Yugoslavia’s 1968: The Great Surrender

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For Yugoslavia, 1968 did not follow the European script, and its drama lacked clear political and intellectual contours. Between Belgrade's student movement, tumult in the Serbian League of Communists, the growing national movement in Croatia, and rebellion in Kosovo, the year was one of entirely mixed messages, as the dynamism of Yugoslavia's partisan experiment began to give way to a new dynamic of ethnic affirmation. Of all these events, only the Belgrade student movement fits comfortably into any generalizable pattern regarding the year itself. The others were just signs of crisis in a state that had yet to determine how to govern itself. Yugoslavia's 1968 came as one version of a socialist Yugoslavia was expiring and another emerging. Processes overlapped; as the potentially self-managing, reform-Marxist Yugoslavia became just another example of "real existing socialism," new ethnic forces emerged. While there were certainly people in the streets of Yugoslavia, many of them were euphoric nationalists rather than seekers of the elusive socialism with a human face. Kosovo's Albanians, Croats to the north, and even Serbs who were energized by the Albanian and Croatian events all had begun to feel a new sort of empowerment that did not fit the fading commitment to the development of a new Yugoslavia, freed at last of competitive nationalism.

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