Demographic decline in ex-Yugoslavia: Almost a million Serbs less

There is a close to a million less Serbs in this part of the world compared to 1991, the year when the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia began.

Out of all nations that lived in the former Yugoslavia, only the Albanians have been recorded a growth of 65,000, while the number of people of all other nationalities has more or less dropped. If we have a look at the situation in each individual ex-Yugoslav republic, we can notice that the decline in population coincides with the civil war.

In late 2016, the Statistical Office of Banja Luka, the Republic of Srpska, published the final results of the 2013 census in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the Republic of Srpska. The census before that took place in 1991 so the Statistical Office had 22 years worth of data to compare.

The simplest comparison is that of the total number of inhabitants. In 1991, Yugoslavia had close to 23.6 million inhabitants. It should be noted that the Albanians in Kosovo boycotted the 1991 census so the Albanian population was not included in the 1991 records. Twenty years later, the number of inhabitants occupying the territory of the former Yugoslavia stood at 21.6 million, or 2 million (8.5%) less. If we look at the individual ex-Yugoslav republics, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia suffered the biggest decline in population – 20% and 10% respectively.

The area of Kosovo and Metohija recorded a 9% loss, while Serbia (Kosovo and Metohija excluded) around 8% or 590,000. The other former Yugoslav republics – Macedonia, Montenegro and Slovenia – have all recorded a modest growth in population numbers. Macedonia had 1% while Slovenia had a 4% growth. The number of inhabitants in Montenegro grew by 5,000.

These comparisons should not be taken at face value because there have been several census boycotts, and because the census in Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina did not take place in 2011, but in 2002 and 2013 respectively.

Serbs have lost the biggest number of inhabitants in the last 20 years, around 960,000, which is 11% of the total number of Serbs living in this part of the world at the moment.

Demographic expert Goran Penev says that the overall impression that one can get comparing this statistical data from the two periods is a notable decline in population which is also true for many countries in transition. The second prevailing impression is that the former ex-Yugoslav area is now becoming a more demographically homogenous, unlike in the 20th century.

Back then, there were Slovenia, Croatia, the province of Vojvodina and Central Serbia which had the low birth rate decades before Yugoslavia disintegrated, while, on the other hand, there were Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and especially Kosovo with a high fertility rate and very high birth rate.

Penev says that the reasons why different nations loss so much population are varied. For instance, the Yugoslavs and Montenegrins recorded the biggest statistical decline not because of the demographic reasons, but the difference in the way they expressed their national affiliation. In 1991, quite a lot of Serbs called themselves „Yugoslavs“in the census.

These negative population trends are common in many ex-Socialist countries in Europe which, in our country, were only exacerbated by the civil war.

(Politika, 12.02.2017)

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