CNN Balkan Conflict News


Ethnic Rivalries

The Balkan players:
Who are they and what do they want?

Like Rome, the Balkan crisis wasn't built in a day. And it's difficult to understand. Although the conflicts have deep roots, the current war can be immediately traced to the events of 1991, when Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from the former Yugoslavia. The Serb-dominated Yugoslav government allowed Slovenia to leave, but the Serb minority in Croatia rejected secession and fought to keep its homelands in that country. In 1992, similar Serb rebellions erupted in Bosnia, after the election of a nationalist government (this time, Muslim-dominated). Serb revolts have been fortified with arms and forces from the Yugoslav goverment.

The ethnic groups

The Serbs

Orthodox Christians, the Serbs have long ties with Eastern Europe. Conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1389, the Serbs clung to their religious affiliation and eventually helped drive their vanquishers from the Balkans. The Serbs want to create a "Greater Serbia," establishing territorial ties with Serbia and Croatian Serb areas.

The Muslims

Mostly slavic, the Muslims are Serb descendants who converted to Islam under Ottoman rule. Along with their allies, the Bosnian Croats, Muslims voted for Bosnia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1992. Muslims tend to favor an enthnically mixed state for Bosnia.

The Croats

Of the Roman Catholic faith, the Croats have historical links with western Europe. Once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Croats played a fundamental role in its military. Loosely allied with the Bosnian Muslims, Croats hope to stake out their own areas of Bosnia.

The factions

Bosnian soldiers

Bosnian army
National army of Bosnia, made up of primarily Muslim forces of the Bosnian government.

Bosnian Croats
United in a federation with Bosnian government forces since March 1994, thus, pro-Muslim.

Croatian soldiers

Croatian government
Seeks to recover land gained by Serbs in 1991. Although allied with the Muslims, the Croats are more anti-Serb than anything else.

Bosnian Serbs
Rebels supported by Yugoslavia. They seek to unite Serb territories with this Serb stronghold.

Croatian Serbs
Serb rebels who've been active in the Krajina region of Croatia. They support the Bosnian Serbs.

Nations in conflict

Three countries heavily influenced by their racial identities struggle to control the region. For a more detailed examination of these three, link to: Countries.

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