Useful Notes: The Yugoslav Wars aka: Yugoslav Wars
"Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand." - Matthew 25legend Yellow = Slovenia. Blue = Croatia. Purple = Macedonia. Green = Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bright Red = Yugoslavia. Dark Red = Serbia. Dark But Comparably Lighter Red = Kosovo. Gray = Montenegro.
"If you saw what I see for the future of Yugoslavia, it would scare you."
Croatian War of Independence (1991 - 1995): Croatia vs. Yugoslavia and the Republika Srpska Krajina (1991 - 1992); Croatia vs. the Republika Srpska Krajina (1992 - 1995). Croatian victory. 22,699 dead.
Basically, without somebody to hold it together, Yugoslavia ripped itself apart 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 manipulating myths about religion to serve their own 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. For several months after that, Albanian extremists proceeded to destroy old Serbian monuments (usually christian churches) and killing non-Albanian population. In 2008. Albanians in Kosovo claimed independence which is only partially recognized by the international community.
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.
There has always been a different interpretation of the character of Yugoslavia itself. While Slovenes and Croats saw Yugoslavia as a confederation of sovereign states similar to the EU and the USSR, the Serbs saw Yugoslavia as one sovereign state that could be crated and dissolved with the consent of all constitutive ethnic groups. Train wreck ensued.
Karadžić may be the best example of a subversion. He was most likely a typical nerd and a beta male who was trying to act like an alpha male with predictable results. He had absolutely no control and authority over the VRS (some go even as far and say that Mladić has always been the most powerful man in the Republika Srpska) and in spite of being urged by Milošević to return to the negotiation table (as the Srpska already achieved her goals by holding 68% of Bosnia, more than the planned 62%) and in spite of Mladić openly stating that the horribly undermanned VRS would, beyond any reasonable doubts, not be able to hold off an eventual combined offensive of the HV, HVO, ArBiH and NATO (which later happened), Karadžić's ego prevented him to return to the negotiations before thousands of Serbs were killed and expelled from Western Bosnia. Ugh!
Balkanize Me: Although not quite the Trope Namer—that would be the gradual disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th and early century, cemented by World War I—it certainly brought the term back into widespread use.
Draft Dodging: One of the main reasons the JNA failed her objectives in Croatia. As the people in Serbia and Montenegro felt for various reasons very apathetic towards the wars, Montenegro managed to draft 28% of her soldiers for the war while Serbia, the most powerful, largest and most inhabited republic, got only 11%. The low motivation was also the reason Serb media went far too often overboard in their propaganda efforts.
The Dreaded: Arkan. Bosniak civilians immediately left their homes when they heard rumors that he and his troops were advancing towards their village/town. For a goodreason. This trope combined with the government's protection was also the main reason why in Serbia he was untouchable before he stopped being useful to Belgrade.
Eagle Squadron: Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and Serbs all had foreigners head over to help them out. As a general rule, Bosniaks received aid in form of Mujahideen from the Muslim Arab world, Bosnian and Croatian Serbs were aided by volunteers from Serbia, Greece and Russia, and Croats from the United States, Latin American and (mostly Catholic) Western European countries like Ireland, Germany, Scotland, Slovakia, Spain etc.
Enemy Mine: In the early stages of the war Tuđman and Milošević made a deal to carve up Bosnia between Croatia and Serbia. And in 1994, Croats and Bosniaks allied themselves under US pressure against the Serbs.
Epic Fail: Serbia's post-Đinđić policy in a nutshell.
Expy: Milošević and Tuđman attempted to be the next Tito and failed at it. Ironically the closest thing to Tito's Expy is Milo Đukanović but mostly on the grounds of being a Long Runner.
Fighting for a Homeland: More or less every party, save the UN and NATO forces, had this reason in mind. Unfortunately, every homeland just so happened to included parts of someone else's homeland. While the Croats and Bosniaks fought for the territorial integrity of their homeland, the Serbs of the Croatian Krajna and Bosnia sought separation from said countries and annexation by Serbia which is why the Serbs wanted to remain in Yugoslavia while others sought independence. The ethnic composition of Yugoslavia◊ made a lot of things easier said then done.
Follow the Leader: Franjo Tuđman had a uniform◊ that was similar to Tito's◊. There is even a popular joke in former Yugoslavia describing this trope: Tito and Tuđman meet each other in hell. Tuđman greets him with "Hello dictator!" while Tito replies with "Hello imitator!".
Funny Moment / Black Comedy : The trials in the Hague have a lot of these with most of the humor being unintentional. Even without any political bias a neutral person would come to the conclusion that the only thing the ICTY is lacking is a Laugh Track. Šešelj's trial in particular is a hilarious train wreck.
On a lighter note: When Dale Zelko (the F-117 pilot) and Zoltan Dani (the ethnic Hungarian commander of the Serb forces who shot him down) met, Zelko gave him as a present a model of the F-117 saying jokingly "please don't break it like the last time".
Glamorous Wartime Singer: All sides spawned a lot of examples of this trope who depended on nationalism instead of sex appeal. Most of them can't exactly be described as "glamorous" however.
Go Karting with Bowser: A lot of (alleged) war criminals who were former enemies became close friends in Hague custody. In fact, the Hague has been often referred as the "Last Bastion of Brotherhood and Unity".
Improvised Weapon : Croatia and Bosnia were woefully unequipped when the Serbian offensives started, so they had to resort to this very often. A notable example was Croatia having so few combat-capable planes that it had to resort to making makeshift bombers out of Antonov An-2 cropdusters. Shockingly, itworked! Using these flying technicals, the Croats were able to take out quite a lot of Serbian fortifications, armoured vehicles and camps around Vukovar, at least partially alleviating the city from the ongoing siege. Bosnia was in an even worse position concerning military equipment : The unconquered territory had virtually no meaningful air force left, the armoured vehicles were mostly obsolete and both the regular and irregular infantry had to be stretched to near breaking point to just hold at least a part of the long front line that sliced the country into very uneven parts. Unsurprisingly, this desperation and hunger for better weaponry caused a lot of Break Out the Museum Piece moments - with one notable case being preserved WWII era armoured cars being refitted with modern weaponry◊ and sent to the front. Croatia eventually built up a proper army thanks to foreign aid and some emergency purchases by the second half of the war, and created what's now a well-regarded arms industry out of practically nothing. Bosnia was less fortunate in this regard.
La Résistance: In practice: everyone (or no one, depending on how you look at it,) even though Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia and a diminished Yugoslavia were internationally recognized countries throughout the war.
Męlée ŕ Trois: The Bosnian War was Serbs vs Bosniaks vs Croats until 1994.
Moment Of Awesome: Serbia became the first country to actually shoot down a stealth aircraft. The wreckage was recovered by Serbia, and is believed to have been thoroughly examined by Russian officials; some pieces are currently on display in Belgrade. See below for how they did it.
Locals even printed up T-Shirts reading "SORRY! We didn't know it was invisible. Greetings from Serbia!".
Never Live It Down: An own page of this may be even longer than the main page itself. Reading the forums and comment sections of the local online newspapers one may get the impression that the war still continues.
Interestingly the Serbs, who are blamed for every possible and impossible ill, have a far more open discussion about their wrongs and the role of their leaders in the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Others... not somuch...
The Nineties: The wars encompassed all years of this decade, sans 1990 (and they even spilled into 2000 and 2001).
Rock Beats Laser: The aforementioned Bosnian and Croatian improvised weaponry and vehicles. During the first months of the war bazookas made out sewer pipes and explosives taken from Serb dud grenades were pretty much the only weapons making up Sarajevos anti-armor defense. In addition, during Operation Allied Force, Serbia had used many unconventional tactics to match with a technologically advanced foe. Among things they used were burning hay to fool IR guided weapons, adding more reflective surfaces to farm equipment to fool radar and radar-guided weapons (such as Laser-Guided Bombs), then there was the incident of the F-117 being shot down. This was done by using a radar that operated at long wavelengths, allowing the aircraft to be detected for brief periods of time, but it was enough to shoot the aircraft down.
While the use of long-wave radar was important, a fair bit of the responsibility for the F-117 shoot-down rests on the USAF. F-117s had used identical and similar flight paths in many previous raids, and the Serbs were able to work out the flight paths via the brief glimpses their radar granted them. Serbian spotters watched for incoming F-117s on infrared equipment, the idea being that the batteries could zero in on its vector for a better chance of a clear detection, and kill.
The Bosniaks did some incredible things with ham radio operators, breaking codes the Serbs didn't even think the the Muslims in Bosnian could intercept, let alone break.
The Remnant: The Republika Srpska and the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo.
The Eastern Slavonian part around Erdut of the Republika Srpska Krajina used to be this trope before it was peacefully reintegrated in 1998. Today the RSK has a Belgrade-centered government in exile since 2005.
Those Wacky Nazis: A lot of Neo-Nazis fought on the Croatian side while some of the Greek volunteers who aided the Serbs came from the Golden Dawn party.
The Siege: The Battle of Vukovar featured a force of around 2,200 Croatian infantry fighting against a much larger Serbian force that had armor and air support. Despite being horribly outmatched and surrounded, the Croats held out for 87 days and inflicted heavy casualties on their enemies in brutal street-to-street fighting.
The Siege of Sarajevo holds the record as longest siege in modern history.
Tank Goodness: Many different tanks were used during the wars, from World War II era T-34s to the much more modern M-84s. However, they usually proved rather ineffective for various reasons (bad terrain, lack of maintenance, lack of properly trained crews etc.).
Urban Warfare: Bosnia's capital Sarajevo and the Croatian border town of Vukovar in particular. Many settlements, both big and small, were besieged during the wars...
Vestigial Empire: The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (consisting of Serbia and Montenegro) considered itself as the legal succesor of the Socialist Federal Republic Yugoslavia. Though the UN and the other former Yugoslav republics think otherwise, which is why the FRY had to (re)apply for UN-membership.
Vetinari Job Security: Once Tito died, the Clock started ticking on when this whole can of worms would open.
As of late the Albanian hero Shqiponja◊ joined the ranks of obscure wartime propaganda mascots.
War for Fun and Profit: Dozens. Arkan was the most prominent one from the Serb side who build a lot of his fortune from pillaging Bosniak and Croat homes and according to rumors even fellow Serbs. Some Bosniak commanders in Sarajevo, Srebrenica and Bihać made a fortune making black market deals with the Serbs and often extracted money from the locals they were "protecting". Even on the American side we have Wesley Clark (taking over Kosovo's coal mines) and Madeline Albright (taking over Kosovo's telecom) as an aftermath of the war. It is evident that for a lot of the political elite of the ex-Yugoslavia on the various sides, this trope was the main motivation for the war, using the ethnic hatreds of their respective peoples and the more sincere compatriots in the elite as a pretext. Needless to say the smell of Yugoslavia's carcass attracted a lot of hyenas and vultures.
Witness Protection: What both the Serb prosecution and the ICTY failed at during the trial against Haradinaj.
Won the War, Lost the Peace: Despite winning independence, a significant number of people in the new countries feel they're worse off than before the war. The reasons are mostly economic (high unemployment and corruption) rather than political (though a number of people are nostalgic for the old country - a phenomenon known as Yugo-nostalgia).
Seriba militarily defeated the KLA by May 1999, had only minimal military casualties during the entire war and successfully repulsed a combined KLA, Albanian and NATO offensive from Albania. The Kumanovo Treaty even allowed a limited number of Serb policemen and soldiers to return to Kosovo under KFOR jurisdiction in order to protect not only the Serbs and other non-Albanians but also the churches and other Serb cultural monuments. Sadly for them the the catastrophic and shortsighted policies of Koštunica and Tadić, just like the United States abusing it's position, destroyed any last hopes of Serbia ever peacefully reintegrating Kosovo.
Macedonia defeated the NLA and was about to put the final nail in their coffin with one decisive offensive that would have also politically weakened the Albanians significantly. The offensive was cancelled due to American preassure and the Ohrid Agreement was signed which granted a lot of consessions to the Macedonian Albanians. What sounds fine and dandy in the first place gave the Albanians the opportunity to politically blackmail Macedonia at their whim, which they do. On top of that the ethnic tensions between Macedonians and Albanians are sadly far from being resolved.
Inverted with the Republika Srpska. Being under heavy sanctions from Serbia since 1994 and having no means to repel the combined military apparatus of the Bosniaks, the Bosnian Croats, Croatia and NATO, the Republika Srpska evaded utter defeat and total collapse by agreeing to the Dayton Agreement and being saved by the Americans the same way just like the Macedonian Albanians above. Today the Republika Srpska is the politically more stable entity in Bosnia and the Serbs have 49% of Bosnia and Herzegovina for themselves. Like the Macedonian Albanians above, the Bosnian Serbs are in a perfect position to obstruct anything that is against their interests.
Zerg Rush / We Have Reserves: A popular tactic used by the ArBiH and one of the main reasons for their horrendous casualties.
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.
No Man's 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 Funnyas well asRule of Dramaensues. The film has a majorDowner 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 Underground 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, some critics accused it of being Serbian nationalistic propoganda and of having an overly idealistic portrayal of communist Yugoslavia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.