New Power

Monday, Dec. 04, 1944

 

A plan for the formation of a new Balkan state—federated Yugoslavia—was announced officially from Moscow last week. A new chapter in Balkan and European history had begun.

Scarcely a month had passed since the Red Army entered Belgrade. Sappers had removed 4,158 mines, 7,270 unexploded bombs, 76,298 live German shells, most of the hidden German soldiers. Partisan boys drilled in streets over which stretched banners emblazoned with new Yugoslavia’s red star, Russia’s hammer & sickle. Big pictures of Russia’s Stalin, Yugoslavia’s Tito stared side by side from every shop window. The grey-clad troops of the Red Army rolled ceaselessly toward the Hungarian front in U.S. Lend-Lease trucks. Overhead, Russian Stormoviks and Yaks roared.

Empty Symbol. At the gate of the Royal Palace, fierce, shabby Partisans mounted guard. But the palace was an empty symbol. Young King Peter, exiled in London, might never live there again. Boys & girls of the Serbian Anti-Fascist Youth Congress chanted: “We don’t want Peter, we want Tito.” Said Tito: “Old Balkan differences will never again appear in the Balkans.”

Advice by Moscow. For three weeks the Partisan National Liberation Committee had been busy creating, on paper, the new Yugoslavia. Twice Tito had flown to Moscow, conferred with Stalin and the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Viacheslav M. Molotov. Last week a plan for the reorganization of Yugoslavia was evolved:

¶ Yugoslavia would consist of six federated, autonomous districts (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Montenegro, Macedonia), each with its own local government, schools, customs.

¶ Over the six local governments would be a central government, with a cabinet of 28 members, including the governors of the six districts. Tito probably would be Prime Minister.

¶ Until Yugoslavia was fully liberated, King Peter’s interest would be protected by a regency. If Yugoslavs voted against King Peter’s return, as Tito expected they would, the regency would automatically end.

Approval by Moscow. With this plan in his pocket, British-supported Dr. Subasich flew, not to London for the approval of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, but to Moscow for Stalin’s O.K. After three days of Kremlin conferences, Stalin approved. Said the official Soviet communiqué: “The Soviet Government welcomes Marshal Tito’s and Prime Minister Subasich’s efforts to unite all truly democratic national forces . . . and to create a democratic, federative Yugoslavia.”

Promptly, Marshal Tito promised amnesty to all the Chetnik followers of General Draja Mihailovich (against whom he had fought since 1942) who surrendered before Jan. 15. Tito also ordered 2,000 industrial and commercial enterprises, several banks, 30,000 farms nationalized.

Territorial Demands. The new power at once began to expand. Yugoslav Macedonians insisted that Yugoslavia’s new Macedonian district should include not only Bulgarian Macedonia but Greek Macedonia.

Said Bulgarian Prime Minister Kimon Georgiev, whose country is controlled by the Red Army and Communist-dominated Partisan bands: “I can definitely state Bulgaria will create no difficulties.” But Greek Macedonia is the richest of all Greek provinces and includes the big Aegean port of Salonika.

Already aging Dr. Josip Smodlaka, Tito’s Foreign Minister, had exchanged sharp words with Italy’s Count Carlo Sforza over Yugoslav claims to Trieste, Istria, Gorizia, awarded to Italy after World War I (TIME, Oct. 30).

If the plans for a federated Yugoslavia went through, it would emerge as the strongest state in the Balkans. A Balkan Federation to include Bulgaria and Rumania was a likely next step. Before the Big Three met again (see U.S. at WAR), Russia’s political control of the Balkans would be consolidated.

 

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,796967-1,00.html