Serbia, Europe, Historical Profile (1922), #031-The Serbs in Exile


Soon after the establishment of the Serbian Government at Corfu party rivalries began to revive. The deputies were scattered, an independent press was impossible and regular Allied subsidies made the Government virtually immune from serious democratic control. The supersession of the Voivodc Putnik and almost all his staff caused great indignation; and though the whole Serbian Coalition must bear the responsibility, it was known to be the work of Pasic and his colleague Protic, then still out of office.

In Aug. 1916 an attempt is alleged to have been made upon the life of the prince regent at the front, and the Government proceeded in the winter-while the joint advance under Sarrail was crowned by the capture of Monastir from the j Bulgarians-to order numerous arrests on a charge of conspiracy and murder. The conspiracy trial which opened in Salonika in j Jan. 1917, and was conducted behind the shelter of a strict military censorship, resulted in a death sentence upon nine Serbian officers, and notably of Colonel Dimitrievic (q.v.'), head of the "Black Hand." There is no doubt that Dimitrievic favoured a military coup d'etat against his Radical enemies, and that he had his hand in the Sarajevo murder; but the evidence for a plot ; against Prince Alexander was clearly inadequate, and he was the 1 victim of rival military and political cliques.

This trial revived all the old party dissensions: the reactionaries had triumphed on the very eve of the collapse of their chief support, the Tsarist Government. Pasic found himself between two fires-the need for a more democratic restatement of foreign policy, and the demand of the Young Radical and Progressive parties for a revision of the Salonika trial. Refusal led to their withdrawal from the Cabinet, and its reconstruction on a purely Old Radical basis under Pasic and Protic.

The last occasion when all parties co-operated was on July 20, 1917, when the Declaration of Corfu, drawn up between Trumbic for the Yugoslav Committee and Pasic for the Serbian Government, mel with unanimous approval. It affirms that the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes constitute a single nation, and demands complete national unity under the Karagjorgjevic dynasty, a constitutional democratic and parliamentary monarehy and the reference of all details to a Constituent Assembly after the war, Pasic, having strengthened his position abroad by a visit to Paris and London, declined to convoke parliament for tour months after the legal period had expired. At last, as the result of a direct appeal of its president to the Crown, it met in Corfu on Feb. 12, 1918, and the Government resigned, but after weeks of fruitless negotiation for a Coalition Ministry was allowed to resume office.

During the spring and summer of 1918 there was acute tension among the rival Serbian groups, and the real initiative in the Yugoslav question and in the political campaign against Austria- Hungary passed to Trumbic, Benes, Lansing and the Allies and to the leaders of the movement inside the Dual Monarehy. On April S, 1918, a "Congress of the Oppressed Nationalities of Austria-Hungary" was opened in Rome, based on the agreement reached a month earlier in London between Trumbic, on behalf of the Yugoslav Committee, and Andrea Torre, representing an influential committee of Italian deputies and senators.

The result was immediate in two directions. The propaganda organized on the Italian front by the various national committees led to wholesale defections from the Austro-Hungarian army, and contributed materially, according to the high command's own admission, to the failure of the last I'iave offensive in June. Meanwhile the Roman Congress was deliberately imitated inside the Dual Monarehy by an imposing Congress at Prague: it was attended by Czech, Polish, Rumanian, Slovak and Yugoslav delegates-among the latter Radic and Pribicevic-and adopted a pledge of mutual support in the cause of unity and independence.

During 1918 the initiative among the Yugoslavs of the Monarehy fell more and more into the hands of the Slovenes, led by Father Korosec. The official recognition accorded to the Pact of Rome by Lansing in the name of America (May 31) was a fresh encouragement; and Korosec, after constituting a Yugoslav National Council for the furtherance of unity, convoked a new Slav Congress at Ljubljana on Aug. 18, at which the Catholic hierarehy and clergy took a prominent part. In the early autumn, at the Emperor Charles's instance, Count Tisza visited Zagreb, Sarajevo and Dalmatia with the object of promoting a Hungarian solution of the Southern Slav question, but met everywhere with a blank refusal. After the surrender of Bulgaria (Sept. 30) the Czech and Yugoslav spokesmen in the Rcichsrat were still less conciliatory and insisted on separate representation at the peace negotiations and the absolute right to decide their own future state allegiance.

      "Serbia, Europe, Historical Profile (1922), #031-The Serbs in Exile," The Encyclopedia Britannica. (New York: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1922); digital edition, ( : posted 15 Jan 2013)

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