Through the documents before you we wish to present a problem that was very important for the affirmation of the young Yugoslav state. It concerns the number and the social and economic positions of émigrés as well as the national structure of the emigration, the attitude of the Yugoslav state towards them and the attitude of the emigration towards the state and the Yugoslav idea, personified in relations towards the official representatives of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, reactions of emigrants to developments in Yugoslavia, emigration press, etc.
The Yugoslav emigration in South America mostly came from the regions formerly under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, primarily from Dalmatia. Most of them were of Croatian descent and a slightly lower number was from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and Macedonia. They had emigrated to Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and other South American states since the end of the 19th century and the emigration intensified in the 1920s. According to some data from 1927/1928, there were about 150,000 Yugoslav emigrants throughout South America.
Emigrants from different South Slav areas established different cultural, educational and support associations on the "tribal" basis. During World War I, emigrants in Chile, the nationally more aware and economically stronger part of the colony, and later those in Argentina, united the emigration societies into the Yugoslav National Defence, giving material and moral support to the creation of the new Yugoslav state. The leadership of this organisation in Argentina, where the greatest concentration of Yugoslav emigrants existed, made the initiative for the opening of the first official representative office of the Yugoslav state. And so, in 1922 the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes opened in Buenos Aires. This office and several royal honorary consulates could not respond to the requests of a large number of emigrants in all of South America. For that reason and in order to consolidate political links with Argentina and other South American states, the first diplomatic representative office of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was opened in South America – the Embassy of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The representative office of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in Buenos Aires was burdened by diplomatic and consular affairs and so the Government of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia later opened representations in Chile (1935) and Brazil (1938).
State representative offices made efforts to provide legal and social protection to a large number of workers and economically unsettled emigrants and to serve compatriots by engaging in regular consular services. This was achieved through the opening of the Emigrant Office and Office of the Ministry for Social Policy. The main concern of Yugoslav representative offices was still to use cultural, education and political activities, support and create new pro-Yugoslav emigration societies, to channel emigration press, to observe the activities of different anti-Yugoslav elements and to prevent their operation in order to link this part of emigration to the Yugoslav idea in a lasting manner and to affirm the Yugoslav state among them. This task was the hardest in view of the distribution of emigrants in the huge area of South America.
The greatest problem were the activities of different anti-state organisations and newspapers and this was especially prominent in Argentina and Uruguay, where separatist Croatian, Montenegrin, Macedonian and Communist agitators who came from abroad under the influence of political developments in the Kingdom and found a fertile soil among the economically weak and politically illiterate emigrants. Very liberal laws on the organisations of the press and foreign organisations in Argentina and political atmosphere in Uruguay were favourable for the development of these organisations.
Documents on the Yugoslav emigration in South America, selected for the small electronic exhibition, are in the following funds of the Archives of Serbia and Montenegro: Embassy of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in Argentina – Buenos Aires (385), Consulate General of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in Buenos Aires (765) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia – Inquiry Section (334).
A more detailed insight in this issue can be made by using the following funds: Embassy of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in Chile – Santiago de Chile (389), Embassy of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in Brazil – Rio de Janeiro (387), Honorary Consulate of the KY in Antofagasta (428), Honorary Consulate of the KY in Punta Arenas (Magallanes) (429), Consulate General of the KY in Sao Paolo (427), Emigration Office of the Ministry for Social Policy of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in Buenos Aires (784) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia – Economic and Consular Section (334).