Yugoslavia: The Delicate Balance

Josip-Broz Tito (right) with his officers, May 1944.

The grand old man of Balkan politics, Marshal Josip Broz Tito, no longer rules. At this writing, the founder of nonalignment, the originator of the first new brand of socialism since Lenin, the friend, or at least the colleague, of world leaders from Stalin and Roosevelt through Khrushchev and De Gaulle to Hua and Carter, lies mortally ill. At home he attempted, at the very least, to forge a united nation from a host of competing, often antagonistic ethnic groups, each with its own aspirations in terms of economic and cultural development, religion, language and political awareness. Here, too, his success has been tempered by a gnawing realization that perhaps this very success has contained less than meets the eye, that perhaps it was merely Tito's own personal charisma and personal loyalty to an ideal that produced a progressive, prosperous and united Yugoslavia.

The future of Yugoslavia, in short, contains many pitfalls and dark passions all waiting to be exploited by the opportunists, at home and abroad, who have long lain in wait for this time.


From the moment of its formation more than 60 years ago, one nation or another has wanted something from Yugoslavia. An amalgam of the leavings of the Hapsburg monarchy and a disparate set of the most backward peoples of the Balkans, Yugoslavia, long before its present leadership or its present communist system appeared on the scene, was a particularly tempting and apparently vulnerable prize. The Ottoman Turks prized its trade routes, and its roads carried their troops to the gates of Vienna. Hitler and Mussolini coveted its Adriatic ports and its rail lines leading down through the Balkans toward Greece.

But there is more to Yugoslavia's value today than its unquestionably strategic geopolitical position. For Yugoslavia has become a symbol: of resistance to the Soviet Union; of a system of economics and government of value throughout the Third World; of cohesion, continuity and the existence of a ruling communist party that is unique because of

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