The Yugoslavian Conflict Yugoslavia is a country burdened by feuding sides in a war that cannot soon be resolved. The United Nations are attempting to help the situation, but until the people of Yugoslavia can come to an agreement continued warfare and heartache is inevitable. The problems in Yugoslavia began because the country is separated into two distinct parts. The north and west parts of the country were once under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the south and the east were controlled by the Ottoman Empire. This had extreme effects on the ethnic, cultural and economic differences between the two sides. The three major religions in Yugoslavia were Greek Orthodox, Christianity, Roman Catholicism, and Islam.
The population in the north and west parts of the country were mostly Catholic and the further south and east you went the population became more Orthodox. Though these are all important factors contributing to the current problems in Yugoslavia, perhaps the most relevant issue is the issue of language. It wouldn’t really be proper to say that Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, and Macedonian are the four major languages because some of the languages are so similar they could be considered the same one. For example Serbian and Croatian are so similar that government policy was to promote through the educational system the idea of a single Serbo-Croatian language. However both the Serbians and the Croatians challenged this idea and went through great pains to identify vocabulary that would highlight the differences rather than the similarities. War finally broke out in Yugoslavia on June 25 1991, when Slovenia and Croatia proclaimed their independence and sovereignty, suspending the constitution of Yugoslavia and federal legislation on their territories.
The first thing that Slovenian state did was to take over control of their borders, removing Yugoslavian border posts and replaced them with Slovenia Republic posts. Federal authorities responded to this challenge by proclaiming the Slovenian acts illegal and charging that in the Republic of Slovenia some federal functions, notably customs services and air traffic control, had been forcibly taken over. The taking over of the borders by Slovenian militia was deemed sufficient grounds to call out the Yugoslavian National Army. This order was given from the ministry of defense, who had no authority to do so. Yugoslavia was without a president at the time and control of the country was given to the supreme commander of the armed forces. The whole affair was organized as military support to the federal police and customs personnel.
The Slovenians offered strong resistance with their territorial defense units, politically organized the withdrawal of their representatives from the presidency and the Executive Council of Yugoslavia, and directed a massive propaganda campaign presenting themselves as victims of brutal Yugoslavian National Army aggression. Croatia also attempted to claim independence, but they had a problem that the Slovenians didn’t have to deal with. They had a large population of Serbians in Croatia and with the new laws that the Croatian government tried to impose the minority Serbians were given no rights as a minority and were forced to go by the new found Croatian law. This caused conflicts inside Croatia between the Serbian rebels and the Croatian National Guard who tried to keep order. Many of these conflicts left many people dead and wounded. The Yugoslavian National Army (JNA) openly sided with the Serbian rebels, the Croatians used this opportunity to start an all out anti-JNA campaign.
The JNAresponded by saying that it took orders from the Presidency of Yugoslavia, not from Tudjman, the Croatian leader, and that it was constitutionally obliged to protect the integrity of the country and to preserve peace when it was endangered. Tudjman put all army units in Croatia on highest alert and ordered to shoot back if shot at. The fighting began in August 1991. After four and a half months of fighting the United Nations negotiated a precarious cease-fire, after fourteen previous failing attempts. Although Croatia was arming itself with illegal weapons such as tanks and other heavy artillery, Tudjman knew that they wouldn’t stand a chance on the battlefield with the combined forces of the JNA, Serb territorial defense units in Croatia, the local militia, and the irregular volunteers coming from Serbia.
Therefore the strategic aim was apolitical and diplomatic victory rather than a military one. Croatia felt they still had a chance to win even though the JNA was in Croatia. They had media support from Germany if the JNA was drawn deeper into the conflict. Croatia decided to provoke the JNA by blockading barracks and cutting off communal supplies to them. It was a gamble, they were hoping to draw the JNA into offensive action and gain political, material, and military support from the outside. This plan worked and Croatia did win its independence.
The last and perhaps most famous war in Yugoslavia that needs to be discussed is the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina like all the conflicts in Yugoslavia was a result of aggressive and uncompromising political abuse of national feelings. ‘The main strategy of the parliamentary formations of each of the three groups was mass expulsion, popularly known as ‘ethnic cleansing,’ of the other two groups.’ (Crnobrnjapg. 179) In October 1991 a meeting was held with the three leaders of the warring states of Yugoslavia and Cyrus Vance of the United Nations. An agreement was reached on an immediate cease-fire. Each of the Yugoslav parties expressed a wish to see the speedy deployment of a UN peace-keeping operation.
Progress was made on some other issues, but the main one regarding the cease fire broke down almost immediately. It was decided in mid December 1991 that the UN would become involved in the Yugoslavia situation and station UN troops on the Yugoslavia ground. On January 2 1992 Vance held a meeting between the military leaders of Croatia and the JNA at which a new cease fire agreement was signed. This one did achieve a drastic reduction in fighting. It also allowed the UNto send a group of military liaison officers who had the task of providing food offices to secure the cease fire and of preparing the ground for further implementation of the Vance Plan.
The UN decided to put the headquarters for the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) operation in Sarajevo. It was hoped that the presence of the blue helmets and white UN vehicles would act to calm the situation. It didn’t, and only a few months after the installation of its headquarters, it was forced to withdraw. ‘As time passed and the humanitarian problems to be addressed increased, so did the hardships and temptations of the UN troops performing their mission on the ground within a strictly limited mandate, poorly defined political objectives, and no muscle to defend them and the poorly defined political objectives. In such a situation it was inevitable that the troops would be subjected to some humiliation and the authority of the UN would be undermined.’ (Crnobrnja pg. 212) The UN troops were treated as the enemy, they were accused of taking sides and had their vehicles stolen.
They have been shot at, wounded, and even killed. On a few occasions the warring sides have masqueraded as UN troops, driving around in their vehicles with UN flags and opening fire on their opponents in order to draw fire against UN troops. The situation in Yugoslavia is a grave one, and the United Nations is doing all it can to attain peace. They are supplying medical help and arranging mediation’s between leaders, but until the people of Yugoslavia want peace there is nothing the UN can do.