Courtesy Reuters

Jugoslavia in Transition

RECENT events in Jugoslavia deserve to be recorded because they mark the first instance in which one of the postwar European dictatorships has turned back to democratic processes in the attempt to solve pressing domestic problems. The circumstances which induced the late King Alexander to try dictatorship were too special for the abandonment of that dictatorship to carry immediate implications for other countries. But the proceeding is instructive none the less.

King Alexander proclaimed his dictatorship on January 6, 1929. He had come to believe, after trying to cope for more than ten years with the ceaseless wrangling of Serb and Croat politicians, that a continuance of parliamentary government would destroy the unity of the Jugoslav state, jeopardize the Karageorgevitch dynasty and make it impossible for him to defend national interests against enemies on several frontiers. He did not share the pretentious ideology of the Fascist and Nazi dictators, nor did he assume supreme power in order to satisfy his personal vanity. He simply chose what at the moment seemed to him, rightly or wrongly, the less risky of two risky courses. It is no secret that he considered his dictatorship a temporary expedient, and that he several times made plans for a gradual restoration of political liberty. Indeed, one of his intimate collaborators, Dr. Perovitch, who now serves with Prince Paul as a member of the Regency, was busy at the moment of the Marseilles assassination (October 9, 1934) with a project of law which would have extended the jurisdiction and authority of the provincial governments as the basis for a reconciliation of sectional groups within the state and a step toward the eventual rehabilitation of parliament.[i]

After Marseilles it was an open question whether those entrusted with power in King Alexander's political testament could exploit the sobering effect of the murder to effect a reconciliation between Serbs and Croats and, while curbing the ambitions of old-line politicians, set and hold a course for a return to constitutional and representative government. To these doubts

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