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General location of the political entities known as Yugoslavia. The precise borders varied over the years

Yugoslavia ("Jugoslavija" in Serbo-Croatian (Latin alphabet) and Slovenian; "Југославија" in Serbian (Cyrillic alphabet) and Macedonian; English: "South Slavia", or literally The Land of South Slavs) describes three political entities that existed successively on the Balkan Peninsula in Europe, during most of the 20th century.

The first country to be known by this name was the "Kingdom of Yugoslavia", which before 3 October, 1929 was known as the "Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes". It was established on 1 December, 1918 by the union of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs and the Kingdom of Serbia. It was invaded by the Axis powers in 1941, and because of the events that followed, was officially abolished in 1945.

The country with this name was "Democratic Federal Yugoslavia", proclaimed in 1943 by the communist resistance movement in World War II. It was renamed to the "Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia" in 1946, when a communist government was established. In 1963, it was renamed again to the "Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" (SFRY). The constituent Socialist Republics that made up the country, from north to south, were: SR Slovenia, SR Croatia, SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, SR Montenegro, SR Serbia (including the autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo and Metohija, later simply Kosovo) and SR Macedonia. Starting in 1991, the SFRY disintegrated in the Yugoslav Wars which followed the secession of most of the republic's constituent entities.

The last country to bear the name was the "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" (FRY) established on March 27, 1992. It was a federation on the territory of the two remaining (non-secessionist) republics of Serbia (including the autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo) and Montenegro. On February 4, 2003, it was renamed to the "State Union of Serbia and Montenegro", and officially abolished the name "Yugoslavia." On June 3 and June 5, 2006 respectively, Montenegro and Serbia declared independence, thereby ending the Yugoslav state.


The idea for a single state for all South Slavs emerged in the late 17th century and gained prominence in the 19th century Illyrian Movement but never came to culmination.

During the early period of World War I, a number of prominent political figures from South Slavic lands under the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire fled to London, where they began work on forming the Yugoslav Committee to represent the Southern Slavs of Austria-Hungary. These "Yugoslavs" were Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes who identified themselves with the movement toward a single Yugoslav or South Slavic state and the committee's basic aim was the unification of the South Slav lands with the Kingdom of Serbia (which was independent although occupied at the time).

With the defeat of the Central Powers in World War I and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, various South Slavic territories were quickly grouped together to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes which was proclaimed on 1 December 1918 in Belgrade .

The new kingdom was made up of the formerly independent kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro (which had unified in the previous month), as well as a substantial amount of territory that was formerly part of Austria-Hungary, the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. The lands previously in Austria-Hungary that formed the new state included Croatia, Slavonia and Vojvodina from the Hungarian part of the Empire, Carniola, part of Styria and most of Dalmatia from the Austrian part, and the crown province of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes[edit]


King Alexander's Period[edit]

King Alexander I banned national political parties in 1929, assumed executive power and renamed the country Yugoslavia. He hoped to curb separatist tendencies and mitigate nationalist passions. However, Alexander's policies soon ran into the obstacle of opposition from other European powers stemming from developments in Italy and Germany, where Fascists and Nazis rose to power, and the Soviet Union, where Stalin became absolute ruler. None of these three regimes favored the policy pursued by Alexander I. In fact, Italy and Germany wanted to revise the international treaties signed after World War I, and the Soviets were determined to regain their positions in Europe and pursue a more active international policy.

Alexander attempted to create a genuine Yugoslavia. He decided to abolish Yugoslavia's historic regions, and new internal boundaries were drawn for provinces or banovinas. The banovinas were named after rivers. Many politicians were jailed or kept under tight police surveillance. The effect of Alexander's dictatorship was to further alienate the non-Serbs from the idea of unity.

The king was assassinated in Marseille during an official visit to France in 1934 by an experienced marksman from Ivan Mihailov's Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization in the cooperation of the Ustaše, a Croatian separatist organization. Alexsandar was succeeded by his eleven year old son Peter II and a regency council headed by his cousin Prince Paul.

The beginning of World War II in Yugoslavia[edit]

Hitler then decided to attack Yugoslavia on April 6 1941, 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.)[citation needed]

The Second Yugoslavia[edit]

Numbered map of Yugoslav republics and provinces.

On January 31, 1946, the new constitution of Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, modeling the Soviet Union, established six Socialist Republics, a Socialist Autonomous Province, and a Socialist Autonomous District that were part of SR Serbia. The federal capital was Belgrade. Republics and provinces were (in alphabetical order):

  1. Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the capital in Sarajevo,
  2. Socialist Republic of Croatia, with the capital in Zagreb,
  3. Socialist Republic of Vardaska, with the capital in Skopje,
  4. Socialist Republic of Montenegro, with the capital in Titograd (now Podgorica),
  5. Socialist Republic of Serbia, with the capital in Belgrade, which also contained:
    5a. Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, with the capital in Priština
    5b. Socialist Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, with the capital in Novi Sad
  6. Socialist Republic of Slovenia, with the capital in Ljubljana.

In 1974, the two provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo-Metohija (for the latter had by then been upgraded to the status of a province), as well as the republics of Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro, were granted greater autonomy to the point that Albanian and Hungarian became nationally recognised minority languages and the Serbo-Croat of Bosnia and Montenegro altered to a form based on the speech of the local people and not on the standards of Zagreb and Belgrade.

Vojvodina and Kosovo-Metohija form a part of the Republic of Serbia. The country distanced itself from the Soviets in 1948 (cf. Cominform and Informbiro) and started to build its own way to socialism under the strong political leadership of Josip Broz Tito. The country criticized both Eastern bloc and NATO nations and, together with other countries, started the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961, which remained the official affiliation of the country until it dissolved.