Modern Serbian Nationalism emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century, not only because of the growth of a sense of nationalism, but also because wealthy businessmen who were supported in Serbia, ‘sought the means to increase trade’. The plan, pursued by the elite, was to educate the peasant Serbs and teach them the Western European way; students were sent to schools and universities across Europe where they were introduced to ‘modern administration’ through which they got to understand the value of the state and nationalism. “It was the creation of Serbia that evoked national consciousness, not vice versa”, argued Stokes (1975: 87). Education, in such, has been used by the elites to facilitate the spread and positive influence of propaganda among the educated class, who can in turn spread the idea of Nationalism. For instance, ‘Nasertanije’ was an ideological plan based on heavily influential nationalist doctrines to unite all Serbs. Ilija Garasanin, the plan’s author in the mid-1800, “built a network of agents to incite revolt in Bosnia & Herzegovina against the Ottoman Empire” (Mackenzie: 1982).
As a result, an entire state organisation, named Narodna Odbarna (National Defence), was created to unify all Serbs. This organisation, has arguably, inspired institutions, guerrilla bands, volunteers, politicians and even the church. ‘Ujedinijenje Odbarna (Unification of Death), was one of the most radical nationalist groups and managed to gain much of the Narodna Odbarna power and spread its ideologies across the population with the use of Newspapers (Andrews: 1998). One of their members, Gavrillo Princip, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in 1914 ,for which the First World War broke up, argued in his trial: “I am a Yugoslav nationalist, aiming for the unification of all Yugoslavs, and I do not care what form of state, but it must be free from Austria” (Sethre: 2004). Modern Nationalism in Serbia included textbooks, early in the twentieth century, which omitted other South Slavic people and regarded Serbia as the greater Yugoslavia (Andrews: 1998).
Nevertheless, Croats themselves did not ignore this reality and considered the creation of Yugoslavia in 1917 as an expression of ‘Greater Serbia’, more than the kingdom of the South Slavic peoples (Andrews: 1998). The Croatian identity is seen to be “an extension of the Illyrians which identified the Dalmatic, the Adriatic region of the Balkans inhabited by Croats as the cradle of South Slavic civilization” states Andrews (1998). In this regard, the Catholic Church in Croatia was of a significant influence as it managed to endorse this historical credibility in order to propagate its religion (Bellamy: 2002). In such, Illyrian methodology , often through folk songs and poetry, spread to encourage ‘Catholicism’ as the pure and just religion of South Slavs (Ramet: 1985). Later in the nineteenth century, the ideology gained more significance since Croatian elites had been influenced by the Napoleonic rule in France which endorsed ideas of liberté, égalité et fraternité ‘Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood’ (Andrews: 1998). Elites heavily used this idea of illyrianism to spread nationalism and motivate people to take part in national movements, as Andrews (1998) maintains, newspapers changed their names from the Croatian News and Croatian, Slovenian and Dalmatian Morningstar, for instance, to Illyrian National News and Illyrian Morningstar. Both the Catholic Church and the elites used education to promote the idea of ‘awakening and strengthening the national consciousness among the Croats’ (Andrews: 1998).
In His article ‘Yugoslavia & the Perpetuation of Violent Nationalism’, Andrews (1998) argues that the ideologues Bishop Josip Strossmayer and Franjo Racki, regarded illyrianism as a mean to achieve the unification of the Slavic people, in other words, Yugoslaviansim. Nevertheless, most of their ideas, for instance, the unification of both Orthodox and Catholic Churches (though favouring Catholicism) did not attract the Serbs who were already working on reviving their national identity. Ramet (1985) referred to the Illyrian idea as a catalyst to recognise Islam as part of the Croatian Identity since many Muslim Croats felt misrepresented by the Catholic bias. Although this idea of Illyrianism was successful to a certain degree, its failure helped the emergence of Nationalism in Croatia (Greenberg: 2011). Both Ante Starsevic and Eugen Kvaternik, two initial proponents of Illyrianism, pursued an independent Croatian state and focused on re-writing Croatian history for the intelligentsia of Croatia (Andrews: 1998). For instance, Starsevic argued that the Croats were not Slavic at all, but it is rather the Serbs who are eventually ‘Croatianising’ themselves (Andrews: 1998). Starsevic’s ideas found home in finding the basis for the Party of the Right in Croatia, yet, this was too difficult to be absorbed by the Croatian peasants (Gross: 1979).
Croatian nationalism has been an idea which every elite group aimed to grasp by the use of rhetoric to win over Croats (Kajfes: 2011). Competing ideologies made a unified Croatian identity impossible, yet a Yugoslavian one possible (Andrews: 1998). Due to the various competing ideologues, a consciousness of scepticism was planted and prevented Croats from gaining satisfaction over the idea of union and inspired radicals such as Sarkotic, who favoured Hapsburg dominance over the unification with Serbia, arguing: “The local population is sympathetic toward the enemy, and is permeated by Serbian agents and Komita bands, therefore officers and men should at all times act on the assumption that they are operating in hostile territory”(Andrews: 1998). Consequently, the developed Ustai movement was influenced by Sarkotic and encouraged Croatian writers to base their thoughts on Starsevic, for instance, in their denial that Croats were Slavic (Ramet: 1985).
From this historical analysis, it is clear that the shared patterns of behaviour between the modern leadership of Tudjman and Milosevic are an extension of the old formation of the Serbian and Croatian Nationalism. Both peasant populations of both nations of the nineteenth century did not carry a historically transmitted insurgence towards each other, unlike what the media stereotypes the former Yugoslavia by insisting that: “…violence in the Balkans has been not only a description of a social condition but considered inherent in the nature of its people” (Hayden: 1995). It was only through strong elite power (the church has to a significant extent been present to preserve the dominance of its religion) that such ideas spread and became rooted. Both cases shared similar ways of endorsing propaganda; the sense of fear and the use of education as a Machiavellian tool (Andrews: 1998). According to Lampe (1994), the atrocities committed in the civil war which led to the collapse of Yugoslavia did not represent the actions of all Yugoslavians and did not even mount from historical nationalist confrontations; it was rather the consequence of two centuries trying to indoctrinate this consciousness in the citizenry. Nevertheless, two centuries has been significant in reviving nationalist feelings through propaganda and while excluding the fifty years of communist rule, one can determine that both Croats and Serbs coexisted together, peacefully, throughout history.
The latter existence of Yugoslavia aimed to eliminate the memories of the ethnic and religious wars occurring among Yugoslav people following the collapse of the first Yugoslavia in 1918- 1941. Nevertheless, feelings of resentment did not emerge from these events alone; all Yugoslav republics share common grounds on their continuous struggle for the preservation of their distinct identities and medieval lost states in a historical timeline characterised by a repressive domination of the majority and tortured minority (Andrews: 1998). These national groups, has thus, developed a feeling of threat towards one another and such resentment persisted until the recent Communist rule of ‘The League of Communists of Yugoslavia’, headed by Tito’s absolute power through which all national conflicts were resolved by repressive methods. By this time, every nation had a reason for being unjustly treated by the Yugoslav state (Pesic: 1996).