The Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe: An Introduction

By Richard F. Staar | Go to book overview

Chapter 8 YUGOSLAVIA: Land of Southern Slavs

THE Socialist Federated Republic of Yugoslavia (Socijalisticka Federativna Republika Jugoslavia) is the only federal state in Eastern Europe and the most heterogeneous country on the continent, except for the U.S.S.R. It has received the following apocryphal descriptions: one political party, two alphabets, three religions, four languages, five nationalities, six republics, and seven bordering states.1 Even the name Yugoslavia connotes diversity and multiplicity. It means "land of the southern Slavs" and represents a collective designation for all Slavic people in the Balkans, who were present there even before the dawn of recorded history.


GENERAL SURVEY

The establishment of a single country has been the result of Yugoslavia's geographic location. The territory served in the past as a passageway or land route between Western Europe and Asia. This corridor position has influenced the development of the nation both to its advantage and negatively. Predominantly mountainous, with hills covering about 70 percent of the total area, Yugoslavia comprises six federal republics which fall roughly into line with the geographic features. They are Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Montenegro. The autonomous regions of Voivodina and Kosovo-Metohija (often referred to as Kosovo) are located within Serbia.

Corresponding with this division, ethnic groups can be differentiated as shown in table 40. The total population of Yugoslavia, estimated in 1970, was about 20.4 million. The table shows the fifteen identifiable ethnic groups found

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1
U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 87th Cong., 1st sess., Yugoslav Communism: A Critical Study ( Washington, D.C., 1961), p. 3; prepared by Charles Zalar.

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