Mihajlo Mihajlov Collection
The Mihajlo Mihajlov collection gives an overview of his life and work as a Yugoslav dissident who lived in exile in the USA since 1978. Due to his efforts to democratize Tito's Yugoslavia and introduce political, economic and cultural pluralism, he became a political prisoner, first in the period from 1966 to 1970 and later from 1974 to 1977. After the “Mihajlov case” in Yugoslavia in 1966, a wave of dissident movements emerged in the Eastern bloc countries. Together with Milovan Đilas, Mihajlov became one of the most famous figures of the dissident movement in the Cold War world in general. The collection is stored at the Hoover Institution, located at Stanford University in the USA.
Stanford Galvez Mall 434, United States of America 94305
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Name of collection
- Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers
Provenance and cultural activities
The Mihajlo Mihajlov collection includes his complete life as an engaged intellectual and writer. The relevance of that is reflected in the fact that, excepting Milovan Djilas, Mihajlov was undoubtedly the most prominent Yugoslav dissident. Mihajlov's legacy represents a very important source for the dissident movement in the Yugoslav federation after 1966 and his conflict with the regime until its break-up in the early 1990s.
Mihajlov became an assistant professor at the Department of Russian Language and Literature at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zadar in 1963. In the summer of the next year, he went on a study leave to the Soviet Union as a part of Soviet-Yugoslav cultural exchanges. After returning to Belgrade in 1965, the culture magazine Delo published his experiences in the Soviet Union under the headline “Moscow Summer.” Just before that, he offered the same essay for publication to Miroslav Krleža, the editor of the Zagreb-based cultural journal Forum, who rejected it due to controversial claims about the current situation in the Soviet Union.
The first two parts of this essay were published in Delo in January and February 1965. After the second part was published, Josip Broz Tito, in a speech to Belgrade's public prosecutors delivered on February 11, declared that Mihajlov was an enemy of the state and as such he must be arrested due to "negatively writing" as a reactionary about the “fraternal Soviet Union.”. In the background, this case was also crucially influenced by Yugoslav-Soviet relations, which were subject to Soviet political shifts after the removal of Khrushchev from the post of secretary general in October 1964. Mihajlov's controversial opinion was that the Soviet Union did not go far enough in the de-Stalinization of Soviet society after Stalin's death in 1953 and the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR in 1956. That was why he did not support Khrushchev’s downfall and the new policies of Leonid Brezhnev. He asserted that the Soviets had invented concentration camps in 1921, long before the Germans did (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, box 3).
On the other hand, during his Russian trip Mihajlov was interested in Soviet intellectuals who opposed the Soviet regime, well-known figures such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Bulat Okudzhava. After his 1965 trial, Mihajlov was sentenced to nine months in prison, which was subsequently reduced. The further distribution of the magazine Delo was immediately suspended and prohibited. Article 175 of the Criminal Code of the SFRY was cited, as it stipulated that anyone who mocks another state must face criminal sanctions (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, box 3).
Another case of his conflict with regime occurred in 1966, when he joined an initiative with a group of intellectuals from Zadar (Franjo Zenko, Danko Aras, Daniel Ivin, Marijan Batinić, Nikola Čolak, Predrag Ristić, Jovan Barović, Leonid Šejka, Marija Čudina, Mladen Srbinović, Slobodan Mašić) for the establishment of Slobodni glas (Free Voice), which was to be the first democratic periodical in Yugoslavia beyond the scope of Party influence (Spehnjak 2010: 275). Their demands to transform existing socialist democracy into democratic socialism with political and spiritual freedoms clearly underscored the aim of their endeavour to continue the tradition established by Djilas when he diverged from the Yugoslav Party in the mid-1950s. For this reason, the regime also condemned the intentions of Mihajlov’s intellectual group as another attempt at “Djilasism” (see also: the collection on Djilas supporters in Croatia). More about the initiative to create the magazine itself can be found in the description of the Nikola Čolak collection in the COURAGE registry, which also contains materials related to this event.
About his second jailing between 1974 and 1977, Mihajlov explained that his new arrest occurred due to a meeting of an illegal communist party of Stalinist origin (Cominform) held in the town of Bar. The organization of a congress by an illegal communist party inside a communist country was a precedent in the history of the communist movement. After the regime dissolved the Bar Congress (Barski kongres), Mihajlov believed that Tito needed his arrest to prove his neutral policy between the Eastern and Western Blocs (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, box 12).
After leaving the Yugoslav prison, he continued to develop his own ideas in exile. He founded the Democratic International in New York in 1979 together with others, where many Russian émigrés gathered, and at the same time he became a member of the Social Democrats in the United States. As a branch of the Democratic International in 1980, together with Milovan Đilas and Franjo Tuđman he founded the Committee to Aid Democratic Dissidents in Yugoslavia (CADDY), which was supposed to strengthen the position of dissidents in Yugoslavia and raise their visibility in the Western world after Tito's death. Mihajlov also took part in the project of the International Helsinki Committee, which printed a collection of works entitled Human Rights in Yugoslavia in 1986. This edition mainly focused on dissident trends and the status of human rights in post-Tito Yugoslavia (Mihajlov, 2008: 21).
Thanks to his Russian ethnicity and his extensive knowledge of Russian language and culture, Mihajlov simultaneously worked on numerous texts and contributions in the Russian dissident and émigré world. For this alone, he gained importance in the Western world which longed for Russian themes in the Cold War. Mihajlov was very well-versed as a prominent expert on Russian cultural and literary history, particularly concerning the period of Russian realism and modernity.
One of Mihajlov's major preoccupations was Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Like many others, Mihajlov considered him the Russian prophet of the twentieth century, since this literary genius predicted the dramatic events of the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the Stalinist regime. Dostoyevsky was probably the main reason why the young Mihajlov did not adhere to Marxism, but rather found his spiritual aspirations in Russian Orthodoxy, trying to reconcile Christian and socialist ideas (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, box 13). After all attempts at reforming communist regimes had failed in the Eastern Bloc and in Yugoslavia, during the 1980s Mihajlov wrote about “the failure of democratic communism,” suggesting that the only solution for the communist countries experiencing deep political and economic crises in those years was the Western European multiparty model and the adoption of economic and cultural freedoms (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, box 12).
The collection’s records arrived at the Hoover Institution Library & Archives twice: the first time in 1987, during Mihajlov's lifetime, and later, just after his death in 2011. Mihajlov did not have a specific goal when collecting the records, so it gradually grew through his intellectual work, in the first period when was working as a university professor, and in the second period as a political prisoner and dissident who retired in exile after leaving his homeland. His correspondence with the Western world was monitored by the regime in Yugoslavia, but after leaving Yugoslavia his personal archive was no longer available to the Yugoslav communist government (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, box 3). The inventory list was completed in 2011 by two Hoover Institution employees, Lyalya Kharitonova and Brad Bauer. The collection is open to the public and listed under collection number 87076 among the Hoover Institution’s other collections.
Description of content
The Mihajlo Mihajlov collection consists of 42 standard and 23 larger than standard boxes. It is written in several languages: Serbian, Serbo-Croatian, Russian, English and German. The collection is divided into several sections: personal data, correspondence, personal notes, speeches and articles, business cards, writings by other author about Mihajlov, works and articles by other authors, and audiovisual records.
The first section of the records, which includes three archival boxes, contains Mihajlov's personal documentation, biographies, bibliographies and the address book of the people with whom he communicated. Apart from materials from his public activity, there are also personal documents and documents from his family life, related to his mother Vera Mihajlov and sister Maria Ivušić.
Among the most interesting materials in the first part of the materials are documents from political trials, which were directed against Mihajlov in the Yugoslav courts in the 1960s and 1970s. These records are in box 3 and include various documents from 1965 to 1975, as well as Mihajlov's written communications to the authorities (Tito) and tribunals, most often in the form of appeals or requests to improve his status as a convicted person. During his second period of imprisonment in Srijemska Mitrovica in the 1970s, Mihajlov even staged a hunger strike to improve his status. As an intellectual, he was particularly sensitive to access to books under restricted prison conditions, so besides his demands to be released from jail and be allowed to leave the country, the most important demand to the prison authorities was to read as many different books and other written materials as possible. Apart from his specialization and interest in Russian literature and the Yugoslav and Russian dissident movement, Mihajlov intensively read religious literature by studying not only books on Christian issues, but also those on Indian philosophy and Eastern religions in general (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, Box 3).
Furthermore, from box 3 to 11 this collection contains correspondence with numerous institutions and individuals in the period from 1965 to 2010. Mihajlov co-operated mostly with the Serbian, Croatian and Russian dissident scene (Jovan Barovic, Vadim Belotserkovsky, Vera Piroskov, Grigory Svirsky, Andrei Sinyavsky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Predrag Palavestra, Mirko Vidović, Ivo Glowatzky, Franjo Tudjman and others). He also corresponded with the prominent political figures of his time, such as Josip Broz Tito, US President Jimmy Carter, and Britain’s Prince Charles, who was also interested in his case of political persecution (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, box 8).
Box 9 contains lists of political prisoners and political trials in Yugoslavia and books and journals banned since 1945, which was used by Mihajlov as an argument to reveal to the Western public insufficiently known facts about dissident movement in Tito's Yugoslavia in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The same box contains the correspondence and debate between Djilas and Mihajlov in a letter dated February 27, 1984, in which Djilas wants him to remove his name from the board of CADDY. The disagreement with Mihajlov occurred in Belgrade several years after 1979, when together with Momčilo Selić, who later replaced Djilas on the board of CADDY, they published the samizdat called Timepiece (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, Box 13). It led to Selić’s punishment for its unlawful publication. In addition to mutual quarrels, Mihajlov came into conflict with Djilas because he believed that as a dissident he did not sufficiently recognize the power of religion in the struggle against Marxist regimes (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, Box 9).
Box 11, besides the letters to President Tito, also contains Djilas' letters to Tito, in which they advocated improving his status and release from prison in the second half of the 1970s (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, box 11). In the same box there are numerous materials and notes he collected to write his doctoral dissertation. Above all, there are commentaries on the work of Dostoyevsky. Box 12 notably contains the “Answers to Questions from Aleksa Djilas” in 1982, where he explained to the younger Djilas why Yugoslavia, unlike the Eastern Bloc countries, did not have a very robust and influential dissident movement. Mihajlov was aware that if Croatian and Serbian dissidents could not overcome national tensions and historical conflicts and unit, the Yugoslav project would not survive after the removal of communists from power.
In this context, he mentioned the positive example of Croatian dissident Marko Veselica, who first took the initiative for cooperation between dissidents in Belgrade and Zagreb. Mihailov himself was present at such a meeting in Zagreb in April 1978 before going into exile. It was attended by Marko Veselica, Vlado Gotovac and Franjo Tudjman from Zagreb, and besides Mihajlov, Djilas, attorney Jovan Barović and Dragoljub Ignjatović from Belgrade. He regarded Veselica’s role in this as the main reason why he was subsequently sentenced to eleven years in prison. Likewise, the dubious circumstances in which Barović perished in 1979 also had an epilogue which brought Croatian and Serbian dissidents together, Mihajlov concluded. In his response to Aleksa Djilas’ questions, he pointed to the primacy of the democratic principle in his political views when a solution to the Yugoslav crisis was in question. Therefore, he reasoned that support for a united Yugoslav state could not be a criterion for the division into “democratic and undemocratic nationalists,” since he was personally ready to accept a democratic Croatia rather than an authoritarian Yugoslavia (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, Box 12).
When it comes to the dissident movement, Mihajlov considered it primarily an expression of the activism of intellectuals throughout the communist bloc, except for the “people’s springs” which occurred in both Poland and Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Mihajlov was interviewed by Djilas’ son Aleksa about the main reasons for the meagre development of the dissident movement in Yugoslavia compared to its great expansion since the 1960s in other parts of the Eastern Europe.
In the first place, there was the conflict with Stalin in 1948, which prompted Yugoslavia to “liberalize” in many areas, especially in the sphere of culture, especially after the Ljubljana Congress of Yugoslav Writers in 1952. Thus, for example, painting, music and poetry distanced themselves somewhat from the embrace of the ideological monopoly, a process that began in the Soviet Union only in the 1980s.
Another major obstacle to the development of the dissident movement was the national question in Yugoslavia, which constantly emphasized the national uniqueness of each people as the most important political and cultural issue, which made it difficult for dissidents from different national groups to come together (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, Box 12).
And thirdly, Mihajlov cited as the third reason the West’s external support for the communist regime in Yugoslavia, so that dissidents in the latter country could not secure the same moral support of the West as that given to Soviet and Eastern European dissidents. Moreover, until the 1980s, the West did not pay any attention to systematic violations of human rights and the persecution of writers and intellectuals due to their intellectual work in Yugoslavia. Excepting Djilas and himself, he believed that this was a consequence of the fact that Djilas was one of the pillars of Tito’s regime. On the other hand, in his personal case, the Western public’s attention was only attracted because he criticized the Soviet Union. The cases of Ivan Stevan Ivanović and Franjo Tudjman, for instance, did not garner any attention from the Western press, although Mihajlov's CADDY notified numerous US institutions, including the press, and influential policymakers of Tuđman’s case (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, box 12).
However, Mihajlov believed that his arrival in US and the launch of CADDY had altered the situation, and that since the 1980s the dissident movement in Yugoslavia gained more strength than it had in the preceding two decades when the Western public had less interest in it. He concluded that “I am not condemning the Yugoslav intelligentsia in any way and think that is no less free than its Soviet, Polish or Czech counterparts.” In his opinion, these specific circumstances were responsible for the unique course of Yugoslav socialism since 1948, which inevitably influenced the slightly different character and dynamics of the Yugoslav dissident movement, unlike other countries of the Eastern bloc (Mihajlo Mihajlov Papers, box 12).
The third part of the collection contains Mihajlov's manuscripts, articles, essays, lectures, speeches and his own books. There are also various works and writings by other authors in boxes 34 through 42. Among the manuscripts, the materials he collected for his doctoral dissertation on Dostoyevsky stand out. Materials published during his stay abroad from 1979 onward in various leaflets and magazines in several different languages - Serbian, Croatian, Russian, English, Finnish, Czech, French, Italian, Polish and Spanish – are in the group of articles and essays in boxes 15 through 29. Box 28 contains an English translation of “Moscow Summer” from 1965, because he was politically persecuted in Yugoslavia in the 1960s. Box 29 contains Mihajlov’s most famous and most important works, such as “Russian Themes” from 1968 and “Underground Notes” from 1970, both in English, and “Unscientific Thoughts” from 1979 in Russian. In addition, the books and essays from his later phase, such as “Nietzsche in Russia” (1986), were concerned with the influence of Nietzsche's philosophy on Russian modernism in the fin de siècle period. The manuscript for the Serbian edition entitled “Repeat Thoughts” (2008) provides an overview of the main dissidents in Yugoslavia and his personal contribution to dissident movement.
The fourth part of the materials in the boxes from 30 to 33 consists of articles and essays written by various authors in different languages about Mihajlov and his case and his works. It is evident from them that Mihajlov, after being exiled from Yugoslavia, mostly cooperated with a circle of mainly Serbian pro-Yugoslav émigrés gathered around the magazine Naša reč (Our Word) and individuals such as Desimir Tosic and Ivan Stevan (Vane) Ivanovic, who advocated the preservation of Yugoslavia through their émigré Democratic Alternative initiative and removal of the Yugoslav communists from power. Thus, box 30 contains collected texts in which Yugoslavia's newspapers and journals particularly attacked Mihajlov in the 1960s. Among them, the most interesting text is from a Belgrade magazine Gledište under the headline “A Pamphlet Against the October Revolution.”
Certainly interesting in this part of the collection is the article from the Yugoslav press in the autumn of 1990 about Mihajlov, when he briefly returned after 12 years in exile. The Belgrade weekly magazine Duga carried an interview with him under the headline “The Return of Mihailo Mihajlov.” In it, Mihajlov clearly expressed his political desire to preserve Yugoslav unity and prevent the independence of its republics, which was then in line with the official policy of Slobodan Milošević. The fifth part of the collection includes business cards with contact information and research notes and writings in boxes 43 through 47. The last section of the collection covers audiovisual and digital materials, which are arranged in boxes 48 through 64, consisting of television interviews granted by Mihajlov during his life, and especially from the last period after his return to Serbia since 2001.
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 1000-
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
- Patton, Sarah
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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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
Cvetković, Srđan 2007. Portraits of dissents. Beograd: Institute for Contemporary History.
Matulić, Rusko, 2014. Contribution for the Bibliography of Mihajlov Mihajlov. New York: Xlibris
Mihajlov, Mihajlo 1965. Moscow summer. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Mihajlov, Mihajlo 1994. Homeland is freedom. Beograd: B92.
Mihajlov, Mihajlo 2008. Repeated thoughts. Beograd: Offical Herald.
Mihajlov, Mihajlo 1977. Underground notes. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Mihajlov, Mihajlo 1968. Russian themes. New York: Farra, Straus and Giroux.
Mihajlov, Mihajlo 2004. Unscientific thoughts, Beograd: Brimo.
Spehnjak, Katarina; Cipek, Tihomir 2010. „Dissidents, resistance, opposition – Croatia and Yugoslavia (1945-1990)“, Dissident movement in the Contemporary History. Collection of works of the International Research Symposium, (ed. N. Kisić Kolanović, Z. Radelić, K. Spehnjak), Zagreb: Croatian Institute of History, 2010.
Patton, Sarah, interview by Kljaić, Stipe , December 12, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection