Useful Notes: The Yugoslav Wars

"Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand." - Matthew 25 legend 

"If you saw what I see for the future of Yugoslavia, it would scare you."

A series of six wars encompassing the former Yugoslavia from 1991-2001:

Basically, without somebody to hold it together, Yugoslavia blew to pieces in a spectacular fashion, producing the only big war in Europe since World War II. The war is often thought of as religious, but has more roots in the whims of politicians twisting and manipulating holy writ to serve their own cynical purposes; as such, the battle lines were drawn in accordance with this masquerade: Serbs, who were Orthodox Christian, received help from the similarly Orthodox Russians; Croats, who were traditionally Catholic, received help from the Western countries; and the Bosniaks, who had converted to Islam during the Ottoman era received help from both the West and fellow Islamic countries. The wars also had an economic edge to them; the two northern republics were the most heavily industrialized, and their inhabitants often accused the government of subsidizing the Serb plurality (Serbs amounted to about 36% of the population; next largest were Croats at about 20%) at their expense, making them the first to bail.

Especially the wars in Croatia and Bosnia saw the term "ethnic cleansing" invented and put to practice, with the United Nations generally standing around, powerless to help as the big powers dithered in New York as the entire region just went to shit. It initially started off as a small conflict in Slovenia and eventually grew to a much larger war in Croatia. The true horrors, however, were showcased in the Bosnian War, which overlapped the Croatian War of Independence, and where the fighting quickly morphed into Bosnian Serbs versus Bosnian Croats versus Bosnian Muslims loyal to Izetbegovic versus Bosnian Muslims loyal to Abdic versus any militia given even a degree of autonomy. While the world was aware of the bloody conflicts going on, the media had a tendency to avoid mentioning WHY the war even started in the first place. As a result, the Western world, unaccustomed to the rivalries in the Balkans, sat around and twiddled their thumbs, basically unable to help or understand these conflicted people. (Yet supplying and selling weapons and supplies to this certain sides in an attempt to tip the balance and bring the war to an early end. And every major power backed at least one side, everything from Jihadists in Bosnia to Croatia having the French and America supply arms.) This, combined with the "us versus them" mentality of the people at war, made for a deadly combination.

Eventually, that war ended via Western intervention, but things got trickier as Albanians in Kosovo decided that it was time to break ties with Serbia. This sparked the third big conflict, the Kosovo War. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia engaged in a ruthless crackdown which the United States used as an excuse to intervene. The war only came to an end after America outright launched a controversial bombing campaign. In 2008. Albanians in Kosovo claimed independence which is only partially recognized by the international community.

     The Cast 
Due to the convoluted nature of the of the war and the people that were involved here is a little summary of some names to know.

Yugoslavia

  • Ante Marković - Last prime minister of Yugoslavia.

The Yugoslav People's Army (JNA)

  • Veljko Kadijević - Minister of Defence in the Yugoslav government from 1988 to 1992.
  • Blagoje Adžić - General and Chief of the General Staff of the JNA from 1989 to 1992.
  • Života Panić - General and was the last acting minister of defense and army chief of staff in the Yugoslav government. Commander of JNA forces in the battle of Vukovar.
  • Veselin Šljivančanin - General that participated in the Battle of Vukovar who recently wrote a detailed book about the detention life in the ICTY custody.

Republika Srpska

  • Radovan Karadžić - President of Republika Srpska (RS) from 1992 to 1996. He was also the founder and first leader of Serbian Democratic Party (SDS).
  • Biljana Plavšić - Vice-president of Republika Srpska from 1992 to 1996. Following the war she succeeded Radovan Karadžić as president of RS in 1996.
  • Momčilo Krajišnik - Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska.
  • Ratko Mladić - Commander of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS).
  • Manojlo Milovanović - Colonel General of the VRS and second man after Mladić.
  • Stanislav Galić - Commander of the VRS in and around Sarajevo from 1992 to 1994.
  • Dragomir Milošević - Commander of the VRS in and around Sarajevo from 1994 to 1995.
  • Dragan Obrenović - Senior officer and commander in the JNA and later the VRS.
  • Milan Lukić - Commander in the paramilitary group "White Eagles" and was a prominent figure in the 1992 takeover and subsequent ethnic cleansing of eastern Bosnia.

Republika Srpska Krajina

  • Milan Martić - Military and political leader of Republika Srpska Krajina. Martić held various leadership positions, including President, Minister of Defence and Minister of Internal Affairs.
  • Milan Babić - First President of RSK.
  • Mile Mrkšić - Former JNA and general and later the Commander in Chief of the Military of Serbian Krajina (SVK).
  • Goran Hadžić - Leader of the Serbs in eastern Slavonia and later briefly president of RSK.

Slovenia

  • Milan Kučan - first President of Slovenia.
  • Janez Janša - Minister of Defense of Slovenia.
  • Igor Bavčar - Minister of Interior of Slovenia.

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia / Serbia and Montenegro
  • Slobodan Milošević - President of Serbia from 1989 to 1997. Later became president of FR Yugoslavia from 1997 until his overthrow in 2000.
  • Mirjana Marković - Milošević's wife and leader of the JUL.
  • Borisav Jović - Milošević's right hand man and served as the Serbian member of the collective presidency of Yugoslavia during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
  • Momir Bulatović - President of Montenegro.
  • Milo Đukanović - Prime Minister of Montenegro and in charge since 1989.
  • Jovica Stanišić - Head of the Serbian Ministry of the Interior and Double Agent working for the CIA.
  • Franko Simatović "Frenki" - Head of the Serbian secret police.
  • Vojislav Šešelj - Founder of the nationalist Serb Radical Party (SRS) who led volunteers of the SRS that served in both Bosnia and Croatia.
  • Momčilo Perišić - General and Chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav Army (VJ) who worked for the Americans.
  • Nebojša Pavković - Chief of the General Staff who allegedly had also close ties with the Americans.
  • Božidar Delić - Former VJ general and current vice president of the Serbian parliament.
  • Sreten Lukić - Head of the Serbian police during the Kosovo War.
  • Željko Ražnatović "Arkan" - Serbian paramilitary leader and commander of the Serb Volunteer Guard (SDG) unit. Undisputed crimeboss in Serbia up until his assassination in 2000.
  • Milorad Ulemek "Legija" - Former French Foreign Legionnaire and commander of the now defunct Special Operations Unit (JSO).

Croatia

  • Franjo Tuđman - President of Croatia from 1990 until his death in 1999.
  • Martin Špegelj - Second Defense Minister of Croatia and, later, the chief of staff of the newborn Croatian Army (HV) and inspector-general of the army.
  • Gojko Šušak - Croatian Minister of Defense from 1991 to 1998.
  • Stjepan Mesić - General secretary of HDZ and the first prime minister of Croatia in 1990. He became speaker of the Croatian parliament in 1992 but stepped down and left HDZ in 1994 because of their policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Anton Tus - HV general and the first Chief of the General Staff of Croatia's armed forces from 1991 to 1992.
  • Janko Bobetko - HV general and Chief of the General Staff from 1992 until his retirement in 1995.
  • Zvonimir Červenko - HV general and the chief of General Staff between 1995 and 1996.
  • Ante Gotovina - Lieutenant General in the HV and commander of Croatian forces during Operation Storm and Operation Mistral.
  • Mile Dedaković - Commander of the 204th Vukovar Brigade and the city of Vukovar's defenses in during the 1991 Battle of Vukovar.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Alija Izetbegović - President of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1990 and 1996.
  • Fikret Abdić - Former head of Agrokomerc and president of the short lived Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia that collaborated with the Serbs.
  • Haris Silajdžić - Foreign minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1990 - 1993 and served between 1993 and 1996 as the prime minister.
  • Sefer Halilović - Chief of Staff of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ArBiH) from 1992 to 1993.
  • Rasim Delić - Chief of Staff of the Army of the ArBiH from 1993 to 1995.
  • Jovan Divjak - Commander of ArBiH forces in Sarajevo at the beginning of the war (1992-1993) and later served as deputy commander of the ArBiH Headquarters.
  • Atif Dudaković - Commander of the Bosnian 5th Corps.
  • Mustafa Hajrulahović - Commander of the Bosnian 1st Corps and later intelligence chief in the Bosnian government.
  • Naser Orić - Commander of the ArBiH 28th Division who was in charge the defenses of Srebrenica and former bodyguard of Milošević.
  • Blaž Kraljević - Commander of Croatian Defence Forces (HOS).

Herceg-Bosna

  • Mate Boban - President of Herceg-Bosna from 1991 to 1994 following the Washington agreement.
  • Dario Kordić - Political leader of Bosnian Croats in Central Bosnia and a military commander of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO).
  • Jadranko Prlić - Prime minister of Herceg-Bosna.
  • Valentin Ćorić - Interior minister of Herceg-Bosna.
  • Bruno Stojić - Minister of defense of Herceg-Bosna.
  • Milivoj Petković - Commander of the HVO.
  • Slobodan Praljak - Major General in the HVO and commander of the Croatian forces around Mostar.

The Albanians

  • Ibrahim Rugova - First President of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo.
  • Adem Jashari - Co founder and Chief commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) until his death in 1998.
  • Agim Çeku - Former HV general and KLA Chief of Staff from May 1999.
  • Ramush Haradinaj - 2nd KLA commander and currently one of the if not the most powerful and feared crimeboss in Kosovo.
  • Hashim Thaçi - 3rd KLA commander and head of the Drenica Group.
  • Fatmir Limaj - KLA commander in Lapušnik.
  • Zahir Pajaziti - KLA co-founder and commander.
  • Tahir Zemaj - Chief commander of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo (FARK).

NATO

  • Wesley Clark - In charge of NATO, and bought Kosovo's coal mines.
  • Mike Jackson


In fiction:

The primary use of the war today is as a source of modern day war criminals, as the Nazi ones are getting too old now. Because of the nature of the mass graves, many a forensic pathologist will have worked there.

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     Animation and Comics 
  • Kimagure Orange Road: Mentioned in the Shin Kimagure Orange Road sequel-film, when it is stated that adult Kyosuke is a war reporter went missing in action taking pictures in Bosnia during the wars. The light novels describe in a greater length how they affected Kyosuke's psyche.
  • In Seikon No Qwaser it serves as the backstory of Teresa who grew up in a Serbian-Orthodox monastery in the Krajina.
    • One of the antagonists is called Croa a.k.a. "gas chamber", a fitting name because of both his ability to control chlorine and the genocidal crimes against Serbs (among them, against the women of Teresa's monastery. She herself was present and was damn lucky, that she wasn't raped and murdered like the rest of her friends) he commited.
  • In Jormungand Koko tangles with a Serbian warlord known as "Baldra" (short for "Balkan Dragon"), whose real name is Dragan Nikolaevich. He is pretty obviously based off of Željko Ražnatović. The series takes place in 2012, which led some Serbian fans to joke about how the plot is Two Decades Behind.
  • The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo is a journalistic comic on the Bosnian War, written by Joe Sacco. It tells the story of a Sarajevan man who, having lost everything else in the war, sells his stories to Western journalists. It was published in 2003. Time listed it as one of the Best Comics of 2003.
  • One Punisher story has Frank go in the Balkans, helping some overwhelmed NATO troops along the way.
    • The villains of the infamous Slavers arc are from the Balkans, and give Frank the first real challenge he's had in a while, since they think like soldiers, not gang members.
  • One version of the Lizard (the Spider-Man villain) had him lose an arm in Kosovo, his trying to regenerate turned him into a monster.

    Film 
  • The Bosnian film No Mans Land, a famous anti-war movie about a Bosnian Muslim who is immobilized on a battlefield. As the Serbs have deliberately laid him on an anti-personnel mine which will explode if he gets up, he can't move at all. His choleric Bosnian friend and a bumbling New Meat Serbian soldier then procede to bicker over him about who really started the war, etc. Later, they grudgingly unite to fight for his and their own survival in the bombarded trenches. They even try to call help to free him from the trap. Rule of Funny as well as Rule of Drama ensues. The film has a major Downer Ending.
  • Michael Winterbottom's Welcome to Sarajevo.
  • Behind Enemy Lines features an American airman shot down over Bosnia, who must then fight through hostile Serbian troops to get to safety. The villain's dragon in this film served as an inspiration for Niko Bellic of Grand Theft Auto IV
  • The Serbian film Vukovar: jedna priča (Vukovar: A Story, alternate title: Vukovar poste restante) tells story of a young couple, a Serb guy and a Croat girl, whose romance is threatened by the war in Vukovar. Shot on actual location while the war was still ravaging.
  • The Serbian film Underground, by Emir Kusturica, tells the story of Yugoslavia from the Serbian resistance of World War II to the Yugoslav wars. This dark comedy is ultimately about the tragedy of Yugoslavia's balkanization. It was also released as a 5 1/2 hour miniseries called Once Upon a Time, There was a Country, which is also the film's closing line. Although it was well-received and won a Palm D'Or at the Cannes Festival, some critics accused it of being Serbian nationalistic propoganda and of having an overly idealistic portrayal of communist Yugoslavia.
    • Interresting enough, the Serbian critics pointed out that the film's portrayal of communist Yugoslavia is actually negative. As with any other work of art, this is a subject of interpretation.
  • Another film by Emir Kusturica, Life Is A Miracle, is a touching love story of a Bosnian Serb railroad worker and a Bosniak woman, whom he first intended to exchange for his captured son. Set during the Bosnian war.
  • The Serbian film Pretty Village Pretty Flame tells a gritty story of Bosnian Serb soldiers trapped in a tunnel and surrounded by Bosniak troops. Through flashbacks, we find out more about each of the characters and ultimately, the country itself. Considered to be a modern classic of Serbian cinema. Based on a true story.
  • In the Serbian film Neprijatelj (The Enemy), Bosnian Serb soldiers are tasked with de-mining some minefields, only days after the war ended. In a deserted factory in the middle of nowhere, they find a man of unknown ethnicity, walled in a room. They soon find out that, long before they came, both Serb and Bosniak soldiers died trying to keep that man inside. Why? He's the Satan.
  • The Serbian film Sky Hook. Young, disillusioned people spend time playing street basketball in Belgrade during NATO bombing.
  • The Croatian film Will Not End Here tels a story of a former Croatian sniper who tracks down a Serbian woman he saw years before, during the war, through his scope. He finds out she's now being forced to make porn films and decides to buy her off and save her. She can't understand why. During the war, he was ordered to kill her husband, a local Serb commander in Krajina. Patiently waiting for the commander to come home, he gradually fell in love with the woman he watched through his scope. And then, one day, her husband arrived...
  • The Croatian film Crnci (The Blacks). Former members of a Croatian black-ops unit are haunted by what they did during the war.
  • The Croatian film Živi i mrtvi (The living and the Dead). Film follows two separate timelines. One takes places in 1943 in western Bosnia and follows a squad of Croatian soldiers and their fascist superior officers. The other is set in 1993, and follows a group of Bosnian Croat soldiers who venture the same path. In the end, the living will meet the dead.
  • The Bosnian film Gori vatra (translated as the The Fuse) takes place shortly after the war, in a small Bosnian town of Tešanj, where US President Clinton is due to visit. The welcoming committe must fake everything, so as to appear Bosniaks and Serbs live together and get along (they don't), and to appear donation money was well spent (it was stolen). Hilarity Ensues.
  • In the TV-movie Mac Gyver Lost Treasure Of Atlantis, MacGyver and Prof. Atticus go to the Balkans to find Atlantean artifacts. After finding them, they must escape from hostile military forces.
  • Savior features an American soldier turned mercenary who goes to Yugoslavia seeking revenge against muslims because they killed his family. Things become a lot more complicated later on though, as the movie explores themes of redemption, honour, and the effects of war on the civilian population from a very human, "from below" perspective.
  • The documentary-style British movie Warriors chronicles the hopeless struggle of British UN Peacekeepers to prevent crimes commited on the civilian populace in war-torn Bosnia. Despite their honest efforts to save the persecuted refugees that are running from the various guerilla groups, the young soldiers are constantly bullied by their UNPROFOR higher-ups into letting the people they were supposed to protect get killed or be left at the mercy of unscrupolous killers. When the peacekeepers return home, most of them are showing clear signs of PTSD. The title of the movie is semi-ironic, actually referring to the British-built APCs they intended to use for the evacuation of the refugees. The film was released in the US as Peacekeepers.

    Literature 
  • Chinese Sci-Fi writer Cixin Liu's Butterfly of Entropy told the story of a Serbian meteorlogist who tries to creat heavy clouds above his hometown to spare his family from NATO bombing by starting wind current changes in some calculated points (like a butterfly generating a storm). He failed because, it seemed he already generated too much random currents and heat changes on his way.
  • Zlata's Diary, the diary of a young girl named Zlata Filipović documenting her experiences before and during the Siege of Sarajevo. Despite contemporary media comparisons to Anne Frank (which she was understandably uncomfortable with), she escaped the war and is now a writer and film maker in Dublin. She also produced more than 40 pieces ofsadist literature set in Serbia beside this diary.
  • Svedok iz Sarajeva (Witness from Sarajevo) is a book written by a Sarajevo Serb, under pseudonym Boris Jug. He describes his life as a Serb in a largely Muslim city sieged by Serb forces. His life is in danger, but he gets help from unexpected places and manages to flee the city. A book that rather faithfully describes the dangers of everyday life in a war-torn city.
  • SMRT (Death) is a book by Russian writer and oppositionary politician Eduard Limonov. In it, he decribes his travels from Serbian Autonomous Region of East Slavonia in 1991 to Republika Srpska in 1992, the various people he met and dangers he encountered.
  • Jeb'o sad hiljadu dinara (litteral translation: Who gives a f***k about 1000 dinars now) is a bestselling novel by Croatian writer Boris Dežulović. Croatian soldiers go on an undercover mission disguised as Bosniak soldiers. Bosniak soldiers go on an undercover mission disguised as Croatian soldiers. Two groups meet. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Gvozdeni rov (Iron trench) by Milorad Ulemek. Its story is centered arround trench warfare between Serbian and Bosniak forces. At one point, a new and deadly force joins the Bosniak ranks - the Arab Mujahideen.
  • The Untochable by British writer Gerald Seymour takes place in post-war Bosnia, but contains numerous flashbacks set during the war.

    Live Action TV 
  • Two years before the events of the first season of 24, Jack Bauer leads a squad sent to kill Serbian war criminal Viktor Drazen. They fail to do that, but do kill his wife and daughter. Naturally, Drazen isn't happy.
  • In Season 1, Episode 7 of The Agency, one of the agents tries to uncover the truth about his brother's death. Finding out that his brother was last seen at a Serbian checkpoint in Kosovo, he assumes it was the Serbs who killed the brother. Much to the hero's surprise, he finds out that his brother was actually allowed pass the checkpoint but later stumbled upon the opposing faction: the Kosovo Liberation Army. Since wearing (fake) Serbian documents, his brother was immediately lined up together with the captured Serbian civilians, executed and burried in a mass grave.
  • Serbian sitcom Složna braća (Brothers who get along). All three warring factions in Bosnia got their respective political entities, each gaining 33,33% of land. This leaves 0,01% as a UN administered no man's land. The story centeres around a caffe/motel/whorehouse owned by a Bosnian Muslim, located in this small piece of land. Muslims, Serbs, Croats and UN soldiers alike visit his establishment. The series is known for both straight and reverse use of national stereotypes and somewhat dark humor.
  • Waking the Dead has Dr. Tara Fitzgerald having done forensic work in the former Yugoslavia. In one episode, the team investigate a case she worked on and results in a Crowning Moment of Awesome as those responsible are identified by three witnesses a decade later.
  • New Tricks A Serbian war criminal went into hiding as a monk in an addiction clinic and killed a man who recognised him.
  • In NCIS, Dr. Donald Mallard worked on war graves in the former Yugoslavia.
  • Many episodes in the early seasons of JAG, including the pilot, takes place in the background of this conflict.
  • The pilot for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has Stabler and Benson investigating the murder of a cab driver... who turned out to be a Serbian war criminal and rapist who was done in by his victims.
  • ER had Dr. Luka Kovac, a Croatian who lost his wife and two children during the conflict. Incidentally, Goran Visnjic had also appeared prior to the series as one of the main characters in the aforementioned Welcome to Sarajevo.
  • The Death of Yugoslavia by BBC is probably by far one of the best documentaries about the war. Not only does it give great insight in every faction and their motivations, but also explains quite well how step by step Yugoslavia became fragmented and collapsed from within.
  • An episode of Extras features Ben Stiller directing a movie set during the Yugoslav Wars and based on the life of a real survivor.
  • An episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia features the gang working as extras on the set of a movie about the Yugoslav Wars. Frank and Dee play corpses during a scene of ethnic cleansing, but they refuse to sit still.
  • In the Community episode "Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy", Britta begins dating Lukka, who is from the Balkans. She assumes that he's a Woobie war survivor, but later discovers that this isn't quite so:
    Lukka: So much killing. The corpses stacked like firewood, the rivers red with their blood. I miss it so much.
    Britta: Oh, Lukka! [starts kissing him, but then pulls back] Wait, just to clarify, when you say you miss it, it's like you have survivor's guilt; like you wish you were back over there defending the motherland, right?
    Lukka: Yes, I miss cleansing our fields and forests of the unclean people who stole my country. I miss the smell of the villages burning. [laughs wistfully] I miss the way they used to run from our tanks in fear.
  • In the TV series Motive, one episode has a peaceekeeper discovering that the Bosnian Serb doctor who refused medical treatment to injured Muslims has escaped to Canada.

    Music 

     Video Games 
  • The protagonist of Grand Theft Auto IV, Niko Bellic, is a Serbian veteran of the Yugoslav Wars, particularly Bosnia.
  • T-72: Balkans on Fire is set during one of the Yugoslav Wars in which the player is a Russian volunteer fighting on the Serbian side, mostly against the Croats.
  • Back to Kosovo is a high-quality fan-made mod for Ghost Recon. The player can control Serbian soldiers during the Kosovo war.
  • Kosovo Sunrise is a mod for Blitzkrieg, made by a member of the Panzerkrieg development team. The player can control Serbian troops during the Kosovo war.
  • Nova Logic 1997 flight simulator F-16 Multirole Fighter featured a campaign in which NATO bombs Serbia. This was made two years before NATO actually bombed Serbia! However, they didn't bother to look up the maps - Serbia is portrayed as an island.
  • Soldierof Fortune has a mission in Kosovo, where a fictional Serbian militia threatens to use a captured F-117 and a smuggled nuclear bomb, while NATO bombs them...again. This rather absurd sub-plot drew attention of Serbian players who laughed at numerous errors in geography, factography, logic etc. Narm Charm at its finest.
  • Tactics Ogre is very heavily based off the Yugoslav wars. Seriously, just replace the names of Dolgare with Tito and all the ethnic groups with Croatian, Serbian, and Bosnian note . They do not shy away from showing the hatred between the three factions either.
  • Markov from Ace Combat: Assault Horizon was a Russian who participated in this conflict, most likely on the side of the Serbians. His Start of Darkness occurs when an American airstrike accidentally kills his wife (most likely a reference to the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade by the U.S.).
  • Steel Panthers, specifically WinSPMBT, covers almost all the various factions involved in the wars.
  • This War of Mine draws heavily from the interviews of survivors of the siege of Sarajevo to inform its experience.