Chetniks: Wikis


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Chetnik movement
Chetniks Flag.svg
Chetnik flag
Dates of operation Early 20th century –
May 8, 1945
Motives expansion of Serbia, restoration of monarchism in occupied Yugoslavia
Active region(s) occupied Yugoslavia (WWII)

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ideology Monarchism, Serbian nationalism, Greater Serbia
Status defunct

The Chetnik movement or the Chetniks (Serbian: Četnici, Cyrillic script: Четници) were a Serbian nationalist and royalist paramilitary organization operating in the Balkans before and during World Wars. They are mostly known for their participation in World War II, known officially as the Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland (Jugoslovenska vojska u otadžbini, Југословенска војска у отаџбини; JVUO, ЈВУО). In 1941, Yugoslavia was defeated by Germany and occupied by the Axis powers from 1941 to 1945. While initially formed as a resistance movement, they collaborated with the Axis occupation to an ever-increasing degree, eventually functioning by the end of the war as an Axis-supported militia.[1][2][3][4][5] The name "Chetnik" was also used by some guerrilla squads active in the wars in the Balkans before World War I, while some Serbian nationalist paramilitary formations identified with the movement during the recent Yugoslav wars.[3]



The word, "chetnik", was used to describe a member of a Balkan guerrilla force.[6] The word is derived from the Serbian word "četa" (чета) which means "military company", itself derived from Turkish "çete", gang or band (e.g., of brigands). The English suffix -nik is of Slavic origin. It approximately corresponds to the suffix "-er" and nearly always denotes an agent noun (that is, it describes a person related to the thing, state, habit, or action described by the word to which the suffix is attached).[1] In the cases where a native English language coinage is possible, the "-nik"-word often bears an ironic connotation



Balkan wars

Chetniks fighting against pro-Bulgarians in Macedonia, late 19th century


  • Prilep
  • Skopje

World War II



  • Herzegovina, commander of Odreds Danilo N. Salatić seated in Nevesinje[7]
Region Commander Numbers Info
Nevesinje Herzegovina Miloje Lazarević 6 battalions
Gacko Herzegovina Milorad Popović 3 battalions
Bileća Herzegovina Miloš Kureš 5 battalions
Trebinje Herzegovina Radovan Pejanović 3 battalions
Ljubinje Herzegovina Savo Kovač 2 battalions
Stolac Herzegovina Ilija Ilić 2 battalions
Kalinovac Herzegovina Ilija Ilić 2 battalions

January 1943

Three-man cell (trojka)
Company: 15-30 trojkas
Battalion: 3 companies
Brigades: 3 battalions
Corps: 3-5 brigades
Area Commands of Corps#:

Mobile forces were extracted from the Corps and designated "Shock Corps, Flying Brigades"

March 1944

Groups of Corps: 1 to 12
Groups of Shock Corps

Early Chetniks in Macedonia

Jovan Babunski, early Serb Chetnik leader (vojvoda)
Chetniks prilep.png

Gligor Sokolović forms several detachments in and around Prilep 1903, after meeting with Dr. Gođevca, an ideologist of the Serb Chetniks. The Serb Chetniks defeats the Bulgarians at Prilep, Kičevo, Veles and Poreč.

In Vranje in 1904 the organization known as the "Serb Chetnik Movement" (Српски Четнички Покрет) was formed by the members of the St Sava organization, by members of the army and representatives of the ministry of foreign affairs. Besides the autonomist IMRO Chetniks that already existed in Macedonia, Serbia started equipping Macedonian Serb chetniks who were in conflict with the autonomist and pro-Bulgarian IMRO.

In the summer of 1906 the Serbian Chetniks attack the Bulgarians at Krapa.

The Macedonian Serb Chetniks from 1904 till 1908 created strongholds in Skopje and Prilep regions after several battles against the Turks and the IMRO, but could not extend their territory due to the IMRO presence in the other parts of Macedonia. The most prominent Chetniks from Macedonia were Jovan Babunski and Gligor Sokolović. After the proclamation of the Young Turk revolution in 1908 and the proclamation of the constitution, all of the brigands in Macedonia, including the Serbian chetniks put down their weapons. This period lasted until 1912, when the Balkan countries once again started arming guerrilla bands in Macedonia in order to help them in operations against the Ottoman army. At the start of the Balkan wars there were 110 IMRO, 108 Greek, 30 Serbian, and 5 Vlach detachments. They fought against the Turks in the First Balkan War, while in World War I they fought against Austria-Hungary.

World War I and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia

Chetniks in Skopje, 1908

In World War I bands of Chetniks fought against the Bulgarian Army and organized the Toplica Insurrection, which was quickly crushed by the Bulgarians with assistance of the Ottoman Empire.

After the formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Kingdom of Yugoslavia) and the arrival of peacetime, the Chetnik movement ceased functioning as a guerrilla force, and became a civilian organization. In 1921 the 'Organization of Chetniks for the Freedom and Honor of the Fatherland' (Udruženje Četnika za slobodu i čast Otadžbine) was formed, and in 1924 the 'Organization of Serbian Chetniks for King and Fatherland' (Udruženje srpskih četnika za Kralja i Otadžbinu), while the formation of the 'Organization of Serbian Chetniks Petar Mrkonjić' (Udruženje srpskih četnika Petar Mrkonjić) also followed. These latter two merged together the following year as the 'Organization of Serbian Chetniks Petar Mrkonjić'.

After the unitarianist King Alexander I proclaimed a dictatorship in 1929, the 'Organization of Serbian Chetniks Petar Mrkonjić' was banned while the 'Organization of Chetniks for Freedom and Honour of the Fatherland' was allowed to continue operating. Kosta Pećanac was the organization's leader from 1932 up to the occupation of Yugoslavia in 1941.[8]

World War II

Formation and ideology

In 1941 The Yugoslav resistance forces consisted of two factions: the communist-led Yugoslav Partisans (or simply the "Partisans"), and the royalist Chetniks. The Chetniks were founded as a royalist movement, and increasingly functioned as a Serb nationalist militia dependent on, and collaborating with, the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia. The movement was reactivated under the form of the "Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland" by Colonel Draža Mihailović in the Ravna Gora province after the invasion of Yugoslavia.

The 1941 wanted poster reads, whoever brings Draža Mihailović, dead or alive, will get 100,000 German Reichsmark as a reward. In the following years, Draža Mihailović was to start collaborating with the Axis occupation,[9] placing his Chetniks at their disposal.[2]

The Chetnik salute was: "For King and Fatherland" (Za kralja i otadžbinu, За краља и отаџбину). The Chetnik code, usually displayed on flags, was "With faith in God! For King and Fatherland! Freedom or Death!".[10] Many Chetniks started to grow elaborate beards during the war, as growing beards is traditional in Orthodox Christian mourning, with the intent to keep them until their King returned. This trait earned them the derogatory nickname "Bradonje", Serbo-Croatian for "bearded ones", or "bearded guys". However, Chetnik units had a clear Serbian nationalist ideology and aimed towards the creation of a Serb-dominated Yugoslavia or Greater Serbia. During the course of the war, Mihailović increasingly changed his position from Yugoslavian unitarianist to Serbian nationalist. As his international support eroded, however, and the Partisans received Allied recognition and support, he decided to convene the "Congress of St Sava" (the patron saint of Serbia) which was organized by Živko Topalović, and held at Ba in the Suvobor Mountains, Serbia. It was attended by a number of delegates from all over Yugoslavia. In his statement at the opening, he stated:

With the utmost vigor I refute all suggestions, wherever they may come from, that the army, and I personally, have any dictatorial intentions.... In addition, our laws are sufficient guarantee that right will be satisfied. Because of that, the innocent cannot suffer. They will receive protection from me, personally, and from the army. We will not tolerate any unilateral initiatives.

The Congress brought forth seven resolutions, these called for a federal state with political and cultural rights for all citizens. King Peter II was to remain the constitutional monarch until such time as a freely elected national assembly chose to remove him. This move came too late to result in a shift of Allied support from Marshal Josip Broz Tito's Partisans.

The movement consisted at all times of a vast majority of nationalist Serbs and Montenegrins.[3] However, a small number of Croats,[11] Slovenes,[12] and Bosnian Muslims[13][14], who were loyal to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia's government in exile, were royalists, or simply wanted to defend their homes against Nazi oppression were also Chetniks. In fact, a high ranking officer of Croatian descent was Zvonimir Vučković (Codename Feliks).[15]

Early activities

Upon their formation, Mihailović directed his units to arm themselves and await his attack orders. However, he avoided actions which he judged were of low strategic importance, which meant not engaging the Axis in any major attack. According to him, the reason was humanitarian: the prevention of German reprisals against Serbs.[16] The Chetniks, as a royalist force, quickly gained the support of Winston Churchill and the western Allies. In 1942, Time Magazine even featured an article which described Mihailović's Chetniks. Time heralded Mihailović as the "sole defender of freedom in Nazi-occupied Europe". Tito's Partisans, however, did not remain relatively passive and harassed Axis forces since 22 June, establishing the first large liberated piece of Yugoslav territory, the "Republic of Užice".

The Partisans and Chetniks attempted to cooperate, but this quickly fell apart. After fruitless negotiations, Mihailović turned against the Partisans as his main enemy. Chetnik units attacked the Partisans in November 1941, while increasingly receiving supplies and cooperating with the Germans and Italians in this. The British liaison to Mihajlović advised London to stop supplying the Chetniks after their assistance in the German attack on Užice (see First anti-Partisan Offensive), but Britain continued to do so.[1]

In the beginning, however, the Germans did not officially negotiate with the Chetniks and offered a bounty of 100,000 Reichsmarks on both Tito and Mihailović. They introduced exacting punitive measures for guerrilla activities. For example, 100 civilians were to be executed for every German soldier killed, 50 civilians for each German wounded. After the German offensive in the area of Užice, the bulk of the Chetnik forces retreated into eastern Bosnia and Sandžak. There they came into conflict with several formations of the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi puppet state controlled by the fascist and anti-Serbian Ustaše and the Germans.

Operation Halyard

Operation Halyard, the safe evacuation of 417 Allied pilots (including 343 Americans) from Chetnik-held territories in Serbia during the latter half of 1944 has often been cited as "evidence" of the Chetniks' strong pro-Allied sympathies. Having by now lost all Allied support to the Partisans (along with the recognition of the King), and with the Axis defeat in Europe a certainty, Mihailović was going to great legths to regain Allied support, and to depict himself in a favorable light to the western Allies. However, the Allies were aware that Mihailović's troops were at the same time also rescuing German and Ustaše aviators from the Partisans (as indicated in a Nedić government report of February 1944) and, on other occasions, even hunted down Allied aviators on behalf of the Axis occupation.[3]

Axis offensives

Document from William Donovan, head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), stating that his intelligence unit in Yugoslavia personally observed Partisans attacking Chetniks while the latter were fighting Germans. Partisan-German collaboration never took place, however, while Chetnik collaboration with the Germans was widespread.

Later during the War, the Allies were seriously considering an invasion of the Balkans, so the Yugoslav resistance movements increased in strategic importance, and there was a need to determine which of the two factions was fighting the Germans. A number of Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents were sent to Yugoslavia to determine the facts on the ground. In the meantime, the Germans, also aware of the growing importance of Yugoslavia, decided to wipe out the Partisans with determined offensives. The Chetniks, by this time, had agreed to provide support for the German operations, and were in turn granted supplies and munitions to increase their effectiveness.

The first of these large anti-Partisan offensives was Fall Weiss, also known as the Battle of Neretva. The Chetniks participated with a significant, 20,000-strong, force providing assistance to the German and Italian encirclement from the east (the far bank of the river Neretva). However, Tito's Partisans managed to break through the encirclement, cross the river, and engage the Chetniks. The conflict resulted in a near-total Partisan victory, after which the Chetniks were almost entirely incapacitated in the area west of the Drina river. The Partisans continued on, and later again escaped the Germans in the Battle of Sutjeska.

In the meantime, the Allies stopped planning an invasion of the Balkans and finally rescinded their support for the Chetniks and instead supplied the Partisans. At the Teheran Conference of 1943 and the Yalta Conference of 1945, Soviet premier Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided to split their influence in Yugoslavia in half.

Loss of support and final war years

To gather intelligence, agents of the western Allies were infiltrated into both the Partisans and the Chetniks. The intelligence gathered by liaisons to the resistance groups was crucial to the success of supply missions and was the primary influence on Allied strategy in Yugoslavia. The search for intelligence ultimately resulted in the demise of the Chetniks and their eclipse by Tito’s Partisans. In 1942, though supplies were limited, token support was sent equally to each. The new year would bring a change. The Germans were executing Operation Schwarz (the Battle of Sutjeska, i.e., the Fifth anti-Partisan offensive), one of a series of offensives aimed at the resistance fighters, when F.W.D. Deakin was sent by the British to gather information.

His reports contained two important observations. The first was that the Partisans were courageous and aggressive in battling the German 1st Mountain and 104th Light Division, had suffered significant casualties, and required support. The second observation was that the entire German 1st Mountain Division had transited from Russia on rail lines through Chetnik-controlled territory. British intercepts (ULTRA) of German message traffic confirmed Chetnik timidity. All in all, intelligence reports resulted in increased Allied interest in Yugoslavia air operations, and a shift in policy. In September 1943, at Churchill’s request, Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean was parachuted to Tito’s headquarters near Drvar to serve as a permanent, formal liaison to the Partisans. While the Chetniks were still occasionally supplied, the Partisans received the bulk of all future support.[2]

Thus, after the Tehran Conference the Partisans received official recognition as the legitimate national liberation force by the Allies, who subsequently set-up the RAF Balkan Air Force (under the influence and suggestion of Brigadier Fitzroy MacLean) with the aim to provide increased supplies and tactical air support for Marshal Tito's Partisan forces. On 14 August 1944, the Tito-Šubašić agreement between Partisans and the Government in exile was signed on the island of Vis. The document called on all Croats, Slovenes, and Serbs to join the Partisans. Mihailović and the Chetniks refused to accept the Royal Government's agreement and continued to engage the Partisans, by now the official Yugoslav Allied force. Consequently on 29 August 1944, King Peter II dismissed Mihailović as Chief-of-Staff of the Yugoslav Army and on 12 September appointed Marshal Josip Broz Tito in his place. In late 1944, the leader of the Serbian fifth column, Milan Nedić, transferred all fascist Serbian troops under his command to Mihailović.[17]

Throughout the war the Chetniks were nevertheless involved in operations in which Allied (mostly United States) airmen were rescued and sheltered from the occupation forces.[18][19] The largest of these operations came to be Operation Halyard, which took place shortly before the Chetnik movement was destroyed in 1945. Due to the efforts of Major Richard L. Felman, President Harry S. Truman posthumously awarded Mihailović the "Legion of Merit", for the rescue of American Airmen (Operation Airbridge). This award and the was classified secret by the United States Department of State so as not to offend Yugoslavs.

Finally, in April and May 1945, as the victorious Partisans took possession of the country's territory, many Chetniks retreated toward Italy and a smaller group toward Austria. Many were captured by the Partisans or returned to Yugoslavia by British forces while a number were killed afterwards at Bleiburg. Some were tried for treason and were sentenced to prison terms or death. Many were summarily executed, especially in the first months after the end of the war. Mihailović and his few remaining followers tried to fight their way back to the Ravna Gora, but he was captured by Partisan forces. In March 1946, Mihailović was brought to Belgrade, where he was tried and executed on charges of treason in July. During the closing years of World War II, many Chetniks defected from their units, as the Partisan commander-in-chief, Marshal Josip Broz Tito, proclaimed a general amnesty to all defecting forces for a time.[20]

Axis collaboration

German General Major Friedrich Stahl stands alongside an Ustaše officer and Chetnik Commander Rade Radić in central Bosnia

Throughout the War, the Chetnik movement remained almost completely inactive against the occupation forces, and increasingly collaborated with the Axis, losing its international recognition as the Yugoslav resistance force.[1][2][3][4] After a brief initial period of cooperation, the Partisans and the Chetniks quickly started fighting against each other. Gradually, the Chetniks ended up primarily fighting the Partisans[21] instead of the occupation forces, and started cooperating with the Axis in their struggle to destroy the resistance, receiving increasing amounts of logistical assistance.

At the start of the conflict, Chetnik forces were merely relatively inactive towards the occupation, and negotiated with the Partisans. This changed when these talks broke down, and they proceeded to attack the latter (who were actively fighting the Germans), while continuing to engage the Axis only in minor skirmishes. Attacking the Germans provoked strong retaliation, and the Chetniks increasingly negotiated with them. Negotiations were aided by their mutual goal of destroying the Partisans. This collaboration first appeared during the attack on the Partisan "Užice Republic", where Chetniks played a part in the general Axis attack.[2]

Collaboration with the Italians

Chetnik collaboration with the occupation forces of fascist Italy took place in three main areas: in Italian-occupied (and Italian-annexed) Dalmatia, in the Italian puppet state of Montenegro, and in German and Italian-occupied Slovenia. The collaboration in Dalmatia and parts of Bosnia was the most widespread, however, and the 1941 split between the Partisans and the Chetniks took place earlier in those areas.[2] The Partisans considered all occupation forces the fascist enemy, while the Chetniks hated the Ustaše but balked at fighting the Italians, and had approached the Italian VI Army Corps (General Renzo Dalmazzo, Commander) as early as July and August 1941 for assistance via a Serbian politician from Lika, Stevo Rađenović. In particular, Chetnik leaders (vojvoda-s) Ilija Trifunović-Birčanin and Dobroslav Jevđević were favorably disposed towards the Italians, because they believed Italian occupation over the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be detrimental to the influence of the Ustaše state. For this reason, they sought an alliance with the Italian occupation forces in Yugoslavia. The Italians (General Dalamazzo) looked favorably on these approaches and hoped first to avoid fighting the Chetniks, and then use them against the Partisans, which they thought would give them an "enormous advantage". An agreement was concluded on January 11, 1942 between the representative of the Italian 2nd Army, Captain Angelo De Matteis and the Chetnik representative for southeastern Bosnia, Mutimir Petković, and was later signed by Draža Mihailović's chief delegate in Bosnia, Major Boško Todorović. Among other provisions of the agreement, it was agreed that Italians would support the Chetnik formations with arms and provisions, and would fracilitate the release of "recommended individuals" from Axis concentration camps (Jasenovac, Rab...). The chief interest of both the Chetniks and Italians would be to assist each other in combating the Partisan resistance.[2][4]

In the following months of 1942, General Mario Roatta, commander of the Italian 2nd Army, worked on developing a Policy Directive (Linea di condotta) on relations with the Chetniks, the Ustaše and the Partisans. In line with these efforts, General Vittorio Ambrosio outlined the Italian policy in Yugoslavia: all negotiations with the (quisling) Ustaše were to be avoided, but contacts with the Chetniks were "advisable" - as for the Partisans: "struggle to the bitter end". This meant that General Roatta was essentially free to take action with regard to the Chetniks as he saw fit.[2] He outlined the four points of his policy in his report to the Italian Army General Staff:

To support the Chetniks sufficiently to make them fight against the communists, but not so much as to allow them too much latitude in their own action; to demand and assure that the Chetniks do not fight against the Croatian forces and authorities; to allow them to fight against the communists on their own initiative (so that they can "slaughter each other"); and finally to allow them to fight in parallel with the Italian and German forces, as do the nationalist bands [Chetniks and separatist Zelenaši] in Montenegro.
General Mario Roatta, 1942[2]

During 1942 and 1943, an overwhelming proportion of Chetnik forces in the Italian-controlled areas of occupied Yugoslavia were organized as Italian auxiliary forces in the form of the "Voluntary Anti-Communist Militia" ("Milizia volontaria anti comunista", MVAC). According to General Giacomo Zanussi (then a Colonel and Roatta's chief of staff), there were 19,000 to 20,000 Chetniks in the MVAC in Italian-occupied parts of the Independent State of Croatia alone. The Chetniks were extensively supplied with thousands of rifles, grenades, mortars and artillery pieces. In a memorandum dated March 26, 1943 to the Italian Army General Staff entitled "The Conduct of the Chetniks", Italian officers noted the ultimate control of these collaborating Chetnik units remained in the hands of Draža Mihailović, and contemplated the possibility of a hostile reorientation of these troops in light of the changing strategic situation. The commander of these troops was vojvoda Ilija Trifunović-Birčanin, who arrived in Italian-annexed Split in October 1941 and received his orders directly from Mihailović in the spring of 1942.
The Chetnik-Italian collaboration lasted until the Italian capitulation on September 8, 1943, when Chetnik troops switched to supporting the German occupation in forcing the Partisans out of the coastal cities which they liberated upon the Italian withdrawal.[2][4] The German 114th Jäger Division even incorporated a Chetnik detachment in its advance to the Adriatic.[5]

Collaboration with the NDH

See also: Independent State of Croatia and Ustaše
Representatives of the Chetniks, Ustaše, and Croatian Home Guard meet in Bosnia.

After the 1941 split between the Partisans and the Chetniks in Serbia, the Chetnik groups in central, eastern, and northwestern Bosnia found themselves caught between the German and Ustaše (NDH) forces on one side and the Partisans on the other. In early 1942 Chetnik Major Jezdimir Dangić approached the Germans in an attempt to arrive at an understanding, but was unsuccessful, and the local Chetnik leaders were forced to look for another solution. The Chetnik groups were in fundamental disagreement with the Ustaše on practically all issues, but they found a common enemy in the Partisans, and this was the overriding reason for the collaboration which ensued between the Ustaše authorities of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) and Chetnik detachments in Bosnia. The first formal agreement between Bosnian Chetniks and the Ustaše was concluded on May 28, 1942, in which Chetnik leaders expresseed their loyalty as "citizens of the Independent State of Croatia" both to the state and its Poglavnik (Ante Pavelić). During the next three weeks, three additional agreements were signed, covering a large part of the area of Bosnia (along with the Chetnik detachments within it). By the provision of these agreements, the Chetniks were to cease hostilities against the Ustaše state, and the Ustaše would establish regular administration in these areas.[2] The main provision, Art. 5 of the agreement, states as follows:

As long as there is danger from the Partisan armed bands, the Chetnik formations will cooperate voluntarily with the Croatian military in fighting and destroying the Partisans and in those operations they will be under the overall command of the Croatian armed forces. (...) Chetnik formations may engage in operations against the Partisans on their own, but this they will have to report, on time, to the Croatian military commanders.
Chetnik-Ustaše collaboration agreement, May 28, 1942[2]

The necessary ammunition and provisions were supplied to the Chetniks by the Ustaše military. Chetniks who were wounded in such operations would be cared for in NDH hospitals, while the orphans and widows of Chetniks killed in action would be supported by the Ustaše state. Persons specifically recommended by Chetnik commanders would be returned home from the Ustaše concentration camps (Jasenovac concentration camp). These agreements covered the majority of Chetnik forces in Bosnia east of the German-Italian demarcation line, and lasted throughout most of the war. Since Croatian forces were immediately subordinate to the German military occupation, collaboration with Croatian forces was, in fact, indirect collaboration with the Germans.[2][3]

Battle of the Neretva

One of the highpoints of Chetnik collaboration with the Axis took place during the Battle of the Neretva, which was the final phase of operation Fall Weiss or the Fourth Enemy Offensive. In 1942, Partisans forces were on the rise, having established large liberated territories within Bosnia and Herzegovina. Chetnik forces, partially because of their collaboration with the Italian occupation, were also gaining in strength, however, but were no match to the Partisans and required Axis logistical support to attack the liberated territories. In light of the changing strategic situation, Adolf Hitler and the German high command decided to disarm the Chetniks and destroy the Partisans for good. In spite of Hitler's insistence, Italian forces in the end refused to disarm the Chetniks (thus rendering that course of action impossible), under the justification that the Italian occupation forces could not afford to lose the Chetniks as allies in their maintenance of the occupation.

Collaboration with the Germans

Chetniks posing with soldiers of the German occupation forces during World War II in an unidentified Serbian village in occupied Yugoslavia

As early as spring 1942, the Germans favored the collaboration agreement the Ustaše and the Chetniks have established in a large part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the Ustaše military was supplied by, and immediately subordinate to, the German military occupation, collaboration between the two constituted indirect German-Chetnik collaboration. This was all favorable to the Germans primarily because the agreement was directed against the Partisans, contributed to the pacification of areas significant for German war supplies, and reduced the need for additional German occupation troops (as Chetniks were assisting the occupation). After the Italian capitulation on September 8, 1943, the German 114th Jäger Division even incorporated a Chetnik detachment in its advance to retake the Adriatic coast from the Partisans who had temporarily liberated it.[5] The report on German-Chetnik collaboration of the XV Army Corps on November 19, 1943 to the 2nd Panzer Army states that the Chetniks were "leaning on the German forces" for close to a year.[2][5]

German-Chetnik collaboration entered a new phase after the Italian surrender, because the Germans now had to police a much larger area than before and fight the Partisans in the whole of Yugoslavia. Consequently, they significantly liberalized their policy towards the Chetniks and mobilized all Serbian nationalist forces against the Partisans. The 2nd Panzer Army oversaw these developments: the XV Army Corps was now officially allowed to utilize Chetniks troops and forge a "local alliance". The first formal and direct agreement between the German occupation forces and the Chetniks took place in early October 1943 between the 373rd Infantry Division and a detachment of Chetniks under Mane Rokvić operating in western Bosnia and Lika. The Germans subsequently even used Chetnik troops for guard duty in occupied Split, Dubrovnik, Šibenik, and Metković.[5] Independent State of Croatia (NDH) troops were not used, despite Ustaše demands, because mass desertions of Croat troops to the Partisans rendered them unreliable. From this point on, the German occupation actually started to "openly favor" Chetnik (Serbian) troops to the Croat formations of the NDH, due to the pro-Partisan dispositions of the Croatian rank-and-file. The Germans paid little attention to frequent Ustaše protests about this.[2][4][5] Ustaše Major Mirko Blaž (Deputy Commander, 7th Brigade of the Poglavnik's Personal Guard) observed that:

The Germans are not interested in politics, they take everything from a military point of view. They need troops that can hold certain positions and clear certain areas of the Partisans. If they ask us to do it, we cannot do it. The Chetniks can.
Major Mirko Blaž, March 5, 1944[5]

When appraising the situation in western Serbia, Bosnia, Lika, and Dalmatia, Captain Merrem, intelligence officer with the German commander-in-chief southeastern Europe, was "full of praise" for Chetnik units collaborating with the Germans, and for the smooth relations between the Germans and Chetnik units on the ground.
In addition, the Chief of Staff of the 2nd Panzer Army observed in a letter to the Ustaše liaison officer that the Chetniks fighting the Partisans in Eastern Bosnia were "making a worthwhile contribution to the Croatian state", and that the 2nd Army "refused in principle" to accept Croatian complaints against the usage of these units. German-Chetnik Collaboration continued to take place until the very end of the war, with the tacit approval of Draža Mihailović and the Chetnik Supreme Command in Serbia. Though Mihailović himself never actually signed any agreements, he endorsed the policy for the purpose of eliminating the Partisan threat.[3][5] Field Marshal Maximilian von Weichs commented:

Though he himself [Draža Mihailović] shrewdly refrained from giving his personal view in public, no doubt to have a free hand for every eventuality (e.g. Allied landing on the Balkans), he allowed his commanders to negotiate with Germans and to co-operate with them. And they did so, more and more...
Field Marshal Maximilian von Weichs, 1945[22]

The loss of Allied support in 1943 caused the Chetniks to lean more than ever towards the Germans for assistance against the Partisans. On 14 August 1944, the Tito-Šubašić agreement between the Partisans and the Yugoslav King Peter II and government-in-exile was signed on the island of Vis. The document called on all Croats, Slovenes, and Serbs to join the Partisans. Mihailović and the Chetniks refused to follow the order and abide by the agreement and continued to engage the Partisans (by now the official Yugoslav Allied force). Consequently on 29 August 1944, King Peter II dismissed Mihailović as Chief-of-Staff of the Yugoslav Army and on 12 September appointed Marshal Josip Broz Tito in his place. Josip Broz Tito at this point became the Prime Minster of the Yugoslav state and the joint government.

Collaboration in Serbia

Draža Mihailović, World War II leader of the Chetniks. Collaborated with the Axis occupation, found guilty of treason and executed by firing squad in 1946.

In occupied Serbia, the Germans installed Milan Aćimović as leader, and later the former Minister of War, General Milan Nedić, who governed until 1944. Nedić formed his own troops, the Serbian State Guard, made up of ex-members of the Royal Yugoslav Army. However, his forces were also augmented by several formations of Chetniks, one under the pre-war leader Kosta Pećanac (this formation was independent of Mihajlović). The former led a force of around 3,000 men in southern Serbia, and felt that he, as a man with 40 years of service, was senior to Mihailović. In 1944, having lost all Allied recognition, Mihailović was granted command over the entire military force of Nedić's Serbia, including the Serbian State Guard. General Edmund Glaise von Horstenau commented:

The units that could really be used against the Partisans were Serbian and partly Russian volunteers and - Draža Mihailović's people. My liaison officer with them was a certain Major, Ritterkreuztraeger.
General Edmund Glaise von Horstenau, German military attaché in Zagreb[23]

As the war drew to a close, Chetnik forces continued to fight the Partisans and (on a few occasions) the Red Army alongside German forces. The movement was by this time, though still commanded by Mihailović, plagued with a lack of discipline. Splinter factions emerged, one of which was the Montenegrin People's Army led by Pavle Đurišić which, in a belated bid for Allied recognition, unsuccessfully attacked Ustaše formations in what is known as the Battle on Lijevča field. Remnants of Chetnik troops eventually retreated alongside Ustaše and other Axis forces towards the northwestern regions of Yugoslavia, where they all either surrendered or, in earlier stages, defected to the Partisans. For those troops who took the opportunity, a general amnesty was granted by the Yugoslav Prime Minister.

Ethnic cleansing

Draža Mihajlović's infamous "Instrukcije" ("Instructions") of 1941, ordering the ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks, Croats, and others.
Chetnik Commander Đurišić reporting to Mihailović on the execution of his "Instrukcije" ("Instructions") in 1943.

As part of his policies regarding the restauration of the monarchy and the creation of a Greater Yugoslavia and within, a Greater Serbia, the Chetnik supreme commander Draža Mihailović issued the following "Instructions" (Serbian: Instrukcije) to his commanders on 20 December 1941:[3]

The mission of our units is:
  1. The struggle for the freedom of all of our people under the scepter of His Majesty, the King Peter II;
  2. The creation of Greater Yugoslavia, and within it Greater Serbia, ethnically clean within the borders of Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Srem, Banat, and Bačka;
  3. The struggle for the incorporation into our social structure of those non-liberated Slovenian territories under Italy and Germany (Trieste, Gorizia, Istria, and Carinthia), as well as Bulgaria and northern Albania with Shkodra;
  4. The cleansing of all national minorities and anti-state elements from state territory;
  5. The creation of direct common borders between Serbia and Montenegro, as well as Serbia and Slovenia by cleansing the Bosniak population from Sandžak, and the Bosniak and Croat populations from Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  6. The punishment of all Croats and Bosniaks who have mercilessly destroyed our people in these tragic days;
  7. The settlement of the areas cleansed of national minorities and anti-state elements by Serbs and Montenegrins (to be considered are poor, nationally patriotic, and honest families).

There may be no collaboration with the communists [Partisans], as they are fighting against the Dynasty and in favor of socialist revolution. Albanians, Bosniaks, and Ustaše [Croats] are to be treated in accordance with their merit for the horrendous crimes against our population, i.e. they are to be turned over to the People's Court. The Croats living on the territory under Italian occupation [Dalmatians] are to be treated based on their disposition at the given moment.

The exact number of Bosniak, Croat and other civilians murdered under the direct command of Mihailović's Chetniks has never been established. In his book Crimes Against Bosnian Muslims 1941-1945, historian Šemso Tucaković estimated that out of 150,000 Bosniaks who lost their lives in World War II, some 100,000 were murdered by Chetniks. He also listed at least 50,000 Bosnian Muslim names directly known to have been killed by Chetniks. According to World War II historian Vladimir Žerjavić, approximately 29,000 Muslims and 18,000 Croats were killed by Chetniks during World War II.[24] Žerjavić's figures have also been cited as too conservative and figures of up to 300,000 non-Serbs have been suggested.[25]

Some of the major World War II Chetnik massacres against ethnic Croats and Bosniaks include:[26][27][28]

  • July 1941, Herzegovina (Bileća, Stolac) - approximately 1,150 civilians killed;
  • December 1941/January 1942, eastern Bosnia (Foča, Goražde) - approximately 2,050 civilians killed;
  • August 1942, eastern Bosnia and Sandžak (Foča, Bukovica) - approximately 1,000 civilians killed;
  • August 1942, eastern Bosnia (Ustikolina, Jahorina) - approximately 2,500 civilians killed;
  • September 1942, southern Dalmatia (Makarska) - approximately 900 civilians killed;
  • October 1942, Herzegovina (Prozor) - approximately 2,500 civilians killed;
  • January 1943, Sandžak (Bijelo Polje) - approximately 1,500 civilians killed;
  • February 1943, eastern Bosnia and Sandžak (Foča, Čajniče, Pljevlja) - approximately +9,200 civilians killed. The largest single Chetnik massacre of World War II.

Mihailović was captured on 13 March 1946 by agents of the Yugoslav security agency, the Organ Zaštite Naroda (Armije) (OZNA). He was charged on 47 counts. The court found him guilty on 8 counts, including crimes against humanity and high treason. The trial lasted from 10 June to 15 July. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad on 15 July. The Presidium of the National Assembly rejected the clemency appeal on 16 July. He was executed together with nine other officers in the early hours of 18 July 1946, in Lisičiji Potok, about 200 meters from the former Royal Palace, and buried in an unmarked grave on the same spot. His main prosecutor was Miloš Minić, later Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Yugoslav Government.

SFR Yugoslavia

After the end of World War II, the Chetniks were banned in the new Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On 29 November 1945, King Peter II was deposed by the Yugoslav Constituent Assembly after an overwhelming referendum result. Chetnik leaders either escaped the country or were arrested by the authorities. On 13 March 1946, Draža Mihailović was captured by OZNA, the Yugoslav security agency. He was put to trial, found guilty of high treason against Yugoslavia, and sentenced to death. He was executed on July 18. Later, Momčilo Đujić formed the 'Movement of Serbian Chetniks of Ravna Gora' in the United States and Canada.[29]

Recent history

Yugoslav Wars

During the Yugoslav wars, Serb paramilitaries often self-identified and were referred to as Chetniks.[30] Vojislav Šešelj's Serbian Radical Party formed the White Eagles which was identified as Chetniks.[31] Vuk Drašković's Serbian Renewal Movement was closely associated with the Serbian Guard, which was also associated with Chetniks and monarchism.[32]

During the war five Serb soldiers received the title of Chetnik voivodes from World War II veteran Momčilo Đujić: Rade Čubrilo, Slavko Aleksić, Branislav Gavrilović, Rade Radović, and Mitar Mandić.[33] Rade Čubrilo became the flag-bearer of Đujić's former unit, the Dinara Chetnik Division.[33] Serb politician Vojislav Šešelj was also named a voivode prior to the start of the wars by Đujić.[34]

Contemporary period

A Chetnik banquet hall dedicated to Draža Mihailović, found in Canada.

In late 2004, the National Assembly of Serbia passed a new law that equalized the rights of the former Chetnik members with those of the former Partisans, including the right to war pensions. Rights were granted on the basis that both were anti-fascist movements that fought occupiers, and this formulation has entered the law. The vote was 176 for, 24 against and 4 abstained. The Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) of Slobodan Milošević was the one voting against the decision.

There have been varying reactions to the law in Serbian public opinion. Many have praised it as just and long overdue, including Prince Alexander Karađorđević (son of Peter II, the last Yugoslav king), as well as most political parties (with the most notable exception of Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS)). Others protested the decision, including the Serbian Association of Former Partisans, the Serbian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, the Croatian Anti-Fascist Movement, and the President and Prime Minister of Croatia. In 2009, Serbian courts rehabilitated Chetnik ideologist Dragiša Vasić.[35]

Since 1992, the Serbian Renewal Movement has annually organized the "Ravna Gora Parliament".[36] In 2005, Croatian president Stipe Mesić cancelled a planned visit to Serbia as it coincided with the gathering, officially supported by the Serbian government, and attended by Vuk Drašković.[37] People who attend the Parliament wear Chetnik-World War II insignia.[38]

Today Chetnik activity is seriously restricted or banned in all neighbouring countries other than Serbia and Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Milorad Pupovac of the Independent Democratic Serbian Party in Croatia, has called the organization "fascist collaborators".[39] In 2003, the Montenegrin government forbade the building of a statue of Pavle Đurišić near Berane.[40]

The Serbian basketball player Milan Gurović has a tattoo of World War II Chetnik Draža Mihailović on his left arm which has resulted in a ban since 2004 in playing in Croatia under its anti-fascist laws.[41] Turkey has also threatened to enact such a ban.[42] Serbian rocker Bora Đorđević is also a declared Chetnik.[43]

On July 12, 2007, a day after the 12th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide and the burial of a further 465 victims, a group of men dressed in Chetnik uniforms marched the streets of Srebrenica. They all wore badges of military units which committed the massacre in July 1995.[44][45][46]

There are some traditional attributes which are parts of the Chetnik´s dress. Traditional chetnik hats are šajkača and šubara.

Modern Chetnik movements include:

  • Serbian Chetnik Movement of Republika Srpska[47]
  • Ravna Gora Chetnik Movement of Republika Srpska, based in Brčko.
  • Serbian Movement of Ravna Gora, with branches in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.[48]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Martin, David; Ally Betrayed: The Uncensored Story of Tito and Mihailovich; New York: Prentice Hall, 1946
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Tomasevich, Jozo; War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: The Chetniks, Volume 1; Stanford University Press, 1975 ISBN 978-0-8047-0857-9 [1]
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Cohen, Philip J., Riesman, David; Serbia's secret war: propaganda and the deceit of history; Texas A&M University Press, 1996 ISBN 0-89096-760-1 [2]
  4. ^ a b c d e Ramet, Sabrina P.; The three Yugoslavias: state-building and legitimation, 1918-2005; Indiana University Press, 2006 ISBN 0-253-34656-8 [3]
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Tomasevich, Jozo; War and revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: occupation and collaboration, Volume 2; Stanford University Press, 2001 ISBN 0-80473-615-4 [4]
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Klaus Schmider, Partisanenkrieg in Jugoslawien, Hamburg; Berlin; Bonn 2002, p.492 ; PA/AA, SbvollSO R 27303 Neubacher an Kramarz (21.3.1944)
  10. ^
  11. ^ General Mihailović with Zvonko Vučković, commandant of the I. Chetnik Corps. Vučković was an ethnic Croat – officer in the Royal Yugoslav Army.
  12. ^ Uros Sustaric, one of famous Slovene Chetniks (Slovene)
  13. ^ Mr. Mustafa Mulalic, a Muslim officer in Chetnik headquarters, together with General Mihailović and Mr. Stevan Moljević (only three of them are in uniform)
  14. ^ General Mihailović with Muslim leaders in Bijeljina.
  15. ^ General Mihailović with Zvonko Vuckovic, commandant of 1st Chetnik Corps. Mr. Vuckovic was an ethnic Croat – loyal officer of Royal Yugoslav Army.
  16. ^ Bailey, Ronald H. 1980 (original edition from 1978). Partisans and guerrillas (World War II; v. 12). Chicago, Illinois, USA: Time-Life Books. P. 80
  17. ^ Serbian State Guard
  18. ^ Two airmen who shared a B-24 stint in WWII are reunited - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  19. ^ WWII Veterans visit Serbia - Embassy of the United States in Belgrade, Serbia
  20. ^,9171,796967,00.html
  21. ^ Chetnik - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  22. ^ Werner Roehr (zusammengestellt), Europa unterm Hakenkreuz-Okkupation und Kollaboration (1938-1945), 1994, s.358
  23. ^ Peter Broucek, Ein General in Zwielicht; Errinerungen Edmund Glaises von Horstenau, Wien-Koeln-Graz, 1988; p.421
  24. ^ Vladimir Žerjavić, Response to dr.Bulajić on his writing on Internet of April 8, 1998
  25. ^ Zdravko Dizdar, Chetnik Genocidal Crimes against Croatians and Muslims during World War II (1941-1945)
  26. ^ Noel Malcolm, Bosnia: a Short History (1994) - 188 details Foca-Cajnice massacres
  27. ^ Lampe, Yugoslavia as History, 206, 209, 210
  28. ^ Glenny, The Balkans, 494-495
  29. ^ » Tekst Pisma Vojvode Momčila - episkopu kanadskom Georgiju (Đokiću) | online novine koje zajedno stvaramo - vesti iz zemlje i sveta
  30. ^
  31. ^ United Nations Commission on Breaches of Geneva Law in Former Yugoslavia
  32. ^ Giška and guards died for nothing, Glas javnosti
  33. ^ a b Title of voivode only for military service, Danas
  34. ^ The Prosecutor of the Tribunal Against Vojislav Seselj
  35. ^ Rehabilitovan Dragiša Vasić, Blic
  36. ^ Ravna Gora Parliament, 15th time
  37. ^ Predsjednik Mesiæ O Odgodi Posjeta Scg-U
  38. ^ Ravna Gora Parliament
  39. ^ Chetniks "personae non gratae"
  40. ^ RADIO TELEVIZIJA CRNE GORE... Nacionalni javni servis Crne Gore
  41. ^ ISN Security Watch - Serbia rehabilitates Chetniks with pensions
  42. ^
  43. ^ Bora Čorba kod Hrge: Ponosan sam četnik -
  44. ^ "7th Session of the UN Human Rights Council" (PDF). Society for Threatened Peoples. February 21, 2008. pp. 2. 
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^ Provokacija iz Trebinja: osnovan "Srpski četnički pokret Republike Srpske", Slobodna Dalmacija
  48. ^ The Movement of Serbian Chetniks Ravne Gore Chapters


  • Tomasevich, Jozo, War and Revolution in Yugoslavia: The Chetniks. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1975
  • Milazzo, Matteo J., The Chetnik Movement and the Yugoslav Resistance. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975
  • Karchmar, Lucien. Draža Mihailović and the Rise of the Četnik Movement, 1941-1942. New York: Garland Pub., 1987.
  • Lees, Michael. The Rape of Serbia: The British Role in Tito's Grab for Power, 1943-1944. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991.
  • Martin, David. Ally Betrayed: The Uncensored Story of Tito and Mihailović. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1946.
  • Sipcic, Radoje. Vladimir "Vlado" Sipcic, The Last King's Soldier of the Kingdom Paris, FR: Integra; Beograd: Paris, 2004.
  • Martin, David. Patriot or Traitor: The Case of General Mihailović: Proceedings and Report of the Commission of Inquiry of the Committee for a Fair Trial for Draža Mihailović. Hoover Archival Documentaries. Hoover Institution Publication, Volume 191. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 1978.
  • Martin, David. The Web of Disinformation: Churchill’s Yugoslav Blunder. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990.
  • Pavasovic, Mike "Cetniks, Heroes or Villains?" History Today, April, 1992
  • Roberts, Walter R. Tito, Mihailović, and the Allies, 1941–1945. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1973.
  • Trew, Simon. Britain, Mihailović, and the Chetniks, 1941–42. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin’s Press in association with King’s College, London, 1998.
  • Freeman, Gregory A. "The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All For the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II" NAL Hardcover 2007, ISBN 0451222121

External links


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