Course Module: 
Reporting Conflict

The rise and fall of Yugoslavia

From the fall of the Empires to the Dismantling of Yugoslavia

The rule of the Empires

Rise of nationalism and World War I

The birth of Yugoslavia 

World War II and Civil Wars 

Tito during World War II

The Second Yugoslavia: The Tito Years

Tito-Stalin relationship! Tito’s model




The 1974 Constitution 

Tito’s legacy

The Serb question


The Third Yugoslavia

Slobodan Milosevic

Independence of Slovenia

Collapse of Communism Independence of Croatia and Serbia

The War

Slovenia fights

Croatia burns

Bosnia divides

Kosovo flees


International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

NATO’s Legitimacy

Independence of Montenegro

Independence of Kosovo



Population Groups in the Balkans

Religious Distribution in the Balkans

The rule of the Empires

The Ottoman Turks invaded the region at the end of the fourteenth century, and Turkish rule lasted for some 500 years.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire loosened the grip of the Turks at the end of the seventeenth century.

After 1878, Serbia, Montenegro and Romania became independent, and the principality of Bulgaria was created. Slovenia and Croatia stayed under the rule of Austria-Hungary, which also took control of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Rise of nationalism and World War I

By the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire was beginning to crumble. Sensing opportunity, a wave of nationalism swept through the Balkans.

War broke out in 1912, and an alliance of Montenegrin, Serb, Bulgarian and Greek troops drove the Turks out of Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania. The Serbs occupied all of Kosovo as well as Macedonia.

In 1914 Austria-Hungary, which governed Bosnia-Herzegovina at the time, sent the Emperor's heir Franz Ferdinand to quell the unrest but he was shot in Sarajevo by a Serb nationalist, triggering World War I.

The birth of Yugoslavia

After Austria-Hungary was defeated in the first world war, the Versailles peace treaty defined new state boundaries in the Balkans.

The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes plus Dalmatia was notable for the efforts of the Serbs to establish a centralized Serb state and by the vigorous resistance of the Croats and Slovenes. The Kingdom was composed of 39 per cent Serbs, 24 per cent Croats, 8.5 per cent Slovenes. The rest was an amalgam of Germans, Magyars, Albanians, Macedonians and Bosnian Muslims.

Alexander I proclaimed a dictatorship, banned all ethnically based political parties and changed the name of the state to Yugoslavia (land of Southern Slavs) in an effort to wipe out historic divisions.

Second World War and Civil Wars

German troops invaded the country on 17 April 1941. Croat fascists welcomed the Germans and were rewarded with a nominally independent puppet state which also incorporated Bosnia. The rest of the country was divided among Germany, Hungary, Italy and Bulgaria. Most of Serbia was occupied by Germany.

During the atrocious years of occupation, three major factions emerged within Yugoslavia: the Chetniks, the Partisans, and the Ustasha.

  • The Chetniks, led by the chief of the royal army and resistance leader Milhailovic, espoused Serb nationalism to defend the monarchy against the Germans and Italians.

  • The Partisans, multi-ethnic (but predominantly Serb) fought against the Axis forces. Their goal was to create an independent Socialist state on the territory of Yugoslavia.

  • Finally, the Croatian Ustasha regime ruled the so-called Independent state of Croatia.

    The Ustasha patterned its policies after Nazi Germany, cooperating on the “Final Solution” against Jews and Gypsies but also extending the “cleansing” against Serbs.

A simplified picture of the conflict in Yugoslavia during the Second World War had Serbs (under Milhailovic or Tito) on the Allied side and Croats on the German side. The reality is that the Second World War in Yugoslavia was several civil wars that had little to do with the world war raging outside the country. All groups fought the Serbs, though not in unison, and all sides committed atrocities.

By the end of World War II, over a million Yugoslavs were dead. More than half of the victims lost their lives during the civil wars.

Tito during World War two

Tito was born Josip Broz, in 1892 in the region between Croatia and Slovenia. Drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army, he was captured by the Russians.

Released after the Revolution, Broz became a member of the Bolshevik party and returned home to the newly created Yugoslavia. Shortly after his release from a prison term for political activity, the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Yugoslavia was liquidated by Stalin and Tito was appointed General Secretary.

When the Germans invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, Tito followed Stalin’s orders to fight the Germans in order to keep them away from Eastern front. Party membership was small and Stalin believed the party to be unpopular, so the Communist party, which led resistance forces, aimed at invisibility.

Tito’s approach to the Popular Front is at the origins of what after the war became the “Second Yugoslavia”. While the Chetniks embraced the idea of a larger Serbian state and the Ustasha kept performing acts of violence against non-Croats, Tito’s Front was the only faction offering a resistance movement respectful of national differences and working toward a federal system. Although Tito accepted all recruits the Front brought in, every member underwent Communist indoctrination. Looting and acts of brutality were not tolerated amongst the Front, and his command and discipline earned the Partisans respect and recruits.

As soon as the Partisans liberated territory, they began constructing their Communist state. Communist rule was brutal. Members of the pre-war élite chose to flee before the Communist advance. Large numbers of those who failed to make it to Austria or Italy were executed -- as well as many who made it, but who were handed over by the British to the Soviets.

The Second Yugoslavia: The Tito Years

Though nominally a federation, Yugoslavia almost to the end had a central non- state source of power: the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY).

The Serb question was also important. Since experience had shown that the Serbs as the most numerous ethnic group tended to dominate the political agenda, Tito restricted their power. Autonomous Hungarian and Albanian provinces were created on Serbian soil, namely Vojvodina and Kosovo.

Tito-Stalin relationship

Unlike the other new Communist states in East-Central Europe, Yugoslavia liberated itself from Axis forces with limited support from the Red Army. Tito initially tried to implement Stalinist measures such as nationalising industry and collectivising agriculture, but this rapidly pushed Yugoslavia to the edge of starvation. In 1948, motivated by the desire to create a strong independent economy, Tito modeled his own economic plan independently from Moscow.

This resulted in a bitter exchange of letters with Stalin.

The rift with the Soviet Union brought Tito international recognition, but also triggered a period of instability in which Moscow got rid of "Titoists'" throughout the Eastern bloc and suspected pro-Soviet enemies of the CPY were incarcerated in a top secret prison on the Croatian island of Goli Otok.

Stalin attempted to assassinate Tito on several occasions.

Tito’s model

Tito benefited from Western support via the Marshall Plan and by 1960, aid from the West amounted to $2 billion.

In 1950, Tito had partly liberalised the planned economy. But by 1972, these reforms had helped to break the system into uncoordinated regional blocs. They also increased unemployment and inequality, helped spark ethnic tensions, and led to a mass emigration of Yugoslavs, who became “guest workers” in Western countries.

The big winners in Tito’s Yugoslavia were the country’s smaller and more backward peoples: the Macedonians, Muslim Slavs, and to a lesser extent Hungarians and Albanians, who were shielded from the aggressive potential of Croat and, in particular, Serb nationalisms.


During the first twenty years of communist rule, Tito made little attempt to integrate Albanians into Yugoslav society. Order in Kosovo was left to the security apparatus and the secret police, both dominated by Serbs. Albanians were brutalised and deprived of rights which Yugoslavia’s other peoples took for granted. For example, before 1966, the only education that Albanians were entitled to in their mother tongue was primary schooling.

In 1968, Albanian resentment at poor living conditions motivated street demonstrations and calls for Kosovo to become a republic.

Instead of returning to repression, Tito decided to emancipate Albanians to try to win them over to Yugoslavia and Titoism. Kosovo’s status was raised to that of autonomous province alongside Vojvodina, acquiring all the trappings of autonomy, though not the title, of a republic. Albanian became an official language alongside Serbo-Croat -- so in practice Kosovo’s main language. Federal funds began to flow into Kosovo and Albanians were invited to enter the communist party, the state administration and even the police force.

Yugoslavia’s Hungarians, meanwhile, had already been won over in the 1950s, a straightforward task, since traditionally the relations between the many nationalities of Vojvodina were good.


An upsurge of Croat nationalism in the late 1960s and 1970s began as a cultural movement. Croatia’s leaders harnessed the movements to back their own economic demands. Soon the movement began to take on an anti-Serb character and riots occurred. Tito went ahead to purge Croatian society during what is known as the “Croatian Spring”.

The 1974 Constitution

In an attempt to defuse the nationalists’ appeal throughout the country, Tito devolved yet more authority. The 1974 Constitution turned the Yugoslav federation into a Confederation, devolving virtually all powers to the republics except for the armed forces, the Yugoslav’s People’s Army (YPA), the pride of Tito.

Tito’s legacy

In the 1960s and early 1970s, more than a million Yugoslavs moved abroad to live and work. Money sent home boosted Yugoslavia’s economy. However, many were forced to return after a huge hike in oil prices in 1973 devastated Yugoslavia’s balance of trade. Yugoslavia was forced to borrow heavily from Western banks. The country’s foreign debt rocketed from $3.5 billion in 1973 to $20.5 billion in 1981.

By the time of Tito’s death in 1980, Yugoslavia had to begin repaying the national debt. Unfortunately this coincided with recession in Western Europe. Living standards began to slide as the government cut imports. Inflation took off. Between 1982 and 1989, the standard of living fell nearly 40 per cent, and in December 1989 inflation peaked at more than 2,000 per cent.

A political scandal about the involvement of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s League of Communists in the downfall of a Bosnian food processing company that had benefited from “political loans” ended the credibility of the communists for many Yugoslavs.

In Tito’s absence, Yugoslavia’s federal centre lacked sufficient authority to assert control over the economy of the whole country. The country was bankrupt, both materially and spiritually.

The Serb question

In the first Yugoslavia, Serbs had been privileged and Croats had formed the principal opposition to the state. Other peoples and other parts of the country had also resented the new state and many had had greater grievances than the Croats, but had been too subjugated to be able to express their opposition.

In the second Yugoslavia, no nation was privileged, and Serb and Croat nationalisms were equally frustrated.

The decisive event that alienated Serb nationalists from Tito’s Yugoslavia was his decision to emancipate Kosovo’s Albanians. In their view, Kosovo was a sacred land and Tito could not be forgiven for allowing an alien culture to take root in it.

Both devolution and the emancipation of non-Slav nations from Yugoslavia went against Serbia’s aim of uniting all Serbs living in the Balkans.

The Serb case against Tito’s Yugoslavia was set out in a memorandum drafted in 1985 by the Serbian Academy of Arts and Science. The document alleged that Croats and Slovenes had deliberately constructed a federal nation in order to economically exploit and weaken the Serbs, dividing them between different federal units and carving autonomous provinces in their territory.

Such xenophobic allegations struck a chord among many Serbs at a time of declining living standards and severely diminished expectations.


The story about how the Serbian Empire lost the battle against the Turks in 1389 in Kosovo preserved Serb national consciousness under Ottoman rule. The Serbian

Orthodox Patriarchate had been founded in Kosovo, which is seen as the home of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Most Albanians are Muslim and even under Ottoman rule had the reputation of being backward. The birth rate was one of the highest in Europe and education standards were low. Kosovo was a rural province and the least developed in Yugoslavia. Serbs felt outnumbered. Between 1961 and 1981, Serbs declined from 18.4 per cent to 13.2 per cent of the population of Kosovo. At the same time, the Albanian population doubled.

Many Serbs left Kosovo. The cause is controversial. Public opinion, triggered by the Serb media, believed the reasons for the exodus to be fear of violence (especially rape) and harassment of Kosovo’s Serbs.

In 1981, ethnic Albanian students took to the streets, demanding independence from Serbia. The federal authorities labelled the movement counter-revolutionary and protests were crushed by the Yugoslav police forces. For the first time, the central state had taken sides between two Yugoslav nations, enabling Serb nationalists to intervene with the YPA in Kosovo.

The Third Yugoslavia

Slobodan Milosevic

Slobodan Milosevic was a Party bureaucrat whose political career was only just beginning when Tito died. Both his parents were Serbs and communist activists; both committed suicide ten years apart.

The key to Milosevic’s career was Ivan Stambolic, the rising star of Serbian politics who became Prime Minister when Tito died. Stambolic acted as mentor to the young Milosevic. So when Stambolic became Prime Minister, his closest confidant succeeded him as head of the Belgrade League of Communists. Yet it was now Milosevic who was the most powerful man in the country -- it was him who made new appointments to the League.

Stambolic turned to Milosevic for help when he sent him to the headquarters of the Serbs in Kosovo to hear their grievances. However, instead of attempting to reconcile them with their Albanian neighbours, Milosevic hijacked the moment. In a television speech, Milosevic endorsed the allegations of genocide against the Serb nation and appealed to Serb’s warrior traditions, promising them: “Nobody will ever beat you again”.

In a series of speeches, Milosevic’s message became clear: that Serbs had to fight for their rights as a nation and that he, the head of Serbia’s League of Communists, could best prosecute that struggle on their behalf.

A Serb nationalist ideology was incompatible with the multinational state Stambolic was clinging to.

In order to fight his former mentor, Milosevic used a powerful tool of the communist ideological apparatus: the media. The Serb media and Serb journalists bear huge responsibility for the resurgence of national hatred in Yugoslavia in the 1980s. In Yugoslavia, the media had always been a political tool; its role was to bring the peoples of Yugoslavia together under Tito’s message of “brotherhood and unity”. Since there were few alternative sources of information, the media had enormous impact on public opinion.

The Serb media broadcast carefully organized rallies to which more than 100,000 people came to hear how Serbs were facing genocide, and that they had to fight for their nation. Virtually the entire press was under Milosevic’s control, within the Politika publishing house. Between 1987 and 1989, the media offensive was focused against Albanians.

In December 1987, Stambolic resigned as President of Serbia. Milosevic replaced him with a trusted ally and set his sights on Vojvodina, Kosovo and Montenegro.

In 1988, the rallies spread to Vojvodina and then to Montenegro. In the absence of federal support, the governments of the two provinces were forced to resign in 1988 and 1989. Both were replaced by Milosevic supporters, who proceeded to carry out a purge of society, the Party and the media.

While Milosevic was dismantling Tito’s Yugoslavia, the federal authorities were not equipped to deal with so determined assault on its territory. Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo were bankrupt; the leadership in Bosnia-Herzegovina had lost its legitimacy due to corruption scandals; Croatia was governed by the mediocracy Tito installed after the Croatian Spring.

In 1988, the Albanian leadership was replaced by Milosevic appointees. The dismissals provoked widespread demonstrations among the province’s Albanians. In March 1989, Kosovo’s assembly, ringed by tanks, was coerced into accepting a new constitution returning Kosovo to Serbia.

Independence of Slovenia

The first form of credible opposition to Milosevic came from Slovenia, where an alliance of opposition groups pressured a reluctant Slovene leadership to challenge Milosevic.

In 1989, Slovenia’s parliament passed amendments to its constitution which cancelled the communist party’s monopoly of political power. This event triggered the end of the second Yugoslavia.

Collapse of Communism

The Serb media reacted immediately by shifting the hate from Albanians to Slovenians. At the same time, Milosevic attempted to pressurise the republic into submission via an economic boycott.

During 1990, three blueprints for Yugoslavia’s future were on the table: Serbia insisted upon a re-centralised federation; Slovenia proposed that Yugoslavia become a loose confederation; and federal Prime Minister Markovic hoped to maintain a Yugoslav entity.

Markovic tried to reconcile both republics but without success, since centralisation had become synonymous with Serb domination.

The communists were defeated at the polls in Slovenia in 1991 -- though Kucan managed to hang on to power. The outcome was a comfortable cohabitation between former Communists and the former opposition. The Communists managed to stay in power in Croatia and in May 1990, the YPA disarmed territorial defence forces in Croatia and Slovenia.

Independence of Croatia and Serbia

By autumn 1990, Croatia was locked into violence. The first showdown took place in the town of Prakrac, on 2 March. Armed Croats and Serbs faced each other across the town. It was the culmination of several weeks’ struggle over control of the police station and neither side gave way. Though shots were fired, both militias backed down that day without casualties. The Yugoslav media reported that six Serbs had been killed.

The first people to die in ethnic violence in Croatia were a Croat policeman and a Serb rebel, both killed on 31 March as the militia clashed with Croat police over control of the Plitvice national park.

Rebel Serbs established new krajinas in Bosnia-Herzegovina, refusing to recognize Sarajevo’s authority. On 2 May, twelve Croat policemen were killed, some of them brutally mutilated. The first atrocity was carried out in Borovo Selo, a Serb village outside Vukovar, by Seselj’s Cetniks. That night, YPA units were deployed to separate the units.

The “international community” had played no direct role in the Yugoslav crisis and felt little obligation to resolve the internal problems of another country. When the

Cold War ended, Yugoslavia lost its strategic position between East and West. Yugoslavs looked abroad, particularly to the European Community, for help in the transition from communism. However, one of the requirements for assistance was that Yugoslavia remain a unitary state.

The War

Slovenia fights

YPA tanks went on the move in Slovenia on 27 June 1991. They did so on military, not civilian orders. In the absence of a President, the military had taken it upon itself to make policy, convinced that the international community would sanction intervention.

As YPA troops attempted to seize control over Slovenian border posts, Slovene forces engaged them in combat.

After two days of fighting, EC foreign ministers patched together a cease-fire. In total, eight Slovene and thirty-nine YPA troops died in the conflict.

The agreement stopped all hostilities, but also included a three-month moratorium on independence in both Slovenia and Croatia. Meanwhile, the situation in Croatia was deteriorating.

Croatia burns

After the first atrocity (Borovo Selo) on 2 May, Tudjman went on television to warn that war had begun.

Since Yugoslavia’s complexity didn’t translate easily into journalism, the developing conflict was largely neglected by the international media. The Serb media benefited from a sophisticated public relations apparatus built up under Tito. It portrayed the conflict as fundamentally a question of Serb rights in an independent Croat state, and based its argument on the Ustasha’s track record.

What undermined the Serb cause was the way it was prosecuted. The atrocities of Serb irregulars and the YPA cost them international sympathy. Croat fighters were keen to publicise these actions and allowed foreign journalists to roam freely around their positions. Serb fighters, on the other hand, tended not to help the international media.

The principal instigators of violence in Croatia belonged to Serb extremist organisations such as the Cetniks. Those fanatical groups fed off the discontent of young males and prospered in an inverse proportion to the Yugoslav economy.

Recruits were generally unemployed, with little education and even bleaker prospects. They were indoctrinated with hatred for non-Serbs, obsessed with the notion that Serbs were perennial victims and appeared to believe that when committing atrocities they were merely righting historical wrongs.

In many parts of Croatia, Serbs and Croats had managed to remain on good terms despite the conflict. However, extremists were determined to shatter every bond left between the communities. The mutilated corpses of Croat policemen massacred in Borovo Selo represented not an isolated incident but the first of a series of premeditated acts of “ethnic cleansing” committed by Serb irregulars in the summer of 1991.

Fanatics were by no means confined to the Serb side. Croat extremists were, again, essentially outsiders who did not belong to the established communities which had lived alongside Serbs for centuries.

Serb forces relied on superior firepower to bombard Croat towns and villages into submission rather than risk infantry assaults. The result was great devastation with comparatively few casualties, since the civilians remained underground. The final assault was left to irregulars whose brutal conduct served as warning to other non- Serbs. Battles such as those for Vukovar and Dubrovnik became symbols of Croat suffering.

The European Community appeared on the verge of recognizing Croatia. As a result, Milosevic decided it was time to deal and called upon the United Nations to prepare a peace treaty. The UN agreement was signed in Sarajevo on 2 January. It envisaged deployment of 14,000 peacekeepers and the demilitarisation of contested regions. On 15 January, Croatia declared its independence.

Bosnia divides

In addition to Slovenia and Croatia, both Macedonia and Bosnia applied for international recognition before the European Community. Due to the complex situation in Bosnia, the commission decided that a referendum should be carried out to assess public opinion.

Bosnia-Herzegovina was far more ethnically mixed than the rest of Yugoslavia. Dividing it into ethnic territories would inevitably be messy and require massive population transfers.

In October 1991, the EC Conference on Yugoslavia asked Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia whether they wanted to be independent states.

All the minor parties except for the Serb SDS opted for independence.

A month later, an exclusively Serb referendum created an independent Serb republic within Bosnia-Herzegovina composed of six krajinas. However, the six entities were separated from one another by other territories populated by Croats and Muslims and contained large numbers of non-Serbs.

As in Croatia, the principal instigators of violence belonged to Serb extremist organizations, especially the Arkanovci. War erupted on 2 April 1992 as they raided a town on the Serbian border, claiming they were preventing a massacre of Serbs but murdering several dozen Muslims in the process. Three days later Serb gunmen fired at anti-war demonstrators in Sarajevo.

The next day, the EC and the USA recognised Bosnia-Herzegovina as an independent state while the YPA and Serb forces laid waste the new country.

However a 1991 UN embargo in place covering arms sales to all of Yugoslavia. Thus the Bosnian Serbs were awarded permanent military superiority and Bosnia- Herzegovina Croats and Muslims found themselves at the mercy of bands of militant Serbs. As in Croatia, atrocities were carried out by Serb irregulars all over the country.

Meanwhile, relations between Muslims and Croats within Bosnia-Herzegovina were complex. The informal Croat-Muslim alliance, created at the early stages of conflict against Serbian forces, was hampered by Croat resentment at the way the Bosnian government had refused to acknowledge Serb aggression in Croatia.

As central authority disintegrated, the war degenerated further into several mini- wars. In parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina the Croat-Muslim alliance remained intact, while elsewhere Croats fought with Serbs against the Muslims.

Serb forces surrounded Sarajevo and bombarded the city with its civilian population and a poorly equipped Bosnian military force in the longest siege of a European city since the second world war.

The international community turned a blind eye to the ethnic cleansing, despite compelling press reports. However after images of Omarska, the principal Serb detention camp, were broadcast, international pressure forced the Serb leaders to end hostilities, place heavy weapons under UN supervision and allow free passage of humanitarian relief. The UN Security Council eventually imposed sanctions against rump Yugoslavia on 30 May 1992. The few diplomatic breakthroughs were all achieved by threats of massive force against the Serbs. Milosevic withdrew the YPA from Bosnia-Herzegovina but left all its equipment with the Bosnian Serb army, which continued to pursue identical tactics.

Finally, on 28 February 1994, the international community took its first direct military action against Serb forces when US jets under NATO command shot down four

warplanes which breached a no-fly zone. NATO jets then bombed Serb military targets throughout Bosnia to eliminate threats to UN safe zones.

This action was the result of the widely media-covered Sarajevo market massacre in which sixty-eight people were killed -- as well as the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian men and boys in Srebrenica, a region under the protection of UN troops.

The one genuine diplomatic breakthrough of the entire war was the agreement between Croats and Bosnians, brokered in secret by the US diplomats in Zagreb on 25 March 1994.

Instead of attempting to divide territory between Croats and Muslims, US diplomats worked to unite the peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia within a single state and promised financial aid for post-war reconstruction.

Accordingly, in December 1995, The Dayton peace accord set up a confederation between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Kosovo flees

During the wars with Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, the strategy favored by Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the principal Albanian party in Kosovo, was of passive resistance towards Serb domination. However, a terrorist movement, the “Kosovo Liberation Army” (KLA), started carrying out attacks on Serb police forces and civilians. Serb police forces fought back, starting a full-blown civil war.

After several attempts to mediate between the KLA and Serb forces, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan publicly blamed Milosevic for the violence and revealed that NATO had reviewed a range of options.

An agreement was signed and two supporting peace operations resulted: namely, air verification over Kosovo, and a force to protect the Kosovo that mission.

Yugoslav forces continued a campaign of repression against Kosovo. To avert a humanitarian catastrophe, NATO threatened air strikes.

On 18 March 1999, international mediators attempted to negotiate an agreement for peace and self-government in Kosovo known as the Rambouillet Accords, which included a NATO force to maintain order in Kosovo. Yugoslav negotiators refused to sign. NATO forces started air strikes in Yugoslavia, with the intention of stopping the ethnic cleansing and allowing Kosovar Albanian refugees to return home.

Western expectations for a brief bombing campaign and rapid capitulation by Milosevic were met with defiance from Belgrade. The regime severed diplomatic

relations with the Western powers and accelerated its ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians.

After 11 weeks of NATO bombing, Milosevic was forced to withdraw his troops and police. Some 750,000 Albanian refugees came home and about 100,000 Serbs -- roughly half the province's Serb population -- fled. The UN was put in charge, pending agreement on whether Kosovo should become independent or revert to Serb rule.

By March 1999, a combination of fighting and the targeting of civilians in Kosovo had left an estimated 1,500-2,000 civilians and combatants dead.


International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Milosevic became the first serving head of state to be indicted for crimes against humanity, by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The Tribunal, created by the UN in 1993, has jurisdiction over crime committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991. Milosevic died in 2006 in his cell in The Hague.

Legitimacy of NATO’s bombing campaign

The legitimacy of NATO’s bombing campaign in Kosovo has been the subject of much debate. NATO did not have the backing of the UN’s Security Council, because the war was opposed by permanent members with ties to Yugoslavia, in particular Russia, who had threatened to veto any resolution authorising force. NATO argued that their defiance of the Security Council was justified, based on the claims of an "international humanitarian emergency".

Many on the left of Western politics saw the NATO campaign as U.S. imperialism. Critics on the right considered it irrelevant to their countries' national security interests.

Independence of Montenegro

In March 2002, the Governments of Serbia and Montenegro agreed to reform Yugoslavia in favor of a new, weaker entity called Serbia and Montenegro. On 21 May, 2006, a majority of Montenegrins voted in favor of independence from Serbia. Days later, Montenegro declared its independence, with Serbia following suit two days later, effectively dissolving one of the last vestiges of the former Yugoslavia.

Independence of Kosovo

After 9 years under a transitional UN administration and NATO-led peacekeeping force, Kosovo declared independence on 17 February 2008. However, since 1999, Serb-inhabited areas of northern Kosovo have remained largely independent from the Albanian-dominated government in Pristina.

Slobodan Milosevic

In 2000, opposition supporters forced Milosevic to flee and six months later the former president was arrested. Milosevic's trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity got under way in early 2002 at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. He died in March 2006 during the court case.

Radovan Karadzic

The former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague. He is accused of genocide and war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. He has denied the charges. Beginning his own defence in 2012, he sought to cast himself as a "mild man" who should be "rewarded" for having tried to avoid war.

More on


Bennett, C. (1995), Yugoslavia's bloody collapse: causes, course and consequences, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers
Hudson, K. (2003), Breaking the South Slav dream: the rise and fall of Yugoslavia, Pluto Press
Lampe, J. (2000), Yugoslavia as history: twice there was a country, Cambridge University Press
Little A. et al. (1995), The death of Yugoslavia, Penguin Books


I. Population Groups in the Balkans


II. Religious Distribution in the Balkans
The region's principal religions are Christianity (Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic) and Islam. A variety of different traditions of each faith are practiced, with each of the Eastern Orthodox countries having its own national church.

Eastern Orthodoxy is the principal religion in the following countries:

! ! Bulgaria; Greece; Macedonia; Montenegro; Romania; Serbia

! !

Roman Catholicism is the principal religion in the following countries:

  • !!  Croatia (87.83% Catholics (3 897 332); according to 2001 census official data)

  • !!  Slovenia (57.80% Catholics (1 135 626); according to 2002 census official data)

    Islam is the principal religion in the following countries:

    • !!  Kosovo (absolute majority)

    • !!  Albania (relative majority)

    • !!  Bosnia and Herzegovina (relative/partial majority)

    • !!  Turkey (absolute majority)

      The following countries have significant minority religious groups of the following denominations:

  • !  !

  • !  !

  • !  !

  • !  !

  • !  !

  • !  !

  • !  !

  • !  !

• Romania: Catholicism, Protestantism

Albania: Orthodoxy, Catholicism
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism Bulgaria: Islam
Croatia: Orthodoxy
Greece: Islam
Macedonia: Islam
Montenegro: Islam
Serbia: Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism

Key Terms

Slav: The term Slav, Slavic, Slavonic, does not correspond to the term German, which denotes a group of people united by cultural and national ties, but to the term Germanic or Teutonic, which is applied to all people speaking Germanic tongues, irrespective of nationality or culture. 


Student Access: 
Year 3
Module note attachments: 

Wars in the former Yugoslavia