Alexander of Yugoslavia Facts

Alexander (1888-1934) was king of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes from 1921 to 1929 and, after changing the name of his country in 1929, king of Yugoslavia until 1934.

Alexander Karageorgevich was born on December 16, 1888 in Cetinje, Montenegro, second son of Peter l, King of Serbia, and Princess Zorka of Montenegro. Alexander shared his father’s exile in Geneva, Switzerland, until 1899, when he was sent to the Russian imperial court in St. Petersburg to be educated.

He returned to Serbia in 1909, succeeding his brother George as heir to the throne of Peter I from 1903.

Leading the first Serbian army to victory over the Turks in Kumanovo on October 24, 1912, in the First Balkan War, Alexander was also in command during the Second Balkan War against Bulgaria in 1913. Old age and deteriorating health conditions led Peter I to appoint Alexander as regent of Serbia on 24 June 1914. As commander in chief of the Serbian armed forces, Alexander shared the hardships of the Serbian retreat throughout Albania before the advance of the Austro-German armies in 1915. On October 31, 1918 he led his victorious forces to Belgrade. On 1 December the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was proclaimed Prince Regent with Alexander.

The adoption by the kingdom of the centralist constitution “Vidovdan” on 28 June 1921 angered the Croats, who favoured a federal state organization that guaranteed autonomy to the historical regions. On the death of Peter I on 16 August, Alexander became king. On 8 June 1922, he married Maria (1900-1961), daughter of King Ferdinand of Romania. They had three children: Peter (born September 6, 1923), Tomislav (1928) and Andrew (1929).

The assassination of the Croatian leader Stefan Radić and a follower of Skupština (Diet) on 20 June 1928, by a Serbian MP from Montenegro, led to the withdrawal of Croatian MPs from Skupština. Convinced of the failure of the parliamentary system, on 6 January 1929 Alexander abrogated the constitution of Vidovdan, on 3 October 1929 he changed the name of the country to Yugoslavia, and began a peace process.

period of authoritarian and personal government. On September 3, 1931, he proclaimed a new constitution, allowing the existence of a “governing” party, which would receive two-thirds of the seats Skupština after obtaining a plurality of seats in national elections. This constitution increased Croatian disaffection.

Overseas Alexander, a consistent friend of France, supported Little Entente supported by the French, who opposed Hungarian and Bulgarian revisionism, and hoped for French support against Italy. During a state visit to France, King Alexander and the French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou were assassinated in Marseilles on 9 October 1934 by a Macedonian terrorist subsidized by the Croatian fascist organization Ustaše, who was in the service of Italy and Hungary. The young Peter II succeeded his father under the regency of Prince Paul, first cousin of Alexander, Prince Paul.

The death of Alexander deprived Yugoslavia of strong leadership at a time when, due to internal unrest and hostility from Germany and Italy, it was more necessary than ever. As founder of the great South Slavic state, Alexander was opposed by those who favoured the weakening or dismemberment of Yugoslavia, as well as by those who resented its authoritarian rule.

More readings on Alexander of Yugoslavia

Few works have been written that mainly concern the career of King Alexander. Stephen Graham, Alexander of Yugoslavia: The Story of the King assassinated in Marseille (1938), provides a sympathetic image of the king. The relevant sections of Robert J. Kerner, ed., Yugoslavia (1949), are useful. See also Alan Roberts, The turning point: The assassination of Louis Barthou and King Alexander I of Yugoslavia (1970). A contemporary account of Alexander’s Yugoslavia is Charles A. Beard and George Radin, The pivot of the Balkans: Yugoslavia, a study on government and administration (1929). For the political context of the Balkans during Alexander’s reign see Hugh Seton-Watson, Eastern Europe between the wars: 1918-1941 (1945; 3d ed. 1962).