Yugoslavia (Part 2)

Tom Condit tomcondit at igc.apc.org
Fri Aug 11 23:50:12 MDT 1995

I'm leaving to catch a plane in less than 12 hours, eight of
which I'd like to spend sleeping, and I'm not packed yet, so
these notes are going to be even more rushed than the previous


When the allies divvied up the spoils after World War I, the
Serbian got their share in the form of a newly-created "Kingdom
of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes", later changed to "Kingdom of
Yugoslavia."  Despite the name, it was dominated from top to
bottom by Serbs, an extension of the old Serbian state.  The
Serbian people had suffered horrific casualties in the war (I've
seen an estimate of 1/4 the population killed), but got little
other than a few bureaucratic jobs for the middle class.  The
Communists elected about 25 people to the new parliament.
Naturally, the rules were changed and they were outlawed.


The Croats set up their first state in the tenth century, and got
conquered by the Hungarians in 1097.  They were later absorbed
into the Hapsburg Empire along with Hungary.  Croat nationalism
was very slow to develop--A.J.P. Taylor, in his book on the fall
of the Hapsburg empire says that the Croatian Diet was still
debating in Latin as late as 1844.  Taylor contrasts this with
the Bohemian and Moravian nobility, many of them of Spanish or
Scottish descent, who "learned Czech from their stable boys" in
order to invest their particularist demands with a veneer of
democracy.  In the interim, the Croat peasantry were a fertile
source of soldiers for the Hapsburgs.  (I've seen it alleged that
the word "cravat" comes from the scarves worn by Croat
mercenaries who occupied Paris on some occasion.)

When the Hungarians revolted against the Hapsburgs in 1848, the
Croats were mobilized in support of the emperor.  (Odd how little
love rural people seem to have for the landlords and notables one
step up from them, isn't it?)  Marx and Engels bitterly
fulminated against Croat war against the Hungarians.  They had a
low regard for the nationalisms of east-central Europe in
general, regarding them as hopelessly mired in superstition and
usually pawns of the great powers.  (In an essay in support of
Polish independence, Engels specifically contrasts it with those
movements and states that the phrase "the right of nations to
self-determination" was invented by Louis Bonaparte as a cover
for French imperialism.)  Following the creation of the "Austro-
Hungarian Empire" and the conversion of the Hapsburg emperor into
the King and Emperor, Croatia received the status of being a
"Crown Land" within Hungary.  Just what the hell that entailed I
don't know, but I don't think much.

After the creation of Yugoslavia, there was considerable
malcontent among Croatian notables and the emergence of modern
Croatian nationalism.  To the best of my knowledge, there was
never anything remotely progressive about any form of Croatian
nationalism.  Even Ernest Mandel and the United Secretariat of
the Fourth International, ever eager to extend "critical support"
to real or imagined nationalist movements of every type, never
found a left wing of Croatian nationalism to court.  (Lest you
think the last sentence overpolemical, reflect on the fact that
one fragment of the F.I. even tried to revive Cornish, a language
whose last native speaker died in 1776.)

When the Axis powers invaded Yugoslavia during World War II, they
set up a Croatian puppet regime which others on this list have
already given an outline of.  It was a thoroughly vicious, nasty
little fascist outfit which carried out genocidal policies
against Serbs (about 200,000 killed by most accounts), Gypsies,
Jews, etc., etc.  After the defeat of the Axis, little fragments
of this Ustashe carried out terrorist attacks in Europe and North
America at least up into the 1970s.  For Franco Tudjman (I know
that's not his real name, but that's how I think of him) to play
with this name today tells you a lot about Germany's latest
friend in the Balkans.


The Serbian monarchists and fascists were allied with the "West",
as they had been during World War I.  (They didn't have much
choice.)  The monarchists mostly kept their fascist pals as
junior partners in the Chetniks, the right wing Serbian guerilla
force which couldn't decide most of the time whether it wanted to
fight the Germans or the Partisans, and kept maneuvering between
them, making temporary alliances and generally eroding its
credibility with everyone except the governments of the U.S. and
Britain.  The fact that the Serbian right (a) held no territorial
power during World War II and (b) was part of the "Allies" has
given "left" apologists for Serb nationalism a great chance to go
on about Croatian fascism and its atrocities, the tiny Bosnian
S.S. units (two battalions, inflated into "two divisions" by Sean
Gerassi), etc., as if Serbs were entirely and by nature "the good
guys."  Tain't so, McGee.

More later, I hope.

Tom Condit

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