Background on the Yugoslav/Balkan War: Is a New Kosovo War Brewing?

06 May

Recently, tensions have been growing in Kosovo, as the Albanian-speaking Muslim majority  moves toward voting for full independence from Serbia.  In response to this movement, veterans of Serb irregular forces, or militias are gravitating toward the Serb-inhabited areas of Kosovo.  These Serb fighters are threatening to launch a rebellion against the Kosovars if they seek independence.  Below is some background information on the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s and early 21st Century.

This post (below) is excerpted from the History Guy page on the Third Balkan War.

Yugoslavia (literally, Land
of the South Slavs), was a nation born out of the ashes of World War
One, created through the merger of the mostly Catholic regions of
Slovenia and Croatia with the Eastern Orthodox Kingdoms of Serbia and
Montenegro. Included in the new nation was the land of Bosnia,
ethnically and religiously divided among Catholic Croats, Orthodox
Serbs and Muslim Slavs. In southern Yugoslavia lay the region of
Kosovo, a fairly new addition to Serbia, containing a largely Muslim
population which spoke Albanian. Until World War 2, this land of many
nationalities held together fairly well. Then, with the Axis invasion
of 1941 and the subsequently brutal occupation by the Germans and
Italians, the old ethnic divisions surfaced into a very bitter civil
war. This conflict primarily pitted the Croats, who allied themselves
with the Axis, against Serbs. Following the war, the Communist
dictator, Josip Broz Tito, reunited Yugoslavia with a firm hand,
imprisoning nationalists from all sides. Following his death 1980,
the system he held together slowly began to unravel.

By 1991, the Serbian
politician Slobodan Milosovic gained power in Yugoslavia through
inciting Serb nationalism. Along with growing nationalistic feelings
in the other parts of Yugoslavia, the day came when Slovenia and
Croatia declared independence from what they saw as a nation
dominated by Serbs. The Yugoslav Army attempted to prevent the
breakaway republics from leaving, but soon failed. Serbs living in
southern and western Croatia then attempted to break away and form a
new nation called Krajina. In 1992, Bosnia also broke away from
Yugoslavia, precipitating yet another war. In southern Yugoslavia,
the region called Macedonia broke away peacefully to form an
independent nation.


Below is a listing, with
some detail, of what can be called "The Third Balkan War." Yugoslavia
is a part of the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. The first
two Balkan Wars were short conflicts at the start of the Twentieth
Century. As this war can be divided into wars within wars within yet
more wars, each separate conflict is indented, showing which larger
war it is a part of. As the former Yugoslavia continues to subdivide
itself with each new conflict, more wars are added. The latest
conflicts are the
War of 1998-1999
, the
Rebellion of 2000-Present
and the new
Uprising in Macedonia,

which began in March of 2001.

   Balkan War (1991-Present)
-The breakup of Yugoslavia can be seen as one long conflict divided into at least nine (and counting) separate wars, rebellions and  uprisings, all which involve parts of the disintegrated Balkan nation.
Civil War (1991-1992)
-The breakup of Yugoslavia as one nation, involved two separate but
                   related wars. The Yugoslav regions of Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from the Belgrade                government.


  War of Independence (1991)
-Slovenia’s war against the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav Army             was short and victorious. This was due in part to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s realization                 that his main worry was the war in neighboring Croatia.

War of Independence
-Croatia  fought both the Yugoslav/Serbian Army and Serb             rebels in the Krajina region.

  Rebellion (1991-1995)
-Croatia’s Serb minority attempted to form a separate nation during
                      the Croatian War of Independence from Yugoslavia. The Serb rebels succeeded in driving the                             Croatian military
out of the Krajina region bordering Bosnia. However, in  May of 1995, the Croatian                     Army launched an effective offensive (Operation Storm), which forced an end to the  Krajina                                 Republic. As a result of this action, most Krajina Serbs fled into Serbia in a form of "ethnic                                      cleansing." The Yugoslav/Serb Army aided the Krajina rebels. Many of these Serb refugees settled                     in  the Voyvodina region of northern Serbia, but some of them moved to the Serb province of Kosovo,                 which erupted into war in 1998.


                During the Bosnian War, airplanes from Krajina bombed Muslim held Bihac in Bosnia. Following this,                 NATO warplanes bombed the Serb airfield at Udbina in Krajina.


Bosnian Civil War (1992-1995) -Also  involved Croatia, Yugoslavia/Serbia and NATO. In April of 1992,  Bosnia declared independence from Yugoslavia. Almost
  immediately, the Bosnian Serb population rebelled against the  Muslim and Croatian portions of the new nation. Parts of the war saw the Muslims and Croatians cooperate against their common foe, but from 1993-1994, Bosnia saw a three-way war when
the Muslims and Croats battled each other as well as fighting  the Serbs. Troops from Serbia/Yugoslavia and the rebel Krajina area entered Bosnia to aid the Bosnian Serbs, while the Croatian Army aided the Bosnian Croat forces. In April, 1994, NATO forces began selected, limited bombing of Serb positions
around the capital of Sarajevo in an attempt to force the Serbs  to the peace table.


On February 5, 1994, Serb artillery hit a marketplace in Sarajevo, causing severe civilian casualties. This caused increased
American pressure on the Muslims and Croats to stop fighting
each other and unite against the Serbs. On Feb. 23, both sides  signed a cease-fire, which soon led to the formation of the Muslim/Croat Bosnian Federation.


August 28, 1995, Serb mortars cause 37 civilian dead in Sarajevo.
Major NATO (Operation Deliberate Force) airstrikes against the
Serbs began on August 30 and continued until a bombing pause on
September 14. U.S. airpower contributed 65.9% of the NATO air sorties. At this point, the Bosnian Serbs agreed to end thefighting and participate as a part of the Bosnian nation.


Fikrit  Abdic Uprising (Autumn of 1993-1995)  –In addition to fighting the Serbs and Croats, the Bosnian (mostly Muslim) government also had to deal with an uprising  by a Bosnian Muslim businessman named Fikrit Abdic.  He allied himself with local Serb forces against the  government. In July, 1995, Bosnian government forces
captured Abdic’s stronghold in the Bihac region.
News article on Bihac Muslims following Abdic’s fall.


Sources on the
Bosnian War:


CRS 93056: Bosnia: U.S. Military Operations


Former Yugoslavia Chronology


Bombs Over Bosnia: The Role of Airpower in  Bosnia-Herzegovina


Unconquered Bosnia–Website
      containing numerous articles on the Bosnia War.


NATO and U.N. Involvement in Bosnia


War (1998-1999)
Links Page-Also  involved NATO. Ethnic Albanians living in the Serbian province  of Kosovo sought independence from the Yugoslav Serb government  in Belgrade. After a 78-day bombing campaign by NATO forces,
      the Serbian army evacuated Kosovo. See also
The History Guy: Warfare and Conflict Between Kosovar Albanians and Serbs Since 1912.


Presevo Rebellion (2000-2001)-One of the latest conflicts to come out of the Yugoslav breakup is a small (so far), rebellion by ethnic Albanians living in the
     Presevo Valley region of Serbia. This area borders on  Kosovo.


Albanian Uprising in Macedonia (2001)-The  latest conflict to come out of the Yugoslav breakup is a
violent rebellion by ethnic Albanians living in the area of
     Macedonia bordering on Kosovo and Serbia. Macedonia is thesouthernmost of the new post-Yugoslav nations. Albanians form a sizable minority in Macedonia.





1. Kohn, George
of Wars.
York: Facts On File Publications, 1986.

3. Langer, William L.,
ed. An Encyclopedia of World History. 5th ed. Boston,
Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1972.

4. Banks, Arthur S., ed.
Political Handbook of the World: 1994-1995. 5th ed.
Binghamton, NY: CSA Publications, 1995.

5. Internal
Wars and Failures of Governance,
the State Failure Project.


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