Croatia: “Return to Tudjmanism”, “Detudjmanisation” – Catch Phrases That Hide True Democratic Reform Incompetence?

Political incompetence

Profound disillusionment with all major political parties in Croatia has reached the point where people are looking for a third alternative away from HDZ-run or SDP-run government, which would pursue an orderly transformation to full democracy without romanticising or prostituting the history.

The fact that there is not a single major Croatian party that currently enjoys a sufficient degree of respect in Croatia can actually be interpreted in ways that tell us that the people have matured in democratic thinking much more than political parties’ leadership and actions have.

The major political parties have all been in power since 1990 (HDZ more than SDP), and, if we exclude the war years of Serb aggression when democratic reforms were almost impossible to achieve in the fuller sense, they have all failed miserably in privatisation because it became the breeding ground for corruption, they have all failed miserably at tax cuts, at job creation through entrepreneurship, at expanding of foreign trade, at eradicating political elitism, at installing (facilitating) the rights and responsibilities of democracy in every citizen, at reiterating the true reality that Croatia is independent from Communism and totalitarianism because the majority of its citizens wanted it so.

They have all failed miserably at Tudjmanism!

Having said this, there can be no denying that many real changes have occurred over the last twenty-three years with Croatia now judged as ready to join the European Union. But when one scratches the surface of these changes one cannot avoid encountering the feeling that something is alarmingly wrong, which is causing the widespread disillusionment (which has increased in intensity over the past five years) with the major political parties. Perhaps the mere fact that many changes that occurred in order to align Croatia with European Union standards were delivered without a real and democratic input by the population- at least with those who actually put their lives on the line to achieve independence (the war veterans, the victims and the families of victims). The “big tent” tradition of former Communist Yugoslavia has been a big part of this problem – elected politicians failed to learn how to listen to and represent those who elected them to the parliament; changes seem to have come as if “ordered from somewhere above” instead of being made from the ground, up.

Life is not something one can turn the clock back on, and start again. The widely used political platform – of “returning to Tudjmanism” – by several political parties in Croatia, including HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) seems to me to be a catch phrase that evokes false impressions that if Croatia sticks to Tudjman all will be okay (?).

The other side of the Croatian political spectrum – the left oriented parties of the governing coalition (Social Democrats/SDP, Croatian People’s Party/HNS etc.) have enjoyed a decade or more of the so-called “detudjmanisation” era under the leadership of former president Stjepan Mesic. This too evokes false impressions that if we move away from Tudjman all will be okay (?).

While “Tudjmanism” wrongly labeled Croatian politics as nationalistic, the “detudjmanisation” wrongly upheld that same view while at the same time attempting to quash the national identity of Croatians as Croatians. And, by national identity I mean the needed changes in laws and regulations of Croatia that would actually reflect the democracy and self-determination thousands upon thousands lost their lives to.

And, to make matters even worse, none of the political parties subscribing to either label or eponym have truly defined what Tudjmanism means, what detudjmanisation means. Thus leaving the whole world, including Croatia, to scratch its head in confusion and lack of clarity in the direction of where Croatian grassroots are going. What a fertile ground for political maneuvering. No wonder there is disillusionment with the major political parties.

If I were to define “Tudjmanism” as it actually expressed itself on the ground (not in some ideological concoction) then the definition would be something like this: “Tudjmanism is an eponym of ideological changes for the political direction of Croatian people that has, as its core values, the right to self-determination and own state territory, the right to democracy, the need to reconcile the past, the need to move far away from the Communist totalitarian and oppressive trends, the underwriting of transformation from totalitarian to democratic way of life”.

There is no mortal sin in the usage of the words of “Tujmanism” or “Detudjmanisation” just as there is no mortal sin in the usage of the words “Thatcherism” or “dethatcherism”, for example.  If we’re to compare the latter to the Croatian political scene then “Tudjmanism” is by political meaning close to “Thatcherism”, especially when it comes to its aspects of conservatism, private enterprise as opposed to state ownership, and of holding the reins of government in circumstances of widespread government disorder/ and Croatia was in disorder due to transitional period from Communism while Tudjman was at the helm. Tudjman though, was much higher in the statehood sense because he (inspired by the will of the people) actually created a state and Thatcher already had a state.  “Detudjmanisation” could easily be compared to a “dethatchrism” concept (if you will), however “dethatcherism” would never get off the ground in Great Britain because it would mean shaking, criminalising or degrading the very foundations upon which Great Britain (and its historical Empire/colonies) became nations of the free and democratic people.

It is a fact that “detudjmanisation” was “championed” by the very individuals and the left oriented political parties who did not want Croatian independence in the first place.  It was “championed” by some who hold government in Croatia today or who still have not understood nor accepted the fact that Tudjman was there to create the state, secure its territory and give guidelines as to how best to transition Croatian society from communist totalitarianism into a democratic order.
The latest uproar in Croatia is caused by the media reports which say that Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, at the announcement of the governing coalition’s list of candidates for the upcoming EU Parliament elections in Croatia, went on to compare Croatia with Finland and said that “Finland did not have a civil war”. Thus suggesting that Croatian War of Independence (1990’s) was a civil war! It was a war of aggression against those who voted to secede from communist Yugoslavia. Besides making a very stupid, ridicule worthy mistake in saying that Finland did not have a civil war (it did in 1918 and against the Russian provisional government increasingly penetrated by radical Communists from Russia), Milanovic it seems took the time to insult the very basis upon which independent Croatia was created: defending its bare life from brutal aggression. Certainly, Milanovic has complained that the words he said were “cut short” by the media, that he did not say Croatia had a civil war that he said  “Croatia was the only state joining the European Union which had gone through a destructive war and a military aggression”. Well, that’s not true, either, is it!?

All these Milanovic antics indeed seem to smell of “detudjmanisation” and pandering to a nauseous political trend that seems to argue that secession from Communism was not such a good thing. But then again, HDZ leadership, which vows to have turned a new leaf in “returning to Tudman”, did little to chastise Milanovic’s words regarding “civil war” – only a branch or two of its vast establishment came out demanding severe consequences for Milanovic as Prime Minster. Not good enough – it’s the party leader’s job, it was Tomislav Karamarko’s job to come out and “call a spade, a spade” when it comes to Milanovic’s antics.

No matter what’s said or what’s done with regards to Franjo Tudjman the truth will always stand that he was THE one who led Croatia into independence that commenced the path to democracy (exit fro communist totalitarian regime of former Yugoslavia) and as such he has earned a special place in history. There is no doubt about that.

Yet the history has judged him harshly, especially since the times when Stjepan Mesic’s corrupt political gluttony attempted (and partly succeeded) to criminalise Croatian War of Independence and vilify Tudjman as autocratic nationalist. “Detudjmanisation” provided an almost perfect screen to cover-up the alarming incompetence of all governing political parties since 2000.

And now, HDZ (largest party in opposition) keeps announcing how it is returning to “Tudjmanism”!

But Tudjman was not creating a political party in isolation from his goal to create a state; creating a political party meant a platform from which he could realise the will of the people to secede from Yugoslavia and Communism.

So, although a HDZ person, Tudjman had at his heart the interests of all Croatian citizens and their right to an orderly democratic order, modeled upon Western Europe and the rest of the “civilized western world”.

The “detudjmanising” political camp also chose to ignore this.

Was the failure in ushering full changes in Croatia during the past twenty years all because of the political elitism that both “Tudjmanism” and “Detudjmanism” camps nurtured with fierce force (?), instead of actually listening to and following the guidelines and advice Franjo Tudjman gave to the Croatian Parliament and the nation in 1990 (30th May) when, among other things, he said : “…the problems facing the new government are many, complex and tangled, from local communities and municipal councils, to the Parliament, the Government and the Presidency. Within a short period, they will parallelly need to solve many problems of life’s importance which other European and Western countries have solved half a Century ago, or even half a Millennium ago. Let’s mention only the important ones: proprietary relationships and economic life; constitutional order of pluralistic civil society with the appropriate government system modeled on countries of the free world; modernization and revalorisation of public services, especially science and culture, teaching and education, health and social welfare, administrative services and public activities (information, journalism, Radio and TV) etc.”

There is no need to “retudjmanise” or “detudjmanise” Croatia.

It is important to separate Tudjman from HDZ’s future because Tudjman acted for all Croatians, regardless of political parties they may have subscribed to, or not.

Chanting Tudjman’s name (in either positive or negative light) can indeed conceal gross incompetency to lead Croatia in the 21st century. And, this is what most probably has happened – the people are disillusioned with all political parties of note! Tudjman certainly did not want that for Croatia; to experience such widespread pain just because it wanted true democracy. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Comment imported from Facebook: Well done, excellent analysis of a very dire present political situation in Croatia. Not one single politician in Croatia today is fit to follow and capitalise on the Tudjman’s achievements and dreams for Croatia and the Croatian people. Very sad.

  2. Thewindsofchange says:

    After the end of the wars in Croatia in 1995, many supposed that Croatian policy would shift towards a peacetime agenda (Tudjman’s agenda) of completing the transition to democracy and a market economy, and integrating Croatia into western structures – then came the “detudjmanbization” lot – some within HDZ others from outside, Stjepan mesic was at their helm – then came SDP – Mesic’s cronies – then came HDZ with Ivo Sanader – Mesic’s crony – then came Jadranka Kosor HDZ – seemigly not Mesic’s crony but hopelessly non-assertive when it came to holding to Tudjman’s original plans, so, might as well consider her a “detudjmanizer” – then came Zoran Milanovic SDP – not keen on Tudjman either – then Tomislav Karamarko although not governing but leading HDZ with the shallow slogan of “New Times – New Forces” – and yet he vows to return to Tudjmanizm. How ridiculous can that be? What, he is going to bring Yugoslavia back and then start Tudjman’s work of creating an independent Croatia all over again! Give me a break!

    Good one again, Ina – a bunch of incompetent fools who have no desire nor knowledge to bring Croatia to the high standards Tudjman and the Croatian people who wanted freedom from Communism set out to achieve.

  3. Spectator says:

    It is a fact that only after Croatia declared its independence, the war started with Serb aggression against Yugoslavia. Indeed it was the Croatian declaration of independence that was the reason why Serbs and Serbia decided to attack Croatia. Had the war occurred within Yugoslavia that would have been a civil war, but things didn’t happen that way. The civil war notion comes from the fact that Serbia (and Montenegro) took upon itself to call itself the legitimate heir to Yugoslavia and some draw conclusions about the ludicrous idea of civil war from that. Why would Zoran Milanovic even mention civil war in any context to do with Croatia if he meant well?

    But then again, more and more he appears as someone who doesn’t even believe himself what he is saying – often, he appears to be trying to prove to himself that what he is saying is the right thing to say. So, if you argue with yourself and lose that argument, you’re a true loser! And Milanovic seems more like a charlatan than a credible politician day in and day out, who talks to himself as he talks to the public.

    And, Tomislav Karamarko seems more like a wimp than a credible politician, day in and day out – were Stjepan Mesic to install a leader of HDZ he couldn’t have done a better job than this.

  4. Miso Sorbel says:

    I have kept my mouth shut so far even if I have been enraged by the way Croatian political leaders have acted during the past few years. I had always thought that it’s not nice to criticize them too severely because Croatia has so many problems and is struggling.

    But I must say, I must shout: Neither the Social Democrats nor Croatian Democratic Union are what Croatia needs! Both sides are spreading rubbish that stifles and has nothing to do with progress.

    So pleased to read here that the people at large have wised up to their empty but disturbing rhetoric and actions.

    And to bring Tudjman’s name into their crap can only be the work of those who do not want a prosperous and happy Croatia.

    Yes Ina, you are right – Tudjman built a state not a political party. HDZ was a popular people’s movement until late 1993 when it transformed into a real political party.

    • But isn’t it these incompetent fools that are causing Croatia’s troubles anyway? If they lead the country the way people envision it, would there be so many struggles and so much bitterness against these political parties? It is fair to be critical and enraged if the actions of those in power cause the people of a democratic (in words anyway) nation continuous struggles and suffering.

      • Kat yes criticising those in power is a fair game particularly because they’re ultimately accountable to the people who elect them but let’s hope that many who criticise make the next step and get involved, do something positive for what they believe in. That’s a more permanent benefit of criticism.

  5. On the conservative side in Croatia there is only one option that has any semblance to a political party and that is HSP-AS, but they are now in bed with HDZ.

    The main problem with the other options on the right is that they are not political parties but in all reality lobby or special interest groups with narrow political fields of view. The organizations and their culture are exclusive rather than inclusive.

    The second problem is that no-one has a comprehensive action plan (based on conservative / classical liberal philosophy) that can provide hope for a better future. Almost all party programs that I have read are just a rewording of the same philosophical issues as all other parties on the right. No-one has an action plan.

    We would have a viable option if HCSP, ABH, ZZH, VH, Hrast and OS work to find common ground, merge their programs into one and find a leader that is not just a politician but a statesman. If this happens then we have a chance. If it does not then yet again 30% of the vote will be wasted on small parties that do not win a place in the Sabor.

    Political force comes from numbers. 6 small parties, each with 1,000 members, are irrelevant but one party with 36,000 members starts becoming relevant. In Croatia there are numerous alternatives on the right which should unite but for some reason can’t.

    Once a credible party is created then I am certain that financial support will soon follow.

    • Well put Zeljko. And yes – I too am yet to se a real party Program with action plans or things to do. Tudjman had brief mentions of all that in his speech to the Croatian Parliament in 1990 – but although it started well the moves to derail him seem to have been very strong indeed and in that derailment it was conveniently forgotten that people actually need direction via action plans or real programs not slogans.

  6. Mario Budak says:

    In Croatia, we do not have a democracy, what we have is the old elite still governing and pretending to be democratic parties. Whether they belong to the SDP-HNS or HDZ, with few exceptions,these two governing parties play the old game, ‘good cop, bad cop’, therefore, how can anyone expect harsh criticism from the so called official oposition, for the comment made by mr. Milanovic? Progress in Croatia will happen the moment people elected to the governing party do and act in the best interest of Croatia and its citizens. The actions by some of the Croatian ministers, prime ministers, presidents, elected or appointed officials, in western democracies would be treated as ‘Treason’, we Croatians, secure them onother term to continue with their destruction. The fight for the independent democratic and free Croatian State, is not over. The true and tested Croatians veterans and their leaders need to be called back to help navigate Croatia through these stormy waters (regardless of their ethnic origin). Lets judge political leaders by their action and contribution to Croatia and its people, everything else is not an issue. Democracy is like Life, it is constant change, while progress or growth is optional. We Croatians need to remember it,during the next election and choose wisely.

  7. There is another term that the current leftist Government rules by – “Titoism”. What they are currently trying to do is re-invent the communism of Tito in Croatia today by using the attacks on opposition and lies that were common under Tito. They attack anyone with patriotic sympathies, talk of the unseen Ustasa snake lurking, give more sense of justice to Serb aggressors than to Croat victims in the name of tolerance and togetherness, aka ‘brotherhood and unity’.
    Their favourite tactic is to slur anything to do with the right leaning opposition, even if the international image of Croatia and Croats is unfairly damaged. Take note of what Milanovic has recently said:
    “serious things have been happening in Croatia”, and accused the country’s right-wing parties of spreading “pure and distilled” hatred.

    “People in black shirts – we don’t know who they are or where they come from – are speaking on television,” the prime minister told a news conference in Zagreb.

    Detudjmanisation is nothing more than a mask for Titoisation.

    • I noticed that Felix, as well. It’s absolutely shocking what Milanovic gets into when it comes to protecting Croatian rights – yes “Titoism”is definitely palpable there/ always hidden behind detudjmanisation – and the good thing is that it has no chance of survival in Croatia as long as people stay strong.

  8. Michael Silovic says:

    Party candidates and loyalty are paramount to a successful Croatia. The problem in finding people to be loyal to is that no one really wants to publicly announce a Croatia First Policy because they are afraid that they will be labeled a fascist and or be called a nationalist.It seems that In the political world of Croatia both are deemed to be a terrible thing which I disagree with. No party should be afraid to defend a Croatia First Policy and those who do not defend our country and it’s people as a first priority should not even be considered for high office.One has to realize that In a new democracy we must show strong leadership and commitment to the people first as to show the world we will not be a puppet state. This does not mean you have to be an isolationist state but make demands on other countries when we do not agree with what they expect from us.We as a nation must form our own identity for the sake of it’s people and our cultural heritage. We do not have to be the same as England or America and follow their policy and platforms as they are both falling a part at the seams along with many other countries in the EU.We can have a mix of laws such as Austria and Switzerland rather then be like Greece and Spain. We have to as a country put the interest of Croatia and its people first or we will have a doomed state in the future.Succumbing to the will of the EU and other foreign entities does not do any justice for us.We must have our own backbone and not afraid to be labeled as a fascist or nationalist country if we are to survive and prosper…. ~Za Dom Spremni!~

    • Michael, yes I’m definitely for Croatia First – those who criticise it and call it “names”can go and jump in the lake – I’m certain if they don’t come from Croatia they’re most likely just as proud of the country they belong to.

  9. Vladimir Orsag says:

    A sad news is that Hrvatska – not Croatia – is approaching an oblivion. Once inside a quicksand situation (Brussels) no one will know it in 10 years time. Our thousand year old history will be forgotten forever. By that time those who were eagerly pushing Hrvatska they would be six foot under. So much for a hollow democracy!!!!!

  10. Croatia needs to re-build its national identity and re-populate itself quickly. But time is against us. The economic crisis is delaying Croatia’s identity and re-birth…nonsense. Croatia has been in worse political and economic crisis. We have always been able to succeed. We just need to ensure that our democratic laws are not used against us. We are an immigrant society. We are a Croatian society. Let’s be proud of that. Let’s start through the family – get married, have children, teach them to be proud Croatians. That is the key to success.

  11. Michael Silovic says:

    I agree Sunman.We need to have a way for the 2nd and 3rd generation to be able to get citizenship simplified. The process is horrible and one should not have to wait 2 years to get approved or disapproved. There should be some type of program in place that allows the diaspora to go to an official office with minimum paper work or a sworn statement and a relative that lives in and is a citizen of Croatia as proof of heritage and it should be given within a short period of time such as 30 days at the most.There are many younger people who would love to live in Croatia and be a part of rebuilding our culture and heritage but the process is meant to keep us out rather then let us is easier for a non Croat to gain status in Croatia then it is for a Croat blood line to get status. this much change and quickly.

    • True Michael – but we must persist and demand changes and they just might happen.

      • “.it is easier for a non Croat to gain status in Croatia then it is for a Croat blood line to get status”. True.
        Sadly, I believe those with political ambitions envisage a flood of EU money about to cascade into the country and this takes up all their time and efforts. It isn’t “sexy” to be seen to support anything like “blood lines” and so such matters are discarded. I see no end to that, not for ten years or more.


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