|The Balkan States
||The countries in the Balkan Peninsula: Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, and the
European part of Turkey form the Balkans.
|Background on Yugoslavia
||During the Cold War, Yugoslavia was a federation of six republics held
together under communist rule. Beginning in 1991, after communism collapsed
four of those republics split off and became independent. In Croatia and
Bosnia, the breakup of the original Yugoslavia set off wars among ethnic
Serbs, Croats and Muslims that ended in 1995. Today, Yugoslavia is a federation
made up of two republics - equivalent to states - dominant Serbia and the
much smaller Montenegro. Kosovo is a province within Serbia.
War in Croatia
||Croatia The fall of communism brought much uncertainty to Yugoslavia
in 1990, encouraging nationalist sentiments in several of its republics.
In Croatia, the first, free post-World War II elections produced a landslide
victory for Franjo Tudjman's nationalist-oriented Croatian Democratic Union
party - a group that very early proclaimed its distaste for both the ethnic
Serbs living in Croatia and their cousins in Serbia, where Yugoslavia's
federal capital was located.
The nationalist fervor in Croatia led to great tension among Croats
and Serb ethnic groups, who still held centuries-old prejudices against
each other despite living together under communism. Ethnic Croatian Serbs,
in particular, feared the reincarnation of a pro-Nazi Independent State
of Croatia - one that during World War II killed thousands of Serbs in
concentration camps. Similarly, Tudjman and other Croats believed that
the Serbs held designs on incorporating Croatian territory, particularly
the region of Krajina, into a "Greater Serbia."
The mistrust and tensions eventually gave way to scattered fighting
in Croatia and bickering between the two republics. In 1991, Serbian separatists
in Croatia began a series of attacks on Croatian police units, killing
more than 20 by the spring. That May, Serbia added to the hostilities by
blocking the installation of Stipe Mesic, a Croat scheduled to be the chairman
of a rotating presidency in Yugoslavia - a move that technically left the
country without a leader. In June 1991, Croatia struck back declaring their
independence from Yugoslavia. (Croatia's independence was later recognized
by the European Community, the United States, and the United Nations in
Full-scale fighting between Croats and Serbs developed almost immediately,
with Yugoslavia's military backing the Serbian separatists in their fight
The Dayton agreement reached in November 1995 brought a general peace
to the region, with mass violence by Croats against Serbs generally halting
by the end of 1995.
Occasional violence against Serbs in Croatia continued into 1997 and
1998, but far from the coordinated attacks conducted during the 1991-95
With peace generally in place, Croatia began the process of rebuilding
its shattered economy - an area with which the country continues to face
uphill challenges after years of communist mismanagement and war damage
to bridges, power lines, and roads.