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Siege of Dubrovnik

Siege of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is an old Croatian town on the Adriatic coast, a UNESCO heritage site that represents one of the Mediterranean's top tourist destinations. Its rich history and colorful architecture make it a tourist hotspot and an attractive location for filmmakers across the globe.  In the seven months during 1991 and 1992 Dubrovnik was under one of the most devastating sieges of the Yugoslav wars, huge parts of the town were razed and a lot of people lost their lives.


The strategic location of Dubrovnik, near the borders of Montenegro and Serbian controlled zone of Bosnia and Herzegovina, made it the center of YPA's interest in the Adriatic coast. The Siege of Dubrovnik, one of the most famous events from the Yugoslav civil war, was nicknamed: ''War For Peace" because of a false YPA's claim that the Croatian soldiers are planning an invasion on the Montenegrin coast. Therefore, YPA's military personnel in the Dubrovnik area mainly consisted of reservists and volunteers from Montenegro and Bosnia, and Herzegovina.


In the autumn of 1991, YPA  assembled the second Operative Group (2.OG), under whose command were several dozens of military units operating in the Dubrovnik area, most notably the 2nd Titograd Corps and the 9th Boka Kotorska Military-Maritime Sector. Three key objectives of the planned operation were: Taking over the Srđ hill above Dubrovnik, conquering the Prevlaka peninsula, and taking over the Čilipi airport, which would guarantee the control of the whole Dubrovnik - Neretva county.  The initial attack on Dubrovnik begun on the 1st of October 1991, with an artillery shell attack from the surrounding hills. During that time, the town was completely surrounded both from the land and from the sea, suffering a naval blockade that begun on the 25th of September.  By the end of October, YPA has taken over the whole territory of the Dubrovnik hinterland, and the Adriatic coast stretching from Pelješac to Prevlaka peninsula.  On the occupied territory it proclaimed the Dubrovnik Republic, a proto-state that lasted until May 1992.


The defenders of Dubrovnik were poorly armed and outnumbered. The town was demilitarized back in 1972, therefore there were no army garrisons or storage depots in the city area. The Croatian forces consisted out of army reservists, territorial defense, and volunteers who were mainly armed with WW2-era small arms and light weapons. The defenders had one armored vehicle at their disposal, an improvised truck called Majsan, used for transport of supplies, and soldiers wounded and killed in action throughout the town.


The most intensive shell attacks targeting Dubrovnik lasted between the 8th and the 14th of November 1991, when more than 5,000 missiles were fired into the city area. The town center was damaged and several ships in the Dubrovnik marina were sunk. On the 6th of December, the central town promenade was bombed, the UNESCO heritage site was struck by 48 82-millimeter (3.2 in) missiles, 232 82-millimeter (3.2 in), and 364 120-millimeter (4.7 in) mortar shells, as well as 22 wire-guided missiles. Nine buildings inside Dubrovnik walls were completely burnt out and 456 were severely damaged.


The 6th of December attacks were followed by a huge international backlash. YPA’s actions were condemned by UN and UNESCO officials, and the international opinion on the Croatian war shifted, leading to the European Economic Communities' decision to recognize the independence of Croatia on 15 January 1992. The ceasefire in the Dubrovnik area was agreed upon on 7 December 1991, and no major military actions happened until the Croatian counter-offensive in May 1992, when the area was retaken by the Croatian army.