Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Yugoslavia (Jugoslavija)

Capital : Belgrade (Beograd)


During the first millennium BC, this area was settled by Illyrian migrants from the Indo-European homeland around the Aegean sea and came under the sphere of Greek colonisation. The kingdom of Macedonia strengthened gradually and after the victory of Philip of Macedon over the Greek city-states at Chaeronea in 338 BC it became a dominant power under his son, Alexander the Great, although Illyria in the north was never really part of his empire.

In the centuries before Christ it was plundered and partially settled by Celtic peoples. Under the Roman Empire it was divided into the provinces of Illyricum and Macedonia by AD 14. Like the rest of the Roman world, the area was largely Christian by AD 600. During the Germanic invasions after the fall of Rome, it was settled by the Slovenes, Croats, Serbs and Slavs. The southern part of the area was part of the Byzantine or East Roman Empire.

Several of the South Slav or Yugoslav republics became independent states at various times but all came under either Ottoman Turkish or Austro-Hungarian Habsburg control. Napoleonic France planned to administer the whole Balkan area as one unit, the Province of Illyria, but this was ended by Napoleon's defeat and the component territories were returned to their former rulers in 1813.

During the C19th there were increasing nationalist feelings (encouraged by Russia) in the Balkan peninsula although the Slavs of Bosnia and Herzegovina passed from Turkish to Austrian rule in 1878. As the ethnic and linguistic groups were so mixed by this time it was not possible to use language as a criterion of nationality. The Great Powers feared Russian domination and, hoping to preserve the Ottoman Empire as a viable power, tried to pacify the Balkan states but in 1912 they formed an alliance to expel the Turks from Macedonia.

After the Serbian led victory in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, old rivalries re-emerged. The Bosnians continued their campaign for independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and their assassination of the heir-apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, at Sarajevo in June 1914 helped to spark off the First World War. The Yugoslav Committee, originally based in Paris and formed mainly by Croatian and Slovenian exiles, announced aims to create a South Slav state by the middle of 1915 and moved its headquarters to London. It accepted Serbian financial backing and agreed to support all Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in their demands for an independent Yugoslavia. The Committee held talks with the Serbian Pasic government on Corfu and the somewhat ambiguous Corfu Declaration was signed.

Towards the end of the War, in 1918, the Serbian government convened a meeting of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in Belgrade and proclaimed the new state of Yugoslavia. The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes' was ruled by the Serbian king, Peter Karajordjevic, and consisted of the former independent territories of Serbia and Montenegro including Slovenia, Dalmatia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Border disputes in all the territories except Macedonia and the struggles to resolve them helped to create a more unified country but further divisions were caused by disputes over the constitution of the new state. Serious problems were caused by the different economic levels of the various lands and there was controversy over whether or not to adopt a single currency and central bank.

The Interim National Parliament was convened in December 1918 and sat until Regent Aleksandar disbanded it a month before the election of the Constituent Assembly in November 1920. The Serbs were the majority of the population but the main opposition party was the new Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ) although quite a few of the smaller political parties abstained from voting. There was no majority party, but eventually the Serbs Nikola Pasic and Svetozar Pribicevic gained enough support to establish a centralized constitution based on that put forward by Serbia in 1903. On June 28th, 1921, the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo when the Serbs were defeated by the Turks in 1389, the new constitutional, parliamentary and hereditary Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was officially formed under the new young king, Aleksandar. There was quite a lot of opposition to the centralised government and political assassinations were fairly common.

Relations with Italy and other neighbouring countries deteriorated during the 1920s and, combined with domestic problems, led to the troubled parliament being banished by the king in 1928. The country was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the 1921 constitution was abandoned. The nation state now became a kind of royal dictatorship until Aleksandar was assassinated by a Macedonian Revolutionary in 1934. Prince Paul became Regent until Aleksandar's son Petar reached his eighteenth birthday in September 1941. The Serbian Milan Stojadinovic held power with a coalition government from 1935-38 but minority rights were not really addressed.

The Serbs staged a coup in March 1941 but this was instantly put down when the Second World War spilled over into Yugoslavia with the German invasion of April 1941. Yugoslavia had signed the Axis Pact on March 25th, two days before the government was overthrown. Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union led to open resistance from the KPJ but the country was soon partitioned between Germany, Italy and Bulgaria. Resistance factions included the loyal monarchist Chetniks, led by Draza Mikhailovic who were based in Serbia and the communist Partisans, mostly Serb but led by the Croat, Josip Broz, later Marshal Tito, who had been head of the CPY since 1937. Some of the present Yugoslav conflicts appear to date from the war period with the various factions using the war as a cover for their own disputes. The civil war involved the Croat nationalists, Serb partisans and the communists and their differences were exploited by the Germans.

After 1943, Tito was supported by Britain and the Soviet Union and he became prime minister of the provisional Anti-Fascist National Liberation Council (AVNOJ). After the German forces were expelled, Tito took power. The monarchists did not vote in the autumn 1945 elections, which Tito won. In November, the monarchy was abolished and the Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia was established, removing the opposition by executing Mikhailovic and adopting a Soviet modelled constitution in January 1946. There were six republics: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Montenegro, and two autonomous regions, Kosovo and Vojvodina.

Tito refused to become subjugated to the Soviet communists and Yugoslavia was expelled from 'Cominform', the successor to 'Comintern' or Communist International, in 1948. He developed his own style of communism and successfully negotiated with East and West. The party was renamed the 'League of Communists in 1952 and the new constitution of 1953 implemented a more de-centralised Yugoslavian form of socialism with Tito becoming President. In 1963, the country was renamed The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Tito became president for life. In 1974, the republics were given virtual powers of veto over federal decisions.

After Tito's death on May 4th 1980 he was replaced by collective leaderships and his political system appeared to prevent any internal quarrels for a while although there was some speculation that without Tito, Yugoslavia would disintegrate. It became clear that the federation was weakened by Tit's loss as he had helped to hold the different ethnic groups together. The economic decline of the 1970s and 80s had led to a revival of nationalism in Croatia and there were protests against the Serb administration of Slobodan Milosevic amongst the Albanian majority in Kosovo, an area thought of by the Serbs as central to their culture. In 1990, Kosovar Albanians demanding autonomy, rioted and there were some deaths. The Serbs wanted a centralised state although accounts differ as to how much they wished to dominate it, but the Croats and Slovenes wanted to decentralise.

In 1989, prime minister Branko Mikulic resigned after his economic reforms were rejected and Ante Markovic, who had been the Croatian president in 1986-8, was named as his replacement by the collective presidency. Factors including the weakening central government, the increased demand for democracy, cultural diversity, nationalism and the changes in the other communist countries combined towards the end of the 1980s to make Yugoslavia very unstable.

Slovenia voted to secede in 1989 and despite military intervention by Yugoslav forces, was independent by the end of 1991. By the 1990 elections, the communists had lost power everywhere except Serbia and Montenegro. The Croatian parliament adopted a constitution allowing it to secede in December 1990 and the Croatian Serbs, who were in the majority in several towns, threatened to secede themselves. Tension and violence increased and the predominantly Serb Yugoslav army went in despite some attempts at a diplomatic solution. In May, Serbia refused to accept the Croat, Stipe Mesic, as chairman of the collective presidency and on June 25th, Croatia and Slovenia voted for independence.

The fighting in Croatia between Serb and Croat forces continued despite several cease-fire agreements and old quarrels dating back to the Second World War and beyond were used by both sides to encourage their people to feel hostile towards each other.

The United Nations imposed an arms embargo on Yugoslavia in September 1991, Slovenia and Croatia seceded October, fighting continued in Croatia, Macedonia voted to do so and Bosnia-Herzegovina also expressed a wish to leave the federation. In December, President Mesic resigned, saying that Yugoslavia no longer existed and the UN Protection force was deployed early in 1992. War broke out in Bosnia-Hercegovina in March, with the Serbs attempting to remove the Muslims.

Montenegro and Serbia remained the only republics left in what was described as the 'rump state' of Yugoslavia but in September 1992, as the war continued, the UN took away Yugoslavia's UN membership as it did not consider these two remaining members to be the heirs to the federation's status. Yugoslavia ceased to exist as a single country although the name is retained by Serbia and Montenegro.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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