Country Listing

Yugoslavia Table of Contents


The Yugoslav Nations

In 1990 national identity remained a vital characteristic in Yugoslavia, and distrust across ethnic boundaries persisted. Second only to the government bureaucracy, nationalism and ethnically based discrimination provided the universal explanation for all evils befalling the Yugoslav peoples. Kosovan Albanians complained that Macedonians purposely built their province's roads badly; Serbs complained that the Slovenes exploited their economy and that they were the victims of plotting Croats, Slovenes, and "Islamic-fundamentalist" ethnic Albanians; Croats and Slovenes feared Serbian domination and complained of the lack of discipline of their fellow Yugoslavs to the south.

The deepest and oldest national rivalry in Yugoslavia was the one between the Serbs and Croats, who despite their shared language possessed different social and value systems and political cultures. Two sayings illustrated these animosities and the essential difference in the inherited political styles of both peoples. The first says: "The very way of life of a Serb and Croat is a deliberate provocation by each to the other." The second, a self-complimentary Serbian stereotype, holds that in a conflict with authority "the Serb reaches for the sword and the Croat for his pen." The Serbian stereotype refers to the tradition of the hajduk, the idealized mountain renegade who responded violently to the oppressive anarchy of the Ottoman Empire during its last two centuries; the Croatian stereotype reflects the cultural influence of responding through the legal system to the Habsburgs' highly bureaucratized infringements on national and individual freedoms in Croatia.

Data as of December 1990