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Croatian War of Independence, PART 1, The Outbreak

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In the early morning hours, on October 12, 1995, Bosnian Serbs’ leader, Radovan Karadžić, received a disturbing phone call. Just 18 miles from his residence in the town of Banja Luka, a man, wearing a military uniform, surrounded by several of his high-ranking comrades, was sitting in the control room of the nearby power plant, slowly pulling on the master switch.

Croatian Flag after the War of Independance
Croatian Flag after the War of Independance

He calmly said, “Mr. Karadzic, this is general Ante Gotovina, Croatian Army. In case you are unaware, this is your current situation.” And his hand pulled the switch all the way down, effectively shutting down the electricity to the entire area.

That event marked the end of combat operations in a bloody war that spread through former Yugoslavia. But for Croatia, it was far from over.

How the war in Croatia and former Yugoslavia started and who or what started it?

There are no “shades of gray” here. A single hegemonic idea ignited small fires across the republics just to reach a critical moment and cause tens of thousands to lose their lives.

The map of Greater Serbia - a hegemonic idea that started the war in Yugoslavia
The map of Greater Serbia - a hegemonic idea that started the war in Yugoslavia

There are no “shades of gray” here. A single hegemonic idea ignited small fires across the republics just to reach a critical moment and cause tens of thousands to lose their lives.

To better understand how David beat Goliath and, most importantly, why, we must take a quick look at the crucial moments that led to the very first open armed conflict between the members of the regular Croatian police force and indigenous Serbs backed by the mighty Yugoslav Army in the small town of Pakrac, in northern Croatia, on March 1, 1991.

A fatal decision

With Slobodan Milošević on the throne of the political life in Serbia, at the end of the 80s of the last century, Croatian Serbs are becoming increasingly acceptive of his ominous extreme radical nationalistic rhetoric. With the onset of 1990, the ever-growing number of indigenous Serbs loudly claims that they are under a direct threat if the newly elected Croatian leadership assumes its democratic governing role.

It didn’t take long for those statements to escalate in something far more dramatic.

Supported by Milošević and Yugoslav Army, the fifth most powerful armed force in Europe at that time, Serbs move with the plan of secluding parts of Croatia to form a sort of community of municipalities which will later be named as “Republika Srpska Krajina.”

The whole thing had only one purpose – to unite these territories with Serbia.
It was a fatal decision and act of an ultimate betrayal that will cost Croatian Serbs dearly.

Memorial to the Army
Memorial to the Army

Road to darkness...

To fulfill the ultimate plan of unifying all territories inhabited by Serbs (regardless of their number) with Serbia, in the summer of 1990, Croatian Serbs, backed by Serbia, Montenegro, and Yugoslav Army, initiate widespread arm-protected blockades of the major routes that connect the north with the south of Croatia, effectively eliminating the normal functioning of the country in the middle of the season.

The plan was to hit where it hurt mostly (tourism) and weaken the economy that largely depended on the summer season.

To make it easier for indigenous Serbs and Serbia, Yugoslav Army engaged in seizing of all weapons originally deployed to and purposed for Territory Defense, a special part of the federal defense plan under the exclusive control of the republics. By doing that, YA prevented the arming of some 200,000 people, effectively exposing Croatia by stripping the country from any mean to defend itself.

Croatian History War Museum
Croatian History War Museum

For the leadership of the Yugoslav Army, there were two plausible scenarios:

1.

A decisive action against all republics to form a unitary Yugoslavia under the army (Serbian) control

2.

Creation of the Greater Serbia, which would be a smaller territory but the one that would include all areas inhabited by Serbs, namely Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

By the middle of 1991, both versions were open. However, once the army leadership realized that similar plans won’t happen in the Soviet Union and that they cannot count on support from Moscow, the plan to create the Greater Serbia finally prevailed.

From that point on, YA openly sided with Serb rebels in Croatia. They amassed heavy weapon on the edges of the parts secluded by indigenous Serbs and turned their guns and cannons on Croats.

In the spring of 1991, first armed conflicts erupted and first lives were lost.

YA established the so-called, “Tampon Zones” but these zones effectively prevented Croatian forces to intervene and restore normal functioning of the state while, in the same time, allowed Serbs to fortify their positions and ruling and banish the majority of the Croats and other non-Serb residents from the territories under their control.

By the end of summer, 1991, Yugoslav Army, assisted by the armed groups of volunteers from Serbia, was directly and openly engaged against Croats in Croatia.

Assault directions and areas occupied by the aggressor during autumn 1991, undoubtedly point to the intention to conquer parts of Croatia east of the line Virovitica – Karlovac – Karlobag or at least the bigger portion of that territory if the grand plan turns out to be unreachable.

At the end of 1991, Croatia was in flames, thousands lost their lives defending their homes, and tens of thousands were forced out of their homes and into the refuge.

But tables are about to turn against Yugoslav Army and rebel Serbs…

Your CTC Team, I.K.

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