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Yugoslavia: Topography
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Geography and Population > Topography


Rugged mountains dominate the 255,892 square kilometers of Yugoslavia. Mountains separate the fertile inland plain from a narrow, rocky Adriatic coastline. Yugoslavia's three main mountainous regions occupy about 60 percent of its territory. The Julian Alps of Slovenia, an extension of the Italian and Austrian alps, include Yugoslavia's highest peaks. The Dinaric Alps rise dramatically along the entire 640-kilometer Adriatic coast. Finally, spurs extend southward from the Carpathian and Balkan mountains through Serbia from the Danube River's Iron Gate near the Romanian-Bulgarian border, intersecting with the Dinaric Alps in Macedonia.

The composition of Yugoslavia's mountains varies. The Dinaric Alps, like the offshore Adriatic islands, are chiefly cracked limestone strata that form long valleys and contain topographical oddities such as magnificent caves, disappearing rivers, and a freshwater lake (on the north Adriatic island of Cres) deeper than the Adriatic seabed. In some areas east of the coast, erosion of the limestone has exposed the crystalline rock outlayers of the Rhodope massif, which is the primeval core of the Balkan Peninsula. From Bosnia southeastward, areas of crystalline rock are interspersed with alluvial sedimentary rock. Serbia's mountains contain a variety of rock types, including volcanic rock and exposed crystalline formations. Geological fault lines in southern Yugoslavia have caused occasional earthquakes; the most serious in recent times killed over 1,000 people at Skopje in 1963.

North and west of Belgrade are the Pannonian Plains, which include all of the Serbian province of Vojvodina. These plains wwer the floor of a huge inland sea during the Tertiary Period (65 millon to 2.5 million years ago). Here eons of sedimentary and windblown deposits have created layers of fertile soil that are over 160 meters deep in some places.

Yugoslavia possesses about 2100 kilometers of convoluted Adriatic coastline, not including its many islands. From the coast, access inland is easiest through four passages. The Postojna Gate, used for millennia by merchants and armies crossing between the Adriatic and Central Europe, is Yugoslavia's northernmost passage through the coastal mountains. Farther south, the Neretva River is a centuries-old trading link between the Adriatic and Bosnia. Below the Neretva, the Gulf of Kotor is a spectacular fjord long considered a strategic port. Finally, the port of Bar connects with the interior of Montenegro and Serbia by means of the Belgrade-Bar Railway, giving Serbia access to the Adriatic.

Data as of December 1990

Last Updated: December 1990

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Yugoslavia was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

Yugoslavia Main Page Country Studies Main Page

Section 36 of 208


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