Originally Posted by 6 Foot 3
From my understanding wasn't the war between religious factions and not balkan nationalism? ... i.e. muslims vs christians?
So i assume the christians are from the Byzantines and the muslims from the later Ottomans?
It's a very complex region in terms of ethnicities and religions. The more recent history pretty much begins with the Ottoman Empire and its decline and the gaining of territory by the Austro-Hungarians. Through it all, the Serbs were fiercly nationalist and constantly sought support from Russia as they were the only Slavic Orthodox nation. The people in Bosnia had largely converted to Islam during Ottoman and had been placed in an elevated position relative to the Serbs because of it. When the Austrians moved in the Croatians were mainly Catholic and were welcoming of Austrian rule.
During WW1 the intellegentsia managed to push their governments toward the idea of a single Pac-Slavic state. Following Versailles a new nation was created and Alexander I was made king. Alexander was Montengran, but his father was the King of Serbia. His coronation united the crowns and formed the basis for the new country. The king attempted to promote unity among all peoples and dissolved the traditional territorial boundaries, abolished all political parties, banned the old flags, etc. He redrew the map and moved territory around between ethnic groups using various rivers as the borders. This served to greatly alienate the non-Serb population in Yugoslavia that felt the Serbs were dominating the new country. Alexander was assissinated in France by a Croat national and his 11 year old son took the throne.
Peter, the new king, through his brother the regent Paul did his best to try and keep Yugoslavia out of WW2 and prevent the rise of nationalism and fascism from taking hold. Croatia had a strong nationalist movement and was on the way to becoming it's own federated state when WW2 broke out. Paul signed a treaty with the Axis to avoid invasion, but this angered the nationalist elements and the military who launched a coup and overthrew his government and gave all power to the young Peter as a puppet. Hitler chose to invade and sieze the territory.
During the occupation Yugoslavia was carved up into different territories and placed under the jurisdiction of various Axis nations. The one exception was Croatia which formed its own Axis allied state and installed a very nationalist regime. This regime led a bloody crusade against Serbs in their territory. Over 500k were killed, 250k expelled and another 200k were forced to convert to Catholicism.
Two main partisan factions rose during this time, one being the Chetniks who were pro-royal and led by Mihaljovic and the other the Yugoslav Partisans who were communist and led by Tito. The Chetniks were almost 100% Serbian while Tito's forces were a mix from all over Yugoslavia. Together they formed the largest resistance army in Europe during WW2.
To counter this the Germans created a SS division composed primarily of Bosnian Muslims to fight the partisans. This added a lot of fuel to the fire as the Germans tapped into the latent differences and hatred between the groups. The Chetniks fearing the growing strength of Tito's forces ended up fighting against Tito alongside the Bosnian SS units and receiving support from the Axis powers. The Chetniks essentially became the basis for a Serb nationalist militia.
Tito's forces managed to liberate most of Serbia from German control and then with the help of Soviet forces drove the rest of the Germans from Yugoslavia. The Soviets withdrew immediately after the war was over. Yugoslav officials then met with the Allies to attempt to reconcile the partisans and re-establish the government, but this failed and Tito who was now a national hero was overwhelmingly chosen to lead the nation.
OK...here we go...deep breath...
Tito's forces had pretty much suppressed the nationalist forces of the Serbs and Bosnians who had been fighting each other more then the Germans. He now went about creating a new multinational state.
The country was divided into 6 Republics along historic lines; Bosnia and Herzegovinia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Serbia. Tito did an excellent job of trying to preserve the identity of each area, while creating a united nation overall through the use of symbols and flags, etc. and also his distancing himself from the Soviets and becoming a "non-aligned" nation.
Nationalist sentiments remained low until the "Croat Spring" which began in the 1970's. The Croats were protesting against what they saw as Serb domination of the central government (Serbs as the largest population segment had the most representation) and were lobbying for greater Croatian autonomy.
To hold the country together Tito arrested the demonstrators while at the same time acquiescing to their demands in the form of the 1974 consitution. This document did several things:
1. It gave the Republics the right to separate from Yugoslavia.
2. It greatly reduced Serb power by carving off two sections of Serbia and creating "autonomous provinces". These two areas were Vojvodina and Kosovo.
The Croats and Slovenians were happy, but the Serbs were not and interestingly enough either were the ethnic Albanians who lived in Kosovo and wanted the rights of a full republic that could then separate. The constutition made the central government weaker, but this was made up for by Tito's strength.
The country moved along with Tito in declining health and worked to prop up the declining export based economy using large loans from the west. Tito died in 1980 and ethnic tensions continued to rise and led to a near paralysis of the government. Nationalist entities were formed and lobbied for their various interests. Slovenia and Croatia wanted more autonomy. Kosovo wanted to be recognized as a republic so it could separate. Serbia wanted hegemony over the nation again. It got so bad that Serb dominated areas of Croatia started independence movements.
Enter Slobodan Milosevic...
The Yugoslav Presidency Council which had replaced Tito as the ruling force was composed of 8 seats, 6 for each republic and 2 for each region that had been carved out of Serbia. At the local level Serbia was still responsible for many day-to-day affairs in these provinces, but at the federal level they were free to vote against Serbia and on the side of the other republics. These regions made perfect pawns in the power game.
Milosevic managed to reduce the power of Kosovo and Vojvodina and sieze control of their voting power on the council. These two regions plus Serbia's vote along with the Serb allied Montenegro gave Serbia defacto control of the nation.
Economic issues then took center stage and Yugoslavia was forced to take an IMF bailout that plunged the country into depression. At the same time miners in Kosovo went on strike over the reduced status of Kosovo and Serb domination. The miners were calling for Kosovan autonomy and recognition. Croatia and Slovenia openly supported the cause of the miners. The Serbs worked to put down the strike and subsequent large scale demonstrations first with police and then with the Federal Army which was under their control since they dominated the Presidency Council.
Against this backdrop the 1990 Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia was held. The Slovenians supported by the Croats were pushing for a weakening of the federal government and greater autonomy for the republics. The Serbs led by Milosevic were pushing for a "one person, one vote" federal state that would have given the Serbs total control. The Slovenian proposal was voted down and their delegation along with the Croats chose to leave the League, effectively dissolving it.
As communism fell in Eastern Europe the various republics prepared for their party elections. Slovenia and Croatia held multi-party elections with their communist parties having given up peacefully. The other republics led by Serbia tried to impose sanctions on them, but one-by-one the republics all democratized. In the case of Montenegro and Serbia, they were the last ones and reaffirmed the former communist party leaders.
The governments of Slovenia and Croatia had elected governments that promised greater autonomy to its citizens and being free from Serb hegemony. The Serb and Montenegran leaders promised to expand their influence and hold the nation together.
As the country drifted apart, the Serbs in Croatia feared that they would end up orphaned under Croat rule and they began to plan and openly resist Croat moves. These resistance movements and demonstrations were secretly backed by the Serb dominated Yugoslav Army. These Serbs began to claim the creation of new autonomous regions, carving up Slovenian and Croatian territory. The Slovenian and Croatian "home guard" became involved, but was stopped and had their weapons siezed by the Yugoslav Army which then went and disarmed the police and home guard forces of all the republics.
Slovenia and Croatia began importing arms to re-equip their forces. This was discovered by the Serbs and used for propaganda purposes. The Army met with the Presidency Council and demanded they declare a state of emergency. The Serb block voted for it, the Croat-Slovene block against it tieing the militaries hands and letting the minor "brush fires" continue to burn. Another attempt was made to give the republics more independence, but Milosevic blocked all attempts.
On June 25th 1991 Croatia and Slovenia declared independence. The Army was ordered to maintain the recognized borders. Confusion reigned as home guard and police units moved in to take control of the army installations and fighting erupted. Things were quieted down when a ceasfire was declared and Slovenia and Croatia agreed to delay independence so the army had time to pull out.
The army left Slovenia without incident, but major fighting broke out in Croatia when ethnic Serbs, supported with weapons from the army, resisted the Croat security forces moving into the region. The conflict was now open and spreading.
Macedonia declared independence and was allowed to go without resistance backed with a force of US led UN peacekeepers. However, when Bosnia attempted to declare independence the Serbian population engaged in open resistance and were supported by the Serbian dominated military. The region now plunged further into war...
So, that's the brief Cliff Notes version of what happened, why they hate each other and how the whole thing ended up in a massive civil war. It also explains the whole Kosovo thing and why the ethnic Albanians basically wanted for themselves what the Serbs were fighting to get in areas that they were the ethnic majority in.