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Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian Languages: History

Supplementary materials to support first year language program

Overview of Regional History

Twenty-Five Lectures on Modern Balkan History (The Balkans in the Age of Nationalism) is a series of lectures by Steven W. Sowards composed for a course at Swarthmore College in 1995. This lecture series serves as a fantastic overview of Balkan regional history. A bibliography is available on the home page of the website.

The Region

For general information see the World Fact Book: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia

Brief Timeline

Timeline: 1389-1999
CBC News Online | March 19, 2004

1389: Serbs lose a key battle against the forces of the invading Ottoman Empire on the fields of Kosovo. The defeat marks the beginning of the end of Serbia's Medieval Empire. Kosovo becomes part of the Ottoman Empire. In the centuries that follow, the battle becomes the key event in Serbian national history.

1815: Serbian uprisings secure limited autonomy from the Ottoman Empire.

1830-1833: Serbia gains formal autonomy.

1912: Serbs gain control of Kosovo in a war against the Ottoman Empire.  Albanian leaders in Albania declare an independent state in November 1912. Borders for the new Albanian state are drawn in 1913. The disputed region of Kosovo becomes part of Serbia.

1914-1918: The First World War.

November 1918:  After the war, the newly created Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes regains control of contested area of Kosovo. As a minority, Albanians are promised extensive rights by minority rights treaties. 

1939-1945: The Second World War.

April 1941: German attack on Yugoslavia.

1946: New constitution for the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia. Six republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia) gain relative equality in the country.

1974: New Yugoslav constitution creates the autonomous province of Kosovo. Albanians gain almost complete control over their affairs.

4 May 1980: Death of Tito.

1981: Wide scale demonstrations in Kosovo.

1986: Slobodan Milosevic becomes leader of the Serbian Communist Party.

June 1989: 600 year anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo. Milosevic delivers a threatening speech.

December 1989: The ethnic Albanian Democratic League of Kosovo is formed led by the literary scholar Ibrahim Rugova.

March - April 1991: Thousands of ethnic Albanians demonstrators demand that Kosovo become a republic. 

1992: Albanians organize multiparty elections which are declared illegal by the Serbs. The Democratic League wins 96 out of 140 seats and Rugova is elected president. Civil war comes to Bosnia.

1995: Dayton Peace Accord ends the war in Bosnia.

1997: Growing frustrated with the pace of change under Rugova's rule, some Albanians choose violence to force concessions from Belgrade. A shadowy group calling itself the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) emerges.

February 1998: Full scale war comes to Kosovo as Serbian forces launch a bloody crackdown against the KLA.

October 1998: After eight months of intense fighting, with more than 2000 dead and thousands made homeless, under the threat of NATO bombing, Serbia pulls back its troops and a cease-fire is proclaimed.

January 1999: Peace talks are held near Paris.

Adapted from CBC News Balkans timeline: 1389-1999
For detailed timeline see:
accessed 3/4/2011

Relationships between languages

Image taken from Encyclopedia Britannica