Balkan Civil Wars Timeline

Yugoslavia falls apart

1948: Yugoslavian independence

Otherwise known as the Tito-Stalin Split, this conflict between the leaders of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union results in Yugoslavia's expulsion from the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) in 1948. Between 1948 and 1952 'Titoism' is denounced by the Soviet Union leadership as a (nationalist) heresy.

Following Stalin's death and the repudiation of his policies by Nikita Khrushchev, peace is made with Yugoslav President Tito and Yugoslavia by the Soviet Union.

Yugoslavia continues to steer an independent course in world politics, whilst Tito uses the estrangement from the USSR to obtain US aid and become a leading force in the Non-Aligned Movement.

1980: Tito dies

From the mid-1970s, Tito reduces his role in the political management of Yugoslavia, whilst remaining an international statesman. In 1979, Tito becomes increasingly ill and, on 11 January 1980, is admitted to the Medical Centre in Ljubljana, with circulation problems in his legs.

This illness leads to his eventual death as a result of a gangrene-induced infection on 4 May 1980. The funeral for Tito is, at the time, the largest state funeral in history and Tito is eventually interred in a mausoleum, in the grounds of the Museum of Yugoslav History in Belgrade.

1986: Serb nationalism ignites

Tito's Yugoslavia represses nationalism of any kind that might threaten the Yugoslav state. Serbian nationalism does, however, develop during the 1960s, driven by intellectuals such as Dobrica Ćosić, who challenges the state-sponsored policies of Yugoslavism and its credo of 'Brotherhood and Unity'. Serbian nationalism then escalates following the death of Tito, when Ćosić joins other Serb political commentators in writing the controversial Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1986, which claims to offer solutions to restore Yugoslav unity, but also condemns Titoist Yugoslavia for having economically subjugated Serbia to Croatia and Slovenia (while accusing ethnic Albanians of committing genocide against Serbs in Kosovo).

The Memorandum is condemned by the ruling League of Communists of Yugoslavia, as well as the government of Serbia. Milošević, at the time a Serbian communist official, does not speak publicly about the issue but, in a meeting with members of the secret police, formally supports the official denouncement of the Memorandum, claiming that, 'The appearance of the Memorandum...represents nothing else but the darkest nationalism. It means the liquidation of the current socialist system of our country.'

1989: Milošević becomes President

In 1984 Milošević is elected President of the Belgrade League of Communists City Committee. Two years later, the Socialist Alliance of Working People unanimously supports him as presidential candidate for the SKJ's Serbian branch Central Committee. Milošević is then elected by a majority vote at the 10th Congress of the Serbian League of Communists, also in 1986.

He subsequently emerges in 1987 as a force in Serbian politics, after declaring support for Serbs in the Serbian autonomous province of Kosovo (who claim to be oppressed by the provincial government which is dominated by Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians). From this point, and following further political advancement, Milošević serves as the President of Serbia (the Socialist Republic of Serbia, a constituent republic within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) from 1989 to 1997.

1990: Yugoslavia hosts Eurovision

After Yugoslavia wins the contest for the first time in 1989, in 1990 the Eurovision Song Contest is held in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Italian entrant Toto Cutugno wins this year with his composition, Insieme: 1992: a sweeping evocation of European unity and the anticipated completion of the European single market in 1992.

The lyrics of other entries also celebrate the revolutions and democratisation that have occurred in central and eastern Europe during the preceding months (focusing especially on the fall of the Berlin Wall) and hope is in the air.

The contest itself, which is a high prestige and expensive production for state broadcaster Yugoslav Radio Television (JRT), opens with a film praising Yugoslavia as a modern, European state. A year later the country slides into civil war, with the start of the '10 day War' on 26 June 1991.

1991: Yugoslavia falls apart

At this point, the representatives of Vojvodina, Kosovo and Montenegro are replaced with loyalists of the President of Serbia (Slobodan Milošević) and Serbia secures four out of eight federal presidency votes. As a result, Serbia is able to heavily influence decision-making at the federal level since all the other Yugoslav republics only have one vote. While Slovenia and Croatia want to allow a multi-party system, Serbia, led by Milošević, demands an even more centralised federation and Serbia's dominant role within it.

At the 14th Extraordinary Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in January 1990, the Serbian-dominated assembly agrees to abolish the single-party system. However, Milošević, head of the Serbian Party branch (League of Communists of Serbia) uses his influence to block and vote down all other proposals from the Croatian and Slovene party delegates. This prompts the Croatian and Slovene delegations to walk out and prompts the break-up of the party, a symbolic event representing the end of 'brotherhood and unity'.

Upon Croatia and Slovenia declaring independence in 1991, the Yugoslav federal government attempts to halt the impending breakup of the country, with Yugoslav Prime Minister Ante Marković declaring the secessions of Slovenia and Croatia to be illegal and contrary to the constitution of Yugoslavia. He also declares support for the Yugoslav People's Army to secure the integral unity of Yugoslavia (the first flashpoint for which will be the Ten-Day War in Slovenia).

The War Crimes Tribunal would later accuse Milošević of 'attempting to create a Greater Serbia' during this period of crisis; with the expansion of a Serbian state (encompassing the Serb-populated areas of Croatia and Bosnia) achieved through the forcible and criminal removal of non-Serbs from large geographical areas.

1991: The Balkan Civil Wars begin

Otherwise known as the Yugoslav Wars, this series of ethnic conflicts, wars of independence and insurgencies fought in the former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 2001 led to the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Its constituent republics declared independence, despite unresolved tensions between ethnic minorities in the new countries, fuelling the individual wars.

According to the International Center for Transitional Justice, these result in the death of 140,000 people, while the Humanitarian Law Center estimates that at least 130,000 people are killed.