Bogoljub Jevtić

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Bogoljub Jevtić
Bogoljub jevtic.jpg

Bogoljub Jevtić (December 24, 1886, Kragujevac, Kingdom of Serbia – 1960, Paris, France) was a Serbian diplomat and politician in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

He was plenipotentiary minister of Yugoslavia in Albania, Austria and Hungary. After the assassination of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, on 22 December 1934 he was appointed prime minister of Yugoslavia, holding this position till 24 June 1935.

Biography[edit]

Born in 1886 in Kragujevac he completed his elementary and high school education in his hometown. He enrolled at the University of Belgrade and became a doctor of laws in 1911. This aroused his ambition. Jevtić completed his post-graduate studies at the University of Zurich and, since that didn't teach him enough, continued in the Handelshochschule in Berlin, where he took his second doctor's degree. His fellow countrymen studying in Berlin regarded him as merely a hard-working man. They did not know how hungrily he devoured his education.

Meanwhile, the pan-Slavic-Greek alliance of the Balkan states against their mortal Turkish enemy, who still stood on Serbia's soil, was being concluded. In the north Austrians were threatening. Every man was needed to participate in the holy war. Jevtić, a patriot, soon took his place in the firing line, first with the Greeks and Bulgarians against the Ottomans, then against the Bulgarians who wanted to compromise the Greek-Serbian Alliance of 1913. He was already learning what it meant to belong to a nation that larger nations treated as a pawn.

Hardly had he begun his diplomatic career under hopeful circumstances than the Great War intervened. Military service took precedence over diplomatic service. Jevtić, an infantry captain, did not spend his time sitting in comfortable headquarters. Prince Regent Alexander Karadjordjević (later to become Alexander I of Yugoslavia) was informed of his bravery. They met on the battlefield, surrounded by the devastating effects of war, and surveyed the shambles left from Big Bertha (howitzer). No one wanted to capitulate as long as even a handful of soldiers could be found to defend the last remnants of the fatherland. In 1917, summoned from the front, he returned to diplomacy as an attaché in the Serbian Legation at Stockholm. Then, he was needed at home in the Cabinet. The next step was the Serbian Legation in London, and during the peace negotiations at Paris, where so many new faces of the new Europe appeared, the overworked and very energetic secretary from the Serbian Legation in London was very much in evidence. Edvard Beneš, the leading delegate of the newly-proposed Czechoslovakia, held few important conversations with Jevtić, and they became friends, though not intimates. He was an adviser to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes legation in Paris and Brussels in 1924.

Onward and upward, from one post to another in many different countries, making the rounds of western Europe with occasional sojourns in Belgrade by way of variety. There was brief intermezzo as Plenipotentiary Minister to Tirana, from 9 April 1926 under the sharp eyes of his immediate superior. Then he was installed as Plenipotentiary Minister in complete charge of the important Vienna and Budapest missions, from 13 January 1928. He did not remain there for even a year, but he saw enough to know who was feeding the nationalist flames that made the Croatian kettle of terrorism boil. Jevtić, with his trained eye for Balkan affairs, did not need much cunning to see through the plans that Stjepan Sarkotić, a recently naturalized Austrian, was engineering against the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, aided by former members of the Austrian imperial general staff.

At response to the political crisis triggered by the assassination of Stjepan Radić, King Alexander abolished the Constitution on 6 January 1929, prorogued the Parliament and introduced a personal dictatorship (the so-called "January 6th Dictatorship", Šestojanuarska diktatura). He also changed the name of the country to Kingdom of Yugoslavia and changed the internal divisions from the 33 oblasts to nine new banovinas on 3 October.

In the same month, he tried to banish by decree the use of Serbian Cyrillic to promote the exclusive use of Latin alphabet in Yugoslavia.[1]

King Alexander needed a conscientious Minister in court, an adviser who would not engage in backstairs intrigues. Jevtić won his trust on 25 January 1929, and it was not ambition that animated him out but a desire to help his King, his country and its citizens.

6 January Dictatorship[edit]

He became the closest adviser to the head of State in a critical period of its life. He recommended that the formerly democratic king turn to dictatorship as the only way to avoid parliamentary mutiny among the non-Serb element. The army, which had now climbed into the saddle, ruled with a high hand. His brother-in-law General Petar Živković was set-up as a strong man by royal decree, and together they helped each other and the king rule the country. A new constitution, setting up a constitutional dynasty, was prepared. Yugoslavia reverted to the ranks of the semi-dictatorships. The government party, ordained by God, now controlled two-thirds of the seats in the Skupstina (Parliament).

Outside in Europe unrest prevailed, and Yugoslavia needed an experienced man to conduct its foreign affairs. The King, who had long been his own adviser, saw how he could direct his country's foreign policy and named Jevtić Foreign Minister on 2 July 1932. None of the latter's fundamental beliefs had changed, but he had to bend to the needs of the day. Through a mist of vague hopes a new country was beginning to make its appearance on the distant horizon—a united, southeastern Europe, an independent Power embracing small nations that hitherto had been mere objects of intrigue on the part of Great Powers, a single block that European balance of powers could not ignore, a Little Entente. This tremendous stretch in territory from Prague to Angora took many by surprise.

Jevtić devoted himself to this idea and carried it forward skillfully. King Alexander and Jevtić traveled through the Balkans with their burden of peace. Their motto was "the Balkans for the Balkan peoples". Mortal enemies became reconciled. Almost all of them had one enemy—Italy, which was always prepared to spring on them. This brought Yugoslavia and Turkey together, for Turkey feared Italy's expansion in Western Asia. The old hatred of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria was transferred into real friendship when the kings of these two countries kissed one another in a traditional Slavic embrace. After Berlin had failed to break into southeastern Europe by way of Austria it tried to make headway in Belgrade. It promised Austrian Carinthia to Yugoslavia while Alfred Rosenberg was organizing and financing the central terror organization in Croatia, with the help of Croatian curia and other temporal politicians, including Ante Pavelić. Was Yugoslavia to be blown up, Dalmatia to fall into the hands of Italy, and Croatia to declare itself independent from Yugoslavia? All these possibilities existed. If Yugoslavia could cut loose from its allies, break away from the Little Entente, and approve the Austro-German Anschluss, it was to receive a special zone of influence in Carinthia. But neither King Alexander nor Jevtić could be brought to this point of view, not while insecurity lingered with Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy.

With everything breaking down Yugoslavia—especially the Velebit uprising—could not be an exception to the rule. "A nation of comrades" has become the popular watchword among the peasantry, not only in Yugoslavia but the rest of Europe. It is peasant support on which Jevtić's power rests, and he is a successful Foreign Minister. In Belgrade the insiders whispered that there would presently be a new military government with Jevtić at its head (a prophecy of sorts), for he is not an active military man but a kind of a general in a frock coat, and then the national word "comrades" would come into existence.

This was not an empty rumor. The Marseille assassination of King Alexander (along with French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou) on 9 October 1934 eliminated the king but not the plan. Jevtić, riding in the car behind the monarch, was the first to rush over to him and hear King Alexander's dying words: "Preserve Yugoslavia!"

The Jevtić Administration[edit]

Prince Paul of Yugoslavia took Alexander's place instead of Alexander's son Peter who was a minor at the time. Paul, who understood the political situation in Europe better than most (having been educated in England), named Bogoljub Jevtić as his Prime Minister while Jevtić's brother-in-law Petar Živković was made in charge of the Armed Forces.

Jevtić had to adapt himself to the result of the Geneva inquiry into Alexander's assassination though it tarnished his popularity at home and his career. Yet Jevtić accepted the resolution in the interests of peace.

King’s assassination had been plotted by the Croat extremist Ante Pavelić and by Ivan Mihailov, the Bulgarian head of the IMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation), according to the Geneva inquiry into the assassination.

Understandably, the Yugoslav government's anger was directed towards the Italians and Hungarians for harbouring the Ustaša, but it was not to be a lasting anger, due to the actions of both the Italians and Hungarians in the following months and years.

The expected reaction to the death of the unifying leader of Yugoslavia would, presumably, have been one concomitant with social disorder and political unrest. However, the initial reaction to the assassination in political and social terms was unreservedly positive. Instead of breaking up after its leader’s death, Yugoslavia appeared more united than ever since 1918, if only for a brief period. (That is until in was invaded in April 1941 by the Axis). A report of Alexander’s alleged last words – “Preserve Yugoslavia” – inspired patriotic fervour that would ensure attempts to continue his political testament. This gives credence to the assessment that the assassination had the opposite effect to the one intended by the perpetrators, Ivan Mihailov of the IMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation) and Ante Pavelić of the Ustaša organization.

1934 to 1941[edit]

Prince Paul submitted to the fascist pressure and signed the Tripartite Pact in Vienna on 25 March 1941, hoping to still keep Yugoslavia out of the war. But this was at the expense of popular support for Paul's regency. Senior military officers were also opposed to the treaty and launched a coup d'état when the king returned on 27 March. Army General Dušan Simović seized power, arrested the Vienna delegation, exiled Paul, and ended the regency, giving 17-year-old King Peter full powers. Bogoljub Jevtić was named Minister of Transportation from 27 March 1941. Hitler then decided to attack Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, followed immediately by an invasion of Greece where Mussolini had previously been repelled.

1941-1960[edit]

During and after World War II, Jevtić, in exile along with the rest of the ministers, continued to engage in activities levelled against the Communists in Yugoslavia.

He died in Paris in 1960.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dangerous Decree, Time (magazine), 21 October 1929

Translated and adapted from Serbian Wikipedia: Богољуб Јевтић

Preceded by
Nikola Uzunović
Prime Minister of Yugoslavia
1934-1935
Succeeded by
Milan Stojadinović