We are taking this opportunity to remember the Admiral of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), Vladimir Barović, who took his own life on 29 September 1991 in opposition to the order of the JNA High Command to shell the coastal settlements in Croatia from the island of Vis. He left a message saying that he preferred to die an honourable death “because Montenegrins cannot fight and destroy people who have done nothing wrong to them”.
From today’s perspective, Barović, who defended his personal and military honour with his life, looks like a tragic ancient hero whose sacrifice deserves to be known around the world. However, children are not being taught about him even in his native Montenegro, and no monument has been erected to honour him to this day. The state does is not officially maintaining his memory in any way – if nothing else, to prevent its officers from ever finding themselves in such an unreasonable and hopeless situation in the future.
The Human Rights Action calls on Montenegro to permanently preserve the memory of Admiral Barović, like Croatia did, by way of a memorial which, if possible, would permanently connect the people of Montenegro and Croatia.
Namely, last September, Croatia erected a monument to Vladimir Barović on the island of Vis, while the city of Pula posthumously awarded him the status of honorary citizen.
Barović was nominated for the status of honorary citizen of the City of Pula by Matija Tomac, president of the Council of the Local Assembly in Nova Veruda. Tomac explained the nomination by saying that Barović strongly opposed the order to destroy Pula, bravely refused it, negotiated with the mayor of Pula Luciano Delbianco, and saved the city. He recalled Barović’s words: “There will be no destruction here while I am the commander. If they force me to order the destruction of Pula and Istria, then I will not be alive to see it”.
During his visit to Pula on 5 September 2023, President of Montenegro Jakov Milatović gave thanks for the honour that was extended to Barović “in memory of humanity, reason, resistance and coexistence”, drawing Montenegro’s attention to it.
It was only in 2016 that the President of Montenegro, Filip Vujanović, posthumously awarded a medal to Admiral Barović for his bravery, on the initiative of the NGO Civic Alliance. Barović’s family did not receive the medal, but the then commander of the Navy of Montenegro did.
Although the mindless and unlawful order to shell cities from Vis was withdrawn due to the suicide of Vladimir Barović, JNA units from Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina launched an offensive against Dubrovnik just two days later, on 1 October 1991. This attack caused the loss of many lives, enormous material damage, and war crimes. A year later, the JNA was forced to withdraw all its units from the Dubrovnik area.