Exporting the Yugoslav Revolution: Veterans, Memory and Transnational Networks of Solidarity during the Cold War

The project investigates the role of historical memory in the exchanges between Yugoslavia and the postcolonial world in the global Cold War, focusing on the agency of war veterans. The project centres on SUBNOR, the veteran association of the People’s Liberation War, as the Partisans’ struggle during the Second World War was officially termed in socialist Yugoslavia. The project explores the international dimension of SUBNOR activities in the postcolonial world. The role of memory in this context was twofold. First, the individual memory of the war and revolution of the Partisan veterans underlay their positioning towards the anti-colonial movements. The Yugoslav veterans connected their experience of the People’s Liberation War with the anticolonial struggles in Africa and Asia as a shared past of the armed struggle for freedom. The narrative of the parallels between the People’s Liberation War and the post-1945 anti-colonial struggles was the basis of the solidarity initiatives between Yugoslavia and liberation movements. Second, the Yugoslav veteran association, as the leading mnemonic agent in socialist Yugoslavia, shared its expertise in memory work, showcased the Yugoslav sites of memory and welcomed international guests at official commemorations. The project centres on Algeria and liberation movements of Portuguese-ruled Africa: Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Angola, while drawing on other examples from across the postcolonial world.

The project aims at writing memory into the global history of the Cold War. Bringing together the approaches of transnational history, memory studies and cultural history of war veterans, the project explores travelling historical narratives and memory cultures in the post-1945 period. The project is situated in the always-growing scholarship examining socialist internationalism and East-South connections during the Cold War, contributing to the existing knowledge with the memory studies perspective. The transcultural turn in the interdisciplinary field of memory studies has generated studies of the concepts of travelling, transnational and transcultural memory in historical contexts. This project seeks to historicise transnational memory studies and root its concepts in the historical discipline, archival research and concrete actors and processes. Veterans’ internationalism constitutes a valuable yet neglected lens of analysis of socialist Yugoslavia, non-alignment and networks of solidarity. The Partisan veterans dominated Yugoslav politics and society until the late 1970s and were the main agents of the Yugoslav culture of remembrance. The lens of the veterans’ agency at home and abroad sheds new light on the Yugoslav culture of remembrance and networks of solidarity in the global Cold War.