Yugoslavia

Full Name Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Alliance Axis - Minor Member Nation or Possession
Entry into WW2 6 Apr 1941
Population in 1939 15,400,000
Military Deaths in WW2 446,000
Civilian Deaths in WW2 581,000
 - Civ Deaths from Holocaust 57,000

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

The nation of Yugoslavia was established in 1918, born out of a pan-South Slav nationalist sentiment shared among the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes against Austria-Hungary. Major tensions between the different ethnic groups within the country began as early as 1921, during the writing of the constitution, and over time language, religious, and other differences slowly added weight to the various disagreements. In the late 1920s, the Croatian nationalist Ustase movement began receiving support from Italy as Benito Mussolini wished to maintain the disunity within Yugoslavia in preparation of a possible future aggressive move by Italy; Hungary also befriended the Croats with similar intentions. The Soviet Union had an interest in Yugoslavia as well, with Soviet military intelligence agents establishing cells in the country and providing military training for future fighters. Officially, the Yugoslavian government maintained close relationships with Britain and France, but the changing European political situation in the mid-1930s led to an attempt at establishing a friendly stance with Germany and Italy, even as Regent Prince Paul personally sympathized with the Western Allies. After the European War began, Yugoslavia was reluctantly pressured into joining the Axis alliance, and it prompted mass demonstrations and an overthrow of the regency. Seeing that Yugoslavia could not be concretely made a reliable ally to secure the Balkan Peninsula, Adolf Hitler decided to occupy the country. The Yugoslavian military surrendered to the joint-invasion by Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria on 17 Apr 1941. The royal family and the government fled to Britain.

Germany broke up occupied Yugoslavia by taking control over much of the Serbia region; establishing a nominally independent Croatia; giving Slovenia, Kosovo, and Dalmatian regions to Italy; giving northern Serbia to Hungary; and giving Macedonia region to Bulgaria. Anti-German resistance in occupied Yugoslavia began almost immediately after the invasion. The disunity between the various ethnic and political factions in the country expectedly produced two separate resistance movements, however. One movement, the Chetniks led by General Dragoljub "Draza" Mihailovic, had the support of Serbs, monarchists, and the remnants of the Royal Yugoslav Army. The Chetniks had the support of the Yugoslavian government-in-exile. Mihailovic initially attempted to coordinate actions with the other, the Communists, but ideological differences soon led to his re-thinking of strategy, shifting from a purely anti-German stance to a pro-Yugoslavia stance, meaning that he allowed the scaling back of resistance activities in order to bide time and build strength, with the short-term goal of minimizing brutal German reprisals and the long-term goal of re-establishing the Yugoslavian monarchy. The Communists (officially "People's Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia" after 1942), had the support of republicans and liberals. Unlike the Chetniks, the Communists were extremely aggressive against the Germans and anyone in the way of the Communist expansion. The two groups' differences soon grew into conflict, with the Chetniks assaulting Communists by Nov 1941. Between 1941 and 1943, the Western Allies supported the Chetniks while the Soviet Union supported the Communists; in 1943, during the Tehran Conference, the Soviet Union persuaded United States and Britain to switch their support from the conservative (and thus appearing meek) Chetniks to the aggressive Communists. Between 1943 and 1945, the Communist partisan forces were gradually consolidated under Josip Broz Tito. An attempt was made in Jun 1944 to unite the two factions, by means of the Tito-Subasic Agreement signed on the island of Vis and approved by King Petar II, but this agreement ultimately would not secure the cooperation it aimed for, and the two factions continued to work toward each of their own vision of the future of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavian resistance tied down a great number of German troops to operate a series of protracted anti-partisan campaigns. During the final phases of the war in Yugoslavia, Communist partisans provided intelligence for the successful invading Soviet forces, and in fact drove out German troops, who were already in retreat toward Austria, from much of Yugoslavian territory ahead of the Soviets. Meanwhile, the Chetniks fought the troops of the German puppet Independent State of Croatia, achieving mixed results. Soviet troops took control of Belgrade on 20 Oct 1944. On 6 Apr 1945, partisans took control of Sarajevo. German troops evacuated Zagreb on 7 May, and Communist partisan troops entered that city two days later. Although the fighting phase of the European War was supposed to be over after the German surrender, fighting continued for many days to come as the German surrender did little to settle the two sides in what was effectively an ongoing civil war in Yugoslavia. It would not be until the end of the month when all Croatian, Serbian, and the few remaining German units would surrender to British authorities. In the final stages of the European War, Communist partisan fighters also ventured into Austria alongside Soviet troops; Tito did not withdraw them out of Austria until 20 May.

Yugoslavia suffered roughly 1,000,000 deaths during the European War, about 40% of which military and 60% civilian. Of the civilian deaths, a high percentage were attributed to genocide, including Jews at the hands Germans and Yugoslavian collaborators, Serbs and Roma at the hands of Croatians, Muslims and Croats at the hands of the Chetniks, and Slovenes at the hands of the Italians. The end of the war did not spell the end of such atrocities; ethnic killings would continue in Yugoslavia for many decades to come.

Prior to the end of the war, in Mar 1945, Tito had already been recognized by the Allies as the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia, and he assumed control of the country at the end of the European War. King Petar II allowed a referendum to determine the future of the country; meanwhile, he remained abroad. In 29 Nov 1945, the people of Yugoslavia voted to depose the monarch, but King Petar II refused to abdicate. On the same day, Tito declared the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, and the newly established parliament affirmed Tito's position as the prime minister. Mihailovic, the leader of the Chetniks during the war, was captured in 1946. He was given a show trial, during which his anti-Communist stance was portrayed as if it was German collaboration. He was found guilty and was executed very shortly after.

Sources:
Gregory Freeman, The Forgotten 500
Wikipedia

People

Cvetkovic, DragisaNedić, MilanPetar II
Mihailovic, DragoljubPavelić, AnteTito, Josip

Events Taken Place in Yugoslavia

Balkans Campaign28 Oct 1940 - 1 Jun 1941
Belgrade Strategic Offensive Operation14 Sep 1944 - 24 Nov 1944

Photographs

German field camp in Yugoslavia, 1941; note French-built Panzerkampfwagen 39H 735(f) tanksBenito Mussolini at Lubiana, Italy (occupied Ljubljana, Yugoslavia), 18 Jun 1941Female Yugoslavian communist fighters, date unknownB-24J Liberators of the 15th Air Force return from mission to Mühldorf, Germany to their base in Italy, Mar 19 1945. Note the island of Drvenik Veliki, Yugoslavia (now Croatia) below.



Yugoslavia in World War II Interactive Map




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Yugoslavia in World War II Photo Gallery
German field camp in Yugoslavia, 1941; note French-built Panzerkampfwagen 39H 735(f) tanks
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