The last war in the Balkans finished around 2000. Until today, land mines are a big problem, especially in Bosnia. There are huge regions where you shouldn't leave paved terrain.

Since I love hiking, this posed a serious threats during my stay in Bosnia. At the same time, I asked myself whether this is no problem in the Alps. Granted, the war in Central Europe ended ~50 years earlier than the Balkan war, so maybe, the mines in the alps are already removed. So I asked my parents and grandparents, whether mines were a problem in Central Europe shortly after the second world war. All of them couldn't remember that it was a particular problem.

So why is this the case? Weren't mines just not used that often during the second world war? Or are there other reasons?

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    Were the differences due to strategic considerations? Technological? Economic? Question is more interesting than it first appears.
    – MCW
    Oct 7, 2015 at 14:27
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    Where in the Alps are we talking about here? Switzerland did not exactly fight a lot.
    – Semaphore
    Oct 7, 2015 at 14:51
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    I believe the purpose of minefields is generally to make relatively attractive fighting ground less attractive. The Alps are already about the most unattractive fighting ground in Europe.
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 7, 2015 at 14:51
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    @RoflcoptrException Alsace is 100km away from the alps. Also, the alps acts as natural defence so no mines were needed to stop foreign armies to cross. The balkans are mounanious aswell, but the mountains are much lower and less sharp, few summits are above 2000m. Also, not the alps, but swiss army's mines decimated their own soliders in the region of Schaffausen in the late 40s, as they were supposed to protect the area from Nazi germany. This resulted in a dozen of lost soldiers.
    – Bregalad
    Oct 7, 2015 at 15:43
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    @Bregalad Swiss Army Mines: an anti-personnel weapon, a spoon, a toothpick & a can opener, all in one
    – coburne
    Oct 7, 2015 at 20:18

3 Answers 3


The short answer is that there was a concentrated effort in post-WW2 Europe to clear known minefields. France, for example, used POWs to do the dirty work.

Longer answer is that the post-WW2 period was very different than the post-Balkan Wars period. At its heart, WW2 was a "tidier" war with two opposed groups of nation states with relatively disciplined armies going at each other, rather than a multi-sided war that included non-state armed groups/militias. In the post-WW2 period, the clear winners were able to mobilize resources that allowed them to make a concentrated effort to demine vast areas of Europe. You simply didn't have the resources, organization or opportunity to do the same thing in the Balkans.

All of that being said, mine clearance post-WW2 was not a complete success story. Just ask people living in North Africa.

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    The Germans documented their minefields extensively. Oct 8, 2015 at 17:03
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    @Deer Hunter - That can help tell you generally where the mines are, but the casualty rate in the first article I cited speaks to the challenges that remain to demine even known fields. And this assumes the documents survived the war. Anecdotaly, when I was doing my service (Canadian Forces) back in the 80s and 90s it was SOP on exercise to document where you laid individual dummy mines... and it was still a challenge to find all the ones you had planted yourself. Going into a stranger's minefield even with a map is going to be dodgy at best.
    – Doug B
    Oct 8, 2015 at 17:13
  • The other difference between land mines from WW2 and the 1990s Balkan conflict is the WW2 mines were mostly made of metal which were more easily detected using metal detectors, or as they were called then, "mine detectors". Modern land mines, and those laid during the Balkan conflict are mostly made of plastic with very few metal parts & are thus more difficult to detect. This is why animals like African rats, or dogs, are sometimes used to sniff out the mines from the chemicals in the explosives.
    – Fred
    Oct 9, 2015 at 12:46
  • they're still clearing mines from the coastal regions of among others Denmark and the Netherlands today, where the minefields got buried under sand dunes that are slowly shifting, exposing the mines.
    – jwenting
    Oct 9, 2015 at 13:33

Mines are normally not installed in the mountains. They are installed to prevent the passage of tanks (anti-tank mines) or personnel (anti-personnel mines). So they are laid in the fields on on the roads, but in a really rough terrain they are useless (and difficult to install).

This said, the last war in the Alps ended 70 years ago, and it was on the territory of highly developed states, so there was plenty of time and resources to clear them. Which is not the case in Balkans.

You can see plenty of fences with the warning "mines" near Israel borders with Syria as well. Perhaps nobody really wants to clean them.


It's not in the Alps, but it's interesting to note that even after 70 years, in one of the most highly developed regions of the world, not all land mines have been cleared. See for example:



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