I. Introduction

Yugoslavia, former country in southeastern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. The country existed from 1918 to 1941, when German-led Axis forces invaded and dismembered it during World War II. It was reestablished in 1945, but in 1991 political and ethnic conflicts led to its second disintegration. In the first period, Yugoslavia was a kingdom. In the second period, it was a federation consisting of six republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina (often referred to simply as Bosnia), Croatia, Macedonia (see  Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. In addition, two autonomous provinces existed within the republic of Serbia: Vojvodina and Kosovo. Belgrade was the federal capital.

Yugoslavia, meaning "land of the South Slavs," was created as a constitutional monarchy at the end of World War I (1914-1918). It was known as the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes until 1929, when it was renamed Yugoslavia. The kingdom was destroyed and divided by Axis invasion and occupation in 1941. At the end of World War II (1939-1945), Yugoslavia was recreated as a federal republic by the Partisans, a Communist-led, anti-Axis resistance movement. Under Josip Broz Tito, founder and leader of the Partisans, Yugoslavia emerged as a faithful copy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), with a dictatorial central government and a state-controlled economy. Tito broke with the USSR in 1948, and he decentralized the Yugoslav government and gradually eased repression. Economically, the government experimented with looser controls under the labels of workers' self-management and market socialism. Yugoslavia was unique among Communist countries in its relatively open and free society and its international role as a leader of nonaligned nations during the Cold War.

Following Tito's death in 1980, ten years of economic crisis and growing political and ethnic conflicts led to the federation's disintegration in 1991 and 1992. The breakup was bloody, resulting in civil wars in two successor states, Croatia and Bosnia. Serbia's leadership, which tried to preserve the federation and then to extend the republic's boundaries to create a Greater Serbia, was involved in both civil wars. Together with Montenegro, Serbia formed what its leaders claimed to be the successor state to Yugoslavia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

II. The Land

At the time of its breakup in 1991 Yugoslavia had a total land area of 255,804 sq km (98,766 sq mi). It was bounded on the west by Italy and the Adriatic Sea, on the north by Austria and Hungary, on the east by Romania and Bulgaria, on the south by Greece, and on the southwest by Albania. The country encompassed a variety of terrains and climates. Yugoslavia's relatively long coastline along the Adriatic Sea tended toward a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and warm, dry summers. Rising up from the coast were the Dinaric Alps, which dominated mountainous western and southern Yugoslavia. The limestone ranges and basins of the Balkan and Carpathian mountains distinguished the country's eastern borders. The Pannonian Plain extended south from Hungary into north central Yugoslavia, and fertile plains characterized Vojvodina and the Slavonia region of Croatia. Most of inland Yugoslavia had a continental climate, with cold winters and hot summers.

A. The People of Yugoslavia

The population of Yugoslavia recorded in the country's last census in 1991 was 23,528,230. This figure was nearly double the 11,984,911 counted in a slightly smaller country in 1921 and nearly 50 percent more than the 15,841,566 recorded in 1948. Until the 1960s the country experienced rapid population growth, attributed to a high birthrate typical of developing nations. By 1981 the average annual rate of population growth in more developed regions–Slovenia, Vojvodina, Croatia, and Serbia proper (Serbia minus Vojvodina and Kosovo)–was 0.39 percent. In the less developed regions–Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Kosovo–it was 1.46 percent, still well below the rates typical of developing nations. Serbia was the largest and by far the most populous of the six republics. In 1991 Serbia had about 9.8 million people, Croatia 4.8 million, Bosnia 4.4 million, Macedonia 2 million, Slovenia 1.7 million, and Montenegro 584,000.

Yugoslavia's population was ethnically mixed. According to the 1991 census, Serbs made up 36 percent of the total population, Croats 20 percent, Muslim Slavs (also known as Bosnian Muslims) 10 percent, Albanians 9 percent, Slovenes 8 percent, Macedonian Slavs 6 percent, "Yugoslavs" (people who declined to declare themselves members of any specific ethnic group) 3 percent, Montenegrins 2 percent, and Hungarians 2 percent. The government recognized the Serbs, Croats, Muslim Slavs (beginning in 1968), Slovenes, Macedonian Slavs, and Montenegrins as six nations, that is, South Slav ethnic groups with homelands in Yugoslavia. More than a quarter of the 8.5 million Serbs lived outside Serbia, mostly in Bosnia and Croatia, while 20 percent of the Croats lived outside Croatia, mostly in Bosnia and Vojvodina. The populations of Bosnia and Vojvodina were particularly mixed. In 1991, 44 percent of the inhabitants of Bosnia identified themselves as Muslims, 31 percent as Serbs, 17 percent as Croats, and 5 percent as Yugoslavs. Vojvodina was a mosaic of Serbs (about 51 percent of the population), Hungarians, Croats, Slovaks, Romanians, Rusins (also known as Carpatho-Rusyns or Subcarpathian Ukrainians, after their homeland in the Carpathian Mountains), and others.

The second or post-1945 Yugoslavia had three official languages: Serbo-Croatian (or Croato-Serbian), Slovenian, and Macedonian. In the first Yugoslavia, Macedonian was considered a Serbian dialect, although it is more closely related to Bulgarian. Serbs, Croats, Muslim Slavs, and Montenegrins all spoke regional dialects of Serbo-Croatian. The Serbs and Montenegrins wrote Serbo-Croatian in the Cyrillic alphabet, while the Croats and Muslim Slavs used the Latin alphabet. Many Croats considered their written language a distinct literary language.

The primary difference that distinguished Yugoslavia's ethnic groups was religion. The Serbs, Macedonian Slavs, and Montenegrins were traditionally Orthodox Christians, while the Croats and Slovenes were Roman Catholics. The Muslim Slavs and Albanians were primarily Sunni Muslims. The only census after World War II that asked for religious affiliation was taken in 1953. In that census, 42 percent of Yugoslavia's population declared Orthodox Christianity as their religion, 32 percent declared Roman Catholicism, 12 percent declared Islam, 1 percent identified themselves as Protestants, 1 percent declared some other faith, and 12 percent said they had no religious affiliation. Religion also determined which alphabet each of Yugoslavia's peoples usually used: the traditionally Orthodox peoples preferred the Cyrillic alphabet, while the rest used the Latin alphabet.

The percentage of Yugoslavia's population classified as urban grew explosively after 1950 but remained one of Europe's lowest throughout the country's history. The urban population rose from barely 20 percent in 1921 to 25 percent in 1951, and up to 46 percent in 1981. Migration from the countryside to the cities accounted for almost all of the rapid urban growth and its counterpart, rural depopulation. The percentage of the population dependent on agriculture for its livelihood declined from 75 percent in 1921 to 64 percent in 1951, then down to 20 percent in 1981.

Yugoslav cities with populations over 100,000 in 1991 were, in order of size, Belgrade, the federal capital and the capital of Serbia; Zagreb, the capital of Croatia; Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia; Skopje, the capital of Macedonia; Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia; Banja Luka, a major city in western Bosnia; Zenica, Bosnia's major industrial center; Novi Sad, the capital of Vojvodina and a major agricultural-industrial center; Nis, an industrial center in southern Serbia; Rijeka, Yugoslavia's and Croatia's major seaport; Kragujevac, an automobile and armaments manufacturing center in Serbia; Split, a major Croatian seaport; Tuzla, a Bosnian industrial center; Mostar, the capital of Bosnia's Herzegovina region; Titograd, now called Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro; and Osijek, a major Croatian agricultural center.

In the second Yugoslavia the education system included free preschool and free and compulsory schooling from age 7 to 15. The illiteracy rate declined from about 50 percent of those over ten years old in 1921 to about 25 percent in 1948, then down to less than 10 percent, most of them older persons, in the 1980s. The rate was different for men and women: in the 1980s, 4 percent of men and 15 percent of women could not read or write. In 1988 regional illiteracy rates ranged from 1 percent in Slovenia, the most developed part of the country, to 18 percent in Kosovo, the least developed part. In the 1980s the proportion of the labor force that had completed elementary education was about 60 percent. Thirty percent had completed secondary education and 6 percent had earned a university or other higher education degree. At its founding in 1918, Yugoslavia inherited three universities: the University of Zagreb, the University of Belgrade, and the University of Ljubljana. By 1965 there were three more: the University of Sarajevo, the University of Skopje, and the University of Nis. In the 1980s Yugoslavia had 17 major universities and numerous minor or branch campuses. The average annual enrollment in post-secondary education reached about 400,000 students, of which about 45 percent were women.

B. Way of Life

The way of life in Yugoslavia was as varied as its ethnic composition, diverse histories and religions, and landscapes. The Slovenes and Croats especially were shaped by Roman Catholicism and centuries under Austrian, Hungarian, or Venetian rule. Most of the other ethnic groups, both Orthodox Christians and Muslims, had lived an equally long time under Byzantine and then Ottoman rule.

Traditions and traditional clothing, housing, food and beverages, and social and cultural values varied among the ethnic groups. Only in the 20th century did living together in a common state and an increasingly global culture gradually make them more similar, particularly after World War II. Colorful traditional clothing that distinguished local as well as regional communities from one another as late as the 1950s gave way to globalized workday and holiday clothing, including jeans, pullovers, and neckties. Food and traditional customs had already been influenced by central European, Ottoman, and Italian fashions before Yugoslavia's creation. In the 20th century ethnic food and customs crossed old internal cultural boundaries to be consumed by most people throughout the country. For example, Turkish coffee and sweets, once unknown outside areas formerly under Ottoman rule, became popular in Slovenia, which had long been a part of Austria. Various types of folk music and dance also caught on in areas where they had not been previously known.

In most of Yugoslavia the traditional extended family of numerous children and several generations living in the same household gave way to the nuclear family, with two parents and usually only two children in each home. The major exception was in Kosovo, where the extended family remained common among many Albanians. Most Yugoslavs came to believe that educating one or two children for jobs with decent wages either at home or abroad was better than producing numerous children who could not possibly eke out a living on tiny peasant farms.

Rapid industrialization and urbanization after 1945 generally influenced aspirations and values more than they affected lifestyles. The Communist regime's emphasis on industrialization over agriculture and propaganda exalting workers over peasants all reinforced the basic attractions of city jobs and city lights. Most Yugoslavs aspired to lifestyles like those of Western Europeans. In fact, more than 900,000 Yugoslavs were living in Western Europe during the late 1960s and early 1970s, finding jobs as temporary guest workers. But rapid migration to the cities did not mean rapid adoption of urban lifestyles nor the spread of urban lifestyles back to the villages.

III. Culture and Arts

The cultural and artistic heritage of Yugoslavia was as varied as its peoples. The ruins of the ancient city of Stobi in Yugoslav Macedonia provided evidence of a civilization dating back more than 2,000 years. The Roman amphitheater at Pula, in Croatia, is one of the world's finest and most complete in the 20th century. The Roman emperor Diocletian (reigned 284-305) built a vast palace at Split that is incorporated into the city center, which consists mostly of medieval and Renaissance structures. The Saint Donatus Church in Zadar, dating to the 9th century, and the Venetian cathedrals at Trogir and Sibenik, all in Croatia, are examples of diverse Western architectural traditions. The entire walled city of Dubrovnik, also in Croatia, was designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In Bosnia and Montenegro, medieval artisans produced unique tomb markers. Orthodox monasteries such as Decani, Studenica, and Gracanica, all in Serbia, contain remarkable frescoes and icons. These works of art demonstrate the originality and brilliance of Serbian religious art and architecture prior to the Ottoman Empire's conquest of the region in the 14th century. Yugoslavia's Ottoman heritage was represented by numerous mosques as well as a renowned stone arch bridge in Mostar. That bridge and many mosques and churches were destroyed during the war in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995.

Folk music varied from accordion-accompanied songs of Slovenia to ancient and modern epic poems of Serbia and Montenegro. The poems are chanted to the accompaniment of a one-stringed Slavic lute called a gusle. Yugoslav music of the late 20th century, including rock, often had a folk base. Opera and symphonic and chamber music were popular in Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Belgrade. The Dubrovnik summer festival achieved international renown. This performing arts festival featured primarily music, ballet, and drama.

Ivan Mestrovic, a Croat, was considered one of the 20th century's outstanding sculptors. Yugoslavia's self-taught peasant painters are still world-famous. One such painter is Ivan Generalic, a Croat who painted in the behind glass tradition of the Drava valley. In that tradition, paintings were made on the back of panes of glass to preserve them from soot and grease in peasant homes that lacked chimneys.

Internationally known writers included Ivo Andric, a Bosnian who won the 1961 Nobel Prize for literature. His most famous work is the novel The Bridge on the Drina (1945; trans. 1959). Milovan Djilas of Montenegro was the most famous dissident of the second Yugoslavia. His works include The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System (1957) and Land Without Justice (1958). Also of note were the Serbs Milorad Pavic, who wrote Dictionary of the Khazars (1984), and Dobrica Cosic, who wrote the four-volume work A Time of Death (1972-1979). See  Yugoslav Literature.

Despite calls for a unified "Yugoslav culture" by King Aleksandar before World War II and by Tito for a few years after the war, most Yugoslav art and culture remained identifiably regional in character. Postwar films were probably the most all-Yugoslav form of cultural expression, apart from jazz and, later, rock music. These films were among the best to come out of Eastern Europe. Internationally known filmmakers included the Bosnian Emir Kusturica, director of When Father was Away on Business (1984) and Time of the Gypsies (1989), and the Serb Dusan Makavejev, who directed Innocence Unprotected (1968) and W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971).

IV. Economy

From 1918 to 1941 Yugoslavia's economy was dominated by peasant farmers who worked small landholdings. Most of the country's few industries were owned by foreigners. From 1945 to 1950 the country had a Soviet-style planned socialist economy, in which the central government controlled almost everything from production planning and prices to distribution. Finally, after 1950, Yugoslavia tried to develop an economic system that fell somewhere between rigid Soviet-style socialism and Western capitalism. The government experimented with concepts such as workers' self-management and market socialism.

Before World War II, Yugoslavia was one of Europe's economically least developed and poorest countries. Under Tito, Yugoslavia was transformed into a medium-developed society with an economy based on both agriculture and industry. In 1918, 75 percent of the population depended on subsistence farming (growing just enough for their own needs) for their livelihood. By 1980 less than 20 percent of the population was still primarily employed in agriculture. Although Yugoslavia developed under Tito, the country's economy never overcame glaring regional contrasts in levels of development and prosperity. The northern republics of Slovenia and Croatia, along with the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina, were relatively developed and prosperous. Serbia proper (Serbia minus Vojvodina and Kosovo) was less developed. The southern republics of Montenegro and Macedonia, as well as the southwestern Serbian province of Kosovo, were still largely agricultural and poverty-stricken. By the 1970s all parts of Yugoslavia had become significantly more prosperous and industrialized. Even so, differences between the richer north and poorer south were starker than at the beginning of the Communist period. This contrast provided a constant source of national tensions and political conflict.

From 1945 to 1950 the state controlled the economy absolutely. As in the USSR, Yugoslavia's Communist government established economic goals through five-year plans. The first five-year plan, launched in 1947, began a program of rapid industrialization. This program emphasized heavy industry over light industry and largely neglected agriculture and consumer goods. The government attempted to collectivize farms, but the peasants resisted vigorously.

In 1950 and 1951 the government formally abandoned state ownership and central planning in favor of programs known as social ownership and workers' self-management. In the former, the government gradually transferred its control of enterprises to local communes and workers' councils. Under the principle of self-management, the workers supposedly ran the factories, free to make their own production and marketing decisions. Profits were distributed as wages and served as the measure of the success of an enterprise. Despite appearances, however, the state still controlled the economy, having–and later sharing–the power to appoint enterprise directors and to allocate money for each enterprise. Production and consumption boomed, but state control of investment funds led to the continued creation and survival of politically favored, inefficient enterprises. By 1952 only about one-fifth of the country's agricultural land had been collectivized, and the state ceased its effort to collectivize farms. Most farms remained or changed back to being small and privately held. Farming methods remained primitive, and farmers had no access to bank loans or other means of financing. These factors limited food production, forcing Yugoslavia to import grain and other foodstuffs. Millions of peasants migrated to cities and tried to find jobs in industries. But neither the cities nor the industries were expanding rapidly enough to house and create jobs for so many people.

In 1965 the government instituted major economic reforms that ushered in a program known as market socialism. Under this program, the government surrendered control of investment funds to enterprises and to a reformed banking system. Lowered taxes allowed enterprises to keep more of their earned income instead of handing it over to the state. The government lifted price controls, and it devalued the currency, the dinar, to encourage exports. Investment priorities changed to favor consumer goods over heavy industries. Peasant farmers gained access to credits, enabling them to buy farm machinery to expand production and end the dependence on food imports. Yugoslavia lifted its restrictions on emigration, and in each year after 1965 up to a million Yugoslavs lived in Western Europe as guest workers. The earnings they sent home became increasingly important to the Yugoslav economy, contributing to a boom in private house building and small private enterprises. These enterprises contributed significantly to a flourishing tourist industry concentrated along the Adriatic coast.

Along with their positive results, the reforms of 1965 led to rising unemployment, inflation, and regional differences in wealth. These negative developments led to a retreat from the principles of market socialism. In the early 1970s reforms were implemented that, in effect, created a negotiated economy based on contracts between firms. These contracts were designed to protect supply and demand (and prices) from market competition.

At the same time, foreign borrowing grew rapidly. The borrowed money was intended for modernization of export-oriented industries. However, most of it was used to help pay for increasing consumption and prosperity for most Yugoslavs. In 1980, the year Tito died, a worldwide recession and foreign credit squeeze, combined with the flaws in the economic system, plunged Yugoslavia's economy into crisis. By 1985 the deepening crisis had reduced living standards to low 1965 levels. Tito's successors were unable to agree on and implement any effective response, and the economic crisis expanded into social, political, and constitutional crises.

V. Government

In 1921, a little more than two years after the creation of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, a constituent assembly approved the country's first constitution. The constitution established a monarchy, under Serbia's Karadjordjevic dynasty, with a single-chamber, popularly elected parliament. Despite the desires of Croat leaders for a federal state, the kingdom was highly centralized. The Serbs, who were the most numerous and widely dispersed ethnic group, dominated the government, the state bureaucracies, and the army.

The constitution provided that all adult men could vote. With the exception of the Communists, who were banned and driven underground in 1922, all political parties were organized along national lines and promoted the interests of one or another major nationality. As a result, no one party ever won a clear majority of the seats in parliament. Politics were dominated by conflicts between Serb advocates of a centralized state and Croat advocates of a federal state. Meanwhile, the Slovenes and Muslim Slavs played off both sides against each other. Frequent deadlocks paralyzed fragile, short-lived coalition governments. In 1929 King Aleksandar I declared a royal dictatorship and renamed the kingdom Yugoslavia. He suspended the constitution and parliament, banned political parties organized along national or religious lines, and reorganized the kingdom into banovine (provinces; singular, banovina). He designed the boundaries and names of the banovine to break up historic national units. In 1931 Aleksandar proclaimed a new constitution that created a bicameral (two-chamber) parliament. However, the constitution guaranteed the king's ultimate authority, and two new electoral laws ensured that his supporters would win a majority of seats in the legislature.

The dictatorship continued even after a Macedonian terrorist assassinated Aleksandar in 1934. A three-man regency, headed by Aleksandar's cousin Prince Paul, ruled on behalf of Aleksandar's young son, Petar II. Prince Paul oversaw further relaxation of the dictatorship, but the crown still controlled the elections. In 1939 Paul approved the establishment of an autonomous Croatian banovina, in effect turning Yugoslavia into a federation with two units: Croatia and the rest.

In March 1941, during World War II, Yugoslav air force officers overthrew the regency and government and declared Petar II of age. In April Germany and its Axis allies invaded, conquered, and dismembered Yugoslavia. The king and his government fled and established a government in exile in London, England.

By the end of World War II in Europe, in May 1945, Yugoslavia had been restored by the Partisans, a wartime anti-Axis resistance movement created and led by Josip Broz Tito, head of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY). The monarchy was abolished and Petar remained in exile. A Soviet-style constitution was adopted in January 1946. It established the country as a federation of six republics and two autonomous provinces, ruled by a totalitarian, Communist dictatorship. Tito was officially the prime minister, but his real power flowed from his position as general secretary of the CPY, which was the only legal party. All seats in the federal and republic legislatures were held by members of the CPY. Following a break with USSR leader Joseph Stalin and the Soviet bloc in 1948, Tito allowed some liberalization and decentralization of the government. Tito became president of Yugoslavia in 1953.

In 1952 the CPY was renamed the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY). By changing its name, the party tried to show that it was no longer a dictatorial party but rather an association of Communists who would play an ideological guiding role in a democratic society. In practice the LCY retained its sole grip on all organized political activity. It did this, in part, through a mass-membership organization, the Socialist Alliance of Working People of Yugoslavia, which organized elections and mass actions such as rallies and parades. Eventually, both the LCY and the government were decentralized into eight increasingly autonomous republican and provincial Communist parties and governments. These and other reforms were provided for by a constitutional law in 1953 and new constitutions in 1963 and 1974.

Amendments to the 1963 constitution in 1968 and the 1974 constitution reduced the powers of the federal government, which after 1953 was called the Federal Executive Council. That government was limited to foreign policy, defense, and a few economic agencies. Consensus by all eight federal units was required for most decisions. The federal presidency and other state and LCY organs became collective bodies, with chairs rotated annually among representatives from increasingly independent republics and provinces. Tito, named president of the republic for life in 1974, led the collective presidency, but after his death the position of president (chair) of the presidency was to rotate. To many observers, Yugoslavia had moved from federation to confederation.

Tito remained the loosening federation's principal and at times indispensable unifying element. In his later years he usually did not involve himself in day-to-day domestic issues and politics. However, his unchallengeable personal authority enabled him to force quarrelsome regional and national party and government leaders to negotiate and agree. Tito could also force these leaders out of power, and out of the party, whenever he thought the situation required such measures.

Yugoslavia became more unstable after Tito died in 1980. Tito's successors in the collective federal government and the party all had to agree on any major policy decisions. With little formal power and even less talent, they proved unable to respond effectively to a deepening economic crisis and a rising tide of divisive nationalisms fanned by regional political leaders. With other central institutions already largely paralyzed, the LCY disintegrated into independent and mostly feeble regional parties at its last congress in January 1990.

Between April and December 1990, pressures generated by the collapse of Communist regimes throughout eastern Europe, and in some cases by liberals in their own ranks, forced the regional Communist parties to agree to multiparty elections in all six republics. Nationalist parties won the most votes everywhere. Communists won only in Serbia and Montenegro, where they were also Serb nationalists. The leaders of most of the republics opposed holding federal elections, so such elections never took place before Yugoslavia disintegrated.

VI. History

A. The First Yugoslav State

For many centuries most or all of the South Slavs had been divided and ruled by outside powers, in particular Austria, Hungary, Venice, and the Ottoman Empire. In the late 19th century only the Serb states of Serbia and Montenegro were independent. At that time the concept of Yugoslavia ("Land of the South Slavs") arose among some of the South Slavs of Austria-Hungary. The Yugoslav idea held that the South Slavs, as a single or closely related people, should be free of foreign domination and united in a state of their own. In 1912 and 1913, as a result of the Balkan Wars, Serbia and Montenegro took the largely or partly Slav-inhabited regions of Macedonia, Kosovo, and the sanjak (administrative district) of Novi Pazar from the Ottomans. However, Slovenes, Croats, and the Serbs and Muslim Slavs of Croatia and Bosnia remained under Austro-Hungarian rule. On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a young Bosnian Serb who believed in the Yugoslav idea, assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne in Sarajevo, thus igniting World War I.

The Yugoslav idea gained powerful adherents in Serbia, Britain, and the United States during World War I. At the war's end in November 1918, Austria-Hungary collapsed, clearing the way for a unified Yugoslav state. Italy seized Croatian and Slovene territory, prompting leaders from those regions to seek a quick union with Serbia, though the seized regions remained under Italian control. On December 1, 1918, Prince Regent Aleksandar of Serbia proclaimed the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Aleksandar's father, King Petar I Karadjordjevic of Serbia, became king of the new state, although he had retired from government duties in 1914. Delegates from a national council representing the South Slavs of what had been Austria-Hungary and the Croatian parliament were present at the proclamation.

The central problem confronting Yugoslavia was the conflict between the Yugoslav idea and the fact that the country's diverse peoples had little else in common. Never before joined politically, they shared only the aspiration for unity and similarities of language, myths of origin, and centuries of foreign rule on which that aspiration was based. Separate histories and experiences had endowed the South Slavs with distinct and often conflicting cultures and values. By 1918 far more of them had expressed separate Serb, Croat, or Slovene national identities than had embraced the Yugoslav idea.

Yugoslavia's western border was in dispute for two years after the country's founding. Italy claimed Istria, the Julian March (an Alpine borderland), Rijeka (Fiume in Italian), and much of Dalmatia, areas that were all predominantly Croat or Slovene in population. Throughout 1919 Italy's claims deadlocked the Paris Peace Conference, convened so that the Allied and Central powers could reach a settlement after World War I. Direct Italo-Yugoslav negotiations finally resolved most issues in the Treaty of Rapallo (1920), which assigned Istria and the Julian March to Italy and Dalmatia, except for the town of Zadar (Zara in Italian), to Yugoslavia. In 1924 another Italo-Yugoslav agreement also gave Italy the Free State of Fiume, which had been decreed by the Treaty of Rapallo but was never actually established.

In November 1920, with the major boundary disputes resolved, a constituent assembly was finally elected and convened. With the militantly federalist Croatian Peasant Party's 50 delegates boycotting it, the assembly adopted a constitution in June 1921 by a vote of 223 to 35, with 161 abstentions. The new kingdom was to be a highly centralized and unitary state ruled by a Serb king and predominantly Serb government, bureaucracy, and army. Aleksandar became king after Petar died in August 1921.

Except for the Communist Party, founded in 1919 and banned in 1922, each political party appealed to only one national or religious community. Serb centralists and Croat federalists clashed in the parliament, and most governments were fragile and short-lived. Nikola Pasic, leader of the Serb Radical Party and prime minister of Serbia before and during World War I, headed or dominated most governments until his death in 1926.

In 1921 and 1922 Yugoslavia became a member, with Czechoslovakia and Romania, of the Little Entente. This alliance was set up to oppose both restoration of the Habsburg monarchy, which had ruled Austria-Hungary, and Hungarian territorial expansion. The members were seeking to ensure the boundaries of their countries, which had been drawn up in accordance with the treaties of Versailles, Saint-Germain, and Trianon after World War I. Yugoslavia also allied itself with France to help deter any attempt by Germany to change the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.

In June 1928, a Montenegrin Radical Party deputy opened fire on the floor of the parliament. He shot and killed two Croat deputies and fatally wounded Stjepan Radic, head of the Croatian Peasant Party and known as the uncrowned king of Croatia. This action completed the breach between Croats and Serbs. In January 1929 King Aleksandar proclaimed a royal dictatorship, suspended the constitution and parliament, and banned political parties organized along national or religious lines. The king formally renamed the kingdom Yugoslavia and reorganized it on the basis of provinces with boundaries and names designed to break up historic national units. In 1931 he proclaimed a new constitution and set up a new parliament in an attempt to give the dictatorship greater legitimacy. The new constitution guaranteed the king's ultimate authority, while new electoral laws ensured that his supporters would enjoy a large majority in the parliament.

In October 1934 a Macedonian terrorist working with a Croatian separatist and fascist organization, the Ustase, assassinated Aleksandar in Marseilles, France. A three-man regency headed by Aleksandar's cousin Prince Paul ruled on behalf of his young son, Petar II. Prince Paul promoted further relaxation of the dictatorship but stopped short of restoring genuinely free elections.

Prime Minister Milan Stojadinovic, who held office from 1935 to 1939, sought the friendship of fascist Italy and showed growing sympathy for fascist forms of government. By 1936 Nazi Germany had become Yugoslavia's chief trading partner, and relations with France and Britain declined. The Little Entente fell apart after Germany dismembered Czechoslovakia in 1938. In 1939 Prince Paul dismissed Stojadinovic. The regent then encouraged the new prime minister, Dragisa Cvetkovic, to negotiate a solution to the Croatian problem with Vladko Macek, Radic's successor as head of the Croatian Peasant Party. In August 1939 the Cvetkovic-Macek agreement established an autonomous Croatian banovina (province) that included parts of Bosnia. Paul appointed Macek deputy prime minister. In effect, Yugoslavia became a federation with two units: Croatia and the rest. Serb hopes of achieving similar status were put on hold by the outbreak of World War II in September 1939.

B. World War II and Liberation

At the start of the war, Yugoslavia struggled to remain neutral. However, in 1941 the government yielded to German pressure and signed the Tripartite Pact, which aligned it with the Axis Powers: Germany, Italy, and Japan. Within days a military coup, both anti-Axis and anti-Croat in motivation, overthrew the regency and government and declared Petar II of age. A week later, Germany and Italy, along with their allies Hungary and Bulgaria, invaded and conquered Yugoslavia in a ten-day war, then proceeded to dismember it. The king and his government fled and established a government in exile in London.

Germany and Italy divided Slovenia between them. Kosovo was added to Italian-controlled Albania; Hungary annexed Backa, Baranja, and Medjumurje; and Bulgaria occupied Macedonia. Montenegro became an Italian protectorate. The Germans occupied Serbia. The largest piece of Yugoslavia became the so-called Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatske or NDH in Serbo-Croatian), which included most of Croatia and all of Bosnia. Actually a puppet state under German-Italian occupation, the NDH was ruled for them by the Ustase. Led by Ante Pavelic the Ustase attempted to exterminate the NDH's nearly 2 million Serbs, modeling their actions after the Nazi genocide of Europe's Jews. The Ustase also slaughtered Roma (Gypsies), Jews, and antifascist Croats in the NDH.

Armed resistance against Yugoslavia's invaders and their collaborators began immediately. Colonel (later General) Draza Mihailovic and other Serb officers and soldiers of the Royal Army who refused to surrender took to the forests and mountains and began harassing the German occupation troops. They called themselves Cetniks, the name given to Serb guerrillas in Ottoman times. Josip Broz Tito, the Croat head of the Yugoslav Communist Party, organized a rival, pan-Yugoslav resistance group called the Partisans, which was in the field by June 1941. The two groups soon moved from sporadic cooperation to open conflict. The Cetniks continued to be an almost exclusively Serb and poorly organized force. They were at best loosely controlled by Mihailovic, who was made minister of defense by the royal government in exile in early 1942 and enjoyed British and American support until late 1943. The Partisans, with "death to fascism, freedom to the people" and the "brotherhood and unity" of all the Yugoslav ethnic groups as their principal slogans, recruited fighters and supporters from all of the Yugoslav ethnic groups.

From late 1941 to the end of the war in 1945 Yugoslavia suffered a devastating triple war. The first war was between the anti-Axis resistance movements and the Axis occupiers and their allies, including the Ustase and the Slovene White Guards. The second conflict was between the Partisans and the Cetniks, with the latter accepting first Italian and then German support against the Partisans. The third was among the Yugoslav peoples, especially Serbs, Croats, and Muslim Slavs on both sides of the other two wars. In the end, the Partisans were the victors, primarily because of their broad appeal, better organization and discipline, and greater persistence in fighting the Axis occupiers. In 1943 the Partisans won what would eventually become exclusive British and American recognition and military assistance as the most active anti-Axis fighters.

C. Tito's Yugoslavia (1943-1991)

In November 1942 the Partisans, temporarily in control of a large part of Bosnia, convened an Antifascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia (often known by its Serbo-Croatian acronym, AVNOJ) in the Bosnian town of Bihac. AVNOJ became, in effect, a provisional legislative body. A year later AVNOJ met again in Jajce, Bosnia, and proclaimed a provisional government for a federal state it promised to create. The federation would consist of equal federal units for each of the Yugoslav ethnic groups that the Partisans had recognized as separate nations. In June 1944 the British pressured King Petar II into appointing Ivan Subasic, who had been governor of the Croatian banovina from 1939 to 1941, as prime minister. Subasic was given a mandate to negotiate a union between the royal government in exile and AVNOJ. In March 1945 the absent king, represented by a regency council, appointed Tito as prime minister with a cabinet including only three members of the government in exile.

By the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945, the Partisans had recreated Yugoslavia as a federal state under firm Communist rule. The new state consisted of six republics and two autonomous provinces. The six republics–Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia–constituted semiautonomous "homelands" for each of the South Slav nations officially recognized by Tito's regime. The two autonomous provinces, both within Serbia, were Kosovo, with its large Albanian majority, and multiethnic Vojvodina. Abolition of the monarchy and establishment of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia were confirmed by a constituent assembly elected in November. The participation of non-Communist parties in the elections was severely restricted. A new constitution, modeled on the Soviet constitution of 1936, was adopted in January 1946.

The Italian peace treaty of 1947 added most of Istria and the Julian March, Rijeka, and Zadar to Yugoslavia. It also established the Free Territory of Trieste (Trst in Slovenian) in and around that strategic and disputed port city, which the Partisans had occupied for 45 days at the end of the war. The Free Territory was divided into two zones. Zone A, which included Trieste city, was administered by the British and the Americans; Zone B, to the south, remained under Yugoslav occupation. The existence of the Free Territory was an irritant in international relations until 1954, when Yugoslavia, Italy, Britain, and the United States agreed to Italian administration of Zone A and permanent Yugoslav administration of Zone B.

In its first years, Tito's Yugoslavia was a virtual copy of the USSR under Joseph Stalin, with its centrally planned economy under state control, rapid industrialization, and brutal suppression of any opposition to the Communist dictatorship. The government began an attempt to collectivize agriculture in 1947 and intensified it in 1949. In the foreign policy arena, Yugoslavia appeared to be the USSR's most loyal ally. In 1947 the Yugoslav Communist Party joined other Communist parties in establishing the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform), the successor organization to the Third International (Comintern), which had dissolved in 1943. Headquarters of the new organization was in Belgrade. Early in 1948, however, Stalin's growing suspicion of Tito's loyalty and independent ambitions led him to maneuver against Tito using the Cominform. The Cominform held a meeting in Bucharest, Romania, in June 1948, which the Yugoslavs boycotted. At the meeting, the Cominform denounced Tito and the Yugoslav Communist Party, accusing them of major deviations from orthodox Communist policy. A Yugoslav party congress reaffirmed its loyalty to the USSR but reelected Tito, whom the Soviet leaders had hoped to overthrow. An economic blockade and ominous troop movements by the other Communist nations followed. But Tito's regime survived, by rallying the support of patriotic non-Communist as well as most Communist Yugoslavs, and by accepting economic and military assistance from the West.

Soon afterward, the Yugoslav government began a gradual process of relaxing state controls, abandoning strict Communist ideology, and decentralizing the government. By 1952 it had abandoned its attempts to collectivize agriculture. In 1950 and 1951 state ownership of all enterprises was abolished in favor of social ownership and workers' self-management, which theoretically turned over control of enterprises to the workers who labored in them. The Communist Party, renamed the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) in 1952, withdrew its close economic and political management.

Stalin died in 1953. His eventual successor, Nikita Khrushchev, apologized for Stalin's "errors" in a dramatic speech in Belgrade in May 1955. This speech initiated the first of several periods of improvement in Soviet-Yugoslav relations. Tito thereafter struck a Cold War balance between the USSR and its allies and the United States and its allies. This balance led to his role in helping to found and lead a worldwide group of nonaligned nations in the 1960s. As a result,Tito won a major role on the world stage, greater than his country's size and importance warranted. See  Nonaligned Movement.

A more liberal and genuinely federal constitution was introduced in 1963. It changed the official name of the country from the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Further economic reforms, known as market socialism, created semifree markets for goods, services, and investments. Among countries under Communist rule, Yugoslavia became the least repressive at home and the most open to the West. While the LCY continued to control key appointments and political processes, it transformed itself into semiautonomous leagues in each of the republics. A collective presidency was established, with representatives from each republic and autonomous province and Tito at its head. These Yugoslav experiments attracted international interest as an apparently hopeful compromise between Soviet-style socialism and capitalism and way of managing conflicts in a multinational society. In 1971 and 1972 Tito clamped down on republic leaders and trends he considered dangerously nationalist or liberal, but the reforms were only partly and temporarily reversed.

A new constitution in 1974 and the Associated Labor Act of 1976 codified previous reforms and carried them to extremes. Yugoslavia became a virtual confederation with the central government having only limited powers. The Associated Labor Act in effect abandoned market socialism for a negotiated economy based on contracts among firms, contracts that protected the firms from market risks.

D. After Tito

Tito's death in May 1980 coincided with a deepening economic crisis. Mistaken economic policies and reforms of the system in previous years and excessive borrowing were aggravated by global economic conditions at the end of the 1970s. Tito's collective successors were a mediocre lot who had to operate by consensus but were guided by the conflicting economic interests and priorities of their republics. Thus, they proved incapable of agreeing on countrywide remedies that the largely autonomous republics would be willing to implement. By 1985 production and living standards had plunged. Old ethnic grievances and conflicts resurfaced and intensified, aggravated by politicians who preferred to blame other Yugoslav republics rather than admit their own incompetence.

In these circumstances, acceptance of Tito's Yugoslavia declined everywhere, but especially in Slovenia and Croatia, which were long accustomed to blaming "exploitation" by the less-developed south for their own economic problems. In 1988 Slobodan Milosevic, the president of the Serbian party and after 1989 also president of Serbia, began an aggressive campaign to reassert Serb and Communist hegemony over a recentralized Yugoslavia. His campaign made the non-Serbs anxious and uneasy. In 1988 and 1989 he engineered the ouster of Vojvodina's and Montenegro's party and state leaderships, stripped Kosovo and Vojvodina of their autonomy, and stepped up repression of Kosovo's Albanian majority, who had been in a state of simmering rebellion since 1981. His actions led to fears of "yesterday Kosovo, tomorrow us" in the other republics.

The LCY finally disintegrated in January 1990. Later that year, parties with nationalist programs won multiparty elections in each Yugoslav republic. The survival of Yugoslavia became increasingly doubtful.

Frantic negotiations among the post-Communist republic leaders from December 1990 to June 1991 failed to produce a new formula to preserve some kind of Yugoslavia. In a referendum held in December 1990 the Slovenes voted for independence. With the federal government and constitution already ignored, Serb-organized crises served to immobilize and virtually extinguish the federation's linchpin, its eight-member collective presidency. In May 1991 the Serbian, Kosovar, and Vojvodinian members blocked the routine transfer of the presidency's chair to the Croatian representative. Four days later a majority of Croats, like the Slovenes, voted in a referendum for secession. Both Croatia and Slovenia declared independence on June 25, 1991.

The Yugoslav army made a feeble and unsuccessful ten-day attempt to stop Slovenia's secession. Meanwhile, in Croatia a war immediately erupted, pitting Croatian Serb militias backed by the Yugoslav army against hastily armed Croatian forces. The war lasted until December 1991. A United Nations envoy negotiated an enduring cease-fire, leaving nearly one-third of Croatia under Serb control in a self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina until 1995.

In July 1991 the European Community (EC; now the European Union, or EU) tried to hold Yugoslavia together but succeeded only in delaying the formal implementation of the secession of Slovenia and Croatia. An EC commission declared Yugoslavia to be "in process of dissolution" and invited its republics to apply for recognition as independent states, subject to protection of minority rights and other conditions. In January 1992 the EC recognized Slovenia and Croatia.

Macedonia and Bosnia both had large majorities unwilling to stay in a Serb-dominated rump Yugoslavia. Those republics reluctantly also took the road to independence and applied for EC recognition by the end of 1991. In the spring of 1992, Yugoslav Macedonia's president Kiro Gligorov negotiated the peaceful withdrawal of the Yugoslav army, making that republic the only Yugoslav successor state to achieve independence without war. Bosnia was not so lucky. A civil war erupted in Bosnia in April 1992, the same week that the United States and the EC recognized the new state. This vicious three-way conflict among ethnic Serbs, ethnic Croats, and Bosnian Muslims was marked by "ethnic cleansing" and human and material losses that shocked the world. The Bosnian war lasted until U.S. diplomats and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops imposed an uneasy peace in late 1995 (see  Yugoslav Succession, Wars of; Dayton Peace Accord).

On April 27, 1992, Serbia and Montenegro declared themselves the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), thus tacitly acknowledging the independence of the four breakaway republics. The international community recognized the independence of the breakaway republics (except Yugoslav Macedonia, as a result of a dispute with Greece over its name and other issues) by mid-1992. However, international organizations refused to recognize FRY as the legal successor to the former Yugoslavia.

E. Yugoslavia's Legacy

Both the Yugoslav kingdom and the Yugoslav republic that succeeded it were failed states. They disintegrated primarily because their leaders and political systems were unable to reconcile multiple and competing national ideologies and interests or to manage conflicts among them. The legacy of these two failures is contradictory.

The Yugoslav idea of a united South Slav state, twice discredited and buried in blood and bitterness, will almost certainly never enjoy a successful third coming. However, the brutal civil wars that followed both collapses again demonstrated that advocates of the Yugoslav idea were right in believing that creating separate states for Yugoslavia's mostly intermingled nations was not a solution. Rather, that strategy caused widespread human misery and did not end territorial and other conflicts among these nations.

The immediate legacy of Yugoslavia's second disintegration was negative. Its successor states (except Slovenia) experienced civil wars, ethnic cleansing, at least semiauthoritarian nationalist regimes, and other separatist movements. As a result, all except Slovenia lagged behind other countries of Eastern Europe in their transitions to democratic political systems and true market economies.

For Eastern Europe and the wider world, the legacies of Tito's Yugoslavia are, on balance, more positive. From the 1950s to the 1980s Yugoslavia's independence from the USSR and its liberalizing economic and political reforms created precedents for several Soviet-bloc Communist countries. Soviet military intervention cut short attempts at liberalization in Hungary in 1956 (see  Hungarian Revolt of 1956) and Czechoslovakia in 1968 (see  Prague Spring). However, Poland achieved partial or temporary reform (1956 and 1980-1981), and Romania achieved a significant degree of independence after 1962. These attempts at reform usually included the creation of workers' councils and plans to free the economy from state-control, as took place in Yugoslavia. The legacy of these thwarted or temporary liberalizations and the people who sponsored or learned from them helped Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic lead the way in post-Communist transitions to democracy and market economies in the 1990s.

The worldwide nonaligned movement and Tito's crucial role in its founding and leadership offered an ideologically respectable alternative to choosing sides in the Cold War. Many viewed nonalignment as basically pro-Soviet because of the movement's frequent rhetoric against what its members branded Western imperialism. But Tito vigorously and successfully defended genuine nonalignment against political leaders such as Cuba's Fidel Castro, who attempted to give the movement a clear pro-Soviet bias in the 1970s.

Contributed By:

Dennison Rusinow, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.

UCIS Research Professor and Adjunct Professor of History, University of Pittsburgh. Author of The Yugoslav Experiment and other books. Editor of Yugoslavia– A Fractured Federalism.


"Yugoslavia," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000

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