restricted access 2. The Collapse of Yugoslavia and the Balkan Wars
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2 The Collapse of Yugoslavia and the Balkan Wars Spring 2012 marked the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of the war in Bosnia, which was the longest and bloodiest conflict in Europe since World War II. In total nearly 100,000 people were killed during the conflict, almost half of them civilians, and more than 2 million were driven from their homes.1 The war also introduced to the world the phrase “ethnic cleansing” to describe the murderous campaigns to carve out ethnically homogenous territories from Bosnia’s formerly mixed spaces. The most notorious instance of this was the slaughter of eight thousand Bosniak men and boys by the Bosnian Serb army (VRS) at Srebrenica in July 1995. After three and a half years of fighting the warring parties signed the Dayton Peace Agreement in November 1995. The DPA established a complex consociational state in Bosnia. It also made provisions for extensive postwar peacebuilding activities by a variety of international actors. The international presence continues to this day, albeit in a much more limited fashion, making it one of the longest running and most intensive cases of postwar peacebuilding intervention to date. Indeed, Bosnia represents a 34 Chapter 2 pivotal transition from international peacekeeping interventions with limited mandates and timetables which proliferated at the end of the Cold War—e.g., Angola, Namibia, El Salvador, Mozambique—to more robust and open-ended peacebuilding and statebuilding projects in the past decade such as Kosovo, East Timor, Afghanistan, and Iraq.2 To date the record in Bosnia is decidedly mixed. On one hand the country remains at peace, thousands of displaced families and individuals have reclaimed their prewar homes—though fewer have returned to live in them—and multiple parties compete in elections that are generally regarded as free and fair. On the other hand, postwar economic growth has been desultory, corruption is endemic, and Bosnian politics is still dominated by nationalist parties that continue to pursue divisive policies aimed at maintaining control over what they perceive as their respective ethnic territories. Additionally, as noted in the introduction, tensions remain high and small-scale, ethnically charged violence is not uncommon. Conditions in the country have also declined precipitously in recent years. Following general elections in October 2010 squabbling political elites took more than fourteen months to agree on a new governing coalition. Moreover, the global economic crisis hit Bosnia especially hard, exacerbating already high unemployment figures and causing budget deficits to balloon. Political and economic stagnation has also been accompanied by mounting nationalist rhetoric, with politicians—especially in the RS—now openly challenging the state structures established at Dayton.3 The war and postwar period in Bosnia can be quite confusing. Even those who study the region often have trouble keeping track of the various places, actors, political alliances, and institutional arrangements. In this chapter I provide (1) a brief narrative of Bosnia and the broader region from the collapse of Yugoslavia to the end of the war, as well as a short sketch of events in Brčko and Mostar, and (2) a description of Bosnia’s current political system as well as the various international organizations and actors who have been involved in postwar peacebuilding efforts. The purpose here is not to plumb the causes of the disintegration of Yugoslavia and subsequent war in Bosnia, or provide a detailed analysis of peacebuilding activities throughout the country, all of which have already been discussed elsewhere.4 Rather, the aim is to provide sufficient background for readers with an interest in postwar peacebuilding in Bosnia who are not area specialists. The Collapse of Yugoslavia and the Balkan Wars 35 The Collapse of Yugoslavia The outbreak of armed conflict in Yugoslavia was a surprise to most outsiders. Prior to this the country was known around the world for more positive reasons such as playing successful host to the 1984 Winter Olympics; it’s long and beautiful Adriatic coastline, which attracted several hundred thousand European vacationers each summer; and being one of the driving forces behind the nonaligned movement, a group of countries that sought out a third way between the capitalist West and the Soviet-led Communist bloc during the Cold War. The nonaligned movement was the brainchild of Josip Broz “Tito,” the country’s iconic communist leader from the end of World War II until his death in 1980. Tito’s deft diplomatic maneuvering produced significant foreign aid, loans, and investment from the West, contributing to one of the highest standards of...


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