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of Bosnia and Herzegovina
1945 to 1992
Following World War II, the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) was proclaimed. Because of its great losses
during the war and to prevent future bloodshed. Tito gave Bosnia a constitution and
the status as an independent republic within the Yugoslav State, defined
by its historic existence. Tito also created Macedonia as a separate
Tito was initially linked to Stalin, but he soon split in order to
establish his own brand of socialism. "Titoism" gave him a
leading role in the Cold War as the leader of Yugoslavia - a
"non-aligned state". Tito established strict rules against the
expression of "nationalism," and his unique brand of
totalitarianism successfully kept the peace within Yugoslavia. Tito had
killed many of his opponents after he secured victory in 1945, and
throughout his leadership he imprisoned activists for nationalist
movements (including Alija Izetbegovic and Radovan Karadzic).
Post-war Yugoslavia was a socialist state based on the Communist party,
the Jugoslavija Narodna Armija (JNA), the Police (or militia) and the
concept of workers' self-management. For 45 years, Tito's totalitarianism
kept ethnic peace within Yugoslavia. The concept that he continually
advocated was called "Brotherhood and Unity."
Framework Agreement for Peace. The Dayton Proximity Talks culminated in
the initialing of a General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) in
The Fall of Yugoslavia
by Misha Glenny, Penguin Books, London, 1996. This book covers events in
the Former Yugoslavia from 1992 to 1996.
To End a War
by Richard Holbrooke, Random House, New York, 1999. These very readable
and critically acclaimed memoirs cover the diplomacy behind the Dayton
talks, the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) and the background
to the Implementation Force (IFOR), the forerunner to the Stabilization Force (SFOR).
When the FRY was founded there had been only two recognized ethnic groups,
Bosnian-Croats and Serbs. In 1968, the Bosnian-Muslims were also declared
to be a distinct nation. A new constitution adopted in 1974 led to
increased decentralization of governmental powers, giving the six federal
states of the republic more political and economic independence, and
giving Vojvodina and Kosovo autonomous status. Economic and political
developments from 1974 to 1980 set the scene for the ruin of Yugoslavia
and the beginning of new conflict in the Balkans.
Bosnia, A Short History
by Noel Malcolm, Macmillan, London, 1996. This is a highly respected
history of Bosnia from 1180 until 1995.The
Death of Yugoslavia
by Laura Silber and Allan Little, Penguin Books, London 1996. This is a
very clear book covering the period 1986 to 1995. It was written to
accompany a BBC television series.
Black Lamb and Grey
Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia by
Rebecca West, Penguin Books, New York, 1982. This is a chronicle of
Rebecca West's travels in the Former Yugoslavia in 1937 with insightful
digressions into the history, politics and culture of the region.
The Bridge on the Drina
by Ivo Andric, translated by Lovett F. Edwards, University of Chicago
Press, 1977. This historical novel earned its author, a former
distinguished Yugoslavian diplomat, the Nobel Prize for literature in
1961. It conveys much of the history, culture and politics of the Balkans.
Death of Tito...
On May 4, 1980, Tito died at age 88 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. After his
death, there was increasing resentment of centralized government control.
The state-run socialist economy continued to stagnate, as was the case in
most of communist Eastern Europe. It was compounded by two facts: a return
of the masses of Yugoslav guest-workers who returned home in the face of a
depressed economy in Western Europe; and by the end of the favorable
position Yugoslavia had held as a non-aligned nation between the US and
USSR during the Cold War.
Nationalist demands and calls for increased
autonomy grew among the various ethnic groups of Yugoslavia. Deteriorating
economic circumstances led to ethnic tensions, as nationalist politicians
sought scapegoats to blame for the difficult economic times. Increasingly,
there were fears by other groups of Serb domination in the region.
spring of 1981 clashes occurred in Kosovo between the Serb administration
and numerous Kosovo Albanians calling for status as the seventh republic,
but not for independence. This situation led to bloody and violent
demonstrations, which were severely suppressed by the police as well as by
tanks of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA).
In February 1984, the city of Sarajevo successfully hosted the Winter
Olympics - an international symbol of peace and tolerance. In May 1986,
Slobodan Milosevic, a former manager of a gas company, became head of the
communist party of Serbia and stressed Serbian ultra-nationalism.
600th anniversary of the battle of Kosovo Polje on June 28, 1989 provided
Milosevic with an opportunity to clearly state his support for the Serb
nation, demonstrating pure Serbian chauvinism by claiming tighter control
In March 1989 the autonomous status of Vojvodina and Kosovo
was annulled, and those regions, against their collective wills, again
became integral parts of Serbia. The dismantling of Tito's multi-ethnic
Yugoslavia was underway.
... end of a nation
In 1990 elections were held within Yugoslavia. Only in Montenegro and
Serbia did the communist parties win, while nationalist parties came into
power in the four other federal republics.
The nationalist victories were
in many ways a reaction against a fear of increasing Serb power. After the
elections Croats and Slovenians abandoned the idea of a unified
Yugoslavia, left the FRY, and were recognized by European countries as
Franjo Tudjman, the new Croatian president promised
the voters "a strong, democratic and independent Croatia within its
historical borders." Serb President Milosevic stated that "in
case of the ruin of Yugoslavia, the borders of Serbia must be redefined,
because a future Serb state must include all areas where Serbs live."
Bosnia and Herzegovina followed the lead of Slovenia and Croatia, holding
a referendum on independence on February 29 and March 1. The referendum
was boycotted by many of Bosnian Serbs. When the results of the referendum
were announced on March 2 and the peoples' desire for an independent
Bosnia and Herzegovina was officially announced,
Serb paramilitary set up
positions around Sarajevo. On April 6 BiH was recognized as an independent
state by the European Community, and Serb paramilitary forces fired on a
crowd of peaceful demonstrators. Paramilitary forces had been bombing and
shooting in towns throughout Bosnia in March and April. The siege of
Sarajevo, as well as the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, had begun.
The peace will be signed in Paris more than three and half years later.
First published in
SFOR Informer#122, September 19, 2001
"WE DON'T WANT WAR"
Although local Serb militia and Yugoslav Army troops
under the control of Serbia had seized several towns and expelled or killed
Muslim residents at the beginning of April 1992, many Bosnians thought
ethnic harmony was still possible.
Natasa Gaon was among tens of thousands of people
who gathered on April 6, 1992, in the centre of Sarajevo demanding peace --
a day after Serb gunmen had killed two women peacefully protesting against a
Serb blockade of the town.
"We were shouting: 'We don't want war'. All of
us thought we could still preserve the city and the country as they should
be, undivided," recalled Gaon, from a mixed ethnic background, who was
a 20-year-old student of literature at the time.
The response from Serb gunmen atop the Holiday Inn
hotel was gunfire which killed several people and wounded dozens more.
European Union recognition of Bosnia's
independence, declared by Muslims and Croats but opposed by Serbs who wanted
to stay in the Yugoslav federation, followed that afternoon.
The killing and the EU's move that day are
generally regarded as marking a point of no return. Bosnia was at war.
Within weeks of the outbreak of war, Serb forces laid
siege to Sarajevo, captured about 70 percent of the country and expelled or
killed hundreds of thousands of non-Serbs. Poorly-armed Bosnian government
forces were no match for them.
Serbs, one third of the population, claimed they
were only protecting themselves against Muslim and Croat dominance. The West
stood by, blaming the violence on ancient ethnic hatreds.
It turned a deaf ear to the Bosnian government's
pleas to lift a U.N. arms embargo. But it soon learned about "ethnic
cleansing," detention camps and large-scale torture, rape, and the
killing and expulsion of Muslims.
WEST GUARDS PEACE
|The war also saw a fierce conflict
in 1993 for territory between former allies Muslims and Croats. When all
the fighting was over, NATO sent tens of thousands of troops to keep the
peace and the West gave billions of dollars reconstruction aid.
More than six years on, less than half of all
refugees and displaced people have returned to their pre-war homes and
just a fraction of them to areas where other ethnic groups predominate.
The economy is in tatters, at less than half of
Many Bosnians as well as international analysts
fault the awkward administrative structure laid down by the Dayton, which
gives little power to the central institutions.
"The state simply doesn't function
now," said Michael Doyle, a senior analyst with the International
Crisis Group think tank, adding only the international community's robust
military and civilian presence keeps the country glued together
By the time the U.S.-brokered Dayton treaty ended
the Bosnian war in late 1995, splitting the former Yugoslav republic into
autonomous halves largely along ethnic lines, over 200,000 lives had been
lost and more than two million people made homeless.
Serb wartime leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko
Mladic and their then-patron, former Serbian president Slobodan
Milosevic, have been charged with genocide by the U.N. war crimes
tribunal for their roles in Bosnia. Karadzic and Mladic remain at large.
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11 August 2005