Institute for Balkan Studies
Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Apis’s Men: the Black Hand Conspirators after the Great War
Abstract: The activities of Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević Apis and his clandestine Black Hand organisation in Serbia have long been scrutinised in connection with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 and the outbreak of the First World War. Regent Alexander and the Pašić government dealt severely with the Black Hand in the Salonica show trial in 1917 when Apis and two of his friends were sentenced to death, a number of officers sentenced to prison and other Black Handers purged from the civilian and military authorities. The rest of Black Handers, particularly those more prominent, who survived the war found themselves in a position of pariah in the newly-founded Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia). They were constantly under the watchful eye of the authorities and suspected of plotting subversive activities. To be sure, the Black Handers remained in close contact and sought to bring about a “revision” of the Salonica trial and rehabilitate themselves and their dead comrades. This paper focuses on three particular Black Handers, Božin Simić, Radoje Janković and Mustafa Golubić – although their other friends are also mentioned in connection with them – who offered stiff resistance to the regime that had condemned them. Their cases demonstrate that some of former Apis’s associates in time came to terms with the authorities in order to secure peaceful existence or even obtain a prominent status, whereas other remained staunch opponents of King Alexander and their frustration took the shape of a left-wing opposition ranging from republicanism to outright communism.
Keywords: Apis, Black Hand, Salonica trial, Serbia, Yugoslavia, communism, Božin Simić, Radoje Janković, Mustafa Golubić