Serbia and Slovenia during the war . Immediately after the occupation of Yugoslavia, the German occupation authorities began interning the Jewish population in Serbia. In September 1941, the German military administration there ordered mass shootings of Jewish men. From December 1941, Jewish women, children and old people from Serbia were interned in the Semlin camp. In May 1942, the Gestapo murdered 6,000 of them in a gas truck . In the Croatian NDH state, too, thousands of Jews were brought to camps from August 1941, and a year later the Croatian authorities handed over 5,500 people to the Germans who were deported to Auschwitz for extermination .

Originally, in 1941, the Axis Powers had thought that they would be able to control the areas of Yugoslavia with around 150,000 soldiers in the next few years. In addition there were the troops of NDH Croatia ( Hrvatsko domobranstvo and Ustascha Guard) and the armed force of the Serbian collaborators of General Nedić. Soon, however, the Yugoslav resistance formed and inflicted heavy losses on both occupiers and collaborators. It quickly became apparent that the Germans and their allies, in particular, could not completely dominate the mountainous regions - that is, most of Yugoslavia. Two years later, when the Italians withdrew as occupiers at the beginning of September 1943 (change of sides to the Allies), the Third Reich had over 250,000 soldiers stationed in Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, ever larger areas were controlled by the partisans. Even the establishment of SS units made up of local recruits ( ethnic Germans , Bosnians and Albanians) did not bring relief to the weakened occupiers.

The partisan war

The various ethnic groups participated to varying degrees in the partisan war against the occupation of Yugoslavia. Albanians, Hungarians and ethnic Germans refused to resist. The active participation of Macedonians, Bosnians and Croats remained well below what would have been their share of the population until 1944. The uprising began in April 1941 in the Serb, Montenegrin and Slovenian populations.


When Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Communist International (Comintern) called on all communist parties in Europe to resist. In a proclamation on the same day, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPJ), the national section of the Comintern , called on the country's proletariat to defend the Soviet Union. On the same day, in the Brezovica forest near Sisak, the first partisan unit in south-eastern Europe was founded ( day of the anti-fascist struggle ). On July 4, 1941, a meeting of the main staff of the People's Liberation Partisan Associations of Yugoslavia , chaired by Josip Broz Tito, took place in Belgrade , at which the JCP decided to take an armed struggle against the occupiers. On July 7th, in Bela Crkva Žikica, Serbia, Jovanović Španac fired the first shot at a Serbian gendarme. One after another, uprisings broke out in other parts of the country - on July 13th in Montenegro, on July 22nd in Slovenia (there as the anti-imperialist front ) and on July 27th in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The initially small partisan units included communists, but also ordinary poor citizens, workers and peasants. On December 22nd, 1941, in the eastern Bosnian town of Rudo , the First Proletarian Brigade with approx. 900 fighters formed the first major combat unit. The number of fighters rose steadily every year, so that by the end of the war there were 800,000 soldiers under arms within the now so-called Yugoslav People's Army. The Germans reacted to the resistance with extreme severity. For every occupation soldier killed, 50 to 100 civilians were executed in the area. By 1944, more than 80,000 people fell victim to these so-called “atonement”. The excessive acts of violence by the occupying powers have driven more and more victims into resistance. The rule of the Ustascha had a similar effect in the independent state of Croatia , supported by Germany and Italy , from which many persecuted Serbs but also Muslims and Croats tried to evade by joining the partisans. In addition to Tito, the Slovene Edvard Kardelj , the Serb Aleksandar Ranković , the Montenegrins Ivan Milutinović , Milovan Đilas and Svetozar Vukmanović-Tempo , the Croat Vlado Popović and the Serbian Jew Moša Pijade were the most important men in the leadership of the communist partisans. They later also took on key positions in the AVNOJ .

In addition to the communist partisans, the Serbian national Chetniks also formed as a resistance movement. The leader of the Chetniks was Colonel Draža Mihailović , who regarded himself as the governor of the exiled Yugoslav king Peter II. Mihailović did not succeed in gaining full control over the various Chetnik units, some of whose commanders waged war on their own. Mihailović himself actually wanted to wait and see how the situation developed, but was forced to take the initiative in the summer of 1941 due to his own people and the increasing competition from the Tito partisans. Soon Chetnik units dominated western Serbia, almost all of Montenegro, significant parts of Bosnia and the Dalmatian hinterland. Mihailović had risen to become the most powerful man in Serbia at the end of 1941, with whom the Nedić collaboration government had to come to terms. The Chetnik leader, in turn, sought a compromise with Hitler's Serbian collaborators because he saw the Croatians and the Bosnian Muslims as his main enemies. Against this he concentrated his forces in Bosnia. The war was waged extremely cruelly by the Ustasha and the Chetniks. The Bosnian Muslims, whom Pavelić wooed as allies, got caught between the fronts. They were fought by the Chetniks as helpers of the Ustaša. Numerous Muslim villages were burned down, the Muslims expelled and the Chetniks staged mass shootings. Foča , Višegrad and Goražde were the centers of these atrocities in 1941. More than 100,000 Muslims fell victim to this terror in World War II.

Mihailović's military successes led to the fact that the Yugoslav government in exile appointed him Minister of War and that the allied powers Great Britain and the Soviet Union recognized him in this position. Mihailović's political vision for the post-war Southeast European order envisaged the creation of a Greater Serbian state. Serbia was to be expanded to include Slavonia, Bosnia and parts of Dalmatia. Only Serbs should live there. The rest of Croatia and Slovenia were intended as non-dangerous neighboring countries of Yugoslavia for the Serbian domination. Because of its political goals, but even more because of its warfare, the Chetnik movement was only able to win a large number of supporters among the Slovenes, apart from the Serbs. The communist partisan movement, on the other hand, succeeded in gaining a foothold among all the peoples of Yugoslavia.

During the summer of 1941, Serbia was initially the main area of ​​action for the Tito partisans. Initially, they avoided direct confrontation with the well-armed units of the Wehrmacht. In July 1941, their attacks were directed mainly against Serbian gendarmes and institutions of the collaboration government. Since the German military administration had few troops, as many units had already been relocated to the Eastern Front, the communists were able to quickly gain a foothold over the summer and build a flexible and powerful organization. In August the uprising hit large parts of Serbia and by the end of the month the communists ruled a liberated area between the cities of Krupanj , Loznica and Zvornik , over which the occupiers no longer had any control. On September 21, 1941, the partisans in western Serbia proclaimed the Republic of Užice .

The successes of the communist partisans led the Chetnik leader Mihajlović to conclude a secret agreement with the Serbian collaboration government and the armed forces. In return for their support in the fight against the communist Yugoslav partisans, the Chetniks were to receive weapons, food, logistics and pay from the Germans.

At the beginning of November 1941, Mihailović's associations carried out an attack against the partisan stronghold of Užice . The attack was repulsed and Mihailović narrowly escaped military disaster. The German troops were able to put the weakened partisans on the defensive in the weeks that followed. Only after British pressure did Mihailović agree to an armistice with Tito on November 20, 1941. But he was not prepared to intervene in the fighting on the partisan side. After this rejection it was evident that the Chetniks and the communist-led partisans would face each other as enemies in the further course of the war.

The alliance of the Chetniks with Italian and German associations contributed to the fact that the partisans had to give up Užice on November 29, 1941. They now shifted their main activities to Bosnia and Dalmatia, while Serbia was primarily the Chetniks' sphere of influence until the beginning of 1944. At the end of the first year of the war in Yugoslavia, Tito's partisan army had a strength of 80,000 men.

Due to its geographical location (the main partisan forces operated in Bosnia, Montenegro and Dalmatia) and partly for political reasons, the partisan war in Macedonia took a special course. At first, the Bulgarian occupiers dealt with the population much better than in other parts of Yugoslavia. The Bulgarians saw the Macedonians as part of their nation and granted citizenship to those who professed Bulgarianism. The rest were deported across the border to other occupied areas. So it came about that many Macedonians also served in the Bulgarian armed forces.

The Greater Serbian Chetniks were not active in Macedonia because they had no support from the population, who had been exposed to the Serbization pressure of the Belgrade government for decades. The Communists, who were already weakly represented in the region, were at odds for national reasons and at the beginning of the war were not under the control of the Yugoslav leadership around Tito. After the occupation, the Bulgarian communist Metodija Šatorov-Šarlo took over the leadership of the party in Skopje . Šatorov and the Bulgarian Communist Party did not want to risk an armed uprising in 1941. Nevertheless, in the autumn of 1941 there were a few small partisan groups that began raiding Bulgarian posts in October.


On November 26, 1942, the Antifascist Council of the National Liberation of Yugoslavia (Serbo-Croatian: Antifašističko v (ij) eće narodnog oslobođenja Jugoslavije (AVNOJ) ) was formed as the umbrella organization of the allied partisan groups . The CPJ puts its party doctrine (proletarian revolution) in the background and offered the AVNOJ an attractive program for the post-war order, which was approved by many people of all Yugoslav peoples. The fight against fascism, equal rights for all Yugoslav nations and the establishment of a federal state were propagated .

On December 18, 1942, the first partisan naval unit with 150 men was set up in Podgora , Tučepi and Igrane . She used fishing boats and two captured motor ships for raids on Italian supplies.


Operation Schwarz against the partisans
Decision of the AVNOJ to federalize Yugoslavia after the war, Jaice 1943

At the beginning of 1943, the Axis powers feared an Allied invasion of the Balkans. The goal was the annihilation of the Yugoslav partisans and the capture of their leader Josip Broz Tito . The start of the offensive ( Operation White ) was scheduled for January 20, 1943 and was concentrated in the area of Bosnia-Herzegovina . The Axis powers raised nine divisions, six German and three Italian. These were supported by two Croatian divisions and a number of Chetnik and Ustaša associations. In this operation ( Battle of the Neretva ) around 150,000 soldiers on the Axis side faced a much smaller partisan force. Apart from these heavy losses for the Yugoslav People's Liberation Army and a tactical victory for the Axis powers, in April 1943 the partisans were able to secure their high command and hospital system and were able to continue their military operations. In the following Operation Schwarz, the Axis powers mobilized around 127,000 soldiers against another 18,000 partisans of the Yugoslav People's Liberation Army. The German attack began on May 15, 1943, in the initial position an attempt was made to encircle the partisans in the area of ​​the Durmitor massif in the mountainous part of the north of Montenegro . Shortly before it was completely encircled, the Yugoslav People's Liberation Army managed to break through the ranks of the German 118th and 104th Jäger Divisions and the 369th (Croatian) Infantry Division across the Sutjeska in the direction of Eastern Bosnia in mid-June . The Yugoslav People's Liberation Army was able to regroup in eastern Bosnia and recaptured the cities of Olovo, Srebrenica and Zvornik within the next 20 days .

After the Allies landed in Sicily , the collapse of the fascist regime in Italy became apparent. On July 25, Benito Mussolini was deposed and the new Italian government began negotiating with the British and Americans soon after. This situation also affected the Italian occupied territory in Yugoslavia. From the end of July to the beginning of September the partisans recorded significant territorial gains in Montenegro, Dalmatia, Istria and Slovenia against the war-weary Italian troops, demotivated by the political upheaval. When Italy signed a ceasefire agreement on September 8th, the partisans fell into the hands of large quantities of weapons and they even advanced as far as Trieste for a short time. Shortly afterwards, however, German units took the place of the Italians. In the north, together with Ustaše associations, they were able to push back the partisans. The Germans were also soon able to control large parts of Montenegro.

The AVNOJ met for its second conference from November 21 to 29, 1943 in the Bosnian city of Jajce . 142 delegates from almost all regions of Yugoslavia attended the meeting. Only Macedonia's envoys failed to get to Bosnia. It was decided to re-establish Yugoslavia as a federal state after the end of the war. In addition to Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Montenegrins and Macedonians have now also been recognized as state nations. All these peoples should have their own republic. The political upgrading of the two smallest South Slavic peoples took into account the growing identities of both ethnic groups; the leadership around Tito wanted to expand their mass base in the southern parts of the country. On the other hand, this measure should reduce the preponderance of Serbs in the new Yugoslavia.

Their military successes induced the communists to finally break with the London-based Yugoslav government-in-exile. King Peter II was forbidden to return to Yugoslavia.


In early 1944, the Western powers recognized the AVNOJ as the legitimate government and representative of Yugoslavia in the anti-Hitler coalition . Independently of this, the British Prime Minister Churchill also tried to support politicians in the government-in-exile so that they could participate in shaping the Yugoslav post-war order. The Western Allies now increasingly supplied weapons and equipment to the Tito partisans.

Romania and Bulgaria declared war on Germany under Soviet pressure in August and September, respectively. On August 20, the Red Army began a major offensive ( Operation Jassy-Kishinev ); on October 1, 1944, it reached Serbian territory. From September 14 to November 24, 1944, the Belgrade operation took place with considerable partisan support . On October 20th the conquest of Belgrade was complete. The Army Group E of the Wehrmacht was almost cut off.

The German units now accelerated the retreat from Greece, Albania and southern Yugoslavia in order not to be cut off from the Reich. As a provisional government, the AVNOJ moved its seat to the capital Belgrade and took over the administration of the liberated areas. There was no Soviet occupation regime in Yugoslavia. In autumn 1944, most of the Germans fled Vojvodina and Slavonia to the Reich or were expropriated and driven out .

One year after the Jajce resolutions were formulated , they were reaffirmed in a revised form on November 21, 1944 in Belgrade. One of the resolutions was the decree on the transfer of hostile property into state property and the state administration of the property of absent persons, as well as the confiscation of property that had been forcibly alienated by the occupying powers . According to this resolution, the expropriation of all property of the German Reich and its citizens in Yugoslavia as well as the property of members of the German minority began. The only exceptions were the few hundred Germans who had fought in the ranks of the National Liberation Army and the partisan units of Yugoslavia. The war criminals' assets should also be confiscated for the benefit of the state, regardless of their citizenship. In February 1945 this decree of 1944 was published in the Law Gazette of Yugoslavia and became legally binding. The regulations were then incorporated into the Confiscation Act of June 9, 1945 and the Agrarian Reform Act of August 23, 1945.

In December 1944, Montenegro was also liberated from the occupation forces.


The struggles for the liberation of Yugoslavia continued until the final surrender on May 8, 1945. The aspect of the civil war within Yugoslavia came to the fore again. There were only a few combat-ready German units in the country, but many members of the Croatian Home Guard, the Ustaše and Slovenian collaborators resisted the inevitable defeat until the end because they - rightly - feared the cruel revenge of the communist troops.

Tito and his party comrades used the Yugoslav Liberation Army at the beginning of 1945 for two different purposes: On the one hand, the troops were to advance before the Allies into those areas that Yugoslavia wanted to claim for itself in the upcoming peace negotiations. In the first days of May, Istria, Trieste and some places in Carinthia were occupied. However, the British immediately forced the withdrawal from Carinthia and Trieste.

During the brief period of Yugoslav occupation in the Trieste area, there were numerous murders of Italians who were accused of murdering and torturing the Slovenian minority in that region. The Italian minority in Istria was harassed by the partisans and sometimes wildly expropriated. Many Italians fled the peninsula in 1945; the flow of emigration continued for more than a decade, so that very few Italians live in Istria at the present time.

The Bleiburg massacre marked the end of World War II for Yugoslavia . Thousands of Ustaše and Slovenian Home Guard soldiers who had fled to Carinthia were handed over to the Tito partisans by the British as agreed and murdered by them on May 15, 1945.

Another final point was the expulsion of the Yugoslav Germans , who were collectively denied all rights due to the AVNOJ resolutions . Most of the approximately 160,000 Danube Swabians remaining in Vojvodina were expropriated by the Tito regime at the end of 1944 and about 90% were interned in camps by spring 1945. Around 7,000 died in mass shootings in the first few weeks. Tens of thousands of internees died due to poor living conditions and mistreatment until the camps were liquidated in 1948.

War losses

As early as 1943, the AVNOJ decided to set up a state commission to investigate war crimes committed by the occupiers and their helpers. Similar commissions were later set up at the republic level to collect figures and evidence on war crimes, but only those that could be blamed on the occupying powers and their allies; victims of the partisans were not taken into account. The data collected was never published. The number of 1.7 million war deaths in Yugoslavia, which is frequently mentioned after the war, was based on an estimate of the so-called demographic loss and is considerably too high; A register of civilian deaths and fallen partisans compiled by the Yugoslav Federal Statistical Office in 1964 comprised 1.1 million war victims, but only 597,323 deaths could be determined, from which it was concluded that around 25-40% of the victims had not been recorded in the register, and it was estimated the total to 800,000. The results of the investigation remained under lock and key until 1993, only 10 copies of the directory existed. It was not until the population scientists B. Kočović (1985) and V. Žerjavić (1989) presented more precise figures. After that, the proportionally most victims were among the Roma population, followed by the Jews. Among the Slav peoples, the Montenegrins suffered the most casualties, followed by Serbs and Muslims.

nation B. Kočović V. Žerjavić
Albanians 6,000 18,000
Bulgarians 1,000 -
Italian 1,000 -
Jews 60,000 57,000
Croatians 207,000 192,000
Macedonians 7,000 6,000
Montenegrins 50,000 20,000
Muslims 86,000 103,000
Poland 2,000 1,000
Roma 27,000 18,000
Romanians / Wallachians 4,000 -
Russians / Ukrainians 5,000 5,000
Serbs 487,000 530,000
Slovenes 32,000 42,000
Czechs / Slovaks 4,000 1,000
Turks 3,000 2,000
Hungary 5,000 2,000
Volksdeutsche 26,000 28,000
Other 1,000 2,000
total 1,014,000 1,027,000

The military losses of the occupiers up to the end of September 1944 are estimated at 31,000 to 32,000 dead and missing, half German and half Italian losses.

The reason for the relatively high losses was the asymmetrical warfare of the partisan units and the troops of the Axis powers. There were no fixed fronts and practically the whole country was a permanent war zone. The German troops and the Ustaša often avenged their losses by murdering the inhabitants of entire villages on the grounds that they had supported the partisans. The expulsion of entire ethnic groups from certain parts of the country also claimed many victims. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Serbs and tens of thousands of Jews and Roma were murdered in concentration camps by the fascist Croatian Ustaše. The struggles of the hostile inner Yugoslav groups (Tito partisans, Chetniks, Domobrani and others) also contributed to the large number of war victims in Yugoslavia.

Flag of Yugoslavia 1945–1991

Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

From the end of the war to the break with the Soviet Union (1948)

The establishment of the new order

After pressure from the Western Allies in March 1945 the Yugoslav communists had to agree to the formation of a transitional government in which non-communists also sat, after the end of the war, under Tito's leadership, they quickly set about monopolizing power in their hands. A first step towards this was the physical elimination of political opponents. Not only in Bleiburg, but in many parts of Yugoslavia, shortly before and shortly after the end of the war, many people who had fought on the other side were murdered.

In accordance with the AVNOJ resolutions , the expropriations and nationalizations of Yugoslav companies began in 1945 . All industry, banks and mines were nationalized. Because of collaboration with the enemy , the members of the German minority were completely expropriated. The churches and the Muslim vakufs were also affected by the expropriation . The property of the murdered Jews was also transferred to the state. As part of a land reform , a large part of the confiscated land was handed over to newly formed agricultural cooperatives and state estates.

Although the future state organization had not yet been officially decided, the governments of the newly formed republics were established as early as 1945. These were the regional governing bodies of the AVNOJ . For example, the members of ASNOM were the first Macedonian government after the war. On November 11, 1945, the constituent national assembly was elected. Even these first elections were neither free nor secret: In each polling station there were two ballot boxes, one for the unified list of the communist-dominated Popular Front and another for the opposition, which, however, was not allowed to put up candidates. Under these conditions, the Popular Front received 90 percent of the vote. The women's suffrage was introduced 1946th

On the same day, the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia was proclaimed. On November 29, 1945, the constituent assembly officially abolished the monarchy and elected Tito as the first prime minister of the republic. Ivan Ribar became the first president . On January 15, 1946, the new socialist constitution of Yugoslavia was passed. The federation included Serbia , Croatia , Slovenia , Bosnia-Herzegovina , Macedonia and Montenegro as sub-republics, each with their own constitutions. In Serbia, the two autonomous provinces Vojvodina ( Autonomna pokrajina Vojvodina ) and Kosovo ( Autonomna kosovsko-metohijska oblast ) were established.

The mainstay of the federal Yugoslav state association, which is still extremely heterogeneous in terms of language, culture and economy, was the power of the communist party under its charismatic leader Tito. The centralized party apparatus formed the counterweight to the federal state structure. The party and its leader justified their claim to power with the intensely cultivated partisan myth: Under the leadership of the communists, the peoples of Yugoslavia freed themselves from fascism and established the new state order. This myth was successful for a long time, not least because parts of it corresponded to reality, even though crucial parts of the story were deliberately concealed.

Tito knew that the old idea of Yugoslavism was completely discredited by the political reality in the interwar period, because the first Yugoslavia was a state dominated by the old Serbian elites. Tito and the party leadership countered the particular nationalism of the individual peoples with the slogan bratstvo i jedinstvo (“brotherhood and unity”) from the time of the partisan struggle as a central element of the new state ideology, without pushing for the peoples to merge into a unitarian nation. As an internationalist communist, Tito believed that under socialism, according to Lenin's teaching, national problems would evaporate in a relatively short time, especially on the basis of a federal state order with the republics as constitutive elements of the state order and the CP as the sole bearer of power. Until the final solution of the national question in the socialist sense, a well-balanced division of power between the peoples of the federation should give stability.

New frontiers

The old borders from before the war were restored in 1945 to the neighboring states of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania. After the liberation, Kosovo was reunited with Yugoslavia, as the Yugoslav and Albanian communists had already agreed during the war. In January 1945, the two states signed a treaty on this. Yugoslavia was able to gain territorial gains over Italy: the Dalmatian islands that fell to Italy in 1918 and the city of Zadar now became Yugoslav, as did Rijeka , which was disputed in the interwar period , most of the Istrian peninsula and smaller areas on the Isonzo . The new demarcation was laid down in the Paris Peace Treaty on February 10, 1947. With the territorial gains, Yugoslavia now comprised around 255,500 km². Further territorial claims on parts of Carinthia and Styria , as well as the city of Trieste, were refused by the Allies. Instead, Trieste and the surrounding area were declared a free state with British and American troops in the northern half , while the south was under Yugoslav occupation. The dispute over this area shaped the poor Yugoslav-Italian relations for decades.

Within Yugoslavia, the borders of the new republics had to be drawn. The focus was less on ethnic factors than on the historical boundaries from the period before 1918. In some places, however, this has been deviated from for various reasons.

The Slovenian-Croatian border followed the old course almost exactly. At the same point the countries Carniola and Styria met Croatia until 1918. This line also roughly corresponded to the Croatian-Slovenian language border. A new border was only established in the previously Italian Istria. Slovenia received the coastal cities of Koper , Izola and Piran . The Republic of Slovenia had thus become the ethnically least mixed state of the federation. Almost 90 percent of the population belonged to the titular nation and there were no Slovene minorities in the other republics.

Administrative division of Yugoslavia

The Socialist Republic of Croatia was formed from old Croatia-Slavonia, Dalmatia and most of Istria. The greater part of Syrmia , however, was attached to the Serbian province of Vojvodina and the former Dalmatian area on the Bay of Kotor became part of Montenegro. Even so, the territory of the republic included areas with significant Serb minorities, especially in Eastern Slavonia and Krajina .

The borders of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina corresponded exactly to the old border course in the Austro-Hungarian period. The republic did not have a majority nation. When it was established in 1945, the communist nationality policy did not yet recognize any Bosnian-Muslim nation. With the re-establishment of Bosnia, the Tito government wanted to avoid further Croatian-Serbian disputes over this area. A connection to Croatia was forbidden by itself, because that would have revived the borders of the Ustaše state. That would have been a humiliation both for the communist partisans, who had fought bitterly against this regime, as well as for the Serbian people. The annexation to Serbia in turn would have renewed the Serbian preponderance in Yugoslavia, on which the state collapsed in 1939/41. Without the existence of Bosnia, the already fragile internal equilibrium of the Yugoslav Federation would never have come about.

The new borders of Montenegro led to the division of the Sanjak with Serbia and gave the smallest republic the Bay of Kotor. The northern border of the newly created republic of Macedonia was completely without a historical model . It roughly followed the Serbian-Macedonian language border. While the southern border of the autonomous province of Vojvodina was based on the Serbian-Hungarian border from before 1918, the provincial border of Kosovo was completely redrawn. It is true that there was once a Vilayet Kosovo in Ottoman times; but the new province only had the same name.

Foreign policy

Yugoslav foreign policy in the immediate post-war period was marked by numerous conflicts. With the claim to establish Yugoslavia as a strong and independent regional power in Southeastern Europe, Tito soon clashed with the former allies of the anti-Hitler coalition. Contrary to what Churchill and Stalin planned at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Yugoslav head of government was not satisfied with the fact that his country should function as a buffer state dependent on the great powers. At first Tito tried to push the Yugoslav borders as far as possible to the northwest; however, he was only partially able to achieve his goals due to opposition from the British and Americans. Until 1951, Yugoslavia demanded in vain that Austria should cede areas in southern Carinthia.

In Southeastern Europe, Tito wanted to establish a Balkan federation under Yugoslav leadership. This should also include Bulgaria, Albania and possibly a Greater Macedonia . The Macedonia question was open again because of the Greek civil war . Since 1946, Yugoslavia supported the Greek communists, who were particularly strong in northern Greece (Aegean Macedonia) and, not least, had many supporters among the members of the Slavic minority. At the beginning, the Yugoslav engagement in Greece was favored by Stalin; the Soviet Union also supplied weapons to the communists there, while the USA and Great Britain supported the opposing side in this proxy war.

Tito negotiated with the Bulgarian Prime Minister Georgi Dimitrov in early 1947 about the formation of the Balkan Federation. The link in this planned federation of the South Slavic peoples, who were often warring in history , was to be the aforementioned Greater Macedonia , to which Bulgaria was to contribute its share (the so-called Pirin Macedonia). In the summer, Tito and Dimotrov signed a friendship treaty between their two countries and it seemed that the Balkan Federation would soon become a reality.

Tito's ambitions were furthest in Albania. In 1945 the small communist state entered into close ties with Yugoslavia, which had been forged between the partisan movements of both communist parties during the war. Through the friendship treaty of July and the monetary union in November 1946, Albania was fully integrated into the Yugoslav economic area. (For details see History of Albania )

At the end of 1947, Stalin changed his Balkan policy. On the one hand, he gave up the communist cause in the Greek civil war; on the other hand, he wanted to put the Yugoslav head of state, who appeared independently and self-confidently, in his place. On February 10, 1948, high-ranking party delegations from Bulgaria and Yugoslavia were summoned to Moscow and severely reprimanded by Stalin for their policies. Without consulting Moscow, Tito and Dimitrov had undertaken a series of unauthorized actions within the Soviet sphere of power (preparation of the Balkan Federation, Yugoslav-Bulgarian friendship treaty, transfer of Yugoslav troops to Albania and, last but not least, support for the Greek partisans). While Dimitrov bowed to Stalin and admitted "his mistakes", the Yugoslav delegation left Moscow without any promises. The conflict between Belgrade and Moscow intensified in the following weeks because Tito and with him the Yugoslav Central Committee were not prepared to submit to the Soviet guidelines. As a result, the Yugoslav party was expelled from the Cominform in June 1948 . Albania and Bulgaria, on the other hand, became satellites of the Soviet Union again and, in turn, broke with Yugoslavia.

Tito and his party had been able to maintain their independence vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, which helped them gain prestige in the West, but Yugoslavia's foreign policy concept of becoming supremacy in the Balkans had failed because Greece was integrated into NATO, while the rest of the Southeast European countries States were now all the more firmly integrated into the Soviet sphere of influence.

Domestic politics

After the communists came to power, the Yugoslav government held tribunals to try war criminals and collaborators across the country. The communists also used the procedures, which can hardly be called constitutional, to eliminate domestic political opponents who were sentenced to camp imprisonment or even to death on charges of collaboration with the National Socialists . As a result of these purges, the power of the communists was unchallenged as early as 1946. The State Security Authority UDBA (Serbian: Uprava državne bezbednosti , Croatian Uprava državne sigurnosti ), the secret police of Yugoslavia, remained an indispensable instrument for enforcing the rule of the Union of Communists of Yugoslavia until its breakup in 1990.

In the first years after the war, the Yugoslav government largely adopted Soviet ideas and methods in the field of economics. By December, almost all mines, production facilities, shops and banks were state-owned. Only with regard to the peasants, who made up the largest part of the Yugoslav population, was Tito more cautious than Stalin in the collectivization of Soviet agriculture in the 1930s. The Yugoslav farmers were allowed to keep their land. Nevertheless, they were pressured by community officials and agitators of the party to join the socialist cooperatives. Farmers who set up such cooperatives also received investment grants from the state.

According to the Stalinist model, the Yugoslav communists pushed the country's rapid industrialization. The main focus was on heavy industry, which was to be located particularly in the underdeveloped regions in the south of the country. The necessary investment funds came to a large extent from reparation payments, Soviet loans and profits from the export of raw materials. Foreign trade was directed entirely towards the Soviet bloc. As is customary in the planned economy , all producer and consumer prices were set by the state. In 1947 a first five-year plan was launched. However, this became obsolete as early as 1948 when the break with the Soviet Union completely changed not only the political but also the external economic conditions. A short time later (1951) the attempt to collectivize all of Yugoslav agriculture was given up. More than half of the fields were always farmed by small private farmers until the country fell apart.

In the course of the conflict with the Soviet Union in 1948 there were internal-party disputes in the communist party. The Titoists prevailed against the pro-Soviet forces. After the Yugoslavs were expelled from the Cominform , Tito had his internal party opponents persecuted. Such large-scale waves of purges were repeated at intervals in the party until the 1970s. In 1949, a secret camp for political prisoners was set up on the Adriatic island of Goli Otok .

From 1949 until Tito's death in 1980

In the three decades up to Tito's death, Yugoslavia made the impression internally and externally as if it were a stable state with positive development. The Yugoslav foreign policy found worldwide recognition, especially the engagement in the movement of the non-aligned states . The United States and its allies viewed Yugoslavia positively and supported it economically because - apart from the People's Republic of China - it was the only socialist country that was not under Soviet rule. In addition, they considered communist rule in Yugoslavia to be comparatively liberal. Indeed, the Yugoslavs also had more personal freedoms than the citizens of most of the Eastern Bloc countries. Many leftists in the western states saw the Yugoslav system with its broad-based collective self-government as a positive example of socialism that actually existed.

Abroad, it was hardly noticed that Yugoslavia was also a one-party dictatorship, in which power was also concentrated in the hands of a leader, and many foreign observers also overlooked a number of crisis phenomena that finally collapsed in the 1980s of the state have made a decisive contribution. Above all, there are:

  • the narrow basis of legitimation of the Yugoslav state idea, which was mainly based on the charismatic leader figure Tito and the partisan myth;
  • the unsuccessful economic and trade policy, which led to an increasingly negative balance of payments and immensely high foreign debt, without building a competitive industry and achieving a significant leveling of living conditions in the different parts of the country;
  • the unresolved national conflicts that were only ideologically whitewashed or pushed out of public discourse after the Second World War, but were never dealt with.

Foreign policy

After the break with the Soviet bloc, Yugoslavia was completely isolated in terms of foreign policy in early 1949. The Soviet Union tried to destabilize the Yugoslav state by subversive means. In Serbo-Croatian radio broadcasts, Tito and his comrades were branded as traitors to socialism. In addition, attempts were made to stir up dissatisfaction among members of the Albanian, Hungarian and Ruthenian minorities. Soviet troops were stationed on the eastern borders of Yugoslavia. The danger of a Soviet attack and the economic blockade of the socialist camp induced Tito to make a radical change in foreign policy and to seek a compromise with the West.

In the summer of 1949, Yugoslavia ended its support for the communist partisans in Greece, whereupon the civil war in the southern neighboring country soon came to an end. Belgrade was willing to compromise on the Trieste question, and at UN meetings, Tito had his ambassador vote against the Soviet Union more and more often. The West was pleased with this turnaround and sent food aid to Yugoslavia, which averted an impending famine in 1950. The Americans then provided economic aid and arranged loans from the World Bank. At the same time the Yugoslav trade deficit began with the countries of the capitalist camp. The US has been supplying Yugoslavia with arms since 1951. The People's Liberation Army was upgraded to one of the strongest armies in Europe in the following years. In November 1951, the United States and Yugoslavia signed an agreement on military cooperation.

Western aid payments to Yugoslavia became a permanent institution for decades from 1949 - from 1960 the EC took over the role of donor from the USA - and contributed significantly to the pseudo-blossoming of Yugoslav self-government socialism in the 1960s and 1970s.

Yugoslavia also came closer to the two non-communist countries in south-eastern Europe. On February 28, 1953, the tripartite Balkan Pact was signed with Turkey and the former opponent Greece . This alliance was extended for 20 years in 1954, but military and political cooperation later subsided when the direct Soviet threat to southeastern Europe subsided in the Khrushchev era in the late 1950s. After Stalin's death in 1953, Khrushchev had established himself as a “strong man”; he pursued a certain de-Stalinization (from February 1956 also publicly ) and propagated peaceful coexistence with the West. In October 1954 there was also a provisional settlement between Italy and Yugoslavia via the Free State of Trieste . The area was divided: Yugoslavia kept its zone of occupation in Istria with Koper and Piran; the city of Trieste, on the other hand, came under Italian rule again.

The year 1954 is considered to be the high point of the Yugoslav rapprochement with the West. However, Tito refused the offered NATO membership. In order to open up room for maneuver in foreign policy between East and West, Yugoslav diplomacy endeavored to establish good relations with some of the large countries of the third world (India, Indonesia, Egypt and others). The first result of these efforts were the trade agreements with India from 1953 and 1956.

The threat to Yugoslavia from the Soviet Union had diminished with the onset of the so-called thaw period . In the spring of 1955, the new Soviet ruler Nikita Khrushchev visited Belgrade to demonstrate the reconciliation between the two states. Nevertheless, Tito continued to keep his distance from the leading communist power and also from the Western powers. American military aid ran out in 1955. After the Hungarian uprising (October and November 1956) Moscow increased the pressure on Yugoslavia again. As a foreign policy concession, the Yugoslav government had to diplomatically recognize the GDR in 1957 against its own economic interests , which led to the breakdown of relations on the part of the Federal Republic of Germany (resumption in 1968).

Romanian-Yugoslavian power plant: dam at the Iron Gate

Together with the Indian President Jawaharlal Nehru and the Egyptian Head of State Gamal Abdel Nasser , Tito built up the movement of the non-aligned states during this time. On July 19, 1956, the three presidents signed the Brioni Declaration, in which they had summarized the principles of their cooperation. In 1961, a large gathering of the heads of state of the non-aligned movement took place in Belgrade.

The crackdown on the Prague Spring in August 1968 was sharply condemned by Yugoslavia, which caused relations with Moscow to hit rock bottom again. Romania, which had also spoken out against the intervention, became Yugoslavia's closest partner in the socialist camp in the following years. The Danube power plant at the Iron Gate (completed in 1971) was the most important joint project of both countries. Relations with the People's Republic of Bulgaria , Moscow's most loyal vassal in south-eastern Europe, have remained tense since the failure of the Balkan confederation plans and the death of Dimitrov (1882–1949) . Every time the Yugoslav-Soviet relationship experienced a new crisis, the Bulgarian government (from 1954 to 1989, Todor Zhivkov was Bulgaria's head of state) put forward its Macedonian claims (see History of Macedonia ).

Domestic politics

During the Seventh Party Congress in 1952, the Yugoslav Communist Party officially turned away from Stalinism and was renamed the League of Communists (BdKJ). The federal state structure of socialist Yugoslavia should also be expressed in the name of the ruling party. Since the party congress, pluralism of opinion and political discussions have also been officially permitted within the BdKJ. However, when the discourse crossed certain not clearly defined boundaries, insubordinate members continued to be punished. This was especially true for nationality conflicts that soon came to light again, but also for liberalization tendencies in some republics. The communists' monopoly on power in the Yugoslav one-party state was certainly not allowed to be questioned or the leader Tito to be criticized.

The federalization of the party apparatus led to the fact that the leadership of the BdKJ gave rise to competing power blocs, and from then on national conflicts were again and again at the center of political disputes.

In January 1953, Tito also took over the office of President, which the Federal Assembly later conferred on him for life by means of a constitutional amendment. In 1954, at the behest of its chairman, the party overthrew the president of the federal parliament Milovan Đilas , who had been a close confidante of Tito during the war and in the first few years afterwards. In 1953, Đilas had expressed himself critically in various media about the newly formed communist caste with whose help Tito ruled the country. After serving a prison sentence of several years, Đilas returned to journalism as a dissident in the late 1960s. His analyzes of the communist power apparatus in Yugoslavia, written from the perspective of an insider, were widely read in the West.

Accompanied by minor changes to the federal constitution, the Yugoslav state was renamed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ( Socijalistička Federativna Republika Jugoslavija / SFRJ) in 1963 .


The army had a strong position in socialist Yugoslavia. In the first decades after the Second World War, their officers , almost all of whom had been partisans, were held in high regard. Because Yugoslavia was politically isolated after the break with the Soviet Union, the leadership considered it necessary to keep the strength of the Yugoslav People's Army high so that the country could defend itself effectively against possible attacks from the east or west.

With the Law on People's Defense of 1969, national defense in Yugoslavia was organized in two ways. In addition to the Yugoslav People's Army, which comprised 210,000 men in 1986, the so-called Territorial Defense (Teritorijalna odbrana, TO) was formed. These were paramilitary units, the formation and training of which was the responsibility of the republics and municipalities. According to the constitution, the TO forces, like the People's Army, were subject to the federal government. The army's task was to protect the territorial integrity of the federal government externally but also the constitutional order internally. However, the imposition of the state of emergency as a prerequisite for the army to intervene internally had to be decided by the collective state presidium. The Serbs were disproportionately represented in the officers' corps of the People's Army. At staff level, with Serbs making up about 36% of the total population, more than half of the officers were of Serbian nationality.


In the economic organization, the communists turned at least partially away from centralism and introduced so-called workers' self-government at the company level. Formally, the state-owned companies became the property of their employees. These should be involved in all business decisions through workers' councils. The factory directors were of course still appointed by the state and they had the right to veto the decisions of the workers' councils. In 1950 and 1951, the federal parliament passed a series of laws to implement collective self-government , which over the years was extended to almost all areas of society and to local government. In 1953 the federal parliament changed the federal constitution to adapt it to the new system. This reduced the already low competencies of the republic's governments, since their responsibilities had to a large extent been in the economic and social area, which now had to be ceded to the workers' councils of the individual companies and the local councils.

In 1951 the collectivization of agriculture was broken off and from 1953 there was even the possibility for former individual farmers to leave existing cooperatives. Two thirds of those affected made use of this within 9 months. Since there was not enough land available for all interested parties, the government limited private agricultural property to 10 hectares (previously 25 hectares). This prevented the formation of efficient medium-sized farms and the efficiency of Yugoslav agriculture remained low compared to other European countries. However, the abolition of the state price system, which took place at the same time, initially caused a significant increase in agricultural production, because it was worthwhile for the farmers to sell their products again.

However, the main focus of Yugoslav economic policy was on expanding industrial production, and high growth rates could be achieved by the end of the 1950s. The export of industrial goods doubled between 1954 and 1960. A large part of the funds thus gained was used to improve living conditions. Investments were made in the health and education systems and imported consumer goods. In the 1980s, the Yugoslav economy fell into a deep crisis. The state was heavily indebted abroad and annual inflation rose to over 50 percent.


From the end of the war until the 1960s there was high population growth in all parts of Yugoslavia and birth rates of more than three children per woman, so that the war losses were quickly compensated for in numbers. Since about 1970, there have been significant differences in population growth between the northern and southern republics. The demographic indicators in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia were now more similar to the Central European, i.e. that is, the birth rate fell and life expectancy increased, the population got older on average. The growth rate in 1981 was only 0.39 percent per year.

In the southern parts of the country Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Kosovo, on the other hand, the tendency from the post-war period continued: high birth rates ensured rapid population growth and a low average age. The southern republics had a growth rate of almost 1.5 percent per annum in 1981. Population growth was highest among Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia. While their share in the total Yugoslav population was less than 4 percent in 1921, this rose to over 8 percent by 1990.

In 1968 the Federal Republic of Germany concluded a recruitment agreement for guest workers with Yugoslavia . Switzerland, Austria and Sweden also entered into similar agreements. The 1971 census found that 700,000 Yugoslav citizens were already living abroad. With the exception of the Slovenes, all the peoples of Yugoslavia were strongly represented among the emigrants.

At around the same time, internal migration also increased. Coming from the southern republics, numerous Bosnians, Macedonians, Montenegrins and Albanians settled in the Slovenian and Croatian industrial centers as well as in Vojvodina and the greater Belgrade area.

Ethnic Structure of Socialist Yugoslavia
Nations ("national peoples")
from that: Serbs 8.14 million 39.7%
Croatians 4.53 million 22.1%
Slovenes 1.68 million 8.15%
Muslims (in terms of nationality) 1.73 million 8.4%
Macedonians 1.19 million 5.8%
Montenegrins 509,000 2.5%
Nationalities (non-Yugoslav minorities)
from that: Magyars 479,000 2.3%
Albanians 1.31 million 6.5%
Other nationalities 270,000 1.35%
total 20.52 million

Nationality politics

Both the conflicts inherited from the time before 1945 between the individual ethnic groups and the federal structure of the state meant that questions of nationality were constantly on the political agenda. The central government could not prevent the republic leaders from charging their particular interests nationally and advocating them to the point of obstruction against other republics and the federal government. During his long reign, Tito made several large-scale attempts to pacify the nationality conflicts, without this dictation from above having any lasting success.

In the first 15 years after the war, Unitarian Yugoslavism was an integral part of the ideology. It was assumed that under socialist conditions the various ethnic groups would soon merge into a unified Yugoslav nation. That is why the Nationalities Council, which was set up as a constitutional body after the end of the war, was abolished again as superfluous in 1953. It was not until the new federal constitution of 1963 and the party statute passed in 1964 that the formal requirements for more independence of the republics and party organizations in the republics were created. From then on, Tito tried to counter the national divergences by strengthening the federal elements in the state structure.

The decisive characteristics of nationality politics in socialist Yugoslavia were:

1. The peoples and ethnic groups did have group rights with regard to the consideration of their cultural and linguistic concerns, but these rights were not always clearly defined and they could also not be claimed individually.

2. In the treatment of the individual ethnic groups, there was a mixed system of hierarchy and heterarchy that was difficult to understand :

At the top were the peoples already recognized by the partisan leadership in World War II as equal state nations (serbokroat, narod ): Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians and Montenegrins. These all belonged to the South Slavic language group, had their settlement center in Yugoslavia and each was granted its own republic. The size of the respective nation and the existence of an independent language were not criteria to be ranked among the top group of the Yugoslav national hierarchy. In 1945, the Montenegrins, numbering barely 500,000, had their own republic, but not the over 1 million Albanians. Only the three languages ​​of the national peoples (Serbo-Croatian, Slovene and Macedonian) were recognized as official languages ​​at least at republic level. If Croats or Serbs made up a significant proportion of the population in republics other than their own (the Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia, the Croats in Bosnia and the Serbian Vojvodina), they had no group status whatsoever as members of a national people.

On the second level stood a number of peoples who had their own state somewhere outside of Yugoslavia. They were referred to as nationalities (serbokroat. Narodnosti ). Their languages ​​were taught in schools and allowed for official communication at the community level. The Kosovar Albanians stood out among the nationalities because of the status of Kosovo as an autonomous province, but not the numerous Albanians in Macedonia, who had to endure all kinds of repression from the authorities there. The so-called ethnic groups, which had no motherland and no written language, had the least group rights. These included, for example, the Wallachians and the Roma, which are quite numerous, especially in the southern half of Yugoslavia . The third characteristic of the Yugoslav nationality policy as a whole is the authoritarian intervention by Tito. Until shortly before his death, the state president took arbitrary measures with which he weakened some ethnic groups and strengthened others, as he saw fit.

The differences between the individual peoples were numerous and confusing: Not only about cultural and language policy, but also about economic, financial and social problems were argued predominantly from a nationalist point of view. In particular, the economic distribution struggle between the poor and the rich republics was extremely explosive. The inhabitants of the underdeveloped southern regions felt themselves to be disadvantaged nationally, those of the developed north as exploited nations. The accusation by Slovenes and Croats that they are helping to finance the poor republics, which hampers their own economic development, contained a separatist tendency per se, because it would call solidarity between the federal members into question. In addition to this basic conflict, there were national differences in various regions, the most important of which are briefly named and explained below:

In Croatia , the Serb minority comprised around ten percent of the population; Serbs were, however, disproportionately represented in government and party offices. This was due to the fact that they were relatively strongly represented in the communist partisan movement against the National Socialists and the Ustaše, as the racist regime of the NDH state was particularly directed against the Serbs. After the war, the key positions in the state apparatus were primarily occupied by former partisans. In Croatia this led to the relegation of the titular nation in favor of the Serbs. This situation did not change even decades after the end of the war, and many Croatians, not least of the younger generation, felt it was injustice that this perpetual disproportion in the state apparatus deprived them of career opportunities.

Since the mid-1960s there have been differences between Croatians and Serbs regarding language policy . It was about the further development of the Serbo-Croatian standard language. While the federation authorities and the Serbs were more in favor of harmonizing the two written versions, often preferring Serbian forms, many Croatian writers and linguists were in favor of a more independent development of Croatian, and they went public with a declaration in 1967 . As a result, the Croatian Matica had its own dictionaries and grammars developed. Tito suppressed these activities, which were described as nationalistic. The literary revolt formed the starting point for the national movement called Croatian Spring .

The position of the Bosnian Muslims in the Yugoslav nationality structure was unclear for a long time. Neither Croats nor Serbs wanted to recognize the Serbo-Croatian-speaking Bosniaks as a nation. The Yugoslav leadership followed this line until the beginning of the 1960s, and so Bosnia and Herzegovina was the only republic without a state nation. From 1961 onwards, the category Muslims in the national sense or Slavic Muslims (1971) was introduced in the censuses . This denominationally demarcated nationality applied to all Serbo-Croatian-speaking followers of Islam in Yugoslavia, but also to all those without religion who felt they belonged to the Bosnian-Muslim cultural tradition. In contrast, the terms Bosnians and Bosniaks were avoided in order not to upset the Serbs and Croats living in Bosnia. The Bosnian Muslims were not declared a state nation, presumably for the same reason (see history of Bosnia and Herzegovina )

In Kosovo, although it was declared an autonomous province after the end of the war, the Serbian policy of oppression from the twenties and thirties continued seamlessly. In the 1950s, Tito largely gave the Serbian government a free hand and under Interior Minister Aleksandar Ranković there was a police regime in Kosovo. After clashes in the Yugoslav party leadership, Ranković was expelled from the Politburo. His dismissal, which took place at the same time, paved the way for a moderate policy towards the Albanians in 1966. They were now given real autonomy rights in Kosovo, which were also secured under federal law with the new all-Yugoslav federal constitution of 1974. (See history of Kosovo )

Religious politics

The Yugoslav constitution of 1946 established the strict separation of church and state . The church property and the vakufs were expropriated and the church schools closed or converted into state educational institutions. Free exercise of religion, however, was constitutionally guaranteed. In the 1949 census, 99 percent of Yugoslavs said they belonged to a religious community.

In accordance with communist doctrine, the Yugoslav government practiced a decidedly anti-religious policy in the first post-war years. During this time, based on the Soviet model, there were campaigns against the churches and against Muslims, who were declared enemies of social progress. The Catholic Church was generally referred to as the henchman of the fascists. Large numbers of clerics, including Orthodox, were tried in show trials and sentenced to long prison terms. The trial of the Archbishop of Zagreb, Alojzije Stepinac, attracted a great deal of attention at home and abroad . With Tito's new political course, direct persecution eased in the early 1950s.

By founding state-controlled associations of priests (comparable to trade unions), the regime tried to influence the clergy of the two large churches. This was less successful with the Catholics than with the Orthodox, because the latter were more dependent on state wages and, because of their families, more extorted by the regime.

In Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia a strong secularization set in . At the end of the 1960s, only a little over 60 percent of the residents of these republics were church members. The fact that especially the economically and socially more modern and most urbanized republics were affected by this process of secularization suggests that this was not so much the result of state repression, but rather the same social change that took place here as in most European countries. In Bosnia and Kosovo, on the other hand, at the same time over 90 percent still belonged to a religious community.

For national political reasons, the BdKJ was the only communist party to support the founding of a new church. In 1966/67 the communists supported the formation of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOK) as a split from the Serbian Church so that the Macedonians would have an autocephalous church like the other Orthodox nations. The Serbian episcopate has not recognized this separation to this day and prevents full church fellowship between the MOK and the other Orthodox churches.

In 1966, Yugoslavia and the Holy See signed a protocol (no formal concordat) in which the papal right of jurisdiction over the Catholic dioceses was recognized and the Catholics were allowed to practice their religion freely. In return, the Curia accepted the absolute prohibition for the clergy to be politically active or even to express themselves. As a result, Yugoslavia and the Vatican established diplomatic relations in 1970. The relationship between the Catholic Church and the state remained difficult. The Archbishop of Zagreb, Franjo Kuharić , sparked a major controversy in 1981 when he suggested the judicial rehabilitation of Alojzije Stepinac in preparation for his beatification. This was sharply rejected both in the party apparatus and by large sections of the Serbian population.


Sarajevo University, Faculty of Philosophy

Socialist Yugoslavia made successful efforts at all levels to expand the education system. In 1949, shortly after the Second World War, Bosnia and Macedonia got their own state universities in Sarajevo and Skopje, respectively . At the same time, eight years of compulsory schooling were introduced. The illiteracy rate fell from over 25 percent in 1953 to 8.8 percent (1985). However, the strong north-south divide also persisted in terms of level of education. In the 1980s there were practically no illiterate people in Slovenia, while in Macedonia and Kosovo significantly more than a tenth of the population was still unable to read or write. The core of the education system was the eight-year general elementary school, which, depending on the course, was followed by a four-year grammar school or two to three years of technical school. In 1974 further education was fundamentally reformed. The existing middle technical schools and grammar schools were combined to form middle school centers. The new type of school was not a success. The level of education fell due to the excessive division of subjects and the excessive self-administration bureaucracy. With the social upheavals, one returned to separate grammar schools and vocational schools in the individual sub-republics since 1989.

Reform-oriented opposition

Because of different economic and national interests, tensions arose again and again between the headquarters of the BdKJ and the republic and provincial associations of the party. In the early 1960s, like in other communist countries, ideological opposition developed, advocating a more undogmatic and humane socialism. The intellectual center was the practice group consisting of liberal sociologists and philosophers , which also maintained contact with Western intellectuals. Initially tolerated by Tito, the practice group was broken up in 1974.

Based on the ideas of the Praxis group, many students at Belgrade University went on strike at the beginning of June 1968 and within a short time the strike spread to most of the other universities in the country. At the center of the spontaneous movement were social demands, such as the fight against unemployment, which in Yugoslavia mainly affected young people. The students also called for the party bureaucracy to be restricted, more pluralism in political organizations and, last but not least, freedom of the press. The student movement was quickly put down by the police.

The Croatian Spring movement, which developed at the same time, was more momentous for the inner Yugoslavian power structure, because it gained great popularity among the population and was led by members of the Croatian party leadership, for example Savka Dabčević-Kučar and Miko Tripalo . The movement combined demands for reforms of the communist power apparatus and the Yugoslav economic system with national claims in the cultural field. In 1971 there were mass demonstrations in Zagreb. Thereupon Tito had the party apparatus purged of supporters of the Croatian Spring. They were denigrated and deposed as nationalists and separatists. Many scientists from the Croatian Matica were also affected by the layoffs.

In 1972, too, party and government leaders had to resign in Serbia, Macedonia and Slovenia, where the liberal anti-centrist ideas had spread.

The new Federal Constitution of 1974

At the beginning of the 1970s, Tito had uncompromisingly fought against the autonomist efforts of the Croatian Spring , but only a little later he had a new federal constitution drawn up through which a large part of the federal competences were transferred to the republics and autonomous provinces.

From then on, the principle that the individual republic could not be overruled applied in areas with competing competences of republic and federal legislation.

Building on the innumerable company and local self-governing bodies, there was a complicated council system that extended to the very top of the state. Until 1989, citizens could not directly elect members at either the republic or federal level. The federal parliament (Savezna skupština) consisted of two chambers since 1974. The Federal Council (Savezno veće) consisted of 220 members, 30 for each republic and 20 for each autonomous province. He was responsible for the constitution, federal legislation, foreign and domestic policy and the federal budget. The delegates for the Federal Council were elected by the community assemblies (Skupština opštine) made up of various self-governing councils.

The Council of Republics and Provinces (Savet republika i pokrajina) , which is responsible for coordination between the federal members and the economy, consisted of 88 delegates sent by the republic and provincial parliaments. These envoys were bound in their vote to the specifications of their domestic parliament.

The constitutional requirement of harmonization between the two chambers - that is, in the event of differing resolutions, they should be compared - has hardly been observed since the early 1980s.

The members of the Federal Executive Council (Savezno izvršno veće) called government were elected individually by the Federal Assembly. This regulation was owed to the proportional thinking between republics and nationalities. In this way it was difficult to set up a technically competent, uniformly acting government.

The constitution introduced an eight-member state presidency (Predsedništvo) as the collective head of state. It was to meet after the death of Tito, the president for life. The presidium had eight members who were elected into it by their republic and provincial parliaments. The term of office was 5 years and each year the Presidium elected a chairman from among its ranks. Theoretically, the body had a lot of power, since it could dissolve the Federal Assembly and was not responsible to any other state body. The introduction of the collective state presidium was not least an expression of Tito's distrust of the leading people in the BdKJ. He did not trust anyone to exercise the politically important office of president. There was no candidate who could have acted as a supranational figure of integration. Due to the disputes between the individual federation subjects, the state presidency was practically paralyzed in the last few years before the collapse of the federal state, because the loyalty of its members was primarily to their home republic.

Another new feature of the Federal Constitution of 1974 was that the two autonomous provinces of Serbia, Vojvodina and Kosovo, were given almost the same status as the republics at the federal level and became constitutive units of the state as a whole, mainly because from then on they had a seat and vote in the State Presidium. The relationship of the autonomous provinces to the Republic of Serbia and its state organs was contradictory and unclear because the Serbian law was not adapted to the new order of the federal government. Especially between Pristina and Belgrade, this situation repeatedly gave rise to conflicts, the real causes of which were of course different.

Crisis and disintegration of the Yugoslav state 1981–1991

With the death in May 1980 of the ruling state and party leader Josip Broz Tito, who had ruled since the end of the Second World War, Yugoslavia lost its only figure of integration. Political, economic and social problems that had already existed in previous years increased, could no longer be concealed by the government from the citizens of the country or from the world public, and developed into a long-lasting crisis, at the end of which there was civil war and the collapse of the state . The unfavorable economic development and the impoverishment of large parts of the population have - as in other communist regimes - favored the collapse of the political system.

Economic and financial crisis

As early as the mid-1970s, the Yugoslav economy was in a deep crisis; the gross national product has decreased every year since 1975 and the inflation rate was already more than 50 percent by the end of that decade. The problems resulted from the global stagflation of the 1970s, but also from the structural inadequacies of the Yugoslav economic system as well as widespread mismanagement and corruption. Yugoslav industrial and agricultural products were mostly not competitive on the western markets, and so the companies built up with foreign currency loans could do little to pay off the debts they had taken on in western countries. The oil price crises of 1973/74 and 1979 made the situation even worse. The main sources of foreign currency in Yugoslavia in the 1980s were tourism on the Adriatic and remittances from guest workers. The latter became fewer and fewer over the course of the decade, as unemployment increased in the host countries, which also affected many Yugoslavs.

At that time the government decided that the development of industry, financed almost exclusively with foreign loans, could no longer be continued and that fundamental reforms were necessary. In 1982 the Kraigher Commission published a long-term economic reform program that was intended to strengthen market economy elements in the economic system, but which in principle adhered to workers' self-government. The reorganization program was rejected by the conservatives who dominated the BdKJ, and so in 1983 the Federation Parliament only approved a few of the Krajgher Commission's proposals and made them legally binding. Most of the reform program, on the other hand, was not implemented in practice. Until 1989, nothing decisive had been done by the government to remedy the economic crisis.

With the decentralization of the economic system in the 1950s came socio-economic problems that are traditionally attributed to the capitalist market economy : economic cycles with corresponding fluctuations in production and employment, increasing income inequalities, and distribution conflicts in the form of wage-price spirals . High unemployment and underemployment have been a major problem throughout the state's existence, although an increasing proportion of the unemployed have been "exported" to western industrialized countries in the form of guest workers. From the early 1970s onwards, there was an increase in underemployment among the population and the ineffectiveness of many companies, but unprofitable establishments could not be closed due to the principles of worker self-government. The system of workers' self-management also favored inflation (wage-price spiral). Attempts by the authorities to stop this spiral were mostly unsuccessful, since the cap on income was often followed by strikes and unrest (or threats of this) until the government finally gave in. The governments uranović , Planinc and Mikulić increased the national debt in order to be able to continue to meet the salaries of state employees, pensions and the high expenses for the Yugoslav People's Army . Inflation reached record levels of over 200% annually in the mid-1980s. The impoverishment of large parts of the population was the result. In 1988 Yugoslavia had the highest per capita debt of all European countries; total overseas liabilities exceeded $ 20 billion. In May 1988 the government signed an agreement with the IMF that made new loans and with the help of which a debt restructuring possible. In accordance with the common economic theory of the 1980s , Yugoslavia committed itself to limiting the money supply in order to counteract the strong inflation. These austerity measures contributed to the worsening of the economic crisis of the late 1980s without lowering inflation, as neither the dinar's devaluation nor the domestic inflationary spiral was effectively affected.

The individual republics were affected to different degrees by the effects of the economic and financial crisis. The unemployment rate in Slovenia was below 4 percent, while it was around 50 percent in Kosovo and Macedonia. In Slovenia and in the Croatian tourist centers, wages were a third higher than the national average, wages in Serbia and Vojvodina were around this average, while they were much lower in the rest of the country. That is why there were numerous strikes and protests by the workers during the 1980s, especially in the southern parts of the country. With the exception of Slovenia, gross domestic product and real incomes fell in all of the republics during the 1980s .

Political crisis

The economic decline was one of the main causes of the national crisis that began in the early 1980s. In addition, long-suppressed conflicts between nations emerged again and soon dominated the political discourse. Finally, the structural weaknesses of the 1974 constitution became apparent. The competing powers of republics and the state as a whole in almost all areas favored mutual blockades and adherence to the status quo, on the one hand, and prevented majority decisions and necessary reforms on the other.

After Tito's death, the principle of rotation laid down in the 1974 constitution took effect in the collective state presidency. One of the republics or autonomous provinces provided the chairman for one year at a time. None of these were popular nationwide; the same was true of the prime ministers who ruled in the 1980s. The highest positions in the state at that time were exclusively conservative functionaries, because almost all reform-oriented politicians in the Communist League had lost their influential state and party offices during several waves of purges while Tito was still alive. Most of the state institutions and, last but not least, the communist party were already largely discredited among the population because of corruption and nepotism . In many parts of the country opposition was again articulating from different directions, which now fundamentally questioned the form of socialism associated with Tito's name. Not least the CSCE follow-up meeting held in Belgrade in 1980 encouraged dissidents to demand freedom of the press, party pluralism , an independent judiciary and free elections. The leadership of the party and state as well as the individual republics reacted with severe repression, arrests and prison terms. For example, in 1983 a show trial of Muslim intellectuals, including Alija Izetbegović , took place in Sarajevo. You have been sentenced to long prison terms for alleged plans to destroy Yugoslavia.

The authorities were particularly tough in Kosovo, where unrest broke out among Albanian students and young people in 1981, primarily for social reasons. The Kosovar Albanians soon made national demands, including the elevation of Kosovo to a republic with equal rights. The police violently suppressed the protests and the Serbian government declared the province a state of emergency. Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested and sent to prison. In the 1980s, more than half of all political prisoners in Yugoslavia were Albanians. In Croatia, but especially in Slovenia, there were protests against the tough crackdown on the Serbian authorities in Kosovo. The party leaderships there were also negative. Thus the dissent between the republics deepened. Up until then, questions of economic and financial policy had been the main controversial issue, now domestic and nationality policies were added. In Slovenia and Croatia, there was a growing fear, whether justified or not, of violent changes to the state structure of power by the Serbs. These in turn missed the solidarity of the other Slavic nations in their conflict with the Kosovar Albanians.

At the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia once again presented itself to the world as a functioning state. This outward appearance was offset by a massive increase in national debt to finance the games and intensified police action against opposition members.

Prime Minister Branko Mikulić, who took office in 1986, tried to get the national debt and inflation under control with a series of half-hearted and uncoordinated economic reforms. The leaderships of the individual republics rejected this policy and practiced obstruction. Because Mikulić was deeply involved in the corruption scandal surrounding the trading company Agrokomerc , he had to resign in December 1987. This process, which was unique in socialist Yugoslavia until then, further destabilized the state structure because it took more than a year before an agreement could be reached on a new prime minister who was ready to take over the office. In March 1989 Ante Marković finally became the Federation's last head of government.

At the 14th Congress of the Union of Communists of Yugoslavia in January 1990, the delegates of Slovenia campaigned for more independence for the republics and for the introduction of a constitutional state without political justice. They were outvoted by the other delegates. When the party statute, which in their opinion was undemocratic, was about to be voted on, they left the room under protest on the night of January 22, 1990. The party conference was canceled. According to Detlef Kleinert , this now also sealed the practical end of the covenant. In addition, far-reaching consequences for the state, especially the economy, were predicted.

Disintegration of Yugoslavia

The population groups of Yugoslavia 1991
The political breakup of Yugoslavia

After Tito's death, Yugoslavia disintegrated as a result of the openly articulated aspirations for autonomy that ultimately developed into fighting and the Yugoslav Wars. The sub-republics strove for their independence , also with reference to the right of self-determination of the peoples , and after a total of around 10 years of sometimes extremely brutal battles achieved international recognition as sovereign states ( Bosnia-Herzegovina , Croatia , Slovenia , Macedonia ). In other regions, especially Kosovo , the dispute over state independence continues to this day.

  • May 1991: The regular takeover of the chairmanship of the state presidency by the Croat Stjepan Mesić initially fails due to resistance from the Serbian representatives.
  • June 25, 1991: Croatia and Slovenia declare their withdrawal from the Yugoslav state association and become independent (definitely on October 8, 1991). The Yugoslav People's Army and - in Croatia - the Serbian population are reacting with a presence and arming against the secession . In Croatia armed Croatian associations begin to besiege and conquer barracks and police stations of the federal administration. In Slovenia, the violent clashes only lasted for a short time. A protracted war broke out in Croatia between Croatian vigilante associations, the government troops that were mostly founded from them, the Serbian inhabitants of Croatia and Serbian irregulars who, with the support of the Federal Army, created a republic of Serbian Krajina, separated from Croatia, in the areas of the new Croatia, which have been populated by Serbs for centuries erect (about 30% of the newly established Croatian territory).
  • September 15, 1991: Macedonia proclaims its independence (international recognition on April 8, 1993 by the UN as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia / FYROM or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia / FYROM ).
  • March 5, 1992: After a referendum largely boycotted by the Bosnian Serbs , Bosnia-Herzegovina declares its independence from Yugoslavia. A month later, the fighting and the siege of Sarajevo begin .
  • 1995: With the Erdut Agreement (November 12th) the fighting in Croatia ends . The Dayton Agreement , signed less than a month later, also ended the Bosnian War , and Bosnia and Herzegovina was recognized as an independent state.
  • 1998: Major offensive by the Yugoslav Army and troops of the special police against the KLA in Kosovo.
  • March 24 to June 10, 1999: 1999: NATO air strikes ( Operation Allied Force ) on Serbia and Montenegro in order to stop the Serbian offensive and persuade the government to give in.
  • June 5, 2006: After a referendum, Montenegro declares its independence from the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro .
  • February 17, 2008: Kosovo declares its independence from Serbia .

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

The remaining republics of Serbia and Montenegro founded the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which was proclaimed on April 27, 1992.

Confederation of Serbia and Montenegro

With the entry into force of the treaty between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the two republics of Serbia and Montenegro, which was signed under EU mediation on March 14, 2002, on February 4, 2003 and the simultaneous adoption of the new constitution, the international community of Serbia and Montenegro replaced the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia .



Individual periods of time

Kingdom of Yugoslavia

  • Ljubodrag Dimić: Serbia and Yugoslavia (1918-1941) . In: Österreichische Osthefte . 47, No. 1-4, 2005, pp. 231-264.
  • Dimitrije Djordjevic (Ed.): The Creation of Yugoslavia. 1914-1918. Santa Barbara 1980.
  • Alex N. Dragnich: The first Yugoslavia. Stanford, CA 1983, ISBN 0-8179-7841-0
  • Alex N. Dragnich: Serbia, Nikola Pašić, and Yugoslavia. New Brunswick, NJ 1974, ISBN 0-8135-0773-1
  • JB Hoptner: Yugoslavia in Crisis 1934–1941. New York 1963
  • Mira Radojević, Ljubodrag Dimić: Serbia in the Great War 1914-1918 . Srpska književna zadruga, Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals, Belgrade 2014.
  • Günter Reichert: The failure of the Little Entente. Munich 1971

Second World War

  • Klaus Schmider : Partisan War in Yugoslavia 1941–1944. Mittler, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-8132-0794-3 .
  • Hans Knoll: Yugoslavia in Strategy and Politics of the Allies 1940–1943 . Oldenbourg, Munich 1986, ISBN 3-486-52891-2 .
  • Walter R. Roberts: Tito, Mihailovic, and the Allies. 1941-1945. New Brunswick 1973
  • Milovan Djilas: The Partisan War . Molden, Vienna [a. a.] 1978, ISBN 3-217-00771-9 .
  • Walter Manoschek: “Serbia is free of Jews”. Military occupation policy and the extermination of Jews in Serbia in 1941/42 . Oldenbourg, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-486-55974-5 .
  • Phyllis Auty, Richard Clogg (Ed.): British Policy towards Wartime Resistance in Yugoslavia an Greece. London [u. a.] 1975
  • Holm Sundhaussen: Occupation, collaboration and resistance in the countries of Yugoslavia 1941–1945 . In: Werner Röhr (ed.): Europe under the swastika. Occupation and collaboration (1938–1945) . Hüthig, Berlin / Heidelberg 1994. pp. 349-365, ISBN 3-8226-2492-6 .
  • Georg Wildmann , Hans Sonnleitner , Karl Weber, Leopold Barwich: Crimes against the Germans in Yugoslavia 1944–1948 . Donauschwäbische Kulturstiftung, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-926276-32-0
  • Olaf Ihlau : Blutrausch auf dem Balkan , in: Spiegel Geschichte , No. 3, 2010, June 1, 2010, pp. 48–51 ( online ).

Socialist Yugoslavia

  • Constitution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia . Published by the Secretariat for the Information Service of the Federal Assembly. Beograd 1974 (in the Serbo-Croatian original: Ustav Socijalističke Federativne Republike Jugoslavije )
  • Holm Sundhaussen : Yugoslavia and its successor states 1943–2011 : An unusual history of the ordinary, Böhlau, Vienna and others. 2012, ISBN 978-3-205-78831-7 .
  • Ivo Banac: The national question in Yugoslavia . Ithaca 1984, ISBN 0-8014-1675-2
  • Klaus Buchenau: Orthodoxy and Catholicism in Yugoslavia 1945–1991. A Serbian-Croatian comparison. (= Balkanological publications. 40). Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-447-04847-6
  • Vladimir Dedijer: Stalin's Lost Battle. Memoirs 1948–1953. Vienna [u. a.] 1970
  • Klaus-Detlev Grothusen (Ed.): Yugoslavia at the end of the Tito era . 2 volumes: 1. Foreign Policy ; 2. Domestic Policy . Munich 1983/1986, ISBN 0-253-20703-7 , 0-253-34794-7
  • Othmar Nikola Haberl: The emancipation of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia from the control of the Comintern / CPSU . Munich 1974, ISBN 3-486-47861-3
  • Hannelore Hamel (ed.): Workers' self-management in Yugoslavia . Munich 1974, ISBN 3-406-04913-3
  • Herbert Prokle: The way of the German minority Yugoslavia after the dissolution of the camps in 1948 . Munich 2008, ISBN 3-926276-77-0
  • Sabrina P. Ramet: Nationalism and federalism in Yugoslavia. 1962-1991. Bloomington [u. a.] 1992
  • Duncan Wilson : Tito's Yugoslavia . Cambridge 1979, ISBN 0-521-22655-4
  • Statistički godišnjak Jugoslavije . Beograd 1990
  • Wolfgang Libal: The end of Yugoslavia . Vienna [u. a.] 1993, ISBN 3-203-51204-1

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Monnesland, Land of No Return, p. 215.
  2. a b Klaus Schmider: The Yugoslav theater of war in: Karl-Heinz Frieser , Klaus Schmider, Klaus Schönherr , Gerhard Schreiber , Krisztián Ungváry , Bernd Wegner : The German Reich and the Second World War , Volume 8, The Eastern Front 1943/44: The War in the east and on the secondary fronts, on behalf of the MGFA ed. by Karl-Heinz Frieser, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt , Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-421-06235-2 , p. 1011.
  3. Michael Portmann and Arnold Suppan : Serbia and Montenegro in World War II (1941-1944e / 45) . In: Österreichisches Ost- und Südosteuropa-Institut (Ed.): Serbia and Montenegro: Space and Population, History, Language and Literature, Culture, Politics, Society, Economy, Law . LIT Verlag, Münster 2006, ISBN 3-8258-9539-4 . Pp. 274-275.
  4. ^ Mathias Beer: Flight and expulsion of the Germans. Requirements, course, consequences. Munich, 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-61406-4 , p. 91.
  5. ^ Igor Graovac, Human losses through the effects of war , in: Melčić, Dunja (ed.): The war in Yugoslavia. Handbook on Prehistory, Course and Consequences , 2nd edition, Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 978-3-531-33219-2 , pp. 185–191.
  6. ^ Table according to Graovac, in: Melčić, 2007, ISBN 978-3-531-33219-2 , p. 187.
  7. ^ Jad Adams: Women and the Vote. A world history. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2014, ISBN 978-0-19-870684-7 , page 438
  8. See Wolfgang Libal: Titos Saat. In the peaceful Yugoslavia of the communist marshal grew what is now bloody discharges. In: Die Zeit , No. 17/1999
  9. Bosko S. Vukcevich: Tito. Architect of Yugoslav disintegration . Rivercross Publications, New York 1994, ISBN 0-944957-46-3 , pp. 331 ff. (Chapter The Role of UDBA and KOS in 1948 and Afterwards ).
  10. ^ Pero Simic: Tito: Fenomen stoljeca . Ed .: Vecernji posebni proizvodi. Zagreb 2009, ISBN 978-953-7313-40-1 , p. 333-348 .
  11. Michael W. Weithmann estimates that by 1980 about 100 billion dollars flowed to Yugoslavia as direct aid and loans. See MW Weithmann: Balkan Chronicle. Regensburg ²1997, p. 447.
  12. Milovan Djilas: Nova klasa. Kritika savremenog komunizma. German and title: The new class. An analysis of the communist system. Munich 1958.
  13. Milovan Djilas: Tito. A critical biography. Fritz Molden, Vienna 1980, ISBN 3-217-01158-9 ; ders .: years of power. Play of forces behind the iron curtain. Memoirs 1945–1966. Munich 1983.
  14. ^ Slobodan Stanković: Final Results of Yugoslavia's 1971 Census, 1973 on Radio Free Europe , based on an article in the Yugoslav party newspaper Politika .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / www.osaarchivum.org  
  15. Czechs, Slovaks, Ruthenians, Bulgarians, Romanians and others.
  16. Over 3 percent of citizens (656,000 people) gave no information about their nationality or described themselves as Yugoslavs.
  17. Article 25, second sentence
  18. Peter Rehder (Ed.): The new Eastern Europe from AZ . Article Yugoslavia. Munich 1993, p. 289.
    Conditions, problems and policy of education in Yugoslavia , ed. v. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Directorate for Social Affairs, Manpower and Education. Paris 1981.
    Nikša Nikola Šoljan (Ed.): Higher education in Yugoslavia . Zagreb 1989 ISBN 86-7273-007-0 .
  19. So Montenegro had the same weight of votes as Serbia, which is 10 times more populous.
  20. ^ Howard J. Sherman: Socialism . In: JE King (Ed.): The Elgar Companion to Post Keynesian Economics . Second edition edition. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham UK - Northampton, MA, USA 2012, ISBN 978-1-84980-318-2 , pp. 497 .
  21. ^ Susan L. Woodward: Socialist Unemployment: The Political Economy of Yugoslavia, 1945-1990 . S. 199, 378 .
  22. January 23, 1990. Tagesschau (ARD) , January 23, 1990, accessed on June 12, 2017 .