History >> Dubrovnik war

Dubrovnik war

The Dubrovnik war began on 1st October 1991.


The war in former Yugoslavia was waged at the beginning of the 1990s and lasted until the mid -nineties. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the former East European communist countries became democratic, and such was the case in former Yugoslavia as well. But parallel with this transition the role of the local politician Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia strengthens; the main culprit behind the bloodshed in the region.


Milosevic manages to rally the generals of the Yugoslav Army, who were predominantly of Serbian ethnicity, and launches an aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. His plan was to occupy as many areas and establish a Greater Serbia. Besides the generals of the Yugoslav army Montenegrin politicians such as Milo Djukanovic and Momir Bulatovic have also sided with Milošević.


In former Yugoslavia, because of tourism there was no Yugoslav Army in Dubrovnik and at the beginning of the war in Dubrovnik there was no fighting. However, Montenegrin politicians spread panic in Montenegro through media, saying that the Croatian army is gathering in Dubrovnik, and that they will attack Montenegro. They arm their population, and under the pretext that the Croats will attack them, together with Serbs from eastern Herzegovina, prepare an aggression on Dubrovnik and its surroundings.


The war in the Dubrovnik area began on 1 October 1991 with aerial attacks.  Yugoslav army aircrafts bombarded the strategic goals - water, power lines, telecommunication. Dubrovnik was immediately left without electricity and water. Such a state will remain for months.


Croatian army in the Dubrovnik area is poorly armed, so the Serbs and Montenegrins have no trouble advancing.  They soon occupy the entire surrounding areas. The only place that is not occupied is the Srd hill (where the War museum is situated) and the Austro-Hungarian fortress on it.


Serbs and Montenegrins continuously bombarded the city including the old town under UNESCO protection. Onofrio's Fountain , the Sponza Palace , the bell tower , the Franciscan Monastery , Church of St. Ignatius, all of those were hit – it's easier to say which cultural attractions were not hit , than to say which in fact were.


The biggest attack happened on 6 December 1991 when Serbs and Montenegrins decided to take the town. Starting at dawn, the city was bombarded from all sides - the shells are falling on the old town and hitting the cultural monuments. The city is in flames, churches and palaces are burning, the old city harbor as well as the hotels. Three firemen died from enemy grenades, trying to extinguish the fire in the Libertas hotel. Hotel Imperial at Pile also suffered serious damage. On that day alone more than 2,000 grenades fell on Dubrovnik's Old town.  One third of the cultural objects of inestimable historical importance were badly damaged. It was the fiercest attack in the history of the old town of Dubrovnik. During World War II, Hitler's Nazis and Tito's partisans spared Dubrovnik of destruction. Arboretum in Trsteno was almost completely burnt in the war.


There's close quarter combat up on Srđ hill going on all day, but the Croatian army manages to stop the attack.


In early 1992, the Serbs and Montenegrins try to take the city again, but the Croatian army is stronger and successfully resists the attacks. In the summer and autumn of that year the Croatian army is strong enough to not only defend but to attack. They liberate much of the surroundings of Dubrovnik and Dubrovnik has a somewhat normal life again. Later that year Dubrovnik experiences sporadic attacks. The worst occurred in the summer of 1995 when the Serbs fired a shell on a beach in Zaton where people were swimming. Three of them were killed and more were wounded.


The numbers after the war were terrible - Serbs and Montenegrins plundered the entire surroundings - all the hotels, the airport , took the boats from the marina in Komolac, stole valuable artwork by Dubrovnik painters , tore electrical wiring from the houses , took the cattle ... Overall, over a billion and a half euros of damage was done.


More than 400 soldiers from both sides were killed, as well as 92 civilians in Dubrovnik.  2127 houses were completely destroyed and 7700 residents were left homeless. Serbs and Montenegrins established military camps in Morinje and Bileća where they tortured Croatian prisoners.


Serbian and Montenegrin officers were tried for the destruction of Dubrovnik at the Hague Tribunal. They were sentenced to 5 to 7 years in prison, and after serving two thirds of their sentence they were released.


We should also say that during the attack on Dubrovnik much of Montenegrins were against this aggression. They organized two large protests against the war. On one of them they sang: „Forgive us, Dubrovnik! ".



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