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Yugoslavs (Serbo-Croatian, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, Slovene, Macedonian: Jugoslaveni/Jugosloveni/Jugoslovani, Cyrillic script: Југословени) is a national designation used by South Slavs across successor countries of former Yugoslavia and by diaspora.

In socialist Yugoslaviamarker, 1943–1991, official designation for those who wanted to declare themselves that way was with quotation marks, "Yugoslavs" (introduced in census 1971). Quotation marks were added to distinguish the ethnicity from statehood (legal statuses such as citizenship), which was written without quotation marks.

Shortly before the dissolution of Yugoslavia, most of those who declared themselves "Yugoslavs" reverted to or adopted traditional nationalities such as Bosniaks, Muslims by nationality, Croats, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Serbs, Slovenes, as well as those which were played down including Janjevci, Bunjevci and Šokci. Some also decided to turn to supra-national regional identifications, especially in multi-ethnic historical regions like Istriamarker, Vojvodinamarker, or Bosnia. The Yugoslav designation however continues to be used by hundreds thousands of people.


The use of the term Yugoslavs is for people who believe that Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks, and Montenegrins are one and the same people, and that Slovenes and Macedonians are slightly different linguistically but are an extended and crucial part of the Yugoslav identity, who have cultural differences (mainly religious) because of empires which ruled their tribes in the past. For instance, if one wished to see the impact of Germanic, Italianmarker and Hungarian influences on the Yugoslavs, they would look to the (Catholic) Croatian and Slovene region, the (Muslim) Bosnian region under the Ottoman influence, and the (Orthodox) Serbian region under both Ottoman, Austrianmarker, Russian and Greekmarker influence. Those who were raised in the Yugoslav spirit embrace the three different nationalities as one ethnicity who speak one language, and see this as the reason to unite in a similar way that Italy was unified in 1861.


Since the late 18th century, when traditional European ethnic affiliations started to mature into modern ethnic identities, there have been numerous attempts to define a common South Slavic ethnic identity. The word Yugoslav itself, means South Slavic.

Before the First World War

The Illyrian movement sought to identify Southern Slavs with ancient Illyrians and to construct the Illyrian literary language which would unite not only Croatian and Serbian, but also Slovene and Macedonian.

Vladimir Dvorniković, a famous Croatian philosopher, advocated the establishment of a Yugoslav ethnicity as early as 1917 (prior to the establishment of the first Yugoslavia). His views included eugenics and cultural blending to create one, strong Yugoslav nation.

In the 18th century Hristofor Zhefarovich promoted the idea of unity between South Slavic people, in particular the kinship between Bulgarians and Serbs. This idea was somewhat revived during the late 1940s when Tito and Stalin contemplated extending Yugoslavia to include Bulgaria as well.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the term Yugoslavs started to be used as a synonym for South Slavs, especially to denote those in Austria-Hungary.

World War I

On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne, and his wife, in Sarajevo. Princip was a member of Young Bosnia, a group whose aims included the unification of the Yugoslavs and independence from Austria-Hungary. The assassination in Sarajevomarker set into motion a series of fast-moving events that eventually escalated into full-scale war.

After the assassination, Princip was captured. During his trial he stated "I am a Yugoslav nationalist, aiming for the unification of all Yugoslavs, and I do not care what form of state, but it must be free from Austria."

Corfu Declaration

During June and July 1917, the Yugoslav Committee met with the Serbian Government in Corfumarker and on July 20 the Corfu Declaration that laid the foundation for the post-war state was issued. The preamble stated that the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes were "the same by blood, by language, by the feelings of their unity, by the continuity and integrity of the territory which they inhabit undivided, and by the common vital interests of their national survival and manifold development of their moral and material life." The future state was to be called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenesmarker and was to be a constitutional monarchy under the Karađorđević dynasty.

Before the Second World War

After the First World War, when South Slavic lands were united in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenesmarker, the term Yugoslavs was used to refer to all of its inhabitants, but particularly to those of Southern Slavic origin. In reality and according to Croatian, Bosnian and other Yugoslav nationalists: the hands of power resided in an ethnic Serb majority who ruled the multi-ethnic kingdom from the capital of Belgrademarker in Serbia and the demographic fact Serbs were the largest ethnic group: 40–45% of the country's population to hold "majority" status.

In 1929, King Alexander sought to resolve a deep political crisis brought on by ethnic tensions by assuming dictatorial powers, renaming the country "Kingdom of Yugoslavia", and officially pronouncing that there is one single Yugoslav nation with three tribes. The Yugoslav ethnic designation was thus for a time imposed on all South Slavs in Yugoslavia. Changes in Yugoslav politics after King Alexander's death in 1934 brought an end to this policy, but the designation continued to be used by some people.

Second Yugoslavia and later

After liberation from Axis Powers in 1945, the new socialist Yugoslaviamarker became a federal country which officially recognized and valued its ethnic diversity. Traditional ethnic identities again became the primary ethnic designations used by most inhabitants of Yugoslavia. However, many people still declared themselves as "Yugoslavs" because they wanted to express an identification with Yugoslavia as a whole, but not specifically with any of its peoples.

The 1971 census recorded 273,077 Yugoslav, or 1.33% of the total population. The 1981 census recorded 1,216,463 or 5.4% Yugoslavs. In the 1991 census, 5.51% (239,777) of the inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared themselves to be Yugoslav. 4.25% of the population of the republic of Montenegromarker also declared themselves Yugoslav in the same census.

The Constitution of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1990 ratified a Presidency of seven members. One of the seven was to be elected amongst/by the republic's Yugoslavs, thereby introducing the Yugoslavs next to Muslims by nationality, Serbs and Croats into the Constitutional framework of Bosnia and Herzegovina although on an inferior level, however to the Bosnian War that erupted in 1992, this Constitution was short-lived and unrealized.

The 1981 census showed that Yugoslavs made up around 8% of the population in Croatia, this to date has been the highest percentage of Yugoslavs within Croatia's borders. The 1991 census data indicated that the number of Yugoslavs had dropped to 2% of the population in Croatia. The 2001 census in Croatiamarker (the first since independence) registered only 176 Yugoslavs.

Just before and after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, most Yugoslavs switched to more conventional ethnic designations. Nevertheless, the concept has survived into Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker (where most towns have a tiny percentage), and Serbia and Montenegro (2003–2006), which kept the name "Yugoslavia" the longest, right up to February, 2003.


When the term Yugoslav was first introduced, it was meant to unite a common people the same way the Germans united with Bavariamarker and other regions of Germanymarker. In the book A Short History of the Yugoslav Peoples by Fred Singleton, it states that Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks are one and the same people. "Once the South Slavs had settled in the Balkans they also became separated from each other, partly because of geographical obstacles, and partly because of the historical circumstances of foreign occupations."

Josip Broz Tito expressed his desire for an undivided Yugoslav ethnicity when he stated, "I would like to live to see the day when Yugoslavia would become amalgamated into a firm community, when she would no longer be a formal community but a community of a single Yugoslav nation."

Famous Yugoslavs

Yugoslavs have affected world history on many occasions. One prime example is the leader, president for life, and founder of second Yugoslaviamarker, Marshal Josip Broz Tito. First to organize a resistance against Nazi Germany in Yugoslavia, he effectively expelled Nazi occupation in Yugoslavia, co-founded the Non-Aligned Movement, and defied Stalin's Soviet pressure on Yugoslavia. Other prominent figures include writers Ivo Andrić and Meša Selimović and Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip. Princip, also being a prime example of a Yugoslav who impacted world history when he triggered the first World War by successfully assassinating Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in the city of Sarajevomarker.

Other Yugoslavs include entertainers and singers, such as Emir Kusturica, Goran Bregović, Lepa Brena, Branko Đurić and Mile Kitić, as well as soccer player Asim Ferhatović. In more recent times, Oliver Dulić, Serbia's Speaker in Parliament until June 2008, identified himself as Yugoslav.


See also


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