The Breakup of Former Yugoslavia
With the breakup of the Soviet Union and the death of Tito, a power struggle began for dominance among the various ethnic groups in Yugoslavia.
In 1991, Slobodan Miloševik began a nationalistic campaign to unite all the ethnic Serbs living in the various parts of Yugoslavia into a Greater Serbia. Miloševik sent the Yugoslav military to Kosovo to take control from the majority Albanian population and secure the region for Greater Serbia. Fearing war, Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia declared independence in 1991.
After a brief but bitter war between Serbia and Croatia, the UN stepped in to stop the conflict. The Serbs had used a policy of ethnic cleansing. Their military troops would enter a town and claim it as a Serb-only location. The Croats and any other people living there were forced to leave. After the UN stopped Miloševik in Croatia, he turned to the Serb areas of Bosnia to expand Greater Serbia. Bosnia immediately declared independence and was recognized by the UN in 1992.
The region of Bosnia included people of Serb, Croat, and Bosnian ethnic backgrounds. A bitter war broke out among the groups. In 1995, the warring groups signed a peace agreement known as the Dayton Accord. The agreement accepted Bosnia’s borders and supported the creation of a democratic unity government that included the multiethnic groups. The country of Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided into three parts: Serb, Croat, and Bosnian.
In June of 2006, the Serb region of Montenegro declared itself independent. Montenegro uses the euro as its currency and has applied for WTO membership.
The War for Kosovo
The Albanian Muslims made up 90 percent of the Kosovo population by 1989. They did not want to live under Serb control. Serbia claimed that Kosovo as the heart of the Serb Orthodox Church and the cradle of the medieval Serbian Empire.
The main opposition to the Serb power structure in Kosovo was the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which wanted an independent Kosovo. The civil war in Kosovo between Serbs and Albanian Muslims devastated the region and created thousands of refugees. In March of 1999, NATO forced Miloševik to end the violence in Kosovo.
NATO forces continue to be stationed in Kosovo to keep the peace and work toward restoring order. After much negotiation between the UN and regional entities, the Kosovo Assembly declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. Serb officials refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence.
Conclusion of Former Yugoslavia
Former Yugoslavia represents an example of how divisive forces can lead to nationalism and eventually to war. The civil wars within former Yugoslavia have cost thousands of lives and destroyed an infrastructure that had taken decades to rebuild.