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Battle of Pljevlja

Battle of Pljevlja
Part of the Uprising in Montenegro, World War II in Yugoslavia
Date 1 December 1941
Location Pljevlja, Italian governorate of Montenegro, Axis-occupied Yugoslavia

Italian victory

  • Defeat of Partisan forces
Pljevlja, Italian governorate of Montenegro, Axis-occupied Yugoslavia
Communist Party of Yugoslavia  Italy
Commanders and leaders
Arso Jovanović Giovanni Esposito
Units involved
  • Kom detachment
  • Zeta detachment
  • Lovćen detachment
  • Bijeli Pavle detachment
  • Piva battalion
  • Prijepolje company
5th Alpine Division Pusteria
4,000 2,000
Casualties and losses
203 killed
269 wounded
74 killed
170 wounded
88 imprisoned
more than 23 citizens of Pljevlja[1]

The Battle of Pljevlja (1 December 1941), was a World War II attack in the state of Montenegro by partisans on Italian military forces occupying the city of Pljevlja under the command of General Arso Jovanović and Colonel Bajo Selulić, who led 4,000 Montenegrin Partisans.[2]


  • Background 1
  • Involved forces 2
  • Battle 3
  • Aftermath 4
  • Legacy 5
  • References 6
    • Bibliography 6.1
  • External links 7


In 1941 the area had been occupied by Italian forces trying to attack Greece. On 1 November 1941, the Supreme Command of insurgent forces began planning to attack Pljevla.[3] On 15 November, the Regional Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party for Montenegro, Boka and Sandžak ordered all insurgent forces in the region to begin preparing for the assault. According to Arso Jovanović, the Italians had prepared for an entire month before the battle, with forces from Brodarevo and Bijelo Polje being redeployed to Pljevlja. [4]

Involved forces

General Arso Jovanović[4] commanded the 4,000 partisan troops which were split into several groups: the Kom, Zeta, Lovćen and Bijeli Pavle detachments, the Piva battalion and the Prijepolje company.[5]

The Italian garrison in Pljevlja belonged to the 5th Alpine Division Pusteria; it was led by Giovanni Esposito and had a strength of 2,000 men.[6]


The Partisan forces attacked Pljevlja on 1 December 1941.

Simultaneously, the Piva battalion and the Prijepolje Company attacked the village of Bučje, with the aim of cutting off communications between Priboj and Pljevlja. The Italians defending Bučje lost six men and surrendered on 2 December.[7]

Some partisans managed to penetrate into Pljevlja but, Italian forces began shelling the town and killing the native Serbian population to prevent them from providing support to the partisans. This action hampered the partisan attack, [8] as they failed to capture Pljevlja and retreated with heavy casualties, some 203 were killed and 269 were wounded.[9]


Following the battle, many partisans deserted their units and joined the pro-axis Chetniks.[10][11]

Partisan forces began plundering nearby villages and executing captured Italians, party "sectarians" and "perverts".[12] As a reprisal for the attack, Italian forces, along with Muslim militia in the area, burned and plundered the houses of insurgents.[13]

The defeat of the partisans at Pljevlja and the terror campaign conducted by left-wing elements of the partisan movement, led to further conflict between the two groups.[10] The various ideologies of the partisan factions in Montenegro eventually led to civil war.[14] The leader of the resistance movement in occupied Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, disapproved of the attack.[15] When he received word of the planned assault, Tito issued two orders not to attack Pljevlja.[16] On 7 December 1941, Moša Pijade wrote a letter to Tito and requested an investigation into the defeat at Pljevlja.[17]

The Battle of Pljevlja was the last major action of the Uprising in Montenegro and resulted in the expulsion of partisan forces from the region.[18] On 21 December 1941, the Kom, Lovćen, Bijeli Pavle and Zeta detachments were incorporated into the 1st Proletarian Brigade.[5][19]

After the battle, the command of Montenegrin Partisans called for the recruitment of women, issuing an announcement which invited the sisters of deceased insurgents to join partisan forces.[20]


The Serbian novelist, Mihailo Lalić, wrote about the battle in one of his works, in which he emphasized that local Muslims committed war crimes during this action.[21] On 1 December 2011, the 70th anniversary of the battle, a ceremony was held at the monument to the fallen Partisans on Stražica Hill overlooking Pljevlja, which was attended by Montenegrin President Filip Vujanović. He stated that 236 Montenegrin Partisans were killed during the battle, along with another 159 people from Pljevlja and the surrounding area. The monument commemorates the deaths of 412 Partisans and other victims of World War II.[22]


  1. ^ Živković 2011, p. 264.
  2. ^ Rellie 2008, p. 218.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Dedijer 1990, p. 61.
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Živković 2011, p. 263.
  9. ^ Pajović 1987, p. 32.
  10. ^ a b Tomašević 1979, p. 192.
  11. ^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 143.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Lakić 2009, p. 371
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Lagator & Batrićević 1990, p. 27.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^


External links

  • Collection of official documents in SFR Yugoslavia about Montenegro in 1941

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