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Europe, Yugoslavia

Josip Broz Tito, South Slavs, market socialism, Vojvodina, Balkan Peninsula

Yugoslavia, former country in southeastern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. The country existed from 1918 to 1941, when German-led Axis forces invaded and dismembered it during World War II. It was reestablished in 1945, but in 1991 political and ethnic conflicts led to its second disintegration. In the first period, Yugoslavia was a kingdom. In the second period, it was a federation consisting of six republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina (often referred to simply as Bosnia), Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. In addition, two autonomous provinces existed within the republic of Serbia: Vojvodina and Kosovo. Belgrade was the federal capital.

Yugoslavia, meaning “land of the South Slavs,” was created as a constitutional monarchy at the end of World War I (1914-1918). It was known as the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes until 1929, when it was renamed Yugoslavia. The kingdom was destroyed and divided by Axis invasion and occupation in 1941. At the end of World War II (1939-1945), Yugoslavia was recreated as a federal republic by the Partisans, a Communist-led, anti-Axis resistance movement. Under Josip Broz Tito, founder and leader of the Partisans, Yugoslavia emerged as a faithful copy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), with a dictatorial central government and a state-controlled economy. Tito broke with the USSR in 1948, and he decentralized the Yugoslav government and gradually eased repression. Economically, the government experimented with looser controls under the labels of workers’ self-management and market socialism. Yugoslavia was unique among Communist countries in its relatively open and free society and its international role as a leader of nonaligned nations during the Cold War.

Following Tito’s death in 1980, ten years of economic crisis and growing political and ethnic conflicts led to the federation’s disintegration in 1991 and 1992. The breakup was bloody, resulting in civil wars in two successor states, Croatia and Bosnia. Serbia’s leadership, which tried to preserve the federation and then to extend the republic’s boundaries to create a Greater Serbia, was involved in both civil wars. Together with Montenegro, Serbia formed what its leaders claimed to be the successor state to Yugoslavia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

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