The Yugoslav Wars were a series of separate but related[8][9][10] ethnic conflicts, wars of independence, and insurgencies fought in the former Yugoslavia[note 1] from 1991 to 2001, which led to the breakup of the Yugoslav state in 1992. Its constituent republics declared independence, despite unresolved tensions between ethnic minorities in the new countries, fueling the wars.

Most of the wars ended through peace accords, involving full international recognition of new states, but with a massive human cost and economic damage to the region. Initially the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) sought to preserve the unity of the whole of Yugoslavia by crushing the secessionist governments, but it increasingly came under the influence of the Serbian government of Slobodan Milošević, which evoked Serbian nationalist rhetoric and was willing to use the Yugoslav cause to preserve the unity of Serbs in one state. As a result, the JNA began to lose Slovenes, Croats, Kosovar Albanians, Bosniaks, and Macedonians, and effectively became a Serb army.[12] According to a 1994 United Nations report, the Serb side did not aim to restore Yugoslavia, but to create a "Greater Serbia" from parts of Croatia and Bosnia.[13] Other irredentist movements have also been brought into connection with the wars, such as "Greater Albania" (from Kosovo, though it was abandoned following international diplomacy)[14][15][16][17][18] and "Greater Croatia" (from parts of Herzegovina, until 1994 when the Washington Agreement ended it).[19][20][21][22][23]

Often described as Europe's deadliest conflicts since World War II, the wars were marked by many war crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity and rape. The Bosnian genocide was the first European crime to be formally classified as genocidal in character since World War II, and many key individual participants in it were subsequently charged with war crimes.[24] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established by the UN to prosecute these crimes.[25]

According to the International Center for Transitional Justice, the Yugoslav Wars resulted in the death of 140,000 people.[5] The Humanitarian Law Center estimates that in the conflicts in the former Yugoslav republics at least 130,000 people were killed.[6]