Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Comrades and Adversaries: Yugoslav-Soviet Conflict in 1948 -- a Reappraisal

Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Comrades and Adversaries: Yugoslav-Soviet Conflict in 1948 -- a Reappraisal

Article excerpt

After the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union reemerged as a superpower in world affairs. Moscow, thanks to her war gains, established a strong position in Europe. This strong position was based on the military presence of the Red Army in Eastern Europe, and on the installation of pro-Moscow regimes in all these countries. The installation of the pro-Moscow regimes was orchestrated by the Soviet regime, through the loyalty and subordination of the national communist parties to the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union), perceived to be the center of world communism. Eventually, Poland Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, East Germany, Yugoslavia and Albania were drawn into this direct Soviet sphere of influence.

However, the last two countries developed differently than the others during the Second World War. That is to say, the resistance movement against fascist occupation was organized without external help; liberation was achieved with national armies, guided by the national communist parties. Thus these two countries, as the "liberation" elsewhere, promoted socialist revolution and the establishment of "communist" governments. During the war these two parties were almost one hundred percent independent vis-a-vis Moscow in all organizational and decision making issues.

Based on this legacy, Yugoslavia and Albania continued to be independent even after the war. The Yugoslav case was much more significant because of the size of the country, its geopolitical position and military power (at the end of the war, the army had more than 500,000 soldiers), the image of the leadership, and Yugoslav influence in regional affairs.

This paper will examine the emergence of Yugoslavia as a regional challenger of Soviet national interests, and the conflict which unfolded between these two countries after 1948. The governing assumption is that the conflict known as the "Tito-Stalin breakup" was not an ideological one. Yugoslavia was, at that time, the most dedicated communist country in Eastern Europe, and her conflict with the USSR was not a question of different ideological orientations of the two parties, or of the two leaders. This assumption goes against official Yugoslav historiography, particularly the one represented by Tito's biographer V. Dedijer.(1) The argument presented is that the "Tito-Stalin break-up" was the result of conflicts between the emerging Yugoslav state, representing regional aspirations, and the USSR, defending its regional hegemony. On the one hand, the role of the USSR as a superpower was challenged, and on the other, Yugoslav independence and sovereignty were challenged. After a decade of conflicts (1947-1957) a new regional stability, and bilateral modus-vivendi were established. Thanks to that, the "final" 1957 conflict between the communist parties of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union had a predominantly ideological character, and did not put state relations in jeopardy.

After 1957, relations were established on the basis of Soviet respect of Yugoslav sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs. Yugoslavia abandoned her regional expansionism and accepted Moscow as the regional hegemon in Eastern Europe, while continuing to promote Yugoslav national interests within the new framework of the nonaligned movement.



At the beginning of World War II, the Yugoslav Communist Party (YCP) was not of major Soviet concern. When the war started, Moscow did not seriously count on the YCP in the coming fight against fascists, for several reasons. First, Belgrade did not create the People's Front-type of organization that had been recommended by Moscow in 1936.(2) Yugoslav communists (the party was banned by the Yugoslav regime) were simply too weak to follow Moscow's orders and find possible political allies among other parties. This lack of potential political allies was mainly due to the complete absence of a Social Democratic or Socialist party from the Yugoslav political scene. …

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