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Paul

(b. 1893)


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(b. St Petersburg, Russia, 27 Apr. 1893; d. Neuilly, France, 14 Sept. 1976)

Serb; Yugoslav Regent 1934–41 Nephew of the first Yugoslav King Peter I, Paul graduated in 1920 in Classics from Christ Church, Oxford—the origin of his Anglophile attitudes. When Peter's successor Alexander was assassinated in October 1934 Paul became chief Regent on behalf of the 11-year-old Peter II. Paul's main aims were to strengthen national unity after the preceding Serb-Croat conflict and maintain neutrality amid the growing international tension, while keeping Yugoslavia as close to Britain as possible.

Considering a resolution of the Serb-Croat conflict to be the key to political stability, in August 1939 he succeeded in reaching an Agreement (Sporazum) which gave the Croats political autonomy. For the first time since the creation of the Yugoslav state the Croats were brought into government. But this, his greatest achievement, aroused resentment in the Serb-dominated military—the start of his undoing. In foreign policy he maintained good relations with Britain but also improved relations with Italy and reached a Concordat with the Vatican (1937), which helped to gain Croat trust. The Little Entente (with Czechoslovakia and Romania) and the Balkan Entente (with Greece and Turkey) were intended to strengthen Yugoslav security. But his diplomacy could not deal with mounting German pressure. After the Austrian Anschluss and Munich agreement in 1938 Paul's room for manœuvre disappeared. Despite dismissing his pro-German premier Stojadinovic in 1939, by 1941 he was internationally isolated. Given an ultimatum in March to join the Tripartite pact he reluctantly signed. The next day he was deposed by a military coup which placed the young Peter II on the throne. Branded unjustly as a traitor and barred from his beloved Britain, he settled in South Africa and later Paris, where he resumed his old passion, art collecting.

Subjects: Politics.


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