The conflict in the Balkans is interesting because for years,
reporters and politicians have touted it as being the result of
ancient ethnic hatred but that isn’t the case. The people of the
region lived together peacefully for centuries and any conflicts that
have arose among people were based not on ethnic origin but other
things like class, ruling party, etc. In fact, any problems that have
arose in the former Yugoslavia have more to do with the issues raised
by nationalism that developed during World War II and not centuries of
three different peoples living together.

This paper will explore the history of the conflict in the

Balkans from the time shortly after Josip Tito passed away until just
before the Dayton Accords. Additionally, it will be shown that at
each of the three distinct points of the conflict, the international
community and the United States had it within their power to stop the
violence. The three distinct phases are Kosovo, secession, and Bosnia
and at each point, the lack of action or overreaction of the
international community failed to solve the problem.

The first phase of Yugoslavian disintegration can be
attributed to the conditions of the people living in Kosovo, an
autonomous province of Yugoslavia. In 1981, the socioeconomic
conditions in Kosovo were far worse than those in the other republics
of Yugoslavia. Poverty was rampant and unemployment was around twenty
percent as compared to about two percent in Slovenia that same year.

The standard of living in Kosovo was deplorable and whatever aid that
was given to the province by the federal government was mismanaged
(Samary, 65).

Another significant problem with this particular province was
that while the Serbs claimed the province as the “Cradle of Serbian

Empire” because of a legendary battle and defeat that happened at

Kosovo in 1389, the Albanians constituted approximately eighty percent
of the population of Kosovo. In reality, Kosovo could be claimed more
by the Albanian majority than by the Serb minority. Many of the
valiant warriors who fought and died at the Battle of Kosovo were in
fact Albanian warriors, a fact seldom acknowledged by the Serb
leadership. Furthermore, historical evidence suggests that Illyrians,
the ancestors of Albanians, formed their first communities in Kosovo.

The “Serb Empire” was not as grand and powerful as modern Serbia
would contend. Relations between Albanians and Serbs were good in the

Middle Ages because of the many reasons that tensions exist today
between nation states i.e. customs, trade, immigration, and so on
(Samary, 36). Kosovo, by nearly all accounts but the Serb
interpretation of the Battle of Kosovo, is an Albanian area.

Albanians were given majority rule of Kosovo in the 1960’s by

Tito in order to act as a hegemon to the power of Serbia. Under
independent rule, the region was able to make available an Albanian
curriculum and Albanian culture grew in importance. Economically,
however, Kosovo was still suffering since whatever gains the economy
made were outdone by the gains in population made by the Albanian

Muslims who averaged six to eight children per family. The power in

Kosovo was vested in a small group of elite Albanians who did well at
advancing national identity and improving education and other public
works but who were poor at managing and maintaining a functional
economy. Whenever federal funds were given to the province, those
elites at the top either wasted the money on grandiose projects and
ornate buildings or on their new and privileged lifestyles (Bennett,


On March 11, 1981, the students of Pristina University, in

Kosovo, organized a protest against the deplorable living conditions
on the campus. At the protest, they voiced their malcontent with the
poverty and unemployment if life in Kosovo. They then marched to the
provincial League of Communists only to have the demonstration halted
by the police. The leadership of the League of Communists demanded
that the leaders of the protests be brought into custody fearing that
if the leadership of the protests remained, the protests would
continue. The police complied and in a moment of solidarity with the
student leaders, students poured into the streets demanding that their
classmates be released from custody. The unrest was escalated by
excessive police brutality and on April 3, 1981, Belgrade imposed
martial law (Bennett, 89).

It is suggested that this particular time in the history of

Yugoslavia is when the disintegration of Yugoslavia occurred. Tito
had died less than a year before the incident in Kosovo and the

Yugoslav Army (JNA) was pointing their weapons at fellow Yugoslavians.

For the first time in Tito’s Yugoslavia, the federal government had
sided with one ethnic group over another and because of this change in
policy toward Kosovo, Serbia was able