World History 2 246 - 14.3.1 Yugoslavia

In the aftermath of World War II, the nations of Europe speedily aligned themselves with either the Western or the Eastern Bloc, with one exception: Yugoslavia. In 1942, communist partisans who had fought the Axis powers on behalf of the People’s Liberation Front formed a government, the Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ). When Italian forces evacuated Yugoslavia in 1943, AVNOJ assumed control of the territory and established the state of Democratic Federal Yugoslavia. The partisans’ leader, Josip Broz Tito, was named prime minister. In 1945, Yugoslavia’s monarchy was abolished, and Tito was recognized as the leader of the country. This result was confirmed by a nationwide election held shortly thereafter.

Yugoslavia was a communist state from the beginning and was one of the founders of the Cominform, the Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers’ Parties, in 1947. Cominform’s purpose was to give direction to the communist governments of Europe after World War II so that they might coordinate their efforts to oppose anti-communist activity in the rest of Europe. The Soviet Union would be at the fore, providing guidance for the others.

Tito and Stalin clashed early on, however. Tito wished to incorporate within Yugoslavia the countries of Bulgaria and Albania, as well as parts of Greece, Italy, and Austria. Stalin opposed Yugoslavia’s claims, believing them to be unreasonable and likely to cause trouble with Western Europe. Yugoslavia also aided the Greek communists in their civil war, which Stalin opposed as well, again believing the West would be angered by it. Tito, for his part, refused to accept a secondary position for Yugoslavia. Unlike the other members of the Eastern Bloc, Yugoslavia had liberated itself from the Axis without Soviet assistance. Thus, Tito believed it should be treated by the Soviet Union as an equal, not as a satellite state to which it gave orders.

In 1948 Cominform expelled Yugoslavia. For assistance Tito turned to the United States, which helped Yugoslavia survive despite its inability to trade with its Eastern Bloc neighbors. Tito, however, was equally concerned about becoming a puppet of the United States, and during the 1950s and 1960s, Yugoslavia became economically self-sufficient and traded with members of both the Western and Eastern Blocs. In 1960, Tito spoke before the General Assembly of the United Nations and called upon “non-bloc countries” to unite to achieve common goals of decolonization, disarmament, bans on nuclear testing, and equality of economic development.

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