The unification of the part of Southeastern Europe that is known today as Yugoslavia, a country with not many more inhabitants than greater New York, is one of the most controversial events in modern history. Yugoslavia was created in 1918 when, after the collapse of Austria-Hungary, the king of Serbia assumed the leadership of a newly created great South Slav state. The Serbian army proceeded to assert its rule all the way from the Greek and Bulgarian frontier to the borders of Italy and the new Austrian republic. The turmoil that followed made certain that the peoples of Yugoslavia would not enjoy internal peace for several decades. This is the tragedy whose origins and unfolding Ivo Banac, a young professor at Yale University, explains with great mastery.
His is indeed a most welcome book, for it succeeds in disentangling the astonishing complexities of the Yugoslav situation between 1918 and 1921, and points convincingly to the likely causes of the dramatic developments that followed the creation of Europe’s last great multinational state. Yet this work also leaves us with many nagging questions. Was Serbia truly as callous toward the rightful aspirations of other groups and political units in Southeastern Europe as Banac says it was? Was there a genuine alternative to Serbian predominance after 1918, which would have satisfied both the Serbs and the equally expansionist Croats, let alone the many other religious, political, and ethnic groups?
Further, we might ask, if all went wrong between 1918 and 1921, as Banac claims, then what accounts for the long-term survival of Yugoslavia? After all, there can be little question that most Yugoslavs today, despite their conflicts with one another, would be ready to shed their blood in the defense of their state. Unfortunately, having led us through 400-odd pages of well-explained turmoil, the author does not leave us with any kind of conclusion. There is no epilogue, no perspective on the future from the vantage point of 1921, and the reader is left to wonder whether the Yugoslav kingdom collapsed in 1941 under its own weight, or only because of the irresistible force of the German invasion. Was Tito’s federalist and communist solution the only workable alternative to the centralist and monarchical governments that ruled Yugoslavia between the wars? And finally, does Tito’s Yugoslavia today carry the seeds of its own destruction?
Because of the unfortunate historical reputation of the Balkans as a region of trouble and misery, no Balkan country except for Bulgaria—which really has no choice in the matter—is prepared to admit that it belongs to the Balkans (although many towns had a “Balkan Kafé” and a “Balkan Kino” movie house in the years between the wars). The Greeks claim to be Mediterranean and the Albanians to be the only true representatives of the world communist movement. The Romanians and Yugoslavs point to the vast territories they took over in 1918 from the defunct Habsburg monarchy, a very Central European state. Nevertheless, from a Western European point of view, the South Slav lands are the Balkans, which, in Banac’s words, have always conjured up the image of “outlaws, rustlers, mountain men, mules, [and] hostile clans.” Or, as the cofounder of Marxism, Friedrich Engels, noted, with his remarkable contempt for all East Europeans unless they happened to be German or Hungarian: the South Slav regions of Europe were inhabited by “bits and scraps” of peoples (Völkerabfälle).
It is true, of course, that Yugoslavia is an ethnic conglomerate, the only colorful and exciting conglomerate left in an increasingly monotonous Europe, where minorities have been systematically absorbed or eliminated over the last 150 years. In 1921 there were in Yugoslavia some 4.6 million Serbs, 1.3 million Muslims, 2.8 million Croats, 1 million Slovenes, 513,000 Germans, 472,000 Hungarians, 64,000 Jews, 13,000 Italians, 229,000 Romanians, Vlachs, and Cincars, 585,000 Macedonians or Bulgars, 442,000 Albanians, 168,000 Turks, and sundry other peoples, amounting to a grand total of more than 12 million.
These estimates are the result of Banac’s own very convincing computations, which differ significantly from the official pro-Serb statistics. As if this ethnic picture were not complex enough, consider the fact that the Serbs, or those groups which Banac considers to be Serbs, were inhabitants not only of what used to be the kingdom of Serbia before 1912, but also of other parts of the Balkans. These included the Vojvodina, an integral part of Hungary before 1918; Croatia-Slavonia, a separate kingdom under Hungarian suzerainty until 1918 (although in Hungarian eyes Slavonia—not to be confused with Slovenia—was, unlike Croatia, historically an integral part of Hungary). Then there was Dalmatia on the Adriatic coast, which belonged to Austria until the end of the First World War; Bosnia-Hercegovina, which Austria and Hungary had held in common; Montenegro, which had been independent before the war; the Sandzak of Novi Pazar; and Metohia, Kosovo, and Macedonia—all hotly contested territories before 1918. In some of these kingdoms and provinces the Serbs made up a majority; in others, they were a minority, sometimes a very small one.
The Muslims, in turn, were heavily represented in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Montenegro, pre-1912 Serbia, the Sandzak of Novi Pazar, and Kosovo; the Croats in Croatia-Slavonia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Dalmatia; the Hungarians and Germans in Slavonia, Slovenia, and the Vojvodina; the Albanians in Kosovo and Metohia. One could go on.
But just how does one determine precisely who was a Serb, or distinguish a Serb from a Croat? The two speak the same language. Serbo-Croatian, or rather, different dialects of the same language, which is not to say that the Serbs speak one group of dialects and the Croats another. The customary way to distinguish between the two peoples is by religion, the Serbs being Orthodox and the Croats Catholic. At first sight this method is as unfair as it is imprecise, because over a million Serbo-Croatian speakers are neither Catholic nor Orthodox but Muslim, and because there are many Orthodox who claim to be Croats and many Catholics who claim to be Serbs. Furthermore, millions of Serbs and Croats must by now be indifferent to religion or even militant atheists—after all, theirs is a communist country—notwithstanding the recent upsurge of religious enthusiasm, even of fundamentalism, that has been reported in Yugoslavia.* The fact is that Orthodoxy and Catholicism have become symbols of vast historic and cultural differences between Serbs and Croats or, to put it more precisely, between most of the Serbs and most of the Croats.
The Serbs settled in the Balkans in the sixth century, where they soon came under the influence of the Byzantine empire and church. In the middle of the fourteenth century, Serbia became the most powerful empire in the Balkans, only to be conquered by the Ottoman Turks during the next hundred years. Serbia remained under Turkish rule, at first a very real presence and during the nineteenth century an increasingly nominal one, until 1878. In that year, the Congress of Berlin recognized Serbia’s complete independence, and soon Milan, a prince from one of the contending Serbian dynasties, became king of Serbia. When his successor was assassinated in 1903, Peter I, from a rival dynasty, took power. He allowed parliamentary government, cultivated the alliance with Russia, and saw the Austro-Hungarian monarchy as Serbia’s natural enemy.
The Croats, for their part, settled in the Balkans in the seventh century, and during the following two centuries came under the influence of the Roman church. At the end of the eleventh century, the Croatian kingdom became associated, generally in a subordinate position, with the far larger Hungarian kingdom—an uneasy relationship that lasted until 1918. In 1526, the crown of both Croatia and Hungary passed to the Habsburgs. This meant that Croatia continued to be subordinated to Hungary, which in turn was subordinated to the House of Austria. Croats were drawn into the Austrian civil service and army.
All this helps to explain why Serbs and Croats, although living close together and speaking the same language, feel so different from each other. Unfortunately for their mutual relations, each can look back to at least a short period of medieval greatness (as do the neighboring Hungarians, Bulgars, Romanians, and Albanians). This has allowed them to claim moral, political, and cultural superiority over the other. No less unfortunately, both Serbs and Croats (as well as the neighboring nations) also experienced long periods of subjugation and devastating invasions which have caused them to fear the death of their nation and to be ever ready for an all-out struggle for national survival.
If religious background is taken as the only reliable criterion for differentiating between the two chief national groups, then it is tempting to divide all Yugoslavs into religious categories. The Ottomans did so, recognizing only confessional communities, or millets, and their system worked efficiently until the nineteenth century, the age of nationalism. Nationalism abhors denominational distinctions, and so, by 1921, official Yugoslav statistics began classifying some groups by their nationality, such as Serbs, Croats, Hungarians, Germans, Italians, or Turks; others by a combination of religious and territorial affiliation, such as Bosnian Muslims; and others by religion alone, such as the Jews. For lack of a better solution, Banac himself is forced to accept a few mixed categories. Should one perhaps classify the Serbo-Croatian-speaking Muslims as Serbo-Croats? The answer is no, since Serbo-Croatian is a language, not a nationality. Moreover, if the basis for differentiating between Serbs and Croats is religion, then a Serbo-Croatian-speaking Muslim is obviously neither. This makes the Yugoslav Muslims a separate nationality or, rather, several separate nationalities.
Or perhaps one should refrain completely from attempting to define a nationality on the basis of external characteristics, and simply be guided by what particular Yugoslavs call themselves. Even this would not work, however, since many tended then, as now, to identify themselves by the place where they come from. This would give us many Bosnians, Montenegrins, and Hercegovinians, along with Serbs, Croats, Catholics, Orthodox, and Muslims, all living in the same region of the country. In today’s Yugoslavia, “Bosnian” or “Macedonian” are accepted ethnic designations, as is “Yugoslav,” professed by only about 6 percent of the population. In 1921, however, these were not recognized categories. All this statistical hair-splitting would be of interest only to statisticians, had the nationality question not led to the violent death of thousands at the end of the First World War, and of millions between 1941 and 1945. Somehow, as in Ulster or Lebanon today, the peoples of Yugoslavia had an unerring eye for the enemy in their midst, even if he or she spoke the same language, wore the same national costume, or hailed from the same village.
Banac has found an ingenious morphological solution (which I will also adopt in this essay) to distinguish between ethnic and provincial affiliation. He uses the term “Croatian” to designate the inhabitants of the counties of pre-1918 Croatia proper, and “Croat” to refer to people belonging to the ethnic group, regardless of where they live. He uses the same device to distinguish between the “Serbians” who lived in the territory of the pre-1912 Serbian kingdom and the “Serbs” as a national group. Similarly, the “Bulgarians” are those who lived in what was pre-1912 Bulgaria, while the “Bulgars” are people of that nationality. Thus an inhabitant of what was Bulgaria before 1912 is a “Bulgarian,” even if he happens to be a Turk, and a Bulgarian-speaking inhabitant of Macedonia is a “Bulgar,” even if he professes to be a Macedonian patriot, or even if Serb or Greek nationalists claim him as their own.
Without wanting to plunge into the horrifying Macedonian problem, I should note here that much blood has been shed over the question of Macedonian identity. Most of historic Macedonia is now a sovereign republic within the Yugoslav federation—which does not prevent the Serbs, Greeks, and Bulgars from claiming the Macedonians as their own. To what will be the chagrin of all non-Bulgar—or should we say, non-Bulgarian?—patriots, Banac has the courage to assert that “the Slavic population of Macedonia belonged to the same linguistic, historical, and cultural zone as the Bulgarians.” Note, however, Banac’s careful use of the term “Bulgarian” rather than “Bulgar,” which may sweeten the bitter pill for the Serbs—or perhaps one should say “Serbians.” All of which reminds this writer of a scene at an international congress of historians, during which experts from the West, the East, and the Southeast debated and, in their majority, denied the existence of a Macedonian nation. This moved an imposingly large spectator to rise from his seat and exclaim: “If there are no Macedonians, then I do not exist.” Whereupon he sat down in deep despair.
In the preface, Banac characterizes his book as “the first complete study of the origins of the tragic sequence in Yugoslavia that precipitated a long period of interwar instability, brought untold suffering to her peoples during the course of the Second World War, and continues to test the wisdom of her leaders.” The book lives up to its promise: it relentlessly traces the history of the South Slav national ideologies, describes how “Yugoslavia’s flawed unification” took place in 1918, and ends with the adoption of the centralist constitution in 1921. The date of the constitution’s adoption, June 28, or Saint Vitus’s Day, served as a double reminder of Serbia’s tragic history and political aggressiveness. On June 28, 1389, the Ottomans had crushed Serbian independence at the Battle of Kosovo, while on June 28, 1914, a Bosnian Serb student shot and killed the Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand, thereby precipitating a war that led to the creation of the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav state.
Banac has a clear thesis: the “national question” of Southeastern Europe “cannot be attributed to rivalries over distribution of wealth or to the choleric temperament of entire nations.” Even though a few specific groups, such as the Bosnian Muslims, the Italians in Dalmatia, and the Germans in the Slovenian cities and Vojvodina villages were considerably better off than the other nationalities in the same location, class struggle had a very small part, if any, in the many-sided national conflicts. Nor does it make any sense to indict nations as a whole for political failures.
Banac blames the mutually exclusive national ideologies that were born “by a Caesarean gash in the course of the French Revolution.” In other words, he blames the politicians and the intellectuals. Happy were the French and other West Europeans, whose ethnic and linguistic boundaries bore at least some relation to political boundaries! In Western Europe the political leaders had to deal with relatively few national minorities: one had only to take one’s cue from the French Jacobins, who proclaimed that “patriots spoke French, counterrevolutionaries, Basque and Breton,” and undertook to liquidate those non-French reactionaries in their midst.
The Jacobin example deeply influenced the Eastern and Southeastern Europeans, too, but they found it very hard to apply the same enlightened principles in their own country. Not only did almost every group in the South Slav lands represent a majority in its own province and a minority elsewhere, but many could not even be certain where their true homeland lay. In Western Europe, provincial boundaries were by and large stable; Brittany has been Brittany from time immemorial. Not so in Southeastern Europe, where Serbia was once far to the south of the Danube and moved to its present location only in more recent centuries. Serb patriots have never forgotten, nor have they allowed anyone else to forget, that the original Serbian homeland was in the south, where many Macedonians and Albanians now live. In fact, Serbia did not rest until it had joined the ancestral homeland to the new Serbian state.
Similarly, Croatia’s center was once on the Adriatic, but the Croatian kingdom, or rather what was called Croatia under Habsburg rule, subsequently migrated northeastward until it reached Croatia’s present location between the Drava and the Sava rivers. As Banac reminds us, present-day Croatia dates only from 1881. The Croats, too, have laid claim to their ancestral homeland, although with considerably less success than the Serbs. As countries migrated, so did peoples, driven chiefly by a desire to escape the Ottoman conquest. Serbs, for instance, settled en masse in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, in what was then southern Hungary and is now the Vojvodina autonomous territory of the Serbian socialist republic.
According to Banac, the entire South Slav problem, but also the specifically South Slavic dynamism and vivacity, spring from the fact that the region was a meeting place of the three great Mediterranean religious traditions: Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Islam. This led to both intolerance and acceptance, practiced simultaneously as well as in what seem to have been alternating waves. Perhaps, then, the modern period of intense nationalism merely represents a particularly nasty wave of intolerance, to be followed by a new wave of relative acceptance, one which may have already begun in the period following World War II.
The age of nationalism was preceded by a long period, beginning in the seventeenth century, when intellectuals, particularly clerics, began to reform the local languages, create a literature in the vernacular, and search for cultural and historical ties with the other Slavic peoples. Without such preparation, the later claims for national distinctiveness would have had little to back them up. This stage was followed—according to Banac, who cites the Czech historian Miroslav Hroch—by a second one in the nineteenth century, when the ideas of scholars were transmitted by patriotic leaders to the common people. National revival reached its third stage, or “mass apogee,” in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when it was marked by fanaticism.
By 1914, the main national groups had developed literatures, modern languages, nationalist ideologies, political parties, and, at the same time, a strong yearning for a greater South Slav unity that might even include the Bulgarians. This commonly shared yearning, however, did not prevent South Slavs from fighting on opposite sides in World War I, partly because as citizens of different states they had no choice, and partly because of long-accumulating mutual hatreds. The Slovenes, Croats, and Bosnians, whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Muslim, and a good number of Serbs served in the Austro-Hungarian army; they were joined by the Bulgarians and many Albanian volunteers.
Lined up against them on the Entente side were most of the Serbians, the Montenegrins, and many Albanian volunteers. Undoubtedly some “Habsburg South Slavs” did not care to fight their Serbian brothers and deserted in the first days of the war. Most, however, were loyal to the Habsburg cause. The Serb soldiers of some Hungarian regiments in the 1914 Serbian campaign refused to surrender even when encircled by the Serbians. Serb honor would not allow them to lay down their arms, they explained, not even to brother Serbs. But as the situation in Austria-Hungary deteriorated, more and more South Slav soldiers fled to the mountains and the forests, there to form the “Green Cadres,” a guerrilla force made up of bandits, patriots, and social revolutionaries (often all three at once).
When the war came to an end, the South Slav contingent in the defeated Habsburg army, half a million strong, suddenly found itself part of the victorious coalition of the Entente. Their German, German-Austrian, and Hungarian comrades in the trenches had lost the war, but simply by being South Slavs they were now automatically on the winning side. By 1918, most South Slav soldiers in the Austro-Hungarian army had been facing the Italians, not an unwelcome foe, at least in Croat and Bosnian eyes. Now, without skipping a beat, the Italians had become allies. This did not prevent the Italian high command from capturing and imprisoning several hundred thousand Austro-Hungarian soldiers of all nationalities, even past the day of the official Austrian surrender. Among the captured soldiers were thousands of South Slavs: the Italians treated them callously, and they died in great numbers in the open-air POW camps.
Meanwhile, at home, a newly constituted South Slav national council tried to deal with the chaos that had followed the collapse of Austria-Hungary. Many peasants and the city rabble interpreted political freedom as a license to seize lands or to plunder. This in turn led the national council to call in the only organized force in the area, the Royal Serbian Army. From that moment on, late in 1918, the fate of the South Slav state was sealed: Serbian domination became inevitable. After all, Serbia had a king, a government, a functioning administration, a battle-hardened army, and well-developed political parties. The Croats, Slovenes, and Bosnians had only political leaders and parties, and, inevitably, their struggle would henceforth be limited to the political sphere.
Serbian discrimination against the other South Slavs began immediately after the war. In the new Yugoslav army, for example, Serbian officers were admitted automatically: their Commander in Chief remained the same; they had only to change the coat of arms on their caps. But former Austro-Hungarian officers of South Slav nationality had to make special application to join the new army: they were obliged to wear a Serbian uniform and had to cope with Serbian regulations. Before World War I, an Austro-Hungarian army officer had had to wait about twenty years before becoming a major; in the Royal Serbian army, eleven years had been sufficient. As a consequence, the generally better-educated and better-trained Croatian and Slovene military professionals of the former Austro-Hungarian army found themselves inferior in rank to unschooled Serbian officers of peasant origin. The new Yugoslav army sent the former Austro-Hungarian officers to faraway posts in the south; they were given reduced pay, and they had to use the Serbian. Cyrillic alphabet rather than the Latin script favored by the Croats and Slovenes.
Moreover, the army tried to get rid of the former Austro-Hungarian officers: by 1938, there were only thirty-one Croats left among the 191 officers of the Yugoslav General Staff. Only in the new Yugoslav navy did former Austro-Hungarian officers have the upper hand, since prewar Serbia had had no coastline and hence no navy. (Even the ships of the Yugoslav fleet were of Austro-Hungarian origin: they had been given to the South Slav Council by Emperor Charles as a parting gift just before the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy.)
Banac’s book reads like an unrelenting indictment of Serbian rapacity, intolerance, and duplicity. In his view, instead of becoming a South Slav brotherhood, the new Yugoslavia came close to becoming a Great Serbian empire. In the first Yugoslav cabinet, formed in December 1918, there were thirteen Serbs, but only four Croats, two Slovenes, and one Bosnian Muslim. This pattern was to prevail throughout the interwar years. When the currencies were exchanged following unification, and the Austro-Hungarian crown was replaced by the dinar, former citizens of the Habsburg monarchy were the losers. The personal savings of many, particularly Croatian peasants, were wiped out. In more backward regions such as Montenegro, Metohia, or Macedonia, the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav government pursued a policy of both extermination and assimilation. Great-Serb propagandists had long tried to prove that the Albanians had had “no history.” (It seems that every East European ethnic group being readied for liquidation suffers from a lack of “history”). Serb propagandists argued that the Bulgars were “un-Slavic,” which meant that, unlike the other South Slavs who were “magnanimous and cheerful,” the Bulgars were “industrious, coarse, materialistic, cheerless, and sullen.” (Cheerfulness and magnanimity likewise seem the basic characteristics of those bent on conquest; sullenness and materialism characterize their prospective victims.) Serb propaganda portrayed the Bosnian Muslims as “unstable and perverted” or as “inveterate homosexuals”; they were thus obviously weaker, and deserved to be subjugated. Fortified by such arguments, the Serbian army proceeded to dominate and, occasionally, to kill the inhabitants of the southern provinces. By 1921, the old dream of federalism had evaporated: new Yugoslavia was ruled, Banac argues, by a Serbian-dominated bureaucracy and army, both more unwieldy and more corrupt than the old Austro-Hungarian authorities had been.
Perhaps Banac is too hard on the Serbians; perhaps, too, I have been unduly impressed by Banac’s catalog of the many injustices committed between 1919 and 1921. Perhaps both of us underestimate the enormous difficulties faced by the leaders of the new South Slav state. We should remember that not even the Serbs were united in their aims. By 1918, Serbia had a well-developed parliamentary system in which the governing Great Serbian Radicals (NRS), under the talented Nikola Pasić, and the parties of the opposition held each other in check. Any concession by the government to non-Serbian interests was bound to evoke an attack by the parliamentary opposition and by the far more dangerous—because of their terrorist tactics—ultranationalists.
Secondly, the Croats, at least, presented a formidable problem. Often contemptuous of the Serbs, some Croat politicians understood Yugoslav unity to mean the realization of “Great Croat” dreams. The Croat Ustasa murderers who became notorious during World War II were already politically active in the 1920s: some experimented with terrorism. Even the most talented Croat politicians did not quite know how to get along with Serbia and the Serbs. Stjepan Radić, a brilliant Croat leader of peasant origin and the hero of the Croat peasants, vacillated interminably between ideas of Western parliamentarism and an unfathomable conception of peasant democracy that would have put an end to the parliamentary system. Radić alternately advocated Croat self-determination within Yugoslavia and a policy of “nothing with Belgrade!”
Thirdly, the Montenegrin “Greens,” the Kosovo and Metohia “Kaçaks,” the Macedonian “Komitas,” and assorted other conspiratorial groups were intractable, feuding among themselves and battling against the state. It would be naive to believe that the Belgrade government could have won over these rough fighters to the cause of progress and peace simply by practicing federalism rather than pursuing the goal of a unitary state. In Montenegro warfare had always been a way of life, as one can learn from the writings of Milovan Djilas, a son of the Black Mountain.
Finally, even though the Belgrade authorities mistreated a great number of people and killed others, they preserved the parliamentary system. True, there were electoral abuses, but these were only too common in the Eastern and Southeastern European states. Anyway, in a multinational state, smaller nationalities inevitably develop their own national parties which include people from different classes and with differing political ideas. Consequently, the Parliament became a confused marketplace of ideologies, social issues, and national grievances. This had been the tragedy of the Habsburg monarchy, or rather of its Austrian half, and this now became the tragedy of multinational Yugoslavia. The parliamentary system was only abandoned in 1929 with the proclamation of a royal dictatorship, but that, too, was more the result of a desperate internal conflict than of the dictatorial ambitions of King Alexander. Radić was murdered in 1928 by a Serbian Radical deputy. Alexander was assassinated in 1934 by a Macedonian revolutionary (egged on by Croat terrorists and Mussolini). In the civil war that tore Yugoslavia apart during and after World War II, appalling massacres took place. Only after hundreds of thousands were killed did the Yugoslavs accept the necessity of living in peace with one another.
If Banac shows clear sympathies for any political force throughout this bloody history, it is for the small pre–World War I party of left-wing Serbian Social Democrats, and especially for their leader, Dimitrije Tucović. He and his party not only voted against war credits, but then consistently and intelligently protested against the brutality of the Serbian army and bureaucracy. Interestingly, the Yugoslav Communists, who grew out of the Serbian Social Democratic movement, did not find it easy to recruit followers. This is partly because they were forced underground in 1921, but partly because they, too, advocated a centralist and exclusively Serbian solution. Only with the beginning of the Popular Front policies in the 1930s and the rise of Tito, a Croat by origin, did the Communists begin to adopt a federalist position. This, more than anything else, explains the support their movement received during World War II.
During the nineteenth century, East Central and Southeastern Europe were dominated by two multinational empires, the Habsburg and the Ottoman. Both tried but failed to block rising forces of nationalism, and this made their collapse inevitable. The so-called nation-states that arose in their place were in reality anything but national: some were as multinational as the old empires themselves. But there was a difference. The Central European states claimed to be national and most of them did their best to live up to that claim. Millions of Jews were killed and millions of Germans were expelled, not to mention many thousands of Hungarians, Bulgars, and Turks, among others. Few minorities are left. Czechoslovakia is now a single state in which the Czechs and Slovaks are equal partners. Outside Yugoslavia, only one large national minority remains, the 1.7 million Hungarians of Transylvania, whose fate is even worse than that of the other unfortunate citizens of Ceausescu’s Romania.
But then there is Yugoslavia. Although most of the Germans and Jews are gone, it is still a quintessentially multinational state. Some say it is the Habsburg empire of our time: it is not if one considers the murderous ruthlessness of the post–World War II Titoist repression and the political intolerance and single-party control that are practiced there today. But Yugoslavia does recall the Habsburg empire by its acceptance of cultural and ethnic diversity. Perhaps it is better able to adjust to changing times than the old empire was. If there is any hope in Eastern Europe for more fraternal relations among diverse peoples, Yugoslavia, in spite of everything, may represent that hope.
November 7, 1985