Jovan Divjak

Jovan Divjak
Native name Jovan Divjak
Born (1937-03-11) 11 March 1937
Belgrade, Kingdom of Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia (19561992)

Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (19921995)

Bosnia and Herzegovina (19951996)


Yugoslav Ground Forces (19561992)

Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (19921996)

Years of service 19561996
Rank General

Bosnian War

Jovan Divjak (Serbian Cyrillic: Јован Дивјак; born 11 March 1937) is a retired Bosnian Army general who served during the Bosnian War (1992–95). He was the Deputy Commander of the Army's Main Staff until 1994. An ethnic Serb,[1] he publicly declares himself a Bosnian.[2]

Early life and military career

Divjak was born in Belgrade to parents originally from the Bosanska Krajina region of Bosnia.[3] His father was stationed in the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) in Serbia. He and his family currently reside in Sarajevo, where he moved in 1966. From 1956 to 1959, he attended the Military Academy in Belgrade. In 1964 and 1965, he attended the École d'Éat Major in Paris. From 1969 to 1971, he was in the Cadet Academy in Belgrade, and from 1979 to 1981, he served in the War and Defense Planning School there. After several posts in the JNA, he was appointed Territorial Defense Chief in command of the Mostar sector from 1984 to 1989 and the Sarajevo sector from 1989 to 1991.

In 1991 and 199 Jovan Divjak was court-marshalled by the JNA for issuing 120 pieces of light armour and 20,000 bullets to the Kiseljak Territorial Defence and was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment. He avoided the sentence by leaving the JNA and joining the Territorial Defence of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the first days of war, he was arrested under the charge of collaborating with the Serbian forces and was imprisoned for 27 days. In prison, Divjak was on a hunger strike for four days, but nobody paid any attention.[4]

Divjak later became the Deputy Commander of the Territorial Defense forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a month later he oversaw the defence of Sarajevo from a major JNA attack. Between 1993 and 1997, Divjak served as the Deputy Commander of the Headquarters of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, charged with co-operating with civilian institutions and organisations (administration, economy, health, and education).

Divjak, as an ethnic Serb, was made a general in order to present a multiethnic character of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He himself commented on the issue by saying that he felt like a "flower arrangement" and said that "of course, someone has to be a flower arrangement too". He expressed that it was shameful if his service to the army were only temporary. Indeed, he and Stjepan Šiber (as a Croat) were the only non-Bosniaks in the Chief of Staff. Both of them were offered retirement in March 1996 by the Bosniak leader Alija Izetbegović. At the beginning of the war, out of 18 percent of Croats and 12 percent of Serbs, only one percent of both remaining in the ranks of the Bosnian army personnel. Divjak complained about that to Rasim Delić, then a Chief of Staff, as well as Izetbegović, but it was explained that it was because "Bosniak soldiers didn't trust the Serb commanders." Divjak was later excluded by Delić from the decision making process in the Army. The Bosniaks in the Army had no confidence in Divjak, as he later stressed out in an interview with Oslobođenje.[4]

Later life

Divjak is the executive director of OGBH ("Obrazovanje Gradi BiH": "Education builds Bosnia and Herzegovina"), which he co-founded in 1994. The association's goals are to help children whose families are victims from the war, by providing them money, for instance, but also to help the increase of education in Bosnia, even in the poorest parts of the country, by providing financial and material support.

Divjak has won many international and national awards, including the French Legion of Honour, Order of Lafayette, Sixth of April Award of Sarajevo, the International League of Humanists Plaque, and the Plaque of the Sarajevo Canton.[5]

Since 2004, he has been a member of the Steering Board of the NGO Reference Group, Sarajevo. Since 1998, he has been a member of the Association of Independent Intellectuals "Krug 99", Sarajevo. Before 1998, he has been an active member of other associations, such as sports associations, or faculty of physical education in Sarajevo, and he has been a very active member of various NGOs in Bosnia. He tries to help his country as much as he can and hopes that the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina is clearer than its past.

He has also written two books:

On 3 March 2011, Divjak was arrested in Vienna based on a Serbian arrest warrant. However, Austria would not extradite him to Belgrade.[6] On 8 March 2011, he was bailed from custody in Vienna. On 29 July 2011, he was released after Serbia's extradition request was denied by an Austrian court based on lack of evidence and the inability to guarantee a fair trial.[7]



  1. Christopher Merrill (1 October 2001). Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 357–. ISBN 978-0-7425-1686-1.
  2. "Jovan Divjak: I am a Bosnian".
  3. Video on YouTube
  4. 1 2 Ex-Yupress & 2 August 196.
  5. Profile,; accessed 22 April 2015.
  6. "Austria won't send Bosnia general to Serbia". Reuters. 7 March 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2011.
  7. "Bosnian wartime general freed by Austrian court". reuters. 29 July 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011.

News reports

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