In his seminal e book on the wars on Yugoslavia, British journalist Misha Glenny describes reaching the outskirts of the Croatian metropolis of Vukovar on the Danube in 1991, on day two of what could be a bloody 87-day siege by Serb militia and the Yugoslav Nationwide Military (JNA).

He and one other journalist have been informed they might enter the city, however determined it was too harmful.

“In a while we admitted to one another how typically and the way deeply we regretted that call,” Glenny recalled. “We had travelled to the sting of a criminal offense with out parallel in post-war Europe. It was our obligation to report the exact particulars about Vukovar, however we have been too scared.”

Croatia’s Stalingrad

Vukovar’s complete destruction throughout what could be the primary part of the wars in Yugoslavia invited comparisons to Stalingrad throughout World Struggle II. The city was surrounded by 40,000 JNA troopers and Serbian paramilitaries and, for 87 days, defended by simply 2,000 fighters with the Croat nationwide guard. Even when the Serbs lastly took the city, it was a pyrrhic victory.

“The exhilaration of Serb fighters and plenty of civilians on the information of Vukovar’s liberation might be to an extent defined by ignorance. However anyone who believes that you could liberate a pile of ineffective ruins which you your self have created wants remedial schooling in semantics,” Glenny wrote in his 1992 e book, the Fall of Yugoslavia.

A whole bunch of Croatian fighters have been killed when Vukovar was taken, and tens of 1000’s of non-Serb inhabitants expelled. When it was lastly returned to Croatia in 1998, the town was rebuilt and have become an emblem of Croatian independence and resistance, because it stays as we speak. Annually, tens of 1000’s collect within the metropolis to commemorate its fall on November 18.

However it’s what occurred subsequent that helped safe Vukovar’s fame amongst the massacres that may go on to outline the wars within the Balkans, that may solely come to an finish 4 years later with the US-brokered Dayton Accords.

Regardless of a deal between the JNA and the Croatian authorities that Croat troopers and civilians within the metropolis could be evacuated, 261 males taken from Vukovar’s hospital have been transported to a farm constructing at Ovcara, exterior the city, and overwhelmed. They have been then taken in teams of between 10 and 12 to a different website the place they have been shot and buried in a mass grave.

In 1996 Slavko Dokmanovic, the Serb mayor of Vukovar on the time, was indicted for struggle crimes over the incident and arrested by the UN. He later hanged himself in jail. Not less than two JNA officers have been later convicted by the Worldwide Prison Courtroom, and it was one in every of numerous struggle crimes for which Slobodan Milosevic was accused earlier than his personal loss of life in 2006.


Regardless of the convictions, Vukovar remained a thorny subject between Serbia and Croatia, with Zagreb in search of reparations from Belgrade over the difficulty. In 2015, the Worldwide Courtroom of Justice dominated that regardless of critical crimes having been dedicated at Vukovar, Croatia had not proved that genocide had been dedicated through the hospital bloodbath.

In response to the declare, Belgrade alleged that Croatia had dedicated ethnic cleaning by expelling 200,000 ethnic Serbs from Croatia in 1995. The ICJ, once more, discovered that though crimes had been dedicated, the proof was not conclusive.

It concluded that though many crimes had been dedicated by the forces of each international locations through the battle, neither aspect had succeeded in proving the intent to commit genocide by “destroying the inhabitants in entire or partially”.

Reflecting on the atrocities dedicated by each Serbs and Croats within the early 1990s, shortly earlier than the massacres at Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo would make the cities and cities of the Balkans family names, Glenny warned that justifying massacres by pointing to these dedicated by the opposing aspect would solely make sure that the sample of violence continued.

“There isn’t any sense attempting to apportion blame for the vile, murderous actions of Serb and Croat extremists,” Glenny wrote. “For as soon as the logic of the battle had handed the purpose of no return, the massacres have been inevitable.”

Each weekday at 1900 CET, Uncovering Europe brings you a European story that goes past the headlines. Obtain the Euronews app to get an alert for this and different breaking information. It is obtainable on Apple and Android gadgets.


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