Posts

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Serbia

Formerly a part of Yugoslavia, Serbia is a small landlocked country located in southeastern Europe between Macedonia and Hungary. Serbia has an extremely tense history with its neighboring countries as a result of the breaking up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Today, Serbia is quite different. Here are the top ten facts about living conditions in Serbia.

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Serbia

  1. Pollution: Serbia is currently subject to environmental issues in the form of pollution. The capital city of Belgrade is particularly susceptible to air pollution. Water pollution is also an issue throughout Serbia as industrial waste from the cities is known to eventually flow into the Danube. Management of all kinds of waste — domestic, industrial and hazardous — has been poor.
  2. Ethnic diversity: More than 80 percent of the population of Serbia identifies as Serb, with the main minorities being Hungarian and Bosnian Muslims. The Roma people also make up a small minority, along with other people from neighboring countries. Serbians essentially speak the same language as Croats, Bosniaks and Montenegrins, but with slight variations in dialect.
  3. Economy: Serbia’s economy saw huge growth between 2001 and 2008 because of domestic consumerism. However, because of the rapidness of the growth, the economy experienced instability and both internal and external imbalances. The economy has steadily increased since, and as of 2018 is projected to continue in surplus.
  4. Power: Serbia has no nuclear power stations. Instead, they use hydroelectric power and coal as their main energy sources. The largest coal-burning stations are located in Belgrade, and much of the hydroelectric power comes from the Djerdap dam.
  5. Population: With a population of just over seven million, the most heavily populated area of Serbia is the capital city of Belgrade wherein more than one million people live. Despite the large population, the unemployment rate among Serbian youth ages 15–24 is 29.7 percent, which is quite high. As a result, many young Serbians go to other countries to find work.
  6. Trade: Serbia’s main trading partners are Italy and Germany; however, Russia, Switzerland, China and Hungary are also partnered with Serbia. Many countries are not interested in trading with Serbia because of its infrastructure decline. Additionally, Serbia faces problems with corruption that leave potential trading partners skeptical.
  7. Health Care: Healthcare is provided to pregnant women, babies and children up to 15 years of age. Also, students up to the age of 26 are allotted healthcare. All Serbian citizens are granted treatments for diseases and mental illnesses. Yet, one-fifth of the population remains without healthcare.
  8. Family culture: Serbia is a staunchly patriarchal society, as was instilled under the Ottoman rule and can still be seen today. Family loyalty is very important in Serbian culture. Nepotism is a common problem in workspaces and perpetuates the patriarchal motifs.
  9. Leisure: Belgrade and another city, Novi Sad, are the cultural hubs of Serbia, offering extensive nightlife as well as other cultural hotspots. Various cafes, sporting events and galleries are open across the cities to give those living there — especially the youth — plenty to do. The countryside also has a lot to offer with its abundance of places to go if one wanted to experience traditional Serbian life.
  10. Housing: Housing in Serbia has been a problem since the period of civil unrest and throughout the 1990s; hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless. Although Western nations sent aid, only part of the problem was alleviated. Currently, housing is particularly a problem for young people in urban areas.

Though Serbia is a beautiful country and its tourism rates have risen in recent years, the country still harbors a lot of tension because of its past conflicts. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Serbia showcase that while the country has made great strides and developments, there is still room for improvement.

Emily Cormier
Photo: Flickr

Kosovo War
The Kosovo War was a quick and highly destructive conflict that displaced 90 percent of the population. The severity of the unrest in Kosovo and the involvement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) brought the Kosovo conflict to international attention in the late 1990’s. The conflict led to the displacement of thousands and lasting tension between Serbs and Albanians. The brutality of the war is largely credited with launching The Borgen Project, a humanitarian organization that has helped hundreds of thousands of people.

10 Facts about the Kosovo War

    1. The Kosovo War was waged in the Serbian province of Kosovo from 1998 to 1999. Ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo faced the pressure of Serbs fighting for control of the region. Albanians also opposed the government of Yugoslavia, which was made up of modern day Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and Macedonia.
    2. Muslim Albanians were the ethnic majority in Kosovo. The president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, refused to recognize the rights of the majority because Kosovo was an area sacred to the Serbs. He planned to replace Albanian language and culture with Serbian institutions.
    3. The international community failed to address the escalation of tension between the Albanians and the Serbs. In doing so, they inadvertently supported radicals in the region. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo formed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the early 1990s. The militant group began attacks on Serbian police and politicians and were engaged in an all-out uprising by 1998.
    4. Serbian and Yugoslav forces tried to fight growing KLA support through oppressive tactics and violence. The government destroyed villages and forced people to leave their homes. They massacred entire villages. Many people fled their homes.
    5. As the conflict grew worse, international intervention rose. The Contact Group (consisting of the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Russia) demanded a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Yugoslav and Serbian forces from Kosovo and the return of refugees. Yugoslavia at first agreed but ultimately failed to implement the terms of the agreement.
    6. Yugoslav and Serbian forces engaged in an ethnic cleansing campaign throughout the duration of the war. By the end of May 1999, 1.5 million people had fled their homes. At the time, that constituted approximately 90 percent of Kosovo’s population.
    7. Diplomatic negotiations between Kosovar and Serbian delegations began in France in 1999, but Serbian officials refused to cooperate. In response, NATO began a campaign of airstrikes against Serbian targets, focusing mainly on destroying Serbian government buildings and infrastructure. The bombings caused further flows of refugees into neighboring countries and the deaths of several civilians.
    8. In June 1999, NATO and Yugoslavia signed a peace accord to end the Kosovo War. The Yugoslav government agreed to troop withdrawal and the return of almost one million ethnic Albanians and half a million general displaced persons. Unfortunately, tensions between Albanians and Serbs continued into the 21st century. Anti-Serb riots broke out in March 2004 throughout the Kosovo region. Twenty people were killed and over 4,000 Serbs and other minorities were displaced.
    9. In February 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Subsequently, Yugoslavia ceased to exist in 2003 and became the individual countries of Serbia and Montenegro. Serbia, along with numerous other countries, refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence.
    10. At the end of 2016, a tribunal was established in the International Criminal Court to try Kosovars for committing war crimes against ethnic minorities and political opponents. Additionally, an EU taskforce set up in 2011 found evidence that members of the KLA committed these crimes after the war ended. Previously, the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia tried several the KLA members.


Overall, the Kosovo War was one of Europe’s most chaotic conflicts, leaving lasting impressions on all those living in the region. Not only has the conflict been coined with the terms genocide and crimes against humanity, but the involvement and bombings from NATO also caused widespread controversy.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr

 

 Bosnian War
Between the years of 1991 and 1992, the country of Yugoslavia suffered mass chaos as nationalism in six different regions of the country began to surge. This was due in large part to growing perceptions of ethnic distinctions and a faltering economy. This time gave rise to intense violence and ethnic cleansing throughout the region, resulting in the Bosnian War. Here are five things to know about the Bosnian War:

    1. On March 3, 1992, Bosnia (now Bosnia-Herzegovina) declared its independence from Yugoslavia, following in the footsteps of neighboring Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia from the previous year. The official beginning of the Bosnian War is typically marked as April 6, 1992, when Bosnian Serb forces invaded the capital of Sarajevo.
    2. Three primary ethnic groups were embroiled in the conflict: the Bosniaks, Bosnian Muslims who comprised more than 44% of the population; the Bosnian Serbs, who predominately practiced Eastern Orthodox Christianity (31% of the population) and Bosnian Croats, a Catholic minority who comprised 17% of Bosnia’s populace at the time.
    3. Reelected to the Serbian presidency in 1992, Slobodan Milošević encouraged rising nationalist sentiments within the region and backed the attacks on Sarajevo, as well as the siege on Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. Serbian forces invaded the town, which had previously been designated a safe haven by the U.N., and separated the Muslim Bosniaks from the rest of the population. The women and girls — many of them raped and sexually assaulted — were bussed to nearby villages, while the remaining 8,000 Muslims were murdered and left in mass graves.
    4. By the end of 1993, Bosnian Serbs controlled 70% of the country, and most Bosnian Croats had fled. The term “ethnic cleansing” arose, a painful euphemism for the thousands that had been expelled, tortured, raped and murdered at the hands of Serbian forces. Many were forced into concentration camps, while vestiges of Bosniak culture, including places of worship and sites of cultural importance, were destroyed.
    5. In May 1993, the U.N. created the first war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg Trials in 1945-1946, which indicted Nazi officials for crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) charged more than 160 individuals for their participation in the violence, including Slobodan Milošević, who was tried and convicted in 2002 of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. He was found dead in his prison cell in The Hague in 2006 following a heart attack.

From 1992 to 1995, the Bosnian War claimed the lives of roughly 100,000 people, 80% of whom were Bosniak — the worst act of genocide since the Holocaust. To date, almost 120,000 of the original 2.2 million people displaced by the conflict still live in bleak conditions in refugee centers far from their homes.

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr

World Briefing: Bosnia 101

The Bosnian war took place on the other side of the world, but was so profound in horror and destruction that we in the West still speak of it today.

The Bosnian war started in what was formerly Yugoslavia, when ethnic divisions came to a boil. There were 3 main ethnic groups uneasily coexisting: the Catholic Croats, the Muslim Bosniaks and the Orthodox Serbs. The war started after the Bosniaks and Croats attempted to secede and declare independence. They were subsequently attacked by the Bosnian Serbs, who were against their independence. The conflict was mainly territorial, with the groups warring over allocation of land and ethnicity.

Bosnia’s war was characterized by its brutality, particularly by the Serbian forces. While the entire war was marked by extreme violence and cruelty, the two most infamous events were the Siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre, and through their horror, they have come to symbolize the conflict.

The Siege of Sarajevo was the longest siege on a city in the history of modern warfare, lasting from 1992 to 1996. Survivors describe a return to the Stone Age, without access to food, medicine, water, electricity or gas. Citizens lived in constant fear of random shellings by the Serbs, or attacks from others within the city who were desperate for food or ammo. The Serbs deliberately attempted to exterminate Bosnian men and boys, and rape and sexual violence were common weapons of war, against girls as young as 12.

The massacre at Srebrenica (also known as the Srebrenica genocide) saw the organized killing of over 8,000 men and boys at the town of Srebrenica. Accounts of the massacre are reminiscent of the holocaust, with mass transport and murder of citizens. Though the UN attempted to establish a protected perimeter, it was unable to prevent Serbian soldiers from murdering and brutalizing citizens at will. The Serbian government issued an official apology for it in 2010.

The war was a bloody, complex and hideously drawn-out affair in which the Bosniaks and Croats were slowly but surely being defeated until a NATO intervention in 1994. In 1995, after nearly a month of negotiations, the Dayton Agreement was signed, creating the Bosnia and Herzegovina of today.  Still relatively recent, the leaders of the respective armies and those who were in political power are still undergoing trial for war crimes. Slobodan Milošević, who was president at the time, died while awaiting a verdict at The Hague.

Many make reference to the Bosnian war as a result of a lack of international intervention in times of crisis. Then US Assistant Secretary of State referred to it as “the greatest failing of the West since the 1930s.”

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: The History Place
Photo: Serbrenica Genocide