Contemporary Serbia

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia established after WWII

A Federal Republic was established under Tito's communist rule in 1945. Macedonians and Montenegrins were recognized as distinct nations. While Serbs still constituted the largest single national group, they were divided between republics with around 2 million living in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. Serbian nationalism was kept in check, as was nationalism in other Republics, by the communist authorities.


As regional autonomy became a fact of life in the Yugoslav system, especially after the 1974 constitution came into force, Serbian leaders and intellectuals developed two grievances.

  • First, it appeared that Kosovo and Vojvodina were approaching de facto Republic status, thus threatening to "rob" Serbia of nearly 30% of its territory.
  • Second, the move toward greater autonomy for the existing Republics put the rights of Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia at risk.

More than any other Republic, Serbia of the 1990s was defined by the actions of its leader. Slobodan Milošević was a nationalist, but his long political career was more characterized by opportunism.

Milošević addressing the Serb National Assembly. (public source)

Milošević addressing the Serb National Assembly. (Coutesy of Reciproans)

Moreover, Serb nationalist dreams to build a "Greater Serbia" for all Serbs and control the symbolic heartland of Kosovo were completely in tatters by the end of Milosovic’s time in power. Additionally, the country's economy had been crippled, and its international status reduced to that of pariah.