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Fortress Bosnia - the former centre of the Yugoslav arms industry

Copyrigth by Alan Grant Copyrigth by Alan Grant
Blick von der Festung - Travnik
"Following Yugoslavia's expulsion from Cominform in 1948 and the sharp rise in tensions with the Soviet Bloc, Bosnia became central to Tito's self-defence strategy. Fearing simultaneous attack from the north (Hungary) and east (Bulgaria), and drawing on the experience of Partisan successes in World War Two, Tito turned the remote central Bosnian region, with its rugged mountains, heavily wooded areas and natural caves, into Yugoslavia's fortress and the centre of its military industries."

During that period, military industries became the driving force behind industrialisation, particularly in central Bosnia: "Bratstvo" in Novi Travnik (howitzers, multiple rocket launchers), "Slobodan Princip Selo" in Vitez (explosives) and "Slavko Rodic" in Bugojno (fuses for mines and grenades) at their height employed more than 10,000 people. This period saw the rise of the peasant worker, who continued to live in villages while travelling often long distances to the newly created jobs in the factories. Many agricultural households supplemented inadequate subsistence agriculture with a modest wage income, taking advantage of the social services (pension and health care) which accompanied jobs in the socially-owned economy.

"Of the military-industrial base which once formed the backbone of the Bosnian economy, little now survives. In 1992, the JNA transported as much military industrial plant as possible back to Serbia. The armaments factories were fought over and divided among the warring parties, and much of the skilled labour force left the country. Moreover, the old integrated system of production collapsed with the break-up of Yugoslavia. […] The collapse of military industry was a shock to the Bosnian economy at least as severe as the closure of the Welsh coal mines or the decline of traditional industries in Southern Belgium, Northern England or the new German Länder. Yet it has received surprisingly little attention from either Bosnian or international policy makers."

April 2007

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