Friday, November 26, 2010

Monarchist Military: The Chetniks

One of the monarchist organizations I have the greatest respect for were the Chetniks of Serbia. Unfortunately, to many today that is, itself, a controversial statement. The Chetniks, after all, were Axis collaborators who cooperated with the Nazi and fascist occupiers of the Balkans we are constantly told. Let me say up front that it is a fact which I will in no way dispute that Chetniks cooperated with the Axis forces. However, I detest the fact that this is all many people seem to remember about them and, as with virtually any issue involving the Balkans, the situation was not so simple as many make it out to be. To a large extent the Chetniks who fought with the Axis were forced to do so by circumstances imposed by others. It was not a choice they made freely or out of any conviction to what the Axis was fighting for. The same could be said about many countries and peoples who found themselves on the same “side” as the Axis powers from Finland to Inner Mongolia.

The organization most think of when they refer to the Chetniks was the “Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland”. The image many have of them is grossly inaccurate with many seeing them as villainous, bearded bandits fighting for whatever side served their current interest. This is absolutely false. The Chetniks were a disciplined, highly dedicated fighting force determined to restore the former Yugoslavia and their beloved ideal of a “Greater Serbia”. They were also staunchly royalist and the beards many wore was a traditional sign of mourning in the Orthodox Church and they were mourning for the loss of their king. “For King and Fatherland” was their battle cry and that was the only thing they were fighting for, plain and simple, and having nothing whatever to do with the war aims of the Axis. This is proved by the fact that all the way up to 1943 the Chetniks fought the Germans and Italians who were occupying the carved up remnants of the former Yugoslavia. It was the desire of the Chetniks to restore the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and to resist any power which occupied any part of Yugoslav territory.

However, Serbians also had an internal conflict to deal with. Quite apart from the various ethnic groups that had been lumped together by the Allies after World War I into Yugoslavia who were only too willing to cooperate with anyone for the chance of their own independence, amongst the Serbs themselves there was a division of the fighting forces between the royalist Chetniks, loyal to their King and country, and the communist Partisans of Josef Broz (aka Tito) who reprehensibly took advantage of the downfall of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to the Axis forces to assert their own control of the country to turn it into a communist dictatorship. Because of this they were obviously strongly supported by the Soviet Union from the very beginning and the Partisans were fanatical in their opposition to the Chetniks as well as to the Axis who were also the sworn enemies of the success of communism. Even while the Chetniks were still fighting the Axis forces they came to regard the communists as possibly a greater threat to what they stood for simply because no foreign occupation was bound to last for very long whereas the communists were a home-grown threat. It should also be noted that whereas the vast majority of Chetniks were Serbs and Orthodox they were not completely uniform and other nationalities including Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosnians who favored the restoration of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia also fought as Chetniks.

The key factor in keeping the Chetniks fighting the Axis and the communists simultaneously was the support they received from the western Allied powers. In the United States and the British Empire the Chetniks were originally applauded for their heroism and tenacity as the most active and well organized guerillas in occupied Europe fighting for freedom. The Chetniks received money and supplies from the Allies during these years while the Nazis exacted brutal retaliation for their attacks and offered huge sums of money as rewards for Chetnik leaders. The Chetniks carried out a number of spectacularly successful raids on both the Axis forces and the communists but of course they also shed no tears when the Germans attacked the communist Partisans. Some cooperated in these offensives, others did not but it was finally the Allied powers which forced most Chetniks into the Axis camp. Allied leaders agreed that Eastern Europe would be under the control of the Soviet Union after the war and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the decision to stop supporting the royalist Chetniks and shift all Allied assistance to the communist Partisans. That was really the key factor.

The Soviets had always supported their fellow communists, when the western democracies dropped the Chetniks and supported the reds as well the royalist Serbs were left with no other choice but to turn to the Axis for help in carrying on their fight to salvage something of their long-cherished dream of a Greater Serbian kingdom. It was then that the Chetniks joined the Axis in fighting the communists (and only the communists) and this was only after the western Allies had betrayed them and left them to their fate. With no other option, no other friends, their only possible choice for survival was to make common cause with the Axis. This is important to remember because it was a matter of necessity, forced upon them and not any sort of political sympathy that drove the Chetniks into the Nazi camp. Churchill also pushed for the monstrously absurd Treaty of Vis between the Serb royal government-in-exile and the communist partisans which effectively killed any hope that a Serbian or Yugoslav kingdom would be restored after the war in the event of an Allied victory and placed all power in communist hands.

In the summer of 1944 the most bitter blow of all came when the dedicated Chetnik leader, General “Draza” Mihailovic was dismissed by King Peter II as chief-of-staff of the Yugoslav army and replaced by the communist Marshal “Tito”. The Chetniks had officially been abandoned by everyone. It is to their credit, and very telling of their character and true motives, that even after this time, up until the very end of the war, the Chetniks continued to rescue Allied (mostly American) pilots who were shot down over Serbian territory. Of course, after being betrayed by the Allies the Chetniks were doomed. Aid to the Partisans only increased while the sole source of aid to the Chetniks, the Germans, dwindled away as the Axis went down in defeat and by 1945 the Chetniks were wiped out by the communist Partisans and their Soviet allies. Scattered groups continued to resist communist domination but they were eliminated one by one and their leaders executed, aided by the fact that their own government-in-exile had turned against them so that the communists could hit them with a double charge of “treason” against both their government and the royal government they had been fighting for.

This is why I am, and will remain, and ardent defender of the Chetniks. There is no denying that they made alliances with unsavory characters, but such moves were forced on them by circumstances beyond their control. There were many sad events that occurred, unfortunate and even scandalous actions. Accusations abound of massacres and ethnic cleansing and, in all honesty, some have merit. It was a very confused situation and a very brutal war with little mercy shown or expected by any of the forces on either side. However, the bottom line is that the Chetniks were fighting for the very soul of their nation against the worst enemy imaginable and in such circumstances no one should expect soft behavior. They were in the right, fighting for righteous principles and the real scandal is how they were stabbed in the back by their original allies. Which is also all the more reason why their sacrifices should be honored, their memory preserved and their legacy defended.

За краља и отаџбину!


  1. Those Chetniks killed a lot of Jews. Seeing you are a rabid Catholic and Conservative, I'd suspect this endears you to them to you even more!


    1. What makes you think the Chetniks were Catholic when most of the people who acted as thugs beating up high profile Croats were the brutal Chetnik communists from Serbia?

    2. There were no "brutal Chetnik communists from Serbia". The Chetniks were Serbian royalists, the Serbian communists were Tito's partisans.

  2. It happens Bennie that I have nothing against Jews, nothing against the State of Israel. In fact I have a great deal of admiration for them on a number of fronts. Chetniks also killed alot of Croatian Catholics -so why should "a rabid Catholic conservative" be inclined to support them? Furthermore, why would anyone of any religion then be in favor of the godless Bolsheviks rather than the Orthodox Chetniks?

    Before you point fingers in accusation you might want to consider your own prejudices.

  3. lol -that is new for the Mad Monarchist, now a Catholic with rabies! lol

    I don't know much about this area but I know in a civil war between royalist chetniks and communist partisans I would vote for the chetniks also.

  4. Yes, it's nothing new. I've been called an anti-Semite and a Zionist both often enough over the years. Of course it will probably not help my cause that the next monarch profile I have lined up is on King Edward I of England. Btw, I liked your post on Korea, I never knew much about the Belgian contribution.

  5. Usually they keep their mad slobbering to fan mail.

    Informative post as ever, it is always enjoyable to learn more about Europe.

  6. Actually, I've found out recently I have an anti-royalist stalker. Evidently this person has been obsessing over me for more than a year and I only just found out about it a few days ago. Of course, now that I know this person reads my every utterance and is driven to frenzy by me I will admitt to purposely pushing their buttons since finding out lol.


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