Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Peter J. Potichnyj
Throughout the 50 years existence of the Yugoslav Nation, federalism, initially as a political movement, subsequently as a type of state organization, has been continually present in, the country's socio-political life. Federalism has, without any doubt, acquired and retained its important role on the Yugoslav political scene, particularly due to the multi-national composition of the Yugoslav community. Ethnical heterogeneity, made even more apparent by considerable variations in the levels of cultural and economic development of the Yugoslav nations, was indeed the basic source of strength and vitality of the federalist movement, the aspirations and aims of which were, however, only to be attained after the Second World War. On the other hand, paradoxically as it may seem, centralists invoked ethnical, cultural and economic differences, in support of their points of view, i.e. they claimed that only by means of a strong and centralized State could these differences be overcome and conditions created for the rapid and complete integration of the Yugoslav nations. However, on the basis of a study on the 50 years development of Yugoslav society, we can safely claim that these aims can only be achieved if national equality is not impaired and this requires that the multi-natioaal society be organized on the principles of federalism.
Although the subject of this work is primarily the evolution of Yugoslav federalism from 1918, i.e. from the time when the South Slavs first formed a common state, to the present day, special attention is directed to the historical background of this question in the post-war period, and, in particular, to the trend in the sphere of inter-nationality relations, and to the important changes in the Yugoslav constitutional system in the course of 1970 and 1971. It is only natural that priority should be given to the study of federalism in socialist Yugoslavia because it was only during and after the Revolution that it was able fully to assert itself, whereas in pre-war Yugoslavia, it only appeared as part of the opposition parties' and movements' programs. The policy of hegemony and national inequality pursued by the royal government was, finally, to lead to the dissolution of the state, which occurred after Yugoslavia was attacked by the Axis Powers in April, 1941. The fact that yugoslavia was reconstructed only four years later can be attributed to the persevering efforts of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, which, as early as the mid 1930's, introduced into its programme the struggle for a democratic, socialist and federal Yugoslavia in which the equality of all its nations would be ensured. The aims of the Communist Party, which expressed the aspirations of the vast majority of Yugoslav people were already achieved, in substance, in the course of the Peoples' Liberation War, brought to a successful conclusion in 1945.
However, in the first post-war years, there was a certain departure from the principles of federalism, and national equality was partially impaired. The socia-political system of Yugoslavia was created under the strong influence of Soviet theory and practice, and it can be said that Yugoslavia's first Constitution of 1946 was basically a copy of the Soviet Constitution of 1936. This actually meant that federalism existed only formally, while, in reality, the State was organized along rigidly centralistic lines. This system was however, rejected as early as the 1950's, when the Yugoslav Communist Party embarked upon the edification of socialism in accordance with the principles of democratic socialism based on self-management. The concept of self-management was, however, primarily achieved in the economic sphere, whereas centralism was still considerably felt in relations between nations and republics and was reflected in the great political and economic power wielded by the federal organs. The persistence of centralism in the field of inter-nationality relations led to conflicts between the republics and the Federation and between the republics themselves, as well as to the revival of nationalism in the second half of the 1960's which threatened to plunge Yugoslavia into a deeper and lasting crisis. The yugoslav Party leadership sought to solve these problems by radically reducing the federal power and transferring it to the federal units - the republics and provinces. These changes were sanctioned and implemented through the adoption of Constitutional amendments in mid 1971. The essence of these Constitutional changes resides in the fact that all yugoslav republics have assumed the same rights and obligations in the Federation, regardless of their size, economic power or number of inhabitants. Time will show to what extent this new political system will strengthen the Yugoslav multi-national community and create a lasting basis for the full equality of all its peoples. The time that has elapsed since the adoption of the Constitutional changes is not sufficient to permit us to take a final assessment on these questions.
Although the author's basic purpose was to familiarize the reader with the specific aspects of the development of Yugoslav federalism, and, thus, to help towards a better understanding of Yugoslav society as a whole, we believe that this work can have a broader significance, as the Yugoslav experience in solving inter-nationality problems and promoting national equality may be of assistance to other multinational communities in the world, faced with similar problems in their development. Finally, certain specifically Yugoslav solutions regarding the organization and functions of the federal state, may serve as contribution to the theory and practice of contemporary federalism.
Bilandžić, Vladimir, "The Development of Yugoslav Federalism: From Unitary state to Socialist Federation" (1972). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4750.
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