Vladimir Dedijer, a Yugoslav author and scholar, was a Visiting Professor of History at the University of Michigan three times during the 1970s. He is known best for his writings on Yugoslav history, most notably his biography of Marshall Josip Broz (Tito) and his war diaries of his experiences as a member of the partisan army during the Yugoslav Revolution.
Dedijer was born in Belgrade in 1914 to Jevto and Milica Dedijer. His father was a professor of geography at Belgrade University. His mother, a social worker, was actively involved in the women's liberation movement in Yugoslavia.
Dedijer became active in international affairs at an early age, attending the Conference for Reconciliation in Poland in 1929 as a delegate of Yugoslav high school youth. In 1931, he attended the XX World Congress of the Young Men's Christian Association in Cleveland, Ohio. Following high school, Dedijer worked for the daily newspaper Politika while studying law. He received his Doctorate of Philosophy in Law from Belgrade University in 1956. As a journalist he served as a foreign correspondent in Poland, Denmark, Norway (1935), England (1935-1936), and Spain (1936). He was fired from Politika in 1937 by order of the Yugoslav government for supporting the Republican government in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. From 1937 to 1941 Dedijer worked in various positions at a number of underground publications.
During the early 1930s Dedijer had begun forming ties with the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY). In 1937 he made the acquaintance of such influential Yugoslav Communist leaders as Tito, Edvard Kardelj, Milovan Djilas, and Aleksandar Rankovic. The CPY had existed in Yugoslavia for many years despite being outlawed in 1920 and was under the control of the Soviet Union. Tito had been a member of the CPY since 1920 and was imprisoned as a result of his communist activity from 1928 to 1934. Following his release from prison, Tito became a member of the Central Committee of the CPY, then of the Politburo, and finally, in 1937, assumed leadership of the party.
In April 1941 Germany invaded Yugoslavia. The country of Yugoslavia was created at the end of World War I, but tensions among its diverse ethnic population remained strong; therefore, the reaction of Yugoslavia and its people to the Axis invasion varied greatly. Tito and his partisan forces determined to fight the Germans and those Yugoslav units that supported Hitler. The division in the country was in fact a civil war -- the Yugoslav Revolution -- that was not resolved until the victory of Tito and his forces in 1945.
Dedijer joined Tito and the partisans in 1941 in their struggle against the Axis forces and served as Lieutenant Colonel in Tito's headquarters. It was during this period that Dedijer began keeping his diaries of the war, published by the University of Michigan Press in 1990 and described as "the most detailed and important source about Yugoslavia and the partisans in World War II" (John Fine, Introduction to War Diaries, p. xv).
During the next ten years Dedijer rose among the political ranks of the CPY, holding a variety of appointments and positions. In April 1945 he was a member of the Yugoslav delegation to the United Nations and also attended the General Assemblies of the United Nations in 1946, 1948, 1951, and 1952. He attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1946 as a member of the Yugoslav delegation. Dedijer was appointed to the Yugoslav Parliament in 1953 and served as chairman of the foreign relations committee.
In early 1954, Dedijer's friend and comrade Milovan Djilas was dismissed from his positions as Vice President of Yugoslavia and president of the Parliament for making statements in the press critical of the communist government. Dedijer defended Djilas' freedom of expression before the Central Committee of the CPY in January 1954, and thus was expelled from the CPY, removed from his political offices, and dismissed from his teaching position in the History Department at the University of Belgrade. Both men were found guilty of criminal charges at a secret trial in January 1955. Djilas received a three year jail sentence. Dedijer received a six-month suspended sentence, however the verdict continued to have severe consequences on both his personal and professional life for the next five years.
By 1960 Dedijer was permitted to commence lecturing abroad and in the following years held various academic posts in Sweden, England, and the United States. He also became acquainted with and corresponded with such intellectuals and activists as Bertrand Russell, Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, G.D.H. Cole, Noam Chomsky, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many others. As a result of these contacts Dedijer became actively involved with the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and its War Crimes Tribunals.
The Bertrand Russell War Crimes Tribunal was co-founded by Bertrand Russell and Jean Paul Sartre in 1966. Its original purpose was to examine the activities of the United States in Vietnam. The members of the Tribunal included Jean Paul Sartre as Executive President, Dedijer as Chairman and President of Tribunal sessions, and other notable figures as Simone de Beauvoir, Lazaro Cardenas, Stokely Carmichael, and Dave Dellinger. The purpose of the Tribunal was later expanded to investigate acts of aggression and human rights violations committed by any country.
Dedijer's writings are numerous; his articles and reviews have been published in many scholarly publications, and he has written a number of books on the history of Yugoslavia and its people. Tito Speaks, the authorized biography of Marshall Josip Broz, was published in 1952, significant for Tito's narrative recollections of the break with Stalin in 1948. The Beloved Land (1961) is an autobiographical account of Yugoslav history beginning with Dedijer's ancestors. The Road to Sarajevo (1966) reexamines the origins of World War I, throwing new light on the people and events surrounding the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Published in 1971, The Battle Stalin Lost describes Stalin's unsuccessful attempts to depose Tito after the CPY was kicked out of the Comintern and the reactions of Yugoslav communists to Stalinist policies.
With respect to his family, Dedijer was married twice and had five children. His first wife, Olga Popovic, was a field surgeon for the partisans and was killed in 1943 during the Yugoslav Revolution at the battle of Sutjeska Canyon. Dedijer was remarried in 1944 to Vera Krizman, an actress who had been imprisoned for writing anti-fascist graffiti on houses. He and Vera had five children: two daughters, Bojana and Milica, and three sons, Borivoje ("Boro"), Branimir ("Branko"), and Marko. Vladimir Dedijer died on November 30, 1990, in New York.