Yugoslav Ideology: The truth of "Yugoslavism" I/XV
Updated: Apr 8
By Jovan Dučić
First published in Amerikanski Srbobran, 1942
Croats never cared much for Slavism, nor did they speak about Yugoslavism without distrust. They identified Slavism with Russian Orthodoxy and Yugoslavism with Balkandom. Therefore they considered both incompatible with the Croatian idea about culture, the only true culture, the Western one, that is a mostly Catholic one. And it was just as incompatible with the sincere wish of Croats to stay on a moral continent, which is first and foremost, separated, as if with a wide sea, from the eastern culture tied to the eastern Church.
Yugoslavism, once it is cleaned up from rhetorical elements, was for the Croatian mind just a political expression, not a national concept. In this Croats differed significantly from the Serbian understanding of Yugoslavism. Croats never imagined the possibility of obscuring their Croatian horizon with a Yugoslav fogginess, nor to exchange their old Croatian groš for uncertain Yugoslav money. I believe that today, "at the end of it all", which is to say after everything which we have lived through and experienced, the following could be said: in Croatian view no one was a good Yugoslav without being a bad Croat.
In general, Slavism among the Catholic Slavs was always weaker than their Catholicism; and Catholic Slavs themselves felt instinctively that those two feelings do not go together. Slavdom in its general idea about life, relationship of man to his God is completely Hellenic, which can be seen by its cheerfulness and philanthropy; and a Catholic Slav represents a deformation which comes from the conflict of his young Slavic blood, healthy and optimistic, with the Catholic mysticism, derived from a different blood and a different idea about life. Slavdom and Catholicism are contradictory. The fatality of this case can be seen enough in the histories of Catholic Slavic peoples.
The Orthodox peoples are tied between themselves doubly: by race and faith. Even if they are tied to the Greeks and Romanians only by faith, but not by race, they are tied with them through the common historical experiences. Namely, they all suffered under Mongols or Turks. Therefore this makes another double bond between these peoples: by faith and by history. We should add that they also all inherited the virtues of the Byzantine culture and art, which served as the role model for the West for several centuries (ex Oriente lux). This spiritual family from the White to the Aegean and Adriatic seas, becomes therefore a very interesting bloc, primarily in a moral sense. This feeling of kinship sometimes went as far as familial feelings.
Croatdom, to the contrary, separated from that Slavic bloc by Austria and Hungary, and suppressed well into the south-west, was much divided from other and bigger Catholic Slavs. The ties between Zagreb and Warsaw were always insignificant. But Croatia gravitated towards the groups of their faith that much more naturally, which are closer, leaving aside the groups of their own race, which were further and far away. When Croats fought with Rome to get Slavic service in the church, this only meant that Catholicism would become an even greater ultima refugium for its people, in danger of Orthodoxy, than of Islam.
For Orthodox Slavs it could be said that Orthodoxy binds them together even more than a Slavic blood. This was seen when Russia helped the Serbian Uprising against the Turks whenever it was not itself hindered by others, especially Napoleon. Czar Alexander I thus helped our First Uprising and Alexander II liberated at Plevna Orthodox Bulgaria. Russian services to the Orthodox Greece were great as well. Even if Russia later at the San Stefano Congress went too much on the side of its child from Plevna, this was a policy of Slavic Russia which was truly outside of its tradition.
Finally, at the end of XIX century there were three different forms of Slavism: "Pan-Slavism", which was in actuality a Pan-Russianism, imperialist and exclusionary; then Dr Kramář's "Neo-Slavism", whose aim was to rally all the Slavs in the Monarchy [tran. note: Austria-Hungary] around Prague, with the tendency to expand the movement among their kinsmen around the Monarchy; and finally "Yugoslavism", which was considered a movement out of Belgrade, revolutionary and uncompromising, with the aim of gathering all South Slavs into a moral union, based on language and a political union, the state of Yugoslavia. - All three of these Slavisms failed, each in its own way. It is likely that in the post-war circumstances at least one of these three Slavisms will come out as an ideology for one of the Slavic groups. It is least likely that Yugoslavism will revive, which failed the most miserably and when it was put to the test for the first time. - It is the task of this article to prove that it did not arise from any positive base, but from an absolute misunderstanding; a product of a special disturbance of all the healthy bases for life; a romantic which took the state of Serbia into catastrophe, the only real thing in this unhealthy dream about the impossible and unnatural.
In truth, this contemporary all-encompassing war with its irresistible concussion has brought other surprises and disappointments. Peoples who believed until yesterday they were connected with various historical or racial ties, as a healthy society and shaped into its final form, showed themselves with this war, both unexpectedly and contrarily, as enemies, even villains. The Slavic peoples especially gave a poor image of themselves in this respect. Poles, for a few square kilometres of Silesia, initiated the partition of Czechoslovakia, which was condemned to failure. A little while later Russians together with Hitler partitioned that same Poland and on the basis of purely Nazi military victories! Slovaks also abandoned Czechia for an "independent" state which will last from today to tomorrow. Finally Croatia betrayed Serbs surrendering to the enemy on the first day in the front lines, then slaughtering the nejač* of their fellow citizens Serbs, in a way that European history does not record since its beginning. And did the Bulgarians not go to war with Russia already in the last war, with the Turks from whose five century long enslavement those same Russians liberated them from, only half a century earlier.
*Tran. note: women, children, old men; collective noun for non-combatants who are not capable of military service
Translated by Books of Jeremiah