18 November 2011

Anniversary: The Fall of Vukovar

Very few battles in the last 20 years have been a psyche-scarring as the 87-day siege of Vukovar, during the Croatian fight for their independence. The start of the siege by the Serb-dominated Yugoslavian National Army is generally accepted as the start of the war between Croatia, and what was then "Yugoslavia". Today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of Vukovar.

The Croatians are holding their own memorial services.

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic has honoured several people and institutions for their wartime involvement in Vukovar at the commemoration of the Vukovar Rememberance Day held yesterday (Tues).
Vukovar was one of the Croatian cities most devastated by the war of independence from former Yugoslavia that took place between 1991 and 1995 in Croatia.
Josipovic received the representatives of the families of soldiers killed or disappeared during the battles, as well as workers from the Vukovar hospital that took care of the sick and the wounded.
"Thanks to you and all our veterans, Croatia has the perspective today to become a country of happy and satisfied people, a country of justice and welfare for its citizens," Josipovic said.
He said Vukovar was the biggest and most important Croatian symbol of the war and sacrifice, but also of the final victory and freedom.

From Wikipedia's article about the Battle of Vukovar.

At the time it was the fiercest and most protracted battle in Europe, and Vukovar was the first major European town entirely destroyed since the Second World War. When Vukovar fell on 18 November 1991, hundreds of soldiers and civilians were massacred by Serb forces and at least 31,000 civilians were deported from the town and its surroundings. Vukovar was ethnically cleansed of its non-Serb population and became part of the self-declared Republic of Serbian Krajina. Several Serb military and political officials, including Milošević, were later indicted and in some cases jailed for war crimes committed during and after the battle.

The battle exhausted the JNA and proved a turning point in the Croatian war. A ceasefire was declared a few weeks later. Vukovar remained in Serb hands until 1998 when it was peacefully reintegrated into Croatia. It has since been rebuilt but has less than half of its pre-war population and many buildings are still scarred by the battle. Its two principal ethnic communities remain deeply divided and it has not regained its former prosperity.

Years ago, the BBC analyzed what happened in Vukovar, with a look at 'why', as well.

Vukovar was a modestly prosperous, sleepy, provincial town in eastern Croatia, near the border with Serbia, noted for its picturesque baroque architecture. That was before the war for Croatia's independence erupted in July 1991.
By the end of its three-month siege at the hands of Serb forces in November 1991, Vukovar had become utterly devastated.

It was, perhaps, the most comprehensively destroyed town of any size in either Bosnia-Herzegovina or Croatia during the wars of the first half of the 1990s.

Capture of the town was an important strategic objective for the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army. It was designed to consolidate Serb control over the region of Croatia known as eastern Slavonia.

That objective was achieved, even though there was little left, apart from than ruins, following the siege.

It was also accompanied by the ethnic cleansing of Croats, who prior to the war were present in Vukovar municipality in roughly the same numbers as Serbs.

Croat defenders of Vukovar later claimed that the town could have been saved from capture by Serb forces if the nationalist President Franjo Tudjman had been willing to send reinforcements.

Mr Tudjman was accused of deliberately sacrificing Vukovar - dubbed the Croatian Stalingrad because of its devastation - so as to reinforce his portrayal of Croatia as the victim of Serb aggression.

The fallout of Vukovar is still being felt today.

Croatian doctors have filed war crimes accusations against 19 former Yugoslav army commanders for the relentless shelling of a hospital in Vukovar during an 87-day siege of the eastern Croatian town in 1991.
The head of the hospital, Vesna Bosanac, said Friday that 500-700 grenades hit the facility during the bombardment by the Serb-led Yugoslav army.

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If you're interested in wading through some nationalistic commentary (on both sides) you can check out the collection of photos/videos on MilitaryPhotos.net.

And if you want to know how much it meant to either side, check out Sports Illustrated's coverage of the '96 Olympics. Yes. The Olympics.

The word sounded to an American ear like another cheer that had been stretched out, syllable by syllable. Vu-ko-var.
Vu-ko-var. Vu-ko-var. The Croatian fans in the water polo crowd repeated the word again and again in the closing seconds of their team's 8-­6 win in the quarterfinals, and surely this was the name of a player or a coach, or maybe the Croatian term for "Way to go, boys."

Not really.
There's more. Go read it.

By: Brant

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That SI.com story is awesome

Mike P