The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—I have been watching with some interest the developments in Yugoslavia as related to the trial of Milovan Djilas and Vladimir Dedijer. Mr. Djilas was Vice-President of Yugoslavia and Mr. Dedijer was a member of the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist party. Both Partisan heroes and Marxists, they are rebelling against Titoism in the same way that Tito rebelled against Stalinism.

I remember being told when I was there that political dissenters were arrested, but when I asked the reason for these arrests I was told that usually it was because of Soviet Communist infiltration. In other words, the authorities arrested people who were trying to persuade the Yugoslav people that a return to the Cominform control and Soviet type of rule would be advantageous.

I accepted the explanation that the break with Russia was so that Yugoslavia could develop a type of Communist government that would be more suitable to her people than the more rigid Soviet type.

In seeing the various things being done by the government in the economic field it was quite evident that, while everything was on a trial basis, nevertheless it was being developed as a Communist economy, and one felt that the approach was possibly the only one that could meet the economic problems facing Yugoslavia. One also felt that bringing together the various republics and welding them into one nation was not an easy task and required a fairly strong hand, since for generations they had fought for racial and religious reasons.

One had a feeling, while in contact with the people, that any controlling power was dealing with people who still thought of their own republic as being their first concern, and who had an attitude toward freedom—individual freedom—which it would be very difficult for any government to ignore.

I think this was revealed to me in the fact that I never heard anyone speak of the tremendous manpower loss during the war. Yet, Yugoslavia lost one man out of every nine in the country. The effect could be seen in finding, for instance, a farm run by one woman who had lost both husband and father.

It takes spirit to meet such loss, and it seemed inevitable that there would be divisions as to methods as time progressed and that the test as to whether communism can allow any differences and still prevail as a government would sooner or later be presented.

That now seems to be before the people. If Mr. Djilas and Mr. Dedijer are imprisoned because they believe the time has come for some changes to be made, and because they believe in more freedom of expression and in the opportunity for argument and for choice, then I think it will show that there is less strength in the communist regime that exists in Yugoslavia than one might have supposed.

It will be an acknowledgement that they cannot allow more than one party or more than one set of opinions to be put before the people because they do not yet feel sure they have a majority of the people back of them, and that they are afraid of more freedom. This would be an admission that will certainly hurt Yugoslav prestige in the world.

So, those who like the Yugoslav people, as I do, watch with some anxiety the outcome of the present situation.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 20, 1955

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.