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The Republic of Serb Krajina (Serbian: Република Српска Крајина, РСК; sometimes also translated "Republic of Serbian Krajina") was a self-proclaimed Serbian entity in Croatia during the 1990s. Established in 1991, it was not recognized internationally. Its main portion was overrun by Croatian forces in 1995; a rump remained in existence in eastern Slavonia under UN administration until its peaceful reincorporation into Croatia in 1998.

Origins of Krajina[]

The original Krajina was carved out of parts of the crown lands of Croatia and Slavonia by Austria in 1553 - 1578 in order to form a Military Frontier with the Ottoman Empire as a means of defending the border. Many Serbs immigrated into the region and participated in the fight against the Ottomans. The Austrians controlled the Frontier from military headquarters in Vienna and did not make it a crown land, though it had some special rights in order to encourage settlement in an otherwise deserted, war-ravaged territory. The abolition of the military rule took place between 1869 and 1871. In order to attract Serbs to be part of Croatia on 11.5.1867 the Sabor solemnly declared that "the Triune Kingdom recognizes the Serbian people living in it as a nation identical and equal with the Croatian nation." After that, the Military Frontier was reincorporated in Croatia in 1881.

Following World War I, the regions formerly part of the Military Frontier became part of Yugoslavia where it was in the Sava Banovina with most of old Croatia-Slavonia. Between the two world wars the Serbs of the Croatian and Slavonian Krajinas, as well as the Bosnian Krajina and other territories west of Serbia, organized a notable political party, the Independent Democratic Party under Svetozar Pribićević. Various German military commanders gave different figures for the number of Serbs, Jews and others killed on the territory of the Independent State of Croatia. They circulated figures of 400,000 Serbs (Alexander Lehr); 350,000 Serbs (Lothar Rendulic); between 300,000 (Edmund Glaise von Horstenau); more than "3/4 of million of Serbs" (Hermann Neubacher) in 1943; 600-700,000 until March 1944 (Ernst Fick ); 700,000 (Massenbach). The autonomous political organisations of the region were also suppressed by Tito; however, the Yugoslav constitutions of 1965 and 1974 did give substantial rights to national minorities including the Serbs in SR Croatia.

The net effect of the region's troubled 20th century history was that, by the end of the 1980s, many Serbs were very distrustful of the Croatian government. Nationalist feelings grew on both sides of the ethnic divide. Serbs began to increasingly fear a nationalist Croatian government, and the return of fascism and ethnic killing. Whether realistic or otherwise, such talk provided a powerful rallying point for Serbian nationalists opposed to the prospect of living in a newly independent Croatian state.

The emerging Serbian Krajina would include three kinds of territories:

  • much of the historical Military Frontier, in areas with a majority or a plurality of Serbian population
  • areas such as parts of northern Dalmatia, that were never part of the Frontier but had a majority or a plurality of Serbian population
  • areas that bordered with Serbia and where Serbs were in a plurality or in a minority

The creation of the RSK Coat of Arms of the Republic of Serbian Krajina Enlarge Coat of Arms of the Republic of Serbian Krajina Flag of the Republic of Serbian Krajina Enlarge Flag of the Republic of Serbian Krajina

The Serbian Krajina was a central concern of the Croatian and Serbian nationalist movements of the late 1980s, led respectively by Franjo Tuđman and Slobodan Milošević. The incidents started in 1988 and turned into full-scale Serbian political rallies in 1989. The Croatian nationalists' victory in 1990, based on a platform of achieving independence for Croatia, only made things worse, especially since the country's Serbian minority was supported both politically and militarily by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Serbia under President Milošević.

At the time, Serbs comprised about 12.2% of Croatia's population: 581,663 people declared themselves Serbs in the census of 1991.

Serbs became opposed to the regime of Tuđman for his demands of an independent Croatia. More specifically, they saw this process as resulting in a loss of certain number of their minority rights. Also, Tudjman in his political speaches tried to deny role of Ustashia in Second World War. Serbs felt unsecure in new Croatian state, especialy when compare it with NDH, Independent State of Croatia during WW II. After the election of Tuđman in April 1990, a new Croatian constitution was passed in December 1990. This constitution declared Croatia to be the nation state of Croats. The constitution downgraded the status of Serbs from a nation within Croatia to that of a minority. This only heightened the sensitivity of Serb demands for cultural autonomy, language rights among many other demands. The constitution contradicted the Constitution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, despite Croatia still being legally part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Serbs responded to these rejections by leaving parliament. The rebellion of the Croatian Serbs was thus set in motion.

Nationalist Serbs in the Krajina established a Serbian National Council in July 1990 to coordinate opposition to Tuđman's policies. Milan Babić, a dentist from the southern town of Knin, was elected its President. The Krajina Serbs established a paramilitary militia under the leadership of Milan Martić, the police chief in Knin. Barricades of logs were erected across roads throughout the Krajina as a physical expression of separation from Croatia. This effectively severed the Croatian coastal region of Dalmatia from the rest of the country, in an incident which became commonly known as the "log revolution".

In August 1990, a referendum was held in the Krajina on the question of Serb "sovereignty and autonomy" in Croatia. The resolution was confined exclusively to Serbs and, not surprisingly, passed by a majority of 99.7%. Equally unsurprisingly, it was declared illegal and invalid by the Croatian government.

The Krajina Serbs did not initially seek independence for their area. Instead, on September 30, 1990, the Krajina Serbian National Council declared "the autonomy of the Serbian people on ethnic and historic territories on which they live and which are within the current boundaries of the Republic of Croatia as a federal unit of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." Altough it was not theoretically possible that the Serbian Krajina could have seceded from Croatia to remain part of a Yugoslavia minus Croatia and Slovenia. Indeed, this was a source of significant tension within Krajina Serb politics. The Krajina Serbs were divided between supporters of a unified Yugoslavia and ultranationalist supporters of a "Greater Serbia".

Babić's administration announced the creation of a Serbian Autonomous District (Srpska autonomna oblast or SAO) of Krajina on December 21, 1990. On April 1, 1991, it declared that it would secede from Croatia to join (or, rather, not leave) Yugoslavia. Other Serb-dominated communities in eastern Croatia announced that they would also join the SAO and ceased paying taxes to the Zagreb government.

Croatia held a referendum on independence on May 19, 1991, in which the electorate—minus many Serbs, who chose to boycott it—voted overwhelmingly for independence with the option of confederate union with other Yugoslav states. On June 25, 1991, Croatia and Slovenia both declared their independence from Yugoslavia. As the JNA attempted unsuccessfully to suppress Slovenia's independence in the short Slovenian War, clashes between Krajina Serbs and Croatian security forces broke out almost immediately, leaving dozens dead on both sides.

The fighting in the Krajina generally took the form of Serbian attacks on Croatian police posts and state buildings, with the Croatian police fighting back. In addition, there were numerous attacks on civilian targets, such as the blowing up and burning of houses belonging to people of the "wrong" ethnic group, and inevitably the killing of civilians. Serb paramilitaries were often initially armed with small arms. However the JNA soon gave them free access to army equipment, up to and including armoured vehicles and artillery. The European Union and United Nations attempted to broker ceasefires and peace settlements. The truces however were repeatedly broken, often after only a few hours, as one side tried to play the diplomats for their political advantage.

Around August 1991, the leadership of the Serbian Krajina, and that of Serbia, allegedly agreed to embark on what war crimes prosecutors would later describe as a "joint criminal enterprise". This consisted of permanently and forcibly removing the non-Serb population of Krajina in order to make them part of a new Serb-dominated state. The leaders are documented to have included Milan Babić, and other Krajina Serb figures such as Milan Martić, the Serbian militia leader Vojislav Šešelj and Yugoslav Army commanders including General Ratko Mladić, who was at the time the commander of JNA forces in Croatia.

According to testimony given by Babić in his subsequent war crimes trial, during the summer of 1991 the Serbian secret police—under Milošević's command—set up "a parallel structure of state security and the police of Krajina and units commanded by the state security of Serbia". Shadowy groups of paramilitaries with names such as the "Vukovi sa Vucjaka" ("Wolves from Wolftown") and the "Beli Orlovi" ("White Eagles"), funded by the Serbian secret police, were also a key component of this structure.

A wider-scale war was launched in August 1991. Over the following months, a large area of territory, amounting to a third of Croatia, was seized. The non-Serbian population suffered heavily, fleeing or evicted with numerous murders, leading to the term of ethnic cleansing. The bulk of the fighting occurred between August and December 1991, during which time approximately 80,000 Croats and Muslims were expelled (and some were killed). Many more died and or were deplaced in fighting in eastern Slavonia (this territory along the Croatian/Serbian border is not part of the Krajina, and it was the JNA that was the principal actor in that part of the conflict).

On December 19, 1991, the SAO Krajina proclaimed itself the Republic of Serbian Krajina. On February 26, 1992, the SAO Western Slavonia and SAO Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srem joined the RSK, which initially had only encompassed the territories within the SAO Krajina. The RSK occupied an area of some 17,028 km² at its greatest extent. It was located entirely inland, although its southern portion came close to the Adriatic Sea coastline because of Krajina Serb control of the Novigradsko more, a small, protected bay located to the east of Zadar. The acquisition of coastline near Zadar and Šibenik, and a smaller town between these two, Biograd na Moru, was a key strategic goal for the Krajina Serb authorities, as this would have given the republic a vital outlet. This objective was never realised, but the Krajina Serbs did partially succeed in cutting the overland route between Dalmatia and the rest of Croatia.

The uneasy peace of 1992[]

A ceasefire agreement was signed by Presidents Tuđman and Milošević in January 1992, paving the way for the implementation of a United Nations peace plan put forward by Cyrus Vance. Under the Vance Plan, four United Nations Protected Areas (UNPAs) were established in Croatian territory which was claimed by RSK. The Vance Plan called for the withdrawal of the JNA from Croatia and for the return of refugees to their homes in the UNPAs. The JNA officially withdrew from Croatia in May 1992 but much of its weaponry and many of its personnel remained in the Serb-held areas and were turned over to the RSK's security forces. Refugees were not allowed to return to their homes and the few Croats and other non-Serbs who had remained in the RSK were expelled in the following months. On February 21, 1992, the creation of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) was authorised by the UN Security Council for an initial period of a year, to provide security to the UNPAs.

The agreement effectively froze the front lines for the next three years. Croatia and the RSK had effectively fought each other to a standstill. The ceasefire had little effect on the RSK's international standing. It was not recognized in the sense that it exchanged diplomatic credentials with other countries, but the republic's de facto independence had to be acknowledged by the countries of the region as a fact of life. It gained support from Serbia's allies in the Yugoslav Wars, Greece, Russia, and Romania.

With the creation of new Croatian counties on December 30, 1992, the Croatian government also set aside two autonomous regions (kotar) for ethnic Serbs in the areas of Krajina. However Serbs considered this too little too late, as it was not the amount of autonomy they wanted, by now they had declared defacto independence and lastly they asked for autonomy, similar to the Kotar's proposed, over two years ago and the Croatians rejected it. As well the proposed Kotars were smaller then the area controlled by the Republic of Serbian Krajina, and did not in any way include the area of Western Srijem, Eastern Slavonia, and Baranja.

UNPROFOR deployed throughout the region in order to maintain the ceasefire, although in practice its light armament and restricted rules of engagement meant that it was little more than an observer force. It proved wholly unable to ensure that refugees returned to the RSK. Indeed, the Krajina Serb authorities continued to make efforts to ensure that they could never return, destroying villages and cultural and religious monuments to erase the previous existence of the non-Serb inhabitants of the Krajina. Milan Babić later testified that this policy was driven from Belgrade through the Serbian secret police—and ultimately Milošević—who he claimed were in control of all the administrative institutions and armed forces in the Krajina. This would certainly explain why the Yugoslav National Army took the side of the Krajina Serbs in spite of its claims to be acting as a "peacekeeping" force. It should be noted that Milošević has denied this, claiming that Babić had made it up "out of fear". Babic's suicide put shadow and suspicion on validity and free-will of Babic's testify on court.


By the start of the 1990s and before the war, about two thirds of the Krajina (later UNPA zones North and South- not Western or Eastern Slavonia) population was Serb. These Serbs accounted for about 29% of their total population in the then-SR Croatia. The increase in ethnic tensions caused the demographic proportions to shift markedly even before the fighting broke out.

The official census held in the spring of 1991, just before the war began, is recorded in Republic of Croatia statistics books, but not currently available online. Hence, there are two different sources for pre-war population distribution: the ICTY indictment against Milošević, given in the 1st table below, and the official Croatian data excerpted from the books, presented in the 2nd table.

The allocation of the population in the different parts of the RSK was, according to the ICTY source, as follows: UNPA Zones North and South UNPA Sector West UNPA Sector East Total 168,437 (67%) Serbs 70,708 (28%) Croats 13,101 (5%) others 14,161 (60%) Serbs 6,864 (29%) Croats 2,577 (11%) others 61,492 (32%) Serbs 90,454 (47%) Croats 40,217 (21%) others 244,090 (52.15%) Serbs 168,026 (35.9%) Croats 55,895 (11.94%) others (Source: ICTY)

However, the cited figures differ from those published in official Croatian census, which gives the following data: UNPA Zones North and South UNPA Sector West UNPA Sector East Total 169,906 (66.7%) Serbs 69,646 (28%) Croats 13,183 (5.5%) others 35,206 (35.4%) Serbs 43,063 (43.3%) Croats 21,183 (21.3%) others 57,208 (30.4%) Serbs 92,398 (49.1%) Croats 35,578 (20.5%) others 258,320 (48.16%) Serbs 205,107 (38.24%) Croats 72,944 (13.6%) others

Both calculations does not include "pink zones" (zones outside UNPA, but inside RSK). These zones are usually with much bigger percentage of Serbs than UNPA zones. Examples of rose zones include Medak, Vrlika, Teslingrad, Vrhovine, and Plaski. The largest discrepancy is in the UNPA Sector West, which might refer to the fact that this zone originally included large patches of western Slavonia (areas around Grubišno Polje, Daruvar, Pakrac and the western slopes of Papuk), but these weren't controlled by the RSK in the later stages of the war.

During the period when the RSK was formed, it was difficult to determine the exact population due to the war situation. Many Serb refugees from elsewhere in Croatia and Bosnia settled in the Krajina and a steady stream of people left the region to escape its pervasive poverty.

According to a local census by the RSK authorities from 1993, there were 480,000 residents: 91% Serbs (433,595), 7% Croats and 2% others. In 1994, the RSK's government estimated the population at 430,000 people [1]. The apparent fall in the population may have been due to the RSK authorities' efforts to drive out the non-Serb minorities as well as the ongoing exodus of Serbs. On the other hand, Croatian authorities hold these figures to be a pure morale-boosting fiction; the number of Serbs (virtually all of the population) who fled Eastern Slavonia and UNPA zones North and South in 1995 have been estimated by UN authorities to range between 150,000-200,000 people. Since the sector East did not account, after ethnic cleansing, for more than 50,000-70,000 inhabitants, the entire "RSK" population, as estimated by Croatian authorities, oscillated somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000.

The decline of the RSK[]

The partial implementation of the Vance Plan drove a wedge between the governments of the RSK and Serbia, the RSK's principal backer and supplier of fuel, arms and money. Milan Babić strongly opposed the Vance Plan but was overruled by the RSK's assembly. On February 26, 1992, he was deposed and replaced as President of the RSK by Goran Hadžić, a Milošević loyalist. Babić remained involved in RSK politics but as a considerably weaker figure.

The position of the RSK eroded steadily over the following three years. On the surface, the RSK had all the trappings of a state: an army, a parliament and president, a government with its own ministries and even its own currency and stamps. Its economy was, however, wholly dependent on support from the rump Yugoslavia, which had the effect of importing that country's hyperinflation. The RSK issued its own currency, the Krajina dinar (HRKR), in parallel with the Yugoslav dinar in July 1992. This issue was followed by the "October dinar" (HRKO), first issued on October 1, 1993 and equal to 1,000,000 Reformed Dinar, and the "1994 dinar", first issued on January 1, 1994, and equal to 1,000,000,000 October dinar.

The economic situation in the Krajina soon became disastrous. By 1994, only 36,000 of its citizens were employed out of a population of 430,000. The war severed its trade links with the rest of Croatia, with its few industries left idle. It had few natural resources on which to rely and had to import most of its resources, goods and fuel. Its agriculture was devastated, operating at little more than a subsistence level.[2] Professionals went abroad to Serbia or elsewhere to escape the Republic's grinding poverty. To make matters worse still, the RSK's government was grossly corrupt and the region became a haven for black market and other criminal activity. It was clear by the mid-1990s that the RSK was economically unviable without a peace deal and reintegration into Croatia. This was especially clear in Belgrade, where the RSK had become an unwanted economic and political burden for Milošević. His government sought to push the Krajina Serbs into settling the conflict but was rebuffed, much to its frustration.

The republic's weakness also affected its armed forces, the Vojska Srpske Krajine (VSK). Since the 1992 ceasefire had been agreed, Croatia had spent large sums of money importing weapons and training its armed forces with the aid of American contractors. At the same time, the VSK had grown steadily weaker, with its soldiers poorly motivated, trained and equipped. The VSK had only about 55,000 soldiers available to cover a front of some 600km in Croatia plus 100km along the border with the Bihać pocket in Bosnia; 16,000 of these were stationed in eastern Slavonia, leaving only some 39,000 to defend the main part of the RSK. In reality, only 30,000 of the theoretical 55,000 were capable of being fully mobilised. The VSK had little mobility and faced a far stronger Croatian army. It was also politically divided between supporters of Hadžić and Babić. On occasion, this rivalry broke out into clashes between rival units, which left several people wounded.

An early demonstration of the new Croatian capabilities came in January 1993, when the revitalised Croatian army launched an attack on Serbian positions around Maslenica in southern Croatia (which prevented them from utilizing sea access via Novigradsko more). In a second offensive in September 1993, the revitalised Croatian army overran the Medak pocket in the southern Krajina. The Croatian action was halted by the successful intervention of Canadian UN peacekeepers. Although the Krajina Serbs were able to bring up reinforcements fairly quickly, the strength of the Croatian forces proved a shock. Hadžić sent an urgent request to Belgrade to send reinforcements, arms and equipment. In response, around 4,000 paramilitaries under the command of Vojislav Šešelj (the "White Eagles") and the notorious "Arkan" (the "Serb Volunteer Guard") arrived to bolster the VSK. They found that the RSK's government and military was in a chaotic state.

The final invasion and fall[]

The RSK's end came in 1995, when Croatian forces liberated western Slavonia in Operation Flash (May) and overran the rest in Operation Storm (August). As a consequence, almost the entire Serbian population fled. A number of Croatian army officers (such as general Ante Gotovina; apparently ICTY was also preparing an indictment against the then president of Croatia Franjo Tudjman) were indicted by the ICTY in the Hague on the basis of their command responsibility for the attrocities committed by Croatian soldiers against the civilian Serbian population. Serbia did not intervene, having earlier indicated in the state-controlled media that it was finally washing its hands of the Krajina Serbs.

A big reason for Operation Storm, other than Croatia's desire to re-establish sovergnity over part of theirs internationally recognised territory, was also the fact that the Serbs in the Krajina rejected the Z-4 proposal. Under this proposal the Krajina would have remained part of Croatia, but would have wide ranging autonomy and elements of statehood.

Around 150,000–200,000 Serbs fled the RSK in 1995, most of whom ended up in Serbia, and some went to eastern Slavonia. The bulk of them were evacuated immediately by the RSK authorities, while others fled after the operation due to fear and uncertainty caused by the Croatian invasion. The widespread fear wasn't unsupported, because a number of Serb civilians were indeed killed by advancing Croatian forces and in several atrocities following the operation - UNPROFOR documented more than two hundred murders by November, while rumours amounted to several thousand. There was also widespread arson committed by the Croatians, in what ICTY judged to be an action organized to prevent the Serbs from returning (much in the same way the RSK forces tried to prevent the Croats from returning four years earlier, events also processed by the ICTY). The end result was that only 4,000 Serb inhabitants remained in the main part of the RSK (i.e. excluding eastern Slavonia) after the offensive.

Some Serbs and most of the expelled Croats have since returned, but the Krajina Serb population is still only a fraction of its pre-1995 numbers. The autonomous regions planned by the government in 1992 were disbanded on February 7, 1997 and the areas were integrated into civic counties.

The parts of Krajina in eastern Croatia (along the Danube) remained in place as the Republic of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and western Srijem (previously the Srpska Autonomna Oblast Slavonija, Baranja i zapadni Srem, or sometimes called Sremsko-Baranjska Oblast). The national and local authorities signed the Erdut Agreement in 1995, sponsored by the United Nations, that set up a transitional period during which the UNTAES peacekeepers would oversee a peaceful reintegration of this territory into Croatia. This process was completed in 1998.

Legality status[]

During the time of its existence(1992-95), this entity did not achieved international recognition, and acording to constitution of SFRJ (and SRH) of 1974 it did not have any right to selfdetermination, nor sucession from (S)R H. SR H (later renamed in RH) is one of the succesors of SFRJ which broke apart(study of Baudilare comision) in 1992, when R H became independent. During that time ('90ties) only state which was internationaly recognized in that areas, (and which had continuiny) was RH.

Government in exile[]

See the Wikipedia article: "Republic of Serbian Krajina Government in Exile" This is a self-proclaimed government in exile for the Republic of Serbian Krajina. This government existed for a short time period after Operation Storm, but was reconstituted in 2005. This self-proclaimed government has changed the official name of the Republic of Serbian Krajina to Republic of Serb-Krajina.


Information taken from Wikipedia's article on "Republic of Serbian Krajina."