Three Eras of Political Change in Eastern Europe

By Gale Stokes | Go to book overview

6
The Role of the Yugoslav Committee in the Formation of Yugoslavia

The breakup of Austria-Hungary in the name of national self-determination brought about the creation of an equally multinational new state, Yugoslavia. 1 It is paradoxical that the idea of Yugoslavism, emphasizing as it did the subordination of historical peoples to an ideal of brotherly unity, should have triumphed at a moment of nationalist exaltation, especially since Yugoslavism was popular only among the youth and a few intellectuals at the outbreak of World War I. This outcome may be attributed, in part at least, to the activities of a group of politicians and intellectuals from the Habsburg lands who escaped into Western Europe at the beginning of the war and organized themselves into a political action group called the Yugoslav Committee. By 1917 this committee had become a quasiindependent body with a headquarters in London and private financial support. Members of the committee had close connections with the French and British governments, and emigrants who supported the committee in the United States even had some influence on American policy. 2 In 1917 the committee reached an agreement with the Serbian government that a new Yugoslav state would be founded after the war, so that when separate peace talks with Austria-Hungary failed for the last time in 1918 the committee was in position to push for the complete dismemberment of that ancient state. When the war ended, the committee's efforts had helped create an atmosphere in which the establishment of a Yugoslav state be-

From Dimitrije Djordjevč, ed., The Creation of Yugoslavia ( Santa Barbara, CA: Clio Press, 1980), pp. 51-72. Reprinted by permission.

-93-

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