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A war crimes tribunal turned into a history classroom Wednesday when a Balkans expert described how Yugoslavia's 1991 breakup set the stage for a murderous rampage blamed on a Bosnian Serb.

Dusan Tadic is charged with crimes against humanity, including the murders of more than 30 Muslims in and around Serb-run prison camps in northwestern Bosnia in 1992. On Tuesday, he became the first person indicted on Yugoslav war crimes charges to go on trial.Dr. James Gow, a Balkans expert from London University, testified that frictions among the country's republics and ethnic groups were kindled after Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito died in 1980.

Intellectuals in the republic of Serbia began to place greater importance on Serb identity and question whether ethnic Serbs in other parts of Yugoslavia, like Bosnia, had really assimilated, Gow told the court.

"Among Serbian intellectuals at that time, the question was not only of the status and the sovereignty of Serbia, but also of the position of the Serbs living outside of the republic of Serbia," Gow said, projecting documents onto the courtroom's computer screens and television monitors.

He said Yugoslavia in effect split apart in May 1991 when Serbia blocked the rotation of the federation's presidency from Serbia to Croatia. Others date the split later in 1991 when Croatia and Slovenia ceded from the federation.

Prosecutors have said the Serb uprising against Bosnia's Muslim-led government turned Tadic, a father of two, into a free-lance killer and torturer who took sadistic pleasure in kicking prisoners to death.