Djilas, Milovan

Djilas, Milovan
born June 12, 1911, Podbišce, Montenegro
died April 20, 1995, Belgrade, Serbia

Yugoslav politician and political writer.

His opposition to Yugoslavia's royalist dictatorship led to a prison term (1933–36). He joined the Yugoslav Communist Party's central committee in 1938 and its politburo in 1940. In World War II he played a major role in the partisan resistance to the Germans. In 1953 he became president of the Federal People's Assembly, but his criticism of the party and calls for liberalization soon led to his ouster from all political posts by Tito. He was later arrested several times after his books criticizing communism, including The New Class (1957), were published in the West.

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▪ 1996

      Yugoslav politician and writer (b. June 12, 1911, Podbisce, Montenegro—d. April 20, 1995, Belgrade, Yugos.), was a communist revolutionary and top aide to Josip Broz Tito in the 1930s and '40s; he later repudiated Karl Marx, denounced Joseph Stalin and other communist leaders as self-serving hypocrites, and became one of Eastern Europe's leading dissidents. Djilas joined the Communist Party while studying law at the University of Belgrade and was imprisoned (1933-35) for antimonarchist activities. By 1938 he was a close colleague of Tito (then the Communist Party's secretary-general) and a full member of the Politburo. Djilas fought with the Partisans during World War II, joined Tito's postwar government as a Cabinet minister and chief of propaganda, and was sent to Moscow to meet with Stalin when Yugoslavia broke from the Soviet orbit in 1948. In 1954, however, Djilas, increasingly disillusioned with communism in general and with Tito's regime in particular, resigned from the government and the party. He was imprisoned in 1956 for openly supporting the Hungarian uprising and was released in 1961, despite the furor over his book The New Class (1957), which was published in the U.S. from a smuggled manuscript. Imprisoned again after the appearance of the scathing Conversations with Stalin (1962), he was released in a general pardon (1966). Djilas renounced communism entirely in The Unperfect Society (1969). He later opposed both the breakup of Yugoslavia and the nationalist warfare that followed. Djilas also published biographies, fiction, poetry, essays, four volumes of autobiography, and translations of John Milton and Maksim Gorky.

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▪ Yugoslavian writer
Djilas also spelled  Ðilas 
born June 12, 1911, Podbišće [near Kolašin], Montenegro [Yugos.]
died April 20, 1995, Belgrade, Serbia

      prolific political writer and former Yugoslav communist official remembered for his disillusionment with communism. Much of his work has been translated into English from Serbo-Croatian.

      After receiving his law degree in 1933 from the University of Belgrade, Djilas was arrested for opposing Yugoslavia's royalist dictatorship and was imprisoned for three years. In 1937 he met Josip Broz Tito (Tito, Josip Broz), the secretary-general of the Yugoslav Communist Party, who was to become the Communist leader of Yugoslavia. Djilas joined the party's Central Committee in 1938 and its Politburo in 1940. He played a major role in the Partisan resistance to the Germans in World War II and with the war's end in 1945 became one of Tito's leading cabinet ministers. He was active in the Yugoslav communists' assertion of their independence from the Soviet Union in 1948.

      In January 1953 Djilas became one of the four vice presidents of the country, and in December he was chosen president of the Federal People's Assembly. Within a month, however, his intensifying criticism of the Communist Party and his calls for increased liberalization of the regime led to his ouster from all political posts and, in April 1954, his own resignation from the party. Djilas also received an 18-month suspended prison sentence. In 1956 he was imprisoned for writing an article in an American magazine supporting the 1956 Hungarian uprising.

      In 1957 Djilas' book The New Class was published in the West from a smuggled manuscript. It asserted that the typical governing Communists in eastern Europe were little different from the capitalists and landowners whom they had replaced; he later renounced this theory in The Unperfect Society (1969). Rearrested after the publication of The New Class, Djilas was released in 1961 but the following year was imprisoned again for the publication in the West of Conversations with Stalin (1962), which was critical of the Soviet leader. He received amnesty in December 1966 and thereafter lived in Belgrade. In the closing years of his life he was an outspoken critic of Yugoslavia's faltering democratization.

      Among Djilas' best-known works are his four volumes of political autobiography—Land Without Justice (1958), Memoir of a Revolutionary (1973), Wartime (1977), and Rise and Fall (1985)—which chronicle his life to the mid-1960s. Other works include The Leper and Other Stories (1964), the biography Tito: The Story from Inside (1980), and the essay collection Of Prisons and Ideas (1986).

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Universalium. 2010.

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