Yugoslavia Table of Contents
In 1974 the government enacted a new Constitution, the world's longest, which created new representative bodies and a complex system of checks and balances, designed to enhance party power and limit the influence of professional enterprise managers. The new constitution replaced direct election of representatives to legislative bodies, substituting a complex system of indirect elections by delegates representing associated labor, sociopolitical organizations, and local citizens in general. The leadership heralded the new system as direct workers' democracy, but the mechanism actually allowed the central party leadership greater control of the Skupstina and republican and local assemblies. Despite recent nationalist unrest and conservative backlash, the Constitution retained the 1971 amendments that shifted power from the federal government to the republics.
In his last years, Tito virtually ignored worsening economic conditions and worked domestically to strengthen collective leadership and prevent a single individual or group from accumulating excessive power. In foreign affairs, Cuba threatened Yugoslav leadership of the nonaligned movement by pushing the movement toward a pro-Soviet position at the 1979 Conference of Nonaligned Nations in Havana. Tito condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that year. Despite the weakening of the Nonaligned Movement by the influence of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, in the 1970s Yugoslavia largely succeeded in maintaining friendly relations with all states, regardless of their political and economic systems. Tito died on May 4, 1980, and Yugoslavia's collective presidency assumed full control in a smooth transition. Most Yugoslavs genuinely mourned the loss of their longtime leader, who had been their country's strongest unifying force. The presence of forty-nine international leaders at his funeral showed the wide respect that Tito had gained around the world.
In 1980 Yugoslavia entered a new era after the death of the most unifying leader the South Slavic nation had ever had. The history of the country had featured division much more prominently than unification; over the centuries, the constituent parts of the modern Yugoslav state had alternated between independence, federation with other states, and domination by larger powers. Each of the republics of the modern federation underwent its own historical and cultural development, very often in conflict with the territorial or political goals of its Slavic and non-Slavic neighbors. Although the South Slavic state was a longtime dream of many, initial efforts to establish such a state were very problematic. After two disastrous world wars, the nation held together in a relatively calm period of development, but after Tito the threat of economic and political disharmony again appeared.
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There is a wealth of informative, well-written English-language sources on the history of Yugoslavia and its many peoples. The best short work is Fred Singleton's A Short History of the Yugoslav Peoples. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, by Rebecca West, is a classic popular history and personal memoir of a tour through Yugoslavia on the eve of World War II. Robert Lee Wolff's The Balkans in Our Time describes the emergence of Yugoslavia and the other Balkan countries and their development to the postwar period. An excellent study of Yugoslavian foreign policy of the 1920s and 1930s is J.B. Hoptner's Yugoslavia in Crisis, 1934-1941. The works of Francis Dvornik on the migrations, conversion, and cultural development of the Slavs devote considerable attention to the Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, and Bulgars. Two excellent examinations of postwar Yugoslavia development are Dennison Rusinow's The Yugoslav Experiment, 1948-1974 and Conflict and Cohesion in Socialist Yugoslavia, by Steven L. Burg. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)
Data as of December 1990
Yugoslavia Table of Contents