The Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia was created out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after its collapse during World War I. The area formerly known as Yugoslavia consisted of six republics: Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro. All with numerous ethnic groups, mainly Roman Catholics Croatians, Orthodox Serbs, and Muslim Slavs. Throughout many centuries all of these groups have had their days of glory, while having also faced years of misery. Until 1918 the Yugoslav peoples had never been united in a single state. Each national group had its own glorious epoch which it did not share wit its neighbors; in fact, the glories of one medieval kingdom were often achieved at the expense of its neighbors (Singleton, 1985: 24).
According to many analysts "...the Yugoslav peoples shared no common political philosophy and no experience out of which they could construct a new political community" (Hopner 2). The leaders who created the nation-state of Yugoslavia did so with the desire that the different ethnic groups would be able to come together in the basis of their shared territory, language and, in some cases, culture. These, however, as we see in the present day, were some of the different issues which have been slowly tearing them apart.
The First Thirty Years
After its creation in 1918 there were already hostilities among the different nationalities in Yugoslavia, leading to a royal dictatorship instituted by King Alexander in l929, and lasting until his assassination in 1934. Hitler invaded Yugoslavia in 1941 and the German troops were welcomed in Croatia as liberators from the Serbs. Resistance began almost immediately, split into two hostile groups: the Serbian Chetniks, and the leftist Partisans, led by Tito. During the war, Bosnia-Herzegovina were a part of the Independent State of Croatia, a German-Italian satellite. The ruling Ustasha movement wished to remove all Serbs, Jews and Gypsies from Croatian soil, acting with no connections to the other two groups.
The Second World War annihilated Yugoslavia. The country was occupied, dismembered and a ferocious civil war developed. Over 10% of Yugoslavia's population died of war related causes. This was the second highest casualty rate in WWII, surpassed only by the tragedy in Poland (Gross, 1989: 199)
Yugoslavia under Marshall Tito
Under Josip Broz Tito (who was the leader of communist Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1980), the country was able to remain for the most part, peacefully united "by using the coercive apparatus of the Communist party, backed by the army, to suppress all serious forms of ethnic dissent. He did not resolve the problem, he merely repressed it" (Treverton, 1992: 145). Nonetheless, he guaranteed citizens the right to use their own languages and alphabet. The people also received the option of education in their native language through high school or vocational school.
However, everyone was required to study one of the three official Yugoslav languages: Servo-Croatian, Slovenian or Macedonian (Curtis, 1992: 73). Equal rights were guaranteed to all ethnic groups, including the right to organize groups to exercise their cultural practices, such as dressing traditionally on holidays, and promote their national interest (Curtis, 1992: 72). Even though these elements allowing the ethnic groups to remain identifiable and separate were once a main factor in keeping the nation-state together, they are now the main factor in tearing it apart.
Tito imposed agricultural collectivization and encouraged the development of state-owned industry. Later he established agrarian reforms that gave a large portion of the land back to the people. He supported the self-management movement, in which the workers themselves took some part in the decision-making process (in the worker self-management concept). For the next three decades Yugoslavia experienced economic growth, achieving MFN status in the 705 and even rising to be regarded as a Newly Industrialized Country (NIC) (Kegley, Wittkopf, 1989: 105).
The Communist party was not as authoritarian in Yugoslavia as its Eastern European counterparts. Yugoslavia was one of the only two communist European countries that did not belong to the Warsaw Pact (the other being Albania, which withdrew from it in 1968, after the intervention in Czechoslovakia). The main reason for that was that Tito and Stalin had major disagreements, for Tito was gaining recognition as an independent Socialist leader, and he would not allow Yugoslavia to become a subservient Soviet satellite state. He expelled Soviet military advisers from Yugoslavia and was himself expelled from the COMINTERN.
In 1948 the Communist Information Bureau (Comminform) expelled the Yugoslav Communist Party from its ranks on grounds, inter alias, of deviation from Marxism-Leninism, of nationalism, and of hostility towards the Soviet Union (Degenhardt, 1986: 226). The SovietYugoslav reconciliation only came about in 1955, when Nikita Krushev and Tito signed a declaration expressing "their determination to develop their future relations in the spirit of friendship and cooperation." Moreover, agreements on increased cooperation on trade, and on the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes were signed in the 60s, when Yugoslavia was admitted to the Council for Mutual Assistance (CMEA or COMECON). Yugoslavia also made treaties with several Western nations. Later, Tito and the Yugoslav Communist party strongly condemned the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia as constituting a violation of an independent socialist state, repudiating Leonid Brezhnev's "limited sovereignty" doctrine. Only in the early 705 the relations between the two states were placed on a basis of "equality and mutual respect" as well as "non-interference in internal affairs." Once again, in 1979 the Yugoslav Communist party disapproved the Soviet intervention in Mghanistan. (Degenhardt, 1986: 231)
The tensions that had been mounting for many years were brought to an escalation after the death of Tito, in 1980. "Without him as a supreme symbol and moderator, the Constitution could no longer function" (Sword, 1991: 161). The collective presidency that succeeded Tito was not prepared to deal with the complex system Tito had shaped, and the people of the different regions began to question the legitimacy of the government (Sword, 1991: 162). That led to economic slowdown, decline in social conditions and the old ethnic problems resurfaced. With the failure of the CMEA, some Easter European states formed the Pentagonal group, in an effort towards cooperation and closer political and economic integration with the West (Treverton, 1992:155).