Yugoslavia's Violent Dissolution

Gerard Toal and Carl T. Dahlman

in Bosnia Remade

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199730360
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199895250 | DOI:
Yugoslavia's Violent Dissolution

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This chapter considers four categories of explanations of the violent breakup of Yugoslavia, which broadly can be grouped as institutional, economic, political, and cultural explanations. Within each category there are crude and misleading explanations but also academic accounts that move beyond tabloid tropes to construct more analytically sophisticated and nuanced explanations. Distinctive but not mutually exclusive, these advanced accounts can be organized together to provide the outlines of a comprehensive and robust explanation of the violent breakup of Yugoslavia. In reviewing prominent accounts of the breakup, the chapter can only sketch the outlines of such a comprehensive explanation, from structural features to proximate factors, but this should be sufficient to contextualize the violence that engulfed Bosnian towns and villages in 1992. All too briefly stated, the argument is that Yugoslavia was always a vulnerable state project, that it suffered a convergence of crises in the 1970s and 1980s that opened up its vulnerabilities, that the perceived self-interest of its dominant republican leaders by the early 1990s hastened its collapse, and that the political culture they promoted and geopolitical strategies they pursued amidst dissolution rendered the breakup a bloody and violent one. It goes without saying that this set of arguments needs to be carefully distinguished from the self-serving rationalizations of protagonists, the popular prejudices found in the media, and the ethnocentric proclivities of different geopolitical traditions.

Keywords: Yugoslavia; breakup; violence; Bosnia; republican leaders; political culture; geopolitics

Chapter.  12002 words. 

Subjects: European Union

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