1. AN UNEASY FEDERATION
The building blocks of the Yugoslavia nation rested on several factors, peculiar to its distinct socio-political development: Yugoslavia was the motherland of different ethnic and religious groups, whose history with one another and socio-economic inequalities did not make it particularly easy for Croats, Serbs and Slovenes to coexist. Tito acted not only as a political leader, but also as the Yugoslav nation’s father—guardian—strove to mediate ethnic differences and whose initiatives provided the constitutional glue to stick different cultures and religion within a federation.
Yugoslavia ruled over demographically mixed ethnic communities, and faced the challenge of nationalism: the imbalance in the ethno-national composition of the multinational federation and political and economic inequalities between across different nations can encourage other ethnically mixed regions or republics to claim the right to self-determination and avoid the potential domination of the state authority. The collapse of the Soviet Union and weakening of socialism’s ideological sovereignty raised fundamental and profound “questions about Yugoslavia’s existence as a state” (Vujacic 1996). The advent of free elections in 1990 and the breakdown of the Yugoslav communist regime had been the culmination of what had already been going on for more than a decade in Yugoslavia following Tito’s death.
1.1 A Federation of Republics
In Yugoslavia, the basic political-administrative units—the republics—were organized along ethnic lines and were seen as the quasi-national homelands of the titular nations (Vujacic 1996). Tito’s Yugoslavia was characterized by the centralization of power within the realms of the Communist party. To consolidate the control of the party and ensure the political status quo of the federation, Tito sought to weaken Serbia, he turned “Southern Serbia” into the Republic of Macedonia; established Montenegro as one of Yugoslav republics (Isakovkic 2000: 124). From its original conception, the Yugoslav state had to confront the issue of nationalism, from its humble origins during the Second World War when Tito made concessions and dealt with the interests of different ethnic groups in the Partisans movement. The state was similar to a bargaining agreement between different republics, and hence more vulnerable to issues of ethnic strife and nationalism.
In Yugoslavia, each republic had its own communist party, government structures, cultural institutions such as academies of science and unions, and residents were encouraged to maintain local languages (Vujacic 1996). The republics were also the main units of economic central planning, which analyzed the level of economic development of each republic and redistributed resources accordingly. This redistribution policy—carried out in the name of the ‘friendship of peoples’ and the ‘brotherhood and unity’ (Vujacic 1996). In addition to the three original groups identified when the first Yugoslavia was set up, the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, two more groups, the Macedonians and Montenegrins, were given the status of constitute state-forming nations of Yugoslavia (Hilde 2012: 88).
Although the Communist Party program indicated a trend toward a socialist trend, encouraging the idea of a “community of peoples”, but in the early 1960s such idea was rejected as citizens were expected to declare their ethnic affiliation (Halpern & Kideckel 2000: 43). During the Sixth Congress of the KPJ, even some ideas on socialist democracy and decentralization became enshrined into the Party’s resolution and statute. Certain forces in the Party, including Tito himself, were sceptical about the new definition of the role of the KPJ and thought the liberalization process went too fast (Hilde 2012: 139). The Yugoslav leaders expressed a preference towards the further rapprochement between the people of Yugoslavia, but specified that this would not happen through “any form of forced assimilation” (Hilde 2012: 141).
1.2 The Yugoslav Constitution
Article 19 of the Yugoslav constitution mentions the rights of nationalities in Yugoslavia, stating that ‘nationalities in the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia’ enjoy the right and protection to their culture and language (Isakovkic 2000: 89). The Yugoslav federation was constructed on a dual concept of sovereignty, the sovereignty of the republics and the sovereignty of the peoples. This approach was replaced by the concept of a Yugoslav commonwealth, in which ethnic groups were given home rule and the right to national and cultural affirmation and in that way they were at least theoretically granted the important elements of protection of their identities (Isakovkic 2000: 124). Article 1 of the 1946 constitution stated that the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia is a ‘Federal Peoples’ State, republican in form, a Community of Peoples equal in rights, who, on basis of the right to self-determination, including the right to secession, have expressed their will” within a broader state (Isakovkic 2000: 89). All decisions concerning the borders and republics reflected attempts by the communists to create a balance between the different national groups, to prevent the dominance of one ethnic group over another, and keep the communist party’s promise of national equality made to the different groups in seeking their support during the Second World War (Isakovkic 2000: 113).
Yugoslavia was a multi-national federation comprising the ‘nations’ of Yugoslavia: Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Montenegrins, Macedonians and Muslims (Hudson 2003: 50). Constitutional changes, from the first constitution in 1946 onwards, reveal about the changes that were taking place within the federal republic, and help to clarify developments during the Tito years. The 1946 Yugoslav constitution instituted a federal structure with a strong central power, legitimized by popular support and the partisan struggle (Hudson 2003: 51). In 1953, the constitution was amended to institutionalize self-management. The Federal Council and the Council of Nationalities merged and a Council of Producers was introduced, reducing the weight of the representation of nationalities under the name of creating a greater socialist nation. In 1963, the constitution developed ‘social self-management’, giving power to communes and republics and self-managing structures within the economy (Hudson 2003: 51).
The federal and constitutional measures were foremost formal constructions introduced as practical measures to ensure national equality, and settle national contentions. Separate nation-states were out of question. The introduction of a new socialist and federal system, and granting formal self-determination to different groups was seen as sufficient to ‘solve the national question’ (Hilde 2012: 113). Tito’s main focus was to secure the leading position of the communist party within Yugoslavia as well as building a new Yugoslavia (Hilde 2012: 114). Political organizations such as Agitpop worked as an efficient watchdog, keeping a keen eye on cultural activities throughout Yugoslavia, and maintaining strict censorship over what were deemed non-acceptable cultural activities (Hilde 2012: 123). Yugoslavia was to be governed by the genuine leasing role of the working class—based on workers’ economic control through workers’ council by genuine decentralization as a guarantee against political monopoly at the centre. This was to be achieved by giving real power to local government organs, with a higher state organ controlled by deputies responsible and responsive to them. Hence, ‘a clear and consistent course of socialist democratisation’ could be ensured (Hilde 2012: 137).
1.3 External Shockwaves & Domestic Challenges
Tito’s heirs were not as successful in meeting the challenges of nationalism amidst the outbreak of the economic crisis in the 1970s and 1980s. The Republic of Croatia and Serbia held an important place in Yugoslavia; their decisions and interests disproportionately influenced the decision-making of politics in Yugoslavia and outcome of the distribution of resources across the republics. Each republic has the legal right to choose among the diverse options of state structure: loose or centralized federation, confederation or incomplete independence (Lukic & Lynch 1996: 18). Tito’s concessions to the Yugoslav republics in the mid-1960s placed constraints on the use of terror by the state “to cultivate a degree of decentralization necessary for the modernization of the economy” (Lukic & Lynch 1996: 50). The existence of ethnic-territorial structures of political and economic authority created a balance of power on the central authority of the state (Lukic & Lynch 1996: 50). In the face of the Yugoslav declining economic performance, such ethnic-territorial authorities pushed for a greater decentralization and influence in the decision-making of economic and later political decisions (Lukic & Lynch 1996: 50).
1.4 Breaking the Federation
Slovenia and Croatia considered that their national interests could no longer be met by the Yugoslav central state and “continued membership in the Yugoslav federation” could only hinder the revival of their economies in the wake of the economic recession of the 1980s (Lukic & Lynch 1996: 18). Advocators of the republic as the source of sovereignty claimed that the interests of the federal state reflect the sum of the individual interests of the republics; supporters of the federalist conception of sovereignty maintained that the federal interests superimpose over the interests of the republics (Lukic & Lynch 1996: 19). Milosevic’s draft of the Constitutional System of Yugoslavia on a Federal Basis retained centralized control of policy-making; national leaders of the republics opposed the constitution and sought to establish sovereign states, “seeing negotiations with the central powers as futile” (Lukic & Lynch 1996: 19). Croatia and Slovenia struggled to reach an agreement on restructuring Yugoslavia as a confederation with the other republics, and decided to proclaim independence (Lukic & Lynch 1996: 30).
- Quote paper
- De Zhong Gao (Author), 2013, Serbian Irredentism in Croatia, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/265273