November 16, 2015
Ethnicity played a critical role in igniting the Yugoslav conflict (1991 - 1999). There were a lot of ethnicities that inhabited Yugoslavia, such as Serbians, Croatians, Bosnians, Slovenians, Macedonians, Italians, Hungarians, Albanians, Turks, and Roma. To make matters worse, many of these ethnicities were fiercely nationalist. As these ethnicities lived in close proximity under one government, there was bound to be conflict to due the misrepresentation of most groups. Previously, before the introduction of communism, the Yugoslav government was a relatively fair union between Slovenes, Serbs, and Croats, however after the introduction of Communism the Serbs took over the government and military entirely. This caused other ethnic groups to be misrepresented in the government and they were often oppressed by the Orthodox Serbian government as they lost their place in the nation’s government.. This caused the Croats and Slovenes to create their own military and both declared independence over the course of a year. This conflict is a result of these different ethnicities.
|A map of the ethnic divisions in Yugoslavia|
The second major cause of this conflict was the lack of religious unity between ethnicities and the entrenchment of religion. Serbia was Eastern Orthodox along with Montenegro and Macedonia, while Bosnia and Kosovo were Muslim, and Croatia and Slovenia were Roman Catholic. The religious unity within these autonomous regions were very high as well, from eighty to ninety percent of the inhabitants of these regions were the main religion, with the exception of Bosnia-Herzegovina. These divides only exacerbated already existing tensions as the Serbs attempted to ethnically cleanse Yugoslavia to preserve their identity, justifying it through their false religions among other things. Another factor contributing to the conflict was the lack of unity within Bosnia & Herzegovina, which had over 40 political parties and no predominant nationality. Its population was 40% Muslim, 33% Serbian and 19% Croat. This split in control caused friction as the Muslim population felt that they were not being represented as the Orthodox Serbs still held most of the public offices in the Bosnian branch of the Yugoslav government. As the conflict began, both the Croat and Serbian armies moved to take parts of Bosnia, which caused the Muslims to band together to defend their faith and land.
|Even in the midst of the Cold War, the|
actions of WWII were not forgotten.
Another reason for the conflict was the rivalries which had been created in previous years. Anti-Semitism was strong in Croatia and Slovakia during the 1930s and 1940s and the Nazis were welcome there. Croats sided with the Germans against the Serbs during the war. This left a deep divide between the two ethnicities, and with the destruction of equality between the three groups in the Yugoslavian government, many Croats and Slovenes feared they would be punished for their ancestors actions, and many Serbs believed that they should for siding with the fascists who had caused so much harm to them. This fear of being harmed for their ethnicities actions, however, was also felt by the Serbs. In Croatia, local Serbs believed that fascist Croats would repeat Second World War atrocities. This led Serbs in Croatia to desire freedom from Croatia, and to be safe under their own nation. As the Serbs began to take control of Yugoslavia, the Serbs in Croatia feared they would suffer the wrath of the Croats first should a conflict occur. This lead many Serbs to long for the creation of a greater Serbia, one which would include the enclaves of Serbs living in Herzegovina, Bosnia, and Croatia. This was just another part of the reason which drove the Serbian army to attempt to take much of the lands that were historically Croat and Bosnian, as they were driven by the idea that all Serbs must be united under a single nation, no matter where they lived in the region. In addition to this, the Yugoslavian army, ideally supposed to be composed of an equal union of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was dominated by Serbia. This greatly detracted from the other non-Serbian autonomous regions’ ability to organize defense forces and protect against Serbian advancements and encroachments.
|Many refugees found themselves leaving war zones and entering another|
Another major reason why the Croats and Serbs could not agree upon being governed in a certain style is that as the Serbs continued to favor the communist system, partly because it clearly favored their regime, the Croats prefered a free market capitalist system akin to that found in the west. Part of this desire for change was driven by the fact that there were 600,000 war refugees in Yugoslavia, putting a massive strain on the Yugoslavian infrastructure and economy. The strain is partly what lead many Croats to desire a different economy, one which they believed would aid their economy in dealing with the refugees as well as the people. This caused a lot of strain as it was in the Serbs best interest to keep the current economic and political structure, despite how much it was struggling. These war refugees also experienced a lot of tension as they were seen as a part of the problem in Yugoslavia at the time, leading to more conflict. These refugees were seen as part of the major economic crisis which was occurring in Yugoslavia, which was one of the few major economic factors which contributed to the conflict. In 1990, the annual inflation rate in Yugoslavia was 2600%. Unemployment was in excess of 20%, the national debt was in excess of $23 billion, internal debt was over $14 billion and personal income had fallen by over 20% over the preceding ten years. This lead many groups of people to grow desperate, and was part of the reason that the Croats and Slovenes desired change so much, as they saw this economic crisis as an example of how communism had failed as a whole, and believed that a new government and economy could help solve this problem. It was also an example of how the Serbs had failed to the Croats, driving their desire for independence even farther than before. These were the major contributing factors to the Yugoslavian civil war, and as can be seen are for the most part ethnic and nationalist in nature.