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Yugoslavia (Jugoslavija in all south Slavic languages) is a term used for three separate but successive political entities that existed during most of the 20th century on the Balkan Peninsula in Europe. Translated, the name means Land of the South Slavs (jug in Jugoslavija means south).



Probably the first "official" mention of the term Yugoslav (as opposed to simply south Slav) was the forming of the group of advocates of a joint country of South Slavs, by politicians from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were then both in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

On November 22, 1914, Ante Trumbić, Frano Supilo , Ivan Meštrović, Hinko Hinković and Franko Potočnjak from Croatia and Nikola Stojanović and Dušan Vasiljević from Bosnia and Herzegovina first met with Pavle Popović , a representative of Nikola Pašić's Serbian government, on neutral ground in Florence, Italy, in an effort to coordinate their efforts towards building an independent state of western South Slavs. Lujo Vojnović was also present as an observer from the Kingdom of Montenegro.

The new "Yugoslav" cause (from Jugoslav, meaning "Southern Slav") was receiving an increasing amount of support: in the western states, the people were generally tired of Austria-Hungary and a union with the eastern states was probably seen as the best way to come out of the anomie caused by the Great War. Even the large diasporas, known for their nostalgia and patriotism, started supporting the new idea.

The Yugoslav Committee (Jugoslavenski odbor) was officially formed on April 30th, 1915 in London, and the aforementioned politicians were its members. The Committee and the Kingdom of Serbia subsequently signed the Corfu Declaration on July 20, 1917 that declared their desire to form a new joint kingdom.

The First Yugoslavia

Main article: Kingdom of Yugoslavia

The goals of the Yugoslav Committee were partly reached by the end of the First World War in 1918, when Austria-Hungary disintegrated, and the South Slavs organized into the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. This short-lived state soon, on December 1, 1918, joined Serbia and Montenegro to form "The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes".

On June 28 1921, — a day of historical importance to Serbs (see Vidovdan) — parliament (Skupština) passed a new constitution despite a boycott from Croatian MPs. The constitution centralized political authority and strengthened the power of the royal government in Belgrade.

In 1928, Puniša Račić, an ethnic Serbian nationalist leader from Montenegro, shot and killed Croatian Peasant Party leader Stjepan Radić in the parliament chambers. King Alexander used the shooting as a pretext to strengthen his power and on January 6, 1929 he suspended the constitution, dissolved the Skupština and proclaimed a royal dictatorship. He went on to reorganize the regional divisions within the country and renamed it the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. All national identities except "Yugoslav" were abolished.

Yugoslavia became a highly militarized state, which spawned several insurgent nationalist groups opposed to the royal dictatorship. The king was highly unpopular, particularly among non-Serbs, and while on a visit to Marseille, France in 1934, he was assassinated by Macedonian nationalists. His son and successor, Peter II, was a child, so power fell into the hands of the ineffectual Prince Paul, who continued on an authoritarian path with the prime minister Milan Stojadinović.

In the beginning of World War II, Yugoslavia was pressured by Germany and Italy to join the Axis powers. Italy was mired in an inconclusive war with Greece, and before Germany committed its forces to the Greek campaign, it wanted to secure Yugoslavia's support.

Prince Paul submitted to the fascist pressure and signed the Tripartite Treaty in Vienna on March 25, 1941, hoping to still keep Yugoslavia out of the war. But this was at the expense of popular support for Paul's regency. Senior military officers were also opposed to the treaty and launched a coup d'état when the king returned on March 27. Army General Dušan Simović seized power, arrested the Vienna delegation, exiled Paul, and ended the regency, giving 17 year old King Peter full powers.

Hitler then decided to attack Yugoslavia on April 6, followed immediately by an invasion of Greece where Mussolini had previously been repelled. (As a result, the launch of Operation Barbarossa was delayed by four weeks, which proved to be a costly decision.)

Yugoslavia during the Second World War

At 05:15 on April 6 1941, German, Italian, Hungarian, and Bulgarian forces attacked Yugoslavia. The Luftwaffe bombed Belgrade and other major Yugoslav cities. On April 17, representatives of Yugoslavia's various regions signed an armistice with Germany at Belgrade, ending eleven days of resistance against the invading German Wehrmacht. More than three hundred thousand Yugoslav officers and soldiers were taken prisoner.

In the , Serbs, Jews and Gypsies were marched to the
In the Independent State of Croatia, Serbs, Jews and Gypsies were marched to the Jasenovac concentration camp

The Axis Powers occupied Yugoslavia and split it up. The Independent State of Croatia was established as a Nazi puppet-state, ruled by the far-right militia Ustaše. German troops occupied part of Serbia and Slovenia, while other parts of the country were occupied by Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Italy.

Yugoslavs opposing the Nazis organized resistance movements. Those inclined towards supporting the old Kingdom of Yugoslavia joined the Chetniks, a mostly Serb-composed royalist guerilla led by colonel Draža Mihajlović. Those inclined towards supporting the Communist Party (and against the King) joined the Yugoslav National Liberation Army, led by Josip Broz Tito, a Croatian member of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.

The NLA initiated a guerrilla campaign which was developed into the largest resistance army in occupied Western and Central Europe. The Chetniks initially made notable incursions and were supported by the exiled royal government as well as the Allies, but later strayed and lost that support, and also with the population.

The German response to both of these resistance movements was to punish the civil population by carrying out reprisal killings and by giving a free hand to the quisling forces of the Independent State of Croatia. This led to great civilian loss of life, principally but not exclusively among the Serbs of Bosnia and Croatia, whose populations provided a large portion of both rebel formations. The estimated demographic loss was 1,700,000 inviduals or 10% of the population of Yugoslavia.

During the war, the communist-led partisans were de facto rulers on the liberated territories, and the NLA organized people's committees to act as civilian government. On November 25, 1942, the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia was convened in Bihać. The council reconvened on November 29, 1943 in Jajce and established the basis for post-war organisation of the country, establishing a federation (this date was celebrated as Republic Day after the war).

The NLA was able to expel the Axis from Serbia in 1944 and the rest of Yugoslavia in 1945. The Red Army aided in liberating Belgrade as well as many other territories, but withdrew after the war was over.

Westerner attempts to reunite the partisans, who denied supremacy of the old government of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and the emigration loyal to the king, led to the Tito-Šubašić Agreement in June 1944, however Tito was seen as a national hero by the citizens and so he gained the power in post-war independent communist state, starting as a prime minister.

The Second Yugoslavia

Main article: Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

On January 31, 1946 the new constitution of Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, modeling the Soviet Union, established six constituent republics:

The country distanced itself from the Soviets in 1948 (cf. Cominform and Informbiro) and started to build its own way to socialism under strong political leadership of Josip Broz Tito. The country criticized both Eastern and Western block and together with other countries started the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961, which remained the official policy of the country until it dissolved.

On April 7, 1963 the nation changed its official name to Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Tito was named President for life.

In SFRY, each republic had its own constitution, supreme court, parliament, president and prime minister. At the top of the Yugoslav government was a collective Presidency, the federal Prime Minister, and the federal Parliament. An important role was one of the president of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia for each republic, and the president of presidency of Central Committee of the Communist Party.

Josip Broz Tito was the most powerful person in the country, and after him there were republic premiers and presidents, plus Communist Party presidents. People whom he did not favor varied greatly. Slobodan Penezić Krčun served under Tito and then after he started to complain about Tito's politics, he was found dead under unknown circumstances. Aleksandar Ranković lost all of his titles and rights after a major disagreement with Tito regarding state politics. Sometimes ministers in government were more important than the premier, such as in the case of Edvard Kardelj or Stane Dolanc .

The suppression of national identities escalated with the so-called Croatian Spring of 1970-71, when students in Zagreb organized demonstrations for greater civil liberties and greater Croatian autonomy. The regime stifled the public protest and incarcerated the leaders, but many key Croatian representatives in the Party silently supported this cause, so a new Constitution was ratified in 1974 that gave more rights to the individual republics. According to this constitution, individual republics had a right for self-determination, up to secession, which made later break-up easier.


After Tito's death in 1980, ethnic tensions grew in Yugoslavia. Some members of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts drafted a memorandum in the 1980s that opposed the policy of the federation and promoted Serbian nationalism. The ethnic Albanian miners in Kosovo organized strikes which dovetailed into ethnic conflict between the Albanian majority and the Serbian minority in the province.

Serbian communist leader Slobodan Milošević, the new strong man of Yugoslavia, tried to play on the revived Serb nationalism, but ended up alienating all the other ethnic groups in the federation. Autonomy of Vojvodina and of Kosovo and Metohija was reduced, though both entities retained a vote in the Yugoslav Presidency Council.


In January 1990, the extraordinary 14th Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia was convened. The Serbian delegation, led by Milošević, insisted on the reversal of 1974 Constitution policy that empowered the republics and rather wanted to introduce a policy of "one person, one vote", which would empower the majority population, the Serbs. This caused the Slovenian and Croatian delegations (led by Milan Kučan and Ivica Račan, respectively), who instead favored more economic liberalization (such as perestroika), to leave the Congress in protest.

Following the "fall of Communism" in the rest of Eastern Europe, each of the republics elected a new government democratically, but the unresolved issues remained. In particular, Slovenia and Croatia elected governments oriented towards independence (under Milan Kučan and Franjo Tuđman, respectively), while Serbia and Montenegro elected candidates who favoured Yugoslav unity.

In March 1990, the Yugoslav People's Army (Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija, JNA) met with the Presidency of Yugoslavia (an eight member council composed of representatives from six republics and two autonomous provinces) in an attempt to get them to declare a state of emergency which would allow for the army to take control of the country. The representatives of Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo-Metohija, and Vojvodina voted for the decision, while Croatia (Stipe Mesić), Slovenia (Janez Drnovšek), Macedonia (Vasil Tupurkovski ) and Bosnia (Bogić Bogićević ) voted against. The tie delayed an escalation of conflicts, but not for long.

Following the first multi-party election results, the republics of Slovenia and Croatia proposed transforming Yugoslavia into a loose confederation of six republics in the Autumn of 1990, however Milošević rejected all such proposals, arguing that all Serbs should live in the same country. Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991; Macedonia followed in 1992. Bosnia and Herzegovina held a referendum on independence in the same year; this vote was boycotted by the sizeable Serb minority there, which advocated continued union with Yugoslavia. Heavy pro-independence sentiment among Bosnians Muslims and Croats resulted in a Yes vote in the referendum, and the republic's government declared its independence.

Secession of the newly-formed states marked the beginning of the bloody Yugoslav wars. These began with a short war in Slovenia and continued with a war in Croatia in 1991 and in Bosnia in 1992. As a result of the conflict, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted UN Security Council Resolution 721 on November 27, 1991, which paved the way to the establishment of peacekeeping operations in Yugoslavia. [1]

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia consisted of Serbia and Montenegro.
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia consisted of Serbia and Montenegro.

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia officially ceased to exist on April 28, 1992, when the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) was formed. Other dates that are frequently considered as the end of SFRY are June 25, 1991, when Slovenia declared independence, October 9, 1991, when the moratorium on Slovenian and Croatian secession, agreed on July 9 at Brioni (see detailed entry at Brioni Agreement) by representatives of all republics, was ended and January 15, 1992, when Slovenia and Croatia were internationally recognized.

The war in the western parts of former Yugoslavia ended in 1995 with U.S.-sponsored peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, with the so-called Dayton Agreement.

After some years of peace, in 1998, UCK started terrorist actions in the southern Serbian province. In 1999 NATO bombed Serbia and Montenegro for more than two months (see Kosovo War). Since June 1999, the province has been governed by peace-keeping forces from NATO and Russia, although all parties continue to recognise it as a part of Serbia.

Milošević's rejection of claims of a first-round opposition victory in new elections for the Federal presidency in September 2000 led to mass demonstrations in Belgrade on October 5 and the collapse of the regime's authority. The opposition's candidate, reformed nationalist Vojislav Koštunica took office as Yugoslav president on October 6.

On April 1, 2001, Milošević was arrested on charges of abuse of power and corruption. On June 28 he was extradited to the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. His trial on charges of genocide in Bosnia and war crimes in Croatia and in Kosovo and Metohija began at The Hague on February 12, 2002. On April 11, the Yugoslav parliament passed a law allowing extradition of all persons charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal.

In March 2002, the Governments of Serbia and Montenegro agreed to reform FRY in favour of a new, much weaker form of cooperation called Serbia and Montenegro. By order of Yugoslav Federal Parliament on February 4, 2003, Yugoslavia ceased to exist.

Further reading

  • Chan, Adrian: Free to Choose: A Teacher's Resource and Activity Guide to Revolution and Reform in Eastern Europe. Stanford, CA: SPICE, 1991. ED 351 248.
  • Clark, Ramsey: NATO in the Balkans: Voices of Opposition. International Action Center, 1998.
  • Cohen, Lenard J.: Broken Bonds: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.
  • Dragnich, Alex N.: Serbs and Croats. The Struggle in Yugoslavia. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992.
  • Gutman, Roy.: A Witness to Genocide. The 1993 Pulitzer Prize-winning Dispatches on the "Ethnic Cleansing" of Bosnia. New York: Macmillan, 1993.
  • Harris, Judy J.: Yugoslavia Today. Southern Social Studies Journal 16 (Fall 1990): 78-101. EJ 430 520.
  • Jelavich, Barbara: History of the Balkans: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Volume 1. New York: American Council of Learned Societies, 1983. ED 236 093.
  • Jelavich, Barbara: History of the Balkans: Twentieth Century, Volume 2. New York: American Council of Learned Societies, 1983. ED 236 094.
  • Johnstone, Diana: Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Monthly Review Press, 2002.
  • Owen, David: Balkan Odyssey. Harcourt (Harvest Book), 1997.
  • Sacco, Joe: Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995. Fantagraphics Books, January, 2002.
  • West, Rebecca: Black Lamb and Gray Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia. Viking, 1941.


The present-day countries created from the former parts of Yugoslavia are:

The first former Yugoslav republic that joined the European Union was Slovenia which applied in 1996 and became a member in 2004. Croatia applied for membership in 2003, and could join before 2010. Macedonia applied in 2004, and will probably join by 2010-2015. The remaining three republics have yet to apply so their acceptance generally isn't expected before 2015. See also: Enlargement of the European Union


Asteroid 1554 Yugoslavia was discovered by Milorad B. Protitch and named after Yugoslavia.

See also


External links

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