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Soldiers of the Partisan Lika Division on the march

The Yugoslav Partisans, or simply the Partisans (Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian, Slovene: Partizani, Cyrillic script: Партизани; meaning: "partisans") were a Communist-led World War II resistance movement engaged in the fight against Axis forces and their collaborators in Yugoslavia during the Yugoslav People's Liberation War (being part of World War II) from 1941 to 1945. The Partisans, led by Marshal Josip Broz Tito, were a faction that embodied a blend of republican, left-wing, and socialist ideologies, the main goals of which were the liberation of Axis-occupied Yugoslavia as a federal republic, the deposition of the monarchy (lead by King Peter II), and the recognition of all six Yugoslav nations, as opposed to the unitarianist ethnic policies of the Yugoslav royalists in the Kingdom of Yugoslaviamarker (often described as "serbianization").

The movement's full official name was People's Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia, (NOV i POЈ) (Serbo-Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian: Narodnooslobodilačka vojska i partizanski odredi Jugoslavije; Slovene: Narodnoosvobodilna vojska in partizanski odredi Jugoslavije; Macedonian: Narodno osloboditelna vojska i partizanski odredi na Jugoslavija.

The common name of the movement is "the Partisans" (capitalized), while the adjective "Yugoslav" is used sometimes in exclusively non-Yugoslavmarker sources to distinguish them from other (World War II) partisan movements. Despite the fact that their name suggests they fought as a guerrilla force, this was only true for the first three years of the conflict. From the second half of 1944 the total forces of the Partisans numbered over 800,000 men organized in four field armies, which engaged in conventional warfare.

Background and origins

On 6 April 1941 the Kingdom of Yugoslaviamarker was invaded from all sides by the Axis powers, primarily by German forces but including Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian formations as well. During the invasion, Belgrade was bombed by the Luftwaffe. The invasion lasted little more than ten days, ending with the unconditional surrender of the Royal Yugoslav Army on April 17. Besides being hopelessly ill-equipped when compared to the Wehrmacht, the Army attempted to defend all borders but only managed to thinly spread the limited resources available. Also, some divisions within the Army refused to fight, welcoming the Germans as liberators from Serb oppression.

The terms of the capitulation were extremely severe, as the Axis proceeded to dismember Yugoslavia. Germany occupied northern Sloveniamarker, while retaining direct occupation over a rump Serbian state and considerable influence over its newly created puppet state, the Independent State of Croatiamarker, which extended over much of today's Croatiamarker and contained all of modern Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker and Syrmiamarker region of modern day Serbiamarker. Mussolini's Italy gained the remainder of Slovenia, Kosovomarker, and large chunks of the coastal Dalmatia region (along with nearly all its Adriaticmarker islands). It also gained control over the newly created Montenegrin puppet statemarker, and was granted the kingship in the Independent State of Croatia, though wielding little real power within it. Hungary dispatched the Hungarian Third Army to occupy Vojvodina in northern Serbia, and later forcibly annexed sections of Baranja, Bačkamarker, Međimurjemarker and Prekmurje. Bulgaria, meanwhile, annexed nearly all of the modern-day Republic of Macedoniamarker. (All these territorial acquisitions, and the dissolution of Yugoslavia itself, were of course not recognized by any Allied state, nor are they today considered legal by any modern-day state, or the United Nations.)

The occupying forces instituted such severe burdens on the local populace that the Partisans came not only to enjoy widespread support but for many were the only option for survival. In certain instances Axis forces and local collaborators would hang or shoot indiscriminately, including women, children and the elderly, up to 100 local inhabitants for every one German soldier killed. Furthermore, the country experienced a breakdown of law and order, with collaborationist militias roaming the countryside terrorizing the population. The government of the puppet Independent State of Croatia found itself unable to control its territory in the early stages of the occupation, resulting in a severe crackdown by the Ustaše militias and the German army.

Amid the relative chaos that ensued, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia moved to organize and unite anti-fascist factions and political forces into a nation-wide uprising. The party, led by Josip Broz Tito, was banned after its significant success in the post-World War I Yugoslav elections and operated underground since. Tito, however, could not act openly without the backing of the USSRmarker, and as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was still in force, he was compelled to wait.

Formation and early rebellion

Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, began on 22 June 1941.

First Yugoslav Partisan unit (and first anti-fascist military unit in occupied Europe) was established in Brezovica forest, near Sisakmarker, Croatiamarker on June 22 1941, the day Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Unionmarker.Various military formations more or less linked to the general liberation movement were involved in armed confrontations with Axis forces which erupted in various areas of Yugoslavia in the ensuing weeks. The Communist Party of Yugoslavia formally decided to launch an armed uprising on 4 July 1941, a date which was later marked as Fighter's Day - a public holiday in the SFR Yugoslaviamarker. One Žikica Jovanović Španac shot the first bullet of the campaign on 7 July 1941, later the Uprising Day of the Socialist Republic of Serbia (part of SFR Yugoslavia).

On 10 August 1941 in Stanulović, a mountain village, the Partisans formed the Kopaonik Partisan Detachment Headquarters. Their liberated area, consisting of nearby villages, was called the "Miners Republic" and lasted 42 days. The resistance fighters formally joined the ranks of the Partisans later on.

On Stalin's birthday, 21 December 1941 Partisans formed the 1st Proletarian Assault Brigade (1. Proleterska Udarna Brigada) - the first regular Partisan military unit, capable of operating outside its local area. Afer the breakup between Stalina and Tito, 22 December became the "Day of the Yugoslav People's Army". In 1942 Partisan detachments officially merged into the People's Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia (NOV i POJ) with an estimated 236,000 soldiers in December 1942. After the war, the Partisan ground forces were the basis for the formation of the Yugoslav People's Army, officially created on 1 March 1945.

The bulk of the early fighting occurred in Western Serbia and Montenegro. Many scholars notes that the partisans were a Serb army, and that some ninety percent of the generals were made up of Serbs and Montenegrins in this early time. In the early part of the war Partisan officers as well as the rank and file were virtually all Serbs and Montenegrins.

In 1944 Tito recorded that 44% of the Partisans were Serbs, a percentage that probably understated the extent of their participation, for it reflected the swelling numbers of other Yugoslavs who joined the Partisans later in the war.

The other anti-German resistance group was known as the Chetniks. Renowned historian Tim Judah notes that in the early stage of the war, because the Partisans were almost all Serbs, in effect a Serbian civil war had broken out. The Chetniks, were a mainly Serb oriented group. Their Serb patriotism resulted in an inability to recruit or appeal to many of the non-Serb nationalities. The Partisans on the other hand learned to play down communism in favour of a Popular Front approach which appealed to all Yugoslavs, not just the Serbs. In Bosnia, for example, the Partisan rallying cry was for a country which was to be neither Serbian nor Croatian nor Muslim, but instead to be free and brotherly in which full equity of all groups would be ensured. Chetniks attacked the Muslims in Eastern Bosnia (led by Pavle Djurisic), killing thousands. Further, Chetnik attacks on Croatians in Dalmatia boosted Croat participation. This turned these groups away from the Chetniks and towards the Partisans. Further, Italian presence and ambition to take Dalmatia resulted in even more Croat support for the Partisans. For example, Momcilo Djucic's Chetnik attack on Gala, near Split, resulted in the slaughter of 200 Croatian civilians. In particular, Mussolini's policy of forced Italianization ensured the first significant number of Croats joining the Partisans. Attacks from Croatian Ustashe, in their genocidal pogrom of the Serbian population was considered to be the most important reason for the rise of guerrilla activities, thus aiding an ever growing Partisan resistance. Districts such as Kordun and Lika quickly joined the resistance movement.

In late 1944, statistics show that the Croats represented only 60% of the Partisan troops in Croatia, thus they were under-represented. Further, in major battles, the Serbs and Montenegrins had the vast majority of the casualties. Further, the Partisan National Liberation Council has given the Serbs a predominant part of the command.


Resistance and retaliation

The Partisans staged a guerrilla campaign which enjoyed gradually increased levels of success and support of the general populace, and succeeded in controlling large chunks of Yugoslav territory. These were managed via the People's committees, which were organized to act as civilian governments in liberated areas of the country, even limited arms industries were set-up.

At the very beginning, though, Partisan forces were relatively small, poorly armed and without any infrastructure. But they had two major advantages over other military and paramilitary formations in former Yugoslavia: the first and most immediate was a small but valuable cadre of Spanish Civil War veterans who, unlike anyone else at the time, had experience with modern war fought in circumstances quite similar to those of World War II Yugoslavia. Another advantage, which became apparent in later stages of war, was in Partisans being founded on ideology rather than ethnicity. Which meant the Partisans could expect at least some levels of support in any corner of the country, unlike other paramilitary formations whose support was limited to territories with Croat or Serb majority. This allowed their units to be more mobile and fill their ranks with a larger pool of potential recruits.

Occupying and quisling forces, however, were quite aware of the Partisan threat, and attempted to destroy the resistance in what Yugoslav historiographers defined as seven major anti-Partisan offensives. These are:

  • The First anti-Partisan Offensive (First Enemy Offensive), the attack conducted by the Axis in autumn of 1941 against the "Republic of Užice", a liberated territory the Partisans established in western Serbiamarker. In November 1941, German troops attacked and reoccupied this territory, with the majority of Partisan forces escaping towards Bosnia. It was during this offensive that tenuous collaboration between the Partisans and the royalist Chetnik movement broke down and turned into open hostility.

  • The Second anti-Partisan Offensive (Second Enemy Offensive), the coordinated Axis attack conducted in January 1942 against Partisan forces in eastern Bosnia. The Partisan troops once again avoided encirclement and were forced to retreat over Igmanmarker mountain near Sarajevomarker.

  • The Third anti-Partisan Offensive (Third Enemy Offensive), an offensive against Partisan forces in eastern Bosnia, Montenegromarker, Sandžak and Hercegovina which took place in the spring of 1942. It was known as Operation TRIO by the Germans, and again ended with a timely Partisan escape. This attack is mistakenly identified by some sources as the Battle of Kozara, which took place in the summer of 1942.

  • The Fourth anti-Partisan Offensive (Fourth Enemy Offensive), also known as the Battle of the Neretva or Fall Weiss (Case White), a conflict spanning the area between western Bosnia and northern Herzegovina, and culminating in the Partisan retreat over the Neretvamarker river. It took place from January to April, 1943.

  • The Fifth anti-Partisan Offensive (Fifth Enemy Offensive), also known as the Battle of the Sutjeska or Fall Schwartz (Case Black). The operation immediately followed the Fourth Offensive and included a complete encirclement of Partisan forces in southeastern Bosnia and northern Montenegro in May and June 1943.

  • The Seventh anti-Partisan Offensive (Seventh Enemy Offensive), the final attack in western Bosnia in the spring of 1944, which included Operation Rösselsprung (Knight's Leap), an unsuccessful attempt to eliminate Josip Broz Tito personally and annihilate the leadership of the Partisan movement.

The largest of these were combined by Wehrmacht, the SSmarker, fascist Italy, Ustaše, Chetniks, and Bulgarian forces.

Allied support

Later in the conflict the Partisans were able to win the moral, as well as limited material support of the western Allies, who until then had supported General Draža Mihailović's Chetnik Forces, but were finally convinced of their collaboration fighting by many military missions dispatched to both sides during the course of the war.

To gather intelligence, agents of the western Allies were infiltrated into both the Partisans and the Chetniks. The intelligence gathered by liaisons to the resistance groups was crucial to the success of supply missions and was the primary influence on Allied strategy in Yugoslaviamarker. The search for intelligence ultimately resulted in the demise of the Chetniks and their eclipse by Tito’s Partisans. In 1942, though supplies were limited, token support was sent equally to each. The new year would bring a change. The Germans were executing Operation Schwarz (the Fifth anti-Partisan offensive), one of a series of offensives aimed at the resistance fighters, when F.W.D. Deakin was sent by the British to gather information.

His reports contained two important observations. The first was that the Partisans were courageous and aggressive in battling the German 1st Mountain and 104th Light Division, had suffered significant casualties, and required support. The second observation was that the entire German 1st Mountain Division had travelled from Russia by railway through Chetnik-controlled territory. British intercepts (ULTRA) of German message traffic confirmed Chetnik timidity. All in all, intelligence reports resulted in increased Allied interest in Yugoslavia air operations and shifted policy. In September 1943, at Churchill’s request, Brigadier General Fitzroy Maclean was parachuted to Tito’s headquarters near Drvar to serve as a permanent, formal liaison to the Partisans. While the Chetniks were still occasionally supplied, the Partisans received the bulk of all future support.

Thus, after the Tehran Conference the Partisans received official recognition as the legitimate national liberation force by the Allies, who subsequently set-up the RAF Balkan Air Force (under the influence and suggestion of Brigadier-General Fitzroy MacLean) with the aim to provide increased supplies and tactical air support for Marshal Tito's Partisan forces.

Activities increase 1943-45

With Allied air support and assistance from the Red Army, in the second half of 1944 the Partisans turned their attention to Serbia, which had seen relatively little fighting since the fall of the Republic of Užice in 1941. On 20 October the Red Army and the Partisans liberated Belgrademarker in a joint operation known as the Belgrade Offensive. At the onset of winter, the Partisans effectively controlled the entire eastern half of Yugoslavia - Serbia, Vardar Macedonia and Montenegromarker, as well as the Dalmatian coast.

In 1945 the Partisans, numbering over 800,000 strong defeated the Independent State of Croatiamarker and the Wehrmacht, achieving a hard-fought breakthrough in the Syrmianmarker front in late winter, taking Sarajevomarker in early April, and the rest of Croatia and Slovenia through mid-May. After taking Rijekamarker and Istriamarker, which were part of Italy before the war, they beat the Allies to Triestemarker by a day.

The "last battle of World War Two in Europe", the Battle of Poljana, was fought between the Partisans and retreating Wehrmacht and quisling forces at Poljana, near Prevaljemarker in Koroška, on 14 and 15 May 1945.


Aside from ground forces, the Yugoslav Partisans were the first and only resistance movement in occupied Europe to employ significant air and naval forces.

Partisan Navy

Naval forces of the resistance were formed as early as 19 September 1942, when Partisans in Dalmatia formed their first naval unit made of fishing boats, which gradually evolved into a force able to engage the Italian Navy and Kriegsmarine and conduct complex amphibious operations. This event is considered to be the foundation of the Yugoslav Navy.

At its peak during World War II, the Yugoslav Partisans' Navy commanded 9 or 10 armed ships, 30 patrol boats, close to 200 support ships, six coastal batteries, and several Partisan detachments on the islands, around 3,000 men. On 26 October 1943 it was organized first into four, and later into six, Maritime Costal Sectors (Pomorsko Obalni Sektor, POS). The task of the naval forces was to secure supremacy at sea, organize defense of coast and islands, and attack enemy sea traffic and forces on the islands and along the coasts.

Partisan Air Force

The Partisans gained an effective air force in May 1942, when the pilots of two aircraft belonging to the Independent State of Croatiamarker military (the French-built Potez 25, and Breguet 19, formerly of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force), Franjo Kluz and Rudi Čajavec, defected to the Partisans in Bosnia. Later these pilots used their planes against Axis forces in limited operations. Although short-lived due to a lack of infrastructure, this was the first instance of a resistance movement having its own air force. Later, the air force would be reestablished and destroyed several times until its permanent institution. The Partisans later established a permanent air force by obtaining aircraft, equipment, and training from the British Royal Air Force (see BAF), and later the Soviet Air Force.


Partisan losses

Despite their success, the Partisans suffered heavy casualties throughout the war. The table depicts Partisan losses, 7 July 1941 - 16 May 1945:

1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 Total
Killed in action 18,896 24,700 48,378 80,650 72,925 245,549
Wounded in action 29,300 31,200 61,730 147,650 130,000 399,880
Died from wounds 3,127 4,194 7,923 8,066 7,800 31,200
Missing in action 3,800 6,300 5,423 5,600 7,800 28,925
Total killed 305,672

In 1944, there were some 650,000 soldiers in the Partisan army. Composition by region is as follows:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina - 100,000
  • Croatia - 150,000
  • Kosovo - 20,000
  • Macedonia - 66,000
  • Montenegro - 30,000
  • Serbia (central) - 204,000
  • Slovenia - 40,000
  • Vojvodina - 40,000

Partisan rescue operations

The Partisans were responsible for the successful and sustained evacuation of downed Allied airmen from the Balkans. For example, between 1 January and 15 October 1944, according to statistics compiled by the US Air Force Air Crew Rescue Unit, 1,152 American airmen were airlifted from Yugoslavia, 795 with Partisan assistance and 356 with the help of the Chetniks. During the war, 33 B-17 Flying Fortresses crashed on Slovene territory alone and the Partisans, with the help of the local civilian population, rescued 303 American and 30 British airmen.

The Partisans also assisted hundreds of Allied soldiers who succeeded in escaping from German POW camps (mostly in southern Austria) throughout the war, but especially from 1943-45. These were transported across Slovenia, from where many were airlifted from Semičmarker, while others made the longer overland trek down through Croatia for a boat passage to Barimarker in Italy. In the spring of 1944 the British military mission in Slovenia reported that there was a "steady, slow trickle" of escapes from these camps. They were being assisted by local civilians, and on contacting Partisans on the general line of the River Drava, they were able to make their way to safety with Partisan guides.

Raid at St Lorenzen

A total of 132 Allied prisoners of war were rescued from the Germans by the Partisans in a single operation in August 1944 in what is known as the Raid at St Lorenzen.

In June 1944 the Allied escape organization began to take an active interest in assisting prisoners from camps in southern Austria and evacuating them through Yugoslavia. A post of the Allied mission in northern Sloveniamarker had found that at Sankt Lorenzen ob Eibiswald, just on the Austrian side of the border, about 30 miles (50 km) from Maribormarker, there was a poorly guarded working camp from which a raid by Slovene Partisans could free all the prisoners. Over a hundred POWs were transported from Stalag XVIII-D at Maribormarker to St. Lorenzen each morning to do railway maintenance work, and returned to their quarters in the evening. Contact was made between Partisans and the prisoners with the result that at the end of August a group of seven slipped away past a sleeping guard at three o'clock in the afternoon, and at nine o'clock the men were celebrating with the Partisans in a village, five miles (8 km) away on the Yugoslav side of the border.

The seven escapees arranged with the Partisans for the rest of the camp to be freed the following day. Next morning the seven returned with about a hundred Partisans to await the arrival of the work-party by the usual train. As soon as work had begun the Partisans, to quote a New Zealand eye-witness, "swooped down the hillside and disarmed the eighteen guards". In a short time prisoners, guards, and civilian overseers were being escorted along the route used by the first seven prisoners the previous evening.At the first headquarters camp reached, details were taken of the total of 132 escaped prisoners for transmission by radio to England. Progress along the evacuation route south was difficult, as German patrols were very active. A night ambush by one such patrol caused the loss of two prisoners and two of the escort. Eventually they reached Semičmarker, in Bela Krajina, Slovenia, which was a Partisan base catering for POWs. They were flown across to Barimarker on 21 September 1944.


SFR Yugoslaviamarker was one of only two European countries that were liberated by its own forces during the World War II, only with limited assistance and participation by the remaining Allies. It received support from both Western Allies and the Soviet Union, and at the end of the war no foreign troops were stationed on its soil. Partly as a result, the country found itself halfway between the two camps at the onset of the Cold War.

In 1947 and 1948 Soviet Union attempted to command obedience from Yugoslavia, primarily on issues of foreign policy, which resulted in the Tito-Stalin split and almost ignited an armed conflict. A period of very cool relations with the Soviet Union followed, during which the U.S. and the UK considered courting Yugoslavia into the newly-formed NATOmarker. This however changed in 1953 with the Trieste crisis, a tense dispute between Yugoslavia and the Western Allies over the eventual Yugoslav-Italian border (see Free Territory of Trieste), and with Yugoslav-Soviet reconciliation in 1956.

This ambivalent position at the start of the Cold War matured into the non-aligned foreign policy which Yugoslavia actively espoused until its dissolution.


A number of Partisan units, and the local population (whose massive support they enjoyed), engaged in retribution in the immediate postwar period against people who had collaborated with the Axis or fought against the Partisans. Known incidents include the Bleiburg massacre, the foibe massacresmarker, and the killings in Bačka.

The Bleiburg massacre was the retribution enacted by the Partisans on the retreating column of Chetnik, Slovene Home Guard, and Ustaše soldiers that was retreating towards Austria in an attempt to surrender to western Allied forces. The "foibe massacresmarker" draw their name from the "foibe" pits in which Croatian Partisans of the 8th Dalmatian Corps (often along with groups of angry civilian locals) shot Italian fascists, and suspected (or even alleged) collaborationists and/or separatists, in retribution to the decades-long Italian oppression they experienced. According to a mixed Slovene-Italian historical commission established in 1993, which investigated only on what happened in places included in present-day Italy and Slovenia, the killings seemed to proceed from endeavors to remove persons linked with fascism (regardless of their personal responsibility), and endeavors to carry out preventive cleansing of real, potential or only alleged opponents of the communist government. The 1944-1945 killings in Bačka were similar in nature and entailed the killing of Hungarian fascist separatists, and their suspected affiliates, without regard to their personal responsibility.

The numbers of dead due to Italian, German and collaborationist organised killings, however, far outstrip even the most lavish estimates of the Partisan crimes' death toll. Indeed, the Partisans didn't have an official genocidal agenda (unlike the Ustaše, the Chetniks, the Italians, and the Germans), as their cardinal ideal was the "brotherhood and unity" of all Yugoslav nations (the phrase became the motto for the new Yugoslavia). To put in perspective the extent of genocide occurring throughout Yugoslavia during the War, it suffices to say the country suffered about 1,027,000 dead during the Axis occupation, civilian and military (in comparison, the United States and Great Britain together suffered approximately 630,000).The U.S. Bureau of the Census published a report in 1954 that concluded that Yugoslav war related deaths were 1,067,000. The U.S. Bureau of the Census noted that the official Yugoslav government figure of 1.7 million war dead was overstated because it "was released soon after the war and was estimated without the benefit of a postwar census". A recent study by Vladimir Žerjavić estimates total war related deaths at 1,027,000. Military losses of 237,000 Yugoslav partisans and 209,000 Ustaše. Civilian dead of 581,000, including 57,000 Jews. Losses of the Yugoslav Republics were Bosnia 316,000; Serbia 273,000; Croatia 271,000; Slovenia 33,000; Montenegro 27,000; Macedonia 17,000; and killed abroad 80,000. Bogoljub Kočović a statistician, who is a Bosnian Serb by ethnic affiliation, calculated that the actual war losses were 1,014,000. The late Jozo Tomasevich, Professor Emeritus of Economics at San Francisco State University, believes that the calculations of Kočović and Žerjavić “seem to be free of bias, we can accept them as reliable”.

The reasons for the high human toll in Yugoslavia were as follows:

A. Military operations between the Germans, Italians and their Ustaše collaborators on one hand against the Yugoslav partisans and Chetniks.

B. German forces, under express orders from Hitler, fought with a special vengeance against the Serbs, who were considered Untermensch. One of the worst massacres during the German military occupation of Serbia was the Kragujevac massacre.

C. Deliberate acts of reprisal against target populations were perpetrated by all combatants. All sides practiced the shooting of hostages on a large scale. At the end of the war Ustaše collaborators were killed during the Bleiburg massacre.
D. The systematic extermination of large numbers of people for political, religious or racial reasons. The most numerous victims were Serbs. The USHMMmarker reports between 56,000 and 97,000 persons were killed at the Jasenovac concentration campmarker. However, Yad Vashemmarker reports 600,000 deaths at Jasenovacmarker. The genocide of Roma was 40,000 persons. Jewish Holocaust victims totaled 67,122.

E. The reduced food supply caused famine and disease.

F. Allied bombing of German supply lines caused civilian casualties. The hardest hit localities were Podgoricamarker, Leskovacmarker, Zadarmarker and Belgrademarker.

G. The demographic losses due to a 335,000 reduction in the number of births and emigration of about 660,000 are not included with war casualties.
Only a small fraction constitute civilians actually killed by the Partisans.

This controversial chapter of Partisan history was a taboo subject for conversation in the SFR Yugoslaviamarker until the late 1980s, and as a result, decades of official silence created a reaction in the form of numerous data manipulation for nationalist propaganda purposes.

Cultural legacy

Partisan ranks included some of the most important artists and writers of 20th century Yugoslaviamarker. The experiences of Partisans in particular had a major impact on the culture of the country. The Partisan struggle was therefore well-chronicled through the memoirs of its participants, and later those experiences served as basis for important literary works, most notably by authors like Jure Kaštelan, Joža Horvat, Oskar Davičo, Antonije Isaković, Branko Ćopić, Ivan Goran Kovačić, Mihailo Lalić, Vitomil Zupan and others.

Comic books depicting the Partisan struggle also became very popular, most notably works by Croatian artist Jules Radilović. The most popular, however, was the Mirko i Slavko comic book series.

The Partisan struggle also influenced the film industry, which developed its own genre of Partisan film, with its own set of unofficial rules and motives, very much like American Western or the Japanese Jidaigeki movies. The most notable of these was the Oscar-nominated 1969 motion picture The Battle of Neretva. The movie Force 10 from Navarone displayed the struggle of the Yugoslav Partisans during the war, as British and American special forces arrive to help them destroy a German-held bridge.

An outsider's perspective of the partisans is recorded in Evelyn Waugh's 1961 novel Unconditional Surrender, the last of The Sword of Honour trilogy. Waugh was stationed in Yugoslavia towards the end of the war.

The most visible aspect of Partisan legacy, however, is the series of monuments commemorating their struggle. Most of these sculptures belong to the socialist realism art form, with some of them becoming victims of state-sponsored vandalism following the break-up of the country in the early 1990s. (see Yugoslav wars).

Ethnic makeup


  • 1941-42
    • Serb & Montenegrin majority
  • 1944
    • Serbs: 44%
    • Croats: 30%
    • Bosniaks 2.5%
    • Others/Unknown 23.5%


  • 1941-1943
    • Serb majority
  • 1943-1945
    • Croats: 61%
    • Serbs: 28%

Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • 1941-1945
    • Serb majority (2/3 of those who were in the Partisans)

Participants of note

See also


  1. Partisan - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  3. Yugoslavia in World War 2
  4. Armies of Yugoslav Partisans and Yugoslav Army
  5. Independent State of Croatia - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  6. Hungary - Shoah Foundation Institute Visual History Archive
  7. Dragutin Pavličević, Povijest Hrvatske, Naklada Pavičić, Zagreb, 2007., ISBN 978-953-6308-71-2, str. 441-442
  8. Partisan boom
  9. Kaufmann Chaim, "Possible and Impossible Solutions to Ethnic Civil Wars," International Security Vol. 20, No.4 (spring 1996), pp. 36-175.
  10. Kaufmann Chaim, "Possible and Impossible Solutions to Ethnic Civil Wars," International Security Vol. 20, No.4 (spring 1996), pp. 136-175.
  11. Donia; John, "Bosnia and Hercegovina: A Tradition Betrayed" Robert Donia and John V. A. Fine, Jr. p. 152.
  12. Judah; Tim, "The Serbs" Yale University Press p. 119.
  13. Judah; Tim, "The Serbs" Yale University Press p. 120.
  14. Judah; Tim, "The Serbs" Yale University Press p. 129.
  15. Judah; Tim, "The Serbs" Yale University Press p. 128.
  16. Judah; Tim, "The Serbs" Yale University Press p. 127.
  19. 7David Martin, Ally Betrayed: The Uncensored Story of Tito and Mihailovich, (New York: Prentice Hall, 1946), 34.
  20. Anna M
  21. History of Partisan and Yugoslav Navy
  22. Yugoslav Partisan Air Force in 1942
  23. Yugoslav Partisan Air Force in 1943
  24. Losses of Yugoslav partisans
  26. I: The Events of 1944 and German Camps from late 1943 onwards | NZETC
  27. Lateline - 13/10/2003: 100 POWs make great escape. Australian Broadcasting Corp
  28. Slovene-Italian historical commission
  29. cf David.B. MacDonald (2003) Balkan Holocausts? (Manchester)
  30. Kaufmann Chaim, "Possible and Impossible Solutions to Ethnic Civil Wars," International Security Vol. 20, No.4 (spring 1996), pp. 136-175.
  31. Whose is the partisan movement? Serbs, Croats and the legacy of a shared resistance|Marko Attila Hoare|The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 1556-3006, Volume 15, Issue 4, 2002, Pages 24 – 41
  32. Serbia's secret war|Philip J. Cohen, David Riesman

References for the Total Yugoslav Casualties in World War II

  • U.S. Bureau of the Census The Population of Yugoslavia Ed. Paul F. Meyers and Arthur A. Campbell , Washington D.C.- 1954
  • Vladimir ŽerjavićYugoslavia manipulations with the number Second World War victims, - Zagreb: Croatian Information center,1993 ISBN 0-919817-32-7 [92659] and [92660]
  • Kočović ,Bogoljub-Žrtve Drugog svetskog rata u Jugoslaviji 1990 ISBN 8601019285
  • Tomasevich, Jozo. War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: Occupation and Collaboration. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0804736154 In Cap.17 Alleged and True Population Losses there is a detailed account of the controversies related to Yugoslav war losses.
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Holocaust Encyclopedia. Jasenovac.[92661]
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - Holocaust Era in Croatia:1941-1945, Jasenovac (go to section III Concentration Camps)[92662]
  • . Yadvashem. Jasenovac. [92663]
  • Donald Kendrick, The Destiny of Europe's Gypsies. Basic Books 1972 ISBN 0-465-01611-1

Further reading

  • Hoare, Marko Attila, Genocide and Resistance in Hitler's Bosnia: The Partisans and the Chetniks, Oxford University Press, 2006
  • Bokovoy, Melissa, Peasants and Communists: Politics and Ideology in the Yugoslav Countryside, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998
  • Irvine, Jill, The Croat Question: Partisan Politics in the Formation of the Yugoslav Socialist State, Westview Press, 1992
  • Roberts, Walter R., Tito, Mihailovic and the Allies, Duke University Press, 1987

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