The Homeland War
The Homeland War is the war fought by the Croatian people in defence of the Croatian state against the aggression brought in 1990 by the joint Greater Serbian forces: Serbian extremists in Croatia, the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) (which was gradually transformed into the Serbian army), and Serbia and Montenegro. The Homeland War was fomented against Croatia in August 1990, when Serb rebels supported by the JNA launched armed attacks against the legal institutions of the Croatian state and set up the self-proclaimed Serbian autonomous regions in Croatia with the purpose of seceding from Croatia. The war continued in April with the gradual military intervention of the JNA and intensified in June 1991 with the direct invasion of those parts of Croatia which Serbia wanted to occupy and annex. Croatia succeeded in halting the aggressor by military and diplomatic means and in liberating a part of the occupied regions through counter–attacks. Following the arrival of the UN peacekeeping forces on the demarcation lines in the spring of 1992, Croatia began negotiations in order to recover the occupied territories in a peaceful way. After the negotiations failed, the occupied areas of Posavina and western Slavonia were liberated by military and police actions in May 1995, while all the other occupied areas in northern Dalmatia, Lika, Kordun and Banovina were liberated in August of the same year. The occupied areas in eastern Slavonia, Baranja and western Srijem are under temporary international administration while the process of peaceful reintegration of those areas continues and the aggressor is obliged to recognize the international borders of Croatia.
Military and Political Relations
The war in the former Yugoslavia was unavoidable because the irredentist/unionist Greater Serbian forces which had come to power in Serbia accepted neither the 1974 Constitution of the SFRJ nor the democratic changes which took place at the end of 80s. The highest ranks of the Army were opposed to those changes, claiming that they resulted in the Army losing its state. Earlier, in a 1982 seminar of military and state leaders, it had been concluded that Yugoslavia could be saved only by the abolition of the 1974 Constitution. In order to realize that objective, all means were to be used including military force. The first signs -- besides the political ones -- that the Yugoslav crisis would have a violent resolution occurred when the autonomy of Kosovo and Vojvodina was abolished by military means and when the territorial defence units (TO) of all the republics were disarmed, with the exception of those of Serbia, Montenegro and partly – because of the resistance of the Slovenian TO – those of Slovenia. August 1990 saw the beginning of the rebellion of the Serbs in Croatia (the so–called “trunk revolution” because of the tree–trunks used to set up road–blocks) in which Serb rebels received arms and logistic support from the JNA in accordance with instructions from Serbia.
The situation in Croatia from 1990 until 1991 was good as far as the number, the motivation and the morale of the population were concerned. However, as far as defence was concerned, Croatia lacked the military technology and the means to defend itself. The disarmament of the Croatian TO was part of a deliberate plan since between 1980 and 1990 Croats were removed from all important positions in the TO, and TO–controlled equipment and weapons were taken to the areas inhabited by rebel Serbs. The situation in the Ministry of the Interior (MUP), the second element in the defence of the Republic of Croatia, was also critical because of the poor armament and unfavourable national composition of the police forces. All Croatia possessed in those days was approximately 35,000 sports and hunting guns. The aggressor, on the other hand, had an enormous quantity of high–quality military technology in its possession, but it also had some major weaknesses. The military technology was dispersed and its huge part, together with ammunition, was kept in warehouses. People who were trained to use it very often came from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina and Macedonia, and the JNA could not count on them. For that reason the highest military ranks were faced with the dilemma of whether to opt for a military coup against everybody and establish a firm Yugoslavia under Serbian domination or to gradually bring about the idea of a Greater Serbia, with a possible loss of some parts of the country. They decided to try both solutions: if the military coup did not succeed, they would -- confident of the extreme nationalism in Serbia and Montenegro -- quickly arm the rebels with the heaviest weaponry, and simultaneously create a battle-ready Serbian army which would make a Greater Serbia possible.
This situation was accurately assessed in Croatia in October 1990 and it was clear that two basic tasks were to be fulfilled: buy time through negotiations and in the meantime recruit 20,000 new policemen and arm them with contemporary weapons. By the end of January 1991 Croatia had acquired abroad approximately 30,000 pieces of contemporary weapons: small arms, surface–to–air missiles, anti–tank and other weapons. There were 50,000 to 60,000 people in possession of light arms in Croatia. The JNA units were in the barracks, warehouses or in numerous non–military locations. There were months when one-third of all JNA troops were deployed in non–military assignments. Taking all this into consideration, the Croatian police and National Defense Forces were able to resist the unprepared JNA. All the barracks, warehouses and headquarters of the JNA were blocked by the newly–created police and National Defence Forces. This allowed Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina to take over a huge amount of weapons, carry out a partial mobilization and, having achieved a military balance, start political negotiations on an equal basis. However, because of the overall state of international and other relations, the developments between January and June 1991 went in the direction of a search for a political solution. Although Croatia had held numerous talks with Slovenia, with Moslems in Bosnia and Hercegovina and in the Sandžak, and with Albanians in Kosovo, resistance to the aggressor was disunited, which resulted in the Greater Serbian forces fighting one enemy at a time.
The direction of the attacks as well as the areas occupied by the Serbian aggressor revealed their serious intention to conquer the line Virovitica – Karlovac – Karlobag with Greater Serbia extending to the east of that line. The aggressor had the appropriate plans, sufficient military technology gleaned from Slovenia and parts of Croatia, and a sufficient number of professional commanding officers, but in the effort to achieve their objectives they lacked sheer numbers and a motivated and capable corps of soldiers. After three months of heavy fighting in 1991, the Serbian aggressor had occupied some areas, but it did not achieve its goal of a Greater Serbia. At the beginning of 1992, a cease-fire was signed. Several months later, the UN peacekeeping forces (UNPROFOR) came to the line of the cease-fire, so that the occupied part of Croatia remained as it had been in 1991, except for changes in the south of Croatia, around Maslenica and the so–called “Medak pocket”. The war was temporarily stopped when 25% of the Croatian territory had been occupied, but dozens of Croatian towns were still exposed to artillery fire.
With the arrival of UNPROFOR, large–scale attacks by the aggressor were halted, but the mandate and the efficacy of the peace–keeping forces, which changed their name to UNCRO in April 1995, did not offer any guarantees that the occupied areas would return to the sovereignty of the Republic of Croatia; nor did the negotiations held by the Croatian authorities with the representatives of the self–proclaimed “Republic of Serbian Krajina” (RSK). The latter eventually rejected the international plan “Z4” which offered them a wider autonomy. At the same time, with the rapid development of the Croatian Army (HV), the conditions were created to liberate those areas by military means.
The superior mettle of the Croatian soldiers was confirmed at the beginning of the war, where, in particular, the aggressor was exhausted by the heroic defence of the town of Vukovar, when the enemy’s advances into western Slavonia were halted, and when the territories in southern Dalmatia were liberated. In the May 1995 operation “Lightning” and the August 1995 operation “Storm”, carried out jointly by the police forces and the Croatian Army (HV), all the occupied territories were liberated except for a part of the territory of the former “Sector East”. Croatia significantly changed the balance of power in a wider area, so that the Serbian aggressor was forced to retreat to Bosnia and Hercegovina, where the forces of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) together with the Army of Bosnia and Hercegovina liberated a large part of the occupied areas by autumn 1995, thus reducing the conquest of the Serbian aggressor from 70% to approximately 50% of the territory of Bosnia and Hercegovina. This led to a new round of international mediation with the USA taking the leading role. The peace negotiations in Dayton (USA) in November 1995 indicated the final defeat of the aggression against Croatia. Croatia completely defended its sovereignty and territorial integrity and emerged victorious from the Homeland War.
The War for the Barracks
The rebellion in the summer of 1990 by extremist Serbs from Knin signalled an unquestionable declaration of war on Croatia. Since the Croatian territorial defense had been disarmed a few months before, the basic questions in ensuring the survival of the Croatian state were how to defend the country and with what means. Two initial defence objectives were set: to capture the weapons from the numerous warehouses and barracks of the JNA situated in Croatia and to stop the outbreak or spreading of the war by political means (diplomacy and negotiations). In the months that followed, political means were used in order to prevent the war and to buy time while preparations to block and conquer the barracks were made in case a political solution was not reached. Since the course of events pointed in the direction of war, it became critical to determine the right time for capturing the JNA barracks, for which there were competing conceptions.
In the beginning of July 1991, during the JNA attack on Slovenia, smaller–scale, mostly spontaneous attacks on JNA barracks and armoured vehicles were carried out by citizens. It was during that time that the process of resistance to the JNA started throughout Croatia in all the places where there were military installations. Resistance came in the form of peace rallies, appeals to the JNA to surrender, blockades, stoppage of food, water and electricity supplies, occasional shootings and similar activities by Croatian citizens. Those events mostly occurred spontaneously. However, at the end of August, huge Serbian military forces started the conquest of Croatia with the battle of Vukovar, signalling that it was high time for the Croatian defence to arm itself. At the beginning of September the blockade was strengthened and the pressure on all the barracks in Croatia increased. The biggest part of the battle for the barracks took place in September, and Croatian soldiers captured a large number of barracks and military depots, which made it possible for Croatia to defend itself from the Serbian aggressor. The military depot in Sisak “Barutana” was the first military installation to be conquered by the Croatian defense on 3 September. On 14 September, the barracks in Ploče, Perušić, Gospić (“Kaniža”), the military warehouse in Selska Road in Zagreb and “Sopnica” near Sesvete, as well as the blockhouses in Podravske Sesvete, Terezino Polje, Novi Gradec, Šoderica, one blockhouse near Koprivnica and two near Đurđevac either surrendered to the Croatian National Guard or were conquered by it. Over the next two days the Croatian army entered two barracks in Ogulin as well as the barracks in Žirje and Kustošija in Zagreb. After a 23–hour battle, the warehouse in Slavonski Brod was also captured. The missile base in Žrnovnica surrendered as well. The weapons depot of the TO in Bukovlje near Slavonski Broad was conquered, and so were the military warehouses Prečec in Dugo Selo and Duboki Jarak and Bržine near Trogir. Croatia took control of a number of military facilities in the Zagreb area, such as the Headquarters of the 5th Aviation Corps, the Maritime Institute, the Military and Technical Training Centre and the artillery range in Gornje Vrapče, the Military and Nautical Museum and Military Hospital in Split, and military hotel facilities in Kupari and Makarska and Brijuni. By the end of September, the Croatian Army had captured a series of military installations: two barracks and one military depot in Karlovac, the artillery range “C” near Osijek, the barracks in Slavonska Požega (JNA traffic formation), Križevci, Ilovac, Daruvar, Gospić (“Stanko Opsenica”), Čakovac, Đakovo (JNA anti–tank brigade), Varaždin (“Jalkovačke žrtve” and “Kolnički partizani”), Bjelovar (60 tanks were captured), Ogulin (the third barracks), Zadar, Šibenik (Kruščica, Zečevo, Smokvica, Kulina, Duboka and the overhaul institute “V. Škorpik”) and Našice (JNA tank battalion); blockhouses Kotoriba and Goričan, the military installation Molvice near Samobor, the liaison centre on the Biokovo mountain, the liaison unit on Pelješac, the radio–relay point near Samobor, the liaison centre of the Varaždin garrison on Ivančica mountain, and the Guslice telecommunications centre above Platak. The radar aircraft–guidance system in Šašina Greda near Sisak was destroyed. In the second half of September, the JNA blew up the big military depots in Skradnik near Josipdol and in Bedenik near Bjelovar, and in mid–October it destroyed 7000 tonnes of explosives and ammunition near Oštarija as well as two military warehouses near Rijeka.
The war for the barracks ended on 7 October when the Croatian Army captured the barracks in Samobor and the TO military depot and barracks in Velika Buna near Velika Gorica. When soldiers, weapons and equipment of the JNA were gone from the unoccupied parts of Croatia, Croatia captured their military installations. This was the result of an agreement, since the JNA could not help but realize that it had lost the war for the barracks in Croatia. Thus it had to concentrate on another strategic objective, i.e., to occupy only those parts of Croatia where the Serbian rebellion had broken out. The weapons, ammunition and military warehouses captured in the war for the barracks played an important role in the defense of Croatia against Serbian aggression. This is obvious from the fact that the weapons and ammunition captured from the barracks of the Varaždin corps (74 tanks, 48 tracked armoured vehicles, 18 combat armoured vehicles with anti–air machine–guns, 6 cannons, 6 “Plamen” mortars, 4 “Oganj” mortars, 18 155–millimetre Howitzers, 250 different vehicles, a huge amount of infantry barrels and ammunition) were seven times as powerful as the weapons that Croatia had possessed before.
Battlefields (1991 – 1993)
During the first democratic elections in Croatia in 1990, the Greater Serbian regime in Serbia, with the help of the Serb–oriented JNA and a part of the Serbian population in Croatia, started making operational preparations for a military aggression against the Republic of Croatia. The aggression began with the instigation of an armed rebellion by one part of the Serbian population in Croatia and with the involvement of the JNA, first logistically and then militarily. As the intensity and pace of the Serbian aggression against Croatia increased, Serbian formations from Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Hercegovina started participating in the attacks with increasing frequency. The directions, intensity and sequencing of the Serbian attacks determined the corresponding organization of the Croatian defence and the creation of eight areas (battlefields) where the aggressor was stopped. The battle of Vukovar has to be singled out because of its special significance. The defense operations on all battlefields started independently and were gradually co–ordinated and united following the creation and consolidation of the Croatian Army (HV).
The Battle of Vukovar
On 2 May 1991, after several months of preparations, the Serbian Chetnik formations started the onslaught on the municipality of Vukovar by the massacre of 12 Croatian policemen in Borovo Selo. The course of the Serbian invasion was slowed for various military and political reasons, so that Serbia conquered the unprotected villages of the municipality of Vukovar over the following months, with a constant increase of artillery fire directed towards the town. By the end of August Vukovar was surrounded by a huge number of Serbian military forces. Serbia deployed approximately 600 tanks or armoured vehicles around the Vukovar area (in Croatia and Vojvodina), a large number of all sorts of artillery weapons, 40,000 to 60,000 well-armed soldiers, huge quantities of ammunition, and unrivaled Serbian military airplanes. New weapons, ammunition and manpower poured into the region from Serbia when needed, with no difficulty.
The besieged town of Vukovar was defended by 700–800 members of the Croatian National Guard and police and about 1000 volunteers. They were poorly armed with automatic and semi–automatic rifles, a few machine–guns and cannons, a limited number of anti–tank weapons, a large number of mines and small provisions of ammunition. Additional supplies of military equipment, medical material and food could have been brought to Croatian soldiers only by breaking the siege. According to military estimates, the balance of power was such that it should have allowed Vukovar to resist the siege for only two days. And yet the besieged town managed to resist the enemy for 86 days.
The battle of Vukovar, also called “the Hell of Vukovar”, started on 25 August when the Serbian Army, after artillery and air preparations, launched a total artillery and infantry attack which was repelled by the defenders after a few days. The fiercest attempt at conquering the town started on 14 September and lasted until 20 September. In those seven days the defenders of Vukovar destroyed 130 Serbian tanks and armoured vehicles, giving Trpinjska Road, where most of the attacks took place, the name of “tank cemetery”.
After that defeat, the Serbian Army changed its tactics. The besieged city was exposed to constant artillery destruction and air bombardments with attempts to break into the town concentrated on certain points. Vukovar was gradually turned into ruins; the life of its inhabitants and the activity of the destroyed Medical Centre continued in cellars. The resistance of Vukovar’s defenders and the plight of the besieged town brought it into the spotlight and made headlines around the world, but increasing appeals for help were met only with rhetoric. In October, the convoys of international humanitarian and health organizations did not succeed in delivering relief either to the hospital or to the inhabitants. Hundreds of wounded people who were driven from Vukovar were soon replaced by still more wounded people. It was not possible to deliver aid in weapons or ammunition to the exhausted defenders. The Serbian siege of Vukovar became tighter after the fall of the strategically important Marinci on 1 October. When the Croatian Army started to break through to Vukovar in mid–October, EU observers issued an ultimatum requiring that the action be immediately halted. The Serbian Army tried unsuccessfully to break into a completely destroyed town. At the beginning of November the Command Headquarters of the Serbian Army moved to the vicinity of Vukovar and they directly led the attack upon Lužac, a part of the city. The defenders of Lužac were forced to withdraw to the town centre after they had run out of anti–tank weapons. The fall of Lužac and the failure to deliver substantial aid marked the beginning of Vukovar's agonizing attempt to secure its defence. Very soon, on 11 November, Bogdanovci fell to the Serbs and it was the only town, along with Vukovar, which had resisted the Serbian aggressor.
In the last days of the battle, the defense of the city was broken in two places: one followed the line from Lužac towards the Danube and the other followed the bed of the river Vuka towards the centre of the town. The defenders of Vukovar had no more anti–tank powder charge, so they split into smaller groups and broke through towards the west. One group of defenders in Mitnica and Borovo Naselje were completely besieged and without ammunition. They were captured together with other civilians on 18 November 1991.
According to data which is incomplete, 1,700 people were killed in the defense of Vukovar (1,100 of them were civilians), more than 4,000 people were wounded, between three and five thousand taken prisoner, and several thousand people either disappeared or were displaced. Vukovar was defended by approximately 1,800 fighters who were organized in the 204th brigade of the Croatian National Guard in the course of the defence; about 40% of the defenders were volunteers from all parts of Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina and from the Diaspora. Approximately 500 Serbian armoured vehicles were destroyed in the defense of Vukovar (200 of them were tanks) and 25 combat planes were shot down. The number of Serbian soldiers and Chetniks killed is estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000, and between 25,000 and 30,000 wounded. The Serbian Army was materially, politically and psychologically weakened by the battle of Vukovar. The huge military forces of the aggressor were concentrated on Vukovar for three months and that allowed time and space for the organization of the Croatian Army. For these reasons reasons Vukovar became a symbol of Croatian resistance to Serbian aggression.
The Eastern Slavonian battlefield comprised the areas of the municipalities of Vukovar, Vinkovci, Osijek and Beli Manastir. The strategic significance of this area in the Homeland War arose from the fact that it bordered Serbia. The defeat of eastern Slavonia was necessary for Serbia in order to fulfill its drive for a Greater Serbia. The Serbian military aggression began on May 2 1991 in Borovo Selo. Explosions, shootings and the terror inflicted by the Chetnik paramilitary units and the JNA upon the towns and villages of eastern Slavonia intensified in May and June. The villages of Tenja, near Osijek, and Mirkovci, near Vinkovci, became Chetnik strongholds. The aggressor occasionally attacked Osijek and Vinkovci during July using artillery and combat aircraft. Other towns and villages such as Dalj, Erdut, Aljmaš, Darda, etc., were exposed to infantry pillaging. Serbian tanks entered Baranja across the bridge near Batina and by mid–August the Serbian Army had occupied all the villages in Baranja, except for a narrow zone near Osijek, and destroyed the police station in Beli Manastir. 35,000 inhabitants (out of a total of 60,000) were driven out of Baranja because of the terror inflicted upon them. During the battle of Vukovar, which lasted for three months, the municipalities of Osijek and Vinkovci suffered continuous attack by the Serbian Army and the Chetniks.
After the fall of Vukovar, Serbian artillery and aircraft intensified their attacks on Vinkovci and Osijek, but their experience of the heroic defence of Vukovar had taught them better than to try to take the towns. At the end of November, the the Croatian Army successfully defended Nuštar, and in mid–December a part of the territory between Osijek and Kopačevo was liberated. Over the next five months, the Serbs fortified their positions (trenches, bunkers, pillboxes, mine–fields etc.), drove out the non–Serbian population, inhabited the occupied towns and villages and occasionally attacked Osijek and Vinkovci with artillery fire. In mid–May 1992 UNPROFOR (Sector East) assumed responsibility in the occupied part of eastern Slavonia, which led to a gradual cessation of bigger armed conflicts. Nevertheless, UNPROFOR did not fulfill the responsibilities it had assumed, such as the return of displaced persons, the establishment of Croatian rule in the occupied areas, and the protection of the population.
The Posavina battlefield comprised the area of the municipalities of Slavonski Brod and Županja. There were no major conflicts in Posavina in the summer and autumn of 1991. The Croatian National Guard of Slavonski Brod captured several trains which were transporting weapons the JNA was withdrawing from Slovenia and there were several shootings around Brod and Županja. The pre–war scenario that had already been witnessed in Croatia took place in Bosnian Posavina in the winter of 1991-92: the mobilization and arming of Serbs, the arrival of Chetniks and the deployment of the JNA in Motajica and Kobaš. The bridge across the Sava river in Bosanski Brod was closed in March and heavy weapons from Bosnia were moved closer to the Sava.
Military action began in April 1992. The aggressor attacked Orašje and the refinery in Bosanski Brod was set on fire with grenades; the Serbs killed and mutilated the peasants in Gornje Kolibe. At the beginning of May, the bridge across the Sava between Gunje and Brčko, used by a great number of refugees pouring into Croatia, was destroyed. The whole Posavina region was engulfed by infantry and artillery conflicts. Slavonski Brod was shelled by Serbian artillery from Motajica and by aircraft. In the first days of May, the Brod defense shot down six Serbian airplanes, while the HVO of Bosnian Posavina waged a fierce battle against the Serbian Army. However, the intensity of the Serbian attacks, caused by the importance of the corridor, as well as other events in Bosnia and Hercegovina, forced the defenders to switch to the defensive. As a result, Modriča fell at the end of June and the Serbs continued with the daily destruction of Slavonski Brod and other places in Posavina from their artillery stronghold on Motajica.
The Western Slavonian battlefield comprised the area of the municipalities of Novska, Nova Gradiška, Pakrac, Grubišno Polje and Daruvar, and a part of the area of the Virovitica, Slatina, Orahovica and Požega municipalities. According to the Greater Serbian plans, this area was designated to become the northwestern part of Greater Serbia. The Serbian conquest of the area from Novska to Virovitica would have meant the fall of the entire region of Slavonia.
The first Chetnik shooting in Western Slavonia took place in Slatina in October 1990. Chetniks and several JNA officers attacked the police station in Pakrac on March 1, captured its weapons and under JNA protection withdrew to the surrounding hills. At the end of February the assembly of the Pakrac municipality decided to join the “Krajina”. The planting of mines, shooting and disorder became more frequent in the months that followed and JNA involvement intensified. Western Slavonia became an extremely unsafe area, with the control of Croatian authorities diminishing. In August the Croatian National Guard resisted the Chetniks and Serbian heavy weapons near Novska, Nova Gradiška and Slatina. The police station in Stara Gradiška fell in mid–August. Members of the Guard demolished the bridge over the Struga river near Nova Varoš in order to stop the Banja Luka corps from advancing. A new front from Okučani towards Virovitica was opened and the battles there were constant and fierce. Okučani was occupied at the beginning of September and traffic on the motorway was stopped near Vrbovljani.
The Chetniks committed their first mass slaughter in this area, killing 24 people in Četekovac. Psunj, Papuk and a part of Bilogora were controlled by Chetniks and the JNA. Since there was a danger that Croatia would be split into two parts, in October the Croatian Army, reinforced by weapons from the captured barracks, launched a major offensive in order to liberate Western Slavonia. By the end of November, the whole municipality of Grubišno Polje was liberated. After the fall of Vukovar, decisive battles were fought in Western Slavonia until the cease–fire of December 22, while the Croatian Army liberated Papuk, Bilogora and a large part of Psunj, causing the Chetnik formations and the Banja Luka Corps to flee. The liberation operations of the Croatian Army were stopped when a cease–fire was signed, and a demarcation line was drawn encompassing Sector West to be controlled by UNPROFOR. The Chetniks massacred 43 people in Voćin and Hum (Slatina) in mid–December 1991, and a grave with 20 members of the Guard who had been captured and killed in the summer of 1991 was excavated in Kosonje at the end of January 1992.
The Banovina battlefield comprised the municipalities of Dvor na Uni, Glina, Petrinja, Hrvatska Kostajnica and Sisak. After the Knin rebellion, the area of Banovina was the second Greater Serbian stronghold. Petrinja, Glina and Dvor na Uni were strewn with barricades and at the end of September 1990 armed civilians and weapons were captured from police stations. At the beginning of April 1991 the assemblies of the Glina and Hrvatska Kostajnica municipalities decided to join the “Krajina”. Disorder and terror very soon spread throughout Banovina as the Croatian state tried unsuccessfully to control the situation through negotiations, concessions and the creation of police stations. The population of unprotected villages started fleeing Chetnik violence in June. The president of the Glina municipality declared a state of war and used the Chetniks and the JNA to besiege the police station. Traffic on the Sisak–Glina– Karlovac railway line was discontinued, while the Sunja–Bosanski Novi railway was mined. The police stations in Kozibrod and Glina resisted attack. The situation in Hrvatska Kostajnica was critical. In July the number of displaced people from the Banovina region reached 6,000. The police stations in Glina and Kozibrod were destroyed at the end of July and the Chetniks captured Hrvatska Kostajnica and Struga. The Chetniks committed the first mass slaughter of Banovina peasants and policemen in Kozibrod and Struga, while the inhabitants of Hrvatska Kostajnica fled the Chetniks and the JNA. Formations of the Croatian National Guard liberated and defended the deserted town of Hrvatska Kostajnica at the beginning of August. A new Chetnik massacre was committed in Kraljevčani and Bjelovac. Petrinja, which had been relatively peaceful, was now exposed to Chetnik sniping and artillery fire from the barracks with increasing frequency. The besieged town of Petrinja was first destroyed and then occupied at the beginning of September. At the same time, the Chetniks and the so–called JNA attacked Sisak, Sunja and Komarevo with artillery. Hrvatska Kostajnica fell in mid–September. The battlefield of Banovina stabilized at the end of September and there were no major movements in the ensuing stages of the war. The fiercest infantry and artillery attacks were directed towards Sunja, while Sisak was exposed to long–range attacks. The arrival of UNPROFOR in Sector North (Banovina and Kordun) reduced the number of military conflicts and destructive attacks on Croatian towns, but other obligations that UNPROFOR had assumed were not fulfilled.
The Kordun battlefield comprised the area of the municipalities of Slunj, Ogulin, Vrginmost, Vojnić, Duga Resa and Karlovac. The geographical position of Kordun and Banovina was strategically important because it connected the occupied Croatian areas of Western Slavonia with those of Lika and Knin. Furthermore, the vicinity of Zagreb and the possibility that Croatia might be cut through in a westerly direction made it even more important. A replica of the Knin rebellion occurred in Kordun in the autumn of 1990, orchestrated by the so–called Serbian “spiritual enlightening assemblies” and the assemblies of the municipalities of Vojnić and Vrginmost which decided to join the “Krajina” in early spring 1991.
During July the Chetniks occasionally attacked Josipdol and Plaški with mortars. Policemen were attacked in Tušilovići and Krnjak, while Topusko and the surrounding villages followed the pace of the Banovina war. In August, fighting of varying intensity spread throughout Kordun. There were JNA tanks in Duga Resa; Karlovac was full of barricades; there were firefights and one police station was attacked. Chetniks clashed with the Croatian police near Slunj. Topusko resisted attack. Slunj was besieged during September, while the population of Karlovac was intimidated by threats from the barracks. Constant artillery attacks on Karlovac began in October. The war spread to the area northeast of Karlovac towards Zagreb. Nine civilians were slaughtered in the occupied villages of Skakavac and Brešani in mid–October. The JNA began to leave the Karlovac barracks; the Croatian Army captured a warehouse in Jamadol; the barracks in Logorište were partly deserted and partly blown up by the JNA. Slunj was occupied in mid–November, after several months of siege. Approximately 8,000 people were displaced and 20 peasants were massacred by Chetniks in the village of Klanac. Karlovac was constantly shelled. Six hundred people were made homeless in Turanj alone. Karlovac was occasionally shelled subsequent to the cease–fire in January 1992. During the UNPROFOR mandate, the strongest shelling occurred in July and September 1993.
The Lika battlefield. The rebellion in Lika began to spread in autumn 1990 in the municipalities of Gračac, Korenica and Donji Lapac, and the war extended to the area of the municipalities of Gospić and Otočac in 1991. The management of the “Plitvice” company were removed from office in January 1991 under the threat of arms. The Chetniks captured Plitvice at the end of March, which resulted in armed conflicts between the Chetniks and the Croatian police. Riots in the area between Gračac and Gospić increased in frequency in May and June and the JNA intercepted Croatian police actions. The railway near Metak was mined at the beginning of July. Serbian tanks and artillery were deployed around Gospić, Otočac and Lički Osik and they soon started to attack. Lovinac, Sveti Rok and Ričice, villages inhabited exclusively by Croats, were under siege. Barracks in both Perušić and Gospić surrendered in mid–September. More barracks in Gospić were captured after several days of fighting. The Chetniks were relentless in their destruction of the towns in Lika, with artillery attacks so fierce that the peasants of Croatian nationality had to flee in order to save their lives. Lovinac, Sveti Rok and Ričice were burnt down and completely destroyed in November. The Chetniks and the Serbian Army continued to pound Gospić with artillery, but they did not succeed in capturing the town because members of the Guard were very well-organized and well-supplied with weapons from the captured barracks.
The front line had not moved considerably between January 1992 and the arrival of UNPROFOR, but the arrival of the UN soldiers did not prevent frequent Chetnik provocation, especially in the area of Gospić. Consequently, in September 1993 the Croatian Army liberated the so–called Medak pocket (Divoselo, Čitluk and Počitelj) in a rapid and successful operation. After UNPROFOR had assumed the obligation to prevent the Chetniks from returning to the liberated area, the Croatian Army withdrew and ceded the supervision to UNPROFOR.
The Northern Dalmatian battlefield comprised the area of Zadar, Šibenik and Split with the hinterland and islands. One of the main Greater Serbian geostrategic objectives was to ensure access to the Adriatic Sea, so that all Serbian war operations in the Dalmatian hinterland had one ultimate purpose: to conquer the Adriatic coast. Terror, pillage and general peril in autumn 1990 led to the persecution of Croats living in that area. The real symbols of the persecution were the villages of Kijevo, near Knin, and Kruševo, near Obrovac, which had to be abandoned by their inhabitants and the police in the summer of 1991 after terror and artillery attacks. The Chetniks attacked and captured the Serb–dominated villages in the hinterland of Zadar and Šibenik from spring until August 1991 and their huge military strength kept the towns in a state of increasing peril. Armed Chetnik provocation gradually turned into artillery attacks on Zadar, Šibenik and other Dalmatian towns. The situation in the Zadar area became critical in mid–September after the poorly–organized defence left their positions in Starigrad, Seline, Jović, Vučjak, Pridraga and Novigrad. The Yugoslav Navy cruised around the islands and blocked Croatian ports. The 3rd combat unit of the 4th Brigade prevented the Chetniks and the JNA from entering Zadar. The Šibenik defence repelled all Chetnik attempts to come closer to the town. This success was due to the excellent organization of the 113th Brigade and to the capture of the surrounding military depots such as Žirje, Zečevo, Kruščica, Duboka and others. Upon the withdrawal from the Maslenica bridge, which was later destroyed, all of southern Croatia was cut off and the only mainland connection with other parts of Croatia was via the island of Pag. In October 1991 it was agreed that the JNA would leave Dalmatia by sea and the agreement was implemented in successive stages, but the area of Zadar and Šibenik continued to suffer destruction. Yugoslav Navy ships attacked Split, Brač and Šolta for a short period of time in mid–November, but local formations of the Croatian National Guard damaged the ships and forced them to withdraw from the Brač Canal. Chetniks invaded the villages of Škabrnje and Nadin in the Zadar area on November 18, killing and mutilating 74 civilians. The cease–fire in January 1992 did not bring relief to the population of Dalmatia, which had to suffer both artillery attacks and the hardships caused by isolation. In order to bring an end to the everyday imperilment of the Dalmatian towns, the Croatian Army liberated the Miljevački plateau (7 villages and an area of 180 km2) in June 1992. They captured a sizeable quantity of weapons and ammunition that the Chetniks had left behind while withdrawing under the Croatian offensive. After several months of negotiations and much Chetnik blackmailing, in September the hydroelectric power plant at Peruča was put under UNPROFOR supervision. At the end of January 1993, 13 towns and villages in the Zadar hinterland were liberated in an operation called “Novsko ždrilo” in order to secure the building of a new bridge at Maslenica. The Serbs captured some heavy weaponry which was under UNPROFOR surveillance and they continued to attack both Dalmatian towns and the Novsko ždrilo operation. In spite of that, a pontoon bridge was opened in July. The Chetniks sank one part of the bridge, but after a short while the bridge was repaired. The Croatian authorities tried to stop the artillery attacks on the Zadar and Šibenik battlefields which followed the Maslenica operation through peaceful negotiations.
The Southern Dalmatian battlefield comprised the area of the municipalities of Ploče, Metković and Dubrovnik. This area was also attacked by the aggressor from the Trebinje area and other parts of the Croatian hinterland in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Greater Serbian aspirations to capture the southern Dalmatian coast had existed for years. The fact that a significant hinterland does not exist represents a constant geostrategic drawback in that area of Croatia. The JNA invaded Konavle in mid–October 1991 during an unannounced practice attack, while landing craft entered the port of Molunat. Aircraft and helicopters flew over Dubrovnik in July and August and there were frequent shootings south of the town. The town of Ploče was attacked by artillery from land and sea; the Yugoslav Military Navy blocked Croatian ports; the landing operation in Molunat was prevented and the number of incidents near Debeli Brijeg (the border with Montenegro) increased. The Chetniks and the Serbian Army started their fiercest attacks in October. They destroyed the old centre of the city of Dubrovnik, occupied Cavtat and attacked Ston from Slano; 1,200 citizens left Dubrovnik by boat. Fierce attacks on Dubrovnik continued throughout November and December as the Chetniks and the Serbian Army captured villages south and north of Dubrovnik. The Croatian Army won an important victory when they halted the Chetnik advances near Ston, although the balance of power had suggested a different outcome.
In the first two months of 1992, the intensity of the fighting in the Dubrovnik area was low, but the war in Bosnia and Hercegovina represented a new danger for southern Dalmatia. The attacks on the area of Metković, Neum and Ston became fiercer in March and April 1992. The fall of any of those areas could have jeopardized the survival of Dubrovnik. Therefore, the Croatian Army liberated 27 towns and villages from Ošalj to Plat, as well as the area in the Bosnian hinterland, in an operation which lasted throughout May and June and involved the whole southern battlefield. Following negotiations, the JNA withdrew from Konavle in October. As a result, Croatian rule returned to 30 towns and villages between Cavtat and Vitaljine. Since the Chetnik artillery continued to attack Cavtat even after that event, the Croatian Army engaged in a few actions in order to repel the enemy from the hills of Konavale.
The Defense of the Adriatic
Along with the battle for the barracks on land and actions on the battlefields of northern and southern Dalmatia, actions were launched in order to capture the naval bases of the Yugoslav Military Navy such as Ploče (captured on 14 September 1991), strongholds of coastal artillery such as Žirje and Zečevo and other installations on the islands and on the coast. In spite of the naval blockades of three Croatian ports from September through November, attempts to invade Šolta, and the shelling of Split, Šibenik, Zadar, Dubrovnik and other towns, the Yugoslav Military Navy (JRM) was forced to withdraw, its fleet damaged and diminished. The JRM withdrew from the islands of Vis, Lastovo and Mljet in June 1992. The ships of the Croatian Military Navy arrived at the port of Gruž in June 1992. The Croatian Military Navy (HRM) took over a part of the stranded ships, repaired them and built a few new ones. The combined activities of the island artillery and other formations of the Croatian Army and the HRM, along with demolition raids undertaken by the local population and the HRM at sea, showed that the Croatian coast had become the line of defence of Croatian independence and that the demoralized and decimated JRM was not able to fight it.
Displaced Persons and Refugees
The first expulsion of Croatian citizens was recorded in the spring of 1991 when Croats and members of other ethnic minorities were forced by rebel Serbs and the Yugoslav army to leave their homes and seek safety in other areas of Croatia or abroad. When war broke out in the summer of 1991 there were mass expulsions from the afflicted areas such as the Croatian Danube region (Podunavlje), Banovina, Kordun, Lika and northern Dalmatia. The peak of the refugee crisis came in November when, following the occupation of Vukovar and the massacre of the remaining inhabitants and soldiers, 15,000 survivors were expelled from the town. At the end of 1991 there were 550,000 displaced persons in Croatia, and 150,000 Croatian refugees who found temporary residence in other countries (Western Europe). In July 1991 the Croatian government looked after these people primarily through the existing social welfare system, and then through the Office for Displaced Persons and Refugees (founded on 22 December 1991). At that time there were more than half a million displaced persons in Croatia. This office was responsible for the displaced persons and from the middle of 1992 it also took into its care the Bosnian and Hercegovinian refugees, offering them accommodation and food, and organizing their life in exile. Through 21 regional offices and social service centres, the office co-ordinated with all those working to care for displaced persons and refugees, as well as international governmental and non-governmental humanitarian organizations (UNHCR, ECHO, IFRC, ICRC).
All existing available accommodation was used to house these displaced persons and refugees - hotels, workers’ holiday homes, schools, hospitals, sports halls, kindergartens, old people's homes, railway train carriages, huts used to house construction workers and camps. From the end of 1992 refugee camps were built or existing buildings were adapted to house displaced persons and refugees (army barracks, workers' barracks etc.)
The refugee crisis began in April 1992 when the war broke out in neighbouring Bosnia and Hercegovina. By the end of that year 402,000 people had arrived in Croatia from that country. They mainly came after the Serbs had occupied Bosnian Posavina and Jajce, but right up until 1995 new refugees continued to arrive in Croatia, continuously from the areas of Bosnia and Hercegovina under Serb control, and from Central Bosnia during the Croatian-Muslim conflicts. The last large group of refugees from Bosnia arrived in the summer of 1995 when in only one month more than 25,000 Croats and Muslims were expelled from the Banja Luka region, which completed the ethnic cleansing of the region under Serbian control in Bosnia and Hercegovina. 400,000 refugees went through Croatia to a third country between 1992 and 1997, having previously stayed here for an average of three months, and 160,000 remained in Croatia, of whom only a small percentage still have refugee status.
At the end of 1992 there were 700,000 displaced persons and refugees in Croatia, which was more than 15% of the population of Croatia. In 1994 the number of displaced persons and refugees was reduced to 380,000, by the end of 1996 to 360,000 and in April 1997 there were 290,000 displaced persons and refugees.
The mass return of displaced persons and refugees to the liberated areas of Croatia and the Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina began at the end of 1995 following the "Lightning" and "Storm" campaigns which liberated large areas of Croatia following four years of occupation, and at the same time brought stability to the military and security situation in the Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina and the signing of the Dayton accord.
Of a total of 129,721 displaced persons from the areas liberated in the "Lightning" and "Storm" campaigns, by the end of 1997 110,000 had returned to their homes. There remain 22,000 people displaced from those areas, and their homes are being rebuilt.
From the end of 1995 to the end of 1997, 55,000 refugees voluntarily returned to the Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina. In October 1997 refugee status was revoked for all except those who have citizenship and the right of abode in Croatia.
On 31 December 1997 there were still 140,883 people with the status of displaced person, returnee or refugee in Croatia, including 79,719 displaced persons from the Croatian Danube region and 22,350 from other areas; 9,336 returnees; and 29,478 refugees. There were 34,463 in organized accommodation and 106,420 living privately.
Before the beginning of the revision of the status of refugees and displaced persons (in August 1997), 288,563 people were in one of the following situations: 81,234 displaced persons from the Croatian Danube region, 72,744 returnees, 31,752 displaced persons whose homes were being rebuilt, 81,561 refugees and 21,263 refugee-immigrants.
The two-year mandate of UNTAES in the Croatian Danube region ended on 15 January 1998 and Croatia recovered full authority over the area. The return of 100,000 displaced people to The Danube region began in the summer of 1997 after successful local and county elections on 13 April 1997 and the Agreement on the Two-way Return to and from the Croatian Danube region between the government of the Republic of Croatia, UNTAES and the UNHCR (23rd April 1997). By the end of January 1998 more than 9,000 displaced persons had returned to their homes in The Danube region after six years of exile. 5,241 families with 15,210 members are now able to return home, in cases where their homes are empty or habitable, or fall into categories 1-3 in terms of damage, or where a member of the family has remained in the home (uniting families). Since September 1997, the Croatian government has taken over from UNTAES most of the work involved with the return of displaced people, which has meant that a significantly greater number than before have been able to return to their homes. In 1998 the Croatian government will also be undertaking a series of measures to enable the two-way return of displaced people to continue in an organized manner, in accordance with the agreement and internationally agreed obligations.
From 23 April 1997 to the end of January 1998 about 11,500 Serbs returned to other areas of Croatia from Croatian Danube region, of whom 2,699 had official confirmation of their return and at least 8,251 had no confirmation, but went spontaneously. As of January 1998 the Office for Displaced Persons and Refugees had enabled 3,153 families with 6,389 members to return to their homes. From 23 April to the end of 1997 14,231 families with 28,004 members were registered in The Danube region, those who had left other parts of Croatia and who had found accommodation in The Danube region (mainly in houses belonging to displaced Croats); and a further 2,341 families with 4,198 members were living in the Republic of Yugoslavia or in Bosnia and Hercegovina. 8,295 families with 17,565 members requested to return from The Danube region to other parts of Croatia, and there remain about 3,500 families whose cases need to be solved in 1998, as their houses are damaged or inhabited. 5,620 families do not wish to return and have therefore sought to exchange or sell their property.
18,469 refugees of Serbian nationality have returned to Croatia from Yugoslavia, most of whom left Croatia during the "Storm" and "Lightning" campaigns (from regions which had been occupied before these campaigns). A total of about 34,000 people have so far requested to return to their homes, but since there are some duplicate requests, in fact about 25,000 people are involved.
From 1991 to the end of 1997 Croatia spent more than US $2bn on displaced persons and refugees of which US $1,133bn went for basic accommodation and food for displaced persons and refugees. At the same time, the total financial aid received for the care of displaced persons and refugees amounted to US $107m and a further US $110m has been allocated to build camps to house displaced people and refugees. The greatest burden for these displaced people and refugees was borne by Croatia from its state budget, through the King Zvonimir Fund of the Office for Displaced Persons and Refugees, of which 90% comes from the budget. This fund paid for organized accommodation for displaced people and refugees, and those in private accommodation received financial aid, and their other basic personal expenses were met.
Displaced people in private accommodation received humanitarian aid, which was distributed by the Office through its branches, and the Red Cross, Caritas and other humanitarian organizations. At the beginning of the war a large quantity of aid was sent by many Croatian associations abroad, and in 1992 several other foreign government and non-governmental organizations, agencies of the United Nations and the European Union also became involved. Most foreign humanitarian organizations withdrew from Croatia in 1996, and only the larger international organizations remain, of whom many have re-directed their programmes to urgent aid for development programmes, to the monitoring of the situation in the liberated areas, and to the reintegration of the Croatian Danube region.
From 1992 the European Union set up a programme to help feed the displaced people and refugees in Croatia, and thus became the largest donor of humanitarian aid in Croatia. More than 241,000 tonnes of food was donated by the European Union along with 85,000 tonnes of various other forms of aid. At the same time the Croatian government secured food aid from its own resources and bore most of the costs of transporting humanitarian aid.
Displaced people and refugees are organized through their local government offices (in exile or in their home town), and through clubs and various associations. A central organization for displaced people was founded in 1993 in Osijek, The Union Of Displaced People of Croatia, a non-governmental organization which gathers displaced people together from various parts of Croatia with the aim of returning all displaced people to their homes and rebuilding what was destroyed. This association was renamed in January 1998 as the Union of Returnees of Croatia.
Victims of the War
According to data from April 1997, 10,668 people died in the Homeland War, 2,367 were forcibly abducted, imprisoned or are missing, 37,180 were wounded and 19,224 are registered as invalids.
These data demonstrate how in 1994 there were nearly 50,000 registered direct victims of the aggression by the Yugoslav army and the Serbian paramilitary units. This means that about 200,000 members of the families of Croatian citizens, through one of their immediate family -- a brother, sister, son, daughter, father or mother -- is directly experiencing the consequences of the aggression against Croatia as a "war against civilians", since the number of civilians in the total of victims is unusually high (a third of all those killed or wounded are civilians -- children, women and old people).
Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing
The brutality of the aggressor demonstrates the clear intent to "ethnically cleanse" regions included in the Greater Serbian expansionist maps, by means of psychological propaganda. The geographical distribution of human suffering also indicates that the most important lines of aggression were eastern and western Slavonia, the Zadar region and Dubrovnik with southern Dalmatia and Lika and Kordun. It has to be said that the horrific statistics of immeasurable human suffering are not yet complete. The number of victims will probably increase when full insight is possible into the consequences of the aggression. During the aggression in Croatia and later in Bosnia and Hercegovina war crimes and the crime of genocide were committed.
In the Homeland War, 303 children, 13 members of medical staff, 14 Croatian journalists (total 28), and 3 priests were killed; 1,260 children, 4 priests and 48 members of medical staff were wounded. The fate of 294 mostly wounded people who were taken away by force from the Vukovar hospital and killed in Ovčara -- something which was discovered after the mass grave was dug out in 1996 -- is particularly ominous. The final explanation as to what happened to the missing people depends on the possibility of access to the temporarily occupied areas. The genocidal nature of the Serbian aggression can clearly be seen from the following facts: at least 1,000 of the civilians killed were victims of mass slaughter; at least 500 feeble old men and women were brutally killed in the occupied areas after UNPROFOR took over the surveillance of those areas; 90% of the people liberated during prisoner exchanges had been continuously and brutally tortured during their captivity and many of them still suffer physical and mental consequences; 200,000 displaced persons were not able to return to their homes, that is, none of the displaced people managed to return to the area occupied by the Serbian aggressor.
The cruelty of the genocidal strategy of the Serbian aggressor, both in Croatia and in Bosnia and Hercegovina, was reflected in the systematic war crimes inflicted upon the civilian population of the attacked nations, which the world community chose to refer to as “ethnic cleansing” and “ethnic rape”. However, the two terms are only euphemisms for genocide and they are used in order to avoid the more decisive action which every member country of the UN would be obliged to take if the crimes described were given their only appropriate name: genocide.
War Destruction and Damage
With their aggression, Serbia and Montenegro committed a crime against peace, and their method of waging war, which defied the international humanitarian laws of war, led to war crimes unprecedented in recent history.
According to the international classification of war damage, the aggressor perpetrated direct damage in the form of expenses incurred for waging a defensive war, expenses during the war, damage caused by the violation of the prohibition to use weapons and ammunition, damage caused by the violation of the rights of the participants in the war, damage inflicted on protected facilities, villages, settlements and towns, damage caused by crimes committed against the population, damage caused by taking away life, harming health and causing invalidity, damage caused by the destruction and misuse of national wealth and economic resources, damage caused by genocide and damage caused by plunder and pillage. Also committed was indirect or secondary damage in the form of: war damage on defence forces, loss of national income and decrease of GNP, damage caused by the appropriation of assets and liabilities of Croatian companies on the territory of the aggressor’s countries, damage on behalf of the reconstruction of the economy, damage ensuing from the spiritual and physical suffering of the population, demographic damage, damage in expenses for recreating the situation that existed before the war, damage caused by forced displacement, estimated damage that is considered to be irreparable (human losses) and damage as a consequence of assaults on the honour and physical and moral integrity of citizens.
* Source: State Board for Inventory and Estimates of War Damage, 1996, direct damage
Damage to Churches and Church Buildings
Since the beginning of the aggression against Croatia the most frequent targets of shelling and destruction were churches, cemeteries, hospitals and schools. The aggressor deliberately and systematically destroyed churches, chapels, cemeteries, crosses and all church treasure in the occupied Croatian areas.
In the diocese of Dubrovnik 300 church buildings were damaged or destroyed: 203 parochial churches and their chapels were damaged or destroyed; 5 of them were completely ruined, 32 badly damaged and 166 slightly damaged; 31 parsonages, 28 monasteries and 38 cemeteries were damaged.
In the dioceses of Đakovo and Srijem 328 church buildings were damaged: 164 churches and chapels (24 were completely destroyed, 72 badly damaged and 68 slightly damaged); three monasteries were completely destroyed, 4 of them badly damaged and 4 slightly damaged; 10 cemeteries and 33 crosses were also damaged.
The diocese of Križevci suffered damage in six locations.
In the diocese of Rijeka and Senj 79 church buildings were damaged: 19 churches and chapels were completely destroyed, 19 of them were badly damaged and 15 slightly damaged; 21 parsonages and 5 cemeteries were damaged.
In the diocese of Split and Makarska 9 church buildings suffered damage: one church was completely destroyed, three churches were badly damaged and five churches slightly damaged.
In the diocese of Šibenik 125 church buildings suffered damage: 33 churches and chapels were completely destroyed, 24 churches were badly damaged and 24 were slightly damaged; 29 parsonages were damaged (5 of them destroyed, 6 of them badly and 8 of them slightly damaged), seven monasteries and 28 Catholic cemeteries were damaged.
The diocese of Zadar also suffered great damage: 69 churches and chapels were damaged (30 of them were completely destroyed, 25 of them badly and 14 of them slightly damaged); 39 parsonages, 6 monasteries and one cross were damaged. In the diocese of Zadar 115 church buildings were damaged.
In the diocese of Zagreb 461 church buildings were damaged: 247 churches and chapels were damaged (92 of them were completely destroyed, 74 of them were badly and 81 of them slightly damaged); 14 monasteries suffered damage (three monasteries were completely destroyed, 7 of them were badly damaged and 4 were slightly damaged); 78 parsonages, 93 crosses and 29 Catholic cemeteries were damaged as well.
During the five–year aggression against Croatia three priests and monks were killed and three priests were wounded. There were 226 displaced priests, nuns and monks and 17 priests, nuns and monks were held prisoner; some of them were tortured.
Statistical Overview of Damaged Church Buildings of the Catholic Church in the Republic of Croatia
Croatia liberated the occupied areas with a combination of very rapid military and police actions and tough diplomatic negotiations. In the course of May and June 1992 the coast around Dubrovnik from Ošalj to Mokošice and the Dubrovnik district were liberated, and the JNA withdrew from Konavale in October 1992 following the Tuđman – Ćosič agreement reached in Geneva in September 1992. The Miljevac area was liberated by military action in June 1992. In January 1993 Croatian military forces liberated the Zadar hinterland, Masleničko ždrilo, a part of Velebit and the area around the dam on the Peruča lake. In all those actions, about 850 km2 and about 100 towns and villages, mostly inhabited by Croats before the aggression, were liberated. In September 1993 Croatian forces repelled the Serbs from several villages around Gospić (the so–called Medak pocket).
All these actions were accompanied by the interference of international factors and UNPROFOR, which demanded a peaceful integration of the occupied areas. At the same time, UNPROFOR and the international community did not show any efficiency in imposing the same solution on the rebels, who continuously rejected all the proposed plans, including the Z– 4 plan (January 1995) which gave them the widest autonomy.
Croatia was faced with the threat that the situation ensuing from the aggression would remain. Moreover, the rebels were constantly invited to join the self–proclaimed Serbian state in Bosnia and Hercegovina, and in the long run, to join Serbia itself. Such a situation was made worse by the pressure of a large number of displaced people and refugees, by the economic and overall isolation of Croatia and by the generally difficult living conditions ensuing from the war. Occasional negotiations produced only short–term and limited results. This was also characteristic of the inauguration of the motorway via Okučani which took place as a result of the so–called Economic Agreement between representatives of the Croatian Government and rebel Serbs in December 1994. The end of the communication blockade was psychologically destructive for the occupying authorities, so that numerous incidents occurred on the motorway with the purpose of closing it again. This showed that the leadership of the rebel Serbs could not accept even a gradual peaceful reintegration, because it weakened the position of the extremists who had already been accused of war crimes by the International Tribunal in the Hague. Violation of the agreement was the motive for the military and police action “Lightning” on 1 and 2 May, in which more than 500 square kilometres of Posavina and western Slavonia (UN Sector West) were liberated. The action also ensured an uninterrupted flow of traffic. This action was efficient and fast; all the elements of combat actions were logistically coordinated, so that it caused the breakdown of all the structures of the occupying authorities. Consequently, the action resulted in a new, clearly defined balance of military and political power, confronting the rebel authorities with two clear options: rapid reintegration or military defeat. The negotiations at the beginning of August did not produce any results, nor did they offer any guarantees for a peaceful solution; thus, the Croatian authorities were forced to carry out the second liberation operation called “Storm”.
This was the biggest liberation action thus far in Croatia and was preceded by a joint action of the Croatian Army and the HVO in Bosnia and Hercegovina, in which the Serbs were repelled from Grahovo and Glamoč, and strategic positions were ensured.
Croatian troops forced their way through the Serbian defence from several directions on 4 August 1995, threatening to cut off the Serbian line of retreat. The shock troops were composed of the Croatian Army Guard brigades and special formations from MUP (Ministry of Interior) and were followed by Home–Guard formations. 150,000 people participated in the action on the Croatian side, which required complex and precise planning and implementation if all the participants were to perform their duties properly. Knin was liberated on 5 August, and by 7 August the whole area of northern Dalmatia, eastern Lika, Kordun and Banija which had been occupied (UN sectors “South” and “North”) was also liberated.
Croatian forces joined the formations of the 5th corps of the Bosnia–Hercegovina Army on the international border.
More than 20,000 square kilometres of state areas were liberated and the Serbian siege of the so–called Bihać pocket in Bosnia and Hercegovina was broken. Serbian military forces were completely destroyed and the huge quantities of military equipment, depots and major military installations and formations which had enabled a long–term defence were captured.
The Reintegration of the Croatian Danube Region (Podunavlje)
Since 15 January 1998 the Croatian Danube region is once again part of the constitutional and legal system of the Republic of Croatia. Following the process of peaceful reintegration and the end of the UNTAES mandate, the international mission to support the rebuilding of the region will be continued by 180 civilian police monitors from the UN and an OSCE mission.
Local elections in 25 local councils and three towns in the Croatian Danube region, and for the Osijek-Baranje and Vukovar-Srijem county councils were held on 13 April 1997. 130,000 certificates of Croatian citizenship were distributed before these elections, and 25,000 subsequently.
More than 75,000 electors voted in the local elections with a further 56,000 displaced persons. HDZ won in 15 local councils and in Ilok, SDSS in 10 local councils and Beli Manastir. In Vukovar HDZ and SDSS had an equal number of councillors, while two independent councillors are Croats. SDSS has councillors in both county assemblies and the County Hall of the Croatian Parliament.
(Croatian Almanac 1998/99)