Bosnian Civil War 1992-1995


The Bosnian Civil War was part of the breakup of Yugoslavia, and followed earlier secessionist wars in Slovenia and Croatia. Before 1992, tensions between the ethnic factions in Bosnia and Herzegovina led negotiators to propose multiple versions of a Bosnian division, which all three ethnic parties refused. The conflict began in 1992, when the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia, and it quickly evolved into a deadly war involving the three ethnic factions of Bosnia –Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats – as well as the Yugoslavian army. 


Basis of Conflict: The crisis was both an independence movement against the Yugoslavian army and an ethnic conflict between Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Serbs, and Catholic Croats.

Regime Type: Yugoslavia, as well as the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of its constituent republics, was a socialist republic.

Severity of Crisis: Over 100,000 people, mostly Muslim Bosniaks, were killed in the conflict, in what is now known as one of the worst genocides in history.


Along with multiple military interventions led by NATO from the initiation of the war in 1992, there were many unsuccessful attempts at peace brokering on part of international entities who had an interest in maintaining peace in the Balkans. This was coupled with the UN’s rather limited involvement in the region, which consisted of monitoring weapons exclusion zones and the provision of humanitarian aid. However, the end of the Bosnian Civil War came with the Dayton Agreement in 1995, which was agreed upon by the three Yugoslav countries after an intense and prolonged effort at diplomatic pressure by several Western nations - the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. The result was a power-sharing agreement where the country was divided into the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republika Srpska, and power was shared between the three rival ethnic groups in the conflict, the Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs.


The Dayton Accord ended the 3 ½ year long war in Bosnia, and led to the formation of a functioning government. Peace has been observed in the country since, passing its 10-year mark in December of 2005. However, more recently, the Dayton Accord has been criticized for due to the complicated government structure it has created in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has resulted in frequent deadlocks in governance.


Although the Dayton Accord ended the war, and peace has been observed in the country since, there has been much criticism on the consequences of the power-sharing agreement and the hindrances it has caused in developing a sustainable democracy. Most Bosniaks and Croats believe that the Dayton Accord was necessary to end the long conflict but argue that Bosnia and Herzegovina now require a new constitution to prepare for the future, particularly in preparing for membership in the EU. Many are becoming less ethnoterritorial, which runs counter to the ethnically divided government that the Accord sets up. In this sense, the multilateral, NATO-backed negotiations in Bosnia provide important lessons for conflict mediation going forth; power-sharing agreements can be powerful tools in putting an end to severe ethnic conflicts, and diplomatic pressure is effective in bringing historical enemies to the negotiating table, but power-sharing agreements require more flexibility in order to lend way to future democracy building. The Bosnian Genocide is also a reminder that intervention cannot be delayed in the face of severe humanitarian crises; earlier and more consolidated multilateral diplomatic pressure could have been deployed to mediate an effective power-sharing agreement prior to mass ethnic cleansing.