Struggling with Yugoslavism in the First Yugoslavia

The Belgrade Elite and the Public Debate

In: East Central Europe
Ranka Gašić Institute of Contemporary History, Belgrade, Serbia,

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The debate over Yugoslav nationalism versus Serbian nationalism and the structure of the new Yugoslav state came to occupy a prominent place in the public discourse of the Belgrade political and intellectual elite at the end of the First World War and again before the start of the Second World War. The considerable prewar interest in Yugoslavism and some sort of Yugoslav state had not focused on the realistic challenges of including a large Croatian and Slovenian representation. The focus of this article is on the reaction of the Belgrade elite to these challenges, their major lines of division and agreement around the questions of centralism vs. federalism, and the national identity of Serbs, first in the new state and then in the later 1930s. Only then, after the efforts of King Aleksandar’s royal dictatorship to impose integral Yugoslavism had ended with his assassination, did the Belgrade elite turn to integral Serbian nationalism.

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