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Mike Lekson, Vice President for International Programs, Education and Training Center, discusses the impact of Tito's death.

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Dan Serwer, Vice President for Peace and Stability Operations, discusses deterioration of relations among Yugoslavia's republics after Tito's death.


The Break-up of Yugoslavia

Death of Tito

Tito never designated a successor. After his death in 1980, an eight-member presidency exercised power. It was composed of representatives from the six republics and the two autonomous provinces, Vojvodina and Kosovo. These representatives rotated as President, ensuring discontinuous and, eventually, highly sectarian and factional leadership.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, along with confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union in Central America and over nuclear issues, raised Cold War tensions throughout the world and prompted increased militarization of Yugoslavian society. To some extent, continued resistance to the Soviet threat provided the last agreed-upon basis for central authority among the republics and provinces that made up Yugoslavia.

Protesters in Pristina, Kosovo. AP/Wide World Photos.

With such a limited foundation, central authority became increasingly ineffective, and internal problems worsened. As the most powerful republic, and the seat of the national capital (Belgrade), Serbia benefited most from what remained of central power structures, to the detriment and resentment of the other republics and provinces. Throughout the 1980s, the economy continued to deteriorate.

Problems in Kosovo

In Kosovo, Albanians pressed for formal recognition as a republic, a move seen in Belgrade as an unacceptable step in a secessionist agenda. Territorial integrity remained vital to the regime. Its importance only increased when the extent of foreign debt built up during the last years of Tito's rule came to be known. As unrest in Kosovo continued to rise, the peace became increasingly less stable. The province was placed under martial law in 1981.

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