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Yugoslavia: Ethnographic History
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Yugoslavia's People > Ethnographic History


The South Slavs lived for centuries on two sides of a disputed border between the Eastern and Western Roman Empires, between the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches, between the Islamic crescent and the Christian cross. Those on the Eastern side (today's Serbs, Montenegrins, Muslim Slavs, and Macedonians) had lived under Byzantine and Turkish influence; those on the Western side (the Slovenes and Croats) under the religious authority of Rome and the secular authority of Vienna, Budapest, and Venice. Besides the South Slavs, the Yugoslav state contained a mélange of minority peoples, many of them non-Slavic, who professed different religions, spoke different languages, and had different and often conflicting historical assumptions and desires. With over twenty-five distinct nationalities, Yugoslavia had one of the most complex ethnic profiles in Europe. Over seventy years after Yugoslavia's creation, serious doubts remained that a federation of such disparate elements could continue as an integrated state.

The Constitution of 1974 divided the country's ethnic groups into two categories: nations. The other ethnic groups totaled less than 0.1 percent of the country's population and did not enjoy special constitutional status as communities; as individuals, however, they were entitled to the same rights and freedoms guaranteed all other Yugoslavs in the national Constitution.

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 42 of 208


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