IF, by any chance, another, Tito’s Yugoslavia had preceded it, next week, on November 29, we would celebrate Republic Day and the 78th anniversary of its birth. For almost four decades, generations and generations of Yugoslavs have been educated on one half-truth, with the conviction that on that day a real people’s government was formed in the Bosnian town of Jajce – which the people themselves elected.
Let’s go back for a moment in the fall of 1943. On the fronts around the world, war successes are changing. Italy capitulates, the allies conquer the African continent, on the Eastern Front, after the victory in Stalingrad, the Red Army goes on the counter-offensive. The Allies, the United States, Great Britain and the USSR are trying to agree on the future and inevitable collapse of the fascist states.
US President Roosevelt, although deeply convinced that the Soviet system is a totalitarian dictatorship, understands that war cannot be won without the Red Army. 250 German divisions were engaged on the Russian front, and only 90 on the west. That is why he is trying to institutionalize cooperation at any cost. He insists on a meeting of the leaders of the countries of the anti-fascist bloc. He is ready to make many concessions to Stalin, including the choice of meeting place. And Tehran was elected, which was the most suitable leader of the Soviet Communist Party.
Prior to the Tehran conference, three foreign ministers of allied countries are meeting in Moscow. Immediately after the end of this summit, at which a framework for an agreement was set during the meeting of Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill, a special envoy was sent from Moscow to the Bosnian hills, to Tito’s headquarters. It was the Bulgarian representative in the Comintern, Atanasov Shcherjo, an old acquaintance of the partisan leader. The two were engaged in the transfer of volunteer brigades in Paris during the Spanish Civil War. Atanasov then had the party pseudonym Viktor, and Tito Walter.
The INSTRUCTIONS that Comrade Viktor brought today cannot be spoken of with confidence. Historian Branko Petranović found in our archives only that he conveyed the message of Georgi Dimitrov that “at the second session of AVNOJ, the South Slavic federation with Bulgaria will be proclaimed.” The leadership of the Yugoslav communists did not fulfill this advice, but in the “proclamation on the occasion of the anniversary of the October Revolution, it was announced that the historical goal was to fulfill the centuries-old dream of the most progressive minds, and that is to create a federal state from Trieste to the Black Sea.”
It is quite certain that the core of the leadership around Tito learned from this courier source that it would be decided in Tehran that Yugoslavia would survive after the war, and the partisans should be provided with assistance in equipment and weapons. By the way, all decisions in the Supreme Headquarters were made by the closest circle of people around the Secretary General of the Party, although the Central Committee had 30 members, but it did not meet in its full composition during the war.
The information brought by Atanasov will condition the strategy for the preparation of the second session of the Anti-Fascist Council of the People’s Liberation of Yugoslavia, as well as the date of its holding. The session of Avnoj councilors was timed for November 29, the second day of the Tehran conference, in order to make it known to the “big three” that the Yugoslav communists, who led the partisan units, had struck a solid foundation for the future state.
FORMAL preparations for the session in Jajce began in November. Josip Broz Tito from Jajce sends a letter to the president of Avnoj, Ivan Ribar, who was in Croatia at the time. He informs him that “the plenum of Avnoj should be convened as a matter of urgency”, at which a temporary government will be elected. He ended the letter with the words: “Please send your opinion, ie consent.”
Then dispatches are sent to almost all parts of Yugoslavia. The message to the Slovenes, which was signed by Tito and Kardelj, reads: “Go on the road to the plenum immediately in as many numbers as possible.” The two of them also signed a dispatch sent to Croatia: “Delegates should be in as many numbers as possible.”
Dispatches to other parts of Yugoslavia are significantly different. That is how the message reached the Montenegrins: “It would be extraordinarily good if several delegates from you came to the Avnoj plenum.” To Serbs in central Serbia: “It would be extremely important if several delegates from you came to the Avnoj plenum.” To the people of Vojvodina: “Send a few comrades for the Avnoj plenum as soon as possible.” The dispatch to the Bosnians is completely conspiratorial and written in the first person: “Go immediately with the delegates you can redeem, and bring the names of those you can represent here.”
At the gathering, which made historic decisions on the abolition of the monarchy, the introduction of the republic, the formation of six federal units – Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina – and laid the foundation stone for the introduction of communist rule in the country, only two of six republican and one administratively undefined, Vojvodina delegations, had some kind of quorum. All 16 delegates came to Jajce from Montenegro, and 46 out of 53 from BiH. From Croatia 37 out of 78; from Slovenia 17 out of 42; from Vojvodina two out of eight. Nobody came from Macedonia and Sandzak. By simple addition, it is easy to determine that there were significantly less than half of the elected delegates in Jajce.
SERBIA was represented by 24 representatives out of 53 planned, namely members of the Supreme Staff and a selected part of the fighters from the First Proletarian. It should also be said that the president of Avnoj, the Croatian politician Dr. Ivan Ribar, was the representative of Croatia at the first session in November 1942 in Bihać, while in Jajce he became the representative of Serbia overnight. It has historically remained completely obscured why the delegation from Serbia did not participate in Jajce. Milorad Ekmecic, in his work “Between Slaughter and Plowing”, writes that some prominent politicians were invited, such as the leader of the Agricultural Party, Dragoljub Jovanovic, but were returned.
How the problem of quorum was magically solved can be reconstructed from the minutes from this session, which was published in 1953. After the introductory ceremonial speeches, Todor Vujasinović, the rapporteur of the Verification Commission and the delegate from BiH, appeared behind the podium:
– My proposal would be that in addition to the 142 submitted powers of attorney of the present delegates, we verify not only all 108 absent, but to consider as councilors both 11 absent comrades from Sandzak and 42 absent from Macedonia.
Thus, it was legalized that the minority of 142 delegates decides on behalf of the majority of 153 absent delegates, and that a declaration be adopted declaring Avnoj “the supreme legislative and executive representative body of Yugoslavia” and “supreme representative of the sovereignty of the people and the state as a whole.” Tito’s decision to declare the majority of absent delegates in Jajce present soon turns into a false historical fact. At the beginning of 1944, he wrote a text in which he claims that “240 delegates from all parts of our country participated in the plenum.” Thus, one half-truth about the number of delegates in Jajce, as time passed, became more and more an indisputable fact.
The MOST EXCITING moment for the councilors came when the writer Josip Vidmar, on behalf of the Slovenian delegation, proposed that Tito be proclaimed marshal. Everyone present gets up. Stormy and prolonged applause. Exclamations “Long live Tito!” However, one event will cast a historical shadow on the enthusiasm with which this proposal was accepted. He was preceded by Broz’s decision, made about forty days earlier, to sign as “Marshal of Yugoslavia” on the diplomas of the students of the officer school.
Apparently, his move was not accidental either. It coincides with the arrival of the mentioned Tito’s Comintern friend Viktor, ie Atanasov. Ekmecic reminds that at that time, Roosevelt proposed that partisans and Chetniks unite. In Moscow, obviously, they took care that in that case it should be distinguished who is an ordinary general and who is a proclaimed marshal from the people.
It is important to mention that the chairman of Avnoj, Vojislav Kecmanović, did not ask for a vote for any decision. He applied the following principle: “According to your applause, I can only state that we unanimously accepted.”
DISCRIMINATION OF THE SERBIAN PEOPLE
The SERBIAN people in Jajce were certainly not legitimately represented. Other nations had their own anti-fascist councils, which in the conditions of war performed the function of the highest people’s representation and actually sent their delegates to the Second Session of Avnoj. That was not the case with the Serbs, because they were not allowed to elect and form such a body. According to the testimony of Blagoje Nešković, the formation of the Anti-Fascist Council of the People’s Liberation of Serbia was postponed several times at Broz’s personal request. The first session was held only after the liberation of Belgrade, when “the work has already been done” at the Second session of Avnoj.
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