Stalin, the western allies and soviet policy towards the Yugoslav partisan movement, 1941–4

25 Jan 2018

This article traces the development of Soviet policy towards the communist partisan movement in Yugoslavia from the German invasion in 1941 to the liberation of the country at the end of 1944. In doing so, it addresses this topic for the first time through the lens of the Soviet decision-making process, following developments across the entire duration of the war. Based on Soviet sources, it shows that, in the context of the shifting balance of forces among the Western Allies, Moscow was ready to put aside the popular front strategy and to encourage local communists to challenge the political order supported by the British and the Americans while the Second World War was still raging. The example of Yugoslavia, however, also shows that this apparently clear strategy covered deep uncertainties on the Soviet side as to the real intentions of the British, the room for manoeuvre enjoyed by Moscow, and the way in which relations with a new communist state in the making should be established. The Soviets were largely successful in their attempt to support Tito while avoiding repercussions for the Great Alliance, although in the long term their achievements backfired.