BLACK HAND OVER
by Henri Pozzi
Henry Pozzi's work Black Hand Over Europe was published in 1935, at the daybreak of the
second world war. It is an expose of the tangled political situation in eastern Europe
devised by arbitrating powers in Versailles, from the perspective of a first rate
connoisseur of everyday affairs on the Balkans.
Political and social problems in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes escalated in
the late twenties and early thirties. This phase lasted until the beginning of the second
world war. In 1928, the most prominent Croatian political leaders (Stjepan Radic, Pavle
Radic, Djuro Basaricek...) were assassinated in the Skupstina (Serbian Parliament) in
Belgrade, because of their resistance to Serbian expansionist policy. This incident was
followed by the coup d'etat of King Alexander and the dictatorship which was legalized by
the octroyed constitution in 1931. Persecutions, political assassinations, and open
repression were applied by the military and police apparatus, directed by General Petar
Zivkovic, so as to destroy "tribal, religious and regional parties", and
establish the ideology of "Yugoslavianism".
In 1933, the great Croatian author Miroslav Krleza wrote that his people's historical and
cultural traditions were lost in the satrapy of anonymous chiefs of cabinets. Albert
Einstein and Heinrich Mann appealed to the world to protect Croatians from the oppressing
regime imposed upon them by the Belgrade dictatorship.
The assassination of King Alexander during his official visit to France, in October 1934,
was the culmination of "Yugo-Serbian" unitarianism, which in turn gave birth to
political extremism, by means of political terror, social indigence and cultural
Pozzi exposes the ambitions and imperial dreams of an insignificant Balkan oppressor,
Serbia, which throttled other "Yugoslav" nations under the guise of a unitarian
Yugoslavia. The familiar image of Serbia as the "Piemont" of the Balkans
crumbled before accounts of the institutionalized repression of the regime which did not
even conceal that its Yugoslavianism was nothing but the mimicry of Pan-Serbian ideology.
Pozzi's interview with the Croatian politician Ante Trumbic, at the descent of his
political career, reveals tragic rancour of betrayed expectations of Croatians and other
The author provides examples of the Serbianization of Macedonia, which was systematically
turned into "South Serbia", and reflects at the same time the foundation and
Greater Serbian goals of various irregular Serbian organizations (governmental and
military). He substantiates his analysis of everyday life, and lucid observations of
political controversies interlaced with accounts of men-in-the-street, all of which
represent invaluable statements from a contemporary viewpoint. Beside picturesque
descriptions of Belgrade as a caricature of a European metropolis, a contemporary Babylon
on the crossroads of East and West, one finds minute observations about the politically
primitive military leadership, the corrupt bureaucracy and an acute social crisis. Written
in a brisk and fluent journalistic style, and relying on the information source, rather
than on a personal viewpoint, Black Hand Over Europe has maintained its documentary
significance to date. The superb analysis revokes any doubt about the author's
impartiality, which may be aroused by his definition of Serbia as the "Balkan
thief". The author's observations of historical precedents of Greater Serbia's
contemporary policies are accurate. They are based upon the concealed findings of the
Carnegie Commission on the ethnic cleansing of non-Serb civilians during the Balkan War,
and upon the analysis of documents that expose Serbia's role as Russia's exponent in the
Sarajevo assassination, and they highlight upon Serbia's imperial traits in the
"defensive" pact of the Little Entente.
The contemporaneity of Pozzi's work derives from the concord of present and past
historical manifestations and circumstances. Black Hand Over Europe is a grave warning to
all those who still, like their predecessors, underestimate the "Balkan"
precedent. The continuity in Serbian expansionist policy is shown as the main source of
the political and military destabilization in Europe and the entire world. In 1935, Pozzi
concludes: "There can be no catastrophe in the Balkans that will not sweep into
France and thence through Europe; and there can be nothing else but catastrophe in the
Relatively unjust peace is never an alternative to war, it is its excuse.
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