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A Guide to the United States’ History of Recognition, Diplomatic, and Consular Relations, by Country, since 1776: Kingdom of Serbia/Yugoslavia

Summary

Note: Please click here for information on the Republic of Serbia.

U.S. and Serbian officials first made overtures to establish diplomatic relations in 1867, but it was not until 1881, three years after the country gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire, that the United States officially recognized the Kingdom of Serbia.

With the disintegration of the Habsburg Empire at the end of the Great War in 1918, many of the empire’s southern Slav minorities sought the protection of the Serbian throne, and entered into union with Serbia as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in December 1918. The United States recognized the kingdom in February 1919. As Serbia was the dominant partner in this state, the U.S. Government has considered the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes and then later, Yugoslavia, as the successor government to the original Government of Serbia. In 1929 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes adopted the name Yugoslavia. In 1946, Yugoslavia became a socialist federation of six republics: Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia. At this time, it adopted the name Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY).

The U.S. shared diplomatic relations with the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia through 1992 when Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia all seceded. At the time, the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro claimed to be the successor state to the SFRY. The United States Government, however, adopted and subsequently maintained the position that the SFRY had dissolved without any successor state, thus terminating relations between the United States and the SFRY.

Recognition

U.S. Recognition of Serbian Independence, 1881.

The United States recognized the Kingdom of Serbia as a sovereign nation on October 14, 1881, with the signing of consular and commercial agreements between the two nations.

U.S. Recognition of the Independence of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, 1919.

On February 7, 1919, the United States recognized the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes through a statement released to the press by the U.S. Acting Secretary of State Frank Polk. The United States considered this new state as the successor state to the Kingdom of Serbia.

Diplomatic Relations

Establishment of Diplomatic Relations and the American Legation in Serbia, 1882.

Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Serbia were established on November 10, 1882, when U.S. Consul General Eugene Schuyler presented his credentials to the government of Serbia. At this time, the American Legation in Belgrade was established, though Schuyler was resident at Athens.

U.S. Recognition of Yugoslav Legation, 1919.

On February 10, 1919, Acting Secretary of State Frank Polk wrote to the Yugoslav Minister to the United States Slavko Grouvitch that the United States Government recognized that the Serbian Legation will thereafter be known as the Legation for the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.

American Legation Moved to London, 1941.

The Government of Yugoslavia went into exile in England on April 14, 1941, in anticipation of German occupation. U.S. Minister to Yugoslavia Arthur Bliss Lane left Yugoslavia on May 17, 1941. Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Jr. presented his credentials as the U.S. Minister Near the Government of Yugoslavia in England on October 3, 1941, and was resident in London.

Elevation of American Legation to Embassy Status, 1942.

The American Legation Belgrade was raised to the status of Embassy with the appointment of Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Jr. as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary on September 29, 1942. He presented his new credentials on November 3, 1942.

American Embassy Moves to Egypt, 1943.

On September 28, 1943, the Government of Yugoslavia was transferred to Egypt. Lincoln MacVeagh, the U.S. Ambassador Near the Government of Yugoslavia Established in Egypt, presented his credentials on December 9, 1943.

American Embassy Returns to London, 1944.

The Government of Yugoslavia was transferred yet again to England in 1944. On July 1, 1944, Rudolf E. Schoenfeld was designated U.S. Chargé d’Affaires ad interim near the Government of Yugoslavia Established in England. On November 17, 1944, Richard Cunningham Patterson presented his credentials as U.S. Ambassador near the Government of Yugoslavia Established in England. Patterson was resident in London.

American Embassy Returns to Belgrade, 1945.

Near the end of the war, the Yugoslav Government returned to Belgrade. On March 31, 1945, Embassy Belgrade returned to Yugoslavia and resumed operations in Belgrade. Richard Cunningham Patterson continued to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia and was resident in Belgrade.

Cessation of Relations, 1992.

On May 21, 1992, the U.S. announced that it would not recognize the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) as a successor state of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). The FRY was composed of the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro. U.S. Ambassador Warren Zimmerman was recalled from Belgrade, but the mission continued with a staff under the authority of a Chargé d’Affaires ad interim. The United States Government took the position that the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the governing regime since 1946, ceased to exist and that no state represented the sole continuation of the SFRY.

Treaties and Agreements

Claims Convention, 1832.

This convention, also known as the Convention to Terminate the Reclamations of the Government of the Untied States for the Depredations Inflicted upon American Commerce by Murat During the Years 1809, 1810, 1811, and 1812, 1832, was signed on October 14, 1832 in Naples by U.S. Chargé d’Affaires near the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies John Nelson Esq. and the Minister Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies Prince D. Antonio Maria Statella. The objective of this treaty was to allow U.S. merchants to be “indemnified for losses inflicted upon them by Murat, by the depredations, seizures, confiscations and destruction of their Vessels [sic] and cargoes, during the years 1809, 1810, 1811, and 1812.” This treaty was deemed obsolete when the Two Sicilies was consolidated into the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

Treaty on Commercial Relations, 1881.

On October 14, 1881, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires and Consul-General at Bucharest Eugene Schuyler and Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ched. Mijatovitch concluded a Treaty on Commercial Relations to facilitate and develop commercial relations between the two countries.

Convention on Rights, Privileges, and Immunities of Consular Officers, 1881.

On October 14, 1881, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires and Consul-General at Bucharest Eugene Schuyler and Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ched. Mijatovitch signed a Convention on Rights, Privileges, and Immunities of Consular Officers. This agreement defined and regulated the rights, immunities, and privileges of each state’s consular officers.

Treaty on Extradition, 1901.

On October 25, 1901, the United States and the Kingdom of Serbia signed a Treaty on Extradition in Belgrade. The treaty promoted justice and confirmed friendly relations between the two nations, and was negotiated by U.S. Minister Charles S. Francis and Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Michel V. Vouïtch.

Key Diplomatic Events

Establishment of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, 1918.

With the disintegration of the Habsburg Empire at the end of the Great War in 1918, many of the empire’s southern Slav minorities sought the protection of the Serbian throne, and entered into union with Serbia as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in December 1918. The United States recognized the kingdom in February 1919.

Establishment of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, 1929.

In 1929 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes adopted the name Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Establishment of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), 1946.

In 1946, Yugoslavia became a socialist federation of six republics: Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia. At this time, it adopted the name Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY).

Issues Relevant to U.S. Foreign Diplomacy

The Cold War.

Although the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) was run by a communist government, under its long-time president Josip Tito, Yugoslavia balanced relations between East and West. For more information on U.S.-Yugoslav foreign policy relations during the Cold War, please view the chapter on “Foreign Relations” in the Library of Congress’s Country Study: Yugoslavia (Former).

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