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Updated on March 10, 2011



Yugoslavia's military collapse in 1941 was rapid. German forces attacked Yugoslavia on 6 April, followed on 9 April by Hungarians, Italians, and Bulgarians. Yugoslav forces were overrun or simply disappeared. Ethnic Croatian units, for example, withdrew, unwilling to sacrifice themselves for a "Serbian" Yugoslavia. Ustasha leader (poglavnik) Ante Pavelic declared Croatia's independence on 10 April. Meanwhile, ethnic Germans and Magyars welcomed their co ethnics as liberators from Serbian oppression. Within 2 weeks Yugoslavia lay prostrate. All pretensions of Yugoslav unity were dispelled as the country was partitioned among the conquerors and domestic nationalist factions.

Once the shock of defeat had passed, the reality of occupation set in. The Germans pursued policies of repression and deportation in northern Slovenia. Slovenes under Italian rule were subjected to a milder form of "Italianization." The Ustasha-declared Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska--NDH) was met with reserved acceptance by the Croat population as the country was divided into German and Italian spheres of influence. Heavily Muslim- and Serbian-populated Bosnia-Herzegovina was joined with "Greater Croatia."

Multinational Vojvodina was divided between the German and Hungarian occupiers. Under Italian sponsorship, Montenegro regained its independence. Eastern FYROM came under Bulgarian jurisdiction as the FYROM hoped for better treatment from the Bulgars. Kosovo and Western FYROM, populated by Albanian Muslims, became part of "Greater Albania" under Italian control. What remained of Serbia was under German occupation with a Serbian government of dubious credibility. King Peter and the remnants of the royal government escaped to London where they formed "a government-in-exile.


The Partisan victory in World War II can be largely attributed to the determination of one man, Josip Broz Tito. In organizing his resistance movement, Tito was required to overcome centuries of religious, ethnic, and political hatred and mistrust. His basic tactics were to oppose Axis occupation regardless of the cost, to strike at any force not supportive of his Partisans, and to gain Allied recognition as Yugoslavia's post-war political leader. Recognition would legitimize his seizure of power in Yugoslavia following the Axis defeat.

The son of Croat-Slovene parents, Tito is presented by party and government officials in Belgrade as a heroic figure who overcame tremendous odds in the formation of a secular, united, socialist Yugoslavia. Tito's essential qualities lay in his organizational talent and his appreciation of detail. He formed an underground army which served as the blueprint for other guerrilla movements around the world. His emphasis on movement and determination accounted for the Partisan success. Tito relied on the loyalty and ability of others who would compensate for his shortcomings. Tito's greatest achievements were as a political leader in both peace and war. He was able to influence foreign and domestic situations for his own benefit, and that of Yugoslavia. His determination evolved into a political ideology known as "Titoism." This represented a unique amalgam through which communism, nationalism, and independence were forged into an ideology capable of withstanding Soviet influences.


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