01 December 2010

On This Day

Today is the anniversary of the founding of Yugoslavia. 92 years to this day the Kingdom of Serbia and the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs joined to find the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. This was the crowning achievement of the Yugoslavist movement, begun in mid-19th century among the South Slavs in the Austrian Empire.

Yugoslavism at its core is an ideology of anti-colonialism. The basic premise is simple. Subject peoples that find themselves in colonial relationship to a power centre, would work together to achieve their liberation. Once free they would continue to cling together in order to enhance their strength and thus be better able to maintain their newfound independence. In this way Yugoslavism is analogue to, for example, Pan-Arabism or Pan-Africanism.

The foremost promise of Yugoslavia was that it would enable the South Slav peoples that would join it to live an existence free of domination from the outside. On this Yugoslavia delivered.

Both of Yugoslavia's two incarnations, wildly different in everything else, existed for almost the whole of their life spans as fully independent entities. The First Yugoslavia was briefly in 1940-41 subordinate to Germany, which was then a European hegemon. The Second was from its inception until the 1948 Tito-Stalin split (which was really initiated by Stalin rather than by Tito) ruled by what amounted to the local branch of the Comintern. Other than during these two brief episodes Yugoslavia was a country fully in control of both its domestic and foreign policy. This at a time when the same was not true of far larger and more powerful states.

A number of arguments (of varying validity) can be, and have been, put forth to paint Yugoslavia's independence in a critical light. That its reassertion of independence in March 1941 incurred it the wrath of Hitler. That it therefore cost the lives of at least 1 million Yugoslavs in the Second World War. That it indirectly led to a Communist takeover. That the independence of Communist Yugoslavia was a coincidence that stemmed from Stalin's mishandling of willing satraps. That it was owed to a special situation, the confrontation of two blocks, in the world.

But the bare fact that Yugoslavia existed as an independent state itself is indisputable. An ideal the successor states sadly do not begin to live up to. The partial exceptions are Croatia, which until 1999 maintained a semi-independence but which was fuelled by nothing more than the stubborn nature of its powerful president, Franjo Tuđman, and died as soon as he did. And Serbia, which was independent under the name of Yugoslavia until the overthrow of Slobodan Milošević in 2000, but whose independence in truth was as much a consequence of the stance that it would have to be outcast and assaulted the West took in regard to it on its own, as with any course of action or attitude stemming from Serbia itself.

Other than that the successor states present a sad picture. Bosnia and Herzegovina is an international protectorate, still paying host to foreign troops. Serbia is saddled with a sycophant pro-Imperial government and Kosovo hijacked from it and under Imperial occupation. Macedonia's current internal organization was determined by Western dictate in 2001. Montengro is a personal fiefdom of a band of kleptomaniacs that had its way to "independence" paved by Javier Solana and the EU. Slovenia rushed headlong into the clutches of Brussels bureaucracy and now takes part in Imperial adventures around the world, and Croatia is fast on its heels.

It is a cliche in these parts to say that "Yugoslavia was an idea that failed not once but twice." The reality is that Yugoslavia never failed to deliver on its basic promise, the promise of independence from power centres outside of it. If Yugoslavia crumbled it was not because it failed to bring in the goods, but because its peoples either no longer valued what it offered them, or took that for granted.

Hopefully at least some of them can revert themselves to this position and capture what was the essence, and the goal, of Yugoslavism by reasserting their independence from the power centres outside the Balkans.

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