Yugoslavia was made up of several different countries, and its composition changed several times over the course of its existence. The countries of the former Yugoslavia have sometimes formed necessary political alliances with neighboring countries despite cultural, religious, or other differences. Yugoslavia’s political history is short, but complicated. Yugoslavia as a nation no longer exists, but the countries that created the former Yugoslavia still do.
Countries of the Former Yugoslavia – Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina, known as BiH for short, is a country in Southeastern Europe. The people who inhabit Bosnia and Herzegovina are generally referred to as “Bosnian.” However, Croats and Serbs also make up the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The three majority ethnic groups of Bosnia and Herzegovina are specifically named in the country’s constitution. Since the Bosnian war, this country has been associated with regional unrest. However, Bosnia and Herzegovina is, for now, fairly calm.
Countries of the Former Yugoslavia – Croatia
While most of Croatia lies inland, including the capital city of Zagreb, Croatia’s Adriatic Coast is a popular vacation spot for Europeans and Eastern Europeans. While Croatia still shows signs of past political distress, the region of Dalmatia is especially attractive for travelers. Parts of Croatia have been coveted by Italy, and the northern Istrian Peninsula shows evidence of this influence. At other times, Croatia and Hungary had close ties.
Countries of the Former Yugoslavia – Macedonia
Macedonia, or the Republic of Macedonia, or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia should not be confused with Greek Macedonia. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has long been populated by Slavs. Albanians, Turks, and other ethnic groups also inhabit the Republic of Macedonia.
Countries of the Former Yugosloavia – Montenegro
Having recently declared its independence from Serbia, Montenegro has a majority population of Montenegrins. Illyrians first inhabited what is now Montenegro, but Slav tribes started making an appearance in the region during medieval times. Montenegro is also home to Serbs, Albanians, Bosniaks, and members of other ethnic groups.
Countries of the Former Yugoslavia – Serbia
Serbia, a country recently split from Montenegro, is famous for having been the epicenter for the beginning of WWI. When Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was shot in 1914, world powers began to mobilize their forces for the war that was to follow.
Countries of the Former Yugoslavia – Slovenia
Slovenia is the western-most country a part of the former Yugoslavia. While some members of other ethnic groups inhabit Slovenia, Slovenia is populated in the largest part by Roman Catholic Slovenes. Slovenia’s capital city is Ljubljana, which is famous for its place in the legend of Jason and the Argonauts. Supposedly, the Argonauts fought a dragon in the general area of what is now Ljubljana – this dragon is now the city’s main symbol.
The Karadjordjevic Dynasty of Serbia
The instability of the royal family in Serbia mirrors the instability of this Balkan country. Even after the Karadjordjevic dynasty won the throne back from the rival Obrenovic family, these kings still had difficulty with maintaining peace in the unstable Kingdom of Yugoslavia and were eventually deposed.
The Beginning of the Karadjordjevic Dynasty
The royal family of Serbia dates back to 1804, when the Serbian clan chief Karadjordje (“Black George”) led a revolution against the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans. He was invested as ruler with rights of succession in 1811, but when the Turks invaded again in 1813 he fled to Austria.
The Obrenovics Fight the Karadjordjevics for Power
Milos Obrenovic, one of Karadjordje’s attendants, led a liberation movement against the Turks in 1817 and gained power for himself and his family. This began almost a century of power in Serbia vacillating between these two families, with coups and mysterious deaths placing members of the competing families on the throne.
Milan Obrenovic was recognized as King of Serbia in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin. When Russia forced the abdication of King Milan in 1889, a Council of Regency was installed to rule for his young son. But four years later at the age of seventeen, the young King Alexander I staged a coup and regained power in his own right. Unfortunately, he married a Serbian widow, Draga, who didn’t seem to be able to bear the king children. The country was very worried about the royal succession, so army officers assassinated King Alexander I and his wife in 1903. Parliament then elected Karadjordje’s grandson Peter to be king, thus ending the Obrenovic dynasty.
The Karadjordjevic Dynasty Rules and Expands Serbia
King Peter I was a strong leader who supported democracy in Serbia. He oversaw Serbian involvement in the Balkan Wars, during which the Ottoman Empire was almost completely thrown out of Europe and Serbia gained land from Montenegro. He was married to Zorka, a daughter of King Nikola I of Montenegro, and through her the Serbian royals have Montenegrin royal blood. King Peter I’s health eventually began to fail and he appointed his second son Alexander as regent.
Serbia Becomes Yugoslavia
After WWI, Alexander responded to the popular desire for a Greater Serbia, and created the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes out of the Balkan territories of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Dalmatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 1929 this kingdom was renamed Yugoslavia, the Kingdom of the Southern Slavs.
The Karadjordjevic Royal Family Is Deposed
When King Alexander I officially ascended the throne in 1921, he became king of a divided nation. The Croats and Slovenes fought with the Serbs so much that Alexander eventually had to impose a royal dictatorship in 1928. But the fighting and discord continued and King Alexander I was eventually assassinated in 1934.
Upon his death, his eleven-year-old son became King Peter II. Prince Paul, a nephew of King Peter I, was appointed regent for the young king. Paul was not a popular ruler, and after he signed a 1941 pact with Germany and Italy to avoid Russian domination, a military revolt overthrew the government. King Peter II was hurriedly declared of age, but it was too late and he had to flee to London. While he was in exile, the new Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz, popularly known as Tito, officially abolished the monarchy. Two years later in 1947, King Peter II was formally deposed, never to return to his home country.
The Karadjordjevic Dynasty in Exile
When Peter II’s son Alexander was born in London in 1945, the hotel suite in which he was born was officially declared Yugoslavian territory so the young crown prince could be born “at home.” But Crown Prince Alexander didn’t actually visit the country until Yugoslavia started to break up in 1992. This pretender has never taken the title of king, and although he loves Serbia he realizes that there is little chance of his family ever returning to power.
The Royal Family of Serbia
The Karadjordjevic family ruled Serbia for over a century and a half. It had to fight with the Obrenovic dynasty for power, but the Karadjordjevics eventually won the struggle and became the ruling family of Serbia, overseeing territorial expansions and the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. But fighting among different Balkan peoples led to internal instability which eventually led to the overthrow of the Karadjordjevic dynasty.