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What Ever Happened to
Yugoslavia?

Overview

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Yugoslavia has gone through many changes since it formed as a nation after World War I, but the most significant changes to the political boundaries happened not too long ago. Yugoslavia declared that the official name would be the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, which was modeled after the Soviet Union. The Republic of Yugoslavia was made up of 8 regions classified as 6 republics, 1 province, and 1 district.

Click on the flags below to learn more about the regions.

map

In 1963 the country again changed its name to Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and named Josip Broz Tito president for life. This led to a government that allowed each province and republic to have its own constitution, supreme court, parliament, president, and prime minister - although President Tito still ruled over all of these regions. This rule continued until 1980 and then the separation from Communism in 1990. The creation of these individual constitutions were the beginnings of future nations.

In 1990 there were many political, military, and ethnic conflicts that led to the downfall of the country called Yugoslavia. At that time a controversial leader, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and member of the socialist party sought to restore Serbia to it's former sovereignty. In a complicated series of events it led to the Yugoslav Wars. Milosevic was not alone in criticism or accusations as outlined in this article, as the war lasted from 1991-95.

Questions to Test Knowledge

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Students will use the following sites to complete a European Map and label the countries formed out of the former Yugoslavia and label the surrounding countries.

The war that lasted from 1991-1995 had an underlying ethnic factor to it. This link shows the ethnic make up and how it changed throughout the war.

Using this map have students label the regions outlined below:

  • Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Socialist Republic of Croatia
  • Socialist Republic of Macedonia
  • Socialist Republic of Montenegro
  • Socialist Republic of Serbia
  • Socialist Republic of Slovenia

Insight and Perspective from an exchange student

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I had the opportunity to interview on of CIEE's grants students, Aleksa, who is part of the Serbia and Montenegro (SAM) grants program. He has spent the last 10 months as a high school student in Oregon. His response to the topic and the answers to the questions show how important it is to have the student exchange program - changing the world one student at time.

Before I start answering your questions I would like to give you a little introduction regarding origins and differences between Yugoslav peoples. All the major peoples of Former Yugoslavia (Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Macedonians, Slovenes and Montenegrins) are Slavs. We all have the same ancestors, almost the same or the same languages, and very very similar customs and traditions. Genetically we are the same as well. By looking at any of us, you can't tell if we are Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims ... (Other Slavic peoples other than us are Russians, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Ukrainians and Belorussians) The whole point of my introduction is that all the wars which happened between us were basically brother-killing wars because the only thing that we don't have in common is religion. Croats and Slovenes are Catholics, Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians are Orthodox Christians and Bosnian Muslims are clearly Muslims (they were converted to Islam in the middle ages during the ottoman domination of the Balkans).

1. Recently Ratko Mladic (Mladic was the commander of Bosnian Serb forces during the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina) was brought to trial at the UN war crime tribunal. He is being accused of genocide of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys slaughtered at Srebrenica in 1995. What knowledge do you have from Serbia regarding this commander, and what sort of opinions are currently being expressed by those you know in Serbia?

I know that prior to war Ratko Mladic (Serbian: Ратко Младић, pronounced: Ratko Mladich) was a very respected general of Yugoslav National Army. When the war started he joined the Army of the Republic of Srpska (Vojska Republike Srpske) which was a self proclaimed army of Bosnian Serbs. (Bosnia is even today the most diverse republic of Former Yugoslavia because there Croats, Serbs and Muslims live in the same country). Other than that I only know about the massacre in Srebrenica that Mladic's troops committed in 1995. In Serbia people have different opinions and feeling regarding this topic. Some say that Srebrenica was simply an act of retaliation for war crimes that Muslims committed over Serbs. Almost like tit for tat (I totally don't agree with this point of view and think that there is absolutely no justification for killing people). Other people consider him a war criminal and are more than happy to see him brought to justice.

2. The war in Yugoslavia ended in 1995, do any of your family members have any memories of the war that you could share?

None of my family members took part in the war. The state of Serbia was never officially involved in the war, there weren't any battles or skirmishes on the territory of the state of Serbia and Serbian troops never participated in the fights in Bosnia. On the other hand there was a lot of volunteers from Serbia who joined the army of Bosnian Serbs and Serbian president at the time, Slobodan Milosevic, was openly supporting Bosnian Serbs and providing them weapons.

3. War can create tensions long after a war is over, how are the countries of the the region moving on from the issues that led to the war?

We are trying to move on but many people are still of two minds. It looks to me like people are trying to forget about the war, because in the end nobody gained anything (all the borders remained unchanged, there's only thousands of dead bodies left behind to remind us of how stupid we all were at one point of our history) . Despite the motivation to move on a lot of Serbs feel that we were singled out as the bad guy unfairly.

4. As an exchange student in America, what would you like others to know about Serbia and how the war has affected the people and the country as a whole?

I would like people to know that Serbia is a beautiful country and that Serbs and all the other Yugoslavs are very friendly and open souled people. I invite everybody to come and visit the region and I guarantee that they will have a lot of fun and form a different opinion about us. As I said Serbia was never officially involved in the war so we weren't directly affected by the fighting and the war itself. On the other hand in the 90s' international sanctions were put on Serbia which slowed down our economical development and restrained us from traveling freely for a number of years.

5. Do you feel that there are still ethnic tensions in your region of the world (countries of the former Yugoslavia)?

I feel that there are still ethnic tensions and nationalism in the region and I worried that there is a resurgence of that at the moment. Many people are once again united by the common goals (joining the European Union and improving our living). However, I believe that joblessness and a poor economy is lending fuel to nationalism and ethnic tensions. And personally I hope that everybody is starting to realize how pointless the war was and that we are all human beings who share many more similarities than they have differences. I'm very glad that I became an exchange student because it helped me understand how similar, almost the same we all are and I can proudly say that now I have friends and family here who are all of different ethnic and religious backgrounds and that Oregon is my second home. The same thing needs to happen in former Yugoslavia. As soon as the people realize that "the other" is the same as they are all the tensions will be gone.

Activities Related to the former Yugoslavia

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Using this link, see if students can identify the countries as they have changed over the years.

The United Nations became involved in the war in the former Yugoslavia (link), what other countries/regions has the United Nations peacekeeping force taken part in in the last few years. What country is the UN currently involved in with military actions?

Ethnic differences have led to many other conflicts around the world. Using internet resources, have students find 2 conflicts that had ethnic hostilities as a factor, and write a one page summary on both of the conflicts.

Current Issues with the former Yugoslavian Region

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Since the war in Yugoslavia was fueled by ethnic tensions, there are many leaders involved in the war that are still being sought for war crimes. Recently Ratko Mladic, a Bosian Serb commander was caught, there has been a worldwide search to bring him to a trial for atrocities.

The following links will give some insight and background to his involvement in the war and the genocide that occurred.

Link to the recent capture of Mladic.

This link to a CNN report could be disturbing to others - please view before presenting to students to determine if it is appropriate

This series of videos gives the perspective from the Commander of the UN forces in the Yugoslav region.

This four part series is also a good perspective of the people of former Yugoslavia.

Lead a discussion on what student perspective is on the events that led to the war. Discuss the videos after watching them in small groups and note what impacted them from the videos you viewed

 
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