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Updated on April 14, 2011



The concept of Yugo (South) - Slav unity originated as a literary movement in Croatia during the 1830s. Led by the Croat Ljudevit Gaj and inspired by the Serb linguist Vuk Karadzic, the "Illyrian Movement" endeavoured to foster cultural cohesion among the Croats, Serbs, and Slovenes. Though it had little support outside of Hapsburg Austria, it served to awaken the desire for collective unity among Austria's South Slavs. The transition from cultural "Illyrianism" to cultural "Yugoslavism" occurred during the 1860s and 1870s and represented a linguistic, ethnic, and cultural effort aimed at uniting Croats and Serbs. Prior to World War I, the Yugoslav movement was limited to the intelligentsia and lacked support from the general population, who were more concerned with their immediate economic situation. Croatian nationalists sought the formation of a pure "Greater Croatia." The Kingdom of Serbia was more concerned with Serbian nationalism and the expansion of the Serbian state.

Yugoslavism's transition from an intellectual concept to an active political movement occurred with the outbreak of World War I. Two unrelated organizations pursued parallel programs. A Yugoslav committee was organized in Italy in 1914, and received Allied recognition in 1915. Under the leadership of the Croat Ante Trumbic, this committee co-authored the Corfu Declaration (1917) with the Serbian government of Prime Minister Nikola Pasic. While the document affirmed the unity of the Serb, Croat, and Slovene nations, its vague wording allowed the creation of a Serbian-dominated state. In Vienna, Antun Korosec, a Slovene Catholic priest and parliamentary deputy, organized the Yugoslav Club from among Croat and Slovene deputies in the Austrian Reichsrat (parliament). Its program for Yugoslav unity readily fell in line with that of the Yugoslav Committee following the Hapsburg collapse in November 1918.

The promulgation of the "Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes" on 1 December 1918 1) represented the realization of the 1917 Corfu Declaration. However, the rapidity with which the union was accomplished was more in response to the deteriorating political and military situation than to Yugoslav idealism. It fell to Trumbic's Yugoslav Committee, Korosec's National Council (previously known as the Yugoslav Club), and Pasic's government to unify a state consisting of varied ethnic, political, religious, economic, and linguistic interests. Due to this diversity, the Serbs were able to create a centralized Serbian-dominated Yugoslav state which only partially recognized Croatian and Slovene national aspirations and disregarded the national identity of the Montenegrins and FYROM.

The promulgation of the "Vidovdan" (St. Vitus Day) Constitution provided for a centralized Yugoslav constitutional monarchy under the Serbian Karadjordjevic dynasty with the national capital in Belgrade. The single legislative chamber (Skupshtina) was elected by proportional representation. The Serbian-dominated legislature facilitated their political hegemony, as Serbia expected to receive support from ethnic Serbs in Croatia, Vojvodina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, and FYROM. Belgrade justified its actions on the grounds that Serbian troops had liberated the South Slav territories and defended the state from Italian, Austrian, Hungarian, and Bulgarian encroachments. The Serb dynasty provided Yugoslavia with international legitimacy.

Throughout the era of royalist Yugoslavia, Croat support for the state was half-hearted at best. The Croats balked at the centralist nature of a state which refused to recognize the multiethnic character of the land. Croat agitations for autonomy persisted. The well-intentioned efforts of the country's monarch, King Alexander, did little to appease the Croats. The Slovene position was more flexible. Slovenes sympathized with the Croatians; however, they had to look out for their own well¬being. Under the Hapsburgs, the Slovenes had no high schools and were subjected to various degrees of "Germanization." In Yugoslavia, they possessed their own educational system (including a university). Further, as long as the Slovenes participated in the government, Belgrade left the Slovenes to govern themselves.


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    • Big Brother profile image

      Alex Valis 6 years ago from Earth

      Really complicate situation but a great place with proud and good people. Believe me i' ve been there for many years...

      Alex the Macedon / Hellas

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 6 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Great hub. Complicated situation,and sad but interesting. God Bless You.