This essay reconstructs the main sources for the formation of the partisan myth in Yugoslavia, hereby focusing on historical as well as cultural influences. Already in 1944, when Tito was first built up as a legend of partisan leadership, there existed a historical model which could be drawn from – the Haiduks, lawless Balkan rebels, whose fight against the Turks was praised in songs and folklore. Just after the war – as is shown in the transformation of Slavko Babić from a Serbian rebel to an almost perfect Stalin-look-alike in Abram Room’s film V gorakh Jugoslavii (1946) – the Red Army took pole position in functioning as the Yugoslav partisans’ ancestors and teachers. The communist mission, however, was substituted soon after the break between Stalin and Tito, when the Slovene and Croatian peasants’ uprisings of the 16th century preconfigured the new ideology of brotherhood-and-unity. Not a film, but an enormous history painting by Krsto Hegedušić – that at the time decorated Tito’s famous working room in Belgrade – spread the lore to the Yugoslav people. The story of the partisans’ ancestry ends with the rediscovery of the medieval heretic sect of the Bogomils and their funeral steles, representing the independence and autonomy of Yugoslavia’s “third way”. Not only Bogdan Bogdanović’s huge partisan monuments but also the icon of partisan film, Battle of Neretva (1969), shows traces of this myth. The partisans hide behind the Bosnian/Bogomil steles during their fight; but at the same time the steles (stecci) serve as an altar of brotherhood and a funeral monument.
The integral version of this article can be found in the printed KINO!