The Cvetkovi?-Ma?ek Agreement (Serbo-Croatian: Sporazum Cvetkovi?-Ma?ek, -), also known simply as the Sporazum in English-language histories, was a political compromise on the internal divisions in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. It was settled on August 26, 1939 by Yugoslav prime minister Dragi?a Cvetkovi? and Vladko Ma?ek, a Croat politician. The agreement established the Banovina of Croatia, drawn to include as many ethnic Croats as possible, which effectively created a Croatian sub-state in Yugoslavia, a demand of Croat politicians since the 1918 founding of Yugoslavia.
Yugoslavia effectively went through two iterations of internal administrative borders. In the Vidovdan Constitution of 28 June 1921, drawn up in large parts by Nikola Pa?i? and Svetozar Pribi?evi?, 33 administrative districts were established in what was then called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. These were designed in a very deliberate way to maximize the political power and representation of the ethnic Serb population, and an amendment to the Electoral Law in June 1922 even prescribed the use of pre-First World War population numbers, allowing Serbia to ignore its massive casualties during the war. Furthermore, the way that the constitution was passed by parliament had also caused some resentment, as the Croatian Republican Peasant Party (HRSS), Croatia's largest regionalist party, had refused to vote, whereas the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ) had been excluded. This had made it easy for Pa?i?'s People's Radical Party (NRS) and Pribi?evi?'s Democratic Party (DS), both political parties that were most popular among ethnic Serbs, to fulfill their agenda.
Ultimately, the Vidovdan Constitution institutionalized Serbian hegemony in the new state, and its revision became a key goal for high-ranking opposition voices like HRSS leader Stjepan Radi?. Radi? was shot by a Serb deputy in parliament in 1928, and died two months later. He became a martyr for the anti-Vidovdan cause, and the little remaining Croat faith in the constitution shattered. The HRSS started once again boycotting parliament, and the Vidovdan Constitution became untenable.
Starting as early as 1922, the issue of the value and preferred method of appeasement towards the unwilling Croatian partner became the local version of the Croatian Question among the Serbian elite. Even 'amputation', i.e. Croatian independence to the benefit of the whole system, was considered on multiple occasions. Usually, the Serbian vision of amputation included the annexation of regions that were ethnically mixed between Croats and Serbs by Serbia, rather than Croatia. This would have effectively created a "Great Serbia" rather than a union of South Slavs. From the Croatian viewpoint, the Croatian Question was less focussed on the appeasement of Yugoslavia as a greater whole, but on the separation of Croatia from any sort of influence from Belgrade. Stjepan Radi? became the early face of the Croatian separatist movement. He oscillated between favoring outright independence or a confederate model of government with three constitutionally recognized peoples (Slovenes, Croats, Serbs) that were to form independent and sovereign nation states before then voluntarily joining a loose union. Other contradictions in his political beliefs included those on the role of organized religion, urbanization and communism. His view of Croatia's borders, be it within or without Yugoslavia, expanded far beyond the modern-day Croatian nation state and included most of contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina as well. In Radi?'s view the local Bosniaks were not a separate people group and were in truth an extension of the Croat nation, which had 'de-balkanized' them. Radi? used the term 'Balkans' in a derogatory fashion, as he believed that Croatia was not a part of the Balkans. This Croatian view on Bosnia's status, which went back to thinkers like Ljudevit Gaj, was juxtaposed by Serbian nationalist beliefs going back to Vuk Karad?i?, which included the Bosniaks as a natural part of the Serbian nation. As such, any sort of territorial settlement between Serbs and Croats would likely happen without representation of the Bosniaks and be to their detriment.
After the proclamation of the 6 January Dictatorship by Alexander I, the Vidovdan Constitution was overturned. Half a year later, it was replaced with the 1931 Yugoslav Constitution (also known as September Constitution), and the country officially became the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In the September Constitution, the 33 administrative districts of the Vidovdan Constitution were replaced with nine banovinas. Each of these were named after a river, and in the case of the Littoral Banovina, after the coastline. They were outwardly designed to avoid connotations of historical, ethnic, regional or religious allegiance, but were in effect a continuation of the Serbian dominance within Yugoslavia: Serbs were the majority in six out of nine of the banovinas, Slovenes the majority in Drava, Croatians in Sava and Littoral. By comparison, the Kosovo Albanians and Macedonians were minorities under Serbian majorities in Zeta and Vardar, and the Bosniaks (often just called Muslims at the time) were split between four banovinas (Vrbas, Zeta, Drina, Littoral), making a majority in none of them.
In the decade following the establishment of the royal dictatorship, half a dozen prime ministers (?ivkovi? 1929-1932, Marinkovi? 1932, Sr?ki? 1932-1934, Uzunovi? 1934, Jevti? 1934-1935, Stojadinovi? 1935-1939) rose and fell, first at the behest of King Alexander I, and then, after the king's assassination in 1934, at the wishes of Prince Paul, who served as regent for the underage King Peter II. Of these prime ministers, Milan Stojadinovi? had the longest tenure between 1935 and 1939, primarily because of the global economic recovery from the Great Depression. However, he was ideologically a strong centralist and opposed to major concessions to the minority movements, particularly when it came to the Croatian Question. He also drew the personal ire of Prince Paul, a western-minded anglophile, by adopting imagery and rhetoric from Italian Fascism. Stojadinovi?'s government fell in early February of 1939, when he lost the faith of his cabinet. The regent replaced him with Dragi?a Cvetkovi? on 5 February. Cvetkovi? would remain prime minister until the Yugoslav coup d'état in March 1941, immediately preceding the German Invasion of Yugoslavia. Cvetkovi? was not particularly popular in his native Serbia, neither with government supporters nor with the opposition. As such, he sought to strike a deal with Vladko Ma?ek, who had become the leader of the Croatian regionalist movement following Radi?'s death.
Stjepan Radi? had initially boycotted the Yugoslav Assembly with his HRSS in the early 1920s and had been openly hostile to the institution of the Yugoslav monarchy and the very membership of Croatia within the Yugoslav state. He engaged in openly hostile rhetoric towards the Serbian elite, and had to go abroad in July 1923 after an arrest warrant because of a speech insulting to Queen Maria. Radi? had even enlisted his party in the Krestintern in the Soviet Union in 1924, although King Alexander had openly supported the Russian Whites against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War. Radi?'s open flirt with communism, which was deeply despised in the Serbian political establishment, even partially brought about the downfall of the Davidovi? administration, the first one which had not been led by the Radical Party. However, in the mid-1920s, he turned his ideology in prison, accepted both the monarchy and the constitution and started to work with his renamed Croatian Peasant Party (HSS, the 'Republican' part had been dropped from the name) from within the system. A brief alliance between Radi?'s HSS and Pa?i?'s Radical Party, formed on 18 July 1925, led nowhere due to mutual and public contempt, and the HSS broke ranks with the Radicals in early April 1926.
After Radi?'s death in 1928, the party came under the leadership of Vladko Ma?ek on 13 August 1928, who turned it further in favor of bourgeois political circles and intellectualism, away from the rural peasant agrarianism originally envisioned by Radi?. He had been offered the possibility of leading the Yugoslav government as prime minister in July of 1932, after the King had dismissed Petar ?ivkovi? and Vojislav Marinkovi? in short succession, but Ma?ek declined. During the Royal Dictatorship, he formed potent political alliances in the opposition. First, the HSS joined with the Democratic Party to form a Democratic Peasant Union, then allied with other forces like the Slovene People's Party and Yugoslav Muslim Organization to become a complete 'United Opposition'. These alliances managed to score good electoral results in spite of the openly biased political system that the September Constitution of 1931 had established. The United Opposition list managed to secure 45% of the vote in December of 1938, further undermining the authority of Prime Minister Stojadinovi?. Stojadinovi? was then replaced with Cvetkovi? in February 1939.
Cvetkovi? had been appointed prime minister because of the necessity that Regent Paul saw in immediately appeasing with the Croatian regionalists. Through intermediaries in the HSS, Cvetkovi? met Ma?ek in Zagreb for preliminary talks. Cvetkovi? and Ma?ek could profit off each other: Cvetkovi? could gain some much need legitimacy with the Croat people and thus the United Opposition, whereas Ma?ek could fulfill his regionalist agenda to increase Croatian autonomy. Negotiations lasted from April to August 1939, and produced the Sporazum. The agreement was finalized on 20 August 1939, and ratified on the 26th.
Furthermore, although not formalized in the agreement, Ma?ek joined the cabinet as Vice Premier. Four further cabinet positions were given to Ma?ek's colleagues, forming the Government of National Agreement. The first and only Ban was Ivan ?uba?i?, a veteran of the First World War who was selected by the regent as a Serbs' Croat in the hopes of appeasing the Serbian public opinion about the deal with the Croatians, although the gesture had little effect on the negative Serbian reaction to the agreement.
For the HSS part of the Peasant-Democrat Coalition, the agreement meant that, just like the HRSS had done with the Vidovdan Constitution, the party now effectively operated from within the September Constitution and had started cooperating with the constitutional system it had previously rejected. However, Ma?ek had come as close as he could to complete Croatian autonomy without outright independence: Croatia now had a ban between itself and the king, and it had its own parliament in Zagreb, the Sabor, to look after its own affairs. Furthermore, he had scored five government posts for himself and his colleagues. However, the agreement's stipulations were provisional. The planned revisions did however never happen, as the Second World War brought about the end of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
The new Banovina of Croatia comprised about a third of the entire country's territory. The Croats were now the only ethnic group within Yugoslavia with their own dedicated political entity within the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, but the population also contained 20% Serbs and 4% Bosniaks.
Most of the stipulations of the treaty remained unfulfilled, as the outbreak of Second World War in the very week of the agreement's ratification and the eventual involvement of Yugoslavia after the German Invasion of April 1941 prevented its political realization.
The Croatian reaction within Yugoslavia was, at least initially, generally positive, as the Croats, at last, had their own autonomous government and an ethnically defined territorial entity to call their own. However, both the fascist Ustasha and the Croatian communists were unhappy that the settlement had stayed short of outright independence. The positive opinion was further helped by the fact that the agreement was given legitimacy by its sponsors, especially Ma?ek, who was popular as a defender of Croatian national interests. The positive opinion towards the agreement among Croats did however turn increasingly sour as the agreement's implementation stalled and economic hardship arose in relationship with the onset of the Second World War.
The Serbian reaction was one of outrage: 800,000 ethnic Serbs, about 20% of the Banovina's population, were now subjects of a Croatian parliament, and the Croat Ma?ek's accession to the office of vice premier was perceived as even more of an insult. Furthermore, the fact of the very existence of a Croatian banovina led to political calls for just the same arrangement for Serbia. Slobodan Jovanovi? of the Serbian Cultural Club put forth a proposal that would have included Bosnia, Montenegro and Macedonia into a banovina of Serb countries. This proposal reached planning stages in mid-1940, but was never realized due to the increasing pressure placed on the country by the Second World War. Both the Orthodox clergy and the officer class of the Yugoslav armed forces were outspoken in their opposition to the Sporazum. Even in liberal Serbian circles, where the 1931 Constitution was unpopular, the Sporazum was rejected. But among Serbian liberals, the main outrage did not lay with a Serbian government that betrayed the Serbs, but rather with the Croatian side of the deal, as the Croatians had through their cooperation with the authoritarian government legitimized both the authoritarian system in general and the 1931 Constitution in particular. Both liberals and conservatives in Serbia did, however, lay at least some of the blame at the feet of Prime Minister Cvetkoviç, who was soon even less popular in Serbia than his authoritarian predecessor Stojadinovi? had been. In general, the Sporazum put a renewed strain on Serb-Croat relations, which had overall improved during the united opposition of Croat and Serb liberals against the central government's authority. The major effect of the Banovina of Croatia's creation on the political views of most Serb policy makers was the end of the ideology of centralism (also called unitarism). By the end of the 1930s, most Serbian politicians favored a federal system and wished to emulate the Croatian autonomy rights for the Serbs.
The Bosniak Muslims were particularly embittered, as they previously already had to deal with the division between four different banovinas, in all of which they were minorities. Now, two of these banovinas were merged into a national unit, which the Bosniaks had been denied, along with the very recognition as a national subculture in Yugoslavia, which was from its founding primarily designed around Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Not only did parts of the Bosniak population (4% of the Banovina of Croatia's overall population) now live under Croatian rule, but the drafts for a Serb banovina by the likes of Jovanovi? and the Serbian Cultural Club threatened to undermine the cultural and political autonomy of the remaining Bosniaks as well. Only one member of the new Cvetkovi?-Ma?ek cabinet was a member of the Yugoslav Muslim Organization, further increasing the impression that the Croatians had struck a deal with the Serbians to partition Bosnia to the detriment of the Bosniaks.
For the Slovenes, the matter was less one of a possible imminent national destruction like in the case of Bosnia, but more one of equality between the three peoples. The Slovenes had usually stood side by side with the Croats in a joint scepticism of central Serb authority, but now the Croats evidently had struck a deal with the Serbs that awarded them special treatment, including a separate national parliament that Slovenia did not have. Although the Drava banovina was somewhat close to an exclusively Slovene district, it had none of the special autonomies granted to the Banovina of Croatia. While there were calls for a Banovina of Slovenia, the threat posed by neighboring Italy and Germany posed by the rapidly expanding Second World War soon took precedence.
Their draft proposed the creation of  administrative districts, a balkanizing tactic intended to maximize the electoral power of the Serb vote.
An addendum to the programme [in 1922] of the Croatian Republican Peasant Party sketched out the map of an independent Croatia, which would cooperate with Serbia on the basis of a confederation. The incident showed that Radiç was quite prepared to usurp the authority of the government in the conduct of foreign affairs. In Belgrade, murmurings were heard that the time had come to 'amputate' Croatia and let the Serbs get on with their own affairs.
On 6 January 1929, after five months of protracted efforts to resolve matters through a cabinet headed by Korosec, again including talk of the 'amputation' of Croatia, the King proclaimed a royal dictatorship, pending the promulgation of a new constitution.
In fact, Radic became a resolved federalist only after the results of the Constituent Assembly forced him to abandon any further illusions about the willingness of foreign powers to effect Croatia's independence, and after the NRS and Aleksandar launched several trial balloons about a possible "amputation" of troublesome northwest Croatia, which would have mutilated Croat national territory.
Footnote 10: Certain NRS circles and their allies in the camarilla repeatedly threatened to create a Great Serbia by "amputating" northwestern Croatia and Slovenia and letting these areas fend for themselves. A concrete amputation proposal was voiced in a 1923 pamphlet, following the centralist reversals in parliamentary elections. The author of this anonymous work proposed to incorporate most of Slavonia, parts of Croatia proper, and all of Bosnia-Hercegovlna and Dalmatia into such a Serbian slate.
In February 1939, domestic and foreign policy motives prompted Prince Regent Paul to dismiss the powerful prime minister Milan Stojadinovi?, a man who advocated a strong centralized state and thus stood in the way of solving the Croatian question.
Stojadinoviç formed a second administration, but at the beginning of February 1939 his Slovene and Muslim ministerial colleagues, together with Dragisa Cvetkoviç, a Serb, resigned, stating as their reason the government's intransigence over the Croat problem. Stojadinoviç's position was now untenable[.]
By July , Radiç was abroad, fleeing from an arrest warrant issued for publicly insulting the Queen in an inflammatory Bastille Day speech.
Radiç's maverick antics again proved a fatal handicap in the attempt to build a united opposition. During the summer, his wanderings around the European capitals brought him to Moscow, where (with the prior agreement of the HRSS leadership) he took his party into the Communist Peasant International on 1 July .
Vesting authority in a Serbian dynasty was asking for trouble when combined with the Serb domination of the Peoples' Assembly, leading to repeated charges of collusion between the government and King Aleksandar. The King's wide discretionary powers in the conduct of foreign affairs were a particular source of tension. The Court played host to thousands of White Russian soldiers commanded by General Wrangel, who used Belgrade as a base to plan his strategy against the Bolshevik government in Moscow, provoking an outcry by opposition deputies in the Peoples' Assembly, in March 1922, against 'hidden government'.
Within three months, Davidoviç was out of office. Radiç's maverick antics again proved a fatal handicap in the attempt to build a united opposition. [...] The Radicals jumped at the opportunity to accuse Radiç of treasonable commerce with godless Bolshevism. Using their influence at Court, Pasiç and Pribiceviç campaigned to bring down the government 'in the name of those sacrificed in the war'. As Radiç continued to attack the 'militarists and shysters' in Belgrade, the war minister, General Hadziç, declared he could not serve in a government associated with the HRSS, and contrived to bring it down. Davidoviç privately made it clear that the King had forced his resignation, and he complained about the subversion of civilian government by the generals, who consistently exaggerated the degree of unrest in the country in their reports to Aleksandar.
From prison, he issued a statement to the Peoples' Assembly on 27 March in which he renounced his republican and federalist ambitions, and offered to work within the Vidovdan Constitution, though his communication to the King (coolly received) spoke of its eventual revision. In language as obsequious as it had been vitriolic in opposition, Radiç accepted the authority of the Crown.
Pasiç immediately [...] formed a government (18 July 1925) [...], with [five] portfolios going to members of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), as it was now promptly renamed. However, nothing of substance changed in the conduct of politics. Radiç [continued to berate] his Radical colleagues in public for corruption. The Radicals for their part were openly contemptuous of Radiç's capitulation, which they ascribed to fear and cupidity in equal parts. In early April 1926, Radiç left the government, and the HSS reverted to its traditional opposition role. Four days later, Pasiç also resigned, and his alliance with Radiç proved to be his last taste of office.
In the December 1938 elections, the "United Opposition" under the leadership of the Croatian Peasants' Party had won an impressive 45 percent of the vote, while the governing party only garnered 54 percent. So it had become quite apparent that Stojadinovi?'s politics were not sufficiently supported by the electorate.
The HSS had in this way abandoned the program of the democratic opposition, whose main goal was fundamental change of the 1931 constitution.
The Muslims were particularly bitter over the fact that Croats and Serbs had -- seemingly bilaterally -- divided up their country among themselves, and in doing so they had not only trampled the historical borders of Bosnia-Herzegovina but had also treated with contempt the regional identity of the populace.