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Current time:0:00Total duration:6:17

Language and religion of the former Yugoslavia

Video transcript

Understanding the ethnic and religious commonalities and differences in the state or the region that used to be Yugoslavia can be quite confusing. What I want to do in this video is try to give a primer on it. It's really key to understanding some of the triggers of World War I. And to, obviously, understand the breakup of Yugoslavia which was quite ugly during the fall of Communism in the late '80s and early '90s. So first of all, it's a good idea to just understand where the word Yugoslavia comes from. It's literally referring to the southern Slavic states. So Yugo- is referring to southern. And -slavia, we're talking about the Slavic states. And when people talk about Slavic languages, they're talking about the languages that are spoken in this region, but also much of Eastern Europe, and in what is now Russia. Now, what we have here in blue is, we have shaded in where Serbo-Croatian is spoken, which is the dominant Slavic language in this region. And there are multiple dialects. Some people will say, oh, it's Croatian or Montenegrin or Serbian or whatever it might be. But mostly, linguists say, well, they're pretty close to each other. And you can categorize them as one language as Serbo-Croatian. And you see that it's now spoken in modern day Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. And that is the commonality here, the thing that ties together this region. Now on top of that, the Slovenian language is also Slavic language that is closely related to Serbo-Croatian. In Macedonia, they also speak a Slavic language. It's closer to Bulgarian. But it has some close ties. It's not completely different than Serbo-Croatian. So you have this linguistic connection throughout this area. Now, what divides this area is really religion and history. So this area, if you look, go back hundreds of years, it was under the control of various empires, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire. Different-- the Austro-Hungarian Empire, you're dealing with the Roman Catholic Empire. When you're talking about the Ottomans, you're dealing with the Muslim Empire. And they held in different parts of this territory for hundreds of years. And so what you end up, is really a mix of religions. And that often gets tied to people's-- what they perceive as also their ethnicities. And so what I have here is a break down, the religious breakdown of the state, the former state of Yugoslavia. So in this pinkish color right over here, I have the areas that are predominately Roman Catholic. And I say, predominantly, because it really is all mixed together. So Slovenia, Croatia, primarily Roman Catholic. If you look at Serbia and Montenegro, primarily Eastern Orthodox. Kosovo, you have a strong Muslim majority right over there. And it really gets-- and Kosovo, before its break up, was kind of part of Serbia and Montenegro. Despite it having this very different religious makeup. And then, Bosnia and Herzegovina is where things get really, really mixed up. Roughly half of the population, and it's been moving over the centuries. But the dominant religion there is Islam. And in general, and this is where it can be confusing, when people talk about a Bosniak, when they're talking about a Bosniak, they're talking about a Bosnian Muslim. But Bosnia and Herzegovina also has significant fractions of Serbs who are Eastern Orthodox. So that's why I put the brown here as well. It's about a third of the population. And it also has a pretty sizable Roman Catholic population. Or we could say Bosnian Croats. So just to be clear here, it can be very confusing. Even when you when you hear history of it or when you've heard it on the news. I remember the '90s hearing this on the news and getting very confused. If someone's referring to a Bosnian Muslim or Bosniak, that's a Muslim living in Bosnia. That's they tend to be referring to. If they say a Bosnian Croats, this would be an ethnically Croat who is living in Bosnia. And they are-- it would tend to be Roman Catholic. And then if you have a Bosnian Serb, this is someone who ethnically identifies themselves as a Serbian or as a Serb who lives in Bosnia and Herzegovina. But is probably going to be Eastern Orthodox. So you can imagine, you have the strong linguistic and even ethnic ties. But at some point, because of the religion and dialect changes, there's also significant amount of differences here. Especially when things got ugly, as you have the fall of Communism. So hopefully, this lays the groundwork of the commonalities and the differences here. And it'll help us understand what got us into World War I, or at least what triggered World War I. And also some of the ugliness that was seen in the early '90s. And just to finish up with a little bit of context, this was not a unified state until-- World War I, to some degree, was precipitated by a desire to make this a unified state. This ethnic grouping, this linguistic grouping tended to be broken up with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire. Entering into a World War I, you started to have the decline of the Ottoman Empire which started to allow these people to start to have more energy behind their desire to form a unified state. World War I was essentially the catalyst that allowed the state of Yugoslavia to unify. And in different forms, it stayed unified until the fall of Communism. And even though it was a socialist state, a communist state during the Cold War, it actually always had a strange and distant relationship with the Soviet Union. But after the fall of Communism, that was kind of holding it together, these, especially these religious differences, frankly, and these ethnic and religious differences broke it apart.