5 Historical Financial Crises That Make This One Look Posh – Part Three

#3: Yugoslavia Shows Germany and Greece that It Knows Big Numbers, Too

Yugoslavia is famous for several things. A chunky car-brick:

This little disaster.

…and not existing anymore. It’s slightly less famous for its catastrophic economic collapse.

The former Yugoslavia was made up of more than twenty different ethnic groups, including Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Historically speaking, throwing a bunch of traditionally individual people into an ethnic mixing bowl and calling it a salad is neither a good way to cobble together a new country nor a decent metaphor.

So, was this a case of too many people with too many different views? Nope. Just a government that really liked money.

The Cause

This is Slobodan Milošević, former President of Serbia and general douchebag:

“Dear Diary: I almost smiled today.”

This little bugger secretly ordered the Serbian National Bank to give $1.4 billion in credit to his pals, presumably so he could gain entrance to the popular kids’ clubhouse or something.

Pompous jackasses only. No girls allowed.

That order came while Yugoslavia (which, at the time, contained Serbia) was experiencing the third-worst inflation in the world at that time, and helped contribute to the third-worst hyperinflation in world history.

Helped contribute.

Of course, “borrowing” more than half the money his country planned to print that year didn’t help, but then using vast sums of cash to finance inhuman wars and taking out giant loans to import lots of things landed the already struggling patchwork of a country in quite the tight spot.

Also, being a royal prick didn’t really help, either.

"I think I'll try eating babies next."

“I think I’ll try eating babies next.”

War drove the need for money up and, in a similar fashion to Greece and Germany, drove the value of money down. It didn’t help that the prices of goods were regulated by the state, because artificially low prices forced many stores to close. People weren’t getting their paychecks because their companies couldn’t pay them, and even if they could have, the value of money was plunging so quickly that even German-style suitcases full of cash would be worthless in a day or less.

The Aftermath

January 1994 was the worst case of hyperinflation to hit the Yugoslavians in, like, ever. That month alone saw a 313,000,000% rate of inflation. For comparison, the oft-quoted Weimar Republic’s worst inflation rate was about 30,000%. Holy Moly, how is this not better known?

The official end of all this hyperinflation was a bit different than the others on this list. They tried adopting a new currency – eighteen freaking times. Eventually, however, they decided it would be easier to stop existing as a semi-unified country than it was to deal with twenty-two zeros on your banknotes. Yugoslavia existed in various forms until the dissolution of its last incarnation in 2003.

Of course, other factors played into the hyperinflation, just as other factors played into the collapse of Yugoslavia. However, most of those factors are far scarier than anything I’m willing to publish on a humor site.

The Worst It Got

The 500-billion dinar note, which, according to economics professor Steve H. Hanke, was “small change before the ink had dried.”


All told, between October 1991 and January 1993, prices in the region had increased by 5 quadrillion percent. And we’ve still got two financial messes to go.

As for former President Slobodouche, he died in a Hague detention cell awaiting trial for war crimes. Considering the tribunal he awaited was called the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991, we like to think he died of aural overdose rather than the more banal heart attack that did him in.

ICTY, otherwise known as the most necessary acronym in history.

Tomorrow: Zimbabwe.

Be sure to check out our regular features:

Dear Socially Awkward – Boyfriends and bats, Valentines and Hungary, and Spain or something. Submissions welcome.

The Media Manifesto – Because Communism does, in fact, mix well with mass media.

Compass Rose News – Walmart declares bankruptcy after deciding to be nice to people, and a Kansas youth reports seeing colors besides sepia.

And, of course, Xavier’s Original Miscellany – With The Superallergy, The Apathy Argument, and the reason mail on Sundays causes increased therapy.

Finally, The Pavlov Candid Creativity Awards (a.k.a. The Streeties) have been extended. Submit photos of your favorite street performer, food vendor, panhandler, or other roadside personality to pavlovshairconditioner@gmail.com. You’ll be glad you did.

Xavier Yes will be appearing at the Burlington Book Festival this September, so if you’re in the area, check your sanity at the door and sit awhile.

NOW UP: Part Four: Zimbabwe Thinks Unemployment is Hilarious.


3 responses to “5 Historical Financial Crises That Make This One Look Posh – Part Three

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