Friday, September 23, 2005

Myth: The Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) was Serb-dominated

FACT: The Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) was a multi-ethnic and multi-national army of all the peoples of Yugoslavia, and was in no way “Serb-dominated”. It is certainly true that Serbs and Montenegrins (particularly the latter) were over-represented in the lower and middle ranks of the JNA officer corps - they formed 54.3% and 5.2% of such officers respectively in 1990, greater than the Serb 36.2% and the Montenegrin 2.3% of the population of Yugoslavia. It is also true that Croats and Slovenes were underrepresented in those ranks, making up 12.5% and just 2.3% of such officers despite their 19.7% and 7.5% of the population. But this was the result of various historic, cultural and economic factors (link forthcoming), not discrimination or favouring of Serbs. Similar factors, rather than any discrimination, also explain why Macedonians were over-represented in those ranks (being 7.3% of such officers but just 5.8% of the population), why it was in fact largely Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia, not Serbia, that were over-represented in the military, and why Croats and Slovenes were hugely over-represented proportionate to their population in the navy and air force.

This slight disproportion was also confined only to the lower and middle ranks of the professional JNA. JNA regular soldiers were conscripted from all over Yugoslavia and reflected almost exactly the national make-up of Yugoslavia. The JNA was also constitutionally bound to the concept of “brotherhood and unity”, and of reaching as far as was possible national parity in its ranks, which meant that, to even out the national balance, non-Serbs were more likely to be promoted to higher ranks than Serbs. Thus, if one takes officers of all ranks in the JNA military in 1990, one finds that 42.63% were Serbs, 14.21% were Croats and 6.4% were Slovenes, (The Fragmentation of Yugoslavia: Nationalism and War in the Balkans, by Aleksander Pavkovic,
p.132) even though Serbs were 54.3%, Croats 12.5% and Slovenes just 2.3% of the lower and middle ranking officers respectively. “Brotherhood and unity” reached its peak in the top ranks - in late 1990, the High Command of the JNA was only 33% Serb and Montenegrin, but 38% Croat, 8.3% Slovene and 8.3% Macedonian. (The Fragmentation of Yugoslavia: Nationalism and War in the Balkans, by Aleksander Pavkovic, p.131) If one takes even a brief look at the nationality of those holding the top positions in the JNA in Yugoslavia’s final years, one can see that this alleged “Serb-domination” is ficticious - far from “dominating” the JNA, Serbs were actually under-represented in the top ranks of this thoroughly multi-ethnic and multi-national army.