The judges of the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague called on Professor
Paul Garde to give an historic overview of the Balkans region and Garde then
fielded questions from the judges. Garde's testimony was given June 27-28,
1996. He is a professor of Slav literature and languages and has written many
lingustics books. Since 1991 Garde's research and writing have focused on the
break-up of Yugoslavia.
Q. How did Tito handle the different ethnic groups and
the occasional outbursts of nationalism under his
A. Tito would allow certain expressions of nationalism but within narrow limits
and once he thought that his authority was at stake, he did not hesitate to
Tito, the (communist) partisan General during World War Two, during the
resistance, based his regime on tolerance for all of the nationalities. In
contrast, the Chetniks were strictly Serbian and treated the other
nationalities as enemies. The partisans, for their part, welcomed everyone,
all the nationalities, and that is why the Serbs who escaped from the Ustashe
massacres could join in, and also those fleeing the massacres on the Chetnik
side could join in, and Croats who were unhappy with the Ustasha regime could
join the partisans as well. So everyone was welcome. That was the underlying
idea which was in line with communist
internationalism, that is, that there was a brotherhood and unity, that is to
say, all peoples
have equal rights and all peoples have the same place within the Federation.
So the various nationalities' nationalisms were condemned, but at the same time
the regime did exploit nationalism. For instance, one of the main dangers Tito
that there would be Serb predomination, as had been the case under the
the Serbs were the most numerous. They accounted for 36 per cent of the
Tito at first encouraged the consciousness of the smaller countries, Macedonia,
where it previously had been regarded as Serbian or Croation in some cases. So
he wanted to
increase the number of partners.
After that, he was careful to see to it that the role played by Serbia in the
Federation was not too major, but at the same time he used the Serbs in other
in other areas, for example, in Croatia where the Serbs accounted only for 12
per cent of
the population, but they played an important role in the partisan area.
Under the Tito, the Serbs of Croatia within the Croatian administration had the
most important positions in the administration in the Party, in the police.
So, in Croatia
the regime at certain times played off the Serbian minority against the
In Kosovo, the regime favored the autonomy of the Albanians which upset the
at the same time they did not give the Albanians what they were demanding, that
is to say,
to achieve Republic status for Kosovo, so the Albanians were unhappy.
In other areas, it was the same thing, for example, Bosnia. Sometimes the
Bosnians were favored, sometimes the Serbians were given a leg up. It is all
complicated. The basic rule of the game is that the regime was very careful to
come up with a very subtle blend in what it did for each of the nationalities
and would tend to play them off one against the other, and these national
antagonisms that, in theory, it said had to be done away with, in some
instances in certain places on certain occasions it exploited them.
But at the same time when there were threats to its authority, it would take
repressive measures, for example, demonstrations towards the Croat spring time,
instance. In 1971, there was a movement in Croatia that got off the ground. It
basically unanimous. It was supported and it was mainly student demonstrations
expressed it. Then also the local Parties gave their endorsement to it.
There was this unanimity in Croatia to ask for more autonomy, more respect for
Croatian particularities. This movement after a certain time was, of course,
cracked down on and the leaders of that movement, its leaders, some of whom
were leaders in the communist party in Croatia at the time, were dismissed
from their office -- in 1991, some of them would turn up again as leaders in
Croatian parties -- but other exponents of this movement were jailed. The
army took action and there were 100, not to say thousands, of arrests. This
was in 1971.
This is one of the main cases where there was a crackdown on a nationalist
movement by the regime. It is also worth mentioning the Albanian movement that
place in 1968 in Kosovo. There again there was repression.
Q. What is the importance of the 1974 constitution in
A. This constitution was very decentralizing, but at the same time it
was decentralizing at the level of the republics. It gave a lot of authority
to the republics.
It also granted a lot of authority to the two autonomous provinces, Kosovo and
In actual fact, the constitution gave Yugoslavia an almost confederal
regime in which most of the decisions were made, not only at the federal level,
but also at
the level of each single Republic and each of the autonomous provinces, so at
the level of
the eight different entities that made up the federation at the time.
The autonomous provinces had a status that was almost the same as that of the
republics; the only two differences were that they had a lesser number of
the federal institutions and, essentially, these two provinces did not have
the right of
Then later on after Tito's death (in 1980), or even when he was still alive,
there was a
collective presidency in which you had one representative from each of the
of the federation, so each of the six republics and each of the two autonomous
When Tito was alive, Tito was President for life, but of course after his
presidency operated without such a President, but with a sort of turning
single year you would have one of the eight members of the Presidency, one of
representatives of the eight federal entities, who would then take up the