Kosta Nikolić, PhD
Institute for Contemporary History
Belgrade, Republic of Serbia



Vol. XXXVIII, 1/2020, pp. 9–34



In Serbian history, the twentieth century represents a dynamic period in which the state dramatically changed its borders, disappeared and reappeared on a couple of occasions, investing its former statehood into the Yugoslav project. Such changes had a deep impact on the development of the society and its features, with violence as a worrying, yet constant trait. With its democratic structures never fully built during the 20th century, Serbia remained a non-stratified and underdeveloped society, characterized by serious deficits in its legal order. Oscillating between dictatorship and democracy, Serbian society experienced several authoritarian regimes, often with devastating consequences. These regimes fostered fragile institutions, an unfinished state, and an underdeveloped society. Occasional attempts to jump-start Serbian society and move it from the European periphery through shortcuts and sideways led to unsuccessful outcomes.

Historical experience has shown that Serbian modern history rarely revolved around the individual, as clear prevalence was given to “the people”. The domination of this collective principle did not completely exclude individualism, but hardly centered around it. The individual was always forced to fit into the collective frame, as a member of a family, a people, and a nation. The principle of “popular sovereignty” materialized as the myth of the nation as an ultimate legitimization for exercising power. “The people” was conceptualized as a collective factor whose “will” is a final and unlimited principle of organization of political community.


KEYWORDS: The Balkans, South Slavs, Serbian Nation, Identity, Religion, Ideocracy, Ethnic Conflicts, Disintegration



  • Bulatović, Marko. “Struggling with Yugoslavism: Dilemmas of Interwar Serb Political Thought”. In: Ideologies and National Identities. The Case of Twentieth-Century. Edited by John Lampe and Mark Mazower, 254–268. Budapest and New York: Central European University Press, 2004.
  • Ćirković, M. Sima. The Serbs. Carlton, Australia: Blackwel Publishing, 2004.
  • Dimitrijević, Nenad. „Srbija kao nedovršena država“. Reč, (15. mart 2003), 5–20.
  • Dragnich, N. Alex. The first Yugoslavia. Search for a Viable Political System. Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, 1983.
  • Dragnich, N. Alex. “The Anatomy of a Myth: Serbian hegemony”. Slavic Review, volume 50, no. 3, (1991), 659–662.
  • Duijzings, Ger. Religion and the Politics of Identity in Kosovo. London: Hurst & Company, 2000.
  • Djilas, Aleksa. The Contested Country. Yugoslav Unity and Communist revolution 19191953. London: Harvard University Press Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1991.
  • Djokić, Dejan. “(Dis)integrating Yugoslavia: King Alexander and Interwar Yugoslavism”. In: Histories of a Failed Idea 1918–1992. Editor Dejan Djokić, 136–156. London: Hurst & Company, 2003.
  • Dragović Soso, Jasna. Saviours of the Nation: Serbia’s intellectual opposition and the revival of nationalism. London: Hurst-Company, 2002.
  • Gill, Graeme. Symbols and Legitimacy in Soviet Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • Haug, Hilde Katrine. Creating a Socialist Yugoslavia. Tito, Communists Leadership and the National Question. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2012.
  • Hejden, Robert. Skice za podeljenu kuću. Ustavna logika jugoslovenskih sukoba. Beograd: Samizdat B92, 2003.
  • Ideocracies in Comparison. Legitimation-cooptation-repression. Edited by Uwe Backes and Steffen Kailitz. New York: Routledge, 2016.
  • Jović, Dejan. “Communist Yugoslavia and Its ‘Others’”. In: Ideologies and National Identities. The Case of Twentieth-Century. Edited by John Lampe and Mark Mazower, 277–290. Budapest and New York: Central European University Press, 2004.
  • Jović, Dejan. Yugoslavia: A state that Withered Away. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2009.
  • Jović, Dejan. „1989: godina koja nam se nije dogodila“. Politička misao.
  • Miller, Nick. Non-Conformists: Culture, Politics and Nationalism in Serbian Intellectual Circles 1944–1991. New York: Central European University Press, 2007.
  • Mitrović, Andrej. “The Yugoslav Question, the First World War and the Peace Conference, 1914–1920”. In: Histories of a Failed Idea 1918–1992. Editor Dejan Djokić, 42–56. London: Hurst & Company, 2003.
  • Mitrović, Andrej. Serbia’s Great War 19141918. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2007.
  • Mojzes, Paul. “The role of religious communities in the development of civil society in Yugoslavia 1945–1992”. In: State-society relations in Yugoslavia 1945–1992. Edited by Melissa K. Bokovoy, Jill A. Irvine, and Carol S. Lilly, 211–234. New York: St. Martin’s Press 1997.
  • Naumović, Slobodan. Upotreba tradicije u političkom i javnom životu Srbije na kraju 20. i početkom 21. veka. Beograd: Institut za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju, IP Filip Višnjić, 2009.
  • Nielsen, Christian Axboe. Making Yugoslavs. Identity in King Aleksandar’s Yugoslavia. Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto press, 2014.
  • Nikolić, Kosta. „Osma sednica – kraj borbe za Titovo nasleđe u Srbiji“.In: Slobodan Milošević put ka vlastiOsma sednica CK SK Srbije – uzroci, tok i posledice. Edited by Momčilo Pavlović, Dejan Jović and Vladimir Petrović, 121–148. Beograd: Institut za savremenu istoriju; Stirling: Centar za proučavanje evropskog susedstva, 2008.
  • Nikolić, Kosta. Srbija u Titovoj Jugoslaviji 1941–1980. Beograd: Zavod za udžbenike, 2011.
  • Nikolić Kosta, i Ivana Dobrivojević. “Creating a Communist Yugoslavia in the Second World War”. Balcanica, XLVIII, (2017), 243–267.
  • Pavković, Aleksandar. The fragmentation of Yugoslavia. Nationalism and War in the Balkans. Second edition. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.
  • Piekalkiewicz Jaroslaw, and Alfred Wayne Penn. Politics of Ideocracy. New York: State University of New York Press, 1995.
  • Perica, Vjekoslav. Balkan Idols. Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Perović, Latinka. „Teško breme odgovornosti “, Reč, 62, (8. jun 2001), 85–90.
  • Pešić Milena, i Aleksandar Novaković. „Problem identiteta i multikulturalizam”. Srpska politička misao, 2, (2010), 141–164.
  • Pešić, Vesna. „Rat za nacionalne države“, in: Srpska strana rata. Trauma i katarza u istorijskom pamćenju, I. Edited by Nebojša Popov, 29–86. Beograd: Samizdat B92, second edition, 2002.
  • Radan, Peter. “Constitutional Experimentation and the National Question in Interwar Yugoslavia”. Istorija 20. veka, 3, (2011), 25–38.
  • Radić, Radmila. „Crkva i ‘srpsko pitanje’“. In: Srpska strana rata. Trauma i katarza u istorijskom pamćenju, I. Edited by Nebojša Popov, 301–339. Beograd: Samizdat B92, second edition, 2002.
  • Schnapper, Dominique. “Les sens de l’ethnico-religieux“, (1). Archives des sciences sociales des religions, 81, (1993), 149–163.
  • Schwarzmantel, John. “Nation versus class: nationalism and socialism in theory and practice”. In: John Oakley (ed.), The Social Origin of Nationalist Movements: The Contemporary West European Experience, 45–61. London: Sage, 1992.
  • Smith D. Anthony. National identity. Reno Las Vegas: University of Nevada Press, 1991.
  • Sotiropoulou, Angeliki. The role of ethnicity in ethnic conflicts: The case of Yugoslavia. Athens: Hellenic Foundation for Defence and Foreign Policy, 2004.
  • Škiljan, Filip. „Identitet Srba u Hrvatskoj“. Politička misao, 2, (2014), 111–135.
  • Timotijević, Miloš. Vek sumnje. Religioznost u čačanskom kraju 1886–2008. Čačak: Narodni muzej, 2009.
  • Wachtel Andrew, and Christopher Bennett. “The Dissolution of Yugoslavia”. In: Confronting the Yugoslav Controversies. Edited by Charles Ingrao and Thomas A. Emmet, second edition, 12–47. Washington, D. C., West Lafayette, Indiana: United States Institute of Peace Press, Perdue University Press, 2013.
  • Vladisavljević, Nebojša. Serbia’s Antibureaucratic Revolution: Milošević, the Fall of Communism and Nationalist Mobilization. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
  • Vrcan, Srdjan. “The War in Former Yugoslavia and Religion”. Religion, State and Society, vol. 22, no. 4, (1994), 367–378.
  • Young, Jason Richard. Nationalism and Ethnicity as Identity Politics in Eastern Europe and the Basque Country. Vancouver: The University of British Columbia, 2008.