On 27th April 1992, it concluded the very end of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia after years of tension existing in the region. It was heavily divided by the impacts of ethnic and religious groups that led the Balkans into horrifying wars and massacres. The ultimate result was bloodshed and the division of Yugoslavia into seven nations. It has been 30 years and still the political parties are trying to exploit the divisions yet again when the war is raging in Eastern Europe.
British journalist Ed Vulliamy who visited the Omarska concentration camp stated, “The internees are horribly thin, raw-boned. Some are almost cadaverous, with skin-like parchment folded around their arms. Their faces are lantern-jawed, and their eyes are haunted by the empty stare of the prisoner who does not know what will happen to him next.”
The horrifying details are enough to send chills down one’s spine. It is said that the inmates consisted of a majority of the Bosnian Muslims who were captured during the civil war. As a matter of fact, the war began only a few months after Yugoslavia broke apart. The conflict resulted in such gruesome and heinous crimes that were last seen all around Europe during the Second World War. Hatred, suppression of generations, and tensions have led to the death of 130,000 people and created as many as 2.4 million refugees. However, the main question that still makes everyone wonder about the true story is why did Yugoslavia break up into smaller states? Let us take a walk down history and explore the truth of the situation.
The Breakup of Yugoslavia: Why Did Yugoslavia Break Up?
Yugoslavia was once a multi-ethnic state located in gorgeous Southern Europe (the Balkans) from 1918 to 1992. It was during World War II when the Nazis invaded the country and Communist partisans came out victorious over other groups. This created a socialist and one-party state that existed from 1945 to 1990.
Later, liberalizing reforms were made which initiated the nationalist and democratic movements. This then broke up Yugoslavia into “its constituent republics in 1991-1992”.
But what was the main reason? Well, Yugoslavia’s breakup was mainly because of the Cold War in Europe. As you have learned, Yugoslavia was deemed to be a socialist one-party state and it remained neutral during the Cold War and had no alliances with the Soviet Union. However, since the political and economic systems of Yugoslavia were quite similar to that of the Soviet Union and the allies associated with them, the impact of the war was also in Yugoslavia. The liberalizing reforms were introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union and then the remaining Communist countries followed its footstep in 1988-89.
Then the Berlin Wall fell in the year 1989 of November. After the Yugoslavs saw such massive changes happening around them, they rebelled and demanded to be benefitted from similar laws and freedom. Thus, Yugoslavia’s break happened at the same time as that of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Both events took place in 1991.
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The Independence Movements in Yugoslavia
Nationalist governments were formed in Slovenia, Macedonia, and Croatia, and then there was a rising demand of converting Yugoslavia into a confederation of sovereign states. However, it wasn’t successful on the first try since the Serbian leadership rejected it. After this notice, the republics wanted independence and it was surprising to see how the majority of the electors voted “for that goal in the referendums held between December 1990 and September 1991 in Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia. Slovenia and Macedonia declared independence in June 1991, while Macedonia followed in September of the same year”.
After the Croatian Nationalists got the victory in the May 1990 election, there was an unsettling feeling of uneasiness amongst the Serb minority. There were 12% of the population left and they wanted the remaining country to be Yugoslavia. But in June 1991, Croatia and Slovenia became independent and it was Milosevic that controlled the entire Yugoslav military. Now, the military took armed aggression as the means to respond against Slovenia and Croatia. It continued for 10 days and as many as 63 people died. Moreover, the first phase of the Croatian War of Independence continued till January 1992 and when it ended, it resulted in the secession of Serb-majority Krajina as well as Western Slavonia. All the Ethnic Croats got expelled from the given territories. There was a stalemate in the conflict until Flash and Storm, the two military operations that happened in May and August 1995. At last, “Croatia retook the secessionist territories, and most ethnic Serbs living there fled to Serbia”.
This is the reason why Yugoslavia broke up and now, there are many smaller parts. History will always remind us of what happened in the past!
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Jessa Martin is the author of Nogmagazine, A professional in writing by day, and novelist by night, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves, most likely multitasking.