Milan Stojadinović

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Milan Stojadinović
Milan Stojadinović.jpg
12th Prime Minister of Yugoslavia
In office
24 June 1935 – 5 February 1939
Monarch Peter II
Prince Paul (Regent)
Preceded by Bogoljub Jevtić
Succeeded by Dragiša Cvetković
Personal details
Born (1888-08-04)4 August 1888
Čačak, Kingdom of Serbia
Died 26 October 1961(1961-10-26) (aged 73)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Citizenship Yugoslav
Political party People's Radical Party
Yugoslav Radical Union
Serbian Radical Party (historical)
Spouse(s) Augusta Stojadinović

Milan Stojadinović (Serbian Cyrillic: Милан Стојадиновић; 4 August 1888 – 26 October 1961) was a Serbian and Yugoslav political figure and a noted economist. From 1935 until 1939 he served as Prime Minister of Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Early life[edit]

Milan Stojadinović was born on 4 August 1888 in the Serbian town of Čačak. His father, Mihailo, was a municipal judge who relocated to Belgrade in 1904. It was here that the young Stojadinović finished his secondary education and became a sympathizer of the Serbian Social Democratic Party (SSDP). He came to believe that the liberation of Serbian territory from the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires was more important than bridging the gap between the upper and lower classes and followed in his father's footsteps by joining the People's Radical Party (NRS) of Nikola Pašić.[1]

In the summer of 1906, Stojadinović was sent to Austria to learn German as a reward for successfully completing secondary school. While there, he fell under the influence of South Slavic youth movements and became a supporter of Yugoslav unity. He later returned to Serbia and began a degree at the University of Belgrade Faculty of Law, specializing in economics and finance. He spent three years studying abroad, staying in Munich and Potsdam during the 1910–11 school year, Paris between 1911 and 1912, and London between 1912 and 1913.[1] Stojadinović's stay in Germany had a profound effect on his economic views and led him to write a doctoral dissertation on the country's budget. He was greatly influenced by the German historical school of economics, which argued that economic policies should be developed according to the specific economic and cultural conditions prevalent in a society rather than being based on a universal model.[2]


Stojadinović's competence as an economist became evident during the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 and during World War I, when he began working in the Serbian Ministry of Finance. Following the Serbian Army's retreat through Albania during the winter of 1915, he withdrew with the Serbian government-in-exile to the Greek island of Corfu. He stayed there between 1916 and 1918 and distinguished himself as a financial expert by helping to stabilize the Serbian dinar.[2]

Stojadinović met his future wife Augusta — a woman of mixed Greek-German heritage — during his stay in Corfu. The two settled in Belgrade following the war. Stojadinović was appointed assistant manager of a local branch of the English Commercial Bank in 1919, but resigned as director-general of the State Accounts Board of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes because of disagreements with the government of Prime Minister Ljubomir Davidović and his Democratic Party. He lectured economics at the University of Belgrade from 1920 to 1921, but quickly gave up on academia.[2]

Political career[edit]

Stojadinović became the Minister of Finance in 1922, aged only 34. He began writing for the Belgrade daily Politika and the English-language weekly The Economist. Following the proclamation of a royal dictatorship by King Alexander I, he sided with a faction of the NRS which stood opposed to the monarch being given dictatorial powers.[2]

Despite being a suspected anti-monarchist by Yugoslav authorities, he was once again appointed to the position of Finance Minister in the government of Bogoljub Jevtić, who became Prime Minister following Alexander's assassination in Marseille in October 1934. By this point, Stojadinović was the vice-president of the Belgrade Stock Exchange, chairman of a river navigation company, the director of a British-owned broadcasting station and a British-owned shipbuilding company.[3] Despite the fact that it was clear that Italy and Hungary were behind the assassination of King Alexander, the fact that the League of Nations failed to take action against either of those states despite Yugoslavia presenting evidence of their involvement served to convince Stojadinović that the League was useless.[1]

In 1935 he became the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, which with some other parties formed a coalition Jugoslovenska Radikalna Zajednica (Yugoslav Radical Union, JRZ) and won the elections. The JRZ was made of the Serb Radicals, the Slovene People's Party led by Father Anton Korošec and the Yugoslav Muslim Organization led by Mehmed Spaho, which Stojadinović called a "three-legged chair" that was missing a "fourth leg", namely the support of the Croats.[4] On 24 June 1935 he was elected Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. He survived a failed assassination attempt by the Macedonian Damjan Arnautović in 1935.[5] The Regent for the boy king Peter II, Crown Prince Paul, appointed Stojadinović prime minister partly because he was regarded as a financial expert who would deal with the effects of the Great Depression and partly because Stojadinović was believed to be capable of making a deal with the Croat politicians to resolve the thorny question over whatever Yugoslavia was to be a federation or an unitary state.[2] One of Stojadinović's first acts to loosen censorship on the press and to free 10, 000 political prisoners.[6] Through the JRZ Stojadinović had a submissive skupshtina, but the JRZ never become the mass movement that Stojadinović had envisioned.[6]

The British historian Richard Crampton wrote that the basis of Stojadinović's power rested on "political jobbery" and corruption as the JRZ functioned more as a patronage machine of a type very common to Yugoslavia rather than the fascistic mass movement that Stojadinović had intended.[6] In interwar Yugoslavia was characterized by an etatist economic system with the state playing a very large role in the economy.[7] The Yugoslav state owned all or most of the railroads, docks, mines, steel mills, forests, mills, hospitals, banks, publishing houses, hotels, theatres and opera houses in the country together with the state having monopolies over the manufacturing, distribution and sales of matches, salt, cigarette paper, tobacco and kerosene.[7] As the public sector jobs paid considerably better than the private sector, to say nothing of the opportunities for corruption, there was much competition to work for the public sector, especially in a country as poor as Yugoslavia, meaning whatever government in power in Belgrade could build much support by operating a patronage machine which would hand out public sector jobs in exchange for votes.[7] Every government in interwar Yugoslavia used the powers of patronage to reward its supporters with public sector jobs and punish its enemies by denying them the chance to work in the public sector.[7] Stojadinović, like his predecessors, created a patronage machine as the basis of his power with JRZ members being rewarded with employment in the public sector.[6] However, the gradual improvement of the Yugoslav economy in the late 1930s after the nadir it had fallen to in 1932, the worse year of the Great Depression, did win Stojadinović a measure of popularity.[6]

The Prince Regent had hoped that Stojadinović would make overtures to the Croats, but Stojadinović's unwillingness to discuss federalisation of Yugoslavia presented major difficulties to this end.[8] As part of an attempt to reach out to the Croats, Stojadinović signed a concordat with the Vatican in 1935.[9] In an another concession to the Croats, Stojadinović allowed a statue of the assassinated Croat politician Stjepan Radić to be erected in Zagreb and for Croats who went into exile under King Alexander to return, including the son-in-law of Radić who had once called for independence for Croatia.[9] In January 1937, Stojadinović met with Vladko Maček of the Croat Peasant Party at a meeting chaired by Prince Paul.[8] Stojadinović rejected Maček's demands for a federation, and instead preferred that Maček establish ties with Serbian opposition leaders in order to divide Yugoslav politics into two blocs that would transcend ethnicity, language and religion.[8] One bloc would be a federalist bloc and another bloc would be unitarist, which Stojadinović saw the solution to Yugoslavia's problems of unity as it would create pan-Yugoslav ties that would ultimately weaken the prevailing ties of language, ethnicity and religion.[8]

Stojadinović recognized the military threats from Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and surrounding countries as imminent. Yugoslavia had signed a treaty of alliance with France in 1927, at a time when the Rhineland was still occupied by France, and during Franco-Yugoslav staff talks, it was promised that France would take the offensive into western Germany if Germany should start another war. As long as the Rhineland remained a demilitarized zone, there was always the possibility of the French launching an offensive into western Germany, which reassured Yugoslavia. The remilitarization of the Rhineland in March 1936 meant that Germany started building the West Wall along its border with France, which ended any hope of a French offensive into western Germany.[1] From the Yugoslav viewpoint, the remilitarization of the Rhineland and the construction of the West Wall meant that Germany could now launch offensives into eastern Europe without fear of France, which led Stojadinović to break with the traditional pro-French foreign policy of Yugoslavia and to seek an understanding with the Reich.[2] He viewed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia's future only as sustainable if a neutral status akin to that of Switzerland could be established. His foreign policies pushed consistently towards this goal. Examples are the non-aggression treaty with Italy and Yugoslavia's extension of its treaty of friendship with France.

The attempted Concordat with the Holy See caused severe protests from the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1937 and was thus never came into effect.[10] When the Concordat came up for ratification by the skupshtina on the night of 23-24 June 1937, protests broke out in Belgrade by Orthodox priests who called the concordat a sell-out to the Roman Catholic Church.[10] The very night that skupshtina was holding the vote to ratifying the Concordat, the Patriarch Varnava of the Serbian Orthodox Church died, which for the Orthodox faithful was a sign that God disapproved of the Concordat.[9] Through the skupshtina ratified the Concordat, the coincidence that the Patriarch died the same night caused an immense backlash against the Concordat amonst the Serbs and the Orthodox Church announced that all Orthodox deputies in the skupshtina who voted for the Concordat were now penalised.[9] Stojadinović withdrew the Concordat in a bid to save his popularity with the Serbs, which damaged his reputation as a fair-minded negotiator with the Croats with Maček accusing him of dealing in bad faith.[9] The consequences of the failed Concordat was lose Stojadinović popular support in both Croatia and Serbia.[9]

Under the Little Entente of 1921, Yugoslavia was obligated to go to war if another nation attacked either Czechoslovakia or Romania. In 1938, Germany was planning to attack Czechoslovakia and Mussolini in a bid to assist Hitler worked to detach Yugoslavia from the Little Entente.[11] In June 1938, Stojadinović met with the Italian Foreign Minister, Count Galeazzo Ciano, and promised him that Yugoslavia would do nothing if Germany attacked Czechoslovakia.[11] In return, Stojadinović asked that the Italians use their influence with the Hungarians to keep Hungary from attacking Czechoslovakia, saying the Little Entente was originally directed against Hungary, and as long as Hungary remained neutral, so would Yugoslavia.[11]

In late 1938 he was re-elected, albeit with a smaller margin than expected, failed in pacifying the Croats, raised a military-like legion of his own followers ('Green Shirts'), and did not formulate any clear political programme, providing the regent Paul with a welcomed pretext upon which to replace Stojadinović, on 5 February 1939, with Dragiša Cvetković.[12]

Following his replacement, the Prince Regent went further by detaining Stojadinović without proper cause until he had managed, with the help of his strong personal ties to King George VI of the UK (who had been the Prince Regent's best man in 1923) to enlist the support of the United Kingdom to have Stojadinović sent into exile to British Crown colony of Mauritius, where he was kept during World War II. On 17 March 1941, Stojadinović was handed over to a British Army force in Greece, from where he was sent on to the Mauritius.[12] By this point Paul favored exile as he feared Stojadinović could be the focus of a pro-Axis coup directed from Berlin.[12]


In 1946 Stojadinović went to Rio de Janeiro, and then to Buenos Aires, where he was reunited with his wife and two daughters. Stojadinović spent the rest of his life as presidential advisor on economic and financial affairs to governments in Argentina and founded the financial newspaper El Economista. Stojadinović was close to the Argentine president Juan Peron to whom he was an economic adviser.[13] The affluent lifestyle of Stojadinović in Buenos Aires suggested the rumors of personal corruption on his part during his time as prime minister had some foundation in fact.[13] In 1954, Stojadinović met with Ante Pavelić, the former Poglavnik of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) who also lived in Buenos Aires, and agreed to cooperate with him on the creation of two independent and enlarged Croatian and Serbian states.[13] Since Pavelić's regime during World War II had killed between 300,000 to 500,000 Serbs, Stojadinović's willingness to work with Pavelić largely discredited him both in Yugoslavia and among the Serb diaspora overseas. He died in 1961.[13][14] Stojadinović's memoirs, titled Neither War, Nor Pact (Ni rat, ni pakt), were posthumously published in Buenos Aires in 1963 and were re-printed in Rijeka in 1970.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Djokić 2011, p. 157.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Djokić 2011, p. 158.
  3. ^ Djokić 2011, pp. 158–159.
  4. ^ Djokić 2011, p. 159=160.
  5. ^ Ćano nudi Skadar,, 5 April 2010; accessed 17 December 2015.(in Serbian)
  6. ^ a b c d e Crampton 1997, p. 140.
  7. ^ a b c d Crampton 1997, p. 134.
  8. ^ a b c d Djokić 2011, p. 160.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Crampton 1997, p. 141.
  10. ^ a b Djokić 2011, p. 161.
  11. ^ a b c Strang 1999, p. 163.
  12. ^ a b c Djokić 2011, p. 165.
  13. ^ a b c d Djokić 2011, p. 166. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEDjokić2011166" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  14. ^ Goñi 2003, pp. 125–127.
  15. ^ Singleton 1985, p. 292.


  • Crampton, Richard (1985). Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century and After. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-16323-0 Check |isbn= value: checksum (help). 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Bogoljub Jevtić
Prime Minister of Yugoslavia
Succeeded by
Dragiša Cvetković