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


The three official languages of Yugoslavia were Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, and Macedonian. Serbo-Croatian has an eastern and a western variant; it is written in the Latin alphabet in Croatia and in the Cyrillic alphabet. Both alphabets are used in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ironically, the Croatian literary variant is closer to the language spoken by most Serbs and Montenegrins than to that spoken by most Croats. Like Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, which uses the Latin alphabet, became a literary language in the nineteenth century. Macedonian, which has elements of both Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian, obtained a standardized Cyrillic-based alphabet and orthography only after World War II.

In order of usage, Yugoslavia's most significant minority languages included Albanian, Hungarian, Turkish, Bulgarian, Romanian, Italian, Vlach, Czechoslovak, Slovak, Ruthenian, and Gypsy. The Constitution guaranteed members of the nationalities the right to use their own language and alphabet, including the right to use it in public affairs and before government agencies. The nationalities also received the option of education in their native language through high school or vocational school. Children attending such schools were required to study one of the three official Yugoslav languages. In 1990 the government of Serbia filled a gap in this guarantee by opening the first Gypsy-language primary school in the world. In the 1970s, the government eliminated the requirement that schoolchildren study a second official Yugoslav language; this change caused a steep drop in the number of Slovenian and Albanian students who learned Serbo-Croatian and threatened to isolate some Slovenian and Albanian communities.

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 44 of 208


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