The Bosnian Genocide: Summary, Facts & Statistics

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  • 0:00 Bosnian Genocide
  • 0:45 Bosnia & Serbia
  • 2:07 War & Genocide
  • 3:23 Aftermath of the Bosnian War
  • 4:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erica Cummings

Erica teaches college Humanities, Literature, and Writing classes and has a Master's degree in Humanities.

A combination of political turmoil and ethnic tension between Serbs and Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s led to war and the worst genocide in Europe since the Holocaust. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the tragedy of the Bosnian genocide.

Bosnian Genocide

We would like to think that genocide - the systematic extermination of a specific group of people - cannot happen in our modern, enlightened world, but unfortunately that's not the case. In fact, the worst genocide Europe has experienced since the atrocities of World War II occurred within recent memory. This was the Bosnian genocide. The Bosnian genocide refers specifically to the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in a Bosnian town in July 1995, but this massacre was just the low point of a civil war in the area that lasted from 1992 to 1995 and resulted in 100,000 deaths of mostly Bosnian Muslims.

Bosnia and Serbia

A little background information helps clarify how such a tragic event took place. Bosnia (now called Bosnia-Herzegovina) and the surrounding area have endured ethnic and territorial tensions for quite some time. Bosnia used to be a part of the former Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia existed in various forms from the 1920s to 2003, and included various states, like Bosnia and Serbia.

In the 1980s and '90s, Yugoslavia began to fall apart due to economic instability, oppressive communist policies, and ethnic conflict. Separate states, comprised of mostly the predominant ethnic group in those areaa, began declaring independence from Yugoslavia. In 1992, Bosnia did just that, while Serbia remained a part of Yugoslavia until 2003.

In 1991, Bosnia had 4 million people, composed of 4 main ethnic groups. Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) made up 44% of the population, 31% were Serbs, 17% were Croatian, and 8% were Yugoslavian. The problem was that these different ethnic groups often quarreled with one another. Thus, as Yugoslavia broke apart and new nations were formed, civil war ensued as various ethnic groups fought for control over land and resources.

War and Genocide

Though Bosniaks made up the majority of the population, the Serbs in Bosnia and in neighboring Serbia were hungry for control of Bosnia. Thus, once Bosnia declared independence, the Serbs began a military campaign to expel the Bosniaks from the area. Neighbor turned on neighbor, and the civil war called the Bosnian War, tore through the area from 1992 to 1995.

Alliances between the different ethnic groups shifted throughout the war, and atrocities existed on all sides. However, the Bosniaks bore the brunt of the casualties. At war's end, 100,000 people had died, and 80% of the fatalities were Bosniaks.

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