Yugoslav Minister’s Papers Donated To The Library & Archives

Thursday, September 1, 2016
The marketplace in Čačak in the early twentieth century; drawing by Dragan Ćirković  (Časlav Nikitović Papers, Box 1)

Above: The marketplace in Čačak in the early twentieth century; drawing by Dragan Ćirković  (Časlav Nikitović Papers, Box 1)


Časlav Nikitović , 1930s (Časlav Nikitović Papers, Box 1)
Časlav Nikitović , 1930s (Časlav Nikitović Papers, Box 1)

The papers and books of Chaslav Nikitovich (Časlav Nikitović), Serb politician and minister of agriculture of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, recently arrived at the Hoover Institution.  The papers are the third major archival collection pertaining to the former Yugoslavia that has been added to Hoover holdings in the past three years, the other two being the literary archives of the prominent dissident Milovan Djilas and the papers of the Partisan leader and communist politician Vicko Krstulović.

Chaslav Nikitovich was born in 1901 in the picturesque city of Čačak in central Serbia.  His primary and secondary education was local, after which he went on to Paris to study law at the Sorbonne, where he received his doctorate in 1928.  After the publication of several books, his expertise in law, economics and finance was applied to politics, when he was elected from Macedonia to the Yugoslav parliament in 1935.  A member of the governing Yugoslav National Party (JNS), Nikitovich served on various financial and legal commissions and as minister of agriculture during 1939−41, in the last government of free Yugoslavia before the German invasion.  He survived the German occupation but fled abroad as the country was being taken over by the communist forces of Josip Broz Tito.  After a short stay in Paris, Nikitovich and his family were able to immigrate to the United States, where they settled in New Jersey.  Chaslav’s professional career in the United States was similar to that of thousands of educated East European refuges after the war.  He never found a position that even remotely corresponded to his qualifications, but settled for an office job in a small company.  In his free time he was active in émigré affairs, writing articles, making speeches, and corresponding with professors, politicians, and old associates, all of them sharing a quest for historic justice for their lost homeland.  The Nikitovich Papers are a record of a busy intellectual life, ranging from personal documents, postcards from his father from the front line of World War I, letters, memoranda, clippings, and an unfinished and unpublished manuscript of his memoirs.

The papers are a gift of Chaslav’s granddaughter, Maia Madden, a Santa Cruz author and journalist, one of whose 2013 blogs provided an interesting vignette of Nikitovich’s visit to the Hoover Institution about forty years ago: 

…Dr. Dravskovic [Milorad Drachkovitch], an old friend who was now the head of archives at Stanford’ Hoover Institute, invited him for a private tour.  I went with him to Palo Alto to view a special display of rare documents.  Deda [grandpa] was in his glory, surrounded by books and papers, hosted by a man who was, in a sense, an official guardian of history, and a Serb to boot.  The display, in a lofty room decorated with rare icons and portraits of Russian royalty [De Basily Room], was magnificent: a draft of Czar Alexander’s [Nicholas II’s] abdication, Russian [Polish] prison-release forms, tiny ”spy” notebooks, President Hoover’s report on the Russian famine, pictures of Mao Tse-tung taken by Edgar Snow’s first wife [Nym Wales], and much more that to my untrained eye seemed unfathomably mysterious.  Deda examined and read each paper, talked with the enthusiastic young archivist [later Library & Archives Director Charles Palm] who had prepared the collection, and seemed, more than ever, a man shaped by a Slavic past from a place he had never truly left.  Both Columbia University and Stanford has asked Deda to leave them his papers and books.  He had also been writing his memoirs.  As we left the Hoover Institute, he said, ‘I’m leaving everything to Stanford for sure.

Although Chaslav Nikitovich died in 1978, the Hoover Library & Archives had to wait nearly four decades for his books and papers to arrive.  They went first to his son’s home in Colorado, and not until after his death in December 2015 they were donated by Chaslav’s granddaughter to Hoover.  The books were transferred to Stanford’s Green Library for processing; the papers, in eight manuscript boxes, are available for research in the Hoover Archives.  Chaslav Nikitovich’s wish has now been satisfied.

Maciej Siekierski

Siekierski [at] stanford.edu