The 'Ten-Day War' & Slovenian Independence

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  • 0:00 On the Eve of War
  • 1:23 Yugoslavia Invades
  • 3:58 Brioni Declaration
  • 4:39 The Conflict by the Numbers
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adam Richards

Adam has a master's degree in history.

The Ten-Day War commenced as a result of Slovenia's declaration of secession on June 25, 1991. Learn more about the conflict, including the background, belligerents, combat, and ceasefire agreement.

On the Eve of War

The Ten-Day War, also known as the Slovenian War of Independence, was a conflict fought between Slovenia and Yugoslavia from June 26 to July 4, 1991. In February 1991, the republics of Slovenia and Croatia announced their respective intent to secede from the Yugoslav Federation following Slobodan Milosevic's, the President of Serbia, attempt at consolidating federal power into a centralized state. Incensed, Milosevic took control of the Yugoslav National Army, also known as the Yugoslav People's Army, or YPA, and marched the troops to the borders of Slovenia and Croatia in a show of force. Simultaneously, he launched a propaganda campaign aimed at the Serbs living within the two republics. His overarching goal was to provoke fear within the Serb population as to encourage a rebellion against the secession efforts of the Slovenian and Croatian governments.

The show-of-force tactics and propaganda campaign lasted throughout the spring of 1991. Yet, Milosevic's efforts fell short when on June 25, Slovenia and Croatia formally declared independence from Yugoslavia. In a brilliant tactical maneuver, the two republics originally announced that the formal secession was scheduled to take place on June 26. This was a safety mechanism; both republics knew that Milosevic would invade on the day of independence. By declaring independence a day earlier, Slovenia and Croatia were better prepared to battle Milosevic's forces.

Yugoslavia Invades

Milosevic ordered elements of the YPA to invade Slovenia on June 26. Interestingly, Milosevic initially adopted the cautious approach of not being the first force to fire, which was recommended by Veljko Kadijevic, a military advisor. Notwithstanding, Slovenia had already prepared for the attack by mobilizing the Slovenian Territorial Defense forces and by establishing defensive positions on its southern borders along Croatia and its northern borders along Italy. It is important to remember that even though the YPA was consolidated under Milosevic's power, the troops were scattered throughout the federation and in border nations; establishing a firm perimeter was the only chance Slovenia had to survive.

The cautious approach was quickly ignored as the first shot of the conflict was fired on the afternoon of June 26 by a member of the 13th Corps. Tension at the borders was high the remainder of the day. On June 27, elements of the YPA, including several armored divisions, broke through the weaker defensive positions along the Slovenian borders. The goal for the 27th was to march Yugoslav troops into the major Slovenian cities, including the capital Ljubljana, and re-establish Yugoslav control. However, the Slovenian forces, both military and civilian, managed to prevent the YPA from achieving any significant gains by implementing simple defense tactics combined with guerrilla warfare. The day essentially ended in a stalemate.

From June 28 to July 3, the conflict in Slovenia continued to expand. Neither side had gained significant territory during the battle, but, and most importantly, the Slovenian forces refused to surrender. Over the course of six days, the Slovenian Territorial Defense battled valiantly to prevent Slovenian cities from falling, as well as to re-establish control along the borders that were under control of the YPA.

Now, there are some important dates and events to remember throughout this period of time. On June 29, representatives from both sides met in an attempt to establish a ceasefire. While an agreement was initially reached, it was never implemented, and the war continued. On the same day, Yugoslavia delivered its first ultimatum to Slovenia to surrender by June 30; this was ignored.

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