This article examines Yugoslav national programs of ruling political elites and its concrete implementation in education policy in interwar Yugoslavia. It is argued that at the beginning of the period Yugoslavism was not inherently incompatible with or subordinate to Serbian, Croatian or to a lesser degree Slovenian national ideas. However, the concrete ways in which Yugoslavism was formulated and adopted by ruling elites discredited the Yugoslav national idea and resulted in increasing delineation and polarization in the continuum of national ideas available in Yugoslavia. Throughout the three consecutive periods of political rule under scrutiny, ruling elites failed to reach a wider consensus regarding the Yugoslav national idea or to create a framework within which a constructive elaboration of Yugoslav national identity could take place. By the end of the interwar period, the Yugoslav national idea had become linked exclusively to conservatism, centralism, authoritarianism and, for non-Serbian elites at least, Serbian hegemony. Other national ideas gained significance as ideas providing viable alternatives for the regime’s Yugoslavism.
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