The year 1989 marked a turning point for the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). But unlike other places in the region, that year saw a turn towards growing political conflict which soon led to violent warfare. This paper identifies and discusses three processes that led to this outcome. The first process was the impetus towards reform of the Yugoslav federal state, its political and economic system. The second was the conflict over the future of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (Savez komunista Jugoslavije – SKJ). The third was the shifting meanings of ethnic and nonethnic labels and the ways in which putative “national” and “ethnic” interests came to be aligned with specific political options. By the end of 1989 these three processes had come together to spell the end of the SKJ, of the SFRY, and of “Yugoslavism” as a political identity. In their places, ruling parties threatened by changes within their own societies, as well as by pressures created by the 1989 revolutions in the region, resorted to strategies of conflict and violence in an attempt to forestall the kinds of changes and elite turnovers seen in other socialist countries.
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