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Drawing the Line

Chapter 10.
Cartoons as a Powerful Propaganda Tool

Creating the Images of East and West in the Yugoslav Satirical Press

Ivana Dobrivojevic, (Institute for Contemporary History, Belgrade)

This chapter aims to explore the remarkable turnaround in Yugoslav cartoons in the pivotal years of 1948–1952, when conflicts within the COMINFORM produced a reorientation of criticism away from America and the West and towards the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc. The chapter focuses on the cartoons published in the Belgrade journal Jez (Hedgehog), in all their Manichean, schematic, even vulgar form. Discourses on ‘western imperialism’ were used as a basis for the new, anti-Soviet cartooning, as they provided ready-made templates for the criticism of Yugoslavia’s external enemies. It is interesting to note that the heaviest criticism was in many cases reserved not for the USSR itself, but for Yugoslavia’s Communist neighbours in Bulgaria and Albania – displaying a complexity and multi-polarity of thought which has seldom been recognised, in a period often characterised solely as a bipolar East/West dichotomy.

Political Background

More than one and a half million victims, a demolished country and vast economic losses were the main consequences of the Second World War for Yugoslavia.1 It was no ordinary war of liberation. On the Yugoslav territory the Second World War was simultaneously a war against various armies of occupation – German, Italian, Hungarian and the Bulgarian – several quisling armies, and a civil war as well. Yugoslavia was the only country in Europe, besides the USSR, which experienced an autochthon communistic revolution, And this was the main difference between Yugoslavia and the other Soviet satellite, peoples’ democracies of Eastern Europe. The fact that the country was liberated mostly by the efforts of the native communist partisan movement and not exclusively by Soviet Red Army forces – which took part in the final battles for the liberation of Serbia - enabled the maintenance of a strongly independent Yugoslav position in the post-war Eastern bloc. Yugoslavia was perceived, both in the East and at the West, as the country of next most importance to the Soviet Union in the hierarchy of the communist countries. Yugoslav communists also shared this perception of their party.2

Although the United States and Great Britain had assisted the partisan movement during the war, the situation changed dramatically after the liberation. During the spring and summer of 1945, Richard Patterson, American ambassador in Belgrade, in his reports to the State Department depicted communist Yugoslavia as a country which was ‘almost totally under the Soviet control’ and ‘completely under Tito’s dictatorship’.3 After the November elections, the situation was crystal clear – all opposition was suppressed and the Communist party became the only ‘ruler’ of the country. Western allies perceived Yugoslavia as the most loyal Soviet satellite, but Washington was particularly concerned that Yugoslavia could be used as a sort of platform for spreading of communist ideology and regime into neighbouring Italy and Greece.4 The Draza Mihilovic trial, border disputes with Italy (Trieste crisis), attacks on two American airplanes and Yugoslav economic support to the Greek communists during the civil war convinced the State department that Yugoslavia ‘was more pro–Soviet oriented than all other East European countries’.5

Until the summer of 1948, Yugoslavia was in the strong Soviet embrace. The Yugoslav regime was trying to create a completely new society and destroy the remains of bourgeois traditions. Agrarian reform, the first and second nationalisation (in 1946. and 1948), repression and terror against political enemies and opponents were some of the most prominent characteristics of the new regime. It was, according to Lj Dimic, ‘a time of controlled information and controlled life, of revolutionary zeal, on the one hand, and great fear on the other’. 6 The duty of the propaganda apparatus in particular was to concentrate in the hands of Communist Party of Yugoslavia, whether directly or indirectly, ‘the entire political, cultural, educational and scientific life’ of the country, to be managed directly from the Party centres and central, provincial or lower Party organisations and departments.7 The Soviet state system became a model which was imitated everywhere and at every level of governance – in industry, agriculture, the army, education, and culture. One of the main goals of the regime was the education of the masses, since more than one million, out of the 15 million people who lived in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia before the war, were illiterate.8 This noble goal was also an efficient ideological and political means for creating a new kind of citizen: a proletarian, completely devoted and loyal to the new communist society. In the large campaigns for spreading literacy, party officials brought lecturers who explained to the ignorant peasants the importance of collectivisation, economic planning, and portrayed life in the model society – the Soviet Union – as one of plenty. In general, ideology became the main ‘ingredient’ of everyday life. The activity of the propaganda machinery was marked by a direct, imperative, intolerant, interfering and authoritarian approach, requiring an absolute obedience on the other side.9 Even the youngest children were brutally exposed to the new propaganda. Textbooks were full of ideological content, so even eight-year-olds were compelled to read about pioneer organisations and their main regulations, while ostensibly learning to read and write in their mother tongue.10

Things dramatically changed when Cominform issued a resolution (June 1948) in which the Yugoslav Communist Party was accused of ‘anti-Soviet’ policy, and labelled as the ‘kulak party’, while the party leaders were characterised as ‘petty bourgeois nationalists’.11 Although this uturn in Yugoslav–Soviet relations was perceived as abrupt and unexpected, certain indications of the possible crisis were visible from the beginning of 1948. 12 At this time the Soviets exposed the Yugoslav regime to severe economic pressure and interfered in domestic political affairs by criticising agreements between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. The Soviets also denied military help to the Yugoslav army, because, in Moscow’s opinion, Yugoslavs did not need to have strong forces while the Red Army existed as an Eastern-Europe-wide force.13 At first (from February until June of 1948), Yugoslav party leaders tried to clear up ‘misunderstandings’ with the Soviets, not realising that the relations of the two countries had reached a turning point. Even after the Cominform Resolution, the regime tried to patch things up and avoid escalation of the conflict. However, Yugoslav communists soon realised that hostile relations with the USSR presented a serious threat not only for the party leadership, but for the sovereignty of the entire state. Since the neighbouring countries (Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania) were Soviet satellites, the regime came to be faced with various types of border incidents, in which frontiersman were killed and wounded in violent skirmishes.14 These incidents in fact presented a low profile state of war that provoked fear and insecurity within Yugoslavia.15 Moreover, Yugoslavia was now economically blocked both from the East as well as from the West.

Yugoslavia’s turn towards the West started involuntarily and with a certain feeling of discomfort. Completely blocked and endangered from the East, Yugoslav communists did not have any other solution but to try to improve relations with the Western countries. Simultaneously, the Truman administration concluded that it is in America’s best interest to ‘keep Tito afloat’, since Yugoslav communists turned out to be a destabilising factor in the Eastern bloc.16 In 1949, Yugoslavia dramatically improved economic relations with the West, especially with the USA and Great Britain. Moreover, the American administration, both economically as well as militarily, started actively assisting the Yugoslav regime. First, free food shipments were sent to Yugoslavia in 1950. In November of 1951, a military agreement between the two countries was signed. American military help was supposed to strengthen Yugoslav defence. President Truman justified military help to the communist country by the key argument: Yugoslav independence was in danger and the interests of the United States, as well as of the Western democracies, were to protect its independence because of its important geostrategic position.17 Although Yugoslav communists were always insisting on the creation and development of a socialist economy and society, this dramatic about-face in Yugoslav foreign policy had consequences for internal affairs, so certain democratisation and liberalisation of the country was visible from 1952.

After Stalin’s death in 1953, Yugoslavia slowly normalised its relations with the East. However, from 1955, the Yugoslav regime tried to distance itself both from the West and the East, creating a non-aligned movement, supporting fights for independence in European colonies, the idea of German unification, and the like. The new foreign policy of the Yugoslav regime was acceptable to the United States, since the new Eisenhower administration felt that the neutralisation of Yugoslavia was a more realistic solution than its complete turning towards West.18

Shaping and Re-Shaping the Image of East and West: The Example of Cartoons

The Yugoslav press, like the press in all other totalitarian regimes, was strictly controlled and censored. Central political institutions were in charge, directly or indirectly, of all spheres of public opinion and expression, in the form of subcommittees for agitation and propaganda (abbreviated to ‘agitprop’). These subcommittees were supposed to ‘prevent all spontaneity and anarchy’.19 They were established in all Party committees, from the central to the district level, and divided into departments for press and propaganda, theoretical work and lecturing, cultural activities, organisational, technical and pedagogical work.20 Agitprop controlled the press completely, giving precise, strict and detailed instructions to journalists on how they should write about specific issues. Party officials working at agitprop sometimes wrote complete articles about the “important” topics and sent them to papers to be published. These manipulative (and delusive) texts spoke about the triumph of socialism, promising an even brighter future, the accomplishment of all socialist goals and an ideally just society. The official party paper Borba (Struggle) had a special column called ‘From the Soviet Union’, that popularised the life and economic achievements of the first communist country. According to the authors of those articles, social justice, low prices, economic prosperity and welfare, technical and scientific achievements and ‘miracles’ were the main characteristics of the life in the USSR. Propaganda machinery was so uncritical that papers wrote about orange plantations around the polar circle!21 On the other hand, Western countries, mostly the United States and Great Britain, were portrayed as ‘imperialistic’ countries and the main threat to peace in the world. The regime accused the American embassy in Belgrade of running an ‘enemy campaign’ against Yugoslavia that was conducted through various exhibitions in the American reading room. Newspapers and magazines, films and jazz music records were the main ‘tools’ of this ‘enemy campaign’.22 Following the official foreign policy and Party guidelines, controlled media created an ‘adequate’ image of the West. Main characteristics of the life behind the iron curtain, according to Yugoslav press, were poverty of the masses, unemployment, racial discrimination, decadency in society and culture, moral erosion, and the like.23

Until 1947, censorship and control of the press was much stronger. Journalists rarely dared to publish texts, especially comments and analysis, which had not previously been forwarded from the agitprop. Vladimir Dedijer, one of the main figures in the propaganda apparatus at that time, noticed: ‘Concerning the problem of managing the press, we made some huge mistakes. Agitprop commissions tended to be editorial offices; they tended to censor all paper’.24 Dedijer further stated that editors were encouraged ‘to run’ to the agitprop with all the articles. Such a system of work, according to this party official, provoked ‘serious damage’ – editorial staff stopped thinking since all the instructions came from agitprop. Although party leaders were in favour of a certain liberalisation and independence of the press, this operated more in theory than in practice. Although the propaganda apparatus limited the amount and detail of its instructions to authors after 1947, journalists were still obliged to follow the official ‘party line’ and party policy. All headlines and articles looked alike and it was impossible to read any dissonant opinion, as none were printed.

Loyal party cadres, employed at the newspapers, shared the official communist dogma, but also had strong doses of auto-censorship. In the difficult times of great political change – when Stalin and the Bolsheviks were transformed from national heroes to major villains – it was difficult, even for the disciplined party cadres, to adapt to these sudden changes and break with the old idols. This confusion and hesitation is easily visible in the Yugoslav press of that time. Until the summer of 1949, it was possible to read the column ‘From the USSR’ in the official party paper Borba (Struggle) in which journalists continued to praise life in the first communist country; and at the same time, in the same paper, to read harsh critiques of Soviet ‘imperialism’ and ‘hegemony’.25 However, things had become much clearer by the autumn of 1949. At this time, the Yugoslav press began openly accusing the USSR of several ‘betrayals’: betrayal of socialist ideology and goals; betrayal of Greek partisans; cooperation with the ‘imperialistic world’, and the like Once a ‘promised land’, the Soviet Union became synonymous with repression and terror, deportation of national minorities and all political opponents, fear, poverty and misery. At the same time, the image of the West changed. From September of 1949, the Yugoslav public could read certain articles originally published in the Western countries, which spoke in favour of Tito’s regime or against the USSR. The images of East and West were suddenly inverted. Journalist started writing about the technical and scientific achievements of capitalist countries, admiring to the Western heritage.26 This turning towards the West was sometimes so uncritical, that it offended agitprop – for instance the student paper Narodni student (People’s student) was criticised for writing too much about the USA and Great Britain.27 The official Croatian party paper Naprijed (Forward) went even further: one article stating that workers’ self management and workers’ councils, supposedly an ‘invention’ of the Yugoslav communist party, also existed in the United States! 28

Jez (The Hedgehog)

Manichean, schematic, even vulgar, with actors and events presented in an extremely simplified form – these were the characteristics of the caricatures published in most prominent and influential Yugoslav satirical magazine Jez (Hedgehog), published in Belgrade.29 Primitive, ideological, thematically repetitive, and mostly without either artistic value or intelligent satire, caricatures were used by the regime as one of the main tools of propaganda in the fight against the West, and later against the East as well. In a report entitled ‘The issue of our caricature’, Branko Shotra emphasised that ‘a caricature must contain all the elements of socialist realism’.30 The author believed that, due to its symbiosis with journalism, a caricature was much more powerful than any other type of art: ‘if understood correctly, it has all the conditions of the direct and powerful propaganda means in the fight for the new life and against the old one’.31 If one takes into consideration the educational structure of the Yugoslav population, its cultural backwardness, and largely rural way of life, it is clear why this type of ‘art’ had such a prominent place in the propaganda machinery of the regime. Unlike newspaper and magazine articles, the reading of which demanded time and a certain degree of commitment, a caricature, sharpened and schematised in the extreme, did not require serious intellectual involvement. While text writing demanded more originality and imagination, given that it was impossible to repeat the same phrases constantly, a caricature easily became a ready means of conveying stereotypical images and expressions. Communist ideology, phraseology and dogmatic beliefs were easily expressed, disseminated and repeated over and over through the schematised black and white images that cartoons offered. The cartoonists themselves were rarely artists by vocation. Their main ‘virtue’ and talent lay in the fact that they shared official party beliefs. The artistic moment in cartoons was not important, since the cartoon was merely the simplest ‘media’ for creating stereotypes and sending political messages to the masses. As a result, the caricature became a central way through which the regime attempted to influence its undereducated population during this period.

During 1948, the cutting edge of Jez was pointed towards America and American ‘imperial’ and ‘discriminatory’ politics. One hundred and seventeen anti-American caricatures were published, while not a single negative drawing appeared about the Soviet Union. However, in spite of the imposing number of published caricatures, anti-American propaganda was neither original nor diverse. A few motives were generally used: the Marshall Plan’s support of Europe; American diplomacy’s ‘imperialistic’ aspirations; the American threat to world peace and its involvement in the wars in China and Greece; unemployment and the overall difficult life of workers and racial discrimination towards African Americans. According to the cartoons in Jez, the Americans used the Marshall Plan not to economically help but to rob the European countries. Exports of machines, raw materials, strategic products, patents and artistic works, a decline in manufacturing, the closing of a large number of factories, and a flood of cheap and worthless American consumer goods, personified most clearly in rise of chewing gum consumption, were, according to Yugoslav propaganda machinery, the most ‘significant’ results of the Marshall Plan. This notion was clearly presented in the cartoon ‘How to dream, forge and fulfil Marshall’s plan’, published on 17 January 1948, that presented an American company executive board’s meeting with characteristic charts in the background. One of them showed the growth of manufacture and the other the decline of sales: the conclusion was that further economic disaster could be prevented only if new markets could be created where American goods would be sold without competition. Therefore, the surplus goods should be sent to Europe. Economic penetration also meant military penetration. Thus, a decision was brought at the military police meeting (the Jez caricaturist successfully varied the abbreviation MP as Marshall’s plan, mnogo propagande (a lot of propaganda), mnogo profita (a lot of profit) and military police) to add nylons and chewing gum to ‘a few battleships and expert divisions’.32

Figure 10.1: ‘Gozba’ [Feast], Jez, 19 June, 1948.

One of the typical cartoons of that time was called ‘Gozba’ (Feast) published on June 19, 1948 (Figure 10.1). In this picture, George Marshall is presented as an American cowboy, serving poison in glasses (labelled with a skull and cross bones) to European officials. The whole message is ‘illuminated’ by the text: ‘Be brave! We give you Marshall Plan help in drops!’ (the cartoonist equates ‘help’ with ‘poison’, the implication of the cartoon being that accepting American help will be fatal to the receiver). In another picture, the officials of 16 European countries, gathered in London to establish details of obtaining assistance under the Marshall plan, are presented as harmless piglets that make the spit for their own roasting (Figure 10.2).

Figure 10.2: ‘How animals live’, Jez, 20 March 1948.

Caption reads: ‘The Conference of 16 countries – the supporters of Marshall’s plan – has started in London’.

American military help to the Greek Government, produced a number of cartoons caricaturing the American political and military influence in Greece. The American wish for hegemony and military power, symbolised by the atomic bomb, was aligned to Hitler’s wishes for world domination. In the same way, American atomic weapons and Sherman tanks, identified with German Tiger tanks, were condemned as the main culprits of evil in the world33. It is interesting and ironic that these same Sherman tanks were later proudly presented to the Yugoslav public at a military parade in Belgrade in 1953.34

Table 10.1: Anti-American caricatures in Jez (monthly statistical data).

The graph shows the number of anti-American published in Jez from January 1948 till October 1949. The peak of the anti-American campaign was reached in October of 1948, three months after the Cominform resolution. Although this may look as a certain paradox, it is not. Until the end of 1948, Yugoslav communists tried to ‘explain’ and to ‘prove’ to the USSR that they were wrongly and unjustly accused.

In addition, every opportunity was used to criticise the American desire for profit, as well as what the Yugoslav regime saw as its attempts to manipulate and bribe certain delegates in the United Nations Organisation.35 In Yugoslavia at that time, the U.N. was believed to be an enemy ‘voting machine’ and a completely western creation.36 According to cartoons in Jez, the only way to become a member of the United Nations was to allow American capital the undisturbed exploitation of mineral resources as well as other raw materials.37 Portraying the Americans as a threat to the world peace sometimes took interesting forms in cartoons. The picture shows New York editor (with obviously Semitic features) who is preparing to celebrate the anniversary of Tolstoy by cutting word ‘peace’ from the book title ‘War and Peace’ (Figure 10.3).

The abrupt political changes of 1949 were clearly visible in the Yugoslav press. Only 16 anti-American cartoons appeared in the pages of Jez, and from the summer none at all.38 The attention of Jez’s editorial staff was mainly focused on revealing ‘the heart of the matter’ of the Atlanta pact, founded in April, 1949, or ‘the atom pact’ as it was called, which was represented as a huge shark, with open jaws, which had a top hat with the inevitable dollar sign on its head.39 One could notice certain parallels between writings on this issue in Borba (Struggle – a Serbian daily newspaper) and the cartoons published in Jez, regarding both the writing style and dates of publication of the reports on the Atlanta pact.40

Figure 10.3: ‘How the New York publisher Smith prepares the 120th anniversary celebration of Tolstoy’s birth’, Jez, 9 October 1948.

From the title ‘War and peace’, the publisher cuts out the part of the book on which ‘peace’ is written.

After the break with Cominform in the summer of 1948, Yugoslav political apparatus hesitated until the late autumn when the first negative headlines appeared in the press, mostly pointed towards Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe. In this first period – a period of isolation, fear and hesitation the Yugoslav regime, cut off both from the East and the West, decided not to criticise Soviet Union directly. Since the press was strictly instructed and censored by the Agitprop apparatus, this was echoed in the satirical magazines. The first cartoon critical of the Soviet Bloc appeared on 22 January 1949. This was ‘A Polish reading-room’ – the ‘pictorial expression’ of an article published in Borba on 12 January – which criticised the false presentation of Polish living standards at an exhibition in a Polish reading-room.41 This was an introduction to 76 stereotyped caricatures of the Soviet Bloc that would appear during 1949.42 The negative image of the West had been exchanged for an equally harsh critique of the East. Suddenly the Russians became the ‘bad guys’ who gave lip service to supporting peace, but in reality jeopardised it with their ‘hegemonic’ and ‘imperialistic’ aspirations, robbing countries of national democracy, trading in Greece and Chorintia for financial (dollar) benefits, and manufacturing lies through a highly controlled media. A prominent subject in Jez during this time was the presentation of the Soviet exploitation of its satellites. That the Yugoslav press also wrote about this issue demonstrates the close cooperation between writers and artists during this period, with cartoons generally bringing into image the ideas that had been earlier articulated in newspaper and magazine articles.

Figure 10.4: ‘The chief of the store’, Jez, 15 April 1950.

A clichéd Soviet personnel officer is kindly welcoming a representative of Western capital, offering him the products of ‘satellites’ presented as small terrified men in characteristic national clothes.

Figure 10.5: ‘Both with shepherd’s reed and with shepherd’s flute’, Jez, 30 September 1950.

As was the case previously with the Marshall plan, Soviet economic hegemony was now highlighted in order to ‘expose Moscow’s imperialistic politics’. Yet despite the importance of this subject to the Yugoslav regime, it did not occasion the creation of completely original caricatures. Cartoonists reached out for the existing models that had been put to use a year earlier in criticising the Marshall plan. Stereotypes regarding robbery and the destruction of the economy were strikingly familiar. Still, one central difference was an acknowledgement that the Americans gave something in return to ‘Marshallised’ countries – even if it was chewing gum and nylons – while the Russians only grabbed what they could from the ‘Soviet’ countries: Polish coal, Romanian oil, Hungarian wheat and aluminium, Czechoslovak china, Bulgarian oil, and Albanian powder boza (Figure 10.4). The Yugoslav criticism of Soviet exploitation was presented imaginatively in an illustration of, allegedly, the newest invention of Soviet science – the ‘cowgiraffe’, combination of cow and a giraffe which was draining all goods from the satellite countries. Soviet Union and its satellites, once depicted as a land of plenty, easily became synonymous with poverty, hunger, misery and fear.

Many cartoons were devoted to criticising the Soviet media. This sometimes took an extreme form, as in a cartoon that portrayed Radio Moscow as the god of war, Mars (Figure 10.5).43 However, the countries of the ‘peoples’ democracies’ received much heavier criticism than the USSR. The main targets of Jez’s criticism were Bulgaria and Albania. One possible reason for this may be the frequency of border incidents and disputes between Yugoslavia and the abovementioned countries. Another explanation has to do with the fact that Bulgaria tried to raise itself above the rest of the countries of the ‘peoples’ democracies’ in order to take a preeminent place in the socialist hierarchy that had belonged to Yugoslavia until 1948.

Special attention was focused on the show trials of Koca Dzoze, Trajce Kostov and Laslo Rajk. One of the most original cartoons on this subject was ‘Reminder’ (17 December 1949) where the accused was presented as saying: ‘Please, give me today’s issue of Izvestija in order to see what to confess’. Though all the trials were equally unfair, Jez, like Borba, focused most its attention on the Sofia trial. In one witty picture, ‘Cautiousness in Bulgaria’, a Jez cartoonist describes the confusion and mobilisation that started in Sofia when a cat ran out from the Yugoslav embassy (Figure 10.6).

From 1 October 1949, a series of cartoon began appearing in Jez which criticised the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs A. Vishinski as an advocate of peace who nonetheless espoused the ‘imperialistic’ politics of the USSR. One of more interesting caricatures was called ‘Words and actions’. It pictured an image of Vishinski as the joker in a pack of cards, right way up holding an olive branch and dove peace in his hand, and upside-down threatening economic blockade, holding a duck in his hand – this was Jez’s symbol for lies and calumnies (Figure 10.7). These criticisms of the USSR should be read against Yugoslavia’s strengthened position in the West and the admission of Yugoslavia to the UN Security Council.

However, the cartoons in Jez were not always palatable to the party leaders’ tastes. At the meeting of Agitprop with the editorial staff on 30 August 1950, Jez was criticised for the excessive simplification of certain issues: ‘We do not see the heart of the matter that we have to perceive when we talk about Cominform and the enemy that is supporting this organisation. We are unable to see the essence in order attack its core, separating it from the things that small bourgeois are interested’.44 This simplification of issues, together with the journal’s characteristically spare aesthetic style, meant that Jez presented perhaps the starkest representation of Yugoslavia’s separation from the Eastern bloc in the summer of 1949.


Figure 10.6: ‘Cautiousness in Bulgaria’, Jez, 22 October 1949.

Caption reads: ‘Hush! This cat came out from the Yugoslav embassy’.


The Yugoslav controlled press developed simplified black and white images of East and West and adjusted them according to the great shifts that took place in that country’s foreign policy. Consequently, anti-American themes, which had dominated caricatures up to 1948, suddenly changed into anti-Soviet images in the beginning of 1949. In the end, negative stereotypes of the East replaced those of the West. The types of drawings that were deployed as criticism of the economic submission of the ‘Marshallised’ countries and American imperialism and militarism, were subsequently used in ‘clashes’ with the Soviet Union and its economic exploitation of the peoples’ democracies. Since the majority of the population’s stunted cultural needs permitted the removal of art and culture from their lives, communist ideology, phraseology and dogmatic believes and notions were easily expressed, disseminated and repeated over and over through the schematised black and white images that cartoon offered. Due to the severe censorship and auto – censorship, the artists avoided expressing their own opinion in the cartoons. They reached out for already published articles, schematising and simplifying its main motives to the maximum. This is why the propaganda and political turn of the Yugoslav regime during 1949 and 1950 is much more easily discerned through caricatures than through newspaper articles.

Figure 10.7: ‘Words … and actions’, Jez, 1 October 1949.


1    This article presents part of a wider research on the inter-influence of the phenomenon of the Cold War and Yugoslav regime phraseology (‘The Cold War and official phraseology of the Yugoslav regime 1945–55’), that was conducted by Ivana Dobrivojevic and Aleksandar Miletic, junior researcher employed at the Institute for Recent History of Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia. All translations in this article are by the author.

2    Predrag J. Markovic, 1996, Beograd izmedju Istoka i Zapada 1948–1965, Beograd, Službeni list SR Jugoslavije: 74–75.

3    M. Lorraine Lees, 2003, Keeping Tito Afloat. The United States, Yugoslavia and the Cold War, Belgrade: BMG Press: 24 [in Serbian].

4    Lees, Keeping Tito Afloat: 29.

5    Lees, Keeping Tito Afloat: 73. Draza Mihailovic represents one of the most controversial figures in twentieth century Serbian history. He was the commander of guerrilla army known as ‘chetniks’ which continued on fighting after the capitulation of Yugoslavia. Chetinks were recognised by the Yugoslav government in exile, as well as by Western allies as the official army. However, since the war in Yugoslavia was also a civil war as well, chetniks believed that the main state enemies were not the Germans, but the communists. That is why they stopped fighting against the Germans and collaborated with them against communists. Chetniks were materially supported by the Western allies until the 1943.

6    Ljubodrag Dimic, 2005, Velike sile I male drzave u hladnom ratu 1945–1955: Slucaj Jugoslavije, Belgrade: Arhiv Jugoslavije: 303.

7    Dimic, Ideology and Culture in Yugoslavia: 304.

8    Ljubodrag Dimic, 1988, Agitprop kultura: Agitpropovska faza kulturne politike u Srbiji 1945–1952, Belgrade: Rad: 63.

9    Dimic, Ideology and culture in Yugoslavia: 304.

10  Archive of Yugoslavia (abbreviated in further text AJ), Council for science and culture, holding number 317-50-73.

11  ‘Rezolucija Informacionog biroa komunistickih partija o stanju u Komunistickoj partiji Jugoslavije’, Borba, 3 (7), 1948. ‘Kulak’ was the derogatory term used by Stalin and the Soviet authorities during the 1930s to describe the rich peasants supposedly hoarding grain and thus betraying the Soviet people and the Revolution itself. Stalin saw this as justification for acts which may constitute genocide under some interpretations.

12  Milovan Djilas, 1994, Pad nove klase. Povest o samorazaranju komunizma, Beograd: Sluzbeni list SRJ: 87.

13  This was, of course, just an official explanation. Stalin was against creation of strong Yugoslav army, because politics of the USSR was to strictly control its satellites.

14  Yugoslav statistical data states that in the period 1948–1950, 1044 incidents occurred on the borders with Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria and Albania. ‘Livre blanc sur les procedes agressifs de gouvernements de l’ URSS, de Pologne, de Tchechoslovaquie, de Hongrie, de Roumania, de Bulgarie, et de l’ Albanie envers la Yougoslavie’, Beograd, 1951: 445, 481–485.

15  Branko Petranovic, 1988, Istorija Jugoslavije, III, Beograd: Nolit: 195–226.

16  Lees, Keeping Tito Afloat: 73.

17  Petranovic, Istorija Jugoslavije, III: 242–245.

18  Darko Bekic, 1988, Jugoslavija u hladnom ratu 1945–1955, Zagreb: Globus: 707.

19  Dimic, Ideology and culture in Yugoslavia: 304; Petranovic, Istorija Jugoslavije, III: 120–121.

20  Dimic, Ideology and culture in Yugoslavia: 304; Petranovic, Istorija Jugoslavije, III: 120–121.

21  Markovic, Beograd izmedju Istoka i Zapada: 108–112.

22  AJ, A CKSKJ (archive of the Central Committee of the Communist Party), VIII (Ideological Commission), k 37, VI/2 - (1–96).

23  Markovic, Beograd izmedju Istoka i Zapada: 113–122.

24  ‘The role of the press and its place in the work of the communist party’ (24 October 1947), AJ, A CKSKJ, VIII, IV - a - 2.

25  Report, A–CKSJ, VIII, I/1–a–16. Report shows statistical data for 18 main Yugoslav papers in the period 1 January – 10 February 1949. Curiously, the Narodna Arnija (The People’s Army), the offical paper of the Yugoslav armed forces (No. 41), 25 per cent of the published articles spoke in favour of life and communist ‘achievements’ in the USSR, and not a single article criticised the USSR or the Cominform resolution.

26  Markovic, Beograd izmedju Istoka i Zapada: 122–135.

27  Report about ‘Narodni student’, October 1951, AJ, A CKSKJ, VIII, VI/1–b–108.

28  Report on writing of Naprijed, 29 August – 17 October 1952, AJ, A CKSJ, VIII, II–5–b–57. See also Report on Naprijed, August–October 1952, AJ, A CKSKJ, VIII, II/5–b–57.

29  Since 1946, Jez had been published in 150,000 copies, every week, each with four pages. In May of 1949, the Ideological Commission of the Central Committee of Communist Party of Yugoslavia (Agitprop) advocated the increase of copies printed to 200,000. AJ, A-CKSJ, k 4, VIII, II/2-b-22 (1-4).

30  AJ, A-CKSKJ, k 4, VIII, II/2-b-22 (1-4). The document was made on 17 May 1949. Branko Shotra was a painter, party official, professor and rector of the Applied Art Academy in Belgrade.

31  Shotra further stated that ‘the Soviet contemporary caricature can serve as a model of a good realistic caricature in which the right political and artistic point of views on reality has become prominent – the rightly understood role of art and an artist in socialistic society’. Such a public call on the Soviet model as an example in an official document eloquently testifies about party members’ confusion regarding the relations with the USSR.

32  ‘Kako se snuje, kuje I ostvaruje Marshalov plan’, Jez (Hedgehog), 17 January 1948.

33  ‘In Greece’, Jez (Hedgehog), 19 June 1948.

34  Predrag J. Markovic, 1996, Izmedu Istorka i Zapada, Belgrade: Službeni list SR Jugoslavije: 91.

35  The caricature ‘Tender-hearted people’, published on 29 May 1948, cynically presents the armaments of the Americans, Arabs and Israelis: ‘OK, we have recognised a Jewish state of Israel, but we have to be fair to the Arabs as well’.

36  This was best illustrated by the caricature ‘A machine and majority’, that was published in Jez on 13 November 1948.

37  ‘The pledge of friendship’, Jez, 4 December 1948.

38  Since July, anti-American caricatures had not been published. One could notice a similarity with central party organ Borba writing, where the column that popularised the Russians’ economical, cultural and other achievements (‘From the USSR’) disappeared in the same months.

39  See the caricatures: ‘The Atlantic shark’, Jez, 26 March 1949; ‘Atom pact’, Jez, 9 April 1949; ‘The North-Atlantic shark in the Pacific ocean’, Jez, 16 April 1949.

40  Both Borba and Jez published reports on this issue mostly in March and April. This type of synchronism remained for quite some time. The confirmation that Jez caricatured mostly what the press had published can be also found other sources. See: ‘The review of home press and agitation regarding foreign policy issues, 1 May to 15 June 1950’, AJ, A-CKSKJ, k 26, VIII, II/5-b-53.

41  ‘On the Polish reading-room deceit’, Borba, 12 January 1949.

42  At the meeting held on 17 May 1949, the following tasks of the foreign policy column in Jez were stated: 1) Fighting against the defamatory campaign of the Cominform, and for Marxist-Lenin relations among the socialist countries; 2) Fighting against all outer efforts of disturbance and jeopardising of our socialist foundations and our country’s independence; 3) Fighting against the imperialistic slavery and war-instigating propaganda; and 4) Helping the fight of oppressed and colonial people’. AJ-ACKSKJ, k 4, VIII, II/2-b-45.

43  See the caricature ‘Both with shepherd’s reed and with shepherd’s flute’, Jez, 30 August 1950.

44  AJ, A-CKSKJ, k 4, VIII, II/2-b-45

Primary Sources

Archive of Yugoslavia, Council for science and culture, various items (abbreviated to AJ, with item numbers).

Borba, various editions.

Jez, various editions.

‘Livre blanc sur les procedes agressifs de gouvernements de l’ URSS, de Pologne, de Tchechoslovaquie, de Hongrie, de Roumania, de Bulgarie, et de l’ Albanie envers la Yougoslavie’, Beograd, 1951.

Secondary Sources

Bekic, Darko, 1988, Jugoslavija u hladnom ratu 1945–1955, Zagreb: Globus.

Djilas, Milovan, 1994, Pad nove klase. Povest o samorayaranju komunizma, Beograd: Revolucionarni rat.

Dimic, Ljubodrag, 1988, Agitprop kultura: Agitpropovska faza kulturne politike u Srbiji 1945–1952, Belgrade: Rad.

Dimic, Ljubodrag, 2005, Ideology and Culture in Yugoslavia, 1945–1955: Time, People, Institutions, Politics, Belgrade: Slucaj Jugoslavije.

Dobrivojevic, I., & A. Miletic, 2005, Hladni rat i zvanicna frazeologija jugoslovenskog rezima 1945–1955, Velike sile i male drzave u hladnom ratu 1945–1955, Belgrade: Slucaj Jugoslavije.

Lees, M. Lorraine, 2003, Keeping Tito Afloat. The United States, Yugoslavia and the Cold War, Belgrade: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Markovic, Predrag J., 1996a, Beograd izmedju Istoka i Zapada 1948–1965, Beograd, Službeni list SR Jugoslavije.

Markovic, Predrag J., 1996b, Izmedu Istorka i Zapada, Belgrade: Službeni list SR Jugoslavije.

Petranovic, Branko, 1988, Istorija Jugoslavije, Volume III, Beograd: Nolit.


Cite this chapter as: Dobrivojevic, Ivana. 2009. ‘Cartoons as a powerful propaganda tool: Creating the images of east and west in the Yugoslav satirical press’. Drawing the Line: Using Cartoons as Historical Evidence, edited by Scully, Richard; Quartly, Marian. Melbourne: Monash University ePress. pp. 10.1 to 10.16.

© Copyright 2009 Ivana Dobrivojevic

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Drawing the Line

   by Richard Scully, Marian Quartly