Skip to main content

Alexander of Yugoslavia

Alexander of Yugoslavia

Alexander (1888-1934) was king of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes from 1921 to 1929 and, after changing the name of his country in 1929, king of Yugoslavia until 1934.

Alexander Karageorgevich was born on Dec. 16 (N.S.; Dec. 4, O.S.), 1888, at Cetinje, Montenegro, the second son of Peter l, King of Serbia, and Princess Zorka of Montenegro. Alexander shared his father's exile in Geneva, Switzerland, until 1899, when he was sent to the imperial Russian court in St. Petersburg to be educated. He returned to Serbia in 1909, succeeding his brother George as heir to the throne held by Peter I since 1903.

Having led the first Serbian army to victory over the Turks at Kumanovo on Oct. 24, 1912, in the First Balkan War, Alexander was also in command during the Second Balkan War against Bulgaria in 1913. Advanced age and declining health led Peter I to appoint Alexander regent of Serbia on June 24, 1914. As commander in chief of the Serbian armed forces, Alexander shared the privations of the Serbian retreat across Albania before the advancing Austro-German armies in 1915. He led his victorious forces into Belgrade on Oct. 31, 1918. On December 1 the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was proclaimed with Alexander as prince regent.

The kingdom's adoption of the centralist "Vidovdan" constitution on June 28, 1921, angered the Croats, who favored a federal state organization guaranteeing autonomy to the historical regions. At the death of Peter I on August 16, Alexander became king. On June 8, 1922, he married Marie (1900-1961), a daughter of King Ferdinand of Romania. They had three sons: Peter (born Sept. 6, 1923), Tomislav (1928), and Andrea (1929).

The murder of the Croatian leader Stefan Radić and a follower in the Skupština (Diet) on June 20, 1928, by a Montenegrin Serb deputy resulted in the withdrawal of the Croatian deputies from the Skupština. Convinced of the failure of the parliamentary system, Alexander abrogated the Vidovdan constitution on Jan. 6, 1929, changed the country's name to Yugoslavia on October 3, and began a period of authoritarian, personal rule. On Sept. 3, 1931, he proclaimed a new constitution, allowing only a "government's" party to exist, which was to receive two-thirds of the Skupština seats upon gaining a plurality in the national elections. This constitution increased Croatian disaffection.

In foreign affairs Alexander, a consistent friend of France, supported the French-backed Little Entente, which opposed Hungarian and Bulgarian revisionism, and hoped for French support against Italy. On a state visit to France, King Alexander and French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou were assassinated at Marseilles on Oct. 9, 1934, by a Macedonian terrorist subsidized by the Croatian fascist organization called Ustaše, which was in the service of Italy and Hungary. The young Peter II succeeded his father under a regency headed by Alexander's first cousin, Prince Paul.

Alexander's death deprived Yugoslavia of strong leadership at a time when, because of internal disorder and the hostility of Germany and Italy, it was most needed. As a founder of the great South Slav state, Alexander was opposed by those favoring the weakening or dismemberment of Yugoslavia, as well as those who resented his authoritarian rule.

Further Reading

Few works have been written dealing primarily with the career of King Alexander. Stephen Graham, Alexander of Yugoslavia: The Story of the King Who Was Murdered at Marseilles (1938), provides a sympathetic picture of the King. The relevant sections of Robert J. Kerner, ed., Yugoslavia (1949), are useful. See also Alan Roberts, The Turning Point: The Assassination of Louis Barthou and King Alexander I of Yugoslavia (1970). A contemporary account of Alexander's Yugoslavia is Charles A. Beard and George Radin, The Balkan Pivot: Yugoslavia, a Study in Government and Administration (1929). For the political background of the Balkans during Alexander's reign see Hugh Seton-Watson, Eastern Europe between the Wars: 1918-1941 (1945; 3d ed. 1962). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Alexander of Yugoslavia." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . 17 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Alexander of Yugoslavia." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . (January 17, 2019).

"Alexander of Yugoslavia." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved January 17, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.