Jovan Divjak

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Jovan Divjak
Јован Дивјак
Divjak in 2006
Born(1937-03-11)11 March 1937
Died8 April 2021(2021-04-08) (aged 84)
Resting placeBare Cemetery, Sarajevo
Other namesČika Jovo (English: Uncle Jovo)
Vera Divjak
(m. 1960; died 2017)
Military career
Allegiance Yugoslavia (1956–92)
 Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–95)
Service/branchYugoslav Ground Forces (1956–92)
Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–95)
Years of service1956–1995
Battles/warsBosnian War

Jovan Divjak (Serbian Cyrillic: Јован Дивјак; 11 March 1937 – 8 April 2021) was a Bosnian army general who served as the Deputy Commander of the Bosnian army's main staff until 1994, during the Bosnian War.

Early life and education[edit]

Divjak was born in Belgrade to parents originally from the Bosanska Krajina region of Bosnia.[2] His father was stationed in the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) in Serbia. His family, like himself when he was alive, currently reside in Sarajevo, where Divjak moved in 1966. From 1956 to 1959, he attended the Military Academy in Belgrade. In 1964 and 1965, he attended the École d'État Major in Paris. Although Divjak was an ethnic Serb born in Serbia,[3] he identified as a Bosnian.[1]


From 1969 to 1971, Divjak 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.[citation needed]

Between 1991 and 1993, Divjak was court-martialed by the JNA for issuing 120 pieces of light armor 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 Defense of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.[4] In the first days of war, he was arrested under the charge of collaborating with the Serb forces and was imprisoned for 27 days. In prison, Divjak was on a hunger strike for four days.[citation needed]

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).[citation needed]

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 Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alija Izetbegović. At the beginning of the war, out of 18 percent of Croats and 12 percent of Serbs, only one percent of both remained in the ranks of the Bosnian army. 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 allegedly had no confidence in Serb commanders according to Oslobođenje.[5]

Later life[edit]

Divjak receiving the "Peace Builders" Award in the Parliament of Catalonia from Anna Simó in Barcelona, 17 March 2014.

Divjak was the executive director of OGBH ("Obrazovanje Gradi BiH": "Education builds Bosnia and Herzegovina"), which he co-founded.[6] The association's goals are to help children whose families are victims of the war, by providing grants of money, but also to help education in Bosnia, even in the poorest parts of the country, by providing financial and material support.[citation needed]

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.[7]

From 2004 until his death, he was a member of the Steering Board of the NGO Reference Group, Sarajevo. From 1998 until his death, Divjak was a member of the Association of Independent Intellectuals "Krug 99", Sarajevo. Before 1998, he was an active member of other associations, including sports associations, and the faculty of physical education in Sarajevo, and he has been a member of various NGOs in Bosnia.[citation needed]

Divjak enjoyed popularity among the general public of Sarajevo, and has been dubbed Jovo Divjak, General Jovo and Uncle Jovo.[8] He was the author of two books:

  • In French "Sarajevo, mon amour". Entretiens avec Florence La Bruyere; published by Buchet-Chastel in 2004 with a foreword by Bernard-Henri Lévy.
  • In Bosnian, "Ratovi u Hrvatskoj i Bosni i Hercegovini 1991–1995", "Dani" and Jesenski and Tura in 1999.

He appeared in the BBC documentary The Death of Yugoslavia in 1995 and is the subject of a 2013 Al-Jazeera World documentary, Sarajevo My Love.[9]

In 2006, he was awarded the title of Universal Peace Ambassador by the Worldwide Council of the Universal Ambassador Peace Circle in Geneva.[citation needed]

On 3 March 2011, Divjak was arrested in Vienna in response to a Serbian arrest warrant accusing him of war crimes relating to an attack on a Yugoslav army column in Sarajevo early in the 1992–95 war. However, Austria did not extradite him to Belgrade.[10] On 8 March 2011, he was bailed from custody in Vienna and on 29 July 2011, he was released after Serbia's extradition request was denied by an Austrian court due to lack of evidence and the inability to guarantee a fair trial in Serbia.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Divjak was married to his wife Vera from 1960 until her death in 2017.[9] They had two sons, one of whom served in the Bosnian army.[9] He also had a godson who is a Bosniak whose brothers were killed in the Bosnian War.[9]


On 8 April 2021, Divjak died in Sarajevo at the age of 84.[12] Divjak was buried in Sarajevo at the Bare Cemetery on 13 April, five days after his death.[13]


Following Divjak's death, many prominent Bosnian politicians and public figures reacted to his death, including Bosnian Presidency members Željko Komšić and Šefik Džaferović, former Presidency member Bakir Izetbegović, newly elected Mayor of Sarajevo Benjamina Karić, poet and screenwriter Abdulah Sidran, former footballers Emir Spahić and Faruk Hadžibegić and many others.[14]

Foreign media also reacted to Divjak's death, with the likes of Voice of America, El País, France 24, Swissinfo and others remembering his life.[15]


The day after Divjak's death, on 9 April, the people of Mostar said their last goodbyes to Divjak.[16] The same day, an image of Divjak was projected at the Vijećnica (Sarajevo City Hall), thus Sarajevo symbolically paying tribute to him.[17]

Upon his death, the government of the Sarajevo Canton announced that 13 April 2021, the day of his burial, would be a national day of mourning in the whole Canton.[18]


  • Thomas, Nigel (2006). The Yugoslav Wars (2): Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia 1992–2001. Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-4728-0196-8. Retrieved 15 April 2013.



  1. ^ a b "Jovan Divjak: Ja sam Bosanac" [Jovan Divjak: I am a Bosnian]. Sense Tribunal (in Serbo-Croatian). Sense Agency. 2007. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  2. ^ Video on YouTube
  3. ^ Christopher Merrill (1 October 2001). Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 357. ISBN 978-0-7425-1686-1.
  4. ^ Karabeg, Omer (8 March 2010). "What Really Happened During The Dobrovoljacka Attack?". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
  5. ^ Ex-Yupress & 2 August 1996.
  6. ^ Hoare, Marko Attila (3 May 2021). "General Jovan Divjak obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  7. ^ "Third Annual HIA International Conference" (PDF). Humanity in Action. p. 16.
  8. ^ "Čika Jovo Divjak: Spomenik ženi Sarajeva je moja životna misija" [Jovo Divjak: Monument to the Women of Sarajevo is My Life Mission]. 11 March 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d Kaftan, Eylem (11 June 2013). "Sarajevo My Love". Al-Jazeera World. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Austria won't send Bosnia general to Serbia". Reuters. 7 March 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2011.
  11. ^ "Bosnian wartime general freed by Austrian court". reuters. 29 July 2011. Archived from the original on 25 September 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  12. ^ Fu. M. (8 April 2021). "Preminuo Jovan Divjak" (in Bosnian). Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  13. ^ B.T. (13 April 2021). "Legendarni general Jovan Divjak ispraćen na vječni počinak" (in Bosnian). Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  14. ^ B.R. (8 April 2021). "Sutra na zgradi sarajevske Vijećnice projekcija u čast Jovana Divjaka" (in Bosnian). Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  15. ^ I.S. (9 April 2021). "Strani mediji izvijestili o smrti Divjaka: Bio je simbol multikulturalne Bosne" (in Bosnian). Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  16. ^ G.Š. (9 April 2021). "Posljednji pozdrav Jovanu Divjaku sa Starog mosta: Generale, počivaj u miru" (in Bosnian). Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  17. ^ B.R. (9 April 2021). "Sarajevo odalo počast čika Jovi: Na Vijećnici oslikan lik generala i humaniste" (in Bosnian). Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  18. ^ B.R. (9 April 2021). "U Kantonu Sarajevo 13. aprila Dan žalosti povodom smrti Jovana Divjaka" (in Bosnian). Retrieved 9 April 2021.

News reports[edit]

External links[edit]