3. WORLD WAR II ON YUGOSLAVIAN LAND (1941-1945)
Yugoslavia was divided between the victorious and their allies, where a large part was awarded to the Italians. They acquired a part of Slovenia and Dalmacia, as well as, the western part of Macedonia and Kosovo, which were later joined to the Italian “Great Albania”. 104
Germany, Bulgaria and Hungary received smaller parts of the country, however, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were given to Ante Pavelic’s Ustashe, who formed a Croatian nation on this land, leaving it under protection of Germany and Italy. In Serbia, the commanding officer of the German occupational army took control. The Serbian government of Milan Nedice was under rule of the German leader.
The Italian army occupied Montenegro. Occupants created many collaborate formations, which led to the quick breakout of a bloody domestic war. Together with the regular Croatian army and the Ustashe formations they were used for the pacification and mass murders of the civil population.
The emigration government in London announced the continuation of the war by the alliance side. Colonel Draza Mihailovic took control of the resistance movement. His troops mainly Serbian soldiers took on the name “Tchetnics”. The resistance against the occupants was rather symbolic, because the Tchetnics were only starting to organize themselves. The communists, who were loyal to Stalin’s command, stopped all actions, in order to avoid upsetting of the Germans.
It was not until Germany’s attack on the USSR on 22 June 1941 that the communists under the rule of Joseph Broz, known as Tito, turned to military attack. Not long after, a national uprising broke out in Montenegro against the Italians.
The most critical attacks started in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Pavelic Regime established the elimination of some of the ethnic groups in the recently formed nations, especially Jews, Gypsies and Serbs. The Croatians set up concentration camps, in which the one in Jasenovac was the worst, where tens of thousands people were murdered. Mihailovic’s “Tchetnics” quickly came with help, however they didn’t have a chance against the militarised Croatian army, who had the support of Germany and Italy. In this horrific war between 200,000-250,000 Serbs, Jews and Gypsies most likely died.
Pavelic and the Ustashe are mainly responsible for the long-term prevention of enabling the Yugoslavian nations to exist within the boundaries of one country. The memory of the slaughtering of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies in the years 1941-1943 and the role that the Croatians and Muslim-Bosnians played in it, became in the future one of the most important factors of the wide-range nationalism, which put and end to the existence of Yugoslavia.105
In 1942 the Tchetnics and the communists who at first fought together on the same side, later turned on each other and despite the fact that Mihailovic’s troops were greater in number they were eventually defeated. The Tchetnics’ leader made a crucial mistake in 1943, trying to fight on two fronts by contacting the Italians in order to make local cooperation possible against the communists. This allowed him to obtain some support, however in the future it gave his enemies a serious argument treating him as a collaborator, which was then presented to the allies. 106
Tito’s armies were the most active of all resistant movement groups and were quickly growing in power. However, due to the transfer of the well known troops Wehrmacht and Waffen SS, Italians and Croatians for a few months to Bosnia, the Tito communists lost a large amount of troops. On the other hand, there was a short-term victory, when the Italians announced capitulation. Consequently, Italian troops who were stationed in Yugoslavia surrendered, concurrently giving up their weapons to more active communists. Thanks to the gained weaponry, equipment and the new recruits, Tito achieved an advantage over the Tchetnics. Further conflicts between the Tchetnics and the communists broke out. In this situation Mihailovic made the same mistake, agreeing on aid from the Germans. This caused parts of the western alliance to get to Tito, who at this time already received aid from USSR. Thanks to this the communists defeated Mihailovic’s army with no greater effort. In October 1944 Tito’s army, working together with the Soviet army attacking from Romania, took over Belgrade.
In March 1945 Tito officially formed the Yugoslavian government. In April his armies, equipped by the Soviets and the United States, attacked the German and Croatian armies. In May Pavelic and his government fled to Austria. Revenge of the partisans and local Serbs on Croatians and Muslims from Bosnia was horrifying. In mass murders over 100 thousand people died, not just Ustashe and Croatian soldiers, but also civilians.
When Tito’s armies were approaching Slovenia, general Rupnik (leader of the Slovenian formation cooperating with the occupants) on 3 May announced the revolution of the independent Slovenian country. It survived 2 days, after which Tito’s armies conquered the entire country. The Yugoslavian army next entered to Italian Trieste to finish the shocking slaughter of civilians, Italian as well as Slovenian (5-10 thousand people died).
Tito’s victory was also completed in Serbia. In May 1945, when the battles were over in Kocevje in Slovenia, on Tito’s orders about 30 thousand Slovenian captives, Ustashe, Croatian soldiers and Montenegrins and Serbian Tchetnics were gathered. All of these people were killed in Kocev Rog gorge. This mass murder ended World War II in the Balkans.
From 1941 to 1945 over 16 million inhabitants died, about 12% of the population, in this 400 thousand of Tito’s partisans, Mihailovic’s Tchetnics, soldiers from pro-German formations, and over 1 million civilians! What’s worse, the country was divided with the memory of the battles and the most horrific war in the history of Yugoslavian lands.
THE SECOND YUGOSLAVIAN NATION UNDER TITO’S CONTROL (1945-1980)
The new leader of Yugoslavia knew that the country was divided into aggressive ethnic groups, so he decided that it was essential to create such a country structure that would weaken the strongest ethnic groups and also please the needs of various ethnic groups. This is why the new country was supposed to be a federation of 6 republics: Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Tito’s main priority was to weaken the position of the Serbs, being about 40% of the population. Tito created 2 autonomic regions: Kosovo inhabited mainly by Albanians, and Vojvodina with a mosaic of nationalities (Serbs, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Slovakians, Gypsies). To end this Serbian-Croatian conflict and to weaken both nationalities, Tito created a separate republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina.107
The element that finished off the construction of the new Yugoslavia was the classification of Islam living in Bosnia as a new independent nationality, Muslims (earlier some were known as Serbian Muslims, or as Croatian Muslims). Because of the continuous slaughters of Serbians and Croatians, Islam in 1945 was the largest in number in Bosnia and Herzegovina (about 45%).108
However, this would not be enough to ensure the end of the ethnic conflicts, if it weren’t for the conflict between Tito and Stalin and the Soviet threat towards Yugoslavia. From the beginning of his command, Tito was not pleased with the trust towards Moscow, since together with the Albanian leader Enver Hodza, he was the only communist leader in Eastern Europe, and by staying in alliance with Stalin he concurrently kept his independence. Tito, afraid of invasion by the Soviets quickly made contacts with the West and gained aid from USA armies.
Tito allowed for much wider and stronger contacts with the West and for more allowance in their economy than in other communist countries, and this also resulted in the fact that Yugoslavia was wealthier than the countries belonging to the Warsaw Pact. Slovenia and Croatia especially developed since they had the easiest contact with the West and had a more traditional economy than the isolated and constantly under the influence of wars and terror Bosnia, Serbia or Macedonia. 109
Conflicts between nationalities were weakened by force, but the complicated ethnic structure inside the country was still noticeable. In 1966, Tito removed the vice president of Yugoslavia, Serb Alexander Rankovic from all of his functions, who was also in charge of the secret police. He was openly accused of “panserbism”; desire to once again subordinate all of the Yugoslavian nationalities to the Serbs. Amongst Yugoslavian communists a phenomenon occurred, which concerned the infiltration of social ideologies to one organization, which had the right to take up politics. Due to this the period of Tito’s rule was supposed to be unique in the history of Yugoslavian nations.
In 1971 Tito led the reform of public institutions, putting in power a committee of 8 delegates representing the republics and regions, in order to prevent the growth of nationalism. Each one of these delegates successively became chief of the committee and took power over the country for a one-year period. Despite the increasing rights of republics and regions, Tito was still in high command.110
During the crisis in the late 1970’s in Western Europe, income from tourism and the export of resources in Yugoslavia greatly decreased. Another problem was Tito’s catastrophic self-management system, which concerned the empowerment of employees in firms. When in 1980 Tito died, Yugoslavia had already been influenced by a severe economic crisis.