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|Formed||13 March 1946|
The State Security Service, also known by its original name as the State Security Administration, was the secret police organization of Communist Yugoslavia. It was at all times best known by the acronym UDBA, which is derived from the organization's original name in the Serbo-Croatian language: "Uprava državne bezbednosti" ("State Security Administration"). The acronyms SDB (Serbian) or SDS (Croatian) were used officially after the organization was renamed into "State Security Service". In its latter decades it was composed of eight semi-independent secret police organizations—one for each of the six Yugoslav federal republics and two for the autonomous provinces—coordinated by the central federal headquarters in the capital of Belgrade.
Although it operated with more restraint than secret police agencies in the communist states of Eastern Europe, the UDBA was a feared tool of control. It is alleged that the UDBA was responsible for the "eliminations"[clarification needed] of dozens of enemies of the state within Yugoslavia and internationally (estimates about 200 assassinations and kidnappings). Eliminations vary from those of World War II Ustaše Croat leaders Ante Pavelić and Vjekoslav Luburić (in Argentina and Spain), to Croatian emigrant writer Bruno Bušić and Bosnian emigrant writer Dragiša Kašiković, although war criminals have to be distinguished from those assassinated only for dissent or political reasons.
From its founding in 1946, the secret police organization originally held the name "State Security Administration". In Yugoslavia the predominant administrative language on the Federal level was the Serbo-Croatian language, and more specifically the Serbian variant thereof: therein the name was Uprava državne bezbednosti ("Управа државне безбедности" in the coequal Cyrillic script). From this was derived the acronym "UDB", or, less formally and accurately: "UDBA". "UDBA" (pronounced as a single word and not an acronym), was the most common colloquial name for the organization throughout its history.
After 20 years, in 1966, with the political downfall of its hardliner chief, Aleksandar Ranković, the organization was renamed to the "State Security Service", which (in the Serbian variant of Serbo-Croatian) is "Služba državne bezbednosti" (Служба државне безбедности), with the corresponding acronym SDB. Even though that would be its name for the remaining 28 years of Yugoslavia's existence, it never stopped being mainly known as "(the) UDBA". Even after it was (at least formally) decentralized in 1967 into 8 semi-independent organizations each answering to an individual federal entity.
UDBA formed a major part of the Yugoslav intelligence services from 1946 to 1991, and was primarily responsible for internal state security. After 1946 the UDBA underwent numerous security and intelligence changes due to topical issues at that time, including: fighting gangs; protection of the economy; Cominform/Informbiro; and bureaucratic aspirations. In 1945 and 1946, for instance, the UDBA was organized into districts. In 1950, when the administrative-territorial units were abolished as authorities, the UDBA was reorganized again. During this period the intelligence and security activities concentrated less on intelligence and more on internal security. There was an emphasis on collectivism, brotherhood, social harmony, loyalty, and tolerance towards those with different views. Deviation from this set of values became an immediate issue for security services.
Later, the use of force was mitigated and when the process of "decentralization of people's power" began, intelligence and security services underwent further reorganization in order to decentralise power and increase effectiveness. At the plenum of the Central Committee in July 1966, the political leadership accused the SDB of hindering reforms towards self-administration. As a result, the SDB was decentralized, its personnel reduced (especially on the federal level) and control commissions established. New regulations were issued, strengthening the independent initiative of the state security services of the six Yugoslav republics and the autonomous provinces. The SDB was deprived of executive functions and entrusted with identifying and preventing hostile activities. The Act on Internal Affairs and the Decree on Organization of State Internal Affairs Secretariat regulated the intelligence security authority as the prerogative of the State Security Directorate within the Ministry of the Interior. The following reorganization addressed issues relating to the competence of the federation (state security, cross-border traffic, foreign citizens, passports, introduction and dissemination of foreign press, and federal citizenship).
Intelligence and security activity was organized in the following manner:
- After OZNA (Одељење заштите народа / Odeljenje zaštite naroda) (En:Department for the People's Protection) was abolished, intelligence activity was divided among various federal ministries: the Federal Ministry of the Interior by the State Security Administration, and the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the Service for Research and Documentation (SID) which collected foreign political information; military-defense intelligence was handled by the GS 2nd Department - KOS (Kontraobaveštajna služba / Контраобавештајна служба / Counterintelligence Service) of Yugoslav People's Army.
- SDB in the republics was not autonomous, but was tied to the federal service which co-ordinated the work and issued instructions.
- State security was regulated by secret legislation (secret Official Gazette), which prescribed the use of special operations. The SDB performed house searches, covert interceptions inside the premises, telecommunications interception, covert surveillance of people, and covert interception of letters and other consignments.
- Of primary interest to the SDB was domestic security; identifying and obstructing activities of the "domestic enemy" (i.e. the "bourgeois rightwing", clericalists, members of the Cominform, nationalists, and separatists). Intelligence work abroad was deemed less important and was under federal control.
- The SDB was a "political police", answerable to the party organization from which it received its guidelines and to which it reported. The SDB was so deeply rooted in the political system that one of its tasks was the preparation of "Political Security Assessments"; that is, assessments on literally all spheres of life.
- During its activity, the SDB enjoyed a wide range of power, including classical police powers (identifications, interrogations, and arrests).
- The SDB organization was constantly changing and making improvements, but it remained tied to the central unit in republic capitals and smaller working groups in the field. All information and data flowed into the central unit in the capitals and sent on from there to the users. Field groups had working contacts with the local authorities, but did not answer to them.
One of the first successful actions of UDBA was operation Gvardijan, that denied Božidar Kavran the chance to infiltrate ex-Ustasha groups in order to start an uprising against Yugoslavia, eventually capturing Kavran himself.
From 1963 to 1974, security intelligence services dealt with a series of domestic and foreign political events. At home, there were political confrontations both before and after the Brioni Plenum (1966), liberal flareups and massive leftist student demonstrations in Belgrade in 1968, Hrvatsko proljeće (Croatian Spring) or "MASPOK" (mass movement) in Croatia in 1971, a nationalist incursion of the Bugojno group in the Raduša area (1972), and a revival of nationalism in Yugoslav republics. The most significant event abroad was the invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
These were the circumstances at the time the first act on internal affairs of the individual republics was adopted in 1967. According to this act, internal affairs were handled directly by the municipal administrative bodies and the secretariats of internal affairs of each republic or by their provincial bodies. This was the first time since 1945 that republics gained control and greater influence over their individual security organs and intelligence security services.
The State Security Service (SDB) was defined by law as a professional service within the Republic Secretariat of Internal Affairs (RSUP). Naturally, most of its competence remained within federal institutions, as prescribed by the Act on Handling Internal Affairs Under Competence of Federal Administrative Bodies (1971), which determined that the federal secretariat of internal affairs would coordinate the work of the SDB in the republics and provinces. Further steps were taken with the transformation of the state administration, adoption of the Federal Act on State Administration (1978), and the Republic Act (1978). The newly adopted act on internal affairs tasked the Republic Secretariat of Internal Affairs (RSUP) with state security issues, which then became RSUP issues and were no longer given special handling "at the RSUP". This resolution remained in force until the 1991 modifications of the act on internal affairs.
The role of intelligence and security changed after 1986, when a different mentality reigned within the Party and the processes of democratization were initiated. Intelligence security agencies came under attack, and many people started publicly writing about and criticizing the SDB. The party organization was abolished in the SDB and the first attempts to introduce parliamentary control began.
The first democratic multi party elections in 1990, which enhanced the process of democratization, reverberated within the Federal Secretariat of Internal Affairs (SSUP) and Federal State Security Service (SSDB), which were fighting to maintain control over the individual SDBs in the republics, which became increasingly disunited. They were still legally connected to the federal bodies, but were becoming aware that they operated and worked in their particular republic. Some professional cadres, especially those in the "domestic field" (dealing with the "bourgeois right wing", clericalists, and student movements) began leaving the service. Conflict was increasing, and SDB archives were being systematically destroyed. In its search for new roles, the SDBs also began to limit information they were sending to the SSDB. They ultimately restricted their information to foreign intelligence services.
Along with the weakening of the SSDB position, attempts were made by the Yugoslav People's Army Security Service or KOS to strengthen its own strongholds in the different republics and in the individual SDBs. The attempts failed because they depended upon cadres of other nationalities still employed in the SDBs but who had no access to data bases and had no decision-making power due to their "Yugoslav" orientation.[clarification needed]
Recently released files contain information on one million citizens of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia and other former Yugoslav republics, whose files the UDBA in Slovenia kept records. In 2003 and 2010, it was possible to see the names of the UDBA agents in Slovenia, some of whom are still active in the Slovenian Military and the Ministry of Interior, at the website udba.net. The government of Slovenia promptly demanded the removal of pages from the website, so they are currently not accessible.
List of notable targeted people
- Spehnjak, Katarina: "Brionski plenum"- odjeci IV. sjednice CK SKJ iz srpnja 1966. godine u hrvatskoj političkoj javnosti, in: ČSP 3/1999, pp. 463-489.
- “Yugoslavia: Internal Security Capabilities. An Intelligence Assessment”, CIA (Directorate of Intelligence), October 1985: „Both the SDB, committed to the largely secret war against subversion, and the Milicija, charged with traditional police functions in preserving law and order, are formally organized on a decentralized basis, with authority widely dispersed among the six republics and two autonomous provinces.”
- Schindler, John (February 4, 2010), Doctor of Espionage: The Victims of UDBA, Sarajevo: Slobodna Bosna, pp. 35–38
- see the Act on abolishing of authority, LRS Off. Gazette no. 4/51
- Robionek, Bernd: State Security out of Control? The Influence of Yugoslavia's Political Leadership on Targeted Killings abroad (1967-84), in: OEZB Working Paper, March 2020.
- FNRJ Off. Gaz. No. 30/56
- Christian Axboe Nielsen: The Symbiosis of War Crimes and Organized Crime in the Former Yugoslavia, in: Südosteuropa-Mitteilungen 52 (2012), pp. 6-17: “The 1974 Yugoslav Constitution effected a pronounced shift towards decentralization in all areas of state administration. […] The Federal Secretariat for Internal Affairs was gradually reduced to the status of a clearinghouse for information, and was finally taken over by the Serbian Secretariat for Internal Affairs in the autumn of 1992.”
- Media related to State Security Administration at Wikimedia Commons