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Rough Cut: Dark Shadows
Background Facts and Related Links
Learn more about the history of the Balkans and the ethnic divisions in the region today.

A History of Bosnia and Serbia

The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was formed in 1918. In the wake of World War I, its name was changed to Yugoslavia and Croats, Serbs, and Slovenes lived together under one nation despite ethnic and religious rivalries. These tensions flared when Germany occupied the region during World War II, with paramilitary groups fighting the Nazis as well as each other.

After 1945, Yugoslavia became a federal independent Communist state, led by Marshal Tito, who had been a leader of anti-Nazi partisans. For the next 45 years, the dictatorial Tito -- who became president for life in 1963 -- ran a relatively independent socialist state. With a heavy hand, he enforced a unity that held deep-seated ethnic and nationalist rivalries at bay. Tito died in 1980. Soon after the Berlin Wall's fall in 1989, the nation of Yugoslavia unraveled, primarily along ethnic lines.

By 1992, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina were recognized as independent states. The remaining republics of Serbia and Montenegro declared a new "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" (FRY) in April 1992. Under President Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia launched several brutal military campaigns in an attempt to unite ethnic Serbs in neighboring republics into a "Greater Serbia." Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed or displaced by Milosevic's policy of "ethnic cleansing."

In 1994, Bosniaks and Croats banded together in a large-scale military operation to reclaim parts of Croatia held by Serbian forces. The war between Croatia and Serbia finally ended with the U.S.-brokered Dayton (Ohio) Agreement in November 1995. Even though the Dayton Agreement retained Bosnia and Herzegovina's international boundaries and created a joint multi-ethnic and democratic government, violence spread between Christian Serbs and Muslims. In 1999, U.S. and NATO forces bombed Serbia and stationed peacekeepers in the region. The three-month-long bombing ended much of the anti-Muslim violence, but Milosevic remained in power.

Shortly after the NATO bombing ended, opposition groups began organizing against Milosevic. In the September 2000 elections, Milosevic lost the majority vote, but refused to step down. In response, the opposition -- including the student group Otpor ("resistance") -- staged a general strike, and within a few weeks, Milosevic was ousted. His challenger, Vojislav Kostunica, a conservative nationalist, was named president of Yugoslavia. In June 2001, Milosevic was extradited to The Hague and is currently on trial for crimes against humanity.

Today in Serbia, democrats, nationalists and radicals are all vying for influence in the government. After a recent election, Kostunica became Prime Minister. Boris Tadic, a member of the Democratic Party, was elected president of Serbia in June 2004. Tensions remain high over what will happen with Kosovo, a province of Serbia that is populated by ethnic Albanians and a Serb minority. Many Serbs fear that an independent Kosovo will oppress the Serb minority and lead to more unrest in the Balkans. In March 2005, Kosovo saw the worst ethnic violence in years, when 19 Serbs were killed and 900 injured in riots.

Meanwhile Bosnia, having being monitored by NATO and European Union peacekeeping troops for nearly a decade, is perhaps the Balkans' greatest success story, as it maintains a relatively stable government.

Related Links

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
Follow courtroom activities of indicted war criminals at The Hague.

Human Rights Watch Report
This report from Human Rights Watch details Bosnia and Serbia's inability to apprehend Karadzic and Mladic.

A Decade of Failure
Human Rights Watch examines NATO's progress in arresting those responsible for the Srebrenica massacre 10 years after the atrocity.

Courtney Angela Brkic

This Op Ed piece in The New York Times by Courtney Angela Brkic, author of "Stillness: And Other Stories" and "The Stone Fields," both accounts of her work excavating mass graves outside Srebrenica, suggests that Serbia has avoided its past with "skills befitting a psychopath."

The UK Observer
Th British Sunday newspaper explains how the video tape of the Srebrenica massacre finally came to be shown in The Hague at the U.N. war crimes tribunal after being hidden for nine years.

Steps Toward Retribution
This BBC article provides a timeline of the genocide in Srebrenica.

The U.K. Guardian
A comprehensive timeline of events in the Balkans.
A Guardian Special Report on Yugoslavia war crimes.

BBC Profile of General Ratko Mladic
Ratko Mladic served as the army chief throughout the Bosnian war and has been charged with the genocide of at least 7,500 Muslims from Srebrenica. This BBC article profiles the commander.

Indictment of Slobodan Milosevic
The full text of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal.

Historical Background on Bosnia and Serbia
This web page from the BBC provides a history of Bosnia including a map, timeline and national anthem.


B92 provides independent tv, radio and internet news for Belgrade that includes breaking news, a media watch section, human rights monitoring and links to alternative news sources.

Serbian Unity Congress
Provides English headlines of news events in Bosnia and Serbia.

I Net News
Bilingual rolling news from the region.

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting
A variety of reports from the Balkans region.

The Bosnian Institute
News and analysis about Bosnia in English and Bosnian.