Dissolution of Yugoslavia 101: The End of the Story

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia existed in the Balkans from 1945 to 1992, a dead state with a completely unique political, economic, and social texture. However, now it remains only as a memory in the minds of people. SFR Yugoslavia covered the borders of the current states of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Kosovo with its modern borders. The dissolution of the USSR and the dissociation of the Eastern Bloc also pushed Yugoslavia into a process of dissolution; on the other hand, the country's own internal dynamics have carried out policies that are completely supportive of this disintegration. In this paper, which is the last article of the "Dissolution of Yugoslavia 101" article series, what is left of Yugoslavia will be discussed by making a final evaluation of the events that took place until the peace agreement.

Photo by Milomir Kovačević Strašni.

In the previous article, it was discussed how the Yugoslav Wars, which began with the independence efforts of the republics, suddenly turned into ethnic cleansing and caused the Srebrenica massacre, which was a disgrace to humanity. What happened in Srebrenica proved how humans, fed by irredentist policies, turned into wild animals, and how human life was destroyed by actions that exceeded the limits of reason and logic. In this article, the developments until the Dayton Peace Agreement, which was accepted as the agreement that ended the war, will be briefly mentioned, and the series of articles will come to an end with an evaluation of the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

The genocidal atrocities in Srebrenica meant that the world, and especially the Western powers, could no longer turn a blind eye. Mass killings, tortures, concentration camps, suicides were now happening before the eyes of the whole world. For this reason, after the Srebrenica massacre, the US military intervention comes to the fore, even if it is too late. Especially after the attack of Bosnian Serbs that killed 37 people in Sarajevo Market Place on 28 August 1995, NATO launched an air attack on Serbia-controlled Sarajevo. Bosnian Serbs, after the destruction of their communication networks by these attacks, realized perhaps for the first time, that they had gone too far. Indeed, even Serbia under Milosevic was aware that Republika Srpska, which was established within the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, had crossed the border and set them on an irreversible path.

American diplomacy, which shuttled back and forth between Sarajevo, Zagreb, and Belgrade in the negotiations that lasted for seven months, eventually kept the parties at Dayton airbase in Ohio for 21 days, leading to a peace agreement on November 21, 1995. The Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the conflicts, albeit late, by making the ceasefire between the parties permanent, was signed in Paris on 14 December 1995. The agreement contained five key provisions. Accordingly, firstly, Bosnia was accepted as a sovereign state with its current borders. Secondly, Bosnia and Herzegovina would consist of two entities, one of the Bosnian-Croat Federation 51% and the other of the Republika Srpska 49%, with their own armies, their own parliaments, and their own heads of state. Thirdly, it was decided that Sarajevo would become the indivisible capital of the Bosnian-Croat Federation. Fourth, war criminals would be barred from holding public office in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Finally, NATO would oversee the implementation of the terms of the Agreement with 60,000 troops through the IFOR (Implementation Force).

From left to right, respectively, Milosevic, Izetbegovic, and Tudman are signing the Dayton Agreement.

Photo: David Longstreath/AP

The Dayton Peace Agreement, which was accepted as the agreement that ended the war, unfortunately, focused only on ending the war and created problems in the political functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the following years. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has a very complex system and structure today, many problems, legal inconsistencies, uncertainties, and institutional problems are experienced in the public administration. The Agreement, which aims to create a modern and multinational society in Bosnia-Herzegovina, unfortunately, created a Bosnia-Herzegovina that could not provide democracy and could not form unity within itself. Although the Dayton Agreement stopped the war in its time, today it has been a treaty that interrupted many aspects of Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially the EU membership process.

SFR Yugoslavia, with its unique political system, social fabric, and economy, was a state that survived for 47 years and had its name engraved in history and memories. With the democratization movements, the newly formed nationalist parties gained power; The overwhelming defeat of the communist party in the elections signaled the end of socialist ideology. While Yugoslavia was in economic decline, politicians who embraced nationalist ideas did not include economic reform efforts in their programs, bringing the socialist federation to the end of the road. The nationalist waves that grew and developed within the republics that formed the federation finally showed their true face with a football match; This has caused the Croats and Serbs living in the same lands to become almost enemies to each other. In the following period, in 1991, first the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, and right after the Socialist Republic of Croatia, went to an independence referendum to leave Yugoslavia and declared their independence, was the last straw. Thus, there was no longer "brotherhood and unity" for the nations that lived together for years under the "Yugoslav" identity.

Gateway of Hell by Mirza Ajanovic.

After the declaration of independence, the conflicts that first started between Croatia and Serbia turned into an all-out war in a short time. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Bosnian Muslims, who declared their independence with the encouragement of Croatia and Slovenia, soon became the target of Serbia and Bosnian Serbs living in Bosnia. Due to the military superiority and radical policies of the Serbs, the war soon turned into ethnic cleansing; before the eyes of the world, genocide was committed against Bosnian Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The disintegration of Yugoslavia, which started with democratization movements, ended with a genocide. The international system, which was too late to take action and even did not want to intervene in the events, almost turned a blind eye to the war crimes.

Today, while Yugoslavia, Tito, Yugoslavianism, and socialism are the notions that are still being discussed in the Balkan countries; war crimes, ethnic massacres, and sufferings are still not forgotten. It is possible to say that the former Yugoslav republics that broke away from Yugoslavia and established their own national states still bear traces of Yugoslavia. The disintegration of Yugoslavia is worthy of being proof of how large fires can be started from a small spark. This disintegration is also evidence of how national ideologies, religion, ethnicity can make fraternal communities enemies. It is certain that there are many lessons to be learned, both individually and socially, from Yugoslavia, which blended into the dusty pages of history.


Anderson, David. “The Collapse of Yugoslavia: Background and Summary.” Parliamentary Research Service, vol. 14, 1995, pp. 19–26.

“BBC The Death Of Yugoslavia 6 of 6 - Pax Americana.” Dailymotion, uploaded by AncientWorld, 9 Feb. 2016, www.dailymotion.com/video/x3r6hsv.

Bora, Tanıl. Bosna-Hersek: Yeni Dünya Düzeni’nin Av Sahası. İstanbul: Birikim Yayınları, 1994.

Tunbul, Neriman, and Güney Ferhat Batı. “Balkanlarda Yugoslavya’nın Dağılması Ve Dayton Barış Antlaşması.” Dergi Park, 2013, dergipark.org.tr/tr/download/article-file/1646159.

Author Photo

Umut Açıkgöz

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