ACTA SLAVICA IAPONICA
The Regional Problem and the Break-Up of the
The Case of Yugoslavia*
Copyright © 1998 by the Slavic Research Center.
) All rights reserved.
Regional Policies and Changes in the Institutional
Yugoslav regional policy was basically characterized by a twofold
reductionism: (a) by its primary (and since 1965 exclusive) focusing on
republics and provinces (as Yugoslav "regions"), and (b) by its
orientation towards less developed Yugoslav regions.4
The institutional framework for the resolution of the regional
problem underwent some changes: two basic stages of regional
development may be distinguished -up to 1965 and after 1965. A third
stage, deeply rooted in the past, can also be identified but it became
manifest only after the last year (1990) of the research period covered
by our study. At that stage the survival of Yugoslavia was placed at
the top of the agenda.
The concepts of Yugoslavia's development after World War II were
strongly inspired by ideology. For the concepts of regional development
the most important were the implications of the principle of
egalitarianism, with its policy manifestations in the form of
redistributive measures. However, in practice, the real power of
regions played a greater role in the implementation of regional policy
objectives than the ideologically founded pronouncements suggested.
For, not only thus "ideology has the power to transform social reality
only between certain limits and... when we ignore those limits we
produce the contrary of what was desired"(Louis Dumont5), but it was also used to justify
the regional interests that hid behind it.
Interest-based regional configurations under a highly formalized
decision-making procedure (such as consensus, for example) inevitably
resulted in the perpetuation of decisions and the compounding of
existing problems, particularly if the initial outcome of interest
coordination and harmonization was based on a bad political compromise.
The overpoliticization of regional questions prevented the resolution
of the actual problems of Yugoslavia's regional development. Not only
did it maintain the status quo in interregional relations but it also
contributed to the rigidification of regional policy (by rendering its
instruments anachronic and inefficient) and to its reductionist
interpretation as a policy of one region.
The multi-ethnic composition of the country, the federal state
system and considerable differences in the degree and structure of
economic development both between and within regions made equality the
fundamental strategic goal of Yugoslavia's regional development during
the whole period after 1945. Equal regional development was considered
not only as conducive, in the long run, to the optimum development of
the entire Yugoslav economy but also as an essential condition for the
achievement of social equality ("providing working people and citizens
with equal opportunities for work and living") and national equality.
The last forty or so years have seen a considerable change in views
about the basic determinants of the strategic goals of regional
development: amended or redefined by new constitutions, (cooperative)
federalism was combined with elements of (conflict-causing)
confederalism, national equality was gradually identified with the
equality of republics and provinces. There were also major shifts in
the emphases of the components of general development (social -
national, political - economic, etc.), while in the economic sphere
both the concept of development and the institutional framework
(centrally planned economy, market-planned economy, self-management
agreement economy, etc.) underwent fundamental changes. All this, in
addition to other factors (e.g. those of a strategic nature -"strategic
territories"as "priority regions"), resulted in the fact that the basic
goal of regional development was in certain phases realized in
different ways, i.e. in a different (social, political, economic, etc.)
In economic terms, until 1965 the basic objective of the policy of
regional development -the rapid development of all, accompanied by a
faster development of underdeveloped regions -had been pursued within a
mainly sectorally defined Yugoslav optimum, where the development
objectives of a region were set according to the development objectives
of the country as a whole. After 1965, this territorially coordinated
goal system was gradually replaced by a territorially uncoordinated
goal system. The latter allowed republics -as sovereign agents in the
Yugoslav economic environment -to pursue separate development
objectives which may have (but most often did not) corresponded to the
images of the overall objective.