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Vladko Maček and the Croatian Peasant Defence in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia

  • SABRINA P. RAMET (a1)
Abstract

In the years 1936–41, the Croatian Peasant Party, led by Vladko Maček, operated two militias – the Croatian Peasant Defence (HSZ) in the villages and the Croatian Civil Defence in the cities. The HSZ was intended to protect Croatian peasants from attacks by Serb Chetniks as well as by communists, and was thus itself a symptom of the lawlessness prevailing in the interwar Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The HSZ also formed part of Maček's efforts to compete with the fascistic Ustaša movement, an armed organization behind the so-called ‘Velebit uprising’ of 1932.

Dans les années 1936–41, le Parti paysan croate, dirigé par Vladko Maček, fit fonctionner deux milices: la défense paysanne croate (HSZ) dans les campagnes, la défense civile croate dans les villes. La HSZ était chargée de protéger les paysans croates des attaques des Chetniks serbes, mais aussi des communistes, et constituait en elle-même un symptôme de l'anarchie régnant dans le royaume de Yougoslavie dans l'entre-deux-guerres. La HSZ participait aussi aux efforts de Maček pour constituer avec le mouvement fasciste Ustasa une organisation armée, derrière ce qu'on appelle le ‘Velebit soulèvement’ de 1932.

In den Jahren 1936–41 unterhielt die Kroatische Bauernpartei, geführt von Vladko Maček, zwei Militäreinheiten – die Kroatische Bauernwehr (HSZ) in den Dörfern und die Kroatische Bürgerwehr in den Städten. Die HSZ sollte die kroatischen Bauern vor den Attacken der serbischen Tschetniks ebenso wie vor den Kommunisten schützen. Sie war so selbst ein Symptom der Gesetzlosigkeit, die zwischen den Kriegen im jugoslawischen Königreich herrschte. Die HSZ war ausserdem Teil von Mačeks Bemühungen, sich gegenüber der faschistischen Ustaša, einer bewaffnete Organisation, die hinter dem sogenannten ‘Velebit Aufstand’ von 1932 stand, zu behaupten.

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1 See, for example, ‘Povijest HSS-a. 1928.–1941’, Hrvatska Seljacka Stranka. Vjera u Boga i seljacka sloga, available at www.hss.hr/onama/povijest4php (last visited 2 June 2006).

2 Bjelovučić, N. Z., Hrvatsko pitanje, prigodom desetgodišnjice Kraljevine S.H.S. (Zagreb: Tiskara Vidović i drug, 1928), 1116; and Sabrina, P. Ramet, The Three Yugoslavias: State-Building and Legitimation, 1918–2005 (Bloomington, IN, and Washington, DC: Indiana University Press and the Wilson Center Press, 2006), ch. 2.

3 On Kosovo see Noel, Malcolm, Kosovo: A Short History (London: Macmillan, 1998), 274; and Ivo Banac, The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984), 298, 303–5. On Macedonia see Banac, National Question, 319–20; Nusret, Šehić, Četništvo u Bosni i Hercegovini (1918–1941): Politička uloga i oblici djelatnosti četnickih udruženja (Sarajevo: Akademija nauka i umjetnosti, 1971), 164–6; and Stefan, Troebst, Mussolini, Makedonien und die Mächte, 1922–1930 (Cologne and Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 1987), 120–6, 289–307.

4 Ferdo, Čulinović, Jugoslavija izmedju dva rata, 2 vols. (Zagreb: Historijski Institut Jugoslavenske Akademije Znanosti i Umjetnosti u Zagrebu, 1961), I, 129–38; and Šerbo, Rastoder, ‘A Short Review of the History of Montenegro’, in Bieber, Florian, ed., Montenegro in Transition: Problems of Identity and Statehood (Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 2003), 131–3.

5 Mustafa, Imamović, Historija Bošnjaka, 2ndedn (Sarajevo: Bošnjačka zajednica kulture, 1998), 490; and Noel, Malcolm, Bosnia: A Short History (New York: New York University Press, 1994), 163.

6 Ramet, Three Yugoslavias, 51.

7 Bosiljka Janjatović, ‘Karadjordjevićevska centralizacija i položaj Hrvatske u Kraljevstvu (Kraljevini) SHS’, in Časopis za suvremenu povijest (Zagreb), 27, 1 (1995), 56–7; and Hrvoje, Matković, Povijest Hrvatske seljačke stranke (Zagreb: Naklada P.I. P. Pavičić, 1999), 75–6.

8 For details see Zvonimir, Kulundžić, Politika i korupcija u kraljevskoj Jugoslaviji (Zagreb: Stvarnost, 1968), especially parts II and III.

9 Ante Ciliga, in interview with Il Popolo Lombardo (Milano), 17 March 1951, encl.no. 1 to dispatch 2977 (11 April 1951), unclassified, Outerbridge Horsey, Counselor/Rome to State, 768.00/4–1151, in Records of the U.S. Department of State Relating to the International Affairs of Yugoslavia 1950–1954, Decimal file 768 (RG-59, LM77), at National Archives II at College Park, Maryland.

10 Ivo, Banac, The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984), 411.

11 Roko, Rogošić, Stanje Kat. Crkve u Jugoslaviji do sporazuma (Šibenik: Pučka tiskara, 1940), 70; and Jerzy Kloczowski, ‘Katholiken und Protestanten in Ostmitteleuropa’, in Mayeur, Jean-Marie, ed., Die Geschichte des Christentums – Religion • Politik • Kultur, Vol. 12: Erster und Zweiter Weltkrieg, Demokratien und Totalitäre Systeme (1914–1958), trans. from French by Meier, Kurt (Freiburg/Basel/Vienna: Herder Verlag, 1992), 892.

12 From the Serbian, Organizacija Jugoslovenskih Nacionalista.

13 From the Serbian, Srpska Nacionalna Omladina.

14 From the Croatian, Hrvatska Nacionalna Omladina.

15 Sekula, Drljević, Balkanski sukobi 1905–1941 (Podgorica: Mermont, 1999), 146. Basil Pandžić confirms this chronology, writing that, in 1929, ‘Pavelic. . . established the revolutionary Ustasha Movement and [then] went abroad.’ – Basil Pandžić, ‘Chronological Review of Croatian History’, in Antun F. Bonifačić and Mihanovich, Clement S. (eds.), The Croatian Nation in its Struggle for Freedom and Independence (Chicago: Croatia Cultural Publishing Center, 1955), 25. Stjepan Gaži, in his history of Croatia, claims likewise that Pavelić and his associates formed the Ustaša movement while still in Croatia and that, only after the formation of the terrorist movement, did they emigrate first to Hungary and then to Italy. See Stephen, Gaži, A History of Croatia (New York: Philosophical Library, 1973), 313.

16 ‘Ustaše’, in Wikipedija, at hr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ustase [accessed on 20 May 2006].

17 James, J. Sadkovich, ‘Terrorism in Croatia, 1929–1934’, in East European Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1 (March 1988), 56.

18 Franjo, Tudjman, Hrvatska u monarhističkoj Jugoslaviji 1918.–1941. (Zagreb: Hrvatska Sveucilina Naklada, 1993), II, 32–3.

19 Fikreta, Jelić-Butić, Ustase i Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska 1941–1945. (Zagreb: Liber & Skolska knjiga, 1977), 21.

20 Ivo, Goldstein, Croatia: A History, trans. from Croatian by Jovanović, Nikolina (London: Hurst & Co., 1999), 126.

22 For details and discussion, see Ramet, Three Yugoslavias, chaps. 2–3.

23 Jozo, Tomasevich, War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), 29.

24 Ministarstvo Unutrašnjih Poslova (Ministry of Internal Affairs, or MUP)–Odeljak za Državnu Zaštitu (Section for the Protection of the State, or ODZ) to Kraljevina (Kingdom)-ODZ, Pov. I, broj 11398 (20 April 1932) and broj 20593 (23 June 1932), and Sreski načelnik (County Prefect, or SN) (Koprivnica) to Kraljevska Banska Uprava Savske Banovine u Zagrebu (KBUSBZ)–ODZ, Pov. broj 496 (20 April 1932) – in Savska Banovina, Državna zaštita: Strogo povjerljivi spisi 1929–1933 g., Kutija 1152–11320, at Hrvatski Državni Arhiv (Zagreb) (hereafter SBDZ), Box 70, Pov. spisi, 1932, br. 9406–9857. The boxes were subsequently renumbered and boxes included in the reorganised files actually cover the years 1928–39; in addition, reports from one year are often filed in boxes identified by a different year.

25 KBUSBZ–ODZ to all county prefects, all city police chiefs, et al., Pov. II, broj 32062 (30 November 1932), in SBDZ, Box 103, Pov. II, 1932, broj 31511–33168.

26 Okružni inspektorat u Varaždinu to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Pov. broj 537 (23 April 1932), in SBDZ, Box 70; and SN (Bjelovar) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, kz. broj 434 (14 May 1932), in SBDZ, Box 73, Pov. II, 1932 g., br. 10810–11217.

27 Pomoćnik P. Pukovnik, Savski žandarmeriski puk to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Pov. OB br. 1911 (17 September 1932), in SBDZ, Box 94, Pov. spisi, 1932, br. 23354–23977.

28 Komandir stanice, Žandarm. narednik Dušan Jović, Letovanić, to SN Sisak, Pov. broj 415 (18 May 1932) in SBDZ, Box 73.

29 Borba, (Zagreb), 20 Oct. 1928, 1. Regarding the assassination of Radić, see Zvonimir Kulundžić, Atentat na Stjepana Radića (Zagreb: Biblioteka Vremeplov, 1967). For a recent biographical study of Radić, see Ivo, Perić, Stjepan Radić, 1871–1928 (Zagreb: Dom i Svijet, 2003).

30 Ban, KBUSBZ, to all SNs, city police chiefs, et al., Pov. II, broj 11104 (10 April 1932), in SBDZ, Box 73.

31 Zastupa komandanta, Pomoćnik pukovnik, Savski žandarmeriski puk to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Pov. Ob. broj 2093 (19 October 1932) in SBDZ, Box 98, Pov. II, spisi 1932, 26853–28116.

32 Kalnik, Okružen inspektor Dr. Pfeifer vr. (Varaždin) to Komandir Žandarmerijske čete, Pov. broj 1689 (28 October 1932); and Pretstojnik gradske policije u Varaždinu to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Pov. broj 1144 (31 October 1932), in SBDZ, Box 98. Čazma, SN (Čazma) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Pov. II broj 1412 (29 November 1932), in SBDZ, Box 103, Pov. II, 1932., broj 1511–33168.

33 Spontaneous, SN (Čazma) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Pov. broj 1446 (3 December 1932), in SBDZ, Box 103; Ustaša, Grič (Buenos Aires), 8 October 1932, 4.

34 Uprava policije u Zagrebu (Administration of the Police in Zagreb, or UPZ), Otsek službe bezbednosti to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Pov. broj 21333 (4 October 1932), in SBDZ, Box 94.

35 The term ‘Ustaše’ refers to members of the Ustaša organisation.

36 Student organisation, MUP (Belgrade), ODZ to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Pov. I, br. 46455 (14 December 1932), in SBDZ, Box 104, Pov. spisi, 1932, br. 33171–35702; ‘Ustaše in the woods’, Grič, 17 Sept. 1932, 3.

37 James, J. Sadkovich, Italian Support for Croatian Separatism, 1927–1937 (New York and London: Garland, 1987), 85–6, 111, 133–5. See also Sadkovich, ‘Terrorism in Croatia’, 57.

38 Sadkovich, Italian Support, 155.

39 SN (Koprivnica) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Pov. broj 271 (18 October 1932), in SBDZ, Box 98.

40 Ljubo, Boban, Maček i politika Hrvatske Seljačke Stranke, 1928–1941, 2 vols. (Zagreb: Liber, 1974), I, 8796.

41 Ramet, Three Yugoslavias, 86–7, 92; and Boban, Maček i politika, I, 97, 167–9. Maček himself speculated in his memoirs that, had it not been for foreign interest in the punktacije, which took the form of foreign correspondents seeking him out for interviews, he might not have been arrested at all. See Vladko, Maček, In the Struggle for Freedom, trans. Elizabeth and Gazi, Stjepan (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1957), 141.

42 For a detailed account see François, Broche, Assassinat de Alexandre Ier et Louis Barthou. Marseille, le 9 Octobre 1934 (Paris: Balland, 1977).

43 KBUSBZ–ODZ to MUP–ODZ, Pov. II, br. 37195/33. (25 December 1933), in SBDZ, Box 9, br. 1–114/1934 g.

44 Letter from the Ban, KBUSBZ–ODZ to Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Todorović, Strogo poverljivo (Str. Pov.) II, broj 52/1934. (1 February 1934), in SBDZ, Box 9. All translations of quotations from untranslated sources are by the author.

45 Šufflay's assassination provoked shock both at home and abroad. Archbishop Bauer of Zagreb joined several other bishops and some two hundred writers and artists in registering their protest, while, abroad, Albert Einstein was among those to protest against the murder.

46 Inspector, MUP to KBUSBZ, Str. Pov. broj 396 (5 April 1935), in SBDZ, Box 15, broj 120–196/1935 g.

47 KBUSBZ–ODZ to all district authorities and all city police chiefs et al., Str. Pov. br. 139/1935. god (26 February 1935), in SBDZ, Box 15.

48 SN (Otočac) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. Pov. broj 38/1935 (10 May 1935), in SBDZ, Box 18, broj 578–691/1935.

49 SN (Gospić) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. Pov. broj 41/1935 (13 May 1935), in SBDZ, Box 18.

50 SN (Prelog) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. Pov. broj 42/1935 (11 May 1935), in SBDZ, Box 18.

51 SN (Ivanec) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. Pov. br. 32/1935. (15 May 1935), in SBDZ, Box 18.

52 Ivo, Perić, Vladko Maček. Politički portret (Zagreb: Golden Marketing, 2003), 178.

53 Podravska Slatina, SN (Podr. Slatina) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. pov. broj 49 (23 May 1935); Kostajnica, SN (Kostajnica) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. pov. broj 47 (23 May 1935); Otočac, SN (Otočac) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. pov. broj 48 (23 May 1935) – all in SBDZ, Box 19, broj 692–1096/1935. g.

54 Perić, Vladko Maček, 181. Slightly different figures are given in Hrvoje Matković, Povijest Hrvatske seljačke stranke (Zagreb: Naklada P.I.P. Pavičić, 1999), 341.

55 Perić, Vladko Maček, 184.

56 Macek, In the Struggle for Freedom, 165.

57 KBUSBZ–ODZ to county prefects, city police chiefs, et al., Str. Pov. broj 94 (19 May 1936) in SBDZ, Box 21, Strogo pov. spisi br. 94–626/1936. g.

58 Administrator (N) at MUP (Belgrade) to Ban Savske Banovine (Zagreb), Pov. I broj 50160 (9 October 1936), in SBDZ, Box 20, Str. pov. broj 1–94/1936. g.

59 KBUSBZ–ODZ to city police chiefs, county prefects, et al., Str. pov broj 94 (19 May 1936); SN (Donja Studica) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. pov. broj 12 (18 December 1936); SN (Pregrada) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. pov. 10 (16 December 1936); SN (Zagreb) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. pov. 12 (21 December 1936); and SN (Vrginmost) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. pov. broj 22 (14 December 1936) – all in SBDZ, Box 20.

60 SN (Donji Miholjac) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. pov. broj 94 (6 January 1937); and SN (Samobor) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Pov. broj 1049 (7 August 1936) – both in SBDZ, Box 20.

61 I am indebted to Vjeran Pavlaković for this insight. E-mail, 2 Aug. 2005.

62 Sadkovich, Italian Support, 294.

63 SN (Bjelovar) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. Pov. broj 12 (17 October 1936); and SN (Gjurgjevac) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. Pov. broj 26 (20 October 1936) – both in SBDZ, Box 20.

64 SN (Koprivnica) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. pov. 25 (12 June 1937), in SBDZ, Box 22, Str. pov. 1937, broj 1–1016.

65 Str. Pov. broj 78/1937 (26 January 1937), in SBDZ, Box 22. I am grateful to Vjeran Pavlaković for this item: Pavlaković's method of notating source information differs from mine.

66 N (MUP, Belgrade) to KBUSBZ–I, broj 53235 (14 October 1936), presumably Str. Pov.; Komandant, Savski žandarmeriski puk u Zagrebu to KBUSBZ–ODZ, J.B., Str. Pov. broj 4319 (12 October 1936); Pomoćnik pukovnik, Savski žandarmeriski puk to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Pov. ob. broj 455 (7 September 1936); and note dated September 1936 (Belgrade), Pov. broj 1212, attached to SN (Vrginmost) to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Pov. broj 1212 (16 September 1936) – all in SBDZ, Box 20. Also Komandant–pukovnik, Savski žandarmeriski puk to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Pov. J.B. broj 499 (18 July 1936), in SBDZ, Box 21.

67 Memo ODZ (25 January 1937), enclosed in SBDZ, Box 21.

68 KBUSBZ-ODZ to county prefects, Str. Pov. broj 120 (1 March 1937), in SBDZ, Box 22.

69 Mladen, Iveković, Hrvatska lijeva inteligencija 1918–1945, Vol. 1 (1918–1941) (Zagreb: Naprijed, 1970), 165.

70 Upravnik policije UPZ–Otsek opšte policije to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. pov. broj službeno (Zagreb, 25 June 1936), in SBDZ, Box 21.

71 Sadkovich, Italian Support, 266–8.

72 Potpukovnik, Savski žandarmeriski puk to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Pov. J.B. broj 1085 (6 December 1937), in SBDZ, Box 22.

73 Bogdan, Krizman, Ante Pavelić i Ustaše (Zagreb: Globus, 1978), 281; and Tomasevich, War and Revolution, 39.

74 Some 1,664 Yugoslav volunteers fought on the side of the republic; 545 of them died in combat. See Stanislava Koprivica-Oštrić, ‘Jugoslavenski dobrovoljci u jedinicama španjolske republikanske vojske 1936–1939’, Časopis za suvremenu povijest, 19, 2 (1987), 25. For a discussion of how the Spanish Civil War affected Croatia, see Vjeran Pavlaković, ‘Our Spaniards: Croatian Communists, Fascists, and the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939’, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington, 2005.

75 Hrvoje, Matković, Povijest Jugoslavije, 2ndenlarged edn (Zagreb: Naklada P.I.P. Pavičić, 2003), 200.

76 Nezavisnost (Zagreb), 3 Nov. 1938, as summarised in Ljubo Boban, Macek i politika Hrvatske Seljacke Stranke 1928–1941, Vol. 2: od 1939. do 1941. (Zagreb: Liber, 1974), 182.

77 Regarding contacts with the Italians, see Ferdo, Čulinović, Jugoslavija izmedju dva rata, 2 vols. (Zagreb: Historijski Institut Jugoslavenske Akademije Znanosti i Umjetnosti u Zagrebu, 1961), II, 136–47; Ljubo, Boban, Maček i politika Hrvatske Seljačke Stranke 1928–1941, Vol. 2 (Zagreb: Liber, 1974), 8790; and Hoptner, J. B., Yugoslavia in Crisis 1934–1941 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962), 138–9.

78 Srdjan, Trifković, ‘Yugoslavia in Crisis: Europe and the Croat Question, 1939–41’, European History Quarterly, 23, 4 (October 1993), 538–9; and Čulinović, Jugoslavija izmedju dva rata, II, 137–9. Maček would later claim that it was the Italians who took the initiative in these contacts, but confirmsed that they prepared a joint draft involving Italian assistance, a personal union and joint ministries. Matković, Povijest Hrvatske seljačke stranke, 397.

79 Bilten, ODZ, Strogo poverljivo (May 1939), 5, in SBDZ, Box 27.

80 Ibid., 6–7.

81 Bilten, ODZ, Strogo poverljivo (July 1939), 6, in SBDZ, Box 27.

82 Istra (Zagreb), 29 Sept. 1939, 3.

83 Nezavisnost (12 Jan. 1940), quoted in Ljubo Boban, Maček i politika Hrvatske Seljačke Stranke 1928–1941., vol. 2: Od 1939. do 1941. (Zagreb: Liber, 1974), 186. See also Tudjman, Hrvatska u monarhistickoj Jugoslaviji, II, 273.

84 Holm Sundhaussen, ‘Der Ustascha-Staat: Anatomie eines Herrschaftssystems’, Österreichische Osthefte, 37, 2 (1995), 504.

85 Document No. 389: Telegram 105 (23 April 1941), Edmund Veesenmayer and Siegfried Kasche to the German Foreign Ministry, trans. in Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918–1945, Series D, Vol. 12: The War Years – 1941 (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1962), 831–2.

86 Hrvatska straža (Zagreb), 17 Aug. 1941, 3.

87 Mladen, Colić, Takozvana Nezavisna Država Hrvatska 1941. (Belgrade: Delta-Pres, 1973), 111.

88 Colić claims that the HSZ was in fact intended ‘to provide the foundation for the formation of a Croatian army’. Ibid., 107.

89 Komandant, pukovnik, Savski žandermeriski puk to KBUSBZ–ODZ, J. B. broj 4110 (22 November 1937) – as quoted in MUP to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. Pov. broj 1048 (24 November 1937), in SBDZ, Box 22.

90 Quoted in MUP to KBUSBZ–ODZ, Str. Pov. broj 1048 (24 November 1937), in SBDZ, Box 22.

91 KBUSBZ–ODZ to UPZ–OOP, all SNs, and all city police chiefs, Str. pov. broj 669 (5 March 1938), in SBDZ, Box 27.

The author is grateful to Mark Biondich, John Connelly, Ivo Goldstein, Vjeran Pavlaković, Jim Sadkovich, Francesco Privitera, Matjaz Klemencic, Ludwig Steindorff, and the anonymous reviewer for this journal for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

1 Sabrina P. Ramet is Professor of Political Science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway, and a Senior Associate of the Centre for the Study of Civil War at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO). She is the author of eleven scholarly books including Whose Democracy? Nationalism, Religion, and the Doctrine of Collective Rights in Post-1989 Eastern Europe (1997) and The Three Yugoslavias: State-Building and Legitimation, 1918–2005 (2006).

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