There are surprisingly few polls across former Yugoslavia tracking people’s perception of that disappeared country and its breakup.

“Na današnji dan umro je Tito, a mi smo pitali mlade Srbe šta misle o Jugoslaviji. Odgovori su nas iznenadili (VIDEO),” Blic, 5/4/2019

Informal survey of Belgrade university students born after 1995, following up on the 2017 Gallup poll. Respondents tend to perceive Yugoslavia positively, as a period where life was better than today.

Milan Krstić, from the Political Science Faculty, says people who lived in Yugoslavia are nostalgic for it because they are nostalgic for their youth, whereas people born afterward are nostalgic or yearn for the stability that country offered.

2016 Gallup Poll: Many in Balkans Still See More Harm From Yugoslavia Breakup

A 2016 Gallup poll shows that perceptions regarding Yugoslavia’s breakup vary by former republic, by ethnicity, and by age.

Perhaps as could be expected, the citizens of Serbia, politically dominant in the former Yugoslavia, rue Yugoslavia’s demise the most, at 81%, and Croatia’s and Kosovo’s the least, at 23% and 10%, respectively.

Similarly, Serbs, regardless of their current country of residence, feel Yugoslavia’s breakup was harmful to their country.

And finally, also as can be expected, older people, of near-retirement and retirement age, feel the most harmed by the country’s breakup.

In their interpretation of poll results, authors write

“Many residents of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia feel its breakup 25 years ago harmed their country. These residents may be mourning the loss of the benefits that socialism provided or be frustrated with the current high unemployment rate, the loss of income, or the lost illusion of peaceful coexistence among different groups. Given the differences in opinions by age, it seems many residents who can remember Yugoslavia view the past in a more favorable light compared with the present political and economic realities. Yugo-nostalgia may fade, but ethnic minorities may continue to see the past in a positive light as a time of multi-ethnic tolerance.”

2015 Moje Vrijeme Poll: Croatia and BiH agree: Life Was Better in SFRY

A 2015 poll by the Croatian magazine Moje Vrijeme* found that Croatian middle-aged (45+) and older citizens and even more so their peers in Bosnia and Herzegovina “romanticize” Yugoslavia: 86 percent of Croats and 92 percent of Bosnians surveyed think things were better or much better in Yugoslavia. And while the former lament the lost values ​​of the socialist system, the latter highlighted its superior social security.

As many as 74 percent of Croatian and 87 percent of Bosnian respondents over the age of 45 say they could live in a one-party political system. Of the things they value the most about Yugoslavia (or those that were valued more back then than they are now), Croats and Bosnians both most often cited job security (88% and 86% respectively). Croats then cited public health (78%), friendship (72%), economic security (72%) and solidarity (71%), while Bosnians education (85%), public health (83%), friendship and economic security (82% each).

As many as 40 percent of Croatian and 65 percent of Bosnians respondents think Josip Broz Tito was a positive persona, while only 8 percent of Croats and 3 percent of Bosnians say he was a dictator; 51 percent of Croats and 31 percent of Bosnians think both good and bad should be taken into account about him.

14 percent of Croats and 51 percent of Bosnians citizens over the age of 45 openly say that they are Yugonostalgics.

* It is unclear whether the poll was simply an online poll on the website or a representative survey; the former is more likely.

2009 Poll of Young Generations

Sergej Flere and Andrej Kirbiš’s poll, in 2009, of university students in the former Yugoslav republics found that, “respondents who grew up a generation after its dissolution predominantly assessed this state as a political entity in favourable terms. Only the respondents from Kosovo gave Yugoslavia scores lower than 8 of the 15 points maximum.”

Furthermore, “The two ethnic groups that had developed the fiercest and most long-lasting anti-Yugoslav movements, the Kosovo Albanians and the Croats, display the most negative assessments of Yugoslavia today. Positive [attitudes towards Yugoslavia] are lowest in Kosovo, followed by Croatia, which are the two entities where the dominant ethnic groups nurtured secessionist movements for the longest, including during the interwar period. Serbs from Serbia (in contrast to the Serbs from the Republika Srpska) have a rather poor opinion of Yugoslavia. Furthermore, it seems that Serbs (from Serbia) and Macedonians view Yugoslavia as a safe refuge.”

In terms of respondents’ political leanings, “those favouring Yugoslavia mostly have a modernist stand and are not clinging to values of the past that may well be associated with ethno-nationalism;” “generally leftist orientations are associated with a pro-Yugoslav attitude.”

Finally, in terms of what aspect of Yugoslavia people supported

  • In Macedonia, “positive views on traditionalism and authoritarianism are significantly associated with a pro-Yugoslav position. This is at variance with the findings for Slovenia and Croatia, where positive views on Yugoslavia are associated with an “authentic”, “normative” leftism that is devoid of its authoritarian and repressive characteristics and supportive of egalitarian views.
  • In Montenegro, “significant support for traditionalism and economic egalitarianism [in Yugoslavia] seems to be typical for the culture of this country.
  • In Croatia, there is a very strong association between the pro-Yugoslav position and leftism.
  • In Kosovo, respondents with positive attitudes toward Yugoslavia displayed three significant positive associations: (anti-)traditionalism, economic egalitarianism, and a particularly leftist orientation.

Overall, “Yugoslavia seems to be favoured in most post-Yugoslav states for its perceived social justice and by people with leftist leanings. In Macedonia and Serbia, it is favoured by those who emphasize security aspects and support authoritarianism.”

More in “The Image of Yugoslavia among Post-Yugoslav Youth in 2009,” Südosteuropa 59 (2011).

2003 Nacional Poll: Greatest Croats in History

In 2003, a 5-week poll by the Nacional newspaper of 7,779 people (6507 online, 520 by SMS text message, 752 by mail) found 26 percent of readers considered Tito to be the greatest Croat in history, while 21% thought it was Nikola Tesla; the third place personality, the 18th century physicist Ruđer Bošković, received less than half of 2nd place votes.

Polls in Slovenia

In their paper “The Image of Yugoslavia among Post-Yugoslav Youth in 2009,” Südosteuropa 59 (2011), Sergej Flere and Andrej Kirbiš mention the Slovenian Youth ‘93 survey which “showed that the (democratic) Slovenian government was less favourably assessed by respondents as compared to Tito’s partisan movement of World War II, one of the main symbols of socialist Yugoslavia.” The reference is Mirjana Ule / Vlado Miheljak, Prihodnost mladine Ljubljana 1995, 200. And, “[a]nother study, interestingly, even shows an assessment of the former socialist political system as more favourable than that of the present democratic political system When asked to compare the former Yugoslav and the present post-Yugoslav economic systems, those questioned responded in a similar manner. The reference is Ivan Bernik / Brina Malnar, Barriers Of Democratic Consolidation, in: Niko Toš / Karl H Müller (eds ), Political Faces of Slovenia Ljubljana, Vienna 2005, 123-147, 126.