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National Liberation Army (NLA)

Formed in 1941, the National Liberation Army was a communist-led partisan army made up predominantly of Serbs, though its leader, Tito, was a Croatian.


The partisans were drawn mainly from supporters of communism at a time when the Yugoslav Communist Party were at risk of being purged by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Tito had made an early name for himself as an anti-fascist and had been active during the Spanish Civil War in recruiting for the International Brigades.

The Yugoslav partisans were particularly effective in liberating weapons from occupation forces and brutal in their war against nationalist and collaboration forces in eastern and central Europe. 

Tito’s forces were mobile and spread throughout a number of countries. By the end of war the NLA resembled a conventional army, numbering close to one million men and women. After forcing the Germans out of Yugoslavia at the end of 1944 with British and Soviet armoury, Tito’s vision for Yugoslavia was realised.