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A former country in south-east Europe. At the end of World War I it was formed as the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, from the former Slavic provinces of Austria-Hungary (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina), together with Serbia and Montenegro, and with Macedonian lands ceded from Bulgaria. The monarch of Serbia, Peter I, was to rule the new kingdom and was succeeded by his son Alexander I. At first the Serbian Premier Nikola Pasic (1921–26) held the rival nations together, but after his death political turmoil caused the new king to establish a royal dictatorship, renaming the country Yugoslavia (January 1929). Moves towards democracy ended with his assassination (1934). During World War II Yugoslavia was overrun by German forces (1941), aided by Bulgarian, Hungarian, and Italian armies. The king fled to London and dismemberment of the country followed, with thousands of Serbs being massacred and the puppet state of Croatia established under Ante Pavelić. A guerrilla war began, waged by two groups, supporters of the Chetnik Mihailovich and Tito's Communist partisans. In 1945 Tito, supported by the Soviet Union, proclaimed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia consisting of the republics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia, and two autonomous Serbian provinces, Kosovo and Vojvodina. Expelled by Stalin from the Soviet bloc in 1948, Yugoslavia became a leader of the non-aligned nations and the champion of ‘positive neutrality’. Improved relations with the West followed and, after Stalin's death, diplomatic and economic ties with the Soviet Union were renewed (1955).

On Tito's death in 1980 his presidency was replaced by an eight-man Collective State Presidency, with the office of President rotating annually. In 1989, multiparty systems were introduced in Croatia and Slovenia, and demands for independence soon followed. In 1990 a rebellion by Croatia's 12% Serb population was supported by Serbia, while in the same year Serbia, under its President, Slobodan Milošević, brutally suppressed the 90% Albanian majority in the province of Kosovo. Croatia and Slovenia declared independence in 1991, provoking a full-scale military conflict with the Serb-led Yugoslav army. Atrocities were committed by both Croatian and Serb forces, creating large-scale refugee problems. The Belgrade leadership having failed to crush nationalism in Croatia and Slovenia, both states were recognized as independent in January 1991. Bosnia and Herzegovina was also recognized as independent in 1992, although its subsequent civil war – in which Belgrade supported the Bosnian Serbs – lasted until 1995. The independence of Macedonia was generally recognized in 1993.

A new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, comprising Serbia and Montenegro only, was proclaimed in 1992. Because of its actions in the other successor states and in Kosovo, it was internationally isolated and denied recognition until the fall of Milošević in 2000. Tensions between Serbia and Montenegro, and in particular a strong demand in the latter for complete independence, led in 2003 to a new and much looser federation, the Union of Serbia and Montenegro. Finally, in 2006, Montenegrins voted in a referendum for complete independence; the union with Serbia was dissolved, making the break-up of Yugoslavia into its original constituents complete. In 2008, the Serbian province of Kosovo with its Albanian majority declared independence.


Subjects: Second World War.

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