Kosta Nikolić

Institute for Contemporary History Belgrade

Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the Resistance Movements in Yugoslavia, 1941

Abstract: During the Second World War a brutal and distinctly complex war was fought in Yugoslavia. It was a mixture of an anti-fascist struggle for liberation as well as an ideological, civil, inter–ethnic and religious war, which witnessed a holocaust and genocide against Jews and Serbs. At least a million Yugoslavs died in that war, most of them ethnic Serbs. In their policies towards Yugoslavia, each of the three Allied Powers (the United States of America, the Soviet Union and Great Britain) had their short-term and long-term goals. The short-term goals were victory over the Axis powers. The long-term goals were related to the post-war order in Europe (and the world). The Allies were unanimous about the short-term goals, but differed with respect to long-term goals. The relations between Great Britain and the Soviet Union were especially sensitive: both countries wanted to use a victory in the war as a means of increasing their political power and influence. Yugoslavia was a useful buffer zone between British and Soviet ambitions, as well as being the territory in which the resistance to the Axis was the strongest. The relations between London and Moscow grew even more complicated when the two local resistance movements clashed over their opposing ideologies: nationalism versus communism. The foremost objective of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) was to effect a violent change to the pre-war legal and political order of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Keywords: Allies, Yugoslavia, Resistance movements, military strategy, communist ideology