Yugoslavia exploded onto the front pages of world newspapers in the early 1990s. The War of Yugoslav Succession of 1991–1995 convinced many that interethnic violence was endemic to politics in Yugoslavia and that the Yugoslav meltdown had occurred because of ancient hatreds. In this thematic history of Yugoslavia in the 20th century, Sabrina P. Ramet demonstrates that, on the contrary, the instability of the three 20th-century Yugoslav states—the interwar kingdom (1918–41), socialist Yugoslavia (1945–91), and the rump Yugoslav state created in 1992, consisting of Serbia and Montenegro—can be attributed to the failure of succeeding governments to establish the rule of law and political legitimacy. Ramet places emphasis on the failure of the state-building project and the absence of political legitimation, rather than on ineluctable or abstract historical forces. Based on extensive archival research and fieldwork and the culmination of more than two decades of study, The Three Yugoslavias is a major contribution to an understanding of Yugoslavia and its successor states.


List of Maps
List of Tables
Preface and Acknowledgments
Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Conventions Used in the Text


1. A Theory of System Legitimacy

2. The First Yugoslavia, Part 1: The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, 1918–1929

3. The First Yugoslavia, Part 2: The Kingdom of Yugoslavia, 1929–1941

4. World War Two and the Partisan Struggle, 1941–1945

5. Happy Comrades? Tito, Stalin, and the Birth of the Second Yugoslavia, 1945–1951

6. Dreaming a New Dream, 1950–1962

7. The Reform Crisis, 1962–1970

8. The Rise and Fall of Yugoslav Liberalism, 1967–1973

9. Controversies in the Economic Sector, 1965–1990

10. Nationalist Tensions, 1968–1990

11. A Crisis of Legitimacy, 1974–1989

12. Hail Caesar! The Rise of Slobodan Milošević

13. The Road to War 14. The War of Yugoslav Succession, Phase 1 (1991)

15. The War of Yugoslav Succession, Phase 2 (1992–1995)

16. A Flawed Peace: Post-Dayton Bosnia

17. The Third Yugoslavia and After, 1992–2004

18. UNMIK, KFOR, and the Future of Kosovo

19. Separate Paths: Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia



“In this extraordinary new work, Sabrina Ramet builds upon her highly respected Nationalism and Federalism in Yugoslavia to examine the Yugoslavs’ failure to create a viable and stable state in the twentieth century. Ramet argues that Yugoslavia’s problem was not ethnicity per se and that the country ‘was not doomed to fail.’ Rather, with her usual meticulous research, Ramet demonstrates convincingly that Yugoslavia succumbed more than once because it did not create a legitimate and functional system. The Three Yugoslavias is a long-awaited tour de force.”—Thomas A. Emmert, Professor of History, Gustavus Adolphus College

“Sabrina Ramet’s The Three Yugoslavias represents the culmination of a lifetime of research into the South Slavs by one of the great historians of the subject. Ramet has distilled a tremendous amount of knowledge and insight into a concise and accessible form. This will be required reading on Yugoslavia, its breakup, and the wars that followed—for the layman, undergraduate, and expert alike.”—Marko Attila Hoare, Senior Research Fellow, Kingston University

“This is an elegantly written, theoretically coherent, and empirically well documented book that will be required reading in the field of Balkan Studies. Rooted in an impressive understanding of Yugoslav history and making extensive use of archival sources, Ramet’s book provides a gripping narrative about the rise and fall of the three Yugoslavias.”—Renéo Lukic, Professor of History, Université Laval, Quebec