The former Yugoslavia, or the Social Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), was created in 1945. At the time of creation the SFRY was composed of six republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. The SFRY is composed of several distinct historical ethnic groups including but not limited to Croats, Serbs, and Muslim Bosniaks. After SFRY president Josip Broz Tito- who liberated the country from Nazi occupation following the end of World War II- died in 1980, much of the government’s power was disbursed among the provincial governments, leaving behind a relatively powerless federal government in a time of political instability. This instability led to the provincial governments of Slovenia and Croatia declaring their independence in June 1991. In response, the Serbian-controlled Yugoslav armed forces (JNA) were deployed to both borders. JNA withdrew from Slovenia after 10 days with no resistance, however, in Croatia JNA forces sided with Serbian minority forces that declared independence. The resulting conflict led to Croats and other non-Serbs being expelled from the Serb-controlled territory in a campaign of violent ethnic cleansing. In March 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina followed suit in declaring its independence, though Bosnian Serbs boycotted the referendum. The next month, Bosnian Serbs, with the help of both the JNA and Serbia, openly rebelled and declared their controlled territory a Serb republic. Bosnian Croats soon followed, and declared a republic of their own with the backing of Croatia. A bloody, three-sided conflict erupted with brutal atrocities being committed on all sides.
The problem now before the UNSC is an all-out, ethnically-charged war in the Balkans that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, and the displacement of millions more. Despite the attempts of the UN backed Vance-Owen peace plan and the US-brokered Washington Agreement, the conflict has reached an all-time high with evidence of concentration camps full of Muslims and ethnic minorities. In 1993, in response to mass civilian casualties, the UN declared the cities of Sarajevo, Goradze, and Srebrenica, along with a few other Muslim centers “safe areas” protected by UNPK forces. Despite this fact, in July 1995, Srebrenica came under attack by Bosnian-Serb forces led by Ratko Mladić resulting in the death of thousands of Bosniak Muslim men and boys as well as tens of thousands of women, children, and elderly being driven from the town.
This massacre has brought many questions to the attention of the international community about the nature of this conflict and the UN’s previous interventions. Srebrenica was under the protection of a small, lightly armed, Dutch battalion from the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR). Why wasn’t the city more heavily protected and could this attack have been predicted? Are other Muslim towns and “safe areas” in similar danger of further genocide? Croatia and Bosnia are still in the midst of two separate wars, can peace agreements be reached in either conflict? Considering the conflict as a whole, how will the former Yugoslavia function as a region moving forward under continued political, ethnic, and religious strain?