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History of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia


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Map of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Jewish History of Yugoslavia

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1994 estimated population 10,093,000), 34,107 square miles (88,337 square kilometers), Eastern Yugoslavia, the larger of the two remaining republics (the other is Montenegro) of Yugoslavia. It is bounded by Croatia (North West), Hungary (North), Romania (North East), Bulgaria (East), Macedonia (South), and Albania, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Hercegovina (West). The west and south are largely mountainous. Serbs make up the vast majority of the population; they belong largely to the Orthodox Eastern Chirch and use the Cyrillic alphabet. Mostly Muslim Albanians predominate in Kosovo in the southwest, and there is a smaller Hungarian minority in Vojvodina province in the north.

Belgrade city, Serbian Beograd (1987 estimated population 1,131,000) is the capital and largest city of Yugoslavia and of its constituent republic Serbia, at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers. A harbor for Rome's Danubian fleet, it was later held by the Byzantines, Bulgars, and Serbs. After 1521 it was a major fortress of the Ottoman Turks. Belgrade became the capital of the kingdom of Serbia in 1882 and the capital of Yugoslavia after World War I. In World War II it was severely damaged by the German occupation (1941-44).

Serbs settled (6th-7th centuries) in the Balkans and were Christianized in the 9th century. A Serbian kingdom emerged (13th century) and (r.1331-55) became the most powerful Balkan state. Defeat (1389) at Kosovo Field brought Serbia under Turkish domination from the 14th to 19th centuries. In 1829 the Turks granted the Serbs autonomy under a hereditary prince, and a lengthy feud between the Karadjordjevi and Obrenovi families ensued. Proclaimed (1882) a kingdom, Serbia emerged from the Balkan War (1912-13) as a major Balkan power. When a Serbian nationalist assassinated (1914) Austrian Archduke Francis Fernando, Austria declared war on Serbia, thus precipitating World War I. In 1918 the country was included in the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia), with Peter I of Serbia as king.

Yugoslavia's existence as a nation began after World War I. Of its component republics, only Serbia (which included the present independent republic of Macedonia) and Montenegro were independent states in 1914; Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Hercegovina belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The movement for unification, led by Serbia, was a major cause of World War I. In 1918 the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was proclaimed. The name was changed to Yugoslavia in 1929 and a parliamentary constitution adopted in 1931. From its inception, the new country was plagued by demands for autonomy by Croatian and Macedonian nationalists, culminating in 1934 with the assassination of King Alexander. Tension also arose from territorial disputes with Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria. Yugoslavia had joined Czechoslovakia and Romania in the Little Entente in the 1920s, but in 1939 it drew closer to the Axis powers. A coup in 1941 brought a neutral government to power, but soon afterwards Yugoslavia was invaded and occupied by Germany and its allies.A puppet government was set up in Serbia by the Germans during World War II. Partisan troops, led by royalist General Draza Mihajlovi and Communist Marshal Josip Tito, battled the occupation forces until 1943, when civil war erupted between the rival leaders. Tito, supported by the USSR and Britain, was victorious. By 1944 the Germans had been driven from Yugoslavia, and in 1945 Tito became premier, deposed the king, and established a Communist state closely allied with the USSR. In 1946 Serbia became a republic within Yugoslavia. In 1948 Tito broke with the Soviet leadership. He developed a national communism, abandoning farm collectivization and, to some extent, centralized government controls; intellectual freedom was restricted, however, and renewed Croatian nationalist agitation was suppressed. After Tito's death (1980), a collective presidency was established. In 1990 the Communist party relinquished its monopoly on political power. Previously contained ethnic tensions became more prominent, and Slovenia and Croatia declared (1991) independence, a move resisted by Serbia and its president, Slobodan Miloshevic. In Croatia battling between Croatian forces and Serb militias escalated into civil war (1991-92). Bosnia and Hercegovina (1991) and Macedonia (1992) also became independent, and intense fighting erupted (1992) in Bosnia. The UN imposed economic sanctions, including a naval blockade, on Yugoslavia for supporting Serb forces in Bosnia and withheld recognition of the new Yugoslav state established by Serbia and Montenegro. In 1995, Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia signed a treaty ending the war in Bosnia, and the economic sanctions were suspended.