Government Public Relations and Media Office
Government Public Relations and Media Office

Slovenia - 10 Years of Independence
Path to Independence
Slovene Contribution to World Civilisation
The Celebration

From the Plebiscite to the Declaration of Independence
War for Slovenia
Independence Documents
Recalling Memories
26 June 1991 - Ljubljana, the Square of the Republic


From "Slovenska vojska", an informative professional military magazine of the Ministry of Defence, special edition, May 2001

Burning tanks at the Rozna Dolina border crossing near Nova Gorica.
Photo: Military History Centre Archives

The confidence of every nation is deeply rooted in a strong desire to have a full control over its own territory. In the early Middle Ages the Slovenes had their own states of Carantania and Carniola. After that, Slovenes were under the heel of foreign rulers until 1918. After the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the first Slovenian state in recent history originated on 29 October 1918. Slovenian nationhood was re-established during the national liberation war in 1941-1945. In both cases, nationhood was lost within the construct of Yugoslavia. After World War II, the Slovenian Republic had all of the elements of a state except independence. As a consequence, it could not determine its own destiny. However, such a status could not last forever.

The Proclamation of Independence of the Republic of Slovenia, 26 June 1991.
Photo: Bruno Toic

Factors that led to war

The ten-day war for Slovenia was a consequence of the Slovenian tendencies towards decentralisation and democratisation. Slovenia's proposal of a different arrangement of existing relations was rejected. Pressures towards a Greater Serbia, first in Kosovo and then, threateningly in other parts of Yugoslavia caused that a large majority of the Slovene electorate voted for a sovereign, independent state in the December 1990 referendum. After multi-party elections in Slovenia in April 1990, the Yugoslav People's Army YPA) began preparations for an armed response to democratic changes in Slovenia and Croatia by confiscating the majority of Territorial Defence (TD) forces' weaponry.

The disintegration of Yugoslavia was greatly enhanced by the promotion of Greater Serbia with Slobodan Milosevic at its head. The suppression of those who disagreed had its supporters among even the highest ranks of the YPA, even though many officers believed for a long time that preparations to "settle accounts" were aimed at defending the Yugoslav idea of the equality of all peoples.

Slovenia, on its part, was also preparing for a declaration of independence by providing reinforcement to the Slovenian TD and police forces. On 28 September 1990, a constitutional amendment was adopted which stipulated that in peace and emergencies, the command of TD was to be transferred to the Presidency of the Republic of Slovenia. The Presidency, with Milan Kucan as its President at that time and during the war, immediately appointed a new TD National Command under the command of Janez Slapar.

On 18 March, as tensions increased, the RS Presidency established a Contingency Operational Coordination Staff co-chaired by Igor Bavcar and Janez Jansa. It was tasked with the coordination of security and defence preparations and in wartime, the tasks of the staff of the commander-in-chief. The main Slovenian armed components at that time were the Territorial Defence and police forces. Civil defence forces, the criminal investigation agency and VIS ?? had the important mission of protecting human lives and property.

The YPA tried to occupy all Slovenian border crossings. However, by 4 July, they were all in Slovenian hands.
Photo: Military History Centre Archives

Slovenian defence tactics were based on an April 1991 document that dealt with possible dissolution from a defence perspective. In case of an armed YPA attack the plan was to block all of the units and barracks in Slovenia, to stop any advances from Croatia made by the YPA and to resist actively wherever Slovenian defence forces had the military advantage. The first location chosen by the YPA to settle accounts with Slovenia was Maribor, where on 23 May, it provoked an incident in order to attack a TD training centre. The YPA even kidnapped the Slovenian negotiator, Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Milosevic. In addition, the first Slovenian fatality, Josef Simcik from Miklavz, was run down and killed by a military APC. The resolute response of the Centre personnel and the inhabitants of Maribor spoilt the YPA's plans.

Radenci, 28 July 1991
Photo: Natasa Juhnov

On 25 June 1991, a constitutional law on independence was adopted by the Slovenian Assembly. Yugoslav signs and flags at border crossings were replaced with Slovenian ones, and border crossings with Croatia set up. The evening of the same day, the Federal Executive Council convened in Belgrade. It issued a decree for the protection of the national borders in Slovenia, which gave the YPA and federal police forces the green light for an armed attack on Slovenia.

The approach of the military and police forces was focused in the first phase on the Slovenian borders and the Brnik airfield. If Slovenia was cut off from the outside world in the first phase, "getting even" with those in Slovenia who were in favour of independence by replacing them with new people who would be puppets in the implementation of the Serbian goals would follow in the second phase.

On 26 June, the first armoured units of the Rijeka corps set off towards the Italian border crossings. On their way, they encountered poorly-defended barricades and spontaneous, occasionally very determined resistance on the part of the local population, in particular in Vrhpolje. Unarmed civilians were not able to stop the march of the tanks but they reacted decisively against the aggression, a reaction which later became evident all over Slovenia. Eventually, this attitude spread all across Slovenia. At 1430, the first shot was fired in Divaca by a YPA officer, as a threat to the Slovenian demonstrators.

YPA tactics for border crossings was defined by special orders. At first step, the YPA was to demand that a border crossing surrender, then it was to threaten to shoot and finally to fire near the border crossing and at the centre of the resistance. Based on its experiences in Kosovo and Croatia, the YPA were brought into the action in Slovenia under the false assumption that the Slovenes could be defeated with no major problems. As a result, deployed YPA units had inadequate logistical support. In addition, critical tactical principles, such as the fact that tanks cannot survive on a battlefield without infantry support, were not followed. The units used in the military intervention in Slovenia were made up of elements from Ljubljana, Maribor, Rijeka, Zagreb and Varazdin corps and the YPA Air Force Corps. They were all under the command of the 5th Army Command in Zagreb. 22,300 YPA and 16,000 TD servicemembers were stationed in Slovenia. During the war this number increased to 35,200 servicemembers. The Slovenian police force consisted of 10,000 active and reserve members. The YPA had an absolute advantage in both weapons and powerful armoured units with air support. The Slovenian military and police had only infantry weapons, and a few 20 mm anti-aircraft guns and 82 mm mortars, but no tanks, aeroplanes or artillery. Portable grenade launchers were used as anti-tank weapons and portable Strela rockets for air defence against aircraft flying at low altitudes.

The war begins

Thursday, 27 June

The war for Slovenia started at 0115 when a YPA anti-aircraft armoured battery crossed the republic border near Metlika. At 0240 the 1st Armoured Battalion set off for Brnik from the Vrhnika barracks.

The column of armoured vehicles that was advancing through Bela Krajina consisted of 12 armoured combat vehicles with 3-tube anti-aircraft 20 mm guns and several trucks. They were stopped by a barricade in Poganci. The tension between the territorial defence force and YPA soldiers increased and the first shots were fired. At 1030 the column set off toward Ljubljana but was stopped by a road obstacle near Medvedjek at 1545.

Gornja Radgona, 29 June 1991
Photo: Military History Centre Archives

The armoured battalion was moving from Vrhnika towards Brnik in a two column formation. On its way, it was stopped by improvised, poorly-defended automobile barricades. One column was moving along the highway and the Ljubljana loop bypass via Trzin and Menges, and the other one along the main road. They took a wrong turn and drove into the forests around the Tosko celo hilltop and lost two tanks while they were turning around on the narrow path. The first tanks reached Brnik around 0500. They took the area around the airport and were attacked by a TD unit around 1800. After the attack, the tanks took perimeter defence positions.

In Trzin, the Vrhnika YPA column left behind three armour transport vehicles and a signal vehicle. Towards the evening members of a commando detachment were dropped off by two YPA helicopters in support of armour units. In the approximately 20 minute engagement between the special police unit and TD, 4 YPA soldiers and 1 TD soldier were killed. The rest of the YPA soldiers surrendered, and the YPA commando detachment, which withdrew toward Depala vas, were captured the next day.

Surrender of YPA soldiers
Photo: Military History Centre Archives

Around 0900, 10 tanks left Maribor and headed to Sentilj. 5 tanks and 10 armoured vehicles, were also heading for Dravograd. The first column was stopped by a defensive barricade in Pesnica. Around 1200 the tanks started delivering area fire around the barricade and set it on fire. Around 1730 the tanks were attacked by TD forces.

On the bridge over the river Drava a tank column commanded by Colonel Popov was stopped in its attempt to enter Slovenia from Croatia. An armoured column that entered Slovenia in the vicinity of Razkrizje was also stopped.

In the evening a YPA column of armoured vehicles tried to break through near the village of Rigonce but was stopped. At 2045 two 82 mm mortars were engaged in an attack on the Cerklje airfield, but later most of the aircraft left the airfield. A YPA column of armoured vehicles and TD servicemembers got involved in a serious fight in Koseze, near Ilirska Bistrica, during which three YPA soldiers were killed. In the evening, two helicopters were shot down, one over Ig and the other over Ljubljana.

Friday, 28 June

During the night the Slovenian armed forces were reinforcing their barricades and directing the newly mobilised TD units towards the occupied border crossings. The following order was issued to all of the subordinate coordination groups: "At all locations where RS armed forces have the tactical advantage, offensive actions against enemy units and facilities will be carried out. The enemy will be summoned to surrender, the shortest deadline possible for surrender given and action taken using all available weapons. While in action, the necessary arrangements will be made to evacuate and protect the civilians".

Regular press conference at Cankarjev dom during the War of Independence
Photo: Borut Kranjc

The tanks that had spent the night in front of the barricade in Pesnica managed to remove the barricade by 0700 and continued towards Sentilj. They were stopped by a barricade in Ranca and two tanks got stuck in Kaniza. Around 1030 the rest of the tanks were stopped by a defensive barricade in Strihovec and attacked by TD servicemembers and the police force. After 1100 the YPA Air Force aeroplanes arrived in assistance of the tanks, launching rockets and firing on the barricade. At 1330 four aeroplanes attacked again and killed four truck drivers. Then the tanks circumvented the obstacle but were soon stopped. At 0950 the Slovenian units attacked a YPA column of armoured vehicles at Medvedjek. 6 truck drivers were killed during YPA air raids.

In Limbus near Maribor two YPA tanks were successfully attacked. In Gibina, a column of armoured vehicles that was advancing from Croatia was stopped. A YPA column of armoured vehicles that had advanced from Maribor was stopped before reaching Dravograd. Following a close engagement, the Holmec border crossing was taken. Two police officers and three YPA soldiers were killed and 91 were captured. TD units attacked the Bukovje barracks near Dravograd and Yugoslav aircraft attacked the Brnik airport, TV transmitters at Krim, Kum and Nanos, the Karavanke tunnel, Kocevska Reka and Murska Sobota. The column of armoured vehicles commanded by Colonel Popov that entered the Slovenian territory near Razkri3je took the Gornja Radgona border crossing. Its freight vehicles were set on fire by local volunteers.

When the YPA weapons depot in Borovnica was taken, TD weapons supplies improved significantly. TD also took a depot in Leskovec, but failed in its attack on the Ribnica barracks. In Crnice in the Vipava valley, TD responded to the fire from the YPA column and two soldiers were killed. A combat group commanded by Major Lisjak attacked and took the Rozna dolina border crossing. Two tanks were destroyed and three tanks captured, while three YPA soldiers were killed and 98 captured. The YPA listening post at Roznik pri Ljubljani was taken and the one at Suha destroyed. The Skofja Loka barracks and the Drulovka YPA depot were both attacked. Two Austrian journalists were killed by the YPA at the Brnik airport. At night, a TD servicemember, Peter Petric, approached the tanks near the airport, fired at the commanding tank, wounded the commander and was himself killed. At 2100, a cease-fire was announced by the YPA since the situation was getting worse for the units who were surrounded.

A column of YPA armoured combat vehicles at Medvedjek.

Saturday, 29 June

During the night between Friday and Saturday, Slovenian representatives met with three Ministers of Foreign Affairs from the European Community and the President of the Federal Executive Council in Zagreb. They reached an agreement on ceasing hostilities, which was so unclear that it was never implemented. In the morning, the soldiers and the federal police officers in the YPA Air Force Base at the Brnik airport, who were surrounded, surrendered. An NCO fired at the commander of the YPA fuel depot in Mokronog, who wanted to surrender and threatened that he would blow up a fuel tanker.

An attack on a YPA APC near Moretini as well as an engagement between the police officers and YPA soldiers near Skofije were both success. In Strihovec, a tank column that was advancing towards Sentilj, was split up. The tanks from this column were later re-organised into a TD tank company.

The YPA gave written ultimatum to the Presidency and the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, demanding that Slovenia surrender by 30 July 0900. In the evening, the Slovenian Assembly met and opted for a peaceful solution to the crisis that did not jeopardise Slovenian independence.

Sunday, 30 June

At 0900 the air raid alarm sounded, as the YPA aircraft were heading from the Croatian airfields towards Slovenia. However, they soon turned around and returned to their bases. In the Varazdin, Zagreb and Rijeka corps, new forces were being formed in order to attack Slovenia.

TD forces attacked the platform in front of the Karavanke tunnel, and at night an agreement was made to hand over the tunnel.

The signal centre above Senozece was taken. The tanks that had been confiscated near Nova Gorica were organised into a TD company consisting of nine tanks. Monday, 1 July

At around 0230, a fire and an explosion destroyed the YPA weapons depot at Crni Vrh near Idrija. TD weaponry had also been stored in the depot. After a skirmish in which the commander was killed, the YPA guardhouse at Nova Vas surrendered. The YPA was providing backup and equipment to the units which were surrounded with helicopters with Red Cross insignia. The column of armoured vehicles at Medvedjek was given permission to move to the new barricade in the Krakovski forest by night.

Evening brought a new YPA ultimatum.

Tuesday, 2 July

The most decisive part of the war for Slovenia began. At 0500 TD units attacked the column of armoured vehicles in the Krakovski forest with a decisive blow. The YPA armoured battalion from Jastrebarsko tried to enter Slovenia to rescue the column in the Krakovski forest, which had been surrounded at Prilipe, but because of their losses, had to stop. In this hopeless situation the YPA soldiers left their vehicles and were captured the following day. At 1330, TD firing of tank artillery began an attack on the YPA guardhouse at Sentilj. 65 grenades were fired on the positions east of the border crossing and 25 grenades on the guardhouse, which had been abandoned by YPA soldiers.

At 1615 TD units attacked the YPA armoured units at the Gornja Radgona border crossing. Tankfire destroyed part of the town. YPA armoured units were backed up by two airplanes. The YPA storehouse at Loznica, the Rajhenav logistical point and the warehouses formerly belonging to TD at Prule in Ljubljana were taken. YPA aircraft attacked the transmitters on Nanos, Kum and Domzale, and two barricades, one in Catez and another in Krakovski forest. After a serious battle in which the commander was killed, the Kuzma guardhouse surrendered. In Maribor, howitzers fired from the Franc Rozman-Stane barracks towards Pohorje. After a YPA air raid, TD forces were attacked again between 1530 and 2130 in front of Dravograd by a column of armoured vehicles.

Tanks left the Vrhnika barracks and headed for Ljubljana and Logatec, but were halted at Cesarski vrh and Sinja Gorica. A column of armoured vehicles at Orehek was attacked and the Fernetici and Gorjansko border crossings were captured.

At 2100 the RS Presidency agreed to a unilateral cease-fire because of the collapse of the Belgrade-led military offensive. On the TV evening news, the Chief of the General Staff Blagoje Adjic threatened: "We will take control and bring things to an end!"

Wednesday, 3 July 1991

A guard of the armoured-mechanised division set off for Slovenia from Belgrade. However, because of numerous breakdowns, a growing number of vehicles were left by the side of the road and the march collapsed.

In the morning, the TD and police surrounded the YPA soldiers, who had withdrawn from the Sentilj guardhouse. 2 officers, 3 non-commissioned officers and 45 soldiers surrendered without a fight. A column of armoured vehicles advancing to Gornja Radgona was attacked near Videm ob Scavnici, and a YPA column of armoured vehicles was finally halted near Radenci. This unit had advanced from Croatia in order to provide support to the unit at the Gornja Radgona border crossing which was surrounded. Another attack on a column of armoured vehicles at Kog was successful.

The YPA agreed to a cease-fire. YPA helicopters with Red Cross insignia continued to bring reinforcements. Slovenia did not respond because of the cease-fire agreement.

The War is Won

On Thursday, 4 July, all border crossings were in Slovenian hands. YPA units were withdrawing to Croatia and their barracks. Slovenia permitted the withdrawal of a tank column from Brnik and a column of armoured vehicles from Dravograd.

In Maribor, the policeman Robert Hvalc was killed during a YPA attack on a police vehicle. Permission was given for the YPA column of armoured vehicles to withdraw from Gornja Radgona, which left behind ruins and a ravaged border crossing.

TD air defence unit at Ljubljana Castle, 2 July 1991
Photo: M.Gerbajs

On Sunday, 7 July, representatives of Slovenia, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) and the European Community met on the Brioni islands. The Brioni declaration, which established a three-month moratorium on Slovenian independence activities was accepted. However, the Slovenian armed and police forces retained full sovereignty over Slovenian territory. As a result, the SFRY Presidency reached a decision on 18 July to withdraw YPA arms and equipment from Slovenia in three months. The last soldiers left Slovenia from the port of Koper the night between 25 to 26 October.

According to rough estimates, the YPA had 44 casualties and 146 wounded, and the Slovenian side 19 casualties and 182 wounded. 12 foreign citizens were killed. There is no data available as to the number of Slovenian soldiers killed while attempting to escape from the YPA. 4693 YPA servicemembers and 252 federal police officers were captured. There were 72 minor and major armed conflicts during the war. 31 YPA tanks, 22 personnel carriers and 6 helicopters were destroyed, damaged or confiscated, along with 6,787 infantry, 87 artillery and 124 air defence weapons according to YPA inspections.

The last YPA soldiers left Slovenia, Koper, 25 October 1991
Photo: Military History Centre Archives

The victory in the war for Slovenia was a military one. Slovenia's independence was defended with arms by the Slovenian armed and police forces, who ensured the success of the political and international diplomacy needed to conclude the war. Slovenia's strategy and tactics were the decisive elements. Unlike subsequent events in Croatia and Bosnia, in Slovenia the aggressor was under threat throughout the country and was thus unable to concentrate its forces in the areas most supportive of their initiative. By setting up barricades, the Slovenian armed forces prevented YPA units from conducting manoeuvres. It also carried out decisive attacks in areas where there was tactical advantage. The final defeat of the YPA in Slovenia and the destruction or capture of its units was, therefore, only a matter of time.

Brigadier Janez J. Svajncer

Vojna za Slovenijo, Cankarjeva zalozba, Ljubljana 1991; Janez Jansa: Premiki, Ljubljana 1992; Pavle Celik: Izza barikad, Ljubljana 1992; Janez J. Svajncer: Obranili domovino, Ljubljana 1993; Leon Horvat: Dan prej, Koper 1994; SMER: Sever-Koper-Ljubljana, Ministrstvo za notranje zadeve Republike Slovenije, Ljubljana 1996.