National Geographic : 1996 Jun
The Fragmentation of Yugoslavia Related by blood, Balkan Slavs embraced ethnic identities based on religious background duringthe nationalistic 19th century. Today's animosities are rooted as well in World War II, when clashing political ideologies led to internecine fighting. The country that was pulled together by Josip Broz Tito-leader of the winning side-has splintered into five sovereign republics, with Serbia and Montenegro aligned as a rump Yugoslavia. Voting to secede from Yugoslavia in December 1990, Slovenia-which has few restive minorities-declared independence in June 1991. After a ten-day standoff the Serb-led Yugoslav Army, then mired in Croatia, withdrew, and Slovenia escaped war. Secession in June 1991 unleashed a savage military response from Belgrade, which was sympathetic to Croatia's large ethnic Serb minority. Croatian Serb separatists, with the help of the Yugoslav Army, seized the region of Slavonia. Croatian Serbs in the west declared their own sovereign state of Krajina. Croats recaptured Krajina in 1995; eastern Slavonia is under UN occupation and will be returned to Croatia. ITALY Muslims, who made up 44 percent of Bosnia and Herzegovina's pre war population of 4.3 million, are Slavs whose ancestors adopted Is lam under Ottoman rule. Roman Catholic Croats made up 17 percent, Eastern Orthodox Serbs 31 percent. Many Serbs and Croats joined the insurrections inspired by Belgrade and Zagreb that ripped the republic apart. In the 15th century the southern region at tained brief autonomy under a herceg, or duke; it has been known as Herzegovina ever since. BULGARIA Serb nationalism and the dream of a Greater Serbia gathered force after the 1980 death of Tito, the maverick com munist who enforced a federal system while he lived. A Croat himself, Tito curbed Serb influ ence within the Yugo slavian state by creating within the Republic of Serbia two autonomous provinces: Vojvodina in the north and Kosovo and Metohija in the south. The latter, popu lated 90 percent by Albanians, poses a challenge to Serbian authority. Eastern Orthodox Chris tians, Montenegrins have little significant history to distinguish them from Serbs, with whom they have joined in a remnant Yugosla via. Largely ignored by the Ottoman Turks, they alone in the Balkans remained free in their mountain stronghold. Macedonians speak their own language and share their land with a large Albanian minority. Theirs was the only republic to secede from Yugoslavia without con flict. Once part of Ser bia, it had become an independent republic within Tito's Yugoslavia.