The intention of the Yugoslav communists to achieve a social transformation of Yugoslav society as their final goal in the civil war in Yugoslavia (1941−1945) was indirectly stimulated by J. V. Stalin’s speech on November 7th, 1941, when he predicted the end of WWII in the following years (i.e., defeat of Nazi Germany). This J. V. Stalin’s statement was instigated by a successful Soviet counterattack in the battleground in front of Moscow.
J. B. Tito considered this J. V. Stalin’s speech to be a signal to prepare the CPY for taking power in Yugoslavia before the end of the war. However, J. B. Tito’s partisans faced defeat by the German Nazis in West Serbia in December 1941, which postponed the achievement of his ultimate political aims in Yugoslavia.[i] Nevertheless, J. B. Tito always emphasized that the CPY in its struggle for power in Yugoslavia would get support only from Moscow.[ii] In order to encourage partisan units after their failure with Nazi troops in West Serbia, J. B. Tito continued to believe and propagate that he would gain a quick victory by the support of the Soviet Union against the Germans. This strategy influenced J. B. Tito to rearrange the organizational structure of both the Yugoslav communists and their partisan units according to the Soviet model. The Partisan detachments, in other words, became reorganized according to the Soviet norms with the Soviet symbols and a political-commissar structure. In liberated territory (the Soviet Užice Republic in West Serbia) the revolutionary People’s Liberation Councils were formed on the model of the soviets in the USSR.[iii]
Specific features of the war of liberation and the reintegration of Yugoslavia include the fact that the territories “liberated”[iv] by J. B. Tito’s partisans became established as the communities of a nation at war, which had no direct links with the previous local authorities in the old system of governing that had collapsed in April 1941. The CPY as the mobilizing and organizing force for the revolutionary war adopted the principle of the soviets in order to politically elaborate a strategy for the declarative emancipation and reintegration of post-war Yugoslavia. In many parts of Yugoslavia (Montenegro, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina) the local committees of national liberation (or national liberation and revolutionary councils) were created on the liberated territories to perform administrative functions. But, all of them were organized and functioned according to the Soviet model. Consequently, on November 16th, 1941 the Supreme National Liberation Committee of Serbia was set up on the liberated territory of the Soviet Užice Republic.
Following the example in Serbia, in February 1942 the National Liberation Committee of Montenegro was formed on the liberated territory of Montenegro. Furthermore, the creation of a special revolutionary-striking military unit called “The First Proletarian Brigade” was formed exactly on J. V. Stalin’s birthday (December 21st) in East Bosnian village of Rudo in 1941. However, such revolutionary actions by J. B. Tito were criticized by the Comintern which, orchestrated by the Soviet Union, tried to stop J. B. Tito’s “socialist revolution” at that moment since the Soviet Government attempted to keep positive diplomatic relations with its Western allies. This caused distant relations between the USSR and the CPY for the latter’s achievement in “the socialist revolution” in Yugoslavia. The Comintern took all responsibilities to detach J. B. Tito’s actions from the Soviet policy in order not to deteriorate the British and American relations with the Soviet Union. This Comintern position was aimed to disband the suspicions of Great Britain and the USA about the partisans’ socialist revolution and its communist character in Yugoslavia.
The “patriots” and the “collaborators”
Relationships between the Soviet Government and the Yugoslav Royal Government-in-exile in London, which in the eyes of the allies represented the legal Government of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, became seriously complicated in the summer of 1942. The reason for this was the question of the chetnik movement in Yugoslavia (the YAM), led by General Dragoljub Draža Mihailović and officially supported by the Yugoslav Government-in-exile.
On August 1st, 1942, the Soviet Government published the Resolution, which was mistakenly represented as written by the “patriots” from Montenegro, Boka Kotorska, and Tjentište but, in fact, by the propaganda machinery of the CPY. This document detailed the “collaboration and treachery” of General Draža Mihailović. For the first time, the Soviet media published such kind of resolution. Previously Soviet newspapers described only the partisan fight and their alleged military successes (which in the majority of cases were done, in fact, by the chetniks), but nothing was mentioned about the chetniks and their alleged “treacherous activities”.[v]
The Yugoslav Royal Government in London officially protested to the Soviet ambassador to the UK. This diplomatic protest inspired the Soviet Government to write the Memorandum handed to S. Simić, the Yugoslav ambassador in Kujbishew, on August 3rd, 1942. Presenting this Memorandum, the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs overtly uttered its opinion that General D. Mihailović had been a collaborator what indirectly meant that J. B. Tito was labeled as a patriot. The Memorandum provided the “facts”, received from J. B. Tito’s partisans, about D. D. Mihailović’s collaboration with the Germans and the Italians in Dalmatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro.[vi]
This announcement of the Soviet Government indicates the recognition of its relationships with the CPY, on the one hand, and the changing relationships with the Yugoslav Royal Government in London, on the other. The counter-Memorandum of the Yugoslav Royal Government (August 12th, 1942) explained the chetniks’ activities against the occupiers and tried to improve the deteriorating diplomatic relations with Moscow.[vii] However, the Soviet Government decided to rupture relations with officials of the Royal Yugoslav Government-in-exile due to the “collaboration” of the YAM with the Germans and the Italians.
Preparations for the 1943 Tehran Conference
In 1942, J. B. Tito requested permission from the Comintern to discredit publicly the Yugoslav Government-in-exile and its protege in Yugoslavia – General D. D. Mihailović. J. B. Tito’s final intention was to receive international support in order to replace the Yugoslav Royal Government in London as the only legitimate and internationally recognized political representative of the Yugoslav people. The leader of the Yugoslav partisans had been waiting for the reply from Moscow during the whole of 1942 and 1943. Nevertheless, in the meantime, a favorable moment for public dismissal of General D. D. Mihailović and his proponents in London did not occur.
Ultimately, J. B. Tito decided to make use of the meeting of the “big three” at the Tehran conference for his political aim to present himself and his partisan movement allegedly as the real and only moral representatives of the Yugoslavs. J. B. Tito organized the second session of the so-called Anti-Fascist Council of the National Liberation of Yugoslavia (the ACNLY) in the Bosnian town of Jajce (November 29−30th, 1943) on the territory of the ustashi-run ISC, exactly coinciding with the sessions of the Tehran conference. The ACNLY, however, when was formed in November 1942 in the Bosnian town of Bihać (also on the territory of the ISC), did not have any prerogatives of a supreme governmental organ because of the current foreign policy considerations.
But, one year later, conditions were changed and the second session of the ACNLY adopted far-reaching decisions connected with the establishment of the new (socialist) Yugoslavia. The “people’s deputies” of the ACNLY decided to create the National Committee for the Liberation of Yugoslavia (the NCLY) which would play the role of a new (Titoist) Yugoslav Government. At the same time, the ACNLY was transformed into the people’s assembly. The return of the Yugoslav king and the Royal Karađorđević family to Yugoslavia was forbidden until the war was over. The question of the political structure of the state (republic or monarchy) was supposed to be discussed after the liberation of the country. The federal structure of the future Yugoslavia was proclaimed in advance. The federal internal structure of Yugoslavia, instead of the previous centralist model (up to August 1939), was propagated by the Yugoslav communists even before the war broke out in April 1941. For the Yugoslav communists, the federalization of the country was designed from 1937 onward as one of the crucial achievements of socialism. They took the Soviet Union’s federal model of internal state’s organization as an example for the federal organization of socialist Yugoslavia.[viii] For the Yugoslav communists, a federal organization of Yugoslavia was a cornerstone of a new union of “liberated” nations.[ix]
While Moscow disapproved of the creation of the ACNLY (November 26−27th, 1942) because of possible negative reactions from the Anglo-American side,[x] convocation and the legislative work of the second session of the ACNLY a year later were supported by Moscow.[xi] From the very beginning of the war, J. B. Tito strongly insisted that the Soviet Government would recognize the partisan units in Yugoslavia as the regular army of all Yugoslav nations. In J. B. Tito’s mind, this recognition was supposed to be followed by a Soviet military mission sent to the Supreme Headquarters of the Yugoslav partisans’ National Liberation Movement of Yugoslavia.[xii] J. B. Tito’s main diplomatic goal in the autumn of 1943 was to obtain from Moscow a public recognition of the alliance between the Soviet Government and the CPY.
To be sure, according to relevant historical sources, J. B. Tito utilized the preparation for the Ministerial Conference in Moscow between the USSR, the USA and Great Britain (held from October 19th to October 30th, 1943) to present his war aims in Yugoslavia to the Soviet Government. The leader of the Yugoslav partisans sent a message to G. Dimitrov (October 1st, 1943) informing the Soviet Government that:
- The Yugoslav National Liberation Movement recognizes neither the Yugoslav Royal Government in London nor the Yugoslav king because they supported D. D. Mihailović – “a collaborator and traitor of the Yugoslav nation”.
- The National Liberation Movement would not allow the Yugoslav Government-in-exile and the Yugoslav king to return to Yugoslavia because their arrival in Yugoslavia could give rise to the civil war in the country.[xiii]
- “The sole legitimate Government at the present time is represented by the national liberation committees, headed by the Anti-Fascist Council”.[xiv]
J. B. Tito in the same telegram presented his main revolutionary (socialist) claims to the Comintern as well. The message influenced the Soviet Government and during the Moscow Ministerial Conference (that was the preparation for the coming Tehran Conference) the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs V. M. Molotov demanded from the USA and the UK two things:
- To send a Soviet military mission to the Supreme Headquarters of the National Liberation Movement of Yugoslavia.
- To establish a military base in the Middle East in order to supply war materials to J. B. Tito’s partisans.[xv]
J. B. Tito’s telegram, sent to G. Dimitrov, proves that the Soviet Government was well acquainted with the revolutionary aims of the National Liberation Movement of Yugoslavia. In the autumn of 1943, Moscow recognized the revolutionary claims of the CPY[xvi] giving J. B. Tito a “green light” to prepare the Jajce’s session of the ACNLY. It is known that the official Soviet Government in Moscow was using the Comintern for its political purposes. Because the Comintern did not answer J. B. Tito negatively about his intention to hold the ACNLY’s session in Jajce with an already designed schedule of work and prepared political decisions, one can only conclude that the Soviet Government sustained J. B. Tito’s intention to change the political system in Yugoslavia by revolutionary means.[xvii] For that purpose, regular reports of the Soviet officials on this region expressed the view that the CPY appeared like the only political power in this country which was capable of restoring the Yugoslav state. In the backing of this Soviet policy to manipulate the CPY in order to create a new satellite, a socialist Yugoslav state, was the Soviet geopolitical aim to establish its own political domination over Central and South-East Europe at the end of WWII. Socialist Yugoslavia (or Titoslavia) would play a very important role in J. V. Stalin’s geopolitical concept of the Pax Sovietica Commonwealth as the country connecting Central and South-East Europe’s territories under Moscow’s control and guidance.
There are indications from the sources that J. V. Stalin designed for Yugoslavia a leading role among the post-war Balkan member-countries of the Soviet commonwealth. Such indications can be found in Svetozar Vukmanović-Tempo’s memoirs Borba za Balkan (Struggle over the Balkans). Specifically, from March 1943 onwards (i.e., immediately after the Red Army defeated the Germans at Stalingrad) S. V. Tempo was working to set up a joint Balkan headquarters to coordinate military operations in the border regions of Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Greece against the Germans and the Italians. The command of the joint Balkan communist forces would be given to the Yugoslav communists, a sign that post-war Yugoslavia would play a chief role among other Balkan members of the Pax Sovietica Commonwealth. S. V. Tempo was working in haste “especially considering the fact that the landing of allied troops from Africa in the Balkan Peninsula was expected any day, and this would have greatly affected the balance of power in each Balkan country. There was no time for delay!”[xviii] However, developments did not take the expected course, since the Anglo-American forces invaded Sicily instead of the Balkans and later on South Italy. The idea of a Balkan Union under Soviet supervision seemed to be realized in 1946−1947 when J. B. Tito and G. Dimitrov negotiated upon a Yugoslav-Bulgarian Confederation. At last, the idea turned out to be quite illusory in 1948−1949 with the J. B. Tito-J. V. Stalin’s confrontation and the Yugoslav expulsion from the Pax Sovietica Commonwealth by J. V. Stalin’s decision.
Tehran and Yugoslavia
The Tehran Conference was held between November 28th and December 1st, 1943 as an inter-allied meeting between three leaders of the anti-fascist coalition – W. Churchill, F. D. Roosevelt, and J. V. Stalin. The demand for the opening of the second (Western) front in France in the summer of 1944 by the Soviet leader was coordinated with plans for a Soviet summer offensive in 1944. The three leaders discussed as well as the establishment of the OUN after the war. However, J. V. Stalin pressed for a future Soviet sphere of influence in the Baltic States and East Europe. Finally, the Soviet leader indicated Soviet willingness to join the war against Japan in Asia-Pacific after the German defeat in Europe.[xix]
One of the important agreements of “the big three” in Tehran was to give aid to Ј. Б. Tito’s NLAY which practically meant that assistance to General D. D. Mihailović and his royal chetnik movement was ended. The Western allies obviously reversed their attitude towards events in Yugoslavia in view of the successes of the NLAY. The British as well were at that time becoming more interested in the armed movements in other Balkan countries with a view to the opening of a second front. However, agreement on aid to the NLAY became mostly fulfill to the Soviets since the Red Army could give this aid faster than the British or the Americans. As a result, decisive Soviet influence in Yugoslavia at the last stage of the war was expressed by way of material support for the Yugoslav communists.
The Soviet support given to J. B. Tito’s combatants had four features:
1) War equipment and material.
2) Medical aid.
3) Financial support.
4) Support for the education of officers of the NLMY.
These Soviet provisions had a material and an ideological basis. During the war, the NLMY did not have any serious factories for the production of war material at its own disposition for the sake to win the civil war. Therefore, that is the reason why the CPY and the Supreme Headquarters of the NLMY applied for material support from the Allies. However, the NLMY could expect this support only from the Soviet Government, because the USA and the UK favored the chetniks of General D. D. Mihailović until the summer of 1944. The ideological reason stays in the hopes of the Central Committee of the CPY that Moscow is the natural (political and ideological) ally of the Yugoslav communists.
Nevertheless, the first consignments and medical materials were received from the Anglo-American side as part of their anti-Nazi program in June 1943. The Soviet Union delivered its first material support to J. B. Tito’s NLMY in March 1944[xx] as a direct consequence of the Teheran Conference. It came after the visit of a Soviet military mission to the Supreme Headquarters of the NLMY on February 23rd, 1944, as the Soviet answer to J. B. Tito’s requests.[xxi] The Soviet Government was forced to react to possible Anglo-American power in Balkans immediately, in order to prepare the soil for its own sphere of influence in Yugoslavia, Central, and South-East Europe after WWII.
To be continued
Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.
[i] Đ. Vujović, „O lijevim greškama KPJ u Crnoj Gori u prvoj godini Narodnooslobodilačkog rata“, Istorijski zapisi, Titograd, 1967, 79; B. Petranović, Srbija u drugom svetskom ratu 1939−1945, Beograd, 1992, 319−328.
[ii] J. B. Tito, Sabrana djela, VIII, Beograd, 1979, 35.
[iii] Zbornik dokumenata i podataka o Narodnooslobodilačkom ratu naroda Jugoslavije, I/20, Vojno-istorijski institut jugoslovenske armije, Beograd, 1965.
[iv] In fact, majority of those “liberated” territories by the partisans across Yugoslavia have been simply ceded by the occupiers and especially by the Croat Nazi-fascist ustashi as a result of their collaboration with the partisans. About this phenomenon, see in [Vladislav B. Sotirović, “Anti-Serbian Collaboration between Tito’s Partisans and Pavelić’s Ustashi in World War II”, Balkan Studies, Vol. 49, Thessaloniki, Greece, 2014 (2015), 113−156].
[v] Труд, январь 12, 1942, Москва; Большевик, t. 2, Москва, 1942; Красная звезда, июнь 12, 1942, Москва; Правда, июль 19, 1942, Москва; Я. Л. Гибианский, Советский Союз и новая Югославия 1941−1947 гг., Москва, 1987, 49.
[vi] B. Krizman, (urednik), Jugoslovenske vlade u izbeglištvu 1941−1943, Dokumenti, Beograd‒Zagreb, 1981, 334−335.
[vii] J. Marjanović, Draža Mihailović između Britanaca i Nemaca, Beograd, 1979, 278.
[viii] B. Petranović, M. Zečević, Agonija dve Jugoslavije, 1991, Beograd, 45.
[ix] E. Kardelj, Sećanja, Beograd, 1980, 42−43.
[x] V. Dedijer, Interesne sfere, Beograd, 1980, 352.
[xi] N. Popović, Jugoslovensko-sovjetski odnosi u drugom svetskom ratu (1941−1945), Beograd, 1988, 108.
[xii] J. B. Tito, Sabrana djela, XVI, Beograd, 1979, 153.
[xiii] However, the civil war in Yugoslavia was already started by the partisans in West Serbia in September 1941.
[xiv] V. Dedijer, Interesne sfere, Beograd, 1980, 312.
[xv] B. Petranović (urednik), Jugoslovenske vlade u izbeglištvu 1943−1945, Dokumenti, Beograd‒Zagreb, 1981, 291.
[xvi] N. Popović, Jugoslovensko-sovjetski odnosi u drugom svetskom ratu (1941−1945), Beograd, 1988, 111.
[xvii] J. B. Tito, Sabrana djela, XVII, Beograd, 1979, 54‒70.
[xviii] S. Vukmanović-Tempo, Borba za Balkan, Zagreb, 1981, 80−88.
[xix] J. Palmowski, A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century World History, Oxford‒New York, Oxford University Press, 1998, 600‒601.
[xx] P. Milošević, „Iščekivanje sovjetske pomoći na Durmitoru 1942“, Istorijski zapisi, Titograd, 1970, 1.
[xxi] Arhiv Centralnog Komiteta Komunističke Partije Jugoslavije, KPJ-Kominterna, 1944, Beograd, 12.