WAS THE YUGOSLAVIA OF 1919 a new state or an old one? Certainly it was a new state in that no nation with that name or territory had existed prior to the war (actually Yugoslavia was known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes until 1929). But it was also an old state in that its government, including the royal family, was the same as that of prewar Serbia. Even the capital remained at Belgrade. The fundamental problem of interwar Yugoslavia was that the question of old versus new was never really settled. At the beginning of the period the people were split roughly fifty-fifty on this key issue; at the end of the two decades the percentages were about the same, but the emotional temperature was much higher. Such is the stuff of failure.
Yugoslavia was really created by the Corfu Agreement of 1917 (see above). In essence, this document did little more than call for the establishment of a state comprising traditional Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia (as well as Bosnia-Hercegovina and Macedonia). It specified that the Serbian Karageorgeovich dynasty would continue and serve for the nation as a whole, but this was about the extent to which the structure of the new state was spelled out. The vagueness favored the Serbs, who, after all and despite their battered condition in 1917, had not only a dynasty but also a government, a bureaucracy, a body of law, an army, and a police force. The representatives of the Croats and Slovenes had nothing comparable, indeed they lacked a clear mandate from their own people (even before the war, genuine referendums on subjects such as this had, of course, been impossible). The Croat and Slovene deputies from the Habsburg lands later endorsed the Corfu agreement as well, but their authority and credibility was scarcely greater than that of their self- appointed colleagues and did not alter the fundamental balance. The new state would resemble Serbia, albeit not without a struggle.