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Yugoslavia (former) Internal Security Forces
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Internal security forces were instrumental in establishing and maintaining the communist-controlled Yugoslav state after World War II. They were responsible for identifying and prosecuting Ustase leaders and others who collaborated with occupying German and Italian forces during World War II. But alleged collaboration became a pretext for reprisals against political opponents such as the Cetnici and others who did not support Tito's Partisans. Many, including Cetnik leader Draza Mihajlovic and Croatian Roman Catholic archbishop Stepinac, were executed or imprisoned after summary trials.

    After the break in relations with the Soviet Union in 1948, the Yugoslav government feared that the Soviet Union might find or create a group within Yugoslavia to request Soviet intervention to assist it in "preserving socialism." The Yugoslav security agency investigated more than 50,000 alleged "Cominformists" or pro-Soviet party members, who were subsequently purged from the party. Several thousand were eventually jailed, either without trials or after show trials. They were interned in political prisons at Goli Otok in the Adriatic, Sremska Mitrovica in Vojvodina, and Stara Gradiska in Bosnia. Others were subjected to administrative punishment or petty harassment.

    The Soviet Union formed the orthodox Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) in exile in 1948 to rally Tito's opponents and to topple him. An estimated 200 to 300 Yugoslav "Cominformists" ( Cominform--see Glossary) took up residence in Moscow. The YPA was an important target of their anti-Tito propaganda. The CPY held meetings outside the Soviet Union and clandestine party congresses inside Yugoslavia. During this time, Yugoslav internal security forces exercised great power and directed much of it at the army. Security agents exposed many real or suspected Soviet operatives in high positions in the army, and some of those accused were executed. The resulting bitterness and rivalry between the internal security forces and the army survived for decades afterward.

    In 1966 a major purge of the Yugoslav internal security forces benefited the military in this rivalry. The de facto chief of the Department of State Security, or secret police (Uprava drzavne bezbednosti--UDB), Aleksandar Rankovic, was involved in the behind-the scenes struggle to succeed Tito. Allegedly on orders from Rankovic, the UDB covertly monitored the telephone calls of all major party leaders, including Tito. When Rankovi was finally dismissed, however, the official announcement mentioned only his responsibility for UDB brutality and repression of Kosovo's Albanian population. The military equivalent of the UDB, the Military Counterintelligence Service (Kontraobavesajna Sluzba--KOS) was instrumental in exposing UDB activities. The UDB was purged, its name was changed to State Security Service (Sluzba drzavne bezbednosti--SDB), and a YPA colonel general became its chief. In its new form the agency retained substantial secret police powers.

    The army has maintained some control over the civilian security service since the 1966 purge. After the Croatian nationalist unrest of 1971, a colonel general became federal secretary for internal affairs (the secretariat controlling the SDB), and another became federal public prosecutor. Using such appointments, the military controlled the internal security forces until 1984. In 1990 a former chief of the YPA general staff was federal secretary for internal affairs.

    During the 1980s, the SDB actively pursued its mission of identifying and neutralizing émigré organizations in foreign countries to inhibit their efforts to establish contacts and support inside Yugoslavia. A small number of émigré groups of various political persuasions and nationalities committed violent acts against Yugoslav interests abroad. Those acts sometimes included assassinations of Yugoslav diplomats or representatives abroad. Special attention went to pro-Soviet Yugoslav exiles, whose activities against the Yugoslav government were well supported by Soviet funds. Believing that such groups threatened public order, the SDB and its clandestine foreign intelligence units used various means to counter their activities. The SDB monitored the activities of the pro-Soviet CPY in Yugoslavia and other countries. In 1974 thirty-two Montenegrins convicted of organizing a CPY congress received prison terms of up to fourteen years. A long investigation of this case ended in the arrest of a Soviet diplomat in 1976.

    Another major task of the SDB was to monitor Croatian organizations in Austria, Sweden, France, West Germany, Canada, and the United States. Surveillance of those groups provided evidence for prosecuting Yugoslavs who contacted them when abroad and then returned home. The SDB reportedly abducted and assassinated prominent émigrés. A former YPA colonel who escaped imprisonment as an alleged "Cominformist" in 1948 was seized in Romania in 1976, clandestinely returned to Yugoslavia, and jailed. As many as twenty troublesome émigrés may have been killed in Europe by the SDB, other Yugoslav operatives, or their paid agents since the early 1970s. In 1981 two West Germans and one Yugoslav were convicted for murdering an émigré in West Germany. They were allegedly paid a large sum to kill a former SDB agent who defected from the security service while abroad. However, the Yugoslav government contended that most violence against emigres was committed by rival émigré organizations, not by the SDB.

    Data as of December 1990

    NOTE: The information regarding Yugoslavia (former) on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Yugoslavia (former) Internal Security Forces information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Yugoslavia (former) Internal Security Forces should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 27-Mar-05
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