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Yugoslavia is what remains of a much larger country, also called Yugoslavia, that broke up into several independent nations in 1991 and 1992. The new Yugoslavia, like the former, lies on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. Belgrade is the nation's capital and largest city.

The name Yugoslavia means Land of the South Slavs. The name comes from the fact that the first Yugoslav state was formed in 1918 with the goal of uniting three groups of South Slavs: the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Yugoslavia's mix of people gave the country a rich variety of cultures. However, differences in religion, language, and culture eventually contributed to Yugoslavia's breakup.

From 1946 to 1991, Yugoslavia was a federal state consisting of six republics. In 1991 and 1992, four of the republics--Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia--declared their independence. Fighting then broke out between Serbs and other ethnic groups in Croatia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina. A cease-fire ended most of the fighting in Croatia in January 1992, but some fighting continued.

In April 1992, Serbia and Montenegro formed a new, smaller Yugoslavia. However, the United States and most other nations refused to recognize the country.

In late 1995, the Croatian government and the leaders of the Croatian Serbs agreed to end the war in Croatia. Also in late 1995, leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia signed a peace treaty. A number of countries then recognized the new Yugoslavia.

Карта Югославии


Yugoslavia became a Communist state in 1945 under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito, who ruled until his death in 1980. Under Tito, Yugoslavia developed its own form of Communism, independent of control by the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was the most powerful Communist country in the world until 1991.

The Communists in Yugoslavia banned all other political parties. However, they lifted the ban in 1990. That year, the first multiparty elections were held in all the republics. Non-Communist parties won control of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia. Communists, renamed Socialists, continued to hold power in Serbia and Montenegro.

National government. In theory, Yugoslavia's government is democratic. It has an elected parliament and an appointed president and prime minister. In practice, however, power is in the hands of the president, Slobodan Milosevic. Milosevic became president in 1997 after serving two terms as president of Serbia. Because hecould not serve a third term as Serbia's president, he had the Yugoslav parliament appoint him president of Yugoslavia. Milosevic's party--the Socialist Party of Serbia--holds a majority of seats in Yugoslavia's legislature. Milosevic's control of the parliament allows him to rule in a dictatorial manner.

Local government. Both Serbia and Montenegro have a popularly elected president and parliament. Serbia includes the provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. These two provinces had many powers of self-government until 1990, when Serbia stripped them of their special status.

Courts. Yugoslavia has a variety of local and national courts. The Federal Court of Yugoslavia is Yugoslavia's highest court.

Armed forces. The armed forces consist of air, ground, and naval forces and frontier guard units. Men are drafted at age 18 for 12 months of military service.


About two-thirds of the people of Serbia have Serb ancestry, and about two-thirds of Montenegro's people are Montenegrins. In Kosovo, about 90 percent of the people are ethnic Albanians. Other ethnic groups in Serbia include Croats, Hungarians, Montenegrins, Romanians, and Slovaks. Other ethnic groups in Montenegro include Albanians, Muslim Slavs, and Serbs.

Serbs and Montenegrins speak Serbo-Croatian and traditionally use the Cyrillic alphabet, the same system of writing used in Russian and other Slavic languages. Yugoslavia's many ethnic groups have their own languages, but most speak Serbo-Croatian.

Many of Yugoslavia's city dwellers live in older apartments or houses. Suburban residents in the country often live in modern apartment buildings. Many of Yugoslavia's rural families have small houses made of brick, stone, or wood.

Serbian cooks are known for grilled, highly seasoned meats and spicy salads. Common beverages enjoyed by Yugoslavia's people include plum brandy and thick, sweet Turkish coffee.

Sporting events, especially soccer and basketball games, draw big crowds in Yugoslavia. In winter, many people hike, hunt, or ski in the mountains of Montenegro. In summer, they enjoy fishing, swimming, or other water sports in the Adriatic Sea.

Most Serbs and Montenegrins either belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church or practice no religion. Many Hungarians and Slovaks are members of ethnic churches, such as the Hungarian Evangelical Lutheran Church or the Slovak Evangelical Christian Church.

Education is free in Yugoslavia. A law requires children from ages 7 through 14 to attend school. Yugoslavia has universities in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Podgorica, and Pristina.

Land and climate

Yugoslavia covers 39,449 square miles (102,173 square kilometers) in southeastern Europe. The country has three land regions: (1) the Coastal Region, (2) the Interior Highlands, and (3) the Pannonian Plains.

The Coastal Region is a narrow strip of land along the Adriatic Sea. The region has rocky cliffs and little fertile soil. The Coastal Region has a mild climate. The temperature rarely falls below freezing in winter. Summers in the Coastal Region are sunny, hot, and dry.

The Interior Highlands are mostly hilly or mountainous. The Dinaric Alps parallel the Adriatic Coast. The Balkan Mountains rise on Yugoslavia's eastern border. Earthquakes frequently strike the Interior Highlands. In 1979, a major earthquake badly damaged towns and villages in the southern Highlands and also caused great destruction in the Coastal Region.

The Interior Highlands have bitterly cold winters with much snow. Heavy rains fall in early summer. Summers are cool in the mountains but warm in the valleys.

The Pannonian Plains lie in northern Yugoslavia. The region is mostly flat, with some low hills. It has the richest soil in Yugoslavia and is the country's chief agricultural area. The Pannonian Plains have cold winters. Summers are dry and hot. Heavy rains in spring and autumn frequently cause floods.

Rivers and lakes. Yugoslavia's most important river is the Danube. It enters the country from Hungary and flows through the Pannonian Plains. The waterway then enters Romania through a spectacular gorge called the Iron Gate. The Danube's main tributaries in Yugoslavia are the Morava, Sava, and Tisa rivers. Yugoslavia's largest lake, Lake Scutari, extends into Albania.


After the Communists took control of Yugoslavia in 1945, they began working to develop Yugoslavia from an agricultural country into an industrial nation. The government introduced programs to encourage industrial growth and to raise living standards. At first, government agencies developed and carried out the programs. But in the 1950's, the government began a system of self-management. Under this system, economic planning is done by workers in individual enterprises, such as factories and mines. A workers' council in each enterprise determines production goals, prices, and wages--all based on government guidelines. In the early 1990's, the new Yugoslav government announced plans to move toward a free-enterprise system that would give more power to business owners and managers. But little progress has been made in that direction.

Agriculture still employs a large number of Yugoslavs. Farmers in Serbia and Montenegro grow corn, potatoes, tobacco, and wheat. They also raise cattle, hogs, and sheep. Other important crops in Montenegro include cherries, figs, grapes, olives, peaches, pears, and plums. Farmland covers nearly half of Yugoslavia.

Forests, which cover about a fourth of the country, are an important natural resource. Yugoslavia also has mineral resources. Mines yield bauxite, coal, copper ore, lead, and zinc. Wells in the Adriatic Sea and in the Pannonian Plains in northern Yugoslavia produce petroleum and natural gas.

Factories in Yugoslavia make aluminum, automobiles, cement, iron and steel, paper, plastics, textiles, and trucks. A good system of roads extends from Belgrade, the capital. Roads in the rest of the country, especially in Montenegro, are less developed. There are airports in Belgrade, Nis, Podgorica, Pristina, and Tivat.

In Yugoslavia, the major newspapers and many radio and television stations are under government control. The number of independent broadcasters is limited because the government charges expensive licensing fees and also refuses licenses to radio and television stations that are critical of the government.


Groups of Slavs began to move into the Yugoslav area in the A.D. 500's. They migrated from what are now southern Poland and Russia and became known as South Slavs. Each Slavic group formed its own independent state. For example, the Croats established Croatia, and the Serbs founded Serbia. But by 1400, foreign powers controlled nearly all the lands of the South Slavs. Austria ruled Slovenia, and Hungary ruled Croatia. The Ottoman Empire controlled Serbia, which included what are now Macedonia and Montenegro. The Ottomans, who were based in present-day Turkey, also ruled Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Venetians controlled the coastal region of Dalmatia, now part of Croatia.

The movement for Slavic unity began in the early 1800's. Slovenia and Croatia were united in 1809 under the rule of Napoleon I of France. They were formally returned to the Habsburg ruler of Austria and Hungary in 1815, but this brief period of unity inspired Slovenes and Croats to work for an independent nation of all South Slavs. Serbia, which gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, was also interested in such a union. But Austria-Hungary, which ruled Slovenia and Croatia, refused to grant those lands independence. In addition, Austria-Hungary extended its control of the area by annexing Bosnia-Herzegovina.

During the early 1900's, the movement to unite the South Slavs gained strength. On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Serb from Bosnia-Herzegovina, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina's capital. Austria-Hungary accused Serbia of planning the killing and declared war on it, which marked the start of World War I. Austria-Hungary was defeated in 1918. The South Slavs were then free to form their own state.

A new nation called the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was formed on Dec. 1, 1918. It consisted of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Dalmatia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. King Peter I of Serbia became king of the new nation. However, he was old and sick, so his son Alexander ruled in his place. Peter died in 1921, and the son became King Alexander I.

Problems soon developed in the kingdom. The Slovenes and Croats believed that the Serbs had too much power in the government. They demanded greater control over their local affairs. In addition, the kingdom's many nationality groups made unity difficult.

The nation's Constitution, adopted in 1921, provided for a constitutional monarchy. But in 1929, King Alexander abolished the Constitution and began to rule as adictator. He named the country Yugoslavia and tried to unite the nationality groups by enforcing the use of only one language, Serbo-Croatian. He also created new political divisions that ignored the ethnic groups' historical boundaries. Alexander's actions worsened relations between the groups. He was assassinated in 1934 by a Macedonian from Bulgaria who was supported by Croatian revolutionaries. His 11-year-old son, King Peter II, was too young to rule. Alexander's cousin, Prince Paul, ruled in the boy's place. But Paul carried on Alexander's policies, and the disputes continued.

World War II began in 1939 as a struggle between the Axis powers, led by Germany and Italy, and the Allies, including Britain and France. Yugoslavia was unprepared for war, so its government tried to stay on friendly terms with both sides. Under pressure from the Germans, the Yugoslav government joined the Axis on March 25, 1941. But the Yugoslav army rebelled. The army overthrew Paul's government, and 17-year-old Peter took the throne. On April 6, Germany invaded Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav army surrendered 11 days later. Peter and other government leaders fled to London and formed a government-in-exile.

German and other Axis troops occupied Yugoslavia. Croatia was proclaimed an independent state, but it was actually controlled by the Axis. Croatia's leader, Ante Pavelic, ordered the killing of many Jews and Serbs. A resistance movement against the Axis occupation spread among the Yugoslav peoples. Some of them joined the Partisans, a group led by Josip Broz Tito and the Communist Party. Other Yugoslavs joined the Chetniks, a group headed by Draza Mihajlovic. The Partisans wanted to establish a Communist government. The Chetniks supported the government of King Peter.

The two resistance groups fought each other, as well as the occupation forces. At first, the Allies provided the Chetniks with weapons and supplies. But they switched their support to the Partisans in 1943 because Tito's forces were more effective against the Axis.

Communist rule. The Partisans quickly gained the support of the Yugoslav peoples. The Communists set up a temporary government in Jajce (now in Bosnia-Herzegovina) in November 1943. Aided by Allied troops, the Partisans freed Belgrade from occupation in 1944. The Communists then began to govern from the capital. By the time World War II ended in Europe in May 1945, Tito and the Communists firmly controlled Yugoslavia.

On Nov. 29, 1945, Yugoslavia became a republic called the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia. The monarchy was abolished, and King Peter never returned to Yugoslavia. Opponents of the Communist government were either imprisoned or exiled. Mihajlovic was executed in 1946. The Roman Catholic archbishop of Zagreb, Aloysius Stepinac, a Communist resister, was imprisoned on false charges of having aided the enemies. Only one political party, the Communist Party, was permitted. The government took control of farms, factories, and other businesses. The 1946 Constitution officially organized Yugoslavia as a federal state--that is, one where each of the six republics largely controlled its own affairs. Kosovo and Vojvodina became autonomous (self-ruling) provinces of Serbia.

Yugoslavia was a close Soviet ally, but Tito refused to let the Soviet Union control the country. In June 1948, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin broke off relations with Yugoslavia. The Cominform, a group of Communist nations, expelled Yugoslavia and withdrew all aid. Yugoslavia turned to the United States and other Western nations for help. Beginning in 1951, the United States provided Yugoslavia with economic aid. Later, the United States also granted military assistance.

After the split with the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia began to develop its own style of Communist society. Yugoslavia's republics and provinces received greater control over local matters. In 1955, two years after Stalin's death, Soviet and Yugoslav leaders reopened relations. But Tito refused to take sides in the Cold War, a bitter political rivalry between the Communist nations and the Western democracies. Instead, he became a leading speaker for uncommitted nations.

In 1971, a 23-member council called the Presidency was established to head the Yugoslav government. A new Constitution in 1974 reduced the Presidency to 9 members. Tito remained the country's top leader as head of the council until he died in May 1980. Then, a system of annual rotation of the top post took effect. Eight members of the Presidency, one from each republic and province, took turns serving one-year terms as head of the council. Until 1989, the leader of Yugoslavia's Communist Party also held a seat on the council but did not take a turn as head of the Presidency.

Recent developments. The Yugoslav economy started to decline in the late 1970's, and the country began to experience severe inflation and other economic problems. A serious economic gap grew between the country's developed republics, such as Croatia and Slovenia, and its less developed republics, such as Macedonia and Montenegro.

In the late 1980's, many Yugoslavs called for a multi-party political system. In January 1990, the Communist Party voted to end its monopoly on power in the country. Many new political parties formed. Each of Yugoslavia's republics held multiparty elections in1990. Non-Communist parties won a majority of seats in the parliaments of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia. In Serbia and Montenegro, the Communist parties, now known as Socialist parties, won majorities.

For many years, tension had existed between ethnic groups in Yugoslavia, especially between Serbs and Croats and between Serbs and ethnic Albanians. During the 1960's, some Croats and Slovenes began to call for independence from Yugoslavia. These demands grew in the 1980's. Croatia and Slovenia charged that the national government took away too much of their income. They also claimed that Serbia, which had the most influence in the national government, sought to control the other republics. Demands for independence also increased among ethnic Albanians in Kosovo during the 1980's. But in the late 1980's, Serbia gradually ended the autonomy of Kosovo and Vojvodina. In 1990, Serbia dissolved Kosovo's government.

In May 1991, Serbia blocked the election of a Croat who was scheduled to become head of the Presidency under the system of annual rotation. Partly as a result, Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence in late June. Fighting then broke out between ethnic Serbs in Croatia who claimed part of the republic and the Croat militia. In September 1991, Macedonia declared its independence.

In January 1992, a cease-fire between the Serbian and Croatian forces ended most fighting. But Serbian forces still held some Croatian land.

In March 1992, a majority of Bosnian Muslims and ethnic Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina voted for independence from Yugoslavia in a referendum (direct vote). Ethnic Serbs boycotted the referendum. Fighting then broke out between Serbs who claimed part of the republic and Muslims and Croats. Serbs soon gained control of about two-thirds of the republic.

In April 1992, Serbia and Montenegro formed a new Yugoslavia. In late 1995, the Croatian government and the leaders of the Croatian Serbs made peace in Croatia. They agreed to a plan that would gradually reunite the land still held by Croatian Serbs with the rest of Croatia. Also in late 1995, representatives of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia signed a peace plan for Bosnia. The plan called for dividing Bosnia into two parts, one part to be dominated by a Muslim-Croat federation and the other by Bosnian Serbs.

In early 1998, Yugoslavia received international criticism after Serbian police attacked villages in theprovince of Kosovo, killing dozens of people and burning many homes. The Yugoslav government said the police attack was a crackdown on the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army, which demands independence for the province. Fighting continued between the Serbian and rebel forces. In late 1998, under pressure from the military alliance NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), both sides in the conflict declared a cease-fire. However, fighting continued.


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