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In Bosnia: the Balkans and the collapse of Yugoslavia

Updated on January 13, 2013
One of the many cemeteries of Sarajevo
One of the many cemeteries of Sarajevo

Churchill once said that the Balkans produce more history than they can consume. In fact many years will elapse before the appearance of a history of the Yugoslav tragedy, as well as illuminate its contradictory dimensions, placing it in the context of the global crisis of civilization facing humanity.

It is hard to understand the collapse of Yugoslavia, since the forces that led to the agony of the country are complex and even contradictory. The explanations also differ as they have a dose of politics, depending on the viewpoint of those who write history.

Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia existed twice and collapsed in each of these experiences. The initial emerged from the ruins of World War I and resulted in a realm dominated by Serbia, who tried to unite the South Slavs. It was an intellectual conception that never worked because it never took into account the differences between peoples target junction. Besides Serbia, the new country began to dominate territory that had belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There were six religions and many non Slavic minorities (Jews, Gypsies, Hungarians, Italians and Greeks, among others).

Italy, regarded the new country bitterly because certain areas had been promised in 1915. This resentment has fueled the emergence of fascism.

Marshal Josip Broz Tito, 1st President of Yugoslavia
Marshal Josip Broz Tito, 1st President of Yugoslavia | Source

The Second World War was particularly violent in Yugoslavia, and national resentments played a key role. The victory of the communists led by Josip Broz Tito gave rise to a second dictatorial attempt to form a coherent Yugoslavia.

Tito ruled Yugoslavia with an iron fist, allowing no conflict in order to maintain social and political unity of the country. However, the integration of the state was artificial, achieved mainly from his charismatic leadership and the establishment of political and economic practices in order to reassure the different ethnicities. Tito had created, in the 1960s, a Solidarity Fund, whereby the richest regions should help the poorest. However, the richer republics opposed the Solidarity Fund.

Until the death of President in 1980, this was one of the most influential countries of the socialist block and tried a semi-independent pathway of Moscow, which allowed a reasonable economic success, which resulted in political stability.

Despite the one-party regime, the leaders of the republics never renounced their dose of nationalism. Ethnic tensions were already visible in the 60 and 70, but the country had a wide range multiethnic population and there were a growing number of mixed marriages.

The collapse began to accelerate in the '80s. Separatism has a historical origin, but also reasons related to economic nationalism and frustrations fueled by insecure politicians.


The Balkans and the collapse of Yugoslavia

The ethnic and religious complexity is certainly one of the factors of the breakdown, but there are historians who emphasize the effect of the economic differences between the regions. Croatia and especially Slovenia was the richest republics of Yugoslavia. At the same time, its economic and social organization has always been much closer to capitalism than the current system in the other units of the federation.

The internal problems of Yugoslavia worsened when the socialist model of government began to crumble in Eastern Europe, with the rise of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his policy of transparency (glasnost), which encouraged several Eastern European countries undergoing socialist dictatorships, to strive for greater political autonomy. Seduced by the events that led to the sudden disappearance of the USSR and the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which caused a vacuum in the east, causing the states of Slovenia and Croatia wanted to return to his former pro-Western position.

Yugoslavia began to break up along ethnic lines, the same time when the socialist bloc disappeared, and the Berlin Wall crumbled. But nobody could have foreseen the horrors of the 90s.

In this context, the former Yugoslavia witnessed three major outbreaks of conflict occurred during the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. They included the Slovenian War of Independence (1991), the Croatian War of Independence (1991-1995) and the War in Bosnia (1992-1995). In other group there were wars in areas populated by Albanians: the Kosovo War (1996-1999), the Conflict in Southern Serbia (2000-2001) and the Conflict in Macedonia (2001). Finally, there are the NATO operations against Serbia (bombing of Serb positions in Croatia and Bosnia between 1995 and 1996) and Operation Allied Force (bombing of Serbia in 1999).

Source

Four republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia) were internationally recognized in 1992 after bloody episodes during the separation (in the first two cases).

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, led by Slobodan Milosevic, tried to unite territories where ethnic Serb predominance existed. The idea was to create a "Greater Serbia", which gave rise to the terrible conflict in Bosnia, in which all parties (Serbs, Muslims and Croats), committed atrocities.

Yugoslavia was taken by the meager federal army in an attempt to avoid capture by guerrillas and paramilitary groups sponsored by their own republics, however, increasingly intense conflicts occurred with total destruction of various cities. The brutality of the leaders, led Yugoslavia to chaos and crimes such as massacres, rapes, ghettoization of territories, forced displacement, ethnic cleansing and constant breaches of the Geneva Convention were constantly practiced against its own population.

Yugoslavia was ruled out of the UN and the war ended only after difficult negotiations with the Dayton Agreement in 1995.

Troop Deployment Map for SFOR, Bosnia and Herzegovina 1997
Troop Deployment Map for SFOR, Bosnia and Herzegovina 1997 | Source

The final strike

In 1998, rekindled the conflict in Kosovo, a Serbian territory where Albanians are in the majority. The expulsion of Albanians by the Serbian authorities resembled the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and this provoked a NATO intervention, which included bombing Belgrade. Milosevic fell in 2000 and was arrested and sent to an international tribunal in The Hague. It was in Holland that the nationalist leader died in a dramatic episode that only accentuated the powerful resentments that still hover in that region of Europe.

Yugoslavia was formally buried in 2003. In place of what is left of the federation after a decade of Balkan wars, has formed a loose union between Serbia and Montenegro.

Day 3 June 2006, Montenegro declared independence, two days later, Serbia declared it too, ending the Serb-Montenegrin state.


The breakdown was a painful process that has not yet ended, destroying not only a country but many families. We may never know the death toll, which some estimate at more than 200,000 along with approximately 1,326,000 refugees and exiles.


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