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WORD COUNT: 1,919
PREPARED BY: CHAN ZHE YING LSE STUDENT ID 342856
Chosen question: To what extent was the disintegration of the Yugoslav federation due to the rise of nationalism?
Abstract Nationalism defined Paving the way towards disintegration: The 1974 Constitution Death of Tito: The beginning of the end Economic crisis: Failure of Market Capitalism Slobodan Milošević and the “great Serbian nationalism” Slovenia and Croatia: Complete breakdown of mutual trust International and other causative factors Conclusion Bibliography Pg 3 4 5 6 6 7 9 10 11 12
Abstract Nationalism was widely considered to be one of the main reasons that attributed to the downfall of the Yugoslav federation in the early 1990s. Though influential, the blame does not lie on Nationalism alone, as several other factors that resulted in the collapse of the Yugoslav federation. Nationalism was a crucial, but not direct factor. Rather, it served as a catalyst in many cases. I will start by defining nationalism, before discussing how the 1974 Constitution paved the way for nationalistic idealism across the six constituent Socialist republics and two Socialist autonomous provinces. Several other factors also contributed to the disintegration of the Yugoslav federation. Throughout the essay, I will discuss the role nationalism played in each of the factors, ranging from economic crisis and failure of reform to the passing of Tito (and the wartime generation) and how these factors, collectively, were to blame. One also cannot ignore the role Slobodan Milošević played in setting off the chain of events that led to the eventual failure of the Yugoslav state. Finally, I will briefly discuss the significant international factors that contributed to the disintegration of the Yugoslav federation.
Nationalism defined Pedro Ramet noted that nationalism is a very real phenomenon in Yugoslavia and animates much of social life1. But what is nationalism? Hans Kohn defined nationalism as a state of mind corresponding (or striving to correspond) to a political fact2. Kohn theorized that nationalism is a state of mind that drives individuals to form groups held together by a common consciousness, seeking to find its expression in what it regards as the highest form of organized activity, a sovereign state. Hence, nationalism drives nationality. Although nationalism tends to be ethnic in character, nationalism and ethnicity should not be seen as synonymous. A nationalist holds that political boundaries should be coterminous with cultural boundaries, whereas many ethnic groups do not demand command over a state3. Nationalism can assume many forms within a multiethnic state. It may foster separatism, stimulate unitarism, provide a transregional focus of loyalty, or drive the component ethnic groups into civil strife.
Ramet, Pedro, Nationalism and Federalism in Yugoslavia, 1963 – 1983, Library of Congress Cataloging Publication Data (1984) 2 Kohn, Hans, The Idea of Nationalism, Nationalism: Critical Concepts in Political Science Volume 1, Routledge (2008) 3 Eriksen, Thomas, Differentiating Nationalism – Nationality, Racism, Ethnicity, Nations and Nationalism, Edinburgh University Press Ltd (2005)
Paving the way towards disintegration: The 1974 Constitution Since the creation of the first Yugoslav state in 1918 after the First World War, cultural divide plagued the state. The leaders have tried (and failed) many different mechanisms to manage ethnic conflict. The 1974 Constitution was an attempt by the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) to create a virtually confederal state 4 by transferring power from the central government to the six constituent Socialist Republics (SR) and two socialist autonomous provinces. This essentially gave a lot of power and autonomy to the individual constituencies. One of the key provisions of the 1974 Constitution was the annual rotation of the presidency of the Yugoslav federation, among the member groups. However, this will only come into effect upon the passing of Josip Broz Tito (Tito), who was made President for life under the same Constitution. Though the Constitution did have its advantages such as accountability by the respective governments to its people, as well as a veto, it was largely problematic. It reduced the powers of the SR Serbia over the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. The Albanian population in Kosovo could therefore, directly affect the political decisions in Serbia. With each republic having full autonomy, par for the presidency, nationalistic movements intensified in the multi-national federation. Interethnic tension escalated in Kosovo over the years and distrust between the Slavs and the local Albanians runs deep5.
Dimitrov, Vesselin, Democracy and Conflict in the Former Yugoslavia, IR210 Building Democracies from Conflict, LSE Summer School 2010, London School of Economics and Political Science, 2 August 2010. 5 Ramet, Pedro, Nationalism and federalism in Yugoslavia, 1963-1983, Chapter 8: Axes of Nationalist Tension (1968-83), pp-161, Library of Congress Cataloging Publication Data (1984)
Death of Tito: The beginning of the end Tito’s passing on 4th May 1980 was widely regarded as the day which the breakup of the Yugoslav federation began. It removed what many Yugoslavs and Western observers saw as the country’s main unifying force. The entire federal system came to a stalemate as the rotation of the presidency made it impossible for any president to install long-term policies and to ensure policy continuity at the federal level. The absolute veto power of the eight groups also contributed to this paralysis.
Economic crisis: Failure of Market Capitalism The decentralisation of economic decision-making powers meant that each member republic and the provinces had almost complete autonomy over its economic affairs. This system lacked discipline and market capitalisation as each state
proceeded with its own interests with no monitoring and control mechanisms in place. The nationalistic mentality of each republic – where each member pursued with the decisions at its best interest, with no regard for other member republics and the central government, probably accelerated the deterioration of the economy and the economic crisis that followed. Each proceeded with its own fiscal polices at the expense of the central federation and the other member republics6. This resulted in high trade deficit and trade debts for the central government. By 1981, Yugoslavia had incurred huge in foreign trade debt and had to turn to the International
Dimitrov, Vesselin, Democracy and Conflict in the Former Yugoslavia, IR210 Building Democracies from Conflict, LSE Summer School 2010, London School of Economics and Political Science, 2 August 2010.
Monetary Fund (IMF) for funding. One of the conditions of receiving IMF funding was that there must be extended fiscal discipline and market capitalism. However, with the dilution of authority of the central federation, no one could enforce this discipline. The economic crisis deepened, inflation and high unemployment soon ensued. Nationalist agendas were widely thought to be the ‘winning’ formula, but for each republican leader, it was far more important to safeguard the economic interest of his republic rather than the Republic of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia had essentially descended from a single republic to eight separate states running their own economics at the expense of other states and the central republic.
Slobodan Milošević and the “great Serbian nationalism” When Milošević first entered the political scene in 1987, he was a hard-line communist that was against any form of nationalism. Despite his genuine sympathy for the plight of the Serbs in Kosovo, he frequently attacked dissident intellectuals, firmly opposing all demands for liberalization and punished any manifestation of Serbian nationalism. He then began campaigning against the ruling elite of SR Serbia, demanding reductions in the autonomy of Kosovo and Vojvodina. Milošević reinvigorated the SR Serbia party by forcing it to embrace nationalism.7
Aleksa. Djilas, A Profile of Slobodan Milošević, Foreign Affairs vol. 72, no, 3, Pg 86, Council of Foreign Relations publication, Summer 1993
In his view, the unilateral secession by republics was both politically unacceptable and constitutionally illegal because such action would result in the partitioning of major ethnic groups, such as the Serbs, into separate states against their will.8 While he gained the support of the Serbs in Yugoslavia, Milošević was often criticized for his nationalistic views of being a “Serbian nationalist agenda”, and that he exploited a growing wave of Serbian nationalism in order to strengthen centralized rule in the SFRY.9 However, in Spring 1991, after countless rounds of zero-sum negotiations between the inter-republican leaders for a single overarching Yugoslav state, Milošević begun to acknowledge that the secession of a nearly ethnically homogeneous republic with the Serbs as a minority (Slovenia for instance) might be politically inevitable. Many of Milošević’s policies while he was the President of SR Serbia and subsequently of SFRY, can certainly be viewed as pro-Serbian. Milosevic’s inability to reach a compromise with other inter-republican leaders could also have played a role in the breakdown of talks, as Bosnia’s Izetbegovic noted: “Both (Tudjman and Milosevic) in my opinion are people who are insufficiently inflexible… some people are simply incapable of compromise. I think Tudjman and Milosevic are such people.”
Cohen, Lenard J., Broken bonds: the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Chapter 7 pp-197, Westview Press 1995 9 Second Amended Indictment; Case No. IT-99-37-PT; Prosecutor v. Slobodan Milošević; 16 October 2001, para 66, Link: http://news.lp.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/icty/milosevicamind62901.pdf, Retrieved: 6 August 2010
Slovenia and Croatia: Complete breakdown of mutual trust Throughout the negotiations in the late 1980s and early 1990, Slovenia and Croatia continuously held on to their views of abandoning the federal structure and the formation of an independent state. At best, the Slovenes and Croats would only entertain the possibility of maintaining the former Yugoslav framework only as an alliance or community of states, and not as a single overarching state.10 Slovenia and Croatia eventually attained their independence by end June 1991 after a series of amendments to their constitution, and this led to the Yugoslav’s People’s Army (JNA) – which incidentally, consisted largely of Serbs – to intervene. JNA’s defeat in Slovenia consolidated the recognition of Slovenia as an independent state. I believe that JNA’s act of invading Slovenia and Croatia, if anything, served to accelerate the separation process from the central federation and evoke heightened nationalistic defence over the sovereignty of the two republics. Both states had all but completely lost trust in the central federal system and no longer believed in the legitimacy of the federation. Nationalism played a crucial role in that both Slovenia and Croatia wanted to form a sovereign state consisting largely of Slovenes and Croats as soon as possible. The eventual withdrawal of Slovenia and Croatia from the Yugoslav federation could therefore be attributed to both a mutual mistrust, and to a certain extent, the nationalistic mindset of the leaders from the two republics.
Cohen, Lenard J., Broken bonds: the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Chapter 7 pp-200, Westview Press 1995
International and other causative factors External factors, particularly Germany’s and Austria’s recognition of the independence of Slovenia and Croatia while the negotiations between the Socialist Republics and the central federation was ongoing, as well as their support for the secessionist goals, certainly played an important role in the collapse of the federation. However, it must be mentioned that the major responsibility rests with the quarrelsome nationalist leaders of the various republics and provinces. What is more tragic, in my opinion, is that most of the inter-republican leaders recognized the danger of impending state disintegration and political violence if they failed to reach an agreement on a new constitutional model to keep the SFRY intact, but they proved woefully inept in finding a way out of the looming disaster. The loss of popularity and acceptance of the communism ideology also played a role in the disintegration of the federation. Communism ideology states that ethnic differences would eventually fade away in an ethnically diverse society. However, this ideology lost its appeal with the passing of the wartime generation. The new generation could not appreciate and understand communism and were born in an age where other forms of managing the state (such as nationalism and democracy).
Conclusion The resignation of President Mesic and PM Markovic in December 1991 effectively marked the end of the Yugoslav federation. What started out as an attempt to grant more autonomy to the socialist republics and the socialist provinces under the 1974 Constitution, eventually paved the way for the chain of events that ultimately led to the downfall of the Yugoslav federation. Along the way, the death of Tito marked a stalemate and the eventual paralysis of the federal system. With each republic and province having almost full economic autonomy, the economic crisis that only made things worse as the federal and provincial leaders resorted to economic measures at the expense of the other states and the central federation. Slobodan Milošević also played an important role, being the spark that set off an unstoppable fire through demagoguery and stroking ethnic emotions and fears among the Serbs. All these factors eventually led to a complete breakdown of mutual trust and cumulated in the withdrawal of Slovenia and Croatia from the Yugoslav federation. Premature recognition of their sovereignty by certain European countries also accelerated the disintegration process. The inept inter-republic leaders should also shoulder some of the blame. However, even if the leaders had been more willing to listen and compromise, I doubt it would have made a difference. It would only delay the inevitable, not change it. Nationalism is an important catalyst for many of the factors identified above. Hence, to a certain extent, nationalism played an important role, but it should not the root cause of the disintegration of the Yugoslav federation.
Bibliography • Aleksa. Djilas, A Profile of Slobodan Milošević, Foreign Affairs vol. 72, no, 3, Pg 86, Council of Foreign Relations publication, Summer 1993 • Cohen, Lenard J., Broken bonds: the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Chapter 7 pp-197, Westview Press 1995 • Dimitrov, Vesselin, Democracy and Conflict in the Former Yugoslavia, IR210 Building Democracies from Conflict, LSE Summer School 2010, London School of Economics and Political Science, 2 August 2010. • Eriksen, Thomas, Differentiating Nationalism – Nationality, Racism, Ethnicity, Nations and Nationalism, Edinburgh University Press Ltd (2005) • Hutchinson, John and Smith, Anthony D., Nationalim: critical concepts in political science, Routledge Publishers, 2000 • Kohn, Hans, The Idea of Nationalism, Nationalism: Critical Concepts in Political Science Volume 1, Routledge (2008) • Ramet, Pedro, Nationalism and Federalism in Yugoslavia, 1963 – 1983, Library of Congress Cataloging Publication Data (1984) • Spencer, Philip and Wollman, Howard, Nationalism: a reader, Rutgers University Press, 2005 • Second Amended Indictment; Case No. IT-99-37-PT; Prosecutor v. Slobodan Milošević; 16 October 2001, para 66, Link: http://news.lp.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/icty/milosevicamind62901.pdf Retrieved: 6 August 2010
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