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Yugoslavia and the issue of Trieste 1945-1954.


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Tenca Montini, Federico. (2018). Yugoslavia and the issue of Trieste 1945-1954.. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of History.
(Dottorato in cotutela internazionale = Međunarodni dvojni doktorat znanosti. PDS Moderne i suvremene hrvatske povijesti u europskom i svjetskom kontekstu.) [mentor Jakovina, Tvrtko and Iuso, Pasquale].

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In the phase of construction and strengthening of the communist regime, ranging from the last months of the Second World War to the expulsion of the country from the Cominform, Yugoslavia challenged the Western Powers in every possible way. The foreign policy pursued by Tito, especially around territorial issues, was definitively aggressive in nature, This was also due to the support of the Soviet Union, which was soon to be proved less firm than it was initially supposed. The style of Yugoslavia’s foreign policy was certainly meant to look different in style than the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, whose international weakness had been a stable source of discontent. It was clear that by proving successful in defending the national issues the regime wanted to gain the support of the masses, which otherwise looked at communism with skepticism. For this reason Yugoslavia did put every effort to liberate Trieste, Gorizia, most of the Venezia Giulia region and Klagenfurt where a Slovene minority was also present. When the firm attitude of the Anglo-Americans convinced the Soviets to pressure the Yugoslavs to talk, they reluctantly agreed to move their troops beyond the so called “Morgan line”, still hoping to conveniently address the issue with the talks planned in Belgrade and Duino. As the subsequent agreements didn’t meet Yugoslavia’s expectations, every effort was then made to influence the outcome of the Paris Peace conference. Naïve as it may sound, the Yugoslav elite took the challenge quite seriously. Besides trying to address the conference’s proceedings, a big commitment was made to influence the public opinion of the countries involved in the works, especially France where some of the members of the Yugoslav delegation (especially Ambassador Ristić and professor Roglić) retained personal contacts established in the Thirties already. While the works of the Peace conference were still under way, the logic of the Cold war was developing quickly. One can agree with Valdevit’s statement that the Peace conference has been «a stage of secondary importance of the American foreign policy»1 left to the former Secretary of State James Francis Byrnes. This explains why the main outcome of the Conference concerning the issue of Trieste, the creation of the Trieste Free Territory, looked a lot like the solutions for disputed areas, such as Danzig and the Memel territory, which were approved after the end of the First World War. Apart for the Free territory of Trieste Yugoslavia did benefit by the mediation of France, which proposed a compromise between the different border proposals submitted by the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Kingdom in order the achieve the Soviet support in the dispute France had with Germany over the Saar region. Soon after the signing of the Peace treaty on February the 10th 1947 it became clear already that the FTT was never to be translated into reality. Announced on March the 12th 1947, the Truman doctrine showed that the Antifascist coalition had definitely come already to an end. For this reason the USA and the UK boycotted the appointment of the Governor, which was the ultimate step towards the activation of the FTT. Their aim was to keep the Territory on hold, which would have given to the Western troops already present in the area the right to police the southern sector of the Iron Curtain. For the opposite reason – to get rid of Western troops at the borders of one of its allies - the Soviet Union supported the appointment of the Governor, a strategy which also Yugoslavia, albeit half-heartedly (it would have lost control over the “B Zone”), also pursued. During this time the Italian communist party was standing at a crossroad between its participation to the government of Italy and its loyalty to Moscow. To get rid of the dilemma Togliatti came up with the idea to solve the border issue through direct talks with Tito. The outcome of such talks, known by the name of the Tito – Togliatti agreement, was the proposal to give Gorizia to Yugoslavia in exchange for Trieste, which would have been immediately transferred to Italy. The proposal had no success in Italy. If accepted, it would have struck a blow to the prowestern orientation of the country’s foreign policy, an event the centre-right could not permit. In any case a similar agreement was presented by Togliatti once again in 19482 , soon after the Western Powers had released a joint statement, the Tripartite Declaration, hoping the handover to Italy of the whole FTT. In Italy the Tripartite declaration – which, without the consent of the Soviet Union, was clearly void – started a trend of exploitation of the Trieste issue in order to gain political support for the political parties of the right. Like the Declaration issued on March the 20th 1948 was meant to influence the outcome of the upcoming general elections, so the negotiations which took place in the years to come were all connected to the domestic policy of Italy. In the end of the day the line followed by De Gasperi embodies the sacrifice of the border issue and relations with Yugoslavia for the sake of political consensus. When, after the expulsion from the Cominform, Yugoslavia’s position on the stage of the Cold War begun improving steadily, Italy took no action to favorably get rid of the Trieste issue, which stood on hold for years. This state of things lasted until the formation of the Pella government in the summer of 1953, a government whose formation was clearly devoted to the finding of a solution to the issue of Trieste after it had become clear that the situation had to be addressed before Yugoslavia’s position was to further strengthen. Coming to Yugoslavia, the comparatively little success at the North was compensated, after the end of the Second World War, by the aggressive foreign policy implemented in the South. At the time the Greek partisans enjoyed full Yugoslav operational support. This happened because if a communist regime was to take power in Greece thank to Yugoslavia, the latter could claim the Greek part of Macedonia. At the same time Albania, or, to put it down as Vladimir Velebit did in an interview released in the late Nineties, «the Albanian communists, [who were] as children fully depending by Yugoslav assistance since the days when Popović, Mugoša and Tempo had created their communist party»3 enjoyed the status of a semi-colony. The country had no full control over its borders. Yugo-Albanian joint companies were also started following the example of the Soviet Union in its satellites. In this context, on August the 1st 1947 it was signed the Bled agreement, also known as the Tito – Dimitrov agreement. It was a pact of friendship and co-operation between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia meant to evolve towards the inclusion of the first in the Yugoslav federation. The plan was that Bulgaria was to cede its part of the geographic region of Macedonia to the Yugoslav republic of the same name. Also Albania had to join such enlarged Yugoslavia. It was to get Kosovo in return for the favor4 . The Yugoslav projects of hegemony in the Balkans, together with the aggressive policy towards the West5 , are the real reason behind the expulsion of the country from the Comintern, which has been formalized on June the 28th 1948. The Tito-Stalin split had obviously important consequences for the internal and foreign politics of Yugoslavia. It was also an event of first importance in the history of the Cold War. Sticking to the Trieste issue, it had important effects both in loco and at the international level. In the Free territory of Trieste the more obvious consequence was the split of the local communist party, which resulted in two communist parties. The first and most influential, pro Italian, was guided by the charismatic figure Vittorio Vidali. The other, pro Yugoslav, was guided by Branko Babič. At the international political level, the exclusion of Yugoslavia from the list of satellites of the Soviet Union had the effect to “freeze” the Tripartite Declaration which had been issued only three months before. The Western Powers needed some time to develop a new and more balanced approach over the issue of Trieste. The move towards the West of Yugoslavia – a move with no viable alternative – begun to show its effects since late 1949, once it was clear not only that the split between Tito a Stalin was not a joke, but also that the first was able to withstand the pressure from the latter’s hostility. Between the end of 1949 and the first months of 1950 Yugoslavia received the first loans granted by world leading banks thank to the intervention of the USA. Economic assistance intensified towards the end of the year, when the Mutual defence aid program was signed. With such a move Yugoslavia became the first socialist country to receive American funding in the frame of the NATO, or, to borrow the title of one of Tvrtko Jakovina’s books, the American socialist ally. The better relations between Yugoslavia and the West, which, besides loans and weapons, also exposed the people of Yugoslavia to western cultural influences, did not concern Italy. Because of the issue of Trieste relations between the two countries mirrored - to a lesser extent - those between Yugoslavia and the East. The atmosphere in the border area stood tense, frequent press campaigns were organized to attack the other country and diplomats worked in total isolation both in Belgrade and Rome. The case of Vladimir Velebit, Ambassador of Yugoslavia in Rome in 1952, stands symbolic. Anyhow, as a consequence of the help received, Yugoslavia made with time some political concessions to the West. Political propaganda was moderated in its anti western tones and also the policy towards the Catholic Church got tempered, so that the Archbishop of Zagreb Stepinac, who was in jail since 1946, was granted house arrest towards the end of 1951. Also in the matter of the Trieste issue it was decided to move some steps in order to meet the desire of the Western powers, which was to see the relations between Italy and Yugoslavia improve. As the two countries were part of the same “side”, it was rational for them to cooperate at least in the military field, in case of a Soviet attack on the West. The first of such “steps” was made in 1949 already, when a Yugoslavia still in state of emergency introduced the idea that the Free Territory of Trieste could be partitioned between the two bordering countries. Things developed in 1950 with a programme of negotiations between the Italian Minister of the Foreign Affairs Sforza and the Ambassador of Italy to Yugoslavia Martino and their Yugoslav counterparts Kardelj and Iveković. The fact that the Western Powers were reluctant to put a strong pressure on the two contenders determined the failure of the talks, which stopped at a very early stage. It is true that while Italy still stuck to the Tripartite Declaration, Yugoslavia at least continued to offer some form of partition of the disputed land. At the same time there are elements which suggest that Yugoslavia just wanted to show that it was “playing its role” and blame only Italy for the breakdown of the talks. In such a game Yugoslavia was helped by Italy’s unwillingness to compromise beyond a shadow of a doubt. The next – and more official - round of talks on Trieste happened in Paris in the months between 1951 and 1952. The negotiators appointed were Bebler and Guidotti, delegate of Italy to the United Nations. Many important international events had strengthened Yugoslavia’s negotiation position in the last year and half. The most important was certainly the outbreak of the Korea war. Because of the dynamics of that conflict, many believed that Yugoslavia would be the next victim of the Soviet Union. For this reason Yugoslavia was admitted to membership in the Mutual defence aid program. As a consequence of the new importance of Yugoslavia, on March 1951 the Western powers issued a statement hoping that the Trieste issue may be solved through direct negotiations between Italy and Yugoslavia, de facto infringing the Tripartite Declaration on the anniversary of its announcement. In the following months both the American and English diplomacies undertook surveys to determine if, instead of dividing the FTT in its zones of occupation, it was possible to address the issue through land exchanges. The move was appreciated by the Yugoslav leadership as an additional tool to jeopardize the diplomatic process around Trieste without carrying any responsibility for its failure. The Yugoslav approach to the negotiations held between 1951 and 1952 was then to show itself open to all of the different approaches the Western Powers had tried so far, proposing now one, now the other. The Paris negotiation stands important because there two new “solutions” made their appearance. The first was the request of an access to the sea for Yugoslavia in the suburbs of Trieste, an idea that would be submitted again in subsequent negotiations. The second solution was the activation of the FTT on condition that instead of by the Governor the Territory would be governed by Italy and Yugoslavia alternating. After the failure of the Paris negotiation Yugoslavia achieved another success. It was managed to resize the placing of Italian employees into the management bodies of the AngloAmerican occupational zone of the FTT as a move meant to solve the Trieste issue with the de facto partition of the FTT. During the summer of 1952 Tito in person circumvented the attempt made by the Western Powers to put pressure on Yugoslavia in order to bring the problem of the border with Italy to an end. After that, the issue was raised once again by the Foreign Secretary of the Unied Kingdom Anthony Eden, during the visit he paid to Yugoslavia in September. The Italian historiography tends to put the focus on the fact that during Eden’s visit Tito and Kardelj accepted the partitioning of the FTT provided the measure would be presented as an imposition of the Western Powers. The extensive research made on Yugoslav documents proves that the Yugoslav leadership agreed to Eden’s proposal only after much insistence. The meeting specifically devoted to the issue was summoned upon his request. It is also to be noted that not later that the very next day Brilej already resurrected the approach based on the access to the sea for Yugoslavia in the suburbs of Trieste when talking with the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Yugoslavia Dixon. Despite Yugoslavia’s reluctance, it is probably true that if the Western Powers were to impose the solution soon after Eden’s visit, Tito would have accepted it. It was not the case. The United State’s diplomacy was not able to play such a move in the run-up to the 1952 presidential election, which was won by General Dwight D. Eisenhower on November the 4th. The question arises of whether Tito and his comrades ran a bluff to Eden assuming the proposal wouldn't have a future. It was probably the case. At the turn of 1952 and 1953 two major events further strengthened Yugoslavia’s international position. The first was the military talks with the Western Powers which took place in the month of November 1952. Their aim was to harmonize Yugoslavia’s strategic plans with the ones of the NATO. Although unsuccessful, the talks well symbolize the levels achieved in cooperation between Yugoslavia and the West. The second and most important event was the signing, on February the 28th 1953, of the Balkan Pact. This was basically a pact of friendship and cooperation between Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey. Despite the absence of military clauses – Greece and Turkey were NATO members and their defensive plans were a military secret the Pact was significant in its positive impact on the economy of Yugoslavia. Furthermore, the Western Powers gave green light to its ratification despite Italy’s firm opposition. The country’s Prime Minister, Alcide De Gasperi, had also tried – to no effect - to put pressure on Greece to convince it not to sign the Pact. Even assuming that Yugoslavia would have agreed to be bended to the NATO in early 1952 if the West didn’t oppose it, things were to change in a matter of days. Just one week after the signing of the Balkan Pact the death of Stalin came to create fresh opportunities for Yugoslavia’s foreign policy. Despite the Yugoslav elite did its best to reassure its Western partners that no reproaching with the Soviet Union was looming on the horizon, the first steps in the direction of a different and more balanced relationship with Moscow were taken pretty soon. Diplomatic and economic relations were also quickly, although with a certain diffidence and not to full extent, restored. During Tito’s visit to London, two weeks after Stalin’s death, Tito refused to solve the issue of Trieste according to Eden’s proposal of September 1952. He proposed in return the usual mix of inconsistent approaches to the problem, including direct talks with Italy. Another step moved by the American diplomacy during the spring was similarly bypassed. After the Italian general election in June 1953, at a time when Yugoslavia possibly believed it had reached the peak of its international standing, the Yugoslav leadership briefly considered it might be able to get Trieste somehow, perhaps in the form of a joint administration with Italy which had been mentioned for the first time in early 1951. In retrospect, looking at the adverse reactions such proposal prompted by the Western Powers ever since, this hope looks unrealistic. In any case the documents on the issue produced by the Yugoslav state apparatus in the summer of 1953 leave little space for doubt. In one of them it is clearly stated for instance that «in the new phase of the Cold War it is possible for Yugoslavia to address the issue of Trieste successfully, what is like to say so that the A Zone will not be given to Italy but will instead remain, or, more correctly, become neutral and linked to Yugoslavia».It can be assumed that, at least as regards the issue of Trieste, the successes achieved by Yugoslavia on the international stage made the Yugoslav elite suffer from excessive optimism. The consequences in the field of diplomacy of the election of Eisenhower as President of the United States was perhaps not properly assessed. The new Secretary of State John Foster Dulles adopted an approach less sympathetic to Yugoslavia than his predecessor. As Bekić puts it down, for Dulles «it was preferable that Yugoslavia remained what it has been so far. Not the vanguard of Europen communism neither a Trojan horse in the Western block (..) but insted in a position of amoral neutrality»6 . This was the framework when the Bipartite Delcaration of October the 8th 1953 went out to the light. The Declaration was the announcment of the upcoming withdrawal of Western troops from the Anglo-American zone of the Free Territory of Trieste. To make the thing even worse, the Declaration contained no guarantee over the B Zone for Yugoslavia, and was for this reason interpreted by Yugoslavia as a treason. In any case the Yugoslav elite didn’t take long to recover from disappointment. Like Bekić writes, «the political crisis (which followed ndTM) was turned to good account by Yugoslavia as an excuse to distance itself from the West»7 . It is important to note, for instance, that the Western institutes of culture which had been damaged in the street riots which had followed the Bipartite Declaration were never to be restored to full capacity. A first statement on the perils of Western culture for the people of Yugoslavia had been anyway spoken already in May 1953, when Tito in person took position againsta the jazz music8 . It is thus confirmed the idea that Yugoslavia's reaction to the Bipartite Declaration has been somehow overstressed as a pretext to speed up the rebalancing of the country's foreign policy after the death of Stalin. In the field of Yugoslav internal policy, it was also important to set a change of course after the VI Congress, whose consequences could call into question the leading role of the communist party, a risk Tito and his comerades were happy to prevent. The “Đilas case“ served the same purpose. The relations with the Soviet Union, in the meanwhile, had further albeit gradually improved. The attacks against Yugoslavia carried by the Soviet press were fewer and fewer. At the same time border incidents with Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania had almost stopped. Things improved even more when, of the different warring factions in Stalin's succession, the one of Hruščov consolidated its lead. As regards the Trieste issue, after the Bipartire Declaration the Yugoslav diplomacy followed two main roads: to find an arrangement to save face after it had become crystal clear that it was out of question to receive more land than the Zone B alone, and to get the maximum in terms of financial compensation. This doesn't mean that the territorial aspect was left out of it all, but after months of trying, everuthing than Yugoslavia got were few square kilometres to demonstrate to its public opinion that the final setting of the issue was in any case better than the Bipartite declaration. The exploration of the reports from negotiations held by Velebit in the first months of 1954 has identified an action taken by General Eddlemann. This was the former Commander of the Trieste United States Troops (TRUST). In 1952 he had played a role in the military aid to Yugoslavia, before being promoted to Commander of the 4th Infantry Division, at the time headquartered in Frankfurt. Towards the end of February 1954, while London’s negotiation was making no progress, Eddleman made contact with General Lekić at the Pentagon to make Belgrade know the margins available to solve the issue, raising the prospect of negative consequences on the aid Yugoslavia received from the US in case the negotiation around Trieste failed. Whilst it is entirely possible that Eddleman’s step was agreed by the State Department, it may be reasonable to assume that the shift in the focus of the American diplomacy after the election of President Truman left the military relatively untouched. From the perspective of an organization whose propose was to control the Soviet military threat, it made sense to pursue the objective of a greater military integration with Yugoslavia at a time when the rapprochement between Belgrade and Moscow was still relatively limited. Yugoslavia made by its side the best to reassure the West. For instance in the April of 1954 Tito’s personal secretary Joža Vilfan still said to the international press that Yugoslavia may join the European Defence Community, despite – or precisely because - it was clear that project was doomed to failure. Between the West, which had shown to appreciate Yugoslavia only as an instrument to counter the Soviets' influence, and the East, which could never truly answer the Yugoslav request of “autocephaly“, Tito pursued since late 1954 a foreign policy which was totally original and which became available as a result of the decolonisation process which had started in the previous years. The Yugoslav contribution to international forums such as the UN made clear that the country had a tendency to take stances similar to those of the developing countries. After the Korea war the position of Yugoslavia was coincidentally similar to the one of India. The Yugoslav elite had followed the development of events in the area since then. At the first Asian Socialist Conference, held in Yangon in 1953, Yugoslavia sent two important delegates such as Đilas and Bebler9 . Soon after the signing of the London Memorandum which de facto solved the issue of Trieste (October the 5th 1954), Tito started (November the 30th) for a long journey in Asia, which brought him to visit India and Myanmar. In the following months Yugoslavia also begun supporting the National Liberation Front of Algeria in its independence struggle against France. After a few more months it was Hruščov's turn to come to Belgrade and blame Stalin for all the “misunderstandings“ between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. On the occasion the Soviet leader announced the dissolution of the Cominform and recognised the political autonomy of other socialist countries. This lasted little more than one year, since Budapest was invaded in October 1956. The birth of the Non-Aligned Movement happened on the Brionian Islands on July the 19th 195610. The Movement was to collect 120 member countries in the years to come. It would become the main tool of Yugoslavia’s foreign policy, allowing the country to finally strike a balance between the two blocks.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: issue if Trieste, Yugoslavia, Tito, displomatic history, relations between Italy and Yugoslavia, relations between Yugoslavia and the Western Powers
Subjects: History
Departments: Department of History
Supervisor: Jakovina, Tvrtko and Iuso, Pasquale
Additional Information: Dottorato in cotutela internazionale = Međunarodni dvojni doktorat znanosti. PDS Moderne i suvremene hrvatske povijesti u europskom i svjetskom kontekstu.
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2018 13:31
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2018 13:31

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