The Third Balkan War


Alleged Bosnian prisoners in a Serb-run Concentration Camp in Bosnia, 1992  

Concentration Camp Bosnia

Yugoslavia (literally, Land of the South Slavs), was a nation born out of the ashes of World War One, created through the merger of the mostly Catholic regions of Slovenia and Croatia with the Eastern Orthodox Kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro. Included in the new nation was the land of Bosnia, ethnically and religiously divided among Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Slavs. In southern Yugoslavia lay the region of Kosovo, a fairly new addition to Serbia, containing a largely Muslim population which spoke Albanian. Until World War 2, this land of many nationalities held together fairly well. Then, with the Axis invasion of 1941 and the subsequently brutal occupation by the Germans and Italians, the old ethnic divisions surfaced into a very bitter civil war. This conflict primarily pitted the Croats, who allied themselves with the Axis, against Serbs. Following the war, the Communist dictator, Josip Broz Tito, reunited Yugoslavia with a firm hand, imprisoning nationalists from all sides. Following his death 1980, the system he held together slowly began to unravel.

By 1991, the Serbian politician Slobodan Milosovic gained power in Yugoslavia through inciting Serb nationalism. Along with growing nationalistic feelings in the other parts of Yugoslavia, the day came when Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from what they saw as a nation dominated by Serbs. The Yugoslav Army attempted to prevent the breakaway republics from leaving, but soon failed. Serbs living in southern and western Croatia then attempted to break away and form a new nation called Krajina. In 1992, Bosnia also broke away from Yugoslavia, precipitating yet another war. In southern Yugoslavia, the region called Macedonia broke away peacefully to form an independent nation.


Below is a listing, with some detail, of what can be called "The Third Balkan War." Yugoslavia is a part of the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. The first two Balkan Wars were short conflicts at the start of the Twentieth Century. As this war can be divided into wars within wars within yet more wars, each separate conflict is indented, showing which larger war it is a part of. As the former Yugoslavia continues to subdivide itself with each new conflict, more wars are added. The latest conflicts are the Kosovo War of 1998-1999, the Presevo Rebellion of 2000-Present, and the new Albanian Uprising in Macedonia, which began in March of 2001.


Third Balkan War (1991-Present)-The breakup of Yugoslavia can be seen as one long conflict divided into at least nine (and counting) separate wars, rebellions and uprisings, all which involve parts of the disintegrated Balkan nation.
Yugoslav Civil War (1991-1992)-The breakup of Yugoslavia as one nation, involved two separate but related wars. The Yugoslav regions of Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from the Belgrade government.
Slovenian War of Independence (1991)-Slovenia's war against the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav Army was short and victorious. This was due in part to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's realization that his main worry was the war in neighboring Croatia.

Croatian War of Independence (1991-1995)-Croatia fought both the Yugoslav/Serbian Army and Serb rebels in the Krajina region.

Krajina Rebellion (1991-1995)-Croatia's Serb minority attempted to form a separate nation during the Croatian War of Independence from Yugoslavia. The Serb rebels succeeded in driving the Croatian military out of the Krajina region bordering Bosnia. However, in May of 1995, the Croatian Army launched an effective offensive (Operation Storm), which forced an end to the Krajina Republic. As a result of this action, most Krajina Serbs fled into Serbia in a form of "ethnic cleansing." The Yugoslav/Serb Army aided the Krajina rebels. Many of these Serb refugees settled in the Voyvodina region of northern Serbia, but some of them moved to the Serb province of Kosovo, which erupted into war in 1998.

During the Bosnian War, airplanes from Krajina bombed Muslim held Bihac in Bosnia. Following this, NATO warplanes bombed the Serb airfield at Udbina in Krajina.

Bosnian Civil War (1992-1995) -Also involved Croatia, Yugoslavia/Serbia and NATO. In April of 1992, Bosnia declared independence from Yugoslavia. Almost immediately, the Bosnian Serb population rebelled against the Muslim and Croatian portions of the new nation. Parts of the war saw the Muslims and Croatians cooperate against their common foe, but from 1993-1994, Bosnia saw a three-way war when the Muslims and Croats battled each other as well as fighting the Serbs. Troops from Serbia/Yugoslavia and the rebel Krajina area entered Bosnia to aid the Bosnian Serbs, while the Croatian Army aided the Bosnian Croat forces. In April, 1994, NATO forces began selected, limited bombing of Serb positions around the capital of Sarajevo in an attempt to force the Serbs to the peace table.

General Ratko Mladic

General Ratko Mladic during the Bosnian War in 1995

On February 5, 1994, Serb artillery, under the command of General Ratko Mladic, hit a marketplace in Sarajevo, causing severe civilian casualties. This caused increased American pressure on the Muslims and Croats to stop fighting each other and unite against the Serbs. On Feb. 23, both sides signed a cease-fire, which soon led to the formation of the Muslim/Croat Bosnian Federation.

August 28, 1995, Serb mortars cause 37 civilian dead in Sarajevo. Major NATO (Operation Deliberate Force) airstrikes against the Serbs began on August 30 and continued until a bombing pause on September 14. U.S. airpower contributed 65.9% of the NATO air sorties. At this point, the Bosnian Serbs agreed to end the fighting and participate as a part of the Bosnian nation.

Fikrit Abdic Uprising (Autumn of 1993- 1995) --In addition to fighting the Serbs and Croats, the Bosnian (mostly Muslim) government also had to deal with an uprising by a Bosnian Muslim businessman named Fikrit Abdic. He allied himself with local Serb forces against the government. In July, 1995, Bosnian government forces captured Abdic's stronghold in the Bihac region. News article on Bihac Muslims following Abdic's fall.
Sources on the Bosnian War:

CRS 93056: Bosnia: U.S. Military Operations

Former Yugoslavia Chronology

Bombs Over Bosnia: The Role of Airpower in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Unconquered Bosnia--Website containing numerous articles on the Bosnia War.

NATO and U.N. Involvement in Bosnia

Kosovo War (1998-1999) Links Page-Also involved NATO. Ethnic Albanians living in the Serbian province of Kosovo sought independence from the Yugoslav Serb government in Belgrade. After a 78-day bombing campaign by NATO forces, the Serbian army evacuated Kosovo. See also The History Guy: Warfare and Conflict Between Kosovar Albanians and Serbs Since 1912.

Presevo Rebellion (2000-2001)-One of the latest conflicts to come out of the Yugoslav breakup is a small (so far), rebellion by ethnic Albanians living in the Presevo Valley region of Serbia. This area borders on Kosovo.

Albanian Uprising in Macedonia (2001)-The latest conflict to come out of the Yugoslav breakup is a violent rebellion by ethnic Albanians living in the area of Macedonia bordering on Kosovo and Serbia. Macedonia is the southernmost of the new post-Yugoslav nations. Albanians form a sizable minority in Macedonia.



1. Kohn, George C. Dictionary of Wars. New York: Facts On File Publications, 1986.

3. Langer, William L., ed. An Encyclopedia of World History. 5th ed. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1972.

4. Banks, Arthur S., ed. Political Handbook of the World: 1994-1995. 5th ed. Binghamton, NY: CSA Publications, 1995.

5. Internal Wars and Failures of Governance, 1954-1996--By the State Failure Project.


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