Keeping in mind the complexity of events, ideas, personalities and processes that characterized the First World War, including as it played out in the Balkans and especially on Serb and Yugoslav territory, it is possible to divide the whole corpus of corresponding literature into ten main themes:
1) The origins of World War I (WWI) and Serbia (this can be seen either as the Habsburg Monarchy’s long-term, so-called historical confrontation with the Ottoman Empire and later with small Balkan communities and states, or a short-term set of events which led to war)
2) Assassination in Sarajevo and outbreak of WWI, including the “war guilt” question (the latter occurred during the war and was sanctioned at the end of it, becoming one of the main themes of European, and also Serbian historiography)
8) View from outside: French/British perception of Serbs before and during WWI
9) Yugoslavism/Anti-Yugoslavism: ideas, movements, processes, personalities
Three periods: Between World Wars, Socialism and Post-Yugoslavia↑
It is possible to further divide the themes according to when the historiographical works were published. Initially, a post-WWI body of literature about the war emerged. It was historiographical in a broader sense, composed primarily of testimonies in the form of diaries and memoirs, such as V. Prodanović’s Serbian letters from The World War 1914-1918 or Borivoje Jeftić’s The Assassination in Sarajevo, Memories and Impressions, both published in 1923, but also of a small portion of scientific works including Jovan M. Jovanović’s The Creation of the State of Serbs, Croats and Slovens, published in 1928, or Jovan Cvetković’s Unification of Montenegro and Serbia, published in 1940.
Scientific works from the Serbian socialist period (inside Yugoslavia) followed. These included Jorjo Tadić’s Dix années d'historiographie yougoslave 1945-1955 (1955), The Historiography of Yugoslavia 1955-1965 (1965) and The Historiography of Yugoslavia, 1965-1976 (1975). However, it is difficult to distinguish these from other ex-Yugoslavs’ historiographies. Serb communities have lived for centuries – and still live – dispersed across the western part of the Balkans, mixed in with other South Slav communities. Thus, the history of Serbs has always had a Yugoslav dimension, and so it is with their historiography as well.
Furthermore, there is a large body of historiographical literature from the past two decades, published in Serbia, various European research hubs and abroad. This period, which is both historiographical and scientific, is characterized by its revisionism. This revisionism emerged in the last fifteen years of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ). During this period, there were two main camps: the national camp, which was more or less revisionist in either the Yugoslav or anti-Yugoslav direction, and the new critical perception within scientific historiography. This can be seen in various works, including Miroslav Jovanović’s and Rade Radić’s Crisis of History. Serbian historiography and social challenges at the end of 20th and beginning of the 21st Century (2009) and Kosta Nikolić’s The Past without History (2003). With the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Serbs and other ex-Yugoslav communities lost their natural monopoly on writing their own history, have necessarily made their own national historiographies with dramatic abbreviations of their Yugoslav past. These historiographies strongly resemble local histories, with lot of misinterpretations due to the attempts to avoid the omnipresent Yugoslav dimension.
Every important topic that emerged from the Balkan and Serb perspective of WWI went through the various above-mentioned phases. These phases were in many ways restrictive for different reasons. Generally, the historical science of the post-WWI period adopted the syntagmas from political/military vocabulary, such as the immediate causes of war, blame for the war’s outbreak, war aims, and the “war guilt” question, adding others, like the origins of WWI. So did the historiography of the new Kingdom of SHS/Yugoslavia and these stigmas survive?
The historiography that developed between the two world wars, which was more Yugoslav than Serbian in its general characteristics, shared the destiny of the state whose history it attempted to record and explain. There was not enough time for Kingdom of Yugoslavia to explain itself. As a result, its historiography was very poor, exacerbated by the condemnation of communist rule in post-WWII Yugoslavia. However, many excellent and useful works were nonetheless written during this period. French and British historiographers made an important contribution to understanding the Serbian role in the war and in the creation of Yugoslavia. Some useful diplomatic documents were been published during the war, and also between 1924 and 1939. The important military documents were published in a series of thirty-one volumes under the name The Great War of Serbia for Liberation and Unification of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
The leading questions in the general research and analysis of WWI were revived in Europe in the 1960s, especially with the works of A.J.P. Taylor and Fritz Fischer, both of which had an important echo in the Balkans, especially in Serb historiography (inside Yugoslav). Clearly opposing, these two interpretations of the origins of both world wars, German war aims, and the continuity and discontinuity of German policy toward world power influenced the historical concepts and interpretations of the most renowned names in 20th century Serbian historiography, for example Milorad Ekmečić and Andrej Mitrović. Both are among the most important Serbian historians who dealt with the origins of WWI, its inner course, and its immediate and remote consequences. Not only because of the close attachment to the European and world tendencies in historiography, and not only because of the cool attitude towards reigning ideology in the communist/socialist Yugoslavia/Serbia, both historians represent the highest level of Serbian historiography on WWI. Their importance lies in the fact that they developed a highly conceptual and methodological approach to Serbian scientific historiography. Both represent the top of socialist and post-socialist Serbian historiography; their works have remained relevant after the historical breakdown of the Yugoslav idea, state and society (created in WWI, survived WWII).
In all his works, but especially in his famous two-volume The Creation of Yugoslavia 1790-1918, Milorad Ekmečić analysed the other centres of power that ruled and directed the history of the South Slav people and territory, examining their deep impact on the historical destiny of small Yugoslav communities. The two-volume work reflected a living mixture of the various Yugoslav nationalisms and represents their histories; it recorded the story of how small agrarian communities with corrupted elites made enormous sacrifices in order to establish their own framework for living. For them, Yugoslavia represented not only the idea of freedom but the transformation from being a social, political and economic object to being a member of the European community. As Ekmečić showed, with his intellectual persuasiveness, this was done not only against historical enemies, but also against historical allies and supporters in WWI. In Serbia’s War Aims 1914 (1973), as in his other works, he argued that Serbia made the decision to create Yugoslavia completely by herself, involving only other Yugoslav communities, although she did do so in some kind of mute accordance with the Allies. In his works, Andrej Mitrović followed the same path as Ekmečić, trying to ascertain the origins of the inter-war regimes in Europe. In The Age of Intolerance. The Political History of Great Powers of Europe 1919-1939 (1974), he described his detailed research and analysis of Austro-Hungarian and German plans to reorganise South Slav and Serbian communities and territories between 1908 and 1918. His The Annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina until the End of WWI is a detailed history of using war to transform imperialistic plans into reality. This work corresponds to Fisher’s historiography, which Mitrović introduced into Serbian historiography in the best manner. Together with Serbia’s Great War 1914-1918 (2007), it is the most detailed insight into the diplomatic, military, social, economic and political condition of one small nation involved in big events. From European to Serb national history, Mitrović then took a local history perspective in two works, providing two perspectives of the so-called Toplica Uprising in Toplica Uprising. The Place in Serbian History (1993) and Uprising battles in Srbiji 1916-1918 (1987).
From the 1960s onwards two military historians, Savo Skoko and Petar Opačić, conducted initial research on the Serbian army’s military operations. They continued to produce monographs on the most important topics of these aspects of WWI, such as Skoko’s Voyvoda Radomir Putnik (1985) and The Battle at Kolubara 1914 (1990) or Opačić’s Serbia and the Thessaloniki Front (1984). They also published personal documents and memoirs from the most important military personalities, such as Voyvodas Živojin Mišić and Stepa Stepanović. In this period, Montenegrin historian Novica Rakočević published his very well-known books on Montenegro in WWI and Montenegrin-Serbian relations in the period 1903-1918, Montenegro in FWW (1968) and Political Relations beetwen Montenegro and Serbia 1903-1918 (1981). These works analysed the political, social, military and ideological aspects of Yugoslav unification between Montenegro and Serbia.
Dragoljub Živojinović has extensively researched the important question of Serbia’s (and Montenegro’s) foreign relationships with European powers – both traditional and new – involved in the Balkans. From the beginning of his career in the 1970s, his numerous works have analysed the Allies’ (Great Britain, France, USA, Russia, Italy) changing policies towards Serbia, and her position and role in the Western Balkans, in great detail, particularly for the periods surrounding WWI. Živojinović also made a special contribution to the research on the role of the Vatican, the USA and Italy in the Western Balkans during the war.
In addition to Mitrović, who concentrated on the Austrian occupational zone, Vladimir Stojančević researched the Bulgarian occupational zone in his excellent book Serbia and the Serbian People during the Occupation 1914-1918 (1990). In the past decade, the historian Božica Mladenović added to the research on occupied Serbia, exploring socio-historical phenomena such as the overall and specific situations in occupied cities during the war in his Cities in the Occupied Serbia 1916-1918 (2000).
The most important collection of scientific research on the international character of WWI, which resulted with six volumes of articles, was Slavenko Terzić's Serbia: Collection of Works published in Belgrade just before the dissolution of Yugoslavia, between 1984 and 1990 Its length, diversity and high level of objectivity underline its importance.
More than the Marxist philosophy and concept of history, it was communist ideology that imposed limits on the concepts, research and analyses of historical materials concerning WWI and other historical events. Even if there is research from historians who argue that Yugoslavia was created not only against the “traditional enemies” (Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ottoman Empire) but also against the “traditional friends” like Tsarist Russia and the new European allies such as Italy (The London Treaty), it has not entered into mainstream political culture, collective memory or the education system. Furthermore, important questions have not been answered. Was Yugoslavia, whose creation was considered a major achievement of WWI, an artificial product of Versailles? Did Serbian hegemony arise from WWI in that artificial state? These questions about the major consequences of WWI in the Western Balkans – foremost the creation of Yugoslavia – were starting points for the revisionist wave during the 1980s and the auto-revisionism at the beginning of the 1990s. With the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the formerly natural starting points for writing history became the most problematic and obscure questions in the narrow national/nationalistic histories.
In the past two decades, Serbian historiography has not been capable of reproducing the high level of historiography published during the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Keeping in mind the political, economic and social situation, as well as the cultural atmosphere, that must be overcome, the next generations should be prepared to offer new interpretations.
Gordana Krivokapic-Jovic, Institute for Recent History of Serbia, Serbia
- Ekmečić, Milorad: The Creation of Yugoslavia 1790-1918, vol. I-II, Belgrade 1989; Mitrović, Andrej (ed.): History of Serbian People. From Berlin Congress to Unification 1878-1918, vol. 6, Belgrade 1983; Božić, Ivan et al. (eds.): History of Yugoslavia, New York et al. 1974; Mitrović, Andrej: A Penetration in the Balkans. Serbia in Austro-Hungarian and German Planning 1908-1918, Belgrade 1981; Documents on Foreign Policy of the Kingdom of Serbia 1903-1914, vol. I-VII, Belgrade 1980.
- Ekmečić, Milorad: Historical Esseys, Belgrade 2002; Mitrović, Andrej: Fritz Fischer or German Facing the History, in: Fisher, Fritz: Alliance of Elites. On Continuity of Structures of Power in Germany 1871-1945, Belgrade 1985, pp. 9-53; Mitrović, Andrej: Serbia’s Great War 1914-1918, London 2007; Dedijer, Vladimir: The Road to Sarajevo, London 1967.
- Stanković, Đorđe: Nikola Pašić and Yugoslav Question, vol. 1-2, Belgrade 1985; Ekmečić, Milorad: Serbia’s War Aims in 1914, Belgrade 1973 (Preface to 2nd edition (1990) is of great interest); Janković, Deagoslav: Serbia and the Yugoslav Question 1914-1915, Belgrade 1973.
- Skoko, Savo (ed.): Voyvoda Živojin Mišić [My memories], Belgrade 1985; Skoko, Savo / Opačić, Petar: Voyvoda Stepa Stepanović, vol. 1-2, Belgrade 1985; Skoko, Savo: Voyvoda Radomir Putnik, vol. 1-2, Belgrade 1985; Skoko, Savo: The Battle at Kolubara 1914, Belgrade 1990; Opačić, Petar: Serbia and the Thessaloniki Front, Belgrade 1984; Opačić, Petar: The Thessaloniki Front. Serbian Army in the Final Operations of the First World War, Belgrade 1980; Terzić, Slavenko (ed.): Serbia 1914. Collection of Works of Historical Institute, vol. 3, Belgrade 1984, (Serbia 1915, vol. 4, 1985; Serbia 1916, vol. 5, 1987; Serbia 1917, vol. 6, 1988; Serbia 1918, vol. 7, 1989; Serbia vol. 8, 1990).
- Bojić, Dušica: The Serbian Refugees in the First World War 1914-1921, Belgrade 2007; Mladenović, Božica: Cities in the Occupied Serbia 1916-1918, Belgrade 2000.
- Stanković, Đorde: Nikola Pašić, Allies and the Creation of Yugoslavia, Zaječar 1995; Ostojić Fejić, Ubavka: USA and Serbia 1914-1918, Belgrade 1994; Trgovčević, Ljubinka: Serbia’s Scientists and the Creation of Yugoslav State 1914-1920, Belgrade 1987; Mitrović, Andrej: Yugoslavia at the Peace Conference 1919-1920, Belgrade 1969.
- Živojinović, Dragoljub: Haughty ally and disregarded Serbhood. British-Serbian Relations (1875-1941), Belgrade 2011; Živojinović, Dragoljub: Unwilling worriors. Great Powers and the Thessaloniki Front 1914-1918, Belgrade 2010; Živojinović, Dragoljub: In Search for Protector. Studies on Serbian-American connections 1878-1920, Belgrade 2010; Bataković, Dušan T. (ed.): La Serbie et la France. Une alliance atypique. Les relations politiques, économiques et culturelles, 1870-1940, Belgrade 2010; Živojinović, Dragoljub: Unwilling Allies, Russia, France, Great Britain and USA 1914-1918, Belgrade 2000; Živojinović, Dragoljub: Vatican, Serbia and the Creation of the Yugoslav State 1914-1920, Belgrade 1995; Popović, N. D.: Serbia and Tzarist Russia, Belgrade 1994; Živojinović, Dragoljub: Vatican and the First World War, Belgrade 1978; Živojinović, Dragoljub: The United States and the Vatican policies. 1914-1918, (Easteuropean monographs), Boulder 1972.
- Haumant, Emile: La Yougoslavie, études et souvenirs, Paris 1919, (ses articles semés de 1889 à 1918); Haumant, E.: La Formation de la Yougoslavie, Paris 1930; Gauvain, Auguste: L’Europe au jour le jour, vol. I-XIV, Paris 1917-1923, (all his articles were published verbatim in 14 volumes in Le Journal des Debats from 1908 to 1920); Seton-Watson, Robert W.: The Rise of Nationality in the Balkans, New York 1917; Seton-Watson, Robert W.: Sarajevo. A Study In The Origin Of The Great War, London 1926; Seton-Watson, Robert W.: The Role of Bosnia in international Politics 1875-1919, London 1931.
- Ekmečić, Historical Esseys 2002; Ekmečić, M.: A Dialogue beetwen Past and Present, Belgrade 2002; Ekmečić, Serbia’s War Aims 1973; Ekmečić, M.: The Foundation of Dictatorships in Europe between two world wars, Sarajevo 1965.
- Živojinović, Dragoljub: The End of Kingdom of Montenegro. The Peace Conference 1918-1921, Belgrade 2002; Živojinović, Dragoljub: Italy and Montenegro 1914-1925. A study of betrayed alliance, Belgrade 1998; Živojinović, Dragoljub: Montenegro fighting for survival 1914-1918, Belgrade 1996; Vujović, Dimitrije: Podgorica Assembly 1918, Zagreb 1989; Rakočević, Novica: Political Relations beetwen Montenegro and Serbia 1903-1918, Cetinje 1981; Rakočević, N.: Montenegro in the First World War, Cetinje 1968; Vujović, Dimitrije: Unification of Montenegro and Serbia, Titograd 1962.
- Prodanović, V.: Serbian letters from The World War 1914-1918, Osijek 1923; Jeftić, Borivoje: The Assassination in Sarajevo, Memories and Impressions, Sarajevo 1923; Jovanović, Jovan M.: The Creation of the State of Serbs, Croats and Slovens, vol. I, Belgrade 1928; Cvetković, Jovan: Unification of Montenegro and Serbia, Dubrovnik 1940; Masleša, Veselin: Young Bosnia, Belgrade 1945; Budisavljević, Srđan: The Creation of the State of Serbs, Croats and Slovens, Zagreb 1958, (published after the Second World War); Ljubibratić, Drago: Gavrilo Princip, Belgrade 1959; Ljubibratić, D.: Vladimir Gaćinović, Belgrade 1961.
- Tadić, Jorjo (ed.): Dix années d’historiographie yougoslave 1945-1955, Belgrade 1955; Tadić, Jorjo (ed.): The Historiography of Yugoslavia 1955-1965, Belgrade 1965; Tadić, Jorjo (ed.): The Historiography of Yugoslavia. 1965-1976, Belgrade 1975.
- Bjelajac, M. / Krivokapić Jović, G.: Examples of Scholar Debates. Serbian Historiography nexus World Production, Belgrade 2011.
- Jovanović, Miroslav / Radić, Rade: Crisis of History. Serbian historiography and social challenges at the end of 20th and begining of the 21st Century, Belgrade 2009; Nikolić, Kosta: The Past without History, Belgrade 2003; Dimić, Lj. / Stanković, Đ.: Historiography under Surveillence. Contributions to the History of Historiography, vol. 1-2, Belgrade 1996; Stanković, Đ.: Challenge of New History, vol. 1-2., Belgrade 1992/1994; Stanković, Đ.: Challenges of Yugoslav Historiography, Belgrade 1988, p. 293.
- Tadić, Dix années 1955, official Yougoslav CP attitudes can be find on p. 491 and following.
- Haumant, La Yougoslavie 1919; Haumant, La Formation 1930; Gauvain, L’Europe 1917-1923; Seton-Watson, The Rise 1917; Seton-Watson, Sarajevo 1926; Seton-Watson, The Roll 1932.
- Diplomatic Correspondance on Serbian-Austro-Hungarian Conflict, Niš 1914; Serbian-Austrian and European War. Diplomatic and Other Documents, vol. I, Niš 1915; Ćorović. V. (ed.): Diplomatic Correspondence of the Kingdom of Serbia, vol. I (1 January 1902-1 June 1903), Belgrade 1933; The Great War of Serbia for Liberation and Unification of Serbes, Croats and Slovenes, vol. 1-31, Belgrade 1924-1939.
- Ekmečić, Historical Esseys 2002; Ekmečić, A Dialogue 2002; Ekmečić, Serbia’s War Aims 1973; Ekmečić, The Foundation 1965.
- See bibliography of Milorad Ekmečić on the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts’ website.
- Mitrović, Fritz Fischer 1985, pp. 9-53.
- Skoko, Voyvoda Živojin 1985; Skoko / Opačić, Voyvoda Stepa 1985; Skoko, Voyvoda Radomir 1985; Skoko, The Battle 1990; Opačić, Serbia 1984; Opačić, The Thessaloniki Front 1980; Terzić, Serbia 1984.
- Rakočević, Novica: Political Relations beetwen Montenegro and Serbia 1903-1918, Cetinje 1981; Rakočević, Novica: Montenegro in FWW, Cetinje 1968.
- Živojinović, Haughty Ally 2011; Živojinović, Unwilling Warriors 2010; Živojinović, In Search 2010; Bataković, La Serbie 2010; Živojinović, Unwilling Allies 2000; Živojinović, Vatican, Serbia 1995; Popović, Serbia 1994; Živojinović, Vatican and the First 1978; Živojinović, The United States 1972. Živojinović, The End 2002; Živojinović, Italy 1998; Živojinović, Montenegro 1996; Vujović, Podgorica Assembly 1989; Rakočević, Political Relations 1981; Rakočević, Montenegro 1968; Vujović, Unification 1962.
- Stojančeviċ, Vladimir: Serbia and the Serbian People during the Occupation 1914-1918, Leskovac 1990.
- Mladenović, Božica: Cities in the Occupied Serbia 1916-1918, Belgrade 2000.
- Terzić, Slavenko (ed.): Serbia: Collection of Works of Historical Institute, vols. 3-8, 1984-1990.
- Dedijer, Vladimir: The road to Sarajevo, New York 1966: Simon and Schuster.
- Ekmečić, Milorad: Ratni ciljevi Srbije 1914 (Serbia's war aims in 1914), Belgrade 1973: Srpska književna zadruga.
- Ekmečić, Milorad: Dugo kretanje između klanja i oranja. Istorija Srba u Novom Veku 1492-1992 (The long journey between slaughtering and ploughing. History of the Serbs in the New Age 1492-1992), Belgrade 2007: Zavod za udžbenike.
- Ekmečić, Milorad: Stvaranje Jugoslavije 1790-1918 (The creation of Yugoslavia 1790-1918), volume 1-2, Belgrade 1989: Prosveta.
- Ekmečić, Milorad: Ogledi iz istorije (Historical essays), Belgrade 2002: Službeni list SRJ.
- Mitrović, Andrej: Prodor na Balkan. Srbija u planovima Austro-Ugarske i Nemačke, 1908-1918 (A breakthrough in the Balkans. Serbia in Austro-Hungarian and German planning, 1908-1918), Belgrade 1981: Nolit.
- Mitrović, Andrej: Serbia's Great War, 1914-1918, West Lafayette 2007: Purdue University Press.
- Mitrović, Andrej (ed.): Jugoslavija na konferenciji mira 1919-1920 (Yugoslavia at the peace conference 1919-1920), Belgrade 1969: Zavod za izdavanje udžbenika Socijalističke Republike Srbije.
- Mitrović, Andrej / Ivić, Pavle / Živković, Dragiša (eds.): Istorija srpskog naroda. Šesta knjiga, Od berlinskog kongresa do ujedinjenja, 1878-1918 (History of Serbian people. Six books. From Berlin Congress to unification, 1878-1918), volume 2, Belgrade 2000: Srpska književna zadruga.
- Rakočevic, Novica: Crna Gora u prvom svjetskom ratu 1914-1918 (Montenegro in the First World War 1914-1918), Cetinje 1969: Istorijski Institut Titograd.
- Rakočević, Novica: Politički odnosi Crne Gore i Srbije, 1903-1918 (Political Relations between Montenegro and Serbia 1903-1918), Cetinje 1981: Istorijski institut SR Crne Gore u Titogradu.
- Stanković, Đorđe Đ.: Nikola Pasic, saveznici i stvaranje Jugoslavije (Nikola Pašić, the Allies and the creation of Yugoslavia), Belgrade 1984: Nolit.
- The Great War of Serbia for liberation and unification of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, volumes 1-31, Belgrade 1924-1939.
- Živojinović, Dragoljub R.: Vatikan, Srbija i stvaranje jugoslovenske države 1914-1920 (Vatican, Serbia and the creation of the Yugoslav state 1914-1920), Belgrade 1995: Službeni list SRJ.
- Živojinović, Dragoljub R.: Nadmeni saveznik i zanemareno srpstvo. Britansko-srpski odnosi, 1875-1941(Haughty ally and disregarded Serbhood. British-Serbian relations, 1875-1941), Belgrade 2011: Albatros plus.
- Živojinović, Dragoljub R.: Italija i Crna Gora, 1914-1925. Studija o izneverenom savezništvu (Italy and Montenegro, 1914-1925. A study of betrayed alliance), Belgrade 1998: Službeni list SRJ.