"Blood and Homeland": Eugenics and Racial Nationalism in Central and Southeast Europe, 1900-1940

By Marius Turda; Paul J. Weindling | Go to book overview

Of "Yugoslav Barbarians" and Croatian
Gentlemen Scholars:
Nationalist Ideology and Racial Anthropology
in Interwar Yugoslavia

Rory Yeomans

In 1943, a Croatian translation of Ivo Pilar's 1918 polemic about the dangers of Serbian domination in the Balkans, The South Slav Question, was published to great acclaim. The Croatian Minister of Education, Mile Starčević (1904–1953), a former student nationalist, wrote in an article to mark its publication that Pilar's book had been the "bible" for his generation of Croatian nationalist youth at the University of Zagreb. With its theory of Serbian racial inferiority and the religious perils of Eastern Orthodoxy, Pilar's book had inspired them in their struggle against Belgrade in the 1920s.1 In his introduction, Ferdo Puček, the translator of Pilar's opus, drew attention to the parallels between Pilar's racial ideas and those of the fascist Ustasha movement of which he, like Starčević, was an intellectual supporter. The South Slav Question showed, Pucek continued, that the Serbs who lived in Croatia and Bosnia were "alien elements, Cincars, Greeks, Romanian and above all Balkan-Aromanian (Vlach) elements" that had fallen under the influence of the Eastern Orthodox Church and continually demonstrated their hostility to Croatia. This was in direct opposition to the "Western" outlook of the Croats, with their "Nordic Slavic-Gothic-Iranian" racial origins.2

In interwar Yugoslavia, as in the rest of Europe, questions of race and nationality dominated the political agenda. In the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes—renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929—the main ideological division was between separatist nationalists and Yugoslav integrationists. Separatists, for example Croatian nationalists, believed that Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes were three distinct nations whose individuality and prosperity—indeed survival— could only be guaranteed if they existed as separate and independent nation-states; by contrast, supporters of Yugoslavism argued that the

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