Territorial Defense Forces (Yugoslavia)

Territorial Defense Forces (Yugoslavia)

Territorial Defense Forces (Serbian and Macedonian: Територијална одбрана, "Teritorijalna odbrana", Croatian: "Teritorijalna obrana", Slovenian: "Teritorialna obramba") were a separate part of the armed forces of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The forces acted as a Home Guard which roughly corresponded to a military reserve force or an official governmental paramilitary. Each of the Yugoslav constituent republics had its own Territorial Defense military formations, while the regular army for the whole Federation was the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), which also maintained its own reserve forces.


SFR Yugoslavia was a socialist state but not an Eastern Bloc country. In 1948 following the Tito-Stalin split Yugoslavia broke ties with the Soviet Union and its allies, and during the Cold War, it was one the leading members of the Non-Aligned Movement. After the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the concerns about an eventual Soviet attack started to rise within the Yugoslav leadership. The invasion of Czechoslovakia showed that the standing conventional forces of a small country could not repulse a surprise attack by a qualitatively and quantitatively superior aggressor. Being strategically positioned between the two major blocs, the NATO and the Warsaw pact, Yugoslavia had to prepare its own military doctrine for an eventual Third World War scenario.


With the passing of the National Defense Law of 1969, SFR Yugoslavia adopted a total war military doctrine named "Total National Defense" or "Total People's Defense" (Serbian: Општенародна одбрана, "Opštenarodna odbrana", Croatian: "Općenarodna obrana"; Slovenian: "Splošna ljudska obramba"; Macedonian: Општонародна одбрана, "Opštonarodna odbrana"; abbr.: Latin: ONO, Cyrillic: ОНО). It was inspired by the Yugoslav People's Liberation War against the fascist occupators and their collaborators in the Second World War, and was designed to allow Yugoslavia to maintain or eventually reestablish its independent and non-aligned status should an invasion occur. According to it, "any citizen who resists an aggressor is a member of the armed forces", thus the whole population could be turned into a monolithic resistance army.

Starting from the elementary school education, over high schools, universities, organizations and companies, the authorities prepared the entire population to contest an eventual occupation of the country and finally to liberate it. For this purpose, the Territorial Defense Forces (TO) would be formed to mobilize the population in case of an aggression. The combat readiness of the TO meant that the steps of organization and training could be bypassed after the start of hostilities. The TO would supplement the regular JNA, giving it greater defensive depth and an armed local population ready to support combat actions. Large numbers of armed civilians would increase the cost of an invasion to a potential aggressor.

The most likely scenario in the doctrine of ONO was a general war between the NATO and the Warsaw Pact. In such a situation, Yugoslavia would remain non-aligned, and it would not accept foreign troops of either alliance on its territory. The doctrine did recognize the likelihood that one side or the other might try to seize Yugoslav territory as a forward staging area, to ensure lines of communication, or simply to deny the territory to enemy forces. Such action would be considered aggression and would be resisted. Regardless of ideology, the occupiers would be considered Yugoslavia's enemy.

Territorial Defense Forces

The Territorial Defense Forces were formed in 1969 as an integral part of the Yugoslav "Total National Defense" doctrine. The TO forces consisted of able-bodied civilian males and females. Between 1 and 3 million Yugoslavs between the ages of 15 and 65 would fight under TO command as irregular or guerrilla forces in wartime. In peacetime, however, about 860,000 TO troops were involved in military training and other activities.

The TO concept focused on small, lightly armed infantry units fighting defensive actions on a familiar local terrain. A typical unit was a company-sized detachment. More than 2000 communes, factories, and other enterprises organized such units, which would fight in their home areas, maintaining local defense production essential to the overall war effort. The TO also included some larger, more heavily equipped units with wider operational responsibilities. The TO battalions and regiments operated in regional areas with artillery and antiaircraft guns and some armoured vehicles. Using their mobility and tactical initiative, these units would attempt to alleviate the pressure of enemy armored columns and air strikes on smaller TO units. In the coastal regions, TO units had naval missions. They operated some gunboats in support of navy operations. They were organized to defend strategic coastal areas and naval facilities against enemy amphibious landings and raids. They also trained some divers for use in sabotage and other special operations.

The TO was helped by the fact that most of its citizen-soldiers were one-time JNA conscripts who had completed their term of compulsory military service. But TO recruitment was somewhat limited by the JNA desire to include as many recently released conscripts as possible in its own military reserve. Other sources of TO manpower lacked prior military service and required extensive basic training.

The TO organisation was highly decentralized and independent. TO units were organized and funded by the governments in each of the Yugoslav constituent republics: SR Slovenia, SR Croatia, SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, SR Montenegro, SR Macedonia and SR Serbia, as well as in each of its subunits SAP Vojvodina and SAP Kosovo.


The possibility that each Yugoslav federal unit could have its own armed formations led to concerns that someday these separate "armies" may oppose the federal Yugoslav JNA in an act of an eventual secession. Such concerns became reality during the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav Wars when the TO forces in many of the constituent republics switched their allegiance and turned into separatist paramilitaries. Those former TO forces, along with Yugoslav army deserters and volunteers contributed to the founding of the respective armies of the independent states and other political entities that emerged after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. This includes the armies of: Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina etc.


*Library of Congress Country Studies- [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+yu0183) Yugoslavia: Territorial Defense Forces]
*Library of Congress Country Studies- [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+yu0175) Yugoslavia: Military Doctrine]

ee also

*Military of Yugoslavia
*Yugoslav People's Army
*People's Liberation Army (Yugoslavia)
*Yugoslav People's Liberation War
*Partisans (Yugoslavia)
*Organ Zaštite Naroda (Armije) - OZNA
*Kontra-Obaveštajna Služba - KOS
*Ten Day War

imilar formations

*State Defense Forces
*Territorial Army

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Israel Defense Forces ranks — Israel Defense Forces The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have a unique rank structure. Because the IDF is an integrated force, ranks are the …   Wikipedia

  • Yugoslavia — (Serbo Croatian, Croatian, Serbian, Slovene, Macedonian: Jugoslavija ; Cyrillic script: Југославија; literally in English: South Slavia or Land of South Slavs ) is a term that describes three political entities that existed successively on the… …   Wikipedia

  • Yugoslavia — Yugoslavian, adj., n. Yugoslavic, adj. /yooh goh slah vee euh/, n. 1. a federal republic in S Europe: since 1992 comprised of Serbia and Montenegro. 10,573,928; 39,449 sq. mi. (102,173 sq. km). Cap.: Belgrade. 2. Formerly (1918 29), Kingdom of… …   Universalium

  • Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia — Socijalistička Federativna Republika Jugoslavijaa (sh–lat) Социјалистичка Федеративна Република Југославијаb (sh–cyr) Socialistična federativna republika Jugoslavijac (sl) …   Wikipedia

  • SFR Yugoslav Ground Forces — KoV (Kopnena Vojska) or Ground forces, of the Yugoslav Peoples Army (JNA).InfantryThe ground forces led in personnel. It had about 140,000 active duty soldiers (including 90,000 conscripts) and could mobilize over a million trained reservists in… …   Wikipedia

  • 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia — Allied Force redirects here. For computer game, see Falcon 4.0: Allied Force. Operation Allied Force Part of the Kosovo War …   Wikipedia

  • Ministry of Defense (Yugoslavia) — The Ministry of Defense of Yugoslavia refers to the defense ministry which was responsible for defense of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1918 to 1945 and the communist SFR Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1992. It may also refer to the defense ministry of …   Wikipedia

  • Military of Yugoslavia — The military of Yugoslavia has included the armed forces of Yugoslavia during three periods of its history:* the military of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which existed between 1918 and 1941/1945 ** Royal Yugoslav Army ** Yugoslav Royal Air Force *… …   Wikipedia

  • Lebanese Armed Forces — Al Quwwāt al Musallaḥa al Lubnāniyya Flag of the Lebanese Army Founded August 1, 1945 Current form …   Wikipedia

  • Albanian Joint Forces Command — Komanda e Forcës së Bashkuar Coat of Arms of the Albanian Joint Forces Command Active 2006 …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.