With the fall of the Austria-Hungary empire at the end of World War I, the victors threw together a new country which was composed of more than twenty ethnic groups -- Yugoslavia. Just over seventy years later that piecemeal nation disintegrated and war broke out between seven new states. This overview should help clear up some confusion about what's in place of the former Yugoslavia now.
Marshal Tito was able to keep Yugoslavia unified from the formation of the country from 1945 until his death in 1980. At the end of World War II, Tito ousted the Soviet Union and was then "excommunicated" by Josef Stalin. Due to Soviet blockades and sanctions, Yugoslavia began developing trade and diplomatic relationships with western European governments, even though it was a communist country. After the death of Stalin, relations between the USSR and Yugoslavia improved.
Following Tito's death in 1980, factions in Yugoslavia became agitated and demanded more autonomy. It was the fall of the USSR in 1991 that finally broke up the jigsaw puzzle of a state. About 250,000 were killed by wars and "ethnic cleansing" in the new countries of the former Yugoslavia.
Austria blamed Serbia for the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand in 1914 which led to the Austrian invasion of Serbia and World War I.
Although a rogue state called the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that was exiled from the United Nations in 1992, Serbia and Montenegro regained recognition on the world stage in 2001 after the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic. In 2003 the country was restructured into a loose federation of two republics called Serbia and Montenegro.
Following a referendum, in June 2006, Montenegro and Serbia split into two separate independent countries. The creation of Montenegro as an independent country resulted in Serbia losing their access to the Adriatic Sea.
The former Serbian province of Kosovo lies just south of Serbia. Past confrontations between ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and ethnic Serbs from Serbia drew world attention to the province, which is 80% Albanian. After many years of struggle, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in February 2008. Unlike Montenegro, not all the countries of the world have accepted the independence of Kosovo, most notably Serbia and Russia.
Slovenia, the most homogenous and prosperous region of the Former Yugoslavia, was the first to secede. They have their own language, are mostly Roman Catholic, have compulsory education, and a capital city (Ljubljana) which is a primate city. With a current population of approximately two million, Slovenia avoided violence due to their homogeneity. Slovenia joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.
Macedonia's claim to fame is their rocky relationship with Greece due to the use of the name Macedonia. While Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations, it was admitted under the name of "The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" because Greece is strongly against the use of the ancient Greek region for any external territory. Of the two million people, about two-thirds are Macedonian and about 27% is Albanian. The capital is Skopje and key products include wheat, corn, tobacco, steel, and iron.
In January 1998, Croatia finally assumed control of their entire territory, some of which had been under the control of Serbs. This also marked the end of a two-year United Nations peacekeeping mission there. Croatia's declaration of independence in 1991 caused Serbia to declare war.
Croatia is a boomerang-shaped country of four and a half million which has an extensive coastline on the Adriatic Sea, and it almost keeps Bosnia from having any coast at all. The capital of this Roman Catholic state is Zagreb. In 1995, Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia signed a peace agreement.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The virtually landlocked "cauldron of conflict" of four million inhabitants is composed of about one-half Muslims, one-third Serbs, and just under one-fifth Croats. While the Winter Olympics of 1984 were held in Bosnia-Herzegovina's capital city of Sarajevo, the city and the rest of the country were devastated by war. The mountainous country is trying to rebuild infrastructure since their 1995 peace agreement; they rely on imports for food and materials. Before the war, Bosnia was home to five of Yugoslavia's largest corporations.
The former Yugoslavia is a dynamic and interesting region of the world which is likely to continue to be the focus of geopolitical struggle and change as the countries work to gain recognition (and membership) in the European Union.