To Ikica, Mime, and Andja
Since the creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in 1918 (Yugoslavia after 1929) the Croatian question has been that state’s Achilles’s heel. The new state was founded on a mixture of the romantic idea of South Slavism, and on the resistance against the Habsburg, Magyar, and Italian domination. But most of all it was a by-product of the post-World War I settlement in Europe. For many Croatians, there has been a constant feeling that the new state was the “result of a quirk of history” and not of their own national wishes or in their best interests. In an interview in 1973, the best known Croatian writer and a life-long Marxist, late Miroslav Krleža, described the unification of the South Slavic state in the following way:
In 1918, we got together like a flock of geese. It was necessary to draw a line from Finland to the Adriatic, in relation to the Western countries…. And they [in the West] put us together, but without having the slightest idea what they were doing. They united us like a flock of geese.
Despite the fact that the idea of “Yugoslavism” had been nurtured most of all among the Croatians, they entered the new state with a well developed sense of their own nationhood. It was this sense of nationhood the Belgrade government, controlled by the Serbian dynasty and bureaucracy, became so eager to crash. Because of their striving for independence, the Croatians came into conflict not only with the Belgrade regime but also with the idea of a Yugoslav state itself. Even those among the Croatians who were actively involved in the creation of the state, were soon disappointed. Frano SupiIo, Ante Trumbić, Ivan Meštrović, all of whom were leading Croatians in the Yugoslav Committee and who worked for a South Slavic unity at one point or another had to realize the futility of their endeavor. Even Svetozar Pribićević, the leading Serb politician in Croatia in the 1920s and once a fierce supporter of Yugoslav unity and Karadjordjević policies, became a staunch opponent of the Belgrade regime.
The main reason for the disaffection with the regime and the state was that the political leaders of the various nations had radically different ideas as to how the Yugoslav state should be organized. Croatian pro-Yugoslavs, as well as their Slovene partners, who had advocated the break up of the Habsburg empire, envisioned a federalist system for the new country. They were for “a single Yugoslav state organized on a federative basis.” Soon after the creation of the unified state, Stjepan Radić, who had not opposed the Yugoslav state in principle but who had questioned the hasty unification and its unclear conditions, directed all his political activities toward achieving a neutral Croatian republic. The Croatian Peasant party, led by Radić, became the major political force in inter-war Croatia because of its social and political ideology and especially because of its struggle for national and individual rights. However, because of his political activities Radić was assassinated in Belgrade’s Skupština (parliament) in 1928, which then led to the radicalization of Croatian political life. The Cvetković-Maček Agreement (Sporazum) of 1939 finally granted Croatia a certain amount of autonomy. The agreement, however, was made with a European war about to begin. The agreement had come too late and promised too little to prevent the break up of the country. Its aftermath was a bloody war between different national groups, mainly between the Serbs and the Croatians.
The Serbs conceived the unified state from a different historical, political, and cultural perspective. Their conception included the following points: the myth of Kosovo, liberation from the Turks, establishment of a national state in 1878, a national dynasty, the tradition of centralized rule closely tied with a national Orthodox church, the ideology of expansionism (as outlined by a Serbian politician Ilija Garašanin in his 1844 Načertanije, and the expectation that Serbia would be generously rewarded for her war efforts on the side of the Allies. The Allied victory in 1918 became an opportune time to fulfill Garašanin’s grand design of creating a Greater Serbia. But because of Russia’s withdrawal from the War, Serbian political leaders lost their chief protector. The “Yugoslav solution” offered in Paris was accepted by that leadership only as the second best option for Serbian national interests. During the inter-war period, the Serbian favorable political position and military strength would be used to implement many of Garašanin’s ideas of Great Serbianism.
During the immediate post-World War II period, the Yugoslav Communist Party, which took over the power, officially declared that the national problem in Yugoslavia had been resolved. The common war effort, the federalist organization of the state, and, most of all, the new proletarian consciousness had put an end to it. Many people in the West concurred. It was believed that one of Tito’s greatest accomplishments was his solution of the national problem in post-war Yugoslavia. Some claimed that Tito, by granting a “cultural autonomy” to the nations in Yugoslavia, succeeded in bringing peace to the Balkans. Others argued that “the major immediate cause of the interwar conflict-the attempt of the Serbs to exercise hegemony over the whole country-has almost certainly disappeared forever.” Furthermore, it was asserted that Tito, as the “symbol of national unity” was popular enough to keep all nations in Yugoslavia content. Thus, to many foreign observers in the Fifties and Sixties “it seemed that the nationality problem had been permanently laid to rest.” However, the Croatian national movement in the late Sixties and early Seventies indicated that the national question in Yugoslavia had not been resolved. Twenty years after the revolution, Tito himself was forced to admit that the national question had been solved only “in principle” but that “material and political content needed to be added.”
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No monograph or historical work has thus far been published on the Croatian national movement in the late Sixties and early Seventies. A number of articles and books which touch upon the issue of Croatian nationalism have been written in the West since 1972. But these generally deal with Yugoslavia’s political, social, economic, or national problems in general. The only work dealing with the mass movement in Croatia per se is Dennison I. Rusinow’s four part Field Report published between June and September 1972. Most of the published material on the subject has been written by political and social scientists. As a result, the authors’ primary concern has been the immediate political and social effects of the Croatian national movement upon the country as a whole. A common feature of these works is their evaluation of the Croatian national movement from the perspective of the East-West relations. The unity and stability of Yugoslavia is presumed to be sine qua non for the status quo of the geopolitical balance in Europe, and thus any “excessive decentralization” has been valued as negative. Even those who considered the movement as liberal and humanistic, conclude that the leaders of the movement went too far in their demands, thus threatening the stability of the country. This approach has brought most political observers in the West very close to the official Yugoslav view concerning the events in Croatia, without, however, condoning the means by which the Party implemented its policy in the post-1971 period. Thus, the mass movement in Croatia has been seen by most of these scholars in a negative light and has been judged as “dangerous romantic nationalism.”
In Yugoslavia itself, only two books (by the same author) and a small number of articles have been published on the subject. These works basically reflect the official Party line in the post-1971 period.
In this work, I am approaching the subject from a different perspective. I will try to look at the movement itself, at its causes, its development, its nature, and its goals. I will also examine the roles of the Party, of the intellectuals, of the students as well as of other national elements. The main purpose of this study is, therefore, to understand how the national forces in Croatia from 1966 to 1972 viewed themselves and their nation at that time, and what their vision of Croatia’s future was. The main sources I used were written by participants in the movement during that period: a few sources are from the post-l971 era and mostly published in the West.18 I hope that this approach will shed some new light on the latest national revival among the Croatians and give some new insight into the national question in Yugoslavia as a whole.
At the moment when Tito shattered the Croatian national movement at the end of 1971, the internal and external advocates of the status quo and those who perceived the movement as a great danger for the country and its system were thankful that Tito was still alive. It was believed that the old man had saved the country once again. Some foreign observers went even further and hailed the purges and imprisonments in Croatia as a “thoroughly democratic step.”
The ultimate power in the country was still in Tito’s hands and he remained the final arbiter until his death. But the fact that the fate of the. country was contingent on the will and destiny of a single person has had a profound effect on the country, after he left the scene. Tito’s absolutist powers covered up a multitude of the country’s unresolved problems and weaknesses. And as soon as he died, the papered-over cracks began to appear and the country has been faced with severe economic, political, social, psychological, moral, and intra-national crises.
The events in Yugoslavia from 1972 until the present can be divider into two basic periods: before and after Tito’s death. The overwhelming concern in the country during the first period (1972-1980) was to tighten Party discipline and Party control of society, and to devise an adequate mechanism that would insure a peaceful succession of power at the moment of Tito’s death. In this respect the regime was successful. But the events that followed Tito’s death indicated that the smooth transition of power in 1980 was deceptive. The country could not sustain itself on the basis of the inertia of the past. One could even say with some certainty that the post-Tito Yugoslavia has been on the road to the unknown. But more significant is the fact that the country’s leadership has been moving in two opposite directions: namely, Serbs are pushing for recentralization of the country, while others, primarily Slovenes and Croatians, are defending their autonomies and advocating even more self-rule for the republics. Moreover, there are more and more of those who are even questioning the purpose of the Yugoslav state as such. Optimists outside the country seem to believe that the country will muddle through as it did in the past; presumably it has no other choice. For others, Yugoslavia of the 1980s did not enter a new, post-Tito era; rather, they have seen this decade as the beginning of the end of Titoism, and likely even of the country itself.
Political Developments, 1972-1980
From 1972 to the time of Tito’s death, the main effort was made to secure the continuation of Titoism and the unity of the country after his departure. A collective state Presidency was introduced by the constitutional amendments in 1971 and then incorporated into the new Constitution of 1974. In 1978, a similar mechanism of collective leadership was devised for the Party. The collective state presidency was seen as a logical outcome of the principles of federalism by which the major decisions were to be made by the consensus of the republics and autonomous provinces. The unity of the Party and its basic principle of democratic centralism, however, seemed to be contrary to the idea of Party federalism. This problem was resolved in 1978 by the introduction of a merry-go-round Presidency of the 23-member Party Presidium, a combination of elected and ex-officio members. The mechanism was supposed to combine the two main, and at the same time opposing, principles: federalism and democratic centralism.
The creation of the collective leadership also points to the fact that Tito was the last “Yugoslav.” No other person has been, nor most probably will be, acceptable to all republican parties as a single leader. Thus, the idea of personal leadership was not only discarded but has been considered even dangerous.
The top state and Party mechanisms were supposed to be completely independent of each other. No one could be in both structures at the same time. The Party, however, was to remain the magic glue to hold the federal parts together. Besides the fact that the top Party official meets with the collective leadership of the state, the ideological convictions of the state functionaries, all of whom are Party members, were to be stronger than their own regional or national interests or feelings. By adhering to the loyalty of the Party and its avant-garde role in society, the members of the state bureaucracy were also supposed to work together for the common goals of the whole country. This was a major reason for the LCY’s reinforcement of Leninism in the immediate post-1972 period. While the state continued on the path of decentralization, the Party, through its own recentralization and clean-up, strengthened its unity as well as its control over the state and society in the 1970s.
Out of major political events that took place in the 19721980 period, the following were among the most important. After the crushing of the Croatian movement, there were Party purges in other republics, mainly in Serbia and Slovenia. The republican Party leaderships was accused of “liberalism” and were removed. However, there were no trials or persecutions. Centralization within the Party structure and, at the same time, continuation of the on-going decentralization of the state were furthered. Furthermore, the principles of self-management were strengthened and reaffirmed as the only path to communism. These political processes and principles were incorporated in the new Constitution, promulgated in 1974, and officially accepted by the Party as a whole at the Tenth Party Congress held in the same year. The last Party Congress attended by Tito and Kardelj, the two leading figures in Yugoslavia since the Party took power in 1945, was held in 1978. This congress was full of Party’s self-praises and optimism. It appeared to be more a farewell party for the old leaders than a meeting of the Avantgarde of the working class that was facing a number of major crises. Tito in his speech to the Congress expressed a strong belief that he had laid down firm foundations to the new Yugoslav state and that he was leaving the country in excellent shape. He enumerated the strengths of the country and, clearly, he was pleased with himself and his legacy. However, it seems that everyone else, except Edvard Kardelj, was elated at the time. He shocked the optimistic Congress delegates by stating that “the political structure of the society [was] in many ways the same or similar to the one prevailing at the time of direct revolutionary conflicts.” His speech implied that the internal forces in Yugoslavia and their relations at the end of the 1970s were not much different from those in pre-war Yugoslavia. But despite Kardelj’s warning, the Congress and the 1970s ended on a high note. The Party’s and the country’s main preoccupation was Tito’s departure and not the important issues which were swelling under a thin covering of optimism and self-praise.
Economic Crisis of the 1980s
After the political crisis in the early 1970s, it seemed that Yugoslavia’s economy was doing exceptionally well. The new and (especially in Croatia) unpopular political leaderships in the republics and federation were eager to legitimize their reign by making sure that there were visible signs of economic improvement. This impetus was reflected mainly in two fields: huge investments and a rise in the standard of living. The investments were made regardless of their economic feasibility or of the real strength of the economy, and, at the same time, the overall standard of living improved in the country. Usually, if a country turns to heavy investments, the standard of living suffers, but in Yugoslavia both were expanding simultaneously. The solution to this apparent contradiction was found in foreign credits. Yugoslavia was borrowing billions of dollars from the Western countries and banks.
The mistakes of Yugoslavia’s economic planning of the mid-1970s were already becoming visible by the end of the decade. But while the foreign debt was huge and still growing, inflation rapidly increasing, and the investments not making expected returns, the Party leadership turned to meetings and discussions on the economic problems. In 1981, a 300-member federal commission was created to find the cures for what they believed were only minor flaws in a still healthy economy. After two years of meetings and discussions, the commission came out with a long range program of economic stabilization. It did not propose any radical changes in the economic system, but simply recommended firmer implementation of the existing economic mechanisms. This, and a number of other attempts in the 1980s to fix the system and get the economy on the tracks, did not work. On the contrary, the inflation continued to burgeon from 45 percent in 1980 to about 300 percent at the present time, and it is still growing. Industrialization and modernization were halted, the standard of living rapidly declined, unemployment rapidly increased, and the foreign debt remained around twenty-one billion dollars.
Despite economic hardships and constant decline of real salaries, surprisingly there were no serious social disturbances in the first half of the decade, mainly because of corruption and flourishing underground economy. These two things served as main vents to the social and economic pressures. It is a common belief that the state and Party bureaucracies are permeated with corruption. Strong indications of this belief are their lifestyles and almost constant corruption “affairs” involving people at the top Party echelons. It is believed that it is not the hard work but the membership in the Party or “good connections” that bring economic and social advancement. Thus, while the regime kept an eye closed, many turned to the underground economy in order to make a living, or even to enrich themselves. However, the longer the economic crisis lasted, the more people were squeezed out of the game. As a result, numerous strikes have been taking place in the last two years; there are more and more homeless and hungry people in the country, and the economy has not been able to turn around. The regime is trying to raise hopes again by proclaiming that the country needs yet another economic reform. But after the failure of sixty economic, political, social and other reforms in the country since 1945, there is a serious doubt that new reforms would succeed.
One of the major problems of all Yugoslav economic reforms has been the umbilical ties of the Party to the economy. Although, on one hand, the Party has been constantly professing and even strengthening the principles of self-management, on the other, it has been nullifying those principles by its constant interference in all levels of the economy. For this reason, there is skepticism about the success of any future economic reform unless the Party lets the economy out of its grips. But if the Party should do that, it would mean the end of the Party’s monopoly of power, which would usher in radical changes in the system itself. Although there are more and more internal voices suggesting that the Party give up its avantgarde role, one can seriously doubt that the Party will, out of its altruism, make such a radical move.
Worsening of the Intra-National Relations
Besides a deep economic crisis, during the 1980s Yugoslavia lost not only Tito but the old guard partisan leadership; divisions among the republican Parties reached the point of no return; ethnic disturbances were taking place among the Kosovo Albanians; unexpectedly, Slovenes began to oppose Belgrade policies and demand more personal liberties and greater autonomy; workers’ strikes became common in the late eighties; intellectuals questioned everything, including Tito, his legacy, the legitimacy of the system, and even the desirability and legitimacy of the Yugoslav state itself. The Party leadership, however, at its two 1980s Congresses (1982 and 1986) and at numerous conferences and meetings, satisfied itself with identifying, analyzing, and discussing current problems. It gave an enormous number of recommendations for the economic, social, and political ills, but after the meetings were over, very little if anything was done. In the Party debates and documents, as well as among public discussions, three different approaches to the resolution of the country’s problems have clearly surfaced. Some advocate the strengthening of democratic centralism and recentralization of the state; others advocate political and economic liberalism; and there are those who would like to keep the present federalist arrangements and Titoist legacy untouched. Opinions on this and other issues are split mainly according to the republican and national lines, and thus instead of giving a general overview of the current problems in the country, an attempt will be made to indicate the major trends in the individual republics.
It has been commonly accepted, with good reason one should say, that the Serbs have been the ruling nation in the country since its creation in 1918. But in the last decade or so, after some of the decentralizing reforms had been implemented, Serbians have been trying more and more to portray themselves as the victims of the first and second Yugoslavias. While Tito was alive, such thinking was still marginal, or, more probably, it was not opportune to express it openly. In the last few years, however, this Serbian view has become prevalent in the republic, first among the intellectuals and then in the Party. Their immediate target has been the Constitution of 1974, which the Serbians considered to be the result of an “anti-Serbian coalition” within the Party itself, put together by Tito and Kardelj. They insist that the constitutional provisions paralyzed the central powers of the federation and created a policentric state; thus, the Constitution has become the major cause of the country’s economic, political and social problems. Although the federal center still controls the legislative powers, military and secret police forces, fiscal and monetary policy, foreign policy, enforces justice against political offenders in any of the republics regardless of their sovereignty, and although Serbs still dominate the state and Party bureaucracy, military and police forces, foreign ministry, banking and other institutions, they believe that the 1974 Constitution has turned the tide against them.
The major Serbian concern in the 1980s, however, has been the growing autonomy of the two autonomous provinces, Kosovo and Vojvodina, which in their eyes were drifting away from the control of the Serbian republic. As a result, the Serbians’ first goal has been to get the control of the autonomous provinces and secondly to re-centralize the whole country. The discussion about limiting the powers of the autonomous provinces had already begun in 1977, but the issue became especially compelling after the eruption of the Albanian demonstrations in Kosovo in the spring of 1981. While the moderate forces in Serbia were advocating closer relations with the province to be developed on the bases of self-management and cooperation as provided by the 1974 Constitution, others advocated a “strong Serbia in a strong Yugoslavia.”
The 1981 Albanian riots in Kosovo opened a major crisis in Serbia and in the country as a whole, a crisis that is still very much alive. The ethnic Albanians, who make up 87.4 percent of the population in the province (Serbs and Montenegrins comprise 11.4 percent), demanded more self-rule and even their own republic within Yugoslavia’s framework. Demonstrations were condemned by the Belgrade officials as counter-revolutionary. Armed forces occupied the Province for a few months, the protest was subdued, a number of Albanians were killed and hundreds, mostly intellectuals and students, were imprisoned. But the Province has not been peaceful ever since. The Kosovo question has remained one of the hottest political and intra-national issues for the Serbs and Albanians, and it also has exacerbated the political and national crisis in the country as a whole.
Kosovo became a rallying point of the Serbian revanchism and it also gave an opportunity to the Serbian leadership to change the methods of the political game in the country. While in the past the political arena had been the Party forums, the latest Serbian leadership, headed by Slobodan Milošović, has taken the struggle for Serbia to the masses. This struggle, however, has been seen by the non-Serbs as a resurgence of Serbian determination to tighten their hold on the whole country once again. In 1987, Milošević eliminated a more liberal Serbian leadership, including his own proteges, took control of mass media, and pushed out from the scene all those who disagreed with his goals and methods. It was in the Kosovo mass meeting in April 1987 that his star began to rise, and he continues to ride a high political tide in Serbia based on Serbian nationalism and anti-Albanian sentiments.
What began as meetings of the Kosovo Serbs and their small delegations to Belgrade, demanding help against the local Albanians, developed into an all-Serbian movement through which Milošević has crushed the provincial government in Vojvodina, forced political changes in Kosovo, and attempted to extend Serbian movement into Montenegro and even other republics. At these meetings, signs were displayed asking for the return of the Serbian kingdom, unification of “all Serbian lands,” cries for arms to “defend Serbia,” to get rid of all Albanians, and even calls for Russians were heard. While Milošević and his supporters claim that the meetings were a spontaneous expression of Serbian national dissatisfaction, and that he was merely expressing the wishes and frustrations of the people, non-Serbians see in him reflections of Mussolini, and they are also pointing out that his mass-meetings were the best organized “spontaneous” meetings ever seen. He is accused of manipulating the Serbian masses in order to put pressure on the rest of the country and impose his wishes in the republic and even in the country as a whole: to return the country to the Ranković type of rule.
An attempt is being made on the part of his supporters, however, to project Milošević as a “second Tito,” as the only politician in the country “strong” and “popular” enough to get the country out of the present crisis. But to anyone who is familiar with Milošević’s activities in the last two years and with the history of intra-national relations in Yugoslavia, it is obvious that he has become a leader in the Serbian national tradition. Not only can he not be acceptable to non-Serbs, but he is seen as a symbol of the old sour grapes of Serbian hegemonism in new skins. It is true he professes to be for market economy, but his economic liberalism is coupled with political centralist and hegemonistic views, and the two in Yugoslavia’s setting do not go together. Because he considers “democracy in which everyone can criticize everyone else” to be “in theory and in history” nothing more than anarchy, his call for a reform is inspiring more fear than hope, at least among the non-Serbian population in the country.
From the writings of the leading Serbian intellectuals it is becoming more and more clear that the Serbs are dissatisfied with their present situation in Yugoslavia. A leading Serbian intellectual and one time Ranković protege, Dobrica Ćosić, expressed a belief that the recent events in Yugoslavia indicate the “fall of the existing system and the crash of the Brioni Yugoslavia.” According to him, despite the fact that the Serbs are “the most loyal to Yugoslavia,” Serbophobia has spread among the Slovenes, Croatians, Albanians, Macedonians intellectuals, and the Muslims, practically among all the non-Serbs except the Montenegrins. Reasons for “Serbophobia” as well as for other Serbian misfortunes, however, are not found by him and other Serbian intellectuals in Serbian policies in the first and second Yugoslavia, but, it seems, in the ungratefulness of the non-Serbs for the Serbian “selflessness” in their work for the country, and in anti-Serbian conspiracies stretching from the Comintern, Vatican, Tito and the present Ljublana-Zagreb-Sarajevo-Pristina axis. It seems that Serbian intellectuals and the present republican leadership see two options in the Serbian national program. One is a strong and expanded Serbia (elimination of the two autonomous provinces and desirably united with Montenegro) in a re-centralized Yugoslavia. The second option, although not openly expressed, is an independent Greater Serbia. It appears, though, that the second option has been also used as a political weapon to pressure others to accept the Serbian solution to Yugoslavia’s problems. Serbia needs Yugoslavia more than the non-Serbs need Serbia. While the Slovenes and Croatians see no economic or other benefits in being a part of the Yugoslav state, Serbians would lose much by the break-up of the country. Also, in the case of the break-up of Yugoslavia, most likely the Serbians would not be able to create a Greater Serbia; thus, it seems that a re-centralized Yugoslavia would be their priority.
Traditionally the Slovenes have not been considered as “trouble makers” for Belgrade. On the contrary, they have been cooperative with the Serbian controlled governments in the first and second Yugoslavia until recent times. They are the most western, the most advanced, and ethnically the most homogenous republic. Their geographic position, cultural, and linguistic differences from the rest of the country have made them less susceptible to Belgrade’s domination and influences. In the last few years, however, Slovenes have been reevaluating their position in Yugoslavia and as a result have become one of the strongest voices for change in the country.
The Slovenes have made some important shifts in their own republic, which also have influenced the rest of the country. For example, they have relaxed the Communist control in the republic; there is a stress on pluralism and individualism, while the role of the Party and its monopoly of power are being downplayed; an active cooperation and even a single national program have developed between the Party leaders and other segments of society, mainly the intellectuals; they stress that economic and political liberalism go together and, for that reason, they are more and more abandoning Yugoslavia’s Third World political and economic orientation, and are returning to their European tradition of political pluralism and market economy. While the Serbs and Macedonians, for example, usually compare themselves and their advancements to Bulgaria, Romania or Greece, the Slovenes, as well as the Croatians, look toward their western neighbors and in that way measure their progress or lack of it. But what they see is more and more Balkanization and not Europeanization of their republics. A leading Slovene intellectual, Taras Kermauner, expressed this attitude clearly in an open “Letter to a Serbian Friend” by saying:
We Slovenes have proceeded along the path of European individualism which recognizes solidarity resulting from particular wills, and not [solidarity] of terror in the name of brotherhood. Our goal is to unite with the developed world; to move into the third or fourth technological revolution; development of knowledge and the person; respect of individuality and society under the law. To put it another way, [we are for] destalinization, rejection of the tribal society, [and] removal of the tyrants….
It seems that the Slovenes have been for a long time in a dilemma which is known as the “active” and “passive” Slovenism. In the second half of this decade, they have opted for their “active” nationalism. Many of the reasons for their national reawakening, or what is also known as the “Slovene Spring,” are similar to those that sparked the Croatian Spring in the early 1970s: a sense of economic exploitations, linguistic, cultural, and political Yugoslav unitarism, and a feeling that Yugoslavia has become a burden to their national development. Ironically, the Croatian national revival of the early Seventies did not find much sympathy among Slovene intellectuals at the time and even less among their political leadership. Edvard Kardelj and Stane Dolenc played a major role in suppressing the Croatian movement. But in the late Eighties, the Slovene demands are even more radical than those of the Croatians. Furthermore, their unsupportive attitude toward the Serbians on the issue of Kosovo has so infuriated Belgrade that it has caused a split in the traditional Serbian-Slovene political alliance.
The Slovene national platform at the present time is clear: either a confederated and pluralistic Yugoslavia which would guarantee them freedom to draw closer and closer to the West European community and away from the Balkan and the bankrupt Yugoslavia’s policies; or, as a second option, a direct entry into the European political and economic community. As a result of the latest Slovene national awakening, Slovenes have begun to think of their nation as a fully independent political entity and not, as it has been in their tradition, merely a part within a wider Austro-Hungarian or South Slavic context. And that psychological change, the feeling that they can and have the right to be fully politically autonomous or even independent, might prove to be the most significant element of the “Slovene Spring” of the late 1980s.
As a result of the persecutions in Croatia that followed the crash of their national movement at the end of 1971, Croatia has been relatively quiet. The leading intellectuals were silenced, conservatives took control of the Party leadership, and major cultural institutions were curtailed or closed. Silence, resentment, and resignation fell upon the land. But while for some time Croatian national voices were forced to be silent, it seems that in the second half of the 1980s the silence became a part of the national strategy; while the others were crossing swords with Belgrade, Croatians were not eager to join the battle. The feeling was, let someone else take on the Serbians for a change. A number of reasons stimulated this approach in Croatia. Croatian nationalism has been traditionally treated much more harshly than other nationalisms in the country, and there was a fear of renewed persecutions. Croatian national forces have been disunited, and there was not a personality or institution that could be considered as a national voice around which different forces could gather. Mistrust between the Party leadership and other segments of society, especially the intellectuals, has not been bridged yet. Although the conservative post-Karadjordjevo Party leaders have been voted out of power by the younger cadres, the Party leadership in Croatia never gained a minimum of legitimacy in order to have self-confidence and to be considered as national leadership. Moreover, the Party itself in Croatia has been divided. While one wing is cautiously liberal and indicates a willingness to support further liberalization of the society and economy, the other wing supports the status quo and a continuation of Tito’s legacy. Furthermore, one of the most resented men in the Party in Croatia, Stipe Šuvar, has now become the head of the LCY against the wishes of the Party in his own republic. He was sent to Belgrade as the republican representative simply to remove him from Zagreb, but by the help of the centralists he became the head of the Party. Thus, he has been considered in Croatia more a menace than help. He and Branko Mikulić, the head of the state, are the leading force of the status quo in the country. They oppose any changes in the system or in federal relations. But it is doubtful that these advocates of the balance of fear will be able to lead the country out of the present crisis.
Currently in Croatia, there are more and more voices critical of the system as well as demands for political pluralism and free economy; struggles for various national and human rights are going on; a number of Croatians have clashed with the regime and some have found “asylum” in Slovenia; and the press in Croatia is becoming more and more open in its support of the Slovene-like political platform. Their goal of national sovereignty has been clear for a long time, but there is not yet in Croatia a clear national leadership or program to achieve that goal under the present conditions. Their present defensive position is seen by some as the only logical choice because Croatian nationalist activities have been treated differently than those in Serbia or Slovenia. It would most probably be considered once again as “innate Croatian reactionism” and crushed by force. Thus, their attitude at the present time seems to be, wait and see.
The republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina, because of its delicate geographic and ethnic position, has been caught in a balancing act between different ethnic and political factions. In the 1970s, Yugoslav leadership strongly promoted the Muslim national consciousness and their role in the republic as well as in the federation in order to create a “neutral force” between the Serbians and Croatians. Only a few years later, however, Belgrade became suspicious of the Muslims and as a result their leading personalities were in one way or another discredited and removed from various important positions. A strong desire of Milošević’s forces to cross into Bosnia and Hercegovina and spread the Serbian movement in that republic has been balanced by Mikulić’s fight for the status quo. How long this stand-off will last is hard to say. One thing is clear: all the forces in the republic are reexamining their strengths and positions for possible different coalitions in the near future.
More than anything else at the present time, it is the Albanian question that allies two other republics, Montenegro and Macedonia, with Serbia. In all three republics there is a proportionately large Albanian population. But after Milošević’s attainment of power, there is also more and more pressure on Montenegrins to come out and “freely” declare themselves to be Serbs and join the Serbian offensive. Although there are some open calls for unity with the Serbians, and Montenegrins have been most faithful to Belgrade centralism, Montenegrins are also proud of their own identity and their past independence, and it is doubtful that they will freely join the republic of Serbia. Macedonians, on the other hand, have a strong tradition of opposing Serbian hegemonism and centralism, but at the present time they are caught between the Serbian offensive for recentralization and the fear of Albanian irredentism. It seems they are cautiously siding with the Serbs, at least on the question of Albanians.
The question of Kosovo will remain as the most destabilizing factor for Serbia and the country as a whole. While in the first Yugoslavia and during the Ranković era, Serbs had dealt with the Albanians as they pleased, it will be impossible to revive those policies. Albanians have a nationally self-conscious and fast-growing population, educated elites, and a strong will to fight for their self-rule. Although the Serbs have scored some victories in the second half of 1988 by gaining more judicial control in the republic and removing a number of Albanians from the provincial leadership, it is strongly believed that the struggle for Kosovo is not over but is most probably just entering a new stage.
Post-Tito Yugoslavia has been plagued with numerous crises, most of all economic and intra-national problems.
There are serious doubts about its future. What is holding it together, it seems, is not the strength of the shared interests of its peoples but more its geo-political position. How the changing relations between the East and West will affect that strategic area is not clear yet. Most probably it will lessen the importance of Yugoslavia, and that, too, will not help its internal situation. The Yugoslav regime has been constantly pointing to “external enemies” in order to gain at least a semblance of internal cohesion. But it is becoming clear that those “threats” and the Yugoslav strengths have been blown out of proportion. The latest events in Yugoslavia are showing that some basic predicaments have been with the country since its creation, and the remedies that have been applied to cure them have proved to be as bad if not even worse than the problems.
…it is the inalienable right
of every nation
to call its language
by its own name…
Declaration on the Name and Position
of the Croatian Literary Language
March 15, 1967