The Rifles of Yugoslavia and Serbia
by Michael Kreca and Dan Reynolds
Yugoslavia means "land of the southern Slavs". Before World War II it was spelled Jugoslavia in English publications. The "J" in Serbo-Croat is pronounced as "Y" in English. Yugoslavia from its founding in 1918 until 1929 was officially called "Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats & Slovenes".
The Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, along with the Macedonians, Montenegrins and the Bosnian Moslems, are the main peoples of Yugoslavia with the Serbs being the largest in number. The Montenegrins are in fact ethnic Serbs, often called "mountain Serbs". The Bosnian Moslems are Serbs or Croats who were forcibly converted to Islam by the Ottoman Turks centuries ago. Ethnic Hungarians, Germans, many from the German region of Swabia, Albanians, Vlachs, (ethnic Rumanians) as well as Gypsies and Jews formed significant minority ethnic groups within the country.
The native Yugoslav languages are all Slavic in their derivation, the chief dialect being Serbo-Croat. The only significant difference between Serb and Croat is that the Serbs traditionally use the Russian style Cyrillic alphabet, while the Croats and others employ the standard Latin script. The other two main Yugoslav dialects are Slovene and Macedon, both differing significantly from Serbo-Croat. As recent historical events show, there are many long running, deep seated conflicts among the peoples of the former Yugoslavia. Ones that were in many cases, deliberately fueled by foreigners and that go back many centuries. A brief overview of the history of this area of the Balkans will place in context the subject of this article.
Human habitation of the Balkans can be traced back nearly 10,000 years. The Danube River Valley and those of its many tributaries provided the basis for a rudimentary regional agricultural civilization leading to the formation of a number of small cities. The archaeological remains of one of these ancient communities, Lepenski Vir, were discovered on the southern bank of the Danube southeast of Belgrade in 1965.
Over time, larger scale agriculture, animal husbandry, regional trade, rudimentary industry, iron and copper mining and, smelting developed causing various tribal groups from the north and east to migrate into the area. One of these tribes was the Illyrian, who settled mainly in the northwestern part of the Balkan Peninsula. The Illyrian farmed as well as mined and smelted metals and traded with distant areas such as Greece in the period about 3000 BC.
The Romans began expanding into the area toward the latter part of the 3rd Century BC, but more than 200 years of bitter struggle were required to completely subjugate the restive native peoples. In 9 AD, the area formally became the Roman province of Illyricum, although because of the intense civil war and constant tribal infighting, it was never completely garrisoned by Roman troops as was customary with other conquered lands. In 395 AD, Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, and who made Christianity the new official religion of the realm, divided the large increasingly troubled and difficult to rule Empire into Eastern and Western portions.
The Western Empire (Rome) and the Eastern Empire (Byzantium) each had its own ruler, located in Rome and Constantinople (called Istanbul since 1930) respectively. Constantine's splitting of the Christian Roman Empire into East and West set in motion a long series of important events which have had a profound influence on European history.
By the late 5th Century AD, the Western Empire had collapsed and Byzantium had been weakened to the point that effective control of the Balkans was abdicated. Warlike tribes of Slavs moving from the northeast into the region drove out many of the remaining descendants of the Illyrian. The Slavic newcomers were, in turn, briefly ruled by a tribe of nomadic raiders, the Avars, believed by some to be descendants of the Scythians, a barbaric tribe from the far eastern Russian steppes, who participated in numerous attacks on Constantinople. In 625 AD, a resurgent Byzantium allied itself with two of the largest Slavic tribes already in the Balkans, the Serbs and Croats, and gradually pushed the Avars eastward and completely out of the old Roman Illyria.
Around 850 AD, the first Serbian nation under Tsar Vlastimir was formed as a Byzantine province ruled by Emperor Michael III. Two brothers, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, were sent by the Emperor in Constantinople to Christianize the Serbs and other Slavs. To preach and to teach in the native Slavonic tongue, Cyril developed a script, derived from the ancient Greek, which eventually became what is now known as Cyrillic. He based his modified Greek script on the phonics of an ancient dialect spoken by the Slavic tribes in Macedonia, a dialect known today by Slavic Orthodox Christians as "Old Church Slavonic."
Present day Slovenia and Croatia in the western Balkans eventually gravitated to Rome, adopted the Latin alphabet and became Western Christians. The Serbs and Macedons in the eastern Balkans, as well as the more distant Bulgarians and Russians, used the Cyrillic script and became Eastern Christians, along with the Ukrainians, Romanians and Greeks, under the tutelage of Constantinople. This action has had a permanent effect on the culture and history of the peoples in these areas.
Further accentuating this division, in 1054, ongoing doctrinal differences caused a wide and still unrepaired schism between the eastern and Western Christian churches. As a result of this schism, the Western church is the Roman Catholic (meaning "universal") Church and the Eastern Church is the Eastern Orthodox (meaning "original") Church.
Orthodox Christian Serbia was a strong independent state by the 11th century, as was its Slav neighbor, Croatia. In 1102, Hungary absorbed Catholic Croatia, which it would rule for more than 800 years in conjunction with Austria. Serbia, often called "Servia" in many older publications, was unified and ruled by the Serb Nemanjich dynasty of emperors begun by Tsar Stefan Nemanja in 1159 and reached its peak size, cultural influence and power during the 24 year reign of Tsar Stefan Dushan (1331-55), when it ruled an area from northern Greece northward to the Danube and into modern day Hungary. During this time a highly developed Serbian literary, political, musical and artistic culture, which helped preserve and enrich traditional Greek learning, was defined and unified by the Serb Orthodox Church. The church was founded by Stefan Nemanja's younger brother, St. Sava the patron saint of Serbia) in 1219. After Tsar Dushan's death in 1355, the Serbian empire gradually declined with land and power being divided, King Lear-like, between two inept successors, Urosh and Vukasin. The Serb Empire, led by the one of the last rulers of the Nemanja dynasty, Tsar Lazar and Crown Prince Milos Obilich, was badly defeated by the much larger and more mobile forces of the Ottoman Sultan Murad I at the bloody and hard fought Battle of Kosovo. Translated roughly as "Plain of Blackbirds" in Vidovdan (St. Vitus' Day) June 28, 1389. This battle, which claimed the lives of Lazar, Milos Obilich and Murad, was the Waterloo of the old Serb empire. Since that time, the Kosovo region known as "Old Serbia", that fateful battle and the many events surrounding it have a deep cultural and spiritual meaning to all Serbs, even today.
In 1453, the Ottomans captured Constantinople and destroyed the remnants of Byzantium. Six years later, they swallowed the remnants of Serbia and the rest of the Balkans, occupying the region for the next 400 years. As part of the Ottoman occupation, the Serbs, who the Turks called "giaours" (subhuman dogs), were disarmed and the Serb Orthodox Church outlawed. They bitterly refused to submit to Turkish rule and convert to Islam. Conversion was required for employment and school attendance. They resisted the heavy property and poll taxes imposed upon them and most importantly, fought bitterly against the notorious annual Ottoman "blood tax" ("devshirme" in Turkish) in which young Serb children each spring were forcibly taken from their parents. The children were converted to Islam and sent to Turkey, never to be seen again. Little more than slaves, Serb boys were sent into lifelong service in the Ottoman military (Janissaries) while the girls were forced into various sultans' harems. In response to these and other cruelties and abominations, tens of thousands of Serbs fled Serbia proper over the next 300 years. Large numbers of them soon settled in the Lika, Slavonija and Krajina areas of Austrian and Hungarian ruled South-central Croatia, where most of the men over the years served in the Austro-Hungarian armyas border guards on the Austrian/Ottoman frontier. They were rewarded with plots of farmland in the region upon their discharges. The Ottoman Turks had reached the outskirts of Vienna and their historical high water mark in 1683 before being defeated by Austrian troops (many of whom were ethnic Serb conscripts) led by a Polish field marshal, Jan Sobieski. After a long siege and and they were gradually driven back into the Balkans.
Karadjordje ( Black George), a Serb who had served with the Austrian army battling the Turks in 1788 and who had been deeply inspired by the success of the French aided American Revolution against the British, led a large and violent Russian supported 1804 insurrection against the Sultan in the area around Belgrade. However, Black George's Serb insurgents were forced to flee to the northern (Hungarian) side of the Danube in 1813 when Russian support was withdrawn. Turkish troops then carried out bloody reprisals.
This led to renewed bitter revolt over the next two years. Ottoman Turkey, under increasing economic and military pressure from an industrializing Western Europe, was soon forced to restore important rights to the Serbs beginning in 1815. The Serbs' rights to keep and bear arms, freedom of assembly, and local home rule, abolished in the mid-1400s, were gradually reinstated. By 1830, the Ottomans granted full political autonomy to Serbia within the Empire and the ban on the Serbian Orthodox Church was lifted. In 1850, neighboring Montenegro, a small mountainous nation largely populated by Orthodox ethnic Serbs, became independent of the Ottoman Empire and came under the rule of a series of Orthodox Christian bishoprics. Milosh Obrenovich, a wealthy, self-made Serb merchant who had managed to retain his Orthodox Christian faith while gaining a great deal of influence with Ottoman authorities, had been given the title of prince and granted limited powers by the Turks in 1817 to rule and defend the newly autonomous Serb nation. The country relied on an armed peasant militia that was transformed into a standing army, the Polje Vojska (Field Army), in the 1830s and led by Russian trained officers.
In 1839, the increasingly anti-Russian Prince Milosh was dethroned and his son, Michael II, acceded to power. At that time a larger Field Army of 4000 men and 63 officers, outfitted by the Serb government, was authorized. It was tasked with guarding the borders and maintaining internal order. The only uniform was a government issued flintlock or caplock muzzle loading rifle. The Serb National Assembly voted Michael II out of power in 1843 and crowned Alexander I Karadjordjevich (son of Black George) prince.
In 1853, the Vojna Tehnicka Zavod (Military Technical Institute) was established at Kragujevac in central Serbia. Initially established to cast and test cannons, it would soon become Serbia's version of the USA's Springfield Armory. In 1858, Prince Alexander was removed from the throne by a vote of the Serb National Assembly which also returned Milosh I to power, but two years later Milosh died and was succeeded by his son, Michael III.
Michael's long-term goal was to unite all the Balkan South Slavic peoples in an effort to drive the Ottomans back to Constantinople, independent of any assistance of the Great Powers of Europe. Each of these powers had their own political agendas that were not necessarily favorable to the peoples of the region. As part of his strategy, Prince Michael established the Narodna Vojska (People's Army) in 1861 and the War Ministry a year later. The People's Army, a sort of active reserve that supported the Field Army, established in the mid-1830s was composed of 17 regiments (pukove) each commanded by a colonel (pukovnik.). A regiment was stationed in each of then-17 Serb "okruge" (provinces). Provinces were subdivided into "srez" (counties) that provided a battalion to each regiment. The smallest administrative area was called an "opstina" (township). Each township, depending on population size, was required to muster one or more companies (rote). Each fighting man was responsible for providing his own food, shoes and clothing as well as a rifle, 60 rounds of ammo and a bayonet.
Many Serb soldiers used sporting pattern rifles with no available bayonet, so a short sword with curving blade could be substituted. All able-bodied males from 20 to 50 years of age were liable for service in the People's Army. The People's Army was divided into two groups, the First Levy (Prvi Ban) consisting of 50,000 troops at the time and included those men ages 20-35. The Second Levy (Dvaje Ban) of men 36-50 were the reserves used to staff forts and garrisons, guard roads and bridges, act as transport personnel and support the First Levy. Only the regulars were paid. Prince Michael had realized as early as 1863 that Serbia's motley collection of small arms types, numbers, quality, serviceability and ammunition compatibility were chaotic and woefully inadequate. He knew that the average peasant could not afford to buy an adequate rifle despite the legal requirement that he do so.
In 1863 the War Ministry had in stock only 7,000 percussion muzzle loading rifles. The Russians promised delivery of 70,000 obsolete percussion muskets but only 31,000 were delivered after 1865. At that time, the Military Technical Institute began converting these rifles to breech loaders. These "new" rifles, based on the Green-Lorenz design, were called the Model 1867 and nicknamed "Grnovace". This was a design which fired a non-metallic combustible paper cartridge with lead 13.9mm bullet using a percussion cap. Maximum monthly production of the M1867 was 5000 weapons. It was soon realized that this design was gravely inadequate. Production was shifted to another conversion design, the 14.9mm Peabody Model 1870 which used a metallic cartridge and was superior to the M1867. This large caliber conversion was made in limited numbers. It was only a stop-gap measure.
Prince Milan IV, who had succeeded to the Serb throne after his father Michael III's death in 1868, began to secure foreign political and economic support of some of the European Powers to help gain Balkan independence from the Turks. Up to this point in its 19th century history, the newly autonomous, but not yet independent Serbia had used mainly rifles of the type issued in the Ottoman armed forces and second hand purchases smuggled in from ports on the Adriatic Sea with the newest types being the M1867 and M1870. Models, calibers and serviceability varied widely. Many Serbs could not afford to buy rifles of any kind while others still had venerable flintlock muskets (duplonke) and pistols (kubare).
In 1871 some 55,000 Peabody dropping or pivoting block breech loading rifles were imported from a European source, possibly France, and production machinery was acquired. Foreign engineers and technicians, totaling 1500, arrived at the Military Technical Institute to oversee production of this design. A monthly production rate of 500 rifles was achieved and the final production run is unknown. These new Peabody rifles were used to arm the People's Army First Levy and were similar to the model built by the Providence Tool Company, Providence R.I. USA, for Rumania a few years earlier. It was known as the M1870 "Srpski Pushke" (Serb Rifle) caliber 11.43 mm.
By 1875, the People's Army First Levy numbered between 75,000 and 90,000 men, the Second Levy about 50,000 men. In July 1876, Serbia and Montenegro declared war on Turkey in reaction to the widespread mistreatment of the Orthodox Christian Serbs in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina by the local Turkish nobility. Only 60,000 troops organized into six divisions were able to take to the field. Most were armed with the M1870 Peabody, but many had been issued the unpopular M1867, whose unreliability was now legendary and was believed by many to be a major factor in Serb battlefield defeats. Worse, an Ottoman vassal, the Khedive of Egypt, had provided troops and 40,000 British made .450 (11.43mm) Martini-Henry Mark 1 breech loading rifles to the Sultan for the war in the Balkans.
The new Peabody 11 .43 mm rifles proved far superior to the existing Serb M1867 conversion rifles, although most of the Sultan's troops were outfitted with the .577 caliber (14.66mm) Snider-Enfield breechloader conversion rifle, also of British origin. The Turks were so impressed with the Martini-Henry Mark 1 breech loading rifle that they sought to purchase a large quantity from the British, whom, were however unable to supply them in the quantity and time frame required. The Sultan then turned to Providence Tool Co. in the USA and ordered 600,000 of these rifles. Financial problems plagued the Ottomans and delayed delivery of the rifles, the shipment not completed until 1882. The Turks received sufficient numbers for their 1877 war with Russia.
Aided by the Bulgarians and Serbs the Russians, despite losing the Battle of Plevna to a large Turkish force armed with US Martini-Henry breech loading single shot and Winchester Model 1866 and 1873 .44-40 repeating rifles, finally defeated the Turks and forced them to accept the Treaty of San Stefano. The despondent Sultan did not live to see this as he had killed himself with a pair of scissors.
The major powers of Europe decided that the San Stefano settlement was unacceptable for geopolitical reasons, and a revised agreement, the Treaty of Berlin, was devised a year later. As a result of this revised agreement, Serbia assumed complete independence as a kingdom, Turkey lost a large portion of its Balkan territory and an autonomous Bulgaria was formed within the Ottoman Empire. Austria got control of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Serbia and Montenegro received additional territory. The Sanjak, a mostly Moslem area between Montenegro and Serbia was put under Austrian protection. This event caused a great Serb resentment of Austria, one that would help cause World War I.
It was now time for the newly independent Kingdom of Serbia to standardize on a modern military rifle. Wilhelm Mauser from Oberndorf, Germany, arrived in Belgrade, capital of Serbia, in July 1879. He brought samples of his Model 1871 11mm single-shot bolt-action breech loading black powder rifle adopted by many of the states of the newly unified German Empire. He was a good salesman with a first rate, reasonably priced product. To close the deal he accepted a string of design changes proposed by a Serb army ordnance officer, Major Koka Milovanovic (pronounced mee-lo-VAHN-ovitch.)
A torch light parade was held in Belgrade celebrating closure of the deal. Mauser received an order on 14 February 1881 for 120,000 Model 1878/80 Mauser Milovanovich rifles. The delay between Mauser's initial sales pitch and the Serb government order was due to testing of sample rifles, developing and testing modifications, and designing and testing the new cartridge. This latest "Serb Rifle" was also known as the "Mauser Koka" or "Mauser Milovanovic," the "M1878/80C" and the "M80C". The "C" is Cyrillic for "S" which stands for Serbian. This use of the Cyrillic "S" in model designations, along with its use on all markings Serb Mauser models manufactured in Germany and Austria, would become standard for most Serb Masers.
Among the modifications the Serbs made to the basic Model 1871 was the slightly smaller caliber, 10.15mm as opposed to the German 11mm, a tapered barrel breech to muzzle, grooves in rifling, a better manual safety, improved extractor and ejector. The most noticeable feature is the raised receiver tang, to guide the cocking piecestud as the bolt is drawn rearward, to prevent the bolt head from rotating excessively.
The next major purchase was for 4,000 10.15mm Mauser Milovanovic Model 1884 repeating carbine, known popularly as the "M84C". This M84C used the existing 78/80 type turn bolt action and was a short barreled carbine, stocked to the muzzle Mannlicher style, with shorter distance rear sight, a pointed pistol grip tip, a tubular magazine and turned down bolt handle. The 4,000 cavalry carbines were followed by a purchase of 4,000 artillery carbines which were not stocked to the muzzle and accepted a sword bayonet.
Despite these notable technical advances, Serbia remained chronically short of weapons and funds and was always surrounded by potential enemies. It looked to the fellow Orthodox Christian and Slavic Russians for assistance, but was wary of becoming dependent on them. Between 1878-1914, the Serb government tried to foster good diplomatic and trade relations with Tsarist Russia as well as with Imperial Germany and the detested Austria- Hungary, but this policy was difficult to maintain and was unpopular with many Serbs.
With the advent of Frenchman Paul Vielle's revolutionary smokeless powder in 1886 and his country's adoption of the Lebel M1886 8mm bolt-action magazine rifle shortly afterward, Serbia was even further degraded in relative military potential. In response, the Serbs field tested the German Model 1888 "Commission" Rifle in 7.92x57mm and the Model 1890 Steyr Mannlicher in 8x50R with its straight pull bolt action, but could not get adequate financing to purchase these new rifles.
The Serbs were forced to settle for surplus or outdated weapons wherever they could find them. In 1895 Russia supplied an estimated 60,000 obsolete 10.67mm Berdan Model 1870 and Berdan II single shot bolt action black powder rifles to both Serbia and Montenegro. The independent Kingdom of Montenegro, which had adopted a similar rifle, the 10.66mm Austrian Steyr Werndl Model 1873, received half of the Berdans, but included were some of the revised M70/78g rifles with longer range sights. It appears further deliveries of these surplus Berdans were made after the initial 1895 shipment. Smokeless powder and small bore repeating rifles were the cutting edge in small arms technology at the time, and by the late 1890s, given Serbia's size, geographic position and political stance, a pressing necessity. Several manufacturers and designs were considered. When financing became available, the German Mauser Model 1895, already in production for Chile, was selected along with the 7x57mm rimless cartridge. The Serbs adopted this type, labeling it the Model 1899 or "M99C".
The M99C was made in Berlin by Deutsche Waffen und Munitions Fabriken. DWM was formed by the banking firm of Ludwig Loewe which owned Waffenfabrik Mauser, an ammunition company and the Ludwig Loewe rifle and machine tool works. This reorganization allowed Waffenfabrik Mauser to continue operating as an autonomous corporate subsidiary, but merged the other assets into a single firm. After late 1896 all rifles made at the Loewe plant in Berlin were marked on the left receiver wall with Deutsche Waffen und Munitions Fabriken, and the Loewe name was no longer used. Only long rifles were purchased, but deliveries were insufficient to satisfy Serb ordnance department requirements as insufficient funds kept Serbia from buying modern rifles fast enough, so M99C series production and deliveries were phased in over a period of years, ending in 1906.
In the wake of the Spanish-American War of 1898, Francis Bannerman a prominent New York City war surplus dealer, had purchased all the 7x57mm Spanish Model 1893 Mauser rifles and Model 1895 carbines captured by U.S. forces from Spanish troops in Cuba and the Philippines. During the summer of 1902, as work was progressing to produce the new .30 caliber U.S. Rifle Model 1903, commonly called the "Springfield" after its place of development, Springfield Armory in Springfield, Mass. Bannerman contracted with that armory to recondition the captured Spanish weapons he had purchased at an auction.
In the late spring of 1903, Bannerman took a sample rifle and carbine with him to Europe. He planned to go to Belgrade to sell the whole lot of them to Serbia. These Spanish rifles were quite similar to the M99C, the chief difference being the bolt face design which would not allow the bolts to interchange with existing Serb Mauser bolts. Despite this shortcoming, it would have still seemed to be an excellent deal for both parties, but, as Balkan history has repeatedly demonstrated, other events intervened.
On the evening of May 29, 1903, the king of Serbia, Alexander Obrenovich, whose family had ruled Serbia for nearly 70 years and was considered by many Serbs at the time to be a pretender to the Serb throne as well as being too pro-German, was brutally killed in Belgrade by a cadre of 28 junior army officers along with his wife, Queen Draga, a widow and a commoner. These officers were incensed with the king's erratic foreign policy that had diplomatically isolated Serbia, and were angry about his recent suspension of Parliament and the reformist 1901 Constitution. The officers had bombed the palace with dynamite, trapped the royal couple behind some drapes, shot them 48 times, hacked the corpses to pieces with their swords and flung the bloody remains from a balcony and into the street.
King Peter I of the Karadjordjevich line, the grandson of Black George, was restored to power. When Bannerman arrived in the Serb capital by train from Germany, the political situation was so unstable that no deal could be made and he left for home to sell off the rifles elsewhere. The next group of Serb Mauser rifles, the Model 99/07C, also known as "M99/07C" and "M07C", was purchased from the Steyr firm in Austria. These were based upon the small ring M99C, but the chambered cartridge's base was fully supported by a ring of steel formed by a section of shallow flange machined on the barrel breech face mating with a complimentary flange on the recessed bolt face as the bolt was turned down and locked. This feature was retro fitted to the original contract M99C rifles earlier on.
A new carbine, the 7x57mm M08C, was also purchased from Steyr. It had a pointed Mannlicher-style pistol grip stock, a 17.7" (45cm) barrel and a Mauser 1895-type adjustable rear tangent sight calibrated from 300 to 1500 meters. It was originally intended for cavalry but later found wider usage. Markings on all these Mausers are in Serb Cyrillic and they bear the Serbian royal crest and the words "Model 1908" in Cyrillic on the receiver ring.
A later short barreled carbine of different pattern using the intermediate length type 1898 receiver was purchased from FN in the 1920's and issued to the police in the central Serb city of Nis (pronounced Neesh). It was of the FN M1922 pattern but it's exact Yugoslav designation is not known to us. It was made in 7.92mm. During this period, a cost reduction measure was adopted to convert old M1878/80C black powder rifles to five shot single column box magazine feed using the standard smokeless powder 7x57mm cartridge, a scheme which turned out to be impractical and dangerous. The first model, the M80/06C, was proven unsuitable and a strengthened model was developed and called the M80/7C or M80/07C. The M80/7C featured an adapter fitted to the receiver to provide a bearing point for an additional locking lug on the bolt guide rib and charger clip guides for the standard Mauser M99C stripper clip are fitted to the receiver bridge. To begin production of this conversion, 50,000 new 7x57mm barrels were ordered from Steyr in 1907. The work was done by MTI (Miltary Technical Institute) in Kragujevac. This rifle was not very popular but remained in inventory into the 1930's.
Meanwhile, early in 1908, Serbia learned the British and Russian governments were conspiring to establish an independent Macedonia. Macedona is a mountainous area of the Balkans south of Serbia and bordering on Greece, which was still under Ottoman control. Ethnic Serbs, Bulgarians, Turks, Albanians, Greeks, Jews, Vlachs and other minorities also called Macedonia their home. The Serb, Bulgarian and Greek governments all had laid claim to some or all of the area.
A progressively weakening Turkey became popularly known as the "Sick Man of Europe." The once powerful Ottoman Empire was dying fast and many expected a fight over the corpse. When it became known in Constantinople that Macedonia was about to be lost, a group of dissident junior army officers deposed the Sultan, Abdul Hamid II, and adopted a new constitution. Calling themselves the "Young Turks," these young officers implemented reforms in an attempt to modernized and strengthen the empire and army. German advisers were brought in to reorganize and upgrade the Turkish military along Prussian lines. In the wake of events in Turkey, Austria Hungary, with the tacit consent of Russia, quickly annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina, formally incorporating what they had received via the Treaty of Berlin 30 years before. Belgrade threatened to declare war on Vienna, but relented when it learned the Russians had already agreed not to contest Austria's action.
Serb fears of an invasion were escalated in September when Bulgaria declared its formal independence from the Ottoman Empire. Belgrade believed this act might inspire Sofia to invade and occupy Macedonia, an action that would fully surround Serbia with potentially hostile enemies. In response to Belgrade's bitter opposition to Vienna's Bosnian annexation, Austria suspended delivery to Serbia of the final batch of 15,000 of the original 50,000 7x57mm Steyr rifle barrels ordered the year before.
In reaction to this series of distressing events, on October 8, 1908, a group of Serb generals, diplomats, businessmen and legislators met in Belgrade and formed a clandestine nationalist group called "People's Defense," its goal being to bring as many Balkan regions populated by ethnic Serbs into a "Greater Serbia." The Serbs determined to take over what they considered "Serb Macedonia." By 1909, in part due to the success of People's Defense propaganda and espionage efforts, the Turks were gradually losing what little remained of their once huge Balkan Empire.
The former subject peoples of the mostly Orthodox Christian areas of Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria had by then formed independent or autonomous nations. Each nation contained minorities of neighboring peoples, and all claimed other lands housing people of their own ethnicity and these claims often conflicted. One thing they all agreed upon was that the rotting Ottoman Empire had to be pushed out of Europe once and for all so that each Balkan nation's territorial claims could be settled and their respective security increased.
War was coming fast. In the wake of these increasing political tensions, Serbia realized it needed even more modern rifles and Steyr completed deliveries for the 7x57mm Mauser M99/08C in 1910. A year before, 10,000 M80/7C conversions had been completed with the Steyr 7x57mm caliber barrels first ordered in 1907. Once financing could be arranged, the Serb government ordered an improved Model 98 with the Mauser Co. factory in Oberndorf, Germany, the Model 1910 (M10C) in 7x57mm. Deliveries of this new "Serb Rifle" began in 1911. The M10C looked at first glance like the M99C long rifle, but with a tangent rear sight and large ring Mauser 98 action. It featured "the ring of steel" full cartridge base support of the M99/08C, a standard Mauser 98 five round staggered magazine assembly, and no recoil cross bolt in the stock. Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia and other Latin American nations purchased this same model. Serb Cyrillic markings and the Serb royal crest identify the new "Serb Rifle."
In 1912, Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro signed a series of clandestine agreements forming what was called "The Balkan League." The League's aim was to drive the weakened Ottoman Turks out of Europe once and for all. Montenegro declared war on Turkey on October 8, 1912, followed by Serbia and Bulgaria, and the First Balkan War was underway. A tottering Turkey was soon decisively beaten by the combined powers of the League. After much wrangling, in May 1913 the Treaty of London was signed and the Ottomans lost their few remaining European lands except for a small region on the western shore of the Dardanelles bordering on Bulgaria and Greece, which it retains to this day.
The land taken from the Ottomans was divided up among the victors. Bulgaria thought itself cheated with its small portion of Macedonia and subsequently, with Austrian logistical and financial support, attacked Serbia and Greece in June 1913. This set off the brief but bloody Second Balkan War. Bulgaria lost, and the resulting Treaty of Bucharest in August 1913 gave Montenegro the Sanjak. Serbia got the lion's share of Macedonia, Greece got the coast of Salonika and Kavala and southern Macedonia. Smarting from its loss of the Sanjak, Austria-Hungary insisted on the establishment of an Austrian ruled Albanian state on the territory Serbia and Montenegro had seized during that war.
As a result of the last action, tensions between Serbia and Austria-Hungary reached new heights. By midsummer 1913, the Serbian High Command had to face harsh political and logistical realities. There was grave internal dissension within the military and between the two major Serbian political parties, the ruling hard-line Radicals and the more conciliatory Progressives. Basic foodstuffs, especially grain, were in short supply because the mobilization of tens of thousands of young men for both Balkan Wars had left an acute farm labor shortage. Many rifles had been lost or rendered unusable. Artillery and small arms ammunition stocks were gravely low. Ammunition for captured non-standard Bulgarian and Turkish rifles was even scarcer.
Once again Serbia needed modern infantry rifles, and fast. The country had to face the unpleasant fact that obtaining the desired new Mauser pattern rifles in the required quantity was no longer a viable option. The Mauser Company, via its holding company, DWM, which controlled production licensing and sale of Mauser rifles worldwide, was German owned and Germany was a formal ally of Austria-Hungary. In the event of war with Vienna, the supply of rifles and spare parts from Steyr would be cut off. Moreover, there was insufficient hard currency to pay for these new rifles, and, to make matters worse, the Serb government under Radical Party Prime Minister Nikola Pasich had terminated the Serbs' trade agreement with Austria-Hungary that would have made a cost-effective deal possible. Given these numerous unfavorable conditions, the Serb High Command decided that, as a stop-gap measure, it would temporarily rearm with the "Ruski Pushka" (Russian Rifle) the Model 1891 Mosin Nagant bolt action rifle. It would become Serbia's new "substitute standard" as soon as adequate quantities could be obtained. It is not known how these rifles were paid for, but Russia began supplying or had promised to supply them. However, once again, political events suddenly intervened to disrupt these plans.
In Sarajevo, on Vidovdan, June 28, 1914, a Serb, Gavrilo Princip, shot and killed Crown Prince Ferdinand, heir to the Habsburg (Austro-Hungarian) throne, along with his wife Sophie. He used the popular Belgian made Browning Model 1910 pistol in 9mm Browning Short (.380 ACP.) Several of these handguns had been supplied by Serbian military intelligence, on orders of its commander, one Col. Dragutin "Apis" Dimitrijevich, to a three year old Serb nationalist movement named "Unity or Death," commonly called "The Black Hand." The Black Hand was a clandestine group of ethnic Serb nationalist conspirators scattered throughout Austria-Hungary's Balkan provinces of which Princip, who died of tuberculosis in an Austrian prison a few months before W.W. I ended, was a member. Four of the pistols recovered by Sarajevo police were serial numbered 19074, 19075, 19120, and 19126. The pistols were "liberated" from an Austrian museum in 1945 and are presently believed to be somewhere in the U.S.A.
In reaction to the assassination, Vienna issued an ultimatum to Belgrade. Serbia approached Russia for material support while rejecting Vienna's demands. Serbia was still in poor shape economically and the military forces were gravely short of vital supplies of all types. The Tsar's government promised 120,000 M1891 Mosin Nagant rifles to be delivered in August, despite the fact that Russia itself was also chronically short of adequate numbers of small arms. It is likely most of these came from Russian Army arsenals and were not new production. It is unknown whether any rifles were delivered before August 1914 when the promised 120,000 rifles showed up in Serbia. Further deliveries followed, but no information is available on quantities. A British Army document from early 1915 had reported that 150,000 Russian Mosin Nagants were in Serb service at that time.
When war with the Central Powers, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria to be followed by Turkey, began on 28 July 1914, Serbia was able to field an estimated 425,000 trained and equipped troops. The military intelligence department of the Imperial Army of Austro-Hungary estimated that a minimum shortfall of 150,000 serviceable military rifles, needed to arm called up reservists, existed in Serbia at the start of the war. The actual number in fact was well over 200,000. Roughly 25% of all Serb troops lacked rifles of any kind and other soldiers were armed with obsolete black powder rifles for which little ammo or spare parts were available.
The regular Serbian Army and the First Levy, male draftees between 21-30 years of age serving 18 months of active duty, were supplied the following rifles, Serb Mausers M10C, M99C, M99/07C, M99/08C, Carbine M08C and some Russian M1891 Mosin-Nagant rifles in 7.62x54R. They were also outfitted with Belgian Nagant 7.5mm revolvers, Browning M1910 .380 ACP, Mauser M1896 7.63mm "Broom handle" autoloading pistols and 7x57mm Model 1909 Maxim water-cooled, belt fed medium machine guns as available.
The Second Levy, reservists between 31-40 years of age who had already completed their 18 months of active duty, was issued the following weapons, M80/7C rifle, M95 carbine, M90T, M99T, M03T, M10T rifles, the M05T carbine and Austrian Steyr Mannlicher M1895 rifles and carbines in 8x50R. The "T series" of Mauser rifles and carbines had been captured from the Turks during the First Balkan War and fired 7.65x53. mm ammunition. The Steyr Mannlichers had been captured from the Bulgarians in the Second Balkan War. Older black powder cartridge revolvers were issued. The Regular Army along with the First and Second Levies constituted the Field Army. Only regulars and First Levy would have uniforms, ammo pouches and belts.
The Third Levy (Trije Ban), composed of reservists aged 41-50, was issued anything remaining in the way of arms and equipment including arms of the type used by the Second Levy weapons plus surplus 10.67mm Russian Berdan M1870 rifles. An estimated 75,000 of these Berdans were accounted for in 1909, but after the two Balkan Wars, some 50,000 serviceable examples of these rifles would be a generous estimate. In addition, Mauser Milovanovic M1878/80C, Winchester 1866 & 1873 in .44-40, Sniders, Gras, Peabodys, Martini Henrys, M87T's, anything that could shoot, was put into service. The Chetniks, irregular local village forces, usually not uniformed and sometimes barefoot, were armed chiefly with captured Austrian-made Bulgarian Steyr Mannlicher M95 rifles and carbines at the outbreak of war. Ammunition availability was a key factor in issuing rifles. Sometimes only one packet, 20 cartridges in four five-round clips, or one round per rifle, was issued.
The Military Technical Institute could turn out 120,000 rounds of the standard 7x57mm per day, but periodically had to switch production over to make various calibers of artillery shells, obsolete 10.15mm black powder rounds, 8x50R cartridges for captured Bulgarian Steyr-Mannlicher rifles as well as prepare to manufacture the 7.62x54R cartridges for the proposed new substitute standard Russian Mosin-Nagant rifle. Ammunition availability also dictated which type rifle would be issued to each unit. Should a squad or platoon be transferred to another company or battalion for example, its members had to trade their rifles for the type in issue in the new parent unit to avoid logistical problems. The Military Technical Institute was, by that time not only Serbia's chief arsenal, but was also the largest manufacturer in the country. It turned out machine tools and gauges, repaired artillery guns and small arms, produced horse drawn carts, wagons and saddlery, crafted small arms and artillery ammunition and also acted as the Serb military's ordnance school. It employed 300 full-time production workers in addition to the technical staff and army personnel assigned there.
Meanwhile, initial Serb battlefield successes against invading Austrians, whose commander, Gen. Oskar Potiorek, bragged at war's outbreak he would have little trouble conquering "that kingdom of pig breeders", had secured them large quantities of Steyr-Mannlicher M1888/90 and M1895 8x50R rifles and carbines, Steyr Model 1907 and 1912 autoloading pistols, Schwarzlose M1905 and M1912 belt fed water-cooled medium machine guns in the same caliber as well as vast stocks of ammunition for all of them.
However, as time passed, the Serbs, facing the ravages of typhus and cholera combined with persisting severe food, clothing and ammunition shortages, lost their capital city, Belgrade, to attacking Austrian troops on December 2, 1914. Ironically this was the birthday of Austrian emperor Franz Josef. Despite their desperate straits, the battered and outnumbered but valiant Serbs the next day launched one last desperate offensive against the now, overconfident Austrian forces. Incredibly enough after 10 days of ferocious fighting, they drove a stunned Gen. Potiorek and all of his remaining troops back across the Danube. Belgrade was recaptured on December 15. Austria-Hungary had sustained more than 100,000 casualties and lost even more weapons valuable to the Serbs, but the badly weakened Serbs could not take full advantage of their surprising victory, a situation that caused a nearly year-long stalemate in the region. By February 1915, about 50,000 serviceable Austrian M88/90 and M95 rifles and carbines with adequate stores of captured 8x50R ammunition were in formal Serb issue.
Despite these slight improvements in the Serbs' logistical situation, in October 1915, their still rebuilding army was eventually smashed after being surprise attacked by an overwhelming combined force of invading German, Austrian and Bulgarian troops. Some 150,000 Serb fighting men successfully embarked on a long and difficult retreat southward across the mountains of south Serbia and Macedonia into Greece where the Allies re-equipped them with significant amounts of French gear such as the Rifle M1907/15 in 8mm Lebel and some Chauchat and Hotchkiss machine guns in the same caliber. The French also supplied a large number of Winchester Model 1907 .351 caliber semiautomatic carbines that France had initially purchased from the USA as aircraft armament before its airplanes were fully fitted with machine guns. These Winchester carbines were used by Serb special operations troops.
In September 1916, the refreshed, reorganized and refitted Serb armies resumed combat operations against the German, Austrian and Bulgarian occupiers, driving slowly northward into Macedonia and back through Serbia proper until the Central Powers surrendered 26 months later. The Allies supported formation of a unified multi-ethnic South Slav state as was stated in Point 11 of Woodrow Wilson's "Fourteen Points," but Italy had been promised lands inhabited by many of these peoples as part of the deal for entering the war on the Allied side in 1915. Many Croats and Slovenes actively supported unification while other members of those two groups opposed it on grounds the new union would be dominated by Serbs.
The fiercely independent King of Montenegro, Nicholas I, fearful of Croat and Slovene influence in the new unified nation, abdicated his throne and left the country shortly after W.W. I ended. The Serb Army formed the nucleus upon which the new army of the unified kingdom would be built. The elderly King of Serbia, Peter IKaradjordjevich, who had been in power since 1903, assumed the throne of the new Kingdom, although his son, Alexander II, had ruled as regent since 1914. Alexander II formally assumed the throne upon Peter I's death in 1921. Serviceable military small arms remained in short supply in the newly formed nation. All the previously discussed rifles were held in greatly diminished numbers and these were far the worse for wear. Large numbers of French 8mm Lebel caliber rifles and carbines which were acquired from France during the war and in 1919 were in good order. Additionally, war booty from the Central Powers included many of the following types of rifles, the Mannlicher M1886 11mm, M1888, M88/90, M95, all in 8x50R, the Mauser M1912 7x57mm, German Commission Modell 1888 ,Gewehr 1898 and the Kar. 98az in 7.92x57mm as well as various Turkish Mauser rifles in 7.65mm.
Rifles of Allied Powers which were lost to the Central Powers and reacquired by the Serbs consisted of Mosin Nagant M1891s 7.62x54R, 11mm M1874 Gras, 6.5x52mm VV70/87/15 , 11mm Kropatscheks , M1891 Mosin Nagants converted to 8x50R by Austria, various Italian M1891 series Mannlicher Carcano rifles and carbines in 6.5x52mm, as well as Romanian Model 1893 Mannlichers in 6.5x53R. Rifles of acceded states included the Montenegrin Steyr Werndl M1873 10.66mm rifles, 10.67mm Berdan II and 7.62x54mmR Mosin Nagant M1891 rifles. Around 1922 a large number of former German 7.92mm Gewehr 1898 rifles were purchased from Czechoslovakia. These remained in inventory in unaltered form up to 1939 when a program was begun to convert them to short rifle pattern designated Model 1924b, the same designation which had been applied to altered Austrian Mauser M1914 rifles in the later 1920's.
Under consideration around 1920 was a proposal to purchase half a million .303 Enfield rifles from England, but this was rejected. It was decided in 1923 to adopt the German 7.92x57mm cartridge and acquire new Mauser rifles in this caliber as well as to undertake converting rifles on hand to use this cartridge. A deal in 1923 to buy Czech made Model (Vz) 98/22 long rifles failed to close. A "Universal" pattern of rifled arm for issue to both infantry and cavalry and other branches of service was decided upon. It would replace both short carbine and long rifle pattern. Older rifles and carbines on hand would be altered to the new "Universal" pattern as closely as practical.
In the wake of the hard logistical lessons learned in 1914-18 and in the presence of scores of types of captured small arms, Yugoslavia (and Czechoslovakia and Poland) decided to standardize on the Mauser 98 type rifle in the German rimless 7.92x57mm caliber. Existing Serb and Turkish Mausers in 7x57mm and 7.65mm respectively with badly worn or pitted bores could be rechambered and rebored to 7.92mm and restored to service using existing barrels, a major savings in money, effort and time. Mannlichers and even Carcanos would be altered to fire 7.92mm cartridge.
In 1923 a tentative order for 50,000 FN (Fabrique National D'Armes de Guerre in Herstal, Belgium) Mauser large ring 1898 pattern intermediate length action rifles was negotiated but not executed until 1925 when another 50,000 rifles were added to total 100,000 M1924 short rifles. These rifles lacked the special Serbian fully supported cartridge head used in the M10C and M99/07C Mausers. However, during 1926 ZB, the Czech arms plant in the city of Brno in Moravia delivered 42,000 new Vz24 7.92mm Mauser rifles and 10,000 used German Gewehr 1898 7.92mm Mauser long rifles to Serbia. The Vz24 were known as the Carbine 7.92mm Model 1924a in Serbia. In 1929 another 50,000 Vz24 7.92mm rifles were purchased from ZB.
The 100,000 intermediate length large ring action type 7.92mm Model 1924 short rifles which were purchased from Fabrique National DeGuerre (FN) in Herstal, Belgium began arriving in 1926 and ended delivery was completed in 1928. In the same time frame machine tooling and a technical support package to manufacture these rifles at MTI Kragujevac was arranged. FN engineers and technicians set up the Military Technical Institute production line for an upgraded pattern of this weapon, the well-known Serb M1924 model short rifle, with the FN design modified by Yugoslav ordnance engineers to incorporate the full cartridge base support feature on the M10C bolt head and also to allow the safety switch to be applied with the bolt uncocked. The process of setting up production was slow and did not get underway until 1928. The new rifle would be made in three variations. The short rifle with sling swivels on the bottom and straight bolt handle, the Cavalry carbine with swivels on bottom and left side and turned down bolt handle, otherwise the same as the short rifle, and a short rifle/carbine with straight bolt handle and sling swivels the same as the carbine arrangement.
A program to convert all existing serviceable rifles to a pattern as close as possible to the Model 1924 was undertaken as early as 1924. Existing Serb M10C and M99C Mauser rifles were shortened to the M24 short rifle dimensional specifications and rebored to 7.92x57mm. Remaining Turkish Mausers from the Model 90T onward as well as existing supplies of Austrian Steyr Mannlicher rifles from the Model 1888/90 onward were also reworked into short rifles generally resembling the M1924 specifications and converted to 7.92x57mm. The Steyr-Mannlicher Model 1895 rifle was shortened and renamed the M95M, the second "M" denoting Mauser, as it was converted to use standard Mauser stripper clips, given a tangent Mauser rear sight while its outward appearance was made to resemble that of the standard M24 Mauser short rifle.
Also around this time, Austria delivered a large number of surplus 7x57mm M1912 Steyr Mausers it had used to arm reserve troops in W.W.I. These were Mausers originally destined for Mexico and some 5,000 for Colombia with a few for Venezuela, Chile and Venezuela but W.W. I broke out in 1914 and halted deliveries to these nations. A total of about 65,000 rifles were taken over as the M1914 by Austro-Hungary. These were converted to M1924 short pattern in 7.92mm as the Model 1924b, first at MTI and later around 1939, remaining unaltered rifles underwent conversion by a private contractor. Austro-Hungary had considered a transition to the 7x57mm cartridge shortly before 1914 and had even produced a prototype Mannlicher-Schoenauer short rifle for production but war's onset canceled the plan. A few hundred of these Mannlicher-Schonauers were allegedly made but only two specimens are known to exist today. Yugoslavia shortened and converted these Steyr Mauser M1912s to the accepted general 7.92x57mm M1924 pattern, wiping the Austrian markings and replacing them with the Yugoslav royal crest. These were marked "Model 24b", the Cyrillic "B" corresponding to the Latin "V", on the receiver ring below the crest. The actual definition of the "V" designation is unknown; some claim it stands for Vojna (army) while others claim it stands for Vien, the Serbo-Croat pronunciation of Vienna, from where these particular Steyr Mausers were originally shipped.
In 1929, Yugoslavia purchased an additional 40,000 standard Model 1924a (Vz24) short rifles in 7.92mm from ZB in Brno, Czechoslovakia. Eight years later, FN supplied Yugoslavia a large number of Model 1930 short rifles and carbines using standard length Mauser actions in 7.92x57mm. At about the same time, Poland transferred to Yugoslavia an unknown number of Model 1929 (Wz29) Mauser short rifles, these closely following the Vz24 pattern (handguard and front sight design varied ) as well as a number of M1891 Russian Mosin Nagants shortened and converted to 7.92x57mm, which the Poles called the Model 91/98/25. In 1967, a Yugoslav freighter was carrying 25,000 of these same converted Mosin Nagants, allegedly destined for "FLOSSY" rebels in the British Protectorate of Aden, now Somalia. British sailors boarded the ship in the Gulf of Aden and in turn quickly tossed the entire shipment overboard. It is unknown if Yugoslavia had converted any of its M1891 Mosins to the Polish 7.92mm pattern 91/98/25 prior to 1940.
In 1938, Yugoslavia purchased another consignment, unknown quantity, of Vz24 Mausers. Also at that time, Yugoslavia reached an agreement with the CZ/Skoda Group to provide modern artillery and set up a new standard "short action" M1924 Mauser production plant at the Military Technical Institute. ZB engineers had designed new highly efficient production machinery to replace the obsolete production line at Brno acquired from Mauser Oberndorf a/n under the auspices of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. ZB's new machine tools improved, quality control processes, and gauges were of the latest design and top quality. CZ sold similar rifle production packages to Rumania for its Copsa Mica arsenal at Cugir and to the Iranian government arsenal at Tehran in the same general time period. ZB engineers were to set up each plant in the client country and oversee initial production. The German occupation of Brno prevented execution of the contract. It remains unknown if this new ZB designed plant was slated to replace the existing FN designed production facilities used to make the M1924 or to supplement existing output by adding a second production line.
Throughout the '30s older rifles continued to be reworked and new ones produced or purchased. Efforts to arm all troops on mobilization with a new, standard late production rifle kept falling short, but by 1939 all Yugoslav troops would have some kind of bolt-action magazine short rifle firing 7.92x57mm ammunition. Yugoslav ammunition was loaded to a lower pressure level than the German standard because of the questionable strength of some of the older models of rifles. Poland and China were chose to follow the same path as Yugoslavia for the same reason.
When World War II broke out in September 1939, Yugoslavia had in inventory a million "Category One" rifles in 7.92x57mm in several variations of the Mauser 98 type earmarked for front line troops and an equal number of "Category Two" rifle designs in the same caliber earmarked for reserve and support troops. Yugoslavia had also purchased quantities of French Darne and Hotchkiss Berthier 7.92mm light machine guns in the 1920s before adopting CZ ZB30J automatic rifle. It also had numerous ZB26 automatic rifles, Serb Model 1909 Maxim machine guns converted to 7.92mm, surplus Austrian and Bulgarian Schwarzlose M12 machine guns converted to 7.92mm, French CSRG "Chuachat LMG's converted to 7.92mm", FN Browning .380 ACP caliber Model 1910 and 1922 pistols, Steyr Hahn M12 9mm Steyr pistols, a handful of German 9mm Parabellum P08 Luger and Mauser M1896 7.63mm "Broom handle" handguns as well as some German Vollmer Erma 9mm Parabellum submachine guns.
Yugoslavia wanted to avoid the diplomatic and political mistakes of 1914 and tried to maintain well-armed neutrality when World War II broke out. Prince Paul ruled the country for his underage cousin, King Peter II, since Peter's father, Alexander II, had been assassinated by a Croat backed Macedonian in October 1934 in Marseilles, France. On March 25, 1941, to further strengthen the policy of neutrality, the Yugoslav government led by Prince Paul concluded a non-aggression pact with Berlin. This pact would have allowed German troops to pass unharmed through Yugoslavia on their way to Greece to bail out their floundering Italian allies.
Just over a day later, early on March 27th, amid mass public demonstrations in Belgrade opposing the pact, a cadre of dissenting Yugoslav military officers led by an air force general, Dushan Simovich, launched a coup d'etat overthrowing Paul, abrogating the pact and formally crowning Peter II king. Some historians believe they were covertly supported and encouraged by MI5 British military intelligence. Hitler and Mussolini, both incensed by this "betrayal," invaded Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941. The invasion, code named "Operation Punishment," caused the rapid disintegration of the fragile country as numerous Croat, Moslem, ethnic German and Slovene troops immediately began to surrender. Whole units composed of these four ethnic groups actually went over to the German and Italian forces as soon as initial contact was made.
Shortly after the German/Italian conquest, which took only 17 days, King Peter II and the rest of the monarchy escaped to Cairo and then to London where they established a Yugoslav royal government in exile. The king and the British government soon recognized a Yugoslav army colonel, a Serb named Draza Mihajlovich, as the sole leader of the "antifascist" resistance in all of Yugoslavia.
The Yugoslav Communist Party, in existence since 1919 and led by one Milan Gorkich during the interwar years, was small in size but was an already well organized and tightly disciplined underground group. Its members had been secretly stockpiling weapons and munitions since the Party was outlawed in 1921. Many Party members had received military training in the Soviet Union during the 1920s and '30s and had also gained significant combat experience serving with the Republican forces in the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War. These men, nicknamed "Spanjarksi," (Spaniards) were to become the nucleus of what became the Partisans, immediately seized the initiative, taking any and all abandoned or hidden government arms, ammunition other vital stores not yet captured by or handed over to the invading Germans and Italians, stealing whatever weapons they could from the invaders.
As soon as the Soviet Union entered the war against Germany in June 1941, the Partisans began guerrilla operations. Their leader was an obscure Croat sheet metal worker and veteran party operative named Josip Broz, who had spent 1935-36 in the USSR and had assumed party leadership when Milan Gorkich was executed by the Soviets in 1937. He was commonly known by his party alias "Tito" which is roughly translated as "You do that." In late September 1941 the Partizans took control of the factory which was converting Gewehr 1898 Mausers to Model 1924b pattern under contract to the Yugoslav Government prior to the occupation. They managed to assemble 18,000 - 20,000 hybrid rifles using short rifle stocks and original Gewehr 1898 barrels and sights from parts on hand at the factory before being driven out by the Germans. These were the first Communist marked Yugoslav Mausers.
The Serb Chetniks, consisting of irregular militia and dispersed Royal Army troops, led by now General Mihajlovich and regular army officers and their troops who refused to surrender to the Germans and Italians, were not nearly as well organized, led or focused and failed to act decisively in the critical two month, April-June, period to gather up small arms in the large quantities that Tito's Partisans were able to amass. The Allied Powers initially wanted all of the various anti Axis forces in Yugoslavia to form a united front led by the Chetniks. Stalin at the time also agreed to this decision, but surreptitiously sent a contingent of NKVD agents and radio operators as spies to the Partisans' GHQ, which was located in the mountains of central Bosnia Herzegovina.
The Partisans initially operated mainly in Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, recruiting Croats, Serbs, Slovenes and Jews living in those regions. The Chetniks operated chiefly in Montenegro and in southern Serbia and Macedonia, but were soon clashing with the Partisans. Croatia had declared itself a German allied independent state shortly after the Axis invasion, but was nominally ruled by the Italian Duke of Spoleto, who claimed large areas of Slovenia and coastal Dalmatia for Italy. The duke had ordered Italian occupation troops into these areas as well as into Montenegro and the old pre W.W.I Sanjak.
However, an influential Zagreb lawyer, Dr. Ante Pavelich, known as the "Poglavnik" (Leader) held the real power in "independent" Croatia, supported by his sizable German backed and supplied paramilitary forces called the Ustasha, loosely translated as "Arise." Other collaborationist Croat troops, called Domobrans, fought alongside German soldiers on the Eastern Front, where the Red Army easily defeated them.
The Ustasha, who soon became notorious for scores of stunningly barbaric atrocities directed against Serb, Jewish and Gypsy civilians, even appalling the Germans, operated against the Partisans and the Chetniks, while the latter often battled both the German allied Bosnian Moslem SS troops (Handzhars - Scimitars) as well as the Albanian SS Skanderbeg Division in some of the Italian occupied areas. The Germans, who were concentrated in major cities and surrounding areas, allowed a small and soon unpopular Belgrade based Serb puppet regime led by General Milan Nedich to rule some German occupied areas of Serbia.
The Italians were unable to quell resistance in their respective regions of Yugoslavia and soon, armed native auxiliaries in their areas were instead tasked to provide protection against the Chetniks and Partisans. Unlike the Partisans, the Chetniks did not have good quality or secure communications or an effective unified command structure coordinating various groups and bands. The Nedich regime troops, called the Serbian State Guard, which never numbered more than 3,000, often surreptitiously supplied individual Chetnik units with German and Italian made arms and ammo whenever possible.
The Partisans and Chetniks used existing Serb and Yugoslav rifles as well as captured German and Italian weapons. The Partisans were much better organized, led and disciplined while pervasive corruption, political opportunism, factional infighting and poor organization, communications and leadership continually hamstrung the Chetniks. The Partisans established numerous small mobile armories where damaged rifles were repaired using cannibalized parts and stocks repaired with splices and patches. The Chetniks appeared to do this on a more informal basis.
Stalin provided token support to the Chetniks because he detested Tito and his Partisans and hoped to further fuel a civil war in the country in order to aid in a planned Soviet takeover of Yugoslavia. As the war dragged on, the British Foreign Office, which employed known British Communist Party members like the influential James Klugmann as well as notorious Soviet spies like Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean along with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, who was also surrounded by influential Soviet sympathizers like Alger Hiss, Harry Hopkins, Harry Dexter White and Lauchlin Currie, eventually persuaded Winston Churchill and King Peter to abandon the Chetniks and support the Partisans.
Meanwhile, in the spring of 1943, Fascist Italy had surrendered and Italian troops in Yugoslavia turned all their weapons and ammo over to the Partisans. The Wehrmacht's Army Group Center, originally responsible for Albania and Greece, formally occupied all of Yugoslavia in reaction to Italy's capitulation. The war in Yugoslavia was now a multifactional civil war and Communist "war of national liberation" within a world war.
From 1943 onward, the Allies supplied the Partisans with large quantities of boots and uniforms, British made Sten and US made Thompson submachine guns, US .30 caliber M1 Carbines and Browning 1919A4 machine guns and more captured Italian weapons, Mannlicher-Carcano rifles, Breda light and medium machine guns and Beretta handguns and Model 38 series submachine guns, from bases in Italy. Later, the Partisans received a
number of US M3A1 light tanks with 37mm guns by sea, along with a handful of White Truck Co. manufactured armored cars. By late 1944, the Partisans were extensively repairing and reworking Mauser rifles and other small arms on a large scale.
When it entered Yugoslavia in the fall of 1944, the Red Army gave the Partisans an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 Mosin Nagant Model 1891/30 rifles and Model 1944 carbines in the standard Russian 7.62x54R caliber as well as large numbers of 7.62x25mm PPSh41 submachine guns. When Nazi Germany surrendered in May 1945, the Partisans had 50 total active divisions, infantry, artillery and armored, in the field plus additional reserve and support forces. The war was over and the Communists under Tito controlled Yugoslavia. They now began consolidating power and building socialism.
Six months later, the Partisans were renamed the Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija (Yugoslav People's Army) or JNA, becoming the official army of the new Federated People's Republic of Yugoslavia which was proclaimed on 29 November. In 1963 it was to be renamed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It was ruled by Tito who, with a flashy, autocratic bombast that would soon become his trademark, gave himself the
title of President and Marshal of Yugoslavia.
Marshal Tito had ordered a brutal, two year-long purge of surviving Axis collaborators, Chetniks and other anti-communist elements. Many Chetniks, Ustasha, and Nedich forces as well as German Units which had fought their way north into Austria before the capitulation and surrendered to the Western Allies were forcible repatriated to Tito's forces and quickly executed. This was part of "Operation Keelhaul", under which hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and Axis prisoners of war were handed over to the Communists by the British and American Armies, then sent to the Gulag or executed. The bloody purges of anti-communist prisoners and other potential opponents continued for two years. The UBD-a, the Yugoslav version of the Soviet NKVD (or MGB as it was known for a while in the late 40's), was highly efficient in its work. The foundations for a Leninist state were being quickly put in place. In 1946 a new constitution based on the Soviet Union's 1936 model was adopted. Commerce and industrial production were placed under state control.
Draza Mihajlovich, who hadn't escaped Yugoslavia, managed to remain free with a small band until lured into a UBD-a ambush. He faced a show trial and was then executed. Croat Ustasha leader Ante Pavelichto escaped to Argentina where he served as dictator Juan Peron's secret police chief until 1957, when he retired to Spain and died two years later.
Collectivization of agriculture lagged behind and was accelerated only after mid 1948 when Yugoslavia had been expelled from the Cominform and Tito was trying to show his loyalty to Marxist dogma. Soviet advisers were critical of the slow pace of collectivization. Other areas of conflict began to emerge in 1946 and 1947 over which direction the new JNA should follow in its reorganization. The Russians wanted an army based on Soviet lines informed by the Soviet experience in WW2. Tito and senior Yugoslav military officers wanted to incorporate the Partisan War lessons they had gained fighting the Germans into the new tactical and operational art doctrines which were to form the basis for the army organization.
Soviet military, police and economic advisers began arriving in Yugoslavia in 1945 and Yugoslav officers of the new JNA (Yugoslav National Army) were sent to the Soviet Union for training. Conflicts with the western Allies erupted over Trieste, an area claimed by both Italy and Slovenia, a republic of the FNRJ (Federated Peoples Republics of Yugoslavia) and the Yugoslav's were responsible for the deaths of several American service men.
During the war, the Partizans had received arms from Britain, America and the Soviet Union and had captured vast quantities of German issue rifles as well as large numbers of Italian small arms of all types. In 1944 Stalin and Churchill had reached an agreement on spheres of interest in the Balkans. The Soviet Union got Yugoslavia and the British got Greece. During the German occupation of Greece, two resistance groups were formed. The Communist lead "ELAS" was the most active and powerful. In 1945 British and Greek Royalist clashed with ELAS as the Germans withdrew north out of Greece.
A cease fire was concluded and an agreement was reached that a plebiscite would be held in September 1946 to determine the form of government Greece would have. The Greek Communist Party or KKE became a legal entity under the interim government, but clashes between right wing and left wing factions began to accelerate during 1945 and early 1946. Over 35,000 Greek ELAS partisans, including ethnic Macedonians from northern Greece withdrew into Yugoslav territory. They were housed in camps, given support, training and arms. The KKE boycotted pre plebiscite elections and violence escalated. Red partisans were attacking government installations and police posts and soon controlled large areas of northern Greece and were active in other areas. The British found it difficult to keep supporting the Royalist government and the USA under the Truman Doctrine replaced the British. A full blown civil war was under way with Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia supporting the Partizans and the USA supporting the Government. The Royal Government had British supplied rifles, in addition to pre war M1903 and M1903/14 6.5x54mm Mannlicher Schoenauer rifles and carbines and 7.92mm Mausers. No.1Mk111*, No. 4 Enfields in .303 , FN Model 30 and 98K Mausers were commonly found.
The Partizans had these types also, and in addition many older pre war rifles such as the M88/90, M1894, and M1895 Mannlichers in 8x50mmR, 8x56mmR M95 type derivative Mannlichers, Italian Carcanos in 6.5x52mm, 7.92x57mm 98K Mausers as well as several other rifles in this caliber formerly used in Yugoslavia such as the M95M Mannlicher. Older weapons such as Gras, Berdan, and Martin rifles were used if ammunition was available.
Yugoslavia provided the most aid in the form of rifles and other arms, ammunition, medical supplies, food, bases, training and a site for the Greek Communist radio station.
In 1948 the KKE formally took control of the Red Partizans, the "DZE" (Democratic Army of Greece) and reorganized the small partisan detachments into brigades and divisions. In the spring of 1948 Stalin told the Yugoslavs it was time to wind down the war in Greece. This was due to Soviet strategic geo-political considerations. The Yugoslavs under Tito continued to pump in support.
Tito also had plans for a Balkan Federation, with a leading role for himself, as well as aspirations for a leading role in Albania , including the merger of the Albanian and Yugoslav armies. These ideas were not approved in consultations with Stalin and increased Stalin's enmity toward Tito which was already aroused from Tito's failure to heed "suggestions" the Soviet leader had given him during WW2. In fact ,Tito seemed to believe that if he followed and supported the Soviet line in most matters and espoused the Marxist Leninist doctrine as proclaimed from Moscow, he should be allowed to pursue an national initiative in regional matters, and adapt the Marxist line to local conditions. In 1947 Stalin created the "Cominform" to replace the old "Comintern" or Communist International. The Comintern was abolished by Stalin in 1943 during WW2 as a token of goodwill towards Roosevelt and Churchill. The function of these organizations was to provide the Soviet Union with an mechanism of command and control over Communist Parties, propaganda, agitation and espionage in support of world revolution (the Soviet Union) throughout the world. The new world HQ was to be located in Belgrade, on the Danube in Serbia. This was Tito's capitol and it was chosen so that large numbers of Soviet personnel (many were MGB operatives) could be stationed there.
Stalin was increasing fed up with the failure of Tito and the Yugoslavs to follow the leadership of Moscow and support the Soviet line 100%. By 1948 Stalin was about to launch the consolidation phase of the acquisition of Eastern Europe as his war spoils. He was preparing to purge the party leadership of the satellite nations and introduce strict reorganization of societies along Soviet lines. Tito was slated as the first to go among the
post war Communist national leaders.
Tito was an old line Communist and former Comintern operative in Moscow during the purges of the late 1930's. He could read the "writing on the wall". A new series of purges were being planned by Stalin to consolidate his absolute control in Eastern Europe in the coming years, and they would end only when he was about to launch the "anti-cosmopolitan" purge in 1953 and died or was terminated by fearful comrades in the Kremlin. Early in 1948, Tito provoked an open break with Stalin. He knew that Yugoslav Soviet agents in his army and police were conspiring against him. Stalin urged Yugoslav communists to overthrow Tito.
Tito had carefully considered his position prior to this break. To survive, he needed external support. It would not come from the "Socialist" bloc. He would seek western support and prepare to meet any Soviet invasion with the same sort of partisan war he had waged against the Axis. At the same time he would try to prove that he was still a loyal Communist and some how withstand Stalin's wrath.
Soviet troops provoked border clashes as summer of '48 neared. On June 28, 1948 Yugoslavia was expelled from the Cominform. This led to a crisis at home for Tito. The party, the government, the armed forces, particularly the air force.., all had Stalinist adherents and agents within their structure. Their goal and orders from Moscow were that Tito must be overthrown. These opposition forces were labeled "Cominformists". The UBD-a was tasked with eliminating them. In addition to police agents, the UBD-a had division size military units and one such division was committed to Montenegro in the fall of 1948 to deal with a partisan uprising against the FSRJ in support of the Soviet Union.
Abroad, Tito faced military invasion from the Soviet Union and its satellites. Such a planned invasion was actually organized. Hungary and Romania were assigned the leading role, with Albania and Bulgaria providing what amounted to a diversionary action. The Soviet Union was to supply the second phase main attack, advancing through Hungary by road and rail from Trans-Carpathia to suppress any remaining resistance and set up a "healthy and authentic" Peoples Government. In late summer 1948 the Soviet controllers in the Hungarian Party, Police, Government and Army issued orders and implemented major changes in all structures, in preparation for the new imperatives.
The post war Hungarian Army was an ineffectual force of about three under strength divisions armed with the pre-war and wartime 8x56mmR 35M Mannlicher and 7.92x57mm 43M Mannlicher rifles and wearing German style helmets and uniforms from the WW2 period. It had little military potential. It was once again purged as in 1945 when only "progressive and honest" officers were allowed to remain. The Supreme Command was reorganized, Communist Cells were formed in all areas of the army, political commissars were appointed to all units, Soviet Army regulations and organization were adopted. The "Honved" or National Army became the Peoples Army. Commands were given to Party members whom had no military background, but that was not a concern, as Soviet officer "Advisers" were attached to all units and they would write the orders in Russian for translation into Hungarian for the Hungarian officers to execute. New, politically reliable, officer candidates were sent to the Soviet Union for training.
Soviet style uniforms and helmets were supplied to the vastly enlarged Peoples Army and Soviet arms and equipment were adopted. I once had the opportunity to watch Hungarian newsreels from the summer to winter 1948 and political parades and demonstrations were always featured, mostly in Budapest. Around early October the weekly newsreel showed ceremonial troops marching in the old uniforms with German style helmets and 35M rifles. The next week they had Soviet uniforms and helmets and M91/30's. The Hungarians were sold all these things and charged full price, even for well worn equipment suitable only for training. A license to manufacture the Mosin Nagant M48 rifle ( licensed copy of Soviet Model 1944) and the tooling to do so were sold to Hungary along with the services of Soviet technicians to set up production. Enough Soviet Mosins were provided to arm the enlarged force for imminent operations slated for some time in 1950. It is speculated that only developments in the Korean War caused Stalin to cancel the operation. Perhaps MacArthur's Inchon counter attack convinced Stalin that the U.S. might react militarily to the invasion of Yugoslavia.
The rapidly emerging Cold War combined with quickly deteriorating diplomatic and trade relations between Stalin and Marshal Tito required Yugoslavia to take immediate action to gather up, conserve and restore as necessary, the colossal amount of captured German, Italian, and British, Soviet and US supplied arms. Amid persistent fears of a Soviet invasion. Large, deep interconnected tunnels and hidden bunkers were dug throughout the country. In these tunnels and bunkers were stored large quantities of small arms and ammunition that had been gathered up, sorted and preserved for future issue. The old Military Technical Institute in Kragujevac, which after W.W. II had been identified as Preduzece (Enterprise) 44 as it was directly run by the Yugoslav Defense Ministry, was in 1953 transformed into a semi-private, "worker managed" firm renamed Zavodi Crvena Zastava (Red Banner Works) and significantly expanded. After 1945, Preduzece 44/ZCZ reworked damaged but salvageable W.W. II small arms using as many existing parts as possible. Only 7.92mm weapons were to be reworked. Surviving Yugoslav Model 99/24c, FN Model 1924 and 1930 Mausers, Czech Vz24,G.29t and Kar.98k, German Kar. 98k, Polish Wz29 and other Mauser short rifles with minor variations were rebuilt, refinished and stored. Most of these reworked rifles had the old German, Czechoslovak or Yugoslav royalist markings wiped. The new Yugoslav Communist crest was stamped in their place, "Preduzece 44", in either Cyrillic or Latin script, marked on the left side of the receiver ring and the Cyrillic script acronym FNRJ, Federated People's Republic of Yugoslavia, was stamped on the right side of the receiver ring. Other workshops elsewhere were also engaged in reworking rifles.
M-24/47 Mauser Short Rifle
In 1947, the first postwar Yugoslav Mauser rifle, the short action 7.92x57mm M24/47 appeared but the "new" M24/47 rifles were rebuilds using recycled Belgian, Yugoslav, German, Belgian and Czechoslovak parts. Model 1924 walnut stocks were used and the carbine version stocks had their rear side swivels removed and the hole plugged. New stocks were made as required. The first of these postwar versions, the Model 24/47, is almost identical to the Model 24 except for the presence of the Yugoslav communist crest (a star atop two symmetrical curved sheaves of grain surrounding a row of six torches each representing the six Yugoslav "republics": Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia, located above a scroll with the date 23.VI.1943 - June 23, 1943, when the structure of the postwar Tito government was first officially established in Jajce, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The left side of the receiver ring was marked M24/47 and the left receiver wall was marked in Serbian Cyrillic "Preduzece (Enterprise or Establishment) 44" (the old Military Technical Institute at Kragujevac).
M24/52c Mauser Short Rifle
The lesser known Model 24/52c, is composed of Mausers made in Czechoslovakia as Vz24, G.29T (transition Mausers made under German control during WW2 as the pattern of Mauser was transitioned to Kar.98k Kriegsmodell pattern) and Kar.98ka Mausers marked dou or dot. As reworked, the receivers were wiped and given the new Yugoslav crest and the marking M24/52c on the left side of the receiver ring. Existing stocks were used with rear swivel on left side removed and hole in wood plugged. Some were restocked with M1924/47 pattern stock and handguards with stock adapted for longer standard Vz action. Reconditioned VZ24 Mausers may be found with two remarked pattern types stamped: the long action Vz24 stamped M24/47 stocked in the same manner as the short action M24/47, and the same pattern marked M24/52c. It may be that the ones marked M24/47 were done in a workshop a few years earlier than the those done under the M24/52c program.
M1948 series Mauser Short Rifles
The next Yugoslav postwar production rifle was the 7.92x57mm Model 1948. These are similar to the mid-war 1942-43 German Mauser Kar. 98k pattern, except for a slightly shorter action and a full length handguard. These include the stamped cup butt plate and a standard German style 98k bayonet. The M48 has the Yugoslav Communist crest and "M48" on the top of the receiver ring, is marked Preduzece 44 on the left receiver wall and the Serb Cyrillic or Latin acronym FNRJ on the right side of the receiver ring. The M48 also features a milled trigger guard/magazine assembly and a milled H-shaped upper band. The M48 was produced until the end of 1952 with a total production of just over 238,000 rifles. Setting up production was not easy as the technical package, including the heat treatment procedures and specifications had been lost and Communist technical personnel lacked knowledge of the pre-war technology. It took until 1950 to get production going and there were problems with receivers and bolts. Reports of fractures happening when bolts were dropped on concrete or receivers shattering under proof were reported.
Yugoslav Mauser Model 1948 (M48)
Yugoslav Mauser rifles bearing 'M48' markings on the receiver ring were made in Yugoslavia at the Preduzece (Enterprise or Establishment) 44 (later known as Zavodi Crvena Zastava - Red Flag Works). The M48s were made of all milled steel parts.
Yugoslav Mauser Model 48A
A new production line began in 1953 with the M1948A. This model introduced the stamped floor plate to the M48 design and was the start of a trend to cut cost and time of production. The same year the "Preduzece 44" marking was dispensed with. The only differences were that "M48A" was marked under the Communist crest on the receiver ring.
Yugoslav Model M48B Mauser
At the end of 1956, M48A production was supplemented by the M48B. This is the second and last variant of the M48 series, also produced by Zastava and it made extensive use of stamped metal parts. All other specifications are identical to the others in the M48 series or differ in such minute ways as to be deemed insignificant. The receiver ring markings are the Yugoslav Communist crest above the letters M48A as the receiver marking was not changed with the introduction of the B variant. It may be that new pre existing marked receivers were used. Most of the M48Bs were shipped to Iraq and an estimated 50,000 of them went to the FALN rebels in Algeria. The French captured large numbers of M48Bs during the 1958-62 war in that country.
Yugoslav Model M48BO Mauser
Only a few thousand of these were produced. 'BO' stands for 'bez oznake&rsquo, which, translated from Serbo-Croat, means "without markings." These rifles have no markings (no crest, no model number) except for a serial number. They are not even marked 'M48'. As far as I know, the 'BO' series were mainly intended for sale to Egypt (with some to Iraq,) but only a few thousand were ready for initial delivery to the Egyptians when the 1956 Suez Crisis intervened. No more BO-series were produced after 1956, as most of the world's armies (including Egypt and Yugoslavia) were phasing out bolt action rifles, replacing them with semi-auto rifles or selective fire assault rifles.
The "M98/48n," the "n" standing for "Njemac," the Serbo-Croat word for "German." These were rebuilt German Kar.98k Mausers. Stocks used may original German pre-1943 milled butt plate type and later type with cupped stamped butt plate, as well as new walnut Yugoslav produced replacement stocks. These rifles have been wiped of markings and remarked with Yugoslav crest and markings.
In the period 1949-1950 American economic and military aid began arriving in Yugoslavia. The JNA was rapidly attempting to build up its strength. Late in 1944 America had provided Tito with M3A1 tanks and he still had about 60 serviceable machines at this time, along with about 75 T34/85 Soviet tanks. Included in the new U.S. aid were 650 M4A3E8 late model Sherman tanks, armored cars, halftracks, M18 76mm and M36 90mm tank destroyers, and 150 P47D Thunderbolt fighter bombers. Infantry weapons were held in adequate numbers except for submachine guns which were vital for a partisan type resistance. The British had supplied 9mm Stens and Thompson 1928A1 45ACP SMGs during WW2. The U.S. had sent some M1A1 Thompsons in '44-45. The Soviets had supplied some PPSh-41 7.62x25mm SMGs in 1945. Beretta and MP40 9mm SMG's were captured by the Partizans, especially in 1945. Sometime between 1948 and 1953 the U.S. supplied a very large number of .45ACP Thompsons of various models along with huge amounts of WW2 .45acp ammunition.
The crisis passed and Yugoslavia settled the Trieste dispute with the west and had previously ended support to the DZE partisans in Greece in 1949.
In the 1950's Mauser 7.92mm rifles were exported in large numbers to the Arab world. Iraq, Syria and Egypt purchased various models. Examples with Syrian and Iraqi markings have been imported to the U.S. Sanitized weapons with only the serial number were supplied to Algerian rebels, perhaps by Egypt, in numbers greater than 50,000 pieces. Sometimes vestiges of the FSRY Communist Crest can be seen on pieces captured by the French before 1961 and imported into the USA in the early 1960's.
In 1953, Yugoslavia began producing an exact copy of the MG 42 in 7.92mm as the M53. In that year Stalin died and with him the threat of imminent invasion. Yugoslavia began improving relations with the Soviet Union. The Yugoslavs were aware that the Soviets were upgrading their weapons and that the SKS rifle was replacing the bolt action Mosin Nagants in first line divisions. At this point in time all the other Russian satellite countries were still armed with bolt actions, except for Czechoslovakia which was starting to issue the VZ52 "SHE" rifle in 7.62x45mm. Substantial numbers of .30 M1 Garand rifles were requested to
give Yugoslav troops more firepower. These were delivered sometime before 1958, possibly beginning after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in October 1956. They remained in issue to some units up to at least 1980.
The Soviet Union in the late 50's was anxious to improve relations with Yugoslavia and began supplying some arms. The SKS was put into production in 1959 at Kragujevac's "Red Banner" factory. This was designated the M59 and a total of 226,560 was produced for the Yugoslav forces before production shifted to an improved model. The new model had a built in grenade launcher and was introduced in 1966 as the M59/66 and later the M59/66A1 followed with tritium sights front and rear for aiming under low light conditions. The Yugoslav 7.62x39mm Model 59 rifle was an almost exact copy of the Soviet SKS, while the better known 59/66 rifle was modified in several ways. The attached grenade launcher which used NATO standard 22mm grenades had a gas cut off and ladder type folding grenade sight. The number of M59/66 types made for use by Yugoslavia was 169,000. This was for both military and police use. The 59/66 type had at least four versions - military, police, export and sporting. Beechwood stocks were and are popular for small arms stocks at Kragujevac's Zastava "Red Banner" Arsenal. It is the most plentiful and inexpensive hardwood in the region where Kragujevac is located, an area called Sumadija (roughly translated as "forested land") . Minor differences can be found on the the various versions of the M59/66 including some with holes drilled on the grenade launcher as a form of compensator.
Uruguay used the 59/66 export version as its standard military rifle in the 1960s and 1970s. Others are believed to have been sent to Africa. A rough estimate of around 100,000 of these SKS carbines were exported.
The Kalashnikov AK series of weapons was a closely held secret in the Soviet Union until the mid 50's. Early issues were not to be photographed in the hands of troops and covers were issued for them. The Chi-Coms were the first "fraternal socialist state" to be permitted to make copies. In 1965, Yugoslavia began production of the Ak as the M64, followed by a carbine version, the M64A with 14 and 3/4" barrel, and the folding stock carbine M64B, all in 7.62x39mm. These all had milled receivers. The In 1967 Zastava began work on the FAZ system. This was an emulation of the concept of the Stoner 62 and 63 Systems developed in the USA by Eugene Stoner which attempted to base a complete family of small arms, to the greatest extent possible, on a common basic design element. A carbine, sniper rifle, squad automatic weapon, and a submachine gun ( or assault rifle in modern jargon) were developed as the 'Familija Automatika Zastava or Zastava Family of Automatics.
In 1970 the design effort had reached fruition and the AKM style stamped receiver design of Kalashnikov had been adapted to produce the M70 assault rifle in 7.62x39mm, M70 was was made with folding butt as M70A and and with grenade launcher as M70B. The M70 SAW was available in 7.92x57mm, 7.62x51mm NATO and .30-06 for export. A sporterized derivative was exported to the USA as the M77 and later the improved M77/82 in 7.62x51mm (.308 Winchester).
The M76 is the 7.92x57mm sniper version of the FAZ System. The improved M77 SAW was adopted by Yugoslavia in 7.92mm.
A long standing policy was to place small arms stores and large stocks of ammunition around the six republics within Yugoslavia so that in the event of invasion, a strong partisan force would be able to arm and take to the hills. The weapons were cleaned and checked every 5-6 years and kept in controlled storage in light grease. When in 1990 Yugoslavia began to shows signs of stress, the Serb Yugoslav President Milosevic began centralizing these arms caches and began selling off the older weapons such as the Mausers and Thompsons along with 7.92mm and .45ACP ammunition. Many different Serb and Yugoslav rifles came west with Axis and non-Communist forces fleeing into Austria and Italy in 1945. Many GIs brought examples of these rifles home to the USA after W.W. II. Beginning in the early 1950s, Yugoslavia had sold Egypt, Syria and Iraq many old reworked Mausers and the newer M48s. Many of these were imported into the USA in the 1960s and early '70s from Israel, who had captured them from the Egyptians and Syrians in the Arab Israeli Wars of 1956 and 1967. The M48 remained in reserve service with the Yugoslav military through 1980.
Zastava presently manufactures a heavy-duty Mauser 98-style bolt-action sniper rifle, based on its well known Mark X/Field Grade sporter rifle, called the M93 "lack Arrow." It has a tank/artillery gun-style compensator, black synthetic furniture, bipod, a Dragunov type buttstock and an 8x56 telescopic sight. The Black Arrow has a five-round detachable box magazine and is offered in two calibers, the US .50 caliber Browning (12.7x99mm) machine gun cartridge and the Russian 12.7x108mm heavy machine gun round. Other Zastava sniper weapons include the TRG-21, 22 and 41, 42 series of Finnish designed Sako bolt action rifles ( the Russian SV98 in 7.62x54mmR and 7.62x51mm is similar), all in 7.62x51mm NATO caliber, except for the TRG-41 which is chambered for either the .300 Winchester Magnum or.338 Lapua Magnum. The TRGs, used by Serb anti terrorism special operations troops, have 10-round magazines, synthetic sporter/target-style stocks with bipods and Schmidt-Bender 3-12x50 scopes. Lastly, there is the 12.7x108mm V-94 heavy sniper rifle, closely resembling the old Soviet PTRS antitank rifle.
Short Barreled Carbines
Model 1924CK Chetnick Carbine in 7.92mm. Lower band abutts the upper band with no space between. Less than 6,000 made in 1930's for special "assault" or storm troop units.
Sokolska Puska M1924 "Falcon" carbine 7.92mm for youth organization training. Had a straight bolt handle. Hence called Puska or rifle in official designation. .22LR adapter was available for short range or indoor use.
An export carbine in 7.92mm was produced for the Indonesian police as the Model 1948.
The last Yugoslav Mauser carbine for domestic use was the Model 1953 in 7.92mm which had a compensator on the barrel. Light weight with modified sights. Few made.
A M48/62 in 7.92mm was exported.
The latest short barrel carbine is in 7.92mm, the "Tanker" and was made for Mitchell Arms in 2005. It is for sale at this time in 2005 from Mitchell. Photo below from Mitchell web site is representative of the M48/62 and Indonesian models.