The transformation of Mihailović’s Chetnik movement: From royalist Yugoslav forces to Serb nationalist guerrillas

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The Chetniks
Yugoslavia, History, Axis occupation 1941-1945
World War, 1939-1945, Underground movements, Yugoslavia
Guerrillas, Yugoslavia
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia

General Dragoljub Mihailović’s Chetnik movement has been the subject of historical studies for more than half a century. Most have focused on the Chetnik-Partisan war and the issues of Chetnik resistance to and collaboration with the Axis powers. This study expands on the existing body of knowledge by considering the effects of ethno-religious conflict on the Chetnik wartime strategy and ideology. By examining primary source documents, this thesis looks at the original wartime Chetnik plan for guerrilla resistance as envisioned by Mihailović and traces its gradual transformation in the light of both the Ustaša genocide against the Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia and the Serb uprising there. As Chetnik and Axis wartime documents show, ethno-religious conflict had a profound transformative effect on Chetnik wartime behaviour and their post-war vision for royalist Yugoslavia. Ethno-religious conflict also had a significant impact on the Chetnik strategy of collaboration with the Italians in the Independent State of Croatia, the Chetnik relationship with the Partisans and the Chetniks’ resistance plans. As a result of these various wartime processes, the Chetnik movement transformed from being a direct extension of the Yugoslav Royal Army into a Serb national force that focused on the survival of Yugoslav Serbs and was devoted to Serb post-war territorial unification within a restored Yugoslavia – or even without the restoration of Yugoslavia, for that matter. This meant abandoning Yugoslavism as an ideological platform, something that contributed to the Allies’ abandonment of the Chetniks in favour of the communist Partisans.

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Andre Gerolymatos
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of History
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.