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"Tito's Yugoslavia"

The two Serbian anti-Nazi guerilla groups

Throughout the time of Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia the Nazis as well as their Croat, Bosnian Muslim and Kosovo Albanian collaborators met stif resistance of the Serbian people organized in two anti-fascist movements. The first to fight German Nazis in Serbia were Royalists led by Serbian Royal officer (Colonel soon to become General) Draža Mihajlović. This group was known as Chetniks.

The second resistance movement was led by Croat Communist Tito. These fighters were known as Partisans. Implied already in the name was that this was an armed force of a political party. Partisans were the armed force of the Communist Party.

While open to be joined by anyone who wanted to fight, both guerilla groups were overwhelmingly Serbian. The Serbs were almost 50% of the pre-WW2 population of Yugoslavia, but even more importantly the Serbs were the people who, through all known history, had strong tradition of opposing foreign intruders. As before, all other Yugoslavs were too busy in supporting the foreign conqueror - this time the Nazi enemy. They were too eager to use the occassion of the world cataclysm to cleanse and slaughter as many Serbs as possible and then claim for themselves the Serbian lands and property.

The common Serbs would join one of the two forces almost at random. Whichever group you meet in the forests first that is the one you would join. The two leaders (Tito and Mihajlović), on the other hand were strictly political and their main concern was: who will govern the country of Yugoslavia when the war is over?

General Mihajlović was true to his oath he gave as a Royal officer. He was thus loyal to the King and the Kingdom. He dreamed of the day when King would return from the exile and the country would return to the status quo.

Tito, on the other hand wanted to use the situation of the world war and total anarchy to make Communists win and take control of the country. His goal was to change the political system and to prevent King's return.

In the first few months of the war the two guerilla groups cooperated and an astonishing victory over Nazi super-power was achieved. The entire state of Montenegro and most parts of Central Serbia, a combined territory almost size of Switzerland was liberated!!!

This achievement is even more amazing when you know that all of this happened in summer and autumn of 1941 at the very moment when Hitler was at peak of his power. While his Nazis were rushing to take Moscow, in Serbia, at the Southern flank of the ethernal empire the Serbs captured long columns of Hitler's troops.

Unluckily for the Serbian people the two anti-fascist movements were bound to clash. Good responsibility for this lies on Tito who did not at all hide his desire to keep the Yugoslav Kingdom for himself. In direct contravention to the instructions he got from his master in Moscow, Tito showed - right away - that he is not only fighting the Nazi enemy but he is also fighting to establish a Communist system of government. As Tito's partisans entered the largest town of the liberated territory, the town of Užice (pronounced as Ooh-zhee-tze), he proclaimed "Užice Republic" and posted Communists or Communist sympatizers to the local government posts.

That was too much for Mihajlović to swallow and he soon found himself fighting on two fronts. He was to fight both Nazis and Communists.

Here is how (in the shortest possible way) Encyclopedia Britannica reports on the clash between the two. Britannica, edition 1971, Volume 23, page 921, entry - Yugoslavia:

In Serbia itself a force led by the regular army colonel, Dragoljub (Draža) Mihajlović, fought Germans in the early summer. After Hitler attacked the U.S.S.R., the Yugoslav Communists, who had already made military preparations, took the field in SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO. By September [1941] A LARGE PART of both these lands was LIBERATED by these two forces, which at first helped each other but then came to blows.

Again, even Tito's boss Stalin would be upset if he knew about Tito's newly installed Communist government in "Užice Republic." Stalin insisted that all European Communists should fight Hitler's troops -- that decision, of course, was made only after Hitler attacked U.S.S.R. -- but that fight should have strictly anti-Nazi character. It should NOT have a character of a Communist Revolution. Stalin was afraid that by strirring a revolution in Nazi occupied Europe he may loose his Western allies. The alliance was already weak the way it was.

Initially the Western allies openly took side of General Mihajlović who was declared a "Mister of War" by the King's exile government (sitting in Great Britain). Traditionally always ready to lie to their teeth for the side they took under their wing the West misrepresented the situation in the field. All the actions the two guerilla groups performed were immediately praised as the actions of Mihajlović's Chetniks. At the end of the war, Tito will have books published to ridicule this slant...

Then came about face.

Betrayal of the General

At the closing years of WWII the West (Britain in the first place) decided to betray their Serbian ally -- the Serbian Royalists of General Mihajlović -- and flip to the side of the Croat Communist Tito.

Up to that moment the West was disregarding Tito and his forces so completely that they did not even care to learn Tito's name. Notice that Encyclopedia Britannica, in the Book of the Year 1945 (on page 131) has entry - "Brozovich or Broz, Josip (Tito)." Tito never called himself Brozovich.

The prime mover behind this change of hearts was British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill himself. The net result of this British treason of a devoted ally was to help Communists take power in Yugoslavia. In Greece which also had two guerilla movements as if mirror image of Yugoslavia, the British Government took the opposite choice. In Greece they decided to crush the Communists at any cost. This way, British troops were instrumental in preventing Communist takeover of that country.

And here lies the puzzle: Why did Churchill insist so much that Yugoslav Communists should win when he insisted that at any cost -- including the cost of a civil war -- the Greek Communists should loose? We will have to try to deal with that complex issue in some later analysis.

The change to Tito's side was initially covert.

From declasified Roosevelt-Churchill secret wartime correspondence we see that it was Churchill who insisted that Mihajlović should be abandoned. Roosevelt went with it with no resistance. This is so shameless when one knows that it was Chetniks who were instrumental in saving more than 600 American aviators from German and Croat Ustashi hands and almost certain death. One may not care to know about some Chetniks but regardless of that this is a priceless lesson to any future American or British ally. The lesson is simple: Die for them if you want - they will use you - and then they will dump you.

We would like to show just how forcefull and how purposefull the treason was.

Encyclopedia Britannica, Book of the Year 1945, page 790, entry "Yugoslavia":


British and Russian backing of the partisans of Marshal Tito (Josip Brozovich) became more and more pronounced during 1944. British pressure was increased on the royal Yugoslav government under King Peter [which was in exile in London] to drop General Draja Mikhailovitch as minister of war and to seek an agreement with Marshal Tito.

At the end of January [1945] a national congress was held secretly [by Royalists of General Mikhailovitch] in Serbia. According to the reports General Mikhailovitch and 273 delegates were present. They expressed their loyalty to King Peter and to the exile government. Dr. Zhivko Topalovich, a Serb labour leader, was elected president, Rusomir Jankovitch, a member of the Serb peasant party, vice-president of the congress. A constitution was drafted for Yugoslavia as a federation based upon the equality of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

End quote.

In wain was Mihajlović trying to re-establish Yugoslavia as it was. Powerful Western forces were working toward establishing Communist Yugoslavia.

Here is how blunt British "pressure" for King to drop Mihajlović was. At the end of this game, as we will see Mihajlović would not only drop - he would drop - dead.

British and American newspaper cartoons ridicule King Peter and his resistance to the British support of Communist Tito.

Supposedly, King Peter is alone and without followers so he has to write "Long live King Peter" on London walls by himself.

London The News Chronicle, January 15, 1945.

King Peter has not only good advisors but also devoted friends among these Brits. Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden (British Foreign Secretary) are ready to save him but stubborn Peter jumps into Yugoslav "internal strife."

London Dayly Herald, January 24, 1945.

Silly, King Peter took "REJECTION" saw and is cutting Tito-Churchill prepared "REGENCY COMPROMISE" branch. If he remains defiant like that he will loose the crown.

British Evening Advertiser.

King Peter is but a Peter Pan; the boy who refuses to grow up. He is ripping "Tito-Subasich agreement" and flying his flag of "defiance."

London The Star.

Or was it actually the case that the King was surrounded by his Serbian advisers who could easily see through "Tito-Subasich agreement." For sure the Serbs knew too well (from World War One experience, if nothing else) how good "friends" the Brits are.

Was Tito helped so he helps Vatican?

Benefiting from such open British support, Tito was quick to establish absolute rule. Initially he pretended to be forming a multi-party government of national unity, but even in this stage he could not hide his resentment of the Serbs who were otherwise (by far!) the most numerous ethnic group to participate in his anti-Nazi partisan forces: "Narodno-oslobodilacki Pokret" (People's Liberation Front).

Let us explain. On the surface Tito, a Communist and thus Internationalist, was to build an egalitarian society whose main slogan was ethernal "Brotherhood and Unity" among South Slavs. Right below that surface was Tito, a Croat, a participant in Austro-Hungarian army's onslaught on Serbia in the first months of World War One. The soldiers and officers of that army were thoroughly and purposely indoctrinated to hate the Serbian people. During the brief occupation of Serbia in 1914 the Austro-Hungarian army committed by then unheard of kinds of atrocities. Tito who was a low-ranking officer in the Austro-Hungarian army that invaded Serbia. He absolutely never cured himself from this irrational hatred of the Serbs - and he was now in charge of liberated Yugoslavia. As we will see he used the occasion, right away, to subdue and divide the Serbian people.

Encyclopedia Britannica, Book of the Year 1945, page 790, entry "Yugoslavia":


Marshal Tito demanded the recognition of the National Liberation committee headed by [Croat] Dr. Ivan Ribar. He wished this committee recognized as the provisional government of Yugoslavia with representatives in the different inter-Allied commissions.

A decisive turn happened in May [1945] when King Peter dismissed the government of Purich and asked Croat leader, Dr. Ivan Subasitch, to form a government and to try to arrive at a reconciliation with Marshal Tito. General Vladimir Velebit, who was in London as Marshal Tito's ambassador, had a number of conversations with Churchill. As a result Churchill openly backed Marshal Tito with whom British military forces had closely cooperated for some time against Germans in Yugoslavia. After the British had established a military mission at Tito's headquarters, the Russians followed the suit and later on the U.S. established a military mission headed by Col. Ellery C. Huntington, Jr.

On July 7, 1944, Dr. Subasitch succeeded forming a government in which he himself took the portfolios of foreign affairs and war. The new cabinet consisted of six members, two from each of the three national groups, Croat, Slovene and Serb. But the numerically strongest group, the Serbs, were not only in the minority in the cabinet, but NO prominent Serb joined the cabinet as a representative of his people. In his statement the new premier recognized the principle of a federated Yugoslavia but expressed also his attachment to the king and the monarchy. Thus the groundwork was laid for collaboration between the royal government in exile and Tito Committee of National Liberation. But Serb public opinion was apparently not satisfied. Constantin Fotich who had been Yugoslav ambassador to the United States after 1935 resigned his position in protest against the formation of the new government which in his opinion did not represent the Serbs.

End quote.

In this context (maybe!) one can understand British and American vicious bombing of Belgrade on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1944. Nazi Croat capital of Zagreb was not bombed - only the Serbian capital of Belgrade was bombed as well as number of larger cities all through central Serbia. It was the Serbs who had to be softened to fully accept British plan and surrender to Tito's Communist rule.

Some Serbs go a step further and find that the only reason for this seamingly irrational step the British took in helping Communist come to power is that Tito was also someone who, as a born Catholic Croat, would do his best to hide Catholic Church's complicity in all-out slaughter of the Serbian people. The West was out to save the non-existent honor of the Vatican and for that to happen the holocaust of the Serbs was to be forgotten.

As we saw in the five decades following WWII the Vatican was to be THE KEY Western ally in fighting over-all world Communism. Right at the end of the war Vatican was instrumental in organizing "ratlines" which were used to save Hitler's Nazis and reorganize them for the new (old) task of fighting Communists. In the final stages of toppling Communism it was the Catholic movement in Poland (Solidarnosch) that put the first serious crack in the Communist monolith.

Tito; the cunning strategist

So it all worked nicely for the West, but it for sure worked great for Tito. The cunning strategist did not wait long to stop a democratic pretence and install openly Communist system of government.

Encyclopedia Britannica, Book of the Year 1947, page 852, entry "Yugoslavia":


With the election of Nov. 11, 1945, in which the voters could only vote for the unique list of candidates presented by Marshal Tito's Liberation Front government, the outward compromise character of the government ceased and it became openly a government modelled in every instance after the totalitarian example of the Soviet Union. Even the nationality problem was solved after the Soviet model. Yugoslavia was divided into six "states," Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia, each with its own administration but directed entirely and unified by the Communist party...

On March 24 the Yugoslav government officially announced that on March 13 Gen. Draja Mikhailovitch had been taken a prisoner and would face trial for treason. A request by the U.S. government to permit U.S. army personnel who were in Yugoslavia during the war to testify at the trial was rejected. The trial against Gen. Mikhailovitch and 23 other defendants was held in Belgrade in June. On July 15 Gen. Mikhailovitch was sentenced, with ten other defendants, to death...

End quote.

It was Mikhailovitch's royalists who saved some 600 American pilots during the war. Now Americans did nothing to save him. President Truman only awarded him a Legion of Merit, the highest decoration America awards to foreigner. It was done post-humously in 1947.

Encyclopedia Britannica, Book of the Year 1947, page 852, entry "Yugoslavia":


The execution of Gen. Mikhailovitch opened a new phase of even more bitter antagonism toward the United States and Britain in Yugoslav official policy. This antiwestern agitation against the "imperialism" and "reactionary" character of the democracies

As someone said: To have America for an enemy is dangerous. To have America for an ally is deadly.

Tito was of Western mind. He could dump an ally in an instant. He used the West to get to power. Now he could afford "bitter antagonism toward the United States and Britain" as he got firm backing from Stalin. In no time he will get rid even of Dr. Subasich and the pretence of multi-party system and conciliation with the crown. At the same time Tito will play tough ball with the West and almost start a war against them over his conquest of Italian port of Trieste and Istrian Penincula. Here too, he could count on Stalin's support.

The trick worked and Tito got to keep Istrian Penincula thus expanding his beloved Croatia and Slovenia.

Tito's absolute power over the Yugoslav people and then his insistence to form a Balkan Federation (together with Albania and Bulgaria) soon got to Stalin's nerves. Suddenly, in summer 1948, and as a complete surprise to Tito, Stalin decided "to move his little finger" and get rid of this disobedient nuisance called Tito.

It was again time for one of Tito's amazing flip-flops. The description of the events can be found in many books we suggest "The Battle Stalin Lost" by Vladimir Dedijer.

Just as in 1943-1945 as Tito used British support and in 1946-1948 Stalin's support, in 1948 Tito will once again embrace Western support. Yugoslavia is geographically positioned between East and West and Tito was masterfully playing one super power against the other while, at all times, he was uncontested, absolute ruler of the country.


 [ Yugoslavia after WWII ]

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Last revised: June 23, 2004