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Yugoslavia: Death Of A NationYugoslavia-Death-Of-A-Nation

  • Subject: World History
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  • Grade(s): 9-12
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  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will understand the following:
1. Historical drama, like other historical fiction, is rooted in history but contains imaginary elements as well.
2. Zlata Filipovic describes in her diary what it was like to be a teenager in Sarajevo during the conflict there.


For this lesson, you will need:
Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo by Zlata Filipovic, published in the United States in 1995 and available in many libraries and bookstores
Computer with Internet access


1. Discuss with students what they know about the drama called The Diary of Anne Frank —either the older play produced originally in the 1950s or the newer play produced in the 1990s. If students do not know that both plays are based on Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl, explain so. Go on to mention the newer play uses materials from a version of the diary that had not been released, translated, and published in the United States until the 1990s.
2. Make sure students understand that although the diary itself is a nonfiction account of a teenager's life in hiding during the Nazi Holocaust, the playwrights have taken liberties in their stage version and overlaid the historical facts with imaginary details.
3. Introduce to students the 1995 book Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo by Zlata Filipovic, who began the book when she was 11 and found herself in a war-torn land. The book received excellent reviews and is available in many libraries and bookstores. The point you want to get across at this stage is that many readers have compared Zlata's diary with Anne's and that it lends itself to dramatization the same way that Anne Frank's diary did.
4. Give some students a chance to familiarize themselves with Zlata's book and to report to the rest of the class on how the content and style of Zlata's book compare and contrast with the content and style of Anne's.
5. Challenge students, working in groups, to find an entry or two in Zlata's account that they would like to adapt to a one-act play. Advise them to consider a part of the diary that deals with a particularly emotional disclosure by Zlata.
6. Direct each group to review multiple reference sources (primary and secondary) to learn more about facts of daily life in Bosnia during the war and about the cause for the tensions that have lasted so many years. If necessary, help groups to determine which group member should scour which reference source. All members should then report back to the group, which will, by consensus, determine what details from what they've read would help to flesh out the entry or two by Zlata that they've picked as the basis of their dramatization.
7. Go over with the class the following important elements of a one-act play:
  • The script must contain both dialogue and stage directions.
  • A one-act play usually deals with a single conflict and occurs in a single setting.
  • As one or more characters try to solve the conflict, the act builds to a climax. Then the play shows the characters' reactions to the climax and moves on to a final outcome.
  • A play based on a historical event must stick to some historical facts but can also include fictional details—especially dialogue but also actions.
8. In a series of minilessons, as detailed below, review with students how to proceed from prewriting the act, through writing, to revising and editing. Give the groups time to apply each minilesson.
  1. In addition to a main character, Zlata, the act needs at least one other character—a friend or foe of the main character. In this case, the other character may also be from the journal entry, may be based on a person students have read about elsewhere, or may even be an imaginary character.
  2. The characters need to have a conflict between themselves or with someone else or something else. Ask the students to recall and/or imagine conflicts involving their characters—either real-life problems they faced or problems that the group decides the characters might have faced.
  3. Selecting one of those problems, each group should think about and prepare notes on how the characters will respond to the problem and how the problem will be solved.
  4. Each group should imagine how its characters look (including how they dress), sound, and act—and jot down notes for later use.
  5. Each group must also be clear on where and when the act takes place, so the students should jot down their thoughts on background scenery, furniture, and props.
  1. When students in each group are ready to move on to the actual drafting stage, let them figure out how multiple authors can work together. Review with them, if necessary, the mechanics of listing characters and of writing stage directions and dialogue.
  2. Advise students to follow their prewriting notes to unfold the scene: introducing characters and the problem, building suspense, and winding up with a historically accurate or believable ending. Students should, however, be free to abandon prewriting notes that may take them to dead ends—and rethink their act.
  3. Rather than let an act simply peter out, remind students that the audience needs to know what each character is doing and feeling—or at least what each character's situation is—at the end of the act.
  4. If they have not done so earlier, students should now title their act.

Share with students a checklist such as the following, giving them time to revise as necessary so that they can answer "yes" to all the questions:
  • Does the dialogue or do the stage directions clearly show the character(s) facing a conflict, lead up to a conclusion, and always include characters' reactions?
  • Is the dialogue realistic and easy for an actor to say?
  • Have the writers and editors checked to see that matters such as agreement, comparison, and pronoun references are correct?
9. Ask each group to perform, or at least read, its act for the rest of the class.

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During the prewriting phase, help students warm up by asking them to do freewriting from the point of view of one of the characters.

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Discussion Questions

1. Discuss how Milosevic's decision making was influenced by his wife and advisors. Who else was responsible for putting Milosevic in a position of power?
2. Analyze how Serbian television helped to create the "Milosevic myth."
3. Explain the quote, "offense is the best defense," and how it relates to events in Yugoslavia prior to the outbreak of civil war.
4. Compare and contrast the leadership styles of Slobodan Milosevic and Milan Kucan. Discuss their strengths and weaknesses as leaders.
5. Analyze the decision by Slovenia and Croatia to withdraw from the Yugoslav Republic. Discuss possible alternatives.
6. Analyze the causes of the Yugoslav crisis from the different points of view of those who were involved.

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You can evaluate each group's historical drama using the following three-point rubric:
Three points: inclusion of historically accurate elements; well-formulated story line with conflict and outcome; smooth, realistic dialogue and clear stage directions
Two points: some basis in historical fact; inadequately developed story line; some unrealistic dialogue and incomplete stage directions
One point: absence of historical accuracy; inadequate outcome to conflict examined in the act; unrealistic dialogue and incomplete stage directions

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The Cultures of Yugoslavia
The former Yugoslavia is home to different ethnic groups. The ethnic differences have caused tension, distrust, and bloodshed. Ask students to establish just how different the groups are. Have each student choose two of the following ethnic groups: Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Slovenes, Macedonians, and Montenegrins. For each group, students should research the religion, language, history, and customs and then present their findings on a chart.

Charting the Sides
Have students create a pie graph with percentages of the population of Yugoslavia by ethnic group before the breakup of Yugoslavia. Ask students to comment on ethnic conflict, based on the graph.

Whose War?
Direct students to investigate the role of U.N. peacekeepers in the former Yugoslavia. Ask for volunteers to debate whether other countries have an obligation to intervene in this region of the world.

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Suggested Readings

The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia
Tim Judah. Yale University Press, 1997.
In this first book from Tim Judah, which received high critical regard, the London journalist draws upon his experience of having lived in Belgrade during the Yugoslavian Civil War to report to The Times of London and The Economist . One of the most comprehensive recent accounts of the disintegration of Yugoslavia due to its civil war.

Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers—America's Last Ambassador Tells What Happened and Why
Warren Zimmerman. Time Books, 1996.
The former ambassador draws upon his eyewitness experiences of the disintegration of Yugoslavia during his tenure in Belgrade from 1989 to 1992. He pointedly assigns blame for the civil war to two ruthless leaders, Rudjman (Croatia) and Milosevic (Serbia), rather than to the will of the general Yugoslav populace.

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The U.S. Government/Dept. of Defense information source on Bosnia.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    communist
Definition: Characteristic of a system of government based on collective ownership of property.
Context: In 1980, Tito made his final journey through communist Yugoslavia, the country he had created.

speaker    nationalism
Definition: A sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations.
Context: For 35 years, Tito held Yugoslavia's six republics together with an iron hand. Any hint of nationalism from Serbs, Croats, Muslims, Macedonians, or Slovenes was crushed.

speaker    ethnic
Definition: Relating to large groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background.
Context: Seven years after Tito's death, Yugoslavia was still united. Tito's heirs kept ethnic hatreds buried.

speaker    separatist
Definition: An advocate of racial or cultural separation.
Context: Milosevic and his supporters expected trouble from the Kosovo separatists.

speaker    treason
Definition: The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance.
Context: Milan Kucan spoke to his people about defending the Kosovo Albanians and a united Yugoslavia. To a Serb, this was Slovene treason.

speaker    amendment
Definition: An alteration or correction.
Context: The Slovene delegates wanted to present their case. They had a large number of amendments, and the Serbian delegates voted by raising their cards. Each amendment was voted down.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: geography
Understands the forces of cooperation and conflict that shape the division of Earth's surface.
Knows the causes of boundary conflicts and internal disputes between culture groups.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: behavioral studies
Understands conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among individuals, groups, and institutions.
Understands that conflict between people or groups may arise from competition over ideas, resources, power, and/or status.

Understands that some informal ways of responding to conflict may reduce tensions and lead to compromise but may be inflammatory and make agreement more difficult.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: world history
Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world.
Understands the role of political ideology, religion, and ethnicity in shaping modern governments.

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Beth Lemberger, history teacher, Owen Brown Middle School, Rockville, Maryland.

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