Which Present-Day Countries Were Once Part Of Yugoslavia?

Yugoslavia flag. Image credit: BigAlBaloo/Shutterstock
  • Yugoslavia literally means "Slavs of the South."
  • Yugoslavia was a country made up of several ethnicities, causing conflict in the country.
  • When most former nations have already seceded, the civil war broke out in Yugoslavia in April 1992, when the Croats voted to follow suit.

Today, there are six independent countries that were once part of the Kraljevina Jugoslavija (The Yugoslavian Kingdom); they are Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Montenegro. Kosovo is a state that broke off of Serbia with partial recognition as an independent nation. It is recognized by 111 UN countries including global powers like the US, Canada and Japan, but is not recognized by Serbia and others.


Yugoslavia literally means the country of the "Slavs in the South." Slavs, not to be confused with the populations of Slovakia or Slovenia (although both have the root referring to the Slavs, and the latter did form after Yugoslavia fell apart), is the general term referring to the people native to the regions of Eastern Europe, and broken further into East Slavic, West Slavic and South Slavic countries. Each country has a distinct language, but are mutually comprehensible within each of the three categories. Some of these countries are part of the European Union, and a lot of the Slavic people also live in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Slavs are a branch of Indo-European ethnicity, and a lot of the Slavs do have lighter hair and fair skin, but this is a bias predominant in other countries as well, like Sweden. Uniting the Slavs are their common ancestors. 

Becoming Yugoslavia 

Up until 1929, there was the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which included several ethnicities, two of which had the strongest voices: the Croats, favoring diversity and respect for each nation's traditions, and the Serbs, who supported Unitarianism. The Serbs prevailed and in 1921, a highly centralized state was established under the Serbian Karadjordjević dynasty, where the King made all of the decisions, with the advice from his assembly. A strong foreign policy with strict regulations about migrating outside of the Kingdom was also present.  

In 1929, Alexander I singlehandedly made the decision to change the state's name to Yugoslavia, drawing the line between the nine prefectures deliberately across the initial borders of each nation. The Croats remained unheard and unhappy, and by 1939 were able to negotiate to become a state under a single authority with a measurable level of autonomy.  

Alexander I of Yugoslavia on a cancelled postage stamp, circa 1924. Image credit: ilapinto/Shutterstock

Post-World War II

In 1946 Josip Broz Tito formed Socialist Yugoslavia together with his communist-led Partisans, who helped liberate the country from the German rule in the last years of the Second World War. Initially, this was a highly centralized state, following the Soviet model both economically and politically, and included the federation of six nominally equal republics: Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia. Serbia had two provinces recognized for their ethnic difference to the rest of that republic: Kosovo for the Albanians, and Vojvodina for the Magyars.

Slowly, over three constitutions in 1953, 1963, and 1974, the power began to shift to the economic enterprises, municipalities, and republic-level apparatuses of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia. Large landholdings, industrial enterprises, public utilities, and other resources were nationalized, and industrialization was launched. The notion of “workers’ self-management” was also adopted, where individuals were able to help manage the Yugoslav enterprises through their work organizations. With this new system, remarkable growth was achieved in the previously uneducated state that also had a very high birth rate.

The Country Gets Broken Up

Unfortunately, the progress was rather short-lived, as it required continuous funding from the International Monetary Fund (IFM).  A lack of stimulus to efficiency led to high inflation and unemployment rates, and in 1983, the IMF determined that Yugoslavia needed to fix its economy through an extensive restructuring before it could receive further financing. Determining how to meet this precondition for IMF's support brought up the old differences between the nations in Yugoslavia, exacerbating the conflict within, leading to further breakaways and civil war.

Slovenia and Croatia declared secession from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991, and Macedonia followed suit on December 19. By the end of March the following year, the Muslim Bosniaks and Croats voted to secede, breaking the last straw and igniting a civil war.

On April 27, 1992, the remaining Serbia and Montenegro formed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

NATO's Role

In 1996, what began as peaceful demonstrations against the initiative by Serbia's president Slobodan Milošević to abolish Kosovo's constitutional autonomy within Serbia, had slowly escalated into a civil war in Kosovo. Upon witnessing the bloody conflict between the ethnic Albanians and the ethnic Serbs going as far as attempts at ethnic cleansing of the Kosovar Albanians, NATO, already present on the grounds in a peacekeeping mission, sent in more troops on March 24, 1999 and bombed the Serbian targets for 11 weeks. To this day, the legality of NATO's radical intervention remains challenged. 

Damage in Serbia's capital, Belgrade, following the 1999 NATO bombing. Image credit: Tupungato/Shutterstock

2003 to 2006 - Conflict and Separation

In 2003, still bitterly co-existing as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro became the Union of Serbia and Montenegro, which placated Montenegro's stirrings for independence as it allowed for a referendum on independence to take place within three years in Montenegro.

And sure enough, in May of 2006, Montenegro was finally able to hold the referendum, which narrowly passed. On June 5, the day after Serbia's president Svetozar Marovic announced the dissolution of his office, Serbia acknowledged the end of the union. Serbia and Montenegro split into two sovereign states.

It is speculated that sharing such a  tumultuous history has made the people of these countries into productive workers who know their self-worth, seen in their determination to be successful in their careers and family lives.


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