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1945-1992 - Socialist Yugoslavia

Military success eventually prompted the Allies to support the Partisans, and the end of the war resulted in the establishment of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), with the constitution of 1946 officially making Bosnia and Herzegovina one of six constituent republics in the new state. Because of its great losses during the war and to prevent future bloodshed, Tito gave Bosnia a constitution and the status as an independent republic within the Yugoslav State, defined by its historic existence. Tito also created Macedonia as a separate republic.

Tito was initially linked to Stalin, but he soon split in order to establish his own brand of socialism. "Titoism" gave him a leading role in the Cold War as the leader of Yugoslavia - a "non-aligned state". Tito established strict rules against the expression of "nationalism," and his unique brand of totalitarianism successfully kept the peace within Yugoslavia. Tito had killed many of his opponents after he secured victory in 1945, and throughout his leadership he imprisoned activists for nationalist movements (including Alija Izetbegovic and Radovan Karadzic). Post-war Yugoslavia was a socialist state based on the Communist party, the Jugoslavija Narodna Armija (JNA), the Police (or militia) and the concept of workers' self-management. For 45 years, Tito's totalitarianism kept ethnic peace within Yugoslavia. The concept that he continually advocated was called "Brotherhood and Unity."

Because of its central geographic position within the Yugoslavian federation, post-war Bosnia was strategically selected as a base for the development of the military defense industry. This contributed to a large concentration of arms and military personnel in Bosnia; a significant factor in the war that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. However, Bosnia's existence within Yugoslavia, for the large part, was peaceful and prosperous. Being one of the poorer republics in the early 1950s it quickly recovered economically, taking advantage of its extensive natural resources to stimulate industrial development. The Yugoslavian communist doctrine of "brotherhood and unity" particularly suited Bosnia's diverse and multi-ethnic society that, because of such an imposed system of tolerance, thrived culturally and socially.

When the FRY was founded there had been only two recognized ethnic groups, Bosnian-Croats and Serbs. In 1968, the Bosnian-Muslims were also declared to be a distinct nation. A new constitution adopted in 1974 led to increased decentralization of governmental powers, giving the six federal states of the republic more political and economic independence, and giving Vojvodina and Kosovo autonomous status. Economic and political developments from 1974 to 1980 set the scene for the ruin of Yugoslavia and the beginning of new conflict in the Balkans.

On May 4, 1980, Tito died at age 88 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. After his death, there was increasing resentment of centralized government control. The state-run socialist economy continued to stagnate, as was the case in most of communist Eastern Europe. It was compounded by two facts: a return of the masses of Yugoslav guest-workers who returned home in the face of a depressed economy in Western Europe; and by the end of the favorable position Yugoslavia had held as a non-aligned nation between the US and USSR during the Cold War.

Though considered a political backwater of the federation for much of the 50s and 60s, the 70s saw the ascension of a strong Bosnian political elite. While working within the communist system, politicians such as Džemal Bijedic, Branko Mikulic and Hamdija Pozderac reinforced and protected the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their efforts proved key during the turbulent period following Tito's death in 1980, and are today considered some of the early steps towards Bosnian independence. However, the republic hardly escaped the increasingly nationalistic climate of the time unscathed. With the fall of communism and the start of the break-up of Yugoslavia, the old communist doctrine of tolerance began to lose its potency, creating an opportunity for nationalist elements in the society to spread their influence.

Nationalist demands and calls for increased autonomy grew among the various ethnic groups of Yugoslavia. Deteriorating economic circumstances led to ethnic tensions, as nationalist politicians sought scapegoats to blame for the difficult economic times. Increasingly, there were fears by other groups of Serb domination in the region. In the spring of 1981 clashes occurred in Kosovo between the Serb administration and numerous Kosovo Albanians calling for status as the seventh republic, but not for independence. This situation led to bloody and violent demonstrations, which were severely suppressed by the police as well as by tanks of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA).

In February 1984, the city of Sarajevo successfully hosted the Winter Olympics - an international symbol of peace and tolerance. In May 1986, Slobodan Milosevic, a former manager of a gas company, became head of the communist party of Serbia and stressed Serbian ultra-nationalism. The 600th anniversary of the battle of Kosovo Polje on June 28, 1989 provided Milosevic with an opportunity to clearly state his support for the Serb nation, demonstrating pure Serbian chauvinism by claiming tighter control over Kosovo. In March 1989 the autonomous status of Vojvodina and Kosovo was annulled, and those regions, against their collective wills, again became integral parts of Serbia. The dismantling of Tito's multi-ethnic Yugoslavia was underway.

In the 1980s, the political positions of Bosnia-Hercegovina (respectively, the northern and southern parts of a region administered as a unit since the eighteenth century) were consistently conservative and cool to the reforms adopted in other republics. This political atmosphere changed dramatically in the late 1980s. The entire political structure of Bosnia-Hercegovina was shaken by the Agrokomerc banking scandal of 1987, which the Yugoslav press compared to the American Watergate scandal. Hamdija Pozderac, vice president and Bosnian representative in the national State Presidency, was forced to resign because of his link to Agrokomerc. A number of republiclevel officials also resigned, and more than 100 party members were arrested. The scandal revealed corrupt financial dealings of politicians all over Yugoslavia, but public trust was most badly damaged in the republic where the scandal began. After wholesale replacement of political figures, a young group of progressives, led by President Nijaz Djurakovic, came to power in 1989.

When the new Yugoslav State Presidency was chosen in 1989, students and progressive members of the republic's Socialist Alliance of working People exerted pressure for popular election of the new representative from Bosnia and Hercegovina. Although this did not occur, pressure for democratization was a significant new phenomenon. On national issues, BosniaHercegovina reflected its own multi-ethnic composition of Serbs, Croats, and over 30 percent Muslims. The ethnic balance, which had been maintained by conservative policies until the late 1980s, was threatened by intensification of nationalist movements elsewhere in the federation. By 1990 the republic found itself torn and manipulated by the Serb-Slovene and Serb-Croat conflicts. The official position of Bosnia and Hercegovina in 1990 strongly supported reconciliation of ethnic differences in the federation, while defending the ethnic individuality of the republics against homogenization.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:51:48 ZULU