25 Jun 2014

Ten-day war

Hey guys,

On 25th June 1991, Slovenia (and Croatia) formally declared it's independence from Yugoslavia. In spirit of anniversary, I figured I could write up a post about it. If you wish to read about the day-by-day happenings, jump to Wikipedia link HERE.
Long story short, independence was voted for legally in December 1990. After 6 months, it was formally declared a day earlier, to outsmart the Yugoslav People's Army, as military intervention was expected. What is considered as a war lasted for 10 days, but it all ended only in 26th October 1991, when last soldier of YPA left the country. Strictly speaking, this war was not a "war" by most of modern definitions (there's tonnes of them) and it certainly wasn't a war for independence as we like to call it, as Slovenia was already an independent country on 25th, while war started the next day.

Yugoslavia ("The country of South Slavs") was a federal country. It's army YPA thus conscripted from all over the country. My dad, for example, served at Belgrade and his brother served somewhere in Macedonia. Slovenes always wanted to serve in Slovenia, but conscription far from home helped in strengthening the idea of "fraternity and unity of fraternal nations".  In YPA units, fighting in Slovenia were Slovene conscripts, as well. In 1968, Soviet Union made a military intervention in Prague (Prague Spring). This lead Yugoslav officials to believe, Yugoslavia might be next. To better prepare for possible Warsaw pact attack on Yugoslavia, each federal state formed Territorial defence units. The purpose of those units was to aid YPA in defence of the country in their local territory and to keep carrying out guerilla actions against the enemy in case parts of the country would be occupied (so, WW2 all over again).
Slovenian Territorial defence was one of the better equipped. Firstly, Slovenes always wanted their own army (had it briefly in 1918 and then during WW2), Slovenia was considered to be too hard to defend in case of an all out attack by either Warsaw or NATO pact, Slovenia as a state was pretty well developed and could afford to equip it's units with better weaponry.  This weapons were mostly confiscated by YPA in May 1990, so Slovenes had to resort to importing weapons from Singapore and Israel. Those arrived few days before the war, so some units went to battle armed with original WWII MG42s (not the modernised copies) and an assortment of old bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles. There was an ever present lack of anti-tank weaponry and needless to say, TD had no aircraft or armoured vehicles of their own at the start of the war.

Fighting in Ten-day war. You can see most of the fighting was done on the borders. .

After the independence was declared, YPA's war plans were simple. Use the troops stationed in Slovenia and near-by Croatia to take control of border crossings, main international airport and capture political leaders. If YPA would control the border passes, it could declare the fight for independence an "internal affair". Slovene TD and police (at that time called "milica", which translates into militia, but they were an actual police) had an even simpler plan - prevent YPA units from carrying out their plan.  If we greatly simplify it, the whole war was about fighting for border passes and blocking YPA units in their barracks in Slovenia. Where YPA armoured columns left their barracks already (or they  started in Croatia), those columns were to be prevented from reaching their  goal by blocking and, if necessary, destroying blocked units. Some air support and helicopter assaults were involved, but this is the general idea. War itself was very clean, nobody wanted to fire first, those that even realised this was an actual war and it could last for years were rare. People are forgetting, however, how easily things could get much worse. Slovene TD had plans set up to attack some of YPA barracks in Slovenia and in some instances YPA was threatening with attacking civlian apartment blocks. In my home town, Vrhinka, two airplanes were attacking the petrol station and a near-by barricade. They missed the station, either intentionally or by accident, but if they would blew it up, damage would be immense. And things like that wouldn't be forgotten.

In most parts of Slovenia, fighting was over by 2nd of July. Generally accepted date of an end of a war is 7th July, when a cease fire was signed. The fighting was expected to erupt again, even if YPA announced a withdrawal of its forces on 18th June. In August, they still formed a list of planned air strike targets in case of continuation of hostilities.

Overall, 62 people were killed (44 YPA, 4 Slovene TD, 4 Slovene police, rest were civilians). Over 4,500 YPA soldiers and 252 federal police officers were captured, which is a nice indication of their morale. As an interesting note, some of YPA soldiers that were sent to western border (with Italy) were told Italians are attacking and borders have to be protected. In general, soldiers on both sides were reluctant to fire on each other. Worst war crime that I know about was YPA using their red-cross marked vehicles and helicopters to transport troops and ammunition. Every now and then someone mentiones a video showing "Slovene TD shooting at YPA soldiers that are surrendering", but multiple researches and studies keep showing this is not true. I'll explain more about this eventually, as I would like to write a separate post about that battle at a later date (yes, I am making all sorts of plans to replay the battle on the board :P).

I'll just leave you with some random photos I found on the internet now:

Slovene TD member at the barricade in Ljubljana (sign behind is a mine warning). He is dressed in Yugoslav uniform, but carries a mountain cap with a new, Slovene badge. Mountain caps were mostly only used by Slovene TD in war.

Slovene TD members standing at captured T-55 tanks.

YPA soldiers at one of the border crossings. Their task was to prevent Yugosalv tables (SFR Jugoslavija SR (Socialist republic) Slovenija) with new "Republika Slovenija" ones.

YPA sniper with M76 sniper rifle (Yugoslav Dragunov)

YPA M36 Jackson - Influenced by lack of weapons during WW2, Yugoslavia had huge reserves of outdated equipment in its warehouses (including gas masks for horses).

Slovene police officer (left, mountain cap) talking to YPA soldiers. Negotiations represented a large part of the conflict.

Some random signs. First one is saying "Out with occupying JLA". JLA is a Slovene abbreviation for YPA (JNA is Serbian).
The blue one is saying "Long live free and independent Slovenia".

Foreign truck drivers provoking Slovenian TO soldiers (those have camouflage uniforms already). Some truck drivers refused to leave their trucks in the barricades and some died when YPA air force was attacking the barricades to help tanks pass.

One of the barricades, some were quite simple with a single truck or even a car parked across the road, while others were kilometers long and next to impassable.

A destroyed T-55 on one of the border passes.

And again, with another one next to it.

Slovene soldiers resting. You can see Armbrust anti-tank weapon on the left. YPA tank crews were horrified if they saw one of those as they were believed to be really effective. The practice showed they weren't all that good after all.

YPA T-55 tank column.

A destroyed M84 (Yugoslav T-72).

Slovene TD soldiers confronting YPA armoured column that came from Croatia. This column was attacked here, but YPA air support forced TD to withdraw. Column had to leave its soft skins behind, but advanced further into Slovenia. It was stopped at the next barricade, where forests offered TD forces some protection from air strikes. The column was attacked again, suffered some losses and the commander decided to abandon the remaining vehicles and return to Croatia on foot.
Close to where previous photo was taken is now one of the vehicles that YPA left behind. Lightly armoured vehicles had three barrels each.

To forces on a position in a forest. Judging by their pants, I think they belong to Alpine reconnaissance platoon.

Two military policemen and two police officers, probably protecting political leadership somewhere in Ljubljana.

Members of Police special forces resting in one of the border crossings.

Military policeman from a MORIS special brigade and a female soldier.

What looks like a WW2 German recon armoured car, captured by TD forces.

Slovene TD soldier with M57 AT weapon (remember the insurgents?)
And lastly, a couple of photos from 26th October, 1991. Last of the YPA soldiers leaving the country. They departed by ship to avoid intensified combat in Croatia. The last YPA unit to leave the country was tank brigade from Vrhnika (my home town) - their commander had some ideas of fighting his way to Croatia, as he refused to leave tanks there.

I figured a post on a tad more modern history would be a welcome change and a great introduction to planned posts about modern Slovenian army. If nothing else, it shows that wars in Yugoslavia were not all about ethnic cleansing and war crimes.

Thanks for looking,


  1. In the west (or at least in my head) This was hardly known about at all. So it really is great to see information on this sort of thing. You make it sound so much more civilised than other break ups of Yugoslavia (mentioning no names).

    1. I'm glad you liked it!

      There were not Serbian minorities in Slovenia as they were (and are) in Croatia and especially Serbia. Plus, YPA was still multinational here. Eventually it transformed into a mostly Serbian/Montenegrian force and they were much more motivated to fight then.

  2. As Clint says I doubt many here would have even heard of any fighting when Yugoslavia broke up.
    Looking forward to your refight of "Slovene TD shooting at YPA soldiers that are surrendering" that you're planning. (lol)

    1. Hey, there was more to a battle than just an alleged war crime :(.

      A military border post was attacking a near-by civilian border crossing and had it surrounded. They themselves were in turn surrounded by TD forces. It would work well in smaller scale, I think - I could surely tweak it a bit and use it for my modern games though. The principles are pretty generic.

  3. Another great history lesson dude.

  4. My dad was UN in Bosnia/Croatia and I have never heard about Slovenia. I think this is a good sign as it was not the bloodshed it was elsewhere. Thank for the historical reminder of these days.

    1. Wow, that's pretty interesting! When was he deployed if it's not a secret? :)
      And no problem, it's a bit of practice writing for me, too.

  5. I suppose that in global terms this is a very small part of the world, though vitally important for those who live in or near it. Any data that helps us to understand the history of other nations is always useful. Amongst other things, it keeps us humble by reminding us how little we really know!

    1. I agree, I have to admit I keep checking wikipedia every time Clint finds new conflict to game. It's true what they say - the more you know the more you are aware of how little you know :D