Croatia’s 1990s Paramilitaries: From Government Critics to Collaborators

'Defenders of the homeland'

On the eve of Croatia's first multi-party elections in April 1990, a young anti-communist activist called Dobroslav Paraga brought together a core of people who re-established the Croatian Party of Rights, which was previously a nationalist liberal party that was banned by Yugoslav king Aleksandar Karadjordjevic in 1929. Paraga became its president, and Ante Paradzik, another anti-communist dissident, became its vice-president.

As war approached in 1990-91, the Croatian Party of Rights was a fierce critic of the Croatian political leadership and President Franjo Tudjman. As the Croatian authorities did not launch a general military mobilisation, in July 1991 the Croatian Party of Rights declared it was forming its own armed force to defend the country, the Croatian Defence Alliance, whose name was soon changed to the Croatian Defence Forces, or HOS.

The HOS functioned as the party's military wing, with Paraga as its supreme commander and Paradzik as general chief of staff.

As a result of a deal between Paraga and Slovenian Defence Minister Janez Jansa  (who is now Slovenia's prime minister), the first 80 HOS members were armed and trained by the Slovenian MORiS military unit at a training facility in Kocevska Reka, near the border with Croatia.

Later the Croatian Party of Rights organised two boot camps on Croatian territory, financed mostly by the Croat diaspora.

Cherishing the Ustasa legacy

Veterans from the Croatian Defence Forces' Ninth Knight Rafael Boban Battalion mark the 27th anniversary of the unit's formation in Split in April 2018. Photo: Sven Milekic.

Like the Croatian Party of Rights, the HOS cherished Ustasa symbols. The acronym HOS was...

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