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Rankovićism refers to a political ideology prevalent in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia based on the political views of the Serbian communist official and former Yugoslav Partisan leader Aleksandar Ranković.[1][2]

It promotes a centralized Yugoslavia and his opposition to decentralization of powers to the constituent republics that he deemed would jeopardize both the unity of Yugoslavia and the unity of Serbs.[3] Rankovićism was commonly used as a pejorative term in Yugoslavia following his forcible political removal, and became taboo in the country after the 1960s due to its negative connotations.[1][2] However, there were people who sought to redeem Ranković's legacy in the public's eyes, such as Dobrica Ćosić.[4] Milovan Đilas said that "Ranković should be rehabilitated immediately" and said that "he did not deserve the harsh measures that were taken against him".[5]


For many years Ranković was in Josip Broz Tito's inner circle. Ranković was removed from office due to pressure from his opponents, who accused him of promoting Serb hegemonism in Yugoslavia.[4] The ousting of Ranković resulted in the rise to power of proponents of decentralization, and a massive overhaul of the constitution of Yugoslavia in 1974 that decentralized much power to the republics and gave Serbia's autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina almost the same level of power as the republics.[6]

The popularity of Ranković's policies in Serbia was apparent at his funeral in 1983 when large numbers of people attended the funeral. Many considered Ranković a Serbian "national" leader.[7] By the early 1980s, many anti-Titoists invoked Ranković as their cause célèbre.[4] They alleged that the ouster of Rankovic was a symbol of Titoism's subjugation of Serbia.[6] Ranković's policies have been perceived as the basis of the policies of Slobodan Milošević from the 1980s.[7][8]

Specific policies and legacy[edit]

Milovan Đilas, Montenegrin politician and a former Yugoslav Partisan leadership figure, defended Ranković's reputation and said that "Ranković should be rehabilitated immediately", believing that Rankovic had been maltreated.[5]
Dobrica Ćosić Serbian writer and politician, President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1992-1993). Ćosić has strongly supported the policies of Aleksandar Ranković.

Ranković sought to secure the position of Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo, they dominated the government, security forces, and industrial employment in Kosovo.[9] Ranković as head of Yugoslavia's UDBA security forces supported a hardline approach towards Albanians in Kosovo who were commonly accused of pursuing seditious activities, including separatism, and were persecuted due to these allegations of sedition.[9] Islam in Kosovo at this time was repressed and both Albanians and Muslim South Slavs were encouraged to declare themselves to be Turks and emigrate to Turkey.[9]

As Ranković's power and agenda waned in the 1960s with the rise to power of reformers who sought decentralization and to preserve the right of national self-determination of the peoples of Yugoslavia.[10]

In response to his opposition to decentralization, the Yugoslav government removed Ranković from office in 1966 on various claims, including that he was spying on Tito.[3] The process began with Tito ordering the investigation of the UDBA, however one of the most vocal and outspoken condemnations of Ranković came from members within the League of Communists of Serbia that was considered too extreme of a condemnation by Tito who held them in dismay, and was deeply unpopular amongst Serbs, who in general were supportive of Ranković.[11] The major condemnation came from within the League of Communists of Serbia and particularly its provincial branch in Kosovo, the League of Communists of Kosovo, whose report declared that the security forces in Kosovo under the leadership of Ranković actively persecuted those of Albanian nationality and said that "The ideological foundation of such policy under the competence of Serbia is nationalism and chauvinism."[11] Upon listening at a meeting to the claims of Rankovic's abuse of power and abuse of Albanians as reported by Veli Deva, the Secretary of Kosovo's Regional Committee; Mihailo Švabić, a Serbian member of the LCS Central Committee famously said that he was "ashamed - as a communist, as a Serb, and as a man - as I listened to the presentation of comrade Deva".[11] Serbian Communist Spasenija Babović called for Ranković to be expelled from the party, and the LCS Central Committee agreed to this request.[11]

Serbs were furious with the ouster of Ranković, considering the ouster of Ranković as an attack on Serbia, Serb supporters of Ranković protested and said claims such as "all of this was directed at Serbia" and that "Serbia no longer has a representative who will represent its interests", and adopting slogans such as "Serbia is endangered" and that "the best people in Serbia are leaving".[11]

After the ouster of Ranković in 1966, the agenda of pro-decentralization reformers in Yugoslavia, especially from Slovenia and Croatia succeeded in the late 1960s in attaining substantial decentralization of powers, creating substantial autonomy in Kosovo and Vojvodina, and recognizing a Muslim Yugoslav (now called Bosniak) nationality.[10]

As Albanian-Serb ethnic conflict in Kosovo accelerated beginning in 1981, Serbs began to openly refer to the Ranković-era as an ideal time and Serbs adopted Ranković as a hero figure.[12] During the Albanian-Serb unrest, Serbs claimed "we need another Ranković".[13] After Rankovic's death in 1983, his funeral was attended by over 100,000 people who chanted his name, and turned the event into a nationalist demonstration.[14] Serbian nationalists supported Ranković, such as Dobrica Ćosić who noted that Ranković's funeral in 1983 where Serbs praised Ranković, was "above all a nationalist demonstration. It was a true, widely effective gesture, a real nationalist uprising [of] solidarity with a Serbian communist who was a victim of a great injustice."[4] Ćosić since the early 1980s wrote works that praised Ranković and said that Ranković was respected by Serbian peasantry, saying "While the intellectuals and the entire party bureaucracy and the entire party bureaucracy believed it was good that Ranković fell, the peasants saw him as a man who defended Yugoslavia and represented Serbia at the head of the party, convinced that he was an honorable and statesmanlike man."[4]

In 1986, a movement known as the Kosovo Committee of Serbs and Montenegrins was founded that promoted the restoration of Ranković-era policies.[15] The Committee claimed that Albanians were committing "genocide" against Serbs and Montenegrins, demanded a wholescale purge of Albanian leaders, and claimed that the alleged persecution of Serbs required the Yugoslav military to intervene and establish military rule in Kosovo.[16] The Committee organized mass protests and held support amongst Serb Communist cadres who had been removed from office following the ouster of Ranković, amongst other supporters.[16] Later in 1986 these events and perceptions culminated in the SANU memorandum written by various Serbian Communist officials that accused Tito and Kardelj of having attempted to "destroy Serbia".[12]

Slobodan Milošević has been regarded as having been influenced by the politics surrounding Ranković.[7][17] Milošević's close friend Jagos Djuretic has claimed that Milošević was personally "baffled" by the magnitude of nationalist outpouring at Ranković's private funeral services, as Ranković had been previously assumed amongst Communist officials to have been politically destroyed and discredited by his ouster in 1966.[17] Djuretic says that the observation of Ranković's funeral made a deep impression on Milošević.[17] The rise of Milošević to power in Serbia was regarded in Yugoslavia as "bringing Rankovic back in", as Milošević opposed the 1974 Constitution that had decentralized Yugoslavia from its previous centralized nature when Ranković held influence in the Yugoslav government.[8] Milošević declared in his inauguration speech as Serbian President in 1989 that the 1974 Constitution was obsolete, he opposed its decentralized nature, and demanding a new constitution whereby only a small number of issues would require consensus by all the republics, and that a centralized sovereignty should be exercised by the Yugoslav federation as a whole, and not within its individual republics.[18]

Milosevic's wife Mira Marković as well as Milošević's major supporter the Yugoslav Defense Secretary General Veljko Kadijević, identified Yugoslavia's problems as beginning in the 1962-1966 period; the same time period in which Ranković's influence in the government decreased and finally with his ousted from office in 1966.[8] Mica Sparavelo, who had been a lieutenant to Ranković as UDBa chief, was a key Serb figure in the Kosovo Committee of Serbs and Montenegrins, and he supported Milošević's rise to power.[19] By rehabilitating Ranković's legacy, Milošević won support amongst many Serbs.[8]


  1. ^ a b Study Centre for Jugoslav Affairs. Review of the Study Centre for Jugoslav Affairs, Volume 2. Pp. 277.
  2. ^ a b Radio Free Europe research, Volume 10, Issues 9-13. 1985. Pp. 15.
  3. ^ a b Bokovoy, Irvine & Lilly 1997, p. 295.
  4. ^ a b c d e Miller 2007, p. 323.
  5. ^ a b Radio Free Europe research , Volume 14, Issues 27-30. Radio Free Europe., 1989. Pp. 16.
  6. ^ a b Dawisha & Parrott 1997, p. 149.
  7. ^ a b c Cohen 2002, p. 98.
  8. ^ a b c d Jović 2009, p. 299.
  9. ^ a b c Independent International Commission on Kosovo. The Kosovo report: conflict, international response, lessons learned. New York, New York, USA: Oxford University Press, 2000. Pp. 35.
  10. ^ a b Bokovoy, Irvine & Lilly 1997, p. 296.
  11. ^ a b c d e Miller 2007, p. 109.
  12. ^ a b Ramet 2006, p. 305.
  13. ^ Doder & Branson 1999, p. 31.
  14. ^ Doder & Branson 1999, p. 30.
  15. ^ Christopher Bennett. Yugoslavia's bloody collapse: causes, course and consequences. Hurst & Co., 1995. Pp. 92.
  16. ^ a b Magaš 1993, p. 196.
  17. ^ a b c Doder & Branson 1999, p. 30–31.
  18. ^ Louis Sell. Slobodan Milosevic and the Destruction of Yugoslavia. Duke University Press, 2002. Pp. 97.
  19. ^ Ramet 2006, p. 350.


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  • Doder, Dusko; Branson, Louise (1999). Milosevic: Portrait of a Tyrant. Simon & Schuster.
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