The Precarious Country

British Policy Towards Wartime Resistance in Yugoslavia and Greece

edited by Phyllis Auty, edited by Richard Clogg
Barnes and Noble/Harper & Row, 308 pp., $23.50

British Policy in South-East Europe in the Second World War

by Elisabeth Barker
Barnes and Noble/Harper & Row, 320 pp., $27.50


by Milovan Djilas
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 470 pp., $14.95

The Yugoslav Experiment 1948-1974

by Dennison Rusinow
University of California Press, 410 pp., $16.50

R.W. Seton-Watson and the Yugoslavs, Correspondence 1906-1941

British Academy and University of Zagreb, 468, vol 2 pp., £10 the set

Nations in Arms: The Theory and Practice of Territorial Defense

by Adam Roberts
Praeger, 288 pp., $18.50
Tito; drawing by David Levine


The Belgrade-Bar railway took one hundred years to plan and build. It now joins Serbia to the Adriatic, and clings to the mountains of Montenegro like a tendril. On the night train up from Bar, I was awakened early in the morning by a hand shaking my shoulder; when I opened my eyes I saw, three inches away, a revolver pointed straight between them. Behind it, standing over me, was a man with a sharp face and a long suede overcoat. “Vi Engliez?” “Yes.” He waved the gun at me, then laughed at his friend on the top bunk, stood up, slipped the gun into his waistband, and began to comb his hair.

Montenegrin humor. But it is hard not to feel a certain precariousness about Yugoslavia in general. JAT flights from the West are searched for bombs more carefully than most other flights, and still one has been exploded by right-wing exile terrorists. Yugoslav missions in Western Europe and the United States are frequent targets; émigrés of all persuasions are themselves constantly being gunned down or blown up.

In Belgrade the writers argue so fiercely that they have to have two writers’ clubs to keep the factions apart; each is very convivial. Gigantic trucks on the narrow Belgrade-Zagreb highway pay little attention to cars. One month after the controllers of Zagreb’s airport caused the world’s worst mid-air collision and sent 176 bodies splashing and burning into the cornfields last year, two more planes narrowly missed each other high over Croatia. Train accidents are frequent and often the drivers are found to be drunk as well as dead. In Montenegro a truck in front of my car drove off a bridge and disappeared under the brine sixty feet below. A few days later, in an incident reminiscent of Lawrence Durrell’s own tales of diplomatic niceties in Belgrade, the Austrian ambassador shot dead the French ambassador during a hunt organized by the Yugoslav foreign minister.

Yugoslavia has been a cause for concern ever since the question “After Tito, what?” was first asked in 1943. Last year Henry Kissinger’s adviser Helmut Sonnenfeldt jarred the Yugoslavs by asserting in his so-called “doctrine” that Yugoslav independence of Moscow could upset Europe’s stability, and the country’s defense obtruded briefly into the presidential election. Tito’s hepatitis caused a flutter and Brezhnev’s November visit kept dozens of pundits busy. Above St. James Park a member of the British establishment confided that he was informed that World War III, like I, would begin in the Balkans; recently a Yugoslav general said that his country might need nuclear weapons to stop such a war.

Now eighty-five, Tito has been taking his own steps to ensure that the coalition of twenty-two million Serbs, Croats, Muslims, Turks, Slovenes, Albanians, Montenegrins, Macedonians, and Hungarians survives him. An eight-man collective presidency, representing each of the republics and autonomous areas, has been picked to succeed him. Executive…

This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!

View Offer

Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.

If you are already a subscriber, please be sure you are logged in to your account.