Yugoslav Wars

Yugoslav Wars
Collage Yugoslav wars.jpg
Clockwise from the top-left: Slovenian police escort captured Yugoslav People's Army soldiers back to their unit during the 1991 Slovenian war of independence; a destroyed tank during the Battle of Vukovar; Serbian anti-tank missile installations during the siege of Dubrovnik; reburial of victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre on 11 July 2010; UN vehicle driving on the streets of Sarajevo during the siege of the city.
Date31 March 1991 – 12 November 2001
(10 years, 7 months, 1 week and 5 days)
ResultBreakup of SFR Yugoslavia and formation of independent successor states
Total deaths: c. 130,000–140,000[1][2]
Displaced: c. 4,000,000[3]

The Yugoslav Wars were a series of separate but related[4][5][6] ethnic conflicts, wars of independence and insurgencies fought in the former Yugoslavia[note 1] from 1991 to 2001, which led to the breakup of the Yugoslav state. Its constituent republics declared independence, despite unresolved tensions between ethnic minorities in the new countries, fueling the wars.

Most of the wars ended through peace accords, involving full international recognition of new states, but with a massive human cost and economic damage to the region. Initially the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) sought to preserve the unity of the whole of Yugoslavia by crushing the secessionist governments, but it increasingly came under the influence of the Serbian government of Slobodan Milošević, which evoked Serbian nationalist rhetoric and was willing to use the Yugoslav cause to preserve the unity of Serbs in one state. As a result, the JNA began to lose Slovenes, Croats, Kosovar Albanians, Bosniaks, and ethnic Macedonians, and effectively became a Serb army.[8] According to a 1994 United Nations report, the Serb side did not aim to restore Yugoslavia, but to create a "Greater Serbia" from parts of Croatia and Bosnia.[9] Other irredentist movements have also been brought into connection with the wars, such as "Greater Albania" (from Kosovo, though it was abandoned following international diplomacy)[10][11][12][13][14] and "Greater Croatia" (from parts of Herzegovina, until 1994 when the Washington Agreement ended it).[15][16][17][18][19]

Often described as Europe's deadliest conflicts since World War II, the wars were marked by many war crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity and rape. The Bosnian genocide was the first European crime to be formally judged as genocidal in character since World War II, and many key individual participants were subsequently charged with war crimes.[20] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established by the UN to prosecute these crimes.[21]

According to the International Center for Transitional Justice, the Yugoslav Wars resulted in the death of 140,000 people.[1] The Humanitarian Law Center estimates that in the conflicts in the former Yugoslav republics at least 130,000 people were killed.[2]


The war(s) have alternatively been called:

  • "Wars in the Balkans" (although the wars only affected the west side of the Balkans as well as areas outside it (within Central Europe)
  • "Wars/conflicts in the former Yugoslavia"[1][22]
  • "Wars of Yugoslav Secession/Succession"
  • "Third Balkan War": a term suggested by British journalist Misha Glenny in the title of his book, alluding to the two previous Balkan Wars fought from 1912–13.[23] In fact, this term has been applied by some contemporary historians to World War I, because they see it as a direct sequel to the 1912–13 Balkan wars.[24]
  • "Yugoslavia Civil War"/"Yugoslav Civil War"/"Yugoslavian Civil War"/"Civil War in Yugoslavia"
Other Languages
Bahasa Indonesia: Perang Yugoslavia
Bahasa Melayu: Perang Yugoslavia
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Ratovi u bivšoj Jugoslaviji
українська: Югославські війни
Tiếng Việt: Chiến tranh Nam Tư