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Child Soldiers In The Yugoslavian Civil War

Child Soldiers In The Yugoslavian Civil War

The United Nations estimates that between 2000 and 4000 child fighters fought in the Yugoslavian civil war. However, their exact number is unknown, as child soldiers were involved in armies of all three warring sides in Yugoslavia. Croatia's Association of Underage War Volunteers estimates the number of killed child soldiers during the war in Croatia at over 300, while the Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo numbered a total of 661 soldiers killed in action in Bosnia, the youngest one being aged 10. Child soldiers were the most represented during the Kosovo war, in the Kosovo liberation army, where they counted for around ten percent of the total soldiers.

Due to the nature of the war, that is the widespread use of violence and direct targeting of the civilian population including children, a large proportion of the children have been directly exposed to war-related trauma. Many children fell victim to shelling and landmines, suffering consequences for the rest of their lives.


The fights in the Yugoslavian civil war often occurred in and around towns and cities. Therefore, whole families were forces to defend their houses and neighborhoods. Child soldiers were a serious issue during the war, but official reports often deny their existence. Despite the fact that military service was forbidden for juveniles, many children volunteered in military units without their parents' consent, often concealing their age. They mostly carried out courier duties, worked in kitchens, and in the maintenance of weapons and equipment, however, a number of children were involved in military operations, even as members of the most elite units; diversions, snipers, special forces, and guards.


A large number of children were involved in the war in Bosnia. The majority of them came from the capital city Sarajevo and other major cities throughout Bosnia.  Sarajevo was under siege for over three years, and all the children in the city were affected by the war, over 55 percent of them reporting that they were under direct fire. There were also reports of child soldiers in the El Mujahideen brigade, a unit of foreign Muslim volunteers in the Bosnian Army.


The most notable child soldier of the Yugoslavian civil war was Spomenko Gostić, a soldier in the Army of Republika Srpska. He volunteered in the army when he was 13 years old, after losing his parents and grandparents. He and transported supplies, food, ammunition, and wounded soldiers by horse carriage on difficult terrain, throughout the Ozren mountain. During the war, he was wounded twice, and the third time was fatal. On the 20th of March 1993, Serbian positions were shelled by ARBIH, and Spomenko was wounded. He was just 14 years old, and he was the youngest decorated soldier in the Yugoslav wars.