CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 60: US Delegation Papers

United States Delegation Working Paper



i. the yugoslav claims

The Yugoslav memorandum, reproduced in document CFM(D) (47) (A) 9,13 to the Deputy Foreign Ministers Conference in London, asks for the cession to Yugoslavia of Slovene-Carinthia and some small corners of Styria and for the protection of the Slav minority in Burgenland.

The areas claimed in Styria may be dismissed as relatively unimportant, possessed of neither strategic position nor, so far as is known, strategic materials. The issue raised over the Croats in Burgenland may also be dismissed from serious consideration, as the question of control of the area is not at stake, whatever the region’s strategic value to Austria or Yugoslavia. The Croats in Burgenland have not, in recent years, been a troublesome minority problem, nor are they likely to become so unless they are subjected to extensive outside influence. Rules and regulations as to their treatment are properly a subject for negotiations between the two countries concerned or between the Croats themselves and the Austrian Government.

The Yugoslav claim to Slovene-Carinthia, however, is of great importance, and a discussion of this question is the subject of this paper. Briefly, the Yugoslav case rests on these three points: (1) Austria, as an integral part of Germany, participated in the war at the side of Hitlerite Germany, whereas Yugoslavia made an important contribution to the efforts of the Allies; therefore, Yugoslavia’s claims should receive preferential treatment; (2) the 1920 plebiscite to determine [Page 574] the fate of the disputed area was not conducted in a manner designed to accord fair treatment to the resident Slovenes; and (3) the disputed area is bound by historical, ethnical, geographic and economic factors to Yugoslavia. In this paper points (2) and (3) only will be covered inasmuch as the arguments pro and con with respect to point (1) are quite familiar to all concerned.

[Here follow sections on: II. Statistics; III. Historical Factors; IV. Religious and Political Factors; V. Geographic and Economic Factors; VI. Strategic Factors; VII. Austrian Minority Policy.]

viii conclusion

While the comparative strengths of the two opposing Slovene groups are not presently available, it appears probable that the majority of Carinthian Slovenes would still vote in favor of Austria rather than Yugoslavia if another plebiscite should be held. The historical and economic factors are still operative, and these bind the Carinthian Slovenes much closer to the Austrians than to their Slav kinsmen across the border. The religious and political factors are probably more important now than before the advent of the Tito regime in Yugoslavia. The Carinthian Slovenes are Roman Catholics, and politically they have always been conservative.

It is not likely, therefore, that a majority of the Slovenes in the disputed area would vote for a national affiliation with Yugoslavia, which would place them under a system of which they disapprove on both religious and political grounds. They lack a pronounced national tradition, and they have the background of a long-standing cultural, religious and economic affinity with the German-speaking elements of Carinthia.

ix recommendation14

The US must continue to oppose the Yugoslav claim to the disputed area and to support the retention of the 1937 Austrian frontiers, on the following grounds:

An analysis of the historical, religious, political and economic factors involved in this dispute indicates that separation of the disputed area from Austria is unjustified.
The 1920 international plebiscite, carried out under conditions more favorable to Yugoslavia than to Austria, has already settled this issue and there are no present considerations, non-existent prior to this plebiscite, which warrant setting aside the decision established by the plebiscite.
Any territorial loss—after the South Tyrol issue has been decided against the Austrians and after agreement has been reached by the Big Four to re-establish Austria as a sovereign and independent state—would constitute a tremendous blow to Austrian national prestige and would undoubtedly have serious internal as well as foreign political repercussions.

  1. Ante, p. 114.
  2. For a summary of Secretary Marshall’s presentation of the United States position on the Yugoslav claims to Carinthia, made at the Council’s 36th Meeting, April 19, see telegram 1480, Delsec 1451, April 19, from Moscow, p. 362.