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Yugoslavia, Until 1991 the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, republic with six constituent republics: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia and Montenegro.

Land and climate

Yugoslavia was made up of four geographical areas. A mostly mountainous country, it has an Alpine region in the nortwest, but also fertile northern plains. The south rugged mountainous region and there is also the island-studded Dalmatian coast. Most of Yugoslavia is drained by the Danude river, which flows southeast from the Hungarian border across the northern plains. The climate varies from being continental in the north to Mediterranean in the south.


Yugoslavia was a federation of many different peoples, principly Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians and Montenegrins, but also including many minority groups. The various peoples also profess several different religions. Roman Catholics comprise some 30% of the population, and most of them are Croats and Slovenes. Members of the Eastern Orthodox Church make up about 40% of the population and they are chiefly Serbs, Macedonians, and Montenegrins. The Roman Catholics use the Roman alphabet, whereas the Eastern Orthodox use the Cyrillic alphabet. Finally some 10% of the people are Muslims. Serbs and Croats speak Serbo-Croatian. Each of the other ethnic groups has its own language. About 40% of the people live in cities, the federal capital is Belgrade.


Once dominated by the Ottoman Empire, most of Yugoslavia subsequently came under the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, including Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Hercegovina. By 1914 only Serbia and Montenegro were independent. Serbia sought unification of the country, and it was a Serbian nationalist who assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, in 1914, setting off the chain of events that led directly to World War I. In 1918 the “Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes” was created. Its name was changed to Yugoslavia in 1929, but separatist pressures were strong from the very start, particularly among Croats and Macedonians. The Germans invaded in 1941, and two rival resistance groups were organized, one the royalist Dra a Mihailovic and the other the communist resistance under Josip Tito. In 1943, even before the war had ended, the rival resistance groups were fighting one another; backed by Great Britain and the USSR, Tito prevailed. In 1945 he proclaimed Yugoslavia a federal republic of six states and established a communist government. Yugoslavia was expelled from the Comanform in 1948, and relations between the Yugoslavians and Soviets were strained. President Tito charted a policy of “independent national communism” for Yugoslavia and successfully withstood Soviet pressure. Tito's regime continued to have to deal with internal tensions, which were centered on the nationalist aspirations of the constituent republics, most notably from Croatia. The regime was also challenged on issues of intellectual freedom. Following Tito's death in 1980, a collective state presidency was established. Despite attempts to maintain the federal system and the country's unity, the collapse of communist regimes throughout eastern Europe, beginning in 1989, has had profound repercussions in Yugoslavia. Separatism could not be contained, and in 1991 Slovenia and Croatia were the first republics to claim independence. Macedonia and Bosnia Hercegovina followed, and Serbia and Montenegro amalgamated into a new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Not all inhabitants of the newly independent countries complied with the new situation, and many protested violently, resulting in civil wars in both Bosnia Hercegovina and Croatia.

See also: Tito, Josip Broz.

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