“The Minority Problem in the New Yugoslavia,” is a second memorandum on the Albanians (and other minorities) written by the noted Bosnian Serb scholar and political figure Vaso Cubrilovic (1897-1990). As a student in 1914, Cubrilovic had participated in the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary, the event which precipitated the First World War. Between the two wars, he was professor at the Faculty of Arts in Belgrade. A leading member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Art, Cubrilovic also held several ministerial portfolios after World War II. Among his writings is the monograph “Istorija politicke misle u Srbiji XIX veka,” Belgrade 1958 (History of political thought in Serbia in the 19th century).
Reasons Why the Minority Problem in Yugoslavia Must be Solved
Quite aside from the disloyalty of the minorities, there are other important interests of state which compel us to take advantage of the current war to solve the problem of minorities by expelling them. Our minorities, as we have previously stressed, do not constitute a danger to us because of their numbers but rather because of their geopolitical position and the ties which they maintain with the neighbouring peoples to whom they are related. It is because of such ties that the neighbouring peoples have been able to use them to wage war against us. At present, the minorities are nothing more than stumbling-blocks in our relations with these neighbouring states. The democratic federation of Yugoslavia will only achieve peace and ensure its development if it can be made ethnically pure and if, by solving its minority problems, it can remove the causes of friction with neighbouring states once and for all.
Taking a look at the relevant charts and maps, it can been seen that our minorities occupy very important positions in our country, both from an economic and from a strategical point of view. The Vojvodina on the banks of the Danube, for instance, is Central Europe’s gateway to the Balkans. In geopolitical terms, it is the strategic key to the peninsula. Without it, the nations of Yugoslavia, i. e. Serbia and Croatia, would lose their control over the Drava, Sava, Danube and Morava rivers and would once again become the backwater of a new Austria or of a new Turkey. The Vojvodina is the breadbasket of all of Yugoslavia and, even if not a single Serb or Croat lived there, we would still have to fight to keep it in order to feed millions of our citizens in the poorer regions to the south of the Sava and Danube. Devising a plan for the economic future of Yugoslavia would be senseless without the Vojvodina and its grain reserves. The regions to the south of the Sava and Danube with their mineral resources, forest reserves and hydroelectric potential provide all the prerequisites for modern industry, but this industry can only be set up if the plains of the Vojvodina provide the working masses in these new industries with food. We Serbs and Croats, however, make up only a relative majority of the population in the Vojvodina. It could happen, as a result of the war, that the Hungarians take over Backa and the Germans, with their people in the Banat, set up a miniature Reich there.
The situation is similar in the area around the Shar mountains, inhabited now by an overwhelming majority of Albanians. This region is the watershed of major Balkan rivers which flow into three seas. Because of this, Kosovo and Metohija have always been considered a strategic area in the Balkans. By occupying the central part of the Balkans, Kosovo and Metohija separate Serbia from Montenegro and these two, in turn, from Macedonia. The countries of the Yugoslav federation will never be strongly attached to one another so long as they have no direct ethnic border with one another. This matter is of particular concern for Macedonia. The upper reaches of the Vardar river are held by the Albanians whereas the lower reaches of the river are in the hands of the Greeks. We southern Slavs hold only the middle portion. Our position is too weak not to be challenged, as Italy did when it ceded to Albania not only Kosovo and Metohija but also Dibër / Debar, Kërçova / Kicevo, Gostivar and Tetova / Tetovo. We must have no illusions about what the future of Europe may bring. This horrendous war will certainly not be the last. We will find ourselves at the crossroads again and will once more be exposed to attack in some new war. It is therefore the duty of those who hold the destiny of this country in their hands to be prepared for all eventualities and to ensure that events we have lived through in this war never occur again. The statesmen of the old Yugoslavia never considered this in 1918 when they agreed to incorporate the national minorities within the borders of the newly-created state. For political reasons, they even gave their support to the minorities, and we are the ones who have had to pay the price, sacrificing tens of thousands of lives. Such a calamity must never be repeated. The fertile valleys of Polog, Kosovo and Metohija are important in economic terms. Surrounding them are our wretched lands: Montenegro, the Sandjak of Novi Pazar, the areas to the north of the Shar mountains and the destitute Macedonian settlements to the south of the Shar. These people rightfully demand that the lands from which they have been driven by the Albanians over the last 150 years be returned to them.
I have given deliberate priority to the Vojvodina and to Old Serbia (Kosovo), considering that these two regions represent the crux of our minority problem. In endeavouring to solve this problem, we must not, however, be guided by a desire to avenge the violence perpetrated against our peoples. Our policy on this issue must be guided simply by reasons of state. There are minorities scattered in other regions of the country, too. In view of the atrocious crimes committed by the German Reich on Slavic lands with the help of local ethnic Germans, we have every right to demand that these regions be cleansed of this group. The new political border between our country and Austria must also constitute the ethnic border between Slavs and Germans. The problem of these tens of thousands of Germans does remain, but it can be dealt with by the Slavs themselves without major complications. The German and Hungarian minorities in Croatia, Slavonia, Bosnia and Hercegovina are but scattered islands in an ethnic sea of southern Slavic peoples and can either be expelled or assimilated without great resistance. The biggest problem we are facing is how to break up the blocks of minorities inhabiting strategic geopolitical positions. The federal government must bring all the power of the state to bear in solving this problem.
After examining why the cleansing of minorities is necessary, let us now see what options are available for carrying out the task. In actual fact, conditions for implementation are quite favourable. In 1918, Europe held the view that the minority problem could be solved by giving privileges to such groups. The experience of this war has proven to all of Europe that this approach was wrong. The unscrupulous exploitation of German minorities by the Third Reich has made it obvious that the only just solution to the problem is the deportation of the minorities. The Third Reich itself has carried out a brutal policy of colonization, transferring millions of people from one corner of Europe to the other. At the same time, it had plans for the expulsion of entire nations, endeavouring to maintain its rule in eastern and southeastern Europe by means of an elaborate settlement policy. Had it won the war, we southern Slavs, the Serbs in particular, would have been wiped off the face of the earth. Germany’s allies, Italy and Hungary, took the same approach to solving the minority problem. It is therefore understandable that our Allies have taken the stand during this war that the minority problem ought be solved through evacuation and resettlement. The fraternal Soviet Union took advantage of this method even before the war. It long ago resettled the Karelians from the Finnish border. Koreans and Chinese were transferred from coastal regions in the Far East to as far as Turkistan. When the Soviet Union occupied Bessarabia in 1940, it expelled 150,000 Bessarabian Germans from the region. An entire camp of barracks was constructed that year by the Germans on the plain of Zemun, at the point where the Sava flows into the Danube. We, the inhabitants of Belgrade, had an opportunity to watch the Germans at the time being transported to the camp, before they were transferred back to the Reich. Even at the present time, the Soviet Union has resumed the population transfers it initiated before the war, resettling Poles from the Ukraine and Byelorussia to the other side of the Polish-Soviet border, and at the same time, bringing Ukrainians and Byelorussians back to the Soviet Union. With these examples in mind, we, too, have a right to demand of our Allies that our problem with minorities be solved in the same manner, i. e. by expulsion.
We should have more right than any other country in Europe to demand of our Allies that they approve the evacuation of our minorities. No country on this continent has suffered so much as we have at the hands of nations ethnically related to our minorities. Over one million people, including women and children, have perished here in this appalling war, three times as many as were slain on the front with rifle in hand. Much responsibility for these killings can be laid at the door of the minorities in our country. This we have told to our Allies and have proven it to them. I am deeply convinced that they will appreciate the problem and support our intentions. I have faith in the fraternal Soviet Union, in particular. We were the only nation overrun by the Germans to rise in arms from behind the lines in the summer of 1941 when Hitler was leading his Nazi hordes onwards to Leningrad, Moscow and Stalingrad. For three years, we fought against all odds in our national liberation movements. We have a right to hope, therefore, that the fraternal Soviet Union will help us solve our minority problem here, as they have solved theirs there.
It is easiest to resolve the minority question through expulsions in times of war such as this. The countries concerned have been our adversaries in the present war. They attacked us, we did not attack them. They laid waste to our land and selfishly exploited their minorities here to wage war against us. We have no territorial claims against them, with the exception of our claims against Italy to Istria, Gorica (Gorizia) and Gradiska (Gradisca). Therefore, with all the more right as victors, we are justified in asking them to take their minorities back.
With its mass displacement of persons, this war has created a climate for resettlement. Our minorities are aware of their deeds and will therefore not put up much resistance when expelled. All in all, considering the above-mentioned factors, there has never been a more favourable moment than the present for the solution of the minority question. A just resolution of the problem, however, depends on the attitude, level of awareness and energy of the people to decide on the fate of the ethnic groups in this country. I am deeply convinced that the people appreciate the importance of the issue and will know how to proceed. It is for this reason that I am writing these lines.
How to Solve the Minority Problem in the New Yugoslavia
If we take the stand, as we do, that the only just solution to the minority problem is expulsion, we are faced with a number of issues which have to be dealt with. Should all minorities be expelled or only certain ethnic groups? From which regions should ethnic minorities be expelled first? And what is more important, how are we to resettle the deserted towns and villages? I have a few suggestions to make in this connection.
As to priorities for expulsion, I hold the opinion that we should consider the following order: the Germans, the Hungarians, the Albanians, the Italians and the Romanians. We have already referred to the actions of the Germans, Hungarians and Albanians during the war here. In principle, they all deserve to lose their right of citizenship in this country. In view of the atrocities committed by the Germans, both in our country and throughout Europe, they have lost all rights and must be persecuted ruthlessly. The Hungarians here and in Hungary still deserve some consideration, despite the Backa massacre and their service under the Germans as militiamen in Russia. Not all the measures to be carried out against the Germans should be applied to them. The same goes for the Albanians in Old Serbia (Kosovo) and Macedonia. Nonetheless, if we wish to solve the minority problem, we will have to take over Backa, Kosovo and Metohija in ethnic terms and drive out hundreds of thousands of Hungarians and Albanians. The fascist regime in Italy treated our people in Istria, Gorica (Gorizia) and Gradiska (Gradisca) dreadfully. When we regain these territories, we will have to reoccupy them ethnically by moving out all the Italians who settled there after 1 December 1918. Only with the Romanians will matters be easier. Several hundred thousand Romanians live on our side of the Banat, while a smaller number of our people live on the Romanian side. We should have no difficulty in bringing about an exchange of population on the basis of a political agreement with the government in Bucharest.
The second important question to be answered is which regions should be cleansed of minorities first. I have already stressed that our main consideration is not how many people we expel, but which regions to expel them from. Minorities scattered about as individual families and small communities pose no danger to us. The greatest threat is from large blocks of minorities in border regions of strategic and economic importance. These ethnic groups pose a particular danger if living on the border across from a country of the same nationality. Accordingly, it is essential for us to cleanse the Germans and Hungarians from the Vojvodina and the Albanians from Old Serbia (Kosovo) and Macedonia. Germans should also be expelled from Kocevje, Maribor and other border regions in Slovenia. We shall return to this problem later.
Let us begin with the Vojvodina. If we take a look at the ethnic map of this country of ours, we see a colourful mosaic, much like a beautiful carpet from Pirot. The careful observer will soon be able to distinguish certain ethnic blocks that make up the major patches on the carpet. He will notice, for instance, the mass of Hungarian settlements situated in northeastern and central Backa. Here is the main block of ethnic Hungarians in our country, from Horgoš in the north, through to Senta, Backa Topola, Kula and Odžaci. Of the approximately half a million Hungarians living in Yugoslavia in 1941, almost 300,000 lived in Backa. The remaining 200,000 are scattered about in the Banat, in Syrmia (Srem), Croatia and Slavonia where significant groups are to be found. Driving 200,000 Hungarians out of Backa would bring about a solution to the Hungarian problem in our country.
The German problem is not so simple. Germans are spread around the entire country, though most of them live on the fertile plains of Backa, in the Banat and in Syrmia (Srem). They are present not only in central and northeastern Backa, but also in the southwest, in the regions of Apatin, Novi Vrbas, Odžaci, Stara Palanka, and, to a considerable extent, in Novi Sad and Sombor. If we want to create an absolute majority for our people in Backa, we must clean out the Germans. Backa is also the key to our hold over the Vojvodina. The half a million or so Hungarians and Germans there compare to a little over 300,000 Slavs (Serbs, Croats and Slovenes taken together). Therefore, particular attention must be focussed on this region in solving the minority problem.
The situation in the Banat is much better. This region was not depopulated in the war to the extent Backa was. Here we have an absolute majority and the only minority of any great significance are the Germans. They are settled in the following areas: Pancevo, Bela Crkva, Vršac and Beckerek, and should be expelled from this region. In Syrmia (Srem), the Germans are settled in: Zemun, Stara Pazova, Ruma and Šid. Here they possess the best land and must be evacuated, too. In Slovenia, the areas around Kocevje and Maribor must be freed of Germans. If possible, we should destroy and eradicate German and Hungarian settlements in the rest of the provinces, too, in order to ensure their complete disappearance from the region. If we were successful in expelling five to six hundred thousand Germans and Hungarians from Backa, the Banat and Syrmia and in settling our people there instead, the Vojvodina would be ours forever.
We must be more straightforward and practical in dealing with the Albanians in Old Serbia (Kosovo) and Macedonia in order to conquer Kosovo and Metohija ethnically and, at the same time, avoid a conflict with the neighbouring people in Albania. We must also take great care in considering the areas from which Albanians should be expelled and resettled so as not to affect a single Albanian village, indeed a single Albanian home more than necessary. If we are to reach our goal of linking Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia, we must bring about a complete change in the ethnic structure of Kosovo and Metohija. Most important of all, we must cleanse Metohija. As the border region to neighbouring Montenegro, it will be most suitable for Montenegrin colonization. After all, the Metohija and Drenica Albanians are at present the most loyal servants of the Germans, as they were a few years ago of the Italians. Dreadful atrocities were committed by the Albanians in the Macedonian villages of the upper Vardar valley. The Macedonians, therefore, rightfully demand their expulsion. A detailed plan must be elaborated to specify with accuracy which villages and areas of Old Serbia (Kosovo) and Macedonia are to be cleansed, and the plan must be implemented accordingly.
In principle, we would have nothing against the evacuation of all minorities from our country. This is something we can still consider. The above-mentioned points in the Vojvodina, Slovenia, Old Serbia (Kosovo) and Macedonia constitute simply a minimum if we want to ensure future possession of these regions.
If we agree in principle that the minority problem can only be solved through expulsion, and that expulsions should be carried out as proposed above, we are then faced with the problem of how this is to be accomplished.
The first thing I would like to mention in this connection is that wars are most suitable for solving such problems. Like storms, they blow through countries, uprooting and blotting out peoples. What takes decades and centuries to accomplish in peaceful times, can be accomplished within a matter of months and years in a war. Let us not delude ourselves. If we wish to solve this problem, we will only be able to do so during the war. The leaders of old Yugoslavia thought after 1918 that they could break down the major ethnic blocks in the country by colonization. We have wasted billions of dinars on settling volunteers and other colonists throughout the Vojvodina, Kosovo and Metohija. In the Vojvodina over a twenty year period, we managed to change the ethnic balance in our favour by a few percentage points, but the German and Hungarian minorities still remain in Backa. From 1918 to 1938, the Albanians increased their numbers in Kosovo and Metohija more by natural growth than we were able to do by bringing in settlers. Driving our colonists out of Backa, Kosovo and Metohija, the Hungarians and Albanians were thus able to cancel out the few results we obtained. In order to prevent this from happening again, the army must be brought in, even during the war, to cleanse the regions we wish to settle with our own people, doing so in a well-planned but ruthless manner. I do not yet wish to discuss details as to how this should be accomplished but, should this project be approved in principle, I would be more than willing to make my knowledge and experience available to the Supreme Command, to the National Liberation Army and to the partisan units in order to work out a more detailed plan. For the moment, I wish only to stress that the Germans and Hungarians must be expelled unconditionally from their lands in the Vojvodina, and the Albanians must be driven out of Metohija, Kosovo and Polog.
Aside from ethnic cleansing during military operations, other methods must be applied to force the national minorities out. In view of their behaviour during the war, they must be stripped of all minority rights. All members of national minorities who were in any way of service to the occupants should be brought before military tribunals and shown no mercy. Concentration camps should be set up for them, their property confiscated, their families placed likewise in concentrations camps and, at the first opportunity, they should be expelled to their national states. The fraternal Soviet Army could be of enormous assistance in this question in dealing with the Hungarians and Germans. In expelling minorities, particular attention should be devoted to the intelligentsia and to the wealthiest strata of society. These are the people who behaved the worst towards us, serving the occupants loyally, and these are the elements who will be the most dangerous if they are allowed to remain in their native regions. The poor workers and peasants were not particularly sympathetic to German and Hungarian fascism and should not be persecuted. The same applies to Albanian beys and the Albanian bourgeoisie. Those same people who served the regimes loyally in old Yugoslavia and made money by doing the dirty work are the ones who committed the most murders after 1941.
If the expulsion of minorities is agreed upon, there are other questions which will have to be dealt with, but we will come to them later.
Colonizing Abandoned Lands
Resettling abandoned towns and villages with our people is of paramount importance for the following reason. Interests of state require that lands abandoned by minorities be settled as quickly as possible so that the minorities and all of Europe can be confronted with a fait accompli. Economic interests dictate that this populaton transfer be accomplished with the least possible damage to the economic life of the country. Abandoned land must therefore not be left uncultivated, factories must go on working and the workshops of craftsmen must not be closed down. This is not as easy to accomplish as one might think. No matter how much thought and preparation go into the organization and implementation of expelling minorities, we cannot avoid temporary setbacks in the economy. We must not let this discourage us from our main objective and must ensure that such setbacks are kept to an absolute minimum. The matter is all the more pressing because the national minorities are presently settled on the most fertile land in the Vojvodina, Slavonia, Old Serbia (Kosovo) and Macedonia. The Germans are in control of crops used for manufacturing. If we want to hold on to our sugar and linen industries, we will have to find quick replacements for the expelled German farmers. The same goes for craftsmen and manufacturers. Over 80% of all craftsmen in the Vojvodina are Germans, as are a substantial, though lower percentage in Croatia and Slovenia. Germans run the mills, the breweries and the linen industry in the Vojvodina and the Hungarians control the sugar industry. These facts must be taken into consideration and a strategy must be worked out accordingly so that all these sectors can be taken over and can continue to function after the departure of the Germans and Hungarians.
We must settle our people at once on the land vacated by the minorities. After 1918, volunteers and native settlers were at the forefront of the colonization campaign. They were given five hectares of land each, some tools, and houses on occasion. The colonies progressed slowly though, because the plots were too small, the tools insufficient and the cattle lacking. Problems were also compounded by the fact that, in many cases, highlanders from Montenegro, the Krajina and Lika were the ones settled on the plains of the Vojvodina, and they had great difficulty adapting to the new climate and way of life there. Many of them therefore began selling their property and, up to 1941, the government was forced to intervene and purchase much land to stop it from falling back into the hands of the ethnic minorities. This time, colonization activities must be carried out with much more foresight and seriousness of purpose, and must be run along more scientific lines.
The national liberation movement will have the same duty in colonization which the government of old Yugoslavia did after 1918. The best fighters in the movement have been recruited from the destitute regions south of the Sava and Danube, as well as from poor families north of these rivers. Thousands of peasant families will be demanding compensation for their destroyed property in villages razed to the ground in Bosnia and Hercegovina, Montenegro, Dalmatia, Lika, Banja, Croatia and Serbia and they will have to be compensated. The best possible reward for them would be land abandoned by the Germans, Hungarians and Albanians. But the mistakes which were made after 1918 must not be allowed to occur again. Property left behind by ethnic minorities must, first and foremost, be given to partisan fighters and to members of the national liberation movement in general. In this connection, we should adhere to the maxim that land be given only to those willing to work it. Land is, after all, a commodity and should not be speculated with. There is no room in the new Yugoslavia for spahi-type landowners. In old Yugoslavia, it often happened that volunteers would rent out their land instead of working it themselves.
In settling the Vojvodina, Kosovo and Metohija, we must adhere to a certain premise. The problem of the rural proletariat in Yugoslavia cannot be solved by giving everyone tiny plots of land. What we need more is rapid industrialization. The plains of the Vojvodina must not serve simply at the settling grounds for hundreds of thousands of hungry Montenegrin, Hercegovinian and Krajšnik peasants, but rather as an agricultural base for feeding the entire nation and for its industrialization. With this in mind, there are two approaches we could take in order to create a food surplus for the rest of the country: 1) We could set up larger entities in colonized villages, comprising 5 hectares. A good portion of their production could then be brought to market. 2) The government could retain for itself a considerable part of the land abandoned by the minorities and use it according to its own needs. The best would be a combination of these two approaches. I cannot underscore the importance of this issue enough. Lack of space prevents me from going into further detail.
Manufacturing and trades are just as important as agriculture, but they are problems which are much easier to solve. Manufacturing in the agricultural sector in the Vojvodina must be nationalized, as must all large companies which are hostile to the state. With trades, the situation is somewhat more difficult, but they must be nationalized too. Support can be given to native craftsmen and apprentices by allowing them to take over abandoned workshops.
Of paramount importance is that the colonization of land abandoned by national minorities be carried out in conformity with all international regulations and practices. We should therefore seek the approval of our Allies and endeavour right away to obtain a legal right to confiscate the property of hostile minorities. The government Commission on War Criminals should publicize material showing to the outside world and to our Allies what crimes the national minorities committed throughout our country. I made this proposal previously, but omitted it, and am introducing it again.
Organization of Activities
We have already stressed the importance of the ethnic cleansing of minorities in times of war. Accordingly, the role of the army takes on major significance in such activities. It is the armed forces who have the duty to expel minorities from our country. It is therefore essential that military commanders in the regions inhabited by the Hungarians receive precise instructions as to what is to be done and how it is to be done. It would be desirable for the Supreme Command of the National Liberation Army and partisan units to create a special department within their ranks whose duty it would be to carry out ethnic cleansing during wartime. This department should assemble a small number of experts and specialists in minority affairs from various regions. These people would provide the Supreme Command with requisite know-how and would prepare detailed proposals for dealing with the various minorities in our country during the war. After expelling the minorities, the armed forces would then have to guard abandoned facilities before the installment of a civilian authority. They could also ensure that the land be cultivated. This can only be accomplished if a special department is created, through which the work can be implemented. This department should remain within the purview of the armed forces even when the duties are later transferred to a ministry or given into trusteeship.
The complexity of activities involved in the expulsion of several million people and the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of our people in abandoned towns and villages requires the setting up of one further institution to supervise the whole campaign, and such an institution, ministry or commission, should be set up as soon as possible. After 1918, we had a ministry of agrarian reform whose duty it was to carry out reforms and thereby quench the thirst of our peasants for land. All in all, the ministry was not too badly organized. That it did not manage to fulfil its duties was due to the fact that too much bureaucracy was involved and that our nationally-minded political leaders were incompetent. I have had the opportunity since 1919 to follow up on the work accomplished by the staff of that ministry. They soon became corrupt and bureaucratic. The ministry continued to exist for years, but not to assist the colonists. It was simply there to sustain its employees. Experts have estimated that of the one billion dinars which old Yugoslavia earmarked for agrarian reform, only two hundred million were ever spent on the colonists. Eight hundred million dinars were swallowed up by government salaries. This waste must be avoided if we set up a new ministry for colonization. The job must not be entrusted to the current officials of the department for agrarian reform in the ministry of agriculture. New people must be hired who understand what is at stake and who will be ready and willing to devote all their time and energy to this enormous task. Once the ministry has been set up, and it will be a temporary institution by the way, officials from public offices and private companies should be appointed by means of special order. They should be given good salaries and promoted accordingly. No mercy should be shown to anyone involved in corruption. The risk of corruption has always been present and will continue to be present in affairs of this nature, especially where property belonging to millions of people is involved.
A thorough presentation of the organization of this ministry would take us beyond the scope of this report. For the time being, I only wish to stress that public employees should be selected with great care and national liberation committees should supervise the ministry’s work closely. These committees could be of great assistance in determining how the national minorities can best be expelled and how colonists can best be brought in. In any case, the federal government will have to transfer a great part of its work in certain regions to the national liberation committees. We should take this fact into consideration now, at a time when we are just beginning to elaborate our colonization policy. The scope of each institution’s activities must be fixed in advance. Continuation of this work is easily hindered by infighting over jurisdiction. For the moment, the most important institution on site, aside from the army, will be the national liberation committees. The enormous bitterness felt towards the national minorities by our people because of the atrocities they committed against us is being expressed throughout the country by an uncontrollable rage towards them. This hostility and the irrevocable wish of the masses of our people for the minorities to disappear must be utilized in a constructive manner. We must not let ourselves slip into anarchy and plundering. This rage must serve the goals of our nation, as presented above. Precise instructions must therefore be transmitted to all national liberation committees as soon as possible to tell them what to do and how they should go about it. These committees will be responsible for organizing the expulsions, but they must also take care that farm land continue to be cultivated and that abandoned properties, workshops and factories not be left unguarded. It would perhaps be a good idea for specialized units, from the village to the national level, to be created within such committees. Our people should be taught from the start to know their rights and their duties. So important is this issue, that it would be advisable for Marshal Tito, as Supreme Commander of the National Liberation Army, to issue instructions of his own to the army and to the national liberation committees in this respect. The matter is urgent, and the setting up of appropriate institutions takes time.
The national liberation committees could be just as useful in settling colonists in the abandoned villages as they are in cleansing the countryside of minorities. I have already stressed that one of the reasons for the failure of our colonization strategy from 1918 to 1941 was that land was given to people who had no interest in working it themselves. Such a mistake must not be repeated. We must come up with ways and means of finding the right peasants and homesteaders for colonization. Such people are not particularly mobile, but when they do move to a new locality, they become rooted there very quickly. The national liberation committees in the areas where potential colonists come from must find the right type of settlers for the new colonies. They must also take care to replace the shortages in skilled workers and craftsmen left in the Vojvodina by the expulsion of the Germans. They should be assisted in their work by experts, social groups, professional groups, co-operatives and trade unions. With the help of the latter, the job of expelling the whole population of a town becomes much easier.
I have set down here only the broad outlines of a strategy for the expulsion of national minorities and for the resettlement of the regions in question. There are a good number of other aspects which must be considered, too, but this would involve too much detail for the time being and can be left to a later date. For the moment, I would like to restrict myself to a number of immediate issues. War is still raging over our country as we discuss whether or not to expel the minorities and how to resettle the land. Reports are coming in from those parts of the country where military operations are still underway that our people are ruthlessly advancing upon the national minorities who were against us during the war. The rage of our people must be channelled without delay. What is most urgent for the moment are: 1) sending instructions to the army and to national liberation committees on what to do, 2) taking measures, with the assistance of the fraternal Soviet Army, to get support for the cleansing of the Germans and Hungarians, 3) taking measures to ensure that abandoned land be cultivated as autumn approaches and that factories and workshops be guarded, and 4) beginning at once with the resettlement of the abandoned towns and villages by our people. All plundering and manipulation of the property of such minorities must be subject to the threat of capital punishment.
These are measures which must be taken immediately. The rest of the work should begin as quickly as possible, too. I omitted to mention that it is essential for the property earmarked for colonists in towns and villages to be transferred into their names. Dirty tricks were played on the poor colonists under the old agrarian reform by unscrupulous officials and political opportunists. First, the land was distributed to the colonists and then it was taken away from them. Such things must be avoided at all costs. Property given to the peasants should be transferred into their names, as should houses and workshops. Whether or not the peasants join together and form co-operatives for collective farming is an entirely different matter. In my opinion, this would indeed be the best way to work the land with the help of modern farm machinery. Because of its importance, this issue merits further discussion. I wish only to stress that collective farming is easier to introduce in regions to be colonized.
This memorandum on the minority problem may have turned out a bit long, but the issue is of such importance to the future of our country that I was, more than anything, concerned about having omitted something. We may never again have such an opportunity to make our country ethnically pure. All other problems our country is currently facing, be they of a national, political, social or economic nature, fade in comparison. If we do not solve the minority problem now, we will never solve it. It is my hope that the leaders of the national liberation movement will assess this issue as I have, and will approach the problem with the same energy and self-sacrifice they exhibited when, in 1941, they plunged into the terrible war of liberation for the creation of a new, democratic and federal Yugoslavia. If this report can contribute even modestly to this lofty objective, its aim will have been fulfilled.
3 November 1944
[Taken from the typescript Manjinski problem u novoj Jugoslaviji. Retranslated from the Serbo-Croatian by Robert Elsie, on the basis of an existing English version. First published in R. Elsie, Gathering Clouds: the Roots of Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo and Macedonia, Dukagjini Balkan Books (Peja 2002), p. 149-170.]