Serbian Progressive Party (historical)

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Čedomilj Mijatović

The Serbian Progressive Party (Serbian: Српска напредна странка / Srpska napredna stranka) was a liberal political party in Serbia that existed from 1881 to 1919.

Origins[edit]

The origin of the Progressive Party can be traced back to a political grouping known as "Young Conservatives" that had existed from 1871. Their leadership mainly consisted of young Western trained intellectuals who latter took part in the Editorial Board of Serbian journal Videlo. This journal was established in January 1880 as an organ of political opposition against the government of Jovan Ristić, in power from October 1878 until November 3, 1880). The journal advocated freedom of speech, freedom of associations, full personal protection and protection of property rights, constitutional responsibility of cabinet ministers, access of experts to the National Assembly, full independence of the Judiciary, and autonomy of municipalities. In the field of foreign policy the Progressive Party was not inclined to Russia contrary to the other two political parties in Serbia. It rather advocated close relations with Austria-Hungary. In economy the party advocated completely liberal reforms. In terms of political ideologies the party was what may be termed as a conservative liberalism. Occasionally faced to choose between democracy and various freedoms the progressivists were prone to advocate and enforce freedoms. This made them too closely tied to the ruler and quickly diminished their popularity among electorate. Nonetheless they encouraged and paved the way for the modernization of Serbia by introducing modern institutions and progressive laws.

The 1880s[edit]

The Progressive Party was founded in January 1881. It did not have a clear leader but was rather headed by a quartet consisting of: Milan Piroćanac, Milutin Garašanin, Stojan Novaković and Čedomilj Mijatović. The party was in power in 1880s and was openly favoured by Prince/King Milan Obrenović. Party’s opponents viewed the progressivists as a personal party of the king.

The party advocated freedom of speech, freedom of associations, full personal protection and protection of property rights, constitutional responsibility of cabinet ministers, access of experts to the National Assembly, full independence of the Judiciary, autonomy of municipalities and free market economy. In the field of foreign policy the Progressive Party was not inclined to Russia contrary to the other two political parties in Serbia. It rather advocated close relations with Austria-Hungary. Occasionally faced to choose between democracy and various freedoms the progressivists were prone to advocate and enforce freedoms. This made them too closely tied to the ruler and quickly diminished their popularity among electorate. Nonetheless they encouraged and paved the way for the modernisation of Serbia by introducing modern institutions and progressive laws.

The first progressivist government was led by Milan Piroćanac from November 2, 1880 until October 3, 1883. In that period he was an unofficial leader of the party. The next Progressivist Government was formed in February 1884 by Milutin Garašanin who thus became a new party leader. He formed three successive but short governments (February 19, 1884 – June 13, 1887). Afterwards the Progressive party was subjected to serious persecutions by its rivals in 1887, and in 1889 after the abdication of King Milan Obrenović. Since Serbia had almost universal male suffrage since 1869, the Progressivists could not win any free elections since their electoral base was only in few towns and total Serbian urban population was in 1900 around 14%. Their victory in 1884 was achieved due to the previous state of emergency introduced to suppress the Timok Rebellion in October/November 1883. In late 1880s the Progressive party lost its position in Serbia and it never fully recovered.

Decline[edit]

The new Serbian king Aleksandar Obrenović succeeded his father in 1889 but was not of legal age and therefore a Regency was established headed by Jovan Ristić. In 1894 king Alexander staged a coup and took all power. Afterwards he occasionally used Progressivist politicians to fill in places in subsequent governments. However, by the time of the death of Milutin Garašanin in 1898 the party ceased to exist in organisational terms.

It was renewed in 1906 and was headed by Stojan Novaković. It remained a small party which played an important role during the Annexation Crisis (1908–1909). After the World War I, the party merged into the Democratic Party.

Further reading[edit]

  • Michael Boro Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia (2 vol., New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976) ISBN 0-15-140950-1
  • Gale Stokes, Politics as Development: the Emergence of Political Parties in Nineteenth-Century Serbia (Durham: Duke University Press, 1990), ISBN 0-8223-1016-3
  • Слободан Јовановић, Влада Милана Обреновића [Slobodan Yovanovich (Jovanović), The Rule of Milan Obrenovich (in 2 vol., Belgrade, 1926 and 1927)].
  • Слободан Јовановић, Влада Александра Обреновића [Slobodan Yovanovich (Jovanović), The Rule of Alexander Obrenovich (collected works, vol. 12, Belgrade: Geca Kon, 1936)].

References[edit]