Jugoslavia, a New European State

By Milivoy S. Stanoyevich

[The Century Magazine, March 1918]

The terms Jugoslaveni (South Slavs) and Jugoslavia (South Slavs' Land) are of recent date. The adequate substitutes for these names in bygone times corresponded to the words Illyrians and Illyria, The older Greek historians, Herodotus and others very often mentioned Illyria and its tribes who were living in a state of intermittent warfare with their neighbors and one another, In the second and third centuries B. C. the Illyrians formed a kingdom of which the borders extended along the eastern shore of the Adriatic from Rieka to Drach and inland as far as the Danube and the Serbian rivers Timok and Vardar, This region comprises the modern provinces and state of Serbia, Montenegro, Dalmatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia-Slavonia, and Albania.

In the third century (229 B. C.) the Greeks and Romans defeated the lllyrian queen Teuta and a considerable part of her territory was annexed by the conquerors, In the fifth century began a series of invasions which profoundly modified the ethnical character of the Illyrians, Between 600 and 650 almost all Illyria was occupied by new invaders the Slavs who came from Galicia, Two groups of tribes which settled the lands of the Adriatic were Serbs and Croats. They virtually spoke a single language and were so closely related that they were almost always regarded as one nation, The Croatians settled in the western half of Illyria, the Serbians in the eastern, The former came inevitably under the influence of Rome and the latter under the influence of Byzantium, Hence the distinction between them became a marked difference of civilization and creed which has always tended to keep the Mediterranean Slavs disunited, In this manner old Illyria became entirely Serbo-Croatian in population, language, and culture, Its name disappeared from history, Politically it was revived by Napoleon, According to the treaty between France and Austria (October 14, 1809) the Illyrian provinces (Carniola, Dalmatia, Istria, Gorica, Gradiska, Triest, With parts of Carinthia and Croatia) were occupied by French troops and governed in the interest of Napoleon, The Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) was annexed to them in 1811 but about the end of 1813 the French occupation ceased to be effective and they reverted to Austria. In 1816 Ilirska Kraljevina (The Illyrian Kingdom) was formed from these provinces and recognized by the Vienna Government as Austrian crown lands.

The Austrian and Hungarian domination over the Southern Slavs aroused indignation when Croatia, Istria, and Slavonia were declared simple appanages of the Hungarian crown, partes adnexa (subject provinces) according to the Magyars or regna socia (allied kingdoms), according to the Austrians, Each of these phrases afterward became the slogan of a political party although neither is accurate, The Serbo-Croats preserved their local autonomy the use of their language for official purposes, their elected diet, and their other ancient institutions, but the Hungarian political and arbitrary control was represented there by the ban. The Croats, Serbians, and Slovenes acquiesced temporarily before a superior military force. However, when the Magyars later endeavored to introduce Hungarian as the official language, and when oppression became intolerable, a party was formed under the great Croatian patriots, Count Janko Drashkovich, Ljudevit Gaj, and Stanko Vraz—a nationalist, or "Illyrist," party, In 1843 this party was suppressed by an imperial edict. Austria now hoped that this would be the end of the national patriotic movement known by the name of Illyrism. But her labor was fruitless, Under the spur of persecution the zealous patriots passed from their romantic literary campaign to more practical activities.

In 1848 Serbia helped Croatia rebel against Hungary, and although the effort failed, yet the idea of South Slav unity after 1848 assumed a positive political aspect. In 1867 a brilliant Croatian, Bishop Strossmayer, founded the Jugoslav Academy in Zagreb and induced the Catholics to welcome the idea of union with the Orthodox. But the Treaty of Berlin (1878) crushed to some extent the idea of Jugoslavia, for it tied Serbia's hands politically, and she was the only free Balkan State, except little Montenegro, to battle for Jugoslav rights. Yet at the congress Serbia was given merely four districts and impressed into silence as to further claims. Bosnia was reduced to the status of a Turkish province occupied by Austria-Hungary. In the Slovene countries (Istria and Carniola) the Liberals became the champions of pure nationalism. Croatia remained under Hungarian control, while Dalmatia acknowledged Austria's sovereignty. Serbia redoubled her interest in Macedonia and Old Serbia (Novi-Bazar), where the newly created principality of Bulgaria (1878) has also begun a system of propaganda. Serbia likewise grew closer to Montenegro, and the people of Bosnia began to lodge protests in Vienna and Constantinople.

The date 1878 was a mile-stone for the idealistic presentation of the cause of Jugoslavia. The date 1900 marks the opening of the cause of Jugoslavia as a political fact. About the latter date the Serbs and Croats in Austria-Hungary formed the Croatian Progressive party and the Independent Serb party. The idea had previously been embodied in the formation of Jugoslav literary societies, student associations, journals, and art movements.

In 1905 the Serbs and Croats formed a new political party, the Serbo-Croatian Coalition, which vigorously attempted to unite Dalmatia to Croatia by the adoption of a resolution at Fiume (October 2). At that time the Croats had announced a program for securing freedom and unity through union with the Hungarian "Coalition party." This move was seconded by the Serbs at Zadar, who accepted (October 16) the identical program. The plan failed, but this movement provided for Austria a welcome pretext to set about intriguing against Jugoslav propaganda. Conditions were created which led to disastrous and scandalous outcomes at the Zagreb and Friedjung trials.

In 1908 Austria annexed the Turkish provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which she had had the right to occupy since 1878, and paid for the same sixty-five million francs at Turkey's demand. Serbia and Montenegro protested at this political bargain, from which they were excluded, although the matter concerned their own skin. Their protests, however, were hushed after a few months by the fait accompli. In 1912 came the opportunity to turn upon Turkey at least. Serbia and Montenegro formed with Greece and Bulgaria an alliance against Turkey. And when again, in the Second Balkan War, Serbia flouted Bulgaria, the people in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Dalmatia, and Istria came to expect everything from Serbia and nothing from Austria-Hungary.

Consequently, Austria-Hungary looked about for means to suppress the mounting South Slav vigor directed toward the Serbian nation, and found the overt act in the Sarajevo tragedy. War against Serbia was declared June 28, 1914, and Serbia was called upon to suffer from the deed which had been attributed to Jugoslav persons. But the Slavic cause was upheld, for Serbia turned to Russia for protection, and received not only the support of Russia, but eventually of all Russia's allies. In the beginning of the war Serbia showed certain success, but later on, when she was attacked by the joint powers of Germany, Austria, and Bulgaria, she was defeated, and the Jugoslavs fled to Italy, France, England, and continued their propaganda for the South Slavic cause. Meanwhile actual warfare showed to the great body of the Jugoslav people the impossibility of organizing an effective plan of military resistance; thus many Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes within the Austrian Empire were forced to enroll in the armies of that state.

The Jugoslav Committee was formed in London, May-July, 1915, and was presided over by Dr. Ante Trumbich, a lawyer and president of the Croatian National party of the Diet of Dalmatia, who had also been mayor of Splet, and deputy of Zadar in the Austrian parliament. The committee members represented Dalmatia, Istria, Triest, Croatia, Bosnia, and Carniola; also the Serbs from Hungary and three members from the Jugoslavs in the United States of America. The first action of this committee was to present (May 10, 1915) a memorandum to Delcassé and Isvolsky; its second plea for the aspirations of Jugoslavs was in the form of a memorandum to Lord Crewe (July 4, 1915). On October 1 1915, this committee began the publication of the "Southern Slav Bulletin," an official paper of the organization brought out simultaneously in English at London and in French at Paris. Abroad there were organized, besides the London committee, branches in North and South America. On March 10, 1915, a congress met at Chicago with 563 delegates representing the immigrants in North America. The Austro-Hungarian consuls in the United States immediately campaigned against the formation of an American Jugoslav Committee, which was nevertheless formed at Pittsburgh when, on November 29, 1916, a second Jugoslav convention was held. Meanwhile in South America a reunion of Jugoslavs was held at Antofagasta, Chile, in January, 1916, to which came delegates of the Jugolav colonies in Bolivia, Peru, and the Argentine, who declared themselves in accord with the rulings of the London committee.

he program of the London committee consisted in keeping alive the idea of future political unity of the Serbians of Serbia proper with the kindred Croats and Slovenes held under Austrian rule. The formation of opinion came from the Serbs, who were free to speak their political mind. The Croats were actually the most advanced of the group; but owing to the circumstances of Croatia still being under Austrian rule, they were not able to speak so forcibly or so openly as the politically free Serbians. As for the Slovenes, they were in the position of choosing to be with the Serbo-Croats rather than to be under Austria-Hungary; in other words, never having been politically free, they desired not so much complete independence as the opportunity to rule themselves in company with their brother Croats and Serbs.

The South Slav Committee, sitting in London, on account of their situation in England, the great-power ally of the Serbian nation, had no special political prerogatives, but had sympathy and unity of plan with the Serbian Government. By Serbia's alliance with Russia previous to the war she had automatically succeeded to alliance with the greater powers when the declarations of war ranged England, France, and Russia against the Central powers. England emphasized her intention to protect Serbia by loaning her money and by publishing pledges to avenge Serbian wrongs at the hands of the Austro-German and Bulgarian forces. The South Slav Committee at London counted on this political support of Great Britain for Serbia to serve their common cause. On July 20, 1917, the leaders and representatives of the Serbo-Croatian Coalition, together with the representatives of the Serbian Government, met at Corfu to discuss the Southern Slav problem on practical grounds. The outcome of this meeting was the Declaration of Jugoslav Independence. "The Great Charter of Liberties" for the Southern Slavs enunciated at this joint meeting is embodied in thirteen clauses. The clauses read as follows:

(1) The State of the Serbs, the Croats, and the Slovenes, who are known also under the name of Jugoslavs, shall be a free and independent kingdom with indivisible territory and one citizenship. The state shall be a constitutional, democratic, and parliamentary monarchy, with the dynasty of Karageorgevich ruling, which at all times did share the ideas and the sentiments of its people and did ever put liberty and the will of the people above everything else.

(2) The name of the state shall be the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes; and the title of the ruler, King of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.

(3) The state shall have one crest, one flag, and one crown, the same to be composed of the present emblems. The crest and the flag of the kingdom will be emblems of unity. The flag, as a symbol of unity, will be displayed on all the state buildings throughout the kingdom.

(4) The separate flags, Serbian, Croatian, and Slovene, have the same right and may be freely displayed on all occasions; the same holds true for the separate coats-of-arms.

(5) The three national terms, Serbian, Croatian, and Slovene, are equal before the law throughout the whole kingdom, and every one shall have the privilege to use any of them on all occasions of public life, and employ them before all authorities.

(6) Both alphabets, Cyrillic and Latin, are reciprocally recognized, and every one shall be entitled to their unrestricted use throughout the whole kingdom; the royal administration shall have the right, and the local autonomous authorities shall be obliged, to use the same at will, according to the inclinations of the respective peoples.

(7) All recognized religions shall be freely and openly professed; the Orthodox, Catholic, and Mohammedan sects, which are preponderantly established among our people, shall be equal and have equal rights in regard to the state; and in view of that, the lawgiver shall see to it that religious peace shall be secured in accordance with the spirit and tradition of all the people.

8) The calendars shall be equalized as soon as possible.

9) The territory of the Kingdom of the Serbs, the Croats, and the Sknenes shall be understood to include all lands in which this people, under three names, live indivisibly in great aggregates; all separatism is to be regarded as detrimental to the vital interest of unity. This people does not in any way desire anything belonging to others. They wish to be free and united. For this reason they energetically refuse any partial solution of the problem of their liberation in connection with the unification of Serbia and Montenegro into one state.

(10) The Adriatic Sea shall be at the disposal of all nations as free and open to all people having interests there.

(11) All citizens throughout the whole kingdom shall be equal and have the same rights toward the state and before its laws.

(12) The election of representatives to the national parliament shall be universal, equal, direct, and secret. This manner of voting shall be applied to municipal elections as well as to other administrative bodies. The voting shall take place in each community.

(13) The Constitution, which shall be framed by the constituent assembly convoked especially for this purpose by equal, universal voting, shall be the basis for the whole public life of the state; it shall be the beginning and the end of all authority, and the fundamental right according to which all state activity is regulated. The constitution will give to the people the possibility of developing its individual activities in the local autonomous administrations, as instituted by natural, social, and economic conditions. The constitution shall be voted upon and adopted in its entity by such a numerical majority as may be resolved by the constituent assembly. The constituent assembly as well as the laws framed by it shall become valid only with the sanction of the king.

Such is the completion of the new state in its beginning. It remains to be seen what will result from this new embarking, which is threatened by numerous difficulties. Most important is the query, What will the powers think of this new move, which must have international affiliations?

Austria-Hungary's voice has long been heard. There is no need to require much more than a restatement of historical events since the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand in order to cast a light upon the opinion which this South Slavic happening produces in Austria. Even before the advent of the declaration, Austrian opinion was divided on this subject. It is well known that Germans, Slavs, and Hungarians formed the component parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when Francis Ferdinand gave birth to the idea of a triple monarchy to satisfy the aspirations toward autonomy of those three parts. But the Slavs, wishing complete independence more than a mere sop to their vanity, would have none of that idea. The Berchtold foreign ministry, which had in some measure favored this scheme, fell from power with the battle defeats of the Austro-Hungarian forces in Serbian territory and the failure of its policy in the Balkans. The successor, Stephen Burian, formerly administrator of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was placed as a link in the strengthening of the German chain; but, like his own successor, Clam-Martinic, whose idea was state consolidation regardless of the openly expressed dissatisfaction of the Bohemians and Poles, had to give way before a force which was continually augmenting. The recognition of this force toward irruption and democracy Emperor Charles partly glimpsed, for the fall of Germanophile Tisza, the Hungarian premier, was only an indication of an opposing order of things. In May, 1917, the Slavs in the Reichsrath en bloc gave stirring declaration to the principle of liberty and democracy demanded by their constituents. The "Neue Freie Presse" and the "Neues Wiener Tagblatt" (May 31) combatted this view. However, the Slav delegates remained strong in their views that the old order must be changed according to the spirit manifested over all great Russia, over China, from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, where democracy is ruling, while Austria still remains unchanged. The declaration of Jugoslavia heralded democracy; into the formation of that document were woven the spirit of the American Declaration of Independence and the experience of the French Republic. But Austria does not view such democracy as separate from her empire. Since the date of the declaration the royal and imperial monarchy has officially proclaimed that, although she does not oppose the idea of Jugoslavia, yet she contends that that state shall be under her protectorate or sovereignty.

But what of allegiance to the claims of nationalism when a conflict arises between just this recent Jugoslavia and one of the very group of powers urging guaranties of democracy? Italy's position will be the most questionable in the Entente reception of the Jugoslav state. However, considering Lloyd George's pledges of support for Serbia given to Premier Pashich, it can well be seen that conflicting claims of new Jugoslavia and Italy could be healed. Guglielmo Ferrero points out a factor often overlooked—Slav cooperation with Italian in developing the Adriatic. Let the partition of the Adriatic now be transverse instead of longitudinal; let it be a cross-sea industry reviving days of Venice. As for the province of Istria, as well as certain cities and colonies along the Adriatic Sea that Italy lays claim to possess in the course of time par voie d'infiltration, their future ought to be decided by plebiscite. Indeed, it is possible to read into the proclamation of Jugoslavia an interpretation of the knotty points. Clause Ninth says: "The territory of the Kingdom of the Serbs, the Croats, and the Slovenes shall be understood to include all lands in which our people, under three names, live indivisibly in great aggregates." This clause probably would renounce for Jugoslav territory those places where Slavs live in slight aggregates compared with the Italians. In cases of extreme ambiguity it may not be far fetched to suggest internationalization for such cities as Triest, Fiume, and Zadar in the sense in which Hamburg, Bremen, and Lübeck were in the days of the Hanseatic League.

While the Jugoslavs want unification, realization of their national ideals, they do not make any pretension on the ground of historical traditions and privileges; but they want the creation of a state on the principle of unity of territory, unity of race and language, and unity of national aggregates of population. Yet whether the greater powers, including recalcitrant Italy, will be satisfied or not with the purpose and aims of this new state, there can no longer be any doubt that the advent of Jugoslavia has already been proclaimed in the great circle of the nations.

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013



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