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Former Yugoslavia 101: The Balkans Breakup


There was a time when it seemed like a good idea to have a single state on the Balkan Peninsula for Europe's South Slavic people. Yugoslavia, literally land of the South Slavs, was formed after World War I. It brought together six ethnic groups. They spoke a common language, Servo-Croatian, but they had different histories, different beliefs, and distinct identities. After World War II, Yugoslavia was subdivided along ethnic lines into six republics and forcibly held together by Tito under communist rule. But when Tito died and communism fell, those republics pulled apart.

In 1991, Slovenia and Croatia each declared complete independence from Yugoslavia. A bloody war then broke out in Croatia where Serbs tried to create their own state. A year later, Macedonia formed its own state with little conflict. Next to go was the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. But Bosnian Serbs wanted to stay with what was left of the Yugoslav Federation and that led to three years of war.

The last of the Yugoslav republics, Serbia and Montenegro, held together until 2006. And that brings us to this weekend, when Kosovo declared it's independence from Serbia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.