Slovenia and the Ten Day War

I never travelled to Yugoslavia when it existed as a single state but since the break up in the 1990s I have visited Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro.  I visited Slovenia twice in 2007.

Yugoslavia had been created in 1918 after the First World War by the victorious western allies in the hope of bring some stability to the Balkans but this had been a hopelessly optimistic attempt to impose a solution on a disparate region of Europe who were never going to coexist easily as one single nation.

The Balkans is where east meets west in Europe and Yugoslavia was a mix of Orthodox looking to the east (Serbia), Christian looking to the west (Slovenia and Croatia) and Muslims who could not be reconciled to either (Bosnia).  Here was a recipe for disaster!  Slovenia is clearly more Central European in character than any of its Balkan partners and being more prosperous and increasingly resentful of providing support to its national partners it is not surprisingly that when the grip of Tito was removed in 1980 it was the first to break loose from the Yugoslav Federation in 1991.

Yugoslav tanks, troops and aircraft swept into the small republic of Slovenia forty-eight hours after it declared independence on 27th and 28th June. Federal forces moved to seize control of border crossing points with Italy, Austria and Hungary and launched an assault on the airport near the province’s capital, Ljubljana.  The Slovene administration rejected a call by the Yugoslav prime minister for a three-month truce to allow negotiations to take place, demanding that troops be withdrawn first.  Road access to the capital was blocked by police and paramilitary and the government in Ljubljana said they had seized or destroyed fifteen tanks and shot down six helicopters.

The Federal Government threatened to re-establish the status quo by force if necessary but the crisis passed and after a short Ten-Day War a truce was called, Slovenia’s independence was agreed and in October 1991 the last soldiers of the Yugoslav Army left. Luckily for Slovenia it was a bloodless separation following a vote for independence in 1990.  The Slovenian secession did however lead to a violent break-up of the country with civil war and ethnic cleansing in neighbouring Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina that persisted throughout the 1990’s.

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