Serb Volunteer Guard

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For the similarly named yet unrelated forces created earlier, see Serbian Volunteers (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Serbian Guard (paramilitary).
Serbian Volunteer Guard
Српска добровољачка гарда
Flag of the Serbian Volunteer Guard.jpg
Flag of the Serbian Volunteer Guard
Active 1990–1996 (became part of the JSO)
Type Paramilitary organization
Size 500–1,000[1]
Garrison/HQ Belgrade, Serbia
Erdut, Croatia
Nickname(s) Arkan's Tigers

Yugoslav Wars;

Disbanded 1996
1st Commander Željko Ražnatović Arkan
2nd Commander Borislav Pelević
3rd Commander Milorad Ulemek Legija
4th Commander Zvezdan Jovanović

The Serb Volunteer Guard (SDG) (Serbian: Српска добровољачка гарда, Srpska dobrovoljačka garda) also known as Arkan's Tigers (Арканови Тигрови, Arkanovi Tigrovi) was a Serbian volunteer paramilitary unit founded and led by Željko Ražnatović (known as Arkan) that fought in Croatia (1991–93) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–95) during the Yugoslav Wars.

History and organisation[edit]

A promotional poster of the Serb Volunteer Guard.

The Guard was created on 11 October 1990 by twenty members of the Red Star Belgrade football club Ultra group Delije Sever. The Guard's headquarters and training camp was in Erdut, SAO Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia, a part of the Republic of Serbian Krajina between 1991 and 1995. The Guard was under the command of the Territorial Defense, a regular military in charge of the territories of Croatia populated predominantly by Serbs during the first half of the 1990s.

The Serb Volunteer Guard set up their headquarters and training camp in a former military facility in Erdut. It saw action from mid-1991 to late 1995, initially in the Vukovar region of Croatia. It was supplied and equipped from the reserves of the Serbian police force during the War in Croatia and Bosnia.

War in Croatia (1991) & Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992)[edit]

After war broke out in the former Yugoslav republic of Croatia in the fall of 1991 and in Bosnia in April 1992, Arkan and his units moved to attack different territories in these countries. In Croatia, the Tigers fought in various locales in SAO Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia.

Paramilitary units are responsible for some of the most brutal aspects of ethnic cleansing. Two of the units that have played a major role in the ethnic cleansing campaign in BiH, the Chetniks associated with Vojislav Šešelj and the Tigers associated with Zeljko Raznjatovic (Arkan), have been active in the Republic of Serbia as well...Arkan's Tigers have staged military training exercises allegedly designed to intimidate Albanian residents in Kosovo.[2]

— Report of United Nations Commission on ethnic cleansing in Bosnia

In autumn 1995, Arkan's troops fought in the area of Banja Luka, Sanski Most and Prijedor where they were routed. Arkan personally led most war actions, and rewarded his most efficient officers and soldiers with ranks, medals and eventually the products of the lootings. The Serb Volunteer Guard was officially disbanded in April 1996. Besides Arkan, a notable member of the Guard was his right-hand man, Colonel Nebojša Djordjević, who was murdered in late 1996. Another notable member was Milorad Ulemek, who is now serving a 40-year sentence for his involvement in the assassination of Serbia's pro-Western prime minister Zoran Đinđić in 2003.[citation needed]

Several Golden Dawn members participated in the Bosnian War in the Greek Volunteer Guard (GVG), which was part of the Drina Corps of the Army of Republika Srpska. A few GVG volunteers were present in Srebrenica during the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995, and they raised a Greek flag at a ruined church after the fall of the town.[3] Spiros Tzanopoulos, a GVG sergeant who took part in the attack against Srebrenica, said many of the Greek volunteers participated in the war because they were members of Hrisi Avgi.[4] Chrysi Avyi members in the GVG were decorated by Radovan Karadžić, but — according to former Chrysi Avyi member Charis Kousoumvris — those who were decorated later left the party.[4]

War crimes charges[edit]

Serb Volunteer Guard (Srpska dobrovoljačka garda) official logo
Tigers (Tigrovi) unofficial logo

Željko Ražnatović was indicted in 1997 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for his command of the Guard, as the unit was allegedly responsible for numerous crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Convention and violations of the laws or customs of war, including active participation in the ethnic cleansing in Bijeljina and Zvornik in 1992.

The ICTY charged the Serbian Volunteer Guard, under the command or supervision of Željko Ražnatović with:[5]

  • Forcibly detaining approximately thirty non-Serb men and one woman, without food or water, in an inadequately ventilated boiler room of approximately five square metres (54 sq ft) in size.
  • Transporting twelve non-Serb men from Sanski Most to an isolated location in the village of Trnova, where they shot and killed eleven of the men and critically wounded the twelfth.
  • The rape of a Muslim woman on a bus outside the Hotel Sanus in Sanski Most.
  • Transporting approximately sixty-seven non-Serb men and one woman from Sanski Most, Šehovci, and Pobrijeze to an isolated location in the village of Sasina and shooting them, killing sixty-five of the captives and wounding two survivors.
  • Forcibly detaining approximately thirty-five non-Serb men in an inadequately ventilated boiler room of about five square metres in size, beating them, and depriving them of food and water, resulting in the deaths of two men.

Prominent members[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the 2008 Serbian film The Tour, a group of Serbian actors go on a tour in war-torn Bosnia. Among other factions, they meet an unnamed paramilitary unit wearing insignia similar to those of the Serb Volunteer Guard. Unit's commander (played by Sergej Trifunović) is obviously based on Arkan.
  • In the 2012 Japanese anime Jormungand, one of the antagonists is Dragan Nikolaevich, commander of the Balkan Dragons. His looks and even his biography bear resounding resemblance to those of Arkan.
  • In fourteenth episode of the first season of the crime procedural Law & Order: Criminal Intent, "Homo Homini Lupis", the suspect of the investigation is accused of raping a young girl. In the course of the detectives' interrogation, they identify the suspect as a former member of the volunteer guard due a tiger tattoo on his back and attempt to establish a pattern of behavior by pointing to the war crimes that occurred in Bosnia.

See also[edit]




External links[edit]