Crnobrnja, Mihailo. The Yugoslav Drama. 2nd edition. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994.

1 = page number
“…” = quote of book text
“… “…” …” = text in quotation marks in book text
‘…’ = quote in book of another text (source)
[…] = my notes
= summary or paraphrase of book text



Good historical overview of sources and unfolding of the crisis.

6 Drawing on Ernest Renan’s definition of “nation” as “a spiritual principle, grown out of a long past of common struggle and sacrifice which manifests itself in a willingness to embrace present and future solidarity”:

“The spirit of Yugoslavism had to coexist with, or in spite of, the spirits of the various nations forming it. Yugoslavism did not emerge as a kind of melting-pot blend of the various nationalities composing it. There was an insufficient history of common struggle and sacrifice; the identification with Yugoslavia was not strong enough and daily made weaker by the aggressive propaganda of the nationalist champions…[T]he length and type of union that Yugoslavia represented was insufficient to cement firmly and unequivocally the willingness to embrace the present, and especially future solidarity.”

[Assumption is that it was possible there just wasn’t enough time and centrifugal forces prevailed over centripetal ones.]

9 “[N]othing about Yugoslavia is really easy.”

15 “Yugoslavia…was truly a country of condensed diversity.”

[Books tend to start with that observation.]

“Seven neighbors, 6 republics, 5 nations, 4 languages, 3 religions, 2 scripts, and 1 goal: to live in brotherhood and unity” was “a descriptive fable” whose message was that “Yugoslavia as a country is not only possible but destined for great deeds and prosperity. It was a message of confidence that the diversities had been mastered, that the centrifugal forces were in check, and that the word Jugoslavija…actually stood for unity.”

21 Question whether Yugoslavs should be treated as a nationality. Yes said those who believed that identification at the level of the federal state was possible and desirable. No said those who believed it suppressed national sentiments and smelled of Serbian domination.

22 In post-WWII censuses, Yugoslavs ranged from 3 to 6.2% of population.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was often called “little Yugoslavia” due to its diversity.

1991 census in BiH: 4.365M inhabitants, 43.7% Muslims (as a nation, vs. muslims as a religious group), 31.4% Serbs, 17.3% Croats, 5.5% Yugoslavs. 2.1% others

Only 3 districts (opštinas) were ethnically homogeneous to 95+ percent of one group: Posusje 99.% Croat), Cazin (97.5% Muslim), and Drvar (97.3% Serb); most were mixed.

23 16% of children were from mixed marriages, i.e. “any and all ethnic divisions in BiH cut not only through territories by also through families.”

GNP/capita 70-80% of YU average in post-war years

24 Tito’s Partisans’ HQ was in BiH for 2 years, so BiH was rewarded with its own republic in post-war Yugoslavia.

1991 census in Croatia: 4.76M population, 77.9% Croats, 12.2% Serbs (majority in 13 of 100 opstinas), 2.2% Yugoslavs, 1% Muslims, 7.7% others

GNP/capita 25-35% above YU average

27 1991 census in Macedonia: 2.034M population, 64.6% Macedonians, 21% Albanians, 4.8% Turks, 2.7% Roma, 2.2% Serbs, 4.7% others GNP/capita 55-60% of YU average

28 1991 census in Montenegro: 615K population, 68.1% Montenegrins, 14.6% Muslims, 9.3% Serbs, 6.6% Albanians, 4.2% Yugoslavs, 3.5% others GNP/capita 80% of average

29 1991 census in Slovenia: 1.963M population, 87.6% Slovene, 12.7% Croats, 2.4% Serbs, 1.4% Muslims, 5.9% others GNP/capita almost 60% above YU average

“If the Montenegrins are fiercely proud of their free and fighting spirit, the Slovenes are equally proud of sustaining and maintaining their language and culture under great Germanizing pressure.”

30 1991 census in Serbia: 9.792M population, 65.8% Serbs, 17.2% Albanians, 3.5% Hungarians, 3.3% Yugoslavs, 2.4% Muslims, 1.4% Montenegrins, 1.4% Roma, 1.1% Croats, 5.3% others

6.4M Serbs lived in Serbia, 1.4M in BiH, 580K in Croatia, 57K in Montenegro, 44K in Macedonia

32-33 GNP/capita 93-95% of YU average; Vojvodina 30-35% above average, Kosovo below 35% of average

34 Was Yugoslavia “a noble experiment in an inherently unstable part of Europe” or “an impossible task from the start”?

35 Every nation except Slovenia had a medieval state.

37-38 Both Serbs and Croats had a tendency to deal with other South Slavs as disguised nationals, i.e. Catholics and Muslims who spoke štokavian were Serbs (see Vuk Karadžić) and Orthodox and Muslims who lived on historic Croatia were Croats. Serbs based national revival on language, Croats on territory.

40 Parallel to Croatian national revival, Bishop Josip Strossmayer and others revived Yugoslavism: 1866 established Yugoslav Academy of Sciences in Zagreb, “the first institution ever to bear the Yugoslav name.”

Strossmayer wanted to united South Slavs in a post-Habsburg monarchy federal state. “Here, then, was for the first time a concept of joining together all South Slavs in a federation”

It didn’t work because of advocating also for Croatian right to statehood including Bosnia while Serbia was working to unite all Serbs, including Bosnian in their state.

“the idea of a South Slav state…went through ups and downs over the next few decades”

41 Croato-Serbian Coalition became the ruling party in Croatia, upheld a form of Yugoslavism called Croat and Serb national unity (narodno jedinstvo), albeit ill-defined as “unity in action”: Croats saw it as a way to create independent Croatia with Serbs’ help, Serbs as a way to unify all Serbs

Large segment of Croatian intelligentsia saw national unity as “unity in being” that would abolish Croatian right to statehood to “justify the natural right of the “Yugoslav nation” to establish a uninational Yugoslav state.” They interpreted jedinstvo not as unity but as oneness. “This interpretation became dominant and preached a new ideology of Yugoslavism as unitarism.” The ideology was Croatian in origin.

42 Quoting Milan Marjanović, Narod koji nastaje, Rijeka, 1913: “The Croat wants to live. The Serb is ready to die. [A Croatian’s aim is] to understand, [the Serb’s] to be able to do more. Croatdom represents statics, Serbdom dynamics. Croatdom is the potential and Serbdom the kinetic energy of the people, Croatdom is reflection, Serbdom is action.”

43 Stjepan Radić (Croatian Peasants Party) advocated unification of South Slavs withing the monarchy.

43-44 Slovenes’ goal was language-based unification of Slovenes within Habsburg empire. Cooperation with Croats and Serbs didn’t start until end of WWI when the end of the monarchy was clear.

46 Yugoslav Committee established at the beginning of WWI by “anti-Habsburg Croats who sought a Yugoslav state” Frane Supilo and Ante Trumbić. They sought Yugoslav unity of Croats, Slovenes, and Serbs first on basis of national rights and critical of Serbia’s expansion, then dependent on Serbia’s success in liberation of territories.

47 Corfu Declaration, 1917: “stated the determination of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes to form a united and independent state that would be a “constitutional, democratic, and parliamentary monarchy headed by the Karadjordjević dynasty.”” A compromise between the position of Yugoslav Committee and Nikola Pašić. Recognized 3 national names, flags and religions, and 2 alphabets.

48 Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes established December 1, 1918.

“Yugoslavia was created out of, and one could say in spite of, strong national ideologies and policies. Though blended into a new state, these did not cease to exert some centrifugal force, even when the official and dominant ideology became centralist.”

49 “But it would be wrong to say that it was created against the will of the people. The people in the proper sense of the word were never asked.”

“It would perhaps be wrong and certainly exaggerated to say that unification was simply imposed in the aftermath of the war by the victorious Entente powers….But it would be against historical evidence to claim that Yugoslavia would never have existed had it not been for the pressure of the big powers at Versailles.”

“the new unitary state was cursed with the task of accommodating” Serbs who fought and sacrificed in 3 wars with politically articulated programs of Croats.

“A problem that was glossed over but would return to take a tall was the absence of clearly written rights, responsibilities, and obligations of the different nations creating Yugoslavia.” This facilitated Serbian hegemony in 1st Yugoslavia.

50 “Serbia did not want Yugoslavia as strongly as Croatia did [and] the Yugoslavia that Croatia obtained was not exactly the Yugoslavia it was looking for. The other nations, Montenegrins, Slovenes, and Macedonians, played a secondary role, if at all, at this stage.”

“The whole effort was conducted primarily on the basis of political and security [i.e. not economic] concerns.”

“the newly created country, though not artificial, did not have a very sound structure.”

55 In the 1920 election, “political divisions principally crystallized along the lines of support or opposition to centralism…” Centralists won a plurality of the vote; Communists came third.

57 Soon after the election, Communist Party was banned and went into hiding. “This significantly reduced its scope of operation but also helped it to develop a strong anti-centralist stance.”

58 Monarchy years saw frequent changes of government (39) and elections every 2 years.

59 When the King proclaimed absolute rule in 1929, with the help of “the army, civil servants, and some political leaders from Serbia and Croatia, the king went on to execute his program of integral Yugoslavism…a high point of the “oneness” of the newly emerging Yugoslav nation…”

60 Name change from Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes to Yugoslavia. Geographic rather than national administrative units (banovina), with the only one where ethnic boundaries corresponded with administrative ones being Slovenia (Dravska banovina).

The “forcible Yugoslav national unification” engendered opposition.

61 In an agreement between the centralist government and Croatian opposition, the Croat banovina was created as “the first territorial unit within Yugoslavia that was based on the ethnic, that is, national principle. This was the first time in 20 years that the national problem of Yugoslavia had been approached from a different perspective, with an eye to national diversities rather than by attempting to disguise them with unitarian policies.”

62 The Communist Party of Yugoslavia was “truly Yugoslav” with organized units in every part of the country.

63 Given the political structures of the new state, “the inbuilt but nevertheless genuine pluralism of Yugoslavia, and its diversity of cultures, barely stood a chance of being properly accommodated.”

Denial of national individuality within unitarist Yugoslavism “facilitated the establishment of centralism as a form of state organization,” which the Serbs liked but which “left a big crack in the foundations of this new state.”

National unity and integral Yugoslavism “could not withstand the reality of a multinational state.”

64 “[I]in insisting on putting everything into one unitarist “supranational” mould, Crown and government merely irritated sensitivities and helped to complete the process of national identification…”

However, none of those who were unsatisfied sought solutions outside Yugoslavia.

That various nations of Yugoslavia nurtured links amidst divisions meant that “even an ill-conceived Yugoslavia had some raison d’etre.”

67 5th Communist Party conference “laid foundations of “an all-Yugoslav struggle,” based on the principle of federal unity within the party.”

68 “Together with the patriotic slogan of fighting against the invading enemy came the battle cry for a better and more just future for the people and nations of Yugoslavia. Tito managed, for the first time in their history, to bring together in significant numbers all Yugoslav nations in a fight for a common cause.” This brought the partisans/Communists in conflict with both Ustašas and Četniks.

29 November 1943 meeting of Council of the Anti-Fascist Alliance of Yugoslavia set foundations of post-war Yugoslavia as a federation of 6 republics.

69 Slogan “brotherhood and unity” advanced because Tito “was fully aware that there would be no Yugoslavia without the constituent parts looking towards rather than away from each other.” And also that pre-war “oneness” was not realistic so that “his unity was a unity in action of ethnic groups, not a symbiosis into an artificial supranational “nationality”, so much that those feeling and identifying themselves as Yugoslav nationals were mildly discouraged from it. The emphasis was on “brotherhood,” which is to say equality and mutual respect of nations.”

The Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) encouraged national reconciliation and quickly shut down any manifestations of national discord.

70 Though a federation, Yugoslavia has a “central non-state source of power: the CPY.” This led to conflicting views of centralization in post-Tito years: federation vs party.

76 Tito’s Yugoslavia: “The national question, except for a few isolated instances, did not raise its ugly head.” Standard of living, quality of life, and life expectancy rose, as did a sense of freedom. Though constantly changing, the system “generated…a sense of confidence in a better tomorrow.”

“A British observer once stated that she had “never been in a country with so much freedom and so little democracy”

77 “Tito was just as much a product of Yugoslavia as he was the moving force behind its re-creation. He brought and held Yugoslavia together.”

121 JNA = Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija

“The JNA was, right up to the crisis and the outbreak of war, fiercely Titoist and devoted to the preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia. It was visibly present in the political life of Yugoslavia, notably the CPY, the Socialist Alliance, the Federal Presidency, and parliament….As there appeared to be less and less of Yugoslavia, the JNA tried to fill the void by maintaining the integrity of Yugoslavia. However, it resisted throughout the temptation to take over and show decisively who was the only remaining “integrative force” in Yugoslavia.

[T]he army was loyal to the party and accepted Communism as its official ideology….The side it would eventually support was naturally the one that did not attack the values the JNA held in high esteem, particularly the unity and integrity of Yugoslavia.”

122 “The army was very energetically pro-Yugoslav. Yugoslavia had provided its raison d’etre, had always been generous…The officer corps led a relatively privileged life by Yugoslav standards and had every reason to support the idea of a JNA serving a unified and integrated Yugoslavia. Tito used to point out that the JNA was one of the true melting pots in which the sense and feeling of Yugoslavism was created. This feeling lingered on in the JNA long after his death.”

[Need to interview former JNA officers in every republic. Serbs and Montenegrins were disproportionately represented among officers due to the esteem such a career traditionally held in those nations of fighters.]

123 Because the army considered itself “an executive organ of a political bureaucracy” it found the country’s disintegration to be a confusing event.

“The JNA…in insisting rigidly and unyieldingly on controlling the means by Yugoslavia was held together” provoked mistrust in Slovenia and Croatia. “In its supporting role the JNA was primarily in favour of preserving Yugoslavia. As the political substance and content of the old Titoist federation slipped away and as Serbian views of what Yugoslavia ought to be gradually filled the emptying shell, the JNA was drawn into support of the Serbian view, and thus, finally, of Serbian politics.”

143 “The political inertia of Yugoslavia during the 1980s had…reduced the party’s role and created deep cracks within it. It was still nominally tied to the principle of “democratic centralism,” but in fact it was already largely confederalized.”

224 “[T]he destruction of Yugoslavia was not inevitable….Yugoslavia was not an artificial creation destined to disintegrate once the authoritarian power that held it together was no longer there.”

225 “[I]t was created twice and…the opposition…to its creation was symbolic, while the political forces in favour were overwhelming.”

“Yugoslavia could not be constructed and held together on the “fear of Yugoslavia.””

226 In late 1980’s and early 1990’s, “instead of all efforts being directed towards maintaining the viability of Yugoslavia, suddenly the main emphasis was placed on securing a better position within Yugoslavia.” i.e. a zero-sum game. “The immediately available political tool in this game was to exploit differences. But since the differences in Tito’s Yugoslavia had been made smaller not only in propaganda but in fact, now the reverse had to be practised…”

“It should be noted that before the crisis broke out, no political force in Yugoslavia, not even the Slovenes, considered the maintenance of Yugoslavia and impossibility. The objective was to change it. This would seem to suggest that integrationist forces within Yugoslavia were indeed strong and a split was not imminent.”

“Since nobody at that stage challenged Yugoslavia as such, the logical course of action was to proclaim one’s own interpretation of Yugoslavia the only correct one and simultaneously to accuse the other side of being anti-Yugoslav….Political actions grew manifestly contrary to the logic of life in a common state. Instead of identifying a commonality of interests, energy was increasingly used to point out, even create, differences. The complex Yugoslav state could never be made operational by suppressing or ignoring the differences. But it gradually became totally dysfunctional because the differences were interpreted politically as plots, conspiracies of the “other” side.”