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Armed resistance Organisation of resistance Transnational Resistance

Partisan Liberated Territories

Often called “partisan republics”, liberated territories in Yugoslavia represented a military-tactical phenomenon in WW2 European warfare. It successfully spread the resistance by gaining the support of the local population, which was central to the aims of partisan warfare, and strengthening their own units while weakening the enemy’s forces. These tactics enabled Yugoslav partisans, significantly inferior to the occupying and Quisling forces, to gradually liberate the entire occupied territory and restore previously annexed areas, relying mainly on their own forces.

The origin and application of this tactic in Yugoslav territory was a product of various factors, some of which tended to be distorted in the postwar historiography. While the relevance of the rich local military traditions was often overemphasised or even romanticised, the significant role of the education that many partisan leaders received in the USSR before the Second World War, or from Soviet instructors and their students in the Spanish Civil War, tended to be downplayed. Some military specialists believe that the activities of the communist partisans in Yugoslavia had similarities with the tactics in China in the 1920s, but such influences and transnational connections are yet to be further explored.

Nevertheless, the practical experiences gained by the partisan leadership in the summer of 1941 were crucial. Among those, the central example is the “Republic of Užice” in western Serbia, which further elaborated and improved life organisation in the partisan liberated territories. In 1942, the resistance leadership passed the Foča and Drinić Regulations with instructions for the work of the People’s Liberation Committees (NOO) and the organisation of the rear military authorities in the liberated territories. The liberated territories enabled the organisation of NOO elections and key military-political forums, such as those held in the territory of the “Bihać Republic” at the end of 1942: the First Congress of AVNOJ, the First Congress of USAOJ and the First Congress of AFŽ.

In these “enclaves of freedom”, unarmed forms of resistance and the organisation of effective rear systems were also made possible. Economic resistance relied on the support the partisans received from the local population (providing food, clothing, medical care), while cultural resistance was manifested through mass cultural (theatre, exhibitions, choirs, folk dances) and educational activities (literacy courses, reading groups). Partisan cultural production had a strong influence on gaining the support of the people and on the “combat morale” of the fighters.

In socialist Yugoslavia, a unique model of “remembering” liberated territories was memorial areas and memorial complexes, which often included urban development plans that used a dense network of authentic localities and memorials to develop tourism and improve the economic status of the local population in rural areas, while protecting natural sights and rarities.


Sanja Horvatinčić

Sources / Further reading
  • Petar Kleut, Partizanska taktika (Belgrade: Vojnoizdavački zavod, 1983).
  • Franjo Tuđman, Rat protiv rata: partizanski rat u prošlosti i budućnosti (Zagreb: Zora, 1970).
  • Aleksej Timofejev, Milana Živanović, Udžbenik za Tita: Kominterna i pripreme partizanskog rata u Evropi (Belgrade: Institut za noviju istoriju Srbije, 2018).
  • Dušan Maletić (ed.), Užička republika I-II (Belgrade: Muzej ustanka 1941, Titovo Užice – Institut za istoriju radničkog pokreta SR Srbije – Eksport-Presm, 1978).
  • Feature film “Užička Republika”, Delta Video, 1974. Available at the link:

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