Balkan Special Report
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Historical Background:

The present-day Yugoslavia consists of two republics, Montenegro and the larger Serbia. Kosovo is a province of Serbia. Click on the links above to read more history.

Q&A on the Conflict
In Yugoslavia

Sunday, March 28, 1999; Page A29

During the Cold War, Yugoslavia was a federation of six republics held together under communist rule. Beginning in 1991, after communism collapsed, four of those republics split off and became independent. In Croatia and Bosnia, the breakup of the original Yugoslavia set off wars among ethnic Serbs, Croats and Muslims that ended in 1995. Today, Yugoslavia is a federation made up of two republics – equivalent to states – dominant Serbia and the much smaller Montenegro. Kosovo is a province within Serbia.
Maps of Yugoslavia's pre-1991 and current boundaries

Q: Who is fighting in Kosovo?
A: Yugoslav government forces – army and special police – are fighting against ethnic Albanian rebels who want to create a new, independent country in Kosovo. The rebels, called the Kosovo Liberation Army, are supported by many of Kosovo's 2 million people, 90 percent of whom are ethnic Albanians. The Yugoslav government forces are mostly ethnic Serbs. They don't want Kosovo to become independent because it is the site of history and religious monuments that many Serbs hold dear.

Q: Why did the U.S. and NATO attack?
A: They want Serbs and Kosovo Albanians to accept a peace deal that was negotiated in France last month. The Kosovo rebels have signed the agreement. But the Yugoslav government – led by President Slobodan Milosevic, a hard-line Serb nationalist – has refused to go along, objecting to foreign peacekeepers who would be sent into Kosovo under the accord. NATO told Milosevic that if he didn't accept the peace deal, his forces would be bombed. He refused anyway, and so the bombing has begun.

Q: Why do the U.S. and NATO care about Kosovo?
A: The United States has long been concerned that violence in Yugoslavia would spill across borders, possibly leading to war between two NATO allies, Greece and Turkey. World War I had roots in Balkan violence; World War II was inflamed by ethnic slaughter there. In recent months, the United States and its European allies have said forcefully that they want Serbian atrocities against Kosovo's civilian population to stop.

Q: How is the Kosovo conflict related to Bosnia?
A: Bosnia was part of Yugoslavia until 1992 when it declared independence. But ethnic Serbs in Bosnia wanted to remain part of Yugoslavia. The Milosevic government in Belgrade encouraged the ethnic Serbs in Bosnia to fight Muslims and Croats. The war claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, many the result of "ethnic cleansing" carried out by ethnic Serbian paramilitary forces loyal to Milosevic. U.S. officials say they do not want what happened in Bosnia to occur again in Kosovo. Meanwhile, about 20,000 NATO troops are keeping the peace in Bosnia under the 1995 Dayton accords. Some fear those NATO troops could be dragged into the Kosovo conflict.

Click on the links below the map to read more history on
Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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