By: Tomaž Kladnik
On Friday and Saturday, 5 and 6 July 1991, small provocations by the defeated Yugoslav army took place, to which the Slovenian side did not respond. The withdrawal of the YPA units to barracks and diplomatic preparations for ending the war continued.
The Slovenian War of Independence or the War for Slovenia, also known as the Ten-Day War, with which the Republic of Slovenia repulsed the aggression of the Federal Army between 27 June and 6 July 1991, was gradually coming to an end. It should be noted that the armoured units of the Rijeka YPA Corps had already moved towards the border crossings with Italy on 26 June. Along the way, they encountered undefended barricades and a spontaneous, or in some places very determined resistance of the locals, especially in Vrhpolje. The unarmed inhabitants could not prevent the march of the tanks, but their reaction to the aggression was decisive, which was later characteristic of the whole of Slovenia. To threaten the Slovenian protesters, the first shot fired by an officer of the army, which was becoming more and more aggressive, occurred in Divača on that day at 2.30 pm.
Events in Ljubljana and threats from Belgrade
On Friday, July 5, the Slovenian government, led by Lojze Peterle, appointed a special commission to determine the war damage caused by the federal army aggressor during the attack on Slovenia. As the first findings of the commission showed, this damage amounted to 94.2 billion dinars or 2.714 million dollars. At the session of the Slovenian enlarged presidency, the Slovenian Minister of Defence Janez Janša assessed the situation and announced, among other things, that Slovenia would depend on itself in the next few months, so it must prepare for this position both economically and militarily. He emphasised that in the coming days it was very important to prevent a numerical recovery of units of the defeated army in Slovenia.
Blagoje Adžić, the YPA chief of staff, continued to make threats in Belgrade despite the apparent defeat in Slovenia, claiming that the army could deal with Slovenia in ten to fifteen days.
On the same day, the Chief of the General Staff of the YPA, Blagoje Adžić, gave a speech at the Centre for Higher Education in Belgrade, which Slovenian intelligence later received. In front of about one hundred and fifty officers of Serbian and Montenegrin nationality, who were specially selected to command units in Slovenia and Croatia, he emphasised that the Yugoslav People’s Army was in a state of war imposed on it by secessionist Slovenia and Croatia. He accused both republics of destroying the foundations of socialist Yugoslavia, and that their policies were increasingly supported by Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He assessed the situation as even more dramatic than in 1941. The Socialist general claimed that the multi-party system had caused a rift between the Yugoslav peoples and that the federal government had secretly agreed with the West to break up the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He estimated that there were too few forces involved in the operation, which is why the YPA lost the battle in Slovenia, but not the war. It was obvious that he had not yet come to terms with the bitter defeat in Slovenia. He asserted that the federal military leadership would force the Presidency of the SFRY to allow the use of force against the rebel republic if Slovenia did not restore the status quo. He said in a suicidal manner that YPA units in Slovenia must fulfil all orders, even if all soldiers fall. At the same time, despite the apparent disintegration of the army, he stated that the YPA could deal with Slovenia in ten to fifteen days, as it mobilised additional units, especially in Serbia, which were supposed to be ready for all scenarios. He also utopianly added that the YPA, although many accuse it of aggression against Slovenia, is still the only institution that can save Yugoslavia from disintegration and a long-lasting fratricidal war. But real events in the following days, weeks and months showed that he was wrong, as the Federal Army served the interests of Milošević’s Serbia more and more every day, and Milošević had his own plans for it.
Between 27 June and 6 July 1991, the Republic of Slovenia repulsed the attack of the ‘Yugoslav Peoples’ Army, which thought it could easily deal with this rebellious republic.
The opponent – Yugoslav People’s Army
The last period of development of the Armed Forces of the SFRY (1981–1991) was marked from the very beginning by the consequences of the death of the president of the Central Committee of the ZKJ, the lifelong president of the SFRY, three-time national hero, commander-in-chief of the armed forces Marshal Josip Broz Tito, in 1980.
The last reorganization was in 1988
The Presidency of the SFRY as a group body, did not have such an influence on a completely politically indoctrinated army as its late Supreme Commander. The YPA was, therefore, able to develop as a large autonomous system, without considering changes both in the geopolitical space and in the domestic political field.
In 1988, before the last major reorganization, the YPA was divided into six armies, and after 1988, battlefields were introduced:
- northwest with the command in Zagreb, in whose jurisdiction were the TO of Slovenia and parts of the TO of Croatia;
- north with the command in Belgrade, which was in charge of the TO of Serbia, the TO of BiH and parts of the TO of Croatia;
- southeast with the command in Skopje, which was responsible for the TO of Macedonia, the TO of Montenegro and parts of the TO of Serbia;
- naval with command in Split, which was responsible for parts of the Croatian TO, and
- VL and PVO (military aviation and air defence) with headquarters in Belgrade.
Country within country
Gradually, a Greater Serbia concept was formed within the YPA, replacing the hitherto established concept of general popular resistance. TO became such an important part of the Defence Forces (AF) in some parts of the country that the YPA began to lose its superior role, which led to the described reorganization of the SFRY Armed Forces towards the end of the 1980s. Socio-political communities (DPS) had been deprived of all influence over the leadership and command of the TO. With the reorganization of the system of command of the Armed Forces, they formed battlefields and corps and subordinated the republican TO forces to battlefields or corps in the event of war. TO was subordinated to the joint General Staff of the Armed Forces of the SFRY, which was transformed from the previous General Staff of the YPA. With this, the headquarters, units and institutions of the TO practically became a part of the YPA, just like the then partisan brigade had been until 1969. In 1990, the RAM Operational Plan was created by the YPA General Staff with an aim to defend socialism and Yugoslavia. The aim of the Plan was to prevent a change of government in Slovenia, and especially in Croatia, as it was predicted that the Communists would lose power. In actuality, it was a plan to form Serbia’s new western borders and to create a framework for a new Yugoslavia in which Serbs would live in a common state on all territories. The Headquarters of the Supreme Command of the SFRY (joint Federal Secretariat for People’s Defence and the General Staff (ZSLO and GŠ) OS) considered that the country was on the brink of civil war, and, therefore, demanded a joint meeting of the Supreme Command Headquarters and the SFRY Presidency on 12, 13 and 15 March 1991. At these sessions, they proposed the introduction of a state of emergency, an increase in the YPA’s combat readiness and urgent measures to bring the system under a legal framework and to start talks on the future arrangement of Yugoslavia. The Presidency did not accept this proposal, so the YPA opted for the concept of protection and defence of the Serbian nation outside Serbia and the gathering of the YPA within the borders of the future Yugoslavia. With this definition, the YPA placed itself within the function of Serbia and its military policy. The Supreme Command then reshaped the YPA’s tasks, which under the new circumstances were:
- to defend the right of nations wishing to live in a common state of Yugoslavia;
- to try to enable a peaceful break-up with those nations that no longer want to live in Yugoslavia.
YPA Counterintelligence Service
The Counterintelligence Service (KOS) was an integral part of the YPA in the former SFRY. It developed from the Department for the Protection of the Nation (OZNA), which was established on 13 May 1944, and was the State Security Intelligence Service. In 1946, it was divided into a civilian and a military department: the civil UDBA (State Security Administration) and the KOS military counterintelligence service were formed; KOS was transformed into the OB (Security Authority) in 1955, and the UDBA in 1966 into the SDB (State Security Service). Its tasks were “counter-intelligence protection, the fight against the internal enemy, the fight against fascism and extreme emigration, the fight against the destruction of political unity and the protection of secrecy”. KOS hid its activities under the motto “protection of the social order prescribed by the constitution, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the SFRY”, but in fact its activities were aimed at an uncompromising fight against democratic change in the country and preparation and implementation of armed aggression against Slovenia. On the one hand, the KOS, as the strongest structure of the army, openly threatened the “disobedient” through its leader. Thus, the head of the YPA counter-intelligence service, General Marko Negovanović, read to the public on Belgrade television the content of the threat, which the Federal Secretary for People’s Defence, General Veljko Kadijević, forwarded to Presidents Milan Kučan and Lojze Peterle on the evening of 29 June. He said that the headquarters of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces had sent the final request to the President and the Government of the Republic of Slovenia. If the Slovenian leadership did not meet the requirements for an unconditional ceasefire, the headquarters of the Supreme Command would order the introduction of measures in accordance with the situation in the country, including the highest combat readiness and the mobilization and introduction of sharp military measures. In nine points, the ultimatum demanded an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, the extradition of dead and wounded YPA members, the release of all YPA prisoners of war, the Federal Secretariat of the Interior and the Federal Customs Administration (and referral to the nearest military unit or institution), unblocking of YPA commands, units, institutions and facilities, return of infrastructure and all covered material and technical resources, release of traffic for the needs of the YPA and establishment of the situation at the borders before 25 June 1991. The deadline for meeting the requirements was set for 30 June 1990 at 9 am. On the other hand, many Slovenians who were in the KOS structures cooperated with members of the Slovene Armed Forces. For example, Rade Klisarič »brought strictly confidential information and documents that he had received from the military KOS RŠTO« to Tone Krkovič.
A military coup
The army thus changed from a tool in the hands of the state to the master of the state, and this would mean a kind of silent military coup. However, events developed in a different direction as Slovenia resisted with the decision to become independent, followed by Croatia and other democratically oriented republics. The attack on Slovenia was launched by the YPA units and commands on 26 and 27 June 1991 from the following corps areas subordinate to the 5th Military District in Zagreb: 13th Corps, Command in Rijeka, 14th Corps, Command in Ljubljana, 31st Corps, Command in Maribor, 32nd Corps, Command in Varaždin, 10th Corps, Command in Zagreb, and 5th Corps of Military Aviation and Air Defence, Command in Zagreb. Thus, the YPA in Slovenia had between twenty and twenty-five thousand soldiers, about 250 tanks of permanent composition and about 100 tanks that came to Slovenia from Croatia, and 300 armoured vehicles for various purposes (transporters, anti-aircraft guns, command vehicles, reconnaissance vehicles, etc.). At the beginning of the clashes, there were about 90 planes and 50 helicopters at four airports with concrete runways (Cerklje, Maribor, Brnik and Portorož). The YPA was supposed to carry out the operation on Slovenia relatively quickly and without too many complications. Its attack was of no surprise as it had been expected for some time. A surprise might have arisen regarding the tactical and operational part since Slovenia did not know exactly when and where they would be attacked. The measures in Slovenia before the declaration of independence were such that the Slovene defence forces had already practically been formed, so at the beginning of the war they were able to act against the opposing side completely unencumbered and on equal footing.
From the defender of the state to its gravedigger
Thus, despite the strong opposition of the military, paradoxically, precisely because of its conservative political indoctrination, aversion to democratic change in its own country and in the world, the former common state disintegrated and new states emerged. The YPA was thus unable to adapt to the new political reality and maintain its legitimacy as an all-Yugoslav force. The YPA leadership attempted for too long to preserve both communism and (centralist) Yugoslavia. When it silently gave up the first goal, it was too late to achieve the second. Thus, the creator and reflection of the other, Tito’s Yugoslavia, became the gravedigger of this formation. With it, the YPA landed in the dustbin of history.