As the communist organizational monopoly collapsed in one country after another across Central and Southeastern Europe, the peoples of the region faced the dual challenge of constructing valued democratic institutions and invigorating or reinvigorating local economies. Nowhere in the region was this challenge harder than in the new states which emerged out of the dying Socialist Federated Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). The war which, after touching Slovenia only briefly in summer 1991, raged across Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina for four years, like the subsequent war in Kosovo during 1998–99, resulted in casualties, the flight and displacement of refugees, the ethnic homogenization of areas which had earlier included two or three peoples, the destruction of entire villages, damage to infrastructure, and serious impact for the economy of every Yugoslav successor state without exception. This volume endeavors to make a contribution to understanding how well the seven successor states of Yugoslavia have done in meeting this dual challenge, while bearing in mind that global problems, such as the economic crash of 2008, the spread of organized crime, and severe summer and winter weather have also played some part in the economic, and thus also in the social and political, calculus.
The War of Yugoslav Succession and the Liberal Democratic Project
It is usually overlooked that “the Yugoslav crisis began no later than the mid-1970s, when the combination of oil price hikes and overborrowing started the Yugoslav economic meltdown.” As long as Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito remained on the scene, centrifugal forces were kept in check. But after his death in May 1980, critical voices began to be heard. Especially striking was the outbreak of province-wide protests in Kosovo in April 1981, signaling that many of that province's Albanians had lost faith in the system. By 1983, leading figures in the ruling League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) were admitting that the country's much-touted system of workers’ self-management had never operated as originally intended; there were also warnings from prominent figures, about the same time, that the country might be sliding toward civil war.