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The Yugoslav Wars were a series of wars fought in Yugoslavia in the 1990s between the republics that sought sovereignty on one side and the government in Belgrade on the other side that wanted to either prevent their independence or keep large parts of that territory under its control. The wars were complex: characterized by bitter ethnic conflicts among the peoples of the former Yugoslavia, mostly between Serbs (and to a lesser extent, Montenegrins) on the one side and Croats and Bosniaks (and to a lesser degree, Slovenes) on the other; but also between Bosniaks and Croats in Bosnia (in addition to a separate conflict fought between rival Bosniak factions in Bosnia). The wars ended in various stages and mostly resulted in full international recognition of new sovereign territories, but with massive economic disruption to the successor states.
Initially the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) sought to preserve the unity of the whole of Yugoslavia by crushing the secessionist governments; however the JNA increasingly came under the influence of the Serbian government of Slobodan Milošević that evoked Serbian nationalist rhetoric and was willing to support the Yugoslav state insofar as using it to preserve the unity of Serbs in one state; as a result the JNA began to lose Slovenes, Croats, Kosovar Albanians, Bosniaks, and ethnic Macedonians, and effectively became a Serb army. According to the 1994 United Nations report, the Serb side did not aim to restore Yugoslavia, but to create a “Greater Serbia” from parts of Croatia and Bosnia.
Often described as Europe's deadliest conflict since World War II, the conflicts have become infamous for the war crimes involved, including mass murder and genocide. These were the first conflicts since World War II to be formally judged genocidal in character and many key individual participants were subsequently charged with war crimes. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established by the UN to prosecute these crimes.
According to the International Center for Transitional Justice, the Yugoslav Wars resulted in the deaths of 140,000 people. The Humanitarian Law Center writes that in the conflicts in former Yugoslav republics at least 130,000 people lost their lives.
The wars are generally considered to be a series of largely separate but related military conflicts occurring during the breakup of Yugoslavia and affecting most of the former Yugoslav republics:
- War in Slovenia (1991)
- Croatian War of Independence (1991–1995)
- Bosnian War (1992–1995)
- Kosovo War (1998–1999), including the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
The war(s) have alternatively been called:
- "War in the Balkans": largely inappropriate, partly because the war affected only the Western Balkans but also because certain areas which saw fighting (e.g., most of Slovenia) are often seen as belonging to Central Europe and not the Balkans.
- "Wars/conflicts in the former Yugoslavia"
- "Wars of Yugoslav Secession/Succession"
- "Third Balkan War": a term suggested by British journalist Misha Glenny in the title of his book, alluding to the two previous Balkan Wars fought 1912–1913. In fact, the term has already been applied by contemporary historians to World War I as an allusion that it was a direct sequel of the 1912–1913 Balkan wars.
- "Yugoslavia Civil War"/"Yugoslav Civil War"/"Yugoslavian Civil War"/"Civil War in Yugoslavia"
The nation of Yugoslavia was created in the aftermath of World War I, and was composed mostly of South Slavic Christians, but the nation also had a substantial Muslim minority. This nation lasted from 1918 to 1941, when it was invaded by Axis powers during World War II. In 1943, a new government called the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) was established under Josip Broz Tito, who maintained a strongly authoritarian leadership that was non-aligned with either the United States or the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
In the 1980s, relations among the six republics of the SFRY deteriorated. Slovenia and Croatia desired greater autonomy within the Yugoslav confederation, while Serbia sought to strengthen federal authority. As it became clearer that there was no solution agreeable to all parties, Slovenia and Croatia moved toward secession.
Although tensions in Yugoslavia had been mounting since the early 1980s, it was 1990 that proved decisive. In the midst of economic hardship, Yugoslavia was facing rising nationalism amongst its various ethnic groups.
By the early 1990s there was no effective authority at the federal level. The Federal Presidency consisted of the representatives of the six republics, two provinces and the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA). The communist leadership was divided along national lines.
The representatives of Vojvodina, Kosovo and Montenegro were replaced with people loyal to Slobodan Milošević, who was at that time President of Serbia, by 1990. This way, Serbia secured four out of eight federal presidency votes and was able to heavily influence decision-making at the federal level, since all the other Yugoslav republics only had one vote. While Slovenia and Croatia wanted to allow a multi-party system, Serbia, led by Milošević, demanded an even more centralized federation and Serbia's dominant role in it. At the 14th Extraordinary Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in January 1990, the Serbian-dominated assembly agreed to abolish the single-party system; however, Slobodan Milošević, the head of the Serbian Party branch (League of Communists of Serbia) used his influence to block and vote-down all other proposals from the Croatian and Slovene party delegates. This prompted the Croatian and Slovene delegations to walk out and thus the break-up of the party, a symbolic event representing the end of "brotherhood and unity".
The wars 
Ten-Day War (1991) 
Initially, the federal government ordered the Yugoslav People's Army to secure border crossings in Slovenia. Slovenian police and Slovenian Territorial Defence blockaded barracks and roads, leading to stand-offs and limited skirmishes around the republic. After several dozen casualties, the limited conflict was stopped through negotiation at Brioni on 9 July 1991, when Slovenia and Croatia agreed to a three-month moratorium on secession. The Federal army completely withdrew from Slovenia by 26 October 1991.
Croatian War of Independence (1991–1995) 
Fighting in this region had begun weeks prior to the Ten-Day War in Slovenia. The Croatian War of Independence began when Serbs in Croatia, who were opposed to Croatian independence, announced their secession from Croatia. This was triggered by a provision in the new Croatian Constitution that replaced an explicit reference to Serbs in Croatia as a "constituent nation" with a generic reference to all other nations, and was interpreted by Serbs as being reclassified as a "national minority".
The JNA had disarmed the Territorial Units of Slovenia and Croatia prior to the declaration of independence. This was aggravated further by an arms embargo, imposed by the UN on Yugoslavia.
The JNA was ostensibly ideologically unitarian, but its officer corps was predominantly staffed by Serbs or Montenegrins (70 percent). As a result the JNA opposed Croatian independence and sided with the Croatian Serb rebels. The Croatian Serb rebels were unaffected by the embargo as they had the support of and access to supplies of the JNA. By mid-July 1991, the JNA moved an estimated 70,000 troops to Croatia. The fighting rapidly escalated, eventually spanning hundreds of square kilometres from western Slavonia through Banija to Dalmatia.
The border regions faced direct attacks from forces within Serbia and Montenegro, and saw the shelling of UNESCO world heritage site Dubrovnik, where the international press was criticised for focusing on the city's architectural heritage, instead of reporting the destruction of Vukovar, a pivotal battle involving many civilian deaths.
Bosnian War (1992–1995) 
In March 1991 the Karađorđevo agreement took place between Franjo Tuđman and Slobodan Milošević. The two presidents tried to reach an agreement on the disintegration process of Yugoslavia, but their main concern was Bosnia, or more precisely its partition.
These attacks were marked by the killings of captured soldiers and heavy civilian casualties (Ovčara; Škabrnja), and were the subject of war crimes indictments by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for elements of the Serb political and military leadership.
In January 1992, the Vance-Owen peace plan proclaimed UN controlled (UNPA) zones for Serbs in territory claimed by Serbian rebels as the Republic of Serbian Krajina and brought an end to major military operations, though sporadic artillery attacks on Croatian cities and occasional intrusions of Croatian forces into UNPA zones continued until 1995.
The Yugoslav armed forces had disintegrated into a largely Serb-dominated military force. Opposed to the Bosnian-majority led government's agenda for independence, and along with other armed nationalist Serb militant forces, the JNA attempted to prevent Bosnian citizens from voting in the 1992 referendum on independence. This did not succeed in persuading people not to vote and instead the intimidating atmosphere combined with a Serb boycott of the vote resulted in a resounding 99% vote in support for independence.
On 19 June 1992, the war in Bosnia broke out, though the siege of Sarajevo had already begun in April after Bosnia and Herzegovina had declared independence. The conflict, typified by the years-long Sarajevo siege and Srebrenica, was by far the bloodiest and most widely covered of the Yugoslav wars. Bosnia's Serb faction led by ultra-nationalist Radovan Karadžić promised independence for all Serb areas of Bosnia from the majority-Bosniak government of Bosnia.
To link the disjointed parts of territories populated by Serbs and areas claimed by Serbs, Karadzic pursued an agenda of systematic ethnic cleansing primarily against Bosnians through massacre and forced removal of Bosniak populations.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the United States reported in April 1995 that 90 percent of all the atrocities in the Yugoslav wars up to that point had been committed by Serb militants. Most of these atrocities occurred in Bosnia.
In 1994 the US brokered peace between Croatian forces and the Bosnian Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the successful Flash and Storm operations, the Croatian Army and the combined Bosnian and Croat forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, conducted an operation codenamed Operation Maestral to push back Bosnian Serb military gains.
Together with NATO air strikes on the Bosnian Serbs, the successes on the ground put pressure on the Serbs to come to the negotiating table. The fighting in Croatia ended in mid-1995, after Operation Flash and Operation Storm. At the end of these operations, Croatia had managed to reclaim all of its territory except the UNPA Sector East bordering Serbia, however most of the Serbian population in these areas had become refugees, and these operations have led to war crimes indictments by the ICTY against elements of the Croat military leadership. The areas uncaptured by the Croatian forces in "Sector East" came under UN administration (UNTAES), and were reintegrated to Croatia in 1998.
Pressure was put on all sides to stick to the cease-fire and negotiate an end to the war in Bosnia.
The war ended with the signing of the Dayton Agreement on the 14 December 1995, with the formation of Republika Srpska as an entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina being the resolution for Bosnian Serb demands.
Kosovo War (1998–1999) 
After its autonomy was quashed, Kosovo was faced with state organized oppression: since the early 1990s, the Albanian radio and television were restricted, the newspapers were closed whereas Kosovo Albanians were fired in large numbers from public enterprises and institutions, including banks, hospitals, the post office and schools. Kosovo Albanian teachers were also prevented from entering school premises for the new school year beginning in September 1991. Albanian students who wanted to study in Albanian language were not able to attend classes. In June 1991 the University of Priština assembly and several faculty councils were dissolved and replaced by Serbs. A parallel university education system was thus organized for Kosovo Albanian students who attended classes in private homes.
After several violent demonstrations, an agreement, stipulating the gradual re-opening of the university and schools and allowing for the sharing of facilities by Albanian and Serb students, was signed on 23 March 1998. The Institute of Albanology was the first to re-open a few days later, but few other faculties followed suit because Serbs opposed the concession of spaces to Albanian students in the University. With time, Kosovo Albanians started an insurgency against Belgrade when the Kosovo Liberation Army was founded in 1996. Armed clashes between two sides broke out by 1998. The Rambouillet talks did not yield any results since Serbs and Albanians had two opposite goals - the Albanians wanted an independent Kosovo, while the Serbs wanted to return them autonomy, but refused disarming their forces there or allowing international peacekeepers to be deployed.
The conflict became a full-scale war in 1999 and the violence by the Serbs forces caused the departure of about 700,000 Albanians from their homes. It ended with the 1999 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a NATO intervention against Serbian forces in 1999, with a mainly bombing but partly ground-based campaign under the command of General Wesley Clark. Kosovo was placed under the governmental control of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo and the military protection of Kosovo Force (KFOR).
Arms embargo 
The United Nations Security Council had imposed an arms embargo. Nevertheless, various states had been engaged in, or facilitated, arms sales to the warring factions: Bulgaria, North Korea, Poland, Ukraine, Romania and Russia were all export countries for weapons to the conflict; the headquarters for a huge logistics operation was in Vienna; financial transactions were executed by a Hungarian bank; arms smugglers used companies registered in the off-shore haven of Panama; and the United Kingdom sent military equipment and provided loans for arms purchases, as did Germany. In 2012, Chile convicted nine people, including two retired generals, for their part in arms sales.
War crimes 
War rape 
During the Bosnian War, so-called "rape camps", aimed at the birth of a new generation of Serb children, were reportedly used. The purpose of these camps was to impregnate the Bosnian and Croatian women. Because of the patrilineal make-up of their society, in which children inherit their father's ethnicity, this was used as a method of ethnic cleansing. In the camps, women were kept in confinement until the late stages of their pregnancies.
According to the Tresnjevka Women's Group, more than 35,000 women and children were held in such Serb-run "rape camps". Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovač, and Zoran Vuković were convicted of crimes against humanity for rape, torture, and enslavement committed during the Foča massacres.
The evidence of the magnitude of rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina prompted the ICTY to deal openly with these abuses. Reports of sexual violence during the Bosnian War (1992–1995) and Kosovo War (1996–1999) perpetrated by the Serbian regular and irregular forces have been described as "especially alarming". The NATO-led Kosovo Force documented rapes of Albanian, Roma and Serbian women by Serbs and members of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
Others have estimated that during the Bosnian War between 20,000 and 50,000 women, mainly Muslim, were raped. A Commission of Experts appointed in October 1992 by the United Nations concluded that:
Rape has been reported to have been committed by all sides to the conflict. However, the largest number of reported victims have been Bosnian Muslims, and the largest number of alleged perpetrators have been Bosnian Serbs. There are few reports of rape and sexual assault between members of the same ethnic group.
Although men also became victim of sexual violence, war rape was disproportionately directed against women who were (gang) raped in the streets, in their homes and/or in front of family members.
War rape in the Yugoslav Wars has often been characterized as genocide. Rape perpetrated by Serb forces served to destroy cultural and social ties of the victims and their communities. Serbian policies urged soldiers to rape Bosnian women until they became pregnant as an attempt towards ethnic cleansing. Serbian soldiers hoped to force Bosnian women to carry Serbian children through repeated rape. Often Bosnian women were held in captivity for an extended period of time and only released slightly before the birth of a child conceived of rape.
The systematic rape of Bosnian women may have carried farther-reaching repercussions than the initial displacement of rape victims. Stress, caused by the trauma of rape, coupled with the lack of access to reproductive health care often experienced by displaced peoples, lead to serious health risks for victimized women.
During the Kosovo War thousands of Kosovo Albanian women and girls became victims of sexual violence. War rape was used as a weapon of war and an instrument of systematic ethnic cleansing; rape was used to terrorize the civilian population, extort money from families, and force people to flee their homes. According to a report by the Human Rights Watch group in 2000, rape in the Kosovo can generally be subdivided into three categories: rapes in woman's homes, rapes during fighting, and rapes in detention. The majority of the perpetrators were Serbian paramilitaries, but they also included Serbian special police or Yugoslav army soldiers. Virtually all of the sexual assaults Human Rights Watch documented were gang rapes involving at least two perpetrators. Since the end of the war, rapes of Serbian, Albanian, and Roma women by ethnic Albanians -- sometimes by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) -- have also been documented. Rapes occurred frequently in the presence, and with the acquiescence, of military officers. Soldiers, police, and paramilitaries often raped their victims in the full view of numerous witnesses.
One of the common misconceptions about the Yugoslav Wars is that they were the result of centuries of ethnic conflict. In fact, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the ethnically mixed region of Dalmatia held close and amicable relations between the Croats and Serbs who lived there, and many early proponents of a united Yugoslavia came from this region, such as Dalmatian Croat Ante Trumbić. However by the time of the outbreak of the Yugoslav Wars the historical hospitable relations between Croats and Serbs in Dalmatia had broken down, with Dalmatian Serbs fighting on the side of the Republic of Serbian Krajina. Clear ethnic conflict between the Yugoslav peoples only became prominent in the 20th century, beginning with tensions over the constitution of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in the early 1920s and escalating into violence between Serbs and Croats in the late 1920s after the assassination of the most popular Croatian politician at the time Stjepan Radić. Severe ethnic conflict occurred during World War II during which the Croatian Ustase movement committed genocide against Serbs, while the Serbian Chetnik movement responded with reprisals against Croats as well as murdering Bosniaks. However the Yugoslav Partisan movement was able to appeal to all national groups, including Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks. Josip Broz Tito was half-Croat half-Slovene.
In Serbia and Serb territories, violent confrontations occurred particularly between nationalist Serbs towards non-nationalist Serbs who had criticized the Serbian government and the Serb political entities in Bosnia and Croatia. Serbs who publicly opposed the nationalist political climate during the Yugoslav wars were reported to have been harassed, threatened, or killed.
- Slovenia and Croatia declare independence in June, Macedonia in September. War in Slovenia lasts ten days.
- The Yugoslav army leaves Slovenia, but supports rebel Serb forces in Croatia. The Croatian War of Independence begins in Croatia. Serb areas in Croatia declare independence, but are recognized only by Belgrade.
- Cities of Vukovar, Dubrovnik, Karlovac and Osijek are devastated by bombardments and shelling. A flood of refugees from the war zones and ethnic cleansing overwhelm entire Croatia. Countries of Europe are slow in accepting refugees.
- In Croatia, about 250,000 Croats and other non-Serbs were either removed out of their homes by the Serb forces or fled the violence.
- Vance peace plan signed, creating four United Nations Protection Force zones for Serbs and ending large scale fighting in Croatia.
- Bosnia declares independence. Bosnian war begins with Serbs trying to create a new, separate Serb state, Republika Srpska, that would swallow as much of Bosnia as possible.
- Federal Republic of Yugoslavia proclaimed, consisting of Serbia and Montenegro, the only two remaining republics.
- United Nations impose sanctions against FR Yugoslavia and accepts Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia as members. FR Yugoslavia claims being sole legal heir to SFRY, which is disputed by other republics. UN envoys agree that Yugoslavia had 'dissolved into constituent republics'.
- The Yugoslav army retreats from Bosnia, but leaves its weapons to the army of Republika Srpska, which attacks poorly armed Bosnian cities of Zvornik, Kotor Varoš, Prijedor, Foča, Višegrad, Doboj. Siege of Sarajevo starts.
- Approx. 600,000 non-Serbian refugees.
- Bosniak-Croat conflict begins in Bosnia.
- Fighting begins in the Bihać region between Bosnian Government forces loyal to Alija Izetbegović, and Bosniaks loyal to Fikret Abdić who is supported by Serbs.
- Sanctions in FR Yugoslavia, now isolated, create hyperinflation of 3.6 million percent a year of the Yugoslav dinar; this had never been known previously. The inflation exceeds that experienced in the Great Depression of 1929.
- The Stari Most (The Old Bridge) in Mostar, built in 1566, was destroyed by Croats. It was rebuilt in 2003.
- Peace treaty between Bosniaks and Croats arbitrated by the United States, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina formed.
- FR Yugoslavia starts slowly suspending its financial and military support for Republika Srpska and stabilizes the economy structure with Economic Implementation Framework.
- Srebrenica massacre reported, 8,372 Bosniaks killed by Serb forces.
- Croatia launches Operation Storm, reclaiming all UNPA zones except Eastern Slavonia, and resulting in exodus of 150,000–200,000 Serbs from the zones. War in Croatia ends.
- NATO launches a series of air strikes on Bosnian Serb artillery and other military targets. Croatian and Bosnian army start a joint offensive against Republika Srpska.
- Dayton Agreement signed in Paris. War in Bosnia and Herzegovina ends. Aftermath of war is over 100,000 killed and missing and two million people internally displaced or refugees. Serb defeat in Croatia and West Bosnia allows Croatian and Bosniak refugees to return to their homes, but many refugees of all nationalities are still displaced today.
- After signing the Dayton Agreement, Yugoslavia is granted with looser sanctions, still affecting much of its economy (trade, tourism, industrial production and exports of final products), but allowing for its citizens to exit Yugoslavia, for a limited time.
- FR Yugoslavia recognizes Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
- Fighting breaks out between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
- Following a fraud in local elections, hundreds of thousands of Serbs demonstrate in Belgrade against the Milošević regime for three months.
- Eastern Slavonia peacefully reintegrated into Croatia, following a gradual three-year handover of power.
- Fighting in Kosovo gradually escalates between Albanians demanding an independent Kosovo and the Serb forces.
- Račak massacre, Rambouillet talks fail. NATO starts a military campaign in Kosovo and bombards FR Yugoslavia in Operation Allied Force.
- Following Milošević signing of an agreement, control of Kosovo is handed to the United Nations, but still remains a part of Yugoslavia's federation. After losing wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, numerous Serbs leave those countries to find refuge in Serbia. In 1999, Serbia was the host of about 700,000 Serb refugees.
- Fresh fighting erupts between Albanians and Yugoslav security forces in Albanian populated areas outside of Kosovo, with the intent of joining three municipalities to Kosovo.
- Franjo Tuđman dies. Shortly after that, his party loses the elections.
- Slobodan Milošević is voted out of office, and Vojislav Koštunica becomes the new president of Yugoslavia.
- With Milošević ousted and a new democratic government in place, FR Yugoslavia comes out of isolation. The political and economic sanctions are suspended in total, and FRY is reinstated in many political and economic organizations, as well as becoming a candidate for other collaborative efforts.
See also 
- Dissolution of Serbia and Montenegro
- Dissolution of Czechoslovakia
- Dissolution of the Soviet Union
- Goldstein (1999), p. 256
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|Timeline of Yugoslav statehood|
Kingdom of Dalmatia
Banat, Bačka and Baranja
Free State of Fiume
Fascist Italy and
|Democratic Federal Yugoslavia
Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Consisted of the
Socialist Republics of
| Republic of Slovenia
Independent State of Croatia
| Republic of Croatiab
Croatian War of Independence
|Bosnia|| Bosnia and Herzegovinac
|Vojvodina||Part of the Délvidék region of Hungary||Autonomous Banatd
(part of the German
Territory of the
|Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Republic of Kosova (1990–2000)
|State Union of Serbia and Montenegro||Republic of Serbia|| Republic of Serbia
Includes the autonomous province of Vojvodina
|Serbia||Kingdom of Serbia
|Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia
|Kosovo||Part of the Kingdom of Serbia
|Mostly annexed by Albania
along with western Macedonia and south-eastern Montenegro
|Republic of Kosovog|
|Metohija||Kingdom of Montenegro
Metohija controlled by Austria-Hungary 1915–1918
|Macedonia||Part of the Kingdom of Serbia
|Annexed by the Kingdom of Bulgaria
|Republic of Macedonia|