Conflict in Former Yugoslavia
The conflict in the former Yugoslavia was caused by the long standings borders between several nations that should have never occurred. If these borders had been eliminated earlier, then chances are that the conflict would have ended sooner.
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The former Yugoslavia was a country that was in a serious crisis with itself. The possibility of peace would be realized only if there was a solution that would solve these internal squabbles. It had reached a point in history where it could not be patched up and instead needed to be reorganized and redefined. The nation had failed in acknowledging the legitimacy of all its various groupings and this was why prospects of peace seemed to be such a tall order. Yugoslavia was a multinational state that rarely engaged in negotiations and conversations with its people. In the end, minorities’ rights were ignored and this perpetuated greater division there. (White, 2006)
A change of borders in a tactful manner would have gone a long way in calming down these tensions and meeting the goals and concerns of all its people. By insisting on long-standing borders, this state perpetuated a conflict that would have ended much earlier. The inevitability of this separation was seen by the attitude taken by adversarial groups in this conflict. For instance, in the year 1991, Serbia and Croatia were bound by a cease-fire agreement. However, Serbian military forces employed force in Croatia thus leading to the death of some individuals. Such actions demonstrated a lack of commitment towards the maintenance of the long-standing Yugoslav borders.
Also, the level of intolerance between these rival groups has indicated that there was indeed no room for negotiation. Before the collapse of this nation, it was found that the Serbians were very strong-willed in their opinion. They were willing and ready to inflict their solutions among other groups. Indifference and intolerance had catapulted beyond levels that could not be changed with negotiation. When rifts have reached such stages, the best way out would have been to change Yugoslavia’s borders. However, because of taking too long to realize this, the conflict became a harsh reality for the latter Balkan region. (Fisher, 2008)
Several experts entered into this nation and did their best to offer solutions for problems in Yugoslavia before its split. Some of them asserted that all the regions of the country needed to be dealt with asymmetrically. Other experts claimed that there was a need to accept minorities in these respective regions while others believed that the solution lay in a countrywide policy covering the various Yugoslavians that existed.
While all these suggestions seemed noble, there was considerable evidence to show that their implementation was not going to be achievable. First of all, to realize such objectives, it would be necessary to relocate different ethnic groups to their preferred areas, and doing so leads to greater displacement and discontentment. When it had been stated in 1949 that the Yugoslavia border should remain intact and no changes should be instead, it became apparent to the government that it had to move various packets of ethnic groups that were located in ‘inappropriate place’. For example, there were ethnic Albanians in Serbia, Serbs in Croatia, and many other combinations. Therefore requiring these groups to distort their ways of life for the new demographic arrangement was a bone of contention as the change occurred too rapidly and too unexpectedly. In the end, greater animosity between the minority groups and the government was fueled. In other words, leaving the Yugoslavian state as it was with its tense ethnic arrangements was a problem, on the other hand moving people to their ‘original motherlands’ was also unsettling and it created a huge problem. The nation was stuck in a loose – loose situation that should have been solved by changing its borders and redefining itself. (Alcock, 2000)
It should however be noted that this process of declaring independence would be a thorough failure if the process was done by a few stakeholders who then imposed their decisions on the rest of the population. Instead, a more natural process would have been favorable for the peaceful transition of the Federation into its separate nations.
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The biggest threat to the stability of the former Yugoslavia was the use of military might by Serbia. This group possessed within its grasp a lot of power as it had the biggest say in the former Yugoslavia. Such inequality led to disgruntlement among other ethnic groups. Consequently, the best way forward would be a declaration of independence to the other states.
Shown below is a diagrammatic illustration of the various ethnic groupings within the former Yugoslavia and these eventually led to the disintegration of the state into its respective constituents. As it can be seen, the largest portion of the map is represented by the Serbian population. The smallest group on the other hand was the Muslims or the future Bosnia. However, some portions of former Yugoslavia had no majority ethnic group and they included Mostar and Vukovar.
It should be noted here that to promote ethnic unity within the country, President Tito felt it was necessary to distribute some Serbs in the autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo. The latter provinces still had their ethnic groups that frequently clashed with Serbian groups. In the end, the hostility between them began spiraling out of control. Also, in the province of Kosovo, the majority of individuals were ethnic Albanians practicing Islam. Such a constitution sparked off enmity between these two groups because Serbian nationalists wanted to benefit from the minerals prevalent within that area. Montenegro on the other hand harbored a series of Serbian freedom fighters while Herzegovina and Bosnia were also not in agreement with rules from the larger government because approximately forty percent of this populace prescribed to the Muslim faith. Lastly, Croatia did well in the past Kingdom but with time, it became a hub for many clashes with Serbians.
Given the latter ethnic differences, it was apparent that these constituent nations would have an exceedingly difficult time staying together. In 1918 when the Kingdom of Yugoslavia emerged, it was defended as a merger between these nations i.e. Slovenes, Croatians, and Serbs. These nations, therefore, possessed the right to leave the union through negotiation by peaceful means. Nonetheless, the latter nations were reluctant to employ that right because of domination by the majority group. Of course, there are a lot of intricacies that must still be included when analyzing this matter but the overwhelming issue is that the former Yugoslavia should never have agreed to continue with its long-standing borders while its people were suffering.
Lastly, it should be noted that there was intense nationalism in almost all the member states of the Federation before the breakup. Each nation wanted its independence and felt that it would be cheated out of this if it maintained ties with Yugoslavia. Such sentiments would be difficult to change through negotiations and it was, therefore, wise to think of separating the constituent groups.
The conditions prevalent in the former Yugoslavia were such that they necessitated a redefinition of the country’s borders. These conditions had existed for a very long time thus providing a green light for changing the long-standing borders of this monumental nation. Although it may be difficult to predict what the future has in store, peace will likely be maintained in the region.
Alcock, J. (2000). Explaining Yugoslavia. NY: Columbia University Press
White, T. (2006). Another fool in the Balkans? London: Cadogan Guides Books
Emerson, R. & Pratt, B. (1990). Yugoslavia: a much divided house. National Geographic 178(2), 105
Fisher, S. (2008). Post communist Croatia and Slovakia. NY: Palgrave