Territorial Defense (Yugoslavia)

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Territorial Defense Coat of Arms

The territorial defense (Bosnian / Serbian Teritorijalna odbrana , Croatian Teritorijalna obrana , Slovenian Teritorijalna obramba ) was the name for a certain type of armed forces in the SFR Yugoslavia , which was organized by each republic independently of the Yugoslav People's Army . The basic principle of territorial defense was the organization of defense at the municipal level with the help of the local workforce. It was part of military defense, the strategy of which was national defense and social self-protection.


Yugoslavia was a socialist state, but not an Eastern Bloc country. After the Tito-Stalin break in 1948, Yugoslavia broke ties with the Soviet Union and its allies. During the Cold War , Yugoslavia was one of the leading members of the non-aligned movement . After the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, concerns about a possible Soviet attack within the Yugoslav leadership increased. The invasion of Czechoslovakia showed that the standing army of a small country could not repel or repel a surprise attack by a qualitatively and quantitatively superior aggressor. Standing between the two big power blocs NATO and the Warsaw Pact , Yugoslavia had to prepare its own military doctrine for a possible Third World War scenario.

Territorial Defense Forces

The TO was created in 1969 as an integral part of the Yugoslav ONO teaching. The TO was made up of able-bodied civil men and women. Between one and three million Yugoslavs between the ages of 15 and 65 would fight like guerrilla forces under TO command in wartime . However, in peacetime, about 860,000 fighters were involved in military training and other activities.

The TO concentrated on small, lightly armed infantry units. More than 2,000 parishes, factories and other companies organized such units for use in their homeland. Maintaining local defenses was an integral part of all warfare. The TO also had some larger, more heavily equipped units for more extensive operational tasks, equipped with artillery , anti-aircraft weapons, and some armored vehicles . These units would have tried to relieve the pressure of enemy tank columns and air strikes on smaller TO units. In the coastal regions, the TO units also had naval duties. They operated with a few gunboats in support of the naval forces. The task was to secure and defend strategic coastal and naval facilities against enemy landings. They also trained a few military divers in sabotage and other special operations.


With the passage of the National Defense Council Act of 1969, Yugoslavia created a military doctrine called the ONO. This was inspired by the struggle of the Yugoslav People's Liberation Army against the fascist occupiers and their collaborators in World War II and designed in such a way that Yugoslavia would retain its non-aligned status if an invasion threatened - according to the idea that every citizen who repels an attacker is a member of the armed forces the entire population could be transformed into a monolithic resistance army.


The liberalization of the country and the first free elections in spring 1990 led to the victories of the pro-independence parties in Slovenia and Croatia . For many Yugoslavs it was inconceivable that the new leadership, together with the large arsenal of small arms of the TO and the property of the republics, could achieve independence from the SFR Yugoslavia . The JNA managed to varying degrees, to confiscate the weapons of the TO and bring it under their control.

  • In Slovenia:

The first free elections in April 1990 saw the victory of the reformers and the independence of the DEMOS. Better organized, and with the help of Janez Janša , Minister of Defense, the Slovenian Territorial Defense was able to control 40,000 of the light weapons. On June 25, 1991, the day the Republic was proclaimed, 30,000 additional weapons were added.

  • In Croatia:

In Croatia, the HDZ took over government responsibility in May 1990 . This was confronted with the situation that the Serbian minority in the country was over-represented in the administration and the police. The Croatian government was less organized and less informed. The Yugoslav Army succeeded in confiscating 260,000 weapons from the territorial defense of Croatia and transferring them to the barracks of the Yugoslav armies in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia .

  • In Bosnia and Herzegovina:

In Bosnia and Herzegovina , the TO was gradually converted into the ARBiH . At the beginning of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the TO of Bosnia and Herzegovina was converted into the army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina as the first official armed force. This brought most of the weapons of the TO and the JNA under their control in some communities . Thanks to the cooperation between the municipalities and the JNA in the municipalities, it was possible that the weapons remained under the control of the municipalities.

  • In Macedonia:

With modest weapons and military equipment, the Macedonian Territorial Defense Forces tried to establish an independent state of Macedonia . Members of the Macedonian TO had successfully taken on the task of securing the borders and setting up military bases. The barracks in Skopje , Bitola , Štip and Ohrid trained the first young soldiers of the Macedonian army .

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Yugoslavia / Army: Orders in German. Der Spiegel, 20/1970
  2. Dunja Melčić: The Yugoslavia War: Handbook on Prehistory, Course and Consequences. 2nd edition, VS - Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 978-3-531-33219-2 , p. 379 online at Google books