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The Nonconformists

Nick Miller

Chapter 3. Ćosić: Engagement and Disillusionment, 1956–1966

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  • 1 Dobrica Ćosić, “Reč i delo istorije,” in Prilike, 210.

To be Tito’s follower means to have Tito’s attitude towards life, to think like Tito, to fight like Tito in your times, today, always.1
Dobrica Ćosić, 1961

1When Dobrica Ćosić wrote these words, he could still be certain that he “thought like Tito.” However, by 1966, Ćosić had endured several years of real confusion, born of his belief, in spite of the Djilas crisis, that his understanding of the nature and goals of Tito’s communism were generally accepted within the party. But the years before 1966 saw competition between incompatible visions of a socialist Yugoslav society, of which his own was shared by some but, as he came to realize, not all who held power.

2Ćosić’s image of the Yugoslav future was marked by profound idealism. His conviction that communism in Yugoslavia should and would result in the creation of an entirely new man, with older national identities made less relevant by the development of socialism, smacked of older forms of Serbian Yugoslavism (and even Serbian nationalism) to many non-Serbs. Ćosić was no Serbian nationalist in the early 1960s, but his imprecise notion of the Yugoslav future opened the door to hostile interpretations. Part of his problem was that he simply did not get out much: his legendary ear for the voices of the people did not extend beyond the borders of his own nation, which contributed to the belief of others that Serbs were unsympathetic to them. When his illusions collapsed, Ćosić’s response was shock and petulance.


  • 2 Predrag Matvejević, Razgovori s Miroslavom Krležom. Fourth edition. (Zagreb: Liber, 1978) 8. Itali (...)
  • 3 Marko Ristić, Za svest, 1971–1977 (Belgrade: Nolit, 1977) 93.

3As a communist intellectual, Ćosić felt the seductive pull of engagement. Engagement demanded total commitment to the communist ideal; for Ćosić, this was the complete transformation of society. The promise to the intellectual was of relevance. The burden was to effect such a transformation. Ćosić treated engagement seriously, in both its responsibilities and its promises. But the definition of engagement could vary. Miroslav Krleža later described his own expectations of engagement circumspectly: “I never had—fortunately—too many illusions about immediate results of my engagement. The number of political disagreements that I see in my past offer in that sense a monumental example to future generations.”2 Marko Ristić also expressed limited goals for his own engagement: “The truth is that artistic creativity and social action are two different spheres of human activity. Artistic creativity carries within it…certain constants which make it only partially reducible to a purely social conditionality and a single exclusively or directly utilitarian and practical function, to a purely ‘functional’ role.”3

  • 4 Dobrica Ćosić, “Radni nalog našeg vremena,” in Prilike, 200.

4For Ćosić, who never offered a clear personal definition of the concept, engagement seems to have been a goal to which the writer had to devote himself totally in practice: in his writing, in his work for the party, in his service to the Yugoslav people. For Ćosić, engagement was the means to the end that he identified as the goal of communism in Yugoslavia: complete transformation, the achievement of modernity, the overcoming of provincial qualities. But, characteristically, Ćosić was not capable of imagining how his engagement would facilitate change. “We in Yugoslavia do not have a chemical formula for the new man,” he said in one 1959 speech.4 He had simply internalized the belief that intellectual engagement was one means to reach those goals, and seems to have been convinced that engagement as such would magically result in those goals being achieved. Ristić’s description would have given Ćosić the leeway to act creatively in ways that were not clearly and explicitly devoted to social action. Instead, unable to define separate spheres, Ćosić opened himself up to the profound disappointment that would come of the failure of his personal vision for communism in the 1960s.

  • 5 Dobrica Ćosić, “O pozivu pisca u socijalističkoj drzavi,” in Odgovornosti, v. 2 of Akcije (Belgrad (...)

5So, it was characteristic of Ćosić (and modernists, more generally) that he could not really identify the purpose of the creative act (realists had no such difficulties, believing as they tended to that creativity served the revolution in an immediate sense). All Ćosić could really identify was the task: “the intellectual member of the communist party needs to participate in the battle for the victory of socialist social relations, a socialist economy and culture.”5 “The art of socialist society is being born.” The problem of giving substance to “socialist civilization” was not limited to Ćosić, or even the broader community of writers—the League of Communists had never defined the role of the writer or artist in socialism either, with the exception of the Stalinist phase before 1952, when socialist realism was enforced as the idiom of cultural expression in Yugoslavia. Aside from the lip service given to the borba mišljenja at the Sixth Congress of the LCY, there were few pronouncements on the meaning of engagement. The days of administrative guidance were past, and writers enjoyed a comfort zone which allowed them to debate important issues without the overt interference of the party. Thus the realist/modernist debate occurred outside the realm of LCY politics. The party—especially the ideological commission—was confounded by the debate, concerned but not necessarily well informed. It was more troubled by the effect of certain literary phenomena on the public and that public’s faith in the new order than by how culture contributed to the building of socialism. The party felt that culture was of less import and thus best left to surrogate forums. The Yugoslavs were adventurous Marxists, but to the extent that they struck out on a “separate path to socialism,” that path was not adorned with cultural innovations.

6If engagement meant anything concrete at all in postwar Yugoslavia, one would expect it to mean something about Yugoslavism. The very proclamation of a new Yugoslavia implied the need for an active and creative cultural approach emanating from the top. The early application of socialist realist precepts in Yugoslavia betrayed the fact that the national question was considered a function of the greater task of socio-economic transformation. Even if socialist realism had been abandoned, the standard of superficial, capriciously manipulative cultural policy that it had engendered had not. In the Yugoslav case, neglect of cultural development foretold greater dangers than in other socialist societies, because Yugoslavia’s successful socialist transition could be derailed by the tenacious threat of national conflict. National identity is cultural identity, so the national question demanded cultural solutions, or at least attention to cultural development. The LCY’s inattention to culture would have disastrous effects down the road.

7Yugoslavism enjoyed a historical pedigree as a national movement that proposed that the individual South Slavic nations were really one. But in the Yugoslav communist lexicon, “Yugoslavism” became less prophetic and visionary and more instrumental. One observer has identified three meanings for the term as Yugoslav communists used it:

  • 6 Aleksa Djilas, The Contested Country: Yugoslav Unity and Communist Revolution, 1919–1953. (Cambrid (...)

Yugoslavism was antinationalism—opposition to all the nationalisms of the nations that constitute Yugoslavia; Yugoslavism was patriotism—primarily the struggle for the liberation of Yugoslavia from the Germans, Italians, and others who had occupied it; and Yugoslavism was internationalism—the unity of the working people, who would disregard nationality in the struggle for a social revolution.6

8None of these meanings demanded the destruction of existing national identities, or the creation of a supranation to bind them all. These definitions at most implied nations’ gradual reduction to irrelevance, but not their consignment to oblivion. Still, if the League of Communists of Yugoslavia never included any call for the creation of a new Yugoslav nation in any of its pronouncements, the interaction of Marxist theory, Yugoslav modifications to that theory, local and individual interpretations, and a lack of clear directives at the highest levels made for competition, confusion, and often simple disregard for the national orientation and cultural content of Yugoslav communism.

  • 7 Zoran Mišić, “Za jedinstveni Jugoslovenski kriterijum,” in Delo (Belgrade) v. 2, no. 7 (1956).
  • 8 Mišić’s response to Drago Šega, a Slovene writer, is in Zoran Mišić, “Oko jedinstvenog Jugoslovens (...)

9Discussions of the meaning of Yugoslavia and the relationship of its peoples generally took place in two contexts: in the party and in a regulated cultural sphere. The party was inclined to treat Yugoslav cultural policy as a tool in the amelioration of national relations across the state. Outside of the party, in that semi-autonomous cultural sphere, though, Serbian intellectuals tended to view the creation of a new, Yugoslav, culture as an end in itself, worthy because revolutionary, internationalist, and socialist. Zoran Mišić, a literary critic, took the momentous step of offering a set criteria for such a literature in Delo in 1956.7 Mišić provoked one of two major Yugoslav writers’ debates on the subject; the second, between Dobrica Ćosić and the Slovene Dušan Pirjevec, came in 1961–62. Because Mišić suggested that there should be a Yugoslav literature, his proposal was attacked by non-Serbian writers who viewed it as crypto-Serbianism. Mišić’s proposal exemplified a particular Serbian desire to overcome provincialism. Although Mišić betrayed no hunger to impose centralization on the state in either a political or literary sense, the debate that Mišić’s criteria provoked with the Slovene writer Drago Šega dealt with precisely that threat.8

  • 9 Yugoslavia’s Way: The Program of the League of the Communists of Yugoslavia (New York: All Nations (...)
  • 10 Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 98.
  • 11 Ćosić, Piščevi zapisi (1951–1968), 142–43.
  • 12 AJ, CK-SKJ, VII Kongres SKJ, I/VII-K.1/1–71.
  • 13 AJ, CK-SKJ, VII Kongres SKJ, I/VII-K.1/1–71; meeting of February 27, 1958.

10In late 1956, Ćosić was given the opportunity to participate in a promising endeavor: the Central Committee of the LCY assembled a committee to write a new program for the party. This program was to be an affirmation of Yugoslavia’s separate road (the English translation of the program was called Yugoslavia’s Way).9 Tito and Kardelj picked Ćosić to sit on the committee, along with leading communists from across Yugoslavia. The work of the committee was laborious and lasted into the spring of 1958. Ćosić served on a subcommittee that drew up the basic structure of the program; he claims that he himself wrote drafts of the introduction, the conclusion, and the chapter on the “Social-Economic System,”10 and that he was virtually the only member of the committee who actually read the drafts of the program.11 The Archive of Yugoslavia has retained the records of meetings of the commission to draw up the program, as well as numerous submitted remarks on the early draft. Interestingly, there is very little consideration of cultural questions in those deliberations, with the exception of a few submissions that question the very absence of a strong statement on the role of culture in the building of socialism in Yugoslavia.12 Ćosić was the only person on the committee itself who questioned the program’s neglect of culture, although he was equally concerned with some indelicate language regarding the peasantry and a whole host of other formulations.13

  • 14 Ćosić, Piščevi zapisi (1951–1968), 143. Ćosić writes that “it was as if that person was the only o (...)

11Ćosić urged that there be more attention given to the role of culture in the construction of socialism: “Perhaps it would be useful to say something about contradictions in the national cultures and on their mutual relations, and also something about the difficulties which thereby emerge for our cultural policy and for our cultural transformation.” Ćosić also pressed for a bit more attention to be given to the LCY’s material support for cultural development. Kardelj, the final arbiter where the Program was concerned,14 was not responsive. “We are not thinking of adding any content, any sort of formula for art and culture. We only need to say that we are as a society interested in general in art and culture and that we will give some money for it.” Ćosić insisted: “We must say something about the problematic of cultural policy. That would not infringe upon [anyone’s] competence, nor [limit] cultural freedom.” Kardelj retorted that “the whole chapter is presented as practical policy. That is, nothing to do with content, but which sort of material policy we should follow.” Kardelj’s remarks are instructive if only as a symbol of the lack of importance granted cultural questions in party forums. The absence of concern with culture betrays the obvious: the LCY, as a Marxist party, was dominated by people who believed that identity was rooted in socio-economic factors. Culture, as such, develops from a materialist base. Culture would not be an actor in the struggle to create a classless society, and culture would not be an actor in the creation of a harmonious multinational Yugoslavia; rather, classlessness and harmony would result from the building of socialism.

  • 15 Yugoslavia’s Way p. 192.

12Kardelj’s perfunctory dismissal of Ćosić’s concerns regarding cultural policy was reflected in the program itself, which argued that “Yugoslav socialist consciousness” was based on the equality of the Yugoslav peoples, which in turn “is made certain primarily through a material basis, social-economic relations and the socialist system itself.”15 The program explicitly rejected any suggestion that a new nation was in the making:

  • 16 Yugoslavia’s Way p. 193.

This is not a question of creating a new ‘Yugoslav nation’ to replace the existing nationalities but of organic growth and strengthening of the socialist community of producers or working men of all nationalities of Yugoslavia…Such Yugoslavism does not stand in the way of national languages and cultures. It presupposes them.16

13“Yugoslav socialist consciousness” was thus not national, it was social, and it coexisted with national differences, which authorities in the new state expected to become less and less relevant in the daily and political life of a state founded upon working class power. Ćosić’s failure to impress the program committee did not dissuade him from his view that something more needed to be done to somehow overcome cultural divisions in Yugoslavia; in fact, he would pursue it in another venue, that of literary organizations, from then until 1965 (see below).

  • 17 Ćosić, “O pozivu pisca u socijalističkoj državi,” 227.
  • 18 Ćosić, “O pozivu pisca u socijalističkoj državi,” 228.

14In 1958, Ćosić expanded on his ideas regarding the role of culture in socialism. They are characteristically mushy. The occasion was a poll taken by Jean Paul Sartre’s Le Temps Modernes, and the questions concerned the role of the intellectual in socialist societies. Ćosić asserted that the role of the intellectual was to “actively engage in the tasks of the socialist avant-garde and to become its organic component.” Further, he said, avant-gardism that did not serve the interest of the working class was inappropriate and, in the worst case, tragic.17 But the actual task of the intellectual—the substance of his/her role—defied Ćosić’s ability to generalize, as he himself acknowledged. When he attempted to, the best he could do was to assert that socialism should strive towards the “democratization of culture.” Aside from certain administrative responsibilities, including the funding of cultural institutions and the building of schools, Ćosić viewed the goal of socialism to be “freedom of intellectual creation on the ideological foundations of socialism and humanism” without any institution having an intellectual monopoly. He denied the state a “directive” role in the building of socialist culture, rather preferring “social administration” and “free socialist initiative of citizens” as controls. Such an ideological “line,” he believed, was sufficient to fend off “antisocialist misuse of freedom.”18 All in all, Ćosić placed an enormous but amorphous responsibility on the shoulders of the communist intellectual.

  • 19 Ćosić, “O pozivu pisca u socijalističkoj državi,” 229.

It is precisely in today’s ideological constellation that the moral responsibility of the communist intellectual has grown to a frightening degree. The drama of revolutionary truth becomes the moral drama of this epoch. If communist intellectuals are morally defeated, if they do not have the strength and courage to accept responsibility for the fate of revolutionary Marxist truth, then our epoch will be the epoch of defeated humanism.19

15The burden that Ćosić felt as well as placed on the shoulders of others was enormous, but its content was also undefined. What, in other words, is a Marxist culture? How would democratized culture be created while resisting “antisocialist misuse”?


  • 20 Nikola Drenovac, Pisci govore (Belgrade: Grafos, 1964) 85.
  • 21 Drenovac, Pisci govore, 87.
  • 22 Drenovac, Pisci govore, 87–88.

16As a writer, Ćosić continued to probe the nature of the Partisan victory in World War II as well as the character of the Serbian countryside; in fact, he combined these two passions in his novel Divisions (Deobe) which was published in 1961. Divisions would be his final novel as a committed Titoist; it was written with the same goal that had animated Roots: to come to terms with the sources of evil and backwardness in Serbia as preparation for a true transformation. In Divisions, Ćosić examined the nature of the Četnik movement of the Second World War. Like Roots, it received the NIN award for novel of the year, the first time that a writer had been given the award twice. Whereas earlier, in Roots, Ćosić had struck a blow against the corruption of patriarchal village life in Serbia, so, with Divisions, he attacked what he would later describe in his debate with Dušan Pirjevec as the “vampires” of nationalism in his own Serbian house. In 1964 he described the origins of the title of the work, which he had originally called “The Knife,” and then “Liberation”: “Divisions…gives expression to a passing epoch, the epoch of revolution, epoch of social transformation, the divisions among the people, class divisions, human divisions, the divisions within ourselves.”20 His subjects, the Četniks, Ćosić then said, “have been my obsession for years.”21 To write the novel, Ćosić drew upon his own experiences as a Partisan, interviews with former Četniks, and victims of the Četniks. He framed the Četnik movement as a product of “the national romance, the motifs of the national ethic.” In the end, he remained fearful that he had “done an injustice to the victims” by trying too hard to understand their persecutors. But he needn’t have worried. He came to realize that the Četnik movement had been “something more tragic, more dreadful, more monstrous than that which I realized and expressed in my notes and books.” But, he added, “for the past to become a lesson and stimulus for the future, one must make that which is most monstrous in it human; crime must become a human situation in order to have a human resonance, a human message.”22 Divisions was a more sophisticated search for some sort of useable truth in the recent Serbian past than other treatments of the Četniks to that point had offered to Yugoslavs, but Ćosić did not suggest—as many might today—that there was something worthwhile in the movement. Ćosić described it as almost incomprehensible horror. Upon reading the novel in the light of Ćosić’s life after it—and in particular, given the themes examined in this chapter, in which Ćosić seems to expand his own interpretation of the Četniks to Serbian society as a whole—one wonders whether he ultimately allowed his own outsider’s explanation of the Četniks to take over his historical vision in general. “Divisions” became his personal motif, transferred far beyond the limited realm of the Četnik movement.

17Divisions is a long novel with a simple structure. The focuses on four carefully chosen characters who animate various sources of the Četnik movement, using long monologues as his explanatory vehicle: (1) in the character of Uroš Babović (“Vojvoda Planinski”), Ćosić alerts us to the traditional, rural, origins of the movement—origins that were explored also in his earlier novel, Roots; (2) Doctor Bata Pavlović, an intellectual and politician from Belgrade, “European” and always in opposition to the corrupt Belgrade regimes, exemplifies the tired liberal idealism that drove many into the Četnik ranks, not willing to acknowledge their own collaboration but even less willing to work with the communists; (3) Mladen Rakić, a young, educated Serb who comes from Belgrade after the German occupation, is a firm Serbian nationalist who is ultimately seduced by the cult of blood in his passionate hatred of communists; and (4) Kosta Cvetić is a soldier in the Royal Yugoslav army who views the Partisan/Četnik conflict as a purely professional, military matter.

18Ćosić opens the novel with a short chapter entitled “confusion.” The chapter is a moving testament to Ćosić’s dire need to come to terms with the Četnik phenomenon.

  • 23 Dobrica Ćosić, Deobe v. 1 (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1966) 15.

Your bones have long turned grey and—they are silent. That must mean that you are dead. But we meet in dreams. We meet everywhere. I hear you. Every morning the newspaper speaks of you, of killing, of war. There are many of you around. You sharpen your knives. And you use your knives everywhere where freedom stands tall. Who are you, what are you, what did you intend?23

19Here Ćosić also establishes his central theme of division.

  • 24 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 13.

In Prerovo, and from both sides of the river, a great gathering and division of people. Not all at once, and not final. Then consciously, as Prerovians will, laboriously sticking to the meadows, vinyards, and forests, they sewed death to the Germans and their allies. And assuredly, our own, richly so. But first off we began the argument about the timing. ‘It is time for us to raise up and stand tall,’ we shouted, and they whispered: ‘It is still not the right time, we will wait and save our heads.’24

  • 25 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 13.

20Those who “rose up and stood tall, looking off in the distance,” saw the “red star with the hammer and sickle” and became Partisans. Those who wished to wait, “bent and turned to the past,” carried the “king’s coat of arms with the death’s head attached.”25 They were Četniks. With the divisions established,

  • 26 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 13.

around Prerovo and the shores of the river the slaughter began. We no longer divided ourselves between the superior and the dependent, owners and laborers; we were no longer comrades, nor friends, nor relatives, nor countrymen. Nor Serbs. We became simply those who slaughtered and those who were to be slaughtered, just daggers and necks.26

21Not only Serbs were divided: humanity, for Ćosić, in this novel, rested across a divide, and that divide bisected Serbia itself:

Fear is in everything: in the forests and the skies, equally treacherous, in each rising and setting of the sun, in the Morava which eats meadows and people and leads to the east, Asia, and offers it to the west, Europe. Only wars cross it through Serbia, in both directions only death; death under all sorts of omens.

22And fear defines the lives of those who slaughter:

  • 27 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 19.

The fear of forests, skies, Morava, paths, fear of day and night, sons inherit from their fathers; fear is in the blood, eyes, hands, and smiles, and songs; fear is love, and hate; it is an immeasurable, primeval richness. In every life, and always: at the beginning of all is fear.27

23The setting—fear, slaughter, divisions—dominates the novel, which is comprised of three long volumes of ruminations by the various central characters.

  • 28 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 107.
  • 29 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 266.

24To Ćosić, the Četniks are both the product and the embodiment of the myth of the Serbian peasant heartland. When Rakić, the young Belgrade student, wants to join the patriotic cause, he determines that “one must leave this place [Belgrade], save oneself, save one’s consciousness, one’s ideals, one’s soul. One must go to Serbia, authentic, peasant, true Serbia. There the war must begin. It is this Serbia which the communists want to inflame and destroy.”28 In that Serbia, Mladen would find and join the forces of the warlord Vojvoda Planinski, before the war simply the Prerovo landholder Uroš Babović, whose “hatred of communists is instinctive hatred. Primal hatred. He sees communists as organic enemies of life, with no political convictions or ideological-philosophical views…” Less heroic than Karadjordje, more a tactician like Miloš Obrenović, Vojvoda Planinski was for Mladen “honorable in his cunning.”29 To this idealization of the peasant Serb, Ćosić adds the image of the politician Bata Pavlović, an intellectual whose disappointment with past failures of the Serbian national cause—following the Balkan and First World Wars—has led him to the woods to compose a purely Serbian national program (a “Memorandum on the Četnik National-Democratic Movement”). For Pavlović, the struggle between the Četniks and the communists is a sad but inevitable one, made unavoidable by the corruption of earlier Serbian regimes:

  • 30 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 274–75.

Our fateful error from the Balkan wars to now is that we, politicians, intellectuals, and all sorts of ideologues, gave in to the miserly, marketplace mentality: overlordship and hatred towards those whom we meet, the tattered, silent, treacherous, slinking, ready to bite. They hate us, they will be revenged on us. Besides, wars have always been peasant revenge on the city. And this war will be no different.30

  • 31 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 123.

25Pavlović differs from the other intellectual Četnik, Mladen, in that he realizes that the Serbian peasant has been given good reason to fall prey to the message of the communists. But Pavlović’s defeatism, his patient acceptance of the inevitability of such a peasant/city war, his gracious acknowledgment of its origins—in the corruption of earlier Serbian regimes—renders him the most pathetic of the major characters of Divisions. He gives idealistic expression to his indifference to the peasant by presenting it as principle: “the entirety of my political program is in a single word: freedom. Yes, even more than bread. That’s right. Democracy is the right to go hungry.”31

  • 32 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 2, 269.
  • 33 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 397.

26The global interpretation of Serbian history to which the characters in Divisions testify is that Serbia has always been rent by conflict between fathers and sons and their willingness to murder each other. Two pairs of fathers and sons reflect that eternal order: Adam Katić and his son Dušan and Uroš Babović and his son Miloš. Adam, a sixyear-old boy at the end of Roots, is now the father of Dušan, a Partisan commandant, but will not denounce him—the memories of his grandfather’s rejection of his own sons is too fresh, the resulting collapse of his family too tangible. But Babović orders the death of Miloš. Babović’s denunciation of his son is elevated to an existential need by Ćosić’s Četniks: as one prepares to murder a prisoner, another muses that “if the father had not condemned the son, the son would have condemned the father. That’s how it always is. Throughout the entire world.”32 “Revolution is patricide. The end of this world,” says one priest who sides with the Četniks.33 But not only revolution is patricide: Serbia is patri- (and fratri-) cidal. Its history tells us so.

  • 34 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 2, 267–68.

This is already the third Serbian uprising. In the first, Karadjordje killed his father. At the beginning of the second, Miloš Obrenović convinced Vujica Vuličević to club to death his godfather Karadjordje with a saber. Eh, Miloš Obrenović was a true Serb. First he got the Turk into his grasp, then notched him with his knife. Congratulations to him. That, peasants, was the second Serbian uprising. After that, thus, prince Miloš Obrenović jailed his own son, named Blažnavac, via the Viennese police. Then king Aleksandar Obrenović ran his own father king Milan Obrenović out of the country.34

  • 35 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 2, 79.

27To provide historical balance, the reader is also reminded that Karadjordje “killed his father, his own father…and killed his brother, and raised Serbia in rebellion against the Turks, founded a dynasty and through heroism and fame made himself eternal, and will last as long as Serbia lasts.”35

  • 36 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 2, 275–79. See Branimir Anzulović, Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide (New Yo (...)

28Situating Divisions in Ćosić’s career and oeuvre requires some care. When he wrote it (between 1955 and 1961), he was moved by the purest of motives: to understand evil. Still, he did so as one who had internalized the demonic version of the Četnik movement, the only option available to a Yugoslav writer in the early 1960s and the only choice amenable to Ćosić in any case. He did not, and would never, attempt to rehabilitate that movement, and his well-intentioned desire to come to an understanding of it would founder in any case because he was the captive of such visceral and horrifying imagery. So none of his characters’ violent ramblings can be attributed to him personally. If anything, he exaggerated horror to make his point about the Četniks as clear as possible, as is the case with a famous “article” embedded in the novel on the nature of the “knife,” a blood-curdling section whose ideas have wrongly been attributed to Ćosić himself.36 Having said that, the novel provided an interpretive historical framework that was easily adaptable to other times and other situations. The notion that evil can step in and too easily split the primordially divisive Serbian people and victimize those pure who remained did not require much modification as new Serbian enemies appeared, from without and within. Those enemies, like the Četniks before them, would capitalize on Serbian divisiveness.


  • 37 On this polemic, see Dimitrij Rupel, Od vojnog do civilnog društva (Zagreb: Globus, 1990) 96–113. (...)
  • 38 Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 125–26.

29Ćosić’s polemic with the Slovene writer Dušan Pirjevec in 1961–62 gave him the opportunity to act from a position of power in putting forth his ideas on nationhood and nationalism in the new Yugoslavia.37 The occasion for the polemic was a January 1961 interview of Ćosić in the Zagreb newspaper Telegram. In that interview—and in passing, as Ćosić would remind Pirjevec—Ćosić was asked whether Yugoslavs were still “too passive in inter-republican contacts.” Ćosić responded that the question would be valid “as long as republics exist.” To this formulation, which clearly implied that Ćosić believed that republics should and would eventually disappear, Pirjevec responded with a sarcastic, biting commentary in the Slovene journal Naša sodobnost. His point, following some attenuated logic, was that Ćosić’s comment cloaked a desire that Yugoslavia’s republics be eliminated in favor of a single, centralized state organization. Pirjevec’s response revealed his own fear that Ćosić wished the assimilation of Yugoslavia’s nations. Ćosić’s debate with Pirjevec is often cited as the first public discussion of the nature of the national problem in postwar Yugoslavia. But the Ćosić-Pirjevec “polemic” was actually a surrogate for intraparty debate over the Yugoslav future. Pirjevec was almost certainly guided by Slovenian communist leader Boris Kraigher, while Ćosić claims that he was prompted to action by Jovan Veselinov, a leading Serbian communist, and Tito himself.38 Given Ćosić’s later reputation as a nationalist, it is easy enough to forget that in 1961, Ćosić’s position reflected the status quo in Tito’s Yugoslavia.

30The sense of this lengthy polemic is fairly simple to encapsulate: Pirjevec called upon an idiosyncratic understanding of Marxism to support the notion that nationality is an integral part of human identity, and that any attempt to create a Yugoslav socialism that undermined national identity could not be supported in ideological or human terms. Ćosić, acting at that point in consonance with all precedents on the national question in Tito’s Yugoslavia, argued otherwise, but not in the belief that national identity should be destroyed. Instead, Ćosić’s argument was that Yugoslavism was a social construct that would, even when it reached its full development, coexist with national identities as cultural identities, which would be by necessity less important than the higher identification with socialist society. Ćosić’s elaboration of this idea could have been taken directly out of the 1958 Program of the League of Communists. Ćosić:

  • 39 Ćosić, “O savremenom nesavremenom nacionalizmu,” 48.

Yugoslavism which is a social, and not a national category; Yugoslavism which is society and not a nation; Yugoslavism which is consistent with federalism; Yugoslavism which does not negate national independence and in no way denies national liberty. We pronounce ourselves for Yugoslavism—as a framework for internationalism, Yugoslavism—as a socialistic association of equal and free peoples, an association of peoples without any sort of or anyone’s national privileges, Yugoslavism—as a free process by which nations and people grow together and unify socialistically, Yugoslavism—as a part of a historically inevitable process of the integration of the world and the appearance of socialist civilization on this planet, Yugoslavism—as a society of free democratic creations of the national-collective and individual personality.39

31Nationalisms could be found, Ćosić asserted, in two places: first, among “classic counter-revolutionaries,” but also among socialists: in the bureaucracy, among those who see a chance for enrichment, careerists. The latter form of nationalism could be “an expression of the youthfulness of national liberation of peoples who only achieved full political personality with the revolution,” and should not be condemned out of hand. Ćosić suggested to Pirjevec that they should each deal first with nationalisms among their own peoples (as Ćosić could argue he had recently done with Divisions) rather than seek them out elsewhere, as Pirjevec had done. Ćosić’s definition of the goals of Yugoslav socialism was the same as the official version put forth by the League of Communists, which was one reason why Ćosić’s responses to Pirjevec both bristled with self-confidence and dripped with the selfpity of the unjustly attacked.

  • 40 Danilo Kiš’s biting poem “The Poet of the Revolution on the Presidential Yacht” begins with the wo (...)
  • 41 Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 107–108.

32The Pirjevec polemic marked a watershed for Ćosić, who believed that his understanding of the task of socialism was identical to the party’s: to create a Yugoslavia in which a socialist identity would not replace but would become more important than national identity. That understanding informed not only cultural polemics and writings on nations under Tito’s rule, but the very organization of the state. And there is plenty of symbolic evidence that Ćosić enjoyed the confidence of Tito and that he returned that confidence. In 1961, for instance, he was offered and accepted the honor of traveling in Tito’s delegation aboard the presidential yacht, the Galeb, to Africa. Along with Lazar Koliševski, Veljko Mićunović, and others, he accompanied Tito to eight North African states on a diplomatic mission. Ćosić has been razzed ever since for taking this 72-day, extraordinarily luxurious, trip.40 To later accusations that this trip proved that Ćosić was the “court writer” of his time, Ćosić has responded that “the experiences and knowledge gained on that trip have been far more important for me than all of the discomfort that has resulted from it and my participation in it.”41 As with his earlier “fact-finding” mission to Goli Otok, Ćosić was able to justify a trip that certainly deserved the reputation it gained by claiming that it gave him insight into the system that he later condemned.

33Then, seven months after the end of his tour on the Galeb, Ćosić authored the introduction to Tito’s book Forty-one, about the communist uprising. Tito assumes a spiritual importance for Ćosić: while

  • 42 Ćosić, “Reč i delo istorije,” 205–206.

European armies withdrew to their trenches, with white flags raised in the air…there was a Croat, metal worker, revolutionary, secretary of the Communist party, who entered the history of Yugoslavia, the Balkans and Europe with his strong step, with new ideas, angry and tender voice, different in every way from any leader, general, or politician to that point in the Balkans; he was a man called to alter the fate of this land, to mark its most decisive epoch with his name and work.42

  • 43 Ćosić, “Reč i delo istorije,” 207.
  • 44 Ćosić, “Reč i delo istorije,” 209.

34This man, Tito, had “the moral, ideological, and creative power to utter the most human and most revolutionary sentence which in the entire world at that time could be uttered: ‘We will be the sowers of brotherhood among peoples.’”43 “Upon these words of Tito, a generation carried out the liberating exploits of an era, soared to the heights of promethean ethics, became the carrier of heroic and true humanism.”44 And so on; Ćosić was, in spite of his claims that his faith in Tito had been shaken as early as 1954, at the height of his appreciation of Tito and Titoism at this point, in November 1961. However, from 1961 to 1966, Ćosić and all Yugoslavs came to question their comfortable assumptions about socialist Yugoslavism, as the party began to reassess the nature of self-managing Yugoslavism. The battle was waged between 1961 and 1966, framed by the first discussions of a lagging economy in 1961 and the removal of Aleksandar Ranković from his position as vice-president of Yugoslavia in 1966. By all accounts, the Ćosić-Pirjevec polemic was an integral part of this battle, as opposing sides used the two writers as surrogates in their struggle to define Yugoslavia’s future.

  • 45 Dennison Rusinow, The Yugoslav Experiment, 1948–1974 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of Cali (...)
  • 46 Rusinow, The Yugoslav Experiment, 136.
  • 47 On the Eight Congress of the LCY, see Rusinow, The Yugoslav Experiment, 165–72.
  • 48 He says this in Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 135.

35By 1961, economic performance in Yugoslavia had begun to slow noticeably. For the first time, the LCY re-examined the organization of the state, albeit from a purely economic perspective. At this point we begin to hear of “liberal” and “conservative” approaches to economic reform.45 Liberals favored increased room in the economy for entrepreneurialism, which implied expanded civil liberties; conservatives wished to retain a centrally-governed economy and saw no need to reduce the party’s monopoly on power. Tito’s own impulse was to favor the conservatives, which he did publicly in a May 1962 speech at Split. But in December 1962 and January 1963 two conferences of economists produced reports that called into doubt the conservative position. The result of expanded dialogue about economic change was a series of proposals, ranging from the creation of a virtually free market to the return to full central planning. The controversy over economic reform acted as camouflaged political debate. The conservative position found support among some, but not all, Serbian economists. One historian has noted that in spite of the economic logic of the liberal (market reform) position, many Serbian economists nonetheless gravitated to the conservative position out of a sense of national loyalty.46 The fruits of this ongoing discussion included the 1963 constitution, which, while not empowering the republics as such, did initiate the gradual devolution of economic decision-making power from the center to enterprises and local governments. The Eighth Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, held in December 1964 in Belgrade, placed the party seal of approval on economic reforms supported by the liberals. In his opening speech to the congress, Tito himself attacked nationalism of the “centralist” variety, obviously referring to Serbian nationalism, which he accused of looking forward to the elimination of nationalities and the creation of an “artificial” Yugoslav nation.47 Tito’s speech cleared the way for reforms of the economy that would bring decentralizing political reforms with them. So Pirjevec, Ćosić would later say, had won.48 Ćosić’s distress with changes in Yugoslav administration would grow over the next four years.


  • 49 This initiative actually looked a lot like that of Zoran Mišić from 1955. Djukić, Čovek u svom vre (...)
  • 50 Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 100.
  • 51 Dobrica Ćosić, “Udruživanje prema uverenjima, afinitetima, i idejama,” in Književne novine, no. 24 (...)

36In Yugoslavia it was inevitable that changes in state administration would be felt through the system, including professional organizations. Writers were no exception. The League of Writers of Yugoslavia was created to pass policy directives from the state and party down the social and political ladder to the new literary elite of Yugoslavia. Within it were constituent republic organizations—the Serbian Writers’ Union, the Croatian Writers’ Society (Društvo književnika Hrvatske, DKH) and others, one for each republic. As early as 1957, some writers, led by Ćosić and Oskar Davičo, began to flirt with the idea of a reorganization of the League of Writers that would allow members to group according to aesthetic criteria instead of being limited to regional associations.49 The formulation of the new Program of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in that year allowed Yugoslavs to believe that the party would fulfill the promises of the break with Stalin: more self-management, more openness in society. As a member of the committee to write the new program, Ćosić had discovered firsthand just how little importance the party elite placed on substantive efforts to overcome cultural divisions in Yugoslavia. For those writers favoring reorganization, the unveiling of the new program seemed a useful moment to make the next logical transition, towards greater integration and, importantly, more substantive Yugoslavism. Ćosić and Davičo broached the topic first in 1958 in Ljubljana, where the Seventh Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia was meeting and unveiling the new Program.50 The proposal was met, in Ćosić’s words, with “a very sharp denunciation by a great number of writers.”51

  • 52 Arhiv Jugoslavije, Belgrade; Savez književnika Jugoslavije (hereafter, AJSkJ): F:2 (VI, VII, Vanre (...)
  • 53 AJ-SkJ: F:14 Plenums of SkJ from 1961–1965; Sten. beleške: SkJ Plenum uprave 23.IX.64 Titograd (No (...)
  • 54 Lukić, Savremena Jugoslovenska literatura, 148.

37By the time that the Seventh Congress of the League of Writers of Yugoslavia met in Titograd in September, 1964, a more coherent movement had emerged favoring reorganization of literary associations. Ćosić claimed that about 80 writers, from all of the republics but Slovenia, signed the proposal, and he maintained that it was therefore a “Yugoslav” initiative. But extant documents indicate that only 37 writers signed, with Serbs being most represented.52 They were referred to as the “Ćosić Group,” and Ćosić himself described the proposal as the work of “some people from Belgrade.”53 The motion suggested “…that alongside the principle of national-territorial organization of writers, the right of writers be affirmed in the statute to organize also on other bases and according to other similarities and affinities…”54 At Titograd in 1964, the SkJ opted to postpone study of the proposal, due to extensive opposition from the Slovene contingent and other individuals who saw in it the Trojan Horse of Serbian centralism. Consideration of Ćosić’s proposal was put off (as were all questions related to the issuance of a new statute for the league) until an extraordinary congress could meet the following winter.

38In the meantime, republican organizations were directed to discuss and decide on the various proposals before the league. The Serbian Writers Association met on February 21, 1965. By this time Ćosić harbored few illusions that he would have the support of his own organization. The February meeting gave him the opportunity to expand on his notions for reform of the writers’ organization, but he fought an uphill battle, and his presentation to the membership of the UKS was cynical and bored. He had been asked to provide a written proposal for consideration before the meeting but did not do so. The existing proposal was imprecise. What would “aesthetic affinities” mean? Would these special groups meet outside of the boundaries of the League of Writers, because if so, there was then no need for the League to pass judgment. Would these new working groups be under the umbrella of republican or federal writers’ associations? Ćosić admitted that

I have no formula, I have no prepared concrete proposal. We need to think it over, we need to agree in principle whether there is any sense in doing something and in supporting something like this….I see in this the possibility of shaking up our literary life in a positive sense, to make possible in a positive sense some sort of initiatives which might be objectively useful socially, culturally, however you like.

  • 55 “Reorganizacija Savez književnika?” 8.

39He imagined that potential avenues for organizing writers’ groups might include “organizations of writers around one journal, one publishing house, some home region; around, for instance, a social program, that people organize on some cultural program…on some Yugoslav level.”55 Regardless his inability to offer precise examples how this new organizational principle would work, Ćosić was certain that the current, republican basis for the organization of the League of Writers was “in essence, a confederalistic principle of organization” which should be discussed openly, “without demagoguery and without hypocrisy.”

  • 56 AJ SkJ: Savez književnika Jugoslavije: VII Kongres, Titograd, 1964, 187.

40Ćosić suspected that this confederalistic principle promised the revival of nationalism in Yugoslavia. Proponents of Ćosić’s proposal argued that they were helping to fulfill one of the promises of communism in Yugoslavia—the creation of a Yugoslav culture. In fact, one can look at the proposal as an answer to Mišić’s earlier call for spontaneity in the creation of a Yugoslav culture. Sveta Lukić had observed at the Titograd congress that “affinities may be deeply aesthetic…It is important, I think, that these affinities generate results that are more Yugoslav than they have been to date.”56 So the importance of this resolution for Ćosić and others was that it would contribute to the creation of a true Yugoslav culture; in its current state, for Ćosić, Davičo, and their supporters, literature which developed regionally and nationally inhibited the development of aesthetic, cross-national, potentially supranational forms. Davičo, the co-author of the motion, offered the best, if not the clearest, testimony to the long term, more idealistic goals of the proposal.

I think that we have in our society, in our association, in relations between writers, a series of problems of moral and other natures, about which we should talk…One of the motives, not the only one, not the first one, comrade Dobrica mentioned a second ago. That is the problem of relations of us writers towards that which is called Yugoslavia. I think, comrades, that creating a national culture, contributing with our work to the creation of a consciousness, a self-feeling in broad strokes of a nation, one writer, a citizen of this country, surely cannot remain limited only to his narrow homeland, nor only to his republic, but has in view, and must have in view, his entire country. And I can tell you that in Zagreb, in Ljubljana, or in Skoplje, in Sarajevo, or in Titograd there are writers, I have comrades, I have friends, who are much closer, much tighter than many writers, many of my friends and comrades here, regarding a whole series of ideas, a whole set of conceptions.

41Opponents of Ćosić’s proposal feared that it barely cloaked the “Great Serbian” desires of its proponents, who, they asserted, would eventually destroy the regional organization and impose one federal association with loose-knit, non-national groupings within it. The death of republican organizations was, they felt, a step in the direction of the elimination of republics altogether. Davičo addressed these concerns:

I think that if we organized a group of writers alongside these republican frameworks, if a writers’ group were formed…that would not mean great Serbianism, nor great Croatianism, nor great Slovenianism, or who knows what to call it: any sort of chauvinism. That would not mean the imposition of some sort of unitaristic conception. Each of us, working as a Croat, as a Slovene, Macedonian, etc., in the framework of his own language and his own traditional, so to speak, associations and coordinates, would be opting for, would have in view something which is common to all nations, he would have in view today, and our future.

  • 57 “Reorganizacija Savez književnika?” 8.

42But Davičo’s pleas could not obscure the lack of depth to the thinking of Ćosić and his “group.” For example, it would seem self-evident that in attacking the regional basis of the writers’ organizations, the movers of the proposal envisioned aesthetic communities that crossed regional boundaries. It is difficult, then, to explain the comment by Sveta Lukić, one of Ćosić’s allies, who could not answer a simple question from a critic: would he “accept, for instance, a comrade from Slovenia” into an aesthetically or otherwise organized writers’ group? Lukić, confused by the obvious, answered that he would have to consult his colleagues.57

  • 58 Dragan Jeremić, the president of the UKS, opposed Ćosić’s proposal, as did others on the board of (...)
  • 59 Dobrica Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije, ili o aktuelnostima naše savremene kulture,” in Praxis, no. 4 (...)
  • 60 Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije,” 522.

43The board of the Serbian Writers’ Association voted down Ćosić’s proposal at this February 1965 meeting.58 Soon thereafter, Ćosić published an article in Praxis that, in part, was a final attempt to urge his conception for reorganization on his fellows.59 “The solution to the social problem of our culture is today undoubtedly not to be found in the resigned exhalings of some genial ministers of culture, nor in the existence of a cultural administration of patronage, nor in the efficacy of a powerful and intelligent bureaucracy…many problems cannot be solved at the existing level and existing structure of socialist self-management, political inertia, and dogmatic and doctrinaire declarations of a means to an end.”60 Characteristically obscure, this passage presses Ćosić’s message that bureaucracy could not promote creativity in an enlightened fashion, and in fact often impeded it.

  • 61 Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije,” 523.

I think that if we continue to defend each of our constructions, each framework, each law, each declaration of the social-political system, and any political orientation and measure, with dogmatic and doctrinaire inviolability and lack of criticism, then very serious problems and difficult results will be produced for our socialistic progress, and even when their results are expressly negative, we justify them with historical necessity.61

  • 62 Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije,” 524.
  • 63 Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije,” 524.

44Ćosić then asserts that for him “Yugoslavism and that which is Yugoslav are not just territorial categories and the name of a state federation…[they] have a certain social-historical content and function… to declare myself a follower of Yugoslavism today is for me the same as to proclaim myself a follower of freedom and socialism.”62 As was his wont, Ćosić evinced frustration with others’ inability or unwillingness to understand him: in this piece, he rages about having “to always name all political-ideological assumptions, even alphabetical notions, if we do not wish to be proclaimed nationalists, hegemonists, unitarists, centralists, bureaucrats.”63 Finally, he recites the official conception of “Yugoslav” culture:

  • 64 Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije,” 527.

Above all, Yugoslav culture is not a national culture and I do not believe that it will ever be that; Yugoslav culture is not a state culture and does not need to ever be that. Yugoslav culture is made of national cultures and the cultures of nationalities, which today develop in conditions of national, social, and individual freedom, in conditions of political and social equality in interpersonal relations.64

  • 65 Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije,” 528.

45But, he clearly does believe a “Yugoslav” culture is a near-historical- inevitability, one of the singular products of socialist revolution: “Yugoslav characteristics, the Yugoslav content of national cultures, in essence and in the historical sense, are characteristics and contents which we call the process of universalization of contemporary national cultures, the process whose fundamental actors are material-technical, general-civilizational, and socialist-liberationist progress of the contemporary world. That Yugoslav…is one new social, human, and historical quality.”65 Furthermore, and rather frantically, Ćosić reasserts his belief that this new culture will not be built upon the violent destruction of the national cultures of Yugoslavia:

  • 66 Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije,” 528.

…this Yugoslav is not and does not dare ever to contest or deny national liberty, originality, or specificity, just as it dare not have its final end in existing political borders of the Yugoslav federation; that Yugoslav is not the unification of values and the violent ending of differences; that Yugoslav is the respect of difference and special qualities, a framework for the mutual creative emphasis and affirmation; that is unity as the collective difference.66

46I take seriously Ćosić’s protestations that his vision of Yugoslav culture was not intended as a threat to existing national cultures, that “Yugoslav culture” reflected his vision of his land joining a modern, universal, non-national world. Yugoslav, for Ćosić, meant the activization of socialist values and culture. But equally clear is that others feared for their own national cultures to the point that universalism simply had no appeal if it meant their own destruction in this, Ćosić’s, Yugoslavia.

  • 67 “Literatura u ostavci,” Književne novine (Belgrade) January 8, 1966, 1.
  • 68 Dobrica Ćosić, “O modernizmu i realizmu, potom,” in Prilike, 259–60.
  • 69 Dobrica Ćosić, “O Savezu književnika i drugom,” in Prilike, 264–65.
  • 70 Lukić, Savremena Jugoslovenska literatura, 154.

47Overwrought last-ditch, not to mention typically obscure and abstract, efforts to convince a Yugoslav intellectual elite of the value of his conception of Yugoslav culture did nothing to build support for Ćosić’s resolution for a reorganization of the League of Writers. In December, 1965, an extraordinary meeting of the League of Writers of Yugoslavia met in Belgrade to discuss the proposal, among others. Ćosić did not even attend the meeting. In fact, as it convened, he had just formally resigned from the Serbian Writers’ Association.67 He realized that his movement had already been defeated. When asked to comment on the League of Yugoslav Writers as the congress met, Ćosić said: “I think that the last [1964] Congress of Writers of Yugoslavia was a convincing confirmation of the bureaucratism, apathy, conservatism, and backwardness in the soul of republic and associational (udruženjski) literature.”68 The League of Writers was now merely "an expression and mechanism of republican and national bureaucratism and centralism…” Now, as he saw it, Yugoslav writers had chosen atomization and fragmentation instead of integration and a new consciousness: "Yugoslav federalistic centralism and bureaucratism are exchanged for republican centralism and national bureaucratism. All in all, many writers believe that republican and national bureaucratism and etatism are better and more bearable, and perhaps more democratic, than that federal, 'Belgrade,' version.”69 At the extraordinary Belgrade congress in 1965, Mihiz remarked portentously that the failure of the resolution marked the first time that confederalism was formally accepted in principle in Yugoslavia.70 At a remarkably early date, then, the potential decentralization of Yugoslavia had become a source of resentment for many Serbian writers, a limited but influential group.

48So Ćosić’s muddled proposal was not approved. This was just about the final blow in a long battle to nourish his image of the socialist revolution in Yugoslavia, an image that grew more and more difficult to sustain under the succession of radical changes in Tito’s administration of the state. Although in hindsight it appears to be entirely beside the point how writers organize themselves—after all, the critics were right, any writers could meet with and collaborate with anyone they wished—Ćosić understood that Yugoslav (or Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian, etc) reality followed Yugoslav administrative norms. His proposal implied the eventual withering away—if not active destruction—of a regional, republican bureaucracy administering writers. Its success or failure would be a measure of the plausibility of the removal of those same boundaries in other spheres of Yugoslav life. Ćosić viewed the failure of his resolution as the failure of Yugoslavism at the top, with Tito and Edvard Kardelj. He was not surprised by resistance from his fellow writers, but the lack of continued commitment to the complete transformation of Yugoslav culture(s) by the regime disturbed him greatly.


49While Ćosić sniffed out evidence of Tito’s and other Yugoslavs’ lack of commitment to a universalist working-class Yugoslav identity in the cultural sphere, events were moving much more quickly in the realm of political power. In July 1966, Aleksandar Ranković, the vice-president of Yugoslavia and, until 1964, the head of state security in Yugoslavia (UDBa), was purged from his positions and eventually kicked out of the League of Communists. This event—the removal of the second of Tito’s three lieutenants (Djilas had been the first to go, in 1954)—has never been adequately examined, although that fact is probably a function of the opacity of his very removal. Was the security service out of control? Was Ranković the head of a clique planning his takeover of power from Tito? Did Ranković or his helpers actually bug Tito’s bedroom? Was Ranković the head of an anti-Albanian, counter-revolutionary movement in Kosovo? Was Ranković the revisitation of hegemonic Great Serbianism in Yugoslavia? All of these accusations were leveled by any of a number of Ranković’s critics and inquisitors. Many of them were probably true, and others were inconsequential—but the veracity of the accusations was not as important as the changed atmosphere in Yugoslavia. The importance of Ranković’s removal was in its symbolism: he represented entrenched opposition to reforms that were underway in Yugoslavia.

  • 71 Several books were written in the late 1980s on the Ranković affair. Unless otherwise noted, I hav (...)

50The Ranković affair began as a demotion.71 On June 16, 1966, the Executive Committee of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia approved the formation, on Tito’s recommendation, of a commission to examine “some questions about the work of the organs of state security, plus the appearance of serious misuse of these organs with political goals on the part of certain functionaries.” This commission had representation from each of the six republics. Six days later, it produced a preliminary report which was presented to representatives of the League of Communists of Serbia and Serbs who served in federal capacities. At this meeting, it was agreed that by July 1 a final report based on the commission’s work be presented. Soon after that meeting, the central committees of each republican League of Communists met to discuss the report.

  • 72 Quoted in Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 55–56.

51A portion of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Serbia met on June 28. There, Dobrica Ćosić condemned the proceedings, asserting that the charges against Ranković and the state security service were criminal in nature: “Do not make a political question out of criminals…if it is the truth, place Ranković before the court and try him. There is a criminal law code and anyone who insults the civil integrity of the President of the Republic and bugs intimate quarters should be judged according to it.”72 Ćosić was not a powerful enough figure to thwart an action planned on high, however, and the judgment of Ranković continued to be pursued politically.

  • 73 Quoted in Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 59.
  • 74 It could not have been lost on the anti-Stalinist Yugoslav communists that Stalin had used the sam (...)

52On July 1, 1966, the Fourth Plenum of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia met on the island of Brioni. Here Ranković and his recent replacement as head of UDBa, Svetislav Stefanović, were condemned for a limited number of infractions. They boiled down to one critical accusation: that state security answered to only one man on the Central Committee of the League of Communists, Aleksandar Ranković, instead of the committee as a whole. Thus, in the words of Krste Crvenkovski, the Macedonian who chaired the commission, “comrade Aleksandar Ranković became synonymous with the Central Committee.”73 As the member of the Central Committee responsible for “cadre policy” (meaning, placement of personnel), by relying on his private sources of intelligence on individuals throughout the country, Ranković had been able to twist the work of the Central Committee to his own personal advantage.74 In the name of the commission, Crvenkovski offered four proposals: that the organs of state security be reorganized, with political functionaries placed in positions of authority; that the investigation of UDBa continue with the aim of uncovering the nature and goals of those who misused their positions in the security apparatus; that Svetislav Stefanović be removed from the Central Committee of the LCY and kicked out of the League of Communists; and that Ranković’s resignation as vicepresident of the state, secretary of the Central Committee of the LCY, and member of the Central Committee of the LCY (given earlier, at a session of the Executive Committee of the Central Committee of the LCY) be accepted.

53At Brioni, Ranković spoke twice in his own defense. Concluding his first foray, he acknowledged problems in state security and took some responsibility for those problems:

  • 75 Quoted in Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 64.

Once again, comrades, I wish to emphasize that I bear no responsibility other than moral for such work and such behavior in the organs of state security, which comes out of the fact that it was necessary to show more alertness, both earlier when I immediately directed this institution, and also through my work in the Central Committee. With regard to that, I believe that I am duty-bound to place my functions at the disposal of this forum, of you comrades.75

  • 76 Quoted in Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 72.

54After Tito, among others, proclaimed Ranković’s remarks insufficient, Ranković returned to speak: “I am prepared within the limits of my further possibilities to counter any attempt at the gathering of any people on any given line which would be contrary to the League of Communists, because that could be an unprincipled, anti-party, uncommunist assemblage.”76 Of course, these words were spoken in vain, as Ranković must have understood, for it was his explicit, implicit, or purely symbolic opposition to the current “line” that had gotten him in trouble in the first place.

  • 77 Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 92.

55From the republican central committees on down to the local district committees, Yugoslav communists were directed by the LCY to deal with the results of the Brioni plenum. The Central Committee of the League of Communists of Serbia set up its own commission to examine the evidence regarding UDBa a few days after Brioni; it presented its report on September 5, 1966 to the Central Committee; the Sixth Plenum of the CC LCS met on September 14 and 15 to hear the results. The League of Communists of Serbia, to the dismay of Tito, Kardelj, and of course many Serbs, moved beyond the limits set at Brioni, which had only asserted that under Ranković and Stefanović, UDBa had abused its power. Furthermore, at Brioni, it was only determined that Ranković should give up his positions—not, however, his LCY membership. It was only in the context of the Serbian phase of the affair that other accusations—primarily that Ranković had acted in a chauvinistic fashion and had used UDBa to crush the freedoms of Albanians in Kosovo—were leveled. At the Sixth Plenum, a report of the Regional Committee of the League of Communists of Kosovo and Metohija was entered into the record. This report concluded that the security services in Kosovo actively persecuted those of Albanian nationality. “The ideological foundation of such policy under the competence of Serbia is nationalism and chauvinism.”77 Other than those accusations related to Kosovo, the Serbian conclusions mirrored the Yugoslav version. The Serbian LC also added Vojin Lukić, the organizational secretary of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Serbia and former federal minister of internal affairs, to the short list of “fractionists” with Ranković and Stefanović.

  • 78 Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 103–4.
  • 79 Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 104–5.
  • 80 Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 115. By the 1980s, this quote had been altered in the popular imagination t (...)

56The discussion at the Sixth Plenum of the conclusions of the Serbian investigation focused on Ranković the fractionist and chauvinist. Many commentators noted the atmosphere created by the dismissal of Ranković—an atmosphere in which one heard that “all of this was directed against Serbia” and that “Serbia no longer has a representative who will represent its interests,” for instance. Dušan Petrović Šane said that “slogans like ‘Serbia is endangered’ and ‘the best people in Serbia are leaving’ speak best about which forces supported the fraction until recently.” This was not an exaggeration: over the next thirty years, Serbian opponents of Titoism would relentlessly level precisely those charges. With reference to these “defenders of Serbia,” Petrović noted sardonically, “the working class and the communists of Serbia will find the best solution, which will suit the Serbian people, its socialist development, with the alert protection of brotherhood and unity and the principles of socialist solidarity with other peoples of Yugoslavia.”78 Petrović completed his comments with some historical context: “I think that in Serbia, for objective historical reasons, various nationalistic phenomena with unitaristic, hegemonistic tendencies can and do appear, just as in other republics, again for objective historical reasons, various nationalistic phenomena of a different sort can and do appear.”79 This meeting included representatives of the Regional Committee from Kosovo and Metohija, Veli Deva (the secretary of that committee), Kolj Široka, and Ali Šukrija. Each man expanded on the general accusation that Ranković had sown discord in Kosovo by tormenting its ethnic Albanian population, with long discourses including details of particular episodes of persecution. Mihailo Švabić, a Serbian member of the LCS Central Committee, provided a long-remembered cap to this portion of the discussion by pronouncing himself “ashamed—as a communist, as a Serb, and as a man—as I listened to the presentation of comrade Deva…”80 Serbian communists initiated the discussion of conditions in Kosovo; Serbian communists (responding to public rumblings) initiated the discussion of Ranković as the centerpiece of a chauvinistic, Great Serbian, hegemonistic clique; and a Serbian communist (Spasenije Babović) called for Ranković to be expelled from the party, which the Central Committee of the SKS agreed to do.

  • 81 Sekulić, Pad i čutnja, 67. One wonders why a letter that Tito allegedly only “mentioned to some me (...)
  • 82 The interviews from which this excerpt is drawn were given between 1987 and 1989.

57Dobrica Ćosić claims to have openly opposed the treatment of Ranković. We have already read one of his comments from the meeting of the Central Committee of the SKS on June 28, 1966, and Ćosić and others assert that he wrote a letter to Tito himself expressing his anger at the proceedings. But all subsequent citations of Ćosić’s comments at the June 28 meeting and thereafter appear to be reconstructions based on Ćosić’s memory. Tito is said to have informally discussed Ćosić’s letter at the Brioni Plenum, but “the attentive stenographers at the Brioni Plenum erased Ćosić’s letter from the record.”81 Ćosić explained his reaction to news of Ranković’s “political liquidation” later, in the late 1980s82:

  • 83 Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 161.

I was deeply convinced that such a liquidation of Ranković would lead to a schism not only in the party, but also in Yugoslavia, that this did not concern a reckoning with police methods, but the compromising of Serbian communists as the gendarmerie of Yugoslavia and of Aleksandar Ranković as an unscrupulous powermonger.83

  • 84 Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 163.
  • 85 Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 164.

58It is hard to say whether Ćosić’s memory was sharpened by hindsight; it is certainly true that over time, he would develop an interpretation of Ranković’s dismissal that emphasized Ranković’s symbolic position as the Serbian policeman, persecuted because he was in fact a Serb; that focused on the unjustified fear of non-Serbian Yugoslav communists of a historical tendency to “hegemonism.” At the meeting of June 28, Ćosić remembers demanding that Ranković be treated as a criminal, since the acts he was accused of were criminal acts. He also remembers declaring that “this concerns an attempt to compromise the Serbian communist movement, to place on it the burden of nationalism, hegemony, Stalinism, and all of those well-known attributes from the arsenal of party propaganda.”84 Ćosić says that he was warned by Petar Stambolić, Mijalko Todorović, and Milentije Popović—three veteran Serbian communists—not to make his opinions known publicly, because they would lead to his own political death.85

59The years from 1961 to 1966 saw a precipitous decline in Dobrica Ćosić’s faith in Tito and communism in Yugoslavia. Occupying a position about as influential and favored as any writer could hope for, nothing marked Ćosić as a regime writer so much as his status as literary surrogate for Tito in the Pirjevec debate in 1961. Ćosić would eventually give it up in disappointment over the changes that Tito implemented in Yugoslavia. While it has proved tempting to accuse Ćosić of “going nationalist” in the late 1960s, that is in fact not what happened. In truth, Ćosić remained consistent as his intellectual and ideological moorings shifted around him.


60The most interesting and revealing book that Ćosić ever wrote is also the one that is least remembered: A Fable (Bajka). Without question the most provocative of his novels, it was virtually ignored at the time of its release in October 1966, in spite of its direct relevance to Ćosić’s response to the fall of Aleksandar Ranković. Two possible reasons for its lack of splash come to mind: one is that A Fable was a story of the fantastic which did not fit the mold in Serbian publishing in 1966, and a second is that its topicality was lost on Serbian elites who were unprepared for a writer like Ćosić to critique the social order in Yugoslavia in such an open and aggressive way. Nevertheless, it is impossible to understand Ćosić’s frame of mind as Ranković was falling from power without examining the themes of A Fable.

  • 86 My attempts at faithfully translating this term have failed. “Razistorija” could mean “antihistory (...)

61A Fable is an anti-utopian fantasy that draws liberally from other books in that genre, including A Brave New World and 1984. It tells the story of a man—known throughout only as “the man”—who awakens one morning to find that the world around him has been reduced to ash. The man enters a river, where he walks among the fish and vegetation until he comes upon a beautiful human called “Andjama,” a fallen angel, the devil. Verbal sparring ensues, resulting in the man’s question, uttered in despair: what are man’s limits? Andjama agrees to let the man in on the secret, so long as the man agrees to trade places with Andjama, taking the fallen angel’s place pacing the riverbed for eternity. The man agrees. A three-part answer to the man’s question ensues, as he is released into “The Museum,” “Kamonija,” and “Razistorija.”86

  • 87 Dobrica Ćosić, Bajka (Belgrade: Beogradski izdavačko-grafički zavod, 1988) 126.

62“The Museum” and “Kamonija” are not particularly novel examinations of the extremes men are capable of. “The Museum” portrays a world in which all knowledge is kept catalogued, where all thoughts are known and indexed. This is a world of concentration camps, prisons, crematoria, in which the good people are imprisoned and do not try to escape. Why not? Because they have hope and faith in humanity—“we always hoped that perhaps they would not take me there, maybe they would not burn anymore, maybe something would happen.”87 Where “The Museum” is a horrible place defined by its prisons and ovens, “Kamonija” is pristine, the people by definition happy. “He” governs the people of Kamonija, who are constantly beset by the threat of the antijevci, the “antis,” the naysayers. If the Museum resembled the dark vision of the Nazis, Kamonija clearly reflects the terrifying optimism of Stalinism. Closed borders, enforced happiness, terms with inverted meanings, constant loyalty tests—all of the usual suspects are rounded up by Ćosić in his dissection of the truth behind the “happy future” promised by communism. Both the Museum and Kamonija feel rather run of the mill today, thanks to a half-century of examinations of their forms of evil.

  • 88 Ćosić, Bajka, 359.

63But “Razistorija” is different. An eruption of quasars causes time to stand still; then, time begins to move backward. “Razistorija,” or the unravelling of history, begins, and all that has been constructed by man begins to deconstruct. When the future becomes the past, the concept of hope is called into question, for the future means hope. The bulk of the story of Razistorija concerns the details of the deconstruction of all that has come before and is rather deadening after a while. One of the more interesting features of Razistorija is the fact that people come back to life, then to populate the earth, since they do not disappear again once the time of their birth has passed. But when the reversal of time finally halts, the result is not (as it had been at the beginning) the stoppage of time, but the stoppage of everything. The narrator, for instance, is frozen on a moment when he said “my head is killing me.” The narrator’s conclusion: “Time dies. With time, all that I am dies too.”88 The past and the future—his identity and his hope—no longer exist.

64There are no easy conclusions regarding Razistorija, but there is also no doubt that Ćosić believed it to be important, one of his real contributions to literature and intellectual life in Serbia. He would make reference to it on many occasions thereafter, especially in the 1980s. Razistorija is a place in which the normal axes of human existence (past, future) no longer pertain; the human affect of the existence of a future is to give people hope; without hope, life ends. Razistorija is also there to remind us that we become less than nothing once our history has been undone. Thus, those who are brought back to life by the reversal of time become zombie-like, manipulable but without will or hope. Ultimately, though, Razistorija asks why we should care if life means to go forward and be jerked backward, only to end up immobilized. If there is nothing we can do or hope for, is our role to simply be? The concept of “Razistorija,” which Ćosić would revive in later decades, never caught on in any popular way, although one senses that Ćosić would have liked it to. Instead, it came to (only occasionally, and only by Ćosić) be used to describe that historical exhaustion that we hear pervades the peoples of Yugoslavia and the Balkans.

  • 89 Ćosić, Piščevi zapisi (1951–1968) 281.
  • 90 Ćosić, Piščevi zapisi (1951–1968) 241.

65If no one else recognized that A Fable incorporated serious and seriously-intended criticism of the social and political order in Yugoslavia, Ćosić certainly did. Upon its publication in October 1966, he wrote that “the most uncertain, most meaningful of my books, A Fable, has appeared. I can’t know its fate. I feel like a mother who escorts her son to the front…”89 His diaries include many references to the novel, which he understood to be a turning point in his work and to reflect an altered view of the Yugoslavia he had till then claimed to revere. “Reality has split me in two, demolished me. I identified myself so closely with the fate of the Partisan revolution that its results, dramas, and crises have overcome me,” he remarked while finishing A Fable. “The leaders of the revolution entered a deep crisis long ago; they no longer have any creative power; they don’t even have the strength to hide their own powerlessness and their political failures and stupidities.”90 A Fable marked a division in his literary work: Divisions had come immediately before it, and would be his last novel to work within the narrative limits endorsed by the regime; Time of Death, which would follow A Fable, would be his first to transcend those limits. The fact that he was finishing A Fable as Ranković fell is one of those perfectly-timed historical accidents.


1 Dobrica Ćosić, “Reč i delo istorije,” in Prilike, 210.

2 Predrag Matvejević, Razgovori s Miroslavom Krležom. Fourth edition. (Zagreb: Liber, 1978) 8. Italics in original.

3 Marko Ristić, Za svest, 1971–1977 (Belgrade: Nolit, 1977) 93.

4 Dobrica Ćosić, “Radni nalog našeg vremena,” in Prilike, 200.

5 Dobrica Ćosić, “O pozivu pisca u socijalističkoj drzavi,” in Odgovornosti, v. 2 of Akcije (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1966) 229.

6 Aleksa Djilas, The Contested Country: Yugoslav Unity and Communist Revolution, 1919–1953. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991) 165.

7 Zoran Mišić, “Za jedinstveni Jugoslovenski kriterijum,” in Delo (Belgrade) v. 2, no. 7 (1956).

8 Mišić’s response to Drago Šega, a Slovene writer, is in Zoran Mišić, “Oko jedinstvenog Jugoslovenskog kriterijuma,” in Delo, v. 3, no. 12 (1956) 1687–92; see also Peković, Ni rat ni mir, 242–45; Budding, “Serb Intellectuals and the National Question,” 63–67. Reflective of the lack of clear direction from on high: Mišić, whose proposal appears to have been made to order for Petar Stambolić, was described as a mangup (thug) by Veljko Vlahović, Stambolić’s colleague on the Ideological Commission, who objected to Mišić’s modernist writings (AJ, CK-SKJ, Ideološka komisija, Zapisnik sa sastanka Ideološke komisije CK Jugoslavije na dan 3.II.1956 godine.)

9 Yugoslavia’s Way: The Program of the League of the Communists of Yugoslavia (New York: All Nations Press, 1958) Translated by Stoyan Pribechevich.

10 Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 98.

11 Ćosić, Piščevi zapisi (1951–1968), 142–43.

12 AJ, CK-SKJ, VII Kongres SKJ, I/VII-K.1/1–71.

13 AJ, CK-SKJ, VII Kongres SKJ, I/VII-K.1/1–71; meeting of February 27, 1958.

14 Ćosić, Piščevi zapisi (1951–1968), 143. Ćosić writes that “it was as if that person was the only one entrusted with and responsible for the thought and theory of the party which views itself as the ideological avant-garde of society.”

15 Yugoslavia’s Way p. 192.

16 Yugoslavia’s Way p. 193.

17 Ćosić, “O pozivu pisca u socijalističkoj državi,” 227.

18 Ćosić, “O pozivu pisca u socijalističkoj državi,” 228.

19 Ćosić, “O pozivu pisca u socijalističkoj državi,” 229.

20 Nikola Drenovac, Pisci govore (Belgrade: Grafos, 1964) 85.

21 Drenovac, Pisci govore, 87.

22 Drenovac, Pisci govore, 87–88.

23 Dobrica Ćosić, Deobe v. 1 (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1966) 15.

24 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 13.

25 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 13.

26 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 13.

27 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 19.

28 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 107.

29 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 266.

30 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 274–75.

31 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 123.

32 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 2, 269.

33 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 1, 397.

34 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 2, 267–68.

35 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 2, 79.

36 Ćosić, Deobe, v. 2, 275–79. See Branimir Anzulović, Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide (New York: New York University Press, 1999) 131–33. Anzulović completely reverses the meaning of this passage.

37 On this polemic, see Dimitrij Rupel, Od vojnog do civilnog društva (Zagreb: Globus, 1990) 96–113. Jelena Milojković-Djurić, “Approaches to National Identities: Ćosić’s and Pirjevec’s Debate on Ideological and Literary Issues,” in East European Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 1 (Spring 1996) 63–73, is basic. Two of Ćosić’s contributions to the polemic are in his collected works: “O savremenom nesavremenon nacionalizmu” and “Nacija, integracija, socijalizam,” in Ćosić, Odgovornosti, 18–85. Pirjevec’s installments were republished as “Izvinite, kako ste rekli?” in Delo (Belgrade) v. 7, no. 12 (December 1961) 1396–99; “Slovenstvo, jugoslovenstvo, i socijalizam,” in Delo (Belgrade) v. 8, no. 1 (January 1962) 9–30; and “Odgovor Dobrici Ćosiću,” in Delo (Belgrade) v. 8, no. 4 (April 1962) 526–51; Ćosić’s final word, “Čitaocima,” can be found in Delo (Belgrade) v. 8, no. 5 (May 1962) 645–48.

38 Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 125–26.

39 Ćosić, “O savremenom nesavremenom nacionalizmu,” 48.

40 Danilo Kiš’s biting poem “The Poet of the Revolution on the Presidential Yacht” begins with the words “Three-hundred white dress-shirts…not so that you won’t go naked, but because protocol demands…” Danilo Kiš, “Pesnik revolucije na predsedničkom brodu,” in Marinko Arsić Ivkov and Ivan Ivanović, Čitanka srpske političke poezije (Belgrade: Ivanović/Tadić, 1999) 95.

41 Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 107–108.

42 Ćosić, “Reč i delo istorije,” 205–206.

43 Ćosić, “Reč i delo istorije,” 207.

44 Ćosić, “Reč i delo istorije,” 209.

45 Dennison Rusinow, The Yugoslav Experiment, 1948–1974 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977) 112.

46 Rusinow, The Yugoslav Experiment, 136.

47 On the Eight Congress of the LCY, see Rusinow, The Yugoslav Experiment, 165–72.

48 He says this in Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 135.

49 This initiative actually looked a lot like that of Zoran Mišić from 1955. Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 100.

50 Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 100.

51 Dobrica Ćosić, “Udruživanje prema uverenjima, afinitetima, i idejama,” in Književne novine, no. 244 (March 6, 1965) 8.

52 Arhiv Jugoslavije, Belgrade; Savez književnika Jugoslavije (hereafter, AJSkJ): F:2 (VI, VII, Vanredni Kongresi, 1961, 1964, 1965 g.) “Stenografske beleške SkJ VII Kongres—Titograd 24-26.IX.64 g.,”shows that the motion was signed by 15 Serbs, 19 others, plus 3 whose names are unreadable. The Serbs were Ćosić, Antonije Isaković, Sveta Lukić, Petar Džadžić, Matija Bečković, Brana Crnčević, Oskar Davičo, Aleksandar Tišma, Borislav Mihajlović Mihiz, Bogdan Popović, Ivan Lalić, Dušan Simić, Branislav Petrović, Eli Finci, and Sreten Asanović. See also Sveta Lukić, Savremena Jugoslovenska literatura (1945–1965): Rasprava o književnom životu i književnim merilima kod nas (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1968) 148.

53 AJ-SkJ: F:14 Plenums of SkJ from 1961–1965; Sten. beleške: SkJ Plenum uprave 23.IX.64 Titograd (No. XXV). See also the notes from a meeting of the directorate of the UKS on February 21, 1965, at which there was considerable opposition to the Ćosić proposal; "Reorganizacija Saveza književnika?" in Književne novine (Belgrade) March 6, 1965, 8–9.

54 Lukić, Savremena Jugoslovenska literatura, 148.

55 “Reorganizacija Savez književnika?” 8.

56 AJ SkJ: Savez književnika Jugoslavije: VII Kongres, Titograd, 1964, 187.

57 “Reorganizacija Savez književnika?” 8.

58 Dragan Jeremić, the president of the UKS, opposed Ćosić’s proposal, as did others on the board of the organization.

59 Dobrica Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije, ili o aktuelnostima naše savremene kulture,” in Praxis, no. 4/5 (1965) 519–34. Like most of what Ćosić had to say about the national question in Yugoslav culture, this article provoked a Slovenian response: in this case, Josip Vidmar. See Vidmar, “O našem šovinizmu,” in O slovenstvu i jugoslavenstvu: Izbor iz radova (Zagreb: Globus, 1986) 392–97. Vidmar accuses Ćosić of accusing him of being a narrow-minded nationalist.

60 Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije,” 522.

61 Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije,” 523.

62 Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije,” 524.

63 Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije,” 524.

64 Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije,” 527.

65 Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije,” 528.

66 Ćosić, “Zajedno i drugačije,” 528.

67 “Literatura u ostavci,” Književne novine (Belgrade) January 8, 1966, 1.

68 Dobrica Ćosić, “O modernizmu i realizmu, potom,” in Prilike, 259–60.

69 Dobrica Ćosić, “O Savezu književnika i drugom,” in Prilike, 264–65.

70 Lukić, Savremena Jugoslovenska literatura, 154.

71 Several books were written in the late 1980s on the Ranković affair. Unless otherwise noted, I have taken the details from Jovan Kesar and Pero Simić, LEKA: Aleksandar Ranković (Belgrade: Biblioteka ‘Misterije politike,’ 1990).

72 Quoted in Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 55–56.

73 Quoted in Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 59.

74 It could not have been lost on the anti-Stalinist Yugoslav communists that Stalin had used the same means to consolidate his own power in the Soviet Union in the 1920s.

75 Quoted in Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 64.

76 Quoted in Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 72.

77 Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 92.

78 Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 103–4.

79 Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 104–5.

80 Kesar and Simić, LEKA, 115. By the 1980s, this quote had been altered in the popular imagination to read “I am ashamed to be a Serb,” which is of course a radically different thing than being “ashamed as a Serb” of particular behavior. See Zoran Sekulić, Pad i čutnja Aleksandra Rankovića (Belgrade: Dositej, 1989) photo section; Dobrica Ćosić later described an unnamed Serbian communist who said he was “ashamed that he was a Serb” following Deva’s presentation; Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 171. Slobodan Selenić reportedly said in 1989 that “[Slobodan] Milošević is neither an accident nor a temporary unpleasantness, rather he is the first and only politician in the second Yugoslavia who said to the nation that he is not ashamed to be a Serb”; Danas (Belgrade) October 21/22, 2000 (Vikend 10).

81 Sekulić, Pad i čutnja, 67. One wonders why a letter that Tito allegedly only “mentioned to some members of the Central Committee of the SKJ at the Fourth Plenum” would have entered the stenographic record. Perhaps it was more dramatic for this author to have imagined that it was “erased,” as part of a conspiracy to crush one Serbian voice.

82 The interviews from which this excerpt is drawn were given between 1987 and 1989.

83 Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 161.

84 Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 163.

85 Djukić, Čovek u svom vremenu, 164.

86 My attempts at faithfully translating this term have failed. “Razistorija” could mean “antihistory,” “de-history,” or even “unhistory,” but none of those terms seems to capture its Ćosićean meaning, which is the unraveling of, or undoing of, history.

87 Dobrica Ćosić, Bajka (Belgrade: Beogradski izdavačko-grafički zavod, 1988) 126.

88 Ćosić, Bajka, 359.

89 Ćosić, Piščevi zapisi (1951–1968) 281.

90 Ćosić, Piščevi zapisi (1951–1968) 241.

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