Milovan Đilas Collection
The Milovan Djilas collection is deposited at the Hoover Institute Library & Archives, located at Stanford University in the United States. It offers an important insight into the life and work of the first and most prominent dissident in Yugoslavia, who was also one of the most notable dissidents anywhere in communist Europe. Djilas had been the main ideologue of the Yugoslav Communist Party and one of the Tito's closest associates when he confronted the Party and Tito in the mid-1950s.
Stanford Galvez Mall 434, United States of America 94305
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Name of collection
Milovan Djilas papers
Provenance and cultural activities
The Milovan Djilas collection covers his entire private and public life as a politician, public intellectual and writer. It is very important because Djilas was the first and most prominent Yugoslav and Eastern European dissident from the 1950s to the end of the 1980s. Djilas's legacy is additionally relevant to the history of the communist movement in Yugoslavia because he was one of the most prominent leaders of the Yugoslav communist movement since the end of the 1930s. Likewise, it is an important source for the overall history of the dissident movement in the entire Cold War era, given that Djilas was essentially the first dissident from the communist world in general. It furthermore contains a wealth of information on Western support for the dissident movement in the communist world and represents the writing of the Western intellectual and political public about the dissident phenomenon. Djilas' role is also a significant event in the history of the communist movement after the fall of Stalinism, when reformist groups within communist regimes demanded more political, economic and cultural freedom. In this context, Djilas can be considered one of the forerunners of the reformist movements in communist countries in the 1960s with ideological programs such as Aleksandar Dubček’s “socialism with a human face” in Czechoslovakia in 1968 or the so-called “liberalization” in Tito's Yugoslavia in the same decade.
The collection arrived in the Hoover archives twice, the first time during Djilas’s lifetime in 1980, and later when his son Aleksa handed over the rest of father’s collection in 2014. Djilas' collection consists of a total of 43 standard archival boxes and one larger than ordinary archival box. The collection is written mainly in Serbo-Croatian, Serbian and English. Djilas did not have a specific purpose in collecting but it was the outcome of his political and intellectual work, first as a high communist official in Tito's Yugoslavia, and later as an engaged intellectual and dissident. The collection is open to the public and listed under collection number 20128.
The publication of Djilas' books and articles was banned in Yugoslavia until the end of the 1980s, as were studies of his life and work by other authors. His books could be read only in foreign languages outside of Yugoslavia. Vasilije Kalezić's first analysis of his works in Yugoslavia was published in 1986 under the title Djilas, miljenik i otpadnik komunizma – Kontroverze pisca i ideologa (Djilas, favourite and outcast of communism - Controversies of a writer and ideologue) in Belgrade in 1986. He was followed in dealing with the Djilas case by Momčilo Đorgović, Dušan Bogavac, Drago Stanković and Goran Lazović and Vladimir Dedijer. Djilas’ first work was published in Yugoslavia only in 1988: a study on the Montenegrin prince and bishop Petar I Petrović Njegoš. A year later, his other books were published again in Belgrade, Crna gora (Montenegro) and Gubavac i druge priče (The Leper and Other Stories). Since 1990, the Serbian editions of The New Class and Wartime were released. A collection by about thirty authors appeared after his death in Belgrade in 1996 under the title Milovan Đilas (1911-1995) edited by Branko Popović and Momčilo Cemović. After that, Cemović published two works dedicated to Djilas in 1997, Djilasovi odgovori (Djilas Responds) and ‘Secret Trials of Milovan Djilas’. A special study with emphasis on his dissident period was published by Desimir Tošić in 2003 in a work titled Ko je Milovan Đilas? (Who is Milovan Đilas?). In 2008, Dobrilo Aranitović published Djilas' bibliography of works in Belgrade. That same year, Živko Đurković released a study in Podgorica about Djilas’ views of Njegoš, a Montenegrin prince of the Petrović dynasty who lived in the first half of the 19th century, and his writings. Thus, after his death a sort of “Djilasology” emerged, which resulted in numerous articles and studies of his activities over the past thirty years, especially in his native Montenegro and Serbia, where he lived and worked most of his life.
Likewise, numerous studies, articles, and masters and doctoral dissertations about Djilas' life and work have been written once he emerged as a dissident figure after the 1960s to the present. The first significant work was published in German in 1971 by the Guenther Bartsch, Milovan Djilas oder die Selbstbehauptung des Menschen: Versuch einer Biographie (Milovan Djilas or the self-determination of man: an attempt at a biography). This was followed by Michael M. Milenkovitch’s Milovan Djilas: An Annotated Bibliography, 1928-1975, which listed Djilas' books and essays, published by the University of Michigan Press in 1976. In 1981, Columbia University Press released the book by Dennis Reinhartz, Milovan Djilas: A Revolutionary as a Writer. Two years later, English historian and writer Stephen Clissold published the study Djilas, The Progress of a Revolutionary. In 1989, Cyrus L. Sulzberger, an American journalist and writer, published another biography, Paradise Regained: Memoir of a Rebel. In Trotsky and Djilas: Critics of Communist Bureaucracy, published in 1989, Michael M. Lustig tried to compare the texts of Djilas and Trotsky, particularly Trotsky’s most important book, The Revolution Betrayed, and Djilas' The New Class in terms of their writings about the bureaucratization of communist states.
Description of content
The Milovan Djilas collection contains the published and unpublished manuscripts and correspondence between Djilas and his publisher William B. Jovanovich in the United States. When he was jailed and later, since 1967, almost all of his books were published by the company Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Jovanovich played the key role in connecting Djilas to American publishers and journalists, while Drenka Willen and Prof. Michael B. Petrovich were in charge of translating Djilas' texts and books intended for the American market. The central topics of the collection deal with the communist system and dissident movements in Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe, the cult of Yugoslav dictator Josip Broz Tito, and the world communist movement in the 20th century.
The collection also contains Djilas's private correspondence as well as various other materials related to his dissidence. Apart from manuscripts and texts in Serbian and Serbo-Croatian, the collection also contains his numerous articles and essays intended for the American and Western press. Box 1 of the collection also includes his original manuscript of one of his most famous works, The New Class, which he wrote in jail in the second half of the 1950s. Box 6 contains another manuscript by him, Crna Gora, in Serbo-Croatian, while box 7 contains its translation into English, Montenegro. Box 8 contains the manuscript of the book Wartime, which was published in English in 1977, and the German translation of Memoirs of a Revolutionary, which was previously published in English in 1973. Box 13 contains the manuscript of Conversations with Stalin, which led to his imprisonment for the second time after it was published in the United States in 1962.
Box 1 of the collection contains the manuscript of the best known work by Djilas, which also brought him global fame: The New Class: An Analysis of the –Communist System, otherwise published in Great Britain in 1957, which was also the first critical attack from the inside since he was the Tito's closest associates in the highest echelon of power. The book had additional moral force because Djilas wrote it during his stay in prison. In this book, Djilas acknowledged his personal transformation when he decidedly stated that “by getting away from the reality of contemporary communism, I have come closer to the idea of a democratic socialism” (p. 2). He provided a definition of the new class at one point in the book as a disappointed revolutionary who has discarded any illusions that the revolution could lead to a perfect society: “It is not therefore only about bureaucratic self-destruction and parasitism, although the communist regimes abound even more than others, but about appropriating exclusively by the communists, the rights of governing and distributing the nation's property, which really makes them the core of a new class of owners and on which their totalitarianism is based” (p. 52). When it comes to the creation of a dissident climate in a Yugoslav society where all resources were managed by the “new class,” Djilas said that it was very difficult to develop dissident strategy, since “intellectuals are forced into self-censorship by their status and the realities of social relations. The self-censorship is in fact the main form of party ideological control in the communist system” (Milovan Djilas Papers, box 1).
Box 2 contains a handwritten manuscript titled “Thief's Fate,” in which Djilas described the German occupation of Serbia afterward 1941. The box also contains Djilas' texts about Belgrade lawyer Jovan Barović, a dissident who defended political prisoners and who was injured in 1979 on the Zagreb-Belgrade motorway under suspicious circumstances. Djilas suspected that he had been killed by the secret service, to whom he dedicated the text “Barović - fearlessness against lawlessness,” later published in the American media (Milovan Djilas Papers, box 2). The same box contains is a typewritten manuscript of the work “Conversations with Tito,” that was first published in Serbo-Croatian abroad in 1980. Djilas described Tito as a dictator who did not have a tradition in the sense of a monarch or an intellectual education, but rather as a mass dictator who impressed with a strong will to power, which led him to the top of the Yugoslav party. Based on his style and method of rule, Djilas saw no difference in comparison to other communist regimes, therefore he concluded that “Tito's Marxist Marxism does not differ from that of other communist countries in terms of function, worldview and basic power, but rather in terms of Yugoslavism and insistence on state autonomy and its specific models of socialism.” After the split between Belgrade and Moscow in 1948, Djilas confessed that Tito was only interested in his personal power, and that theoretical postulates about the new direction of Yugoslav socialism after that important turning point were articulated by himself and two Slovenian communists, Boris Kidrič and Edvard Kardelj. Djilas also described Tito's rule as a discourse between “liberalization” and “re-Stalinisation,” which re-emerged after Stalinism’s decline in the mid-1950s as another return by Tito to Stalinist methods, as happened after 1948. Djilas saw the second wave of “democratization” in Yugoslavia after his personal endeavours in “national communism” in Croatia (S. Tripalo, S. Dabčević-Kučar) and in the “democratic wing” of the Serbian communists (M. Nikezić, L. Perović), but when these movements began to move away from Tito's control they were quelled by intensified regime repression after 1971. Finally, Djilas provided a forecast of the overall Yugoslav situation after Tito left the scene, when it was very clear that “Tito’s legacy – post-Yugoslavia will be endangered in its most controversial foundation, the ideological and monopolistic one. This will inevitably be a great menace to the independence of Yugoslavia” (Milovan Djilas Papers, box 1).
Box 8 contains Djilas' critical objections to the “New Left” in the American media, in which he condemned it as leftist radicalism doomed to failure. Box 11 contains his correspondence with Vladimir Dedijer, also accused by the Yugoslav regime of supporting Djilas' controversial articles published from October 1953 to January 1954, who was Djilas' closest associate and friend after his fall in 1954. Also important are Djilas' diaries from the time of his political troubles at the end of 1953 and the beginning of 1954, which clearly show that Djilas sought an alternative socialism opposed to Stalinism and a return to the sources of Marx and Engels, who, he asserted, did not build a final system, but left their theoretical concepts open to future discussions. Here also are Djilas' speeches and documents from the trial of January 1955, at which he said on one occasion: “Most commonly, my perceptions and the prevailing ones are two opposite sides of one and the same socialist system,“ rejecting every possibility that he was attempting to rebuild the pre-war order and the old political multi-party system. This box also contains Djilas' letter to Tito in 1967 just after leaving prison, and other works such as “The Nordic Dream” in 1954 and “Omniscience Of Stupidity,” an unpublished manuscript (Milovan Djilas Papers, box 11).
Box 12 contains a manuscript entitled “Rebellious Youth” from 1955, in which Djilas described his earliest revolutionary days when he joined the communist movement as a young man. It recounted his youthful journey from the gymnasium at Berane to the university in Belgrade, when he joined a leftist student youth organization after he was jailed in the royal prison. Djilas’ memoirs are an important source for the history of the Montenegrin wing of the Yugoslav communist movement. Box 15 contains Djilas' personal translation John Milton’s Paradise Lost into Serbo-Croatian, which he did during his time in prison. Boxes 19 and 21 contain the study under the title ‘The Unperfect Society,’ which appeared in an English edition in 1969, and a study on the Montenegrin poet and prince Njegoš from 1966. Box 24 contains the manuscript of his book that was published in 1958, Land Without Justice. Among the published materials from the collection, boxes 5 and 44 contain one of his novels in English, “Worlds and Bridges,” as well as his Serbian original, which was posthumously published in Novi Sad in 1997. Apart from many manuscripts, the collection also encompasses photographs of Djilas' family and public life from 1931 to 1989, a total number of 378 digital photographs stored on a CD. Djilas' correspondence is very rich and scattered throughout the collection, mainly in boxes 17, 18, 27, 28, 42 and 43. Some of his most interesting correspondents were Desimir Tošić, Mihajlo Mihajlov, Jovan Barović, Vane Ivanović, Aleksa Djilas, William B. Jovanovich, Matija Bećković, Vladimir Dedijer, Drenka Willen, Bogdan Radica, Marver Bernstein and many others.
Box 20 consists of Djilas' manuscript about Njegoš, to whom he devoted his interest after his conflict with the Party and during his time in prison. This box also contains various reports, letters, lectures and articles during Djilas' visit to America in 1968 after being released from jail, where gained publicity in American leftist intellectual circles, but also among the American general public at the time. Particular attention was then accorded to his lecture at Princeton University, where he advocated “economic decentralization” and “greater political freedom,” which were the reasons for his conflict with Titoism in 1954.
Box 34 contains the manuscript of Memoir of a Revolutionary, a book published in a U.S. edition in 1973 by his publisher Wiliam B. Jovanovich. There is also the important correspondence between Jovanovich and Djilas from 1970 to 1975, from which it is clear that Jovanovich was the main promoter of Djilas' works on the American market. The text of Edward Kardelj’s interview with Radio Free Europe on 6 May 1974 held in box 36 should be highlighted, as in it he assessed the Djilas phenomenon. Kardelj spoke about Djilas as a man of extremes, as a Party leader who endangered the survival of the Partisan movement in Montenegro with his leftist radicalism at the beginning of the war. According to him, after the war he was a staunch Stalinist only to turn to the other extreme of social democracy during the 1950s, claiming to the Western public that he was never a communist or a Marxist. This box also contains an interview with Djilas conducted by John Morgan for the British television broadcaster Thames in 1973, in which he expressed his view that totalitarian communism was falling into decadence and that reform measures were necessary to open the process of democratization and liberalization. He claimed that Stalin's death in 1953 opened the way for thoughts on alternative directions for socialism, and that his sympathies were with the model of Western social democracy, which attempted to build socialist planning without revolution. Box 37 contains two manuscripts, “Prison Diary” and “Prison Notes,” which were recently published in Belgrade by his son, Aleksa Djilas, under the title Pisma iz zatvora (Letters from Prison) in 2016. These manuscripts testify to Djilas' interests and thoughts primarily concerning his intellectual work and his writing and reading during his stay in prison. They certainly demonstrate his turn from Marxism to more traditional themes related to Montenegrin history and Orthodox literature. A fruit of the influence of Njegoš's religious philosophy on him was the book about Montenegro in World War I published in English in 1963, in which Djilas composed a mixture of history and fiction (Milovan Djilas Papers, box 37).
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 1000-
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 1000-
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
- Patton, Sarah
Geographical scope of recent operation
Place of founding
Beograd, Belgrade, Serbia
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Kljaić, Stipe
Banac, Ivo. 2009. “Hrvatski djilasovci” (Djilas's supporters in Croatia). In Desničini susreti 2009. Zbornik Radova, edited by Drago Roksandić, Magdalena Najbar-Agičić, Ivana Cvijović Javorina, 19-27. Zagreb: FF press.
Đilas, Milovan. 1957. The New Class – An Analysis of the Communist System. New York: Frederick A. Praeger.
Đilas, Milovan. 1958. Land without Justice. New York: Harcourt and Brace Jovanovich.
Đilas, Milovan. 1961. Conversations with Stalin. New York: Harcourt and Brace Jovanovich.
Đilas, Milovan. 1963. Montenegro. New York: Harcourt and Brace Jovanovich.
Đilas Milovan. 1966. Njegos –Poet-Prince-Bishop. New York: Harcourt and Brace Jovanovich.
Đilas Milovan. 1969. The Unperfect Society. New York: Harcourt and Brace Jovanovich.
Đilas, Milovan. 1984. Of Prisons and Ideas. London: Kolašinska liga za ljudska prava.
Đilas, Milovan. 1990. Druženje s Titom (Convesations with Tito). Belgrade: Screen.
Đilas, Milovan. 2009. Vlast i pobnua (Power and rebellion). Zagreb: Novi liber, 2009.
Kalezić, Vasilije. 1988. Djilas, miljenik i otpadnik komunizma – Kontroverze pisca i ideologa (Djilas: Favourite and Heretic of the Communism – Contoversies of a Writer and an Ideologue), (Re-issue). Belgrade: Zodne.
Lasić, Stanko. 1970. Sukob na književnoj ljevici (The Conflict on the Literary Left) (1928.-1952.), Vol. 2. Zagreb: Liber.
Tošić, Desimir. 2003. Ko je Milovan Đilas? Disidenstvo (1953-1995) (Who is MIlovan Djilas? Dissidence). Belgrade: Bookbridge.
Patton, Sarah, interview by Kljaić, Stipe , December 12, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection