"Ever since I heard my high school teacher say the word, 'Sarajevo', many years ago, the word and place have had a certain fascination for me," American professor John Pushkarsh Jr. of 2 Long Vue Drive, Uniontown, Pennsylvania told 'The Evening Standard' back in January 1977. Between November 20 and December 6 1976, the associate professor of political science at California State College "spent 16 enchanting days traveling throughout Yugoslavia, a country of beauty and diversity" during his sabbatical leave to study workers' councils in Yugoslavia. 

In 1918, following World War I which was triggered by the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, two empires fell - the Austria-Hungary Empire and the Ottoman Empire. As a result, 6 Balkan republics (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Montenegro) and two provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo joined to form a constitutional federation (or single state) called Yugoslavia (meaning southern Slavs).

Yugoslav society saw "an overlay of Germanic, oriental and Byzantine culture that shook up the tribes and recombined them in new ways." Henry Kissinger believed Yugoslavia was "a country of the geographic and strategic importance." Paul Lendvai elaborated, "A glance at the map shows that the existence of a truly independent, non-aligned Yugoslavia is an essential factor in the balance of power in Europe and especially in the Mediterranean.

"In short, Yugoslavia's position is of vital interest to the eastern flank of Western defense. Since 1948, Marshal Josip Broz Tito has played a part in world politics out of all proportion to the size and resources of his country. (But) Yugoslavia is skating on a thin ice in its policy toward the Middle East crisis. It may be said that Tito has attempted a role in the Third World far beyond the capacity of the resources of his country."

At the time of his visit in 1976, Professor John Pushkarsh Jr. noted a trend toward Yugoslav nationalism rather than ethnic separatism. However Hal Piper of 'The Baltimore Sun' made the observation in 1978, "Separatist dreams still exist inside Yugoslavia and among émigrés outside." Yugoslavia was described as an amalgam of different nationalities (in total 8 - comprised Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians, Bosnian Muslims, Albanians, Hungarians and Montenegrins).

The nation was divided by different languages (6 spoken at the time), religions (3 counted - Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim) and ancient rivalries. It was reported "the ancient Illyrians were the forebears of the Montenegrin tribes." And before World War I, Yugoslavia was under the Ottoman Empire's control for 500 years (or since 1389).  It was highlighted the 6 years between 1966 and 1972 marked a period called 'anarcho-liberalist' when more churches were built under the Yugoslav Communist Party than in the entire period between World War I and World War II.

As reported, "Yugoslavia is the hardest country in all Europe to unify. No other is divided so many ways by such complex cultural and ethnic differences going back even to the time Constantine divided the Roman Empire (330AD). The Dalmatian Coast (in Croatia) was left in the Western empire speaking Latin. The interior of much of what is now (in 1976) Yugoslavia went to the Eastern empire speaking Greek.

"Since then it has been divided and redivided between Latins and Slavs, between Christians and Muslims, between Turkey and the Austrian Empire. The dividing lines criss-cross. Today (in 1976) there are in Yugoslavia Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholic Christians, Communists and many varieties of unbelievers including prosperous peasants and successful private enterprises."

Yugoslavia became a Federal People's Republic on November 29, 1945 and in 1948 broke with Russia. Born in the same year as Generalissimo Francisco Franco (1892), Marshal Josip Broz Tito was to Yugoslavia what Mao Tse-tung was to China – a mixture of folk hero, boss, and king. Josip Broz Tito was described as the glue holding Yugoslavia together, a symbol of national unity for a nation of diversity. It was mentioned, "There is a standard joke in Yugoslavia's federal capital, Belgrade: 'If Italy has no government, Yugoslavia has no Yugoslavs.'"

According to the 1975 government figures, the total population of Yugoslavia stood at 21,360,000, of which 44% were Serbs. However in the Serbian province of Kosovo – the birthplace of Serbians' culture - 74% were Albanians. Foreign news analyst, Scott Aiken, reported in 1974, "Yugoslavia has prospered under Communist rule. Tito has endorsed a kind of socialist industrial democracy, a state-controlled economy based on private profit and decentralization of economic control and a spreading of prosperity."

During his trip, Professor John Pushkarsh Jr. remarked, "Communism in Yugoslavia is not the harsh, repressive type you find in the Soviet Union and in the Soviet satellite countries. Having been in the Soviet Union, I can say that by comparison, Yugoslavia is a paradise. There were no restrictions on my travels in Yugoslavia." In 1971, at 79 years of age, Marshal Tito knew he did not have long to live, began looking to the future of a unified Yugoslavia.

As Associated Press reported in 1996, "Tito tried to bequeath his country a constitution that would hold it together after his death. The (1974) constitution - the world's longest and most complex – created a 9-member federal presidency with a seat for each republic, two more for two Serbian provinces and other for the powerful Yugoslav People's Army."

It was also reported in 1971, "Marshal Tito issued a set of directives aimed at staunching a trend toward decentralization in both the Yugoslav state and Communist party. A series of 21 constitutional amendments have completed a process of gradual decentralization of Yugoslavia to the point where Croatia – and the other republics - have virtual freedom to run their own affairs."

One Croat scholar told 'United Press International' in 1971, "Since the war we have been robbed by Belgrade. We are Yugoslavia's richest republic that has a favorable trade balance. And for years, we've been able to keep only 7% of the dollars we earn. The rest goes to Belgrade. Why should we support the rest of Yugoslavia? Our place is in Central Europe, not Eastern Europe, and we've been held back. Zagreb's population has tripled since the war to 600,000, and we haven’t had the money to build one new hospital.

"You can wait 10 years for a new apartment. It’s a lie that we want to be separate. But now (by 1971) we have a chance to run our own affairs and we've never been so full of hope. I'm a Croat first, a Yugoslav after. I hope Yugoslavia survives, but my loyalties are to Croatia." One Croat economist expressed, "We don't want to be more prosperous than the rest of Eastern Europe. We're not in Eastern Europe. We want to be as prosperous as Western Europe." Another, a Croat politician remained hopeful, "It's clear to all of us that we can be independent only if we stay together, I hope – I think – we can do it."

'The Economist of London' reported at the time, "Yugoslavia today (in 1974) has the look of a stable country firmly ruled from the center. Yugoslavia has come a long way, the only Communist nation to develop in a goldfish bowl, intensely watched by the Western world. It has done well in terms of its economy and world influence." However Edward Magri maintained, "Some fear Tito's death may unleash disrupting forces that have been dormant during his 3 decades of rule (1945-1980).

"There seems to be no single man influential enough to inherit Tito's unchallenged role and popularity, but he has devised an intricate machinery in an attempt to get around this while accomodating interests of the various national groups." One Yugoslav in Zagreb told Associated Press at the time, "Once Tito's charisma is no longer here, who can guarantee that the party can maintain control?"

To explain Montenegro, one Montenegrin scholar told the outside world in 1971, "We are really Serbs … but not Serbians, if you can understand this subtle difference. But we also have a curiously passionate attachment to Russia, the mother country of the Slavs – not the Soviets but the Russians. An old saying in our country goes: '500,000 Montenegrins and the Russians make up the mightiest nation in the world.' That is our own little nationalistic conceit."

At the time one girl guide in a Cetinje Museum let the outside world knew, "All our lives we have heard little else but the stories from our grandfathers about the battles with the Turks and the French and the Austrians, and from our fathers about the partisan war against Italians and the Germans. We are very rich in history and it makes us proud. But we are very poor in everything else and we are very backward in this day of modern technology. Now (in 1971) we want to catch up with the rest of the world."

A visitor from the outside world to Belgrade in 1978 made the comment, "The only difference I can see between a Serb and a Croat is that in the days of religion Serbs used to be Orthodox and Croats used to be Catholic. That means that Serbs use the Cyrillic alphabet and Croats the Latin. But they're the same race, speak the same language and have most of the same history."

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