Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

Tito's choice was to accept the second version. Not surprisingly, most ethnic groups supported ths idea. But Tito was a communist, a believer of a strong, centralized government. To reconcile these contradictory issues, the federalism Tito proclaimed in 1943 was based on the notion of the equality of nations regardless of their size or economic strength. This was essentially the Soviet model, and in Yugoslavia, the central authority was represented by the Communist party, as it was in the Soviet Union. In order to mitigate the overwhelming weight of Serbia in the federal system, Montenegro was separated from it and an autonomous Macedonia was created as a separate republic. It was expected that the new situation would establish a balance among Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in the new Yugoslav state. However, the separation of powers was more apparent than real. The all-powerful Communist party actually governed the state, and federal and local issues were usually decided by Tito and the powerful elite around him. The underlying assumption was the old, worn-out Marxist notion that nationalism was the product of a bourgeois society and once that society was eliminated, proletarian internationalism would replace nationalist feelings. This was obviously not to be the case.

The constitution also contained several contradictions. One of these was the apparent recognition of each nation's right to self-determination and secession from Yugoslavia. But the document also asserted that the Yugoslav peoples' will was to live in a federal state. This contradiction was supposed to have been solved by the federal system. In fact, it was communist rule, not federalism, that kept the various nations and ethnic groups quiet during the Tito era. Once that era ended, nationalism once again became a dominant ideology in Yugoslavia, ending the federal system.


Bibliography

Banac Ivo, The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics ( Ithaca, NY, 1984); Djilas Aleksa, The Contested Country: Yugoslav Unity and the Communist Revolution 1919-1953 ( Cambridge, MA, 1991); McVicker Charles P., Titoism: Pattern for International Communism ( New York, 1957).

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