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War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: Occupation and Collaboration.

War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: Occupation and Collaboration, by Jozo Tomasevich. Stanford, California, Stanford University Press, 2001. xx, 842 pp. $69.50 US (cloth).

Jozo Tomasevich's Occupation and Collaboration, the long-awaited second volume of his projected three volume study, War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945, was finally published seven years after his death. Anyone interested in the history of former Yugoslavia owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the author's daughter, Neda A. Tomasevich. She not only took up the task of rendering the very lengthy manuscript into electronic format, polishing the last three chapters, and editing the whole text for publication, but seems to have been the major force pushing for its publication.

Just like the first installment in the series, The Chetniks, published in 1975, and indeed like his earlier book, Peasants, Politics, and Economic Change in Yugoslavia (1955), Tomasevich's Occupation and Collaboration, though a hard read, is certainly a definitive contribution to the historiography of the western Balkans. The book is not explicitly broken into three parts, but it fits together as three sequential blocks of five, six, and seven chapters respectively. Unfortunately, the tome starts off with five poorly arranged chapters. The weakest is the first, a loose survey of interwar Yugoslavia which vaguely outlines the crux of the state's weakness in April 1941: a process of unification which failed to build on the historical momentum impelling the South Slav nations to unity and instead increased and exacerbated national tensions in the region. The chapter is not conceptually well-articulated, so the book lacks an introduction to signal to the reader the wealth of information contained within (the Preface explains the organization of the text and has some analytical intent, but this is not sufficient). In the four subsequent chapters, Tomasevich deals with the invasion and dismemberment of Yugoslavia by the Axis powers and their junior partners, Hungary and Bulgaria, resulting in a welter of annexations; he outlines the establishment of that satrapy, the so-called Independent State of Croatia, carved into Italian and German spheres of influence; and he comprehensively examines the occupation regimes established in Serbia and the larger part of Slovenia by Germany, and in Montenegro by Italy (later taken over by Germany). This material is excellent, but if re-organized, could have been presented more clearly and concisely. The next six chapters on the Independent State of Croatia provide the solid foundation on which this book is built. They deal extensively with such topics as how the "state" was governed, how its relationship to the Axis functioned, the violent muddle and disastrous consequences of its internal policies, the state of its armed forces, and its policy with respect to the Bosnian Muslims. Much of this information has never before been available in English in a single volume, and can thus serve to inspire all kinds of research topics which would be of interest to a contemporary academic audience. The focus in Tomasevich's last seven chapters switches to five separate topics concerning the whole of occupied Yugoslav territory: chapter twelve, on the activity of the Churches; chapter thirteen on the fate of the Jewish community; chapters fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen on the exploitation of the economy by the Axis; chapter seventeen on the notoriously controversial issue of population losses during the war; and, concluding the book, chapter eighteen on the collapse of the occupation regimes following the withdrawal of Axis armies. In these chapters, Tomasevich's interpretation of the issues he deals with, particularly regarding population losses and the fate of collaborationist forces, are balanced and erudite.

Despite the fact that Tomasevich anchors Occupation and Collaboration primarily to political developments, the purview of the book is so large that it is hard to categorize it as fitting into a particular historical sub-discipline. The close reader will attain a detailed understanding of political, military, economic, social, and demographic conditions in the Yugoslav lands during the war. Though I have criticized his structure and organization, Tomasevich's style has very important advantages. Because the book is well-documented, well-indexed, and written in almost self-contained units which generate much repetition throughout the text, the book lends itself naturally to use as a reference tool for the study of Yugoslavia during the Second World War, something that does not otherwise exist in English. Its greatest strength is certainly the quality and extent of Tomasevich's lifelong research. An economist by training, this careful and meticulous scholar interviewed participants, collected materials from libraries and archives in the former Yugoslavia as well as the United States, and followed the writings of scholars throughout the former Yugoslavia as well as the emigre press since 1945. The specialist will also greatly value the many instances in which Tomasevich comments on the quality and shortcomings of the sources he cites.

Tomasevich does not really attempt a unified argument in the book. However, by setting the morass of administrative policies promulgated over the course of the war in the various jurisdictions of occupation off against the physical presence of the Axis military machine, a machine whose framework was simplified considerably after the Italian collapse in the summer of 1943, he establishes a powerful point by its end: regardless of the degree of autonomy granted to collaborating local potentates during the war, the Yugoslav lands were ruled to suit the interests of the occupiers, whose only purpose was to dominate and exploit these lands for their own benefit. The events that transpired from 1941 to 1945 occurred within the confines of this reality. One might then extrapolate from this that the violence that afflicted the western Balkans in the mid-twentieth century was not entirely sui generis and thus perhaps not doomed to cyclically repeat itself ad infinitum. Indeed, it was triggered in large part by horrors that befell the region from without. Such a cogent, clear, unbiased, and theoretically uncompromised interpretation of events regarding the Second World War in Yugoslavia rarely appears in the historiography. In particular, Tomasevich gets at the heart of the tragedy that befell Croatia during the Second World War. He points out convincingly that popular dissatisfaction with monarchical Yugoslavia among the Croats and their desire for statehood was exploited by the Axis powers who allowed PaveliA's Ustasas to carve a Greater Croatia from the spoils of war, going a long way to buy the complacency of the general public and break the initiative of the leading Croatian political party, the Croat Peasant Party. This had a disastrous effect. The Ustasa regime was unworkable and the policies it followed quickly destroyed its integrity and any legitimacy it might have temporarily had, helping to fuel the fires of the Partisan movement. Hence, Tomasevich cleared the ground well for his projected third, and final volume in the series, which would be devoted to the Partisan insurrection, revolution, and reconstruction of Yugoslavia. When Occupation and Collaboration is considered alongside its predecessor, The Chetniks--wherein Tomasevich shows how the Chetnik-led pro-Yugoslav Royalist and pro-Great Serbian resistance discredited itself both at home and among the ranks of the Allied camp--an exquisite blueprint of the key moment in twentieth-century Yugoslav history comes into view. Given developments in Yugoslavia since the death of Tito and the decay of the Partisan movement, perhaps the planned third volume and crescendo to War and Revolution would now lack the punch it was intended to have at the outset of the project. But no scholar of Yugoslavian history can match or surpass the erudition with which this project has been imbued.

Joseph Kadezabek

University of Lethbridge
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Author:Kadezabek, Joseph
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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