The Foreign Prince

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It was finally his. All of it belonged to him. The country, the throne under his arm, the chandelier, the massive windows, the long room it decorated with outstanding hearth, the table littered with coins, scales, and paper, and even the servant tables lining the walls, all of it. Yet for some reason it wasn’t enough. It may have been because he was still too young, there was so much more to conquer, and it felt like this was the end of the road. Now a Prince of twenty-eight years, he had already dined and feasted with aristocrats, foreign dignitaries, politicians, and members of royalty. This was thanks to his aunt, the Tsaritsa, himself being of Hesse and the House of Battenburg. He had schmoozed them all, being taller than most he was also easy on the eyes, which made things considerably less difficult, even despite the jealousies from other German and Russian royalty. He had stood face to face with some of the most important leaders of the time and yet it was not enough. It didn’t quench his thirst. Although he knew why it wasn’t sufficient, there was not much young Prince Alex could do. His dreams were on the verge of destruction. He didn’t have enough gold, charm, or men of arms to get what he needed now. Over the years his tact had diminished and he inadvertently acquired the enmity of those who had once held him in such high esteem.

He pondered over the thought of what to do next and slowly sipped the first of what he expected to be many drinks that night. Nothing seemed to come to mind, but perhaps there was something he could do to save himself, to save his country, no matter how they felt about him. Looking out the enormous paned windows he saw a beautiful glowing red and violet sky. It was drowning slowly above the misshapen rooftops of desperate little Sofia. He knew that was the direction to Vienna, to Prussia, France and England, to the illustrious halls and remarkable architecture. However, that dream seemed also to be setting like the sun, only this time never to return again, a dark existence awaited him. To his left he saw the darkened rooftops to a dirty town in a fiefdom of his old uncles Empire. A little further on and there was the remaining part of his country, severed in Treaty of Berlin seven years before.

He was at a loss for a course of action. He knew before accepting the throne the insane challenges that lay before him. Not only had the major powers divided the country and put him in charge of what was left but they had also left him with an extremely open and liberal constitution. At first they loved him for it, but soon the peasants and the prince learned their real place in the European theatre. His uncle had been assassinated four years ago and since then he had become less of a prince and more of a servant to Europe’s great empires. He missed his uncle, and even felt a spot of guilt for when he tried to expand his powers in the new constitution, which at hearing this had caused his uncle to weep. However, that stain of guilt might have just been regret. He had visited his uncle the Tsar in Saint Petersburg, the imperial capital of his uncle’s empire. Then he was somebody and a real player in the game. During the Bulgarian campaign against Ottomans they, uncle and nephew, had grown closer together, but that was eight years ago. It was this connection to his uncle that had gotten him the throne. Now all he could think about was how much simpler life was back then in the Russian army. On the battlefield and in war someone scheming your downfall was easily understood, manageable, and expected. In this new political and aristocratic life things were complicated, secrets ruled the day, and conspirers were everywhere. If his own uncle, the Tsar of the Russian Empire could be assassinated, why not himself? Could he be more clever than him? It didn’t seem possible. Alexander had thought about this everyday for four years. This was because his cousin, Alexander III, who ascended the throne after his uncle, was out to control Bulgaria through him or without him, and preferring the later.

220px-alexander_i_of_bulgaria_by_dimitar_karastoyanovIt was however, in many ways Alexander’s own fault. He had made many blunders and with his new enemies. Thinking of this he took yet another sip from his glass but found it empty. He turned and walked to a far corner of the room where a table with several bottles of alcohol stood. He pulled out the stopper and gingerly poured himself his second heavy glass. The servants had already snuck into the room and lit the torches, without him ever really noticing. The light outside had disappeared and darkness silently spread over the sky. It was summer and so the air outside was quite cool and relaxing. He marched in military fashion to the window and opened it to the outside and to Sofia. He gazed out over the houses and exhaled in desperation. Most of the streets were still muddy and difficult to travel through. He stared on with contempt, but it wasn’t for Sofia, nor the people, nor Bulgaria as a whole. He knew this place held such promise, there was so much potential for it. However, he also knew this could not be achieved as long as he was subjected to the rules and rituals of the rest of Europe. Were it not for the Treaty of Berlin his people would be united and content, maybe even happy. Unfortunately it was ripped in two and the more liberal politicians and radicals were doing everything they could to fix this and reunite East Rumelia. He could not simply fulfill their nationalist wishes, or they would all face the wrath of every party that had signed the treaty. He had grown tired of their squabbling and had even suspended the constitution and political parties. To his own dismay the power he had obtained came with a cost. The Russians had only allowed him to do this to strengthen their own influence in the country. Now instead of having to share power with the people he had given it straight to the two Russian generals, Sobolev and Kaulbars. This turned out to be much worse than sharing power with the people and after attempting to send them back to St.Petersburg he ultimately reinstated the constitution. He wouldn’t allow himself to be such a puppet. This allowed him to retain some respect from his people but cost him the blessing of mother Russia. So now he had a choice, spit in the face of the treaty and embrace his peoples wish or do nothing and allow his own people to rise against him and take his throne. Before he could take this thought any further there was a knocking on the door.

He turned towards the door and in walked a woman and one of his servants. Alexander recognized the woman as she had visited him before. She wore normal Bulgarian clothes but to him they seemed more like rags. Yet despite her clothing she was actually quite beautiful and this was certainly advantageous to her profession.

“Sir, she has arrived and has been waiting for you,” the servant said.

He looked at her and then to his glass. He thought it over for a second and came to his conclusion.

“Not tonight,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” he answered, bowed, and began to escort the woman out of the room but she stepped away from the servant and toward the prince.

“Please Prince Alexander, I need the money desperately, without it I don’t know what I will do. Please my Prince, please,” she begged. He glared at her with the same contempt he had for the liberals that were making his life impossible, but then realized she was just a whore and shouldn’t bare the whole punishment.

“Make sure she is paid and leave me in peace,” he ordered with a tone of annoyance.

“Yes sir.” He then took the girl forcefully by the arm and left the room very quickly, forgetting to shut the door on his way out.

Alexander poured himself another drink and sat down, gingerly sipping his glass. The empty room seemed to grow now that he was alone again. His own thoughts began to attack him.  The radicals and the Russians were staged left and right against him and there was no way through their ranks. Though they themselves were at odds they had found a common enemy in the now lonely Prince. He had given them their damn constitution back and they show their gratitude by conspiring with those who were responsible for its loss. He placed the cold bottom of his glass on his forehead, hoping it would relieve some pain, which it briefly did. He turned his aching head toward the window yet again. Faint flickers of light scattered the horizon, creating crooked and fading shadows of the houses and shops on the unkempt streets of Sofia. They were the lights of those wishing to see their country brought back together and all that it entailed. Some merely looked for better and healthier lives for their families and loved ones. Others sought to give Bulgaria meaning and pride, reinforcing a common identity and giving every citizen a voice against those that ruled. Alex knew that he was their enemy, a monarch not to admire and revere but to over throw. He had admitted to himself long ago how vastly different he was from his people, not only concerning language and home, but also in terms of values. He tried to crawl in his mind back to the notion that the people and himself both wanted the same thing, to make Bulgaria a great power. Yet it was all too painfully obvious that he was in the way of making this country great. He was an obstacle for these people trying to come together and make a commendable nation. These liberals would bring Bulgaria and East Rumelia together or die trying. Alexander had guessed already that Karavelov had already sat down, eaten, and had dessert with the Russians. Unification was being pushed all the way from St.Petersburg. The liberals didn’t understand the delicate waltz that was European politics, but Alexander and the Russians did very well. He needed more time, but nationalism was bubbling out of the country, and would soon flow over the border with or without his permission. He could either spit on the Berlin Treaty, angering its powerful signatories and bringing possible destruction or it would be his head on a Bulgarian stake, when he didn’t back their cause. Damn Karavelov, he thought. Why couldn’t he just be patient? Why did he have to join the Russians against him? How did it get to this point?

He then remembered when he first arrived, the flowers in the dirty streets; all of Bulgaria had come to greet their new leader. He could feel the energy behind them, he knew what they wanted, and he wanted it too, but now he was trapped. He remembered the banner that read, “Forward Prince, the People are with you!” He laughed out loud at the mere thought of such a distant memory partially spilling some drink on the wooden floors. Had that time really existed? A breeze rushed through the open window, and the door to the room nudged itself up against the wall. He quickly turned his head to the door, with an expression of wild panic. Nothing was there, just the door to the hallway swinging lightly back and forth. He had imagined in those few seconds that assassins had finally gotten to him, and the liberals and the Russians would have their victory. He then realized he could not live like this anymore, he had to make a choice. He stood up and wandered to one of the open window and closed it. He moved to another window across the room and behind the glass the shape of Sofia lingered on in the night. The city itself was a gesture that pushed him toward unification and into the contempt of Europe. It was too far from the Danube for trade, and it the roads to get their were badly maintained. The city too was fractured with crooked and narrow streets. However, Sofia lay in the east and in the heart of what would one day be the nation of Bulgaria. He knew in the end he should side with his people who were struggling. Struggling, just like him, it was, them against the world. It was then he realized whom he feared more; it was not the nation trying to put itself back together it was the Empires of Europe. It was the world he feared.

He heard the door opening a bit wider, hitting the wall two times, but the he had already closed the open window. Alexander slowly turned his gaze away from Sofia and towards the door. Two men stood in the open door frame. They were both dressed in what seemed to him as peasant clothing, dark pants, shirts that had probably been passed down, covered by even older vests. One of the men held a piece of paper and both stared at him with mixed apprehension. He could see that behind the look of contempt, there was a glimmer of hope.

“Who let you in here? Im not entertaining any guests tonight, I am sorry.” He told them. The men glanced at each other, then back to Alexander. He knew the words were empty, he could tell that these men were here to do something, possibly kill him, but he didn’t know what else to do than remain calm and act like nothing was wrong. Clearly something was wrong though, he knew it, they knew it, and the entire country knew it. They have been screaming for unification, and he has been doing nothing to help them. Now two of them stood in front of him. He did not have much personal contact with these people, yet they were his people. He had ignored their cries for too long and he knew it. No amount of charm would be able to get him out of this situation. He had failed as a leader and now the country would have their say. It was a strange feeling; the monarchy had been handed to him on a silver plate and he ruled this country for years with only his concerns and not theirs, now for the first time he would have to answer to them.

Moments like these are extremely rare. When those in positions of power meet those they control and they are finally forced to respect the seriousness and the responsibility of their seat. The room became a catalyst for change, ruler and ruled now stood face to face. The only question was where would this encounter take the Bulgarian nation?

The man with the paper stepped forward toward Alexander, who reached toward the table to place his glass down. The man stopped a few feet in front of him and handed the paper to him. It read, ‘Freedom or Death. The Secret Executive Committee.’ Alexander stared at the note in his hands. He was saved, they would not kill him, and they were giving him a choice.

“If you do not support our unification, you will be annihilated by the Committee.”

The man said this and turned towards the door. Both men then exited without closing the door. Alexander looked down at the note again and thought he would need to improve his security from now on. He did not think it was time to give the people what they yearned for; he did not think that his time in the great dinning halls of Europe was over. He would continue to bide his time until the decision was made for him by someone else. The Secret Executive Committee had given its message, yet it had not been received. Though they had looked right in the eyes of their sovereign spoke simply and powerfully, it was still not enough. The dance of politicians continued on, and the distance between subjects and sovereigns continued to grow. But for how much longer can this go on?

 

 

The Union Survives To Fight Another Day

The Union Carries On to Fight Another Day      (Oct, 2014)

After all the hype, fuss, threats and promises Scotland finally has its answer to their 2014 question of independence. The result was a resounding No. Scottish Unionists came out on top with a count of 2,001,926 and 55.3% of the vote (Gaurdian, 2014).  The Yes Campaign was not too far behind though. They managed to gain 1,617,989 votes with an overall percentage of 44.7 (Guardian, 2014). The voter turnout was a striking 84.6%. It was truly a remarkable display of democratic participation especially when one considers that in the 2011 elections only 50.6% came out to vote (Denver, 2011). The Better Together campaign succeeded despite some wary tactics, including a belittling advert directed towards undecided women voters, which caused a bit of fury (Wilkinson, 2014). It seems that a sense of Britishness still clings to the majority of Scots. The Yes boys and girls now wallow in defeat with the rough feeling that somehow fear has won over -what was for them- common sense. Out of the 32 Council areas in Scotland only four saw a majority voting for independence. These were the councils of Dundee in the northeast, the city of Glasgow and two of its neighboring areas, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire. This does not come as a surprise. Glasgow is one of the most under-developed cities in the entirety of the UK and is the city that has felt the most disillusioned with Westminster’s conservative politics. One man in Glasgow was even arrested for trying to sell his vote on eBay, emphasizing the city’s condition and mentality towards politics in general (BBC, 2014). Out of these four independent leaning council areas none were able to muster a substantial lead and only narrowly gained a victory, whereas the No votes had a considerable lead in almost every other council. The top councils who came out most strongly against a Yes were the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, which took 66.6% and 65.7% of their respective council vote to stay with the union. This makes sense, as they are the two councils that directly border England and possibly had the most to lose from independence. However, it was the far and away Orkney Islands that took the most hardened stance against a new country with 67.2% of their council vote. The results show that Better Together was successful in making the Union the best option for voters. So where did the Yes campaign lose the steam it had been gaining all the way up to the referendum?

Pre-referendum polls had been showing a surge in Yes voters towards the end of the campaign but in the end it failed to hold on to that momentum. While many of those pushing for independence fully believed that a better Scotland needed radical change it was the undecided voters that needed to be swayed to secure a victory. In the end most of those undecided chose the safest option and not the most radical. The SNP had many noble causes on their side, ranging from nuclear disarmament to cleaner energy, but they failed to focus the referendum around a clear and safe ideology. This allowed uncertainties and concerns over the economy to trump the risk of a new self-governed nation. Stephen Daisley points out in his own analysis that although a vision of an independent Scotland was made by the SNP, it was not a vision that could convince people that a severed country could provide security for their families –or wallets- (Daisley, 2014). Concerns for a stable currency and over fleeing businesses brought too much uncertainty and so most Scots went to the ballot saying “No Thanks”.

Those that did choose Yes and were pushing for momentous change are handling their defeat in various ways. Two separate petitions have gathered 150,000 signatures demanding for a recount, citing alleged evidence of vote fraud (PressTV, 2014). Alternative media has even helped start a new campaign for independence called ‘We are the 45%’ who claim that the fight is not over (Smith, 2014).  SNP boss and First Minister Alex Salmond has stated that he will be stepping down in November. He also made claims that the Scottish peopled had been tricked into voting No (Hui, 2014). Yet, while some Scots are playing the sore looser card, others are taking the defeat in stride. Tommy Sheridan, one of the most prominent independence activists, is already preparing for a 2020 independence referendum and is urging voters to continue to accept the SNP in next elections (HeraldScotland, 2014). Mr. Sheridan has made it clear that politics is no longer a politician’s game and though his socialist leanings make him a bitter ally to the SNP he still thinks they are the best chance for independence.

Although independents were defeated the debate alone has sparked a larger sense of political power through participation among the people, the relationship between those governed and those who govern is being changed throughout the whole kingdom. Citizens across the political spectrum of the UK and particularly Scotland have woken up and become more involved. This is something that every democracy should strive to do if they want to maintain a healthy and dynamic balance throughout the population. London allowed this referendum to take place and this certainly needs to be commemorated, but they should have predicted that even a No vote would stir the entire country to ask for change. When Westminster promised to devolve more powers in the case of No victory it caught the attention of some emerging decentralists in rest of the UK. More devolution is now starting to be sought after by Manchester, Yorkshire, and of course Wales (Sandle/Young, 2014). In the coming years it will be up to Westminster to show that they will not ignored those they represent, or as in Quebec we may see a return of the referendum and not just in Scotland. Although some see the cause of most problems to be the Union’s fault, the UK does provide a starting point and strong foundation to make real change possible (White, 2014). Whether that positive change will follow is now up to the MPs and if they can’t deliver the people will surely step in as they have done in Scotland.

Interestingly enough, now that Scotland remains in the UK the chances of Britain exiting the EU have now dropped significantly. The Labour Party without the loss Scotlands MPs now stands a good chance of winning the next general election and putting a stop to David Cameron’s conservative led Brexit vote. This could be good news for Europe. With Britain remaining in the EU it will provide an example of how to deal with –or how not to deal with- similar secessionist movements like Scotland that have been cropping up elsewhere on the continent.  Catalonia, Basque, Südtirol, Venice, Sardinia, and numerous other independence hot spots have all been closely watching how Britain and Scotland’s dance will play out.  Many are worried that this will all lead to a violent balkanization of the EU, but it need not play out that way. All these regions are merely asking for is to be heard, for better representation, and for more trustworthy institutions. Leopold Kohr advocated in his book The Break Down of Nations that it is smaller states that should be promoted in the world. He spoke of how in these small states the citizen has greater influence on institutions, that with regional autonomy economic problems are countered more easily, and that culture is allowed to flourish without the loss of wealth to state spectacles or military adventures. He wrote that his advocacy for smaller states and not bigger ones is “not to furnish another of those fantastic plans for eternal peace so peculiar to our time. It is to find a solution to our worst social evils, not a way to eliminate them” (Kohr, 1957). Still questions remain. Will Britain and the EU break down into secessionist pieces? Will Scotland hold yet another referendum for independence? Will the Catalans get their own chance to vote? The outcome of these dilemmas will all depend on how well the powers that be and the institutions that we have today can communicate with their populations, as well as how strongly they can commit to solving problems through compromise and greater citizen involvement in politics.

 

 

A People almost Forgotten (Ein Volk fast vergessen)

Unversöhnliche Grenzen

For centuries borders have both held Europe together and threatened to tear it apart. These borders have been based on geographical features, culture, language, economics, and politics. They have been altered, bled over, expanded, and collapsed. In more recent history, the move has been made to push towards a trade union for the continent to improve relations between countries and to possibly avoid future conflicts, like the World wars, to transpire in the region. However, this project has met significant challenges. Economic under sight and mismanagement brought the Euro currency to a disastrous low. The so called crisis has eventually led to a surge for mistrust in government. This has resulted in citizens moving toward decentralization and localization of power to better represent themselves, their own values, language, culture, and choices. These movements towards localization have sprung up across Europe, the crisis and lack of trust have caused old historical scars to open up, enflaming these movements again. Movements of decentralizations like these have always had their place in Europe throughout the 20th century. Ethnic and sectarian conflicts have emerged in the Balkans, the British (Wise) Isles, and the Iberian Peninsula. They have led to loss of life, loss of civil rights, and property damage. More recently in Catalonia and Scotland, for instance, both minority populations have held marches and protests for greater autonomy. One particular case of interethnic conflict has come to agreement and successful compromise with surprisingly low loss of life.

On the Southern side of the Alps in central Europe, lays the mountainous Dolomite region. Named after its consistent geographical feature and often referred to as the pale mountains. Its landscape is covered with deep valleys, rivers, and impressive mountains giving it a natural beauty. The people of this region have dotted the mountainsides with villages and farms for centuries. Although, historically known for its rural lifestyle that spans centuries, it has also been a center of commerce. The region is home to the Brenner Pass, the lowest of the passes through the Alps; it has been sought after since Roman times as a strategic trading post. The word comes from Prenner, the German word for someone who clears woodland, highlighting the rural historical roots of the region. The passage through the naturally made wall that is the Alps has made the area strategically important throughout the ages for kingdoms, empires, and nations. The oldest documents mentioning the province as Tyrol come from 1271. It went through the possession of a handful of ruling families but eventually landed in possession of the Habsburgs in 1363 (Rosenburger). It became part of the larger mountain region of Austrian Tyrol. It remained with the Habsburg Austrian Monarchy until its eventual loss after the First World War to Italy. The Germanic people that had inhabited it for centuries became minorities, foreigners, and second-class citizens overnight. The Tiroler that had been separated from Austria were cut off from families, friends, and support. Their new Italian government exploited their new position as a minority. This began the long struggle for self-determination, one of many in the 20th century Europe. This movement led to a respectable and significant reconciliation between the Italian and Germanic groups in conflict, especially when compared to the outcome of other national struggles. The Südtiroler movement is significant in its application of an ideal peace process that works for all sides of the issue, and could possibly be used as a model or example to help in other current and future multi-ethnic differences and settlement disputes. However, historical evidence must be examined to filter out what actions worked toward and were productive for favorable progress and which actions may have hindered the process. This requires an understanding of both side’s respective identities in a cultural, lingual, historical, economic, and political way. A sense of these dimensions will shed light on whether or not this model can be applied elsewhere and if it is a viable long-term solution for the problem.

Der Eintritt des Nationalismus

The Empires of Europe during the 1800s were experiencing a new phenomenon in the populations under their control. These Great European Powers had conquered, toiled, and taxed their citizens together in a delicate and sometimes tumultuous balance among each other for hundreds of years. This balance was upset when individuals began to organize themselves into more coherent groups that would form identities with new or stronger cultural values, political and economic expectations, and nationalistically defined goals. These groups have origin in several different dimensions of identity, such as geography, language, or politics. The American colonies proved this to be possible in their successful revolution and independence. In England a solid identity had also started to form in the 18th century, while in France a Monarchy had been removed, and eventually Austria-Hungary, too, would show its first signs of cracking.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire dominated central Europe, neighboring several other powers, including France to the west, Italy to the south, Prussia to the north, and Russia and the Ottomans to the east. In 1848 the Hungarians revolted, Ferdinand was forced to abdicate, further angering the Hungarians, and eventually Tsar Nicolas I came to aid of the Holy Alliance (Prussia, Austria, Russia) putting down the rebellion, although Austria would later have to award Hungary its autonomy in the 1867 Ausgleich. (Glenny, 40,55). In 1866 Austria lost Königgrätz to Prussia (Glenny, 68). This further undermined Austria’s dominant position as an empire. At the 1878 Berlin Congress the Ottoman Empire was being divvied up. The Ottoman Empire’s decay is noted by its own writer and bureaucrat Ziya Bey after visiting Europe, “I passed through the lands of the infidels, I saw cities and mansions; I wandered in the realm of Islam, I saw nothing but ruins” (Glenny, 100).  The Great Powers and newly liberated Ottoman subjects exploited the decline of the Anatolian centered empire, including Austria. Austria took the chance to annex Bosnia, which it was awarded at the Congress, and much to the disappointment of the Serbs (Glenny, 146). This created one of histories most memorable blowbacks, four centuries of millet style governing was replaced with a European power player status quo, and only war could follow. It is also important to note here that Italy and France had left the Congress empty handed, with Italy holding a grudge against the Austrians.

Austria was struggling to stay on its feet, but to prove it would not falter and was still a Great Power they focused all energy on Bosnia and Serbia (Glenny, 281). After Austria instilled an economic blockade on Serbia and the Serbs feared inevitable attack from Austria. The Black Hand was formed and on June 28th, 1914 a less than experienced unit was assembled to assassinate the Arch Duke Ferdinand on his visit to Sarajevo (304, Glenny). His death triggered the Great Powers into the war they had all been waiting for, while nationalism entered the Theater of Europe. The long held assumption was that the Balkans was the powder keg that led to the Great War, when actually the Balkans were merely the fuse, lined up by the powers themselves that ignited war. Austria was trying to prove it was still a great power, Germany wanted to pursue further its Weltpolitik, Italy sought after more imperial gain, and conservative Russia switched to join its old liberal enemies Great Britain and France, in fear of German expansion. As the war winded down, and Austria and the Central Powers had fallen apart, Italy pushed to extend its borders in Yugoslavia, Albania, Turkey, and, of course, Austria (Glenny, 365).

Die wahre Dolchstoßlegende

In April 1915, a secret treaty was formed between the Entente and Italy, where the Italians expressed their demands if they were to forsake the Triple Alliance with Austria-Hungary and Germany (Glenny, 332). These demands included the area of Südtirol as well as numerous other territorial gains in Yugoslavia, Turkey, and even colonial territories of Germany in Asia and Africa. With London promising Italy everything it wanted, the Italians enthusiastically switched sides. When the war ended there was little to no remorse for the defeated Central Powers. President Wilson’s famous Fourteen Points plan to divide Europe by national self-determination was mostly ignored by the victorious Entente, who had taken to dividing up their gains, rather than worry about minority or ethnic conflict. Point Nine of the plan specifically requested the readjustment of lines in Italy to harmonize along nationality. This was something the Italians were unwilling to accept. The Italians, like the Volksdeutsche and the Habsburgs, knew how strategic the area of Südtirol was. They maintain that although the Habsburgs may have controlled the region for most of its history, it was under the Kingdom of Italy for a brief period thanks to Napoleon, and that it has always had an Italian character to it (Toscano, 1). However, this Italianness found in Südtirol has always been an urban sort. When nationalism first started to grow, urban Italians were welcoming to new liberal ideas. This did not sit well with the rural Austrian peasantry or the Kaiser, leading to an exportation of half the Italian population between the years 1860 and 1913. This may not have been the decisive reason, but it certainly pushed Italy to go behind the Triple Alliance’s back in the hopes of acquiring the region (Toscano, 2). The Italians maintained that it was to regain the “70 percent” of Italians living there, but the main reason to take the territory was always one of pure strategic military necessity. The Brenner Pass and the highways around it are key to any invasion into Italy from the North (Toscano, 9). During the war, the Italians experienced how even a relatively small force could hold onto those Alps, as the Austrians had shown them. However, neither Vienna nor Rome could trust each other’s census data on the region. The Italians even forfeited a compromise by Austrians to make Südtirol a demilitarized zone, calming Italy’s strategic concerns. The Austrians issued a statement insisting that keeping Tirol together was of historical, ethnic, and economic importance. The statement also ended on a threatening note, adding that if annexation did occur, the Südtiroler have endured worse before and would endure worse to come to see Tirol united again. Italy and the Allies ignored these pleas and threats adding another minority to the mosaic of lost peoples in Europe. Rome promised a generous and liberal stance on this new minority (Toscano, 12). We know today that this was a tremendous lie. After the most brutal war humanity had ever experienced the first thought on Europe’s mind was to prepare for the next one instead of pursuing a path to peace.

Italy had successfully achieved its revenge on Austria, and pushed forward with its own extreme nationalistic agenda. This meant disaster for the Südtiroler. However, the tactics used in this new take on ethnic cleansing had been in development since before the Great War. Ettore Tolomei, an Italian language teacher turned Inspector General of Italian Schools Abroad, had founded La Nazione Italiana publication. In short its aim was to bring the reemergence of the ancient Roman Empire around the Mediterranean. When this publication had to be stopped due to financial reasons he started Archivo per l’Alto Adige. This was another journal promoting Italianness and more specifically for the Südtirol region, which he considered to be Alto Adige and property of Italy for time immemorial. He used the journal to put out his own version of ethnic demographics for the region and from 1914 on it was the sole source of information for Italians on regional problems (Steininger, 16). Tolomei began planning, in detail, the annexation of Südtirol, presupposing that the German speaking population would assimilate. He also translated the names of 10,000 villages, places, and roads into Italian, sometimes just adding an O to the German name or making a literal translation (Steininger, 17). All this was taken as fact from the Archivo, though it lacked scholarly-reliability, when it was really blatant Italian propaganda. This was due to the Archivo being distributed to certain libraries, giving it a false essence of scholarly work. After World War I and the occupation of Südtirol, Tolomei was assigned to put together measures for the Italianization of the region in 1923. This came in the form of his 32 provvedimenti per l’Alto Adige, which Der Tiroler newspaper aptly described as “measures for the eradication of German culture in Südtirol” (Steininger, 19). Just some of the measures included unifying Alto Adige and Trentino into a single province (giving the Italians majority power), closure of the Brenner, German immigration prevention, town and place name changes to Italian, changing German family names to Italian, removal of Germans from public services including police, shutting down the German press, and even banning the use of the name Südtirol (Steininger, 19,20). This intense policy of Italianization continued throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Tolomei announced early in the 1920s that Alto Adige would be incorporated into the province of Trent, robbing the Südtiroler of a majority and solidifying them as a minority in Italy (Toscano, 21).

Das Argument der Südtiroler Selbstbestimmung

Though new Italian nationalism was stronger and more aggressive, German nationalism was also present. Possibly even more present when faced with its annihilation in Südtirol. The Südtirolers have an indisputably more diverse culture than their southern neighbors. They have lived there for centuries; their farms have been passed down along with their language, cultural traditions, and politics. The difference in politics can be seen even more clearly in present day within the European Union. The fact that Tolomei had to sit down and create a list of ways to degrade a culture and a people only proves the point that the Volksdeutsche have been in the Südtirol region for long enough to consider it their home and to have the right to live there. If one were to follow Italy’s argument that the region has always been Italian, the first counter-argument would be that before the 1800s, there was no such thing as an Italian or a German, but that there were only Monarchies and their subjects. What you have after is whatever land these Empires happened to grab and hold onto until their eventual demise, and what culture continued to grow thereafter was what defined that nation. The second-counter argument would be that of the actual culture of the land. What, in fact, were people doing there historically and how does that match a modern description? This question can be looked at using the Iceman found in Südtirol. The Iceman, named Ötzi after the site where he was discovered, stands as a testament to the characteristically rural lifestyle of the region. His leather clothes remind one of traditional Lederhosen, his backpack similar that to a Tiroler backpack (Kraxe). Studies of Ötzi have shown him to possibly be pastoral, fitting again to the farming lifestyle of many Volksdeutsche in Südtirol. This late Neolithic man has more in common with traditional rural Volksdeutsche than with the modern urban Italian (Hudson, Journal of Occupational Science). With this in mind, one can be assured that although Tolomei fooled many about the Italianness of the land, it was historically more representative of the Volksdeutsche living there.

Fascista Alto Adige

In spite of this, the Italianization process of course continued, driven by the Fascist government. Tolomei’s program targeted every level of society in Südtirol. The German speaking Press was shut down in 1925. This included Der Landsmann, the Brixner Chronik, the Bozner Nachrichten, the Dolomiten, followed by the Volksbote,Volksblatt, and the Burggraefler a year later (Steininger, 25). October 1st, 1923 the Lex Gentile went into effect in all of Italy. For Südtirol this meant the dismantling of the German school system and 30,000 German-speaking students became subjected to Italianization (Steininger, 26). Canon Michael Gamper, previous editor of the Volksbote, took the lead to initiate clandestine German schooling in Südtirol, these became known as the catacomb schools. They became a way for students to continue their education with German instruction; though the quality of the education was certainly not the best, it was still in their mother tongue. As well as schools, most businesses and public services had become strictly Italian. Without proper Italian documentation, many Südtiroler lost their businesses, farms, and even homes. In 1927 the Italians showed just how far they were willing to go by banning all German gravestone inscriptions and forcing them to be in Italian. This was quickly played down a year later stating that, “The Italian Government will not lay even a finger on the past; our mission is the future” (Steininger, 33). The Italian governments confusingly contradictory statement did not give any ease to the German-speaking population’s suffering. Mussolini then began his “domestic colonization” or exploitation of hydroelectric power and agriculture (Steininger, 33).

The Industrial Zone in Bozen was also brought in to exploit resources, but also to alter demographics by bringing in Italian labor. 1936 to 1942 saw the amount of Italian industrial workers in the area rise from zero to 7,000 and reached 12,000 by 1947. The construction of the Industrial Zone managed to destroy 50,000 fruit trees shortly before their harvest, which further angered locals (Steininger, 43). This is not uncommon for any occupational force. The Industrial Zone was then given a “free ride” for companies to invest in an unfavorable geographic location by the government. Aluminum works, fiber board works, magnesium works, and steel works for auto parks all took advantage of the governments generosity and set up camp in Bozen. The area just, economically, does not make sense to industrialize, too much energy was needed to bring in materials and run these plants (Steininger, 44). This emphasizes the actual goal of Industrialization, which was to force a demographic change of the region by Italian authorities.

Mussolini also ordered the construction of the Fascist Victory Monument. “An arrogant demonstration of the Italianization of Südtirol” was the description by German historian Rudolf Lill (Steininger, 35). It was to be put where everyone could see it across the Talfer Bridge in Bozen, where construction of a memorial for Austrian Kaiserjäger troops had already started; this memorial was blown up and removed. The Victory monument was a sign of Italianization and victory over their enemies across the Alps. The monument is adorned with axe blades coming from the columns in a very Roman fashion, a sculpture of Vittoria Sagittaria firing an arrow toward the north, and the inscription in Latin: “Here are the borders of the fatherland. Put down our weapons. From here, we brought to the others language, laws, and arts” (Steininger, 37). The Italians did not stop at creating their own new monuments; to truly bring Italy into Südtirol would mean every monument celebrating Germanness had to go as well. The Walther von der Vogelweide statue in the Altstadt, the Laurin Fountain, and the Bozen Museum were all either relocated or removed (Steininger, 40). Yet despite all the action taken against the Südtiroler they still remained strong and as proud of their heritage as ever.

Die Optionen

The Südtiroler that had not been so easily turned into happy Italian citizens had found another place to turn, and that was National Socialism, but Nazi propaganda only convinced the Italians of the need to push their domestic colonization even harder. In 1934 the Südtiroler Heimatfront was changed to Völkischer Kampfring Südtirols. The change in name was inspired by the implementation of the Führer principle. In 1935 Südtiroler were eager to hear of the reunification of the Saarland with Germany. That night bonfires were lit in the mountains, Nazi symbols and anti-Italian mottos were flaunted, “heute die Saar – wir über Jahr” (Steininger, 47). In 1938 the Anschluß of Austria further heightened hopes that Südtirol would be welcomed in the new Reich. However, Hitler was more concerned with not upsetting his Fascist neighbor and Ally Mussolini. With irredentist behavior on the rise in Alto Adige, the Italians became wary of Hitler continuing his annexations south. Hitler assured Mussolini, evening going to Rome to do so, that Germany had no intention to take Südtirol. After incidents in Lasa where demonstrations against Italy took place and shots were fired, Innsbruck was held responsible and told to show restraint. Hitler’s second man, Hermann Göring, and founder of the Gestapo, was put in charge of solving the problem. In 1938 in a conversation with Italian consul in Berlin he was quoted saying “…the Germans in the Alto Adige, let us say 200,000, represent a mere nothing beside the 75 million in Germany. Those of them who do not wish to become loyal Italian citizens can leave the Alto Adige. We want no more trouble-makers” (Toscano, 38). This was the first mention of a population exchange from both sides, but regardless of the origin of the idea both Italy and Germany were ready to see it through to finish this Südtirol question once and for all.

`In 1939 10,000 politically undesirable Reich Germans (Austrians) were to be relocated in the coming year. After that the Volksdeutche and finally the land owning Austrians would be moved (Toscano, 44). The Südtiroler had two options, either leave the homeland to preserve customs and tradition, or to stay and betray their own Germanness by not following the Führer’s instructions. It turned out 86 percent would opt for relocation due to Nazi propaganda, fear of Italianization, and rumors of relocation to Sicily. The Option was in Berlin described as “an act of extraordinary political wisdom” (Steininger, 50). The Nazis referred to this act of ethnic cleansing as human resource relocation, a nice spin on a disastrous policy. The VKS at first stated that they would follow their Führer in every aspect save this one. A few days later their position changed to that of sacrificing ones homeland for ones country (Steininger, 56). For some Südtiroler giving up the homeland was in fact giving up tradition, custom, and country. Those who chose to stay were now subjugated to both Italianization and Nazi propaganda and aggression. The stayers, or traitors, received from their own German-speaking neighbors threats and violence on a daily basis. “Hotel Israel” was painted on an Inn where a Jewish fruit dealer had spent the night by Nazi sympathizers, manure was smeared on houses, and some barns were set on fire, their children were pelted with stones, and houses were smashed and violated (Steininger, 59). One memorable stayer, Friedl Volgger, describes how stayers became as bad as Jews in the eyes of the leaving German population (Steininger, 60). Almost 75,000 Südtiroler left their homeland, with only 20,000 eventually returning. The exchange of a population has shown it self to be more burden than solution not just in Alto Adige but historically as well. The nation states of the 20th century saw population exchange as a viable solution. In the 1920s Turkey and Greece had their Great Population exchange of 1.3 million Orthadox Greeks and 800,000 Muslims, which for them became more of a problem than an answer (Glenny, 392).

When Mussolini was overthrown during the Second World War, Germany occupied Südtirol and Northern Italy. Most believed that they would be the newest addition to the Reich, however this did not happen. Twenty months of German civil administration saw the return of German schools and language and basic rights, but no promise of escape from Italy. During those “terrible” twenty months the German-speaking citizens gave into their resentment of Italians, taking revenge for their treatment during the Italianization process (Toscano, 51). The absence of the Italian administration and the realization that Südtirol would remain Italian led a few to begin to organize for after the war. The Südtiroler Volkspartei was founded May 8, 1945 in Villa Malfér in Bozen and Erich Amonn was elected chairman. The group was a continuation of stayers resistance activity and the goal was re-unification with Austria. They proposed to fight for the right of self-determination for the German-speaking population and to bring peace to the land after twenty-five years of Italian Fascism and German National Socialism.

Opfer vom Kalten Krieg

During World War II the Allies Council of Foreign Ministers met in Moscow and discussed the after war strategy. Austria was to be considered the first victim of Nazi aggression but the question still remained on where to draw the line. The consensus was the 1919 line, placing the border at the Brenner Pass, but the question of Südtirol was kept open for possible change in the future (Steininger, 77). After the war the Council of Foreign Ministers decided on September 14, 1945 that the 1919 borderline would remain the same. This decision was made despite the Tiroler demonstrations in Innsbruck and despite an active Austrian Foreign Minister, Karl Gruber (Steininger, 80). Rome and Vienna protested and argued for their respective cause of maintaining the territory. However, securing a peaceful Europe for everybody for the Allies meant halting communist expansion and so keeping the centers of power happy became more important than small border conflicts. It was agreed upon that if Italy were to lose Südtirol it would upset the government and “open the way for the Communists” (Steininger, 91). In May 1946 the Council of Foreign Ministers in Paris closed the question once and for all, ignoring all ideas of self-determination for the Südtiroler and focusing on creating a safe and democratic capitalist Europe. In all of Tirol there were protests as well as clashes with police and French occupation forces. At this time Austria was still under allied control and the government was too weak to do anything about the Südtirol question. Under Allied persuasion Italy and Austria were to debate further a possible solution for what would certainly be a problem in the future. To keep both countries appeased was of vital importance to any anti-communist strategy. It was suggested that autonomy be given the province under Italian sovereignty with considerable rights of culture, access, and trade for the German-speaking population (Steininger, 101). On September 5th, 1946 Karl Gruber and Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi signed the peace treaty and the Gruber-De Gasperi Agreement was made. The signing of this agreement is of significant importance because as it was part of the Allied Peace Treaty it made the Südtirol question an international affair and not just an internal Italian affair. It also included the right of protector to Austria concerning the matter.

Italy willingly signed the agreement and showed little problem with granting Austria protector status, and had no problem with the concept of autonomy for Alto Adige. This is likely because their willingness to sign the treaty was followed by their next move, which was to create an interconnected autonomous region of Trentino and Alto Adige. This in effect made the Südtiroler a minority within their own homeland, with the inclusion of the Trentino province there would be 500,000 Italians and only 200,000 Südtiroler (Steininger, 106). The Austrian government at the time was too weak to do anything about this twist in the agreement and decided instead to bide their efforts. Italy used the agreement to their own advantage, the government took its time in implementing the autonomy status and also used this time to suppress a good portion of the German-speaking population, they did this by taking advantage of those 150,000 who had opted for Germany during the war, who now had neither Italian nor German citizenship and could not vote, get a job, or marry (Steininger, 110). The Fascist elements of the Old Italian government had not yet departed.

Das Echo Mussolinis

One headline in 1948 from the Dolomiten expressed how the Südtiroler felt after the agreement had been made; it read, “Danger is Imminent” (Steininger, 112). It articulated the Fascist remnants continued goal of Italianization. What was once blatant behavior by the Italian government became more deceptive and less obvious. The school system was still more accommodating to Italians and the immigration of more Italians to the province was on the rise. The superior behavior of Italians continued much as it had during the 1920s. Graffiti offences for promoting Südtiroler self-determination garnered a year or more in prison.  In April 1955 the Italian government gave 2 billion Lire for public housing for the province, 1.8 billion of which went to the City of Bozen, where the majority of Italians resided and were moving to (Steininger, 114). Protests were held urging for a break with Trient, the Trentino capital, and full implementation of autonomy. The continuation of Italian hostility was followed by a change in the SVP leadership and the adoption of a less moderate stance. They pushed harder for autonomy to be put in place, but the Italian parliament ignored these calls. They then in 1959 issued implementation regulations for public housing construction that removed almost all authority over the area that was still in the hands of the SVP. The SVP then resigned from the regional government signaling a critical turning point in the situation (Steininger, 117).

Die Bombenjahre

In 1955, Austria finally got back its independence and assumed a more active role in the Südtirol problem. When in 1960, Prime Minister Fernando Tambroni suggested secret talks be held to solve the problem, Foreign Office secretary Bruno Kriesky was in favor of this option, but all Tiroler on both sides of the Brenner were opposed to the idea. Austria then went ahead with its plan to bring the question to the UN General Assembly. The UN unanimously passed resolution 1497/XV, which was meant to use the Paris Agreement as determinative and to implement autonomy that “…takes into consideration the ethnic character and the cultural and economic development of the Südtiroler” (Steininger, 121). Negotiations were re-opened and the UN respected Austria’s right as protector to be involved in the issue. However, the Italians were unwilling to compromise and negotiations broke after one day. Many Südtiroler decided this was the end of hope for receiving help from outside, and that it was time to take matters into their own hands.

Südtiroler, unhappy with the SVP leadership, formed the Befreiungsausschuss Südtirol (BAS). They began a strategic bombing campaign of the region, targeting Italian army bases, monuments, and important infrastructure such as bridges and electric pylons. They handed out fliers at demonstrations explaining the need to protect ones Germanness and not be treated like an Italian colony. The Südtiroler tolerance for being discriminated had run out. Germans and Austrians outside Südtirol began sending their monetary, political, and organizational support (Steininger, 123). Rolf Steininger makes a clear distinction in his book on Südtirol about the bombings, stating that during the years 1956-1969 two phases occurred. The first phase lasted until 1961 during which the bombings were carried out in a way that would avoid endangering human life. The second phase from 1961-1969 included deaths, injuries and property damage giving the BAS organization a terrorist branding (Steininger, 123).

One particular bombing marked the turn in the trend from property damaging freedom fighters to life-taking terrorists. It was the 11th of June, 1961, during the Sacred Heart of Jesus Festival, thirty-seven electrical pylons were bombed and taken down, nineteen of which were in Bozen (Steininger, 124). Herlinde Molling, an art historian, was one of the members in this attack and did an interview two years ago talking about her experience as a terrorist bomber and mother. On the appropriately named Feuernacht, she drove from her home in Tirol, down across the Brenner, and into Südtirol with the explosive material for the job in her trunk along with her two daughters in the back seat. Her car was stopped by the Carabinieri, she lightly flirted, pointed out her children, and was sent on her way. She drove a few more kilometers, attached the explosives and the detonator, and went back home. She talks about her involvement with the BAS, secret meetings in Innbrucker Bürgerhäusen, long debates, and dreams of Ein Tirol. She expresses her idea of the border problem with hope saying; “Wer sagt, dass Grenzen ewig Bestand haben müssen” (Fasser). Molling has a history of involvement with the cause, admitting to spray-painting “Freiheit für Südtirol” when she was younger. Her father was also a member of the earlier BAS organization. Her husband, also a member, explains how Wien had forgotten about them and not done enough, even since 1919, and that it was now their fate alone. However, Molling still has respect for socialist Foreign Minister Bruno Kreisky, who helped the Südtirol cause for autonomy status. When the deed had been done that night, many had celebrated, but not Molling. She explains how she was not boastful of her actions like the men in the organization. Pride was their goal, they wanted guns, and they wanted to fight. They even admitted old Nazis into their ranks, which might help explain the change in bombing tactics after the Feuernacht. Though for Molling the fight was never about pride, it was about her people, her culture, her homeland, für Molling die Tiroler sind eben anders (Fasser).

After the Feuernacht, Südtirol saw an increase in troop presence and 150 BAS men were arrested. The men arrested were tortured, tried, and two were murdered (Steininger, 125). From that point on Austrian and German citizens were becoming more and more involved in acts of terrorism. Neo-nazis, spy agencies, and pan-German groups treated the province like a new arena. However, the increase in radical action and brutality claimed, in the end, a total of only fourteen lives. (I use the word ‘only’ merely in comparison to other ethnic conflicts and terrorist movements. I think this is important to mention because as Molling suggested the Tiroler are certainly something else.) Until the second phase of the bombings and neo-Nazi involvement, the strategy had always been one of avoiding the endangering of human life. This is something that most freedom fighters in other countries do away with, thinking that only the same brutality they have been shown can resolve the problem. After another bombing in Porzecharte left four dead, Italian and Austrian relations were at a low point. Some Italians were maneuvering to take Austria out of the Südtirol question once and for all. In 1967, Italy used its veto in the European Economic Community to block Austrian attempts at further negotiations (Steininger, 128). Minister of the Interior, Mario Scelba, appointed a commission of eleven Italians and eight Südtirolers to examine the problem from all points of view (Steininger, 125). It was originally thought that this commission would take Austria out of the picture, but it soon grew to have a life of its own. Socialist chairman Paolo Rossi realized that Italian and Austria diplomacy had come to an end and that it now fell on the Commission of Nineteen to solve the issue. The SVP and Austrian call for provincial autonomy had long been forgotten; the Package that was actually being formed was undermining their regional autonomy (Steininger, 129).

Das Zweite Abkommen

The Package, originally meant to undermine the Volksdeutche, eventually led to a suitable agreement. This change in Italian policy is most attributed to a new, center-left government under Aldo Moro and Giuseppe Saragat. They were more understanding of minorities and opened the floor for discussion. There is an argument, though, between scholars and Bumser (BAS members active in the bombings) as to whether or not the bombings were the source of the Italian policy change, which I will return to later. The new Italian government met in secret talks with Bruno Kreisky but when an agreement was reached the Südtiroler backed away from the deal because it made the Package an internal affair of Italy, which was something they could not comply with. A few years later, in 1966, both foreign ministers, Lujo Toncic-Sorinj and Amintore Fanfani sat down and Italy proposed an all-inclusive offer (Steininger, 130). The SVP was now demanding the Package to be anchored internationally. Italy, again, stalling for time offered to anchor the accord politically. This compromise created a timetable for implementation and specified that Austria would agree to end the dispute after implementation of real autonomy, this became known as the operations calendar (Steininger, 131).  The SVP, in November 1969, voted on whether or not to accept the Package and the timetable, it won 583 votes to 492 (Steininger, 132). Chancellor Josef Klaus delivered his statement denouncing any terrorist activity and Italy returned the good favor by withdrawing its veto in the EEC. Both parliaments in Rome and Vienna accepted the agreement to implement and further the autonomy of Südtirol. One of the major differences was the removal of authority from the whole region to the two separate provinces, fixing the problem from 1948 and the failed Gruber- De Gasperi Agreement that made the Südtiroler a minority in their homeland (Steininger, 134). Now the province of Südtirol could better protect and preserve its cultural identity under its new autonomy status. Another part of the Package was helping the two communities live together; this prompted a policy of learning a second language earlier on in school.

The new autonomy Statute went into effect January 20th, 1972 and marked real progress for Südtirol, unlike the last promise for autonomy. Now there would be schools for each of the languages in the province, including the Ladin minority. There would also be positions in public jobs for all three ethnic groups under the Proporz Decree. The Patentino was the ticket into civil service and a certificate of bilingualism (Steininger, 137). The implementation process was long and there were times when things slowed down. In 1986 Rome held a debate over the Package, which the SVP declared “a grave violation of the Package, the autonomy statute, international commitments, and the agreements that had been arrived at between the representatives of the majority parties in the Südtiroler legislation” (Steininger, 139). Over the next months the number of rejected bills rose, and in 1987 it was admitted that Rome was doing everything it could to delay rather than work together to bring the solution to form (Steininger, 139). In 1991, pressure was put on Rome for these delay tactics when a rally was held on the Brenner demanding for Break with Rome-Province Now! (Steininger, 140). The new governor, Roland Riz, had experience as an MP in Rome, and started to act in order to speed up the process. Riz assured Rome of Austria’s declaration of an end to the dispute to the UN should all points be made in accordance with the 1969 agreement. On January 30th, 1992 the Package was declared fulfilled by the Italian government, however, the Treaty of Paris was not mentioned and therefore no link to international law (Steininger, 142). Austrian Ambassador, Emil Stafflmayr, was then a few months later handed an additional note from Italian Foreign Ministry, General Secretary Bruno Bottai, expressing that the broadest possible autonomy was implemented for the German-speaking minority as mandated (specifically) by the Treaty of Paris (Steininger, 143). Finally it was Austria’s time to go to the UN and mark the end of the Package implementation. On June 19th, 1992 Austrian and Italian ambassadors handed in the “Notification of the Termination of Conflict” to the UN. The UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, called the resolution on resolving a minority dispute between two states exemplary (Steininger, 144).

Dank dem Kampf – Dank dem Zufall

Though autonomy was implemented in 1992 for the province, the question remains, was the resolution a success and, if so, could it be used as model for other ethnic conflicts? The first real major act of defiance and, therefore, towards better treatment was the choice of some Südtrioler not to opt for Germany, as they had every right to stay in their homes and villages. Those who left made the entire minority seem like chess pieces willing and waiting to be moved from space to space on the board, when, in fact, they were actually individuals, with families, values, goals, and rights. When those rights are taken away, one must act and stand firm. To work against such discrimination is difficult, especially when the country that protected those rights is under occupation itself, as Austria was after World War II. The SVP made the right move in organizing, being active in finding a solution, and connecting with Austria, despite its occupation status. The acceptance and grounding of Austria’s right as protector of the minority in the Paris Agreement was crucial in that it later forced Italy into a position where they would need Austria to settle the dispute.

Tiroler governor and later Foreign Minister Karl Gruber took the next important step in appealing to the allies for “freedom to be restored in Südtirol, the country of Andreas Hofer after twenty-six years of cruel oppression that did not even spare the graveyards” (Steininger, 80). Although Cold War tension and fear ultimately stopped the Allies from giving Austria back Südtirol, calling for support from greater powers is another key step in achieving autonomy or way to self-determination. With Austria out of its cage in 1955, it began to be able to help more, taking the problem to the UN in 1960 despite pressure from the West not to do so (Steininger, 146). They received no support from the UN, but Britain a close trading partner of Austria, however, managed to help revert the situation from disaster. Things seemed to change when a new Italian government came in that was more understanding. This opened up the route for new negotiations. The Südtiroler denied any chance of Italy making the province an internal affair, a move that I think was very important for eventually solidifying any agreement that could have been made in international law. I believe the Italian delay tactics during implementation of the Package are a sign that had an internal solution been accepted the Package would have been significantly undermined. A crucial step the Tiroler and Südtiroler took was to make sure any negotiation for the implementation of autonomy was grounded firmly in international law, or it could have meant the Paris Agreements failure all over again. Then arose new negotiations, where this course threatened to return. Italy had gone against any treaty-like agreements in connection with the Package, and offered only to anchor the accord politically (Steininger, 131). This became the operations calendar and was a smart choice to accept this compromise or risk losing the whole agreement.

The actual package that came to be, after two decades of negotiation and implementation, gave the province the autonomous authority it struggled so long to achieve. This included the Proporz Decree, an attempt to bring bilingualism into the communities. This is an important step in any long-term peace solution. It also signaled the equal status of the German language in the province that had been lost since 1919. It set up a Provincial Supreme Court, and split the province into three districts giving Südtirol three senatorial seats. All powers that had once been under regional authority now came under the province. This included subsidized residential construction, hunting and fishing, parks for the protection of endangered plants and animals, streets, water supply, sewage system, public works, communication, transportation, public services, tourism, agriculture and forestry, hydraulic engineering, public welfare, and construction of schools (Steininger, 135).  All the taxes earned from these were to be kept in the province, allowing Südtirol to only pay 10% of taxes to Rome.

Other ethnic conflicts and minority disputes could be solved in this way. Allowing a certain region to have more localized authority is a healthy compromise when conflicts like this arise. It would be better, however, to avoid such conflicts and allow a minority that has lived there for considerable time to use their own language, but also give the opportunity for other languages to be learned and used as well. Devolution of powers allows for tensions to settle and for democracy to flourish without the need for escalating violence. Discrimination against a certain group by the centralized government will, in most cases, lead to backlash against them in one way or another. Italy was fortunate that the conflict had so few casualties. Looking at how other sectarian standoffs have spun out of control, as in Israel/Palestine or Northern Ireland, the showdown in the Dolomites is a model example for how to bring peace, compromise, and stability. Today, the province still has a majority of German-speakers, they live their lives, continue to practice their customs and traditions, and coexist with their ethnically different neighbors in this Austrian/Italian province.

Der Stolz des Hofer

(Before going into this side argument over the bombings, it should be noted that I might hold some bias. As an American, I am perhaps more partial to agree with the side of the self-determinists, those searching for justice and independence. Noting this, I am also ashamed the USA did not do more for the Südtiroler, especially during the Cold War. I felt especially inspired by the interview that Herlinde Molling offered the Zeit Online, and how she did not let pride get in the way of, what for her were, extremely important steps to get international recognition and was able to stop short of violence towards human life.)

There is some argument, as I mentioned earlier, about the new left-leaning government being the single reason for re-starting negotiations. The Bumser, or bombers of the BAS organization argue that their actions are what led the Südtirol problem to the world press and, therefore, why Italy finally gave into negotiations, out of fear from international response. The Bumser hold onto this claim with a strong sense of pride. Two notable scholars on the situation maintain another theory. The Südtiroler Political Scientist, Günther Pallaver, points out that the new, centre-left Aldo Moro government was the real reason for autonomy and not the bombing campaign. He states; “Autonomie nicht wegen, sondern trotz der Bomben der Sechziger” (Fasser). Rolf Steininger specifically writes in his book that; “the bombings were later said by their perpetrators and their sympathizers to have been what triggered a change in Italy’s Südtirol policy. This is certainly not the case. At the suggestion of Minister of the Interior Mario Scelba, the Italian government – not because of but despite the bombings – appointed a commission consisting of eleven Italians and eight Südtiroler..” (Steininger, 125). Both scholars suggest that the Commission of Nineteen would have been formed with or without the bombing campaign, supporting the theory that the Package would have been delivered despite these acts of terrorism. This is something that I do not think can be said with such certainty.

Steininger and Pallaver provide only the assumption that it was the center-left Italian government that made negotiations possible. I agree with the assumption that if a right-leaning government had come to be, they most likely would have used the bombings to justify harder suppression and stop negotiations. However, I would argue that if the first phase of the bombings had maintained and not escalated under a right-wing establishment, it could have still been able to bring about a solution. I say this because I do not think the first phase of these bombings can be so easily ignored. In any activist movement, there is a line that needs to be crossed for it to be considered an act of terror. I would draw that line at the same juncture the original BAS had chosen, that of endangering human life. The Feuernacht bombings only had one casualty, Italian street maintenance employee Giovanni Postal, and this was surely an accident because for an untold reason he was handling the explosives and surely not qualified to do this knowingly. The first phase of the bombings still maintained an activist character; it was still a protest movement. It is necessary for a movement, especially of this nature, to get the word out. The major powers of the time feared Red, not Rot-Weiss-Rot, the Südtiroler movement was almost entirely on its own and surely needed World media attention. The BAS movement meant to cause massive property damage, especially to the Industrial Zone that for decades increased the fear of losing their homes, was genuine activism. This movement deserves credit, massive damage to infrastructure alone is an ingeniously authentic way to make the movements’ voices heard and still respected. It is when they cross the line into inflicting real panic and pain to lives and families that they descend into terrorism. We can say that Aldo Moro and the lefties made the Package possible; we can say that the second phase of the bombings were indeed acts of terror, used to bomb self-determination into existence. However, we cannot say that the Initial Phase of the BAS liberation movement was irrelevant in bringing about attention to the need for change in the province.

Alte Gewohnheiten

The Province has not only come out of its dark past, but it has flourished since 1992. It holds the lowest crime rate in Italy and a remarkably low unemployment (Steininger, 148). Südtirol now produces ten percent of the apples in the EU, and two percent of the global market. It is today the wealthiest region in Italy. The secondary autonomy status guarantees that ninety percent of the tax revenue remains inside the regional budget, with only ten percent going to Rome and the national budget (Rosenburger). There are still marches held calling for re-unification by the Südtiroler Schützenbund, and some place signs are still vandalized between the two language groups, but now only a small minority participates in these activitites (Bell). Now, a part of the EU, the Brenner border seems irrelevant and one would think the economic and political union bringing Austria and Italy even closer together would have stopped separatist movements. This has not been the case, at least since the economic crisis. As in other parts of Europe, the crisis has brought up old problems. As the wealthiest region in Italy, many are afraid that Rome will seek to take more from the Province to help Italy’s debt problem, and infringe upon the coveted autonomy status. Ulli Mair of die Freiheitlichen stated; “Südtirol is not in charge of saving Italy and could not have done so even if it wanted to. Italy is a bad house keeper with lots of debts! We’re not paying for their debts with our money!” (RT). While the Italian unemployment average is around eleven percent, the Südtirol average is about three or four percent (Rosenburger). The fear of being dragged in to help Italy’s problems can be examined by looking at support for the Provinces political parties. SVP has long been the main party for the German-speaking population, but in the last decade Die Freiheitlichen and Süd-Tiroler Freiheit separatist parties have been gaining momentum. In 2003, Die Freiheitlichen had five percent of the vote, increasing to 14.3 percent in 2008, and is expected to gain 23.7 percent this year in the October elections. This means the SVP would lose its majority in parliament for the first time since 1945 (Rosenburger).

I had a chance to sit down and talk with people working for both the SVP and Die Freiheitlichen to get a better idea of what their goals and worries are in the coming years.

I talked with three members of the SVP, one in their offices, and two from an event introducing their new team of MPs for the coming election. It seems for the SVP leadership that there is no reason at all to be pushing for independence from Rome at the moment. I asked them all questions about signs and language disputes, the school system, and whether or not they felt threatened that Rome would take away their autonomy tax status. The SVP are trying to be realistic and practical in this matter. There is no need for more borders by becoming an independent state. In the case of future problems, they want to have Rome on their side and not Vienna. This was because of the Italians’ streak of luck in getting through things, completely ignoring the fact that Italy is being hit hard by this economic crisis and Austria on the other hand is managing quite well. For the SVP Independence could mean loss of power in the EU, a power that they have by being a part of Italy. One member also did not want the Austrian police there, but instead preferred the Carabinieri. “We have it so good here”, is something I heard repeated often. It was strange to have read about the party that for so long pushed and fought for self-determination and could now only commit to saying why a break with Rome was far from the realm of possibility. One member, when questioned about Rome taking more money to help with their debt problem, answered surprised; “Was? Noch mehr?” (What, even more?) and then played down the possibility of this ever happening.

I then stepped into the office of die Freiheitlichen Party and the tone was significantly different. The SVP members I talked to seemed to be going through the motions, when I met with Sigmar Stocker it was a completely different experience, the word Leidenschaft (passionate) comes to mind. He was more than happy to answer my questions and talk about the current situation, but perhaps that comes with the territory of running a campaign based on an independence movement. He expressed quite clearly that his party, too, was being realistic, but still thought that someday Südtirol could be its own country, similar to Switzerland. He explained that the power comes directly from the people and that any attempt at a free state would mean bringing the Italians, which have now come to also call the province home, with them. Comparisons can be drawn in this regard, again, to Switzerland, which can be seen as a trilingual country, having French, Italian, and German speakers. Stocker explained how the youth on both sides are seeing the advantages of being bilingual, opening job opportunities from the South of Italy all the way to Berlin. However, he expressed that unlike the Italianization policy, learning another language cannot be forced and that it is something you must want to learn, through life and through jobs. He also underlined the importance of receiving schooling in one’s mother tongue. On the question of Rome and its financial problems, Stocker explained that there is a huge difference in Italian and Südtiroler politics. One is chaotic and has led to many problems, where the other has focused on order and stability and remains the wealthiest province in Italy. The difference in the political culture brings new meaning to the phrase, Südtirol ist nicht Italien. Die Freiheitlichen also give out leaflets alluding to the idea that Europe is pregnant, expecting five new states in Flanders, Catalonia, Scotland, Venetia, and Südtirol. They are also handing out a small packet (in several languages including English) explaining the history of the province, arguments for a free state, and even a constitution for it. The constitution provides for mutual respect and high involvement of the three language groups in the province.

Recently, Südtirol has indicated it is willing to buy its freedom. SVP Economics Minister, Thomas Widmann, is quoted saying “Full independence from Italy is not possible, because new states are unprecedented these days in modern Europe (In accord with SVP perspective). We can stay a part of Italy, but we want full financial freedom. We’re ready to pay a solidarity tax of 3 per cent (15 billion euros). We’ll pay for foreign policy, fiscal and euro policy. Otherwise, we’ll do the rest on our own. We build our roads in several months, but before it happens we wait for permission from Rome for years!” (RT). While the SVP continues its path towards autonomy, working slowly with Rome, Stocker and die Freiheitlichen offer another opinion: “Verteidigen ist kein Lebensmotto”.

Anleitung zur Autonomie

Whether or not Südtirol will gain its financial autonomy or its independence is still years away, but the example the province has made for Europe and the world stands strong. The fact that democracy exists and that these debates can be held is a testament to the fact that the conflict has been resolved. If I were to simplify the model that could be exported (I also heard one Bozen resident describe the autonomy status as being an export product), I would state it as this:

  1. Act and stand firm on a certain position (those who opted to stay).
  2. Organize, as the SVP did.
  3. Get outside support, preferably major powers such as other countries.
  4. Attempt to ground agreement in international law and get the international community to be aware of the situation.
  5. Negotiate and be able to compromise (operations calendar).

These steps can be followed to attain modest autonomous authority, with intent to implement local democracy.

As an interethnic conflict the situation followed many similar paths under a fascist or blatantly discriminate government. The Italians were negligent to the Südtirolers’ needs and in fact methodic in their application against them. Yet, somehow Südtirol has not only come out of its dark fascist past, but prospered as well. Although every conflict is unique the steps taken toward a solution in the Dolomites, this Südtiroler model, could be used in reference to finding a peaceful agreement elsewhere. Even the Dalai Lama has visited the province, possibly in hopes of finding a unique answer for his own home. It may be possible that in the future we see several autonomous regions come to flourish under this same fashion, as the over centralized democracies of the western world continue to collapse.

Works Cited

Bell, Bethany. “South Tyrol’s Identity Crisis: Italian, German, Austrian…?” BBC. N.p., 8 Dec. 2012. Web. 14 July 2013

Fasser, Manuel. “Bomben Im Kofferraum.” Zeit Online. N.p., 16 June 2011. Web. 17 Aug. 2013.

Glenny, Misha. The Balkans: Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers, 1804-2011. New York: Penguin, 2012. Print.

Hudson, Mark J., PhD, Mami Aoyama, PhDOTR, Mark Connery Diab, MA, and Hiroshi Aoyama, PhDOTR. “The South Tyrol as Occupationscape: Occupation, Landscape, and Ethnicity in a European Border Zone.” Journal of Occupational Science 18.1 (2011): 21-35. Journal of Occupational Science. Routledge, 32 Mar. 2011. Web. 26 Aug. 2013.

RT (no author mentioned) “Italian Province Offering 15 Billion for Financial Sovereignty.” RT. N.p., 2 Apr. 2012. Web. 5 Sept. 2013.

Rosenburger, Malte P. “Self-determination in South Tyrol- The Red Eagle Spreads Its Wings.” Fair Observer. N.p., 20 Dec. 2012.            Web. 18 June 2013.

Steininger, Rolf. South Tyrol: A Minority Conflict of the Twentieth Century. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2003. Print.

Toscano, Mario. Alto Adige, South Tyrol: Italy’s Frontier with the         German World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1975. Print.

The Path of the Partisans

The Path of the Partisans

Many saw the period immediately following World War II as a time for a new start and hoped it would become a turning point for Europe and the world. It marked an end to the mass violence that had been committed in the name of fascism and extreme nationalism. There were few that realized this would only be the end of one fight leading directly to another. This new conflict centered it self around two ideologies or economic models, communism and capitalism, each supported respectively by the two biggest victors of 1945, the United States of America and the Soviet Union. While most of the world began to recuperate and pick up the pieces from the recent global conflict these two super powers had already started to think what their next moves were, what the map would look like, and what strategies they would have to employ. Europe itself was split in half at Yalta in February 1945. Russia’s influence began to increase in Eastern Europe and the Balkans as America and Britain held strong in the west. Both Soviets and Western governments saw that the unfortunate post-colonial third world was now relatively free from foreign authority, struggling to industrialize, and could now be influenced. This would be done through everything from bribery and pay offs to secret coups and loosely justified hot wars. Some nations were able to choose their fates, Turkey, a historic rival of Russia, took its chances with the West, later even becoming part of the NATO alliance. Other nations were not so lucky. The world was being divided distinctly into two camps.  Even before the end of the war, Churchill, Britain’s Prime Minister, had visited Stalin with concerns of British interests in what would most certainly, after the war, be Soviet territory in Romania and elsewhere. Churchill proposed a trade of where the lines would be drawn. He offered 90% dominance of Russia in Romania, for 90% of British dominance in Greece. Bulgaria was split 75/25 with a majority of Russian influence. Hungary was split down the middle, as was another Balkan entity. The second country to be divided 50/50 was Yugoslavia (Glenny, 523).

The second half of the 20th century saw the reemergence of Yugoslavia in the Balkans as a real power. The west saw the Southern Slavs as a natural and historical ally of Russia by design. However, the socialist revolutionaries of Yugoslavia were not under the influence of the Red Army but were merely continuing their struggle for liberation as they had been since the invasion from German Nazis. Three years later in the spring of 1948 Stalin experienced a break in communist unity from Yugoslavia. Josip Broz, known by his war name Tito, shocked Moscow by refusing to allow his country to be wielded under their directive. The Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KJP) branched out and away from Stalinism. This move was of great historical importance not just for the Balkans and Europe, but also for the entire Cold War itself. The complex and difficult histories of these Balkan states led them down a path between the two blocs. The question of Yugoslavia’s unique stance after 1948 has been debated and scrutinized for obvious reasons. Tito had always expressed his loyalty to communism and Russia, but when it came down to it, it was his communism not Stalin’s. Yugoslavia is an extraordinary exception to the main understanding most have of the Cold War being a strictly bi-polar system.  To understand how such a position could be taken between the two super powers one must understand the Partisan communist beginnings, the deception of Soviet dominance over them, the complex and sometimes confused Western support, and how Tito’s Nationalist Communism differentiates itself from Stalinism both domestically and abroad.

Partisan Beginnings

Yugoslavia was first established in a dense fog. Through the interwar period confusion and tension between the mosaics of cultures within Yugoslavia allowed King Peter II and his government to install themselves through a military coup d’état. They celebrated their new rule by signing a pact with the Axis powers bent on Balkan expansion. Demonstrations were held protesting such an alliance and it was this popular opposition that led Hitler to eventually invade the country. On April 6, 1941 the Germans bombarded Belgrade severely and in less than two weeks on April 17th the Royal Yugoslav army was defeated, unprepared for the German war machine. Hours before the German invasion the Soviet Union had signed a non-aggression pact with Yugoslavia, in an attempt to prevent further war in the Balkans. This backfired when Germany invaded six hours later leading the Soviets to halt all relations with Yugoslavia as they were still tied to their nonaggression pact with Germany (Banac, 4-5). The Russians allowed Yugoslavia to be buried in a deep grave of occupation and genocide. The Italo-German forces set up the Independent state of Croatia and set up the willing fascists of the state to govern, they became known as the Ustase and were led by Andre Pavelic (Rasinow, 1). The new German puppets began to exterminate and convert Serbs in the region. The Germans occupied most villages and major cities, while the Italian forces oversaw other areas of, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Albania.

Thirty months of tragedy, genocide, and ethnic conflict passed in Yugoslavia before the future communist country began to rise from its ashes. November 29th, 1943 in Jajce, Bosnia the second session of the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia met to deicide how they would face their occupiers. They agreed that their revolution would be a socialist one, as it was the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ) that had started this movement. It is important to note that it was only at this second session that they established their socialist beliefs. This was because there was unwillingness to be influenced directly by Stalinist policy at the first meeting a year previous. The second meeting held the same tone as they explicitly denied intention of installing a Soviet type system. (Rasinow,2). This second session also included the intention to impose a federal system for the republics, which would include greater regional autonomy. These revolutionaries came to be known as the Partisans. Their goals were not just of fighting the occupiers but also to find stability after the war in communism. Unlike previous southern Balkan conflicts characterized by ethnic divisions, they invited all ethnicities of Yugoslavia to fight with them for the socialist cause. They were under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito, who established his headquarters in Uzice, in western Serbia. From there they tried to not only continue a resistance but ensure a stable social and economic life for locals. This goal was difficult to maintain due to sectarian devotion to Stalin but was more or less successful. They established a postal service, schools, cinemas, dance halls, a small weapons factory, and a 145-kilometer long railway. They even established a revolutionary newspaper, Borba (The Struggle), Tito knowing full well the importance of moral and propaganda (Glenny, 487). He also was aware of a possible Soviet intervention later on in the war and prepared for this by informing Stalin of his socialist goals, their joint struggle with Serbians leftist Agrarians and his willingness to an alliance with the USSR against English interests of installing the old monarchy. This should not imply that Tito was working loyally for Stalin as he covertly still planned to seize power in revolutionary Yugoslavia (Banac, 6).

There was however, another revolutionary group in Yugoslavia fighting the German opposition. Although the Royal Yugoslav Army had been defeated so quickly in the beginning, which was surprising to both Allies and Axis forces, many managed to escape into the mountains and forests of Bosnia, Montenegro, and parts of Serbia. These men came under Colonel Dragoljub Mihailovic (Draza), and they became the Chetnik resistance. They were for the most part Serbian, in stark contrast to the Partisans multi ethnic forces. They were loyal to the exiled monarchy, at the time based in London (Glenny, 486). The Chetnik strategy ran a different direction than Tito and his Partisan’s. The Chetniks had adopted a more defensive approach to fighting, as their main goal was the survival of the Serbian population (understandable considering the Ustase violence against Serbs) and not a socialist revolution later on. Their units were based in specific towns and areas for control. The Partisans employed another strategy of highly organized momentum and attack. They remained mobile, if they lost a liberated territory they would simply retreat and move to the next one. This also meant that the Partisans were open to allowing the extreme German retaliation, implying that war time loses such as these would make the socialist revolution later more easily attainable. (Glenny, 488-489).

Internationally the Chetniks were seen as the exiled governments ‘army in the homeland’ and were the recognized group receiving military aid. (Rasinow, 4). Inside Yugoslavia the two groups often engaged in fighting each other instead of the Germans, while the international community (particularly the West) was hesitant in aiding the Partisans. It is interesting to note here that more Yugoslavs were killed by each other than by Germans (Tito: His Own Man?). After some time it became clear that the Partisans were doing a better job at fighting the Germans. Hitler responded to increased Partisan aggression with Operation Weiss and Operation Schwarz, organizing a force of 117,000 Germans, Italians, Croats, and some Serbs against a Tito’s 19,000 Partisans. Tito was able to survive, regroup, and strike again. Churchill with much apprehension encouraged Stalin, Roosevelt, and King Peter to include the KPJ in his government in order to win the war more quickly, as they were proving to be a more than capable fighting force. By 1943 the Partisans received recognition and legitimacy from the exiled King and began to receive military aid from the Allies. It was a marriage of convenience (Tito: His Own Man). The King was eventually forced to disowned the Chetniks during the war due to their collaboration with the Germans against the Partisans, which the allies publicized. By-1944 the Partisans had grown to more than 350,000 under arms (Rasinow, 5). Even before the Soviets came to push out the remaining German forces, Tito had shown his willingness to receive aid from the West and his aversion to Russian communism.

Illusions of Red          

Comrade Stalin writes to us from Russia,

O Partisans, be afraid no more!

But we send him an open letter,

We were never afraid at all!

Sreten Zujovic-Crni, 1941

 

After the war Soviet troops occupied Yugoslavia for ‘protection’. Naturally the new communist nation came under Soviet guidance, thanks to Tito’s previous assurances of collaboration. Despite the Yugoslav leadership’s devotion problems soon arose with the Red Armies presence. Milovan Djilas, Tito’s propaganda lieutenant, complained about the behavior of the Red Army, specifically 1219 rapes, 111 murders and 1204 cases of looting (Glenny, 532). These numbers were especially high considering the Red Army only operated in the northeastern part of the country. The NKVD, the Soviet secret police, were also present in Yugoslavia spying and keeping tabs, but along with them doing the exact same practice was the Yugoslavian secret police, the Department for the Protection of the People (OZNa). The NKVD, OZNa, and in East Germany the Stasi, all differed greatly from their fascist predecessors. The Gestapo destroyed the physical body by shootings or death camps; OZNa and the other new Communist security apparatuses  destroyed the spirit and soul by employing brainwashing techniques. However, in Yugoslavia the NKVD and OZNa, which had matured independent of the Soviets, stood opposed. Both kept watch on Yugoslav opposition but also each other. OZNa adopted the phrase Ozna sve dozna  (Ozna finds out everything) and became an ever present force in the country (Glenny, 531). OZNa soon discovered how deep the NKVD was in the Yugoslavia state.

Not only were the two communist secret police forces dividing Soviet-Yugoslav relations but also economic ideas. Yugoslavia refused the offer to create joint-stock companies with Russia. This was Russia’s way of taking as much as they could from their satellite countries in attempt to revive the Russian economy. Yugoslavia came up with its own economic plan and before any other Eastern country under Soviet control. The Yugoslav five-year plan was outside of the Soviet ideology, and ideology was Stalin’s main tool of control. Aware of Western concerns Stalin wanted to conceal his imperialist expansions, and Yugoslavian independence could destroy that (Glenny, 532).

Tito and Stalin also disagreed on how to act in the eyes of the international community. Tito informed Stalin if the British invaded Croatia’s coast they would fight back. Stalin not wanting to anger the West further and allow them to think that Tito was following Soviet orders warned him to calm down his revolutionary enthusiasm. As Partisans raced to capture Trieste, the West called for them to back down, which they did. The British, as Stalin had rightly assumed, thought it was an attempt for the Soviets to gain a naval base in the Adriatic, but it was Tito who was looking for to the coast. Yugoslavia also wanted to gain access to Aegean through Salonika, They supported the EAM/ELAS communist revolutionaries in Greece against the West backed monarchy, hoping to find another communist ally in Greece, as they had also been abandoned by the Soviets. This went completely against Stalin’s agreement with Churchill to allow them influence there, making him ever more suspicious of Yugoslavia. (Glenny, 533-34).

As for the socialist revolutionaries’ enemies (their arch-rivals the Chetniks and the Ustase), they received their resentful punishment. On May, 7 1945 around 1-200,000 Croat Ustasa troops and civilians started making their way to the Austrian border. The Partisans pursued them killing 30,000 on the four-day march, and on May 20th 50,000 Croat soldiers and 30,000 refugees were executed over a five-day period (Glenny, 530). The Chetniks and Mihailovic were later hunted down in Bosnia and executed in 1946. These harsh retaliations were condemned by Stalin because they provoked the west, and Yugoslavia was being seen as the Soviet hammer against communist opposition. Although both countries supported the communist idea, they both had different ways of achieving that goal. Yugoslavia and Tito did not conform so easily to Soviet interests when they did not coincide to their own. These instances highlight the fact that the subordinate role that the world saw Yugoslavia playing for Stalin was in fact an illusion.

All these differences found between Tito and Stalin came to headway when Tito and Georgi Dimitrov of Bulgaria began toying with the idea of a closer union. Tito wanted to have an outright federation, but Dimitrov, wishing to secure Bulgaria’s identity preferred a confederation. Both countries neglected Soviet interests in their initiatives. Tito recognized Stalin’s policies as an extension of Tsarist imperial ambitions (Glenny, 534). Bulgaria and Dimitrov, unaware of this, tried to start another Balkan/Danubian confederation including Greece. Stalin saw this as an attempt of his communist allies to act independently of Moscow (Glenny, 535). Stalin also lured Yugoslavia into this trap, thinking that pushing Yugoslavia’s willingness to expand independently would solve the problem. He did this by encouraging their addition of Albania into the federation (Banac, 40). After both Yugoslavia and Bulgaria strayed farther away from the communist pack and Soviet control, Stalin summoned both Dimitrov and Tito to Moscow. Dimitrov tried to defend himself and then buckled, denouncing his own plans (Glenny, 535). Tito on the other hand sent Kardelj, instead of going himself. This was a great insult to Stalin, and he instantly denounced Tito and demanded obedience. On June 28th 1948 at a meeting of the Cominform (Communist Information Bureau) Yugoslavia refused to attend. The date coincided with the Serbs historical battle in Kosovo and the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand. Stalin then accused them of having abandoned the Marxist ideology (Glenny, 535). Stalin had already withdrawn his troops and civilian advisors from Yugoslavia because of the increasingly hostile atmosphere and the increasing surveillance of the Yugoslav secret police (Banac, 43). He expected his power over communist ideology to prevail and push the dubious Marxists out, but Yugoslav nationalism was stronger than communist beliefs. The KPJ took their stand on the grounds of national independence and equality (Banac, 117).  For this the Soviet Union stopped all cooperation with Yugoslavia, thinking this would bring the southern Slavs in line. Khrushchev himself had said he had only to ‘lift his little finger’ and the Yugoslavs would be begging for forgiveness (Glenny, 536).  However, after being excommunicated from the Soviet circle Yugoslavia did not back down, securing itself a place in Cold War history as a communist nation operating independently of Moscow.

Tito Turns West

Another notable act of operating between the two blocs was Yugoslavia’s dealings with the West. This is of particular importance because although they had been rejected from the East they still maintained a socialist ideology, one that now needed to be unique and purely Yugoslavian. They still maintained the idea of collectivization and other Marxist practices, particularly the practice of brutally rooting out opposition. Tito decided that the recent split between him and Stalin would need to be followed by a new strictly Yugoslavian form of communism aided by the spirit of nationalism if they were to survive their exclusion (Glenny, 536). His two closest advisors, Edvard Kardelj and Milovan Djilas, persuaded him that a distinct socialist ideology was necessary. Without it the break would be seen as nothing more than an old nationalist or new imperialist action (Glenny, 575). Yugoslav political thinkers and statesmen looked to discover the fundamental flaws in Stalinism. The South Slavs had never been known for their philosophical thinking, but now a flow of criticism, theory, and experimentation followed (Rusinow, 48). This led them to Yugoslavia’s unique communist theory of self-management.

The break with the Soviets was not without consequences. An economic blockade was placed on Yugoslavia from the eastern bloc. This was a huge set back because Yugoslavia depended on the USSR and its allies for most of its raw materials and almost all its oil. The USA was aware of this and decided to keep Tito and his little experiment alive, as a potential invaluable ally against the Russians. The West, having backed the Partisans considerably during the war, now could continue to back a communist state a little more easily (or legitimately) with Yugoslavia’s unique twist on socialism, though they only really did this for strategic reasons against the USSR (Glenny, 536).

The blockade forced Yugoslavia to find other markets outside of the Soviet world. From 1945-49 almost all trade had been done with the Soviet bloc countries. Starting in 1948 trade with Austria, France, Great Britain, Italy, West Germany, and the United States began to increase dramatically, while trade with Soviet countries dropped to zero from 1950- 54 (Vucinich, 104). In the period of 1949-53 the average percent of Yugoslavian exports to the West was 57.5 percent, while imports were averaged at 49.8 percent. During these years the percentage of American trade also increased dramatically from 2.6 percent exports and 3.4 percent imports to 13.1 percent exports and 22.8 percent imports (Vucinich, 107). This emphasizes the room Yugoslavia had to move internationally in terms of trade. Yugoslavia was supplied with basic food supplies, raw materials, and numerous other commodities. Also important were military supplies from the United States, which allowed them to continue a defiant stance against Moscow while surviving the blockade. There were however drawbacks, the country with its state monopoly was dealing with private enterprise nations, because of this they were forced to work with private credits and to secure imports they had to accept them at short and medium terms and with high rates of interest (Vucinich, 107). This would later become a problem when the Western economy entered crisis in 1973.

Economic aid from the United States began with a 20 million dollar loan from the Export-Import Bank in September 1949. This helped Yugoslavia purchase necessary industrial machinery and raw materials. The loan was given again two years later for the same purposes. After these first loans France and Great Britain began granting small loans to the communist country. The loans and imports were necessary between 1950-54 due to drought and lack of food supplies in Yugoslavia, but their new Western backing was enough to get them through this difficult time. The economic aid came of course partly from a need to lessen the suffering of the starving Yugoslavian population but this humanitarian cause was only a part of the reason for the aid. The military aid was also included to help Yugoslavia stand up for them selves, though specifically standing up and facing east. The question of Yugoslav aid in the US Congress and White House led to much scrutiny, but was concluded to be a calculated risk (Vacinich, 108-111). Though the United States did gain advantages from aiding the Slavs, it in no way lessens the importance of the fact that Yugoslavia was able to do business with the West. From the end of the war to 1962 the United States had aided Yugoslavia with a total of 2,304 million dollars, including military aid, grants, credit, and other assistance (Vacinich, 113).

 

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken-Robert Frost

 

Yugoslavia certainly chose the road less traveled by (or perhaps a better metaphor would be that Tito saw both paths and chose to make his own), when they chose to act in defiance of Stalin and continue to boast a new quasi-Marxist path. Kosta Cavoski noted “By saying ‘No!’ to Stalin, Tito stood on his own two feet for the first time in the world of politics. And henceforth, his glittering political leadership was no longer a mere reflection of Stalin’s sun…From that moment on, Tito now represented the sun for most Yugoslavs…Serpens nisi serpentem comederit non fir draco – a snake cannot become a dragon until it has eaten another snake” (Cavoski, 18-19).  This path sometimes seemed like a comfortable middle ground and at other times a razors edge. Yugoslavia became a place where westerners could go on vacation and where educational exchanges took place. The Journal Praxis was also inviting members from both Warsaw Pact and NATO to the country, welcoming critiques of both communism and capitalism. It became an intellectual boiling pot, where liberal westerners could support a milder form of communism (Glenny, 588). In 1952, the KPJ changed its name to the League of Communists (LCY) in order to distance it self further from Stalinism. As mentioned before, Tito needed a new Yugoslav communism to justify his breaking off with Stalin; this came in the form of self-managing socialism. This was a strange mix of Marxist rhetoric and capitalist economics, a curious laissez-faire socialism. Some have argued the Yugoslav ideology as ‘double talk’ and showing no major differences than Soviet thought, and that Tito’s ideology only offers practical policies such as market socialism and open frontiers (Vucinich, 169). However, the fact that Stalin expelled a potential satellite and strong ally merely because Yugoslavia operated with market socialism instead of his own communism exemplifies these major differences was real. The countering political and economic viewpoints found rich soil in the complex culture and history of the southern Balkan federations creating this hybrid system most refer to as Titoism. Its innovativeness is in some sense more agreeable with true Leninism than Stalinism or its future incarnations. Marx himself wrote, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point is to change it.” (Vucinich, 171). Yugoslavia is a monument to the insistence that ideology is a guide to action, and that the creative development of Marxism is key. The Italian and Spanish communist parties also began to deviate along with the LCY and away from Moscow’s socialist doctrine (Vucinich, 181).  Yugoslavia is a prime example of innovative communist theory, even if they were forced into the situation through stubborn nationalism and independent tendency.

By the end of 1957 self-management had taken root and was growing. The system now focused more on local factors and  it stressed the indigenous character of their revolution (Vucinich, 172). In its essence it was moving decision making from a political center to the shop floor. However, this involvement of Workers councils in distribution of investments and profits seemed to undermine the democratic centralism, core to any communist dictatorship following Lenin’s path. Liberals inside the new LCY saw devolution and self-management as an opportunity to push for reform.  The devolution of powers from the center also brought up the national question of the six republics in the federation. When conservatives and liberals from all republics had disagreements Tito was always the final decider, without his final say, Yugoslavia would have been lost earlier on. With Tito leading the way down the razors edge, it never seemed to be that narrow.

Self-managing socialism was the domestic aspect to Yugoslavia’s state policy, but its foreign policy aspect was the Nonalignment movement. Yugoslavia tried to maintain good relations with both east and west blocs despite disagreements over things like Vietnam or a world Communist conference. The Yugoslav foreign policy took a clear stance against imperialism and alignment (Rasinow, 213). In 1961 in Belgrade and 1964 in Cairo conferences of a non-aligned Heads of State and Government were held. The second conference, while not as successful as the first, still showed that the non-aligned movement was alive and gaining momentum (Rasinow, 163). After Stalin’s death in 1953 the ice between Belgrade and Moscow began to thaw, both showing willingness to normalize relations and bring some unity back to the socialist world (Glenny, 578). In 1961, eight years after Stalin’s death, Soviet-Yugoslav looked much warmer. From the Soviet perspective, it was a question of Communist influence in the Third World. It was important for the USSR to have good relations with Yugoslavia, as it had become a bridge connecting Eastern, Western, and Third World countries. Even Tito at the Belgrade non-alignment conference began to show good will towards the Soviets once again. In May 1962 Krushchev himself went back on Stalin’s excommunication of the Yugoslavs by assuring to Bulgaria and Romania that Yugoslavia was ‘also building socialism’ and that self-management was a positive phenomenon (Rusinow, 163-164). Tito was playing his foreign policy by ear; he was practicing it independently, practically, and without concern to consequence. If one side blocked them out, the southern Slavs always had other options. Tito refused to deviate Yugoslavia’s course to satisfy the will of other nations. Yugoslavia also enacted a policy of active peaceful coexistence that was on a global scale (Rasinow,165). Its promotion of peace and non-alignment with other neutral states in Asia and Africa went alongside the quiet maintenance of economic and political ties to the West (Rasinow, 94). This complex dance between East and West stirred up liberal and conservative ideas at home, but these arguments were always led to calmer discussions with the guiding hand (or Iron fist) of Tito. Though his foreign policy was sound and balmy, he made sure the enemies of socialism were taken care of, sometimes with great force. Tito’s infallibility kept Yugoslavia together, but his solutions to most problems were always short lived, as he came up with no real long-term solution to the national question (Glenny, 574).

The Fall

One cannot speak of the Yugoslav experiment without mentioning its disastrous ending. While aid and loans received from the West, due to the blockade with the East, did highlight Yugoslavia’s maneuverability on its alternative path between a bi-polar system it also created the problem of debt. The interest rates on the loans were high and like many communist countries Yugoslavia’s economy eventually became stagnant in the beginning of the 60s. This economic reverse brought about the question of whether it was caused by too much or too little reform. Should the economy be further liberalized, or should the government step in more? The debate lasted three years with Croat liberals calling for devolution and full realization of self-management with more autonomy being granted to the republics (Glenny, 580). On the opposite side, conservative, unitarist, Serbians wanted the central authority to remain where it was; in Belgrade with the banks. The secret police, OZNa, had become UBDa, remained mostly Serbian dominated, and was led by Aleksandar Rankovic.  When the question of reform came, Rankovic used his position to block any chance of reform, further hurting the economy. Two years later Tito took his chance and moved against his old comrade Rankovic. Tito removed him, and continued with the economic reforms. This was another example of Tito using his power to defuse ethnically charged debates, such as further devolution, or continuing Serbian run centralism (Glenny, 580-583). The economic stagnation was an important problem to fix because most of the Western aid money and loans went toward big projects in Yugoslavia and defense spending, leaving the lower classes angry. However, Tito solved this by dismantling  UBDa (Serbian) with  KOS , a new Croat run secret police agency. He may have solved the problem but only by pitting one ethnicity against the other.

In 1968 liberal students rioted in Belgrade against social and economic injustice. Tito gave them only empty promises to calm them down, but it was enough. Then when Croats began to question why money from Slovene and Croatia’s thriving industries was being mostly used to fix the poor southern republics, some Croats began displaying group favoritism instead of seeing Yugoslavia as a whole country and ethnicity (Glenny, 585). In March 1967 they made a Declaration in the form of a literary debate, against the use of Serbian as the main language. This was also a call for further self-management and devolution away from Belgrade. This rise in nationalist sentiment came in the wake of Rankovic’s demise (Glenny, 586). Tito though able to control and quell disputes continued to make more.

He dealt harshly with Kosovo Albanians in their movement for more rights and autonomy, which would cause huge problems later for Yugoslavian stability. Bosnian Muslims, matured into a modern nation inside Yugoslavia, causing a rift that would later widen due to Serb and Croat minorities in the Bosnian region. Slovenes took to the streets in 1969 due to their infrastructure being ignored by both Zagreb and Belgrade (Glenny, 588). Tito did well to control the complex multiplicity of problems but found no real solution to fix them. Instead of fairly devolving powers away from unitarism, which had become synonymous with Serbian nationalism, he simply swung Croatian nationalism as his instrument of power. In 1969 the Croatian Spring had begun, shifting the Yugoslav ideology away from its roots in the Partisan struggle. Liberal Croats wanted to move away from communist dogma and towards democratic socialist ideas. This did not at all match the Serbian Communist Leagues objectives. In December 1971 Tito cracked down on Zagreb liberal ideas but did not allow tensions between Serbs and Croats to die down, preferring to play each off the other to settle things.  Even worse still was the problem of the divide between new cosmopolitan population and the rural countryside (Glenny, 588-595).

Then came the West economic downturn in 1973, forcing almost 800,000 Yugoslav workers in the West to return. This coupled with the massive debts from the west put Yugoslavia back into crisis mode. By 1982 the debt stood at 18.5 billion. With nationalism on the rise, unemployment reaching new heights and the economy out of control, the reforms made earlier on were halted. To solve this new crisis Tito brought about a constitutional reform in 1974. It was a complex and confusing document that also gave more power to Kosovo and Vojvodina, two regions of Serbia. This merely buried nationalism until its return. The 1974 Constitution was again not a long-term solution. It was based on a system of political musical chairs to stop power from being accumulated in one position for too long. It also gave more powers to the republics in the federation but the relationship between centre and federal units was ambiguous and grey. When Tito died in 1980, it led to mass confusion and corruption. Without Tito leading the way, favoritism crept in among the Slav cultures. After the fall of the USSR the country was no longer able to maintain its balance of ethnicities as cultural scars left by Tito to fester opened up leading to disaster.

The Yugoslav road was its own road undoubtedly, but it also deviated from Marxist theory at crucial points. Engels and Marx had always described nationalism as a bourgeois factor, and not a proletariat one. With the rise of the proletariat a sense of internationalism toward all socialists worldwide should have been adopted and nationalism thrown out. Yugoslavia however, held on to its nationalist and ethnic divisions, ignoring its uniting Partisan strictly Yugoslavian history in its complex brand of a market socialist state. This is most likely a failure by Tito to bring about a real sense of Yugoslavian nationalism.

Since the Partisans Yugoslavia has treaded its own path. It did this standing defiantly against the East, while still trying to play the role of a country part of the socialist order. They created their own brand of Yugoslav communism in the form of self-management even when the communist hierarchy treated it as heresy. It traded, while not always openly to its own public, but successfully with the West. They even adopted an ideology of non-alignment during the Cold War most countries would have considered impossible to maintain. A lot can be said about Tito and his ability to rule his country with such ferocity while still being admired as a father like figure, but the fact remains that the Yugoslav alternative was at one time alive and truly remarkable in the face of the two superpowers.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Čavoški, Kosta. Tito: Tehnologija Vlasti. Beograd: Dosije, 1990.        Print.

Banac, Ivo. With Stalin against Tito: Cominformist Splits in        Yugoslav          Communism. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1988. Print.

Frost, Robert, and Edward Connery Lathem. The Poetry of Robert      Frost. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969. Print.

Glenny, Misha, and Misha Glenny. The Balkans, 1804-2012:   Nationalism, War and the Great Powers. London: Granta,          2012.         Print.

Rasinow, Dennison. The Yugoslav Experiment 1948-1974. London: C. Hurst and (Publishers), 1977. Print.

“Tito – His Own Man?” YouTube. YouTube, 02 May 2013. Web. 17          May 2013.

Vucinich, Wayne S. At the Brink of War and Peace: The Tito-Stalin Split in a Historic Perspective. New York: Social Science     Monographs, Brooklyn College, 1982. Print.