Mr. Alexander C. Kirk, Political Adviser, Allied Force Headquarters, to the Secretary of State
[Received 11:55 p.m.]
483. Following sidelights on Yugoslav situation from Norden are based on information deriving from unofficial contacts in Belgrade during past fortnight.
- Regime has restored order and the most essential utilities in city and distinct improvement in aspect of town is noticeable when over past 2 weeks stores are reopening, streets and restaurants wore banners, atmosphere seems more cheerful. There is ample food but salaries are wholly inadequate to meet rising costs and many people live under most difficult circumstances by sale of their belongings which are main stock in trade of many stores. There is an informal moratorium on rents and debts generally.
- Despite outwardly cheerful aspects regime is not liked in Belgrade save among limited sections of population. Persons with outof-town ties say same is true in provincial Serbia but I cannot judge accuracy of these reports. Reasons given are many but principal oneis that this is not sort of liberation people expected. Propaganda and engineered “spontaneous” demonstrations in a forced labor [sic], highhanded and summary requisitioning, arrests and punishment, sense of intimidation are too reminiscent of occupation. Fear and dislike of Communism and Communists, excess of Croats and Montenegrins in regime and police, presence of Bulgar troops as allies, interference with religious education of youth are other factors. Dispatch of poorly trained and equipped forces levies to front with heavy casualties said to have alienated many but this is slowly being remedied. In general, regime’s appeal based partly on mistakes of predecessors diminishes with own errors.
- Opposition, however, not crystallized and may not do so. Rightly or wrongly regime is regarded as a passing military makeshift and there is no argument with its stand on seeing war through, war weariness notwithstanding. Many of its avowed objectives have wide approval especially of younger people who look less to methods than to ideals, and generally criticism is in proportion to age of informant with oldest indulging in straight Nedic19 line. Expectation especially in business circles is that coming of London Government and of peace will mark new departure. Weakness of London Ministers not generally appreciated and few who do so pin hopes on Subasic [Page 1212] and Sutej20 and above all Anglo-American support of constitutional principles. Mood in general is optimistic wait and see. Subasic Croatian color not a live issue as any change thought to herald improvement, for instance, Catholic Archbishop views Subasic as Churchill’s instrument for achievement of a compromise to result in free and honest plebiscite.
- There is much whispered talk of going to forests in spring and we hear several nationalist groups presiding in Serbia. Great disillusionment would doubtless follow failure on Subasic’s part to bring freer and more representative government, and many feel this would result in active opposition to regime. There, however, we enter realm of conjecture and some realize precipitate action might provide pretext for general liquidation of opposition. Successful right revolt on other hand feared as bringing even worse blood bath whence sentiment heavily favors constitutional solution.
- King popular especially rural sections but his importance would diminish greatly if he were to be viewed by people as another dictator or a front for reaction. Few want return to old times.
- Draza’s21 stock lowering unsavory reputation his associates and his own lack of political acumen and military strength. It is generally admitted Draza would have been worse than Tito.
- We must assume regime is fully aware of foregoing and will seek to make needed adjustments to prevent pot from boiling over as long as this is to its advantage and compatible with objectives. While criticism external and internal and administrative and economic troubles appear to have put it somewhat on defensive, (see Tito speech to Anti-Fascist women) its toughness, resourcefulness, energy, determination must not be underestimated. Though Yugoslavs are a different breed from Russians and proud of it and Russian precedents need not of necessity apply it would be rash to ignore effect instant intensive indoctrination may have on malleable younger generation unless soon modified.
- Under cover NKVD22 activity rumored which would appear subject for more discreet investigation.
- Foregoing should of course be appraised in light of limitations under which it was gathered. Longer sojourn and formal contact might well lead to revision. The all important question of intentions [Page 1213] of regime cannot be adequately judged by spot checking of this type, value of which is necessarily limited. All of above from native sources.
Sent Department; repeated to London for Patterson as 64.
- Colonel-General Milan Nedich, President of the Nazi puppet state of Serbia.↩
- Juraj Shutej, Minister of Finance, Commerce and Industry in the Subasich Cabinet.↩
- Reference is to Gen. Draza Mihailovich, leader of the Chetnik resistance forces in Yugoslavia, former Minister of War and Commander-in-Chief of the Yugoslav Armed Forces.↩
- Special Political Police of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union.↩