The Balkan Civil Wars.

Balkan Civil Wars

Caught between a collapsing Soviet empire and western alliances adjusting to a rapidly changing new world order, Yugoslavia goes up in flames

Caught between a collapsing Soviet empire and western alliances adjusting to a new world order, Yugoslavia goes up in flames.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there followed what some were quick to term 'the unfreezing of history', as the structure of Europe changed under economic and political pressure, once it was freed from communism.


In the former Soviet Union, this rapid historical adjustment resulted in national and regional violence in countries such as Romania, Georgia and Azerbaijan. In the Balkans, historically a region contested by Christians, Muslims, as well as western and eastern empires, this erratic unfreezing of history delivered the break-up of a federated Yugoslavia in an orgy of violence, the like of which Europe had not seen since the 1940s.


The Balkan civil wars were a disaster for the European Union, which proved itself ill-equipped to deal with the violent dislocation on its doorstep. For the United States and NATO, the wars obliged the US to face its emerging ‘policeman of the world’ role head-on, whether it was ready to do so, or not. 

Sarajevo during the Balkan Civil Wars.


From the formation of Yugoslavia to its fall


The Balkan Civil Wars in cultural relief


As history took an abrupt turn and chaotic change descended, who were the players who responded best to history in flux?

Josip Broz Tito

Josip Broz Tito.

Communist revolutionary and President of Yugoslavia from 1945 until his death in 1980.


During World War II, Tito leads Yugoslav Partisans successfully against Nazi invaders of Yugoslavia and becomes a hero of the modern nation.


His later presidency of the country is viewed as authoritarian by some, particularly in the West, and a benevolent dictatorship by others (essentially in the non-aligned world).

Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin.

Georgian revolutionary and authoritarian Soviet politician who leads the USSR from the mid–1920s until his death in 1953.


During this period Stalin is General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Premier, as well as being feared and loved by millions.


Following the Tito-Stalin Split, in 1948 he expels Yugoslavia from Cominform, leading to Yugoslavia adopting non-aligned status.

Dobrica Cosic

Dobrica Cosic.

Serbian politician, writer and nationalist and the first President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between 1992 to 1993.


Serbian admirers refer to him as the "Father of the Nation" due to his influence on modern Serbian politics and the national revival movement, which he helps to build in the mid to late 1980s (a title his opponents use in a more critical and ironic manner).

Ante Markovic

Ante Markovic.

The final Prime Minister of Yugoslavia, Markovic attempts to compromise between the secessionists and those wanting a single Yugoslavia, but fails to do so when the Yugoslav People's Army sides with Milošević.


He then endorses the Carrington Plan to transform Yugoslavia into a confederation of states in an effort to prevent any further escalation of the Yugoslav Wars, in which he again utterly fails.

Slobodan Milošević

Slobodan Milošević.

A leading Yugoslav and Serbian politician who serves as the President of Serbia from 1989 to 1997 and President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1997 to 2000.


During the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, Milošević is charged by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia with war crimes in connection to the wars in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo. He dies in 2006.

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton.

President of the US from 1993 to 2001, Clinton tries to stop what the US government considers to be ethnic cleansing in the Balkans (termed "genocide" by his administration) and particularly of Albanians by military units active in Kosovo.


Clinton also authorises the use of US Armed Forces in 1999 in a NATO directed bombing campaign of Yugoslavia called Operation Allied Force.

Secondary Factors

Influencing events & outcomes




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