Since 1918 there has been a constant tension between Serbs and non-Serbs in this polyglot country [Yugoslavia], as Serbs have repeatedly tried to Serbianize and/or dominate the non-Serbs, and the non-Serbs have doggedly fought such domination. This struggle between Serbs and non-Serbs lies at the heart of the instability for which Yugoslavia is famous. It has never been the only source of Yugoslav instability, but it has been a crucial component in that syndrome. 1
In these next four chapters, attention turns from theory and concept-building to practical application. My first case concerns the applicability of the societal security dilemma to Krajina; the utility of the concept in explaining the outbreak of ethnic violence between the Croatian republic and its Serb minority. This chapter provides some basic historical context, and in doing so brings to the fore those issues which, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, political elites on both the Serb and Croat sides came to utilise as justification for popular mobilisation and resistance. The historical record is fundamental for grasping how particular constructions of Serb and Croat identities came to take hold and, moreover, for how each side was able to ascribe to the other particular motives and (malign) intentions.
The chapter is broken down into four main sections. In the first section, I look briefly at Serb and Croat histories up to the creation of the Yugoslav state in 1918. The second concentrates on the relations between the two sides in so-called 'Royal Yugoslavia' up to the outbreak of civil war in 1941. Next, I examine the civil war period of 1941-45. Finally, the fourth section is concerned with Serb-Croat relations from 1945 up to the process of democratisation in 1990.
You cannot understand Yugoslavia without a thorough knowledge of its history even before its official birth in 1918. This is because the reasons for its birth were the same as those for its death. 2