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February 04, 1979 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-02-04
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The Michigan Daily-Sunday, Febru

Page 4-Sunday, February 4, 1979--The Michigan Daily

Yugoslavia: Communism
with a capitalist twist

HE TRAIN SHOOK to an abrupt halt. We
had -just crossed the border from Trieste,
Italy, and were now entering Yugoslavia.
Outside it was dark, raining. A customs official tore
open the heavy metal doorto our compartment,
and, in Serbo-Croatian, demanded to see our
One quick glance determined that all was not in
order. "Visa," he said, uttering one of two English
words he seemed to know. Then he stuffed my
passport and the passport of my traveling com-
panion, Elaine Fletcher, into his blue coat pocket.
"Police. He pointed to me and to a monstrous
cement building across the tracks. Elaine grabbed
her purse to go with me, but the giant customs of-
ficial grunted "Ne"-Serbo-Croatian for
"no -motioning Elaine back into the cabin.
Yugoslavia is a country that I had wanted to visit
since I first heard of its unique system of gover-
nment. Once a member of the Eastern Bloc,
Yugoslavia in 1948 bucked the Soviet Union's iron
hand and has since consistently tried to differen-
tiate itself from its proud neighbor. In order to do
so, the mountainous Balkan nation enbarked on a
grandiose political experiment, reinterpreting
Marxist-Leninist theory to fit its own particular geo-
historical position. The result is that Tito's par-
tisans, who started as a grass roots peasant group
organized-to fight the Nazis, now allow considerably
-Former Daily managing editor Dan Ober-
dorfer spent his Christmas holiday in Yugo-

Story and photos by
Dan Oberdorfer
more pers-nal freedom than is characteristic of a
Communist nation.
But as I huddled in, the doorway to the police
station, I felt more like I was entering a Slavic
police state than the "free" Yugoslavia I had expec-
ted. For close to half an hour, I remained alone in
the arch, hoping frantically that the train would not
suddenly pull out without me. I was relieved when a
young, long-haired Malaysian joined me-also-
visaless. But in the course of conversation-he
spoke some English-I discovered the neatly
dressed oriental had just been released from two
years in an Italian jail, convicte$ on a drug charge.
Finally, the customs official, after checking the
full length of the eighteen-car train, returned with
our passports. He crossed behind several desks, and
in a minute, confirmed our entry. Receiving our
visas turned out to be little more than -a formality,
but as an introduction to Yugoslavia, the experience
shocked us into the realization that the world we
were entering would not always conform to our ex-
pectations of what is, and is not possible.
Yugoslavia is at once an eastern and western
nation. Located strategically on the Adriatic Sea,

the diverse country is due south of Austria and just
east of Turkey. It is actually a confederation of six
republics and two provinces, and is populated by
four main nationalities who speak three distinct
languages. The land is exquisitely beautiful: it
blends a divine, tropical Mediterranean coast, Ser-
bian cities which sprout Islamic minnerettes like
trees, rugged mountains, and the majestic Danube
Centuries of foreign rule, like layers of sandstone.
have formed Yugoslavia's unmistakable per-
sonality.,The two largest nationalities, the Serbs
and the Croats, quarrel like twin brothers but share
the same language-Serbo-Croatian. They are
cultural opposites: Serbia is a Moslem state;
Croatia is Roman 'Catholic-Turkish Sultans
dominated Serbia; European Monarchs gripped
Croatia. .The other Yugoslav nationalities
(Yugoslav means "South Slav" in Serbo-Croatian)
are equally different. In lifestyle, as well as histroy,
these differences cannot be overstated; it is the
schism between nationalities that has emerged as
Yugoslavia's stickiest internal dilemna.
The 86 year-old Marshall Tito, the son of a
Croatian peasant, is perhaps the oneman whose
authority can overcome these nationalistic
hostilities. Under his rule, Yugoslavia,has become
the champion of the Third World, having ad-
monished both the Soviet Union and the United
States while standing tall as a small, independent,
"non-aligned" nation. To maintain his grip over the
country, Tito has masterfully exploited two ploys:
fear of foreign aggression and the greed of the
In the first case, Tito has repeatedly emphasized
the real threat of a Soviet attack to divert the coun-
try's attention from internal to external affairs.
Liberating the economy from government dictates
has similarly guided public attention. Yugoslavs
seem uniformly proud of the society's newfound
consumer orientation. The country is alive with
construction-mostly of modern, well-planned ur-
ban residencies. And, strangely enough, in a coun-
try that bills itself as socialist, we did not once hear
of the ills of capitalism.
The present economic system, a particular brand
of market socialism called self-management, is
being studied by teams of Chinese experts. Some in-
ternational observers say China's new economic
policies are somewhat based on the Yugoslavian
experiment. This self-management system em-
phasizes worker control and ownership, though
frequently party members assume the key roles.
The economic system is loosely defined by
Yugoslavia's central government. Workers from
one firm, for example, interpreted the law to mean
they could hire a New York management firm to
help in turning a profit. Where the present system
breaks down, however, is in attracting investments.
Workers tend to vote themselves higher wages
before investing in a company's future. This has
spurred large unemployment, and ha's prompted a
virtual army of Yugoslavs-about one million in
all-to seek work out of the country, frequently in
German factories.
D URING OUR week-long stay in Yugoslavia,
Elaine and I toured Zabreb, the capital
of Croatia; Moster, a small, mountain
town built around a 500-year-old bridge; and
Dubrovnik, a tourist town located on Yugoslavia's
Adriatic Coast. We met numerous Yugoslavs, and
found them outgoing and friendly. Perfect
strangers offered assistance whenever we looked
perplexed. On trains, cabinmates felt an obligation
to make sure we were enjoying ourselves. This
frequently meant offering us swigs of plum brandy
or vodka.
Most of all. however, the Yugoslavs loved to talk
about their own country. Two university students
who we met on the train were from Skopje, the
capitol of the state of Macedonia. Theircity, located

Pictures clockwise from top left: two Yusoslavian children cluth their American a quiet town high in the mountains of a Yugoslav Moslem area; the treme
basketball. The French Citroen parked in the background indicates the posperity 40-foot high wall surrounding. the city-state of Dubrovnik illustrates the f
of an.average family; the Islamic minerette in the foreground and the stark, glamor of this Mediterranean port.
practical modern buildings behind it highlight the clash of new and old in Mostar,

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