The Chargé in Yugoslavia (Reed) to the Secretary of State

No. 71

Sir: I have the honor to report that the Yugoslav Minister of Interior is understood to have issued an order, in the nature of a notification to the Yugoslav Ministry for Social Welfare and Public Health, which, when officially decreed, will be of highest importance in regulating the status in Yugoslavia of American citizens of Yugoslav origin.

In brief the order reads that within a period of three years from December 22, 1936, American citizens of Yugoslav origin may relinquish their Yugoslav citizenship by filing a declaration of renunciation of citizenship. This extension to December 22, 1939, will permit the relinquishment of Yugoslav citizenship by those who failed to do so under the application of Article 31 of the Law relating to Citizenship. The order also provides that American citizens of Yugoslav origin who arrive in Yugoslavia with an American passport, and having a regular Yugoslav visa, shall not be molested for any reason but shall be granted an exit visa upon their request. This injunction against molestation would appear to free such American citizens of the possibility of being inducted into the Yugoslav army—or assessed a tax for having failed to adjust their military obligations in Yugoslavia.

The order, a translation of which is attached herewith,3 appeared in the Iseljenik, a publication of the Association of Emigrants, Zagreb. As soon as it shall be verified that the order is official and is in the nature of a decree the Department will be notified. A translation of the Decree of the Minister of Interior, III No. 44889/36 of December 22, 1936, was transmitted to the Department by despatch No. 666 of January 14, 1937.4

Respectfully yours,

Charles S. Reed 2d

[The American Minister informed the Department in his despatch No. 151, March 3, 1938, that the order of the Minister of Interior relative to Yugoslav citizenship had been placed in effect on June 22, [Page 586] 1937, the date on which it had been signed by the Minister of Interior and communicated to the Ministry of Social Welfare and Public Health, which had supervision over emigration matters, although it had only been brought to the attention of the Legation in December 1937. While this order, as well as the decree of December 22, 1936, was not entirely free from ambiguity and confusion, they were apparently drafted to regulate American-Yugoslav relations concerning the dual nationality of certain persons and the detention of American citizens of Yugoslav origin for military service or for taxation as an alternative to it.

The Assistant Chief of the Legal Section of the Yugoslav Foreign Office, Dr. George Kolombatovich, informed the Minister in substance that “the responsibility of preventing persons of American-Yugoslav dual nationality, from visiting Yugoslavia and rendering themselves liable for military service, lies with the Yugoslav consular or diplomatic officers in the United States. In other words, if a Yugoslav consul or diplomatic officer mistakenly gives a Yugoslav visa on the American passport of a person who is liable for military service and fails to warn this person that he may be seized for military service in Yugoslavia, the American citizen, after visiting Yugoslavia, will be permitted to leave this country without molestation.” (860H.012/27)]

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed. The Minister had reported in this despatch his belief that this decree would “clarify the situation as regards certain classes of naturalized American citizens, hitherto considered to be of Yugoslav origin, and will in a number of instances entirely avoid the possibility that these naturalized American citizens may be called upon for military service in Yugoslavia.” (860H.012/21)