Kingdom of Yugoslavia

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was a Balkan state which existed from December 1, 1918 to mid-April 1941.

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Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia


The kingdom was formed in 1918 under the name Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Serbo-Croatian latin: Kraljevina Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca cyrillic: Краљевина Срба, Хрвата и Словенаца, Slovenian Kraljevina Srbov, Hrvatov in Slovencev, Macedonian Кралство на Србите, Хрватите и Словенците, short name Kraljevina SHS, Краљевина СХС).

On December 1 1918 it was proclaimed by Alexander Karađorđević, Prince-Regent for his father King Petar (Peter), who was formally King of Serbia. The new Kingdom was made up of the formerly independent kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro, as well as a substantial amount of territory that was formerly part of Austria-Hungary, the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. The lands previously in Austria-Hungary that formed the new state included Croatia, Slavonia and Vojvodina from the Hungarian part of the Empire, Carniola, part of Styria and most of Dalmatia from the Austrian part, and the Crown province of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A plebiscite was also held in the Province of Carinthia, which opted to remain in Austria. The Dalmatian port city of Zadar and a few of the Dalmatian islands were given to Italy. The city of Rijeka was declared a free city-state, but it was soon occupied, and in 1924 annexed, by Italy. Tensions over the border with Italy continued, with Italy claiming more of the Dalmatian coast, and Yugoslavia claiming Istria, part of the former Austrian coastal province which had been annexed to Italy, but which contained a considerable population of Croats and Slovenes.

The new government tried to integrate the new country politically as well as economically, a task made difficult because of the great diversity of languages, nationalities, and religions in the new state, the different history of the regions, and great differences in economic development among regions.

Politics in the new state

Immediately after the 1st of December proclamation, negotiations between the People's Council (of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs) and the Serbian government resulted in agreement over the new government which was to be headed by Nikola Pašić. However when this was submitted to the approval of the regent it was rejected so producing the new state's first government crisis. All the parties regarded this as a violation of parliamentary principles but the crisis was resolved when they agreed to replace Pašić by Stojan Protić who was a leading member of Pašić's Radical Party. The new government came into existence on the 20th December 1918. (source: Branislav Gligorijević Parlament i političke stranke u Jugoslaviji 1919 1929)

In this period before the election of the Constituent Assembly a Provisional Representation served as a parliament which was formed by delegates from the various elected bodies that had existed before the creation of the state. A realignment of parties combining several members of the Serbian opposition with political parties from the former Austria-Hungary led to the creation of a new party, The Democratic Party, that dominated the Provisional Representation and the government.

Because the Democratic Party led by Ljubomir Davidović pushed a highly centralized agenda a number of Croatian delegates moved into opposition. However the radicals themselves were not happy that they had only three ministers to the Democratic Parties eleven and on the 16th of August 1919 Stojan Protić handed in his resignation. Ljubomir Davidović then formed a coalition with the Social Democrats. This government did have a majority but the quorum of the Provisional Representation was half plus one vote. The opposition then began to boycott the parliament and as the government could never guarantee that all their supporters to turn up it became impossible to hold a quorate meeting of the parliament. Davidović quickly resigned but as no one else could form a government he again became prime minister. As the opposition continued their boycott the government decided it had no alternative but to rule by decree. This was denounced by the opposition who began to style themselves as the Paliamentary Community. Davidović himself realized that the situation was untenable and requested from the King the immediate holding of elections for the Constituent Assembly. When the King refused he felt he had no alternative but to resign.

The Parliamentary Community now formed a government led by Stojan Protić committed to the restoration of parliamentary norms and migigating the centralization of the previous government. Their opposition to the former governments program of radical land reform also united them. As several small groups and individuals switched sides, Protić now even had a small majority. However the Democratic Party and the Social Democrats now boycotted parliament and Protić was unable to muster a quorum. Hence the Parliamentary Community, now in government, was forced to rule by decree.

For the Parliamentary Community to thus violate the basic principle around which they had formed put them in an extremely difficult position. In April 1920 widespread worker unrest including a railway strike broke out and according to Gligorijević this put pressure on the two main parties to settle their differences. After successful negotiations Protić resigned to make way for a new government led by the neutral figure of Milenko Vesnić. The social democrats did not follow their former allies the Democratic Party into government because they were opposed to the anti communist measures that that new government was committed.

The controversies that had divided the parties earlier were still very much live issues. The Democrat Party continued to push their agenda of centralization and still insisted on the need for radical land reform. A disagreement over electoral law finally led the Democrat Party to vote against the government in Parliament and the government was defeated. Tho this meeting had not been quorate, Vesnić used this as a pretext to resign. His action produced the result Vesnić had intended and the Radical Party agreed to accept the need for centralization while the Democratic Party agreed to drop their insistence on land reform and Vesnić again headed the new government. The Croatian Community and the Slovenian People's Party were however not at all happy with the Radicals acceptance of centralization. Nor for that matter was Stojan Protić and he withdraw from the government on this issue.

In September 1920 a peasants' revolt broke out in Croatia, the imediate cause of which was the branding of the peasants cattle. The Croatian Community blamed the centralizing policies of the government and of minister Svetozar Pribičević in particular.

From Constituent Assembly to Dictatorship

One of the few laws successfully passed by the Provisional Representation was the electoral law for the constituent assembly. During the negotiations that preceded the foundation of the new state it had been agreed that voting would be secret and based on universal suffrage. It had not really occurred to them that universal might include women until the beginnings of a movement for women's suffrage appeared with the creation of the new state. The social democrats and the Slovenian Peoples Party supported women's suffrage but the Radicals opposed it. The Democrat Party was open to the idea but not committed enough to make an issue of it so the proposal fell. Proportional Representation was accepted in principle but the system chosen (D'Hondt with very small constituencies) favored large parties and parties with strong regional support.

The election was held on the 28th November 1920. When the votes were counted the Democratic Party had won the most seats, more than the Radicals - but only just. For a party that had been so dominant in the Provisional Representation that amounted to a defeat. Further they had done significantly badly in all former Austria-Hungarian areas. That undercut their belief that their centralization policy represented the will of the Yugoslavian people as a whole. The Radicals had done no better in that region but this presented them far less of a problem because they had campaigned openly as a Serbian party. The most dramatic gains had been made by the two anti-system parties. The Croatian Common-People Peasant Parties leadership had been released from prison only as the only as election campaign began to get underway but according to Gligorijević this far from hindering them had helped them more than active campaigning. The Croatian Community that had in a timid way tried to express the discontent that Croatian Common-People Peasant Party had mobilized had been too tainted by their participation in government and was all but eliminated. The other gainers were the communists who had done especially well in Macedonia. The remainder of the seats were taken up by smaller parties that were at best skeptical of the centralizing platform of the Democratic Party.

The results left Nikola Pasić in a very strong position as the the Democrats had no choice but to ally with the Radicals if they wanted to get their concept of a centralized Yugoslavia thru, where as Pasić was always careful to keep open the option of a deal with the Croatian opposition. The Democrats together with the Radicals were not quite strong enough to get the constitution thru on their own and they made an alliance with the JMO, the Yugoslav Muslim Organization. The Muslim party sought and got concessions over the preservation of Bosnia in its borders and how the land reform would effect Muslim landowners in Bosnia.

Because the Croatian Peasant Party refused to swear allegiance to the King on the grounds that this presumed that Yugoslavia would be a monarchy (something, they contended only the Constituent could decide) they were unable to take their seats. Most of the opposition though initially taking their seats declared boycotts as time went so that there were few votes against. However the constitution needed 50% plus one vote to pass irrespective of how many voted against and it was touch and go whether it get this. Only last minute concessions to Demet a group of Muslims from Macedonia and Kosova saved it.

In 1921, the Constitution was passed, which established a unitary monarchy. Serb politicians regarded Serbia as the standardbearer of Yugoslav unity, as the state of Piedmont had been for Italy, and the nation of Prussia for the German Empire. Over the following years, Croat resistance against a Serbocentric policy increased. Stjepan Radić, head of the Croatian Peasant Party, was imprisoned due to political reasons. After he was released in 1925, and returned to parliament.

In the spring of 1928 Stjepan Radić and Svetozar Pribičević waged a bitter parliamentary battle against the ratification of the Neptune Convention with Italy. In this they mobilised nationalist opposition also in Serbia itself but provoked a violent reaction from the governing majority including death threats. On the 20th June 1928, a member of the government majority, the Montenegrin deputy Puniša Račić shot down five members of the Croatian Peasant Party including their leader Stjepan Radić. Two died on the floor of the Assembly while the life of Stjepan Radić hung in the balance.

The opposition now completly withdrew from parliament declaring that they would not return to a parliament in which several of their representatives had been killed and insisting on new elections. On the 1st of August, at a meeting in Zagreb, they renounced the 1st of December declaration of 1920. In this they were demanding that the negotiations for unification should begin from scratch. On the 8th of October, Stjepan Radić died.

The 6th of January Dictatorship

Not long after that, on January 6, 1929, in response to the political crisis triggered by the shooting, King Alexander abolished the Constitution, prorogued the Parliament and introduced a personal dictatorship (the so-called January 6th Dictatorship, Šestojanuarska diktatura). He also changed the name of the country to Kingdom of Yugoslavia and changed the internal divisions to use banovinas on October 3.

In 1931 Alexander decreed a new Constitution which made executive power the gift of the King. Elections were to be by universal suffrage (tho universal still didn't include women). The provision for a secret ballot was dropped and pressure on public employees to vote for the governing party was to be a feature of all elections held under Alexander's constitution. Further, half the upper house was directly appointed by the King and legislation could become law with the approval of one of the houses alone if it was also approved by the King.

On October 9 1934, the king was assassinated in Marseille, France by Yugoslav exiles, radical members of the political parties that he banned five years earlier (primarily the VMRO).

Because Peter II, the eldest son of Alexander was a minor, a regency council of three, specified in Alexander's will, took over the role of King. The council was dominated by the King's cousin Prince Paul.

In 1941 the Axis powers invaded the state and divided it. In 1945, the Soviet-backed Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia came into being, covering roughly the same territory as the Kingdom had.

List of Kings

  1. King Petar I (1 Dec 1918 - 16 Aug 1921) (Regent Prince Aleksandar ruled in the name of the King)
  2. King Aleksandar (16 Aug 1921 - 9 Oct 1934)
  3. Regency headed by Prince Pavle (9 Oct 1934 - 27 Mar 1941)
  4. King Petar II (27 Mar 1941 - 29 Nov 1945) *exile from 13/14 Apr 1941

Internal divisions

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Map showing banovinas in 1929

Internally, the Kingdom was divided into provinces from 1929 onwards, each of them called banovina. Their borders were intentionally drawn so that they wouldn't correspond either to boundaries between ethnic groups, or to the pre-WWI imperial borders. They were named after various rivers. The capital of the kingdom was Belgrade.

  1. Dravska banovina (Banovina of Drava), with its capital in Ljubljana
  2. Savska banovina (Banovina of Sava), with its capital in Zagreb
  3. Vrbaska banovina (Banovina of Vrbas), with its capital in Banja Luka
  4. Primorska banovina (Seaside Banovina), with its capital in Split
  5. Drinska banovina (Banovina of Drina), with its capital in Sarajevo
  6. Zetska banovina (Banovina of Zeta), with its capital in Cetinje
  7. Dunavska banovina (Banovina of Danube), with its capital in Novi Sad
  8. Moravska banovina (Banovina of Morava), with its capital in Niš
  9. Vardarska banovina (Banovina of Vardar), with its capital in Skopje
  10. The City of Belgrade, together with Zemun and Pančevo was also an administrative unit

In 1939 the Banovina Hrvatska (Banovina of Croatia) was formed from the Primorska and Savska banovinas, with some border alterations. Like Savska, its capital was Zagreb.

See also

External link

bg:Югославия между двете световни войни bs:Kraljevina Jugoslavija ko:유고슬라비아 왕국 hr:Kraljevina Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca pl:Krlestwo SHS sl:Jugoslavija med prvo in drugo svetovno vojno sr:Краљевина СХС


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