KINGDOM OF YUGOSLAVIA
First important date regarding establishment of Yugoslavia is November 26th, 1918. On that day kingdoms of Montenegro and Serbia joined into one country. Only five days later, on December 1st, this state united with State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs to form Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes under the rule of king Peter I (1903-1921), former ruler of Serbia. After Peter's death, his son Alexander I ascended the throne.
In the year 1921, a new constitution was passed in the Parliament, which made the country more centralized, despite a boycott from Croat political parties. On January 6, 1929, due to ethnical conflicts king Alexander went a step further by proroguing the Parliament and proclaiming a royal dictatorship (abolition of constitution, prohibition of political parties,…). He went on to reorganize the regional divisions within the country and renamed it to Kingdom of Yugoslavia (meaning Kingdom of southern Slavs). Internal borders were redrawn to efface historical territorial units (such as Croatia and Bosnia); the newly-formed provinces were placed under the rule of iron-fisted military governors sent from Belgrade. Some Croats succumbed to the lure of anti-Serb extremist organizations, including the fascist Ustasha movement.
Yugoslavia became a militarist state arming for possible war with its neighbours Italy and Bulgaria, and in a similar vein, king Alexander was assassinated by Macedonian nationalists while visiting Marseille in 1934. He was succeeded by Peter II, his son, but actual power was in hands of a regent Paul.
In the beginning of World War II, Yugoslavia was pressured by Germany and Italy to join the Axis powers. Italy was losing its war with Greece, and Germany wanted Yugoslavia's support before aiding the Italians by invading Greece.
Yugoslavia's regent Paul actually signed the Tripartite Treaty in Vienna on March 25, 1941, but this was against the will of most Yugoslavs, and he was met by a coup d'état when he returned on March 27. Army General Dusan Simovic seized power, arrested the Vienna delegation, exiled Paul and instated the 17-year old crown prince Peter as the new king. This was said to make Hitler furious, and the Axis decided to attack both Yugoslavia and Greece on April 6. The German high command also decided to delay Operation Barbarossa for 4 weeks because of this, something which turned out to be disastrous for Germany.
At 05:15 on April 6, German, Italian, Hungarian, and Bulgarian forces attacked Yugoslavia. The Luftwaffe bombed Belgrade and other major Yugoslav cities. The Axis powers soon occupied Yugoslavia and split it up. The Independent State of Croatia was established as a nazi puppet-state ruled by the right-wing militia Ustashe. German troops occupied Serbia, while other parts of the country were given to Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Italy.
Yugoslav government and king fled to London. Yugoslavs
opposing the Nazis joined the partisan forces led by Josip Broz Tito. The partisans
staged a wide-spread guerrilla campaign, and the Germans answered by punishing
the civil population. This led to great losses for Yugoslavia, approximately
1.700.000 (10% of the population). In liberated territories, partisans organized
people's committees to act as civilian government. On November 25, 1942, the
Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia was convened in the
city of Bihac. The council reconvened on November 29, 1943 in Jajce and established
the basis for post-war organization of the country, establishing a federation
(this date was celebrated as Republic Day after the war). The partisans were
able to expel the Axis from Serbia in 1944 and the rest of Yugoslavia in 1945.
The Red Army aided in liberating Belgrade. After the war, Yugoslavia was reunited
as an independent Communist state with Tito as prime minister.
- Yugoslavia 1921-1941 complete collection
- Yugoslav government in exile stamps