Author: Dejan N. Zec

Summary

The end of the Second World War brought profound changes to the Yugoslavian political, economic and social systems and marked the beginning of communist rule, which lasted for 45 years. Certain individuals, organisations and social groups in all the nations of Yugoslavia displayed discontent with communist rule, for a range of reasons. Some were most concerned about personal and political liberty; some were unhappy with communist economic policies, the loss of their dominant economic position and the seizure of their private property and others were upset, rightly or wrongly, with the solution that had been found to the national question in restored communist Yugoslavia. Today, the public in all of Yugoslavia’s successor states – and also some academics – argue about and compete to prove who suffered the most during communism, very often turning serious issues and potentially fruitful debates into a circus that downplays and obstructs the very difficult and necessary process of re-examining the past. Serbia, the part of the country that was described by some of the leading communists of the time as Yugoslavia’s Vendée, due to its alleged allegiance to the Crown and the royalist cause, experienced heavy purges and oppressions, especially in the immediate post-war years of 1944 and 1945. It is estimated that between 50,000 and 60,000 people – active Nazi supporters and many alleged political, ideological and class enemies – were killed in Serbia by the communists during those two years. The exact number of people who were subjected to other forms of mistreatment in those years and afterwards is impossible to determine, but one can certainly speak of hundreds of thousands. Given that it is difficult for historians to capture the general mood of a nation in a certain historical period it would be wrong to claim that Serbs were predominantly anti-communist during the post-war years, but it would be correct to state that such sentiment existed and was very strong among certain people and within certain social groups. However, despite the very strong anti-communist mood, the opposition to the communists was weak, disorganised and mostly expressed at an individual level. Opponents of the communist regime generally decided to remain passive. There were no armed actions, except by small groups of bandits, usually members of royalist (Chetnik) forces who refused to surrender and failed to escape from the country. There are several explanations of this lack of action but the most important is the fact that armed action against the communists had already taken place during the Second World War and that the communists had won. The armed resistance of the post-war period can be seen as the dying embers of the civil war that was effectively over by the end of 1944. Facing severe oppression from the new communist regime and with no hope of outside help due to the wider geopolitical situation, any armed opposition seemed doomed from the outset. However, there is another issue regarding anti-communist resistance in Serbia that can be regarded as very important and which this chapter will examine more thoroughly. The perception of the communists and their actions by two of the largest and most important Serbian social groups – the peasantry and the urban elite – was fluid, shifting during and after the war depending upon the actions of the communists and in line with both the changing context mentioned above and the willingness of the communists to accept these social groups and to include them as part of the newly established system.

In: Violent Resistance
From the Baltics to Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe 1944–1956
The end of the Second World war did not mean the end of violence for many regions in Eastern Europe. The establishment of Communist-led governments often met not only civil but also armed resistance. These actions were taken by partisan groups and paramilitary forces which in some cases had been formed already during the war to support axis forces. In other cases – like Poland’s Armia Krajowa – they fought Nazi and Soviet occupiers with the same fervour. The aims of the fighters were the end of Communist rule and – like in the Baltic region – independence from the Soviet Union. Difficulties in accessing sources and research taboos as well as a focus on other aspects of the Cold War are reasons why violent resistance in Europe after the Second World War is a topic yet rather underestimated and comparably little investigated by historiography. This book gives a comprehensive first overview of the ultimately futile attempts to end the rule of Moscow and her proxies.