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Disintegration of Yugoslavia, Dissertation Example

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The Beginning of the End: Introduction

The atavistic and violent consequences of a breakdown in political discourse between ethnic groups in multi-ethnic states are notoriously well-known. And yet, for all the deserved opprobrium that this phenomenon invites, for all that ethnic and ethno-sectarian conflicts have proved some of the most bloody and intransigent in the post-World War II period, they invite a deeper and more poignant question pertaining to the timing of these outbreaks of hostility. Specifically, how is it that these militant ideologies of radical nationalism and xenophobia are able to produce outbreaks of violence in ethnic communities that have typically lived side-by-side alongside each other?

The case of the former Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) is particularly instructive in this regard, given that it dissolved in the midst of a particularly intractable and multi-sided set of ethno-sectarian conflicts, despite the fact that the ethno-communities in question had been living side-by-side under the SFRY alone for decades, and longer under previous regimes. Consequently, the case of Yugoslavia is of especial interest for explaining the creation of militant ethno-nationalism within the context of a multi-ethnic state.

In the course of Yugoslavia’s history, inter-ethnic relations alternated between peaceful coexistence and terrible bloodshed. This unstable pattern was the legacy of two particular features of the history of Yugoslavia: first, the difficulties associated with state-building for the many disparate groups of South Slavs that formed Yugoslavia, and second, an outbreak of ethno-national violence during World War II, accompanied by many atrocities.[1] This history had profound consequences for the reconstituted Yugoslav state after World War II: while peaceful coexistence between its ethnic groups prevailed during a period of relative stability, when a time of crisis came, Yugoslavia proved too fragile a socio-political construction to withstand it. Faced with crisis, the various ethno-nationalities fell back on their own particular ethnic identities, rejecting the historically and socio-politically much more shallow formulation of ‘Yugoslav’ identity. Thus, the historical legacies that made and defined Yugoslavia also played a tremendous role in the state’s downfall in the 1990s. During the wars of this period, extreme nationalist propaganda could be seen on the evening news, and songs, poetry and movies all played a role in the respective myth-making attempts of each of Yugoslavia’s major ethno-national communities. The result was the bloodiest conflict on European soil since World War II, a conflict that recalled the worst atrocities of that earlier conflict as well, with forced-labor camps, camps devoted to mass rape, and widespread destruction in cities.

Nonetheless, it is too simplistic to merely blame nationalism for the war in Yugoslavia and have done with. It is imperative to first, carefully define the concept of ethnic nationalism or ethno-nationalism, and second, to articulate the differences between ethno-nationalism and civic nationalism, as well as the differences between Eastern and Western European types of nationalism. The Western type of nationalism is regarded as ethnically inclusive and politically liberal, while its Eastern counterpart is politically illiberal and ethnically exclusive, and often produces regimes that are authoritarian as well as ethnically chauvinistic.[2] Consequently, the Western type of nationalism is civic and political in character, while the Eastern form prizes culture and ethnicity.[3] Nationalism in its modern form dates to the 18th century, and can be defined in general terms as love of nation. As a political ideology, nationalism was responsible for the creation of such states as Italy, Germany, and even Yugoslavia. Nationalism of this type, however, must be distinguished from fascism, a political ideology that espouses a radical form of nationalism and an authoritarian regime. The cardinal characteristic of the former is the conviction that a particular ethno-national community should be united under a single polity; to this the latter adds notorious ethnic chauvinism and political authoritarianism. The distinction is important historically in no small part because both Italy and Germany were the creations of late-19th-century nationalists, and both succumbed in the early 20th century to fascism, as represented by the respective regimes of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.


Nationalism is the devotion to the interests of one’s nation, usually to the exclusion of other competing identities.[4] It has long been a topic of considerable academic interest, with many scholars predicting its dissipation over time. The seminal idea amongst those so disposed is that during times of economic stability and prosperity in a society, its members will feel less of a need to identify themselves by religious, tribal, or ethnic affiliations. In particular, Marx held that nationalism is only a phase that appears during certain stages of economic development, and predicted that in the course of time economic development would eliminate nationalism. However, Marx’s predictions have been refuted by the fact that nationalist movements in many countries have thrived despite economic development.[5]

The liberal view of nationalism is different from that of Marxist theory, at least in its finer points. The idea here is that modernization and economic development cause nationalism to dissipate, because societies that are highly modernized are more concerned with enjoying their increased standards of living than they are with devotion to the interests of the nation (however these may be conceptualized). In place of nationalism, such societies will tend to value education, effective governmental representation, and an equitable distribution of the benefits of a prosperous, modernized economy.[6] While it is true that contemporary democratic states with a high standard of living do not face significant political difficulties on account of nationalist ideology, it has still not disappeared in accordance with liberal predictions. However, it is clear that economic stability has an important relationship with the intensity and prevalence of nationalist sentiments. Greece is a case in point: since the economic crisis of 2008, a radical nationalist party called Golden Dawn has been gaining a great deal of influence, much of it within the past two years alone.[7]

Ethnicity, Ethnic Group, Nation, State

An ethnic group is defined as a population which may be delineated by virtue of having a common, shared cultural identity. In other words, ethnic groups are overwhelmingly created by members’ self-identification: different ethnic groups may share a similar culture, speak the same—or very similar—language, display similar physical characteristics, and even live within the same polity, while remaining distinct on the basis of self-identification. Indeed, Yugoslavia is case in point in this regard.[8]

The terms nation and state have often been conflated erroneously. A state is the term used to describe the governing body for the nation, with a specific territory over which it exercises a claim to sovereignty which is recognized internationally by other states.[9] When the people living within a state are a single ethnicity, and have a common identity as a nation, than the state can be called a nation-state.

Many states have multiple ethnic groups that collectively form the nation, examples of which include Turkey, the USA, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. The case of the United States of America is particularly interesting for the degree to which the national identity (American) is not dependent upon ethnicity or religion. Despite a long history of dominance by the Euro-American majority, and racism towards African-American, Native American, and other minorities, the American national consciousness is multi-ethnic to a remarkable degree. Ethnic minorities, especially African-Americans have also been remarkably successful in overturning the worst forms of institutionalized racism and discrimination with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Militant groups such as the Black Panthers were formed during this period as well, in order to agitate for the rights of long-oppressed minority groups. Although there were episodes of ethno-national violence in the United States during this period, most of it directed against the Civil Rights Movement, this period of American history differs in many ways from both the Yugoslav situation and the Kurdish struggle in Turkey.[10]

The Kurdish people are a distinctly different ethnic group than the Turks, and their long-running conflict with Turkey is based on their struggle for more political and cultural rights. The demands of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for a Kurdish state to be carved out of Turkey, and Turkish intransigence to these demands, have resulted in a protracted conflict. More generally, the Kurdish population of Turkey has demanded the right to Kurdish-language education and television programs.[11]

Multi-ethnic states are most susceptible to violence during times of political and/or economic instability. During times of upheaval and tumult, radical ideologies of nationalism and violence tend to appeal more to a broader cross-section of any given population. A particularly famous case in point is the rise to power of the Nazis in Germany, which came not long after the Great Depression hit Germany. This economic instability, coupled with the humiliations of the Treaty of Versailles, created the conditions in Germany that enabled Hitler to take over and scapegoat the Jews. The disintegration of the former Yugoslavia in a welter of radical ethno-nationalist violence is another example, as is the partition of Cyprus between the internationally-recognized Greek Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus, backed by Turkey.

From this comes the thesis:“States with political and economical instability are more susceptible to extreme nationalism than states with political and economical stability.” The research question, then, is:“To what extent has nationalism influenced the disintegration of Yugoslavia?”  The scope of the work covers nationalism more generally, and the rising popularity of ethnic nationalism in particular. The chief exercise is to demonstrate that political and economic instability causes societies to become particularly susceptible to ethnic nationalism.


There are a number of dimensions and factors pertaining to the problems of nationalism in the former Yugoslavia. The three sections of the thesis are designed to address these categorically, by topic.

The first section is a historical overview, which takes as its starting point the creation of a Yugoslav state as the result of the struggles of South Slavic peoples to liberate themselves from foreign domination. This unitary nationalist struggle (unitary because it embraced several discrete South Slavic ethnicities) culminated in the creation, after World War I, of the Yugoslav state. Another important event was the 1929 change in the system of government under King Alexander I, an event taken by some scholars as the beginning of repressed nationalism. The period leading up to World War II and the World War II period itself will also be analyzed, with the role of the Partisan movement and the Ustasha and Cetnik militia groups warranting particular analysis. As in the 1990s, the World War II period was a time of fierce ideological struggles which mapped onto ethnic lines. Tito’s Yugoslavia is also of considerable importance, because under Tito’s Communist rule, nationalism was forcefully repressed, separatist movements being seen as a challenge to the unity of Yugoslavia. The importance of the SFRY during the Cold War will also be explained, as well as why the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989 was the beginning of the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

The second section will explain the outbreak of the ethno-national conflict in Yugoslavia. The phenomenon of ethno-nationalism will be examined in the cases of Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia. To a lesser extent, Kosovo will also be touched on. In theory, all regions of the former Yugoslavia can be looked to in order to ascertain the reasons for the rapid development of ethno-nationalism in this period. However, the aforementioned republics were the ones in which the essential changes occurred, and as such they are of especial interest for explaining the disintegration of Yugoslavia. The 14th Communist Congress in Belgrade and the Slovenian amendments will also be discussed in order to demonstrate the profound shifts in the agendas of the political elites in former Yugoslavia. The achievement of independence by Croatia and Bosnia during 1991-1992 will be discussed, in the context of the ethno-nationalization of the region. These conflicts will only be covered in part, owing to the complexity of the situation overall. The Kosovo crisis, although a somewhat later development, will also be discussed, particularly since the conflict is the one that made Slobodan Milosevic famous.

Finally, in section three the case of Yugoslavia will be compared to the breakup of Czechoslovakia. The shared reasons for disintegration will be outlined, as well as the differences, but the salient features that they shared were that both were Communist, federations of more than one ethno-national community, and both were Slavic. Moreover, both were post-World War I creations, both had lengthy legacies of foreign domination, and both had nationalisms with similar demands. And yet, despite these similarities, these two Communist countries went through very different democratic transitions and break-ups: where Yugoslavia’s case was extremely violent, Czechoslovakia’s was so peaceful as to be called the ‘Velvet Divorce’.

Ethnic nationalism remains hotly debated as a concept: even today, there are many arguments that only civic nationalism is a realistic model for a people to use in order to express their affiliations. In Eastern Europe, especially the Balkans, however, ethno-nationalist myth-making remains strong, and is still used to legitimate territorial claims. Even before World War II, the Balkans countries fought two horrific wars after gaining independence from the Ottoman Empire, leading to suggestions that the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s collectively constitute the Third Balkan War. Identity is of paramount importance in the history of the Balkans, and explains the success of ethno-nationalism and radical political ideologies in the region, with consequences that have hindered democracy and Euro-Atlantic integration down to the present.

Section I: The Yugoslav Idea

Throughout history, leaders and ideologies have animated struggles for state formation. The United States of America achieved independence from the British Empire through a struggle that was animated by constitutional, Enlightenment principles. Giuseppe Mazzini and his Red Shirts were guided by the nationalist vision of a united Italy, one free of its long history of division and foreign encroachment and domination. Bismarck, the Prussian ‘Iron Chancellor’, pursued an aggressive policy of ‘Realpolitik” that created the German Empire. Belgium’s struggle against the House of Orange was driven by language and cultural differences.[16] Similarly, Yugoslavia was created to unify the South Slavs, in accordance with the vision articulated by its own ‘founding fathers’, such as Ante Pavelic and Ante Trumbic.  The idea of Yugoslavia originated during the 17th century among South Slavic intellectuals, who proposed the creation of a politically united and independent homeland for the disparate South Slavic peoples, then under a mixture of Ottoman and Austrian Habsburg domination.[17] Yugoslavia was located in the Balkan region of Europe. The region got its name “The Balkans” in 1808 from the German geographer August Zeune, who renamed the peninsula of Haemus to Balkan.[18]

The State of Hope

Yugoslavia was formed in the aftermath of World War I, in a climate in which the three great empires of Central and Eastern Europe, namely Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, had all fallen. The map of the entire region was redrawn, and the State of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was one of a number of new states carved out of the fabric of the three failed empires, along with Poland and Czechoslovakia.[19] The State of SHS (Srba Hrvata i Slovena) soon became the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which in turn became the Kingdom of Yugoslavia ten years later.

This achievement was the culmination of a nationalist struggle which had already had a precipitous impact on the world. After all, it was a Yugoslav nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo in 1914.[20] This event was the proximate cause of World War I, after diplomatic talks between Belgrade and Vienna failed that year. Austria-Hungary’s aim was to weaken the Kingdom of Serbia, because Austria-Hungary saw the existence of the Kingdom of Serbia as a threat to their continued control of large Slavic populations in the Balkans.

The Serbian military was demobilized after the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, putting it at a disadvantage against the Austrian forces. At first the Serbian military won the Battle of Drina under the command of Vojvoda Stepa Stepanovic,[21] and the Austrian forces retreated over the river Drina into Bosnia. When the German forces joined the Austrian army and moved deep into Serbian territory, however, the government of Serbia was forced into exile. The capitulation of Serbia highlighted, for many South Slavs, the need for cooperation in the face of foreign aggression if they were to ever gain their freedom and keep it. This lent a great deal of impetus to the movement to create a state of Yugoslavia, a strong South Slavic country. After centuries of domination by the Habsburgs of Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Turks, the idea of a strong, united Yugoslavia capable of resisting foreign domination had a great deal of emotional resonance for the disparate South Slavic ethnicities.

In 1915 the Yugoslav Committee[22] was created to represent the Slavs from the territories under the Hapsburg Monarchy. It included such figures as Ante Trumbic, representative of the Yugoslav Committee and a loyal supporter of the Yugoslav cause.[23] Headquartered in London, the committee worked to promote the unification of the Slavs, and raised funds for achieving this goal from Slavic diaspora communities. The Entente Powers supported the Yugoslav Committee in order to weaken Austria-Hungary. Of the South Slav lands, Austria still possessed Istria and Dalmatia; these were promised to Italy in the Secret Treaty of London. This fueled uncertainty and mistrust amongst the Yugoslav Committee, forcing them to rely heavily on the Serbian Kingdom, which was nominally independent but not in a good position.[24] The Serbian government was still in exile, and under this state of affairs met with the Yugoslav Committee on the 20th of July in 1917, in the Municipal Theater of Corfu, Greece. The meeting is also known as the Corfu Declaration, where Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pasic and Ante Trumbic signed an agreement for the formation of a state that would later be known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

In the Declaration of Corfu, the State of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes agreed to unite under the leadership of the Serbian Karadzordje Dynasty, and Montenegro agreed to join the Kingdom under Karadzorgje rule as well. Thus, the name of the new county would be the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.[25] International recognition and the new nation’s official existence began on the 1st of December 1918, after four devastating years of war came to an end in Europe.

The newly created kingdom was a constitutional monarchy under of Petar I, and the first constitution was passed in 1921. This so-called “Vidovdan Constitution”, passed despite bitter opposition in the parliament. There was bitter factionalism between the Croatian and Serbian politicians in the new Yugoslav Parliament, with each ethnic faction favoring different policies. For example, the Croatian Union proposed an alternate plan to the 1921 Vidovdan Constitution, plan that would have divided the kingdom into six entities:[26]

  • Serbia
  • Croatia
  • Slovenia
  • Montenegro
  • Vojvodina
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina

The proposal was rejected, because the Vidovdan Constitution ensured the unity of the kingdom and did not leave any place for separatist movements. The Vidovdan Consitution also ensured equality for all citizens before the law. However, it was opposed by many nonetheless, including Ante Trumbic, one of the first advocates for a Yugoslav union. The key reason was because Article 127 stated that the king could declare absolute power and suspend the political parties. A second important reason for the unpopularity of the constitution was that it enshrined rule by a Serbian dynasty.[27] The very name ‘Vidovdan’ promoted the Serbs’ national ideology, despite the many other ethnicities in the new kingdom. At the end the parliament was divided between Nikola Pasic’s Peoples’ Radical Party with 91 seats, Tjepan Radic’s Croatian Peasant Party with 50 seats, and Ljubomir Davidovic’s Democratic Party with 92 seats. The Democratic Party was significant for its multi-ethnic membership, including Serbs, Slovenes, and Croats, as well as its liberal politics.[28]

The Beginning of an Internal Political Crisis

The parliamentary elections and the constitution of 1921 resulted in the formation of a political opposition, lead by the Croatian Peasant Party. The political parties struggled to reach an agreement on the new constitution, which ultimately led to the autocracy of King Alexander I beginning in 1929.[29]

By the time King Alexander I came to the throne, the kingdom was already beset by deep-seated political tensions and infighting. The Croatian Peasant Party was divided amongst its members about the unification of the State of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes with the Kingdom of Serbia. Stjepan Radic was the founder of the Croatian Peasant Party, and he was known for opposing the unification out of a fear of Serb domination, unappeased by the lofty sentiments of the Corfu Declaration that brotherhood between Serbs, Croats and Slovenes would prevail. Radic protested against the unification of the new kingdom under the Dynasty of Karadjordze, leading to his arrest in 1919.[30]  Political tensions escalated upon Radic’s release from prison after he organized a protest in Zagreb and stated that the Croatian Peasant Party would not take part in Parliament unless the Serbian domination of policy-making was resolved.

The Vidovdan Constitution of 1921 established 33 local governmental provinces, oblasti, in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. It was difficult to manage the divisions and it did not meet the demands of the political parties, which was seen as a weak constitution. The Croat Peasant Party and the Radical Peoples’ Party began to promulgate separatist political discourse, against the continued existence of a unified Yugoslavia. Radic wanted an independent Croatia, while and members of the Radical People’s Party, such as Pusina Pacic, looked at the Croat territories as a part of the Kingdom. On a parliament session in 1928 Radic was assassinated by Pacic, who was arrested thereafter.[31]

In 1929 King Alexander Karadjorze I was crowned. Under his rule the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was officially renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. On the 6th of January 1929 King Alexander Karadzorgje proclaimed absolute monarchy, in accordance with Article 127 of the Vidovdan Constitution. King Alexander I did this in the name of forestalling an escalation of the political crises that were gripping the Kingdom, but his assumption of power had the predictable effect of stimulating nationalist demands all the more.[32] Anthony Smith explains that the importance of ethnic identity is heightened within a population in a time of crisis and conflict. This was very true in the case of the Croatian population, who were taking a stand against the kingdom in order to demand a different option from the first constitution drafted in 1921. On the other hand, unlike the Croatians, ethnicities such as the Macedonians, Roma, and Albanians were not even represented, despite the fact that they made up a large amount of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.[33][34]

Although the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was not a democracy, the presence of political parties led the people to believe that the nation represented the ideas and political beliefs of the people. King Alexander’s assumption of absolute powers proved, for many, the dominance of the Serbs in the kingdom’s politics. Other than the assumption of absolute powers, Alexander’s chief accomplishment was the reduction of the oblasti from 33 to 11, reducing the number of ethnic borders within the country. Nationalist discontent continued to intensify, however, and in October 1934 he was assassinated in Marseilles during an official visit, by a Macedonian nationalist who was also supported by the Croatian separatist movement.[35]

The assassin, Chernozemski, was a member of the Macedonian Internal Revolutionary organization, a separatist movement aiming to create an independent Macedonian state. Despite what would seem to be a patently obvious motive, there is nonetheless a general debate regarding why the assassination took place: whether it was to change the leadership on the throne, or if it was instead for the more obvious motive of Macedonian nationalism. As the Macedonians were not represented amongst other ethnic groups the idea to destabilize the kingdom had a great deal of currency in Macedonian nationalist circles. King Alexander’s declaration of an absolute monarchy made separatists such as Chernozemski believe that there would be no return to any kind of constitutional monarchy.

Yugoslavia, then, experimented with both constitutional and absolute monarchy, and neither one resulted in stability for the country. This is of considerable interest in light of the fact that it is quite possible for a multi-ethnic country to achieve stability under either one. On the one hand, there is dictatorship or absolute monarchy. If a country is ethnically diverse, the political system can arguably benefit from being a dictatorship or an absolute monarchy: instead of political quarreling between the leaders of a variety of ethnic communities, all competing for power, there is a power structure that brooks no dissent. Of course, the price of this autocracy is high from a political and civil rights point of view, but autocracies can, through repression, stifle all forms of concerted political opposition, including ethno-national separatists, and thereby achieve stability.

On the other hand, multi-ethnic countries can be stable if they are organized as democracies, including constitutional monarchies organized as parliamentary democracies: representation for all constituent parts of the nation, which is the order of the day in democracies, ensures that all ethno-national communities have access to the levers of political power. And although constitutional monarchies are still monarchies, the powers of the monarch are greatly limited, and the parliament votes on laws and constitutions.

It seems clear that Alexander’s assumption of absolute powers contributed, in the long run at least, to an exacerbation of the very crises he was attempting to solve. Alexander’s decision to invoke Article 127 spurred ethnic separatists to new and ever-more radical measures. The problem, again, was not simply that he had assumed absolute powers: rather, the problem was that he had done so, and he was a Serb. For figures such as Trumbic and Radic, this was a clear sign that Serbian interests would dominate at the expense of those of the collective Yugoslav nation. These struggles were to prove of profound importance during the Second World War, as ethno-nationalist sentiments reached a fever pitch. Every ethno-national group had its own mythologized history, and during this period these histories were drawn upon with greater readiness and regularity. This of course produced the attendant phenomena of xenophobia, and the scape-goating of rival communities. And far from being resolved by the defeat of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich and Mussolini’s fascist Italy, the issues raised by these competing nationalisms would be sublimated and repressed by the Communist regime under Tito, where they would linger for another forty years and more.

Divided Yugoslavia, Tito and World War II

Yugoslavia is best-known for its second period of existence as a Communist state, under its charismatic leader Josip Broz Tito. It was this second Yugoslavia that charted a remarkable course during the Cold War: under Tito, Yugoslavia opposed Stalin’s Soviet Union, even as it refused to be ideologically influenced by the West. Remarkable as it was, perhaps the most remarkable thing is that this country existed at all. There were considerable difficulties in re-creating Yugoslavia after the double blows of German invasion and fighting between the ethnic militias. From the Nazi invasion in 1941 to the expulsion of the Wehrmacht in 1945, there were four different wars raging on Yugoslav territory at the same time, involving the Yugoslav Partisans, the Croatian Ustasha, the Serbian Chetniks and the Third Reich’s Wehrmacht in numerous battles for control of the region.[36] The creation of the Socialist Yugoslavia began the very day the Kingdom of Yugoslavia signed a treaty with Nazi Germany. The wounds were fresh from World War I atrocities by the Austrian and German soldiers in Yugoslavia, and the people did not support this treaty. The famous slogan “Bolje Grob Nego Rob!”, “Rather Death Than Enslavement”, was chanted on the streets.[37]

The End of the Yugoslavian Kingdom

A power vacuum was created after King Alexander I was assassinated in 1934. The succession fell to Prince Paul, who is remembered for one event, which has marked him as a traitor: the signing of the treaty with Nazi Germany which made the Kingdom of Yugoslavia part of the Tri-Partite Pact.[38] The rationale for the agreement was to keep Yugoslavia out of the war; even though Yugoslavia declared neutrality, it did not keep the German forces from invading. Despite the treaty with Hitler, Paul covertly supported the Allies, keeping French troops in Yugoslavia as well as aiding Greece against Mussolini’s forces. However, he was ousted in a coup d’état, and Prince Petar was proclaimed King Petar II of Yugoslavia.[39]

After the defeat of Italian forces in Greece, Adolf Hitler launched an invasion through the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in order to aid his beleaguered ally Mussolini. Known as “Punishment” or “Operation 25”, this operation took place in the 6th of April 1941. Adolf Hitler sought to take advantage of the internal political disputes in Yugoslavia to destroy the Yugoslav Royal Army. The invasion began with intense bombardment by the Luftwaffe over Belgrade and the Yugoslav air force’s airfields. In 1941 King Petar II went into exile in the United Kingdom and formed a governed from the exile, leaving the Kingdom of Yugoslavia without any form of leadership or centralized government to protect the population and mount a defense. The Wehrmacht scored an easy victory over Yugoslavia on the 17th of April 1941.

Nazi Germany and fascist Italy quickly backed a client regime headed by Ante Pavelic over the newly-declared Independent State of Croatia.[40] Three main militia groups formed at this time: the Partisan divisions, with a communist/socialist ideology; the Chetniks, Serbian nationalists and supporters of the monarchy, and the Ustashe,  who were made up of supporter to the Kingdom and the Ustasha, Croatian fascists for an independent Croatia.[41] In addition to the deportation and genocide of the Jewish population by the Nazis, there were other genocides in Yugoslavia during this period, carried out by the three militia groups.  Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia besides the deportation of the Jewish population, many ethnic cleansing took place amongst the three militia groups. The most feared were the Croatian Ustasha because of their attempts to “cleanse” or “purify” Croatian territories by forcibly converting or exterminating Serbian Orthodox Christians.[42]

In order to better understand the evolving ethnic nationalism from 1941-1945 and the support of the different militias it is important to understand the nature of these organizations’ respective ideological positions. The Partisans, also known as the National Libration Army, were a communist-led revolutionary resistance movement against the fascist troops of Germany. Their commander was Marshal Josip Broz Tito, Croatian by extraction, born in Kumrovec in 1892.[43] Tito was the leader of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ), and this party dominated the Partisan movement. The Partisans fought tenaciously, relying entirely on equipment and supplied captured from the Wehrmacht until 1944, when the British Army was able to start sending supplies. Unlike the other two groups, the Partisans consisted of every nationality and ethnicity that existed in Yugoslavia.

The Ustasha were under the leadership of Ante Pavelic, erstwhile member of the far-right party in the parliament of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Born in 1889 in Bradina, modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, Pavelic formed the Ustasha during his exile in Italy, and once the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was created he became the dictator. The Ustasha were principally Croatian, although they collaborated with the Muslim Hazdar Division due to the latter’s fascist sympathies. The declared enemies of the Independent State of Croatia and the Ustasha were the Partisans, the Chetniks, the Jews and the Communists.[44]

Draza Mihajlovic, the leader of the Chetniks, was supported by the British government during the invasion until 1944. The Yugoslav royal government-in-exile appointed Mihajlovic as defense minister, with the hope of a Chetnik victory and a restoration of the monarchy in Belgrade. The Chetniks were mostly Serbs, along with some others who were Yugoslav monarchists, loyal to King Petar II. Draza Mihajlovic’s plan was to create a Yugoslavia with a principal Serbian state, including Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia Herzegovina, Srem, Banat and Backa. The Chetniks’ main goal was to preserve the monarchy and the prewar status quo, but they were ill-prepared to counter the combination of the Ustasha threat and the rising popularity of the Partisans. The rising tide of support for Tito’s Partisans, buoyed by their increasing successes against the Wehrmacht, led the British to shift their support from the Chetniks to the Partisans in 1944.[45]

The major genocide during World War II in Yugoslavia was committed by Ante Pavelic’s Ustasha in his Independent State of Croatia. A concentration camp was set up for the enemies of the state in Jasenovac. Ante Pavelic took the example of the “Rassengestze” in the Third Reich and implemented them in the newly formed Croatia, sending Jews, Roma, Serbs and Croatian anti-fascists to Jasenovac. From 1941-1945, the Ustasha attempted to eradicate the Serbian population, a genocide of profound and long-lasting significance for Croatian-Serbian relations. A German historian has compared the Ustasha program at the Jasenovac concentration camps with Hitler’s attempts to genocide European Jewry in the Holocaust: just as Hitler desired a Europe without Jews, so Ante Pavelic wanted a Croatia without Serbs.[46] The death toll at Jasenovac is still not known, but has been estimated at 600,000 people.[47] The mastermind of the ethnic cleansing was the minister of NDH for religion and education, Mile Budak, who ordered the killing of ethnic Serbs, as well as the deportation of Serbs and efforts to convert them to Catholicism. The forced conversions were done in order to make them Croatian citizens in NDH.[48] Ustasha horrors left a lasting stain on all subsequent Yugoslavian history, and formed an especially painful memory for the Serbian population. Ever after, the Serbs in particular would remember that at a time of great crisis and strife, when most of Yugoslavia was uniting under either the Partisans or the Chetniks to resist the Wehrmacht, the Croatian Ustasha were actively collaborating with the Axis Powers and engaging in genocide themselves.

The Jasenovac killings kindled ethnic nationalism and dissolved the struggle to create a Pan-Slavic state of Yugoslavia. While the Germans committed their own share of genocide in Yugoslavia as well, notably in the city of Kragujevac, the crimes of the Ustasha at Jasenovac stood out because they were fellow Slavs. but the issue was that fellow Slavs were committing the exact same crimes as the fears enemy. Jasenovac was an important watershed in the struggle between the Catholic and Orthodox Church for control of the region, as the Vatican backed Ante Pavelic’s Independent State of Croatia (NDH).[49]

In 1945 the Partisans under Marshal Tito prevailed and were victorious, ensuring that it would be their model of statecraft that would guide the newly-reformed Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia had 1.9 million casualties in World War II. Remarkably for a country so Balkanized, other than the Ustasha and the horrors of Jasenovac, the people of Yugoslavia had proven remarkably willing to set aside ethnic differences and fight alongside each other. Indeed, Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian-Muslims fought side-by-side in the Partisan movement against the Ustasha tyranny.[50]

The Partisans succeeded by recruiting many Yugoslavs of all backgrounds to the cause of a unified Yugoslavia, but under a different political system than a monarchy, namely Communism with its claims of ethnic egalitarianism. Tito himself explicitly articulated a Communist “brotherhood and unity” ideology, one that condemned separatism and ethnic division. Post-1945, this was the ideology of Yugoslavia: all for one and one for all. However, much of the population retained strong sympathies for nationalist separatist movements, many of which had fought against Tito’s Partisans as well as against the Chetniks and the Ustasha. These nationalist movements, such as those of the Macedonians and Bosnians, fought for their own states.

Post War Yugoslavia  

After 1945 Yugoslavia was known as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). Tito was the 22nd Prime minister of the country, and from 1953 he was the president until his death in 1980.[51] SFRY was a federation of six socialist republics: Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia. It also included two autonomous provinces, Kosovo and Vojvodina. With the creation of the SFRY the kingdom was abolished and Prince Paul was declared as an enemy of the state, due to his collaboration with the Axis powers. The six republics were created to ensure stability within the state: unlike under the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Macedonia and Bosnia were republics with capitals and presidents of their own. The political propaganda supported unitary nationalism, notably through the Brotherhood and Unity Act, for the purpose of ensuring the stabilization of Yugoslavia. And yet, the underlying tensions and problems continued. Back in 1933, British ambassador to Yugoslavia Neville Henderson had stated that “It is easier to say Yugoslavia than to make it”[52], given the many political crises the country faced. This pronouncement remained apropos in the newly-created SFRY.

The assumption of the presidency by Josip Broz Tito in 1953 ensured the triumph of Yugoslav nationalism. Thereafter, separatists were to be treated as enemies of the state, the usual sentence being imprisonment on Goli Otok, a prison on the Croatian coast that earned the name of ‘Tito’s Gulag’ for its harsh regimen of forced labor. Ethno-nationalism was suppressed by any means: even the crimes of the Ustasha at Jasenovac were not addressed. Notably, this is essentially the same strategy that King Alexander I attempted in 1929. Tito was much more successful than the king had been in winning popular support, due to the heroism of his Partisans in World War II, and vigorous postwar economic development.

Yugoslavia’s curious international position was demonstrated in an incident that took place in 1946, when the country shot down two U.S. military aircraft over its airspace. These two planes were the only Western planes shot down during the entirety of the Cold War.[53] Stalin supported Yugoslavia with the expectation that Tito would join the Eastern Bloc of Soviet influenced states, but in 1947 the relations between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union took a different turn. Tito rejected membership in the Eastern Bloc in 1948, in an event known as the Tito-Stalin split or the Soviet-Yugoslav split. Tito chose to chart an independent course in Cold War politics because of Stalin’s attempts to treat Yugoslavia as a satellite, rather than an allied Communist state.[54]

However, the split created unrest within Yugoslavia, with Yugoslav political figures such as Adrija Hebrang and Sreten Zujovic supportive of Stalin. There were numerous attempts to overthrowing Tito, but the Yugoslav intelligence services led by Alexander Rankovic eliminated the pro-Soviet Communists within the party.[55] Tito’s independent course came at the high price of leaving Yugoslavia without a powerful foreign ally, and the result was a particularly bad spate of economic hardship in 1948-1949. The economic woes bred unrest amongst the people, leading Tito and his economic advisor Edvard Kardelj to consider their options. In a remarkable volte-face, Tito turned to the Western capitalists, the UK and the U.S. The West, gratified by the Stalin-Tito split, readily offered economic aid to Yugoslavia in 1949. This proved Yugoslavia’s salvation: the engagement with the West kept the country from plummeting into another ethno-national separatist crisis. Tito established a distributed economy that kept the country together. However, his policies did not last long.

The Reform

What made the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia so different from other communist states, especially the Soviet Union, was the constant reforms it underwent, most importantly the economic reforms of Edvard Kardelj. The three major reforms that defined Yugoslavia in this period were economic liberalization; political decentralization, reducing the role of Belgrade by introducing presidents for each of the constituent socialist republics, and its non-aligned stance in international Cold War politics.

The first raft of economic reforms, collectively known as “Titoism”, came in 1950. This reform program introduced a new self-management policy that allowed the constituent socialist republics to control the economic growth and profit of their respective economies and return some of the profit to the workers. Workers were even paid salaries, a thoroughly capitalist concept taken directly from the pro-free market economy school of thought. The single greatest improvement of 1950 was investment in the industrial sector, which proved a great boon to industrial production.[56]

During the 1960’s, Yugoslavia undertook a new program of economic reform with Western aid. This greatly increased the country’s industrial sector, expanded the shipping industry, and boosted domestic military production for both the Yugoslav National Army and the export sector. The unemployment rate was at 6%, and annually, per capita GDP increased by 6.2%. This extraordinary economic boom was unparalleled in any other socialist country at the time, and it created the essential conditions for political liberalization as well. The Communist Party changed its name to the League of Communists in Yugoslavia, and civil freedoms were greatly increased.[57] This political liberalization was limited, however, in that political expression was still restricted in some ways. Nonetheless, the reforms were significant, and Yugoslavia began to develop a civil society reminiscent of those of the West, complete with a popular music sector. Boris Kidirc, the finance minister, introduced the free association of the working people, but the mastermind of the economic reform was Edvard Kardelj. The most valuable freedom Yugoslavs had was the freedom of travel within the country and internationally.[58]

During this time period the political situation was calm and stable, because families were provided for and had the liberty of receiving an income. Ethno-nationalist radicalism seemed a thing of the past. Indeed, Yugoslavia’s success and stability in this period stands in contrast to the crises and conflicts of the 1990s, which came after IMF pressure destabilized the Yugoslav economy, leading to disintegration and internecine conflict. In that time, the unstable economy and the International Monetary Fund restriction on paying back the loans are connected to the 1960 reforms, because such kind of economy boom could have not been established without the Western money that was loaned as credit to Yugoslavia.

Early Shift to Benevolent Nationalism

Nationalist movements began to revive as early as 1971 in Yugoslavia, but with a very different agenda than the bellicose and militant nationalism of the Ustasha during World War II, or the various nationalist groups in the 1990s. In this period, nationalism was relatively benign, an expression of identification with the interests of the individual republics. Crucially, this form of nationalism was born out of relatively prosperous times. Tellingly, it made no territorial claims, sparked no separatist movements, and did not inflame ethnic tensions like the nationalisms of the 1990s.[59]

Two Communist politicians were particularly responsible for leading the 1971 nationalist movement, are Mirko Tripalo and Savka Kucar. Their initiative was to gain more economic freedom for the individual socialist republics, thereby reducing their economic contribution to Belgrade. This would primarily benefit the republics that had the most economic growth, such as Slovenia and Croatia. The result of the movement was the so called Croatian Spring, which in general demanded democratic and economic reforms within the federal government. Benign as this movement was in comparison with other forms of nationalism in the Yugoslav context, in the early 1970s under Tito it was a bold stance indeed, given that no form of nationalism was tolerated by Tito’s government. Confronted by what he perceived as a challenge, Tito responded with a clever mixture of tactics: on the one hand, he carried out a crackdown, arresting the Croatian nationalists on charges of evoking ethnic nationalism; on the other hand, he promptly began reforming the political system to avoid such uprisings in the future, a concession that at least some of the nationalists’ demands were to be taken seriously.[60]

In 1974 a new constitution was drafted, inaugurating new territorial and political reforms in Yugoslavia. Most notable was the reduction of Serbia by carving out two new autonomous provinces, Vojvodina and Kosovo. This territorial redrafting has earned Tito a great deal of lasting criticism for the Kosovo issue that came much later.[61] Before 1974, Serbia was the largest republic, both in terms of territorial area and population. Given the historical troubles with Serbia’s territory and role in Yugoslavia, the reduction of Serbia with the creation of the two new autonomous provinces was intended as a means of reducing the influence of Serbian power in the country, given that each republic contributed to the federal system according to its size in population and territory. The reforms of 1974 were warmly received by the Albanian majority in Kosovo, and the Croatian and Hungarian populations in Vojvodina, but left the agitated Serbs pushed to their limit. However, even the creation of Kosovo and Vojvodina as autonomous provinces were not the greatest political blows to Serbian power: that distinction went to the recognition of both Macedonians and Montenegrins, hitherto regarded as Serbs, as constituting separate nationalities.

The End of an Era

The death of Josip Broz Tito on the 4th of May, 1980, came as a shock to the public in Yugoslavia, due to his seminal influence as founder and guiding spirit of the nation. because most of the people knew the existence of the country was due to his leadership and unitary nationalism. His intended successor was believed to have been Edvard Kardelj, his right hand man, but Kardlje died a year prior to Tito.

Without a logical successor, Yugoslavia had to establish a collective presidency of the communist leaders. Veselin Djuranovic headed the government following Tito’s death. The new government was confronted with new issues: the nation’s rising debt to the IMF and a persistent unemployment problem. The transition to a fully market economy was attempted in 1980 under Ante Markovic’s leadership, with a move to privatize sections of the industrial sector. The second step of the transition for President Markovic would have been the transformation to a democratic federation.[62] However, in order to carry out such a precipitous change, Yugoslavia needed more financial aid.

Accordingly, in 1989 Markovic met with President George H. W. Bush in Washington and attempted to negotiate another financial aid package for Yugoslavia.[63] Markovic and Bush reached an agreement for an aid package, but the price was steep: Yugoslavia had to cut government spending, devalue the currency and implement new economic reforms to create free markets. The requirements were problematic due to the rising inflation in the country in 1989, caused by the banks’ reliance on checks, which were commonly used and posed a financial deficit.

Markovic and his government introduced new legislation to cut spending and reduce wages in order to produce economic recovery, but the printing of currency continued during the year of 1989, and inflation continued accordingly. By 1990 the IMF controlled the Yugoslav central bank, and the credits were not being paid back in sufficient amounts of money. Ante Markovic made every effort possible effort to extricate the country from the economic crisis, such as introducing a new dinar currency, but failed to salvage the situation in time to preempt the protests of Franjo Tudjman and Slobodan Milosevic against the decreased economic autonomy of the republics.[64]

A Continuing Issue

Yugoslavia’s history from 1921 to 1989 presents recurrent, episodic turmoil, both political and economic, internal and external. The ethno-nationalism of the South Slavs, fostered in opposition to the foreign domination of the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was inherited by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and motivated King Alexander I’s misguided attempt to resolve it by assuming absolute power. Indeed, King Alexander’s actions only exacerbated the situation, setting the stage for the disasters and genocidal horrors of World War II. Josip Broz Tito used the strategy of absolute power to preserve the country under a kind of unitary nationalism animated by a Yugoslav ideology, but was forced to reform the political system and economy to prevent the escalation of tensions amongst the different nationalists.

Yugoslavia lost its strategic geopolitical position after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989; the Western powers did not see the importance of the country’s existence in the post-Communist world. The Non-Aligned Movement lost its relevance post-1989, depriving Yugoslavia of any chance for influence by that route. Nor was the outside world particularly interested in Yugoslavia’s plight, as the escalating ethno-political tensions within the country as the 1990s dawned were not viewed as threatening by either Western Europe or the United States.

Although a lack of outside support (or even interest) played a role in the story of the downfall of Yugoslavia, it was a relatively secondary one: at most, a lack of outside support meant that Yugoslavia was free to implode, although the pressure from the IMF played a key role in ensuring that it did implode. A combination of internal politics and the machinations of the Yugoslav Army are responsible for the outbreak of the Yugoslav War, or the Third Balkan War. During the war, ethno-nationalism was retrieved through each ethno-national community’s own romanticized history, and memories of the still-recent history prior to Tito’s Yugoslavia. A crucial point is that the remembrance of history worked greatly in favor of radical nationalism, not against it: far from ameliorating or dissuading nationalism, the remembrance of both the two World Wars and the two Balkan Wars before tended to encourage nationalist sentiments in Yugoslavia.

Yugoslavia is certainly far from the only example of ethnic tensions and ongoing ethnic intolerance. Many Middle Eastern countries have a history of authoritarian rule, and the downfall of such regimes as the Ottoman Empire has created the conditions for ethno-sectarian conflicts with important parallels to those of Yugoslavia (much of which also has a legacy of Ottoman rule). Similarly, after the military dictatorship fell in majority Buddhist Myanmar, ethno-sectarian violence emerged, particularly against the vulnerable Muslim Rohingya. Muslim-majority Egypt’s persecution of its Coptic Christian minority under the recent Mubarak regime is another example. Iraq presents the case of three different ethno-national groups within one territory, and the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, which ensured Sunni Arab hegemony, against both the Kurds of the north and the Shi’a Arabs of the south are well known. The best way to reduce ethno-national tensions is through education and learning how to coexist, but that is only possible if there is a working economy.

Section II: The disintegration of the South-Slavs

In order to explain the rise of ethno-nationalism and associated political machinations in the Yugoslav context, it is essential to define the concepts of ethnicity and nation. The existing definitions outline the basic meaning of ethnic nationalism, but in the context of the former Yugoslavia ethnicity is routinely redefined.

Different Theories on Nationalism

Kohn’s Basic Concepts and Ideology

Kohn determines nationalism as “group-consciousness”, but states that the psychological and sociological analysis of the movement is not sufficient. He proposes three additional criteria for national formation: each nation needs to form a state; this state needs to include the whole nation, and the loyalty for the state needs to have a higher priority than other public loyalties. He confirms that nations and nationalities are “the product of the historical development of the society”. [65] Therefore, he assumes that while “nationalism is a state of mind”, it is influenced by history, communal psychology, language, and sentiments, and therefore, is also an idea. He argues that while Western nationalism has a social, class basis, Eastern Europe does not have the social classes that determine nationalism, therefore, it is more “organic”. One could argue with this statement, as there are indeed some aristocratic traditions in Eastern Europe as well. Moreover, during the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, these countries were the subject of “Westernization”. According to Kohn, the typical civic nationalist Western countries are the UK, The Netherlands, France, and Switzerland, as well as the USA. In Eastern nationalism, the attachments to the nation and traditions are inherited and not chosen, as in the civic type of nationalism that prevails in the West.

Smith and National Identity

Smith’s most important statement regarding the differentiation between Western and Eastern nationalism is that the transformation is constant from ethnic to civic, and the initial form of nationalism in the West was also ethnic. This means that it is impossible to call the Western nationalism plainly civic and the Eastern plainly ethnic; there is a constant movement towards civic nationalism, which started earlier in the Western countries than in the East. Further, Smith argues that labeling Western and Eastern nationalism as “liberal” and “blood and soil”, respectively, is not relevant to the complexity of the issue. He also denies that “civic nationalism” would be inclusive at all. Multiculturalism did not exist in Western cultures for a long time: in fact, until quite recently, the United States of America denied both Native Americans and African Americans anything remotely resembling the same basic human rights as American nationals, despite the fact that American nationalism has long been civic. This certainly does not confirm the statement that this type of nationalism would be liberal. It might be moving towards liberalism, due to some political and historical events, but is clearly not “civic” from the beginning. Smith also states that there is a difference in the nationalism of dominant ethnic groups and minorities.[66]

Kuzio’s Criticism

Kuzio argues that the evolutionary process from Communist to democratic states also has a great importance for defining nationalism in the region of Eastern Europe. According to Kuzio, the main problem with Kohn’s theory is that plainly “civic” or “ethnic” states do not exist in reality: real societies are not this neatly categorized, and because they are composed of individuals, often contain many different sentiments. Kuzio also says that both types of nationalism are present in individual countries’ movements.[67] He also agrees with Smith[68], who argues that while “ethnic” or “civic” nationalism might be predominant in a country, the other form may also be present, and in any case the realities of the situation are likely to be quite complex. Kuzio finds six different issues with the ideas espoused by Kohn:

  • The denial of cultural values, ideas and historical myths.
  • A failure to deal with anti-democratic nationalisms; however, these largely differ from those of Eastern Europe.
  • Ignoring the existence of ethnic and territorial violence in the West (Catholic-Protestant conflict in Northern Ireland, for example).
  • The idealization of the “West” as possessing an inclusive nationalism, which is not true. Kuzio mentions the often-genocidal exclusion of Native Americans by Euro-Americans as an example.
  • Eastern nationalism is a constantly evolving movement which means that shifting towards “civic nationalism” is possible.
  • A double standard for the judgment of homogenization: calling it “nation-building” in the West and “nationalizing states” in the East.

He recommends that nationalism should be viewed as a process with both ethnic and cultural factors.

Jaskulowski’s Views on Dichotomy

Jaskulowski[69] criticizes Kohn from a completely different perspective, arguing that Kohn’s categorizations are irrelevant to the Eastern European context. He states that while according to Kohn’s categories, Poland is a non-Western state, the emergence of Polish nationalism had civic origins. Similarly, Hungarian nationalism was based on civic values, and putting these states into the same category as Latvia and Estonia, where the presence of ethnic nationalism, roots and traditions are much stronger is erroneous and absurd. Like Kuzio, Jaskulowski argues that Kohn simplified the categories and idealized Western states’ civic nationalism, ignoring its negative aspects. Jaskulowski also draws on the work of Marx and Engels to differentiate between so-called ‘historical’ and ‘history-less’ nations. The historical category includes the Hungarians, the Polish, and the Germans (considering their traditions, culture and involvement in the Austro-Hungarian Empire); the South Slavic nations, by contrast, he categorizes as history-less. As mentioned before, however, the South Slavs do have a common history, and South Slavic nationalism has a common goal rooted in this history: the struggle against foreign invaders on South Slav territories, and the effort to create a South Slavic State (Yugoslavia).

This dual category of Western and Eastern Europe is not without its own shortcomings, and to simply state that a nation has no history, ‘merely’ traditions and roots, would be an injustice to the truth. The author also looks at the diversity of nations within the state. The homogenization of a nation simplifies the problem of state-building, as seen with the negative exemplars of both Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, which were formed by different nations with widely differing histories, traditions, beliefs and political background. This is arguably the key reason why these “artificial” states do not have a long period of existence.

Shulman[70] argues, drawing on Smith, that the main distinction between civic and ethnic states is whether the national unity is founded on a historic territory or a fictive super-family. He confirms that it is true that the countries put into the “Western” category primarily are based on civic values while the “Non-western” are primarily ethnic nations. He creates a framework which describes the different contents of a national identity as civic, cultural and ethnic.

The Characteristics of Ethnicity

Ethnos or ethnicity is used to identify a group of people by their cultural affiliation rather than their biological or genetic differences. As such, ethnicity is a self-reported felt identity: it cannot be reduced to physical appearance, cultural practices, or even lineal descent (although claims are often made about this). Anthony Smith[71] argues that ethnicity is a social, cultural, and even spiritual aspect of a group that is based on their shared past. For example, with the Slavs there is a shared past in the Early Middle Ages, and cultural identifications are somewhat similar, but the spiritual and religious aspects differ between the Slavs, and their ethno-national affiliations have diverged markedly. The Polish, Slovaks, and Croatians are Catholics, while the Russians, Ukrainians, Serbs, Macedonians, and Bulgarians are Orthodox. All are Slavic ethnicities, superficially similar and united by related languages, yet quite distinct in terms of their ethno-national affiliations.

Another somewhat similar example are the Kurds, which are spread out over different territories in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, but identify themselves as Kurds regardless of their nationality, owing to their shared past. There is also a general recognition amongst the Kurds of particular regions as Kurdish territory—thus, they share territorial recognitions and aspirations. However, as with the Slavs, to some extent the Kurds may be classed as different peoples, since there is more than one Kurdish language and the Kurds are significantly differentiated. Thus, the dimensions of ethnicity are a collective name, a common myth of descent, a shared history, shared culture, territorial claims, and solidarity.[72]

In the case of the former Yugoslavia, the Bosnians incorporated their religious identification as Muslim into their ethnic distinction. This was done in order to differentiate themselves from the rejected Yugoslav identity on the one hand, and the competing ethno-national identities of Croats and Serbs, who are Catholic and Orthodox respectively. Similarly, during the war in Bosnia that broke out in 1992, the Serbs and Croats in the region incorporated their religious identifications into their ethnic labels, thus Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats. Strictly speaking, all Bosnians are members of a Bosnian ethnicity, part of the South Slavs (the group that also includes Serbs, Croats, Macedonians, and Montenegrins). The motive for this distinction is the power of differentiating one’s group by means of a unifying attachment, and an identity grounded in religion and ethnicity is a potent marker of differentiation for those who embrace it, given its tremendous power and meaning.[73]

The shared history of an ethnic group is of essential importance, and in Yugoslavia the common history of the three main ethnic groups of Serbs, Croats and Bosnians is consistently portrayed by members of all three as a heavily-mythologized historic struggle. This element of a shared past gives an ethnic group a great deal of power as a form of identity. There was enough of a shared identity amongst the South Slavs to produce Yugoslavia in the post-World War I period, and the nation was re-forged by Tito’s Partisans during the struggle against both the Nazis and the Croatian fascists during the Second World War. But despite the shared history of these three South Slavic ethnicities, which again was sufficient to promote the creation and then re-creation of a Yugoslav state, these dimensions of a shared history of foreign domination under the Ottomans and Habsburgs, and a common South Slav identity, proved insufficient to preserve Yugoslavia in the long run. Simply put, the ethnic identities of Croats, Serbs, and Bosnian Muslims were too deeply rooted, and in time these respective communities fell back on their original ethno-sectarian attachments, rejecting the rather artificial and historically shallow formulation of a Yugoslav identity.[74]

The Characteristics of Nations

Nations are a modern term, nationalism itself only appearing as a distinct phenomenon in the 18th century. The concepts of ethnicity and national sentiments are mainly connected with the expressions, feelings, perceptions and attitudes of the people. This is not to say that identities and ethnic affiliations did not exist before the 18th century. There is a difference, however, between the concept of nation in the developed world and the developing world: for example, in the West it is common enough for politicians and people to claim that they are working ‘for the national interest’ because the nation is seen as something entirely natural. In the developing world, and in the case of Yugoslavia, however, the nation was not seen as natural, and in the 1990s politicians did not make any claims of working for the common national interest, but rather for their own particular “ethnic” or ethno-national interests. Smith also points out that in Africa the so-called ‘tribes’ (a term freighted with colonial baggage) were interpreted as nations by the Europeans, and due to European colonization and the creation of many entirely artificial borders, Africa today has many ethnic conflicts.[75]

Scholars argue that the United Kingdom has civic nationalism, as opposed to the ethnic nationalism of Yugoslavia. However, in recent years both the Welsh and the Scottish have produced independence movements demanding secession from the United Kingdom. Of interest to this thesis, these developments have come during a protracted economic recession in Europe, raising the intriguing possibility that the long-entrenched nationalism of the United Kingdom may not be entirely civic after all. Spain presents a second example of ethnic nationalism in the Western European context, with both the Basques and Catalans advocating for self-determination and independence from Spain, but these demands increase when there is economic disparity between these regions and the rest of Spain.[76]

The concept of a nation-state is as modern as the phenomenon of nationalism: it was not until recently that people began to identify themselves in accordance with a putative national character. In fact, the concept can be traced to the historic Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the ruinous Thirty Years War that had devastated Germany. Although Europe had long had a states system, what the Peace of Westphalia contributed was a recognition of the principle of the nation-state along modern lines. Consequently, the very concept of the modern nation-state is bound up with this historic watershed, and it is not uncommon for international relations scholars to discuss the degree to which the ‘Westphalian’ formulation of the nation-state does or does not apply to present realities globally.[77]

By way of contrast, the Romans differentiated between civilized peoples who dwelt in cities, such as themselves and the Greeks, and barbarous peoples, such as the Gauls, Britons, Celtiberians and Germani, who did not. The Gauls themselves had neither states nor the concept of a single nation; rather, they identified themselves according to tribe. Another example from antiquity is that of the Greeks, who traditionally identified themselves according to their city of origin, but who embraced something of a Pan-Hellenic identity when faced with the powerful exogenous threat of the Achaemenid Persian Empire in the Greco-Persian Wars of the early 5th century BCE. This is why the predominant argument of nationalism and nation as being natural and part of a family is true.[78]

In Eastern Europe and Yugoslavia, the national identification became more evident in the 1990s for the Croatians, Macedonians and Slovenians, but in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the notion was present it was not altogether ‘natural’. Thus ethnic awareness, or ethnic nationalization, came to the fore and proliferated. This evinces key differences with the predominant position on nationalism[79], in that in Yugoslavia, nationalism was inherited through historical meaning, and laden with national sentiments and cultural values, rather than being characterized by a ‘natural’ approach. It was of considerable importance to belong to a group with which one could identify one’s self, and thereby differentiate oneself from the overall formulation of Yugoslav identity. Ethno-national identification took priority due to socialization into historic culture-communities—Serbs, Croats, Bosnians. Such socialization is rooted in a historical trajectory of development for a group, with modes and goals of identification determined through the process of coalescence into a collective tradition.[80]

A different theory of bringing ethnic nationalism out of its traditional definitions is the Balkanization phenomenon. The Balkanization factors in the former Yugoslavia consist of the introduction and strategic use of myth, symbolism and history within the ethnic communities and the different nationalities. This is also called the myth-symbol complex, the myths and symbols being diffused in the population as a means of creating the specific character of the ethnic group, which then transmits the symbolism and myths down the future generations.[81]

A good example concerns the origins of the Bosnian Muslims, who are at least partly of Serbian ancestry but who converted to Islam during the period of domination by the Ottoman Empire. While this is historic fact, Serbian historical myth-making made much of it, painting the Bosnian Muslims as the betrayers of Serb-dom, and the symbolic embodiment of the Ottoman Empire. This myth-making had considerable importance for the Serbian independence struggle, serving to reinforce the distinction between Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Bosnians; by highlighting the Bosnian Muslims’ putative Serbian origins, the myth-making also confronted and condemned the seduction of collaboration, especially given that the Bosnian Muslims were a prominent client community of the Ottoman Empire. The historical reality is more complex than the myth-making, however, as historical realities often are: the reality is that under the Ottoman domination, Bosnians, Serbs, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Croatians and Albanians all furnished converts to Islam. Another historical reality concerns one of the main motivations for such conversion: the desire to reduce the tax burden, given that the Ottomans, like other Muslim regimes before them, assessed higher taxes on non-Muslim dhimmi populations..[82]

The main point is that the Yugoslav formulation of a common ethnic group was resented by many, many members of each of the respective ethno-national communities. The response was to draw on the heroic myths of historical icons, a case in point being Tudjman’s approach to reintroduce the kingdom of Tomislav II in Croatia. People tend to identify themselves with their own particular cultural group, thus, during the formation of Yugoslavia, symbolism and myth took over the common culture and common struggle for the creation of Yugoslavia.

When Ethnic Minorities are under Threat

During inter-state warfare, ethnic minorities are often vulnerable and susceptible to any propaganda. The use of nationalist propaganda can rapidly unify ethnic minorities, thereby giving leverage to a particular nationalist political cause. Throughout history, armies unified by similar ethno-cultural backgrounds have often proved more cohesive and wieldy than more heterogeneous armies. Ethnic affiliations can strengthen the former type of forces even as they undermine the latter. For example, many Croatian soldiers deserted from the Yugoslav Army to join the Croatian military in 1991, in particular during the battle of Vukovar, which helped spread the ideology of a free Croatia, independent from Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav National Army was assimilated with Serbia and the Milosevic leadership.[83]

The phenomenon of increased solidarity within ethnic groups was demonstrated with Greek and Roman armies during the time of battle: the act of mobilization itself, together with the shock of battle and the solidarity of an independent infantry, vividly convey the sense of a member’s dependence upon the community and its welfare.[84] Each individual grasps the ethnic identification, through collective resistance on the battlefield with the activation of comradeship, teamwork and esprit de corps in moments of crisis.[85] During World War II the three militia groups in Yugoslavia were formed, and as the hostilities continued each of the groups drew on ethno-nationalist beliefs to craft its respective ideology.

The second foundation of the ethnic awareness is the geo-political location of the people. It is often when political relations are deteriorating with the neighboring countries that a sense of ethnic consciousness becomes active within the community.[86]

A good example of ethnic awareness during political crises with neighboring countries is the Macedonian-Greek name dispute. It has been going on for the past twenty years, and both countries have noticed significant affiliation of the population with their past roots, such as Philip II of Macedon, and his son Alexander the Great, affiliations that necessarily touch upon the respective geopolitical locations of the states themselves. A second example is the Croatian and Serbian ambition to divide Bosnia into Serb and Croat territories that led to the Bosnian population searching for a distinct symbol and unique factor that would define their different ethnic origin from both the Serbs and Croats.

During the process of the breakup of Yugoslavia mass rallies were held to protest for peace and preserve Yugoslavia. A large number of the population declared themselves as Yugoslavian, but only on the social and cultural, not ethnic, level. The nostalgia for the former Yugoslavia after the war is still present, due to the success of the country in collective sports, movies, arts, literature and diplomatic international recognition.

Nationalism in the Republics

The Croatian spring of 1971 broke the barrier of brotherhood and unity, by introducing nationalism for the republics. In 1991 Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia had referendums that called for the independence from Yugoslavia. Bosnia followed with a referendum of its own in 1992. The core issue that emerged rapidly after the referendum concerned the diffuse populations of nationalities, mainly the Serbian population in Croatian territory, as well as Serbs living in Bosnian territories and the Croatian population living in Bosnian territories.

A timeline until War

Slobodan Milosevic Doctrine

In Yugoslavia unitary nationalism was allowed, as the idea was to keep the country together. Vladimir Bakaric, a member of the Communist Party and a devotee of socialism, stated that nationalists cannot come to power and formulate a separatist government. This was delivered on the 10th committee of the central committee of the communist party in Croatia. According to Bakaric the Yugoslavian nationalist feeling was greater among the population than the political individuals.[87] It was difficult for the population to comprehend a separatist movement from the united Yugoslavia, given that they had been taught that ideology for decades. The older members of the Communist Party, long-time politicians such as Bakaric, were familiar with the challenges of a divided Yugoslavia, and viewed the prospect of a second dissolution as something to be avoided at all costs. However, they believed that it could not happen, that the nationalist threat was not strong enough, and that the international community would not allow border changes in Europe. After all, it would have gone against principles of European integration and stability.[88]

The early signs of ethnic nationalism started in Kosovo. Students rallied in 1987 for more civil rights and recognition of the Albanian people. The protest was peaceful, no one was hurt, and the political leadership in Pristina promised to bring the concerns of the Albanian people to Belgrade. This protest proved highly symbolic, and soon became a lightning rod for controversy. The Serbian population was irritated and demanded more attention from the Yugoslav leadership, arguing that what was really happening in Kosovo was breaking the law of the constitution and abnegating the core principles of brotherhood and unity. The status quo view in Yugoslavia was that ethnically-themed propaganda was divisive and threatening, since the state existed on the coexistence of all of the ethno-national communities that made up its heterogeneous body public.[89]

The situation in Kosovo escalated when Ivan Stambolic, the president of Serbia, sent Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian Communist Party leader, at the head of a delegation to Kosovo to have a dialogue with the people. His task was to meet with the local Communist leaders, who were predominantly ethnic Albanians. As a Communist Party official he was not allowed to meet with any other group. As Milosevic took the podium in Kosovo he stated that nationalism or national hatred can never be progressive in politics[90]. At the end of his speech he said with his charismatic voice “long live brotherhood and unity in Yugoslavia”. For a moment it seemed as if everything was going according to plan, and that Milosevic’s function was to bring the message to Kosovo that Belgrade had not forgotten them.

However, he then broke with the requirements of his itinerary: acting on his own initiative, Milosevic met with a local Serb nationalist movement to help them settle their concerns. Again, Milosevic was not allowed to attend such a meeting while he was on the visit, because he was representing the Central Committee of Serbia. President Stambolic was not informed of this, though even if he was he could not have acted in time. During the meeting in Kosovo, furious protestors appeared in front of the building. The police tried to set up a perimeter to secure the politicians. Forced back, the crowd began throwing stones. The police force, made up of Albanians, had to act.

For his part, Milosevic was quick to opportunistically use this protest as an example of discrimination and bigotry against his own Serbian people. The protestors’ mastermind on how to challenge the police was Miroslav Solevic. He was a member of the Communist Party, but with a different ideology. Azem Vllasi[91], who was the president of the Communist League of Kosovo, accompanied Milosevic to the meeting and assured him that the situation in reality was different.[92] The result did not change despite efforts made to seek a diplomatic resolution.

The Serbian population in Kosovo was dissatisfied because high-ranking government posts were given to ethnic Albanians, leaving very little in the way of political power or representation for them. Kosovo was one of the poorest economically developed areas of Yugoslavia, exacerbating the tensions between Serbs and Albanians. The Serbians found their lack of representation alarming, although this can be contextualized in light of the fact that the majority of the population of Kosovo was, and is, Albanian. Nonetheless, the real cause of the problem as far as the Serbians were concerned was the domination of Kosovo’s politics by the Albanians: as far as they were concerned, Kosovo was rightfully Serbia, after all, and the people of Serbian origin felt that they had become second class citizens in a land that they still considered to be their own. In the eyes of the nationalists Milosevic was a national savior simply for agreeing to meet with them. On the return to Belgrade a meeting of the government and advisors took place, and the main focus of the discussion was Kosovo.

The outcome in Kosovo was radicalization of the ethnicities. In other words, the Serbs focused on regaining influence in Kosovo, while the Albanians were determined to make sure they get to keep their rights and to maintain the autonomous province as it was established by Tito. There was no ideology of separatism yet. Ethnic nationalism became the only mean of belonging and survival, leaving the option of belonging in Yugoslavia as a Yugoslav in a state of ongoing and drastic reduction. However, Slobodan Milosevic still could not act on his own because he did not have the power to do so, and the support of other political figures in the Central Committee was of the essence.

In Belgrade, Milosevic met with President Stambolic and other key members of the Communist Party. They accused him, rightly, of breaking the Communist Party’s policy. Milosevic argued that the Serbs were a target of ethnic hatred, and the Albanian cause was to create an ethnically pure Albanian Kosovo. Opinion was divided in the Communist Party. On the one hand, Ivan Stambolic was not fond of Milosevic, even thought he had chosen him as the Serbian Communist Party leader. On the other hand, Borislav Jovic and Petar Gracanin, both experienced politicians and loyal Yugoslavs, found something compelling about Milosevic and began to look to him as a potential alternative leader to Stambolic.

The outcome of this was a division between the political elites within Serbia, and with the division came two different approaches on the issue of Kosovo and other republics[94]. Milosevic’s support grew over time, while Ivan Stambolic’s position was increasingly untenable. The delegates voted in favor of Milosevic, with the notable exception of the Kosovar delegates. Stambolic was accused of acting as a dictator from parliament members, and was voted out of the presidency seat. A political figure could not assume the presidency by force or by appointing themselves. The central committee voted Stambolic out of the presidency and declared Slobodan Milosevic as the new president of the Socialist Republic of Serbia.[95]

With Milosevic appointed as president the ethnic tension in Kosovo was exacerbated. For ethnic nationalism to become dangerous the ethnic group needs to be neglected, targeted or oppressed, and that is precisely what happened in Kosovo. Many politicians knew that in the former Yugoslavia, but there was nothing that could be done. The country was shifting its policies rapidly, and as it did so Milosevic gained more power. With the right actions from a sufficiently-organized political opposition, the momentum of Milosevic’s policies could have been stopped and other alternatives to domestic issues could have been considered, but no such political opposition of sufficient organization arose.

In a key irony, while Stambolic was accused of being a dictator, Milosevic was fast becoming one. Kosovo was not the only issue when Milosevic won: his triumph sparked an explosive popular outpouring of Pan-Serbianism. This would have been punishable by imprisonment during the rule of Tito, and although that would have been decidedly anti-democratic, it might have kept the peace (although it would not have been the only way to do this, since as seen, democracies can handle multiple ethnicities as well). However, the goals of the Serbian people after Milosevic’s rise to power were still comparatively modest: they did not want to create a Greater Serbia, ‘only’ to assert themselves and gain more domination within Yugoslavia. Although this was scarcely a welcome proposition for every other ethno-national group, the Serbian position was that it would be altogether fair in light of the size of their territory and the proportion of Yugoslavia’s population that they accounted for.

Vojvodina was the second self governing province of Serbia[96], and it was the first target of the policies of Milosevic. The loyal politicians to the old system were forced to resign and were labeled as traitors. Not many saw this as a legitimate way to take power, but it was done by using the Serb nationalist movement from Kosovo and its supporters. Montenegro, on the other hand, was traditionally a close ally of Serbia and had no trouble being persuaded to support Milosevic. Thus, Milosevic installed puppets in both Vojvodina and Montenegro in order to prevent them from joining other republics (mainly Croatia and Slovenia).

In 1989[97], Serbia had authority over half of the country. This backfired in Kosovo, as strikes by the miners, and protests by the students and local citizens led to marching on the streets for reforms. It was clear that the Albanians would not accept Milosevic’s regime. Vllasi encouraged the protests, and continued to support the brotherhood and unity platform, in order to ensure that everyone could live side by side. But the ethnic division between Serbs and Albanians was persistent and growing worse. It was clear that Kosovo was a time bomb, and President Milosevic demanded to execute a state of emergency. It was not easy for this state of emergency to be granted, because the federal army would be under his control and all executive decisions that normally need to go through parliament and the central committee.

“Separatist Slovenia”

In February 1989 Milan Kucan, the Slovenian president, spoke to the parliament concerning the Albanians in Kosovo. He praised them, stating that they were defending their rights and autonomy, but most importantly of all, defending Yugoslavia.[98] By this time, Slovenia was the most advanced republic economically speaking, and it was also the most westernized republic. The fear of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia was that they would be under pressure from Milosevic after he had dealt with Kosovo. However, there were no Serbs living in Slovenian territories, and Serbia does not border Slovenia. So in theory there should have been no reason to fear Milosevic. This testifies to the degree to which Milosevic managed to scare all of the republics, not just Kosovo, by saying that his administration would act in the interest of the Serbs even doing so went against the constitution.[99] It might be seen as a politically wrong move to state that in public, but the reality is that Milosevic was catering to the nation that he truly served: the Serbian nation, not any form of the ‘Yugoslav’ nation. The measure of his success was the degree to which he was able to rouse ethnic nationalism in the majority of Serbs across Yugoslavia. Kucan’s speech was broadcasted, and Milosevic’s regime was quick to claim that Slovenia was supporting separatism, equated with treason.

With the involvement of Slovenia in the ethnic tensions in Kosovo, the president of Yugoslavia, Raif Dizdarevic, set out to convince the people the path of separation and nationalism is not in the interest of Yugoslavs. The president of Yugoslavia was not seen as a person with much authority in Serbia, since Milosevic was the person the Serbian people wanted. Dizdarevic, who was of Bosnian origin, failed to execute his task as president, but he had to respect the opinion of the Serbian people, which is why he could not put up resistance to Milosevic. The moment Dizdarevic gave Slobodan Milosevic the right to use the state of emergency, Kosovo found itself under Serbian authority. The Kosovo Communist Party member Azem Vllasi was arrested. Protests and clashes with the police broke out, with the Kosovar Albanians demanding democracy.[100]

There was no legitimate reason for Vllasi’s arrest: he was charged with attempting to organize a revolutionary movement. Albanians were targeted by the Serbian authorities while protesting for his freedom, creating prime conditions for an outbreak of ethno-national violence. Importantly, Belgrade knew this and used it to their own advantage.[101] After all, the fastest escalation of ethnic hatred and ethnic preference is when a particular group is targeted by a stronger governing body or military.

On the other hand, Slovenia took an unusual approach to express dissatisfaction with the changes in Yugoslavia. They used the media to spread their anti-Milosevic propaganda[102]. The Slovenian presidency and parliament let the media enjoy unlimited freedom of speech. The constant target was Milosevic and his policies, with comics and drawings openly discussing the impending breakup of Yugoslavia readily published. The Slovenian media never published offensive material toward ethnic groups, but rather solely targeted the government of Serbia. The media campaigns irritated the leadership in Belgrade, and they responded by having the federal defense minister, Admiral Mamula, threaten the Slovenian president with a demand that the articles from the newspaper “Mladina” be stopped.

At this crucial moment Slovenia prevailed upon its neighboring republic of Croatia to also take a stand in opposition to Milosevic. If the federal army was to intervene in Slovenia, the borders of Croatia needed to be crossed. It would have posed a problem for the federal army to force its way into Croatia, which is why no immediate action was undertaken. Milosevic gave diplomacy one last chance and called upon the 14th Congress of the Yugoslav Communist Party on the 20th of January 1990.[103]

Mamomir Bulatovic was appointed to lead the 14th Congress. He was the president of the Socialist Republic of Montenegro and a close collaborator with Milosevic. The tactical reason for this was so that if a general debate occurred, and was then followed by a voting process, the chair would not be neutral.

The reason for the congress of the Communist Party in Yugoslavia was to find a mutual agreement between all delegates from the six republics. The whole meeting proved to be a disaster, falling through when the Slovenian and Croatian delegates walked out in protest. They did so because the Slovenian-proposed amendments[104] were not passed. The Socialist Republic of Slovenia decided that it would not take part in the destruction of the country and sought to secede as soon as possible.

“Croatian Impetus”

Croatia and its delegates of the 14th Congress in Belgrade were not pleased, and took the decision to advocate for Slovenia. Ivica Racan, the Croatian delegate, decided to boycott the congress as well, and the Croatians left without any doubt as to where their loyalties lay. The position of Racan was clear: the Slovenes must be included in Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav Party. As the amendments of Slovenia were not going to be reviewed again, Croatia and Slovenia were on the road to independence. However, this journey to independence was more difficult than predicted.[105]

Slovenian president Kucan and Serbian President Milosevic agreed on removing the federal army from Slovenia, after a month’s long barricade of the federal army barracks. With the federal army out of Slovenian territory the independence and self-determination of the country was secured. Croatia had one million Serbs in the south of the country, close to the border of Serbia and Bosnia. That posed a problem when these Serbian people refused to be part of the new Croatia and demanded their own self-determination with the aim of rejoining the rest of the Serbian people. This was a valid reason according to the principle of the self-determination of peoples that Croatia itself had seceded on, but as a newly sovereign nation that was already gaining recognition from Western countries such as Germany, Croatia was not willing to give up territory. Political dialogue between Belgrade and Zagreb failed, marking the beginning of the Yugoslav war.

Wartime and the Aftermath of Ethnic Nationalism

During the Yugoslav crisis the two types of nationalism or ethnic nationalism apply, the predominalist[106] and primordial views.[107] The primordial view states that ethnic attachments are culturally given and characterized by a kind of natural attraction, which has an overwhelming and non-rational quality. From the perspective of the predominalist theory, however, despite the cooperation and friendly relations between the nationalities during Tito’s Yugoslavia, ethnic nationalism and mistrust between ethno-national communities based on historic hatreds persisted, although they were sublimated, pushed below the surface of regular discourse. This correlates with Anthony Smiths and Bogdan Denic’s explanation of the origin of ethnicities and ethnic nationalism, and the nationalizing of ethnicities. Both of these theories explain important aspects of the phenomena in question, because during Tito’s era nationalism was suppressed, while historically speaking the Balkans as a region has been naturally affected by a great deal of ethnic nationalism. Not for nothing was the Balkans called the “Powder Keg of Europe” after World War I broke out.[108]

In Yugoslavia, nationalism was triggered by the political establishment itself during the process of disintegration. Whenever there is a popular groundswell of nationalism there is always the potential for the negative aspects of nationalism to manifest, and if nationalist currents fall prey to the manipulation and machinations of ideologies then the results can become devastating.[109] Specifically in the Yugoslav context, the result of ethnic nationalism coupled with ideologically-charged propaganda was genocide, euphemistically called ‘ethnic cleansing’, principally carried out by militaries against civilians rather than civilians against other civilians. Key examples of the devastation caused by the Yugoslav Wars include Vukovar and Srebrenica in 1995, and Kosovo until the 1999 NATO air bombardment campaign over Serbia.[110]

The Yugoslav breakup was accompanied by many military operations on the part of the Yugoslav National Army, but in order to explain the actual outburst of nationalism in the republics, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia will all be discussed. Slovenia under Milan Kucan’s presidency managed to gain independence after keeping out the territorial defense forces of the Yugoslav Army and forcing out the rest of the JNA. The official recognition of Slovenia took place after the Brioni Agreement was signed. Macedonia was the only republic to gain self determination through a peaceful manner under the leadership of President Kiro Gligorov, who had been a strong ally of Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia.[111]


On June 25th 1991 Croatia was independent and the first parliamentary election was won by Franjo Tudjam and the Croatian Democratic Union political party. Tudjam gained political popularity by inspiring Croatian nationalism, and openly condemning Milosevic’s agenda of establishing a greater Serbia.[112] Franjo Tudjman was a World War II veteran who fought with the Partisans, and was well known in the SFRY. Due to his participation in the Croatian Spring in 1971 he was arrested for promoting nationalism, but his sentence was reduced after a personal intervention by Josip Broz Tito. Due to Tudjman’s rank of Major General in the Yugoslav Army the courts were lenient on the sentence he had to serve.  The new constitution of Croatia, which was drafted a few months after the state of Croatia gained independence, recognized that Croatia had minorities of other nations, but stated that they would be considered to be Croatian nationals.

The issue, however, was that the Serbian minority did not want to accept a Croatian authority, and their opposition stiffened when key administrative posts were preferentially given to Croatians, such as high positions in the police service and the postal system. The Knin Resistance was the center of the Serbian resistance in Croatia. Slobodan Milosevic used his propaganda machinery to make Serbians believe they were under danger and possible ethnic cleansing. Jovan Raskovic founded the Serb Democratic Party in Knin which later became the capital city of the Republic of Serb Krajina in Croatia.

The Republic of Serb Krajina was declared as a Serbian country, but the Croatians under Tudjman’s leadership did not recognize it and considered the division of newly-sovereign Croatia unacceptable. Serbian anti-Croat propaganda escalated when Franjo Tudjman and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl shook hands on an official meeting. The Serbian propaganda machine under Milosevic was quick to pounce on this, drawing a parallel with the alliance between Ante Pavelic’s Independent State of Croatia and Hitler’s Third Reich. Memories of that terrible time were soon enflamed, rekindling Serbian animus against the Croats. The propaganda gave Milosevic all the political capital he need to send the Yugoslav National Army into Croatia in the name of defending the Serbian people. The invasion also had a second cause, namely Croatia’s own military buildup, which was principally dependent on the black market through Hungary.[113]

The nationalism was fueled by politicians from both sides, with the Croatians unprepared for a war that would create more than 200,000 internally displaced people and ruin 80% of the Croatian economy. The Serbian population of southern Croatia or Serb Krajina was not going to be systematically executed or deported, but the Milosevic policy of a united Serbia with united Serbs certainly fueled the ethnic tensions. Serbian individuals who wanted to reach an agreement with the Croatians were treated as traitors. The outcome of the war was a devastatingly large number of casualties. With Vukovar put under siege and then retained by the YNA, the Croatians launched the operation “Storm”, sending their military forces into the breakaway Republic of Serb Krajina, which caused a massive migration movement of Serbs.[114] Ante Gotovina, the commanding general during operation “Storm” (Oluja), was later brought before the Hague Tribunal in the Netherlands, on charges of crimes against humanity, although he and others were acquitted.

Casualties, Displaced People, Refugees Serbain[115] Croatian[116]
Internally Displaced People 200’000-300’000 248’000
Casualties 7’000-8’000 military

2’344 civilians

13’000 military

6’000 civilians

Refugees 254’000 300’000


The Croatian war soon spilled over to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the Croats, Serbs and Bosnian Muslims fought on three fronts. In 1992 Bosnia declared its independence, but this was rejected by Serbia and the Serb population of Bosnia. Additionally, the Croatians supported the advancement of Croatian troops and wanted to create a Croatian autonomous republic in Bosnia, even as the Serbs attempted to do the same thing in Croatia.

Alija Izetbegovic was the first president of the newly self-determined Bosnia and Herzegovina.  He planned to bring out the Muslim Declaration of Bosnia as a constitution, and wanted Bosnia to be under a system of leadership like that of Pakistan. Indeed, he often referred to Pakistan as a meritorious example of what the Bosnian state should aspire to.[117] Izetbegovic’s aim was to promote Muslim consciousness in Bosnia, and he succeeded to no small degree: their religion became a part of their ethnic identification. Bosnia’s Croats and Serbs, however, denounced a centralized government of Bosnia in Sarajevo and created their own political parties.[118]

The history behind the division of the minorities in Bosnia was the Karadjorgje agreement between Franjo Tudjman and Slobodan Milosevic in 1991. Tudjman recognized the Bosnian territories and the state’s integrity, and even offered an official military alliance to have a unified front against the forces of the Yugoslav National Army. Alija Izetbegovic refused to make such an alliance because he was aware of the Bosnian Croats’ and Serbs’ frustration with Bosnia’s declaration of independence, and hoped to preserve the Muslim identity within the people, so that this could be the basis for nationality in the Bosnian Republic.

Franjo Tudjman, who opposed Milosevic’s plans for spreading Pan-Serbianism and ethnic propaganda, nonetheless met with Milosevic on several occasions in order to discuss the Kradjorgje agreement. The arrangement was to divide Bosnia in two territories that would be considered Croatian and Serbian, respectively. Mante Boban and Radovan Karadzic were the local Bosnian leaders of the Croats and Serbs, and together with the two heads of state they met in the city of Graz in Austria, to discuss the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both would later deny that the meeting took place in order to further their aspirations to divide Bosnia. Karadzic stated that this meeting was sponsored by the European Commission.[119] The meetings between the four politicians demonstrated a planned and manipulated propaganda of ethnic nationalism, one based on historical territorial claims.

Mante Boban declared Herzeg-Bosna[120] which was a independent Croatian state within Bosnia and Herzegovina. The capital city was Mostar and the territories consisted of 30 municipalities, with a plan to extend the territories in the direction of Sarajevo. Radovan Karadzic declared the Republic of Srpska in the eastern part of Bosnia, making the Serbian populated areas part of the republic. Alija Izetbegovic was left with central Bosnia and Sarajevo and a serious imbalance of military power, given that the Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats were receiving shipments of weapons and a continuous flow of intelligence from Serbia and Croatia, respectively. With Bosnia’s very existence hanging in the balance, Izetbegovic turned to the Muslim nations and states such as Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, calling them to aid the Bosnian Muslims.[121] Holy warriors were received in Bosnia by Alija Izetbegovic and were given Bosnian passports.

The Vance-Owen plan[122] was presented in 1993 allocating each “ethnic” group three territories. The plan was vague and divided the territories to Serbs, Croats and Muslims not accordingly not taking into account the spread out population of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was the most diverse republic in Yugoslavia, in terms of culture, religion and inter-marriages were very common between Serbs, Croats and Muslims.

The peak of the war left Bosnia in ruins, and involved such terrible crimes against humanity as those that occurred at Srebrenica and Mostar. During the war in Yugoslavia from 1991 until 1999, in all territories there were attempts at genocide, accompanied by the systematic burning of villages, houses and religious buildings. The birth of paramilitary groups such as the HOS (Hrvatske Odbrane Snage) and Tigers made the accounting of crimes difficult, and mine fields still prevent experts from accessing the fields and territories where the crimes were committed. This is the more remarkable given the success, for forty years, of the brotherhood and unity ideology. After Tito’s death, 57% of people in Yugoslavia stated that relations and coexistence between the ethnicities were good, and only 12% stated that they were very bad.[123] To turn a population that largely viewed inter-ethnic relations in a positive light to radical nationalist blood-letting in so short a period of time stands as a feat that is equal parts astounding and appalling.

The war produced a great flow of refugees in Yugoslavia: 2.5 million refugees from 1991-1995. Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, USA and other Western countries were a destination for many refugees. The internally displaced people sought refuge in the newly formed republics post 1995.[124]

Section II: the Beginning of the End: a comparison with the Czechoslovakian Scenario

Czechoslovakian Scenario

The end of Communism in Eastern Europe came suddenly and with great force. After the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was reunited, the Communist regimes fell like dominos. The former satellite states of the Soviet Union were plunged into profound change, and when the Soviet Union itself disintegrated Communism in Europe was finished. Czechoslovakia was among the many countries that revolted against the communist regime and sought to restore democracy. The country itself was founded as a republic with democratic principles in its constitution.[126]

The independence of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed on 28th of October in 1918, around the same time the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was created. The proclamation of the republic was signed in Prague and the first president was Tomas Masaryk,[127] who had a profound influence of the creation and independence of Czechoslovakia.[128] Masaryk was a politician and sociologist born in Hodonin in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Before that empire’s dissolution, Masaryk attempted to reform it from within, lending his efforts to proposals for a multi-national federation to take the place of the Habsburg empire. This might have prolonged the life of the empire in some form, but with the outbreak of World War I the Habsburg monarchy was even less inclined to listen than usual. This encouraged Masaryk to break with the monarchical rule of the Habsburgs altogether. He decided to lend his support to the Entente Powers during World War I and encouraged his countrymen to do likewise. Masaryk became an inspirational figure to many ethnic groups in Central Europe after his visit with Woodrow Wilson in the United States was to convinced the American president to support the cause of oppressed populations in Central Europe.[129] The result was seen in Wilson’s fourteen points, under the right to self determination and independence of former Austro-Hungarian states.

The new state in central Europe consisted of more than 13 million people and inherited some very key industrialized areas from Austria-Hungary. Czechoslovakia was among the most advanced industrialized countries in 1918. In the constitution the core principle of the state was the recognition of the political aspirations of the Czechoslovakian population, and its rule in parliament with Czech and Slovak as official languages. However, the state was not made up solely of Slovaks and Czechs: there was a large German population living within the area of the newly established state, in the region of the Sudetenland, famously used as the pretext for the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia by Hitler.

In 1935 Edvard Benes succeeded Tomas Masaryk as president[130]. The two politicians were amongst the earliest political figures in Europe who raised concerns after Adolf Hitler took power in Germany. On the 15th of March 1939 German Wehrmacht troops invaded Czechoslovakia and established a protectorate in Slovakia. This spelled the end of Masaryk’s democratic republic, Central Europe’s first. The World War II period, then, saw the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia and Nazi favoritism of a puppet state carved from it, much like the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia and the Nazi’s client Independent State of Croatia.

Benes formed a government-in-exile in Britain, which worked closely with the Communist political figures who had the same goal of liberating Czechoslovakia. By war’s end in 1945 the Soviets had overrun much of Eastern Europe, driving out the Wehrmacht and Nazi tyranny but arguably installing their own forms of tyranny in newly-reformed client states. Benes hoped that the Soviet Union would allow the Czech and Slovaks to choose their own form of government. The majority of the people were supportive of the Communist Party, and neglected the West for its abject betrayal of Czechoslovakia in the Munich Agreement.[131] While the Communist Party won, there were other parties included within the government, such as the Democratic Party in Slovakia. Benes was president of the so called Third Republic of Czechoslovakia but all the ministers during his administration were from the Communist Party. In 1948 the Czechoslovakian Communist party took over and a socialist, bureaucratic centralized government was introduced. In 1955 Czechoslovakia was the founding member of the Warsaw Pact and became a satellite state of the USSR.[132]

Reforms in Czechoslovakia

The first attempt at reforms for Czechoslovakia came in 1960. Also known as the “Prague Spring”, this entailed the granting of freedoms of speech and of the press, albeit to an extent. The Communist Party in Czechoslovakia wanted the ability to make reforms in order to not be dependent upon the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union’s response was to send troops to Prague, bringing Alexander Dubcek to Moscow for some very pointed negotiations. In 1969 he was removed from power because he was deemed a threat to the Communist regime. This is one aspect where Yugoslavia differed from most other Warsaw Pact countries, however, in that it was not dependent on the Soviet Union. As a consequence, the country was able to carry out its own programs of reform in the 1960s and 1970s, and they were both widely touted and widely received as being in the country’s best interests. That is why there was no opposition, and no military intervention to prevent the changes from happening. Czechoslovakia, unlike Yugoslavia, had a peaceful partition and a mutual agreement between the Slovaks and Czechs during the partition of the territories.[133]

In 1989 the Velvet Revolution[134] also known as “Listopad 1989”, took place in the capital city of Prague, one of many such revolutions sweeping East-Central Europe at this time. In Bratislava the Candle March took place, many Catholics expressing their dissatisfaction with the strict Communist rule. With the policy of perestroika initiated by Gorbachev in the Soviet Union, the people in Czechoslovakia seized the moment to support opposition leaders such as Vaclav Havel  against the ruling party. In 1989 Milous Jakes resigned as the first secretary of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia. Havel was appointed president on December 29 and the elections took place in 1990. The establishment of the Czechoslovak government included the Communist Party which had a minority in the parliament.


The dissolution of Czechoslovakia began in 1991 during the same time periods the Yugoslav republics voted on their independence. Czechoslovakia, unlike the former Yugoslavia, managed to establish a federal republic with a democratic system until the dissolution. The emergence of political parties enlivened the political landscape, with a number of competing parties pushing for their visions for the country’s future. The Slovak National Party favored complete independence for Slovakia, while others advocated for the Czechoslovak federation but demanded a decentralized government. For the Czech leadership Prague was the capital city, and they wanted to have further control. As president, Havel was supportive of a federation but could not come to an agreement with Vladimir Meciar who pushed for an independent Slovakia. The two political entities negotiated to come to an agreement on a federation, but the negotiations finally led to “Act 541”[135], which stipulated the peaceful division of Slovak and Czech properties, the industry sector, factories and the borders. On the 25 of November 1992 an agreement from both sides was reached that the country would dissolve on the 31st of December 1992. Czechoslovakia officially was separated on the 1st of January 1993, and the Czech Republic and Slovakia came to existence.[136]

Vaclav Havel resigned in 1992[137] as the president of the Czechoslovak federation before its disintegration, because he was an advocate of the country to continue existing as a federation rather than two separate states. Havel became the first president of the second Czech Republic in 1993 who led the country for ten years until 2003. Vladimir Meciar, the leader of the movement for a democratic Slovakia, became the first Prime Minister of the Slovak republic in 1994 for a four year term.

The two countries are peaceful neighbors today, and since their separation there has been no violent interstate conflict. Furthermore, the two states are supportive of each other in international and European political issues.

Differences and Similarities

Czechoslovakia, Organic or Civic Nationalism

In the case of Czechoslovakia, it is important to take into consideration the effects of Communism and political forces. In Czechoslovakia nationalism was not based on the fact that two nations were united as a civic nation; it was aimed at minorities.

Ethnic Dominance and Minorities

The internal conflict of countries between ethnic majorities and minorities is well explained by Andersen[138] who brings up the Albanian legend of Gorg Kastrioti Skanderbeg. This historical figure is an Albanian national symbol of history, and for Albanians Skanderbeg represents Albanian resistance against the encroachment of mighty foreign empires. The flag of Skanderbeg has long been used by Albanian clans as a declaration of their identity. Thus, historical legends are political and excluding. Education has always played a major part in spreading ideologies from generation to generation, and confirming them in their national identities. Thus, it is important to highlight the cultural nature of nationalism. While the Slavic nations'[139] legends and origin myths are not as strong as those of the Hungarians, for example, who have a complete mythology built around the great leaders of the nation leading the people into the middle of Europe, they are still strong enough to reinforce national identities of the people. These myths built in the educational curriculum have an effect on people’s ideologies, and as Smith confirms, nationalism is a state of mind, a collective sense of belonging.

Brubaker[140] confirms that there is a triangular relationship between minority groups, newly formed states, and external homelands. A good description of national minority is found in Brubaker’s article, which will be explaining the main source of conflict. According to the author, a national minority is not a demographic fact, more like a dynamic potential stance. The dynamics within the state create conflicts and this results in ethnic violence. A national minority is also a field of struggle, and that explains the violence that accompanies nationalization. The author does not call the civic state as a national state; he used the “nationalizing state” definition instead, which highlights the active part of the state in nationalism.

As the territorial boundaries of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were not fully representative of ethnic boundaries, the minority question became serious. However, what kindles violence against minorities is a question that needs to be answered, before the problem can be analyzed. One of the examples Andersen[141]  brings up is the Ashkalija minority of Albanians. These people consider themselves Albanians but the rest of the nation thinks that they are Albanian-speaking Romas. They are considered to be ranked higher in the society than “real” Romas but they are still excluded. In Czechoslovakia, however, the atrocities against Romas and Hungarians (who were forced to live outside of their civic state border) are similar. Slovaks (as a part of Hungary currently belongs to the new Slovakia) have a long history of excluding Hungarian nationals from the society. For a long time, they prohibited the traditionally Hungarian settlement names to be displayed in the population’s language, even the use of their own language. However, it is important to differentiate between two types of ethnic discrimination present in the region:

A). Discrimination against minority groups based on the perception that the other nation belongs to a “lower” social class. This describes discrimination against the Roma population in almost all Eastern and Central European countries where they reside. Slovaks, Czechs and Hungarians have traditionally all had deep-seated prejudices against the Roma, characterizing them as a history-less and cultureless nation which needs to be placed lower in the society.

B). Exclusion and discrimination based on threats. The threats can be imagined or real. This is true in the former Yugoslavia, where the power struggle for territorial dominance is still present. On the other hand, the recent atrocities against Hungarians and the state of affairs between Slovakia and Hungary show that Slovaks still think that Hungary might request that the borders before the Trianon agreement would be reinstated.

Ethnic Conflict

Brown[142] confirms the previously mentioned hypothesis that age-old animosities contribute towards internal conflict, however, he denies that this would be the only source of aggression. He builds a framework that determines the four underlying sources of conflict; these are:

  • structural factors
  • political factors
  • economic/social factors
  • cultural-perceptual factors

Looking at the structural factors of the region it is evident that all four sources of conflict are present in the region. Moreover, both Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were not organic but forced civic. Both were also weak, because the only thing that kept each of them together was the political regime, as opposed to a widely- and deeply-shared sense of nationhood. While the individual nationalisms were suppressed, there was no real civic nationalism created, at least not one that is similar to that of Great Britain. In the case of Great Britain, for all that Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are distinct from the hegemonic nation, England, the Welsh, Scottish, and Ulstermen have traditionally had significant and strong loyalties to the Crown, and many Scots and Welsh, at least, are willing to consider themselves British. By comparison, the identity of being Yugoslavian or Czechoslovakian was never remotely that strong. Intra-state security concerns were present in former Yugoslavia, and the ethnic geography had an important role in the conflict. When the state weakened, conflict broke out and spread like wildfire. According to Brown, this is a result of individual ethnic groups or nations trying to defend their identity and autonomy. Ethnic geography also has a great impact on internal conflicts, especially when it comes to territories, majority and minority group struggles. Brown describes the political factors of Yugoslavia as particularly given to provoking conflict.

Economic and social factors like inflation after the collapse of Communism were also present in the region. This contributed towards social disorder and internal conflict. The cultural and perceptual aspects of the internal national conflict were also present in the form of discrimination against minorities. It is important to note here that both countries have had a history of ethnic violence, and some of these episodes led to wars, while others led to political action that resolved the differences without further bloodshed. The preexisting grievances between different ethnic groups are the main cultural and perceptual aspects of the ethnic conflicts today.

Westernization of East – Complexity of Nationalism and Globalization

Smith[143] confirms that the contradiction between European identity and existing national identities may be more apparent than real. He argues that while the Western model of nationhood is built on homeland and national territory, citizenship, the Eastern is based on culture and ethnicity. He also talks about the revival of ethnic nationalism in Europe. Smith admits that there is a motion in the European societies which should not be ignored, and it is “challenging the accepted frameworks of the national state. He describes this process as three different trends’ influence.

  • Trans-nationalism
  • The rise and fall of power blocks
  • Increase of the scale of communication and power

He states that alongside with the globalization and westernization of states there is another process present, namely the rediscovering of the ethnic and cultural values of the nation. According to Smith, this is the main source of the revival of ethnic nationalism in Eastern Europe. Interestingly, again, the author uses a broad category of Europe and ethnic states and misses a very important point of differentiation: the effect of the rise and fall of power blocs. We should not forget that postwar Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were re-created by Communists, who brought with them a powerful ideology that was then sweeping the entire region in the wake of the Soviet victory over the Wehrmacht. This categorization must have impacted the decision to create the states, and indicated that the structures would work: after all, Communism was succeeding practically everywhere else in the region. While the cultural element of the nations was taken into consideration, the ethnic aspect was not. While the nations individually rarely formed a civic state, in the end they did have a cultural and ethnic identity, and this ended up mattering considerably more in the Yugoslav case.

It is also important to note that after the independence of states, two processes are working against each other. The first one being the westernization of Europe and the second one is the revival of cultural ethnic nationalism. In the specific case of Yugoslavia, it was in Germany’s and Austria’s interest to integrate Yugoslavia into westernized Europe. However, this could not be done collectively: rather, it had to proceed one republic at a time. Thus Slovenia and Croatia were recognized immediately by Germany and Austria, in Austria’s case partly because of fears that the Yugoslav violence would spread through Slovenia to their own borders if the conflict was not resolved expeditiously.

The Westernization of Yugoslavia was highly affected by the presence of the U.S. military in the region during the wars and ethnic conflicts, according to Power. It was a forced oppression of ethnic and cultural nationalism. That is possible the right explanation for the atrocities against U.S. military forces. The autonomy of the region was a result of both a civic and ethnical- cultural movements. Politics, oppression of nationalism, intervention of the West and the westernization of the East all contributed towards the political changes that resulted in the increase of nationalism.

Similarities between former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia’s nationalism and history

  • Both were formed from multiple ethnicities; the ethnic and civic boundaries were different
  • Oppression of nationalism by Communist system
  • Ethnic and cultural national identity stronger than civic national identity; that is the reason for the breakup of civic states
  • History-less states
  • Movement towards civic nationalism due to globalization
  • Exclusion of minority groups
  • Differences between the two countries’ nationalism
Yugoslavia  Czechoslovakia
Multiple majority groups per territory Two main majority ethnic groups forming nations
Multiple religions One majority religion
Power struggle type of ethnic violence Protective type of ethnic violence
Forced influence of “westernization”

meeting resistance

Voluntary westernization
Violence when ethnic nationalism rises Non violent ethnic nationalism

The main differences between the two countries’ nationalisms were identified as a result of different histories, impacts and ethnic identities. Upon examination, many crucial problems with the statement that Eastern nationalism is different from “the rest” were identified. First of all, the statement does not take into consideration the civic features of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and its impact on the nations of what became Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, respectively, a crucial piece of the historical puzzle that it is absurd to leave out. Down the ages the empire had a very Western aristocracy, a state of affairs that certainly continued to prevail in the pivotal 18th century. Consequently, the Habsburg empire and the sovereign states hewn from its fabric after the First World War were civic states, more Western in character, in many ways, than Eastern. To state that the nationalism was plainly ethnic and cultural, even considering that some of these ethno-national communities had partial autonomy within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, would not reflect the whole truth.[144]

Using a collective group name of ethnic nationalism or Eastern-type nationalism leaves much to be desired as well. Different countries must be analyzed on the basis of their histories, and every nation is different. From the appearance of a state in the region, the influence of power and politics on the ethnic groups should also not be neglected. The research has identified some important faults of categorization, and agreeing with Hall, it is evident that the categories of ethnic and civic nationalism are based on stereotypes, based on some advanced discursive strategies. The strategies include idealization, projection, the failure to recognize and respect difference imposing European Western categories and norms on countries. Therefore, seeing nationalism as a duality of two opposite approaches is plainly stereotypical dualism.

Brown’s ideas on the underlying sources of conflict reflect on the main influences; political, structural, economic and cultural traits of the ethnic nations need to be considered before categorization. The structural traits of the two former countries were different, while there were only two majority nations in Czechoslovakia, there were multiple nations in Yugoslavia. Culturally, there was not much difference between Slovaks and Czechs, unlike between Serbs and Kosovar Albanians.

The Beginning of the End: Concluding Remarks

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 provided a common external stimulus that precipitated the dissolution of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, yet the processes of the disintegration of the two states could scarcely have been more different. As demonstrated above, the Czechs and Slovaks came to an agreement to part in a peaceful manner and divide the property between the two states. In the Yugoslavian case there was no talk to divide property, but rather to conquer land, and it was important for the political elites to have domination.

The effects of nationalism, precisely ethnic nationalism in all its forms, religious, cultural and historical, were more apparent in Yugoslavia. The issue of conducting a single and precise definition still remains among scholars and as it has been shown in the thesis many differ on the schools of thought about nationalism. What can be drawn as a conclusion for nationalism is that it is more adaptable to political parties, ethnic groups, minorities and the general population when there is a time of economic certainty or major political crises as in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1921. The negative aspect of ethnic nationalism is demonstrated in the former Yugoslavia; moreover the positive side is represented in the Czechoslovakian scenario.

The International Community

The city of Srebrenica will be the reminder in Europe of the terrible effects of politically-manipulated ethnic nationalism. Srebrenica will also be a byword for the failure of the international community to act. The French and Dutch UN troops have done little but speed up the process of ethnic cleansing. Samantha Power sates in her book, A Problem From Hell, that the international community has failed to cope with the challenges of genocide post World War II.[145] Clinton was reluctant to get involved in either the Balkans or Rwanda, following the aftermath of the U.S. intervention in Somalia. Bosnia was left to deal with the rise of religious and ethnic extremism on its own.

The USA and major western European powers should have had a different framework for dealing with ethnic and political manipulated nationalism in the former Yugoslavia. The major European powers have sought European unity, but the blind spot proved to be Yugoslavia: genocide, taking place within the heart of Europe in the 1990s. After World War II the rhetoric of “never again” was much bandied about, but “never again” became “again and again” in the former Yugoslavia, and given ongoing political instability in the region a fresh outbreak of atrocities may yet occur. The foreign policy error made by the Western powers was to abandon Bosnia to its fate, leaving it to deal with genocidal violence on its own. Bosnia should be an example for the current Syrian crisis. The causes of the conflict in the Middle East is different, but the lack of action by the international community in Syria is worrying, and it seems that no lessons have been learned from Bosnia.

The final intervention by NATO was the bombardment of Serbia and Montenegro in 1999, to prevent ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The air bombing campaign was efficient, but came at a very late stage. If the same campaign could have taken during the Bosnian War, especially after clear evidence of ethnic violence and genocide was known, perhaps more lives could have been saved.

Nor should criticism be reserved exclusively for the international community. The various former Yugoslav political elites, notably Tudjman, Milosevic, and Alija Izetbegovic, made paltry efforts to try and resolve the crises amongst them. The only effort to save Yugoslavia and make it into a federation with decentralized form of government came from Milan Kucan, the Slovenian president and the Slovenian delegation who proposed the amendments to the constitution.

Czechoslovakia remains the only example of a peaceful separation between two states. Romania, Yugoslavia, Albania and the Russian Federation all faced issues after the fall of communism. Due to political mismanagement and authoritative governments more importantly repressed political beliefs and nationalistic feelings.

The results from the former Yugoslav war are noticeable today. The republic of Bosnia is divided politically, religiously and territorially, and has tremendous problems with a lack of cooperation between the different politicians. The Republic of Macedonia, which remained peaceful during the 1990’s, is faced with ethnic divisions and ethno-nationalism that may become even more extreme than the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ethnic Albanians and Macedonians rarely reach political consensus, and the people take the unresolved issue in their own hands. The independence of Kosovo in 2008, poses another issue with sectarian and ethnic division between Albanians and ethnic Serbs living in the north. The military conflict of the former Yugoslavia is over, but the consequences are still present and will continue to be if the political instability remains.

In comparison, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are integrated members of the European Union and the NATO alliance. The coexistence and political stability between the two countries is excellent. This shows that cooperation between two countries is the only way to advance, economically, politically and diplomatically.

Future Aspects

All the former republics of Yugoslavia with the exception of Serbia have expressed the will to join the NATO alliance. In order to assure that no future military actions will happen, but the struggle for some of the countries to join is worrying namely Bosnia and Macedonia because these countries still face the dangerous of ethnic nationalism and religious extremism.

What will happen in the Balkan Peninsula is difficult to predict, but there dangers outlined before are present and realistic. The way to European integration depends on the former Yugoslav states following the example of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The international community has many more difficult challenges to face, but the responsibility to protect should not solely bused on humanitarian aid basis. There should be an international sense of responsibility to protect minorities and endangered ethnic groups from being targeted for genocidal blood-letting, because nationalism and its more atavistic and sinister forms will not become extinct.


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[1] Bogdan Denic, Etnicki Nacionalizam i Tragicna Smrt Jugoslavije (Belgrade: B92, 1996).

[2] Khon H,  Nationalism Its Meanining and History (New Jersey: Priencton, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1955).

[3] Hutchinson John and Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).

[4] Paul R. Votti and Mark V. Kauppi, International Relations and World Politics Security, Economy, Identity (New Jersey: Pearson, 2009).

[5] Moor Margaret, National Self-determination and Secession (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).

[6] Bogdan Denic, Etnicki Nacionalizam i Tragicna Smrt Jugoslavije (Belgrade: B92, 1996).

[7] Utrinski Vesnik, << Zlatna Zora na Linija so Germanskite Nacionalisti>> (2012).

[8] Ward Barbara, Nationalism and Ideology (New York: Norton, 1967).

[9] Paul R. Votti and Mark V. Kauppi, International Relations and World Politics Security, Economy, Identity (New Jersey: Pearson, 2009).

[10] Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism: A Cultural Approach (New York: Routledge, 2009).

[11] Bogdan Denic, Etnicki Nacionalizam i Tragicna Smrt Jugoslavije (Belgrade: B92, 1996).

[12] Vejkoslav Perica, Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

[13] Vejkoslav Perica, Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

[14] Vejkoslav Perica, Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

[15] Vejkoslav Perica, Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

[16]AJP Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971).

[17] Bogdan Denic, Etnicki Nacionalizam i Tragicna Smrt Jugoslavije (Belgrade: B92, 1996).

[18] Viktor Gaber, Imeto Makedonija Istorija Pravo Politika (Skopje: Jugoreklam, 2009).

[19] Allen H. Barton, Opinion Making Elites in Yugoslavia (New York: Praeger, 1973).

[20] Malcom Noeal, Bosnia a Short Story (London: Pan Macmillan, 2002).

[21] Dr.Borislav Ratkovic, Prvi Balkanski Rat 1912-1913 (Beograd: Vojnoistoricki Institut, 1975).

[22] Edward Taborsky, Programme of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (1960).

[23] Ivo Banac, National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics (New York: Cornell University Press, 1992).

[24] AJP Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971).

[25] John R. Lampe Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

[26] Leslie Benson, Yugoslavia a Concise History: When Ideas Collide (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).

[27] Ivo Banac, National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics (New York: Cornell University Press, 1992).

[28] Ivo Banac, National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics (New York: Cornell University Press, 1992).

[29] Peter Sugar, Nationalism in Eastern Europe (Seatle: University of Washington Press, 1969).

[30] Norman Naimark, Understanding the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003).

[31] Jelavic Barbara, History of the Balkans (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

[32] Armstrong, John A, Nations before Nationalism (Chapel Hill: University of NorthCarolina Press, 1982).

[33] Ivo Banac, National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics (New York: Cornell University Press, 1992).

[34]How did I do in tying together the points in this paragraph? It was a bit disjointed, so I tried to rearrange it in a way that made more sense. If you’d like to provide a little more info I’ll be happy to incorporate it, just let me know.

[35] Ivo Banac, National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics (New York: Cornell University Press, 1992).

[36] Djuric, Veljko D, Prekrstavanje Srba u Nezavisnoj Drzavi Hrvatskoj: prilozi za istoriju

verskog genocida ( Belgrade: Alfa, 1991).

[37]Ivo Banac, National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics (New York: Cornell University Press, 1992).

[38] Jozo Tomasevich, War and Revolution in Yugoslavia (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001).

[39] Jelavic Barbara, History of the Balkans (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

[40] Rusinow, Dennison, The Yugoslav Experiment 1948–1974( Berkeley: University of

California Press, 1977).

[41] Krestic´, Vasilije Dj, Through Genocide to a Greater Croatia (Belgrade: BIGZ, 1998.)

[42] Krestic´, Vasilije Dj, Through Genocide to a Greater Croatia (Belgrade: BIGZ, 1998.)

[43] Jelavic Barbara, History of the Balkans (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

[44] Jelavic Barbara, History of the Balkans (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

[45] Snezana Trifunovska, Yugoslavia: from its creation to its dissolution (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1994).

[46] Krestic, Vasilije Dj, Through Genocide to a Greater Croatia (Belgrade: BIGZ, 1998.)

[47] Snezana Trifunovska, Yugoslavia: from its creation to its dissolution (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1994)

[48] Krestic, Vasilije Dj, Through Genocide to a Greater Croatia (Belgrade: BIGZ, 1998.)

[49] Krestic, Vasilije Dj, Through Genocide to a Greater Croatia (Belgrade: BIGZ, 1998.)

[50] Kocovic, Bogoljub. Zrtve drugog svetskog rata u Jugoslaviji (London: Veritas Foundation Press, 1985).

[51] Jelavic Barbara, History of the Balkans (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

[52] John R. Lampe Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

[53] Jelavic Barbara, History of the Balkans (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

[54]  Jelavic Barbara, History of the Balkans (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

[55] John R. Lampe Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

[56] Bogdan Denic, “Stability and Succession In Yugoslavia”, Journal of Internatioanl Affairs, 1979.

[57] Carter April, Democratic Reform in Yugoslavia: Political Decision Making since 1966 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977).

[58] Carter April, Democratic Reform in Yugoslavia: Political Decision Making since 1966 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977).

[59] Kedourie Elie, Nationalism (London: Hutchinson, 1960).

[60] Carter April, Democratic Reform in Yugoslavia: The Changing Role of the Party (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982).

[61] Horvat Branko, ABC jugosloveskg socializma (Zagreb: Globus, 1989).

[62] Carter April, Democratic Reform in Yugoslavia: The Changing Role of the Party (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982).

[63] Miladin Korac, Socijalisticki samoupravni sistem proizvodanje (Beograd: Komunist, 1987).

[64] Bogdan Denic, Etnicki Nacionalizam i Tragicna Smrt Jugoslavije (Belgrade: B92, 1996).

[65]  Kohn, H, Nationalism. Its Meaning and History.( Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1955).

[66] Anthony D. Smith, National Identity (Reno: University of Nevade Press, 1991).

[68] Anthony D. Smith, National Identity (University of Nevade Press, 1991).

[69] Jaskulowski, K, (2010) Western (civic) versus Eastern (ethnic) Nationalism.The Origins and Critique of the Dichotomy. Polish Sociological Review. 3(171) 2010.

[70] Shullman, S. (2002) Western Nationalism versus Eastern Nationalism. Comparative Political Studies / June 2002

[71] Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1988).

[72] Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1988).

[73] Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1988).

[74] Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1988).

[75] Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1988).

[76] Bogdan Denic, Etnicki Nacionalizam i Tragicna Smrt Jugoslavije (Belgrade: B92, 1996).

[77]  Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1988).

[78]  Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1988).

[79] Which is?

[80]  Ward Barbara, Nationalism and Ideology (New York: Norton, 1967).

[81] Ward Barbara, Nationalism and Ideology (New York: Norton, 1967).

[82] Wolff Robert, The Balkans in our Time (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956).

[83] Glenny Misha, Tha Fall of Yugoslavia the Third Balkan War (London: Penguin, 1995).

[84] Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1988).

[85] Ward Barbara, Nationalism and Ideology (New York: Norton, 1967).

[86] Ward Barbara, Nationalism and Ideology (New York: Norton, 1967).

[87] John R. Lampe Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

[88] Križan, Mojmir, New Serbian Nationalism and the Third Balkan War. Studies in East European Thought 46 (1994)

[89] Doder, Dusko. “Yugoslavia: New War, Old Hatreds.” Foreign Policy 91 (1993): 3-23

[90] Horvat Branko, Kosovsko Pitanje (Zagreb: Globus 1999).

[91] Horvat Branko, Kosovsko Pitanje (Zagreb: Globus 1999).

[92] Different from what? If you can supply more information, I’ll be happy to use it.

[93] Carter April, Democratic Reform in Yugoslavia: The Changing Role of the Party (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982). This sentence feels tacked on to the paragraph, and I don’t think it really fits; I suggest either deleting it or adding information. I left it in order to ask you what you wanted me to do.

[94] John R. Lampe Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

[95] John R. Lampe Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

[96] Cohen, Lenard,  Broken Bonds: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia (San Francisco: Westview Press, 1993).

[97] Horvat Branko, Kosovsko Pitanje (Zagreb: Globus 1999).

[98] Bladzic, Dusan, Jugoslavija Posle Tita (Zagreb: Globus, 1986).

[99] Van den Heuvel, Martin P. The disintegration of Yugoslavia (Amsterdam: Atlanta 1992).

[100] Horvat Branko, Kosovsko Pitanje (Zagreb: Globus 1999).

[101] It might be good to add a little bit to clarify here: Belgrade was using the Serbian authorities’ targeting of Kosovar Albanians to its own advantage? Is that right? Or was Belgrade cracking down on the demonstrators?

[102] Flajner Tomas, and Slobodan Samardzic, Federalizam I Problem Manjina Viseetnickim Zaednica (Belgrade: IES Beograd, 1995).

[103] Item I.

[104] Sell Louis, Slobodan Milosevic and the destruction of Yugoslavia (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002).

[105] Sell Louis, Slobodan Milosevic and the destruction of Yugoslavia (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002).

[106] What is this word?

[107] John R. Lampe Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

[108] Dordzevic, Dimitrije, The Balkan Revolutionary Tradition (New York: Colombia University Press, 1981).

[109] Hobsbawn, Eric, Nations and Nationalism since 1780 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

[110] Allock John B. Explaining Yugoslavia (London: C. Hurst, 2000).

[111] Sell Louis, Slobodan Milosevic and the destruction of Yugoslavia (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002).

[112] Sell Louis, Slobodan Milosevic and the destruction of Yugoslavia (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002).

[113] John R. Lampe Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

[114] Anthony Obershall, The Manipulation of ethnicity: from ethnic cooperation to violence and war in Yugoslavia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2000).

[115] UNCHR

[116] Mirjana Morokvasic, Yugoslav Refugees Displaced Persons and The Civil War (Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin, 1993).

[117] Izetbegovic, Alija. The Islamic Declaration: A Programme for the Islamization of the Muslim Peoples (Sarajevo: published by the author, 1990).

[118] Magas Branka, “The Destruction of Bosnia” The New Left Review, 196, 1992.

[119] Janusz Bugajski, A Guide to Nationality, Policies, Organizations and Parties (New York: M.E. Sharp, 1995).

[120] Janusz Bugajski, A Guide to Nationality, Policies, Organizations and Parties (New York: M.E. Sharp, 1995).

[121] Rogel Carol, The breakup of Yugoslavia and the War in Bosnia (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1998).

[122] Janusz Bugajski, A Guide to Nationality, Policies, Organizations and Parties (New York: M.E. Sharp, 1995).

[123] Rogel Carol, The breakup of Yugoslavia and the War in Bosnia (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1998).

[124] Slobodan Vukovic, Nemacka Austrija I Razbivanje Jugoslavije (Beograd: Institut Drustvenih Nauka, 2001).

[125] Mirjana Morokvasic, Yugoslav Refugees Displaced Persons and The Civil War (Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin, 1993).

[126] Lederer Ivo, Nationalism in Eastern Europe (Seatle: University of Washington Press, 1969).

[127] Bankowicz Marek, Czechoslovakia: from Masaryk to Havel (Aldershot: Edward Eglar, 1994).

[128] Jan Carnogursky, The Fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia (Former Slovak Prime Minister, 1997).

[129] Miodrag Rankovic, Raspad Socijalistickii I Drustvenih Sistema U Evropi (Beograd: Insituti Drustvenih Nauka, 1994).

[130] Abby Innes, Czechoslovakia: The Short Goodbye (New Heaven: Yale University Press: 2001).

[131] Abby Innes, Czechoslovakia: The Short Goodbye (New Heaven: Yale University Press: 2001).

[132] Elizabeth Pond, Beyond the Wall (New York: The Twentieth Century Fund, 1993).

[133] Bankowicz Marek, Czechoslovakia: from Masaryk to Havel (Aldershot: Edward Eglar, 1994).

[134] Ivo Banac, Eastern Europe in Revolution (Ithca: Cornell University Press, 1992).

[135] Abby Innes, Czechoslovakia: The Short Goodbye (New Heaven: Yale University Press: 2001).

[136] Abby Innes, Czechoslovakia: The Short Goodbye (New Heaven: Yale University Press: 2001).

[137] Bankowicz Marek, Czechoslovakia: from Masaryk to Havel (Aldershot: Edward Eglar, 1994).

[138] Liam Andersen, The Ethnopolitics of Conflict and Compromise (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvenia Press, 2009).

[139] To be clear, you do know Albania is not Slavic, correct?

[140]  Brubacker Rogers, National Minorities, Nationalizing States and External National Homelands in the New Europe (Cambridge: Blackwell 1995).

[141] Liam Andersen, The Ethnopolitics of Conflict and Compromise (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvenia Press, 2009).

[142] Michael Brown, Nationalisms and Ethnic Conflicts (Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2001).

[143] Anthony Smith, National Identity (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1991).

[144] AJP Taylor, The Hapsburg Monarchy (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1948).

[145] Samantha Power, A Problem From Hell (New York: Basic Books, 2002).

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