Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Douglas G. Hartley
HARTLEY: I was in Belgrade '72 to '74. I filled out the rest of a four-year tour in Belgrade. I was direct-transferred to Belgrade because they needed a Serbo-Croatian language officer to replace Bill Whitman, who was the commercial attache. I drove up to Belgrade in a Volkswagen bus with my two daughters, Virginia and Sandra, three cats, two dogs, and a trailer with a boat on it. I got up near Thessaloniki and I left the boat and the trailer there to be picked up by Dick Jackson, who had recently been posted there. Anyway, we managed to get up to Belgrade, got housed, and my wife joined us. I started my job as commercial attach� under Ambassador Mac Toon, a career ambassador who had been in the Soviet Union and went on from there to Israel. He had been ambassador in the Soviet Union. My immediate boss was the economic counselor, a guy called Dave Bolen, who went on to become our ambassador to the Lesotho, then to East Germany. He had the distinction of being one of the relatively few black Foreign Service officers who had at that time achieved a high rank. He was pretty much of a hands-on guy who liked to keep pretty careful tabs on whatever was going on in his shop. He was there for a year. Then he was replaced by Leo Gotzlinger.
Yugoslavia had undergone a tremendous change in the 10 years I had been away. The first tour it was very definitely an iron-curtain type of a place. It was the kind of place you didn't want to stay very long. You wanted to get out to Trieste and a lot of us tried to do that as much as we could to see the shops, to see the bright lights. Trieste looked really good after Belgrade in those days. This time, coming back, they were beginning to build up - had already built up their foreign debt pretty much, which I think was one of the reasons eventually for the disaster that happened in their country. They were freely importing all sorts of consumer goods. The Robna Kuca (a department store) in Belgrade had just about anything you wanted. In fact, afterwards when I went to Salvador, Brazil, there was less of an assortment than there was in Belgrade at that time (not now, mind you!) In other words, it had become in the interim— maybe not so much politically but economically—increasingly tied into the west not only in terms of consumer goods but also in terms of trade patterns and what have you. Of course, they had a peculiar type of economic setup that was somewhere between capitalism and communism, which consisted of the state enterprises, preduzece, which had certain characteristics of fairly free-wheeling - at least superficially - characteristics of western corporations. But in fact, were coddled in a way that western corporations weren't. But they had the advantages of being able to retain overseas accounts - for example, hard currency accounts. They also had the great advantage of being co-owners of banks in Yugoslavia, so they could basically write themselves their own ticket. And when it came to loans, this again came back to haunt them later on when the bubble burst and repayment time came due and the world had somewhat of a recession as it happened later, back in the '80s. But when I was in Belgrade, things were looking good. People were looking much better than they had. They dressed better. They were less fearful since the secret police wings had been clipped back after Alexander Rankovic, the Serb head of the UDBA (secret police), was caught, they say, bugging Tito's bathroom in 1968. The political situation was basically frozen but there was greater ease of traveling to the rest of Europe, it was easier for ordinary folks to get to the Dalmatian Coast The roads were incredibly improved over the early 1960s.