Foreign fighters in the Bosnian War

The Bosnian War attracted large numbers of foreign fighters and mercenaries from various countries. Volunteers came to fight for a variety of reasons including religious or ethnic loyalties and in some cases for money. As a general rule, Bosniaks received support from Islamic countries, Serbs from Eastern Orthodox countries, and Croats from Catholic countries. The presence of foreign fighters is well documented, however none of these groups comprised more than 5 percent of any of the respective armies' total manpower strength.

Bosnian side

An estimated 2,000–5,000 foreign Muslim fighters fought on the Bosnian side.[a] The Bosnian mujahideen, an independent unit supporting the ARBiH,[1] were primarily formed out of fighters from Iran, Afghanistan and Arab countries,[2] though Muslim volunteers arrived from all around the world.[3]

UNPROFOR recorded a meeting with a number of British and Danish mercenaries fighting for the Muslim side in Travnik.[4]

Croat side

The Croats received support from Croatia and the Croatian Army fought with the local Croatian Defense Council (HVO) forces. Some external fighters included British volunteers as well as other individuals from Catholic countries who fought as volunteers. Dutch, Spanish, Irish, Polish, French, Swedish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Canadian and Finnish volunteers were organized into the Croatian 103rd (International) Infantry Brigade. British, French, Czech, Canadian served in the 108 Brigade of HVO. There was also a special Italian unit, the Garibaldi battalion.[5] and one for the French, the "groupe Jacques Doriot".[6]

Many extreme right volunteers from Western Europe, mainly from Germany, joined the Croatian Defence Forces (HOS).[7] Although Russians mainly volunteered on the Serb side, the small neo-Nazi "Werewolf" unit fought on the Croat side.[7]

Swedish Jackie Arklöv fought in Bosnia and was later charged with war crimes upon his return to Sweden. Later he confessed he committed war crimes on Bosniak civilians in the Croatian camps Heliodrom and Dretelj as a member of Croat forces.[8]

Serb side

The Bosnian Serbs received volunteers from Orthodox Christian countries such as Russia and Greece. These included hundreds of Russians,[9] around 100 Greeks,[10] and some Ukrainians and Romanians.[10] One Japanese volunteer is documented.[11] According to ICTY documents, volunteers from Russia, Greece, and Romania fighting for the VRS numbered between 529 and 614. Some estimate that there were over 1,000 volunteers from Orthodox countries.[12] Michael Innes claimed that in April 1994 the VRS consisted of 100,000 men, out of whom 1,000–1,500 were mercenaries from Russia, Ukraine and Bulgaria.[2] Journalist Ljiljana Bulatović claimed that 49 Russians were killed in the war.[13] Mikhail Polikarpov, a historian and participant in the war, numbered Russian soldiers at the hundreds, about 40 of whom died and 20 injured.[14]

Primary Russian forces consisted of two organized units known as "РДО-1" and "РДО-2" (РДО stands for "Русский Добровольческий Отряд", which means "Russian Volunteer Unit"), commanded by Yuriy Belyayev and Alexander Zagrebov, respectively. РДО-2 was also known as "Tsarist Wolves", because of the monarchist views of its fighters. There also was a unit of Russian cossacks, known as the "First Cossack Sotnia". All these units were operating mainly in Eastern Bosnia along with VRS forces from 1992 up to 1995.[15]

In May 1995, the VRS Herzegovina Corps intended to organize an international brigade in eastern Bosnia which gathered between 150 and 600[16] Greek and Russian mercenaries fighting for 200 German marks monthly.[17]

The Greek Volunteer Guard, who were organized in March 1995 with around 100 soldiers,[17] were reported to have taken part in the Srebrenica Massacre, with the Greek flag being hoisted in Srebrenica when the town fell to the Serbs.[18]

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ ICG estimated 2,000–5,000 foreign Muslim fighters.[19] CSIS notes that estimations range from 500–5,000, but mostly 1,000–2,000.[20] Charles R. Shrader estimated up to 4,000.[21] J. M. Berger estimated 1,000–2,000.[22] Another estimation is 3,000 foreign Islamic fighters.[2]


  1. "ICTY: Mujahideen didn't trust the Army". Sense Agency.
  2. 1 2 3 Innes 2006, p. 157.
  3. Lebl 2014, p. 8.
  4. Shrader 2003, p. 53.
  5. "Srebrenica - a 'safe' area". Netherlands Institute for War Documentation. 10 April 2002. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
  6. Archived from the original on 2013-09-21. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. 1 2 Andrea Mammone; Emmanuel Godin; Brian Jenkins (2012). Mapping the Extreme Right in Contemporary Europe: From Local to Transnational. Routledge. pp. 166–. ISBN 978-0-415-50264-1.
  8. Karli, Sina (11 November 2006). "Šveđanin priznao krivnju za ratne zločine u BiH" [Swede confesses to war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina] (in Croatian). Nacional (weekly). Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
  9. Reneo Lukic; Allen Lynch (1996). Europe from the Balkans to the Urals: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. SIPRI. p. 333. ISBN 978-0-19-829200-5.
  10. 1 2 Koknar 2003.
  11. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. Михаил Поликарпов (5 September 2017). Игорь Стрелков – ужас бандеровской хунты. Оборона Донбасса. Книжный мир. pp. 13–. ISBN 978-5-04-000181-1.
  16. Granić, Mate (30 June 1995). "Letter dated 30 June 1995 from the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia addressed to the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the question of the use of mercenaries". UN. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
  17. 1 2 Koknar, Ali M. (14 July 2003). "The Kontraktniki : Russian mercenaries at war in the Balkans". Bosnian Institute. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
  18. Smith, Helena (5 January 2003). "Greece faces shame of role in Serb massacre". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
  19. ICG & 26 February 2013, p. 14.
  20. CSIS, Foreign Fighters: Bosnia.
  21. Shrader 2003, p. 51.
  22. Berger 2011, p. 55.


Further reading

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.