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In recent decades—specifically after the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union—, most conflicts have been internal as opposed to external. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought a collapse of the economies of Eastern Europe. The religiously diverse country of Yugoslavia, was one such case, which broke up into the murky borders of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Slovenia—while Serbia and Macedonia all remained part of the Yugoslavia—with different ethnics groups within each losoely constructed border targeting and massacring each other in hopes of independence—known as the “Yugoslav War:” a period of ethnic conflicts, wars of independence, and insurgencies between 1991 to 2001.
Before this period of conflicting bouts of nationalism, “Muslims, Serbs, and Croats had lived in peace for most of the five hundred years they cohabited in Bosnia-Herzegovina” (Ramet, 203). During World War II, Yugoslavia (Bosnia was then still part of Yugoslavia) was invaded by Nazi Germany and partitioned; however, a fierce resistance movement by member of the Communist Party, Josip Tito, reunified Yugoslavia. After Tito’s death in 1980, Yugoslavia fell into political and economic chaos. Serbian Nationalist, Slobodan Milosevic, a former Communist became the new leader and began to spew anti-Muslim and pro-Serbian rhetoric. Just as what began to happen with the other Yugoslav countries, Bosnia soon began to experience internal religious conflicts as well. With the hatred sown into Bosnia by religious organizations such as that by the Serbian Orthodox Church, by the latter half of the 1980s, “the deterioration of interethnic relations in Bosnia became sufficiently visible to be mentioned in the local press” (Ramet, 203). Around September/October of 1990, Bosnian Serbs began setting up illegal military formation in Bosnia—formations that were both supplied and trained by the Serb-controlled JNA Yugoslav People’s Army. By 1992, all hell broke loose in Bosnia and Herzegovina sparking territorial conflict between the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska. Led by ulta-nationalist Radovan Karadži?, the Bosnian Serb minority, Republika Srpska, declared their independence and seceded—leading to a last minute referendum that would assign the division of Bosnia as eastern Bosnia to Serbia and southwestern Herzegovina to Croatia, leaving the Muslims majority essentially stateless and divided between two Christian states. This was ultimately rejected by all three ethnic groups making up Bosnia and resulted in continuous confrontations between Serbs and non-Serbs in Bosnia that warped into a full pledged genocide against the Muslim Bosniak population by the Republika Srpska.
Ethnic cleansing in Muslim villages began in April 1992 by Serbia in an attempt tosystematically removing the Bosniak communities. Serbia, together with ethnic Bosnian Serbs, attacked Bosniaks with former Yugoslavian military equipment and surrounded Sarajevo. One such former Serbian army commander, was Ratko Mladi? , who repeatedly invoked the abuse of Serbs by the Ottoman Empire (which occupied the former Yugoslavia for centuries) as justification for going after the “Turks”—as he refered to the Bosniaks. If not slaughtered on the spot, many Bosniaks were driven into concentration camps, where psychological torture was inflicted upon women and girls through systematic gang-raped, while other civilians were tortured, starved and murdered. The conflict escalatedly so quick that in 1993, for the first time ever, the UN Security Council declared Sarajevo, Goradze, Srebrenica and other Muslim enclaves as “safe havens”—protected by UN peacekeepers. But in the summer of 1995, using similar tactics as Hitler during the Nazi regime, Serbs committed the largest massacre in Europe since World War II in Srebrenica: an estimated 23,000 women, children and elderly people were put on buses and driven to Muslim-controlled territory, while 8,000 “battle-age” men were detained and slaughtered. The so-called safe area of Srebrenica—that was refuge to tens of thousands of Bosniaks who were run out of their villages by Serbs—fell with the UN peacekeepers fleeing out.
Frustrated with the lack of action on the UN’s part and useless statements issued by Congress, NATO initiated air strikes against Bosnian Serbs to stop the attacks—because non-direct action was proving to worsen the situation. By December 1995, U.S.-led negotiations in Dayton, Ohio ended the conflict in Bosnia.

Civil War or Genocide?
The 20th century redefined what constitutes a “civil war” from its Greek origins of “bellum civilis” to what the United Nations has loosely defined it as now: A civil war consists of one or several simultaneous disputes over generally incompatible positions that (1) concern government and/or territory in a state; (2) are causally linked to the use of armed force, resulting in at least 500 battle-related deaths during any given year during the conflict; and (3) involve two or more parties, of which the primary warring parties are the government of the state where armed force is used, and one or several nonstate opposition organizations. In line with this definition of what constitutes a civil war, what took place in Bosnia meets each check point: (1) On 12 November 1991, Bosnian President Izetbegovi? had warned of the danger of “total war” breaking out in his republic and had requested the immediate dispatch of U.N. peacekeeping forces to head off the impending conflict (Ramet, 206). (2) By August of 1992, there were already 50,000 dead and more than 2 million homeless as a result of the Serbian aggression in both Croatia and Bosnia (Ramet, 208). (3) There is the Bosnian government backed by the UN versus the insurgent Assembly of Bosnian Serbs proclaiming the creation of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina (Ramet, 206). In line of the UN’s definition, this would consitute as a civil war. However, the legal boundaries of what is or is not a civil war are constantly adapting in line with globalization and the development of new international relations terms such as “genocide,” “revolution,” and “insurrection.”
In the age of genocide denial, a dangerous question arises with labeling what took place in Bosnia as a “civil war”: is the targetting of Bosnian Muslims an unfortunate but unevitable consequence of war with death on both sides or is it actually, in fact, a genocide conducted to rid Bosnia of its Muslim majority? This also perpetuates a misunderstanding of the region—further denying the agency of external actors such as Slobodan Milosevic, who stirred up a toxic combination of religious hatred and nationalism, in the conflict. In Bosnia’s case, there were other important international players that shaped the conflict in Bosnia: there were UN peace troops that failed to, ultimately, keep peace, other European entitities siding with either Serbs or Croats depending on international relations with said host countries—not to mention the countries that stood by and just watched in horror. So the question remains, what exactly happened in Bosnia? At what point did the conflict in Bosnia transform from armed conflict to “civil war” to “genocide”? Is it even considered a civil war if the groups in question were not ethnically nor religiously homogeneous like the Civil War that took place in the US? The ruling of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia will argue in favor of a civil war, but the victims during the Siege of Srebrenica will argue otherwise: for the mothers who watched their children slaughtered in cold blood while their children, in turn, watch them be gang-raped mercilessly, what took place against the Muslims was much more sinister and far less “civil” than a civil war, it was, in fact, a genocide.
As mentioned above, for some scholars (and much of the world) it is difficult to accurately define the chaos that ensued Bosnia during this period because by the second half of the 20th century the world witnesses the globalization of civil war. In his book, Civil Wars: A History In Ideas, David Armitage lists the three overlapping features of the ‘the new world of civil war’ (p 199): 1. Civil war came under the jursidiction of international law, but with significant modifications during the age of decolonization and internal conflicts of the 1990s. 2. Civil wars became seemingly ubiquitous, distributed most parts of the world and then gradually came to supplant wars between states as the world’s most common and widespread form of large-scale organized violence. 3. The communities which civil wars were imagined as taking place (…) became even wider and more capacious, until the idea of “European civil war” gave way to various conceptions of “global civil war” in the present century (p 199-200). Even this new outline for what constitutes a civil war does not do justice to Bosnia. The motives of the Serbs in Bosnia was not solely a call of succession to govern on their own, but to rid the Bosnia of its Muslim populations as evident by the rape, starvation, and slaughter conducted by the Serbian army.

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