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Yugoslavia: From Unity to Disunity

This map is part of a series of 16 animated maps showing the history of Europe and nations since 1945.

Having played a leading role in the liberation of their country, Tito’s Communist partisans wanted to bring the various Balkan peoples (Croats, Serbs, Slovenians) together.

Adopted in 1946, the new constitution established a federal state, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FSRY), which brought together the six republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia and two autonomous provinces: Vojvodina, home to a Hungarian minority, and Kosovo with a predominantly Albanian population. To placate the minority nationalities, the constitution gave them equal rights with the Federation’s Slav population.

Tito’s regime turned away from the Soviet economic and social model, opting for a system of worker self-management. Yugoslavia also decided not to join the Soviet-dominated alliances in June 1948, preferring to take a neutral – or ‘non-aligned’ – position in international relations.

In 1974, Yugoslavia passed a new constitution, in which the powers of the Central State were curtailed and the autonomous regions of Vojvodina and Kosovo were separated from Serbia.

With the death of Tito a few years later, however, new difficulties broke out between the Serbs, keen to establish a centralized State, and the Slovenians and Croats who were opposed to a recentralization of Yugoslavia. Serb leaders, headed by Slobodan Milosevic, decided to abolish the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina in 1989 and 1990 and used violence to put down Albanian protests against these measures.

Following free elections in all Yugoslav republics in 1990, government leaders sought to redefine the relationship between the Federation and the Republics. These efforts soon failed and in June 1991 Slovenia and Croatia decided to proclaim their independence. Yugoslavia had now begun to fall apart and the country was plunged into war.