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Alexander I Karađorđević (Serbo-Croatian: Aleksandar I Karađorđević, Cyrillic script: Александар I Карађорђевић) ( – 9 October 1934) was the first king of the Kingdom of Yugoslaviamarker (1929–34) as well as the last king of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenesmarker (1921–29).


Alexander Karađorđević was born in Principality of Montenegro in December 1888. His father was King Peter I of Serbia and his mother the former Princess Zorka of Montenegro, a daughter of King Nicholas of Montenegro. In Belgrademarker on 8 June 1922 he married HRH Princess Maria of Romania, who was a daughter of Queen Maria, the Queen Consort of Romania. They had three sons: Crown Prince Peter, and Princes Tomislav and Andrej.

He spent his childhood in Montenegromarker, and was educated in Genevamarker. In 1910 he nearly died from stomach typhus and was left with stomach problems for rest of his life. He continued his schooling at the Corps de pages imperial in Saint Petersburgmarker, Russiamarker, but had to quit due to his brother's renounciation, and then in Belgrade. Prince Alexander was not the first in line for the throne but his elder brother, Crown Prince George was considered unstable by most political forces in Serbia and after two notable scandals (one of which occurred in 1909 when he kicked his servant, who consequently died) Prince George was forced to renounce his claim to the throne.

Balkan Wars and World War I

In the First Balkan War in 1912, as commander of the First Army, Crown Prince Alexander fought victorious battles in Kumanovo and Bitola, and later in 1913, during the Second Balkan War, the Battle of Bregalnica. In the aftermath of the Second Balkan War Prince Alexander took sides in the complicated power struggle over how Macedonia should be administered. In this Alexander bested Col. Dragutin Dimitrijević or "Apis" and in the wake of this Alexander's father, King Peter, agreed to hand over royal powers to his son. On 24 June 1914 Alexander became Regent of Serbia.

At the outbreak of World War I he was the nominal supreme commander of the Serbian army - true command was in hands of Chief of Staff of Supreme Headquarters - position held by Stepa Stepanović (during the mobilisation), Radomir Putnik (1914-1915), Petar Bojović (1916-1917) and Živojin Mišić (1918). The Serbian army distinguished itself in the battles at Cer and at the Drinamarker (the Battle of Kolubara) in 1914 , scoring victories against the invading Austro-Hungarian forces and evicting them from the country.

In 1915 the Serbian army with the aged King Peter and Crown Prince Alexander suffered many losses being attacked from all directions by the alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. It withdrew through the gorges of Montenegro and northern Albania to the Greek island of Corfumarker, where it was reorganized. After the army was regrouped and reinforced, it achieved a decisive victory on the Macedonian Front, at Kajmakcalan. The Serbian army carried out a major part in the final Allied breakthrough in the autumn of 1918.

King of Yugoslavia

On 1 December 1918, in a prearranged set piece, Alexander, as Regent, received a delegation of the People's Council of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbsmarker, an address was read out by one of the delegation, and Alexander made an address in acceptance. This was considered to the birth of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenesmarker.

In 1921, on the death of his father, Alexander inherited the throne of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenesmarker, which from its inception was colloquially known both in the Kingdom and the rest of Europe alike as Yugoslavia.

On 6 January 1929, in response to the political crisis triggered by the murder of Stjepan Radić, King Alexander abolished the Constitution, prorogued the Parliament and introduced a personal dictatorship (the so-called "January 6 Dictatorship", Šestojanuarska diktatura). He also changed the name of the country to Kingdom of Yugoslavia and changed the internal divisions from the 33 oblasts to nine new banovinas on 3 October.

In the same month, he tried to banish by decree the use of Serbian Cyrillic to promote the exclusive use of Latin alphabet in Yugoslavia.

In 1931, Alexander decreed a new Constitution which transferred executive power to the King. Elections were to be by universal male suffrage. The provision for a secret ballot was dropped and pressure on public employees to vote for the governing party was to be a feature of all elections held under Alexander's constitution. Furthermore, the King would appoint half the upper house directly, and legislation could become law with the approval of one of the houses alone if it were also approved by the King.


On account of the deaths of three members of his family on a Tuesday, Alexander refused to undertake any public functions on that day. On Tuesday 9 October 1934, however, he had no choice, as he was arriving in Marseillesmarker to start a state visit to the Third French Republicmarker, to strengthen the two countries' alliance in the Little Entente. While being driven in a car through the streets along with French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou, a gunman, Vlado Chernozemski, stepped from the street and shot the King and the chauffeur. Barthou was accidentally shot by a French policeman and died later.
Assassination of Alexander I
It was one of the first assassinations captured on film; the shooting occurred straight in front of the cameraman, who was only feet away at the time. The cameraman captured not merely the assassination but the immediate aftermath; the body of the chauffeur (who had been killed instantly) became jammed against the brakes of the car, allowing the cameraman to continue filming from within inches of the King for a number of minutes afterwards.

The assassin, Vlado Chernozemski, was a Bulgarian nationalist, member of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) and an experienced marksman. Immediately after assassinating King Alexander, he was cut down by the sword of a mounted French policeman, and then beaten by the crowd. By the time he was removed from the scene, he was already dead. The IMRO was political organization that fought for secession of Vardar Macedonia from Yugoslavia. According to the UKTV History program Infamous Assassinations-King Alexander, IMRO worked in alliance with the Croatian Ustaše group led by Ante Pavelić, under the secret sponsorship of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

The film record of Alexander I's assassination remains one of the most notable pieces of newsreel in existence, alongside the film of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia's coronation, the funerals of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

King Alexander I was buried in the Memorial Church of St. George, which had been built by his father. As his son Peter II was still a minor, Alexander's first cousin Prince Pavle Karadjordjevic took the regency of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

This assassination has been fictionalized at the beginning of The Second Assassin, by Christopher Hyde, as being a Nazi-backed Ustasa plot. In the book, it was a Croatian assassin, plus the titular second gunman.


Alexander's ancestors in three generations
Alexander I of Yugoslavia Father:

Peter I of Yugoslavia
Paternal Grandfather:

Alexander Karađorđević, Prince of Serbia
Paternal Great-grandfather:

Karađorđe Petrović
Paternal Great-grandmother:

Jelena Jovanovic
Paternal Grandmother:

Persida Nenadović
Paternal Great-grandfather:

Jevrem Nenadović
Paternal Great-grandmother:


Zorka of Montenegro
Maternal Grandfather:

Nicholas I of Montenegro
Maternal Great-grandfather:

Mirko Petrović Njegoš
Maternal Great-grandmother:

Anastasija Martinović
Maternal Grandmother:

Milena Vukotić
Maternal Great-grandfather:

Petar Vukotić
Maternal Great-grandmother:

Jelena Voivodić

In popular culture

The song "Don Juan" by British synth duo the Pet Shop Boys (the B-side to their 1988 single "Domino Dancing") contains the phrase "King Zog's back from holiday, Marie Lupescu's grey and King Alexander is dead in Marseilles".

References and notes

  1. Dangerous Decree, Time , 21 October 1929
  2. Documentary film The Assassination of the Yugoslavian king Alexander in 1934
  3. Documentary film The Assassination and the Funeral of the Yugoslavian king Alexander in 1934
  1. "The first central committee of IMRO. Memoirs of d-r Hristo Tatarchev", Materials for the Macedonian liberation movement, book IX (series of the Macedonian scientific institute of IMRO, led by Bulgarian academician prof. Lyubomir Miletich), Sofia, 1928, p. 102 , поредица "Материяли за историята на македонското освободително движение" на Македонския научен институт на ВМРО, воден от българския академик проф. Любомир Милетич, книга IX, София, 1928.

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