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.
The efficiency of regional development, in the broadest sense,
should be evaluated by the sum total of all the results and costs of a
region's development. Besides investments that were essential for the
achievement of certain results there were unnecessary costs as well.
This wasteful spending, as a consequence of a negative politicization
of regional development, particularly in underdeveloped regions, gave
rise to social parasitism and led to a cultural disorientation in
development and eventually, since the process was a lasting one, to the
so-called parasitic involution.
The political monopoly of the Yugoslav communist party was one of
the three main factors which determined economic policy in general and
regional policy in particular. The other two were the federal state
structure, mostly rooted in ethnic differences, and economic planning
(of the command, indicative, pseudoindicative i.e. self-management
agreement type). The debate about party control was focused on the
principles of the party's organization (especially the principle of
democratic centralism) under the conditions of legislative
decentralization of society. The federal state structure raised two
questions: of the distribution of power among the federation and
federal units and of the distribution of power between regional and
local authorities and economic enterprises. On top of the traditional
debate about the relative efficiency of centralized versus
decentralized planning mechanisms, economic planning opened the issue
of the development priorities of certain republics and of the level and
the objectives of regional policy.
The evolution of the postwar economic policy reflects the quest for
a compromise between and within the following dimensions of the
political structure: centralized political and economic power was
constantly in conflict with the legislative decentralization, the
decentralization of corporate governance ("self-management
socialism"gave rise to political promotion of the "autonomy"of the
workplace), as well as with the distributive and redistributive
regional policies. As this conflict proved basically unproductive, the
compromise that was reached may be considered a "bad compromise"in
After many unsuccessful attempts the Yugoslavia of the 1980s was
presented with the dramatic question of whether to become "a serious
and responsible society"with clearly defined rules of conduct. In other
words, the problem of a transition from a pseudo-political to an
authentic (pluralistic) political condition presented itself. This also
implied a transition from a pseudo-legal to a legal environment as well
as from a pseudo-economic to an economic environment. The result was an
open (previously latent) general crisis, whose integral part (or more
precisely, mirror) was a crisis of regional development.
Does this mean that the fundamental, strategic objective of
regional policy (an even regional development) was merely one of the
(utopian) illusions of a revolutionary and ideologized society? The
illusion was dispelled when the external sources of finance for the
Yugoslav "experiment"dried up and the issue of postrevolutionary
was placed on the agenda. Indeed, two questions, stripped of their
regional or rather regionalist cloak, in which they had frequently been
wrapped throughout the postwar period, were brought out into the open:
- What is a republic -a region or a national state?
People living in a republic developed a consciousness about their
territory as a political entity, since their region was either once an
independent state or aspired to become. Additionally, the republics had
legal guarantees for this, especially under the 1974 Constitution.
Moreover, the self-assertion of republics was reinforced by autarkic
practices stemming from Stalinist and Kardeljist economic theories.
- What is Yugoslavia -a common and lasting framework for
answering the "national questions"of Yugoslav nations or a provisional
establishment, a waiting-room in which everyone was hoping to grab an
opportunity for their separate solutions or the achievement of
"thousand-year-old dreams"of state sovereignty?
All this had already been strikingly evident (particularly since
1965) in the philosophy of regional development in the form of: (a) a
refusal to accept the need for regional policy on the federal level;
and (b) double standards -one regional logic was applied on the federal
level, another on the republican. An illustrative example is the
operationalization of equality as the principle that underlied the
long-term, strategic goal of regional development. With reference to
territory and space this goal was defined as an evenness of regional
development, while with reference to the citizen, social or ethnic
group -as equality. How was territorial, national, social, civil (or
whatever) equality to be achieved through instruments and objectives of
regional policy? With great difficulty, of course, particularly insofar
as, by an impossible simplification, the republic, nation and state
were equated. What were the chances of achieving national equality on
the part of the members of the Yugoslav nations who lived outside the
"mother"republic, especially when they were unable to act as subjects
on the level of the collective?