Land Reform and Serbian Colonization

Belgrade’s Problems in Interwar Kosovo and Macedonia

In: East Central Europe
Vladan Jovanović Institute for Recent History of Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia,

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The disintegration of the Ottoman Empire caused major demographic shifts in the Balkans. After the forced exchange of Greek and Turkish populations, the experience of the new Yugoslav state has received the greatest historical attention. Western historiography has emphasized the statements and efforts of a Serbian-led government to replace Muslim Albanians and Turks with Serbs. This paper, based on relevant historiography and unpublished archival material, reexamines the process of Serb colonization in Macedonia and Kosovo between the Two World Wars, including the Muslim migration from Yugoslavia to Turkey. It acknowledges the Serbian rationale for repopulating Kosovo, in particular, but goes on to emphasize the problems of an agrarian reform intended to favor smallholders across all of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, but also to facilitate the colonization project. Overseen by a new Belgrade Ministry for Agrarian Reform that was unable to fund the support needed for the colonists or to prevent local corruption, the reform failed to keep enough settlers in place to reverse the balance of population.

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