Why Did the Bosnian War Happen?

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The Bosnian War took place when Bosnia and Herzegovina attempted to declare independence in the wake of the dissolution of Yugoslavia and when Serbia attempted to prevent this breakaway. Aided by forces from Serbia, Bosnian Serbs took up arms against the Bosniaks and Croats in the country, triggering a violent and destructive war that lasted for more than three years.

The roots of the conflict lay in the creation of Yugoslavia, a country formed out of very different ethnic groups in the wake of World War II. Originally, the country was ruled over by a strong, centrally planned Soviet government that governed all the different groups of citizens. When the Soviet Union collapsed, so did this central authority, and the country began to break up almost immediately afterward. A number of separate wars occurred during this process, including the Bosnian War.

At first, the Serbs held the upper hand in the Bosnian War, until an alliance between the Bosniaks and the Croats allowed them to focus on a common enemy. In addition, the revelation of acts of genocide and other war crimes drew the international community into the conflict against the Serbs. In the end, Bosnia and Herzegovina won independence, resulting in yet another new state rising from the ashes of Yugoslavia.