Volume 16 (1998)

The Regional Problem and the Break-Up of the State:
The Case of Yugoslavia
Časlav Ocić

The Nature and the Scope of the Regional Problem
Regional Policies and Changes in the Institutional Framework
Regional Development Levels: Grouping of Regions
Structural Change: Shift-Share Analysis
Efficiency: Shift-Share Analysis
Interregional Relations: Autarky
Some Other Results of the Regions' Development
Regional Development Costs: Ratios of Investment
Interregional Income (Re)distribution
Regional Convergence or Divergence?
Equality: The Failure of the Positive Discrimination Model
"The National Question" and Nationalism
Separatism: Economic and Political
A Long Journey from Utopia to Dystopia
Selected Bibliography
Data Sources & Documents
Appendix  (1)  (2)


Multiethnicity has served to justify the establishment of federalism in Yugoslavia. Federalism as a method of solving the national question (in the Leninist model) was the reason for the reconstruction of Yugoslavia on federal principles in 1943, which was confirmed by constitution of January 31, 1946, after the Communist Party of Yugoslavia took power by revolution in 1945. Such a "solution"is also rooted in the Party's interwar conception of the national question. The Comintern spirit based on the idea of breaking-up Yugoslavia was to mark almost half a century of Yugoslavia's history. This idea, following a systematic political, legal, economic, cultural and media groundwork, would finally be implemented through enormous violence.
After 1945, several federal projects were tested in Yugoslavia. Yugoslav federalism was becoming increasingly formalized in procedure, ever more complex, rigid and inconsistent, and thus less and less practicable. In the final analysis, of all its potentially strong and weak points, federalism in Yugoslavia displayed more of the latter.
In the Yugoslav case, federalism based solely on ethnic principles (introduced in the 1960s) could have functioned only if the complex, heterogenous Yugoslav reality was simplified to such a degree as to equate ethnic and republican boundaries, despite the fact that they rarely coincided. So simplified Yugoslav federal system -devised along ethnic lines -fixed the borders, directed the communications system, set the patterns of economic life, defined the limits and the directions of population movements, established the parameters of political life and political conflicts.
This type of federalism proved to be an inefficient mechanism for resolving conflicts and managing crises. Federalism based on regionalist principles was not given an opportunity to display its qualities. It was constantly under ideological attacks as being a disguised unitarism, hegemonism etc. Thus, for example, a proposal made in the 1950s that Yugoslavia, according to the principles of economic geography, should be divided into four macroregions did not stand a chance of being seriously considered by the political factors. Any subsequent hint at the possibility of introducing federalism based on regional and developmental criteria was condemned as "an attempt at restoring banovinas"(multiethnic administrative subdivisions of Yugoslavia before 1941).
The 1974 constitutional model of federalism was implemented and institutionalized on the basis of plural national sovereignty which, "being confederally intact, sucked into its realm every issue raised at the federal level. Thus, in Yugoslavia, all issues of development, modernization, new technology, information systems, democratization etc., by the sheer manner by which they were raised and resolved, were turned into vital national questions and thereby into official interethnic disputes"(Slobodan Samardzic24 ).
All things considered, federalism in Yugoslavia could not but fail: sham democracy in a (withering) state without the rule of law, with a seminatural inefficient economy, an absolute "ethnicization"of all relationships and the negative politicization of each and every question could only result in a "fa�ade federalism." Consequently, what failed was not "real"but distorted federalism. It did fail, but was the federalist idea, the idea of democratic federalism defeated in Yugoslavia? If all the preconditions for constitutional and democratic federalism had been satisfied, would Yugoslav federalism have been able to resolve the question of "plural national sovereignty,"which, indeed under extremely unfavourable conditions, it has thus far failed to do?