Symbolic Disintegration (02:53)
During Yugoslavia's final national celebration on May 25, 1987, dancers represented the republics' split from a harmonious circle. Yugoslavia faced an institutional crisis after Josip Broz Tito's 1980 death. With unlimited power, he had personally arbitrated conflicts between states.
First Kosovo Crisis (03:33)
Kosovo had maintained relative autonomy within Serbia; Albanians demanded a separate republic. In March 1981, riots broke out in Pristina, fueled by cultural differences. The Yugoslav People's Army cracked down, suspending the Kosovo assembly and temporarily preserving Yugoslavia's unity.
Economic Crisis (02:21)
Yugoslavs prospered on borrowed money during the 1970s. The IMF imposed austerity measures, causing consumer shortages and social hardships. Unemployment and inflation sparked strikes and protests.
Resource Reallocation Quarrels (02:13)
Slovenia and Croatia had the most developed economies and took advantage of Yugoslavia's geographical position and redistribution system. Austerity measures led to republics accusing one another of exploitation. Lacking federal reform authorities, republics turned inward and adopted nationalism.
Slobodan Milosevic (02:52)
In 1987, the Serbian leader visited Kosovo Polje to reassure the Serb minority. Albanian police were accused of lashing out at the crowd; Milosevic broke an unwritten Yugoslav rule and criticized Albanian nationalism. He became an instant Serbian hero.
Memorandum Sanu (03:15)
Serbian intellectuals authored a document framing the Serbian nation as a victim of cultural genocide to develop a nationalist discourse. They also uncovered Croatian Ustase killings of Serbs during World War II. Milosevic began taking control of the media.
Manipulating the Past (01:33)
From 1987, Serbian television began portraying Serbs as martyrs. A 1991 documentary showed 3,000 Serbs killed by the Ustase Regime during World War II exhumed from mass graves and buried by Orthodox dignitaries. Milosevic hoped to become a Serbian Tito.
Yugoslavia Organization Debate (02:28)
Milosevic wanted Serbia to have a stronger position in the federation; Croatian and Slovenian communists wanted a loose confederation as stipulated in the 1974 constitution. Milosevic recruited political allies in the presidency to change the constitution.
Yogurt Revolution (02:27)
Between October 1988 and March 1989, Milosevic orchestrated popular demonstrations to take control of Vojvodina, Montenegro, and Kosovo. He needed to win the League of Yugoslavian Communists to gain a majority in the federal presidency.
Serbian Nationalism (02:23)
Milosevic held a rally on the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo Polje; his campaign solved the issue of keeping Yugoslavia intact. At that time, communism was crumbling in Eastern Europe.
Slovenia's Independence (02:05)
In May 1989, Slovenians called for political pluralism, a market economy, and freedom of expression. They were ethnically homogenous. Milan Kucan declared sovereignty from Yugoslavia.
Croatian Nationalism (02:41)
Serbs in Croatia opposed independence from Yugoslavia. In 1989, the League of Croatian Communists authorized a multiparty system; thirty parties were created. Former Tito general Franjo Tudjman founded the nationalist organization HDZ.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (01:40)
The Yugoslav republic did not want to enter confrontation with Serbia and had no ethnic majority to pursue a nationalist movement. Politicians defended Tito's constitution of 1974.
Yugoslavia Divided (02:01)
In 1990, Milosevic was popular among the League of Yugoslavian Communists. Slovenian and Croatian delegates protested; the organization dissolved. Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia favored a confederal system while Serbia and its allies formed a centralized bloc. Bosnia and Herzegovina remained neutral.
Attempts at Sovereignty (03:22)
In April 1990, Slovenians elected Milan Kucan president, intending to introduce capitalism and provide independence. Tudjman won Croatian elections with an ethnic nationalist agenda. He manipulated collective memory to frame Croatians as victims and the Ustase as anti-communist, rather than fascist.
Krajina Separatism (02:36)
Tudjman deprived Serbs of rights. In a southern province, Serbs isolated their region by force and declared independence in August 1990. Milosevic provided military support and pursued a partial Yugoslavia model.
Escalation of Serb-Croat Conflict (02:50)
Reuniting Krajina with Serbia opposed Tudjman's nationalist goals. He and Milosevic agreed that geographic and ethnic borders of their respective states should correspond. Bosnia and Herzegovina's multiethnic population would suffer. Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic shared power with Croatians and Serbs.
Muslim Question (01:47)
In spring 1991, Tudjman and Milosevic negotiated how to dismantle Bosnia and Herzegovina. They saw Izetbegovic as weak, but he refused division.
Balkan War (02:38)
On June 25, 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared independence—dissolving Yugoslavia. View footage from Slovenian, Croatian, Bosnian, and Kosovo wars.
Uneasy Balkan Peace (02:15)
After 150,000 people died and more than two million were displaced, the international community imposed seven states. The Dayton Agreement created the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina—ethnically segregated entities under international guardianship.
War of Remembrance (03:15)
At the Srebrenica Genocide's 20th anniversary, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic refused to name it as such—drawing threats from the crowd. Political leaders only identify with their own ethnic victims. Reconciliation depends on recognizing respective roles in the Balkan wars.
Credits: An Inevitable Breakup (00:29)
Credits: An Inevitable Breakup
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