The Fall of Cetingrad

Cetingrad, where the Croatian nobility in 1527 passed the historic Cetingrad Charter and chose Ferdinand I of the House of Habsburg as their king has been subject to destruction over the centuries. From the Ottoman Wars to World War II to the Homeland War, Cetingrad suffered looting, terror and destruction but “arose from the ashes” each time.

In October 1990, a station of the Slunj police was established in Cetingrad under the leadership of Nikola Cindrić who was assisted by Milorad Mandić. After Mandić joined the rebel Serb militia of the so-called “Serbian Autonomous Region (SAR) of Krajina”, he was replaced by Zdenko Cindrić. The Belgrade newspapers “Politika” and “Politika Express” described Cetingrad as an Ustasha hotbed where 2,000 of Tuđman’s mercenaries with state-of-the-art weapons were stationed. In reality, the station had approximately 65 officers just before the town was first attacked on 3 October 1991. By 13 October, the inhabitants of Cetingrad and outlying areas were essentially surrounded and unable to travel to either Slunj or Velika Kladuša. The enemy even called upon the defense of Cetingrad under the leadership of Joso Medved to surrender but received no response… thus the heavy shelling of the town ensued.

We did not retaliate during the Serb attacks because we had nothing with which to retaliate… and we most certainly did not provoke them.

Mate Vratarić, Croatian soldier

After Slunj was occupied by the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) and rebel Serbs on 16 November 1991, it was obvious that Cetingrad and its surrounding area would be targeted next. The situation was extremely tense. In the offensive that led to the capture of Slunj, the enemy also took other villages in the municipality, namely Batnoga, Tatar Varoš, Delić Poljana and Ponor. Most of the population fled to Bosnia and the morale of the few remaining defenders was low. The negotiated cease-fires signed in Geneva on 23 November by Veljko Kadijević, Slobodan Milošević and Franjo Tuđman halted the offensive.

Cetingrad was attacked on 26 November and occupied the following day with little resistance. Fighting broke out around Šiljkovača south of Cetingrad on 28 November and Lieutenant Colonel Tomislav Ranković, commander of the 2nd Kordun Brigade of the Vojnić Territorial Defense (TD) was killed in action.

With the liberation of Slunj and the opening of links between Karlovac and Knin, the issue of Cetingrad became important and needed to be resolved. The liberation of Cetingrad and its surrounding area would ensure the normal flow of money, people and capital and eliminate the danger of an enemy attack from its flanks.

Command of the 2nd Kordun Brigade Vojnić TD

After the occupation of Cetingrad, enemy forces began their looting and destruction and the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was the first to be targeted and was razed to the ground. The civilian population and defenders withdrew just inside the border in Bosnia where they were accepted by the Muslims of the Cazin and Kladovo municipalities and awaited an imminent truce. The refugees were taken into private homes where they were hidden from the YPA and received much assistance. In time, some refugees from the Cetingrad region visited their burned and destroyed villages and informed both their fellow villagers and the broader Croatian public aware of what had taken place. The outbreak of war between Muslims and Croats in central Bosnia and the policies of local Bosnian leader Fikret Abdić further exacerbated their situation as refugees. They finally returned to their homes after Cetingrad, along with most of the territory occupied by rebel Serbs, were liberated after Operation “STORM” in August of 1995.

Podijeli članak