The Social & Economic Impact of the Yugoslav Wars

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Towards the end of the last millennium, Yugoslavia broke up into several countries, which resulted in war. In this lesson, we go over this event's economic and social impacts.


In the early 1990s, Yugoslavia broke up into several countries along various ethnic, political, historical, and cultural lines. This included numerous wars, namely:

  • The Croatian War of Independence of 1991 to 1995
  • Bosnian War of 1992 to 1995
  • Kosovo War of 1998 to 1999

War, even if short-lived, can have devastating consequences. But the Yugoslav wars were protracted, which only heaped more misery upon the former country's inhabitants.

This breakup had various social and economic consequences; we'll investigate them here.

Ethnic Hostilities & Displacement

The war resulted in ethnic cleansing throughout the former nation's territory. The Croatians and Bosnian Muslims especially experienced the death and displacement of many people.

This created or strengthened hostilities between ethnic and religious groups as well as the modern countries that have arisen from the ruins of those wars.

Some of them immediately looked west, like Croatia, and have since joined the EU, while some, like Serbia, have maintained stronger ties with Russia as a result of the geopolitical issues stemming from the war, like the recognition of Kosovo.

Homelessness and Joblessness

The war led to the destruction of many people's homes, causing widespread homelessness for around 2.7 million people between 1991 - 1995. To add to the misery, business were destroyed or disrupted, resulting in mass unemployment.

In Croatia alone, 260,000 people were without work during the war. Unemployed individuals, unable to support themselves, put a large strain on each country's economy and working population.

Health and Education

As hospitals were destroyed, people's health suffered. Numerous diseases and disorders increased during or immediately after the end of the war, some suspected as a result of the physical and mental stress placed on the population.

Suicide attempts and rates increased among the young as well.

When the schools were bombed, children lagged behind in terms of proper education. Soon after the war many of the children began exhibiting hyperactive or violent disorders while at school.

The Environment

As well during the war, the environment suffered a great deal. Ironically, much of the contribution to environmental destruction stemmed from NATO's use of bombs.

NATO dropped tens of thousands of tons of ordinances across the region that led to the destruction of scores of industrial facilities. This, in turn, released over 100 toxic substances that devastated the region's quality of air, water, and land.

Trade & Capital

As you can imagine, the picture we've painted is pretty grim. And this situation reverberated on TV screens around the world at the time.

Investors were leery of placing any money into anything that had to do with what was Yugoslavia. This meant that trade routes were damaged or closed, businesses suffered, investments weren't made, and access to capital markets was curtailed, worsening the already economic destitution in many parts of the region.

Regional economic growth was deeply affected, as countries who depended on Yugoslavia for their own economic ends were met with the realization that their economies would suffer as a result of the conflicts as well.

The war negatively affected some of the region's GDP about 0.5 - 1% at the time of the war.

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