Faced with ethnic tensions, Czechoslovakia peacefully split into two countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In 1991, however, ethnic conflict tore apart the Balkan nation of Yugoslavia.

The Breakup of Yugoslavia

During World War II, a skilled guerrilla leader, Josip Tito, had battled Germany occupying forces. Later, Tito set up a communist government in Yugoslavia, but he pursued a path independent of Moscow. He refused to join the Warsaw Pact and claimed to be neutral in the Cold War.

After Tito's death and the fall of communism, a wave of nationalism tore Yugoslavia apart. The country consisted of six republics, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. In 1992, Slovenia and Croatia broke away after a bitter conflict with Serbia. That year, another conflict erupted in Bosnia, which declared independence.

Most Bosnians were Muslims, but many Serbs and Croats lived there. Bosnian Serbs rejected independence, and with money and arms from Serbia, they seized much of Bosnia. In a brutal war, Serbs practiced “ethnic cleansing,” forcibly removing other ethnic groups from the areas they controlled. Hundreds of thousands of Bosnians became refugees. Others were tortured or killed. Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, came under a deadly siege by Bosnian Serb forces.

Restoring Peace

Bosnia became a test case for the role of the United States and the Western powers in the post Cold-War world. For three years, the UN tried unsuccessfully to bring about peace. In 1994, as Bosnian Serbs advanced, the United States and its NATO allies began air strikes against Serbian targets in Bosnia.

In 1995, the United States helped broker a peace agreement, known as the Dayton Accords, which ended the war in Bosnia. NATO peacekeepers enforced the agreements in the troubled Balkan region, and the various new nations set out to recover from the brutal ethnic conflict.

Communism Declines Around the World

The collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe affected other communist nations. Cuba, which had long depended on Soviet aid and support, faced severe difficulties. Its economy suffered, too, from sanctions imposed by the United States decades earlier.

Photo of a crown of people crouching down for safety near a van, while a man crouched in the crowd wearing a beret aims a rifle.

At a 1992 peace demonstration in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, protesters crouch to avoid fire from Serbian snipers on a hotel roof. The Bosnian special forces soldier returns fire.

In 2006, Raul Castro, brother of the ailing leader, Fidel Castro, took over the Cuban government. He allowed some market reforms and sought investment from countries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Despite some economic easing, Castro kept tight political control over the island nation.

Other Communist Nations Adopt Market Reforms

China began to introduce limited market reforms, such as allowing some private enterprise and foreign investment, in the early 1980s. The reforms brought increased prosperity for some Chinese. By the early 2000s, China's economy was booming, and its many new factories were turning out manufactured goods for a growing global market.

In China, as in Cuba, economic change did not bring political reform. The Chinese Communist party kept its monopoly on power, and the government cracked down on any signs of discontent.

China's government undertook no major political reforms. However, as the global economic crisis that began in 2008 led to factory closings, protests by unemployed workers increased. China's government responded with a $600 billion stimulus package to retrain workers and improve productivity.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments