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PO377 Ethnic Conflict and Political Violence. Week 4: The Former Yugoslavia. Pop Quiz. Was the federal Yugoslavia a doomed project from the start? Yes No Not yet sure. Former Yugoslavia, political map (1996). Former Yugoslavia, ethnic majorities (1992). Lecture Outline. Overview

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po377 ethnic conflict and political violence

PO377 Ethnic Conflict andPolitical Violence

Week 4: The Former Yugoslavia

pop quiz
Pop Quiz
  • Was the federal Yugoslavia a doomed project from the start?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Not yet sure
lecture outline
Lecture Outline
  • Overview
  • Contested Explanations
  • The Balkans before ‘Yugoslavia’
    • 19th century nationalisms
  • The Kingdom of Yugoslavia: Ethnic Relations in a Centralised State
  • Communist Federal Yugoslavia: Nationalism Resolved or Repressed?
  • Collapse of Yugoslavia
    • Fall of communism and resurgence of ethno-nationalism
    • Descent into war
  • Wars and Peace Agreements
    • Croatia
    • Bosnia-Herzegovina: three-way split
    • Serbia and Kosovo: unresolved
  • Conclusions
  • Current populations: Serbia 9.9 million (incl. approx. 1.8-2.4 million in Kosovo); Croatia 4.4 million; Bosnia 3.8 million; Slovenia 2 million; Macedonia 2 million; Montenegro 632,000.
  • A series of different secessionist wars with various combatant groups (state and non-state) were fought at different points 1991-2001.
  • The Yugoslavian federal state broke up into 6 new states (7 if Kosovo is acknowledged).
  • Tens of thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes and areas. Possibly 30,000+ women and girls subjected to sexual violence and many men and boys as well.
contested explanations
Contested Explanations
  • Primordial analysis: The Balkan region has been a site of conflicting identities and clashing political goals for many centuries, with a long history of inter-group hostility and hatred; the communist state merely kept the lid on a pressure cooker of hatred. (Think about Samuel Huntington and his Clash of Civilisations, where he views the Balkans as a civilisational fault line.) The end of the Cold War and collapse of communism merely removed the lid and let the mess spill out. (Robert Kaplan’s Balkan Ghosts is the best-known exposition of such a view on Yugoslavia – see week 9’s reading list.)
contested explanations 2
Contested Explanations (2)
  • Non-primordial analysis:There is a history of different peoples of the Balkan region living together peacefully. There are different emphases/explanations within the non-primordialist camp.
    • Instrumentalist argument: about the strategic use of ethno-nationalism by elites to maintain or gain power during a time of enormous upheaval.
    • Constructionist argument: ethnicity is only one identity of several that are significant to people ordinarily and ethnic attachment varies; identities are amenable to change.
    • Security dilemma: focus on anarchy and state breakdown; fear and insecurity rather than hatred.

(I recommend you read Oberschall 2000.)

the balkans before yugoslavia
The Balkans before ‘Yugoslavia’
  • Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Muslim Slavs, Macedonians are all “southern Slavs”; Albanians are not. Croats became Catholic and Serbs became Eastern Orthodox. Heretical tradition (Bogomil Church) in Bosnia.
  • Ottoman conquests of 14th and 15th centuries led to migration waves and some religious conversion (Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania). Muslims developed distinct identities. People defined by religion; religion and national identity became linked.
the balkans before yugoslavia 2
The Balkans before ‘Yugoslavia’ (2)
  • Serbian Orthodox Church given influence over huge area; nurtured Serbian national consciousness.
  • Late 17th century renewed Hapsburg-Ottoman fighting and failed Serbian uprising; in 1690 Serbs fled Kosovo and Macedonia.
  • Ethnic composition of the Balkans changed throughout 18th century.
the balkans before yugoslavia 3
The Balkans before ‘Yugoslavia’ (3)

19th century nationalisms

  • Serb nationalism developed in armed struggle against Ottoman rule. Serbs dispersed throughout region. Idea of ‘Greater Serbia’ develops.
  • Croatian nationalism as reaction against expansionist non-Slav nationalisms. 3 movements:
    • 1) for federal Austro-Hungarian Empire;
    • 2) Frankist Party, for independent Croatian state including Bosnia;
    • 3) for federal system with Serbs; idea of Yugoslavia (known as Illyrianism and later as Yugoslavism).
the kingdom of yugoslavia ethnic relations in a centralised state
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia: Ethnic Relations in a Centralised State
  • World War I: Serbia successfully fights Austria-Hungary. Austro-Hungarian Empire collapses.
  • 1918: the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes forms (Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1929). 42% Serb, 23% Croat, 8% Slovene, 5% Macedonian, 5% Bosnian Muslim (now Bosniaks), 4% Albanian. (46.7% Eastern Orthodox, 39.3% Roman Catholic, 11.2% Muslim.)
  • New kingdom was highly centralised unitary constitutional monarchy. This ‘was not a union of equals. Instead, they came together as victors and vanquished’ (Bennett 1995, p. 32).
the kingdom of yugoslavia ethnic relations in a centralised state 2
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia: Ethnic Relations in a Centralised State (2)
  • Serbs dominated positions of power. Conflicting nationalisms and ethno-political conflict exacerbated by economic inequalities between different regions.
  • WWII Yugoslavia invaded by Nazi Germany. Nazi puppet state (Ustaša regime) est. in Croatia with control of Bosnia. Serbian nationalist Chetniks resist German occupation and persecute Croatians and Bosnians.
  • 1943 Josip Tito leader of Yugoslavian resistance and head of Communist Party. Brought anti-nationalist Partisan Party to power end of WWII.
communist federal yugoslavia nationalism resolved or repressed
Communist Federal Yugoslavia: Nationalism Resolved or Repressed?
  • Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia formed 1946: 6 republics: Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia; 2 Serbian autonomous provinces, Kosovo and Vojvodina.
  • Communism supposed to make ethno-nationalism irrelevant.
  • Delicate ethno-national balancing act with much Serb dominance.
communist federal yugoslavia nationalism resolved or repressed 2
Communist Federal Yugoslavia: Nationalism Resolved or Repressed? (2)
  • 1960s loosening state controls. Calls for national self-determination from all the republics + Muslims and Albanians.
  • Nationalist movements crushed 1971; economic and political reforms.
  • Political and economic paralysis in 1970s + economic downturn.
collapse of yugoslavia
Collapse of Yugoslavia

Fall of communism and resurgence of ethno-nationalism

  • Tito died in 1980 and Yugoslavia in further rapid economic decline.
  • Renewed growth in Serbian elite power (e.g. Yugoslav National Army purged itself of non-Serbs 1986-1992).
  • Previously many multicultural and tolerant Yugoslav cities. Now deliberate stirring up of ethnic tensions by political leaders to maintain their power bases once communism declined. Slobodan Milošević (Serbia) and Franjo Tudjman (Croatia) continued authoritarian tradition with addition of extreme ethno-nationalism.
collapse of yugoslavia 2
Collapse of Yugoslavia (2)

Descent into war

  • 1991-92 successively Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia-Herzegovina declare independence.
  • Brief war in Slovenia June 1991 ending with Brioni Declaration and Slovene independence.
  • Macedonia secedes without violence.
  • Note: 1992-2003 Serbia and Montenegro together form remnant of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; 2003-06 loose federal Union of Serbia and Montenegro; 2006 they become separate states.
wars and peace agreements
Wars and Peace Agreements


  • war between Croatian Serb militias against Croatian government forces over Serb-held territories in Krajina and Slavonia (Sept. 1990 to Sept. 1991);
  • war between JNA with Serb militias against Croatian army and militias (Sept. 1991 to Jan. 1992); and
  • attack of Croatian army on remaining Serbs (May and Aug./Sept. 1995).
wars and peace agreements 2
Wars and Peace Agreements (2)
  • EU: confused and uneven attempts at peace settlement.
  • UN: Dec. 1991 Vance negotiates Serb-Croat ceasefire, UN peacekeepers and UN Protected Areas (UNPAs). Serb Krajina leaders are opposed but betrayed by Milošević.
  • 1995: UN peacekeepers in UNPAs are reduced and the USA is supportive of Croatia; Croatia takes UNPAs and expels Serbs. (See Pavković 2000, chpt. 10.)
wars and peace agreements 3
Wars and Peace Agreements (3)

Bosnia-Herzegovina: 3-way split

  • 1991 moves to autonomy and territorial expansionism by Bosnian Serbs.
  • March 1992 Bosnian govt declares independence.
  • Serbian troops attack (Bosnian Serb volunteers, Belgrade paramilitaries, then the JNA).
wars and peace agreements 4
Wars and Peace Agreements (4)
  • B-H divided in 3 national groups and parties (Muslim, Croat, Serb) with different constitutional goals.
  • Series of wars:
    • war between Muslim/Croat coalition against Serb forces (1992-1993);
    • Muslim-Croat war and intra-Muslim war (1993-1994); and
    • Muslim/Croat then Muslim/Croat/NATO joint offensive against Serb forces (March-October 1995).

(See Pavković 2000, chpt. 11.)

wars and peace agreements 5
Wars and Peace Agreements (5)
  • Aug./Sept. 1995 NATO air strikes and Muslim/Croat land attacks when Bosnian Serbs reject peace proposals.
  • Nov. 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement.
  • 49% to 51% division of B-H into RepublikaSrpska (Serb Republic) and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Muslim-Croat federation). Complicated confederal system with 2-chamber parliament and national group vetoes.

(See Pavković 2000, chpt. 11. For more detail on the settlement see Gow 1997, chpts. 3-4 & 9-11; Bose 2002, chpts. 2 & 4-5; Sokolović and Bieber (eds.) 2001, chpts. 2-3, all on the week 19 reading list.)

wars and peace agreements 6
Wars and Peace Agreements (6)
  • ‘By mid-2000, the enormous international effort to implement the agreement that ended Bosnia’s civil war in November 1995 had gone on longer than the war itself.’
  • ‘[T]he Bosnian war ended with a deeply dissatisfying compromise among the warring parties to which they had only acceded under intense international pressure, especially from the United States.’
  • The settlement was ‘ambivalent between its separatist and integrationist components’.

(Cousens2002, week 19 reading list.)

wars and peace agreements 7
Wars and Peace Agreements (7)

Serbia and Kosovo: unresolved

  • 1989-90 Milošević removes Kosovan autonomy; Kosovan non-violent resistance movement.
  • 1998 ethnic Albanian rebellion (Kosovo Liberation Army) against Serbian/Yugoslav rule in Kosovo; violent Serbian police and military response.
  • Milošević rejects international mediation; 1999 NATO air strikes. Serbian forces carry out ‘ethnic cleansing’. Kosovo administered as UN protectorate.
  • 2006-07 talks fail. Kosovo declares independence Feb. 2008; Serbia rejects this but many states recognise it. UN’s International Court of Justice assesses legality of independence declaration and in 2010 declares this did not breach international law.
  • Following pattern of ex-communist world, politicians tactically swapped communist rhetoric for ethno-nationalism as a way of gaining, maintaining, or consolidating their power in a time of extreme national and international upheaval. Conflict less about primordial hostilities and more about manipulation of perceptions.
  • Serbian elites spoke of a heroic past, portrayed Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo as wanting to exterminate Serbs, and Croats as fascist oppressors. Croatian elites resurrected elements of their brief fascist past and claimed Serbs wanted to dominate and control them.
  • Economic issues: Croats and Slovenes resented by Serbs for supposedly being wealthier; Croats and Slovenes annoyed at Serbs ‘draining’ their economic resources. Nationalist Serbian leaders conflated images of Bosnian Muslims with their past Ottoman Turk overlords.
pop quiz1
Pop Quiz
  • Should Kosovo be fully recognised as an independent state and given a seat at the United Nations?
  • Yes
  • No