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Many in Balkans Still See More Harm From Yugoslavia Breakup

Many in Balkans Still See More Harm From Yugoslavia Breakup

by Elizabeth Keating and Zacc Ritter
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 81% of Serbians see breakup as having harmed their country
  • Croatians, Kosovo residents see benefit, rather than harm

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The violent protests in Macedonia's parliament in late April are just one recent reminder of the deep-seated tensions that remain in the Balkans decades after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. With these tensions rising in the region, Gallup finds "Yugo-nostalgia" is widespread in former Yugoslav republics, where many see the breakup as harming their countries, rather than benefiting them.

Breakup of Yugoslavia More Harmful than Good?
In general, did the breakup of Yugoslavia benefit or harm this country?
Beneficial Harm Don't know/Refused
% % %
Serbia 4 81 8
Bosnia and Herzegovina 6 77 7
Montenegro 15 65 9
Macedonia 12 61 21
Slovenia (2014) 41 45 10
Croatia 55 23 9
Kosovo 75 10 10
Gallup World Poll, 2016

People living in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are the most likely say the breakup harmed their country, with more than three in four residents characterizing it this way. Similar to Russian attitudes toward the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, Serbians may feel an acute sense of loss as the core nation of a former multinational state.

The negative attitudes in Bosnia and Herzegovina may be linked to frustration with persistently poor government performance. More than any other former Yugoslav province, adults in Bosnia and Herzegovina said their country was headed in the wrong direction (82%) and the economy was getting worse (60%).

In contrast, residents of Slovenia and Croatia, both members of the European Union, were much more likely to perceive the collapse of Yugoslavia as beneficial. Adults in Kosovo saw this historic event in the most positive light, with the strong majority seeing a benefit (75%), likely related to their long drive to independence.

Ethnic Minorities More Likely to See Harm

When adults belong to the dominant ethnic group they are less likely to say the breakup harmed their country. Croatians living outside Croatia were much more likely than Croatians living in Croatia to think the breakup harmed their country. The same is true for Albanians in Kosovo, where they are the dominant ethnic group, compared with Albanians in Macedonia, where they are a minority ethnic group that briefly waged a secessionist movement before the 2001 NATO-brokered power-sharing agreement. The partial exception are Serbians, who largely believe their country was harmed by the breakup regardless of where they reside.

Ethnicity Affects Perceptions
Percentage saying breakup harmed their country, by nationality
Croatian Albanian Serbian
Country of Residence % % %
Bosnia and Herzegovina 47 93
Croatia 21
Macedonia 39
Kosovo 8
Montenegro 73
Serbia 82
Gallup World Poll, 2016

Older Adults More Likely to See Harm

Adults older than age 55 are more likely than those between the ages of 15 and 35 -- many of whom were not even born at the time of the breakup -- to say the collapse harmed their countries. This could be attributable to older residents remembering the benefits they once had in Yugoslavia, such as free healthcare, free education, a higher employment rate and guaranteed pensions. The picture is similar in all countries except Kosovo and Slovenia, where residents in all age groups express similar opinions of the breakup.

Older Adults More Likely to See Harm
Percentage saying breakup harmed their country, by age
Age 15 to 35 Age 36 to 55 56 and older
% % %
Serbia 74 80 88
Bosnia and Herzegovina 67 78 85
Montenegro 58 64 75
Macedonia 45 61 80
Slovenia (2014) 46 44 43
Croatia 17 22 28
Kosovo 9 10 11
Gallup World Poll, 2016

When examining how residents feel about the breakup of Yugoslavia, few other demographic differences stand out. Differences by education and income were observed only in Slovenia and Croatia, with those who are more educated and who have higher annual incomes being less likely to feel their country was harmed.


Many residents of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia feel its breakup 25 years ago harmed their country. These residents may be mourning the loss of the benefits that socialism provided or be frustrated with the current high unemployment rate, the loss of income, or the lost illusion of peaceful coexistence among different groups. Given the differences in opinions by age, it seems many residents who can remember Yugoslavia view the past in a more favorable light compared with the present political and economic realities. Yugo-nostalgia may fade, but ethnic minorities may continue to see the past in a positive light as a time of multi-ethnic tolerance.

Neli Esipova contributed to this article.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with at least 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted between April and July 2016 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Results for Slovenia are based on two waves of phone-based interviews conducted from April to May and August to September 2014. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.5 to ±3.7 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

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