In 1990, the National Intelligence Estimate informed the United States that within a year, Yugoslavia would cease to exist as a federal state and would break up completely by 1992. What followed was the dissolution of what was formerly known as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), composed of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, and Slovenia.
Slovenia and Croatia were the first to declare their independence, and they were soon followed by the other states, with the exception of Serbia and Montenegro. Remaining as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for nearly ten more years, the latter two were renamed as the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro before both officially declared independence in 2006.
Here is a brief rundown of the former Yugoslavian countries.
Croatia is a nation of a little over 4 million people, boasting an extensive coastline on the Adriatic Sea. As mentioned earlier, Croatia was one of the first countries in the region to declare their independence. However, it was not necessarily smooth sailing after that. Following Croatia’s declaration in 1991, Serbia declared war on the country. War would rage on throughout most of the 1990s, with Serbia maintaining control of a chunk of the country. A peace settlement was reached in 1995, and with the aid of a United Nations peacekeeping mission, Croatia finally gained full control of their country in 1998. Today, Croatia is becoming an ever more popular tourist destination. The capital of this Roman Catholic state is Zagreb. Croatia played France in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals, losing 4-2.
While Serbia may have signed a peace agreement, unlike Croatia, they were not yet an independent nation. The last country to declare independence, Serbia remained in a state of union with Montenegro – known formally as the State of Union of Serbia and Montenegro – for three years after all other former countries had become independents. The geographical proximity between the two countries meant Serbia still had access to the Adriatic Sea, a privilege which they lost when the two countries became independent states in 2006. Since December 2007, Serbia formally adheres to the policy of military neutrality. It’s capital city, Belgrade, ranks among the oldest and largest cities in Southeastern Europe.
Similar to Serbia, Montenegro was one of the last countries to declare independence from the Republic of Yugoslavia, remaining in a state of union with neighboring Serbia for over 10 years after the initial dissolution of the SFRY. Prior to this restructuring, they remained known as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia but were exiled from the United Nations in 1992. However, Montenegro’s role in the 2001 arrest of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, wanted for crimes against humanity, put Montenegro back on the world stage and it was restructured into a federation with Serbia in 2003. In 2006 Montenegro became an independent country. It’s capital is Podgorica.
Unlike Montenegro however, Kosovo has not received the same support from other countries in its bid to assert independence. A former province of Serbia, located south of the country, Kosovo has been at the heart of conflict on the world stage for many years. Much of the confrontation comes from differences between the ethnic Albanians and ethnic Serbians, both trying to co-exist in the country. While the country is 80% Albanian, the proximity to Serbia has led to an influx of Serbians, acting as the root of an ethnic cleansing campaign which occurred up until 1999. While issues continued to erupt periodically in the years that followed, they have decreased since 2008, when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Today, it has since gained diplomatic recognition as a sovereign state by 112 UN member states, and is a Sporcle recognized country.
While other countries in the region took rough and rocky roads to independence, Slovenia was able to gain their independence rather smoothly. Slovenia is the most prosperous and homogenous region of the former Yugoslavia. This homogeneity helped the country avoid conflict. Today, Slovenia, which borders Austria and Italy, has their own language, compulsory education, and has a population of nearly 2 million people. The residents are mostly Roman Catholic, and the country has been a member of the EU and NATO since 2004.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
In contrast to Slovenia however, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a homogenous and peaceful country. Located in the middle of the former Yugoslavia, the country is a mix of Muslims, Serbians, and Croatians, and as such, has undergone its fair share of conflict since the original SFRY dissolution, indeed being devastated by the wars that followed the breakup. Today, the country continues to try to rebuild their infrastructure and develop a self-sufficient economic and social existence, helped in part by the peace agreement of 1995. While it has a long way to go from the early days of containing many of Yugoslavia’s largest corporations, the country continues to make progress as an independent nation.
Macedonia was able to remain at peace through the much of the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s. However, it was seriously destabilised by the Kosovo War in 1999, when a large number of ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo took refuge in the country. Today, Macedonia is perhaps best known for their strenuous relationship with Greece. Macedonia is a region of Greece, and as such, the Greek people do not condone the use of the name for any external territory. With this provision, Macedonia was accepted into the United Nations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and indeed, many Greeks take offence to hearing the country called simply Macedonia as opposed its formal UN name. In 2018, Macedonia and Greece finally came to an agreement, and it appears Macedonia may soon find itself with a new name. Skopje is the capital and largest city in Macedonia.
With a rich history as Yugoslavia and an even deeper and more complex history as independent nations, the former Yugoslavian countries represent an intricate, geopolitical region of the world, with much to learn from its past, and much to still establish in its future.
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