The Soviets favored Draža

2014 October 30
- Ivan Miladinović, Politika, 2012 November 11 (Serbian original)

Earlier this month we published an essay by Boris Aleksić re-examining the relationship between the Soviets, Royalists and Communists in Yugoslavia during WW2. It referenced this 2012 article from the Belgrade daily Politika, concerning the Royal Yugoslav government's outright rejection of Soviet support. The question not asked, or answered, here is to what extent that decision may have been influenced (or perhaps even command) by the British government.

Stalin Offered Draža Cooperation

Plagued by the civil war and growing internal divisions, the government of Professor Jovanović rejected Moscow's historical proposal for military cooperation out of hand

In this time dominated by crises (of daily politics, economy, morals, and values) it is hardly surprising that the general din of the media almost drowned out the statement by Professor Dr. Boris Anatolevich Starkov, head of the department for 20th Century History at the University of St. Petersburg, that Draža Mihailović had been working with the Soviet intelligence.

Who is Professor Starkov? Back in the days of Gorbachov, he was a member of the rehabilitation committee at the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and worked a lot with the secret Soviet intelligence archives in the line of duty. About a decade ago, he was chosen to lead a group of younger historians in preparing the documents of Soviet secret services for publication.

In addition to this reporter, Professor Starkov shared his findings about the intelligence activities of Staff Colonel Dragoljub Mihailović -- as well as other persons in the period preceding WW2 - to Politika reporter Slobodan Kljakić and the well-known historian and expert on Chetnik issues, Veselin Đuretić.

When Hitler revealed his foreign policy in 1935, letting the world know about his ideas to destroy entire nations as »lower races«, the Soviet intelligence began an effort to win sympathizers among the Bulgarian and Yugoslavian armed forces. Military attaches in Berlin and Sofia gathered around themselves the best experts on Balkans states.

One of the most valuable assets to the Soviet intelligence at the time was the Staff Colonel Dragoljub-Draža Mihailović. However, he was not an agent or a spy under the classic definition of the term. Colonel Mihailović was a devoted nationalist and monarchist, his ideology precluding any possibility of working for a Communist intelligence service. Still, as an experienced intelligence officer, Mihailović held that the Communist Soviet Union -- »Red Russia« -- was the only force capable of resisting German influence and aggression in the Balkans, namely against Yugoslavia.

That relations between Moscow and Mihailović existed is confirmed by Stalin's dilemma in December 1941 whom to work with in Yugoslavia. Would it be Tito's proletarian brigades, or the monarchist Draža? Previous attempts to have the work together had failed. Both times that Tito had met with Draža were at Stalin's insistence. In 1942, Moscow was looking to cooperate with Draža's forces; it appears, however, that the royal government -- in exile in London -- nixed the idea.

Documents discovered some time ago, a series of dispatches from the Prime Minister of the government in exile to Cairo and the HQ of the Yugoslav Homeland Army, confirms the claims of Professor Boris Starkov. Tito had kept these dispatches in his personal archive.

The historical significance of these documents is obvious. They indicate that in the fall of 1942, Yosif Vissarionovich Stalin was leaning more towards the Chetniks of Draža Mihailović than the Partisan movement of J. B. Tito. Therefore, he sent an offer to the Yugoslav government in London, via its ambassador to the Soviet Union, Stanoje Simić, to send a high-ranking military mission to Mihailović's HQ, establish an air squadron in the USSR that would be at Mihailović's service, and organize joint radio shows between the Red Army and the men of Ravna Gora.

Plagued by the civil war in Yugoslavia and growing internal divisions, the government of Professor [Slobodan] Jovanović rejected this historic offer out of hand. In fact, it conditioned any talk of Soviet aid to Mihailović by demanding that Tito's Partisans accept Mihailović's command and stop their attacks on the Chetniks, and that the Soviet radio and press cease maligning Mihailović's army.

The Yugoslav government stubbornly insisted that Stalin accept these demands in advance, thus scuttling the offered agreement. Stalin would subsequently send a mission to Tito, who knew better than to make demands of the Soviet leader.

A challenge just as great awaits the modern historians. The accurate reassessment of the history of this era is required for properly evaluating almost all the major events in national history, from World War Two to almost the present day.


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