Yugoslavia , a south European state, with a surface area of 250 000 km 2 and a population of 23 000 000 inhabitants in 1945, is a Federation of six republics: Serbia , Croatia , Slovenia , Bosnia-Herzegovina , Macedonia and Montenegro .
Moreover, her population comprises various foreign minorities including: Albanians, Hungarians, Turks and Romanians.
This diversity, for a long time, was at the origin of serious political crises and waves of violence in the country.
Initially a kingdom and later on part of the dictatorial Austro-Hungarian Empire, Yugoslavia was carved up by her neighbours, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria and Hungary, and struggled in vain to achieve national unity.
During the First World War, France played a crucial role, which became the basis of the indefectible friendship between Grand Serbia and France (see Editor’s note below).
At the end of the 2 nd World War, Field Marshal Josip Broz Tito with his imposing personality succeeded, while opposing Staline, to put in place a “non-aligned” popular federal republican regime, obtain the restoration of the country’s former borders, and establish a self-managed political system, which soon found its limits.
The ensuing economic crisis, which ushered in a Croatian nationalist movement, was accompanied by integration difficulties in Kosovo, a province in the south of Serbia , having over 90 % Albanians.
An 2000 - Macédoine - Détachement du Génie de l'Air
chargé de l'aménagement du dépôt de munitions de la K.FOR -
Collection Antoine Goffinet FNCV
The “time bomb of the Balkans”
In 1991 Croatia declared her independence thereby provoking clashes with Serbians, and that was the onset of the Yugoslavian chaos.
In September 1991, Macedonia also declared her own independence. 1992 then became a year of inter-ethnic and inter-religion confrontations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sarajevo was bombarded, “ethnic cleansing” campaigns were launched by the Serbs, Croats and Muslims.
In 1993, clashes between Croats and Muslims occurred in Bosnia , at Mostar, followed by confrontations between Muslims in the self-proclaimed autonomous province of West Bosnia .
In 1994, the Serbs besieged Sarajevo , whereupon they faced an offensive from the Croats and Muslims.
In 1995, some calm reigned for a period of four-month before being interrupted by a Serbian offensive against Srebrenica, a Muslim enclave, and a Croatian attack against Serbian forces, at Knin.
On November 21, 1995, an agreement was finally reached between the presidents of Serbia , Croatia and Bosnia , according to which:
Bosnia-Herzegovina maintained her international borders.
She was split up into two entities, the Srpska Republic and the Croat-Muslim Federation.
Butmir - Col William McCoy, US Commander Combined Joint Civil Military Task Force (CJCMTF) and Major Nils Levi Lundin, Sweden, bearer of the flag, during a NATO medal parade in Camp Butmir 2000 on 9 October.
Photo: LtCol Miloud Aithocine.
The role played by France fell within the action framework of the peacekeeping force mandated by international organisations, the UNO and NATO:
In 1992, creation of the UN protection force (FORPRONU) and its deployment in Croatia . FORPRONU had to see to the respect of the trade, oil and air embargo imposed on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia , protect Sarajevo airport, as well as ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian aid in Bosnia-Herzegovina. 700 soldiers were dispatched to the Macedonian borders and those of her two neighbours, Serbia and Albania .
In 1993, airdrop of humanitarian aid, NATO ensuring the respect of the Bosnian air exclusion zone. FORPRONU protected the security perimeter.
In 1994, FORPRONU was authorized to resort to air strikes.
In 1995, NATO took over from the UN in Bosnia with International Fellowship of reconciliation (IFOR), a 58 000-men multinational force.
In 1996, IFOR was replaced by SFOR, with a strength of 31 000 men.
In 2002, French-Spanish battalion was created within the BMNSE (South-East Multinational Brigade).
Kosovo - 2002 -
Village de Banja
Légionnaires 1er REC
contrôlant les véhicules
Thanks to the action of peacekeeping troops, the terribly bloody events, accompanied by acts of racial extermination, which occurred on the soil of former Yugoslavia , have come take a political turn; clashes are gradually dying down and a peace process has been engaged.
Kosovo - 2004 - VBL du 4e escadron du 1er régiment de Spahis
Editor’s Note : The intervention of the army commanded by General Franchey d'Espérey at the German-Bulgarian front in 1917 and 1918 was crucial, so much so that Clemenceau had to reprimand the General for his rather precocious action of breaking through the German-Bulgarian front before the date envisaged for the Allied counterattack at the French front.
Yet, the defeat of the German army in this area disorganized the plans of its Command. Thus towards the end of 1918, mounted French troops, African chasseurs and Spahis were then able to lead their horses drink at the Danube . The colonial infantry, supported by Serbian troops, scored a brilliant victory in the very area where overseas operations French units came to be stationed eighty years later.
On November 11, 2003, Uskub (SKOPKE) hosted a great military parade, near the graveyard where the Frenchmen killed in 1918 were laid to rest. The "Burnous" standard was decorated with the Commander tie of the order of Peter I of Serbia .