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About this book

Catherine Baker offers an up-to-date, balanced and concise introductory account of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s and their aftermath. The volume incorporates the latest research, showing how the state of the field has evolved and guides students through the existing literature, topics and debates.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
The Yugoslav wars involved the violent destruction of a society of 23 million people that was simultaneously undergoing the consequences of the collapse of Yugoslav socialism. Between 1991 and 1999, the wars in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo caused the death of approximately 140,000 people, 100,000 in Bosnia-Herzegovina. If the wars include the smallerscale 2001 Macedonian conflict, they could even be said to have lasted into the 2000s. The Yugoslav wars were Europe’s most serious security crisis since the early Cold War, and led to the first international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials. They also made the ex-Yugoslav region, especially Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, a test-bed for a new post-conflict peacebuilding model. Meanwhile, the development of scholarly literature on the wars exemplified the problems and politics of researching, understanding and narrating the recent past.
Catherine Baker

1. Yugoslavia and Its Origins

Abstract
Histories of the Yugoslav wars usually start with long-term background, and more of it than histories of other twentieth-century conflicts: one would rarely expect a study of the Western Front in 1914–18 to begin with the medieval Duchy of Burgundy, but explanations of the Yugoslav wars often start in that time frame or earlier. Indeed, debates about the wars incorporated the region’s long-term past from the very outset. Which nations had historical precedence over which territories in south-east Europe? Were the region’s cultural, social, economic and political legacies already too diverse in 1918, when the first Yugoslav state formed, for the successful unification of South Slavs into one state? Could the 1990s wars even be explained as continuations of historical interethnic rivalries — or, conversely, did the past offer praiseworthy examples of tolerance and coexistence? Even scholars who reject long-term explanations as deterministic still need to explain the region’s past: many statements by participants in the wars referred to specific national narratives about the past to justify present-day political and military claims.
Catherine Baker

2. The Break-Up of the Yugoslav Federation

Abstract
In the 1980s, the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (SKJ)’s socio-economic promises hollowed out, Yugoslavia’s ideological foundations were challenged, and individual nations’ nationalisms became ever more prominent. Tito’s political generation had mostly predeceased him, and younger officials could not match his charismatic wartime record or his generation’s interpersonal ties [148: 45]. The reformists dismissed in 1972 might have been a ‘lost generation’ who could have met the crisis head-on, but they were not yet politically welcome back [11: 56]. Instead, the 1974 constitution had replaced Tito with a collective federal presidency (one representative from each republic and province) rather than promote any individual to Tito’s status and seem to place a single republic and nation at the forefront. This collective presidency, though symbolizing ‘brotherhood and unity’, proved unequal to the economic and ideological crises of the 1980s [10].
Catherine Baker

3. From Crisis to War in Slovenia and Croatia

Abstract
The federal Party’s collapse forced existing leaders, and their rivals, to adjust to multi-party elections in each republic. These would bring nationalist parties into government in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia, and rubberstamp Milošević’s political control in Serbia and Montenegro. Meanwhile, the federation’s Prime Minister, Ante Marković, was trying to reconstruct Yugoslav politics around an alternative programme to Milošević’s assault on the republics’ sovereignty. To explain why the break-up of Yugoslavia led to war, historians must interpret the political conflicts and failed alternatives of 1990: these would set the course for the decisions about independence and use of force that leaders in Slovenia, Croatia and Belgrade took in 1991.
Catherine Baker

4. The War in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Abstract
Open war in Bosnia-Herzegovina could be said to have begun on 31 March 1992, when the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), Serb Democratic Party (SDS) authorities and paramilitary volunteers began attacking towns they envisaged as part of a Serb nation-state. Since September 1991, the Bosnian SDS had been declaring ‘Serb Autonomous Regions’ and trying to link them into a ‘Republika Srpska’ (‘Serb Republic’) in order to prevent the republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina being able to secede with all the territory inside its borders. The JNA had regrouped in Bosnia-Herzegovina after the Sarajevo Ceasefire with Croatia and could render the Bosnian the same support it had given Milan Babić’s party. The Sarajevo government faced a similar threat in April 1992 to what the government in Zagreb had faced in June 1991, but the Croatian government’s own territorial ambitions in Bosnia-Herzegovina put BiH and its people in an even more dangerous, isolated position. The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina lasted until December 1995, by which time 100,000 people had been killed and more than a million forced from their homes. It also became notorious as a conflict in which international diplomatic and peacekeeping interventions had failed to prevent genocide.
Catherine Baker

5. The Kosovo War and Its Aftermath

Abstract
The Kosovo War (1998–99), the only phase where fighting occurred within Serbia, ended with Kosovo becoming an autonomous UN-administered area and Albanians still campaigning for independence. The war’s outcomes also weakened Milošević’s position, altered Macedonian politics, and further loosened links between Serbia and Montenegro — background issues in 1991– 95 which now entered the foreground of politics. Because of this timing, the first histories of the Yugoslav wars did not integrate Kosovo well: mid-1990s works could allude to Kosovo as a potential future zone of instability and a source of evidence about Milošević’s regime, but could not know the outcome, and some so heavily emphasized the Serb/Croat relationship that Kosovo remained sidelined. By 1998, however, the escalation made it possible to represent Kosovo as an imminent Balkan flashpoint — and to more successfully propose books on Kosovo to publishers. In 1998–99, several separate works on Kosovo appeared, giving Anglophone readers more detailed historical background [286; 287; 293]. Like the literature on Bosnia, they evaluated evidence about ethnic coexistence and antagonism on short- and long-term scales.
Catherine Baker

6. Peacebuilding, Reconciliation and Reconstruction

Abstract
The conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia all ended with peace settlements that aimed to state how ethnic groups and their political representatives would coexist within each country. The war in Slovenia, too, had ended after negotiations (the July 1991 Brioni Declaration), though without such detailed provisions about Slovenia’s internal ethno-political affairs. The post-1995 peace settlements had several things in common. They implied that guarantees about ethnic minorities’ status were necessary to prevent future wars. Moreover, they continued the link between ethno-national identity and territorial sovereignty that had underpinned twentieth-century state-building in south-east Europe. They also incorporated international supervision and monitoring, and so international bodies such as the UN and EU, foreign governments with interests in south-east Europe, and non-governmental organizations influenced post-Yugoslav domestic politics. In Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, international agencies were even part of the post-war political structure.
Catherine Baker

7. The Past on Trial

Abstract
Tribunals both judged the Yugoslav wars and narrated them. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), established in 1993, was an integral part of the UN’s response to the Bosnian conflict. Its rationale was not only deterrence but also the idea of ‘transitional justice’: the suggestion that investigating and trying war crimes revealed authoritative evidence and forced post-war societies to ‘come to terms with the past’. ‘Transitional justice’ implied that, for a society to move past wartime antagonisms and find peace, public accountability for the crimes that were committed during a conflict was required. This might occur during war crimes trials or at a ‘truth and reconciliation commission’ (TRC), which hears testimony but does not pass sentence. Transitional justice was intended as transformative, stabilizing a society’s social and political relations, and international institutions were heavily involved; indeed, some argued that making the ‘transition’ into a new social understanding of history became an international standard for how societies should deal with past crimes after the Yugoslav wars [381: 5].
Catherine Baker

8. Culture and Language During and After the Wars

Abstract
Although separate national identities did not fade away under Yugoslavia, something that could be called a common Yugoslav culture existed too. Historians of the two Yugoslavias have questioned what that might actually have been: how, for instance, did culture under Tito blend some or all of Yugoslavia’s ethnonational cultures together while preserving their distinctiveness? Were any particular national movements unduly strengthened or weakened by royalist or socialist Yugoslavia’s cultural policies? Did everyone in Yugoslavia have equal access to participating in a shared Yugoslav culture, whatever that might have been? Were the most meaningful forms of Yugoslav culture in everyday life the same as the forms most often promoted officially? While answers would differ from period to period, the questions would still have been meaningful at any point until Yugoslavia was destroyed. Yet the Yugoslav wars, with their logic of ethnic separation, implied Yugoslavia fragmenting as a common cultural space, not just a political entity.
Catherine Baker

Conclusion

Abstract
The history of the Yugoslav wars cannot be detached from the collapse of Yugoslav socialism as an economic and political system. The crises that affected ever more dimensions of society by the mid-1980s created new opportunities for individuals and interest-groups to attempt radical transformations of the federation. By 1989, new Party leaders in Serbia and Slovenia had two fundamentally-incompatible programmes: Milošević’s programme to recentralize the federation around Serbia at the expense of other republics’ and provinces’ autonomy, and Kučan’s programme to decrease federal control so that republics could pursue more independent courses. In terms of how Milošević and Kučan communicated with the publics they addressed, and even how they played on nationalism in doing so, the programmes were comparable; they differed, however, in the level of military force available to them and the ways in which they were prepared to use it.
Catherine Baker
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