2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: General history

See also: Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia (Jugoslavija in South Slavic languages, Југославија ( Serbian, Macedonian Cyrillic): "Land of the South Slavs") describes three separate political entities that existed on the Balkan Peninsula in Europe, during most of the 20th century.

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia ( December 1, 1918– April 17, 1941), also known as the First Yugoslavia, was a monarchy formed as the "Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes" after World War I and re-named on January 6, 1929 by Alexander I of Yugoslavia. It was invaded on April 6, 1941 by the Axis powers and capitulated eleven days later.

The Second Yugoslavia (c.1943-), a socialist successor state to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, existed under various names, including the "Democratic Federation of Yugoslavia (DFY)" (1943), the "Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia (FPRY)" (1946), and the " Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY)" (1963). It disintegrated following the Yugoslav Wars, which led to the secession of most of the constituent elements of the SFRY.

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) (1992) was a federation on the territory of the two remaining republics of Serbia (including the autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo and Metohija) and Montenegro.

On February 4, 2003, the state transformed into a loose commonwealth called Serbia and Montenegro and officially abolished the name "Yugoslavia." On June 3 and June 5, 2006, Montenegro and Serbia respectively declared their independence, thereby ending the last remnants of the former Yugoslav federation.


Southern Slavic State

The first idea of a state for all South Slavs emerged in the late 17th century, a product of visionary thinking of Croat writers and philosophers who believed that the only way for southern Slavs to regain lost freedom after centuries of occupation under the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Ottoman Empire would be to unite and free themselves of tyrannies and dictatorships. They gave it the name Ilirski Pokret (Illyric Movement) and gathered many prominent Croatian intellectuals and politicians around the new idea, but the movement started gaining large momentum only at the end of the 19th century, mainly because of the harsh policies against any freedom movements occupied southern Slavs could possibly have, practiced by both Austrian and Hungarian dictators. As the Ottoman Empire grew weaker and Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece grew stronger after the Berlin Congress, hope for sovereignty of the South Slavic peoples in the Habsburg Empire (Austria-Hungary) increased and the idea of a union between them became stronger.

During the early period of the World War I (which started in 1914), a number of prominent political figures, including Ante Trumbić, Ivan Meštrović, Nikola Stojanović and others, from South Slavic lands under the Habsburg Empire, fled to London where they began work on forming Yugoslav Committee and their mission was to represent the south Slavs of the empire. They chose London as their headquarters.

The Yugoslav Committee

The Yugoslav Committee (Jugoslavenski odbor) was officially formed on April 30, 1915 in London, and it began to raise funds, especially among South Slavs living in the Americas. Because of their stature, the members of the Yugoslav Committee were able to make their views known to the Allied governments, which began to take them increasingly seriously, especially as the fate of Austro-Hungarian Empire looked more uncertain.

While the committee's basic aim was the unification of the Habsburg south Slav lands with Serbia (which was independent at the time), its more immediate concern was to head off Italian claims in Istria and Dalmatia, which was a very real concern. In 1915, the Allies had lured the Italians into the war with promise of substantial territorial gains in exchange. According to the secret London Pact, these included Istria and large parts of Dalmatia, where relatively substantial numbers of Italians lived in the coastal cities, compared to the surrounding Slavs.

Lands offered to Serbia by the Allies in 1915.
Lands offered to Serbia by the Allies in 1915.

Although in 1915 the Serbian Assembly had pledged itself to work for the liberation of all Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, non-Serb members of the Yugoslav Committee became alarmed when the Allies offered Serbia lands that had not been reserved for Italians. These included Bosnia, Herzegovina, Slavonia, Bačka and parts of Dalmatia. Croat members of the Committee feared a carve-up of Croat lands between Serbia and Italy. There were also quarrels about the designation and command of units of south Slav POWs in Russia now being mobilised to fight with the Allies. The Yugoslav Committee wanted them to fight in the Yugoslav name, while Nikola Pašić (Prime Minister of Serbia) seeing in this a "Croat Army", wanted them to fight under the Serbian flag.

Corfu agreement

However, during June and July 1917, the Yugoslav committee met with the Serbian Government in Corfu and on 20 July a declaration that laid foundation of the post-war state was issued. The preamble stated that the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes were "the same by blood, by language, by the feelings of their unity, by the continuity and integrity of the territory which they inhabit undividedly, and by the common vital interests of their national survival and manifold development of their moral and material life". The future state was to be called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and was to be constitutional monarchy under the Karađorđević dynasty.

The unification of South Slavs

As the Habsburg Empire dissolved, a National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs took power in Zagreb on 6 October 1918. On 29 October, the Croatian Sabor or parliament declared independence and vested its sovereignty in the new State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. The Yugoslav Committee was given the task of representing the new state abroad. However quarrels broke out immediately about the terms of the proposed union with Serbia. Svetozar Pribićević, a Croatian Serb, a leader of the Croatian-Serbian Coalition and vice-precedent of the state, wanted an immediate and unconditional union. Others (non-Serbs), who favoured a federal Yugoslavia were more hesitant. They feared that Serbia would simply annex the former Habsburg territories. The National Council's authority was limited and the Italians were moving to take more territory than they had been allotted in an agreement with the Yugoslav Committee. Political opinion was divided and Serbian ministers said that if Croats insisted on their own republic or sort of independence, then Serbia would simply take areas inhabited by the Serbs and already occupied by the Serbian Army. After much debate the National Council agreed to unification with Serbia, although its declaration stated that the final organization of the state should be left to the future Constituent Assembly. The most prominent opponent of this decision was Stjepan Radić, the leader of the Croatian Peasant Party (Hrvatska Seljačka Stranka, HSS). However, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was declared on 1 December 1918 in Belgrade.

Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes

Map showing banovinas in 1929
Map showing banovinas in 1929

King Alexander's dictatorship

Following this, King Aleksandar I banned national political parties in 1929, assumed executive power and renamed the country Yugoslavia. He hoped to curb separatist tendencies and mitigate nationalist passions. However, the balance of power changed in international relations: in Italy and Germany, Fascists and Nazis rose to power, and Stalin became the absolute ruler in the Soviet Union. None of these three states favoured the policy pursued by Aleksandar I. In fact, the first two wanted to revise the international treaties signed after World War I, and the Soviets were determined to regain their positions in Europe and pursue a more active international policy. Yugoslavia was an obstacle for these plans and King Aleksandar I was the pillar of the Yugoslav policy.

Alexander attempted to create a genuine Yugoslavia. He decided to abolish Yugoslavia's historic regions and new internal boundaries were drawn for provinces or banovinas. The banovinas were named after rivers. Many politicians were jailed or kept under tight police surveillance. The effect of Alexander's dictatorship was to further alienate the non-Serbs of the idea of unity.

During an official visit to France in 1934, the king was assassinated in Marseilles by an experienced marksman from Ivan Mihailov's IMRO in the cooperation of the Ustaše, a Croatian separatist organization that pursued Nazi policies. Alexander was succeeded by his eleven year old son Peter II and a regency council headed by his cousin Prince Paul.

The 1930s in Yugoslavia

The international political scene in the late 1930s was marked by growing intolerance between the principal figures, by the aggressive attitude of the totalitarian regimes and by the certainty that the order set up after World War I was losing its strongholds and its sponsors were losing their strength. Supported and pressured by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, Croatian leader Vlatko Maček and his party managed the creation of the Croatian banovina (administrative province) in 1939. The agreement specified that Croatia was to remain part of Yugoslavia, but it was hurriedly building an independent political identity in international relations.

Prince Paul submitted to the fascist pressure and signed the Tripartite Treaty in Vienna on March 25th, 1941, hoping to still keep Yugoslavia out of the war. But this was at the expense of popular support for Paul's regency. Senior military officers were also opposed to the treaty and launched a coup d'état when the king returned on March 27th. Army General Dušan Simović seized power, arrested the Vienna delegation, exiled Paul, and ended the regency, giving 17 year old King Peter full powers.

The beginning of World War II in Yugoslavia

Hitler then decided to attack Yugoslavia on April 6 1941, followed immediately by an invasion of Greece where Mussolini had previously been repelled. (As a result, the launch of Operation Barbarossa was delayed by four weeks, which proved to be a costly decision.)

Yugoslavia during the Second World War

The invasion of Yugoslavia

At 5:15 a.m. on April 6, 1941, German, Italian, Hungarian, and Bulgarian forces attacked Yugoslavia. The Luftwaffe bombed Belgrade and other major Yugoslav cities. On April 17th, representatives of Yugoslavia's various regions signed an armistice with Germany at Belgrade, ending eleven days of resistance against the invading German Wehrmacht. More than three hundred thousand Yugoslav officers and soldiers were taken prisoners.

The Independent State of Croatia

In the Independent State of Croatia, Serbs, Jews and Gypsies were marched to the Jasenovac concentration camp
In the Independent State of Croatia, Serbs, Jews and Gypsies were marched to the Jasenovac concentration camp

The Axis Powers occupied Yugoslavia and split it up. The Independent State of Croatia was established as a Nazi puppet-state, ruled by the Catholic fascist militia known as the Ustaše that came into existence in 1929, but was relatively limited in its activities until 1941. German troops occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as part of Serbia and Slovenia, while other parts of the country were occupied by Bulgaria, Hungary and Italy.

Resistance movements

Yugoslavs opposing the Nazis organized resistance movement. Those inclined towards supporting the old Kingdom of Yugoslavia joined the Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland, also known as the Chetniks, a multiethnic, though largely Serb, royalist guerilla army led by Dragoljub "Draža" Mihailović. Those inclined towards supporting the Communist Party (Komunistička partija), and were against the King, joined the Yugoslav National Liberation Army Narodno Oslobodilacka Vojska (NOV), led by Josip Broz Tito .

Children in Jasenovac
Children in Jasenovac

The NOV initiated a guerrilla campaign which was developed into the largest resistance army in occupied Western and Central Europe. The Chetniks initially made notable incursions and were supported by the exiled royal government as well as the Allies, but were soon restrained from taking wider actions due to German reprisals against the Serb civilian population.

For every killed soldier, the Germans executed 100 civilians, and for each wounded, they killed 50. Regarding the human cost as too high, the Chetniks' terminated war activities against the Germans, and the Allies eventually switched to support the NOV.

However, NOV carried on its guerrilla warfare. The demographic loss is estimated at 1,027,000 individuals by Vladimir Žerjavić and Bogoljub Kočović, an estimate accepted by the United Nations, while the official Yugoslav authorities claimed 1,700,000 casualties. Very high losses were among Serbs who lived in Bosnia and Croatia, as well as Jewish and Roma minorities, high also among all other non- collaborating population.

During the war, the communist-led partisans were de facto rulers on the liberated territories, and the NOV organized people's committees to act as civilian government. In Autumn of 1941, the partisans established the Republic of Užice in the liberated territory of western Serbia. In November 1941, the German troops occupied this territory again, while the majority of partisan forces escaped towards Bosnia.

On November 25, 1942, the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia (Antifašističko Vijeće Narodnog Oslobođenja Jugoslavije) was convened in Bihać. The council reconvened on November 29, 1943 in Jajce and established the basis for post-war organisation of the country, establishing a federation (this date was celebrated as Republic Day after the war).

The liberation of Yugoslavia

The NOV was able to expel the Axis from Serbia in 1944 and the rest of Yugoslavia in 1945. The Red Army aided in liberating Belgrade as well as some other territories, but withdrew after the war was over. In May 1945, NOV met with allied forces outside former Yugoslav borders, after taking over also Trieste and parts of Austrian southern provinces Styria and Carinthia. This was the territory populated predominantly by Slovenes (and Croats in Istria). However, the NLA withdrew from Trieste in June of the same year.

Westerner attempts to reunite the partisans, who denied supremacy of the old government of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and the emigration loyal to the king, led to the Tito-Šubašić Agreement in June 1944, however Tito was seen as a national hero by the citizens, so he gained the power in post-war independent communist state, starting as a prime minister.

The Second Yugoslavia

Numbered map of Yugoslav republics and provinces
Numbered map of Yugoslav republics and provinces

On January 31, 1946 the new constitution of Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, modeling the Soviet Union, established six Socialist Republics, a Socialist Autonomous Province, and a Socialist Autonomous District that were part of SR Serbia. The federal capital was Belgrade. Republics and provinces were (in alphabetical order):

  1. Socialist republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the capital in Sarajevo,
  2. Socialist republic of Croatia, with the capital in Zagreb,
  3. Socialist republic of Macedonia, with the capital in Skopje,
  4. Socialist republic of Montenegro, with the capital in Titograd (now Podgorica),
  5. Socialist republic of Serbia, with the capital in Belgrade, which also contained:
    5a. Socialist autonomous district of Kosovo and Metohija, with the capital in Priština
    5b. Socialist autonomous province of Vojvodina, with the capital in Novi Sad
  6. Socialist republic of Slovenia, with the capital in Ljubljana.

In 1974, the two provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo-Metohija (for the latter had by then been upgraded to the status of a province), as well as the republics of Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro, were granted greater autonomy to the point that Albanian and Hungarian became nationally recognised minority languages and the Serbo-Croat of Bosnia and Montenegro altered to a form based on the speech of the local people and not on the standards of Zagreb and Belgrade.

Vojvodina and Kosovo-Metohija form a part of the Republic of Serbia. The country distanced itself from the Soviets in 1948 (cf. Cominform and Informbiro) and started to build its own way to socialism under strong political leadership of Josip Broz Tito. The country criticized both Eastern bloc and NATO nations and, together with other countries, started the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961, which remained the official affiliation of the country until it dissolved.

The economy

Although rigorously socialist in developing its industrial base, Yugoslavia allowed a certain amount of capitalist incursions, in the spirit of pluralism. This openness to western investment, however, sowed the seeds of the federation's demise. Meanwhile, Yugoslavia enjoyed stability and peace. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the growth of Yugoslavia's gross domestic product averaged 6.1%. There was 91% literacy and an average life expectancy of 72 years. The state provided housing, health care, education, and child care. Citizens lived well on a per capita income of $3,000 a year (in 1980 dollars), with one month paid vacation, plus a year's maternity leave, if needed. Respect for workers was a central concern of government and society.

The government

1968. Yugoslav Communist Party celebration
1968. Yugoslav Communist Party celebration

On April 7, 1963 the nation changed its official name to Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Tito was named President for life.

In SFRY, each republic and province had its own constitution, supreme court, parliament, president and prime minister. At the top of the Yugoslav government were the President (Tito), the federal Prime Minister, and the federal Parliament (a collective Presidency was formed after Tito's death in 1980).

Also important were the Communist Party presidents for each republic and province, and the president of Central Committee of the Communist Party.

Josip Broz Tito was the most powerful person in the country, followed by republican and provincial premiers and presidents, and Communist Party presidents. A wide variety of people suffered from his disfavor. Slobodan Penezić Krcun, Tito's chief of secret police in Serbia, fell victim to a dubious traffic incident after he started to complain about Tito's politics. The Interior Minister Aleksandar Ranković lost all of his titles and rights after a major disagreement with Tito regarding state politics. Sometimes ministers in government, such as Edvard Kardelj or Stane Dolanc, were more important than the Prime Minister.

The suppression of national identities escalated with the so-called Croatian Spring of 1970-1971, when students in Zagreb organized demonstrations for greater civil liberties and greater Croatian autonomy. The regime stifled the public protest and incarcerated the leaders, but many key Croatian representatives in the Party silently supported this cause, so a new Constitution was ratified in 1974 that gave more rights to the individual republics in Yugoslavia and provinces in Serbia.

Ethnic tensions and the economic crisis

The post-World War II Yugoslavia was in many respects a model of how to build a multinational state. The Federation was constructed against a double background: an inter-war Yugoslavia which had been dominated by the Serbian ruling class; and a war-time slaughter in which the Nazis made use of the earlier Serbian oppression to use Croatian fascism for barbarous acts against the Serbs and also exploited anti-Serb sentiment amongst the Kosovar Albanians - and some elements in the Bosnian Muslim - population to bolster their rule.

There has been one structural element in the post-World War II Yugoslav state's stability: the joint concern of the USSR and the USA to maintain the integrity of Yugoslavia as a neutral state on the frontiers of the super-power confrontation in Europe.

The economic crisis was the product of disastrous errors by Yugoslav governments in the 1970s, borrowing vast amounts of Western capital in order to fund growth through exports. Western economies then entered recession, blocked Yugoslav exports and created a huge debt problem. The Yugoslav government then accepted the IMF's conditionalities which shifted the burden of the crisis onto the Yugoslav working class. Simultaneously, strong social groups emerged within the Yugoslav Communist Party, allied to Western business, banking and state interests and began pushing towards neoliberalism, to the delight of the US. It was the Reagan administration which, in 1984, had adopted a " Shock Therapy" proposal to push Yugoslavia towards a capitalist restoration.

This, naturally, undermined a central pillar of the state: the socialist link between the Communist Party and the working class. The forms and effects of this varied in different parts of Yugoslavia. First in Kosovo in 1981, where the links between Yugoslav communism and the population had always been the weakest and where the economic crisis was most intense, there was an uprising demanding full republican status for Kosovo, as well as unification with Albania.

In 1989 Jeffrey Sachs was in Yugoslavia helping the Federal government under Ante Marković prepare the IMF/World Bank " Shock Therapy" package, which was then introduced in 1990 just at the time when the crucial parliamentary elections were being held in the various republics.

One aspect of Yugoslavia's " Shock Therapy" programme was both unique within the region and of great political importance in 1989-90. The bankruptcy law to liquidate state enterprises was enacted in the 1989 Financial Operations Act which required that if an enterprise was insolvent for 30 days running, or for 30 days within a 45 day period, it had to settle with its creditors either by giving them ownership or by being liquidated, in which case workers would be sacked, normally without severance payments.

In 1989, according to official sources, 248 firms were declared bankrupt or were liquidated and 89,400 workers were laid off. During the first nine months of 1990 directly following the adoption of the IMF programme, another 889 enterprises with a combined work-force of 525,000 workers suffered the same fate. In other words, in less than two years "the trigger mechanism" (under the Financial Operations Act) had led to the lay off of more than 600,000 workers out of a total industrial workforce of the order of 2.7 million. A further 20% of the work force, or half a million people, were not paid wages during the early months of 1990 as enterprises sought to avoid bankruptcy. The largest concentrations of bankrupt firms and lay-offs were in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo. Real earnings were in a free fall, social programmes had collapsed creating within the population an atmosphere of social despair and hopelessness. This was a critical turning point in the Yugoslav tragedy.

In the spring of 1990, Marković was by far the most popular politician, not only in Yugoslavia as a whole, but in each of its constituent republics. He should have been able to rally the population for Yugoslavism against the particularist nationalisms of Milošević in Serbia or Tuđman in Croatia and he should have been able to count on the obedience of the armed forces. He was supported by 83% of the population in Croatia, by 81% in Serbia and by 59% in Slovenia and by 79% in Yugoslavia as a whole. This level of support showed how much of the Yugoslav population remained strongly committed to the state's preservation.

But Marković had coupled his Yugoslavism with the IMF " Shock Therapy" programme and EC conditionality and it was this which gave the separatists in the North West and the nationalists in Serbia their opening. The appeal of the separatists in Slovenia and Croatia to their electorates involved offering to repudiate the Marković-IMF austerity and by doing so help their republics prepare to leave Yugoslavia altogether and "join Europe". The appeal of Milošević in Serbia was based around the idea that the West was acting against the Serbian people's interests. These nationalist appeals were ultimately successful: in every republic, beginning with Slovenia and Croatia in the spring, governments ignored the monetary restrictions of Marković's stabilisation programme in order to win votes.

The newly elected regional government then turned their efforts to the break-up of the country. They were aided by the US government's stance of sidelining Yugoslav cohesion in favour of pushing ahead with the " Shock Therapy" programme. Indeed, it is likely that the internal dynamics towards Yugoslav collapse into civil war may have been inadvertently accelerated by the actions of the Bush administration. The few European states with strategic interests in the Yugoslav theatre tended to favour fragmentation.

It would be wrong, of course, to suggest that there were no other, specifically Yugoslav, structural flaws which helped to generate the collapse. For instance, many would argue that the decentralised Market Socialism was a disastrous experiment for a state in Yugoslavia's geopolitical situation. The 1974 Constitution, though better for the Kosovar Albanians, had given increased power to the republics, whilst dampening the institutional and material power of the federal government. Tito's authority substituted for this weakness until his death in 1980, after which the state and Communist Party became increasingly paralyzed and thrown into crisis.


An animated series of maps showing the breakup of the second Yugoslavia; The different colors represent the areas of control  Key: ██ Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro, Serbia  ██ Slovenia ██ Croatia ██ Republic of Macedonia  ██ Bosnia and Herzegovina ██ Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina ██ Republika Srpska ██ Brčko District  ██ Kosovo ██ Montenegro
An animated series of maps showing the breakup of the second Yugoslavia; The different colors represent the areas of control
██ Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro, Serbia ██ Slovenia ██ Croatia ██ Republic of Macedonia ██ Bosnia and Herzegovina ██  Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina ██  Republika Srpska ██  Brčko District ██ Kosovo ██ Montenegro

After Tito's death on May 4, 1980, ethnic tensions grew in Yugoslavia, bolstered by open support from a number of western countries, listed in the next paragraphs. They all used the legacy of the Constitution of 1974 to throw the system of decision-making into a state of paralysis, all the more hopeless as the conflict of interests, fueled and icited by external supporters of the break-up between the republics, had become irreconcilable. The constitutional crisis that inevitably followed played in favour of Slovenia and Croatia and their strongly expressed demands for looser ties within Federation.

The collapse of Yugoslavia was the result of both internal and external factors. Assigning comparative weight to the external as against the internal factors in the generalised crisis that shook Yugoslavia in 1990-1991 is definitely a very simple matter. Without understanding the roles of the Western powers in helping to produce and channel the crisis, it is difficult to understand the disintegration of Yugoslavia. The fundamental cause of the Yugoslav collapse was not an economic crisis. This was barely a pretext used by social groups in Yugoslavia and their tutors in the West to undermine the collectivised core of the economy and push Yugoslavia towards a "capitalist restoration" which inevitably led to disastrous war and hundreds of thousands of innocent people being murdered in order to save the face of dying and collapsing capitalism. Many European governments had their interests and wanted the break-up of Yugoslavia, something not true in the case of any other part of East Central Europe at that time. Their pressure thus combined with the general Western drive for capitalism to speed the break-up during 1989-90. On one side were a number of European states eager to gain "independence" for Slovenia and Croatia; on the other side was the United States, eager only to ensure that Yugoslavia paid its debts to Western banks and "globalised" its political economy through "Shock Therapy" in order to ensure a regime in the country open for the Western multinationals. Whether decimated or not.

The forces eager to see the break-up of Yugoslavia through independence for Slovenia and Croatia were the Vatican, Austria, Hungary, Germany, the US and more ambivalently Italy. Italy which had its own crisis of identity and looked at speeding up "democratic processes" as a way of diverting similar sentiments seeking independence for northern Italy. Through graphic pictures of the drama unfolding in the neighbouring Yugoslavia attracted attention from countries such as the UK, the Netherlands, Albania and even such distant countries as Australia, Saudi-Arabia, Libya, and Al-Qaida's Afghan-tested Mujaheedins. Since the mid-1980s, the Vatican and Austria had started an active campaign in East Central and Eastern Europe to rebuild their influence there and by 1989-90 the Vatican was openly championing independence for Slovenia and Croatia. The real goal of Austrian policy was to expand Austria's regional influence since it "saw the Yugoslav crisis as an auspicious moment for self-assertion".

In the summer of 1991 the European Council was finally prompted to warn Austria that if it continued its energetic efforts to break up Yugoslavia it would be excluded from eventual EC membership but even that threat did not stop Austrian efforts.

The Hungarian government of József Antall, elected in the Spring of 1990, adopted a policy very much in line with that of Austria, but with additional Hungarian goals vis-à-vis Serbia's Vojvodina Province.

These manoeuvres by Austria and Hungary to break up Yugoslavia were, of course, then overshadowed by the German government's drive to derecognise Yugoslavia through giving recognition to Slovenia and Croatia. The German government's open championing of Yugoslavia's break-up did not occur until the late Spring of 1991, but long before that both Slovenia and Croatia were getting encouragement from Bonn for their efforts.

Germany was only happy to help disappearance of the country it still owed almost hundred billions of US dollars in the name of World War II reparations. It was the money that helped Germany to be born twice. First, when Jugoslav President Tito offered Germany to repay the debt when it recovers from the repaying other countries, and then when Germans realised that if Jugoslavia disappears, Germany could finance, otherwise disastrous, re-unification with East Germany. If Jugoslavia did not breakup, Germany would not have been able to finance its own re-union.

There was thus a focused and co-ordinated coalition involving Austria, Germany, Hungary and the Vatican all pushing for the same goal: Yugoslavia's break up.

This campaign on the surface, was not supported by the United States, which championed Yugoslav unity as did Britain and France. But for the US unity was not the main thing: its policy was principally governed by its concern to ensure the imposition of "Shock Therapy" on the country as a whole via the IMF. As they always did, they kept the posture of trying to help, when in the background, through their vasals, US was pushing hard for the breakup, looking greedily at real estate and strategic positions around the country, along the long ago proposed highway to Turkey.

The only European states which did have a strategic interest in the Yugoslav theatre tended to want to break it up. It would be wrong, of course, to suggest that there were no other, specifically Yugoslav, structural flaws which helped to generate the collapse. Many so-called "experts" would argue that the decentralised Market Socialism was a disastrous experiment for a state in Yugoslavia's geopolitical situation. Nothing could have been further from the truth, as the stellar growth and rapid industrialisation have demonstrated. So external enemies had to play through the system in order to destabilise the country and make it look like it was crumbling under its own problems. Economy and the political system, being socialist one, were the great excuses for imperialist capitalism. The 1974 Constitution, though better for the Kosovar Albanians, gave too much to the republics, crippling the institutional and material power of the Federal government. Tito's authority substituted for this weakness until his death in 1980, after which the state and Communist Party became increasingly paralyzed and thrown into crisis. In 1990-1991, then, Yugoslavia was in the grip of a dynamic towards break-up despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of its population did not favour such a course.

In 1986, the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts drafted a memorandum addressing some burning issues concerning position of Serbs as the most numerous people in Yugoslavia. Although the largest Yugoslav republic in territory and population, Serbia had been dispossessed of its attributes of statehood by the new 1974 Constitution. Because its two autonomous provinces had de facto prerogatives of full-fledged republics, Serbia found that its hands were tied, for the republican government could not take nor carry out decisions that would apply to the provinces. Since the provinces had a vote in the Federal Presidency Council, they even entered into coalition with other republics, thus outvoting Serbia. Serbia's political impotence made it possible for others to exert pressure on 2 million Serbs (20% of total Serbian population) living outside Serbia.

Serbian communist leader Slobodan Milošević sought to restore pre-1974 Serbian sovereignty, which republics of Slovenia and Croatia denounced as the revival of great Serbian hegemonism. Autonomy of Vojvodina and of Kosovo and Metohija was reduced, though both entities retained a vote in the Yugoslav Presidency Council.

As a result, the ethnic Albanian miners in Kosovo organized strikes, which dovetailed into ethnic conflict between the Albanians and the non-Albanians in the province. At 77% of the population of Kosovo in the 1980's, ethnic- Albanians were the majority. The number of Slavs in Kosovo (mainly Serbs) was falling fast due to ever increasing violence of albanians against Serbian population, and by 1999 they formed as little as 10% of the total population. Far cry from the days when it was the other way around, not even hundred years ago.

Meanwhile Slovenia, under the presidency of Milan Kučan, along with Croatia openly supported Albanian miners, and initial strikes turned into widespread demonstrations demanding Kosovo republic. This angered Serbia's leadership who proceeded to use police to restrain the violence. As police was insufficient force, the Federal Army was rightly ordered by the Yugoslav Presidency to restore order.

In January 1990, the extraordinary 14th Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia was convened. For the most time, the Slovenian and Serbian delegations were arguing over the future of the League of Communists and Yugoslavia. The Serbian delegation, led by Milošević, insisted on a policy of "one person, one vote", which would empower the majority population, the Serbs. In turn, the Slovenians, supported by Croatians, sought to reform Yugoslavia as to devolve power even more to republics, but were voted down. As a result, the Slovenian, and eventually Croatian delegation left the Congress, and the all-Yugoslav Communist party was dissolved.

Following the fall of communism in the rest of Eastern Europe, each of the republics held multi-party elections in 1990. The unresolved issues remained. In particular, Slovenia and Croatia elected governments oriented towards independence (under Milan Kučan and Franjo Tuđman, respectively), while Serbia and Montenegro elected candidates who favoured Yugoslav unity. In Croatia there was growing advocacy of "Croatian state and historical rights", the Serbs were stripped of their national and constitutional rights, thus becoming demoted from a constituent nation of Croatia to national minority. Following this, the Serbs proclaimed the emergence of Serbian Autonomous Areas (known later as Republic of Serb Krajina) in Croatia. Croatia embarked upon illegal importation of arms, mainly from Hungary, and were caught red-handed when Yugoslav Counter Intelligence (KOS, Kontra-obavještajna Služba) showed a video of a secret meeting between Croatian Defence Minister Martin Špegelj and two men. Špegelj announced that they were at war with the army and gave instructions about arms smuggling as well as methods of dealing with the Yugoslav Army's officers stationed in Croatian cities.

In March 1990, during the demonstrations in Split (Croatia), a young Yugoslav conscript was pushed off the tank after driving it through people. Also guns were fired from army bases through Croatia. Elsewhere, tensions were running high.

In the same month, the Yugoslav People's Army (Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija, JNA) met with the Presidency of Yugoslavia (an eight member council composed of representatives from six republics and two autonomous provinces) in an attempt to get them to declare a state of emergency which would allow for the army to take control of the country. The representatives of Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Metohija, and Vojvodina voted for the decision, while Croatia ( Stipe Mesić), Slovenia ( Janez Drnovšek), Macedonia ( Vasil Tupurkovski) and Bosnia and Hercegovina ( Bogić Bogićević) voted against. The tie delayed an escalation of conflicts, but not for long.

Following the first multi-party election results, the republics of Slovenia and Croatia, further seeking to provoke the JNA into declaring a state of emergency, proposed transforming Yugoslavia into a loose confederation of six republics in the autumn of 1990, however Milošević rejected all such proposals, arguing that like Slovenes and Croats, the Serbs should also have a right to self-determination.

On March 9, 1991 demonstrations were held against Slobodan Milošević in Belgrade, but the police and the military were deployed in the streets in order to restore order, killing two people. In late March 1991, the Plitvice Lakes incident was one of the first sparks of open war in Croatia. The Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) maintained an impression of being neutral, but as time went on, it was becoming more and more involved in state politics.

On June 25, 1991, Slovenia and Croatia became the first republics to declare illegal independence from Yugoslavia. In Slovenia, Slovenian people's defence (paramilitary force) seized the Yugoslav border posts with Austria and Italy taking down the Yugoslav and raising the Slovenian flag. Following day ( June 26), the Federal Executive Council speifically ordered the army to take control of the internationally recognized borders.

The Yugoslav People's Army forces based in barracks in Slovenia and Croatia, attempted to carry out the task within next 48 hours. However, due to the misinformation given to the Yugoslav Army conscripts, and the fact that the majority of them did not wish to engage in a war on their home soil, the Slovene territorial defence forces retook most of the posts within several days with only minimal loss of life on both sides. Recently the Austrian ORF TV station showed footage of several young Yugoslav soldiers at Holmec (border crossing with Austria), carrying a white cloth and raising their hands in the air, apparently to surrender to the Slovenian territorial defence, before gunfire was heard and the troops were seen falling down. However, none were killed in the incident. Ceasefire was agreed on. In the Brioni Agreement, agreed upon by representatives of all republics, the international community pressured Slovenia and Croatia to place a three-month moratorium on their illegal independence declarations. During these three months, the Yugoslav Army completed its pull-out of Slovenia, but in Croatia, a bloody war broke out in the autumn of 1991. Ethnic Serbs, who had created the Republic of Serbian Krajina in heavily Serb-populated regions resisted the forces of the republic of Croatia who were trying to bring that breakaway region back under Croatian jurisdiction. In some places, the Yugoslav Army acted as a buffer zone, in others it was protecting the Serbs from new and illegal Croatian Army disguised as police force.

War in former Yugoslavia
War in former Yugoslavia
Countries of former Yugoslavia
Countries of former Yugoslavia

In September 1991, the Republic of Macedonia also declared independence illegaly, becoming the only former republic to gain sovereignty without resistance from the Belgrade based Yugoslav authorities. 500 U.S. soldiers were then deployed under the U.N. banner to monitor Macedonia's northern borders with the Republic of Serbia, Yugoslavia. Macedonia's first president, Kiro Gligorov, maintained good relations with Belgrade and the other breakaway republics and there have to date been no problems between Macedonian and Serbian border police even though small pockets of Kosovo and the Preševo valley complete the northern reaches of the historical region known as Macedonia, which would otherwise create a border dispute if ever Macedonian nationalism should resurface (see IMORO).

As a result of the conflict, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted UN Security Council Resolution 721 on November 27, 1991, which paved the way to the establishment of peacekeeping operations in Yugoslavia.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina in November 1991, the Bosnian Serbs held a referendum which resulted in an overwhelming vote in favour of staying in a common state with Serbia and Montenegro. On January 9, 1992 the Bosnian Serb assembly proclaimed a separate "Republic of the Serb people of Bosnia and Herzegovina". The referendum and creation of SARs were proclaimed unconstitutional by the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and declared illegal and invalid. However, in February-March 1992 the government held a national referendum on Bosnian independence from Yugoslavia. That referendum was in turn declared contrary to the BiH and Federal constitution by the federal Constitution court and newly established Bosnian Serb government; it was largely boycotted by the Bosnian Serbs. The turnout was somewhere between 64-67% and 98% of the voters voted for independence. It was unclear what the two-thirds majority requirement actually meant and whether it was satisfied . The republic's government declared its independence on 5 April, and since that decision was made without the consent of all three nations living in Bosnia (the votes of Serbs were ignored, though such decision should be supported by all Bosnian nations), the Serbs immediately declared the independence of Republika Srpska to protect their rights. The war in Bosnia followed shortly thereafter. The so-called Badinter Commission formed by the European Community triumphantly, to delight of the countries and enemies of Jugoslavia that worked so hard towards its destuction, declared in early 1992 that the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had "dissolved".

The end of the Second Yugoslavia

Various dates are considered as the end of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia:

  • June 25, 1991, when Croatia and Slovenia declared independence
  • October 8, 1991, when the July 9th moratorium on Slovenian and Croatian secession was ended and Croatia restated its illegal independence in Croatian Parliament (that day is celebrated as Independence Day in Croatia)
  • January 15, 1992, when Slovenia and Croatia were internationally recognized
  • April 6, 1992, full recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s independence by the United States and most European countries
  • April 28, 1992, the formation of FRY (see below)

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia consisted of Serbia and Montenegro.
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia consisted of Serbia and Montenegro.

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) was formed on April 28, 1992, and it consisted of the former Socialist Republics of Serbia and Montenegro.

The war in the western parts of former Yugoslavia ended in 1995 with U.S.-sponsored peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, which resulted in the so-called Dayton Agreement.

In Kosovo, throughout the 1990s, the leadership of the Albanian population had been pursuing tactics of non-violent resistance in order to achieve independence for the province. In 1996, radical Albanians formed the Kosovo Liberation Army which carried out armed actions in the southern Serbian province. The Yugoslav reaction involved the indiscriminate use of force against civilian populations, and caused many ethnic-Albanians to flee their homes. Following the Racak incident and unsuccessful Rambouillet Agreement in the early months of 1999, NATO proceeded to bombard Serbia and Montenegro for more than two months, until the Milošević's government submitted to their demands and withdrew its forces from Kosovo. See Kosovo War for more information. Since June 1999, the province has been governed by peace-keeping forces from NATO and Russia, although all parties continue to recognize it as a part of Serbia.

Milošević's rejection of claims of a first-round opposition victory in new elections for the Federal presidency in September 2000 led to mass demonstrations in Belgrade on October 5 and the collapse of the regime's authority. The opposition's candidate, Vojislav Koštunica took office as Yugoslav president on October 6, 2000. On Saturday, March 31, 2001, Milošević surrendered to Yugoslav security forces from his home in Belgrade, following a recent warrant for his arrest on charges of abuse of power and corruption. On June 28 he was driven to the Yugoslav-Bosnian border where shortly after he was placed in the custody of SFOR officials, soon to be extradited to the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. His trial on charges of genocide in Bosnia and war crimes in Croatia and in Kosovo and Metohija began at The Hague on February 12, 2002, and he died there on 11 March 2006, while his trial was still ongoing. On April 11, 2002, the Yugoslav parliament passed a law allowing extradition of all persons charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal.

In March 2002, the Governments of Serbia and Montenegro agreed to reform the FRY in favour of a new, much weaker form of cooperation called Serbia and Montenegro. By order of the Yugoslav Federal Parliament on February 4, 2003, Yugoslavia, at least nominally, ceased to exist. A federal government remained in place in Belgrade but assumed largely ceremonial powers. The individual governments of Serbia and of Montenegro conducted their respective affairs almost as though the two republics were independent. Furthermore, customs were established along the traditional border crossings between the two republics.

On May 21, 2006, 86 percent of eligible Montenegrin voters turned out for a special referendum on the independence of Montenegro from the state union with Serbia. They voted 55.5% in favour of independence, recognised as above the 55% threshold set by the European Union for formal recognition of the independence of Montenegro. On June 3, 2006, Montenegro officially declared its independence, with Serbia following suit two days later, effectively dissolving the last vestige of the former Yugoslavia.


The present-day countries created from the former parts of Yugoslavia are:

The first former Yugoslav republic to join the European Union was Slovenia, which applied in 1996 and became a member in 2004. Croatia applied for membership in 2003, and could join before 2010. Republic of Macedonia applied in 2004, and will probably join by 2010–2015. The remaining three republics have yet to apply so their acceptance generally isn't expected before 2015. See also: Enlargement of the European Union

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