A rupture in Yugoslavian history occurred in 1948 after Tito broke ties with Stalin and Yugoslavia left the Cominform. This period of dramatic political and economic instability led Yugoslavia to introduce worker self-management as a new, authentic model of political and socio-economic governance (Suvin 2016: 26).1 Through self-management, Yugoslavia intended to gradually translate into practice the Marxist-Leninist theory of ‘withering away of the State’. An ideological platform of this radical political shift can be found in Marx’s work on the Commune (Marx 1949), and especially Lenin’s State and Revolution, which advocated the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ by which the working class takes control over the ‘means of production’ and thus reclaims political power from the State (Lenin 1958). As a result, the State would not be suddenly abolished, but instead would gradually wither away. The new, experimental path to socialism intrigued many Western anti-Stalinist Marxists, including the French philosopher and urban sociologist Henri Lefebvre.2 He viewed the country as a paragon for more decentralised, democratic and ‘spontaneous’ socio-economic development, distinct from both existing capitalist countries as well as socialist states under the influence of the Soviet Union (Lefebvre 1957: 56; Lefebvre 1973: 124).

The unprecedented growth of Yugoslavia’s economy in the mid-50s suggested that self-management was not just a strong ideological platform to direct the working masses towards a common goal (Unkovski-Korica 2017), but also a political tool to navigate efficiently between the dichotomy of the Fordist-Keynesian political economy of the West and Stalinist central-State planning.3 As Lefebvre noticed, Yugoslavia relied upon the monetary and financial stimulation, rather than direct State orders, granting greater economic independence to both individual enterprises and ‘innovative networks of self-managed local organisms’ across the whole territory (Lefebvre 1973: 134–135). In practice, the territorial network constituted a communal system that presented a promising counterpoint to the uneven economic development under capitalism (Lefebvre 1973: 130–131).

By the time Lefebvre’s most influential works on spatial issues were published (Lefebvre 1968; Lefebvre 1974; Lefebvre 1991), his enthusiasm regarding Yugoslavian politics had faded, which partially influenced his critique of the State, published in the four-volume work De l’État [On the State] (1976–1978). It was exactly this transition from the State to space, developed in the fourth volume of De l’État, that revealed a gap between the ideological background of Yugoslavian socialism and its wider socio-economic implications (Lefebvre 1978: 259–325). It was evident that even within the decentralised, self-managed governance of the territory, many areas remained socially and economically disconnected. In reality, the mechanisms of the socialist economy produced a hyper-concentration of workforce, management capacities and resources in the main industrial and urban agglomerations.

In a country of six major ethnicities, three religions, five languages and disparate economic and governmental capacities, the problem of uneven development was a central political issue. Due to migration from rural areas, the growth of urban populations hit 170% between 1953 and 1961 (Ginić 1963).4 Major urban centres such as Belgrade and Zagreb faced dramatic housing shortages, infrastructural inadequacies and low standards of living for the incoming population. The rural areas, on the other hand, went through a far worse crisis. Despite passing two agrarian reforms, the State was unable to establish control over de-agrarianisation, which turned the overpopulated countryside into a pool of industrial workers (Fisher 1959; Maticka 1994; Suvin 2016; Warriner 1959). These areas rendered the uneven development and marginalisation of impoverished social groups plainly visible and forced the State to employ other planning mechanisms to reduce the obvious socio-economic disparities.

This paper aims to provide a critical overview of the social (economic) planning and regional (physical) planning in Yugoslavia, between the introduction of the communal system in 1955, and the new constitution in 1963. By following the two parallel yet interwoven planning discourses, the paper analyses the transition of State ideology and political economy into a spatial realm, shaped by the intense processes of post-war urbanisation and overall economic growth. As a direct response to the consequences of urbanisation in Yugoslavia, the methodology of regional planning contained an implicit critique of the existing State model; however, it also presented an extension to that critique, to be negotiated with governments at the local and republic levels. This was a demanding task, since regional planning operated within a long-term framework of 20 to 30 years. Social planning, on the other hand, was mostly limited to five-year terms and was influenced by continual territorial, political and economic changes.

The economy was a driving force for all social planning, while spatial matters were addressed sporadically and mostly in the context of infrastructural and industrial development. Regional planning also focused on economic issues, but it primarily recognised the importance of the totality of human activities in a given space. Also, as Branislav Piha asserted, social planning operated within a well-known and accessible set of terms and socially accepted ideas, while regional planning was still an emerging practice, fraught with terminological uncertainties, methodological specificities and expert language that was inaccessible to the general public (Piha 1965). The comparison of these two discourses reveals an ambivalent relationship between social and regional planning, pointing to the strategic attempts of architects and planners to negotiate their professional but also ideological positions within the evolving political system.

Commune — A Territorial Instrument of Social Planning

Edvard Kardelj, the ideological father of Yugoslavian self-management, claimed that decentralisation of political decision-making should be developed in two directions: vertically, through the independent, bottom-up process that would subsequently affect the decisions made at higher political levels; and horizontally, by transferring the administrative and social functions from the central-State level to the communal level (Kardelj 1981: 157).5 Kardelj draws from Marx’s concept of communal governance based on higher authorities necessarily emerging from lower ones, with both remaining dependent on the direct ‘will of the people’. In this context, the commune is a ‘found political form’, which enables the ‘economic liberation of work’ (Marx 1949: 474). Kardelj’s theoretical proposal was turned into a legal framework in 1955, with the Organisation of Communes and Districts Act (Opći zakon o uređenju općina i srezova) that transferred the self-management model from an industrial setting to the domain of social and territorial organisation (administration).6

The basic aim of the law was to replace the purely administrative territorial units (općina) with communes, as a ‘special political form created to administer the business of society’ (Fisher 1964: 421). According to that law, communes became equal territorial units, regardless of their urban or rural status, and were organised in districts (srezovi, kotari) as associations of independent, self-managed communes. With the introduction of communes in 1955, and until the constitutional reform in 1963, the State gradually transferred responsibility for local socio-economic planning, taxation and the allocation of capital investments to communes (Burton, Dyckman, and Fisher 1967; Bilandžić, 1985), laying the groundwork for a gradual ‘withering away’ of national and republic organisations (Lang 1975). The commune thus became a mediatory form that spatialised the Marxist-Leninist idea, but also reflected the changing nature of Yugoslavia’s economy.

Only in the period between 1955 and 1960 did the number of communes decrease from the initial 1,479 to 816, followed by a significant expansion of each territorial unit (Figure 1) (Leško 1975: 91).7 These drastic changes to territorial organisation were justified by a clear economic rationale. In Kardelj’s words:

New industrial centres attract their surroundings. New relations generate new economic gravitational areas, influencing borders of administrative units. Old and inherited borders of communes and districts are changing. Only rural communes remain unchanged. (Kardelj 1981: 221)

Figure 1
Figure 1

Organisation on the federal territory before (left) and after the implementation of the Law on the Organisation of Communes and Districts in 1955 (right) (Savezni zavod za statistiku 1955, 1956).

According to Kardelj, the re-scaling of the communal system was a result of merging the economically weaker communes with the wealthier ones. In his view, this type of social and economic support to the weaker communes evolved as a positive, bottom-up process, which led towards the formation of ‘natural economic units’ (Kardelj 1981: 207). Similar expressions frequently used in Kardelj’s public discourse on communal matters point to the tendency of the State to normalise its interventionist politics and naturalise the transformative effects the commune had upon socio-spatial relations (Brenner and Elden 2009: 354).

Alongside its interventionist politics, the State began to steadily democratise the system of socio-economic planning through gradual implementation of self-management. The Yugoslavian approach to planning in the late fifties became more flexible and took bottom-up approaches into greater consideration. The draft proposal of the federal social plan was based on drafts submitted by enterprises and self-managed administrative units at the communal and republic levels.8 The final version of the federal social plan was then composed by the Federal Planning Commission (Savezno vijeće za planiranje) and submitted for approval to Parliament. Yet neither federal nor republic authorities could impose directives for its strict implementation. The federal social plan could only define developmental trends, overarching social agendas and general economic goals in order to assist in navigating the development of republics and communes.

Nonetheless, the power of the State did not wither away. Instead, it retreated to a domain of fiscal and territorial policies. The realisation of particular projects from communal plans was still dependent on the investments and credit policies outlined in the Annual Federal Plan, controlled by the Federal Planning Commission and by the central National Bank (Fisher 1964). In addition, communal socio-economic plans were based on the geography of available resources, adjusted through communal reforms exercised by the State in a top-down manner. Overall socio-economic planning was thus performed in a feedback loop that blurred the politics of centralisation and decentralisation.

It was exactly this control over the flow of workforce, raw materials and allotted investments, embedded in social plans and communal reforms, that enabled the State to recast the economy in spatial terms. As Lefebvre elaborated in the fourth volume of De l’État, the outcomes of this process were growth, in the expansion of productive forces; urbanisation, in the formation of massive units of production and consumption; and the spatialisation of new social relations. Lefebvre defined this threefold process as ‘the state mode of production’ (Lefebvre 2009: 226).

The commune as a basic territorial and administrative unit had a seminal role in the spatialisation of the Yugoslavian State’s mode of production. Taking into account the frequent and radical scalar shifts of the communal structure, it can be said that the commune was not a predefined ‘found political form’, but a dynamic social and political construct which actively took part in the shaping of socio-economic processes (Delaney and Leitner 1997: 93; Brenner 1998: 460). Contrary to Kardelj’s initial vision and overall economic expectations, almost a decade of reforms led to communal particularisation and the empowerment of local political elites who gravitated to communal centres (Pusić 1968). Also, due to political influences, a flawed economic rationale and the lack of a substantial planning methodology, the industrialisation of underdeveloped areas had very limited and unsustainable results.9 Furthermore, miscalculations in investment policies at the federal level, inherited economic disparities and differences in the managerial capacities of communes prevented local administrations from successfully using the ‘equal economic opportunities’ provided by the federal government (Hamilton 1968: 131–152).

Regardless of its Marxist-Leninist ideological layout and egalitarian economic pursuit of the State’s mode of production, Yugoslavia was unable to solve the problem of uneven development, and had in fact further increased centralisation of economic resources. Statistics reveal that of a total of 782 communes in 1961, 60 had no industry, while 311 had fewer than 500 industrial workers, and only 49 employed more than 6,000. Three hundred ninety-six communes had fewer than than 50 million dinars in their investment funds in comparison to 50 which had more than 300 million (Savezni zavod za statistiku 1960). This uneven distribution of economic opportunities propelled daily migrations from the countryside to the city, giving rise to ‘peasant-industrial workers’ (Perić 1965; Hamilton 1968: 54). Significant areas of the State territory had turned into unarticulated urban-rural continuums, defined by the dynamics of daily migrations further broadening the underprivileged status of the peripheries and their dependency upon urban and industrial centres (Puljiz 1972; Šuvar 1973).

The prevailing phenomenon of urban concentration is evident from the map produced by British geographer Ian Hamilton, who conducted extensive research of Yugoslavian economic patterns in the early sixties (Hamilton 1968: 332–336). In one of the maps, Hamilton analysed functional indicators of 70 settlements in relation to their districts, following Walter Christaller’s Central Place Theory (Christaller and Baskin 1966; Christaller 1960).10 Confirming the dominance of the few industrial and administrative centres (primarily in Zagreb and Belgrade) and the lack of independent, medium-sized settlements, the map revealed a discrepancy between the Marxist-Leninist theoretical foundation of decentralisation and the real outcomes of the first decade of Yugoslavian territorial restructuring (Figure 2).

Figure 2
Figure 2

A hierarchy of central places in Yugoslavia. Continuous lines outline the approximate extent of spheres of influence of the metropolis, secondary metropolis and provincial centres (except in Serbia). The dashed line indicates the approximate extent of sphere of influence of the provincial and regional service centres in Serbia and Montenegro. The dotted lines represent the approximate extent of the spheres of influence of all other regional and secondary regional service centres (Hamilton 1968: 33).

Socio-spatial manifestations of the post-war Yugoslavian State mode of production (social planning) outstripped bureaucratic knowledge and the existing models of territorial structuration. This situation made room for regional planning as an expertise grounded in the new institutional and methodological framework, merging location-oriented research, new design strategies and ideological aspects of Yugoslavian socialism.

The Region — A Territorial Framework of Physical Planning

The evolution of urban planning closely followed the ideological dynamics of, and changes in, Yugoslavia’s political system. Since their establishment, and starting with the first five-year plan in 1947, urban planning institutes operated within a Soviet-type, centralised administration of the ministries of construction in the republics, simply providing technical support to the basic post-war reconstruction efforts (Jarić 1970; Raymond 1972).11 With the introduction of self-management, responsibility for socio-economic development was gradually transferred from the Federation to republics and communes, giving urban planners an opportunity to engage with local and republic governments and to work on more complex planning tasks. However, this required disciplinary reorganisation and strategic integration within the new system of governance and social planning.

The perspectives and organisation of the discipline were the central issues raised at the Third Annual Meeting of Urban Planners, held in 1954. This event resulted in an official visit of the conference delegates to Edvard Kardelj, then deputy prime minister in the Yugoslavian government (Petrović 1954a). To synchronize urban with socio-economic planning, the delegates, led by Branko Petrović (1922–1975), director of the Urban Planning Institute of Croatia, proposed the foundation of new ‘urban planning councils’ (urbanistički savjeti) at all administrative levels. According to the proposal, the councils would be responsible for enhancing legal frameworks related to urban planning and providing expert support for the coordination, execution and control of urban planning activities. A diagram drafted after the meeting (Figure 3) shows the central position of urban planning councils (US), connecting political governance and urban planning across the three spatial and administrative scales.

Figure 3
Figure 3

The scheme of urban planning in relation to social planning (Petrović 1954b; translations by author).

However, by the end of the 1950s the direction proposed at the meeting changed with the transformation of the Yugoslavian political and economic climate. Faced with the inability to solve regional disparities, the new five-year social plan (1957–1961) introduced the principle of profitability (rentabilnost)12 as a new priority of the self-managed administrative units and enterprises. Under the new plan, the institutes for urban planning were transformed into self-managed organisations, operating outside of the administrative hierarchy. The idea of urban planning councils was set aside, and institutes were forced to provide their own income through direct engagement with communal governments (Mrduljaš and Kulić 2012: 181; Raymond 1972: 60–61).

With communes and districts (kotari) acting as potential investors, and with a limited number of institutions authorised for planning, this legal shift simulated controlled, proto-market conditions for the planning discipline. In an article published in the first issue of Commune (Komuna),13 Petrović elaborated the need for urban planning on the communal scale and advocated a new planning approach to settlements that were understood as ‘living, complex organisms that evolve and change according to their territorial surroundings’ (Petrović 1954b). Even though ‘urban planning’ was the central term, cities were not actually his main focus, but rather the spaces between settlements and their rural surroundings. It can thus be said that the implementation of self-management structures, as well as the political focus on profitability and the overall administrative territorial structure, served as prerequisites for the shift from urban to regional planning.

The disciplinary and methodological issues of regional planning were first discussed at the Sixth Conference of the Association of Urban Planners of Yugoslavia in 1957 in Aranđelovac, Serbia (Nedović-Budić and Cavrić 2006).14 In addition to Petrović, among Croatian representatives at the conference were urban geographer Stanko Žuljić (1925–2012), urban economist Franjo Gašparović (1915–2000) and Vladimir Antolić (1903–1981), a prominent pre-war urban planner. During the conference proceedings, Petrović, Žuljić and Gašparović argued that the absence of a comprehensive system of physical planning caused a functional imbalance, ‘irrational’ land use, missed economic opportunities and a general decrease in quality of life (Gašparović, Petrović and Žuljić 1957: 98–99). They also advocated understanding space as a ‘key measure to harmonise’ specific locations, with developmental capacities ‘fixed in social plans’. In this respect, planning was defined as a ‘territorially elaborated programme’ for developing and managing economic and public life in a given space and time, with the region serving as an appropriate framework that encompassed both urban and rural areas (Gašparović, Petrović and Žuljić 1957: 98–99).

Along these lines, Petrović and Žuljić presented the first Yugoslavian methodology of regional planning based on an interdisciplinary, scientific approach. Their proposal, structured around three successive phases, relied on the coordinated and extensive use of aerial photography, new data harvesting techniques, and cartographic analysis and design, aimed at establishing a new coherence of ‘concentrations of different functions in urban centres and their surroundings’ (Žuljić 1983: 9). By shifting from aesthetics to statistics and from drawings to cartographic and diagrammatic representations, the proposed methodology extended the planning of urban space to broader territorial formations. Using layered analyses of the regional conditions, the main idea of the approach was to ‘optimise’ the dichotomies between city and countryside. ‘The theory of decentralisation, or the integration of industry and agriculture and the redistribution of population’, as the planners argued, presents the most logical and efficient solutions for the current problems of our settlements’, as the planners argued, presented the most logical and efficient solutions to the current problems of our settlements. This can bring a region and all its elements into an organic order, providing optimal dimension and proper interrelationships. From this basis emerges a new structure of our urban and countryside communities, and in that, the disparities between industrial work and agriculture will be removed.’ (Gašparović, Petrović and Žuljić 1957: 98–99).

It is important to note that the interest of urban planners in reshaping urban peripheries through decentralised planning that integrates industry and agriculture dates back to the period before the Second World War. For instance, Vladimir Antolić, member of the left-oriented Yugoslav CIAM group (Radna grupa Zagreb), presented alternative solutions to the urban crisis of the 1930s, giving special attention to Soviet disurbanist theories and the American and British experience of ‘garden cities’ (Antolić 1933; Bjažić Klarin 2015). In addition, before starting his mandate at the Urban Planning Institute of Croatia, Branko Petrović visited Sweden and England (Kranjčević 2012), where he studied regional planning and the legacy of the Garden City Movement (Essex and Brayshay 2005).15 The quoted text thus follows the historical trajectory of disurbanist narratives, in line with socialist thought and traditional Marxist critique.16 However, Petrović and Žuljić were referencing the work of architect and urban planner Ludwig Karl Hilberseimer, and in particular, his visionary study, The New Regional Pattern, published in 1949 during his tenure at the Illinois Institute of Technology.17

As Charles Waldheim notes, Hilberseimer’s work was also built upon the Garden City tradition and a progressive planning lineage which advocated the reorganisation of the metropolitan region (Waldheim 2016: 129). In The New Regional Pattern, Hilberseimer argued for a ‘structural change’ to the existing urban form, and its gradual transition into new territorial patterns of housing, farms, light industry, commercial buildings and civic spaces, resulting in ‘variously scaled networks across a field of decentralized distribution’ (Waldheim 2016: 116). Informed by topography, hydrology, demographics, economic and geographical data, Hilberseimer developed his main thesis around the concepts of decentralisation and optimal integration of industry and agriculture beyond the existing urban grid. He provided two central references: the work of Russian-born anarchist, geographer and philosopher Peter Kropotkin and the experimental industrial villages of Henry Ford (Hilberseimer 1949: 82–83).

Kropotkin relied upon the Proudhonian concept of self-managed integration between rural communities and workers’ enterprises. He insisted on a society of ‘integrated and harmonised’ labour, where each individual is a producer of both manual and intellectual work, creating an independent social aggregate that was large enough to produce and consume most of its own agricultural and manufactured production within a region (Kropotkin 1901: iv). Compared to Kropotkin, Hilberseimer’s second reference, Ford, stood on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum. Upon his arrival in Chicago, Hilberseimer familiarised himself with the experimental industrial villages of Henry Ford (1918–1941), whose project envisioned a network of decentralized settlements to systematise all necessary resources for independent communes, by reducing cultural, technological and economic differences between the field and factory.

In methodological terms, both references presented unique ways of stimulating a stronger sense of regional independence from the central government (Mullin 1982; Rivas Velazquez and Barajas 2008). Yet Kropotkin was a Russian-born anarchist, and Ford was an American pioneer of industrial management who revolutionised productivity under capitalism. With these two conflicting ideological positions intermingled in Hilberseimer’s planning theory, it comes as no surprise that the first Yugoslavian methodology of regional planning recognised the common ground. Hilberseimer’s regional pattern presented an adequate methodological framework to deal with the evolving rural-urban crisis during the 1950s. It served as a theoretical amalgam that mediated Ford’s and Kropotkin’s ideas in relation to the broader historical circumstances in Yugoslavia.

Ford’s pursuit of optimisation and improvement of production within the general State economy, but beyond the direct auspices of the central government, vividly reflected the Yugoslavian economic momentum that simultaneously prioritised profitability and supported the independence of communes and enterprises. On the other hand, Kropotkin’s notion of self-managed communities sought the realisation of individual human potential within the self-managed ‘social aggregate’. It was more fundamentally aligned with the Yugoslavian pursuit of the Marxist ‘economic liberation of work’ as well as the concept of ‘withering away of the State’.

Yet the Croatian planners did not allude to the concrete design forms proposed by Hilberseimer (the settlement unit), but rather appropriated his general approach to regional scaling and established a testing-ground for complex spatial analysis within the existing system. To demonstrate the potential benefits of new ‘analytical-creative techniques’ to the general public as well as communal bureaucrats and major planning institutions, Croatian planners had to test this new methodology in a real environment. This resulted in the first Yugoslavian regional plan for the Krapina district (1955–1957).

Regional Plan of the Krapina District

The Krapina district was part of the Zagorje region, situated north of Zagreb. In 1956, the district contained 12 communes with 422 settlements, including Kumrovec, the birthplace of Josip Broz Tito. When Tito’s Memorial House Museum opened in Kumrovec in 1953, the region gained visibility on a national level. Aside from its obvious ideological importance, the region’s geography and its socio-economic dimensions served as arguments for the People’s Committee of the Krapina District (Narodni odbor kotara Krapina) to order the development of a regional plan from the Urban Planning Institute of Croatia in 1955. The district had one of the highest population densities in Yugoslavia. More than 68% of the inhabitants were engaged in agriculture, and only around 12% in industry. Burdened by a fully dispersed settlement structure and a surplus of low-income peasant workers, the district was gravitating towards Zagreb, the Croatian capital and largest industrial centre in Yugoslavia (Petrović and Žuljić 1958). Due to good railway connectivity, more than 50% of the incoming industrial workers in Zagreb commuted daily from the Krapina district (Figure 4) (Žuljić 1957).

Figure 4
Figure 4

Daily migration of workforce to Zagreb. Thin lines represent railroads; points represent train stations (Žuljić 1957: 139).

Without a significant administrative or economic centre or any sustainable economic prospects, the district manifested a wide range of issues related to the consequences of post-war urbanisation, thus becoming a paradigm for testing the new planning methodology.

The preparation of the Regional Physical Plan of Krapina began with an interdisciplinary team of 65 experts conducting statistical and field studies, coordinated by Žuljić and Petrović. The main goal of the plan was to integrate rural and urban areas into a coherent regional space with a greater degree of socio-economic independence from Zagreb (Petrović and Žuljić 1958). In the fully dispersed regional territory, developing a new hierarchy of the central place was a major step in the planning process and a delicate political endeavour (Figure 5). The planners argued that the new settlement structure should not be the outcome of a top-down bureaucratic decision or a spontaneous process of urban concentration, but the result of a transparent set of applied values, such as the size and significance of each service (schools, hospitals, markets, etc.), ‘notwithstanding the rural or urban character of each settlement’ (Petrović and Žuljić 1958: 169).

Figure 5
Figure 5

Classification of settlements proposed in the regional plan of the Krapina district. Author of the study: Stanko Žuljić (Petrović and Žuljić 1958: 159).

This claim echoed Kardelj’s underlying ideological paradigm of communal equality, but it was also followed by significant methodological efforts. The team of planners brought various environmental, demographic and economic data into profound correlation with the available cartographies of municipal development, infrastructural networks and the distribution of social and industrial resources, with the aim of rendering a new hierarchy of regional ‘service centres’. Interestingly, the planners argued that all ‘urban agglomerations’ in the proposed hierarchy have similar basic functions and thus the functions of small settlements are no different than those of big cities, ‘because they all have their own gravitational areas, regardless of their size’ (Petrović and Žuljić 1958: 56). This notion of gravity was mathematically expressed using Christaller’s model, with the new hierarchy resulting in 176 settlements organized into five groups:

  • local service centres

  • settlements with special functions

  • industrial settlements

  • communal centres

  • district centres.

Each group was described through a list of characteristic services elaborated in the cited methodology of regional planning (Petrović and Žuljić 1958: 57).

With its quantified regional perspective, the plan resembled Fordian principles of functionalist planning, which ‘segregates particular functions in order to re-connect them within an overarching urban system of production and reproduction’ (Stanek 2017: 480). However, the planners were forced to reconcile the necessity of creating a new hierarchical system of centres imbued with the Yugoslavian ideology of decentralisation and social equality. Despite the obvious propensity for hierarchy to superimpose the power of certain centres over others, Christaller’s model was used as an objective argument for the ‘normalisation’ of centrality through ‘equal distribution of gravity’ across the regional territory. In other words, the regional plan of the Krapina district was conditioned by the pursuit of a new spatial model which would transcend the ‘mere “punctual” correspondence between social actions and social locations’ (Lefebvre 1991: 34), and tend to establish a harmonized terrain for social inclusion on the regional and urban scale.

Running parallel to the greater regional planning, a second coordinated group from the Institute, led by Žuljić and urban planner Antun Marinović, developed an urban plan for Klanjec, a small town in the south-western part of the region. Klanjec was one of the rare regional settlements without a single inhabitant employed in industry. Underdeveloped, and without significant infrastructure connecting to its surroundings, Klanjec was a blank spot on the regional map. Considering its position and the existing municipal capacities, the planners decided to gradually develop Klanjec into one of the regional administrative and social centres (Marinović and Žuljić 1957). The new urban plan followed the same regional methodology, but also proposed more detailed housing typologies alongside new social and administrative centres, including a marketplace, school, cultural centre and a series of public offices, such as the communal office, district court, post office, branch of the national bank, etc. (Figure 6).

Figure 6
Figure 6

Urban plan for the centre of Klanjec, with a concentration of public services and spaces (Marinović and Žuljić 1957: 66).

In the case of Klanjec, a concrete urban form was applied to the new communal centre (općinski centar), becoming the first Yugoslavian urban plan developed at the communal scale. With its diversity of administrative and social functions, this small town was envisioned as a centre where different aspects of urban life intermingle in a publicly accessible space of socialisation and communal empowerment. The planners argued that ‘even the smallest rural area makes a part of the common network of industrial, municipal, recreational or other services’ (Petrović and Žuljić 1958: 168).

The regional plan also proposed a series of landscape interventions with a goal of enhancing existing land use patterns, such as regulating riverbeds to prevent erosion and even reclaiming landscapes previously shattered by industry (Figure 7). In general terms, sensible moderation of the landscape dominated the productivist logic of industrial placement, opening up a space for new forms of agricultural and industrial integration. A detailed mapping of natural resources conducted within the study revealed the great potential of natural scenery which, according to the proposal, was to be preserved in order to create a new regional network of tourist and recreational sites (Petrović and Žuljić 1958: 109–116). In a country still predominantly focused on basic industrial growth, dealing with the cultural and natural landscapes was a pioneering move. With the Memorial House of Josip Broz Tito and a planned tourist route from Zagreb, the district was viewed as a new destination for weekend tourism, with the potential to create new economic opportunities for the local communities, and to some extent, positively influence migration flows within the broader territorial context.

Figure 7
Figure 7

Lakes in Bedekovčina, created during industrial excavations, are proposed to be transformed into a new tourist attraction (Petrović and Žuljić 1958: 115).

The new landscape features were not reserved exclusively for weekend visitors from Zagreb. Like the new social centre in Klanjec, they presented a form of collective luxury ‘from which no one was excluded’ (Stanek 2017: 479; Lefebvre 2014: 137). Building upon Lefebvre’s notion of collective luxury, Łukasz Stanek explains that this type of experience does not necessarily imply consumption of produced goods, but rather an ‘economy of use’, through which the value of objects is enhanced by their use (Stanek 2017: 484). The notion of use was an underlying idea of both plans, emerging from the projective geography of the region, which erased distinctions between the rural and the urban, and integrated agriculture and industry into a new, independent, territorial formation.

With the absolute economic and administrative dominance of Zagreb in mind, the instrumental capacity of the new regional formation was to reassemble the geography of existing resources and create points of ‘condensation of what was hitherto marginal’ (Stanek 2017: 481). In this sense, decentralisation was to be achieved through strategic concentration of new services at the periphery, creating new relations between processes of urban condensation and dispersion, as an alternative to unidirectional dependence on Zagreb. In this way, the region would gain a more prominent social and economic importance and serve as an instrument to balance the existing socio-spatial hierarchy within a much larger territorial system. The new relations between centre and periphery were mapped as fixed, rather than animated, spaces of interconnected ‘centrifugal and centripetal forces’ (Stanek 2017: 481). They presented a ‘form of a general synthesis of the socialist settlement’ proposed by the planners in their final remarks on the study (Petrović and Žuljić 1958: 171).

In the final report on the regional plan, Petrović claimed that ‘planning should not dictate social schemes, but only document and bring them to their spatial manifestation’ (Petrović and Žuljić 1958: 6). Yet his real ambitions surpassed these claims. Around the time when the four-volume regional study was delivered to the People’s Committee in 1957, the same Committee started working on a new social plan for the district (1957–1961).18 So it is no coincidence that the social plan followed not only the general economic directives defined by the republic and federal plan, but also the general structure, main analytic points and overall goals defined in the Regional Physical Plan of Krapina District (Figure 8).

Figure 8
Figure 8

Regional Physical Plan of Krapina District. The plan shows the distribution of settlements (district centre, communal centre, service centre, subservice centre), the layout of public infrastructures, functions (industrial, agricultural zones, mining sites, etc.) and services (educational, health, cultural institutions, etc.) (Petrović and Žuljić 1958).


In De l’État, Lefebvre noted that the State and territory interact in an almost mutually constitutive way. Engaged in the perpetual process of socio-spatial modelling, he asserted that:

State officials seem to administer, manage and organize a natural space, while in practice, they substitute existing space for another space that is primarily economic and social, and then political. Believing they are obeying something in their heads (representations), they are actually establishing a spatial order of their own. (Lefebvre 2009: 228)

The Urban Planning Institute of Croatia and the People’s Committee of the Krapina District both shared self-management as the overarching principle of administrative, social and economic organisation. Nevertheless, the notion of workers’ or citizens’ participation as an inherited value of self-management was not included in any phase of regional planning. As Goran Musić explains, with the ever-increasing reliance on profitability during the late 1950s, a professional and managerial layer penetrated into the self-management structures (workers’, communal and district councils), adding pressure to abandon the egalitarian ethos of the initial years of self-management (Musić 2011: 178).

With the rise of the expert class, the power of the State did not ‘wither away’, but instead was strategically merged into expert institutions with new forms of knowledge produced to support the development of self-managed units across the republic, district and communal levels. This was also the case with the regional plan of the Krapina district. As Petrović argued, the plan should have been used as an operative instrument given to the People’s Committee to monitor and direct economic and social developments of the district and its respective communes for a period of 30 years (Petrović and Žuljić 1958: 6). Regardless of its pragmatic aims, the complexity and robustness of the study surpassed the expertise of local bureaucrats.19 The proposal was a manifestation of the new planning methodology which took the ideological dimension of State politics into account and translated it into theoretical positions for the emerging discipline. With its ambiguous theoretical foundation, Hilberseimer’s work served as a reference for the discipline to gain relevance in the early days of the Yugoslavian socialist market, before its further socio-economic liberalisation in the mid-1960s. With its ideological background, methodological structure, multidisciplinary approach and pragmatic relationship with local bureaucracy and State politics — albeit with a substantial lack of citizen participation — the regional plan for the Krapina district defined the model for many future plans, including the plan for the South Adriatic region (1966–1969) and that of the Upper Adriatic (1970–1972).20 Although the two Adriatic plans were considered among the most significant regional planning projects in Europe at the time, they were still mired in the same set of issues as the regional plan of the Krapina district, the central issue being implementation.

After the last major territorial reorganisation in 1963, the borders of the Krapina district administratively ceased to exist and the district was joined to the larger Zagreb district (UIH 364). The projective geography of the region was unable to follow frequent and dramatic ruptures of the overall political, economic and territorial system. With the holistic approach to the ‘totality of human activities in space’, regional plans were not attuned with the particular interests of local political elites or the logic of investment allocation on multiple scales. Methodological steps towards ‘continuous planning’ in the mid-1960s did not introduce any significant changes; instead, they further complicated the planning practice. Finally, with the pioneering methodology proposed by Žuljić and Petrović with the plan for the Krapina district, regional planning in Yugoslavia operated as a spatial representation of the abstract and contradictory ideological and political systems, with limited capability to respond to issues of uneven territorial development and the ever-growing challenges of post-war urbanisation.


  1. Yugoslavia legally introduced self-management in 1950, primarily in the context of economic governance within working collectives. With the Constitution of 1953, self-management was further developed, becoming the central principle of social governance in Yugoslavia. [^]
  2. Lefebvre was involved in a conflict with the Stalinist leadership of the French Communist Party (Parti communiste français, PCF) around Algerian and Yugoslav questions, which led to his expulsion from the Party in 1956 and consequently brought him closer to Yugoslav self-management (autogestión). [^]
  3. Statistics show that compared to previous years, Yugoslavia’s GDP rose from 100% in 1952 to 162% in 1956, reaching one of the highest growth rates in the world at the time (Bilandžić 1985: 232). [^]
  4. In 1945, peasants constituted approximately 70% of Yugoslavia’s population (around 10 million), and between 1953 and 1961 approximately 62,000 people moved from rural areas to the cities each year (Puljiz 1970; Suvin 2016: 54). [^]
  5. As one of Tito’s closest collaborators, Edvard Kardelj (1910–1979), held several positions during his political career, including minister of foreign affairs of Yugoslavia (1948–1953), deputy prime minister of Yugoslavia (1946–1963) and seventh president of the Federal Assembly of Yugoslavia (1963–1967). [^]
  6. Official Gazette of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia [Službeni list Federativne Narodne Republike Jugoslavije], 26 (1955). [^]
  7. The number of territorial units fell from 3,921 to 1,479 in 1955, and by 1963 included only 581 communes (Leško 1975: 92–94). The average commune size in 1952 was 66 km2; in 1967 it was around 500 km2. The average population in the same period grew from 4,500 to 40,000 (Pusić: 1975: 6, 118). [^]
  8. Social plans were drafted by economic planning offices (zavodi za planiranje) on the federal, republic, district and communal level. The balance of political influence, from federation to republics, communes and self-managed enterprises, changed over time, depending on the broader political and economic circumstances. In general terms, it resonated with political and ideological tensions between two opposed political streams in the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (Savez komunista Jugoslavije, SKJ) — conservatives who supported the idea of a strong and more centralised State and liberals who advocated a more flexible socialist market and economic and administrative decentralisation. [^]
  9. Factories built during this period are products of uravnilovka, a policy of equal sectorial industrial development for each republic, which often resulted in redundant and unsustainable production facilities. [^]
  10. According to German geographer Walter Christaller (1893–1969), the spatial distribution of settlements is influenced by their basic services. Larger centres provide services to subordinate centres in close proximity. The hierarchical relationships are depicted in the hexagonal spatial model (Vresk 1990: 194–195). [^]
  11. The Serbian Institute of Urban Planning was developed through the Republic Ministry of Construction in 1946. The Urban Planning Institute of Croatia was established in a similar manner in 1947, with branches in Zagreb, Split, and Rijeka. In 1954, the branches became independent institutions — with the Urban Planning Institutes of Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina following the same pattern. The Urban Planning Institute of Slovenia was founded in 1953 with a primary focus on scientific research, while the urban planning institutes of Montenegro and Macedonia were founded in 1960 (Jarić 1970). [^]
  12. Profitability is not a direct translation of the word rentabilnost, as this word does not imply making profit, but rather achieving basic economic sustainability. After the new Constitution and economic reforms in the mid-1960s, policy-makers prioritised profitability in a more exact sense of the word. [^]
  13. The Permanent Conference of Cities and Towns Municipalities of Yugoslavia (Stalna konferencija gradova i gradskih općina Jugoslavije) was founded in 1953 as a platform for the exchange of knowledge and experiences of communal self-management. The Conference published a magazine, Commune (Komuna), which served as a ‘bottom-up’ platform to discuss communal issues and a ‘top-down’ medium to address important ideological and political issues related to the communes and communal governance. [^]
  14. The conference gathered leading Yugoslavian architects and urban planners from the region, including Nikola Dobrović, Branislav Kojicć, Branislav Piha, Borko Novaković and Dimitrije Perišić from Serbia; Branko Petrović, Vladimir Antolić, Stanko Žuljić and Franjo Gašparović from Croatia; Braco Mušić, Milan Tepina and Edvard Ravnikar from Slovenia; Ivan Taubman and Branko Krstić from Bosnia and Herzegovina; Borislav Kolev from Macedonia; and Djordjije Minjević and Radovan Bakić from Montenegro (Nedović-Budić and Cavrić 2006). [^]
  15. During the 1950s, Petrović published several projects and short essays in the British journal, Town and Country Planning (Petrović 1955a; Petrović 1955b). The journal was founded by Ebenezer Howard in 1904, and initially served as an official publication of the Garden City Movement. [^]
  16. Initially proposed by the Russian sociologist Mikhail Okhitovitch in the late 1920s, the concept of disurbanism implies a critique of urban concentration and argues for the concept of diffuse urbanisation that transgresses strict separation between rural and urban life as a way to oppose the bourgeois tendency to reproduce social inequalities. [^]
  17. Hilberseimer moved to Chicago in 1938 to join Mies van der Rohe at IIT College of Architecture in Chicago. Between 1944 and 1955, he authored three major English-language books on planning: The New City: Principles of Planning (1944); The New Regional Pattern: Industries and Gardens, Workshops and Farms (1949); and The Nature of Cities: Origin, Growth and Decline, Pattern and Form, Planning Problems (1955). [^]
  18. By the time the district’s committee for development of the new social plan was elected (Službeni glasnik 1957), the study of the Regional Physical Plan of Krapina was already finalized (UIH 413, 414). Both plans were officially accepted in 1958 (Službeni glasnik 1958a; Službeni glasnik 1958b). [^]
  19. According to the official district’s gazette, most positions in the district’s administration required only high school education (Službeni glasnik 1956). [^]
  20. The regional plans are the results of collaboration among the Urban Planning Institute of Croatia, as a lead institution, the Urban Planning Institute of Montenegro, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and five consultant companies from London, Paris and Rome. The project budget was almost 7 million US dollars, partly granted by the United Nations Development Programme, which allowed production of the mentioned regional master plans, six urban plans, three studies on the urban plan level, twenty-two plans for tourist agglomerations and three detailed plans for specific sites (Mattioni 2003). [^]

Funding Information

This book is the result of the research conducted at the project ARTNET (IP-2013-11/6270) supported by the Croatian Science Foundation.

Competing Interests

The author has no competing interests to declare.


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