Historic Yugoslavian Ethnic Groups

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Have you ever heard of Yugoslavia? Congratulations if you have! As it's no longer an actual country. Yugoslavia had a lot of different ethnic groups at one point in time. Find out what they were.


Despite its still famous name, Yugoslavia is actually no longer a country. It was a country that now consists of several different countries in the same area. These are:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Croatia
  • Kosovo
  • Macedonia
  • Montenegro
  • Serbia
  • Slovenia

Let's take a look at many of the ethnic groups that historically comprised the country of Yugoslavia.

A map of the former nation of Yugoslavia

Serbs and Croats

One of these ethnic groups is the Serbs. Serbs speak a language fittingly called Serbian and most Serbs are Christians, specifically Eastern Orthodox. Traditionally, Serbian people subsisted on herding, growing poultry, and growing crops such as wheat. The Serbian kingdom itself arose in the early 13th century and was a powerful state in 14th century Europe. Not long after, competing nobles caused the disintegration of this kingdom and they were all eventually conquered by the Ottoman Empire.

Another large portion of Yugoslavia was made up of Croats. These people speak Croatian, which is similar in some ways to Serbian. Most of the Croats are Christians, just like Serbs. The majority of Croats are Roman Catholic, not Eastern Orthodox. The Croats first settled in Europe within the borders of the Western Roman Empire, right before its final collapse. From here, an independent state of Croatia would develop into a powerful force under King Tomislav. Like the Serbs, much of their territory fell into the hands of the conquering Ottoman Turks.

Bosniaks & Slovenes

Yugoslavia also encompassed Bosniaks, or Bosnian Muslims. Bosniaks speak Bosnian. Their history goes back to around the 15th century when the kingdom of Bosnia was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Many local Christians converted to Islam after the conquest. One motivating factor for this was that the Ottoman Turks, who were Muslims, gave special privileges to those who had the same faith. Today, many Bosniaks engage in many activities, including subsistence farming, construction, the production of jewelry, and in the textile industry.

Slovenes also made up a relatively significant ethnic portion of Yugoslavia. These people speak Slovene and most are Christians, especially Roman Catholics. The Slovenes descended from settlers who came to Europe around the 6th century CE. Most people believe the Slovenes are descendants of people who emigrated from several different regions in what is now Russian. Slovenes were noted for producing a relatively large portion of Yugoslavian wealth despite being a small portion of the country's population. Today, the majority of their economy is based on trade and the provision of various services, such those associated with tourism.

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