Quick History of Slovenia Independence War

Every country has its own way to reach independence. Some nations may have a long story of independence already, so now they improve their democracy and social life. For example, the United States of America. On the contrary, some others, like Slovenia, are newbies in the political arena.

The Slovenian path to independence was quite stressful. They met resistance from the Yugoslavian side and fought with pride in following the Ten-Day War, a brief conflict that happened after proclaiming the declaration of independence on 25 June 1991.

It was a good example of the fact showing how much people want national independence. First of all, 94.8% of Slovenians favored the answer “yes” in the referendum of independence. Secondly, they protected their own land from the Yugoslav aggressor, who wanted them not to break from the country.

The War for Independence

The other name is Ten-Days War and this one represents the conflict because everything happened in a period of ten days only. The referendum happened on 23 December 1990 and waited 6 months for results to be authorized. Straight after this period, on 25 June 1991, Slovenia, together with Croatia, proclaimed independence. On the next day, the Yugoslav army entered those countries.

The 6 months period was enough for the Yugoslav government to change the military doctrine. This means that the Tito-era doctrine of “General People’s Defence”, when each republic has its own Territorial Defence Force (Teritorialna obramba), was replaced by the centrally directed system of defense.

Of course, Slovenians understood that the Yugoslav government would not let them go so easily. Therefore, Defence Minister Janez Janša proposed a strategy based on an asymmetric warfare approach. Thus, Slovenian Territorial Defense had to provide a guerrilla campaign, using anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft missiles, catching tank columns, destroying the lead and rear vehicles in favorable terrain, and implementing some other strategies as well.

Yugoslav People’s Army entered Slovenia and Croatia on 26 June, right after the event of independence proclamation. The fight was between the Slovenian Territorial Defence (Teritorialna obramba Republike Slovenije) and the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA).

The conflict lasted only 10 days, from 27 June 1991 until 7 July 1991. On that day, the Brioni Accords were signed. Also, it is considered the beginning of the Yugoslav Wars and the breakup of Yugoslavia. Technically, this was a win of Slovenia.

The conflict was short and not intense, therefore casualties were not high. The Slovenian Army lost 19 persons and got 182 wounded. On the other side, the YPA suffered 44 fatalities and 146 wounded. Plus, 12 foreign nationals were killed, principally journalists and Bulgarian truck drivers. In general, the Yugoslav Army lost 31 tanks, 22 armored personnel carriers, 6 helicopters, 6,787 infantry weapons, 87 artillery pieces, and got 124 air defense weapons damaged.

History of the Conflict

June 26

Units of the 13th division of the Yugoslav People’s Army left their constant place of location in Rijeka, Croatia, and started to move towards Slovenia’s borders with Italy. Locals immediately began the resistance, they barricaded roads with their trucks and big cars. Both sides had no authority to start the fire, so there was no fighting yet.

At that time, the Slovenian government took control over the international airport at Brnik, as Janez Janša, after said for “establishing our sovereignty in the key triangle, border-customs-air control.” After that, they were ordered to establish defensive positions. This meant that the Yugoslav Army could fire the first shot, but the Slovenian government had no other option. The first shot was done on 27 June at 14:30 in Divača by an officer of the YPA.

June 27

More units of the YPA barracks at Vrhnika, Maribor, and Dravograd. They headed to the international airport at Brnik. The Yugoslav Army’s aircrafts dropped leaflets sending such messages as “We invite you to peace and cooperation!” and “All resistance will be crushed.”

The Slovenian president Milan Kučan with the government, decided to continue armed resistance. In general, on that day, the Yugoslav Army captured all of the block posts along the Italian border.

June 28

On that night, the Slovenian Minister of defense ordered all the units of TO armed forces to undertake a general offensive against the YPA in the shortest possible period, to force the enemy to surrender and to evacuate and protect the civilians.

There were heavy fights at Nova Gorica on the border with Italy, where three YPA soldiers were killed, 16 wounded, and 98 surrendered, and at Holmec. At the end of the day, the YPA was rapidly losing positions. They had problems with desertions when Slovenian soldiers serving in the YPA simply changed sides.

June 29

The European Community started to do some steps and diplomatic efforts to regulate the crisis. There was a meeting in Zagreb, with three EC foreign ministers, Slovenian and Yugoslav government representatives. At that time, Slovenian troops achieved military successes. What is important, the Slovenian government got control over the Ljubljana Airport near Brnik once again, the YPA units there surrendered.

At the end of the day, the YPA provided an ultimatum, but the Slovenian TO denied it.

June 30

Slovenian forces finally returned the strategic Karawanken Tunnel under the Alps on the border with Austria. Also, they captured nine YPA tanks near Nova Gorica. A YPA garrison at Dravograd surrendered, there were 16 officers and 400 men, plus equipment there.

July 1

That day, the Črni Vrh town was partially damaged because of The YPA’s ammunition dump. On the other side, Slovenian forces captured posts at Pečovnik, Bukovžlak, and Zaloška Gorica, retaking 70 truckloads of ammunition and explosives from the YPA.

July 2

It was the day of the heaviest fight. The Domžale radio transmitter was damaged by two YPA MiG-21 planes. Slovenian forces retake several convoys of the Yugoslav Army successfully withstanding several attacks at Šentilj, Gornja Radgona, Fernetiči, and Gorjansko.

At the end of the day, the Slovenian Presidency announced a unilateral ceasefire. Unfortunately, it was refused by the YPA leadership.

July 3-6

On July 3, there were still fights between armed forces. However, on the next day, the two sides decided a ceasefire in force. Thereby, all the Slovenian border crossing was taken by the Slovenian forces, and the YPA units were allowed to leave Slovenian and cross the border with Croatia.

July 7

This became the last day of the war. At the time, the Croatian Brijuni Islands became the place of peace because representatives of Slovenia, Croatia, and Yugoslavia, under the political sponsorship of the European Community, signed the Brioni Agreement or Brioni Declaration. Yugoslav military units left Slovenia.

Jurisdictionally, the Yugoslav government allowed to complete the independence process until the end of October for both countries (that’s why Croatians celebrate their independence day in October while Slovenians in June). Thus, the Ten-Day War ended.

Political Background and Independence Referendum

Why did Slovenians want independence after living more than half a century in a federation?

At that time, the Slovenian Republic experienced a great political change. To be more precise, In 1987, the group of Slovenian intellectuals started to oppose communistic parties and introduced the idea of a pluralistic democratic system in an independent Slovenian state. This movement gathered a lot of followers and contributed to the creation of the political coalition DEMOS in November 1989.

Moreover, the former socio-political organizations became political parties as well because they were allowed to become parties. Therefore, the Slovenian Democratic Union, Social Democratic Party of Slovenia, Slovenian Christian Democrats, Liberal Party, the Greens of Slovenia, and the Slovenian Farmers’ Association joined in DEMOS – Democratic Opposition of Slovenia as a pre-election coalition. After that, the Slovenian Craftsmen’s Party and the Grey Panthers joined them too.

The Demos coalition won the general elections with 54% of the votes and became the political majority. This allowed the government to make the referendum asking people whether they want to be in separate Slovenia, and voted for “yes”.

The independence referendum took place on 23 December 1990. At that time, it was supported by all the political powers of Slovenia. People were asked only one question “Should the Republic of Slovenia become an independent and sovereign state?”

In total, 94.8% of voters favored the answer “yes”. It was 88.5% of all the eligible voters if to count people who didn’t attend the referendum. The threshold for the validity of the plebiscite was 50%, thus the decision could be recognized as unanimous. Only 6.5% of electors did not participate, whereas 4.0% had voted “no”, 0.9% had cast invalid ballots, and only 0.1% had returned their ballots unused. 42,274 people couldn’t vote for several reasons. Some of them worked abroad, some were involved in the military service. Those people were not counted in the calculation of results.

After The Independence

After gaining independence, Slovenia started to take active steps in the direction of the EU and NATO. They were developing and became a member of those organizations and adopted Euro in 2004, became a part of the Schengen area as well. Now, Slovenian people have the possibility to travel and live around Europe, work there. Moreover, they are happy to live in independent Slovenia.

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