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Vidov Dan,the twenty-eighth of June, is a fateful day in the history of Yugoslavia. It was on that day in 1589 that the Turks defeated the Serbs at Kosovo and began an occupation that lasted for close to five centuries. It was on St. Vitus’s Day in 1914, at Sarayevo, Bosnia (then under Austrian occupation), that Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand and thereby precipitated the First World War. On St. Vitus’s Day in 1919 the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Among its ..ugly offspring,” as V. M. Molotov has been pleased to call the national states of Eastern Europe, was the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes which, in 1929, became the Kingdom of South Slavia, or Yugoslavia. And it was on St. Vitus’s Day in 1948 that the Communist Information Bureau, straining for historical symbolism, excommunicated the Communist tyrants who had been ruling Yugoslavia since the Second World War as a “federal people’s republic.”
Until that day it had seemed to most students of Yugoslavian affair (myself included) that Yosip Broz, or Tito, as he prefen to call himself, was Stalin’s most successful foreign understudy. None of the other Communist subdictaton of Eastern Europe had so ruthlessly or so completely sovietized his fief. None had adapted the Kremlin’s methods to local conditions with greater disregard for the wishes of his subjects. Yet Tito and his cohorts were the first to be excommunicated from the Cominform as heretics.
Although I had foreseen a day of reckoning, I had not expected it to produce a schism in the Communist International. I had expected Tito (in the first purge, anyhow) to play the role of Grand Inquisitor, extirpating, with the help of Andria Hebrang, Sreten Zhuyovitch, and other Russian agents, the nationalist Neo-Communists who had risen to power during the war. In a subsequent purge, I thought, when he had finally grown too big for his breeches, Tito himself would also be extirpated—but not until someone like Hebrang or Zhuyovitch was fully prepared to inherit his imperial responsibilities. Instead it was the Hebrangs and Zhuyovitches who were purged, and the Neo-Communist hero-worshipers with whom Tito and his loyal subordinates chose to cast ’ their lot. National Communism, a wartime product of Russia’s internal weaknesses, has thus proved stronger—for the time being, at any rate—than Stalin’s imperial apparatus.