The Death of Yugoslavia

The Death of Yugoslavia

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Ratings: 7.90/10 from 149 users.

The Death of YugoslaviaThe Death of Yugoslavia is a BBC documentary series first broadcast in 1995, and is also the name of a book written by Allan Little and Laura Silber that accompanies the series.

It covers the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. It is notable in its combination of never-before-seen archive footage interspersed with interviews of most of the main players in the conflict. This format, pioneered by the programme's production company, Brian Lapping Associates, was very influential and the company produced many others in similar style.

There is a malicious game to play when listening, as we all have, to people sounding off with pat formulas about the terrible civil war that destroyed Yugoslavia: how many seconds before the first flat contradiction? Even the nimblest minds usually spin off the road after less than 30.

To stress that the causes of the war are complex is not to say nobody is to blame, principles are not at stake or nothing can be done - just that making sense of complexity takes time. And time is what Norma Percy of Brian Lapping Associates has taken in an excellent, if depressing, documentary. Also check out Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War.

Episodes included: Enter Nationalism, The Road to War, Wars of Independence, The Gates of Hell, A Safe Area, and Pax Americana.

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Raymond Hendrix
7 years ago

After watching this documentary I must first say that I am very happy to have stumbled on this website. I intend to spend much more time here after watching this excellent presentation that I witnesses in part on TV some years ago. Then it was difficult to understand who was right and who was wrong.

I was impressed after watching this as to the true cause of this and other wars. The cause of course is pride and the sense that one's particular race or creed or whatever is superior to another's. In my opinion there is in fact morally superior cultures such as the struggle we are now engaged in as the West and most of the civilized world opposes ISIS.

In light of true causes for war such as the defence against Nazi Germany this conflict seems to be trivial. Tragically that trivia caused the death of a nation and more importantly the deaths of thousands of human beings. The moral of the story? Get along with your neighbor and do not fall for the tired line that you are somehow more important than him. Resist the temptation to follow the latest and best leader that will give you what you want. At the time of this writing a similar battle is raging between the followers of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Both groups are exact opposites but citizens of the same nation. I fear the end of this division will not be pretty just as the civil war previously fought in America was the worst bloodbath that this nation was ever engaged in, including WW1 and WW2.

Thanks for all the people who made this documentary possible. I very much appreciated the history lesson.

7 years ago


hey i got a slovak wife too and i live with a slovak family in a slovak village with alot of slovaks and trust trust me the only thing slovaks care about yujoslavia is that they dont like people thinking that Slovakia is Slovania or that slovakia was part of yugoslavia...

Thank you for clarifying that Slovakia has never been a part of Yugoslavia. I'm Slovak and people mistake it for Slavic all the time. Drives me nuts! I always have to explain that it's Slovak as in Czechoslovakia. Duh. Your wife must be very cool. My hubby's name is Carlos as well!

8 years ago

where is the 3rd rike?

Steve Livacich
8 years ago

"Religion is a universal mass compulsive neurosis." Sigmund Freud

Roy Francis
10 years ago

The root cause of the entire issue can be summed up in one word> nationalism. Suppress nationalism for peace. The second is religion which doesn't have a solution.

11 years ago

there always has to be one stupid greek that comes in these types of threads and mentions "Skopjan Macedonia" and thessaloniki being the north of greece.

very funny.

11 years ago

This is the most unbiased and informational documentary I have seen and probably exists out there (on the Politics of the Yugoslavian-Wars). Although the extent and description of all the atrocities aren't described (but this is ok because there are many other books/documentaries on that).

I myself was a 3-7 year old child in Gorazde (Bosnia) during the war. I remember being frequently shelled (the horrible screaming sounds of those missiles), buildings on fire, gunfire on the hills across the Drina, hiding in the basement, not having much to eat, but at that age you're oblivious to the real extent of the situation. I have since the war made a friend, he's mother and older brother (5-6 at the time) were both killed by a missile). I have also met a guy who must of been 10 at the time, while playing with his friends in the backyard had seen one of them shot in the head by a sniper, then briefly panic and bleed to death. The number of tragedies in Gorazde were low in comparison to the rest of East Bosnia (Srebrenica, Foca, Zvornik... and to deny these atrocities can only be unprogressive.

I can personally get over the war, but for those who have truly lost, we must not forget or make rash comments which belittle these people.

The translation is slightly simplified and therefore not exactly 100% identical, but for me the meaning of the statements is almost always correctly expressed.

Nationalism and backward thinking ideologies are a big problem in this region(Serbia/Bosnia and Herzegovina/Croatia/Kosovo). I hope with the internet, people will become more educated and realise that your nationality is not the one single most important thing in life. Peace

11 years ago

@rljp I hope that peace and willingness to live together will happen one day, but unfortunately I don't think it will happen any time soon... We are progressing, but there is still so much hatred.. Too bad, we have a beautiful land and so much potential..

11 years ago

what a sad a tragic history of conflict. I found it hard to even follow all the differing regions and religions in differing regions. I hope for all these people in the region now that the hatred has been replaced by peace and a willingness to live together to never go back to what once was.

11 years ago

The translation is very bad and extremely misleading.

11 years ago

Very sad yet interesting

john kay
11 years ago

hey george i was in skopje going to a club called colliseum last summer and was amazed at the sights of some, if not the most beautiful women ive ever seen in my life. What was especially crazy was that they were in groups of3-5 chicks in what seemed the hundreds - no guys with them for the most part and i dont recall 1 ugly one. i know your being sarcastic but i had to mention it since you did

11 years ago

From the first minute until the last of this documentary I stayed thrilled of how a civilized society that the former yugoslav was, can do great harm to herself. I knew too few about this before watching this movie, and I must say I can recommend it. I hope BBC was objective when making the movie.
As a Romanian, I'm sad that all these happened few kilometers away from were I live, in modern days.
Finally, after watching the movie I felt that it was a leadership problem more than nations' problems'.
How can you tell, in time, if your leader is blood firsty or not, in order to avoid these conflicts?

Zoe Pardee
11 years ago

I've seen a handful of documentaries on the issues in the Balkans. It's now a matter of tit for tat in kosovo. The Albanians there are taking advantage of the bias against the serbs due to the past and treating the serbs quite bad there. So the whole point to the serbs in kosovo raising issues in the 80's and on has actually come to fruition. I am not sure why the idea of brotherhood seemed like a bad idea. True reform and regulation would have solved any issues within Kosovo and beyond. Strong arm tactics regardless of ethnic or religious loyalties never work. It would be like me as a native Texan going into New York and rousing up all of the Texans that live there to claim dominance over those in New York and vice versa. We respect that New York natives will do thier thing and we will do ours even though our attitudes and culture are different.

11 years ago

i think you need help

11 years ago

what a hell. we all know that what started the war in Balkans- the greed for money & power. no one wanted to kill each other. no serb or croatian or bosnians or albanians wanted this war.this was Milloshevici's idea to brain wash serb people and send them to war with every one. in this war no one won.there was inocent blood spelt all over yugoslavia in the name of ''NATIONALISEM'' .i tell you gentelmen from war is only politcians the people that profit from it no one else.

11 years ago

This very interesting documentary describes in a very vivid way, what happened in Yugoslavia in the early nineties.

I was a kid back then, I lived in Greece and i remember hearing all those names in the news: Gorazde, Vukovar, Sebrenica, Radovan Karadzic, Izetbekovitch, Milosevic, the Dayton agreement and so on. It was a time when nationalism prevailed in a very persistent manner, and Greece, although not directly involved in any armed conflict, very clearly took sides with the Serbs: against Croats, against Muslims against Skopjan Macedonia and against Nato. I remember very well that there were demonstrations in the big cities of Greek people opposing the right of the newly formed country of FYROM to be called Macedonia and using ancient Greek historic symbols.

When American NATO forces disembarked on the port of Thessaloniki in northern Greece, on their way to Serbia, some people turned the direction signs upside down and some military convoys bound for Yugoslavia found themselves driving towards Athens- the south ie the opposite direction. People in general also silently encouraged, or "viewed with feelings of understanding" a few hot blooded greek youngsters that went and fought in Serbia siding with the Bosnian Serbs. Today these people would be overall considered mentally deranged, but - hey- today the country faces a completely different spectrum of reality.

The bottom line was: Serbs are good, the rest of the game is played in favor of Turkey which builds an Islamic arch starting in the Balkans from south Bulgaria, continuing into Skopia, Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia well into the heart of central Europe with the Turkish minorities of Germany, Belgium the Netherlands and the north African Arab communities of France. Greece as a country was mainly involved in the nationalistic fervor of the days through the dispute for the name "Macedonia" and the Greeks in South Albania, called in Greece "Northern Epirus".

Things have changed since, I must say, and today nationalism is more or less discarded as an anachronism and this condemnation is very much so a politically correct statement. Having said that, I should also add that presenting the facts in such a way as "the Serbs are monsters, the rest are the victims" is not at all convincing either.

Being myself Greek, and part of a wider Balkan heritage I have been wondering over the past years what nationalism has offered to the Balkan (or any other) peoples since it first became hot, following the emergence of nation-states in the region in 1800: what is the net benefit of all that story.

Obviously, we Greeks have not fared very well as a state, and now we are all in remorse, admitting to ourselves among others that we have made grave mistakes in term of managing our state, being as we are in the brink of financial collapse. And having been around as a people for a long time now, one cannot help but to wonder whether being Greek comes down to being a part of a bigger picture than being a citizen of a Greek state, with all its totemic symbols: flag, football, national anthem and the military in proud parade. What I mean is that being Greek is a sound identity; Greek citizenship comes very much in question. This remark might extend to other Balkan peoples as well.

Over the past years I have been leaning towards the idea, that all the region which we call the Balkans may well have lived better in a multi-ethnic state organisational structure, as it has done for many centuries in the past, under Byzantine or Ottoman rule. Having said that I want to clarify that I do not mean a Greek dominated Byzantine-like structure, nor obviously do I mean an ottoman revival state which as we all know embodies a lot of anachronistic attitudes, and after all no European people has ever been proud of its ottoman past.

But there were good things in living together, or more correct, there must have been good things, as I wasn't there at the time. We are kind of alike all us Mediterranean, and in specific Balkan peoples. We have some relatively common sense of humor, we share the same traditional values (family, neighbor, day to day humanism, and of course weather and food). There should be a better environment for us all, based more on talent, valor and imagination, a truly honest agreement, consisting of people living together in a simple and human way. Unfortunately what the Yugoslavian war showed is that people can also be aggressive, primitive, shortsighted and in a constant negative predisposition: men are not only angel, they are (?most of the time) devil... Or at least played upon and naive.

We should all have been, I believe, more vigilant to preserve our commonalities and similarities: the areas were we could co exist, rather than letting ourselves be played by cheap politicians who bet their careers in easy to arouse nationalistic sentiments. We should have tried harder to make something better for ourselves.

Maybe we still can...

12 years ago

the translation of the Serbian into English is ridiculous and false, changing words such as "organizing" into "running" is so manipulative and twisting it around. Half of the stuff translated is twisted around! Especially at 44.12

lex lexich
12 years ago

just to show you how the truth can vary let's put some simple facts about first part of the doc in which serbs say how they are 'deprived of their rights in kosovo' in 1990 there were app 10%!! serb population in kosovo and they held more than 90% of all political and social functions (lawyers, teachers, politicians...) that's what is (was) all about. Slovenia and Croatia wanted independence because more than 50% functions in all yougoslavia were held by serbs, and in the army and political functions the numbers were even greater. It is always about the money and the power, who believes in monasteries nowadays

Dylan Hardin
12 years ago

I just finished this documentary. I think it's probably the best one on the Yugoslav Wars, because even though it's dated (came out in 1995, so we don't get to see any post-Dayton problems like Kosovo), you get interviews from some of the biggest names who were involved. I don't understand how it's 'biased,' because if anything, it's showing what this war was really about. Every side thought they were right and no one wanted to admit they were wrong. Everyone committed atrocities: the Serbs, Croats, and the Bosniaks. You can't blame any one side because it was everyone involved that was wrong.

12 years ago


Maybe you don't care about Yugoslavia, but may I remind you that WWI started in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Hercegovina.
What I want to say this might have started WWIII!!

12 years ago

Excellent Documentary, One of the best I've seen in a while. Yugoslavia should still be Yugoslavia.

12 years ago

...Well , I just finished watching the series ,and then began reading the comments.
The first comment made me sad-- because I felt pain for anyone who had gone through the wars I'd just watched (or any war situation or tragedy )who might also have read the comment.
These historical documentaries aren't made to entertain us...or to alleviate our boredom .They are made to educate us into a state by which the knowledge we gain can cause our species to evolve to a point where we don't do this to each other any more , and bring us to where compassion comes into focus before hatred is stirred.
I wish I could express to all the victims on all sides of this wars and all others , past, present and (hopefully not) future -- how sorry I am for what they have been through . And the animals and the environment that suffer as well .
When one sees the types of leaders ( MEN , in most cases...) who dragged it all down makes the tragedy even more senseless and embarrassing somehow.
Thanx again Vlatko for putting this documentary out for us to see. I never understood the issues before.

12 years ago

whatever you may think -yugoslavia was the beautiful country to live in (personally i think it will take many centuries to create again a system like it was in Yu, on the global scale! it was communism with free market -thus combining the very best from the both 'worlds' east and west) and like every war this one was cooked by politics

12 years ago

this is all wrong, theese series talks about milosevic as a hero, he was nothing but a terrorist who terrorised innicent women nd children, and the rest of the serb crew. it does not show who really started the war or nothing like that.

12 years ago

I cant say how much I appreciate the comments from those who were touched by the conflict described in this docu. Thank you.

This docu definitely comes down hard on Serb leadership and Milosevic. I am taking this with a grain of salt as some above say the docu contains bias. I cannot say if it is biased or not, and I dare not comment on the tragic events that led up to the war(s). I think it is fair to say from my cozy home in Canada I have no idea what it was like to be a Serb, Croat, or other. The best I can say is that this shows how important it is for human beings to see past race, religion, and nationality when we look at each other. Easy to say, difficult to do.

I will watch The Avoidable War now. Thanks for the recommendation.

Dr Quaffer
12 years ago

Yes indeed, nationalism is evil. Serbia was is still semms greedy. The world is full of people, cleaning out some that some don't like it filth. The serbs were gross. Be ashamed. Like the West should be. Civil war my arse. Disgusting. The Nationalistic of those above will always be ignorant and evil.

Dr Q

12 years ago

if you don't like context of this web site in regard to former Yugoslavia you are free no to be here. I or people here don't really know you, so we find irrelevant what Carlos think about films or the ex Yu. There are billions of web site to visit, so feel free to find those you prefer. Ignorant and poorly informed people are also the most arrogant.

12 years ago

According to the military head of the UN forces in Bosnia at the time (an Indian general), everybody in this conflict was guilty. However, the overall narrative that I find time and time again in the Western media is that the Serbs were responsible for all of the atrocities. There are also very clear implications that for the few atrocities the other sides had committed, the Serb civilians basically deserved it, because they were Serbs.

I believe that it is obvious, to a neutral observer at least, that while the Serbs certainly committed a large share of the war crimes in this conflict, every side has blood on its hands, and every side had its victims. Yet, as I've already mentioned, I feel the Serbians are getting literally all the blame and the voices of the (thousands) of innocent Serbian victims are ignored.

This, to me, does not seem right.

12 years ago

Wow! Very engrossing. Thanks.

12 years ago

Every one knows that war is bad, but sometimes you have to fight inorder to save your land and you people or you will be enslaved forever by people who feel that you are different from them. It is human reality. The serb wanted to dominet over the moslems and the croats it was good that they fought back or they would have been slavs förever. the serb have to know and they know that a moslem can not be enslaved, but a Serb can be. you paid a high price and every one have a country Bosnia,croatia,Serbia and Kosovo. no Dogslavia any more. thank you

12 years ago

Hi people, I`m from Croatia and first of all I`d like to say my opinion: this war was brought by all sides, and that the situation at the beginning was a consequence of more than a thousand year politricks where common people were "shuffled" by men in power (and by foreign powers) as everywhere in the world. I hold no grudge against a Serb, Bosnian, Slovenian or Croat as long as he/she is not a nationalist. But if someone is than all discussion is over cus there is no objectivity.

I think that it is very difficult to understand the relationships between these nations. Or the things that took place during the war itself. What you have seen in this documentary is macropicture, what it didn`t show you is micropicture; people of different nations living one to another, their interactions, and of course personal stories of people who took part in the war either as civilians or soldiers.

For exapmle; can you imagine what is it like to see your best friend die from bullets that were fired by an old woman that you didn`t search for a firearm a moment before? Or to watch your house being moved in by a opposite nation next door neighbor with a binocular from a small wet and cold shelter? Or defending a field in the mountains where you were born and grew up, where your father and grandfather were born, and where there is a small imprint in a stone with a year from the 18th century with your last name on it? What would you do? Would you forget? Would you be angry? What would you do if there was a chance for retaliation?

Would you kill that old woman? Would you blow the neighbors house into air? Would you raid and burn the fields as yours was? What would you do to the women and children after yours were raped than skinned than raped again? What would you command to the soldiers if you had a chance to retaliate to the people who took your family to concentration camps? The thing is that most of us don`t really know, most of us would probably "I wouldn`t", but the thing is that only small part of us actually wouldn`t.

My point is; the ex-Yugoslavia wars are far from simple, and in the end nobody and everybody is to blame. I`m just afraid that it takes to many generations to accept this kind of mind set.

@ James

There wasn`t one nation (the yugoslavs). That was forged in euphory of antifashist movement but was later forced on common people. And is one of the couses of the war.

12 years ago

The Death of every nation is a sad story and seeing her inhabitants murdering each other is never acceptable. Wars never brought peace. What break us part is our unseen sense of uncertainty and fear of each other. Serbs, Muslims, Croats had done this kind of ethnic cleansing before. When Nazis took a hold of former Yugoslavia, Muslims, and Croats murdered Serbs. Some say this is history. I say this is not history; this is human nature. why would we take an eye for an eye? After thousands of years, we still take an eye for an eye. It doesn't matter what nationality we are. If we watch our loved ones torn up to pieces right in front us, we still would do the same, wouldn't we?
The question remains, would this happen again in another part of the world? sure it would.
Will we ever learn from our mistakes and not to murder each?

You be the judge...

Andrew Mead
12 years ago

Hey, I live in Canada and I have no personal connection to any part of the old Yugoslavia at all.
But the events depicted form a significant part of the history of Europe and they have for centuries. For instance a collection of events in that region a hundred year ago precipitated into WW I--something that did effect my country, my family and the future of the West.

I trust the documentary depicted events leading up to what will prove to bethe last war waged on European soil. It's fitting and significant that it ended, more or less, with the end of the 2nd millenium A.D.

So, it *is* interesting and worthwhile. Your comment is uninformed and unfortunate.

13 years ago

Nice documentary.

13 years ago

thnx Vlatko! a piece of Balkan history. greetings from Sarajevo.

13 years ago

wat are people bagging this for, im aussie and i loved it, want to know more.
poor yugoslavia

13 years ago


an added note. having now watched "The Avoidable War" on this site, which has a very different perspective on the late Balkan conflict, quite a bit of additional history/background, along with a tendency to a much-less anti-serbian interpretation of events, and produced 5 years or so after this doc, I'd recommend it.

between the two docs, maybe those of us outside start to get a glimmer of the complexities, the game-playing that went out inside & outside of the area which had such a devastating effect on the people living there.

Tanya Radic
13 years ago

I think you are very biased and show parts that are true but you leave out a lot of other information that is also true.
The commentary is somewhat biased in its intrepration of events.

Tanya Radic
13 years ago

You tell the events correctly. You are biased in your intrepretations.

13 years ago

where can we buy these films from?

13 years ago

thank you very much Vlatko, i was really wondering how yugoslavia ended, these series were really good. this is the first time i watched a documentary on this ste and i havent read the rest of the comments here but only beginning, i cant understand why would somebody writes that nobody is interested when he is not interested alone. if you are not interested just turn the page just dont watch what is the big deal :S

13 years ago

@ Ivan

Thank you for the link, it's excellent!

13 years ago

I'm Bulgarian and I am deeply horrified by what happened to and between our neighbours. By the time the war took place I was just 8 years-old.
I am currently writing my master's thesis on the role ot the United Nations on the protection of human rights during the war in Bosnia. Obviously, they did almost nothing. Such a shame.
I watched all six parts of the documentaries and I just can't help being shocked every time I watch or read what happened in Yugoslavia. Honestly, I am out of words and I want to apologize for my poor vocabulary trying to explain my real pain. Bacause pain is what I feel in my heart. Pain and anger for the so calle International Community stood practically indifferent.
I want to express my deepest regret and my moral support to all the yugoslavian people who had to go through this hell years (I am really not an expert, but I suppose that there are still some pretty painful issues left unresolved).
I remember that as a child my parents had a bunch of Bosnian friends who came to Sofia, Bulgaria, as a way to escape. As far as I remember they were Bosnian Serbs from Sarajevo. They told us horrible stories about atrocities committed by all three parties.
Thank you, Vlatko, for posting these series. It helped me understand a good part of the war(s).
I hope that we, the people from the Balkans (as well as peolpe from all over the world), may live in peace from now on...if peace is ever possible on the Balkans...

was teenager in Bosina when this happened . . .
13 years ago

. . . and it very very bad that it could happened in Europe in 1990s. So many death people for nothing, just because of some mad leader who cares just about history and their own interests. Europe leader, USA leader, UN, . . . was just watching . . .
I was 16teen when war started, just waked up from teenager reality, looking where to put my head to survive. Still, I was lucky, living in not such a place like Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Bihac, Mostar, posavina, . . .
Sad think it it will reape it againg, in 20, 30, 50 years . . . or even tomorrow when NATO leave this beautiful country in the middle of Europe :(

13 years ago

A fascinating insight into the "cause and affect" of nationalism and geo-politics. A great series of documentaries attempting to explain the recent crisis in the Balkans and the sparks that ignite contemporary wars...Overtones of National Socialist Germany.

All six films were compelling and It was great to see the British political manoevers through the Owen and Carrington negotiations. "The World At War," has become the seminal historic explanation of WW2, and I think this documentary series will become the definitive film to explain the Yugoslave crisis.

As for Carlos... were the subtitles too much for your phlebian intellect to take in? People like you obviously have the attention span of a goldfish. Poor man hasn't got the education or intellect to make a worthwhile comment, which makes me wonder why he subscribes to TDF in the first place....What an arse!

Nice work Vlatko, keep these types of documentaries coming!

13 years ago

for years i have heard about yugoslavia (i mean former )though not understand much..thanks to this documenatary series it really helped me to get the whole picture..

13 years ago

yes it is a disgrace - to keep so many other war criminals out of justice and courts... in recent years. but of course these (yougoslavian ones are the real ones so lets put the anguish on them). i would restrict pointing my finger anywhere knowing that with some crimes the public is being safficiently provoked.

13 years ago

they're all a bunch of old war criminals, and it's a disgrace that they have not been put to justice. An even greater disgrace is that it took so long for the europe to react, and once again we had to have the americans come storming in and salvage the situation.

13 years ago

Watched the first five so far. Its astonishing to watch those Serbs that have now been convicted (in fact many have been convicted today, my timing for watching this is purely coincidental) of crimes against humanity sit there and calmly (and with pride) describe horrendous acts of genocide. Seselj seemed particularly monsrous in his attitudes.